Warning: Lengthy blog about random people I met along the epic road trip.
I am a curious person who has a knack for the gift of gab. I was in Community Theater for decades. Sister Mary Rose called me “Mickey Mouth” all through 5th-6th grades. Being “talkative and inquisitive” is me at my base level. Because of this, I have met so many people throughout my life. Some of those people were impactful while others were a mere blip on the radar. I think maybe because I love to tell stories, it allows me to appreciate when others tell me their story. Being an introvert was never on my to-do list. On this epic road trip, I interacted with a number of interesting people and because I want to remember them well, I thought I would write about them here. As a note, there are three people I am friends with on Social Media who I met: on a plane, on a train and at a restaurant – we have maintained contact even though we only met in passing because our stories crossed and connected.
It started as I boarded the plane that would take me from Columbus to Dallas, I could see as I walked down the aisle that there was a child in my seat, looking out the window. Her curly hair immediately reminded me of my own Daughter at that age, though she (my kid) was quite a bit more bashful. As I put my bag in the overhead bin. I stared at the little girl, in my window seat, and sighed a little. A young girl in the row behind her half-chuckled and said “your seat, isn’t it?” “Yeah.” At this point Mom, without turning to face me, says “Have I taken your seat?” And the little girl turned to face me. Suddenly, I felt like the Grinch looking at Cindy Lou Who who was curiously looking at me with those big starry eyes. “Yeah, but it’s fine. She is enjoying herself.” SUCKER… ha. The Mom looked a little tired and I suddenly felt a surge of compassion for her. I remember the struggles of having young children. I mentioned how remarkably alike her daughter’s looks were to my daughter’s. I asked her age, three. I said, “Mine are 27 and 30.” Then she said something that I am still trying to comprehend: “I have a 23 year old also.” This woman (on purpose) had two children twenty years apart. I cannot begin to imagine. She further told me that since the little girl was 6 months old they make this trip every four months to her grandparents who then bring her back similarly. She flies the 20+ hour round trip flight to Austin TX to take her to her grandparents in one day. I had to smile when she enthusiastically said: “I love her grandparents so much.”
In Lake Havasu, we visited the London Bridge (yes, the REAL London Bridge – a blog about it is in the works, keep an eye out for it). The visitor’s center there is staffed entirely by volunteers. The gentleman ringing me up was a hoot. He was a bit older. He accidentally over-rang my purchase. As we were trying to figure out how to correct it, he called to the volunteer manager and asked him for assistance. This guy had a great pair of glasses on, red stems, just snazzy. I complimented him on them. That led to a thirty minute conversation (he with his thick German accent) about how he orders his glasses online. And then a fashion show of sorts occurred as he went back to the office twice to bring out various other pairs for me to see. He sold me on it. Zenni Optical (site HERE), you should really hire this guy as a rep! Husband feels I know no strangers.
Sometimes I think that God puts us in the paths of others (or they in ours) for a certain need that needs filled. I encountered that at Best Buy in Victorville, CA where I met a clerk named Chris. He was a very energetic and talkative young man. Polite as all get out. We were talking cameras (I had forgotten my charger and the battery was on the last bar) and the conversation came around to Bobby being an owner of a skydive facility and that he used to be a skydiving videographer. They discussed the type of helmet/camera he used. As we were wrapping up our purchase, Chris says that he hopes to be an entrepreneur one day. It is his goal to be a successful business owner. He just doesn’t know what type of business yet, he has to figure that out. I asked if he was in college (he looked to be about that age). And he explained that he had to quit college because five years ago his mother was incarcerated and he was the big brother who had to take over things to care for his siblings. I made sure he had eye contact with me when I told him about my friend who is amazingly inspirational. She has a father who was/is not mentally well and a mom who checked out. She was suddenly thrust into the role of stand-in parent to her siblings, making sure they were safe and most importantly loved. And I told him how her brother just graduated from college with honors and in a conversation with him he had told me how important his sister was in his life. I said that I am sure his siblings have an extra special love for him because of what he is doing and even though they might not articulate it, to know that they are safe because of him and that he should be amazingly proud of himself for this thing he is doing, keeping his family together. I told him that I was proud of him, for what he is doing. I told him to keep his eye on his dream, to not get so bogged down with everything else that he forgets it. Bobby shook his hand and clapped his shoulder and told him “Don’t give up on your dreams Chris.” I told him that I expect to read great things about him and the business that is fortunate enough to be chosen by him. And, as we walked away, he called out to us: “Richards! I am Christopher Richards. Just so you know my name that you are looking for.” I expect great things from him, whether I have the opportunity to read about them or not. I have taken pen to paper to write the branch and corporate to tell them of how wonderful he is and that they should lift him up because he has dreams and goals I am sure they could help him with.
Staying in LA, I placed us in a hotel that was only a couple of blocks over from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. What they don’t tell you is that the walk is a couple of miles round trip. The stars are on both sides of the street and down a couple of alleyways. They are everywhere. I woke up at 545AM to be on my way (and let Bobby sleep in). In a little over two hours I walked around 12500 steps and was able to get the whole stretch, both sides, in. I took pictures along the way of ones that made me think of happy times or an impact in my life. On the far reaches of the walk I encountered a LOT of homeless people. They slept in the doorways of buildings, walked while talking to themselves, rooted through garbage. And my heart broke a little. Whatever their circumstances, they ended up here, trying to survive. I made it a point to make eye contact as much as possible (I was safe, don’t freak out). A number of the people I spoke to brightened up and wished me a good morning in return. This is a far cry from the people headed to work at 7AM, who I made eye contact with and said Good Morning and was met with a scowl.
We made our way up the coast of California to the Inn At Morro Bay. What a delight! It is set in the middle of a heron rookery (unbeknownst to me). I woke up around 6 that morning and headed out for my morning adventure. I took a number of pictures and marveled in the beauty of this little bay. When I realized that I could not make it down to the water, I decided that maybe I would head up to get a bite of oatmeal on the deck of the restaurant. I was the only person there. I ordered and then turned to look out along the waterfront. From behind me, I heard the patio door open and a man speak. I turned, smiled and said Good Morning. He asked if I would mind company. I motioned to the empty seat at my table and he joined me. This was Jack. He immediately said: I place myself where I am needed and this morning that is talking with you. I smiled. I believe in that (reference Chris Richards’ story above). (I think) he told me he was in his 70s. He lost his wife four years ago. But before he lost her he realized that he was missing something in life. After soul-searching for a while he realized that he was not in alignment with God. Now, he was not your run of the mill, “let me choke you as I ram my religion down your throat” kind of man. We had a conversation about getting your mind right and the rest of things fall in line. He was a man of faith who believed in finding your center and achieving a balanced life. He never mentioned a particular religion, in fact I believe he does not practice within a particular faith. We spoke of religion and how it can sometimes bog you down and that was never the original intention. We spoke at length about getting physically healthy. He runs for miles on the elliptical every day. We talked about my health and how it has not been the best over the past three years. And then he took my hand and prayed for me. He prayed that I would return to my former glory within the next five years (not sure where the five years came in but at least he gave the prayer a buffer of time to get the job done). I was touched, I teared up. I finished my oatmeal and we exchanged closing pleasantries and off to the room I went. Later that morning, when Bobby was ready for breakfast, we returned to the same table. As we sat, I pointed out a large bird that was sitting on a limb adjacent to the patio. He was a massive bird. With the help of binoculars supplied by the woman sitting at the table next to us, I was able to see it up close in all of its splendor. The picture below was achieved using those binoculars and lining up the camera on my iPhone. We determined (through the use of a book on area birds) that it was a white face ibis. In our conversations with our meal-mate, we learned that she worked on a movie set using her expertise in dialects. She mentioned she was an actress at one point in her life. And then we discussed the differences between this coast and that coast. Her husband was from West Virginia (Lewisburg area). We touched on politics, on green vs coal, on lifestyle differences. It was quite an interesting conversation. Jack reappeared and stood between the tables for a while. He exchanged hellos as I introduced him to our table neighbor and Husband. Out of nowhere he asked Bobby if he could pray for him (I had already told Bobby about Jack so he was not taken off-guard). Jack took Bobby’s hand and said a quick prayer for his health. He then excused himself and bid us all farewell. Wherever you are Jack, I hope you are well and putting yourself where you are needed.
In Pacific Grove (outside of Monterey) we stayed at a B&B (first time for both of us). I went on my morning walk and was able to see dolphins and seals along the trail. I came back to the room, scooped up my computer and made my way downstairs for coffee and maybe a muffin. The little meal area was quite crowded and people started to share tables. I listened in as couples shared their own experiences in travels. It was wonderful. I sent Bobby a text around 845 and suggested he head down to eat as a couple of seats opened up at one of the tables. We sat with a woman who was driving for the first time alone outside of the LA area. I found that fascinating. She was a little older than us. She spoke of an upcoming trip to Nigeria. She didn’t want to see the cities, only the safaris. She wasn’t into the crowds (interesting, as she was from LA). She was difficult to keep a conversation going with. Interesting, just difficult.
As much as he makes fun of me, Husband is also open to random conversations. For example: He was wearing one of his favorite shirts “I like flying and maybe five people and beer.” A young girl who was working at Subway asked if he actually flew. It started up a conversation in which Bobby found out her Dad took some pilot lessons. He made sure she would encourage her dad to keep at it until he was certified. I made sure to tell her that girls could be pilots too.
In San Francisco, Bobby agreed to get some walking in with me along Fisherman’s Wharf. Rest Rooms are a commodity, it seems, as there are so few of them to be found. I saw a sign for restrooms down an alleyway and we headed over. To my consternation I realized that it was for a business and you needed to type in a code. I walked the few feet back to Bobby to tell him this. Randomly, a man in a security uniform walked over and asked if we needed the code. He gave it to Bobby on a piece of paper (akin to a spy handing off secret information) and then struck up a conversation that included: “We have to be safe. There is a reason it takes a code to get in. You have to be safe. Like, maybe I need to get a body cam just to ensure that safety. Maybe when I get pepper spray for my safety….” I then realized that maybe the uniform was a front. The code worked though, that was the important thing. I walked back out of the bathroom to find Husband alone and chuckling to himself about the experience.
On the flight home, there was a young woman (who was very fidgety and who I wondered if she was dealing with anxiety) who sat next to me. Between the two of us she placed her very small service dog. It was an adorable small dog who I found out is seven years old. We had a nice conversation about service animals and how some flight attendants are not very cooperative when it comes the necessity of a service dog. She keeps the dog covered up in her lap or next to her, very discrete. The dog was very polite and slept for the short hour flight. I thought it fitting, to end our trip with a puppy as we started our trip with seventeen on our first night of this epic road trip.
To all of the strangers out there who have become friends, thanks for being you and for telling me your story. I hope my story resonated with you as well. Safe travels. Godspeed.