Friday, July 10, 2009

If I did not have bad luck, I would have no luck at all

So, there I was in DC with no room and nowhere to go ... and yet, things managed to get worse! My breaks got much worse and I was basically sliding into stop lights, cars, turns... Somebody hit the back of my car/my tail light as I was parked in a residential zone in Arlington, my computer crashed, I ran out of minutes on my phone, and I lost my passport. And this is just to show how amazing my friends are; at the end of each trial, there was always someone who cared and was willing to help. I was able to travel back to Poolesville to stay with Jenn for a while. Her family was nice enough to invite me in. I'm still amazed at how kind and understanding they are. A lot of amazing things have happened since. One of them was my call to the Slovenian Embassy. As I talked to one of their representatives, I found out about a job at the Embassy, which I currently do not qualify for due to my OPT, but you never know :) I also became better acquainted with some of the activities of Slovenian immigrants in DC and will hopefully become part of it in the future. The next morning, I was literally led to a specific box in my car and I found my passport, stashed in a very unexpected way (for those that know me, you know I have a place for everything!) My last few days have been spent networking, meeting new people, emailing, calling, looking for a job and a room, fixing my car (the right caliper was stuck), renewing my car insurance and more... In spite of the rough patches, I feel great in DC. My favorite moment was driving towards Poolesville after a very good day of job hunting. I rolled my window down, put in a CD with some Oldies and just enjoyed the sunset, the warm humidity, and the fireflies zooming by like shooting stars (well, I was zooming by, they were just leisurely lighting the way)...

Life is a Pennsylvania freeway

Day 5 (Tuesday, June 30). I was very impressed with Pennsylvania. It is so different than any of the other states. It honestly resembles a jungle :) It is greener than Missouri or Indiana put together. In a way, it feels like a different planet with charming German-influenced farming architecture nestled in the vast hills and green, almost tropical-like forests. I have learned quite a bit about it during my studies of early American architecture, but I was not expecting the style to still be so present. The barns are red, some with emblems (which were believed to bring luck and drive away bad spirits). The houses are plain, but intricately built with porches and exquisite woodwork--clearly the influence of the German settlers (the Pennsylvania Deutsch or Dutch, as the Americans mistakenly spelled it then, hence the erroneous belief that the area was settled by the Dutch from Holland :) I really don't have any good pictures from Pennsylvania, because ... quite honestly, I was holding on to my dear life the whole time driving on I 70 and parts of I 270. Many of my friends wondered why I had to have so much bad luck with the breaks in WY. There, in Pennsylvania, was the answer, staring me right in my terrified face. I needed new breaks in PA. I 70 going East is one eternal ride downhill, and not a nice hill, but a steep, dangerous hill with swirls, turns, insane drivers, and random stop lights mid hill (terribly annoying). I was seriously praying all the way down. My breaks were still (and continue to be) soft, so I had to rely on my lower gear and other methods of slowing down the car. The speed limit is a joke in Pennsylvania (and most of the East coast). Everyone (with rare exceptions, probably people like me) drives at least 15 miles above the speed limit. I was driving just a mile or two above the speed limit and I had to turn the flashers on, otherwise I would have gotten run over by crazy truckers. Imagine going 60 (which was 5 miles above the speed limit) and everyone is going 70-80 downhill. The trucks (and I am not talking about those puny trucks in Europe) going 75 which are stuck behind you, have no way of stopping or slowing down, because their speed and their heavy load will not allow it. So, you turn the flashers on and pray. A few times I nearly got run over and had to literally get off the road. I'm not sure how some of those trucks make those turns, but the signs of warning to "aggressive drivers" (first time I saw a sign like that) and car parts on the side of the road, painted a vivid picture. I redefined religion and prayer on that road. I seriously do not know how I survived with my breaks, but I did, and I named that freeway, the Road of Death... But, that was just the beginning of my interesting day. I visited a friend Jenn in Poolesville (2 hrs from DC) on the way South. She will be a senior at BYUI Interior Design this fall and I found out she lives in the area just before I left for the trip. Little did I know that I would be getting to know her and her family very well in the coming weeks... As I approached DC, I learned why people hate driving here. I've driven in LA and it does not compare to the craziness of DC freeways and highways... Granted, drivers are nicer here, but they know no reason when it comes to speed. The roads are cray as well, since there are hills everywhere and no freeway is straight AND AND the exits require you to reduce your speed to 25 mi/hr in most cases. Since most drive about 80, that means a 55mi/hr reduction in seconds... I second all Pennsylvania and Maryland drivers get their licences revoked immediately! After that horrible ride, I finally arrived to my (what I thought was going to be) my new home. I talked to the roommate earlier that day and she said to let myself in. So I did and soon discovered that BOTH rooms were taken. Then it started pouring... And I wanted to cry... To make a long story short... My roommate, who for a month faithfully claimed that she had a room available in her apartment, pulled a fast one on me and turned everything upside down. What followed was a whole lot of drama and what resulted was me on the street without a place to stay in... I made a lot of calls and finally ended up in the home of one of the former missionaries who served in Slovenia. The next day, I still had the same problem; no room, no job...

Country music: Indiana--Ohio--West Virginia--Pennsylvania

Day 4 (Monday, June 29). I started noticing that the states were getting smaller. I cruised through them in just a few hours and spent a low record of 15 minutes driving through WV. Indiana roads were awful, so that did not help with the back pain I began to feel more and more. My body in general started aching. My feet began to resemble elephant feet and I could not feel two of my left fingers (which I later on realized was due to my clutching to the wheel like a crazy woman down Pennsylvania hills. During my trip, I have been listening to musicals (Lion King, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Spamelot, and Shrek). I would wholeheartedly recommend Shrek (amazing music, funny lyrics, and a great storyline). But you cannot get a better feel for the area you are travelling through than by tuning in to some local stations. I never really liked country music, but as I was travelling through Indiana and Ohio, it all started to make sense to me; boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl, boy turns country singer :) It just clicked in Ohio... By the way, I've never seen as many self-proclaimed patriotic signs as I have in Indiana. Maybe they should have spend the money they invested in the boards and paint towards fixing up their lousy roads. That would make us all feel better... I stopped in Columbus, Ohio, to see a German Village. West Virginia welcomed me with some hills, which then got much worse in Pennsylvania. Little did I know what Pennsylvania had in store for me the next day. I was getting tired, so I decided to stop at a truck resting place in Claysville. As I walked the grounds, I was greeted by a family of bunnies. They were everywhere... I was slowly starting to feel I was closer to my destination. That night I hit my 2000 mile mark. At Claysville I had reached 2049 miles. No accidents, no problems, life was good :)

In search of Tom Sawyer: Missouri--Illinois

Day 3 (Sunday, June 28) was as smooth as a baby's bottom :) It was hard to leave my friends and I stayed longer than I planned (but no regrets). I drove through Missouri in the afternoon and arrived to St. Louis late afternoon to see the Gateway Arch. It was a warm sunny day and there were steamboats on the river. Being an interior designer, I have to include this little info. The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. It is 630 feet (192 m) tall and 630 feet (192 m) wide at its base. So, the tallest monument in the United States. :) I did not linger long and by sunset, I was already in Illinois. I was hoping to make it to Indiana before nightfall, but I had to stop earlier. I got really tired. After almost sliding off the road on the way to Cheyenne, I promised myself I would sleep in the car if I had to, but I would not drive tired. I was about to do that when I felt I should try to find a hotel on my GPS. So, I made a few calls and finally stopped at Abe Lincoln Motel in Effingham, which actually was not in my GPS, but a man at the gas station recommended it and I had to check it out. It was a nice deal for $35 a night. I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

DC -- Signed Sealed Delivered, I'm Yours

I have finally arrived to DC. I have so much to write about: soft breaks, roads of death, country music, friends, surprises, elephant feet etc. But for now: I am here, it will take a lot of getting used to, but I know I'm suppose to be here :) Big hugs and lots of love from rainy DC :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where is Toto?

Today (yesterday) was a day for records! I started off in Cheyenne (WY) and drove through Nebraska, part of Iowa and Missouri (I 29) all the way to Kansas. I covered close to 700 miles today and brought my travel total up to 1200 miles, which makes Kansas City my trip's half mark. I can't believe I have already covered such a great part of my journey!
So, some recaps. Traveling through Nebraska was great. The roads are amazingly well kept up--nothing like WY :) I was able to cover most of my route by taking I 80 and 76. The GPS was taking me south of Lincoln, but I decided to go East on Nebraska Highway (2) and South on I 29. It was a great decision and I made good time. GPS is not always right, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts :) The car did great. I stopped for gas, other than that, I drove without stopping. The day ended with an amazing sunset (on the way to I 29 (the Missouri side)) and some fireworks (Kanssas City). I don't know what the fireworks were all about. They must have heard that I was coming LOL
I am staying with some friends of mine I have not seen for two years. It is so good to see them again. The longer I live, the more I learn that we are all connected in a most magical way and in reality, nobody ever leaves forever. We are different because we have known them, and they become a part of us. OK, well, on that cheesy note... good night. I will let you know if I see Toto :)

Roughing It in Wyoming

This is the part of my journal where I talk about roadside assistance and Wyoming driving conditions... After two hours yesterday of uneventful driving, I passed over the Teton pass in WY and literally burned my breaks on the way down. I underestimated the hill's slope and did not change into a lower gear. By the time I realized what was happening it was too late and I had nowhere to stop. I soon started smelling something funny (!!!). I saw smoke coming out of what I thought was my engine. I looked at the engine temperature and it looked fine. I stopped at the first turnout and to my horror realized my tires were on fire. And I don't mean this metaphorically. I grabbed the closest thing I could, which was orange juice and poured it all over the tire. I ran to the back of the car where I was storing a gallon of water for emergencies (although I was not expecting that emergency). After I put out the fire, I noticed it wasn't the tire that was burning but what seemed like the breaks. I stood there still shaking when I realized smoke was coming from the other tire as well. I poured everything I had on it and managed to prevent it from catching on fire. Then I just waited and hoped the damage wasn't too bad. As I was on the phone with my insurance company, an officer that was patrolling the pass stopped and offered help. After the breaks cooled down a bit, she followed me to the nearest gas station. There I found out I was one of the many who underestimated the pass. The gas station staff told me many many nasty stories and I realized I got off easy... To make a very long story short (yes, I think it's too late for that :) I drove to the mechanic 20 mi/hr and many hours later had to have my rotors, pads, and calibers changed (I just had the breaks done a week ago). So, to recap Wyoming... Very bad roads (photos to follow), the dreaded Teton pass, strips of no phone service (luckily not the strip where I had the accident), nice people, lots of bikers (so careful), animals crossing the road (even more careful, because the animals realized that in matches vs. the car, they usually win...or become roadkill), beautiful scenery, amazing starry skies, and awesome mechanics with lots of training (the staff at Big O Tires stayed after hours to fix my car and were very nice). So, 500 miles later and 500 dollars later, I am in Cheyenne. I drove all night and slept a bit this morning, now I need to get ready and head for Nebraska and Kansas. Wish me luck. It seems like I will need it :) ps: Excuse my spelling, I am running on reserve :)