One of Those Everyday Miracles

It was just a little miracle… just a little one.  But it sure made my day.

This morning, with the temperature hovering around zero in Laramie, I left room 103 at the Travelodge to start the bus. And it wouldn’t.  I called Rob, the guy I’m driving for, and asked him if he had any hints for starting a school bus when it’s this cold.  He told me that if I could find a long extension cord, I could plug in the block heater, wait an hour, and then take off.  But there were no outlets close enough to the bus. He also told me about some special Diesel engine starter stuff that’s used to, as the name implies, start Diesel engines when it’s cold.

But he also said that even if I had some of that stuff, I’d have to know exactly what I was doing or it could cause some damage. And it’s probably pretty clear that when it comes to Diesel engines I know nothing. That applies to any engines, actually.

Driving Across Wyoming

Driving Across Wyoming

I shared my woes with the Travelodge night auditor, who was just about to end her shift. Her husband was coming to pick her up any moment.  And, she mentioned, he was a Certified Diesel Mechanic, and might be able to help.

He arrived five minutes later. I explained the problem, and he just happened to have the Diesel engine cold weather starter stuff with him.  He popped the hood, sprayed or squirted or poured the stuff where it was supposed to go.  He climbed into the driver’s seat, and he started it right up. I handed him ten bucks, and headed for Idaho, where I am now.  I’m not at all sure what I would have done if the stars hadn’t aligned in just that way.

I’m exhausted.  It’s been another 600-mile day.  And tomorrow, I have to take an unexpected side trip to Bend, Oregon, to show the bus to a school district guy who may want to buy some buses just like it.  Then, I’ll have to get up somewhere near Portland to spend the night, and deliver the bus in Seattle on Friday. So it’s going to be another long day…

Tonight I’m at the place I always stay: The Amber Inn Motel in Bliss, Idaho. Ed, the resident manager has become a friend; we always have a nice chat, and his daughter Jasmine enjoys climbing aboard the bus.  The Amber Inn is a family-owned, old-fashioned motel. They have actual keys for the doors — not key cards.  And with that, I’m going to bed.  As I mentioned, I’m beat, and tomorrow’s going to be a very long day.

…So I apologize for the artlessness with which today’s post was written, but that’s all I have in me right now..  G’nite!

Tonight in Laramie…

Today I drove about 560 or so miles, from Rock Port, Missouri to Laramie, Wyoming.  Of course I kept a close watch on the weather, but it was fine. Except for the last 20 miles, between Cheyenne and Laramie.  Snow, blowing snow, ice, and a 5% grade.  But I made it.  The bus and I, thank you, are unscathed. Nope, not even a little bit scathed.

The last 20 miles

The last 20 miles

Got to the Travelodge in Laramie, where I usually stay, and my front desk friend Kristen wasn’t there.  I was disappointed, but the woman at the desk is also friendly, and assured me there would be a microwave in my room. But there wasn’t one.  Since I bring most of my own food on the road with me, that’s sort of important. So she moved me to another room — Room 103.  And that’s odd, because this is the third night in a row I have stayed in Room 103.  Not the same Room 103, of course.  By the way, tonight in Laramie, we’re expecting a low of -13 degrees.  Wind chill: -25.

I’m on Boost Mobile, in an effort to save money.  And I discovered the for the most part, between Sidney, Nebraska and Echo, Utah, I have almost no cell phone service. Here in Room 103 in Laramie, I have no phone signal at all… and that’s making me feel a little cut off from the world. I can’t text, and I’m not going to use the room phone to call anyone because of the cost.  And I’d love to talk with some friends tonight. I’ll have to settle for these new-fangled interwebs here.

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the problems with this job, at least for me, at least now, is being alone with my thoughts for hours on end.  It’s an emotional roller coaster.  One minute I’m feeling a bit hopeful, and the next, I’m trying to not think about things that I need to let go of. My marriage, for example. I’m having a hard time letting go. It’s been only three months since she left, and we’re technically still married for the next few months… but there’s no returning, no going back.

And today, I received some devastating news about the health of someone who’s very near and dear to me.  So it’s been kind of a depressing day altogether.

It looks as though I’m going to have to re-invent myself… to try to find a new purpose in life. I don’t even feel like the same person I was a year ago. I’ve lost pretty much everything, which, I hear, can be character enriching. I’m waiting.

A Dozen Trips West

Until July of last year, I had never driven across the United States.  I’d flown to a lot of the US — Albuquerque,  Minneapolis, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Honolulu… just all over the place.  But I’d never driven through what the elites call “fly-over country.”

Now, just eight months later, I have made the drive from North Carolina to either Portland or Seattle 12 times.  Okay, well, not officially.  I’m in the middle of trip #12.  Bedding down tonight at the Super 8 in Rock Port, Missouri.  I stayed here 3 or 4 times before, but usually now stay a few miles up the road in Percival, Iowa.

The sunset, from Rock Port, then...

The sunset, from Rock Port, then…

On my second trip west, when it all still seemed so new and wonderful, I stayed here at the Super 8.  I did a blog post rhapsodizing over the incredible cheeseburgers at the Trails End Restaurant next door.  I posted a picture of the fiery red sunset.  I was full of hope, and life, and even excitement about the new non-radio life I was living.  I have posted here a picture of the sun today.  More cheap literary symbolism.

… and the late day sun from Rock Port today.

Eleven trips later, well, the bloom is off the rose a bit. I still marvel at the beauty and grandeur this country has to offer.  I still love to see the snow-capped Rockies… the badlands of South Dakota (if I take the northern route) and seeing the friends I’ve made along the way.

But so much water has passed under the bridge since then, it’s just not the same.  I used to drive along, narrating the trip as I went, for Tammy.  I always hoped I could afford to bring her along someday.  But that never happened.  And going home doesn’t hold the same warm feelings it did just a few months ago.

There are, though, still things that intrigue me. Today, for instance, about 30 miles east of Kansas City, there was a billboard, imploring Missouri voters to put the name of one Dale Hoinski to the presidential ballot.  The board implied that Mr. Hoinski, who wears a cowboy hat, could pretty much whip things into shape.  I report; you decide.  Here’s Mr. Hoinski’s website.

Okay, then.  Tomorrow, good Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise, it’s on to Laramie, Wyoming. I hope Kristen, my favorite front desk person is at the Travelodge there.  It’ll make me feel at home.


America’s Super City: Metropolis, Illinois

In what will likely be a futile attempt to dodge snow and ice, I checked into America’s Best Value Inn in Metropolis, Illinois about an hour ago, my mood as gloomy as the weather.  Metropolis, a number of years ago, decided to hitch itself to Superman’s cape, and calls itself, alternately, “America’s Super City,” or “Home of Superman.”  In addition to a river-front casino, the big family tourist attraction here is a giant full-color statue of the city’s favorite son. You may remember a few years back, Barack  Obama striking the same pose and mugging for the cameras with the statue in the background.

Overnight stop in Metropolis, Illinois. Mood as gloomy as the weather

Overnight stop in Metropolis, Illinois. Mood as gloomy as the weather

I’ve actually stayed here before, and on neither visit will I see the Superman statue, although it’s pretty close to my motel.  There are two reasons for this:  I have a full-size school bus for one, and for the other, I just don’t give a rat’s ass.  There’s also a statue of Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane on the black-and-white Superman show in the 50s. I have no plans to see her either.

I got into my room, only to discover that there’s no chair in here. The only seat is in the bathroom, and I think management would take a dim view of my hauling it out of there.

I walked next door and had a cheap lunch at a marginal Mexican restaurant, then came back here, picked up the remote, and found that someone had stolen the batteries out of it. Went back to the desk, where the very sweet lady at the desk replaced them.  Came back to the room, and the remote still won’t work with this TV.  So I’ll have to actually get up to change the channel turn it off or on, just like they did in the Pioneer days.

And, I just now discovered, most of the light bulbs are gone, too. The culprits left only one. I’ll get by.

Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can get safely through St. Louis, across Missouri, through Kansas City and to my usual overnight stop at either Rock Port, Missouri or Percival, Iowa.

Hope I see some sun tomorrow… it might lift the gloom just a bit.


Encounters at the Rest Stop

I left High Point today about noon.  Was going to leave tomorrow, but the prospect of driving through a lot of freezing rain was less than appealing, so I got an early start. I also was getting cabin fever, and had to leave my rec room lair.

Stopped at one of those state-maintained Rest Areas along I-40 in North Carolina.  By the way, those Rest Areas are a lot nicer than they used to be.  They’re clean, they have vending machines, and are generally well-kept. If memory serves, I think they used to be a lot seedier. And smellier.

A few months back, at a Rest Area in Montana, as I was washing my hands, someone exited the stall… and it was Ronald McDonald in full clown regalia.  The surprise must have shown on my face, but I walked out anyway.  Then, I felt compelled to go back in and say, “I have to tell you — I really didn’t expect to meet a clown in the Men’s Room at a Rest Area in Montana.”  He said, “The only reason I’m using this one is that they don’t seem to have a Clowns’ restroom here.”

An amusing photo. Heh heh.

An amusing photo. Heh heh.

Today, at the I-40 Rest Stop in North Carolina, though, I was stretching my legs and was joined on the sidewalk by a trucker.  A fellow denizen of the road.  He said, “So… you’re not haulin’ any young ‘uns in that bus today?”  I said, no… I’m delivering it from the manufacturer in High Point to a dealership in Seattle.  He paused for a second.  “Seattle?  Seattle, Washington?”  I confirmed that he had zeroed in on the correct Seattle.  “Well… be careful,” he said.

Then, out in the parking lot, as I was just about to pull out, a man with a worried expression and a little boy holding his hand, knocked on the door of the bus.  He told me that he was supposed to get to Statesville, and that his alternator had gone out, and he asked for cash.  I, truthfully, told him that I had no cash.  He sighed, and the little boy with him said, “I like your bus, mister.”  He was one of those guys that I would have helped if I’d had a few bucks in cash.  There but for the grace, etc.

Made it as far as Newport, Tennessee today.  Since I’m taking an extra day because of weather in the Midwest, it looks as though I won’t be making my usual overnight stops.  It’s usually Paducah, Kentucky; Percival, Iowa; Laramie, Wyoming; Bliss, Idaho; and finally somewhere near Yakima, Washington.  So at least on this trip, there may be overnight stops in places I have not yet stopped overnight up to now.

More adventures coming… as I go to work soon for a second company and will likely have trips to other areas.

Learning to be Alone

How do you learn to be alone?  There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone.  I have never, in my life, up to now, been lonely.  But now… Mom and Dad are gone, my wife has left, and the only close family I have left is my sister.  And she doesn’t really want me living in her rec room as I am.  I can’t blame her… she’s not being unfriendly… it’s just that no matter how small a footprint I try to leave, I am disruptive to the life she enjoys with her daughter, my niece.

All my life, I’ve been a social guy.  I love being married to the person I thought would be my partner for life.  I love getting together with friends….. sharing a drink and a meal, with lots of good conversation… and I have a great many wonderful friends.  But they’re all miles from here, primarily in Pennsylvania and Florida.  So there’s no human contact. But still, those incredible friends have put up with me and my problems for longer than I could reasonably expect.

1024px-E8211-Tamchy-lonely-treeThe nature of my job pretty much precludes getting settled into the community and becoming involved, at least until I can find a way to stay put for awhile.  Even at that, at my age, finding someone to love from here on out seems like a remote possibility.

So, how does one learn to be alone?  There are many people out there… some of whom I have talked with.. who are perfectly happy by themselves.  I liked being married.  I liked having friends around.  I love having a  life partner.  So how do I, now, learn to be comfortable by myself?  I hear it’s possible, but it’s hard for me to get my arms around the idea.  Maybe because I’d so much rather get my arms around someone who can hug me back.

How do I learn to be alone?

What If: The Most Useless Game in the World

What if I hadn’t left for work when I did: Would I have been in that pile-up?  What if I had just finished college: Where would I be today?  What if I hadn’t gone to that recording studio party?  Would I have eventually met and married Sandie anyway? What if… what if… what if…

We all do it. What if I had done this — or that — or the other?  Major life changes hinge on the choices we make. Sometimes they’re big and important decisions.  If, for instance, my sister hadn’t decided to attend Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina I would not be in High Point right now.  In 1974, she went to Catawba, graduated in 1978, wanted to stay in North Carolina, and has lived here ever since.

If only I hadn't put this picture of a school bus here. Then there would be no picture of a school bus.  It is what it is.

If only I hadn’t put this picture of a school bus here. Then there would be no picture of a school bus. It is what it is.

My mom and dad, when they got a few years past retirement, wanted to live near one of us kids, and they picked Kendra, the reliable one. I was in radio, and kept moving — from Orlando to Daytona Beach to Honolulu back to Daytona Beach and back to Orlando.  It was then I met Sandie at the studio party.

Therefore, if I hadn’t met Sandie that afternoon, I never would have moved to Pennsylvania, where she grew up. I would never have worked for Penn State. I would never have met some of the best people I have ever known.

Oddly enough, although my soon-to-be-ex wife and I met — once — in State College, if I hadn’t gone to Illinois, we never would have reconnected, we would not have been married and I would have — been better off?  Not be going through the marriage break-up I’m now enduring?  I have no idea.  And, come to think of it, if I had never gone to that studio party and met Sandie and moved to Pennsylvania, I never would have met my soon-to-be ex wife either.

I’ve been fascinated with this sort of thing for a long time. And there’s a philosophical question involved here.  If I hadn’t… If only I had… I could have… I would have…. but it is useless.

Are there alternative outcomes to our choices?  I think some of the more esoteric physicists posit that there are an infinite number of universes in which all possible outcomes of each decision everyone makes are played out.  Or am I thinking of science fiction writers?  Either way, it makes no difference.

Once the decision is made, once the thing has been done, once the path has been taken, it results in the only possible outcome, if only because that particular outcome is the one that resulted.  And from that derives a quite overused sentence — but one that is heavy with meaning when properly deployed:  “It is what it is.”

Even though I realize the games of What If…  and If Only…  are useless, and lead to agonizing regrets, I’ve been playing them a lot lately.  What if… I hadn’t lost my job at Wake Forest University, would I still be happily married?  If Only…. I had seen the red flags, would the outcome have been different?

I am trying to stop playing those games.  They are quite useful to the authors of alternative history novels, which can be quite fascinating. What if… the Nazis had won WWII?   What if… Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated?

But to those of us who are trying to stay on the paths of our lives, whatever they may be,  playing What If…  or If Only… are more than useless.  They are dangerous.  Although we can learn from the mistakes we make, regret is a wasted emotion.  No amount of regret or What if…. or If Only… will change the past, and will not alter our present.





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