It was much harder to say my goodbyes than I anticipated. I woke up early to finish packing my food (you can see my obsessive list here) and put on my new bike rack and roof rack. After decking-out my car in the latest (and cheapest) across country gear, I loaded up, and drove out. Before getting too far, I stopped at a nearby coffeeshop to meet two of my best girlfriends for caffeine and one more laugh. I found my girls sitting at the back of the shop, diligently working on laptops and scanning their phones, both dressed in their finest Rihanna approved athleisure. I ordered my coffee and skipped over.
“Hi babies.” I smiled. They both grinned and pulled out a chair. Court sat typing, her wild red brown hair piled high on her head. She smiled at me the way she always did, her stunning white teeth visible, the kind of smile that made women nervous and men swoon.
“What do you think about using your wolf drawing for a Dashboard Christmas card? As a donor gift?”
I laughed, “Sure, I’d love that.” Of course Court would want to talk business even during a brief goodbye coffee date. Her ability to merge her life and her work was one I admired, her wheels always turning on the next big idea.
Chris touched my arm, “Always business Court.” She laughed.
“Maybe I should come with you?!" She pursed her lips.
"I could drive down and fly back at 5am before my client!” I knew she would too. Chris had an unquenchable thirst for life, an intoxicating enthusiasm that transformed the most mundane trip to the grocery store into a wild adventure, a wild adventure into a full on bacchanal. We looked so similar people would mistake us for sisters, both of us strawberry blond hair, strong noses, and a cheeky perma half-smile. We checked flights but the timing did not make sense, despite a one way flight from NOLA to ATL being a shockingly cheap $44. We decided they would just have to come visit me in Los Angeles in January, a trip I looked forward too as soon as the idea came out of Court’s mouth.
“We will drive up to Malibu.” She proclaimed. “Done and done.” I agreed.
My phone read 11:30 and it was time to go. I stood up and hugged them both deeply. These were my people. I had spent so much time thinking about what I had to look forward too in my 'new' life, I’m not sure I really thought about just what I would be leaving behind. “I love you guys.” I said and walked into the mid morning light.
My next stop was my sister’s work to say goodbye to her and my nephew. I pulled up to the school parking lot and inhaled deeply. The tears were already sitting in the back of my throat. I exchanged pleasantries with her coworkers at the front and went into her classroom. Her adorable two year students hugged my legs and mashed theirs faces into my knees. My face swelled with the containment of tears. We walked over to my nephew’s classroom. They were sitting at their toddler sized lunch table, each kid with a lunch tray before them.
“Ro Ro!” My nephew exclaimed, smiling and pointing at me.
“Yes, honey Ro Ro came to say goodbye before she goes on her trip,” my sister explained. I walked over to him and crouched down. He smiled hugely, his long curly hair pulled back into a high top knot, his small hands reached for mine.
“Goodbye Ro Ro.” He said matter of factly, smiling wide giggling. I hugged him a few times through blurry eyed tears and then I had to go. My sister walked me out. We exchanged one more gripping hug before I left.
I started my drive with the audio book of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” A bit of an on-the-nose selection, it is the story of a woman in her late twenties choosing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. I did not anticipate the first two chapters being a very visual description of her mother’s death from cancer (hence my last post). I also did not anticipate the theme of the book being about just how unprepared the protagonist was to take on this endeavor.
I was an hour outside of Atlanta when I noticed my fabric roof rack had moved at least six inches down the roof. My heart palpitated and I pulled into the first gas station I saw. I parked and stood on the edge of passenger side door, with all of my might I pulled the black nylon straps around the soft plastic. I gripped the rain wet fabric and let out a loud, “ugggggghhhhhhhhhhhh,” as I tightened the straps.
“Do you need help mam?” A short brown haired man in dirty overalls approached me. “Oh no, I’ve got it.” I said in a voice that came out sounding too small, more girlish than I wanted. He raised an eyebrow at me and got into the front seat of a raised Ford Bronco.
Newly powerful after my rain drenched roof rack tightening, I got into the front seat of my little Volkswagen and back on the highway.
The rain poured my whole drive through Alabama. Tears fell freely down my cheeks as I listened to “Wild,” and ate quinoa from a large tupperware. I made the quinoa the night before and it sufficed as my meal for the entire seven hour drive; a meal making tactic I intend to do at every stop.
Around Mississippi a sense of calm came over me. The thought that it was just me for 2,000 miles. I was suddenly enlivened at the prospect. The rain had finally relented, by the time I made it into New Orleans and saw the Super Dome gleaming purple on my left, I was downright giddy. This was what I came for.
I pulled up to my friend Rachel’s beautiful home in the Garden District. A lucky real estate find, she and two girlfriends shared a gorgeous colonial with high ceilings, original crown molding, and all new appliances. Rachel greeted me with a sweet hug and a hand unloading my bike and roofrack into their storage space. I was reminded that even though I am saying goodbye to so many great people, I am on the cusp of encountering so many more.