Lost in Virginia

I dropped Chandler off at college last weekend.

Chandler chose a liberal arts college in Washington DC, so by dropped off, I mean flew 2700 miles across the country, stayed five nights with a girlfriend in Virginia, and drove around picking up bedding and hangers and toothpaste (not to mention 5 Costco-sized boxes of granola bars and 6 pounds of protein powder) before depositing Chandler at his dorm where he almost didn’t let me stay and help him unpack. (Fortunately for him, he came to his senses.)

We flew out on Wednesday, did our errands on Thursday, went sightseeing on Friday and moved him in on Saturday. I stayed a couple extra days in case we forgot anything (which of course we did) and because it’s way cheaper to fly out on a Monday than a Sunday.

The roads in Virginia are confusing to me. In California we are on a grid. Virginia? Not so much.

map-of-san-fernando-valley
See those lines? Those are roads. It may not be pretty, but it’s easy to find your way around.

 

I could find no rhyme or reason to how they planned their roads. Streets randomly change names, there are trees everywhere, which is lovely, but it means that there are no landmarks and everywhere looks the same. There are also no signs. I understand and appreciate sign laws, but they have seriously taken the whole “no sign” thing too far. Strip malls sit far back off the street (behind the trees) and there is no possible way to know what store is inside of a shopping center unless you drive into it (down a quarter mile long driveway). Can someone please explain to me how someone from out of town is supposed to know where a freaking Starbucks is if you can’t see them from the road?!

Loudoun County Map
This is so not a grid.

 

And to make matters worse the GPS on my phone was not cooperating so we had to use Chandler’s. Yes, the navigation lady on Chandler’s phone would tell us to In half a mile turn right, In 400 feet turn right, TURN RIGHT! I mean, yeah, she was a little bossy, but in this case it was comforting to be told exactly where to go.

The only thing my navigation lady said was GPS signal lost. (Bitch!)

When I left Chandler on Saturday my GPS lost its signal (again) but at least it happened after I downloaded the directions. Then the battery started to die. My portable charger was dead and the car charger would not work. “Really, universe?!” I screamed said out loud. “I just dropped my son off at college 2,700 miles away. He’s so excited to start life on his own, he wouldn’t even let me stay for dinner. And now you’re not going to let me find my way home?” They say if you put it out into the universe what you need you will get it and this time it actually worked – with a bit of effort (and a lot of jiggling) I was able to get the car charger to work(ish).

I made it back and had half price sushi with my very good lifelong friends who now live in Virginia. Fortunately I did not have to drive.

On Sunday I had to go to Walmart (light bulb for desk lamp, thumb tacks and dryer sheets) and Old Navy (flip flops for the shower that inexplicably Walmart did not have) in Virginia, then to Chandler’s school in DC, and then back to Virginia to a cool restaurant/wine tasting bar called The Wine Kitchen to meet my long-time blogger friend Abby Byrd IRL. (That’s In Real Life for all you non-bloggers out there.)

Easy-Peasy, right? I mean, I’m a full-time working suburban mom; my typical Sundays have three times the items on this list.

I got to Walmart and Old Navy just fine. But then my GPS decided to PMS and completely shut down on me in the Old Navy parking lot even though I had full bars. (I told you she was a bitch!)

And when you’re somewhere you’ve never been before, you’re feeling very emotional about just dropping off your firstborn at college (that did I mention is 2,700 miles away?) and lost, it kind of stresses you out.

I went back into Old Navy to get on their WiFi so I could pull up my navigation. And I was running late so I had to get in touch with Abby and ask her if we could meet an hour later. BUT, even though I connected to Old Navy’s WiFi I could not get my navigation to work. And to make matters worse I did not have Abby’s phone number and could only contact her via Facebook messenger, which was also not working.

Fantastic!

I decided to go next door to Nordstrom Rack hoping their WiFi would be better, because, you know, it’s Nordstrom. Success! I was able to change the time with Abby and pull up directions. Of course the navigation signal was lost the minute I walked out of the store, but at least it was stored in my phone.

After saying goodbye to Chandler I punched in the address to The Wine Kitchen and surprise, surprise, my GPS had shut down again. I saw a university shuttle bus that takes students to the closest Metro stop so I followed it knowing there was a Starbucks at that stop and I could go inside and get onto my navigation system using their WiFi.

By this time I was running late, mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, frustrated and lacking confidence (though I have to admit it was pretty clever of me to follow that bus). My phone screen kept going black and I had to continually swipe my screen and re-pull up my directions. It was while doing this that I missed an exit on my way to the Wine Kitchen. As I drove past it I literally screamed, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” at the top of my lungs as tears rolled down my face. I felt completely undone, as if this were some harbinger of what my life was going to be like without Chandler. Without me he was untethered and free. Without him I couldn’t find my way; I was lost.

Can I ask that you indulge me (yes even more) for a minute and let me tell once again how crazy the roads are in Virginia? You can’t just get off at the next exit and get back on in the opposite direction like you can in California.

As an example it was 22.6 miles from the Old Navy to Chandler’s school. This relatively “short” trip had 9 turns, 7 roads, 1 parkway, 1 state road, 3 highways and a traffic circle and is a 35 minute trip with no traffic. (Thank you Google maps.)

In comparison, from my house to UCLA it is 26.7 miles that has 5 turns, 6 streets and 2 freeways and is a 33 minute trip with no traffic. Okay, the fact that there is never no traffic between my house and UCLA, even at 4AM on Christmas is beside the point!

Thank you for your indulgence, back to the story…

I did pull off at the next exit (I was still a good 30 minutes away and was supposed to meet Abby in 10 minutes) and saw a Ritz Carlton. I parked in front a shuttle bus, walked up to a valet and said, “Hi. I’m incredibly lost. I’m 3,000 miles away from home, I have no idea where anything is, I’m late for an appointment and my GPS is not working.” I did my best to hold it together and not have crazy eyes or tears.

He kindly directed me to the concierge where the lovely man behind the desk agreed that Virginia roads are jacked up and printed me a map. Abby had arrived and texted me (I had given her my number) and I was able to let her know that I was going to be really (really) late.

I finally found my destination with Abby waiting graciously and patiently for me. The wine and conversation made me feel better (because wine and conversation makes everything better). Afterwards Abby helped me find my way back to my friend’s. (Which miraculously only had 3 roads and 2 turns!)

I’ve been home a few days now. I know where everything is, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m lost, still trying to find my way.

 

 

 

 

 

The Long Road Home

As we start our journey home from Colorado to California (with a two night layover in Las Vegas) I find myself a bit weepy.  I’m not sad.  In fact just the opposite; I’m so happy right now I can hardly stand it.

I think it’s the nostalgia of the car trip that’s getting to me.  My husband Dave and I are listening to “The Best of Van Morrison” – a road trip staple – while the kids zone out to Star Wars in the back, their huge wireless headphones blocking out the music and our terrible singing.  I find myself thinking of our first real road trip over 16 years ago when I set off on a cross country drive sitting next to a man I loved more than any man before him.

On December 27, 1991, after putting all of my furniture into storage, I shoved my entire wardrobe and everything else I deemed essential into a rented Uhaul car-top carrier attached to my 1984 Toyota Celica and Dave and I set off towards New York.  (Okay, technically it was New Jersey, but you know…)

Dave and I started dating in the summer of 1989.  I fell hard for him right away.  I think he fell hard for me too but HEDIDNOTWANTAGIRLFRIEND so he was very non-committal.  (Once after we were dating for about a year we went to Phoenix for the weekend and he introduced me to his uncle – who lived there – as his date.  His date?  To Phoenix?  Yeah, he had serious commitment problems.)

In January of ’91 he got a promotion that required him to relocate to New York.  And even though I still never heard him ever utter the word “girlfriend” we decided to carry on long distance to see what happened. We managed to see each other for long weekends about every six weeks.  In October he asked me to move to New York.  I’d been ready since February.

I really think that if he hadn’t moved to New York we wouldn’t have ended up together.  It was the distance and missing me that made him realize he was in love with me.  If he had stayed in California I think I would have grown tired of waiting for him to commit and left him or I would have started nagging him for a commitment and he would have grown tired of that and he would have left me.  It turns out the distance that  separated us is ultimately the thing that brought us closer together.  It’s funny the little curve balls life tends to throw at you.

So two days after Christmas, after giving up a highly coveted job in the music industry and a really great apartment, I kissed my friends and family goodbye and set off on the road trip of my life.  We had a great time.  We tried to visit the Grand Canyon (well we did visit the Grand Canyon, we just couldn’t see it because it was socked in with fog), we stayed with some friends in Houston and had the best Queso Fundido I’ve ever had in my life, made it to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve, and got lost on some Louisiana back road that provided us with a story we still tell today.

When we were living in New York (okay, okay New Jersey) Dave actually lost his job due to a merger but was still under contract so he was still getting paid.  Talk about the time of our lives!  One day we were walking down the street in Hoboken and Dave turned to me and said, “It’s so cold.  Let’s go to Florida tomorrow.”  And we did.  We drove all the way down to Key West.  A few weeks later we drove through New England all the way to Montreal.  Four months later he got a job in Los Angeles and we loaded all of our belongings and my Celica onto a moving van and drove his Honda back home.

We’ve been on many crazy road trips since then – LA to Seattle and back, and twice we’ve driven roundtrip from Los Angeles to Wichita (once to pickup heirloom furniture and another time for his grandmother’s funeral).  When Chandler was just shy of four and Marley was only 3 months old we drove from Los Angeles to the Canadian Rockies and back.  We had to stop every 3 or 4 hours so I could nurse Marley, but that was one of the best and most beautiful trips of our lives.   3,000 miles in 10 days.  We both wish it could have been longer, though that probably would have meant driving even farther.  Not counting this trip where we are sure to log in over 2,000 miles, we’ve probably driven over 20,000 miles together on road trips alone.

There are things that remain constant for all of our trips:  two travel mugs and a Thermos full of coffee to start our day, music that is (for the most part) mutually agreed upon, whenever we stop for gas he fills up the car and I wash the windows, we always have a big box of Gobstoppers to suck on (the passenger pops them into the mouth of the driver), and the air conditioning is only turned on once the outside temp reaches 83 degrees (that’s his stupid ass rule – though you know, with all the fluorocarbons the A/C releases into the air I put up with it without complaining.)

This is actually our first vacation car trip since that trip to Canada almost 8 years ago.  Sure we’ve gone on some 5 or 6 hour drives for camping trips, but that hardly counts as a road trip by our standards.  And today, as we start our journey home and sing “Have I Told You Lately” to each other, the first song we danced to together as husband and wife, happy tears escape from the corners of my eyes -tears shed in reminiscence of the road trips of our past and in anticipation of all the miles we will surely travel together in our future.

*This post originally appeared on skirt.com on August 24, 2008. I have archived it here after learning that skirt will be shutting down the blogging portion of its site on November 30, 2013.

Recycle Me Please

Let’s not even talk about the 948 mile drive here in an SUV (which actually got surprisingly good gas mileage on the highway.)  I’m plugging my ears and saying “La, la, la” in denial over that one.

But yesterday I threw away a milk carton for the first time in over 10 years.  I’ve been recycling for a long time – way before it became cool.  At home my recycling trash is bigger than my trash trash.  I wash those Styrofoam trays that meat comes in in the dishwasher and take them to school to be used to pour paint into so at least they’ll have a second use before sitting in the earth for 50 years.  I use the backs of my daughter’s spelling flash cards for my shopping lists and then put them in my purse instead of throwing them away at the market so I can put them in the recycle trash at home because God forbid that tiny piece of paper (which only takes 2 weeks to biodegrade, unless of course it’s thrown away inside a plastic bag, then it’s anyone’s guess) gets thrown into the regular trash!    When I walk my dog every morning I actually pick up trash.  Not just bottles and cans that will get my kids 5 cents at the recycling center (I mean c’mon, you’d bend over and pick up a nickel wouldn’t you?), but actual trash in the gutter because I know it’s going to wash away into the ocean.  In a word; I’m kind of a freak.

At home I use a detergent for my dishwasher that is phosphate free because we are killing our oceans.  Okay, I have to admit that it doesn’t get my dishes quite as clean as the leading brand that most people use, but I’ve been using it so long I hardly notice any more.  (Don’t worry those of you who eat at my house, I scrub away all the yucky stuff before putting my dishes in the dishwasher – trust me, my dishes are clean.)  But here, at the timeshare, I use that leading brand (it was supplied by the timeshare), don’t scrub my dishes, put in the pots and pans that I usually wash by hand to save space in the dishwasher and not run it as often, and okay I admit it, ran the dishwasher when it was 75% full instead of completely stuffed.  At least I remembered to bring my Simple Green for cleaning the counters.

Last night my husband held up a red wine bottle and said, “I hate to do it, but I’m have to throw this away.”  “I know,” I said.  But the thought of that glass bottle sitting in landfill for a million years sent me over the edge.  I dug the milk carton (biodegration time:  forever – even longer than the wine bottle) and a tin can (biodegration time:  100 years) out of the garbage (both already rinsed out out of habit) and placed them next to the trash can under the sink.  I’m calling the front desk today to see if recycling is an option.  We are in Colorado after all.  Isn’t this place even more hippie-granola than California?  And if they say no?  Well, we are carting our soda cans and beer bottles back to California to claim our redemption fee.  Maybe there will have to be a place for milk bottles and tin cans (and flattened out cereal boxes) too…

*This post originally appeared on skirt.com on August 19, 2008. I have archived it here after learning that skirt will be shutting down the blogging portion of its site on November 30, 2013.