I haven’t seen the sunrise in years—until now

I love mornings, but I hate being awake for them. Mornings are by far the prettiest time of day—the light is right, the juice is loose (sorry, I was on a rhyming kick) and things move nice and slowly even when you try to rush them. I have always wished I was more of an early riser, because it is those young dawn hours that make me excited for the day to follow. But, of course, I love to sleep, and this creates a bit of a problem: I love mornings, but I really can’t be bothered to get up to enjoy them. And, when I do get up early, I generally feel exhausted, grouchy and groggy.

It’s Asa’s first week back to school. Since his classes start at the unreasonably early hour of 7:00 am, he gets up before sunrise to catch the shuttle to school at 6:10. But when I say “catch the shuttle,” I really mean “he’s missed it three out of four times this week.” So I drive him to school instead.

I don’t mind it, really, even though it’s 6:30 in the morning and I’ve left my brain in bed with my stuffed animals. I’ve had to get up this early before, of course—when I would open the coffee shop in Santa Fe I’d be up even earlier—but mornings aren’t enjoyable when you’re rushing to beat the traffic so you can open the doors on time to serve lattes for 8 hours on your feet without as much as a break.

Mornings are enjoyable, however, when you have the time to relish in their viscosity and afterwards crawl right back into bed. I won’t be able to do this forever—well, I hope I won’t, at any rate—with any luck I’ll find employment soon and I’ll be carting my own ass off to a job in the heinous hours of the morning.

But for now, it’s a nice break(fast). I love being awake enough to soak in the morning dew (there’s dew here! And I’ve been up early enough to notice it!), to see the light emerging from behind the trees and to breathe in the clear, cool, quiet air. The drive to his school is pleasant, despite its tiring timing—the road winds through foggy farmlands and twisty mountain turns and I rather enjoy having those 35 minutes to talk to him cogently before I start my day.

He left this morning at 6:09 to get to the shuttle stop. I crawled back under the covers and tried to fall asleep, but I knew what was going to happen, and I almost couldn’t wait.

At 6:17 I heard him at the front door.

At 6:28 we headed out to my car.

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Unrelated side note: The number one search term to reach my site is no longer you-would-know-what-if-you-had-read-this-post, but instead it is the phrase “used diesel Volkswagen,” which is a marked improvement from the last, if you ask me. Also an improvement is the search one visitor did a couple of days ago: “calling in sick” and “what to say.” I had no idea that my site provides advice to people looking for ways to play hookey, but, heck, I find it flattering that Google seems to think so.

I’m alive!

I made it here, safe and sound. I’ve been slacking in the blogging department, but I’m going to blame it on the fact that I just moved 1,300 miles and haven’t really unpacked yet, let alone found housing or a job. But regardless, here are a few stories from the trip:

Day One, AKA The Day of Treacherous Driving and Nowhere to Sleep

Due to a navagational error on behalf of my Geo Tracker’s high-tech GPS system—okay, let’s be honest here: on behalf of my poor map-reading skills—I ended up on a 13-mile stretch of gravel road through a mountain pass. I know what you’re thinking—”13 miles, schmiles, what’s the big freaking deal?—but please understand that when your 2-wheel drive Geo Crapper is fish-tailing around on a 5-foot wide road that is so steep it warrants the sign “THIS ROAD IS IMPASSABLE IN WINTER MONTHS,” things start to get a little scary. Plus, since I was averaging a solid 15 miles per hour, it took me almost an hour to see pavement again.

My breathing got heavy and all I could think about was what would happen if I got a flat tire. Nobody will find me for days, I thought to myself. I’ll finish that jar of peanut butter in the back seat and that will be the end of me. I freaked out. I started crying and screaming at the road: “F%#! you for not being paved! F@#$ you! This has gone on LONG ENOUGH! I WANT PAVEMENT!”

Then my body started to get tingly. My hands clenched into fists that I couldn’t undo. I could barely control the steering wheel with my wobbly hands. I’ve never had a panic attack before, so I could be wrong—I am no MD, that’s for sure—but if I had to diagnose myself with something, it would be a panic attack and bad case of not reading my road atlas’ legend.

Had I read the legend, I would have known that a road impassable in winter months is a road that no Geo Tracker should ever attempt to tread. It is a road unfinished.

Anyway, due to my navigational error, I made it to Cuba, NM, a mere 100 miles northwest of Santa Fe, in a record three hours. Obviously, since I had gotten a late start (duh… actually, I was supposed to leave on Wednesday but I didn’t end up going until Thursday, go figure) and had proceeded to make completely ineffecient use of my time on the road, I was never going to make it to my goal of Provo, UT by nightfall. I ended up making it to Moab, three hours short of Provo, when I realized I couldn’t drive anymore.

Asa had done me the favor of researching Moab hotels that allow dogs—I had no camping gear with me, mind you—and so I called the numbers he gave me to find a place with vacancy. Well, as it turned out, not a single motel in all of Moab had vacancies at all. (I started crying again). I could always sleep on the side of the road, I rationed, but with a car whose main protection from intruders is a plastic window that unzips, the thought of sleeping in the car less than warmed my heart. Not to mention that being in the same position I had just spent the last 10 hours did not sound appealing in the slightest.

It was past 9 pm when I finally stumbled across an outdoor gear store that was still open. At first I thought it was a mirage of sorts—a locally-owned ma-and-pa outdoor gear store that’s still open after 9 pm on a Thursday? It couldn’t be! But it was: it was really open. I walked inside with a tear-streaked face and announced that I needed to buy a tent.

The woman looked at me strangely. She knew something was wrong. I started wailing again. Between sobs I explained to her that there was nowhere for me to sleep and that I didn’t want to sleep in my car so I needed to buy a tent.

“Well, I can sell you one, but I don’t have any cheap two-man tents right now. They’re all really top of the line. You probably don’t really want to spend that much.” She was right—heck, the gas alone from Santa Fe to Portland was going to drain my funds significantly.

She pulled out a phonebook. “What about a campsite that has cabins?” She made a phone call and before I knew it, I had a cabin reserved in my name with a bed, heat AND electricity. I have never been so happy to go to bed in my life. And this is what my view looked like when I woke up:

Days Two and Three, AKA The Days That Aren’t Worth Blogging About

The rest of the trip was comparatively uneventful, so I won’t bore you with details like, “And then I drove. And then I drove some more,” but general highlights include:

- I have an incredible bruise on my right shin due to walking into a coffee table in the lobby of a hotel that didn’t have vacancy. Asa says it looks like a tattoo, and I’m proud.
- A truck stop in Idaho advertised having cheap diesel and riblets.
- The very eastern edge of Oregon is marked by brown rolling hills that can best be described as the Sound of Music meets severe drought.
- The northern border of Oregon, along the Columbia River, is the prettiest drive I’ve ever made.
- I listened to almost all of Dude, Where’s My Country? book-on-CD.
- Chelsea farted a few times but did not vomit.
- The Crapper’s timing belt did not explode, nor did other mechanical problems arise.
- The roof started to come off in the back left corner, and against all efforts to make it lock back into place, the stupid thing kept coming off. The good thing was that nothing fell out. Once, when I was driving to Vermont several years ago, one of my Birkenstocks flew out of the opening in the roof onto Interstate 84. I can’t believe I just typed the word “Vermont” and “Birkenstock” in the same sentence.
- The ultimate highlight: The drive is OVER and I am HERE. It is quite lovely here. More on that for another day.

Yours,
Mydogischelsea

When the timing is still off

It’s past one a.m. and I was supposed to be on the road in five hours. But let’s get real—who the heck can drive for ten hours on five hours of sleep? I’ll go when I go, and I’ll get there when I do.

It’s past one a.m. and my room is still cluttered with crap. But then again, I have never packed up and left somewhere on time. Hell, I’ve never been anywhere on time—as my mother always says, “Laura, you were born late.”

Late. But late for what? I’m about to embark on my second across-the-country move in four months; I’ll have no job when I get there and my “plan” to get one has as much premeditated thought as an impulse buy at the grocery store checkout line. I am late, and as far as I’m concerned that’s okay. I am always late—being early stresses me out.

I’m scared, I told Asa last night. This is going to be quite an adventure.

That’s not fear, my dear, he said. That’s excitement.

I’m starting all over again and there is nothing more exhilarating than possibility. New Mexico to Utah; Utah to Idaho; Idaho to Oregon; Oregon to wherever. It’s all very exciting, but, of course, when I’m excited or nervous (and who am I kidding? They are one in the same) it is all I can do to lie down and close my eyes.

And so it goes. It’s past one a.m. and I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.

When the timing (belt) is off

I’m still sick—battling a nasty upper respiratory infection—but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about my car. My beloved (ha) Geo Tracker. I went to the mechanic today, and it turns out she’s a little sick, too, and needs some fixin’.

Let me give you a little background on the ol’ Geo:

- the roof leaks
- the air vents leak
- the brakes squeak
- it’s rear wheel drive (or front wheel? My car has whichever one is crappier)
- there are at least two (2) pieces of plastic in the trunk that broke off of unidentified locations somewhere in the car
- the floor rug is peeling away
- Chelsea has vomited on the back seat twice
- my Geo is evidently the Number One target for people trying to get into accidents with parked cars
- it’s ugly
- once, someone stole the back window by unzipping it
- it says “TRACKER” on the side… because that’s cool
- when I am driving faster than 40 mph with the windows shut and talking to my mother on my cell phone (with a hands-free headset, of course), she invariably says, “Where are you? It sounds like you’re in a wind tunnel.” I always respond: “I am. I’m in the Tracker.”

Anyway, all of that I already knew. In fact, I? finally decided to put it up for sale on Craigslist. No one responded, due either to an unreasonably high asking price (hey, you can always go down) or to a sarcasm that I’m not sure everyone appreciates. I was going to try to sell the car before leaving for Portland, but finding my dream car (a used VW Golf TDI…diesel!!) at a reasonable price around here is like finding a needle in a haystack.

I actually found something pretty close to the dream car—a 2002 Jetta TDI with 77,000 miles—at a dealership down the road, but when I asked the dealer how much they were asking for it,? he went off to make a long phone call and came back shaking his head.

“You don’t want this car,” he said. “It’s out of your price range. By a lot.”

“But…!” I protested. I tried talking him down a bit, noting that the tires needed replacement, the windshield was cracked, and the body had dents and scratches all over it. “They must be kidding to think they’ll get something anywhere close to that for this car!” I argued.

But the man did not want to sell me that car. He showed me a crappy old Buick instead.

Determined, I went onto a TDI-obsessed website where you can get free Carfax reports for used TDIs, and discovered that when the dealer said you don’t want this car, he didn’t simply mean that it was out of my price range.

He meant: “Actually, this car may say it only has 77,000 miles on it, but what you don’t know is that this car has a Not Actual Mileage title. In fact, only last May, the car clocked in at 125,000 miles. We bought it at an auction in June and it miraculously only had 77,000 on it. Trust me, you do not want this car.”

So I’m stuck with the Geo until further notice. The Portland area appears to be abounding with diesel Volkswagens, and so I will wait until I get there to sell my leaky squeaky car (it’ll be a total hit in a town where it rains all of the time!) and buy a new one. And this brings me to the point of this particular post:

I just got back from the mechanic. He said I need new brake pads ($150). They’re worn down to the nubbins and they’re dangerous, he said. And then he asked me if I would like to have something done to the rotators ($25) and he said it’s about time to change the timing belt ($300), whatever that is.

He said I can make it to Portland without changing the timing belt, but I should probably do it before the winter. However, he noted, while most manufacturers recommend that you replace it after 60,000 miles, he’s never seen one snap until 80,000, but a snapped timing belt means $1,800, a whopping price just a couple hundred under the Kelley Blue Book value of my car. Still, $300 seems like a lot of dollars for a car with a leaky roof.

I’m heading back to the dealer in about half an hour, and I’ll have to tell him if I want that new timing belt or not. Evaluating whether or not it’s worth it reminds me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago, when I was at the Chevy dealership on a quest to buy a tiny $70 piece of plastic to fix my back window. I was telling the parts salesman about my car’s problems, and the buying/selling/moving dilemma.

“Maybe I should just sell that freaking car,” I said.

“You know what I would do if I were you? I would get far, far away from that piece of crap. I bet one of these guys back here would be willing to buy it off you for $300 just for the parts.”

$300?? I hope they’re not looking for a new timing belt.

Hopefully, my car won’t fall apart

Since I’ll be Portland-bound in a few days, it’s time to get an expert to look at the ol’ Geo Crapper and tell me that she still has a few miles in her before needing a complete overhaul. I’m fairly confident that Le Traquer is ready for the drive, despite the squeaky brakes and leaky air vents (and when I say “leaky air vents,” I do not mean that air is the only substance that manages to squeeze through—precipitation does, too. This means that while I’m living in Portland, my car’s floor will be home to the lesser-known sixth Great Lake). But even if the car is fine, it’s probably time for an oil change, at the very least, and when I think of oil changes, I think of the time I brought my car to Jiffy Lube in Colorado Springs:

The man who changed my car’s oil was somewhat greasy. Not just greasy in the mechanic sense of the word, but greasy in the “dirty old man with gold teeth” sense—you know, slimy. Blatantly looking every woman in the place up and down. Creepy.

“Hey, girl, whatcha doing around here with these New York plates?” he asked me.

“Oh, you know, I live here, just haven’t bothered to change them.”

“You live here, eh?” Crap. Shouldn’t have said that. “So what do you do for fun around here?”

“Oh, lots of things.” Short. Sweet. No information whatsoever.

“Maybe we could do something fun together sometime,” he responded.

In situations like these, I never know what to say. I don’t take well to being hit on by total strangers, particularly when they’re creepy. But I also don’t like being rude, so I have trouble saying, “No thanks.” I always end up in an awkward lie—something like this: “Actually, I’m extremely busy at the moment—I’m packing up my whole house and moving back to New York—I barely have time to sleep let alone do fun things.” I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to just say no.

“Eh… maybe. I’m really busy right now—getting ready to move across the country,” I said, very predictably. “Thanks for the oil change.”

I got in my car. Undeterred by my response, the man flashed me a blinding golden smile and asked, “So—when will I see you again?”

Heh. This is my moment of glory. The time when I actually said something good at exactly the right moment:

“In another three to five thousand miles.”

And off I went.

Public service announcement: Don’t piss me off—you really don’t want spit in your food today

Thanks for everyone’s get well wishes! I’m feel vaguely better today, and by vaguely I mean: “I think I’m ready to haul my ass to video store to get something other than Woody Allen movies.” Actually, worse, I have to work today—3 until midnight—which is unfortunate because I’m still slightly feverish and will be in no mood to deal with people who order rice milk cappuccinos. Rice milk doesn’t foam, okay? Get with the program and order a latte. Anyway, the one saving grace is that this will be my last shift ever! And, even if I decide to stay in Santa Fe and un-un-quit once again, I couldn’t: only days after I put in my notice, the owner announced that he’s closing the doors for good at the end of the month. [Because he lost his best employee, right? Riiiiiiight.]

I know this isn’t much of a real post—I’ve got some head blogs almost entirely finished, I just don’t have the energy yet to write them down—but I’m sick, so I’m letting myself off the hook. If I’m calling in sick to my blog, perhaps I should also do so to my job, huh?

PS: I would never really spit in someone’s food. PPS: Whole Foods ended up having a pretty dece lemon chicken soup. No rice, though. Just orzo.

Chicken soup with rice, please

I am sick. Can do nothing but watch Woody Allen movies and mope. Sitting in front of computer is too tiring. Then again, so is Woody Allen. I don’t know why I bother watching his movies. If you’ve seen Annie Hall, then you’ve seen them all, and none of them are better than Annie Hall. So what’s the point? Eh, well, when you’re sick, sometimes pressing “stop” on the DVD player is just too much effort.

All I want is a freaking bowl of chicken soup from William’s BBQ on 86th and Broadway. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

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Edit: I just IMDBed Woody Allen and discovered that he was born in December of 1935. Do you have any idea how old that is? That’s like… he’ll be… WTF? I took calculus in college and I can’t freaking subtract. 2005 minus 1935 is… HE’LL BE TURNING SEVENTY YEARS OLD THIS WINTER! Ahem. No offense to anyone out there, but that man has some freaking nerve casting Elisabeth Shue as his girlfriend.