AM I THERE YET? – Days Melt Together on Mad Road Trip

Mar 25, 2011 | Book Tours, Books, Girls Trek Too, Spirit of Adventure, U.S. Travel

This story ends at the Seattle talk show New Day Northwest, where I appeared right after musician Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson, and a unique talent in his own right. I’d never heard him before and I was impressed:

Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson, and a unique talent in his own right.

How did I get here?

Two days earlier, I woke at the Fort Causeway hostel in Lovell, Wyoming, thinking the low fog settling over the cow pasture might bring rain.

I woke at the Fort Causeway hostel in Lovell, Wyoming, thinking the low fog settling over the cow pasture might bring rain.

But as I left town a spring storm flung itself at my Honda civic. I was on a narrow, two-lane road heading toward Billings, trying to make it to a noon book signing at Thomas Books. I hit the road at about 9:30, for a less than two-hour drive. I really have to stop using Google maps as my guide on time estimates. Wind whipped the snow and mist to near-zero visibility, and I got stuck behind a truck that flung yet more muddy, sloppy weather at my windshield. I wanted to pass, but didn’t dare in the whiteout, so I was stuck behind that truck for some 30 to 40 miles. I worried I might not make it.

The snow that was so violent in Wyoming fell soft as goose feathers outside Thomas Books in Billings, Montana.

But I did. And by the time I arrived at Thomas Books, the violent snow had turned soft as goose feathers. Susan said that a lot of people had already bought my book, but suggested that snow was what stopped all but one woman from coming by to have it signed. I thought it pretty funny that today snow was the excuse for a small turnout, when sun was the excuse two days before. So I waited for Goldilocks weather, while I shot the breeze with the quietly funny Susan. In honor of my memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands, she gave me a greeting card in which a praying mantis asks her headless mate, “You slept with her, didn’t you?”

So I waited for Goldilocks weather, while I shot the breeze with the quietly funny Susan.

That night, Tuesday, was my second couch-surfing foray, my first with a member of CouchSurfing.org. If all the hosts are like Caralyn, I’m sold. She had a coupon for twenty-dollars-off at a new Italian joint, and generously used it on our lunch. She’s a veterinarian who lives with a three-legged cat named Captain—his amputated leg got caught in an animal trap. Caralyn is also an avid traveler, who has been paragliding in New Zealand, surfing in Hawaii, and snorkeling in Belize, among other places. The back of her car is covered with bumper stickers, one of which says, “Normal people worry me.”

Caralyn is a veterinarian who lives with a three-legged cat named Captain.

That night, we both went to the Parmly Billings Library, where about 20 people showed up to hear me talk. They laughed a lot, in all the right places. It was the kind of night I dream them all being.

It was the kind of night I dream them all being.

After that, Caralyn and I went out for ice cream. She’s a slender woman – so imagine my surprise when she also made cinnamon rolls in the morning, before my supposedly six-hour jaunt to Missoula. It’s not Google’s fault I keep miscalculating the time. I added an hour to account for photos of snow-clad mountains, a gas stop, and a wi-fi stop—but it wasn’t enough. I was about to call my cousin Carla to tell her I’d be late meeting her in Missoula, when I dropped my phone, which broke in two and gave up the ghost.

I added an hour to account for photos of snow-clad mountains, a gas stop, and a wi-fi stop—but it wasn’t enough.

Carla was just one of many people waiting for my call, and I didn’t know how long it might take for me to borrow a phone. So, I drove into Butte, marched into a Verizon store and asked a sales guy, “Can you sell me an iPhone and get me out of here in 15 minutes?” “Sorry, we’re out of iPhones and it’ll take half an hour.” Forty minutes later I walked out with a Droid.

I then sped to Missoula, where I nearly jumped through the roof at the sudden sound of a woman’s voice: “Turn left at…” It was the new GPS in my smart phone.

I was excited to see Carla, a Facebook friend I hadn’t yet met, whom our mutually favorite aunt had suggested I must meet. Carla took one look at my car and said, “Wow, you drove all the way here from Denver in this piece of crap?” I instantly loved this hilariously direct woman. She’s an opera singer and sales rep – and a powerhouse at both. Dinner was fun, though I must remember to take photos of my new friends, and forget the idea of eating raw fish before a reading – my twisting stomach was not eager to meet my public.

At Fact & Fiction, they’d already sold most of the books they’d bought for my event. But, once again, only one person came for the reading. “It’s our first real spring day,” said owner Barbara Theroux. Or maybe a lot of people want to read my book, but no one wants to get caught?

“It’s our first real spring day,” Fact & Fiction owner Barbara Theroux philosophized. “Everyone’s outside.” (Fact & Fiction is on the left)

So, Barbara, an employee, one guest, and I gathered in a circle to talk, and I read a few passages. It was fun, if odd. I was proud of my adaptability – a skill developed during the travels described in my book.

After that, I spent eight hours driving to Seattle in the dark. I arrived at the home of my old Alaska friends David and Angie at 4:00 a.m, fell into bed for three hours’ sleep, then headed to KING5 TV to appear on New Day Northwest – a bit loopy, but not too shabby, I hope.

I fell into bed for three hours’ sleep, then headed to KING5 TV to appear on New Day Northwest – a bit loopy, but not too shabby, I hope.

I wonder what the audience would have thought if I’d told host Margaret Larson that just a few hours earlier I’d been singing and half-dancing in my car to stay awake, and shouting into the rainy Washington sky, “I’m sorry! I promise I won’t ever drive all night again! Please just get me there already!”

I can’t say I regret it. The show was fun, and Angie won us two tickets to Lukas Nelson’s concert last night – which was bloody amazing and instantly earned him two new fans. I should be so lucky.

About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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