15 June 2011

Two weeks on the road for 2,826 miles with a watermelon named Mildred

"All that you keep is the journey, all that you keep are the spaces in between..."
-Conor Oberst

My very first road trip involved my mom and I driving from Charlotte to New Orleans to Pensacola to Boone, North Carolina. We slept in the car one night. We woke up one morning and my mom asked me, "Where should we go today?" Since that moment, I've always been compelled by the journey, just driving from one place to the next with the windows rolled down and the music playing loud.

Once I turned 16 and bought a car, it seemed like I took a road-trip at least twice a year. Instead of going to the beach for Spring Break like most normal high-schoolers, me and my best friend, Jennie Ann, would pack the car and take off for a trip through the Northeast. Often, we ended up in Montreal. We stopped all along the way...Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Chicago.

Since selling my truck, my desire to road-trip has become enhanced...and so, when my best friend told me she was getting married in Charleston, South Carolina-- I decided that instead of flying in for the event, I'd plan a road trip that began with our week at the beach and ended with a wedding celebration for the couple in Charlotte. Since this would be my first opportunity to road-trip alone in many years, I decided to make it a trip to visit old friends and minor league baseball parks.

The greatest thing about road-trips is that you never really know where you'll end up. You set your course for a certain destination and within a couple of hours, you've decided on a completely different destination. And it was exactly this aspect of letting go that I needed more of in my life. So much of my life is planned out and subjected to schedules...and so for the first time in years, I wanted to remove those obstacles. I wanted to see what might happen if I just let anything happen. No rules, she said.

And you know what? The most wonderful things happened.

I saw a lot of baseball. I saw some ballparks I've wanted to visit for years. I had delightful meals and drinks with old friends and new friends. I bought ridiculous trinkets at every stop. I went swimming in the middle of the night, not once but twice. Some nights I passed out from sheer exhaustion, while other nights I stayed up late laughing and still other nights, I stared up at the sky pondering the absolute wonderment of the internet. In an essence, I celebrated everything. At least once a day, I cheers'd my life, my friends, and simply the wonderment of it all.

I think that Derek's aunt Janice might have pegged me correctly when she said, "Oh girl, you are gypsy. A gypsy girl just wandering around having the time of her life." And she is right.

I've recently taken to espousing the thrills of just letting things happen to just about anyone that will listen. Instead of walking through life and bumping into everything, I've decided to let it just wash over me. Instead of turning against the tide, I've decided to turn into it. Maybe that makes me sound like a hippie, or maybe it makes me sound like I'm under the influence of drugs or good sex...but "irregardless" (Reed 2011) I've discovered that I rather enjoy letting life unfold naturally. I can let it just happen without trying to schedule, plan, and organize all of it. And so for the last two weeks, I released my tenuous control over my life. I removed the regulations and the rules and the restrictions-- and let it happen. And it was fucking fantastic.

For the last hour, I've been writing this blog and attempting to capture every moment of it. But I've decided instead to utilize the joy of lists. Instead of trying to tell you about everything, I'd rather keep some of it to myself.

Here are the moments...

1. My first night at Edisto, sitting on the back porch with Jennie Ann drinking wine.

2. The Kan't Touch This shirt

3. A change in plans that led me to invite Sam, my old friend from Myrtle Beach, to come to Charleston and go to the Charleston Riverdogs game with me.

4. The Charleston Riverdogs and my visit to Charleston with Sam. There were Homewrecker hats, delightful veggie nachos, a free beer, and then the luck of happenstance, which led me to stay in a beautiful 3-story carriage house in downtown Charleston with a private pool.

5. Hence, night swimming in the private pool should make the list. Because it was absolutely breathtaking.

6. That delightful pimento cheese and Orange Crush at the Edisto Farmer's Market with Jennie Ann, Derek and Steve. I guess those chickens were pretty cool too.

7. An afternoon at the beach with Jennie Ann, Derek, Steve, and Jordan. From the preparation with sunscreen on Steve's back to attempts at reading to the Tecate and boiled peanuts to the warm sun in South Carolina.

8. Jennie Ann's birthday cook-out with all those listed above including Ellen! The food was delightful. The company was stellar. The dancing was incredible (and funny).

9. Jennie Ann and I's drive from Edisto to Charleston.

10. The rehearsal party in Larry and Jennie's room at the hotel. I got to celebrate the upcoming nuptials with Larry, Jennie, Jenny, Harry, Hoyt, Jonelle, Janice, Jordan, Blaine, Ellen, Jennie Ann, Derek, Steve, and Wyatt. It was a joyous occasion.

11. Dinner with Jennie Ann, Derek, and Steve at Husk. Cocktails and dinner. A damn fine catfish. I even tried a bite of lamb...and while I can appreciate it, I'm not sure it is my thing.

12. Cocktails at Husk's bar with the above mentioned folks-- and also Ellen, Blaine, Jordan, Alisha, and Wyatt.

13. Late night party with Wyatt and Steve, while we speculated on how to wake up Derek and Jennie Ann.

14. Breakfast with the beautiful bride the morning of the wedding. There were mimosas and espresso. And the world's largest champagne glass, which is something I can get behind.

15. An afternoon at the salon with the girls-- Jordan, Jennie Ann, and Jennie. Almost as delightful as the salon was the delicious sandwich I chowed down on from East Bay Deli back at the hotel while Jennie Ann was getting her hair constructed.

16. Visiting both the bride's room and the groom's room before the ceremony.

17. Riding in the bike taxi with Steve to the ceremony. Particularly fun was when I proceeded to tell Steve that I thought the bike taxi fella was hot and then realizing the bike fella could hear every word I said.

18. The wedding ceremony. It was beautiful. It was moving. I cried and Jonelle (Derek's mom) wrapped her arms around me.

19. The wedding dinner. I thought to myself a few times that night-- these people know how to get down. For sure.

20. The single lady and fellas night out on the town. There was a rooftop bar. There was dancing. There was laughter. There were lots of pretty ladies.

21. Mike and I taking off to find last call in Charleston, only to crash into a hotel pool for more night swimming.

22. Waking up the next morning with Jonelle and Janice.

23. Visiting the honeymoon suite for Derek to give birth to Mildred.

24. Seeing the Wooden Hearts, my friend Sam's band at Rosa Linda's in Murrell's Inlet. I haven't heard hillbilly jazz before, but I was sold within one minute of the pickin' and grinnin'.

25. Watching The House of Yes with Sam, while sharing a bottle of Malbec and snuggling with Yogi.

26. Waking up in Charleston that Monday morning...and not knowing where to go next. And really, not deciding where to go, until I finished breakfast at the Waffle House.

27. The Montgomery Biscuits game in Montgomery, Alabama. And afterwards at the bar down the street, meeting new friends.

28. Exploring Montgomery. Hank Williams Museum. Rosa Parks Museum.

29. Visiting my brother in Mobile, Alabama.

30. The Mobile BayBears game with my brother in Mobile. Beer in the can. Nachos. Clarence, the dancing man. The torrential rain. Fulton County stadium seats. And tons and tons of laughter.

31. Visiting Gulf Shores. Having breakfast at a beach shack. Putting my feet into the Gulf. Reflections.

32. My one night return to Nashville-- and spending it with Ashley Ludman to tell her about my wild adventures and subject her to a photo viewing of all my pictures.

33. Meeting Darien for dinner at Good Food on Montford. I had pork belly, posted a picture of it and started a small war between me and the vegetarians. Later that night, Thirsty Beaver for lots of laughter...and my motherly advice to a group of 20-somethings who were about to operate a car after lots of drinking.

34. Driving with my mother to Greensboro to pick up my brother John. Truck drivers and dancing.

35. Chichaitos and margaritas with my family.

36. Dinner at Dish with the family. Followed with dessert and drinks at 300 East to visit my sister. Probably my favorite part (outside of having Chicken 'n Dumplins for the first time in years) was when Emmett, my nephew, kept saying, "Que, queeeeee?"

37. Helping Jennie Ann set up at the Charlotte wedding celebration.

38. My mom and I visiting the grocery store and my discovery that the Jarrito's were on a close out sale-- and subsequently purchasing every single bottle in the store.

39. The wedding celebration. I got to see so many old friends. I got to have some awkward conversations with people I haven't seen in years. I got to dance. I got to see the lovely families of the bride and groom, whom I love. There was cake smashed on faces. There was some wild dancing. There were torrential rains. I was super happy to get to meet the lovely wives of both Chris Love and Brian Tucker. I was happy to spend time with Derek's brother Wyatt, discussing the mechanics of the Electric Slide. There was more wild dancing.

40. The Kinston Indians. I have to give a shout out to Jordan's husband Blaine for telling me about the stadium. Last year for the stadium. Incidentally, the game went into overtime. I left in the 11th-inning. Turns out this was the longest game in Carolina League history-- 23 innings. I met some lovely ladies at the game...and we spent the rest of the game laughing together. Wonderful stadium.

41. Making the decision to drive back to Myrtle Beach one last time. It was impulsive and perfect.

42. Margaritas with Sam on the porch of Rosa Linda's and later listening to him play his new violin and laughing at how much we love cats and want them on rainbows.

43. Letting Sam convince me to have breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Myrtle Beach before returning to Nashville.

44. That long, long, long drive home.

45. I feel like there should be a 45, just to round it out. So, what could the last one be? Reflecting on the joy of it all...and returning to spend an evening with my lovely Nashville family-- Ashley, Michelle, and Cassie...and then to visit with Art and Jeremy, for a bonfire in the middle of summer.

All in all, it was beautiful. I'm trying to shake off the broodiness that comes when I return home. I'm trying to incorporate what I learned in those two weeks into my life here in Nashville. I'm trying. I've got three weeks here before I'm off for more adventures in Puerto Rico. I'm struggling to stay in one place.

And I thank all of you for the wonderful adventures of the last two weeks. I am extremely blessed to have so many beautiful people in my life. Yeah, I said it, you can make fun of me if you like....but it was so absolutely fantastic.

"Baby, I finally know what I'm going after. I'm learning to let in all the laughter. Holy moly, you're so funny. You crack me up, you crack me up..." -Devendra Banhart