Three in One or “A Whole Lot Of Nothing”

I finally had my keyboard fixed. So now I get all excited that I don’t have to copy-paste the “-“ or the “6” or one of the other 10 keys that had decided to go on strike. Highlight of my day.

These are the last days of my cross-country travel adventure and it’s raining cats and dogs. I left the Amarillo hotel before sunrise to avoid the rush hour traffic, but the lack of sunlight and increase in liquid downpour didn’t make this leg any more relaxing than the last one.

The motto for the remaining days shall be “a whole lot of nothing”.

Whole lotta rain

My next stop would be a small town outside of Dallas where I checked into my hotel before meeting up with a friend whom I went to High School with. It was fun seeing each other again after 17 years… 17 years!!

Can you tell I was exhausted? :D

I didn’t leave as early as planned on the next day, but as usual managed to check the car, get a spot of breakfast and mentally prepare for the road to Mississippi. As with the leg before, this one turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. I took my friend’s advice and filled up the gas tank right before leaving Texas. Everyone had advised me not to stop on the way at all if possible. So I limited my own liquid intake and drove the speed limit.

“Sweet home Alabama”

The biggest mistake I made was booking a Red Roof Inn in Mississippi. Apparently everyone knew not to pick this one… I didn’t pay attention. It was a god forsaken motel in a god forsaken town surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. The lady who checked me in handed me the key to a room that was furthest away from the main building… Not what I had been looking for at all.

As I inspected the room which reeked of cigarette smoke and mold, a car (the only other car anywhere near this establishment) drove by and the young male passenger eyed little ol’ me standing by my car… I already pictured myself hacked to pieces in that little shed next to the motel.

Chair of doom

I requested another room and received one closer to the main building, but the night was as restless as the first one. There were other people staying at this motel, but it was creepy beyond all get-out. And that’s exactly what I did, earlier than expected.

This also resulted in my earlier arrival in Orlando, which was a relief. I was fresh out of energy, adventurous zing and will to drive. I was greeted by the typical Florida hanging moss trees and incredible humidity (even in December) and I loved it. That night’s sleep was deep and I unpacked the next day. Strange to think of all these details shortly before packing everything up again. Such is life… What a trip!

Lots of cranes around here

 

Road Trip Part V

The Way to Amarillo…

… Was a challenge. The morning in Albuquerque was similar to the one in Flagstaff, minus the snow and nose bleeds. Breakfast was meh coffee and I was not up for another cup of instant oats, so… Starbucks.

I only had one stop scheduled on the way to Amarillo and that was Cadillac Ranch. Like the day before, the rental had other plans. This time, the maintenance sign alerted me to the fact that the oil had not been changed in a while. Thanks again, Hertz. Not like I didn’t emphasize enough that I’m a woman travelling alone across the country and need my freakin’ rental car checked so that it doesn’t break down in the middle of nowhere. Plus, what am I going to tell my mother?!

The still photo is from a video I recorded and my last sentence was literally “I wish I could’ve enjoyed this nothingness a little more”. Hilarious – I hadn’t seen it since the journey and I was visibly pissed.

After several phone calls on the way to the next big city (which in fact was Amarillo… there is not much else between the two cities), a Hertz service guy told me to visit their service center in Amarillo and they will change the oil for me. The other option was to exchange the entire car at the nearest airport. Right… And losing at least another two hours in which I would’ve had to move my stuff from one car to another… Not happening.

Clouds and a whole lot of nothing

Needles to say, my mood had gone from adventurously determined to sour and impatient. Although the Hertz center in Amarillo was very accommodating. It only took them an hour to change the oil with the line of people that was already there.

The clouds over Cadillac Ranch added to the overall gloomy mood I was in. It is literally ten Cadillacs stuck in the ground and spray painted. On another day, I would’ve appreciated this art installation more, but I’d just had it.

Cadillac Ranch
Cadillac Ranch Close up

Thankfully, it wasn’t a long drive (barely five hours, almost seven with the oil change inconvenience). I decided to call it a day, fill up the tank (the car’s and mine) and get to my hotel. A hotel in a building with actual hallways and doors inside (as opposed to doors leading directly to the outside… you know what I mean). The Indian gentleman who checked me in asked if I was hungry and offered a yogurt from the kitchen fridge. Very kind man and reassuring end to such a day.

Three travel days to go. I’m dreading the weather. And I don’t want to drive anymore. It’s creepy and boring. And I’ve seen enough. It’s December 2nd.

Tree outside the hotel

Road Trip Part IV

Standing on the Corner

The night was restless. I tossed and turned, and my room upstairs had exactly two heating options: freeze or burn. Flagstaff is cold in the winter, and I opted for the burn since the motel blankets (both of them) weren’t enough to keep me warm through the night. I woke up several times to adjust the temperature, looked out the window to see if my car was still there and in the same shape that I left it in. It was. My nose started bleeding from the dry air by 5 am and I was relieved that it was almost time for me to leave.

Motel cuppa

After a quick shower and improvised breakfast (instant oats and a Styrofoam cup of coffee), I headed out. Except the car had other plans. Of course I had negotiated with Hertz forever in order to get this car and not another one that was more convenient for THEM, so after an hour, I was ecstatic that I even received this one. Right now, it requested for its tire pressure to be adjusted. The air at the Flagstaff gas station was broken, and I headed over to the Pep Boys auto repair, where everyone was very quick and helpful and had my tires checked and aired up in no time. Beautiful. Minor hiccup. Let’s get back on the road!

The in–drive entertainment for that day was Enigma’s Fall of a Rebel Angel, followed by the podcast Serial: This American Life, the first season.

Well entertained, I made it to my first stop: the Meteor Crater off of Route 66. It doesn’t have a name; it’s simply called “Meteor Crater”, conveniently located on “Meteor Crater Rd”.

On the way up to the crater

It was cold, but I came prepared. The friendly cries of a crow on top of the administration building fascinated me and showed me the way. It was more of a screech followed by a cough… maybe the crows are different up here.

I was by myself on the rim of the crater for a good 10 minutes. It was eerily quiet, like time stood still. No evolving, no change, just stillness.

Silence

I’m not used to this anymore. I grew up in a small town, but became a city girl somewhere between Madrid and Los Angeles. Cars and neighborhood noises are soothing to me. Except when it’s your direct neighbors and you hear every peep – not a fan of that! There are places out there where you can have absolute silence (the last time I experiences this was in Marina del Rey where I went parasailing). You can’t even hear the wind up there. And everything is tiny, insignificant, quiet, beautiful.

Meteor crater

I enjoyed every moment of the silence, but then headed towards the city of Winslow, Arizona, located in Navajo County along Route 66. It really almost doesn’t get more Route 66 than this. The city became famous via the Eagles’ song “Take it Easy” which has the line “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” in it. So I stood on the corner, walked around, had coffee, took my pictures and a few minutes to stretch and reorganize the passenger seat, and moved on out.

Route 66, standing on the corner
Take it easy

The route took me all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Very Breaking Bad. My motel, once again, was one of those typical motels where the doors lead directly to the outside which I have realized I dislike because it makes me incredibly nervous. I didn’t consider this in the planning phase. I went by the price, reviews and location, and it turned out fine. I had a nice talk with the owner while he was checking me in, and he suggested a cozy little Diner which I promptly went to.

66 Diner

66 Diner – one of the most authentic American Diners. Food is good, but the decorations and staff are what made this dining experience unforgettable.

Inside diner
Diner drinks

The sunset wasn’t bad either. 4 more travel days. I’m still alright. It’s December 1st.

Albuquerque sunset

Road Trip Part III

 

If you missed it, read Part I here: http://wp.me/p51E95-qY

Part II here: http://wp.me/p51E95-rk

Never Look Back

Find Road Trip Part I here: http://wp.me/p51E95-qY

I drove past the building displaying the Selegna Sol (Los Angeles mirrored) advertisement in the dark, turned left and followed the car’s GPS instructions from there on out ($17/day, plus Google maps, plus Road Atlas… you see why it was necessary…). And I became the waterfall.

There was nothing and nobody to stop me. Except the on-setting rush hour at 6. The sun came up. I would normally consider myself an enthusiast when it comes to sunrises and sunsets. Especially when I get to get up while it’s still dark and just head out with my camera to enjoy the silence and magic of early mornings. I have never less enjoyed a sunrise. I couldn’t even look back. Although I don’t look back whenever I leave Germany either… Ever. I hug, I turn around, I cry, and I go. Never look back.

The sun rose to my right and I still felt like a foreigner in the rental. The back was completely stuffed with my belongings except for 10 cm of room between the stuff and the car ceiling for me to look back… which I didn’t do until I was well outside of the LA area.

With my snacks, entertainment, and my travel teddy buddy next to me, I was starting to let the incredible sight of the California mountains impress me. I made it a habit to stop every 1 to 2 hours for fresh air and to stretch my legs, and inform close friends and relatives where I was. Barstow was my first stop and I took a break at a Starbucks near the Interstate.

I then continued on toward Flagstaff. The scenery changed from rocky, dry and chilly California to a relatively green, foresty, icy roaded Arizona . I’m not even sure I considered winter tires on the rental (which I was lucky to get as it was… as your experience has probably taught you, rental companies rarely have the vehicle that they advertise in their category).

Mountain sunrise
Mountains
Wild wild cold mountains

 

Arizona winter

I reached Flagstaff after a good 7 hours. There was snow on the road. I hadn’t been in the snow in years, but you very quickly remember why you don’t miss it. I also made it a habit to arrive at all my hotels around 4 or 5 pm before the darkness prevailed.

After a quick orientation in my room, I set out to see the town. I went to the spot where Forrest Gump was running and came up with the idea of “shit happens”. I bought two scones at a local bakery, gave one to a homeless guy at the corner. Dinner was Subway. Once around the block in the snow was enough in my converse sneakers. Time to head back to the hotel and call it a day. It’s November 30th.

Downtown Flagstaff
Shoes on snow
Forrest Gump “Shit happens” ;)
Motel sunset

Road Trip Part II

What a Difference a Year Makes

This one year’s leap was an extreme… But I think that about every year.

For me it was my work life, my personal life, and my location that have changed. With a simple decision. A simple text. An inquiry. A favor. Nothing that preceded the decision or the text or the inquiry or the favor was simple, and sometimes hurtful, but necessary… apparently.

The mysterious sounds of Stranger Things are echoing through the room as I’m writing this- one of the few albums I kept listening to in a loop when I was slaving away at my 7 – 3.30 in the Valley. Whenever I wasn’t answering phones, that is. It reminds me of the time that led up to this. I planned my road trip for a good month. The change was necessary and I would never have decided against it.

I was excited for the planning process, looking forward to pretty much everything. I’m a Virgo, planning is what I do. I had my hotels booked in time, the car was reserved, accounts cancelled or changed, and whatever else you do when you move. Except I barely knew half the things I needed to cancel or change since it was my first move by myself within the US. I think I did ok.

I bought an actual road atlas. On Third Street. At Barnes and Noble. This was my first call-to-action to myself, kind of a warning shot if you will. It was the end of October. Halloween was about to end (Halloween for me is an all-­year thing, except for Christmas which is granted the remaining two months).

Two weeks later, I gave notice to the Valley office job.

My friend and Ocean soul-mate Laura had just managed to fight her way back to LA.­ It was the first time I had seen her in about a year and a half (?). She made it back. And I was leaving. A few days before I headed out, she stood in my loft living room between packed boxes and said (in a nutshell, and in German) “Well, it still looks very livable”. I wasn’t sure whether I hadn’t packed everything soon enough, if I had missed something despite my meticulous planning and cancelling and informing and booking and on-setting insanity. It was entirely possible.

But I hadn’t. Time just needed to pass.

November 29th rolled around. The day my friend Aiza came over with her few months old son and they nearly froze their butts off (I say “froze”, but it’s LA, guys… We get wimpy after a while. Still, it was chilly.) while I was loading my life into back of the rental. I couldn’t thank her enough. I must’ve made around 20 trips while she stood there, patiently, watching over my belongings.

Last evening on my living room floor

Just as quickly, the 30th of November came. I spent the night at another friend and family’s house. The same house I had stayed at the very first two weeks when I moved to Los Angeles. They had a dog that was not only adorable, but also very old, sick, and incontinent. So my friend had laid out paper towels in the bathroom for the poor doggy to go on during the night after we had our last supper (Domino’s sandwiches… because Chinese food is to celebrate, not for saying goodbye).

Last sunset walk for now

My alarm went off at 4.30 am. I tiptoed around the dog-­pee­-toweletted bathroom floor into the shower, got ready, and headed out. My phone plugged into the car, my Leaving-­LA-­Playlist ready, I didn’t even look at the cup of coffee that my friend had warmed up for me. As soon as I was headed out the driveway in the protective quiet darkness of early LA mornings…. The driveway where I first set out to on my LA adventure, to which I returned after an intense movie premiere, and where we had comfort Chinese food…. Everything came back to me in an instant and I tried to push the memories away. I couldn’t. I had to concentrate not to turn into a waterfall right then. Keep it together, please… just keep it together…

The planned route

 

Road Trip Part I