Monday, September 7, 2009

Revenge of Tom

The honeymoon is over.

Tom has a will of his own, yes- and he's vicious. We've paid for our little detour down the Path of Giants by tenfold.

But we'll start with the present. For the moment, RJ and I are in a little town in southern Utah, by the border of Nevada, and close enough to Zion that we could have driven there yesterday with enormous ease. Unfortunately, both of us are struggling valiantly with a nasty cold, and spent all of yesterday sleeping in air conditioning. Yes, we're in a hotel room. But I swear, mum, it's cheap as hell! Besides, after getting kicked out of Las Vegas...

Okay, okay, so it wasn't Las Vegas, but it was close enough. We were told to leave the town of Henderson. And what grave crime did we commit to get kicked out of that crummy Las Vegas suburb?

This leads back to Tom. Everything is his fault.

For those who are unfamiliar with GPS systems, they have this nifty feature called 'Point of Interest' (or POI.) This allows you to find certain things- such as gas stations, hospitals, grocery stores, museums, rest stops... one of Tom's POI categories is 'Camping'. This absolutely thrilled me, as you might imagine.

So we tested it out after the day we spent in San Francisco, hoping to get to our campground before dark.

To our dismay, Tom led us into the middle of a suburban intersection, and his electronic voice cheerfully informed us, 'You have reached your destination'. As we sat there, dazed and bewildered, we decided we'd simply have to go to a different campground. 'Curry Creek' sounded promising...

Phase forward two hours. We're on a one-way unpaved road going down a swampy gully with a sharp cliff on one side. RJ has had to deal with me stuffing my fist in my mouth to keep from screaming. We've been in the MIDDLE of NO WHERE, it's ten o clock at night, and there have been NO signs of any campground. Cheerfully, Tom tells us to keep going down this series of winding twisting paths, sometimes the road feels so narrow that we are absolutely going to plummet from it and die. I'm exhausted from a long and eventful day spent traipsing San Francisco, and I'm watching the gas needle point steadily lower. Our fun day has turned into a nightmare, and it won't ever end.

Finally, we pull onto a roughly paved road. And then, the road has two lanes. Hallelujah, glory be! Perhaps there IS a camp ground up ahead! We pick up speed; we drive, only one more mile...

It tells us to turn in at this drive. Still no signs for a campground... and then it tells us, 'You have reached your destination'.

We're in a trailer park, people. A small, rural trailer park counterpart to the suburban one it had directed us to before.

I start to sob. Well, okay, not really- but it's a close thing. Apparently, Tom believes that trailer parks for permanent residents are also acceptable campgrounds.

Battered, defeated, depressed, we head to the nearest town, and look for a park. Nothing. We settle into an enormous parking lot, put the sunshade up, and sleep.

Well, RJ slept. I lay there, eyes wide open, head milling full of thoughts, unable to get comfortable.

Finally, at about three AM, I shake RJ awake and say that I'm okay to drive. We're going to find somewhere to get out of the car and sleep.

Onto Tom's Tomfoolery, I search for a location with the words 'shore' in them. We will sleep on the beach under the stars, damn it.

This sends us back to San Francisco. I drive. And drive. And drive. It's so late, and I'm tired, but paying as much attention as I can, single mindedly focused on the road...

We get to this 'beach', and it turns out to be a small park on a river near San Fran. Not only that, it's closed, with threats of 'severe tire damage' if we attempt to pull in the wrong way. At this point, I do start crying.

We look for a park... and we find one. It even offers camping. I don't care what time it is. I need to get out of the car, stretch out in my tent, and SLEEP FOREVER.

We drive down winding twisting paths. Who would have known San Francisco had such a rural forested area in the heart of it...? A deer idles back into the trees as we approach, at one point. The moon is a silver globe in the tree-filled skyline. We make it!

The campground is closed. We should have gotten there before ten PM (SUCKERS!)

At this point, it's looking again for a park so we can pull in and just sleep in the bloody car. I don't care. I'm tired. I'm tired. I AM TIRED.

We find a park in the bad part of town in a two hour parking zone, pull in, lock the doors, and catch some sleep.

Our lesson is that Tom cannot be trusted to navigate to camping locations. We spent the next day driving round Mariposa and Yosemite, but unfortunately, due to the raging wildfires, there is only one way into the park- and subsequently, Tom wants us to navigate only by the closed ways out. We sleep in an overpriced hotel for the night, as the campgrounds wanted fourty five or more just to sleep on a measly patch of dirt. FOURTY FIVE DOLLARS, people. For the privilege of hoisting a tent! WTF.

The next day we navigate down through southern Cali, and we are determined to leave California- FOREVER. Oh my god California. Why? WHY? We drive and drive and drive... at one point, we failed at remembering the gas tank existed. We nearly ran completely out of gas. Thirty miles on empty, Candii is a real trooper- we paid four dollars a gallon when we found a roadside gas station. And we kissed the ground for the privilege of doing so. We won't forget this lesson any time soon.

Got some amazing photos... of flat, empty nothing. Yay. Southern California is not really our favorite place.

Finally, we left the state, and arrived in Nevada! HOORAY! No campgrounds in sight, though. But we'd heard somewhere... now I can't recall the source, of course... that Walmart would allow you to sleep in their parking lots.

We settled in. I tried to get comfortable, and eventually fell asleep.. but woke up with the pressing need to use the restroom. I shook RJ and mumbled this, but he must not have heard me.

I took my time, and when I returned to the parking lot... the car was locked and RJ was not there. I waited for only a minute before I saw him heading my way.

His window had been tapped on by a police officer. He had been asked to exit the car, and then patted down. They kept asking where I was- he guessed in the bathroom. They acted as if the likely reality was my murder and his theft of the car and all of our things. Yes, police. Very good. In the Las Vegas surburbs, the most interesting thing you can find to do... is kick people out of Walmart parking lots?

RJ was told that it didn't matter what Walmart said, we would have to leave. We were not welcome in the City of Henderson.

So I drove. At one in the morning. Because, you know, sleeping in a parking lot is much worse than driving 75 miles an hour when sleep deprived. That's definitely safe. Good job, public safety. GOOD. JOB.

We found a park called 'The Valley of Fire', where we drove, and drove, and drove. Eventually, I found myself driving Stupidly Scary Cliffs at three AM, got fed up, and pulled off the road. I turned off the car and went to sleep.

Thank you, Tom. You're stupid. We don't like you any more.

Anyhow, the morning after that, I drove into Utah, where we found a great deal on a hotel room. RJ has been throwing up snot. Poor thing. So we spent all day yesterday just sleeping.

Anyway, we are off, today. We will try to camp, as we've had adequate rest here. Today will be Zion, and possibly Bryce- we'll see. Lots of pictures, and I'll keep you all updated as I may!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day Four

We left Portland on Sunday, after my mother convinced us to stay for my youngest sister's birthday. It was nice to see the family all gathered together one last time... and even nicer to go back to my father's house, only to realize I had an unexpected windfall of a paycheck I hadn't realized I had forgotten about.

Feeling cozy with an extra two weeks worth of wages, I made the decision, at dad's persistent urging, to purchase a GPS...

This was possibly the best idea for the road trip, ever.

I ended up with a Tomtom of some variety, and his initial trial down to Oregon City taught me very little in how to use what would affectionately be known as 'the damn thing' in the late night hours I drove to Eugene.

We chose the British accent due to my liking of British accents in general, and, at eight, just past sundown, we drove away from Oregon City for the last time, the coordinates of my friend in Eugene- Alexandra- planted in the little machine's memory.

At first, it was disastrous. “LEFT? RIGHT NOW?! BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT THE LITTLE- OHGOD I JUST NEARLY REAR ENDED- AGGHHH THAT'S MY TURN- I HATE DRIVING!” Was the theme song of the first half hour leg of our cross-country journey.

RJ has been nothing but wonderful to me this whole way. Neither of us feels disappointed so far, despite my agitation and high stress levels.

Anyhow, my Tomtom has instilled within me the confidence to get lost and actually adventure. The thing shows us how the road turns, where to go, when we'll be there, even what the speed limit is! Unfortunately for him, he has become drastically personified by RJ and I; we're fairly certain that this machine hates us. Tom's voice seems to get ever more exasperated as we dare to take the scenic route- The Path of Giants is absolutely breath-taking, by the way. And poor Tom's robotic tones seem to raise a pitch as we tacitly ignore his carefully calculated route in favor of 'OH LOOK A GAS STATION I HAVE TO PEE!'

In short, Tom is a god, and an equal and companion in this venture. I am now able to really enjoy exploring, without the fear of getting hopelessly lost at any given moment.

At any rate, we arrived in Eugene, where we slept in Alexandra's yurt. Yes, she lives in a yurt. We spent a bit of time just exploring the town while she worked, and then spent an additional night. It was nice to see Alexandra for the last time. She tried her hardest to convince us that Eugene was far superior to New Hampshire, but was sadly unsuccessful, despite how intriguing her yurt-ish lifestyle was.

We departed just before sundown on Tuesday evening, where we headed for Eureka, California. RJ was allowed the privilege of driving. This, my friends, was a mistake; introduce a rusty driver to unfamiliar and loaded down car and endless stretches of highway that are unknown to either of us... then add a jumpy passenger who is carrying everything she owns in said car.

The result was not pretty.

Please take note:

-Driving fourty in a sixty five mile per hour zone is bad.
-Watching the road and not trying to look at your girlfriend's pretty pretty face is good
-Changing lanes by swerving abruptly is bad
-Not drifting into other lanes is good
-Pretending not to understand Tom's directions is BAD
-Knowing your left from your right is good

(Also take note that RJ claims I am 'making crap up' as I type this, but I swear to you, I speak nothing but the truth.)

At any rate, we made it to the Californian border, where we took some bad quality pictures. Then, it was winding, twisting, narrow roads that had little diamond shaped signs depicting trucks tipping over on them. This was distinctly unsettling to the both of us, but eventually, my terror got the best of me, and I was forced to sleep. At which point, my lack of shouting and shrieking helped RJ to relax enough to drive properly.

We pulled off to the side several times to view the coast, although we still have not yet made it to the oceanside itself. RJ has never touched the Pacific ocean, so this is something we will do before we leave California.

At a thrilling three fourty five in the morning, we finally arrived in Eureka... where we promptly failed to find a place to sleep. We ended up sleeping a scant three hours in the parking lot of a playground, which Tom oh so kindly guided us through many a back road to discover.

Today, I chose to drive, and, like a jerk, demonstrated all the great qualities of my driving to RJ. Including going the speed limit, changing lanes smoothly, and generally being a grouch. This culminated while RJ was napping, in me deciding I was going to find a place to pull off and take a nap. This led us to a place called Lake Mendocino, where I laid down atop a picnic table. RJ was sweet enough to give my exhausted, car cramped muscles a gentle rub, until I felt ready to continue. After that, I even managed to take us on a scenic detour for about thirty miles through Californian wine country, when I finally decided I was just too tired to be the one driving.

So far, this has been far more than I'd even dared to hope for. We're getting closer to the house of someone I know as Stargazer, from a forum we've both been a part of for many years. We survived San Francisco rush hour traffic, sleep deprivation, my ability to get lost despite GPS, and gas station salami. (It was quite tasty, actually.)

Who knows when I'll have internet next. Until then, I'm letting everyone know that I am alive and well and having the time of my life!