Drinking coffee through cough drops — not a good idea. Just saying.
Yesterday was a perfect Disney day. Truly perfect. The weather was nice, the crowds were light, and the lines were all tolerable. C & I got to Animal Kingdom by 8 and were on the Pandora ride before 9. It was my first time on the ride, the one where it feels like you’re riding a dragon, and it was truly spectacular.
The line was so short that we made it to the safari ride by 9:30 or so, which is the exactly right time to be on that ride. We saw ALL the animals, most of them active. The cheetahs were up and wandering, the warthogs were out, the giraffes were in the middle of the road waiting to be bribed away with treats. And the elephants were fighting, which was both amazing to see and a little bit scary. It only lasted a minute and then the smaller elephant turned his back on his slightly bigger brother and walked away. Big brother followed him, totally trying to make up. You could practically see him saying, “Don’t be mad, don’t be mad.”
After the safari ride, we headed to Epcot for the Food & Wine Festival, but before we ate, we went on Soaring, another of Disney’s best rides. I like the rides where you’re floating above beautiful scenery more than the roller coasters, I guess.
The Food & Wine Festival was always my favorite event at Disney. Over the years, it’s gotten bigger and bigger. The first time I went with R, we tried food from every country and left stuffed. That wouldn’t even be possible now. It would cost a fortune and there are just too many countries and types of food represented. But they’ve extended the time of the festival from a few weeks to months, from August to November, so it would be easy to go back again and again.
I probably won’t, however. This year they didn’t have a lot of gluten-free options. Some, definitely, and I could have eaten well only trying the GF options. Instead, I said the hell with it, and for the first time since 2016, consciously, knowingly ate foods with gluten. Smoked corned beef with a beer-fondue sauce; chimichurri skirt steak on corn bread; seared sea scallops with brussels sprouts and celery root puree; beef stroganoff with egg noodles; maple bourbon cheesecake; jerked chicken with roasted plantain salad; kenyan coffee barbecue beef tenderloin; and warm chocolate pudding with Irish cream liqueur custard. The corned beef, which I would never have chosen on my own, was definitely my favorite. It was delicious. (C & I were sharing plates, and the plates are tapas-style small plates — it was a lot of food, but not Roman-banquet-style quantities. :))
Was it worth it? I think so. It was fun, anyway. But I am now in the throes of an immune-system panic attack, which started much faster than I expected it to. I was coughing up a storm by 8PM, so it only took 8 hours instead of the usual 36. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t last longer or get more intense, but today is definitely feeling like the kind of day that’s going to involve binge-watching television with copious quantities of tissues nearby, instead of doing anything useful. So it goes. Yesterday was still a perfect Disney day.
Tropical Storm Nestor inspired me to hurry to Florida. I really didn’t want to have to drive through the storm, so Thursday turned into a long driving day, and I managed to reach Mount Dora by midday on Friday.
I spent Thursday night at a free county park in Georgia, Barrington County Park. It would have been much nicer if a neighbor hadn’t needed to run his generator all night long and if an off-leash black Lab hadn’t really wanted to investigate Zelda, far beyond what Z was comfortable with. Sigh. And it was half an hour off the highway, so added an hour to my overall drive. Next time, I think I’d just sleep at a truck stop or a Walmart. But it was a nice drive down exciting dirt roads and good to get off the highway for a while.
I’ve since had a lovely weekend with my dad and stepmom in Mount Dora. We didn’t do much, but it’s nice to be here. Upon arriving, I told my dad that for Christmas I wanted enough storage to download a ton of books to a device, enough so I really can carry a library with me, not just have a library available in the cloud. My extended time without internet was fine, except my book supply with too limited. He promptly handed me a card for my Fire tablet and I spent Saturday morning downloading approximately 500 books.
Yay, reading material! Boo, temptation! I’m trying to resist the impulse to reread everything I own by Robin McKinley, Dick Francis, and Kathleen Gilles Seidel, all of which I’d kind of forgotten about because they were buried so deep in my Kindle library.
Meanwhile, I wanted to mention that Cici is part of Magical Escapes, a Kindle Unlimited book promotion this month. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and like fantasy, lots of interesting titles are included in the group. And if you’re not a KU subscriber, you still might find some books you like! I downloaded several, but with all the driving, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. (Also, I admit, Robin McKinley is distracting me. I’m rereading Rose Daughter for the umpteenth time. It’s not in KU, but the Kindle edition is available for $2.99, which is a good deal, IMO.)
My Tuesday did not get less exciting. Or less frustrating, actually.
Or less fortunate, for that matter.
I drove away from Pisgah, heading toward Asheville. It wouldn’t be my day to write, but that was okay, it would be my day to explore. I stopped along the way to eat breakfast, pulling into a random empty parking lot. Breakfast was fine, just my usual yogurt and granola, but the parking lot had an unexpected dip to the exit. When I pulled out, I heard the kind of crunch that you get if you go over a speed bump too fast.
It wasn’t more than ten miles down the road before I started to hear a noise. It wasn’t a big noise. I tried to convince myself for the space of one traffic light that I was hearing my dirty dishes rattle in the sink. And then I pulled over into another empty parking lot, and got out and walked around the van.
The brackets that had fallen off in Yellowstone were hanging loose again. And this time, one of the weird metal pieces that ought to be holding the bracket in place was gone.
But! I was in a town! Which meant I had cell service, yay. I googled RV service and called a place in Asheville, 15 miles away. They recommended a truck service place only two miles away. So I zip-tied the brackets in place (sorta) and drove to the truck repair shop.
The woman behind the counter said that someone might be able to take a look around 3PM. I said that was fine, I’d hang out in the parking lot, since I couldn’t really drive with parts hanging loose. She asked what I thought the problem was.
I said, “I think it’s probably trivial, except not trivial for me, because I can’t fix it myself.”
She said, “Let me come take a look.”
About half an hour later, as she was lying under the van in the parking lot with a lug wrench and a part that one of the guys in the shop had cut down to size for her, I asked her, “How often are you the person who ends up lying on the ground in the parking lot?”
She replied, “Very, very, very, very, very, very, very seldom.”
That was what I thought.
She wouldn’t let me pay her anything, not even for the parts, so I hugged her and told her she was my goddess. And if you are ever in Black Mountain, North Carolina: Valley Truck Service, absolutely fantastic service. I wish I’d thought to ask her name, but I will be eternally grateful for her efforts.
(The brackets actually run under the black tank, not the generator, and I think they’re probably just holding the heated drainage system in place. Or rather, were holding the heated drainage system in place. I suspect I also lost a piece of the insulation yesterday, but driving slowly along the highway looking for it felt like it would be a stupid idea.)
My next decision also turned out to be a stupid idea. So it goes. But I’d been thinking I’d explore Asheville for a while, then drive up to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then look for a campground. But it’s been getting dark really early, and I didn’t want to wind up in the park when it was too late to actually see or do anything. So I decided to first go to the park, then to come back and explore Asheville.
It was a beautiful drive — no regrets on the drive. I wound up back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is just gorgeous.
But Great Smoky Mountains reminded me of why I avoid the national parks. It was ridiculously crowded. On a Tuesday! There was no room in the parking lot at the visitor center at all. I drove through, then drove through again, then looked for nearby overflow parking, then said “the hell with it.”
At that point, I felt like I’d been on the road forever and I was exhausted. And traffic was stop-and-go, roads packed with people, just miserable.
So I headed to Asheville, but by the time I got there, it was rush hour. And Asheville really is a city. A lovely city, it looks very fun, and I understand why people always say it’s great. But cities at rush hour are not terribly convenient places for camper vans with tired drivers. I’d decided that my first stop would be a fancy grocery store, “better than Whole Foods” according to an online review, to buy myself a well-deserved gluten-free treat, but there was absolutely no chance of parking anywhere nearby. And so I wound up back on the highway, headed south.
After a stop at a non-fancy grocery store, where I picked up a rotisserie chicken, some potato chips, and a gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip muffin — (Total win for the healthy dinner, yeah? I think those are my worst food choices for a “meal” in months) — I made my way to North Mills River Campground, still in the Pisgah National Forest, but a real campground.
I hate my site, which is totally on me. Why did I pick it? I actually think I picked it because it was close to the dumpster, which reminded me that I really needed to get rid of a full garbage bag, but it’s also fairly private, no other campsites in immediate view. But it’s sloped, and the van door opens onto the road, so Z can’t be outside on her tie-out without actually being in traffic. Not that there’s been much traffic, but it’s the principle of the thing.
On the other hand, it is a nice quiet national forest, and it was very reasonably priced ($11 with an America the Beautiful pass), and rumor has it that there are showers. I paid for two nights when I arrived, then when I realized how stupid my site pick was, I thought I might leave after one anyway. But instead I’ve been writing blog posts and taking nice walks and puttering around the van.
And being grateful.
Tuesday was not a fun day. It was definitely not the excellent day that I was looking forward to when I was writing my morning words. But I didn’t get shot, I didn’t spend the day in a truck service shop parking lot, I wasn’t in the accident that totally snarled traffic in Cherokee. It could have been so much worse.
And, on the positive side, the woman at Valley Truck Service was fantastic. The scenery was beautiful. A helpful store clerk found me my gluten-free treat at my non-fancy grocery store, and Zelda loved the rotisserie chicken, gobbling it down with enormous enthusiasm after a few days of being picky about her food. So all is well.
I suspect that I am not going to finish writing APM while on the road, but I’ll have plenty of time once I get to Florida to focus. It’ll be a lot easier when I’m not thinking about things like where I’m going to spend the night and when I might shower again and whether I should try to find a laundromat. (Yes, I should. I’m probably not going to, though. But my first order of business on my Saturday arrival is definitely going to be a load of laundry and a real shower!)
In my opinion, the problem with first person point-of-view is that it inherently lacks suspense. If I’m telling the story, obviously I survived the story. That’s always the good news, though, when you’re writing a blog post!
So, I had a rather lovely Monday. I took my time leaving Bandit’s Roost, appreciating my electricity and the availability of water and having another nice walk with Zelda where we went nowhere, but she enjoyed the smells. It was a beautiful day.
It was even a nice day for a drive. We wandered around back roads in North Carolina, staying off the highways, but heading toward Asheville. I did a little shopping at a Salvation Army store and managed to replace the jeans that developed holes in the knees a few weeks ago, plus picked up a cotton sweater to add to my warm weather layer collection. I also had a pleasant chat with a woman in the parking lot, who was impressed that I was traveling by myself.
She wanted to know if I carried a weapon with me.
I do not.
She shook her head and eyed the van, and told me that I was very brave.
Eh, I don’t usually think so. Bad things can happen anywhere, but they’re random, IMO, no more likely to happen on the road then when you’re at home. I told her that my weapon was my car keys: if I ever felt unsafe, I just drove away.
Isn’t it strange how life provides its own foreshadowing sometimes?
Eventually, in the early afternoon, I headed up into the hills of Pisgah National Forest to check out the Curtis Creek National Forest campground. The drive was up a winding narrow dirt road with multiple one-lane bridges — not scary, particularly, but definitely the kind of road where I had moments of wondering what I was getting myself into. The campground itself was unusual for a national forest campground in that most of the sites seemed to be clustered together in a small meadow. I kept driving, hoping to find a site that was a little more private and suddenly I was out of the campground, still climbing up into the mountains. But the road was narrow and there wasn’t any easy place to turn around. As I kept going, I passed a couple parked vehicles with tents set up in the woods. It wasn’t the campground. They were “dispersed” camping, aka free camping in the national forests, at spots just off the road.
After several minutes of driving, I found a spot in the road wide enough that I thought I could turn Serenity around. But instead of turning, I parked and ate a late lunch and considered the idea of dispersed camping. I hadn’t really done it before and maybe it was the conversation I’d had with the woman at the Salvation Army store, but it felt sort of spooky. It was so very isolated. Seriously, I was alone in the forest. No neighbors, no one around at all. And I had no cell service, of course, nor internet.
It was a beautiful forest, though. Lots of green and a little bit of autumn color, and I could hear running water from a nearby brook and birds chirping. Z and I went for a cautious walk in the woods while I thought about bears and broken ankles and the amazing beauty of real nature.
And then we came back to Serenity and settled in. I opened the windows, and started reading my book, and Z snuggled up and went to sleep. As it got dark, I listened to the sound of the brook and appreciated the chilly fresh air while a full moon started to rise. Then, of course, I thought about werewolves, and wished I hadn’t read so many shifter romances that start with a woman being attacked in a remote forest. The light from the moon was so bright that twice I checked to be sure I hadn’t left the outside light on, but I hadn’t.
In the morning, I was feeling ever so cheerful and optimistic. I’d had a restless night, but had two good ideas about the ending of APM, and my free campsite in the woods felt like a fine place to spend the day. Totally isolated. I’d get out the computer and do nothing but think about Fen until I was finished.
And then I heard a car pull up and stop right next to me.
That was odd.
A ranger? I didn’t think I needed a permit for dispersed camping, but maybe I did. The car was behind the van, so I opened the bathroom door to look out the back window.
It was not a car, it was a pickup truck.
And it was not a ranger.
The guy who’d gotten out of the truck was scruffy, pudgy, dressed in camouflage. He was behind the hood of the truck and he was doing something that I couldn’t quite see.
But… and this was clearly paranoia on my part… it looked like he was loading a gun.
I watched him for several seconds that felt like several long minutes.
Okay, yep, he was loading a gun.
That was not paranoia. That was what he was doing.
That… didn’t feel like a good thing.
I glanced back into the van. I had a bunch of kitchen stuff out. Olive oil, dishes, hot water on the stove for making coffee. How fast could I safely put things away?
Then I heard a car door slam. I looked at the pickup truck again, and nothing had changed. No one else was there, just the guy with his gun. So I scooted over to the front of the van and yanked open the curtain that separates the seats from the kitchen.
Another pickup truck was parked in front of me. Two men had gotten out. Both of them were carrying guns, too.
And neither of them was remotely scary, because they were both wearing bright orange baseball caps on top of their camouflage.
Guess what October 15th probably is in North Carolina? I say probably because I don’t know for sure, not having had internet access, but I’m going to guess that it is the opening day of deer-hunting season. Because for the next twenty minutes, while I packed up the van and got ready to go, truck after truck after truck drove up my remote forest road, carrying guys, guns, and dogs. Lots of dogs. Also more men with guns than I have ever seen in my life. Like, by a lot. Like, by an enormous amount.
It was a party. A gun-toting, deer-hunting,* celebration of fall, party.
By 9AM, I was on the road, driving cautiously to avoid hitting pickup trucks on the one-lane bridges. So many trucks, so many people. So not the glorious day of isolated writing in a beautiful spot that I was anticipating.
But one of my travel games — a thing I think about to entertain myself when driving — is to try to remember an experience I’ve had in every state. And I am fairly sure that the moment of watching a guy load his gun while contemplating how fast I would be able to get the van moving will get to be North Carolina’s memory for a good long time. Maybe forever.
*They could have been hunting something else. Do you need dogs to hunt deers? I am no expert, so I would google, but I have no internet, so can’t. Whatever they were hunting, it was not random women camping alone or small white dogs, so it was fine by me.
On Sunday morning, I started off bright and early from Otter Creek, on the road by 8AM. I’m not going to say that I was running away from the smell of sewage, but the knowledge that Sunday is often a day when people leave campgrounds, and people often dump their tanks upon departure, definitely factored into my swift escape.
I was glad I did, however, because the Blue Ridge Parkway was absolutely stunning at that hour. I stopped at multiple scenic overlooks, mostly by myself because it was so early, and admired the breathtaking views. I took a bunch of photos, but none of them come anywhere close to capturing the beauty. And I’m starting to think it was a mistake to let the puppy chew on my phone — I’ve cleaned the camera lens, but my photos, eh. Anyway, this is the best of many bad shots of the glorious morning.
I stopped at the first visitors center I came to and read about the history of the road. The ranger there also gave me a map and explained why GPS is so completely useless: apparently, because commercial vehicles aren’t allowed on the parkway, Google has never mapped it. That explains why my phone kept trying to send me other places.
Although probably my phone would have kept trying to send me other places anyway — the parkway is definitely the slow way from Virginia to North Carolina. After four hours, I’d gone about 100 miles. And it was starting to get not fun. Seriously, not fun.
This shot is an excellent representation of what the road was like by noon. Forget the views, I was worried about whether I’d see the curves of the road in time to not drive off the road.
I stopped at a non-scenic overlook — that one with the tree, actually — to see if I could wait it out, but after forty-five minutes or so, that didn’t feel like an option. The fog just seemed to be getting thicker. So I gave up on reaching the campground I’d hoped to make it to (Linhall Falls) and looked for a closer option. And sadly, I had to look for an option with electricity, because the generator wouldn’t start so I couldn’t get the battery to charge. (Sigh. I’m hoping the generator problem was the elevation, which has been the problem every time it’s refused to start in the past (on two separate occasions in Arizona), but I haven’t tested it yet.)
Fortunately, there was an Army Corps of Engineers campground about an hour away, so I headed to Bandits Roost Campground in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The campground is a typical campground — lots of sites, reasonably close together — but as with all ACoE campgrounds, there’s water nearby. If I had a neighbor, I’d be looking into their trailer window, but as it is, I’ve got a view of the lake (or reservoir, not sure which) beyond some trees. Zelda, for some reason, was super enthusiastic about the smells of this campground: we went for a walk when we got here and it took us half an hour to make it around the tiniest loop. Her nose never left the ground, but her tail was happy, happy. Unfortunately, they’ve got a water pump problem so the showers aren’t working. But the electricity is, so I’m not complaining. I turned the heat on to 70 this morning, and it was so nice to be warm.
My spot was only available for one night, however, so I’m getting back on the road this morning. I seriously debated abandoning my slow route plans entirely and just heading to Florida as quickly as possible yesterday — I was so tired from seven hours on the road and really unenthusiastic about adding any time at all to the driving I’ve got to do in the next week. But I am literally less than three hours away from Asheville, so I am going to persist. Hopefully not too much driving today, followed by a couple of low-driving (or no driving!) days and I will be ready for the long burst back to Florida.
When I set off from Allentown on Monday, my plan was to take a slow drive south, seeing the scenery along the way. I had my sights on a small National Forest campground for my first night, to be followed by a drive through Shenandoah, then more driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. With overnight stops along the way, of course. By the weekend, I’d be in North Carolina. I’d explore Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains, maybe check out the ruby mine in Cherokee, just because I liked the sapphire mine in Montana so much.
In other words, I’d be a tourist.
The only problem with this plan is that the book isn’t finished, and I really truly want to get it done.
I made it to my first destination: Little Fort Campground in the George Washington National Forest. It’s a tiny campground, only nine sites, and it has no amenities. No water, no hook-ups, no showers, no dump station, no garbage service. Also no internet access and no cell service. It’s also free, so you know, you get what you pay for.
Except not really, because it is beautiful and treed and peaceful. Not a view, exactly — it’s just a spot in the middle of a forest — but out of every window I see trees, just starting to pick up their autumn color. The campground seems to be a base point for people with ATVs, so occasionally the noise of humankind is pretty loud. But mostly it’s crickets. Literal crickets, lots and lots of them. At night, the only lights I can see are the ones created by the van and by nature. Well, and once a campfire from people across the way.
When I got here on Monday, I had my choice of three sites: one right next to the check-in board that was so tiny the van would barely squeeze in; one relatively sloped site; and one that was the nicest spot in the campground — a pull-through spot, with steps up to a level square with a picnic table, fire ring, and paved tent spot.
I feel like it would be good to explore my reservations about taking the nicest spot with a therapist sometime — really, why did I hesitate? Why did I feel like I should leave that spot to some person with a bigger camper who would need a pull-through? Why did I feel guilty, in a first-come, first-served campground, about choosing the best option of the available options? I don’t know, but I did. However, I overcame the guilt and took the good spot.
And then I stayed. Because honestly, I feel like I should see the National Parks, since I’m so close. And I feel like I should take the long scenic drives, and admire the beauty of our autumn countryside. And I feel like I should explore Asheville, a town that I’ve been told I’d love so many times.
But what I want to do is finish writing APM. So for the past two days, I’ve played with words and stared into space and eaten nice food and taken occasional brief walks with Z and enjoyed my life. Ever so much, enjoyed my life.
I’m writing this on Thursday, but you’re not going to read it on Thursday, because I have no internet access. When I went to sleep last night, I was thinking today was the day I’d drive on. Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, etc. Also internet access for checking email and messages, posting blog posts. But I’m not going to. Maybe tomorrow if I run out of water or propane or finish writing the book. (The first is possible but unlikely; the second is possible and somewhat likely; the third is highly unlikely.) Instead, I’m going to keep playing with words and appreciate the sounds of crickets.
Updated to add: propane was the deciding factor. But before I left, I had such a nice experience. I realized I was going to have to go late Thursday afternoon, while heating up some soup for dinner. I was a little bummed, but accepting. Obviously, it was still a choice: I could have stayed without propane. But I would have had to run the generator to make coffee in the morning and I am not capable of being that rude to my neighbors. No one likes being woken up by a growling gas generator when camping.
So I packed up the van so I could be ready to go first thing in the morning. Everything was stowed, I was mostly all set to go… and a late arrival drove into the campground. A truck, pulling a trailer. Not huge, but the only site in the campground that he might possibly fit into was mine. He drove in, took the loop, was making his way out, and I hopped out of the van and flagged him down. Ten minutes later, I was moved into the tiny site across the way, the one next to the check-in board, and a very happy camper — who’d been on the road for eleven hours — was settling into my site. He was grateful and the serendipity felt like the universe telling me it was time to move on. It was such nice timing.
And no, the book isn’t done. It took another unexpected turn, which… well, it’s an unexpected book, I guess. But I spent quite a bit of time wavering about this unexpected turn. A paragraph that sums up the dilemma:
“Fen fumbled for the crystal in her pocket, unable to tear her eyes away from Ghost. Clearly, she had fallen asleep and woken up in some bad B movie from the 1950s. This couldn’t possibly be real.”
Fortunately, I eventually decided that bad B movies can be highly entertaining and I might as well stick with enjoying the ride. “Still giggling” remains among my favorite reader feedback ever, after all!
On this relatively bleak Monday morning — gray and gloomy, and the kind of day where putting the spoons away includes bumping my head on the counter, and reaching for the coffee means spilling tea everywhere — I am reminding myself to breathe and be grateful.
Breathe and be grateful. Pretty much the two best pieces of advice ever.
So what am I grateful for? Well, I am grateful that there are no signs of a leak to go with the continuously running water pump. That’s a good thing. I am grateful that even though my battery seems to have mysteriously depleted its charge in the night well past recommended levels (8.5 for those who know what I’m talking about! 8.5!!!), it still seems to work (witness the continuously running water pump.) I am grateful that even though the tank level monitor appears to be completely screwed up, I never really used it much anyway.
I am grateful that the stomach flu that had me miserable throughout Saturday night and most of Sunday was short-lived and probably a food reaction. Yay to eating solid food again. I am also so, so grateful that my tanks were empty enough that they didn’t come anywhere close to overflowing and I didn’t have to dump them while sick.
I am grateful that my roof isn’t leaking in the rain, I am grateful that it’s warm enough that even though I’ve run out of propane, I’m not uncomfortable. Oh, and it occurs to me that maybe I haven’t run out of propane, maybe I’m just relying on a tank level monitor that’s screwed up at the moment, ha.
I am grateful that Zelda is snoring at my feet and ate breakfast this morning and that we went for a good walk in the dark before 6AM, because I was feeling better and she was lively.
I am grateful that even though I haven’t finished writing A Precarious Magic (and that seriously bums me out), I like what I’ve written and I think it’s fun, so I’m not intending to start revising from scratch just because I’m still struggling with the ending.
I am grateful that even though I didn’t make it to the Shenandoah National Park on schedule, I have a perfectly comfortable street to be parked in for the moment. And that even though the weather is not lovely for driving today, it’s not lousy either, just somewhere in between.
So much to be grateful for! And yet, somehow, it’s still a struggle… 😉
Last night, I was sitting in a Walmart parking lot while the rain beat down on the van roof, snuggled under my blankets with the dog on my feet, and I was killing time. I was annoyed with myself for killing time, because there really wasn’t any need for it. I had everything I needed to use my time productively — to work on my book, to answer emails, to write a blog post, even to cook a healthy dinner.
But I just didn’t want to.
I was on my way from Boston to Allentown, my second day of several hours of driving in a row, and the rain was so oppressive that I’d pulled over to wait it out. That turned into spending the afternoon in a parking lot, which then stretched into an evening in a parking lot and a night in a parking lot.
And for whatever reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything other than… wait. Kill time. I opened comfort rereads and closed them again. I played iPad games and quit out of them. I snacked on things that didn’t require dishes or cooking. I felt like was sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for my name to be called, and I just couldn’t focus on anything. Or maybe in an airport, waiting to board the plane. I was too busy waiting to get anything done.
I was annoyed with myself. It’s not like I think every minute of my life has to be packed with productivity, but I’ve got plenty to do, including finishing a book. I think I can probably blame it on the driving — even though I’d only been on the road for three hours or so, driving tires me out. But I am on the road again and I do want to be productive while I’m on the road, so I’m just going to have to do better. No more killing time! (She types, having just spent at least two hours watching shapes drop from the sky in an iPad game. But at least I opened the computer up eventually!)
At any rate, today I left my parking lot, had a very pretty drive through a scenic area of the Catskills, and made my way to Allentown. The big event of the afternoon was that I convinced my niece (who just started high school) to cut my hair. As I said to her, it’s just hair. I envisioned her taking off an inch or two in about two minutes, snip, snip, snip. Instead, she was painstaking and careful, but I failed to warn her that wet hair gets shorter when it dries. I now have a very cute A-line bob and my hair is the shortest it’s been in many years. Ha. I can’t even put it into a ponytail. She did a great job, though. I might try to convince her to help me dye the tips turquoise tomorrow, if we have time.
On Sunday, I’ll head south. I’m going to go slowly — no miserably long driving days, just a few hours and then a rest day — in the hope that I can finish the book while I’m on the road. I’m so close. Another week would have done it, but traveling is such a distraction. It’s hard to write and drive at the same time. Oh, well, I’ll get there eventually — I always do!
But I spent far too long working on a sensible way to share a preview of A Precarious Magic, the long-awaited sequel to A Lonely Magic this afternoon. It was probably not a good use of my time.
That said, I’d already hit my word count for the day, so I could have been playing some silly iPad game. (My latest is Homescapes.) What I truly should have been doing was kayaking, but the tide was very low so I would have needed to wade out through quite a bit of mud to get the kayak into the water and that did not seem very appealing.
I hope you enjoy it and it makes you want to read more! It hasn’t actually been edited yet — well, except by me — so if you spot any mistakes, feel free to let me know. Don’t feel obligated, though. I will probably catch them in one of my innumerable editing passes, starting in October. Or maybe November.
You will note that there is absolutely no description on the link. I’m going to guess that writing the book blurb on this one will take me days of hair-pulling misery. Book descriptions are hard to write and this one — well, I’ll figure it out when I get there. Fortunately, I’m not there yet so that’s a problem for another day.
In the meantime, I’m having a delightful time with the actual writing. I said to a neighbor here back at the beginning of September that the end game is always like finishing a jigsaw puzzle when you have room for twenty pieces but there are fifty pieces left. Well, my fifty pieces are all slotting themselves into place quite nicely. I would honestly think I’d planned it instead of just discovering it as I wrote.
I am also loving Maine. It is crazily beautiful where I am. The night sky is so gorgeous — lots of stars to see, not hidden behind light pollution. I even saw a shooting star Saturday night, which always feels magical. The leaves are all falling now and when the wind blows, they skitter across the pavement like some musical instrument you’ve never heard of. The trees across the river that were a block of green three weeks ago are now scattered with color — still mostly green but with bursts of deep red and yellow, and on my walks, I spot other leaves in scarlet and bright orange. The air feels clean, the water tastes clean… it’s lovely here. And this weekend was toasty warm, which was nice for me — I was starting to get a little worried last week that it would get cold before I finished writing. I don’t think that’s going to happen now, but I’m definitely starting to plan my trip south.
I keep trying to take a good picture, but none of them reflect what I’m seeing. Maybe it’s just impossible to capture the light, the air, the sound of the leaves, the colors. But here’s a panorama from the door of the van.
I’ve been house-sitting/driveway-camping for about two weeks now. For the first week, I barely went into the house: I did my laundry one day, I used the kitchen a couple times, I showered. I let Z wander around in the backyard and I sat in the backyard chairs and wrote, but I mostly felt like I was camping in a place with a house nearby.
But after going in and out enough times — putting the mail away, watering the plants, washing my dishes — I started to get comfortable. There’s an area off the kitchen that’s basically a fully enclosed porch with two chairs and a lovely view. I sat there and wrote a few days last week, when the temperatures outside made the van less comfortable, while Zelda napped next to me on the fantastic dog bed.
What makes it fantastic? Honestly, I have no idea. I should probably take a picture or at least find out the brand name because Zelda likes this bed so much that she has started telling me she needs to go into the house, for apparently no other reason than that she wants to nap in that dog bed instead of her own (two!) dog beds or the beds in the van. Literally, she will stand at the front door of the house, waiting patiently, until I open it so she can go inside and flop down on the bed.
But as Zelda has gotten more comfortable, so have I. Gradually last week, my whole van kitchen started moving inside. First the instant-pot, then the sous vide cooker, then my varieties of rice, then most of my fridge food. When I went grocery shopping on Friday, I acknowledged that I was cooking in a real kitchen and so I ate incredibly well this weekend. Friday, sockeye salmon with a garlic-dijon-lemon marinade over a bed of quinoa with a side of roasted asparagus. Saturday, baked cod topped with goat cheese, oregano from the garden, and lemon zest, with an asparagus risotto. Yesterday, spicy roasted chicken with mixed green salad. I eat well in the van, but it is so, so nice to have a real kitchen with running water and a vent fan. This kitchen, in particular, has an island that is the best working space I’ve ever had to play with in a kitchen. It makes me want to bake pies and cookies, because it would be so easy to roll out dough on it.
Unfortunately, I had one little disaster, yesterday. Well, or maybe two. The sink started first spraying water from the base of the faucet and then spewing water from the base of the faucet. Now when I turn it on, the water pours out from the base without going up into the spigot at all. Ack! I promptly texted my hosts’ son, asking for guidance, so am waiting to hear from him. Meanwhile, I can’t, of course, use the sink. That would be fine — is fine — except that the water situation was so distracting that I forgot about the chicken liver I was in the midst of sautéing until the smoke detector two rooms away started blaring at me. Double ack! Talk about oblivious — the whole kitchen was smoky and I was so focused on the water I hadn’t even noticed. So I currently have no water from the sink and a pan in serious need of some intensive scrubbing. As my mom would say, if that’s the worst that happens…