road trip

Lil Bro’s Wedding – Out of the Tempest

As should be expected, Lil Bro’s wedding was a success. Not only is there a new happy couple, but emergencies both large and small were weathered with all families intact. I’ve copied a few pictures for you from the weekend.

Lil Bro and his Lil Lady

Lil Bro and his Lil Lady

Upon my eventual (and very delayed return) the lovely Miss J asked if the trip was better or worse than I had imagined. Honestly? It was just as bad as I’d feared, but didn’t turn out as disastrously because I’d spent so much time preparing to stay calm and fight the internal craziness. When my dad was being a selfish prick in the face of a severe medical emergency I was the one consoling my mom, rationalizing with her that we shouldn’t be surprised by Dad being a dick anymore and to save our energy for the next shitty thing he’ll do. I had the presence of mind to remind Mom that everyone knows Dad and his wife were being dicks about how the wedding was going, and the only way to make it right would be to be a bigger dick than he is. That doesn’t make anyone happy, and everyone else knows he’s a prick.

<3 Gram <3

❤ Gram ❤

I got left out of being sat with the family in the church – not at all by accident – and had to sneak in the back way to actually see the ceremony despite being involved in the preparations and getting everyone in the church so we could start. At first I was furious and really quite hurt, but I pulled myself together and was able to remind myself that I love Lil Bro more than I was angry about anything that was happening. That got me through the rest of the day and was able to keep Mom off her ledge.

Two and a Half Corpsmen

Two and a Half Corpsmen

There were so many more bouts of madness, but not only did Lil Bro himself keep us together but for once I was able to keep it together on my own. I got to see Gram and spend a little bit of time with her, my stepdad and I were able to spend lots of time together, and Lil Bro’s friends were even pretty awesome. Since when does Pirate overcome the craziness?

Since now, I guess.

Stinky & Pirate

Stinky & Pirate

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Lil Bro’s Wedding – the Calm Before the Storm

It’s finally happening, Lil Bro is getting hitched this weekend. I wish I could say it’s against my better judgment (it’s not – I wouldn’t miss being there for Lil Bro for the world), I’m going to be spending a weekend surrounded by our family.

 

Alone.

 

Yes, I’m completely alone, without anyone accompanying me as a distraction, a babysitter, or a crutch.

WTF am I thinking???

 

Well, at first I wasn’t thinking – the first week or two after I got the invitation was a near-constant panic attack. Two months later, leaving Hicktown for the South, I was finally mentally and emotionally prepared for this… thing? I have no idea what to expect. It could be a circus, it could be fine – the only constant I know is that my mom will bring up the old drama, my dad will stonewall me and pretend to be nice, and even though I’m sitting at the family table for dinner I’m going to be the odd one out like all the other family events I’ve been to since I left home. My dad’s wife used to be known for leaving obscene voicemails and doing obscene drive-bys and my mom is known for telling every secret under the sun when she drinks, and then making up more… So who knows?

In the days before I left Hicktown I had a few bouts of anxiety, one of them pretty intense. Eventually I was able to articulate for myself that these crazy jerks don’t even know me so anything they might say to me or about me doesn’t even matter. The usual topics of conversation are just politics-baiting.
Seriously, the two insults I always hear are that I’m a “goddamn liberal” (only half-true, more like I think for myself which is actually pretty verboten on its own) and I’m a lesbian. No, dad, I’m not, but you’re the one who always starts that rumor. And even if I were a lesbian at least I’m not a child molester and don’t sleep with my relatives. Those two practices are actually commonplace in our family.

 

Since my vacation earlier this summer didn’t pan out, in the interest of mental health I took a few extra days off this week and am driving the long way around to stop in a few different cities. Last night I stayed in St Louis, which turned out to be surprisingly fun and relaxing. Road trips have always been me-time, but I met a friend and ended up laughing the night away. Today I slept in, had breakfast, started making my way through Tennessee to arrive in Carolina tomorrow afternoon. Blinding thunderstorms aside, driving was still therapeutic and I was in a groove.

…that is, until I was an hour east of Nashville and started panicking about how I’m going to spend Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon surrounded by family. 48 hours of snide remarks, outright challenges, lies and changed history, new or distant relatives afraid to get to know me because of the inevitable retaliation or my mom being crazy. At my cousin’s wedding 10 years ago I thought I really was the problem until my dad’s wife’s mother told her she will come talk to me regardless of them “forbidding” her to talk to me. Knowing the background makes it easier for my rational mind to process, but under the layers of reason I paint on myself daily is still a scared little kid. Ashamed, afraid, and empty.

 

If you were on eastbound I-40 today and were almost sideswiped by a little black sedan, please let me apologise. Fucking panic attacks, man.

 

The lizard part of my brain that’s still a sad, lonely, scared kid keeps telling me all the likely scenarios I’ll encounter. The logical, Type A part of my brain keeps telling me to calm down, people make a big deal about shit that doesn’t matter, I’m an adult with a good life and I’m a good person, don’t engage, blah blah blah. It’s only working to the extent that I’m not having nightmares and have been able to function in the real world. Success…?

My hope is that I’ll have prepared for nothing. Second to that, maybe the rehearsing how to be calm and collected will kick in and I’ll be able to play the part without the lizard brain taking over.

 

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just bust out the bruises on my leg and give them all something to talk about.

Categories: reflection, road trip, you gotta be kidding | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Professional Adventurer!

In exactly two weeks an 12 hours I’ll be heading out to the airport for a work-required week in Europe. I have the luxury of landing on a Sunday and getting to take an extra day at the end to do some sight-seeing, and the rest of the time I will be shuttling between offices located in different countries.

It’s a hard life. I know.

The Houses of Parliament

Work’s challenging, but it’s the rest of it that’s driving me the kind of crazy my friend Amanda reserves only for her mother.  My job is kind of demanding but actually incredibly rewarding, so I can’t complain and am really interested in keeping it.  I noticed yesterday that some of the stress at home has been taking a toll on me mentally, diminishing my ability to pay attention to detail.  If that weren’t one of the key requirements for my position I wouldn’t freak out too much.

To put myself in a good humor yesterday I started looking at weekend getaways, either to stay with friends across the US or to take a road trip in my new(ish) car.  Yesterday evening the tension culminated in an atomic blow-out from the Girl Cookie so I made the decision that time to unwind is absolutely necessary.  Yes – even though I have a European Mini-Tour scheduled for two weeks from tomorrow morning.

The Fairmont Dallas. Best poolside waiters ever.

This time tomorrow I will be stretched out in a bikini on the beach (or just at my hotel pool) reading a book and having a drink.  Maybe I’ll hole up in the hotel room and play video games all night! Regardless, I’m going to be cherishing quality alone time without kids, pets, boyfriends, and any other responsibilities whatsoever.

Life doesn’t have to be hard 🙂

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I Am Not Your Mother – I Am James Bond

I know I haven’t posted in a while – there hasn’t been much to post about aside from family drama. Living with a 13-year-old who thinks she’s 23 can create drama.  Add into the mix the fact that I’m now an authority figure but neither her mother nor married to her father and it leads to nothing but trouble.

I’ll let you imagine that mess – no need to post about it.

What I have been up to lately, however, has been driving like I own a race car.  I have a speedy little import (manual transmission, dual exhaust), but it’s not tricked-out or anything.  When I drive it, though, I feel like I’m James Bond.  I love feeling like a spy, but it’s not quite satisfying my car-driving needs.

This is me, in my head

I have always loved driving and road trips. I don’t have to be behind the wheel in order to enjoy a good ride, either. Riding along is soothing – the motion of the car, observing the surroundings, even cursing out other bonehead drivers.  When I was just a tot, before I went to school, I learned how to read a map. Ever since I’ve been my family’s official navigator, even for the long trips from the Midwest to the South.

Since I’ve been able to drive I’ve seen my car as a sanctuary – the open road inviting and really my only destination. A radio, a few snacks, and sunglasses were all I need, maybe even an overnight bag. I’ve always felt that roads are inviting, calling me to “come and find!” whatever’s beyond the horizon. It sounds cliché, but that’s really my experience as a driver.

My first car was old but it had a 3.1L V6 and was extremely fuel efficient. I used to drive from Wisconsin to Toledo and Detroit on a regular basis (sometimes just on a few hours’ notice) when I was just barely out of high school.  The last time I went to Detroit I made the great circle – I went south on 94 to Detroit and came home through the UP and highway 2 through Eastern Wisconsin. It took forever, but the beauty of the Northwoods and the craziness of the people who live there was absolutely worth it.

Mackinaw Bridge, connecting the two Michigan peninsulas

I used to make the 20-hour drive between Wisconsin/Minnesota and Western Virginia in 14-16 hours. Central Illinois is pretty flat and boring, aside from the one windmill farm you pass on your way to Bloomington/Normal.  Just like the main peninsula of Michigan, everyone’s going 85-100 mph and the roads are mostly straight.

You have the stretch from Kentucky to the Appalachian Mountains where you can’t get away with speeding (unless you want to whip yourself off the side of a mountain) but the curves are thrilling to maneuver. You can look out the window on a bridge and not be able to see how far below the ground is. A minute later you can look out the window to see rock walls and have trouble craning your neck to see the tops.

McAfee's Knob, overlooking the Blue Ridge Parkway

My latest road trips were from the Midwest to Las Vegas and I didn’t have the good fortune of driving a car built for the thrill of the road. My first trip to the desert was through Nebraska/Colorado/Utah in a pile of crap that was barely capable of going 70 mph. The speed limit for much of this route is 70+ mph, so I was not popular on the rare occasion there were other drivers on the highway.  The mountains of Colorado are delightful if you’re driving anything other than what amounts to a shopping cart with the brakes stuck on.

I-70 heading into Utah

I drove a friend from Vegas to Florida because she didn’t want to ship her car. Oklahoma tried to kill us with rain, but the characters we met in Florida were worth it.

Pro tip: Clearwater is a great place to visit, if you ignore that’s where Scientology is headquartered.  The Tampa area is pretty awesome, but I like the beaches in Clearwater the best.

Last year I made the trip through South Dakota/Wyoming/Utah in a car that was slightly better suited to the trip. It was tiny and I was able to go 85 mph without the car falling apart.

Western Wyoming, near Rock Springs

My new car is DEFINITELY suited for the adventures of the open road.  The only problem with my new car is that I don’t want to crank  up the miles just yet. I plan on keeping the car until it’s old and dead but the idea still nags at me. I want to cut loose and explore the mountains and desert of Northern/Central Nevada, Arizona, and maybe even California.  The 215 and the 95 have some fun stretches, but they don’t quite satisfy the way the open road does.

For now, I’ll settle for feeling like a spy/race car driver when I’m putzing around town. Zoom zoom!

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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