Lucy Easter - wander with melissa

A dead man’s toilet paper

I’m sure you’ve been hanging on to the edge of your seat, waiting to find out if I made it to Cleveland. So yes, here I am, safe and sound.

After two blizzards and getting stuck in both Minneapolis and Bloomington, Illinois, the weather was a perfect 50 degrees for the final drive to Cleveland. I can’t say I loved the route of the trip without my planned sightseeing, but there will be time to go back and see what I wanted to see. Especially since the job I was so psyched to come home to was given to someone else while I was sitting in the snow – I have some extra time now.

The final mileage was around 4,200 after wandering around trying to find a way around the storms. In that time, I was only in one near accident – a baby blue semi, which I passed with the pedal down since it was swerving crazily, ended up getting off at the same exit when I stopped for gas. I was sitting at a red light at the bottom of the exit ramp, looking around, and noticed it in my rear view mirror, barreling down the road behind me. A long, loud squeal of brakes from the out-of-control truck, which made Lucy try to dive to ground, alerted me to the idea that my tailgate (and grandmother’s end tables) might not survive the next few moments. I had a few empty feet before the car in front of me and quickly stabbed the gas pedal, the result being I had an inch in front and about an inch in back – no contact. It was a scary moment and the asshole truck driver calmly acknowledged the bird I flew from my window. If anyone deserved it, he did.

In 4,200 miles, that truck was the only instance I thought I might have an accident. A few crazy, fast drivers swerving through downtown traffic scared me, but I forced myself to remember that plenty of people are good drivers and as long as I pay attention I should be fine. What really pissed me off was the random cars and trucks that sat in the fast lane and wouldn’t budge for anyone. I can’t understand why the don’t get the rules; if you’re slow, get out of the way. Seems pretty simple.

Thanks to Apple maps, I was never lost. I have to take a moment to praise this glorious bit of tech – for me, it might be the greatest invention of all time. Pre-internet, I never went anywhere without several folding maps (that never ended up folded along the original creases) plus handwritten instructions on every turn I had to take to reach someone’s house. After that, I had a glove box full of of MapQuest printouts for every destination, with scribbles on each of them when I encountered a closed road or a friend told me a shortcut. With the advent of portable GPS, my family pitched in together to get me one since they were tired of me calling at all hours when I was lost; I loaded the city I was preparing to drive through on my computer from a disk, connected the GPS, and had decent directions if I regularly updated through my dial-up modem. Now, my phone can find me 20 different ways to get to the same place, and I found some beautiful spots to drive through that I would never have found otherwise. This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but I can look at a sunset and have no idea which way is north, so yeah, it’s huge to me.

Now I’m in Cleveland, and the metroparks are as beautiful as I remember. I had one day before my sister Mary and I had to move her from her rental house to the house we bought, so I haven’t done much exploring yet. We have a house on 3 acres, complete with a fenced-in yard for the dogs and a forest with deer and squirrels and turkeys. The house must have been built for short people; I can’t use the upstairs shower, and I’ve hit my head five times already on the ceiling fan in my bedroom. But the outside is wonderful, with deer-fenced gardens and lots of room to plant whatever I want.

our house - wander with melissa

 

Today I took some time to go to a garage sale; I saw pictures of garden tools online and couldn’t wait to get started (April showers bring May flowers, and it’s been pouring for a couple days so I’m just preparing). I found the house about 40 minutes away (thank you, Apple maps), and went right to the garage. I quickly loaded up half my truck bed with tools for $50 (ridiculously cheap for what I got), then headed into the house to poke around. I feel that Mary is more in charge of the indoor decoration, while I am in charge of outdoor, but it doesn’t hurt to look; I can text her pictures if I feel like I want something. None of the furniture interested me, but I walked into the kitchen and realized that EVERYTHING was for sale. I picked up an unopened carton of vegetable broth and saw the expiration date of 2007 – put it back. Since we had just moved, I grabbed one of the multiple 12-packs of toilet paper sitting out, bought it for a dollar and headed for the door. That was when I heard what the sale was for: a man had worked his entire life at the same blue-collar job, finally retiring and getting his pension – then poof – heart attack three weeks later. Dead.

Now I have a dead man’s toilet paper, and that’s the least of the problems I have with that scenario.

Before I wax poetic on death (which is really unlike me, but Mary opened a bottle of Proseco and that might be why I’m so full of feelings right now), I’ll finish the day. I took a wrong turn out of the sale (I didn’t have my maps up yet), and ended up in a very familiar-looking square; it was a place I knew from my childhood, but couldn’t quite place why. Upon turning the corner, I quickly parked – Dick’s Bakery! The place where my mother would take us after swim practice if we were good. I always got a chocolate chip cookie, and that didn’t change today. Well, except that I got a dozen. I have my own money now. And I had them for dinner. Adulting at its finest.

I went to my parents’ house to pick up boxes I had mailed from Kona, which filled the rest of my truck. It was nice to be reunited with my scuba gear, but the prospect of it sitting unused for months makes me sad. The water temperature in Lake Erie is 43 degrees today, up from 34 when I last checked, so maybe next month.

My father is doing well, more lively than I had imagined after starting chemo; we are arguing over a riding mower in his shed. He originally offered it to me for our immense lawn; since then, he has listed a dozen things seriously wrong with it (since it is as old as I am), and decided instead that I cannot have it and he will buy us a new riding mower from Home Depot as our housewarming gift. I sat on the old tractor today, noticed the cobbled-together battery cables he mentioned, the flat tires (original), the dull blades (original), the choke that doesn’t choke, the heavy crank to engage the mower, and thought, “I must have this.” I don’t even know how I’d get the old beast to my house, rent a trailer, perhaps, it’s too big for my truck bed. So I told my father I wanted it, and he said “let’s go to Home Depot and look at mowers; they’ll deliver.” No way. I want that beast. It is solid, as only machines built 30+ years ago are solid. It’s roughly twice the size as a comparable mower, and only has one single belt (original) that runs everything. I’m currently looking up names of mythological creatures to see what fits. (Just got an email from my father as I’m writing this: “Forgot to tell you, no brakes on the tractor.”) I’m going to evade the issue of a new mower until I show up with a trailer and haul the old thing away.

I cut with mowers when I was young, although I don’t remember this particular one. And I really don’t understand why my father has this monster since his house is on about a quarter acre. But along with the other garden tools and power tools he is giving me (also could say he is “unloading”), it seems to be a part of history, a bit of my childhood comes back with each – the grill they don’t use anymore, the shovels and rakes, the hoses and drills and screwdrivers. Just like driving through neighborhoods and feeling the nostalgia of my youth (even though after 30 years new buildings are everywhere), the tools in my parents’ basement bring back so many memories. I could recognize the smell of WD-40 anywhere. It’s strange to be here, without a doubt. Everywhere I drive used to be open fields and are now office parks and malls. I haven’t even ventured downtown yet. And, if you read the past blogs, my grandmother’s tables made it no problem. More crazy nostalgia.

grandma's tables - wander with melissa

 

All in all, though, this is a good new adventure. I’m going to build boxes in the forest to attract falcons and hang feeders for hummingbirds; not the dolphins and manta rays I used to photograph, but all wildlife is life, and all of it is beautiful and worthy of appreciation. Daffodils are blooming and the trees are beginning to leaf out. Lucy and I will explore the area’s parks, which are immense, and I hope to find hidden spots all around this city to hike and fall in love with the land. Lucy and her new best friend Coco are getting along tolerably well, as much as a 9-year-old dog and a crazy 2-year-old can coexist. Lucy lives for the moment when Coco hauls herself out of bed, thinking she has a whole day of playtime ahead. She’ll learn.

Lucy and Coco - wander with melissa

 

Those are the big updates for now, and I hope to share some of the beauty of Cleveland with you soon – did you know this is the 50th anniversary of the burning river? I have been assured that it is much cleaner now.

Aloha from Cleveland!

M

 

 

 

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Eeyore under Cloud - wander with melissa

My personal cloud

Eeyore under Cloud - wander with melissa

 

This is basically what I’m down to, now: a giant cloud following me across the mainland. No matter where I go, up pops an “unprecedented spring snow storm.”

I was stuck in Minnesota for three days (see blog post here) although being at Colleen’s house made it quite pleasant. I checked the weather, saw that it was all clear until I reached Cleveland, and off I went. Somehow I woke up to another blizzard this morning. And just to make certain I wasn’t again being too dramatic with my accounts of how bad the weather is, I looked up the definition of blizzard: “A blizzard is a storm with “considerable falling or blowing snow” and winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for at least 3 hours.”

Blizzard. Check.

I believe it is now safe to say that I have my very own cloud (and if you’re a fan of Whinnie the Pooh, please hum “I’m just a little black rain cloud” as you read this).

I didn’t leave Colleen’s house for any significant amount of time during the storm, and finally we decided I should see some little bit of Minnesota before I left. What’s indoors and fun to do? Mall of America! Mini Golf. Aquarium. Roller coaster. Movies. Video games. Shopping. The largest mall in the United States, with over 96 acres of things to do. And some crazy man chose that day to pick up a child he didn’t know and throw him over the third-floor balcony. We followed the news from home instead of going; they had apprehended the man and reopened most of the areas that were closed, but as the mother of a same-age child, 5 years, Colleen was pretty rattled and didn’t want to bring her children there. I can’t blame her, I would be freaked out as well, wondering if it could happen again. The news doesn’t have much on the condition of the boy except to say that he is alive with life-threatening injuries. I sincerely hope he recovers and can somehow get back to a normal life.

goose in snow - wander with melissa

 

So what else is there to do in the evening after a blizzard that doesn’t require me to freeze to death? How about a meat raffle? The corner bar has a weekly event where for $1 you have a chance to win a chunk of uncooked meat – deer, cow, it doesn’t really matter. This is a big deal in winter in Minnesota, where nearly every bar has at least one raffle each week; in 2014, it is estimated that Minnesotans spent nearly $32 million vying for their chance to win meat, with part of the proceeds going to charity. Hopefully, some of it went to the American Heart Association.

We missed that evening’s meat raffle, so headed to Punch Pizza (amazing), and the grocery store for more eggs to color for Easter, then a rousing game of Disney Codenames before bed. This may sound fairly dull to the average person, but not having my own children, I was quite happy to chase Colleen’s through a store, half-heartedly telling them they didn’t need all the sugary, wonderful items they wanted her to buy (because I wanted them, too). It was almost like my evening of alternate reality – if I were a mother I think I’d be very much like Colleen, except only half as fun. We settled on cheese curds and donuts, two very Minnesota things. Both worth it, although I left my souvenir cheese curds in her refrigerator and am missing them very much right now.

Punch Pizza - wander with melissa

 

With another weather check, I decided that Lucy and I were clear to get traveling again; even though snow was still piled up the roads were dry. Two legs of the trip remained – Minneapolis to Peoria, Peoria to Cleveland, with the only storms in sight over Cleveland, but I could deal with that upon arrival. As I stated before, I had a beautiful start through the mainland – Washington, Oregon and Idaho were scenic and the weather was mostly lovely. Montana gave me nice weather until it was time to leave, then cold rain. And ever since then it has been junk. With all the places I really wanted to drive snowed under, I am ready to just get to my new home. I passed up the chance to see ‘Iowa’s largest frying pan’ (9 feet wide by 14 feet long and can fry 88 pounds of bacon at once) and the world’s largest truck stop (although I couldn’t help but see that one from the road with parking for 900 trucks) trying to hurry to the final stop.

About two hours south of Minneapolis the sun came out, and by the time I reached Peoria eight hours later the temperature was nearing 60 degrees. I stopped at the first exit to get a hotel room, ready to stretch out and perhaps read a book. No rooms available. I had been nearly the only person in Idaho and Montana at the hotels I was in, so this was unexpected. I asked the woman at the desk to call a few other places, no rooms. A big conference was in town, I was told, and the entire city was sold out. Lucy and I got back in the truck and stopped at the next town. No rooms anywhere. Exhausted and dismayed, I stopped at a gas station thinking I might have to bust out the remaining 8 hours of my trip that night, and asked about the next town east. Bloomington, the man said, and they have plenty hotels. I pulled in half an hour later, went to the first one I saw – Days Inn – and got a room for the night.

I have vague memories of Days Inn from long ago, maybe childhood trips, and remember it being a fairly nice motel. Perhaps they haven’t done any repairs to the rooms since then. On the positive side, it performed very well on the sniff test, so rundown or not, it’s pretty clean. Lucy and I took our evening walk and passed another hotel, and from our vantage point, that one is where the local farmers bring their prostitutes on Saturday night. I’m quite happy at the Days Inn.

Still thinking the weather was good for the remainder of our trip, Lucy and I settled in and started to pick our route. I’ve gotten into the habit of cross-checking radar with each town we will be passing through, and around 10:30 last night I found a major storm coming up, passing over Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio – all my possible routes, unless I want to drive an additional 5 days instead of one. The phrase ‘out of the frying pan (Minnesota) and into the fire’ (Ohio) came to mind, but that would imply it was warm. Nothing to do but see what happens overnight.

storm - wander with melissa

 

Lucy and I got up at 5 a.m. to go outside for an update and were greeted with hail and high winds. Lucy is smart and refused to leave the doorway. I am not, and was rewarded with hail hitting my eyeball for the second time this trip. I don’t know why I need to look up to confirm it is hailing. We went back to bed and at 8:30 a.m. two inches of snow had accumulated on the ground, with continued high winds. I booked a second night. Lucy and I each have our own bed (although I woke up smooshed into the tiniest corner possible without falling off as usual), and the weather looks good for tomorrow – over 50 degrees again all the way to Cleveland, where it will be snowing.

Lucy in her bed - wander with melissa

 

I looked up some things to do in Bloomington and decided to dig the souvenir bottle of booze from Montana out of my truck. Perhaps later I’ll wander across the parking lot to The Cracker Barrel for dinner.

I’m trying to decide what life is telling me with these storms. They’ve blocked my route, ruined all my sightseeing, and are preventing me from getting to my destination. They’ve cancelled my plans to visit friends in snow-covered mountain states, but unexpectedly allowed me to spend time with Colleen. Over the past few years I’ve paid attention to the universe, at first crying and begging and throwing tantrums like a child to get what I want (and still not getting it), then later giving up and just going with what comes. I left Kauai when I truly didn’t want to, and Big Island welcomed me with a job and a house within days of my arrival. A year later, Big Island let me know it was time to go and a house and job appeared in Cleveland. But being stuck in limbo (an appropriate metaphor for Bloomington) is not something I understand. Perhaps it’ll make sense next week.

Here’s a little humor to end this post – my first horrible review for a book. He could have titled it “Alcoholic Slut,” and said I’ve ruined women’s travel books for him. I should be upset but I think it’s kind of funny. Having sex once in the book (or twice?) over nine months is fairly low on the slut scale, in my opinion, although I did drink a decent amount to cope with being lost and lonely in strange countries. Either way, a review is a review and they all help in their own way. Funny thing, the day after that posted I had a little boost in online sales. Go figure. I hope no one was disappointed at the lack of porn.

Aloha from Illinois,

M

 

 

Help support the journey – Buy a book!

Wandering – non-fiction travel/adventure/humor

Sylvie Writes a Romance – romantic comedy

Sylvie Falls in Love – romantic comedy part 2

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – adventure/ocean fiction based on true stories

Stock photos on Adobe Stock

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