Countdown to Adventure

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!)

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(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.”)

So, What Am I Doing?

What I am doing? I don’t really have an answer to that. At least, not an interesting one. I’m still researching the gear and clothing I will need for my road/camping/hiking trip, though I’m a bit sick of the whole thing. Too much thinking about silly stuff, such as the efficacy of base layer fabrics and waterproof outer layers, what type of potty — if any — to get, what sort of first aid and emergency products I would need. Admittedly, this research will not seem so silly when I am trying to stay warm and dry in an El Nino deluge. But for now, it seems like . . . oh, horrors . . . shopping. (I’d be one of those people who still wore the same clothes they’ve had since high school except that I outgrew them many pounds ago.)

jugglingI’ve been doing some volunteer work, helping a new company develop its social networking sites. Been reading unnoteworthy books for the simple reason they are close at hand. Been destroying my teeth. (Well, one tooth. Apparently, sitting for hours at the computer, elbow propped on the desk, chin in hand is like gritting one’s teeth, only worse.) I’ve been playing an insane number of solitaire/spider solitaire/free cell games, and, of course, I’ve been taking dance classes. (We’re learning Italian dances to perform at a spaghetti dinner next Saturday, which is perhaps the only new thing I’ve been doing.)

For the most part, I’m just living. I haven’t been hiking much, or even walking more than a few miles a week. It was easy to roam the desert when I lived just a few blocks away, easy to hike up in the Redwoods and on the beach when I had someone to ferry me to the starting point and pick me up at the end, but somehow, the mere act of driving anywhere puts me out of the mood for walking.

I’ve been trying to find my next temporary place of lodging, and even though it will be for only six weeks, no place seems to fit my requirements. Too restrictive, unfriendly dogs, no internet, bad parking, shared bathroom, all things I’d just as soon not have to deal with even for so short a time. So I’ve been going around and around in my head, trying to weigh drawbacks against positive points. I finally had to laugh at myself. It’s this sort of roundaboutation that inspired my desire for a long trip in the first place. Just to go and to let go. To have nothing to think but the moment.

And then there is the added frustration of my publisher going out of business with one publishing company and starting another separate company. I don’t know the reasons for the change, but if I want my books to be published (and not by me), I pretty much have to go along with the deal. So here I am, with internet an iffy proposition, and my needing to change all the buy links on my website, blogs, and social networking sites. Eek. I’m wondering if I can just remove the links and not worry about fixing them, but still, one way or another, there are a lot of links to attend to. More mental activity going nowhere.

See? Lots of living, none of it interesting.

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(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.”)