Driving the USA on a Solo Cross Country Road Trip

 

Open Road to Where My Heart Desires
Open Road to Where My Heart Desires

Hello Road.  We haven’t been very close these past few years. I used to do California Road Trips – Giant Sequoia and Redwood trees, Big Bear, San Francisco, San Diego – but my tolerance for driving distances crashed and burned a few years ago.  With the exception of Las Vegas and Tucson, I haven’t driven much.  My 2014 car which had 12 miles when I purchased it in July 2014 has 6,650 miles 2 years later.  I know – why do I have a car?

I left my job of 7 years in February and one of my To Do before I started a new ‘real’ job was to drive cross-country. The last time I drove across country was in November 1991 when I moved from Orlando Florida to Los Angeles California.  It was 3 days – 2 of them in Texas (!), with stops to eat, use the bathroom and fill up.  It wasn’t a journey; it was a drive to reach a destination.

This time I want a journey – a solo Thelma and Louise, if you will, with a happy ending.  Hence my road trip adventure!  Me, my car – newly detailed and windows tinted for heat protection – and 3-4 weeks.

Road Trip across these good ole United States
Road Trip across these good ole United States

Starting Point: Los Angeles, California    Ending Point:  Bethesda Maryland

I’m not taking the same route on the both legs of the road trip but I’m not venturing too far north. It’s August, I know, but I’m not chancing freak severe fall/winter weather.   And, in full disclosure, I don’t want mountain driving.  I like looking at them, living close to them, even visiting them but I’m not keen on high elevations and winding roads. I guess I’d rather take my chances with tornadoes and heat.

Eastbound Trip:

Leaving LA heading to Washington DC
Leaving LA heading to Washington DC

My stops have a rhyme and reason that only I understand yet seem to fit into one of these categories.

  • Air and Space Museums
  • Caves, Caverns and Natural Wonders
  • Paranormal attractions
  • Civil Rights and American History sites

Granted, there is a side road trip to Ohio on the westbound trip to visit Amish country. Just because.  I also imagine I’ll be diverting to small towns along the way to check out vintage and/or antique stores.  Unlike airplane travel, my shopping is only limited by the empty space in my car!

Starting in Bethesday Maryland heading back to Los Angeles
Starting in Bethesda Maryland heading back to Los Angeles

(Source: https://roadtrippers.com)

There’s so much beauty to see, plenty of good food to eat and, most important, lots of people to meet.  This should be a well documented road trip.  I have multiple cameras and an iPhone!

I know I’ve over –planned and that’s ok.  If I decide I don’t want to see something, I won’t; if I decide to modify my route, I will and if I decide I’ve had enough, I’ll turn around and come home.  This is MY journey, after all.

WTF! This is aging?

WTF!  This is aging?  Do you think older folks discussed aging and decided not to tell the next generation what would really happen?  Because there’s a lot going on that no one told me in advance.

I turned 50 last year and all I seem to say is WTF?  This is aging?  Why didn’t someone tell me about this?  Grey hair in places that should never be grey.   Hair appearing in places it never grew or hair no longer growing in places it’s always grown.  Bulges and bumps squeezing my clothes in bold new ways.   Loss of libido due to sahara conditions in the formerly fertile plains, if you will.  WTF? Yup, aging.

To add insult to injury, it is true:  sphincter muscles are directly connected to the mouth.  I know this because too many of my  friends are now complaining that they involuntarily fart when they sneeze or worse, dribble when they laugh or sneeze.   An unfortunate few have “backyard leakage” when they sneeze or laugh. WTF?  Oh yeah, aging.

Really?  Is this old age?  The wrinkled skin and age spots wasn’t enough?  The middle-age spread?  The irregular periods of menopause?  The hot flashes or night sweats? When I was young, I looked forward to the day I’d never buy another tampon maxipad.  Each month I’d say, “I can’t wait until this is over!”  What’s the expression? Be careful what you wish for.

Because you see, there may be months where there’s no bleeding.  At first you think “oh, am I pregnant?” (knowing THAT’s not a possibility) and then it’s a joyous “maybe this is it!” And there’s no bleeding for 2, 3, maybe 4 months.  But you realize you still have PMS! The irritability (how kind!), the bloating, the moodiness and tears, the headaches, the insomnia.   It’s the kind  of PMS where you want someone to put you in a padded cell because you are a danger to yourself and society.  Slowly, ever so slowly, you realize the limbo you’re in.  There is no set date of Aunt Flo’s arrival.  There’s an endless cycle in which you want chocolate, sex with a 25 year old, a hot water bottle, a gun, your favorite teddy bear and a box of tissue.  Sometimes 1 at a time and sometimes all at once.  WTF?

Finally when your friends have almost tossed your friendship in the garbage( because really how long can PMS/menopausal women hang out without killing each other?) – the red tide arrives!  Tide being the appropriate word.  No one tells you that in middle age you should buy stock in Kotex or Tampax.   The red tide is may come in with hurricane force cramps, leaving you exhausted in the fetal position , thinking “God kill me now” or it may arrive stealth bomber style – a mere drop of crimson on toilet paper—convincing you that this pseudo-period is a hiccup.  That is until the flood gates open (usually around 2a and just when you’ve changed your sheets) and you are up every 45-60 minutes, changing said tampon (of which you hopefully own stock!).   How many of us have had to 1) shower in the middle of the night, 2) change sheets or 3) do laundry? WTF?

It is one thing to look in the mirror and no longer see the face of a 35 year old.  It is quite another to realize how unprepared I was (am) for my body’s betrayal.  Nothing is constant, every day/cycle is a new normal.  When a period arrives, I stare at the toilet paper (or panties) in disbelief before wondering how long and how bad.

This post wasn’t supposed to be about periods but I suppose periods are closely related to peeing.  Rather, the loss of bladder control that aging brings.  The type of loss of control where, at times, I no longer know I’ve lost control!   For example, I meet a new contractor to discuss work in a rental property.  As we’re talking, I sense I’ll need to pee soon.  Suddenly, I’m crossing my legs, grabbing my crotch and squealing “omg!  I have to pee!”  as I suddenly feel wet rolling down my leg.  WTF!

Instead of being horrified, mortified at my body’s public betrayal, I’m sanguine as I shrug and say, “sorry.  Aging sucks.”   He should be grateful he didn’t have to change my diaper!   One comfort: in old age comes more of an acceptance of what is and a letting go of “what could be or should be.”

 

What do you wish you had been told about aging?  Is there something that makes you think “WTF? Are you kidding me! “?

Does the mind expand or contract in midlife?

During a conversation with a friend who also turned 50 this year, she commented how people of a “certain age” don’t like or want to learn new things.  She, for example, thought texting was the best invention of the 20th or 21st centuries but had no clue how to tweet, pin or use any other social medium.  Worse, she didn’t see how any of it could help her in life.  Uh, hello … a tweet is merely a massive text.  Sent to several thousand of your closest friends aka followers.  Yeah, I know … brilliant!

Funny enough, that was me 3 short months ago.  And yes, I think texting is the best invention of this century!

Daily I struggle with Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and the blogsphere.  I have very knowledgeable 20-something co-workers who have taken pity on me; hence I blog!

Still, I find my mind, and more importantly, my sense of adventure, contracting as I age.  I feel more unsure of my ability to learn new things (perhaps the unspoken word is “well”), feel less inclined to stretch beyond my comfort zone and in the traffic hell that’s LA, I definitely don’t venture beyond the Westside often!

How do we keep the curiousity and spirit of adventure as we age?  Do our definitions change?

UPDATE 07/05/2012.  I started this post Tuesday night and need to update this:  landed in Raleigh North Carolina and instead of driving to visit my relatives, I opted for a road trip to Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Maybe I inspired myself?!

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway was peaceful and beautiful and, yes, a little stressful in some spots.  But I kept driving.  Definitely expanded my mind today!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

More pics in the upcoming Travel post.