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Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home

Today it’s back on the road, but different. My husband met me in Reno last night, and we will share the 3000 mile drive home as we visit family and friends along the way. I’m glad to be with him, even though I’m worn out from my time at Burning Man. Honestly, it also feels good to have a driving partner, and someone to help me get home.

However, the car is more crowded with him and his luggage, and we both feel cramped. We have 500 miles to go today, most of it through Nevada on Highway 50, the country’s self-proclaimed loneliest stretch of road. We keep the gas tank at least half full, stopping at almost every available station because we know how few and far between they are.

There are no trees out here. Hell, there are hardly even bushes. We marvel at the wide expanse of nothing as we take turns driving, and treating ourselves to coffee, sodas and coconut water purchased at each gas stop as we whittle down the miles.

After a while though, all those liquid treats begin to catch up with us. An eager look at the map shows the next town is, well, quite a few miles a way.

“We can make it,” my husband declares. But after about twenty more minutes he is squirming in his seat, and finally he pulls over.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’ve got to go.” He steps off to the ditch and does what he needs to do.

Now, have you ever really, really had to pee and listened to somebody else take a leak that goes on and on and on? If you have, you’ll understand. There may be no bushes to hide in, but at that point, I don’t care. I join him on the side of the road, doing my thing the way I have to do it.

“That was kind of embarrassing,” he mumbles. I agree. But nobody passes us from either direction, so there are some advantages to a lonely stretch of highway.

This wouldn’t be a story worth telling, except that we get back in the car and round a slight hill and there is it. A sign saying “Rest Area One Mile.” Now, I am sure we have not passed a single Rest Area in the entire state of Nevada. This one had no advance signs and is nowhere near anything. But there it is, a nice bathroom facility just waiting for us.

And they say the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Today’s rule of the road? Do what you have to do when you have to do it, even though you never know what might be waiting for you around the next bend.

Today’s song? Join me in enjoying the Goo Goo Dolls asking to be taken home. It’s exactly how I feel today.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in travel

 

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Day 14: Magical ride

Yesterday was so exhausting that I sleep for nine hours on an air mattress without waking up once, while the soft slow bass of far off electronic music mixes with the wind and dust outside my tent. I wake to a chaos of supplies I dumped randomly, in the hope that I would wake with the energy to sort through it. I do, and, after a cup of coffee, I do.

This day is as dusty as yesterday, with short bursts of almost no visibility. I’m determined to survive in this and I fill the day with getting settled in to my camp and doing a little preliminary exploration. The beach bike I have brought to the playa is perfect, its fat tires riding smooth and sturdy over the desert.

As twilight comes, the winds stop, and the world takes on a carnival glow. Color is everywhere, blinking and twinkling in the most unexpected of shapes. My camp mates invite me out for a bike ride on the deep playa, that place away from the campers where art cars roam and art installations glitter, waiting to be admired.

Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a day determine for you how the evening will go. I shrug off my dusty scarf and join them.

Our first stop is at the DMV, Department of Mutant Vehicles, where many of the art cars are lined up waiting to get their permits to roam. Yes, even at Burning Man one stands in line to get a permit.

We pause to take in their beauty, then we head out, each stopping to admire whatever shiny thing takes our fancy. Groups seldom stay together out here, as I learn, but often find themselves magically reuniting.

Magic is the word of the night for me. The world around me has turned from a dust bowl into a dream of a fantasy tale set in a science fiction world created by a magician. It goes on as far as my eyes can see, with a depth and scale no screen could capture.

I stop my bike and just stare, somewhere between amazement and disbelief.

Many camps near the edge of the open playa offer drinks or dancing. One has set up a roller rink.

Music of all kinds plays around me. I am surprised by the number of classic rock tunes I recognize as they mix with the ever present dance music. I hear this particular old favorite at least twice, and deem it the song of the day.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2018 in travel

 

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Day 13. Dusty Virgin

I’ve decided to not set an alarm, but to let my body pick when it is time to go. It must be ready for the adventure ahead, because I’m up at dawn and wide awake. I load the last of my things into Olive Oil, my trusty FJ Cruiser, and she and I begin the 100 mile drive that has worried me since I left home twelve days ago.

I’m headed north from Fernley Nevada to the Black Rock Desert to participate in an annual ritual of creativity, self-reliance and playfulness known as Burning Man. I’ve never gone before, making me what is known as a virgin burner. It’s been a few years since I’ve been called a virgin anything.

Law enforcement officials are known for lining this drive and pulling over drivers for minor infractions during the start of this event. I’m not carrying anything illegal, but the prospect of being searched on the side of the road has me nervous.

I have an early access pass, but it looks like a lot of other people do too. I join the line of ants making its way towards the playa as we all scrupulously follow every speed limit, and always come to a complete stop. It’s my lucky day. No one bothers me or anyone around me.

By 9:15 I’ve reached my destination, or at least I think I have. I don’t realize how slow a process it is to enter this event. I inch my way forward to the gate in eight lanes of traffic. The dust is sometimes so heavy that I cannot see well enough to stay in my lane so I move over to the edge, so I can follow the flagging. At one point I can’t see more than five feet from my front window and I start to have serious doubts about the wisdom of being here.

As the hours wear on, I text my family final farewells. I eat my lunch. I play yesterday’s theme song, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a couple of times. After a while, I need to pee so bad that I leave my car keys with the strangers in the car behind me so they can inch my vehicle along for me while I run to the porta-potties. Such trust seems perfectly natural here. Besides, where exactly could they go with my car, anyway?

Nearly four hours after arriving, I arrive. My ticket is examined, my car is searched, and I am officially greeted. Virgins like me are invited to make a dust angle in the desert’s fine alkaline soil and to ring a bell to let the playa know we are here. I realize this is a more emotional moment than expected when I hit the bell with a vigor that surprises me and everyone else.

As I make my way through the labyrinth leading to my camp, I put on my goggles and my scarf. I’m about to set up a tent in the dust. I don’t know why, but I am so glad to be here.

Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.

And today’s song. What else could it be?

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful
 
13 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2018 in travel

 

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Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.

Heading down the road this morning, and my sister wants me to turn my 5 /12 hour, 367 mile trip into a six hour trip. The mileage is about the same but I’d be keeping to the less driven State Highway 20 which, she swears, lacks the wall-to-wall trucks Interstate 80 is known for. You will have a better day, she insists.

Okay. What’s half an hour? I figure out early to turn my phone off, so I don’t have to listen to it trying to reroute me down to 80 every five minutes, and I head out into the corn fields. Literally, there are corn fields on every side of me as far as the eye can see.

Should I have gone the other route? Should I have planned for this route ahead of time and found a place to stay in Sioux City instead? Should I have filled gas before I left because it doesn’t look like there are a lot of gas stations out here in these corn fields? Should I this? Should I that?

I hush myself. Rule six needs to be no second guessing, I decide. The cornfields are lovely. The trucks are few. Iowa stretches on out to the sky. The day is mild, so I roll my windows down low and turn my music up high. The corn won’t mind the noise at all.

I open my play list of songs about being on the road, and sing along with the first one that happens to play. It fits right in, and I think even the corn likes it.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2018 in being better, travel

 

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Building Peace on Blue Mountain

I’ve just spent a week in Paradise. Okay, technically is was Costa Rica and my paradise was created by a genuinely loving but also savvy retreat center. I was fed fresh picked fruit, gently steered away from news and conventional entertainment, and encouraged to walk through lovely gardens and reflect. It worked and I did.

I also knew I was in a paradise created for those with the cash and support system to allow them to go on this sort of retreat. The idea of having people less fortunate than I conspire to create an idyllic week for me would normally give me at least some first world heartburn, but it didn’t. Here’s why.

I’m lucky enough to know more about this place and the people who run it. Human beings simply don’t come more compassionate. Employees are rewarded and respected and most have become family even if they didn’t start out that way. The degree of affection they have for each other is well beyond what any staff could be coached to fake.

The center, known as La Montaña Azul, is dedicated to sustaining the local environment. Located along the Talari River southeast of San Jose, the retreat has allocated 95% of its land (116 acres) as a natural sanctuary to protect the river and its flora and fauna. In addition, its proceeds support the local schools, help maintain the roads, and allow the center to provide free classes for the community. It’s hard to argue that you are doing harm by forking over your hard earned vacation dollars to this oasis of love.

IMG_5816This visit was my fourth one. I come here to study qigong, an ancient Chinese form of moving meditation that emphasizes energy flow and has helped both my writing and my wholeness as a human being over the last five years. I’m a different person without qigong, and not nearly as pleasant a one.

At this particular visit, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the center has taken on a new cause. They wish to bring about world peace. One might argue they’ve been slowly working at that all along, but this new approach is rather specific.

They have joined forces with an international group known as Peacebuilders. This amazing organization is striving to use restorative practices like meditation to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, to assist those of all ages in prisons and to further social justice. Though it has a presence in many countries, Peacebuilders is based out of Toronto and most active in Canada, where the organization began.

In Costa Rica, efforts are concentrated on the prison system. Inmates with sentences of forty or more years are trained in meditation, voluntarily spending hours a day in the program. The results are amazing. Recently, several such prisoners were certified to instruct others, as the program grows.

La Montaña Azul’s involvement began when the diminutive older woman who is manager and part owner of the retreat center walked, without guards, into a locked room filled with some of Costa Rica’s most hardened criminals. She laughs as she confesses she thought the guards were coming in behind her. The prisoners listened to her offer of an alternative, and today the retreat center provides instructors, resources and funds for the program. Guests at the retreat are asked to provide funds also.

You know we all did. After a week in Paradise, world peace seems like a totally reasonable goal. I hope the feeling will last.

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2018 in peace, travel

 

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What is the same everywhere?

Do we travel to see what we expect? Or to be surprised? Is it the Eiffel Tower that looks exactly like the pictures that draws us, or is it our silent amazement at how we never knew how beautiful the sunset is over the Atlantic in Morocco?

It’s some of both, I suppose, but after my recent trip to Peru, I offer a third alternative. I think we also travel to see what is the same, and to remind ourselves of how much we have in common. Of course we go to see what’s different there, but we also go to see what is the same everywhere.

Take the popular business of local cooking classes. Humans like food. Most of us like to prepare it and all of us enjoy eating it. While the exotic nature of learning to make a new dish is some of the appeal, I’ll argue that much of the enjoyment of these classes is sharing a love of good food with ones hosts.

I was lucky enough to take not one, but two, cooking classes recently in Peru. The first, in Lima, featured local seafood dishes like this crab causa made from the amazing local yellow potatoes. The second class, in the mountains of Cusco, gave us the opportunity to waltz around in aprons and hairnets while enjoying a spectacular 360 degree view. I loved what was new about each experience, but the underlying appreciation of cooking made it work.

I was also lucky enough to get some time to wander around Cusco. Many people will use such time to shop, others will seek out monuments or buildings of historical significance. I do some of that, too, but if it’s a nice day, I also like to find a small local park and sit in the sunshine. Part of that experience is sharing it with the locals. We’re humans. We all like a soft breeze and blue sky and the chance to do a little nothing while we enjoy it. It’s nice to enjoy a beautiful day with others.

As I wander about, I find myself drawn to small cafes and coffee shops the world over. My favorites look remarkably alike for all their differences. A mix of locals and tourists are there for the WiFi, and for a certain lack of being hurried or expected to buy much. There are flyers on the walls for local events and often hippie beads and lots of plants. These are my people, I think. And it’s comforting to find them everywhere.

Here is a little slice of home I found on a side street in Cusco. Great coffee, a lovely pancake, and all the time in the world to eat it.

I also sometimes find this commonality in bars and taverns, and in shops and stores, and it makes me smile inside.

We enjoyed visiting a wonderful park in Lima called the Magic Water Circuit, filled with 13 illuminated fountains that dance and display colored light shows at night. This park is located in what was once one of the more rundown and dangerous areas of the city. Today, tourists and locals stroll through it together marveling at how pretty moving colored water can be.

One of my favorite parts of the visit to the park was how it reminded me that few things bring more joy than watching children play. If there is anything you can find everywhere, it is the laughter of children. (Okay, maybe crying babies are just as ubiquitous, but they are not as much fun.)

When this park opened, it had a problem keeping children out of the fountains, especially on warm evenings. Given the complexity of the equipment needed to make the displays, they had to find a solution. Wisely, they solved their problem by making a fountain specifically for play. Children, teenagers and even a few adults venture into the lit mist, squealing as they do it.

I chose to stay dry, but as the sound of laughter filled the park, it reminded me that relishing what humans have in common is one of the reasons I travel.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2018 in oneness, travel

 

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Happy Peace Day, Safari Guides Leonard and Marcos

I just missed seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World a couple of weeks ago, and at the time I didn’t even want to be there. I guess that is how wonders sometimes go.

I and my traveling companions had a rough long drive on bad dirt roads to get to Masai Mara, a large Kenyan game reserve contiguous with the Serengeti. We were off on the adventure of a life time. But, our van broke down on the way, so we also had a couple of hours standing by the side of the road while similar vans and jeeps bounced by us and the zebra watched from a distance as we stood in the dust. Adventures don’t always go as planned. Finally, our unflappable guide Leonard flagged down another van.

An equally amenable guide named Marcos, and his two tourists, took us into their fold and got us to our camp. The next day, Leonard, who would not be deterred from seeing that we got what we came for, drove us deep into the game reserve in our newly repaired vehical. We saw lions and elephants, rhinos, water buffalo and even the elusive leopard before our van broke down again.

Now, Leonard is a man who spends most of his days driving people as close to lions in the wild as he can. He puts up with their complaints and inane requests while he figures out where to best park his van so it won’t get trampled by the elephants. He troubleshoots his vehicle as easily as he scans the bushes for cheetah before he directs his squirming passengers to quick run behind the vehicle and pee as fast as they are able.

I should note that he maintained a straight face every time our party of four women dissolved into giggles as we did this. He pretty well defines calm.

But, we could tell that even he was a tad concerned by this second, more remote breakdown. Soon, he was on the radio calling for a tow truck, and somebody to help with us.

After awhile, a van came by and, of course, it was Marcos. He, and his two less-than-thrilled clients, had not been far away when they heard the distress call. “Don’t worry about it,” he assured us. “We help each other out here. Next time, Leonard rescues my people, right?” His people responded to that with nervous little smiles.

“We just want to go back to camp,” we told him. “We’ve seen everything today.” Continual car trouble is exhausting business. But Marcos had a dilemma. His people, a young couple from Mexico, both grad students in the U.S., had come to Kenya wanting to see one thing more than anything else. And it happened this time of day, on the far edges of the reserve along the Mara River near where we were. We had to go along.

“It’s one of seven wonders of the world,” Marcos whispered to us. “They want to see it very badly.”

What could we say. A wonder of the world? We were lucky to have a ride back to camp at all, so off we went to watch the wildebeests cross the Mara River.

Now, Marcos hadn’t been exactly accurate. In November 2006 the USA Today and the television show Good Morning America created a list of New Seven Wonders chosen by six judges and the Great Migration of the Serengeti and Masai Mara was picked as one of them. This migration included this thing our new travel companions wanted to see, which was the wildebeests swimming across the river.

Turns out wildebeests are timid creatures. Deep in their instinctual hearts they know they must cross the river to get to greener grazing. They also know that while they are safest as a large group, no matter how large the group is, crocodiles will eat some of them as they cross and rhinos will attack others. Not all will not survive the crossing.

Zebras have far more crotchety personalities, and wildebeests need a few zebras to lead them. Even then, they gather together, approach the waters edge, then back off in fear. Wildebeest friends who’ve already made the crossing call to them to come, and after awhile they gather their courage again and approach the waters edge.

This process goes on for hours, as we found out sitting in our rescue van waiting. Windows had to be kept closed due to dust, engines shut off, voices hushed. There must have been twenty or thirty vans and jeeps like ours, quietly waiting and watching while the wildebeests collectively weighed starvation of the many against death by crocodile for a few. I could appreciate that it was a tough choice.

Marcos did his best to sooth us, his unwilling passengers, as fatigue set in and claustrophobia grew while his two paying customers took endless photos of the timid wildebeests. Finally he declared “This is it. They are about to do it.” Even I felt the excitement.

But he wasn’t the only guide paying attention. One of the fancier jeeps revved up its engine and took of in a noisy cloud of dust for a better view. The shocked wildebeests jumped at the sound,  starred at our vehicles like they had just noticed them, and then ran away from the river as one. There would be no crossing that day.

Marcos’s calm frayed at bit. “Stupid,” he muttered. “Now they don’t get to cross, and we don’t get to see anything.”

Like I said, I almost saw one of the seven wonders of the world, and it probably would have been amazing. As we drove back to camp we passed Leonard being towed out of the game reserve and he gave us a friendly wave.

Thursday, September 21, is the 2017 International Day of Peace. I always write about it on this blog, and I try to wish happiness to someone I’ve met in the past year from far away. This year, times being what they are, I’m giving those greetings early and often. So …

“Happy Peace Day, world class safari guides Leonard and Marcos. I wish your calm patience, and spirit of cooperation were as common in my world as they appear to be on the plains of Kenya.”

Actually, I more than wish it. I think we need to get these guys involved in solving some world problems. Seems to me that we could apply what they bring to the table to at least five or six different international crises that come to mind.

So let me rephrase my wish.

“Happy Peace Day, Leonard and Marcos. May your year be filled with few engine problems and grateful customers. By the way, any chance you could find the time lend a hand to rest of us here, as we bumble around trying to figure out how to get along? We really could use the help.”

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2017 in Africa, peace, travel

 

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