Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Write of Passage - Day 5

August 6, 2009: Battle Mountain, NE to Crescent City, CA (545 miles)

"...Take what you've learned so far and broaden it. Be a good listener. Be a good friend. But don't let people use you.....Don't forget where you came from and who you are. And remember, we all love you very much."
~Aunt Sis, Write of Passage letter, August 2009

We drove from Nevada to Oregon to California today, taking more back roads, dotted with more small and spaced-out towns. The landscape eventually began to change, but it took driving all the way through the rest of Nevada to finally see it. The sagebrush and
rocky desert continued well after we left Battle Mountain. We headed North on Highway 95, leaving civilization behind us for the better part of the day. Actually, since Cote's cell phone had no reception out here, it was road signs that became our only link to the "outside" world. We had Smokey the Bear who told us that there was a "very high" fire danger, and a yellow caution sign that warned us to watch for wild donkey crossings. (Which, lo and behold, happened to come in handy!). There was a huge black and white metal sign stating our duty to report any highway shootings we may witness while traveling the open frontier, and another sign graciously noting that it would be over 80 miles before we saw another gas station. (Yes, I heeded that one, thank you very much!).
There were signs warning against falling rock, snow zones, steep downgrades, and much more. Cote was so intrigued by all these captions, she became a "road-sign junkie," snapping pictures of every one,
digitally immortalizing them forever. There were no farms, no homes, no nothing else to really see out here. We were just a mother and daughter, on a journey, looking for signs....
Way out in the middle of nowhere, we turned off Highway 95 and took Route 140 west. This road would eventually cross us over the Oregon border, but we still had plenty of ground to cover (more than 100 miles). Occasionally, a mountain of rock would pop up,
and we'd have to trek up one side of it and back down the other, curving precariously at times as the road narrowed to a tight two lanes.
Finally Oregon arrived, and with it came a few farms, a few cattle, and a few fields. Not many. Just one here, and several miles later, another one there. But it broke up the landscape, and it gave us something to point at. Oregon also brought something else, though. A wicked thunderstorm. Somewhere out in the middle of this wide open space, a terrible storm blew in. Our car was engulfed by a sheet of rain so dense, we couldn't see past the windshield. Our wipers flew back and forth at top speed, but did no good. A grey curtain had been pulled down all around us.
There was no place to run, no place to hide, nothing we could do to stop it.
That was when the hail hit. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. Hard packed, dime-size snowballs, pelted our roof and hood. But again, there was absolutely no place to take cover. The sound was deafening and made me sick to my stomach. All I could imagine were thousands of tiny pock marks being indented all over the black paint of our less-than-one-year-old Ford Edge. I pulled over to the side of the road, hoping that by sitting still the
pelting would be less intense. I wanted to cry, but Cote wouldn't let me. In a crazy "Freaky Friday" kind of moment, she took on the role of adult, while her mother sat curled up and sniveling in the driver's seat.
"Mom, it's ok," she soothed. "It's just a car, it can be fixed. There's nothing we can do about it, so just let it go. Everything will be alright."
Of course, she was right. So I stopped my whining, but kept my eyes shut.
She, on the other hand, picked up her camera and took more pictures.....
The storm finally passed, and when I reopened my eyes, I felt like Dorothy stepping into Oz. Everything around us had new color, new life. The air was fresh, clean. The dry, brittle, dusty feel of the past several days was gone. We put the car in gear, and drove on. As we did, the color green grew stronger and bolder before our eyes. Oregon had fields of grass and groves of pine. Trees. Beautiful, green, and soul-pleasing trees. They started out small, almost inconspicuous at first, but grew taller and fuller the farther we drove in. There was a renewed sense of hope here, a deeper shade of life. Yes, we had to weather a storm to reach it, breathe it, feel it. But sometimes isn't that the way life is?
The miles passed, and California closed in, as more green foliage closed up the sides of the roads. Gone were the wide open spaces. Now we were cocooned inside the safety of the trees, nestled in the arms of their outstretched limbs. The coast was somewhere just beyond the next towering pine. We couldn't see it yet, but we knew we weren't far. The air had a distinct smell, fresh, powerful. The ocean breeze was faint, but growing stronger. Night was drawing
near by the time we finally crossed the California border. Looking at the map, we had only about 50 miles to go before we reached Crescent City, but Highway 199 was a road full of twists, turns, and pull-offs, which allowed faster moving traffic to pass. A foggy mist had settled in, followed by a light drizzly rain, making the drive even slower for those of us unfamiliar with the territory. It was painstaking. Cote and I knew just beyond the next curve, the next tree, the ocean was patiently waiting for us. Yet every mile we logged seemed like ten. We were tired, exhausted, anxious with anticipation.
Finally Highway 199 ended, and 101 was there to welcome us. The fog still loomed along the edges of Crescent City, but we were thankful to be here, as we pulled into the first motel we could find, a Best Western. I went in, asked for a room, and was told they were booked solid. What??! No!! I returned to the car, and told Cote to start praying. She had been talking with Hannah on the phone, so she petitioned her sister to do likewise. The Best Western people told me our only hope for a room would be the Hampton Inn, down the road. The one sitting right on the water's edge, with the beautiful ocean view. I could only imagine the cost. But we had finally arrived at the coast. Cote and I had driven over 2300 miles to get here, and had done so with minimal amount of spending. I was ready to pay full price, if need be.
One thing I had learned back in Steamboat Springs, CO, however, was that hotel prices could be negotiated. I'll share that story some other time, but suffice it to say, after being successful in Steamboat, I was wondering how I could fair in Crescent. I walked up to the counter and was greeted by the manager. Or at least I assumed he was the manager. He looked the part, anyway. He had also just separated himself from the younger "manager-wannabe-looking" guy stationed further down the check-in counter, who was helping someone else book a room.
"Good evening, may I help you," my guy asked.
"Yes, do you have a room available?"
"Only a few left tonight, but we do have one on the third floor, with a balcony over-looking the ocean."
"Uh, huh. And how much does that one run?"
"Well, our regular rate would be......." He wrote the figure on a small piece of paper and then slid it over for me to see. $259.(!) My heart hiccuped. "But, I can discount it for you tonight, and let you have it for......" Again he scribbled. $159.
Of course, this figure had me breathing again. But still I wondered....if my guy is being so secretive, what exactly does this mean? Am I supposed to counter-offer? Is he expecting me to?
I smiled, and asked what amenities his hotel offered.
"A full hot continental breakfast, of course. Use of all the facilities, free wi-fi, etc."
I did my best to look both pleased, but also slightly unsure.
"Oh....hmmm.....you know.....my daughter and I just drove all the way from Michigan to see the Pacific coast. It's been a really long haul. You don't by chance, have a special Michigan-rate, do you?"
Then I smiled as sweetly as my tired face would allow.
"Well, I suppose for our guests from Michigan, I could let you have it for....."
Scribble, scribble.....$139.
Of course, I grabbed it. Yes, it was only another $20 discount, but hey, it paid the taxes.
The room was gorgeous, the view would surely be spectacular by morning. (It was still foggy and overcast). It didn't matter that we couldn't enjoy it tonight. By the time Cote and I dropped our backpacks, we were ready to call it a day. I did, however, have to return to the lobby about 20 minutes after we checked in. As I passed through, I just happened to over-hear "manager-boy-in-training" tell a new arrival he was sorry, but the hotel was completely booked for the night. So, it was true. We did get one of the very last rooms at the Inn. Our prayers had been heard and answered. I had a quiet feeling, though, that this had been part of some master plan all along. That Cote and I ended up right where we were supposed to be. Something told me, come morning, we would open our eyes to this vast ocean before us.....and see just how far we'd come......and realize just how endless life's possibilities would always be.

P/S.....for those who may be wondering.....our car was just fine. Not a mark on it!

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Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran