Saturday, December 02, 2006

I didn't make it.

Friday, after work, I was supposed to hop in the car and head south to visit my friend, Melissa at her dad's house. Initially, Melissa and I talked about getting together if she was at her dad's for Thanksgiving and I was in the area already. Then, we weren't sure she was coming, so Cam and I made other plans.

Then, when I learned she was going to be in California after all, I said I would come the weekend after Thanksgiving. I planned to go and wanted to see her. I was looking forward to time with a good friend.

Instead of leaving right after work on Friday, Cam and I talked about some opportunities on the horizon then shared lunch. Before packing, I decided I needed to lay down for a bit. (I'd been in the city the night before training to be a Housing Counselor at the next Project Homeless Connect event.) Sam made it home and we talked with him about a decision he is considering. Then, he kept me company while I packed.

Our talk with Sam revolved around following-through on commitments you make, doing what you say you are going to do, etc. Again, I really wanted to see Melissa but I was tired.

It had been an emotionally draining few weeks. I had been out late the night before. I wanted to clean the house before my cousin, Ariel shows up (any day now). And as excited as we are to have her here, know that we will have less time alone as a family after she arrives until she finds gets out on her own.

I didn't want to drive on Friday night and considered leaving Saturday morning instead. But since I'd been planning to come back on Sunday morning, that seemed like an awful lot of driving for not much together time.

Just get on the road, I figured and you will find your groove. Listen to some music, maybe catch-up with people on the phone. It will be ok.

I got on the road around 4pm. The Golden Gate Bridge and the city shown brilliantly in the afternoon sun. Traffic wasn't too bad. I made my way through San Francisco and a John Mayer Trio Live cd before 5.

Outside of the city, I enjoyed the scenery. I was feeling fine driving past rolling hills in the setting sun, on a stretch of road I'd never taken before. Soon, I past the exit for Stanford University and made it into San Jose and through San Anselmo. I hit those areas during their rush hour around 5:15 which slowed me down a bit. Then, I took I85 south towards Gilroy.

Around that time, Cam called to see how I was holding up. He said he missed me but was glad I was going to have some time with my friend and assured me that he and Sam were fine. We talked about how I could turn around but I reiterated my interest in going and thought it would be crazy to turn around after having already driven so far towards my destination.

Melissa called while I was talking with Cam. She wondered how I was holding up and asked if I was questioning my decision to drive so far by myself after having worked all week.

She offered to hop in a car and head north to meet me and share the driving. She'd been looking into fun things for us to do in the area and had several ideas. She'd shopped for food and was planning to make dinner for us the next night. She said she was glad I was coming but that if I decided I didn't want to make the trip she would totally understand and not be mad or hurt at all.

At first, the idea of her driving towards me, splitting the driving alone time in half sounded appealing but I knew I was going to want to hit the road early on Sunday and didn't want her to have to get up early to drive me back to wherever we'd met and left my car. I called her back and we discussed the things she'd said in her message.

I stopped for gas and saw that in 2 1/2 hours, I'd only traveled 91 miles. I knew I still had over 250 more miles to go. I wasn't sure what I should do and encouraged her to go out to dinner with her family and call me after dinner. I filled up then got back in the car and continued heading south, thinking I could do this, would do this on my own.

But I am really out of practice driving long distances. When I lived in Des Moines and St. Louis, Sam and I used to take long road trips on weekends quite often. But in Chicago, we hardly used our car and I got out of the habit. These days, I really don't like driving at night at all.

By this time, it was dark and I was on a curvy, unfamiliar, four-lane hwy with threatening car lights all around me. One car was going especially slow so I got in the left lane to pass it but suddenly wasn't comfortable going as fast as the people behind me wanted me to go. I wanted to get back into the right lane but that took some doing. I started to wonder if what I was doing was safe or smart. I pulled over to consider the situation.

I'd driven 110 miles away from home. Turning around seemed silly but so did driving on anxiously for at least four more hours. I knew I would only become more tired.

So, I decided to turn around and start back towards home. At first, even the 110 miles back at night seemed overwhelming. But at least these roads were familiar since I had just traveled them. And soon, I started seeing signs for San Francisco. It was less than 100 miles away.

I played the Killers' cd which got me going and helped me feel charged up.

During some slower traffic, I made a call to John & Johanna and was glad to be able to touch-base with them.

Then, I listened to some of Melissa's music. The first song on her Not All Black and White CD is called, "Safe Tonight." Hearing it seemed like an omen that I had made the right decision.

Finally, I made it back home around 9pm. I had driving non-stop for more than five hours. I was wiped out but happy to be home. I would have had at least another hour of driving ahead of me if I had continued heading south. I ate some dinner, talked with the guys a bit then crashed. The next morning, I woke up with a sore throat. I stayed happily tucked away in my bed, under the covers, resting and recuperating most of the morning. Sam and I had a low-key day at home while Cam went out and had the most longest marin hike yet. I'm sorry I wasn't up for such a strenuous drive.

And I am thankful that Melissa is so perceptive and such a kind, supportive friend. Cam says we will make a trip back to Chicago sometime and she and I can reconnect then.

For now, I'm happy to be home.

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