Pacific Coast Highway Day 1, LA to Pismo Beach

Dear Diary,

Even mid-morning on a Friday, Pacific Coast Highway through LA can be daunting.

But this time was different. Wonderfully different.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.

Normally, road rage will be the death of my soul someday. I am used to LA traffic sadly. We drive angry. Just because we don’t honk (that’s against the law in CA, unless you are trying to avoid an accident, lots of room for interpretation there) like NYC, don’t underestimate the propensity for angry responses in varying degrees of expression.

I traversed Malibu with my normal indifference. A not so subtle reminder of the very wealthy who have bought up Southern California’s beautiful beaches, making them nearly inaccessible to the other 99% of us poor slobs. I suppose it is only fitting, if I lived there I’d just sit and stare at the sun on the water mesmerized by the vista, and worry about how I was going to pay my property taxes.

Wait, I already do that sans the vista. Nevermind.

Where were my ancestors when they moved to Southern California and beach property was still affordable? Not at the beach. I’m still a little mad at them about that.

I digress.

Somehow in Oxnard, I got off of highway 1 and ended up at Port Hueneme. What the heck? I assumed that highway 1 would hug the coast, and like an idiot right out of the gate, I got lost. Damn my old school pony (Mustang). Well, not really. I still love it despite its retro gadget-less-ness.

I stop for gas and put down the convertible top. Bad move.

A homeless man decides he is going to jump in my car and “go with me” as he put it. Before I could even wipe off the look of horror/terror off of my face, the gas station owner came running out and berated him to be on his way.

Whew, that was a close one. Note to myself…DO NOT PUT DOWN CONVERTIBLE TOP WHEN ON A SIDE STREET OF OXNARD AND AN OBVIOUS TRAVELING SOLO FEMALE DRIVER. Check.

I acquiesced to using the GPS on my phone to get back on track. I don’t care for Oxnard. Just sayin’.

North inland to Ventura where the 1/101 again run alongside the beautiful Pacific Coast. I love Ventura, I have spent a few fabulous weekends there. The convertible  top came down again so I didn’t miss this tiny bit of shoreline running alongside the highway. While it is beautiful, I am aware of the fact that I am still on a 4 lane freeway.

On in to Santa Barbara where the 1/101 again veer inland. I love Santa Barbara. It’s like a clean, shiny, Spanish diamond with its white washed walls and tiled roof tops. Even the freeway is beautifully lined with mature Eucalyptus and oak trees. Just passing through this time, but I have spent time in Santa Barbara and only scratched the surface of what secrets this city holds in unparalleled beauty, history, sea life, and being the gateway to the Channel Islands.

I spent a weekend camping and sea cave kayaking on Santa Cruz Island which is one of my most spectacular bucket list accomplishments (especially since my kayak was taking on water which qualifies it for the “value added” bucket list).

I reluctantly leave Santa Barbara and about 10 miles (I’m not good with miles so don’t quote me) out of town we (my pony and me) meet up again with the sea. Highway 1/101 only teases me with a short view of its blue sparkling prize (the mighty Pacific) before we turn sharply back inland. After Gaviota State Park, highway 1 and 101 part ways, with the Pacific Coast Highway 1 continuing to Lompoc.

Despite the fact that it is inland, this is a gorgeous drive through native California flora and fauna. Once PCH splits off from the 101, you are truly now away from the populace that characterizes Southern California. Only those wishing to experience the Pacific Coast Highway are on this 2 lane road. There are no more big wheel trucks, no more manic commuters.

I notice that I can breathe in every sense of the word. I have been through here before, but not like this. Not with the convertible top down where I have a 360 degree view, where my eyes can follow the hawk that is following me.

The view is not the only sensory pleasure afforded by my convertible. The aroma of native California scrubs like Sage, Sage Brush, Lilac, Poppy, Chaparral (all preceded by California in their proper names) create a heady brew that as it excites the olfactory, invites the mind and soul to deeply breathe it in and relax. This is the unique perfume of my home, and I would not trade it for the world.

On to Lompoc where highway 1 turns sharply left and to the right becomes highway 246 North. I had planned on taking a couple of detours for personal site seeing opportunities in Lompoc. La Purisima Mission to the north, and Surf Beach to the south, but I’ll admit it, Oxnard and my near hijack incident had shaken my already fragile courage and I decided to pick just one. I chose Surf Beach. This trip was about the ocean, and while I love California’s old missions, I wanted to see the surfers at Surf Beach.

I turned left and instead of following highway 1 as it sharply turned right (still inland), I continued straight south on what had become 246 south. This road is so lonely and untraveled I began to have misgivings about my choice. Surrounded by farmland on both sides I grew more and more worried that I had taken the wrong road. The 9.5 miles south seemed like 100 miles when double guessing my route the entire way.

The brilliant blue sky started becoming greyer and greyer as I neared the ocean. As I paralleled the lazy Santa Ynez river, it’s green marshy inlets and brown backflows seemed increasingly cold, marshy, and forbidding as the skies became heavier with what is known as the “May Grey” conditions of California springtime coastal weather.

By the time I reached Surf Beach I had nearly turned back a few times. This uncertainty is unique to traveling alone, normally there is another warm body to confer with, and in my case – my fearless hubby would be up for whatever adventure this road would bring, even if it was the wrong one.

I parked the car in the train station/beach parking lot at the end of the road. Evidently this is a train stop for the Pacific Surfliner. I couldn’t possibly think of who would commute to and from here, unless it was a surfer.

I was the only one here.

I don’t know what I thought I expected to see. I suppose serious disciples of the sport (they would have to be since this is in the middle of friggin’ nowhere, at least by crowded So Cali standards where surfers fight to “drop in” a wave). Not a soul in sight.

As I headed down to the dismally grey beach, I think I discovered why it was so deserted. This sign was posted prominently at the gateway over the railroad tracks.

Fatal shark attacks really? Plural?

Then I saw it. A memorial to a fallen brother.

Surf 1

I googled the name after I got home and found the tribute to belong to Francisco Javier Solorio Jr., a 39 year old who was killed by a Great White Shark while surfing in October of 2012. His death was preceded almost exactly to the day in 2010 by Lucas Ransom 19, whose life was ended by another Great White Shark while surfing at this beach.

No wonder the beach was so grey.

Was it still in mourning over the death of two of its native sons?

Surf 3

It was windy and cold as I walked down the beach. The dunes and grass were beautiful, but I didn’t feel peaceful like I usually do when in the presence of crashing waves.  The waters seemed treacherous, with rip tides clearly visible in the surf. I felt very alone, cold, and forlorn. Whatever this beach is to its devoted surfers, it was lost to me on this day.

I left for Lompoc to resume my inland trek on PCH another 53 miles to Pismo Beach, which is one of my favorite beaches in California. After passing the Vandenberg Air Force Base, there are several quaint little towns along the highway, but an old Victorian Home in Oceano piqued my curiosity.

A gorgeous white monolith of a home literally locked in by mobile homes. What? I had to get closer, even if it meant driving through the private mobile home park.

Coffee Rice House

I couldn’t resist sneaking up a driveway to get a shot of the side. Beautiful…but sad from neglect and creepy looking.

Norco to Pismo 009

Once again, God bless google. Once I settled into my hotel in Pismo Beach for the night, I discovered this is the Coffee T. Rice house, built in 1885 by a wealthy businessman from Ohio in anticipation of the railroad coming through the area. Beset by the death of his son and soon after his wife, and in financial ruin from delays by the railroad, Mr. Rice moved out just 10 years later a broken man.

The place was then bought and used as a Sanatorium where many deaths are said to have occurred. Since that time the house has changed hands pretty frequently. There is said to be a large blood stain that despite heavy cleaning over the years, reappears in the same spot. It certainly looks like it would fit the bill for a haunted house.

On to Pismo Beach and the ocean again. Finally.

I arrived earlier than planned, and well before check-in time. Fine with me, I love this place. To me, Pismo Beach embodies all of the qualifications that I envision to qualify as a quintessential California beach. Miles and miles of fine sand, a well kept pier, a town center with surf shops and eclectic eateries, a cloudless sunny sky.

I abandoned my pony n the hotel parking lot and headed for a trek along the beach to the pier. It was a bit of distance, but the sea did it’s work. The sun shining brilliantly on the water, the slight surf just kissing my feet, and sound of waves barely breaking against the shore mixed with laughter from children playing in the distance, brought what I had hoped to find on this trip. Peace. Hope. A kinship with the rhythms of nature.

Pismo 2

But I did feel a slight bit of melancholy from being away from my family. We have such good memories from this place, and being alone was in sharp contrast to what I had ever known previously here. I could see my daughter as a little girl running ahead of me with her sand pail.

I was lost in these thoughts when a voice spoke to me.

It was God, interrupting the usual manic pace of my thoughts.

“You are never alone. I am here with you.”

Me: “You know what I mean Jesus, I feel alone.”

Jesus: “Do you remember when you were little the place you used to hide between the wall and mattress of your bed?”

Me: “I do now. I don’t like to remember those times Jesus.”

Jesus: “You don’t have to think about why you were there, just think about that I was there with you.”

Me: “I remember Jesus, and thank you for that. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I would be here now…and my step father never found me when I was hidden there.”

I had to chuckle a little at that. To this day, I may be the only person on Earth that has to fight falling asleep during an MRI because I feel so comfortable and safe in such close quarters. Wouldn’t the doctors be horrified if they knew why? Still makes me laugh. My own secret. Well, mine and Jesus’s.

Jesus: “You see, nothing has changed. I am always here with you and no matter how fractured your heart may be, how scared you might be, or how lost you may feel, I am always the same.”

Me: “Thank you. I needed to hear that. I do feel alone, confused, and afraid of what the future may hold. But better now. Much better now.”

Evidently the single pair of footprints on the Pismo Beach sand were from him carrying me.

I continued my trek into town marveling at how clear I had heard his voice. He was right, revisiting that past did not hold its usual dread. I was left with the warm, safe, peaceful feeling I had fallen asleep to between the mattress and the wall 46 years ago.

I bought my dinner at a little Mexican restaurant just off the pier that I cannot recommend. I walked back in time to check-in to my glorious room. If this was any indication, the rest of my trip would be magical.

Pismo 1

My view was extraordinary. The gleaming sea, palm trees, and the rocky cliffs north of the beach. Such a contrast to Surf Beach.

I spotted whales feeding off the shore. It was surreal.

I met a lovely woman from Canada in the patio next to mine. We spoke for a while as we watched the whales and the sun disappear on the horizon.

I leave you today dear diary  with the glorious Pismo Beach sunset.

Pismo3

Day two is Pismo Beach to Monterey. I hope you stay with me.

 

Every Epic Journey Starts With One Step

Dear Diary,

A story starts with one word on a blank page.

A painting starts with one brush stroke on a blank canvas

A journey starts with just one step.

For most people.

For me, before I take that step a journey starts with lots and lots of planning.

I wish I could be so fearless as to just jump in my car and let fate take me wherever it will, but that is not and never will be who I am.  I would be worried the entire way about the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s.

I gotta have details.

So began the epic planning that preceded my epic journey. But that’s part of the fun.

I pretty much decided to cruise Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Seattle on a whim. It had been on my bucket list since before the bucket list had a name, but never bubbled up to the top before.

Everything in it’s time they say.

We had already done the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Monterey when our daughter was little, but my hubby hated it (he’s not a coastal hairpin turns with traffic kind of guy) so it never really came up again.

But I didn’t have to worry about what everyone else thought about it, this was going to be a solo trip. My trip.

Kind of liberating.

I planned this trip so thoroughly  that I’m quite sure I logged an embarrassing amount of time on Trip Advisor and You Tube.

It was a brand new feeling to have as much time as I wanted, and a purse of hush money that was completely outside of our household and savings budget.

God bless retirement!

A road trip of this magnitude also has to be about the conveyance.

I had traded in the Mom car for a convertible Mustang GT after my youngest started high school. I was going to have to rely on my pony (the Mustang) to take me 1800 miles over one of the most challenging roadways in America, so of course I had it checked for worthiness. I was good to go.

My Pony

My Pony

I googled what I would need for emergency road gear and assembled it along with personal needs and creature comforts.

In short, it took three weeks to eliminate every possible unknown, besides what awaited me on the journey itself.

Still the question looming larger and larger through every step still was, WILL I BE ALRIGHT ON MY OWN?

And still I had no answer.

I was certainly fine planning it on my own. It was refreshing actually. Not have to plan and pack for anyone else but me. Not something I had experienced for 35 years.

If I’d ever known, I had long since forgotten what it was like to be a free spirit.

A free spirit armed with maps (my pony is old school, no GPS), an itinerary, reservation confirmations AND apps on my phone for weather and road conditions.

Maybe not so much a free spirit.

As my focus was narrowed to my Next Big Thing, I noticed a subtle shift in the tensions in my marriage. Our conversations became easier. Our time together more valued.

One day while I was marathon gardening (had to get it planted before the trip), my hubby took the pony and had a Blue Tooth enabled stereo installed as an early Mother’s Day gift!

Really nice of him, and really nice to have music. I created a Pacific Coast Highway playlist.

As I was packing the car, I noticed a little stowaway trying to make herself as small as possible. I felt guilty not taking little Lucy, but I would be focused on her and besides, some of the places I had booked didn’t take animals. I would miss her terribly but she would be in good hands at home.

The only thing left to do was leave, so on the first Saturday in May 2013 I started what was to be one of the most enriching, empowering, and visually stunning weeks of my life.

BUT, WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE?

I needed to know.

Next time dear diary – LA to Pismo Beach

 

 

 

 

A Bucket List Expose’ – An Affair of the Heart

Dear Diary,

The only guideline I gave myself when I started writing to you dear diary was that I had to be honest. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…as I know it.

I hate it when I do that.

I want to tell you so badly about my Pacific Coast Highway triumph, but I cannot do that unless I tell the truth of what motivated me to accomplish the solo trip from LA to Seattle.

It’s a painful truth.

Let me set the stage – April 2013. I had been off of work for 3 months and was still fighting for my life. I had not told anyone of the severity of my illness, that’s not how I was raised.

When things get darkest, I was taught from a young age to go inside. Don’t expose the monsters, don’t ask for help. Silence was rewarded.

My job had just let me go for being sick and in exchange for my silence on the matter and a 5k settlement, I signed an agreement that I would not pursue legal action.

I was too sick to care about legal action. I gladly signed it just to be over the LOA extensions and hostility I perceived every time I let them know I wasn’t getting better.

Still…it was a blow to both my ego and my pocketbook. I had not been without an income since I was 15 years old, which was 40 years. The 5k was only about 7 days worth of salary for me. They got off cheap.

I had never been faced with something I couldn’t overcome. Once I set my mind to achieve something, I don’t let go until it’s done. Being sick was new to me, and as hard as I tried, I could not affect the outcome.

If I’m being honest (and I have to be now that I made that rash promise to you diary), I knew deep down that I had been sick for a few years, but I kept talking myself out of it. I kept telling myself “it must just be from getting older, or it’s just stress, or I’m just tired, or I just need to eat better, or I just need to get more exercise.”

All of that was true to some extent, but the real culprit was the dark passenger ravaging my body. That’s what I call it.

Science calls it “Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement”. Those are fancy words that mean I have disease overlap between Lupus, Scleroderma, and Polymyositis with Rheumatoid Arthritis thrown in for good measure. The autonomic involvement is just a fancy word for saying my esophagus doesn’t work.

You would think I’d be thinner.

I was finally motivated to go to the doctor when I got up from my desk at 10:00 at night (I was the only one left in the building thank God), and the world went dark. I woke up looking at the underbelly of my desk. I’d never seen it from that angle before.

Kind of a Dead Poet Society moment.

I went to a doctor the next day and found that my heart was under attack. The unchecked disorder was damaging my ticker and it was in critical danger. Who knew? No matter how hard you try, you can’t will the heart into getting back in the game if it is marching to the beat of it’s own drummer.

By April 2013, my heart was showing signs of improvement. Not completely out of the woods yet…but at least it was not boldly marching down it’s fatal path.

But this wasn’t the catalyst for the bucket list trip. Not by a long shot.

I was lonely and not a little bored. I had been cut off from the outside world. My friendships were mostly work-related, so I had not had social contact for 4 months. My world had gotten pitifully small and silent.

The day came when I heard my hubby’s phone go off so I picked it up and looked at the text from his best friend Steve. They were discussing the upcoming “guy” weekend they were planning at our house in Arizona.

Mind you, in 20 years of marriage I had not checked his wallet, his phone, his pockets, his car, or anything else. I trusted him completely.

I read the text because I was hungry for some sort of outside contact. Any kind of interaction would do, even if it wasn’t mine.

It was delicious, so I didn’t stop there. I opened his recent texts and there it was. The catalyst. One text of three little words.

 “Wear something sexy.”

And it wasn’t sent to me.

It was to a female friend of his (let’s call her Tran) who he had arranged to meet on his way to work and sell some ammo to.

Well Wyatt Earp, you just shot me. Through.The. Heart.

The heart I was already so desperately trying to mend. The heart that was already at risk. The heart already under attack.

Except this blow was not from a dark passenger, it was from the person closest to me, my partner, my best friend, my mate.

Who is this guy? I felt like I suddenly didn’t know him at all.

I floundered. And true to my roots, I dove deep inside. I revealed nothing.

This was not a new pain. Although it had been many years, betrayal was not new. My mother betrayed us when she didn’t save us from my step-father. My first husband betrayed me with a co-worker when I was pregnant with our child.

So why am I always so surprised?

I had this roiling and seething inside of me for 2 weeks. The anger was building. The anger at being betrayed, the anger at having to deal with this while I was still trying to get back to good with my dark passenger, the anger at having this occur when I am 55 years old and supposed to be enjoying life, the anger at feeling like a fool.

Then came the monsters.

The ones that tell me it must be my fault somehow. The ones that tell me I must be unlovable. The ones that tell me I don’t deserve to be happy. The ones that tell me to pretend like it never happened so I don’t have to deal with the truth.

Not this time monsters. I am older and wiser now. I don’t have the time or energy for a trip down self destruction lane.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time. I’d lost my job, I’d lost my health, I’d even lost my figure thanks to the rapid weight gain from the massive amount of steroids and other medications I’d been taking for the last 4 months. I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror anymore. And now I’d lost my trust?

I’d lost my way.

It finally all came to a head at…of all places…a Wal Mart.

Let me just say, I have an abhorrence of public scenes. People who air their dirty laundry by arguing loudly in public have a lack of self control or a desperate need for attention in my book.

On this day I had gone with him to Wal Mart and true to his nature, Wyatt Earp insisted upon stopping by the ammo section. The Area Manager told him that they were expecting a large shipment of .22’s if he wanted to wait. There was already a line forming.

He asked if I minded waiting. I didn’t. What else did I have to do?

Then I remembered that .22 shells were what had brought Tran and Wyatt together on his way to work. Did she wear something sexy that night (he works off shifts)? Like a holster maybe?

I walked away, pretending like I was doing other shopping (I hate Wal Mart, so this is out of character for me normally). I could feel the anger doing a slow boil. It was dangerously close to spilling over.

2 hours later Wyatt called me and told me he had the .22’s and was ready to go. I could meet him at the check out lanes. He again thanked me for waiting around. I told him that it was fine as long as he didn’t sell them to someone he had arranged to meet on the way to work and had told to wear something sexy.

There it was. I spilled the beans in Wal Mart, a very public place. They had boiled over and right out of my mouth. Like anger vomit.

The realization of what I’d said visibly went through his mind and onto his face.

He has no problem with public scenes. His family is notorious for them.

He hissed at me, “You invaded my privacy?”

What? That’s what the issue was in his mind? Here comes the cray cray feeling.

I walked out and waited by the car. I wasn’t going to rebut in Wal Mart.

When he got in the car he was mad. HE WAS MAD. I love that.

I finally rebutted, “The only people who need privacy in a relationship are the ones who have something to hide or something to protect. Which is it with you?”

He said, “I don’t have anything to hide. I sent that text to test you to see if you checked my phone.”

“How convenient”, I replied. “Let’s just say I was buying that, which I’m not, but if I were…why would you send the text to Tran? She thinks it’s real.”

He said, “No she doesn’t, she was in on the test.”

He was not helping his case. This put me over the anger edge.

“You brought in a woman, a third person into our relationship to TEST me? Now I really don’t buy it. I’d like to think you are not that stupid.”

“I didn’t really think about it that way. It was an innocent text. It’s not like you caught me going out on you. After all, if I was going to go out on you, do you think I would be with someone like Tran?”

This just keeps getting better.

“Really? Now you’re going to be insulted by WHO you would NOT choose to go out on me with?” I said incredulously.

“The point is this…do you REALLY think that I would ever go out on you?” was his rebuttal.

“No, but I also would not have believed that you would ask someone to wear something sexy to meet for a late night business exchange. You were flirting, whether or not you meant it to TEST me, at the end of the day it wasn’t about me. It was about you, and I’m done talking about it. I need to think where I go from here.”

To make a long story longer, we managed to have quite a few more very loud arguments (in private) about it.

When he left for his “guy” weekend, I decided since I was already accused of being a privacy invader, what did I have to lose?

NEVER, EVER underestimate a woman’s ability to find shit out when she’s mad.

I hacked his mail, his ipad, his computer. I found a couple of photos of him, Tran, and a woman we shall call Piggy (for obvious reasons, just sayin’) in the garage of our Arizona house partying. Piggy’s long standing crush on Wyatt was a joke among our friends who enjoyed ribbing him about it.

I wasn’t laughing anymore.

The date on these photos were at a time that I was still working 6 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day. For us. For our future, while he was partying with Tran and Piggy at our other house?

It wasn’t a smoking gun, but still this was more than I could take.

I needed a time out. I needed to think. Away from this place. Away from everyone.

Belatedly I realized that I had no support system in place for this kind of thing. My little sister had been my support system, and she was gone.

A nagging question begged to be answered.

Would I be ok alone?

I hadn’t been alone since I was 20 years old, and  a short year after getting married, became a single Mom.

The nagging question became a shouting question. WOULD I BE OK ALONE?

I didn’t have an answer. I truly didn’t know. I needed to know. More than I needed anything else.

And my heart needed to heal. In so many ways.

I turned to a very unlikely source for comfort. I turned to my bucket list…and the solo Pacific Coast Highway trip was born.

The fun begins next time dear diary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Not Glamp, I Will Not Glamp…I Glamped.

Dear Diary,

I promise to keep this one short.

We went on our first camping trip in many years this weekend! I promised my hubby I would travel light, so he brought out this tiny little “bug out” bag he calls it.

He knows how I like options in outfit choices – it’s a girls prerogative!

I had to follow all of his guidelines though and pack light, remember I am trying to warm him up to my Next Big Thing.

The differences we deem as important became abundantly clear as we readied for this trip.

My hubby is a foodie. I made sure I satisfied a foodie’s dream requirements with my camping menu…

Homemade sliced Ham and Roast Beef with cheddar cheese on French Rolls for lunches.

Egg, Sausage, and Cheddar Cheese Breakfast Burritos.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce complete with Toasted Garlic Bread.

Kielbasa Sausage with homemade Mac and Cheese.

Cheesy Potato Fries as a late night snack.

Pumpkin and Spice pancakes with real maple syrup from Canada.

And last but not least…roasted marshmallows with chocolate chip oreo cookies for what I like to call SMOREOS.

While I felt pretty ridiculous with three outfits for three days, I will say we had a fabulous time with our decked out camp, complete with stereo, table, chairs, 5 person (for 2 people) tent, and a boat to get us there. Yes, that’s 2 ice chests.

Who could want for more?

camping

We almost had a Ricky and Lucy Camp Lake Mohave, with the 30 mph winds and an 18 foot boat, but we made it.

The coyotes loved the leftovers, although they had a tummy ache after raiding our trash bags while we slept I’m sure.  At least they weren’t bears.

Who needs options when you camp with MacGyver?

I thought I was humoring him, but he was really humoring me.

You got to love him.

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bucket List Value Add – Ricky and Lucy Houseboat Lake Powell

Dear Diary,

I thought I would revisit a “Bucket List Item – Value Added” from years passed. I call this one Ricky and Lucy Houseboat Lake Powell.

I play the part of Lucy which would make my hubby Ricky (and our daughter Little Ricky…let’s just go with it).

We try to take turns with our annual vacations of marking Bucket List items off of our respective lists. September 2000 was his year and Ricky decided we would rent a house boat on Lake Powell.

Lucy alrightThis was my initial response. Alright, let’s try it.

It turned out to be one of my favorite domestic family vacations.

But true to Ricky and Lucy fashion, we had a few hiccups.

Initially we rented the houseboat with another couple (that would make them Fred and Ethel) but at the last minute, they backed out. We decided to go anyway, with me as the co-pilot instead of our friend Fred.

Remember, we are city folk. Not quite the blind leading the blind but almost.

Off we go with a map of Lake Powell and its 2,000 miles of shoreline. We wanted to find a specific place that somebody told us about and was tucked back off of the main lake, supposedly very quiet and private.

LPhouseboat

After a couple of false starts, Ricky told me to jump on the Sea Doo (we were towing 2 behind the houseboat) and check out this particular inlet. In fact, I took this photo and then sped ahead of him.

Since I can go so much faster on the Sea Doo than the houseboat, I jetted into the inlet and sure enough, there it is tucked back behind a couple of hills and turns. I beached the Sea Doo and decided to run, swim, run, swim, run over the little bunny hills and across small chunks of water to flag down Ricky from the mouth of the tucked back spot.

I ran over hill, swam, ran over hill, and nearly collapsed. I couldn’t BREATHE! Whew, out of shape. I run up one of the bunny hills and try to flag him down…but he doesn’t see me.

By then he’s turning the boat around to leave.

Crap.

I run, swim, and barely make it out of the water to run again to the Sea Doo. Already I experience a near drowning and we haven’t even got the houseboat tied down yet.

Props to the aquathoners. I’m not one of them.

I get the Sea Doo back in the water, start it and off I go to try and catch him before he makes it out to the main channel.

I drive up to the boat and flag him from the side. I still can’t breathe.

He opens the captain’s window and says…”where have you been all this time? This is no time to go for a ride, we need to find that place.”

REALLY Captain Bligh (I hope he never finds this blog)? That’s what I thought, but I couldn’t get enough breath to force words out of my mouth. So I just pointed behind us.

Ricky turned the boat around and followed me in the somewhat winding passage into the back inlet, but O.M.Gosh. It was beyond words beautiful.

We finally get the boat tethered to shore and made ourselves at home in our little slice of Southwestern heaven.

SawyerCove2

You can barely see a couple of the hills (in my defense a couple are out of the photo) on the left in the above photo that I tried to run, swim, run, pass out.

SawyerCove

Doesn’t that rock positioned precariously look like a human bust? A large heavy bust. I thought about an earthquake but remembered I was not at home. Since it’s been up there for thousands of years, I reckon 4 more days won’t hurt.

We had dinner and our daughter (Little Ricky remember) fell asleep on one of two full beds that folded out. Big Ricky and I climbed to the roof of the boat and laid on our backs to see the millions of stars he had told me you can see in the desert at night.

Just one problem. No stars.

It was pitch black. I felt like I was on the inside of a cow.

Then it started. Lightening, thunder, and pouring rain. I mean like God opened up the skies and threw everything at us.

Remember, we are from So Cali. We don’t have rain, and on the off chance we do, it is not accompanied by all of this lightening and bone rattling thunder.

Ricky was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Snoring in fact.

I on the other hand, was wide awake. So was Little Ricky.

I climbed in her bed and we sat terrified every time the sky would light up (it seemed like it lit up in many places all at once) and then a clap of thunder would craaaaaaaack over top of us.

Lightening over Lake Powell

Lightening over Lake Powell

Lake Powell storms are legendary, but reading about them and living through them are two entirely different things.

Then I thought about the flash floods I’d read about in order to prepare for this trip.

Wait…weren’t we at the bottom of a very narrow wash between two high cliffs? I pictured us being buried under mounds of mud and water before we could even untether the boat from shore. What do you think happened here?

Sunken Houseboats

That did it. I woke Ricky up.

“We have to move the boat out to the main part of the inlet” I told him.

“Why?” he said.

RickymadI replied a little sheepishly at his tone, “Because we are going to be buried under a flash flood.”

This is the look he gave me and promptly fell back asleep.

So I stayed awake all night worrying and he slept. This is the nature of our relationship.

The next morning this is how it looked while I had my morning coffee. Like nothing had happened.MirrorLP

The next four days were bliss. We used the houseboat as home base and road the Sea Doos, hiked, and found ruins of Native Americans along the way. We went canyon exploring on land and cave/inlet exploring from the water. Pictures cannot do this amazing lake justice. Especially the ones I took pre-digital camera. I had a waterproof disposable I think. Not the best, but you get the idea. I’ve included a few that are not my own. Here is fearless Ricky blazing the trail inside of a water cave. So beautiful. Patcave

There is something to be said for being unplugged and watching the sunset from your own bow (or is it stern?).

Sunsetsawyercove

Little Ricky even caught her first, and last fish. She didn’t much care for it, and still doesn’t.

Shelbyfishing2

 

For all of its beauty, Lake Powell is deceptively treacherous. I had to ride the houseboat leaning over the front railing to watch out for rocks that randomly lurk just under the surface of the water.

The houseboat that came in just as we were leaving had a brand new Malibu ski boat that ended up just like this one on its first trip out to ski in the inlet. Sad but at least nobody was hurt, except the owner’s pride and pocketbook may have taken a fatal hit.

Lake Powell rocks

On our return trip back to the Marina, we discovered that Lake Powell wasn’t done with us yet. A huge storm came out of nowhere (I call it the Perfect Storm because the waves seemed as big as in the movie, though I know they couldn’t have been) while we were trying to cross Wahwheap Bay.

It seemed like we couldn’t get anywhere because both the wind and waves kept pushing us back. When I looked out of the sliding glass door in the back of the boat there was 3 inches of water above the sliding track.

I tried not to panic. I don’t do well in these natural disaster type of situations, I’ll be the first to admit it. My skill set is more around finding parking in LA. Not this. Not this at all.

Then one of those huge tourist boats passed us a bit close and the wake from this deep hulled boat literally went over our little bargain basement sized houseboat. We had to hold on for dear life to keep from being thrown to the floor and then battered as the boat rocked wildly.

Little Ricky was already laying on the bed coloring so thankfully she was good.

The wake wave was so big and powerful, it broke the CHAIN that held shut the swing door to the deck that you enter the boat when the gangplank is down (I don’t know what it’s called obviously. Sorry  excuse for a Captain’s mate, I know) . The water then proceeded to pick up the giant ice chest that resides on the deck and pulled it into the lake.

Ricky is a pretty thrifty guy, in fact, with all of our differences this is the area where we are pretty much the same and why our marriage has endured.

Except I was fine with letting the ice chest go and getting back to the Marina with our lives.

As we were watching this action off of the front of the boat, Little Ricky could be heard yelling – “Oh no, here comes the Sea Doos” from the back of the houseboat. That didn’t sound good. We looked back just in time to see the Sea Doos come riding in on another huge wave and slam into the side of the houseboat.

We were under attack by our own Sea Doos.

Even with all of the rain and wind and waves I could see one of the Sea Doos had sustained a large crack in its hull.

So now we are in a race to make it to the Marina before the Sea Doo sinks.

What does Ricky do now? He says, “Take the wheel and keep the boat facing this direction…I’m going in after the ice chest.”

Lucy scared“YOU’RE WHAT?!?!?!?!?!” I say with a shrill voice.

“I’m not paying to replace that ice chest” he replied.

And with that he was gone off of the front deck into the stormy water. I would have been mad about it, but he didn’t give me time.

I couldn’t even see him from my vantage point. I could see the ice chest and then his arm come over the top of it, but then the boat turned with another wave and wind.

I started up the engines of the twin outboards and tried to turn the boat in the direction he told me to keep it facing.

I had no idea he was under the boat at that point.

I was in a full panic now because I couldn’t find him. The ice chest was there, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Then I see him pop up and pull himself and the ice chest back onto the boat.

He fastened the gate with a bungee cord and back into the houseboat he came, like it never happened.

He said, “Why did you start the boat after I was pulled under it?”

I felt faint.

“You were under the boat?” I said.

“Yeah, I had a helluva time keeping myself from being sucked into the props.”

I couldn’t stand anymore.

I just hugged him while moving him back behind the wheel. Then I had to sit down and regain my composure without bursting into tears.

We hauled ass into the Marina. I mean literally into the dock.

They call it a dock, we call it an emergency stop.

Semantics.

We lived through our Lake Powell Bucket List Value Added vacation.

The houseboat didn’t have a scratch. The Sea Doo did not fair as well, but we had it repaired in time for the next summer.

I could go back there, but I think once might be enough.

Until next time dearest diary.

The Clarity List

Dear Diary,

Clarity – [klar-i-tee]

Noun – clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.

The Clarity List. The most important list anyone will ever make, and you haven’t heard of it because it’s the last list anyone makes. If you’re lucky, you are given time to make it. I know because I had what turned out to be a dry run at it last year.

It’s the list you make when you’ve been given a death sentence.

Your life-force is an amazing thing. It makes sure you sail through life with very little thought to the end. Even when you’ve been given the death sentence, once it’s rescinded you go right back to where you left off without giving the clarity list another thought.

That’s a good thing.

But since I DID make one, I merged it into my bucket list.

It’s hard to trick your life-force into letting you make a clarity list before it’s time. Your mind is not easily tricked. It’s always on the job.

But you should try.

It’s funny that what I thought would be important to me at the end, was not.

I thought I would care about my husband’s new wife spending my 401k. I didn’t.

I thought I would want to jump on a plane and go to #1 on my bucket list (Tahiti). I didn’t.

I thought it would be important to itemize who got what of my earthly possessions. It wasn’t.

When I was staring the grim reaper in the face it was much different than I thought it would be. It was amazing at how quickly and easily it was to see what was most important.

Not money. Not places. Not things.

Clarity.

Only two things became important.

Spending time with people I love became paramount. On any terms.

Seeing the beauty around me. Have you ever seen how beautiful the world is when you are about to leave it? I hope you haven’t. But you should try. Even the smallest thing like a lady bug or the green of grass is so beautiful. It’s like seeing it for the first time. Really seeing it.

Clarity.

No fear. All those things that kept me awake at night like who pissed me off or how much money I spent against my budget or the to-do list for next week, simply fell away. None of that mattered.

All of my little nagging fears didn’t scare me anymore.

Except dying.

How much pain would I be in? How long would I linger? Have I done enough to insure I would go to heaven? Have I done enough to make sure my family will meet me there?

Have I told everyone how much they mean to me?

Clarity.

I didn’t regret any of the things I thought I would regret. But I did have a few.

I regretted all of the time I spent caring about what other people thought.

I regretted not being happier with the body God gave me.

I regretted not making my kids go to church every Sunday.

Hey, I’m just being honest.

After my death sentence was repealed, my life-force kicked right back in, but I have put a few things in place as a result of my clarity list.

I am available and present with my family now. No distractions. I drop everything when a friend calls. My door is always open to those I love.

And it’s closed to those that don’t deserve my time anymore. The drama loving, negative, destructive folks have had to be let go. It wasn’t easy (they don’t like not being enabled or having to do for themselves) but they take away, rather than give to the richness of life.

Clarity.

I have two little chests (one for each of my children) that I drop notes into every time I think of a story from when they were little or something I want them to know after I’m gone. Like how much I love them.

Clarity.

I am going on my first camping trip in 30 years (where there are no bears, I am still afraid of bears no matter what list I’m looking at) and although it’s not a place that is on my bucket list, the time I get to spend with my hubby unplugged and appreciating beauty wherever I am satisfies both items on my very short clarity list.

The most important list of all.

Until next time dear diary.

Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room

Dear Diary,

Since I am stuck here sidelined from training for The Next Big Thing, I thought I would regale you with tales from bucket list items I have recently been able to check off as complete.

Heceta Head Lighthouse was to be the crown jewel of two weeks of jewels. I had planned my trip very carefully (that’s part of the fun) and had amassed a rather eclectic collection of hotels, motels, and B&B’s with the only pre-requisite being that it had to be on the Pacific Ocean’s shore (the first week anyway, I took an inland route home).

Spending the night in a Lighthouse (keeper’s house) was a bucket list item within a bucket list item (the PCH experience). I had looked forward to it since leaving my home in Southern Cali, and just couldn’t wait to see it up close and personal.

It didn’t disappoint. In fact, pictures cannot do it justice.

A Room With A View - and a Ghost

A Room With A View – and a Ghost

This is the view from my room.

I had checked in fairly early in the afternoon so set out immediately to explore the area. I didn’t know much about the history before I got there, which is out of character for me. I usually do quite a bit of research upfront on travel locations. Maybe because I had so much to plan for the trip, I knew I wanted to stay here so I booked it and moved on.

I will never make that mistake again.

I made the short walk up to the light house, and again I had my breath taken away.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Coming from So. Cali., I am not accustomed to the ferocity of the sea battering the rocky Oregon shoreline. It is indescribably beautiful, but at the same time sends the message that it is in charge. One slip would result in certain death on the crags and rocks below, if not plunged fully into the ocean itself in which you would be battered to death within minutes. Whew, I almost scared myself there.Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 045

No guardrails or fences here. This snapshot was taken on the way to the lighthouse. It can’t be seen from the house or the lighthouse even though it’s between them. Only when you are up close to it and this is as close to the edge as I get folks. Falling from this height into the ocean is most definitely not on my bucket list and is a value add I will most assuredly not allow if I can at all help it.

The beach below my window (Devil’s Elbow State Park, hmmmm I should have known something was up) was my next destination and again, words cannot describe the beauty of the Cape Creek bridge, Cape Creek emptying into the ocean, and the ocean and shoreline beyond. There were more than a few caves along the beach which I would have loved to explore, but it was high tide and I am more than a little respectful of the sea. I know what it can do and I will not challenge it. Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 057House and Bridge

I went back to the Victorian.

There is no food at the Lighthouse Keeper’s B and B (except for breakfast), and both Florence to the south and Yachats to the north were a bit of a drive away. That was fine with me. One of many unexpected perks of traveling alone was I didn’t have to worry about who was hungry and what they wanted to eat. I just made myself a PB&J and a couple of handfuls of trailmix (from supplies I had in my car), followed by a water from my little ice chest and I was good to go.

There was only one other couple in the entire house. Mid-May is not tourist season, and in these parts (at least for me), it was dang cold. I sat in the parlor while they made their dinner in the guest kitchen.

I should explain why this particular Victorian is so unique.

It was actually the Lighthouse Keepers Assistant’s houses. A Victorian duplex if you will. The Head Lighthouse Keeper’s house was demolished in 1940 and the lumber used to build a café in Mapleton, Oregon. This photo was taken in 1900 of both houses before demolition of the foreground house.headkeeperhouse_1900

The Assistant’s duplex (background)was actually designed from a single plan and doubled in the interest of saving time and supplies since this place was so remote.

It is still off the beaten path.

Originally, the two identical homes were separated by a wall which was taken down by the B and B operators (it is actually owned by the State) to make a single dwelling.

That being said, there are still two identical kitchens – one can be used by guests, while the one on our side of the house was used exclusively by the chef. The proprietor was gone as soon as both parties were checked in. He mentioned that there was a woman on site that lived in the basement (accessible only by outside stairs), but that we wouldn’t see her unless we needed her (getting locked out, etc.).

We had the entire 6 bedroom, 2 kitchen, 2 living room, 4 bathroom house to ourselves.

I got to know the other couple. A thoroughly delightful pair from Canada (actually he was originally from Australia with his dreamy accent) who were there celebrating her graduation from medical school.

Heceta Lighthouse and keepers houseIn the above photo, my room is the right hand set of double windows on the second floor. The attic windows are the double set on the third floor. The lighthouse is in the background. The rocky coastline follows the road around to the lighthouse, and around behind where I am standing to take this photo. Heceta is a large outcropping of rocky coastline named for the Spaniard who discovered it in 1755, and evidently lived to tell about it.

After my new friends ate dinner, we started out sitting on the glorious front porch, but because of the cold moved into the parlor.  We lit a nice fire and chatted while they played a board game.

I must comment on the change in weather. While Oregon (at least for my trip) was not sunny So Cal by any stretch of the imagination, it had been partly sunny when I arrived. As the day started to wane, the waves had become even more violent, the sky ominous, and it became bone chillingly cold. Even though it wasn’t raining, everything was wet and slippery. Not a place I would hike in the dark that’s for sure.

I got a feeling for what a lighthouse keeper’s job really must have been like. Not as glamorous as I had imagined.

While we were chatting in front of the fire and watching the storm roll into our little slice of Pacific Coast heaven, the subject of the house being haunted came up.

WHAT?!?!?!?

Exsqueeze me….did you ask me if I knew the place was haunted? Ummm, no. I certainly did not.

The male half of this couple told me to not pay any attention to her, she was the type that if there was one shark in the ocean she would expect to get bit.

Oooooookaaaaay, but this house was a bit smaller than the ocean. This would be like a shark in your swimming pool. Pretty good odds of an encounter I’d say.

While this was slightly unnerving, I didn’t feel ominously threatened or that we were being watched or anything else spooky for that matter.

When I finally got home 2 weeks later, I googled it and is indeed considered one of the most haunted houses in America. Why didn’t I know that going in? Still a mystery to me since I am normally Miss Information. Not mis-information…nevermind.

The next thing we knew the caretaker from downstairs was in the room with us and explained she was only there to close the shutters on the front doors (to protect the delicate stained glass) in preparation for the incoming storm. Incoming storm? Funny, I didn’t know that either. I even had Yachats as a favorite in my Weather Channel app, oh that’s right AT&T…

We invited the caretaker to have a cup of tea and chat in front of the fire which she cheerfully did. We got through the niceties and I went straight for the heart of the matter by asking about ghosts.

“Oh” she said, “we only have one and she is a shy ghost. She is known as “Rue” and rarely appears as a visual specter, the only time we even know she’s here is when she  gets upset from spring cleaning and move everything around.”

I asked…”what do you mean by move everything around?” She replied, “When we close for a week and move everything to the middle of the house to clean and make repairs, sometimes when we come back the next day it’s all put back in its place.”

I wish I had a cleaning ghost like that in my house.

Be careful what you wish for…I know, I know.

I learned from our host the life of an assistant housekeeper’s wife was horrible. She would be subject to surprise white glove inspections and scrutiny by both her husband and the head lighthouse keeper’s wife. No wonder poor Rue is still at it.

This assuaged any fears of paranormal activity because frankly, who can be afraid of a ghost that doesn’t show herself and cleans?

A couple of hours later we had talked ourselves out and all parties bade each other a goodnight. The Canadian couple and I headed up our steep winding stairs and to our respective bedrooms.

This is my room pre-storm and dark.  No frills but who needs a TV or computer with a view like this? Room and View

As I laid down to read before falling asleep, I felt myself become melancholy which is not something I normally allow myself to indulge in. It’s a slippery slope, and I would prefer to dwell on happy thoughts whenever possible. And it’s always possible.

I chalked it up to not being able to talk to my kids for a couple of days (one of which was Mother’s Day), and although I had been able to talk to my hubby the night before, and our conversation was most pleasant, it was still strained. I updated that I was safe on Facebook (the B&B has wi-fi) and got their well wishes on my timeline, but it’s not the same.

Also it was my sister’s birthday, and while I usually try not to dwell on her untimely death (which leads to thoughts of the untimely death of her young daughter), maybe because of the storm and isolation my mood matched the grey turmoil outside.

I propped the window up about a half an inch. Call me crazy, but when you love the ocean as much as I do the sound of it crashing below your window should not be muffled or restrained. It started to rain but was not coming in my window so I left it open a crack.

I closed my eyes but thoughts of my little sister Susan persisted. A life so tragically interrupted (see Do They Know How Much I Loved Them for details). Because of the sudden loss of her young daughter, another life tragically cut short.

I tried to redirect my thoughts to what was on my plate for the next day, calculated where I was on my trip, etc. but the darkness on the edge of my mind was still there.

Then I heard music. Amidst the sound of the rain, the crashing surf, the thunder of the storm, I heard music.

Not music from instruments, but music as if a woman was humming a melody.

And it sounded like it was in my room.

That couldn’t be. There was an old dial up radio in my room but it wasn’t on.

I got up and put my ear to the vent thinking that it might be coming from the woman two stories down, after all old houses are like that right? Wrong, it wasn’t coming from there.

It was following me. It sounded like something a woman would hum if she were trying to put a baby to sleep. Very soft and soothing.

I know. Maybe the female half of the Canadian couple had gotten up to take a bath. The bathroom they used shared a wall with my bedroom. That had to be it.

I opened my bedroom door and stepped out into the hall. The bathroom door was open and the light was off. Nobody in there.

While I had stepped out into the hall, the humming had followed me and gotten even closer to my ear. Eerie, but I wasn’t going to panic because I was not out of options. It could be someone outside.

I highly doubted it on a night like this, but you never know. I stepped back into my room and grabbed the flashlight provided in case of a blackout. I opened the window all the way and shined it outside. Nothing but rain and surf. I shuddered and closed my window and locked it.

The humming continued, and moved when I moved.

Phooey, time to panic. I jumped in bed and pulled my covers up to my chin and shut my eyes so hard I squinted.

I had the overwhelming sensation that if I opened my eyes there would be a face within inches of my face. I knew someone was staring at me, and I knew it was close.

Let me say I am NOT one that has a great deal of experience with the paranormal. I avoid invisible drama. I have enough tangible drama in my life without this kind of thing, thank you very much.

I wasn’t alone in my room. I sensed the person walk around the outside of my bed and sit at the foot of the bed on the other side. I felt it move, and I was not moving.

I am frightened out of my mind at this point. I am not sleeping this night, that’s for sure. Adrenaline is pumping like high performance racing oil in my veins.

I sat up and said, “Rue if it’s you, I would like for you to leave.”

The humming stopped for a moment. It’s as if she was considering it. Then is started back up again, but never as close to me as before. About an hour later, the humming moved out of my room and out of ear shot. Finally!

I awaited dawn which was only a few hours away at this point, as I laid awake with my eyes as big as saucers I’m sure. She didn’t come back, but I was waiting and listening for any sign of company.

The next morning both the Canadian couple and I headed downstairs to breakfast at the same time (as it is served promptly at 8am). I told them about the night’s adventures.

Surprisingly, they had adventures of their own.

Evidently they kept opening their window to get air, and “Rue” kept closing it. Since it was a small wind out window, it was not possible to close on its own. At least they assured me it couldn’t.

When the husband balked at his wife’s suggestion that it could be the ghost, he was promptly held down in his bed without the ability to speak or move.

I’m glad I didn’t balk.

The chef overheard our conversation at breakfast (it is 7 courses after all), and when the Canadian couple left to pack, she approached me about my story.

She asked if I was in mourning or was sad about the loss of a loved one. I said I was, and told her about my sister’s suicide after the death of her daughter.

“Ahhhhhhhhh, that’s it”, she said. “That’s what?” I replied.

The chef said that it is thought “Rue” committed suicide after the death of her small daughter. Although there is no record of such history at the house, there was the grave of a small female child unearthed on the grounds.

I could see it. I can’t imagine having to deal with unbearable grief while being cutoff from the rest of the world.  And the sound of the never ending, nearly deafening crashing surf. While I love it, I think that it might become maddening without transportation to carry me away to silence once in a while, or iTunes and headphones. She would have had no options but to suffer alone.

The chef went on to say that “Rue” has been known to try and comfort those that grieve for loved ones, especially children. Just a month earlier she had put her ghostly hands on the face of a female guest grieving over the death of her son.

Was that what she was doing, trying to hum me to sleep? Trying to help me get my mind off of the loss of my sister and her daughter? Newsflash Rue…you are not conducive to sleep, but come to think of it, you did get my mind off of what I was thinking before you showed up. .

They say she stays in the attic during the day…I was in the house alone within the hour, should I explore it? Should I try to tell her I’m alright? OH HELL NO.

I’m not that girl. I was on my merry way within just a few minutes.

I would go back to Heceta Head Lighthouse in a hot minute with all of its beauty and history…but not by myself. Not without my hubby and an Ambien. Or two.

Until next time dear diary.

Retirement Year One – A Madwoman’s Playbook

Dear Diary,

Firstly and most importantly when you make it to retirement you need to feel very very blessed.  Wallow in it.

By this time in our lives we have known many people who didn’t, and the fact that we are still standing is a testament to our tenacity, vigilance, strength of body and mind, and by the grace of God.

Let’s move on…’cause that’s what we survivors do.

My retirement came abruptly (due to a health scare) and 4 years earlier than planned, but other than that I see no reason why it would be any different than one who retired on exactly the day they always planned to.

Except I didn’t get a retirement party or a gold watch. I’m still a little mad about that. But I got to go on living. So I’m over it.

Like any other successful Operations Manager in America, I was manic. I didn’t choose the field in which I spent most of the 40 years I worked. I wasn’t that organized when I was 21. Instead, Logistics is where I landed when I blindly launched from my parents’ home and college, to a short and ill-fated marriage, to a desperate single parent in 2 years. Too proud to ask for help.

It’s funny how poverty tends to motivate one to succeed.

For.The.Rest.Of.Your.Life.

Did I say succeed? I meant over-achieve.

Out of the gate as a college dropout in Logistics. I shudder in retrospect.

Logistics = There is no such thing as weekends or holidays. Every delayed shipment is the one that will break or make its retailer. That’s the rules, in a nutshell. Oh wait one more – You must play “Simon Says” with the port of Los Angeles and all points of entry along America’s southern border, and you are not Simon.

As far as management goes, I’m pretty sure it’s the same in any area of expertise.

Middle/Upper Management = You do not have a life. You are available at any time day or night. You are only as good as your last P&L and to a lesser extent, your last employee satisfaction survey. Nobody else can do your job, so taking more than one week of vacation while “out of pocket” (unavailable) is not permitted.

Wait…that last part might be my micro-managing psychosis and not a real pre-requisite. The lines between them got blurry. Don’t judge.

A Blackberry, cellphone, and a laptop were my constant companions. Checking them became an addiction. Like crack. Which is why I called mine a Crackberry.

The meetings, don’t get me started on the meetings.

In addition to the aforementioned, I took on penetrating the glass ceiling. I think I still have shards embedded in my scalp. But I did it.

I ate stress for breakfast. Bring it. But nothing else, because I was dieting. For 40 years. No joke.

For me and my psychosis, over-achieving did not end at work. The time I had off was spent cleaning, laundering, gardening, grocery shopping, regular shopping, over-the-top birthdays, hosting most extended family holidays, parent-teacher conferences and blah, blah, blah. You get the picture right?

In short, I may have fed, pruned, and weeded the roses – but I never stopped to smell them.

Never.

Fast forward 40 years to retirement. Year one.

The playbook reads as follows…

You turn in the company Crackberry and the laptop.

You clean out your office. This is not as easy as it sounds. Your identity is so enmeshed with your work, you have to really concentrate to accurately divide what is yours and what belongs to the company. You hold onto those business cards though, you’re not throwing away you.

Next you pack your things in an unceremonious cardboard box (I don’t care who you are) and load it into your car for the last ride home from work.

And you start the life you have dreamed about for 40 (fill in the blank) years . The life that made you go on at all the times that you were sure you couldn’t go on. The life you saved 20% of your check for.

I am sure there are a plethora of books out there, written by qualified people, that give a blow by blow of what comes next. I did not read them. I’m a rebel like that. I must run with a rebel crew, because no new retiree I know read one. Just sayin’.

Mad Baby BoomerTo be clear, this is the diary of a mad baby boomer, not a mental health professional. Proceed at your own risk.

First order of business is to take a trip. Every new retiree I know has followed this play from the Year One Playbook without exception. A cruise, a road trip, visit out of state family, travel abroad…whatever. You break away without an approved vacation request, a rite of passage if you will. And because you can.

Then you come home and take two weeks to unpack. Why? Because you might want to take off again, or you guessed it…because you can.

A month has gone by. It’s awesome.

Then you go to all of those appointments that you struggled to fit into your schedule (and ultimately had to cancel because of work conflicts). Medical, dental, attorney (for your living trust), tax person/broker/financial planner (just to reassure yourself that you are on track with your financial retirement plan…for the third time). You’re good to go for the rest of your life. As long as the stock market doesn’t crash.

You build a semi-complicated excel spreadsheet to track itemized spending. And to keep your Microsoft Office skills sharp.

2 months go by. It’s friggin’ awesome.

You watch all those documentaries, series, movies, concerts, epic sporting events, etc. that you had TIVO’d but never had time to see. For the first TIME in your life, a bad movie was not a waste of your TIME. That’s new, and also friggin’ awesome. You feel like a TIME thief in a vault of TIME, without the TIME Po-Po around to see you stealing it. Ever. Does it get any better?

3 months have gone by. Beyond awesome.

You take on that project that was always on the back burner. That remodel, DIY, yard, car, hobby etc. That thing that you were always going to do after you retired. You may or may not finish it. That’s the beauty of retirement. You are no longer judged by your last achievement.

Except by your spouse. Ouch.

You start needing to eat meals at the exact same time every day. Where did that come from? Weird.

4 or 5 months go by. Wow. Already? Awesomeness beyond description.

Here is where I began to struggle just a hair. Just a smidge. Maybe I am unique in that my hubby is not retired. My time was entirely my own, whether I liked it or not. I lose sight of the retirement playbook. I have no idea what everyone else is doing. It’s just me doing my thing. Like being distracted by shiny objects.

I used to be responsible for managing 300 people (some indirectly I’ll admit), and a multimillion dollar budget. I multi-tasked up to, but not over, the line where it becomes ineffective. That is a professional multi-tasker peeps.

Now, I am picking off worms from my tomato plants with a tweezer. The little bastards. For hours. Because I have an organic garden and I am not a quitter.

My trusty companion is not the assistant of yore. She is my grand-dog and does not do my bidding. Only because of her lack of opposable thumbs, not because she isn’t enthusiastic. I find myself having conversations with her. I don’t even notice she doesn’t talk back. Out loud. We’re connected like that.

Doesn’t this face scream “You’re taking me with you to this party when you go, right”? Who needs words. Not us.

I didn’t take her to the party. She knew.

I check my phone, somebody texted. It’s not urgent. I’ll answer them later when I’m not so busy.

I open the Excel spreadsheet and realize I am 2 months behind itemizing expenses. Screw it. I add them all up without itemizing and find I am only slightly over budget, that’s ok, I’ll do better this month because this is all still new. I keep the excel spreadsheet because it’s pretty, but I know I’ll never open it again.

Wait, what month is it?

I get annoyed because I didn’t know it’s a holiday and the whole world is off of work and school on a weekday. Very inconvenient.

A friend texts and wants to have lunch. I write it down on the wall calendar (old school style), and set aside the whole day. In fact, I have two things planned in that week and I feel like if anything else comes up I might be a bit over-committed.

I have lunch with the friend and find out we’re doing the same things. Whew. NOT CRAZY, good to know. I’m in line with the playbook. We’re back to the collective You, not just I. I vow to have lunch with friends more often.

You walk daily and feel pretty darn accomplished in that regard. Unless it’s the weekend. Then you rest.

Thoughts come up that are so random that you are afraid you might have Alzheimer’s. A childhood memory that is so vivid you can actually relive it in every detail. A poem that you suspect was always there but only now becomes clear. A familiar imagined vista that now longs to be put on canvas. A word that needs to be written. You ask yourself, who am I?

Then you realize that it is nothing more than an unfettered mind that is finally let loose to run, to play, to create, to remember. The long dormant right-brain coming to life. An unchained prisoner, free for the first time since it was a child.

You talk to God. Because you can finally hear him talk back. Because you’re finally listening.

You walk by your roses and smell them. That legit smell doesn’t come from a hothouse florist or a bottle. The real backyard fully bloomed rose. Almost heaven. Was it there all along?

You go to dinner with your family, and you notice them on their smart phones, crackberry, ipads. Where did you leave yours? Did you even bring it? When was the last time you checked it?

It’s the first thing they do when they get up in the morning and the last thing they do when they go to bed. While in bed.

You feel sad that this is what you were just a short time ago, and that you can’t save them. Or get their attention. Payback is a bear.

That’s ok, you’ll wait for them. You have time.

Wait…what year is it?

NOW you are truly retired my friend.

Until next time dearest diary.

People are Funny, Rattlesnakes are not.

Dear Diary,

I decided to start my training this week for The Next Big Thing with a hike up a familiar trail. I was around 5 years old when my intrepid Mother introduced me to Mount Baldy. I’ve hiked it countless times in the last 50 years, although I must admit it’s been about 15 years since the last one.

I guilted my daughter into going with me. Guilted is not only a word in my family, it’s a way of life.

Don’t feel sorry for her, I dish out only a fraction of the steady diet my Grandma and Mother fed me…and I gave THEM grandkids.

From the garage I dug out an old faded purple fanny pack (circa 1992, which I still think is only 10 years ago) but pass on the hiking boots from about the same year. I make a couple of sandwiches, grab a couple of waters and off we go. I really don’t care about how that fanny pack must look, who will see us anyway?

My first indication that things had drastically changed was when we pulled in the parking lot at the trailhead, it was early morning and already full with what seemed like a thousand cars.

What the heck? Who blabbed about my mountain?

We park about a mile away from the parking lot on the narrow mountain road and proceed to the trailhead where we merrily (I was merry anyway) began our hike.

This trail gains 5,000 ft. in 5 miles. I didn’t really think about if I was ready for that at the time, just buoyed by the memory of how easy it was for me in the past. I will pay dearly for that later (as it turns out, hip bursitis is the gift that keeps on giving).

I begin to notice all of the fancy shmancy equipment everyone is carrying. They all have a tethered hiking pole in each hand (I later ascertain are called trekking poles), pretty cute hiking boots (unlike the sneakers I had on), and day packs (my daughter informs me they are hydration packs) on their backs.

And I with my yoga capris and fanny pack complete with a water bottle tucked in either side of the waistband.

Just call me old school.

An OG day hiker.

Utah hikeI don’t take selfies, so here is the same outfit earlier in the year sans fanny pack and waistline stowed water bottles.

You’re going to have to visualize that hot mess.

About 2 miles into the hike, the female half of a couple coming down a narrow part of the trail screams at the same time she is jumping both up and back at the same time. I think to myself “kind of an over-reaction to a little bee or whatever it is that startled her huh?”

Until she set me straight by shouting “Rattlesnake!”

Terribly clever of her to troubleshoot for us like that.

We were only about 10 ft away from her at the time, so we stopped and slowly crept up to within 5 ft. to where she was pointing.

RattlesnakeThis guy was huge, and black (I’d never heard of a black rattlesnake before) which made it perfectly camouflaged in the shade of this bush, and mad about being stepped on.

Her chivalrous husband was worried about all of us having to pass a mad snake on this narrow trail (this part of the mountainside is steep shale, no way to go around it), so he picked up a large rock and threw it at the rattlesnake, presumably to scare it away.

I don’t know about rattlesnakes in general, but this one was not intimidated by being under attack. The rock just served to make it a higher level of furious. I had no idea a rattle could be shook that fast.

He had been coiled before, but now he meant business. He head was low in the coil (right next to the rattle in the photo above) and was ready to strike at anything that moved.

I picked up a pine bough that didn’t seem long enough but would have to do, and distracted him with it while each of us took turns passing by. He rattled and darted his forked tongue in and out with mad skills all the while.

Us two sets of humans parted ways but agreed to spread the word to unsuspecting hikers. Since we were ascending and they were descending, we could be sure to saturate the hiker population on the trail that day.

My daughter put a colorful flyer she had been handed (ironically about Jesus Saving) in the middle of the trail, under a rock about four feet away from where our very angry reptile friend lay. She’s kinda brilliant that way.

Our hike was now value added for sure.

I warned everyone descending as we ascended about the rattler.

One guy asked me what kind of rattlesnake it was. I wanted to reply “does this 1992 fanny pack scream Bear Grylls to you? How should I know? IT’S A SNAKE WITH A RATTLE KIND OF RATTLESNAKE”, but what came out of my mouth was “I don’t know.”

I do now. I googled it when I got home. It was an Arizona Black Rattlesnake. Doesn’t California have enough rattlers of its own?

I’m not mad about it though.

Reptiles probably don’t honor state lines like they should.

I assume a few other folks could read my lips since they never took their earbuds out or even slowed down to hear what I was trying to tell them. I suspected that my bag-lady hiker ensemble probably lent credibility to me appearing as though I’m talking to myself in their case.

If any of the earbud peeps got bit I would have to say that’s a strong argument for unplugging while out in the wilderness, but in reality there is probably no saving them from themselves.

Another guy said “I’m sorry I don’t have more time because I could use a new belt.”

Well alright Wyatt Earp. It’s the snake’s lucky day you’re pressed for time, otherwise you’d wrangle it would ya? Would you take off your fancy equipment first if you had more time?

People are funny.

Until next time dear diary.

The Next Big Thing

Dear Diary,

Everyone (who is alive) has a next big thing. No matter what name we give it, there is a hope in us that sustains us through the everyday grind.

It could be an item on a bucket list, a wish list, a guest list, a life goal list, a to-do list, a DIY list, and quite possibly even a $@#% list.

Whatever we perceive this list to be tied to, it is really simply a list of hope.

A dream is a hope defined.

Since I have finally let go of that dream to marry Donny Osmond, most of my hopes/dreams are somewhat attainable.

With a little work, and varying degrees of money.

Oh yes, and that little issue of my selfish children not giving me grandkids…but I’m not giving up on that dream just yet.

Ahem, back to my next big thing.

I have achieved quite a few of my life goals. A successful career, a nice home, both kids through college (almost), and I actually own my car.

Then illness hit, and suddenly my little train chugging along the life goal list was derailed. The next big thing was to just stay alive. Just to go to the doctor and have my test results come back with indication that I can go on.

And I was blessed enough to have that happen. Let me take a moment here to say once again, Thank you for that God.

Now that I am stable and I have happily entered back into the human race, I don’t know where to begin. Can’t pick up where I left off, there is too much permanent damage to go back into the work force, and I am finally at peace with that.

Let me stop here for a second and describe the personality types in my home. We are A’s and AA’s, like energizer bunny batteries. Once in a while, one or both of us (God forbid) will move into the AAA zone, and an intervention is required to get us over our busy little selves.

So after a year of getting my strength back by putzing around the yard, the house, and the neighborhood (Mrs. Kravitz style), it’s time to get a little bigger.

The next big thing. The hope sustaining the daily grind.

I take out my bucket list and narrow my options.

It has to be cheap, I’m trying to live on a shoe string. Off goes Tahiti and pretty much all foreign travel (for now).

It has to be doing something I adore, or I will lose enthusiasm over time. That eliminates anything not having to do with being on or near the ocean.

Ah yes…that did it. The next big thing on my bucket list just bubbled up to the top.

The Lost Coast TrailHIKE THE LOST COAST TRAIL.

That’s big! That’s very big!

It’s the California (my state) coast the way it was before abundantly rich people came and made it unattainable for the other 99% of the state’s population. It’s where the California Redwoods meet the ocean. It’s where seals and tide pools reside without fear of being molested by us human interlopers. So many of my favorite things in one place.

I’m all in.

I give myself a year to get ready. One year from September 2, 2014. It’s on the 2015 calendar in pen. Check.

I do a little research and come upon my first rub…”must have a bear container”. I don’t even know what that is, but I already don’t like it.

I have camped once in my life, that was in Yosemite and I was so terrorized by bears I have not camped in the 30 years since. Ok once, but it was car camping and a bear would have had to successfully navigate LA to get to me.

Let me add I was a diva the entire time. The heaviest thing I had to carry was my purse from the car to the tent.

Bears are a definite concern which means I will have to drag my fearless husband with me, so that goes on the to-do list. Convince husband…check. Not going to be easy but I have a year.

Or get a very large dog. I’ll leave that option open.

Next item on the list is to get in shape to hike over hill, dale, and sand. I have been walking up to 5 miles 3 or 4 times a week, so I will just slowly up my game and incorporate hiking and sand walking in the mix. Check.

Next item up for research is equipment. Ah…another rub. Did I say cheap? Whew, I never knew how much a stinking backpack would cost ‘til I looked online. Holy cow, I don’t want to summit Everest here, just a 3 day jaunt over some rugged terrain. I’m a little mad about it but no matter, I have a year to pinch pennies and make this happen.

You see here? See how optimistic and forward thinking I am?

This is what the next big thing is about. Hope.

Here’s hoping I can get all this together in a year.

I almost forgot, I also have faith.

Remember, I am an energizer bunny. It’s hard to keep us down.

Until next time dear diary.