Rolling Oven

As I drive Southwest on 395 from Spokane towards Portland, cool air conditioning blows in my face. The hair on my arms stands up with goose bumps. Yet the sun blazes down on my left arm, and despite the sunscreen I put on this morning, I keep wishing I’d worn a light long sleeved shirt to cover my already spotted arm.

The sun’s heat beats in through the window, and it’s only 11:00 am. I look at the temperature gauge in the car and it reads 92 degrees.

As the day rolls on, and I cover more ground over black tarred roads, the number climbs to 100+.

My mind begins scrambling the details of my upcoming trip in my “new” 1982 VW Vanogan Camper Van that has no air conditioning.

I start to talk to myself in my head. “Are you out of your fucking mind, Diane?” You’re a 54-year-old menopausal woman who hot flashes and you’re going to be stuck (by your own choice) in a tin can that’s going to heat up and you will feel like you’re going to explode like a tiny bomb? What were you thinking?”

I love my comforts. Most of my life I’ve spent making myself physically comfortable with all of the right creams, the clothes to keep me just warm enough or cool enough. Hats to protect me from the sun, shoes with the right arch support.

Las summer we had a wicked heat wave in Spokane and I spent the summer sleeping in the basement where all of the walls are made out of stone.

Oh. My. God.

It’s all I can think. In one month I will be leaving my comforts to hit the road in a tiny torture chamber to trundle down the road like a turtle on the freeway.

My mind scrabbles for solutions.

“I will go North. Glacier. Canada. I’m going to research where it’s the coolest in the summer.”

I’m not worried about being alone, about breaking down, not worried that some psycho guy is going to attack me out in the woods. No, all I can think about is how hot I’ll be. How I will bake like a potato in this rolling oven and become soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

I have to calm myself down. At the next rest stop I grab a light weight T-Shirt and cover my left arm to save my skin from the beating sun. As I pull that T-shirt from my bag, I realize I have packed for 6 days what I will probably be able to take for the entire summer, but that’s another story!


My New Speed

I have a new speed in this van: SLOW.

This for the one who’s been told she has thorns up her ass and can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes. For the one who has equated speed with accomplishing lots of things.

I’m adjusting.

Every car on the road passes me. Sometimes even the semi-trucks pass me. The Van does 65 – 70 tops on a downhill. Rolling up the incline, we’re talking more like 40 mph.

I know my place on the road. It’s over to the right. When there’s no passing lane and people are stuck behind me, I fear the drivers behind me are starting to simmer with irritation, like I have in the past. Those are the times I practice breathing, remembering that there is nothing I can do.

I usually feel the energy of the person behind me. There are those who keep their distance, trundling along with me until a passing lane opens up. They send off content vibes. Then there are those who jam me up the backside, like it’s going to help me go faster.

When the passing lane comes, they kick in the throttle, gun the gas and zoom off with fumes wafting behind them. And I’m not taking diesel fumes either.

I’ve been one of those irritated drivers, though I rarely tailed people. Instead I would talk to them in my car, scolding them to move along with phrases like, “Come on Grandma, find the gas pedal.” As though these kind instructions would help.

Now I have no choice but to let go into slowness. When I relax into this new pace, I am discovering I have a slight smile on my face. I’m not racing anywhere. It’s actually a bit of a relief.

When I see a Rest Stop sign now, I pull in, get out and stretch. Before, rest stops were just a waste of time, only to be used for a pee break, and to be done as quickly as possible. Yesterday I got to a Rest Stop, and lay down in the grass and took a 20-minute nap. Believe me, that is something I’d never done.

Years ago, when my ex-husband told me I was such a multi-tasker, I said, “I know. It’s awesome! I can do 2 or 3 things at once and I get so much done.”

I thought it was a complement!

So, the Van, she’s already my teacher in the few days I’ve been getting to know her. She’s helping me slow down and relax. She’s helping me enjoy the journey instead of rushing to the next place without taking in the scenery.