2017: “A Journey of a Thousand Miles” Into the Unknown

I’m hurtling down WY-220, my knuckles white from my death-grip on the steering wheel, though I’m still managing about 80 MPH. The melamine plates are rattling in the cupboard, and I’m fairly certain that the butter is stuck to the inside of the door above my little sink. Up ahead I see a mile-long line of stopped cars snaking up the hill. I brake early to account for my load before coming to a stop behind a truck hauling a huge water tank on the back of a trailer.

The road snake doesn’t slither. Not even an inch. After about fifteen minutes, I turn off the engine and get Chloé and So-Kr8z out of their car seats to take them outside. As soon as I pull the latch, the Wyoming wind pulls wildly on my RV door and slams it open. I coax Chloé down the stairs and see that the line has grown at least a mile behind us too. She won’t go. Too many eyes, I imagine. I put her back inside and grab So-Kr8z, who goes on every single, solitary weed, his leg lifting so high I worry he’s going to tip over and get covered in sticker burs.

Back inside, I watch the guy in the water truck ahead of me. He gets out to stretch his legs, pulls a fly pole out of the bed of his truck, and practices his cast over the shimmering blacktop. Because he looks like Yukon Cornelius of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fame, and not a serial killer, I get out to talk to him. I pelt him with questions: What does he think is going on? Where’s he headed? Does he think we’ll be there long?

He tells me there was an accident up ahead the week before that took over five hours to clear. He says his buddy is a few cars behind us and they’re heading to work on an oil rig. He says he’ll give it a bit. He flips the fly line into the wind, unfazed, and a guy skateboards up the hill toward us. I feel like I’m on a road trip ala Hunter S. Thompson, sans acid. It’s his coworker. He tells us he’s going to ride to the top of the hill and see what we’re dealing with. I watch him pump up the steep grade of the road, his right leg working hard. Before long, he’s sailing back down. Fast. His arms are outstretched and his long black hair is flowing sideways. He says the line is miles and miles long, he can’t even see how far. He suggests that they turn back toward Casper and cut through Medicine Bow.

I ask how far Medicine Bow is. I admit that I’m new to RV life and I don’t know how long my gas will last. I wish out loud that I’d filled up in Casper. And I’m worried about the dogs. It’s so hot that it’s hazy in the distance, even with the wind. The skateboarder tells me I can follow them. It’s only about an hour out of the way and will lead us straight to I-80 near Rawlins. I can get gas there. I feel vulnerable, scared, and completely unsure of what to do. I’ve traveled the roads of Wyoming my entire life, but I’ve never heard of the road they’re talking about. I try to picture where it might be, but I have no idea. And, Yukon Cornelius aside, I don’t want to end up dead. Plus, the skateboarder is covered in tattoos.

Oh wait, I’m covered in tattoos.

I get in my RV, back up so the water truck can make the turn, and I follow him. As I bump over the bar ditch, I know the butter is toast, and the bungee cord that’s keeping my bathroom door closed stretches so that the door opens and then slams shut. His buddy pulls out in front of us and we form a convoy, barreling past the miles of cars and semis previously parked behind us.

As I travel into the Unknown, it strikes me…the whole of 2017, from the beginning of January to this hot and windy day on August 28th (a day after my forty-seventh birthday,) has been a venture into the unknown; an exercise in white-knuckled, hurtling, rattling, 80 MPH, butter-smearing bravery. Trips in trust. From Pennsylvania to Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to Wyoming, back to Pennsylvania to Boston to Cape Cod and back again to Wyoming, with hundreds more miles logged across the expanse of Utah.

I’d stormed to the bedside of a beloved man in my life to hold his hand while he took his last breath. I’d gone to D.C. with my best friend and hundreds of thousands of women to march until I thought I would buckle from the pain of it. I’d journeyed to defend my thesis after a process that nearly broke me as a writer. On the day I returned home with my M.F.A., I got a call that my dad was going in for emergency surgery. I swapped suitcases and went to him, and for six weeks I lived in my RV and drove to his place to take care of him. Daily he told me that he was “ready for the reaper.” Only when I’d secured his care did I return home. I walked in the front door with a bag full of dirty clothes only to end my five-year relationship with my partner. He moved out the same night.

And now here I was on a two-lane back road speeding toward Medicine Bow behind a couple of oil-riggers I didn’t know, Burl Ives tunes humming in my head, praying I didn’t run out of gas, and fully trusting that I was where I needed to be, even if I didn’t know where I was.

I didn’t run out of gas. Literally or figuratively. Some three hours later we arrived at a gas station about thirty miles from Rawlins where I thanked these two chivalrous men, and we hugged and said our goodbyes.

2017: The year of perilous adventure—breathtakingly beautiful, bumpy, and back-breaking.

What can I say after having been away from my blog for a year? Only that it was a time of intake and not output; that I was logging life miles; that I was listening and not talking. Somehow, I needed those 20,000+ miles.

“Go West,” Young Heathen


So… I’m heading West in my covered wagon. Okay, fine – it’s a shiny black Beetle convertible, and the soft top keeps the wind out much better than those flaps of old. But those are just semantics.

For those who didn’t know. Surprise! My Inner Nomad is ready for a change. I’ve been in Cleveland for almost 9 years now and I’m approaching my limit, itching for something new, that North wind of Chocolat fame is a-blowing.

And I have no idea where I’m going to go.

I’m reminded of Joan Didion’s book Where I Was From. Her ancestors seeking a new adventure in covered wagons through the Oregon Trail and Donner pass, meeting death along the way. Didion’s family carried their treasures; Rosewood chests, flatware, a hand mirror- if memory serves. I think about what I will carry in my own “covered wagon”; my beloved pup So-Kr8z in his doggie car-seat, 42 boxes of books, and a passel of memories from my time here.

If you read my previous article you’ll know that dreaming of my home in San Francisco caused me to break out in a hell of a rash. I don’t think this means I won’t end up there, I’ve just realized that I can’t cling so tightly. In fact, I got an email from the Universe post-rash that caused my morning coffee to spurt from my nose:

“Uncertainty, Melanie, only means I’ve yet to decide how to surprise you best, based upon all you’re thinking, saying, and doing.” ~ The Universe

Wow! I love that. And… as Lissa Rankin says, “Sometimes we ask for a Pinto, when the Universe is trying to give us a Rolls Royce.” Who knows… maybe I’m asking for San Fran and the Universe is trying to give me Europe.

So, I’ve stopped worrying about the “hows” and the “wheres” and am focusing instead on the “what I want to feel” in this new place of mine.

I’m only sure of one thing, at this point: I’ve started packing.

The Means to Flush


Who travels to Europe and spends as much time perusing the water closets as they do roaming through the Duomo of Milano? Well, I do. Perhaps it goes back to my nomadic youth traveling across the Western states. It wasn’t that I really couldn’t hold it for another half an hour before visiting the next toilet, and it certainly wasn’t a bladder control problem. Looking back I think it was my way of combating boredom. Breaking up the monotony of staring at the back of the same red leather seat in my folks’ Chrysler, of seeing herd after herd of antelope, of counting license plates from different states, and of fighting ferociously with my older, larger sister for my rightful half of the back seat. Bathrooms were the focal points of my journeys, especially on our twelve hour trips to Utah twice each year. My step-father boasted, often with disdain, that I knew every single bathroom on that twelve hour trek. It was true. There was a certain comfort, and a mile marker all my own, when we would arrive in Evanston, Wyoming and pull up to that dingy Shell station because I knew that inside of that greying building there was housed the only cushy, padded toilet seat of its kind. Or at least it had been my vast toilette knowledge to know. Read more