If you have followed along with us on our adventures, you know 2018 and 2019 were filled with ups and downs. We had great fun building out our Sprinter and great losses to overcome, we lost good friends and treasured family members. We moved my then 92 year old father-in-law in with us and I left my career behind to become his full-time caretaker. My step-dad (I call him Daddy because that is who he is) was involved in a nearly fatal truck accident. Daddy endured and was seemingly on the road to recovery, but setback after setback happened and his recovery slowed to a crawl. My mom has been a nurse for many years and had to transition from wife and partner to full-time caretaker overnight. I can only imagine how hard that must be and hope I never have to go through what she is still living through today. Losing loved ones is always hard, watching your spouse deteriorate in front of your eyes and being helpless to stop it is unimaginable.
This brings us to my next solo trip. Knowing my mom is more than capable of many many things, I knew she was struggling in some areas that I could assist in, so it was time to drive to Georgia. This trip would be destination oriented, a drive, sleep, drive, sleep sort of trip. I left Oceanside early in the morning on January 20, 2020 and was eating dinner at Chuy's in El Paso Texas by 7:30 that night. I do love my Tex-Mex.
Since this was not a sightseeing trip, I pulled in at the first rest stop I came to after dinner and called it a day. Something I haven't mentioned before that I should throw in here is that for the past 4 or so years my mother has watched over my travels via the FindMy Friends app. This started during a trip to Europe that Darin & I went on in 2016. My mom met and married my dad in Huntingdonshire, England in 1960. I bring this up now because she is my eye in the sky to let me know what I'm headed into or in some cases just passed up. So she keeps an eye on me and if I don't move locations in an appropriate amount of time she will call in the National Guard to rescue me. She literally would allow the National Guard to keep me safe until she could arrive in record time, I kid you not. She has taught me many things in my life, one of which is to not be afraid, be prepared. She was my Girl Scout leader after all.
The next morning I trekked on and made my way to the Dallas area where my son just so happened to be on a business trip. Any chance I get to get a hug from him is one I'll take. He lives in the Houston area so this was a stroke of luck because I dread driving I-10 through Houston, but for a hug I'd have done it. While in Dallas, I found a Planet Fitness to grab a shower and freshen up before meeting up with Franklin. My membership to Planet Fitness has come in handy a few times. I highly recommend finding and joining a gym for health and fitness, but the 24 hour access is genius for showering while living in a van. As I was about to get back on the road to continue east I got an alert on my dash. A headlight had gone out and it was late in the day. Luckily there was a Mercedes Dealership nearby and I learned how to change a light bulb! This was only a minor delay and I made it out of Texas and into Louisiana before bedtime, Whew!
I made my way through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, I must admit I did stop ever so briefly at a casino. At this point, since I grew up in the south I decided country roads were in order, mistake. I got turned around and cell service was sketchy, frustration was increasing and it was very dark. Luckily, about 90 miles from my childhood home, I came across a Planet Fitness. I pulled in, blacked out my windows and called it a day!
The next morning I realized how close I was to a major highway and had to laugh at myself. It was good to get to my mom's early in the day versus late at night so it all worked out.
Daddy's condition was surprising and heartbreaking. His ability to communicate had dwindled to practically nil. Daddy was always someone with a quick come back and his facial expressions told their own story. He is old fashioned in ways and openminded in others. I learned many valuable life lessons from him. One important life skill I learned from him is how to cook, that old guy could cook and he loved it.
My mom was exhausted but she is like the energizer bunny and just keeps going. She on the other hand hates to cook, so guess what I did while there. Thankfully, I enjoy it. My mom taught me how to step up and get things done. Our methods are not always appreciated but the results are generally exceptional, if I may say so myself.
A family favorite past-time is playing Canasta. After my mom and I handled a few household tasks we decided to try to get Daddy to play cards. He did great and we caught a glimpse of his personalty shine through.
Mama taught me to love family history and genealogy. While I was there, she took me with her to a meeting of a local genealogy group. It was almost interesting enough to hook me back into doing research again. But that would interfere with my current van obsession. I love old photographs, this was hanging on the wall in the home we were meeting in.
After stocking the freezer with a bunch of prepared meals and helping with other tasks around the house, it was time to get back to my own kitchen and household chores. Check out this quilt my brother and sister in law made for me! It's a perfect addition to the van.
Before I departed I got a call from Franklin, he and his girlfriend were about to leave for a skydiving/scuba diving trip in the Maldives. He let me know he planned to propose. This was the best news ever! He popped the question after they jumped out of a plane in the Maldives, she said yes!
My route home was slightly different, I went through Atlanta to see my aunt and a cousin. Then back through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. I stopped in Frisco Texas to see a friend and headed out through the panhandle, got on I-40 in Amarillo and headed west. This may have not been my best move. The wind on I-40 whipped so bad that I pulled off the road several times. I saw an overturned semi and wondered if I should just park it for the night. At an exit near the Continental Divide, I stopped in a shop and the clerk let me know this is normal. Wait what? No way was there anything normal about this. I kept going and my eye in the sky AKA Mom, gave me updates on potential alternate routes. I stuck it out and made it to Surprise Arizona. I had dinner with another friend and slept in front of their house. Yes, everyone we visit while on the road offers up their guest room, and we always decline. I can't imagine anyone's guest room bed would be more comfortable than my bed in the van. The next day, the wind was a little better but still crazy, I had a brilliant idea and took an exit that I thought I knew, again, mistake. I ended up on switchbacks up a mountain that I’m sure I had never been on before. My arrival home was glorious, hours later than it should have been but glorious nonetheless. In hindsight I see it as an adventure I would do all over again. I got back home on the 4th of February. The year 2020 had only just begun. Please come back to find out what happens in March and beyond. The whole world changed.