Friday, August 13, 2021

The End

The closer we get to home, the slower it goes, and the... well, the uglier it gets, to be honest. On a vacation we rest, we recharge, and fill up on positivity, good energy, beauty. It's a gift, a blessing. But. When the vacation concludes with driving through a congested megalopolis that essentially sprawls over multiple counties, and a hundred miles... every bit of the ease and relaxtion can be lost in one day. Thankfully, we have one more stop before we face the beast that is Southern California, from Ventura to San Diego. We had the pleasure of staying over night with Bill and Alison, my nephew, Dominic, and their cats.
Like the visit with my Mom and Dad, the best part of this time was just hanging out, doing regular things. Alison was in a work meeting when we arrived, Dom was at his new job, and Marissa was with her grandparents, enjoying a summer spree. We got some taqueria food, from Bill's old place. We stopped by to see Dom at work, and make him slightly embarassed, which felt like the right thing to do as his aunt. We met the kitties. Talked about Bill's prospecting adventures, and dropped Dom off for some rock climbing. Laid back. Nice. Mellow. Just right.
Probably the highlight, I mean besides that carne asada and bean burrito Bill got me, was when the UPS delivered a package, and Bill was so excited he sang to the delivery guy. Brother has pipes! Both of my brothers were born with adventure genes. And Bill's latest love is prospecting. This thing, and let's face it, I am not going to do it justice, but it's for river diving... it's a floating compressor, so they can use respirators and dive down in water (water... obviously?) I would pay money to hear Bill sing to the UPS guy, again. It was everything, a perfect vocalization of gratitude with eager enthusiasm for his new toy. I could not be happier for Bill. Alison and Dom were happy for him, too. Why am I trying to explain and describe this, when I have video? I can just let Bill show you, in his own words and actions.

Those pipes!

It was like we coincidentally showed up in time for Christmas! I loved it, and I loved learning more about where Bill goes, how he got started, seeing Dom join his Dad, getting excited about diving, trying out this new activity. It was a glimpse into their everyday. I'm glad we had this time together.
This is it. This is the last day of our whole summer trip, adventure. We left early, but I trusted Siri to get me to San Luis Obispo in the most direct way, and we ate up some time taking a very circuitous route just to get to the north end of Salinas. Oh well. From there, it was fast highway driving through the Salinas Valley, all the way to The Madonna Inn. In truth it can seem dull. But I love the rounded, rolling, golden hills, with the dark and gnarled oak trees, cows in slow moving herds, grazing contentedly. Thankfully everything was overcast, and I was spared the fatigue that comes with glaring sunlight. We weren't making great time, but it was going well enough. Breakfast was tasty, and a good break before the driving would get faster, or slower, but for sure more intense.
"Los Angeles is a loosely organized pile of garbage." This was a quote Maria remembered Alex uttering when he and Bambi landed at LAX, after being in Japan. He's not wrong. I love Los Angeles... conditionally, taken in doses, when I can settle into a neighborhood, or include restful respites, off of the 405, 101, 5, 10, 210, 605, otherwise it is kind of awful. This time, sitting somewhere in Thousand Oaks, I checked the map apps, and realized it would have to be the 405, not my favorite, but fast today. Then I could make it to a toll road that I do love. It was all a game, meant to increase my comfort and confidence about driving from Sherman Oaks, past LAX, through Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, San Clemente, and finally into San Diego County. It felt like preparing to be launched. Somewhere around Culver City, then again in Westminster, I seriously wanted to fight my way to an exit, and call for help. Send a helicopter! I'll check into a hotel, then Lyft to the train station, come home on the Amtrak. Can someone just come get me? I am kind of kidding, now, but I found the city driving harrowing, and I was proceeding with taut muscles, and steely eyed focus, and constantly assuring myself that mindful, deep breaths were the key to success. I mentioned before that I had hoped my driving confidence would increase, but I hadn't counted on how much worse other drivers have become since pandemic times and lockdowns. Friends, do not tail-gate. Please. For God's sake, just give the car ahead of you some space, or change lanes. You can change lanes! If I had a dollar for every time I was going the speed limit, or faster, and being tail-gated when the lanes around me were empty? I could buy my cabin in the woods. Go around me, please! was my mantra from Oceanside to Portland, and back. And. There it goes. There it went... all of my banked, happy vacation vibes sucked out into the void between Camarillo and our driveway. Dang it. The End.

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