“Free and easy down the road I go” – Deirks Bentley
Miles Traveled: 411.8
Today was mostly a driving day – and the hottest one on record, peaking at 113 degrees in the middle of the desert…holy piping hot temperatures! I left Tucson after a great visit and headed to my most western destination of the road trip – San Diego, CA. I have never been, but many people I know rave about the city, so I was excited from the hype to visit this part of California. I’ve been to Northern California in the past, and it did not disappoint…very beautiful wine country in the San Fran area. Making it to California would wrap up my trip west – so after today, I have officially crossed through 15 states and have gone coast to coast!
Driving through the desert – and I mean legit, sandy, dusty, boiling hot, US/Mexican border fence line desert – makes for a long day of counting mile marker signs, making a major dent in the shuffled playlist, and wishing you had stopped at the last exit that had a restroom (they should really do a better job with the signage for that)! While not much to see other than desert – it was beautiful in it’s own total-isolation kind of way. As I watched the thermometer continue to climb all the way to 113 degrees, I glanced over to the left and saw a black line in the desert. I quickly realized it was the fence line along the US/Mexico border and then found myself passing through 2 border patrol stops – I feel like I am becoming a regular at these check points. What fascinates me about the check points is that it seems the closer I physically get to the border, the less scrutiny I face at the check points. I guess I don’t “fit the profile” of someone that would be harboring a couple of illegals that sliced through the near-see-through fence with a butter knife. Or perhaps they figure that since Donald Trump can’t seem to utter anything that isn’t grossly offensive to our Southern neighbors, no one wants to enter this country at the moment. Who knows. In any event, I made it through both check-points without question and went merrily on my way to San Diego, with a brief stop to pay $4.29 per gallon of gas – ouch – that was painful. My former roommate Melissa, who you will learn about in just a bit, said it has cost her nearly $50 to fill up her civic – I said, I can fill up the Jeep for about that in SC!!
Now, when you are on the road, you start to notice the signage and odd things that catch your eye along the way. Road signage can be fairly amusing to the solo traveler with a dry sense of humor. Perhaps my favorite road sign of the day was the green, government issued sign indicating “Elevation – Sea Level” that stood on the shoulder of I-8 West in the middle of the desert. To all the Californians who may be reading this post – I believe those are your tax dollars at work in its finest form! I guess it was great to know I was at Sea Level, but to throw out the word “sea” in the middle of the desert is just down right cruel. Thank you Department of Transportation.
As I got closer to San Diego, I finally got to pass through some different landscape in the form of mountains. And with mountains come cooler temperatures – FINALLY. When I saw a 7 as the first number on the thermometer in the Jeep I thought I might shed a tear. But alas, I could not since I had sweated out every last drop of water in my system. Not really, but I did have to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. 77 degrees. 77 degrees of amazingness. I momentarily imagined that this must have been what winning the Powerball lottery felt like – pure bliss. I wound my way through the mountains and down into San Diego. I checked into my hotel for the next 2 nights, and relaxed for about an hour, and took a short stroll outside in the beautiful weather (and damn near got chilly) before meeting a great friend that I haven’t seen in years. While excited to be in San Diego, I was so excited to see my Semester at Sea roommate!
Let’s take a quick step back in time to the fall of 2004. I had always wanted to participate in the Semester at Sea program as my study abroad program in college, and I was setting sail on the fall 2004 voyage (of discovery). My roommate was the bright and cheerful Melissa Matis from San Diego. She reminded me a lot of my sister at the time, so I immediately knew it was a good fit and that it was going to be a great experience. Speed up to present day – Melissa lives in San Diego and we were set to meet up for dinner and drinks! We haven’t seen each other in 10 years, but it was almost like no time had passed at all when we finally met up – except that we were graduated, working (well technically I’m on funemployment, but you get the jist), had our own credit cards, and new stories to tell. We (Melissa, myself and her super kind boyfriend, Eric) went to a great dinner at Quad Alehouse in downtown San Diego and each had a flight of 5 local beers – little did I know that San Diego has over 100 local breweries. Had no idea!
While at dinner, we caught up on what’s been going on over the last 10 years, what we are up to now (Melissa is an Occupational Therapist – a profession I personally have a tremendous amount of respect for…just ask my index finger!), and of course reminiscing over some great SAS stories. We hit some major highlights of the ‘voyage of discovery’ including – Global Studies…the hardest class in the front of the ship where you nearly rocked yourself to sleep during the dry content, the stellar example of a human being that fell off the back of the ship after having too much to drink (we both slept right through the whole thing…since it was at like 3am), the smuggling in of ‘ketchup’ packets that was all the rage, entertaining roommates of other friends on the ship, and our amazing room with the super strange artwork (that we covered up shortly after moving in). My personal favorite story being Melissa’s elephant ride in Thailand where her elephant had a mind of it’s own during its ‘bath time’! I caught the whole thing on camera, so mental note to self – find that tape so she can have a copy! After dinner, we walked to The Neighborhood for another craft before wrapping up the night. It was so much fun to have a 10 year reunion as part of my road trip – and it will absolutely go down as one of the highlights of my road trip!
Until next time…