I will be leaving in exactly six days to make the journey I’ve talked about so often, and I have a confession to make. I’m . . . well, I’m not exactly afraid, but I am apprehensive. I have never done anything like what I am going to be undertaking. I only camped once as a child, and certainly never by myself. I have never driven cross-country by myself, and definitely not in an aged car, no matter how well restored. (And there is a matter of a mysterious leak onto my leg when it rains that no one can seem to find.) I’ve hiked by myself, but always with others or close to where I was staying. I’ve never slept under dark skies where the stars are so brilliant and numerous, you feel as if you are falling into the void. I’ve never backpacked and still don’t know if I can. And, I have never found joy in the discomforts of travel.
But, despite my trepidation, and maybe even because of it, I am starting to feel excited about my adventure. So many “never have”s to be done! So many wondrous sights to see. (I just corrected a typo. I wrote “many wondrous sites to see,” which makes me realize how important this trip is. Even with my data being severely limited, I still spend too much time online. Now it’s time to explore offline territory!)
I am as ready as I will ever be. Despite the age of my VW bug, it’s as reliable as possible, with a new engine and transmission, new paint, new brakes. (As a test, I took a couple of drives “down the hill,” over an often foggy pass to the more populous area of the county along a congested five-lane highway riddled with road construction detours and delays, and the bug sailed along as if that treacherous road were a lazy river.) I have a carload of equipment, some of which I hope never to have to use because those items fall under the category of “emergency.” I have clothes for both winter and summer, insulated sleeping pads and camping quilts rated for a much more frigid climate than any I plan to travel. (I sleep cold, or rather, I don’t sleep cold. If I’m cold, I shiver all night.) If I can’t get warm, I have a nalgene bottle to use as a hot water bottle and hand warmers to tuck around my long-underwear-insulated body. I have at least a week’s worth of food. (Which reminds, me, I need to get several more days worth of water.) I have hiking poles and even a bear canister to protect my food if I spend the night away from my car in bear country. I have lanterns — solar lanterns and small battery-powered lanterns as well as a head lamp. I have word puzzles and pencils, paper and a printout of my WIP. I have maps and guidebooks, a binder full of notes, a head full of research. And I have a solar charger and an external battery for my phone, so as long as I have any sort of signal, I will be prepared.
Yep. Prepared. For anything. At least, I think I am. And if not, well, I’ll figure it out. (It’s hard to prepare for something if you don’t know exactly what that something is.)
Some people have found my preparations amusing, and I suppose it’s possible I’ve gone overboard, but this is not supposed to be a death march. It’s a journey into life, a quest to find joy in the rubble of my sorrow. And being prepared, even overly prepared, leaves me free to experience whatever comes without the trepidation I currently feel.
Note: I will be heading east across Interstate 10. If it’s warm enough on the return trip several weeks from now, I will be traveling on a more northernly route. If you want to meet for lunch or something, let me know, and I’ll put you on my list. (If you’ve previously expressed an interest, you’re already on my list!)
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)