How do you pack for epic?

packingI am an inveterate over-packer and pretty much an unapologetic one. My Girl Scout training of be prepared is never more in evidence than when I have a suitcase in tow. It’s a compulsion, I must pack for any possibility no matter how ludicrous the likelihood.

I’m leaving soon on an epic trip – we’re scattering Doug’s ashes in various locales of the Southwest – places he loved. Besides packing everything I think I need, I also have to pack him. It seems very odd to have a box of ashes that is all I have left, besides memories, of my beloved – even odder to think of the box and funeral home tote bag as “luggage.” There’s a joke in there somewhere about baggage but I can’t find it.

regerHow do you pack for epic?

It is going to be an epic trip. I haven’t been in this part of the country since I was 10. My family and I traveled Rt. 66 more times than I can count, but we do so making time not sight-seeing. This time I’ve got 10 days to wallow in the glory of Doug’s beloved desert.

He was an over-packer too, but nonetheless teased me about my affliction. He would be amused to know that his ashes are causing me to have to severely prune my over-packing. A box of ashes takes up all of a carryon bag leaving me one smallish suitcase in which to prepare myself for 10 days of 3 different seasons and a variety of activities– yes, this former Girl Scout has to pack for winter, spring and summer as well as hiking, horseback riding and, possibly, hot-air ballooning.

listNo, I can’t add another suitcase. Four of us and all of our stuff have to fit in a rental car. I doubt they want to add a trailer to accommodate my compulsions. So I am trying, really, really hard to be practical and choose clothing that multi-tasks. But with three seasons and a variety of different activities, I am overwhelmed.

I made a list. You know things are dire when I resort to a list. It’s a fine list. Minimal, in fact. The contents of the list are not going to fit in the suitcase. There is pruning to do. Fortunately, I started early. At present, less than a week out, I am about 33% over-capacity. I have the remainder of this week to pare it down.

I’m excited about the trip. I’m spending it with some splendid people and we’re also spending time in some of my childhood places like the Wigwam Motel and the place of my birth. I haven’t seen the southwest since we left Hawaii in 1970 and drove across the country to Quantico, VA. It’s also my first real vacation in nearly 5 years. How do you pack for epic?

The Beautiful Babette

The Beautiful Babette

The heat and humidity of this summer is fading. It’s been rough on all of us – all of us being me and the three dogs.

What I thought was just heat-induced malaise turned out to be my incorrigible thyroid further torturing me. And if that wasn’t enough, the monthly shots that have kept my pernicious anemia under control for years became insufficient. It’s a double whammy – both disorders provoke exhaustion.

Like most areas of my life, the puppies were neglected while I slept away every nonworking hour. A routine visit to the doctor led to some blood work and – voila! – I was prescribed an increased dose of synthroid and my monthly B12 shots are now weekly.

I’m beginning to feel like myself again. This is a good thing, because the health department was getting ready to condemn my house and the dogs were fixin’ to run away from home. Indeed, two of them did.

The Traveling Toddlers

Chef Boy ‘R Mine called last spring and broached the subject of whether or not Terrific Trudy and Wonderful Willy could go live with him. Hell, yes, I said.

The three dogs have been a huge part of my life, but I’ve been a terrible dog owner for some time. My work schedule (and malaise) meant that walks in the park and cuddling on the couch came to a complete stop. The puppies spent a lot of time alone. I consoled myself with the fact that they do entertain one another, but it was clear they were puzzled and saddened by my neglect.

The Familiar Boy and the New Yard

Labor Day weekend, my mom and I did a shotgun trip to Charlotte to deliver the two youngest dogs to my son who had just moved into a dog-friendly house. Again, I felt guilty – this time because leaving them produced little sorrow, probably because I know my son will adore them and they now have a huge fenced yard to frolic in. Still, I wonder at the ease with which I gave them up.

So, it’s just Babette, the shih tzu, and I these days – two old grand dames enjoying one another’s company. She was a rescue dog and I’m not certain of her age. The vet guesses she’s about 14.

The vet and I are also baffled by her skin disorder. Babette scratches near constantly which provokes hot spots, lesions and whatnot. All sorts of remedies, prescription and otherwise, have been tried. The only one that works is puppy steroids and her kidneys are too ancient for a daily dose.

Checking out the new yard.

My mother, bless her heart, worried about Babette rattling around alone in the house while I’m at work. Babette was often disgusted by the antics of The Toddlers, but she also was accustomed to sleeping with Trudy and Willy, and, some times, playing with them. Mom is now operating Doggy Daycare. Each morning, Babette and I get in the car, drive the few yards down the hill to Mom’s house and drop her off.

Babette loves going to Grandma’s house. After just a few days of the new routine, she dances and prances, eager to get going, as soon as she sees me pour coffee in my car mug.

Pitiful, I tell you. Pitiful!

Mom is an optimist. She is convinced that with proper care, various lotions, etc. etc. Babette will stop scratching. When her care had no effect, Mom got really serious about it. I arrived home one day to find a pitiful little dog. So pitiful that being the terrible Puppy Mama I am, I burst into laughter.

Mom had shaved every square inch of Babette except for her face. The Beautiful Babette looks like some sort of mutant rat. It’s just pitiful.

And Mom did this when the temps started dropping and nighttime in this house is downright cold. For the first time in her life, Babette shivers. For years, she has refused to get under the dog blankets preferring to sleep on top of them. Both of us now cocoon deep in the down comforter – something else Babette adores about her new life, sleeping with Mom.

Shaving Babette has had no effect on the scratching, but we’re both adapting quite well to life without The Toddlers. Her fur grows fast and I’m afeared that after re-growth, she’ll quit burrowing deep into the covers with me.

We’re both glad to see this long, hot summer come to an end. It’s been a trial, but things are looking up. I can stay awake and Babette is getting lots of attention. It’s all good.

And just how trite can you get?

Seneca Rocks

While on a road trip, my traveling companions and I stopped at the state park at the foot of Seneca Rocks primarily because I’d confessed I’d never been in this part of West Virginia. After being there, I’m ashamed. What kind of West Virginia ambassador am I if I neglect whole areas of the state?

It’s been years since I’ve managed to come up with a new adjective to describe the beauty of West Virginia. The area around Seneca Rocks had me struggling to find one. Amazing, jaw-dropping, gorgeous, yada yada. I hope to never become complacent about it even if my descriptions have to resort to the trite.

Seneca Rocks are FREAKIN’ AMAZING.

Mystery at Seneca Rocks

We didn’t have time to linger and were combining our need to pee with letting me get a good gander. While gandering in general, I gandered in particular at a tree the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The tree bore blossoms that in violation of state law I was provoked to pick so as to get a better look. (Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame.) I had to reach on tiptoe to grab a bottom limb of the tree and snatch a bloom.

I suspect, but am not sure, that this tree is what some folks refer to as a tulip poplar. A quick foray into Wikipedia confirms that suspicion. What I know for sure, is that I have to have one.  

We were headed for a work retreat in Hampshire County. I haven’t spent much time in that part of the state (shame on me) and driving from here to there on a fine May day was JAW DROPPING (another trite description).

It was a fine May day the first time I ever laid eyes on West Virginia. I have become a little complacent since that initial rubbernecking, but trips like these bring that initial wonder to the forefront again. On this particular trip, I was gifted with the sight of what I dubbed The Peony Farm – a substantial piece of earth covered in white peonies. In fact, the entire trip was punctuated by peonies. Besides the tulip tree, I’m determined to plant a peony hedge.

Purloined Tulip Poplar Blossom

Aside from tulip trees and peonies, the entire state seems to be dripping with wild rose and honeysuckle. The combined fragrance of West Virginia in bloom is AWESOME. (Sorry.)

Some folks talk about the first time they saw the ocean. Others the giant redwoods. Or the desert. Or…or…or. Seeing West Virginia the first time was a religious experience. I forget, oh yes I do, that lots of folks can’t drive down a road and see this or this. I’m telling you, it’s BEYOND BEAUTIFUL. (Oops.)

 [Now shifting gears with an awkward transition.]

I’ve been absent from this blog for awhile and a few of you have been kind enough to inquire. I’m fine, more or less. Way too much life happening, busy-busy-busy, yada yada yada. Y’all know – the same old drill. The same old “my life is a runaway train and I have to get a grip, yada yada yada.” [Tell me, what did we say before Seinfeld coined yada yada?]

I’ve been so busy that the house is a wreck, the garden is neglected, the puppies are lonely and I’ve been even more stressed than usual, but the trip, though busy and a stressor, also served to put me in one spot for a few days. The simple act of not scurrying here and there for a couple of days was restorative. Here’s to hoping the feeling of balance will endure for a bit. And if it does, perhaps my dalliance with trite expression will come to an end.

Pointy Toilet Paper

I’ll finish the furnace story tomorrow, but right now I’m dwelling on the irony of the fact that last night I was home with no heat in the house. Tonight, I have heat at the house, but I’m in a Best Western in Charleston.

That’s how ridiculous my life is. Timing is everything in life and my timing needs work.

But here I am. And I must say I’m impressed. My frugal boss made the reservations and, while I wasn’t expecting Magic Fingers or mold in the bathroom, I also wasn’t expecting a king sized bed covered in pillows and pointy toilet paper.

The job before this job I did a fair amount of traveling. Between that and personal travel, I spent a fair amount of time in hotels and motels. My traveling days ended before the “luxury bed” was all the rage with the cool hoteliers. You know when trends start trickling down to Best Westerns in Charleston, WV, said trend has gotten pretty mainstream.

I rather like this pillow thing. I have a bunch of pillows on the beds at home as well as sinfully high-thread-count sheets and ambient lighting. These things make for a nice drifting-off-to-sleep experience. To find such a set up here is a nice change from floral or striped bedspreads that probably haven’t been cleaned as often as one would hope.

Pointy toilet paper has long puzzled me. Pray tell, what is the point? Some poor soul earns a meager living cleaning rooms and part of his or her job duties is to fold toilet paper. It’s ludicrous. But if such a thing is deemed a necessity and the bathroom has two toilet-paper-holders, shouldn’t the points be the same size and shape? The lack of symmetry here bothers me. This hotel loses 5 Martha Stewart points for this egregious act. I bet the maid did it on purpose. I would.

[Mmmmm. I just put on my nightgown and crawled into bed. The linens aren’t as wonderful as one would hope – but nice nonetheless; and the experience is so much better than last night’s shivering under a down which just couldn’t keep up with the cold. No down on this bed. Pity that.]

Of course, the coffee pot falls short of my requirements. With the trek down the hill carrying luggage, the travel pot had to stay at home. I’m offended by the Styrofoam cup. I’ve got pillows, pointy toilet paper, high-end soap with an ergonomic design, but a Styrofoam cup. Go figure. If I can’t have a real cup, can’t we do better than flimsy Styrofoam? It’s a travesty, I tell you. More Martha points lost.

There’s no room service, but the clerk says hot breakfast is served in the morning. I believe I’ll partake.

So, if this post reads oddly it’s because the double u key and the snake shaped keys won’t work.  I’ve had to manipulate spell check and control v to type this. 

Never a dull moment. Timing is everything in life. And now I must go to sleep. Big day tomorrow.

Bad cup or not, I’d like to vacation here for about a double-u-eek.  I really like the bed.  I do, I do.

Red Light Green Light

What is it with people? I’m serious, folks – can someone explain the phenomenon of accelerating towards a red light? I just don’t get it.

I’m toodling along in my car. I see that the light ahead of me is red. I do not accelerate. I don’t assume that a light that’s just turned red is going to be green in 50 feet. And even if it had been red for awhile, I wouldn’t accelerate because there are too many stupid people out there who run red lights. [I’m entitled to say this as I was a stupid person once and did $6000 worth of damage to a car I’d yet to make the first payment on. I just didn’t see the damn light.]

As soon as I see a red light, I do not brake, but I do ease up on the accelerator. Besides just basic common sense (which as Twain said was neither), this method provides better fuel economy and brakes last far longer. I get more mileage out of brakes than anyone I know – and it’s not because I don’t ever use ‘em. It’s because I don’t do the foot switcheroo of racing to the stoplight only to slam on the brakes. At the appropriate time, I begin braking – a gentle process which does not send stuff flying off the seat of the car.

People, particularly those near the university, get annoyed with me. They pass me, race to the stoplight, slam on their brakes and at the next light, I who have had a serene stoplight experience, am still neck and neck with the Accelerator Asshole.

And it’s not just red lights. Something about the red, I think. The Matador and the Bull Syndrome, I call it. Red brake lights will provoke Accelerator Assholes too.

My Ex used to drive me crazy. We made a fair number of road trips, the most horrific of which was the annual pilgrimage to Milwaukee. There is no efficient way to get to Milwaukee from here without going through Chicago. As a matter of fact, going straight through Chicago is much less fraught with fear and anxiety attacks than is the by-pass around Chicago. Except for, roughly, the hours between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., the entire population of Chicago is in separate cars on the interstate. By the time you factor in truckers, tourists, and poor lost souls, 25% of the US population is trying to get out of Chicago. Hell is rush hour in the Windy City – it’s 80 mph bumper to bumper.

There would be a sea of red brake lights. Hundreds of cars with their brake lights quite visibly engaged. The man I was married to for 20 years would speed up every time. I’d kick a hole in the passenger side floorboards trying to hit that imaginary brake some folks think exist on that side of the car and which I think a real one needs to be installed on any car I ride in.

I’d glare at him. He’d look at me and say, “What?” I’d tell him what. Every trip we did this. Every trip we had this conversation. Every trip I needed a valium by the time we were hauling suitcases out of the car.

I was once a brake light that someone slammed into. In the guy’s defense, I guess, his story was that he was distracted by a dog and didn’t notice the light had changed. Nonetheless, I’d been sitting at the stoplight by the post office long enough to pull out the envelopes I needed to mail. [And believe it or not, the guy admitted fault to me, the cops, and his co-workers – he was in a company truck – and nearly 3 years later we are no closer to settling this damn thing than we were in April of 2007. Do not ever get into a car accident with a Major Utility.]

Because I am not and never have been an Accelerator Asshole, I am alive.

In 1979, I slid on a patch of ice at a railroad crossing and slid into a moving train. As was my wont, when I saw the train warning lights, I had eased up on the gas and was beginning the gentle braking process. Had I been either accelerating or going fast enough to need to slam on the brakes, I would be dead. Serious.

The cop at the scene said to me, “I expected to have to scrape you out of this car with a spoon.” As it was, the train dragged me a bit, but the ice would slide me around so it was bump, drag, bounce, bump, drag, bounce until the train finally stopped. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life – yes, a moderately-fast-moving train takes that long to stop. I didn’t have a scratch on me although I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. The car was totaled.

For years, I couldn’t drive over train tracks without a supreme case of the heebie jeebies.

Today, I am preparing to stop at the red light by the train tracks near the university. Accelerator asshole behind me whips his car around mine and runs the light. It was not yellow, it was blazing red. Some testosterone ridden frat boy (is that redundant?) was not to be outdone, so he ran the light too and the two of them raced to the next light. Dueling Accelerator Assholes – just exactly what I want on my morning commute. Yeah, boy.

There is no justice. Had I pulled a stunt like that, my butt would be in jail or, at the very least, in traffic court.

Believe it or not, I do not have even the slightest tendency towards road rage. It’s pointless and does nothing but ruin my mood. When these things happen, I marvel at the stupidity and continue toodling along in my normal fashion. I do take great delight in sitting at a stoplight and smiling at the driver, who three stoplights back, got his panties all tangled up because I was driving “too slow” – I always want to say, “Well, darlin’, would you look at this – here we both are and yet. . .” But I don’t. Other people seem to have bad cases of road rage and, with my luck, Accelerator Asshole would shoot me or something.

So,w hat stupid thing do drivers do that gets you to wondering about the collective intelligence of humans?