The Mundling Zone

Thoughts, rants, and raves from the desk of Michelle Mundling

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Roadtrippin': Day Four

Woke up to abundant sunshine in Lordsburg, New Mexico this morning. A stark contrast to the rain and wind (especially the wind) from yesterday evening.

I'm finding out the hard way that when you make a reservation at any hotel, be very specific about which room you need. I requested a ground floor room, and I got a ground floor room. However, the hotel was one of those places in which there was only one entrance. My room was waaaaaaaay in the back of the hotel. The hotel did not have a cart to carry my bags in, the clerk did not offer to help unload my truck, in fact, he had an attitude, and my right knee was killing me.

The morning clerk was much friendlier and offered to help me load my truck. I had slept seven hours and took two pain pills, so I felt good enough to do it myself, but I did let him know that he was appreciated. I got to fill my ice chest before I left, so I knew my Slim-Fast shakes would be nice and cold in a couple of hours.

Speaking of food, I didn't feel like eating one of my salads this morning. Since I spotted the Kentucky Fried Chicken down the road when I arrived last night, I decided to stop there for chicken strips. But first, I needed sunglasses. There was a Dollar General store up the road close to the McDonalds I stopped at last night, so I went there. I got two of the same pair of the wide-lensed glasses. The price wasn't bad ... $5.00 a pair.

This Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was one of those combo-restaurants in which it was a Kentucky Fried Chicken AND Taco Bell. I had never seen this before. Apparently, this is becoming a trend in numerous areas along the Interstate. It seemed strange to look at the menu and be able to order items from both restaurants. All I wanted was chicken strips, so that's what I got. I already had Diet Dr Pepper.

Finally, I was able to hit the road. I will be in San Diego this evening.

As I was travelling west on Interstate 10, I kept gazing at the scenery. I was in the desert now, surrounded by mountains. The green and brown shrubs contrasted nicely with the light tan sand as the mountains and boulders separated the bright blue cloudless sky from the desert ground. It was as beautiful as it was deadly. This was not a place you would want to find yourself stranded without food, water, and shelter. There was no water to be seen for miles. This was mid-October, so the air temperatures were more moderate than if I were to have travelled in, say, July. I thought about that while sitting in my comfortable truck with the air conditioner running and listening to my favorite 80's tunes.

Remember, I'm from Georgia, where I was surrounded by pine trees. Some people might think that this area would be a wasteland, but to me, it's a breathtaking view. I also considered pulling over to take pictures. I'm not sure pictures could do justice to the scenery. Looking at a small picture does not compare to being surrounded by the scenery in its entirety. It's one of those things in which you've got to be there to appreciate the full beauty God bestowed upon this place.

Upon entering Arizona, I noticed the license plates of the state's residents. The older ones were dark brown with white letters and white silhouettes of a barrel cactus. The newer ones more a little more colorful. I looked around to see if I could find any barrel cacti, and I couldn't see any. I was almost disappointed. Was I in the wrong region for them to grow? It wasn't long though before my attention turned toward the group of mountains that I would be driving over.

I checked my cell phone signal, and it was maxxed out. However, that was soon to change. As I started up the road into the mountainous area, my signal dropped from a full five bars to one bar. I also noticed something I had not encountered in a long time: my ears were reacting to the air pressure change. A few weeks ago, my friend Silke had suggested I chew gum to alleviate the air pressure in my ears. While driving with my left hand, I plundered through my purse with my right hand, trying to find the pack of gum I placed in it. After I found the gum, I placed a piece and started chewing. To my surprise, it worked. Even when it started souring after ten minutes, I kept chomping away on it.

Coming down a mountain was a different story. I was approaching Benson, Arizona, and I was chomping on that piece of gum furiously as my truck descended from the mountain area. I managed to keep the full-blown pain at bay, but I noticed that my hearing was diminishing. When we came down from the mountain, we came DOWN from the mountain! Oh my God! I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had flown in an airplane!!

The things we travellers do for entertainment! There was this sheriff's deputy travelling on the Interstate at 80 miles an hour. The posted speed limit was 75 miles per hour. I and two other travellers decided to follow the deputy. After all, if he can drive it, so can we, right? This continued until we got to Tuscon, Arizona. When the deputy took an exit and left the Interstate, I waved my hand and said, "Goodbye, officer! Thanks for letting us play 'follow the leader!'" Yes, I entertain easily.

In comparison to driving in New Mexico, it seemed like driving through Arizona took forever and was more tedious. Probably because it only took 170-something miles to drive through New Mexico, whereas it took twice as long with Arizona. At least I did finally get to see the barrel cacti that we've all seen in various pictures. What we don't see in many of these pictures is that the cacti along the Interstate were shot up and full of bullet holes. The ones further away from the Interstate didn't have any or nearly as many bullet-sized holes. This was a constant sight for many miles. It saddened and concerned me at the same time. I was saddened because the damage these plants sustained. I was concerned because of the number of bullets that had to be fired to cause all the damage. How many people do you know go out on an interstate highway to use cacti for target practice??

Finally, at 6:40 PM EST, I entered the state of California. I took a deep breath when I crossed the state line. I was almost to my destination, and I was getting a little emotional. Less than five miles to the south of me was Baja California, which is Mexico. I haven't been this close to another country since July 1975. There was nothing but white sand for the first few miles inside the state line. By the time it occured to me to pull out my camera and take some video, the scenery had changed. I did manage to get a quick bit of video here:

Once I entered California, I noticed that there were call boxes placed every so many miles from each other so if someone was stranded along the interstate, that someone could call for help. My cell phone signal dropped down to one bar, so I'm glad to see these call boxes out here.

I approached the forth border patrol checkpoint of my entire trip. For the first time, I actually had to stop. I was approached by a cute hispanic-looking border patrolman who spoke to me in a thick accent, "Good afternoon ma'am. How are you today?"

I smiled as I concentrated to eliminate all traces of the southern dialect I acquired while living 30 years in Georgia. "I'm doing great today, sir!"

"Great. Are you an American citizen?" With all due respect sir, I sound more like an American than you do.

"Yes sir I am. Here's my driver's license," I handed him the ID case containing my license and insurance card.

He looked at my license, then handed it back to me. "What do you have in the back of your truck, ma'am?" Hmmm ... should I have told him about my salads in the ice chest in the passenger side floorboard?

"Luggage. I'm on vacation from Waycross, Georgia. Would you like for me to open the back for you?" ... so you can take a look at my leopard-print luggage and come to the conclusion that I have no taste.

"No, ma'am. That won't be necessary. Thanks for your help. You have a great day"

"You, too. By the way, I appreciate what you all do, so you all be careful."

His smile got bigger. "Thank you, ma'am."

All jokes aside, the border patrol has a thankless job to perform, and they're catching hell from both sides. One side says they're being too hard on illegals and everyone should have a chance to enter the country. The other side says that they're not doing enough to protect our borders from the illegal intruders. That's why I took the time to tell him that they were appreciated. You'd be surprised what "you are appreciated" can do to help someone get through the day. No one likes to be taken for granted.

Thirty minutes later, I see more mountains ahead of me. Without thinking, my right hand started searching my purse for more gum. How high was I going to go this time?

As I started my ascent, I noticed the road signs suggesting that drivers should turn off their air conditioners to prevent their vehicles from overheating. Not a bad idea. Besides, the weather was surprisingly pleasant, so I decided to roll down my windows. I also noticed the placement of barrels of radiator water on the side of the road every couple of miles for motorists who had the unfortunate luck of dealing with an overheating vehicle. Glad to know they were there, but I prayed I would not need them.

I reached up to a height of a little over 4,100 ft above sea-level. Wouldn't you know it? I approached another wind farm! This time, I got very close, as you can see from the video below:

There was another border patrol station during my descent from the mountainous area. I had to stop at this one, too. Unlike the last one, these guys wanted to see what I had in the back of my truck. I handed him a key to the truck bed lid. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw he was having difficulty opening it up. Not wanting to hold up the vehicles behind me nor startle any jumpy patrolmen by leaving my truck too quickly, I slowly opened the truck door, stepped out, and said, "The lock on that lid can be tricky. Would you like for me to open it for you?" He shook his head and said yes. I walked to the back of my truck, jiggled the key, then opened the bed lid.

In view of five border patrolmen was all my leopard-print luggage, a bag filled with dirty laundry, a hot pink tote box filled with boxed food, and two five-gallon gas cans full of gasoline. Now, I've got nothing to hide, but I didn't know what to expect next. Flashes of heightened airport security checks raced through my head as I looked at the faces of the uniformed men. Were they going to go through everything, including my unmentionables? Of course, one brief look and they were through with their inspection of my vehicle, so I was free to go.

The sun was setting as I entered San Diego County. I wasn't going to worry about trying to recognize anything at this point. My only concerns were to get to my hotel room, make two phone calls, and get on the Internet.

After checking in, driving to my room, and unloading the truck, I sat down on the bed. All that kept going through my mind was, "I can't believe I'm here! I did it! I'm here!" I reflected on the various places that were near and dear to my heart when I lived in San Diego: my old elementary school, my sister's high school, Belmont Park, The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, the beach, Miramar, and especially the Millers ... I was going to see them again.

I finally made it back to San Diego.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Roadtrippin': Day Three

Got a late start hitting the road. Claire woke me up around 6:30 AM local time, but it was not until 9:30 when I finally loaded the truck and hit the road. I decided to make use of the Internet access and take care of some business online while I could. I had this feeling that I would not be able to access the Internet until I got to California, and only then if my hotelís Internet service was working.

Claire and TxLobo have a couple of couches that theyíre trying to sell. If one of them is the one I slept on last night AND I had room in the back of my truck, I would have bought it. That was a very comfy couch. I love couches I can just sit and sink into. It had lots of pillows and room for up to four people.

Traveling back to the interstate where Abilene was located, I was comtemplative about how the state of Texas allows the speed limit to be 70 mph on state-maintained roads. In Georgia, the speed limit was always 55 mph. I think itís because the state roads in Texas are so remote and sparsely populated. In any case, I was glad I was able to travel at that speed.

Upon arrival to Abilene, I was surprised at how large the city was. For some reason, I had assumed it was a smaller city like Valdosta, Georgia. Before I got to the Interstate, I had seen a wide array of restaurants, stores, and other businesses Ö all looking like they had been built within the last five years. I saw a billboard for a restaurant that struck me as funny: ďBuffet City, Over 200 items.Ē Talk about telling it like it is!

I started thinking about Soul Sister. She was born in Abilene. I donít know what her work schedule is, and Iím so afraid Iíll wake her if sheís home because sheís usually asleep. Sheís been on my mind a lot lately. I havenít spoken to her in awhile, and I teared up when I was reminded yet again that I failed to call her. I miss her. It was easier to keep in touch when she had Internet service, but her current home doesnít have adequate service yet. Still, I need to call.

As I got back on the Interstate, I started looking at gas prices again. In this area as of this writing, it was $2.07 for regular unleaded. I was told it was about that price in Waycross, Georgia. I hadnít seen exuberant gas prices yet, but Iím expected it anytime.

Sweetwater, Texas has a wind farm south of I-20. A wind farm is a spot of land in which power-generating windmills are located to catch the wind and generate electricity. To the best of my knowledge, these windmills do not create hazardous waste nor damage the ozone layer. It is, to my understanding, one of the cleanest forms of energy we have available to us if we just utilize it more. It was a sight to behold.

I remember reading about how a company wanted to put up a wind farm at Marthaís Vineyard, and the residents protested, saying the wind farm would be an eyesore. I canít speak for other people, but Iíd much rather have a wind farm as a view than to pollute the environment by burning oil and coal to generate electricity. To me, wind farms are beautiful.

I approached a sign at the beginning of a bridge, displaying that the Colorado River was just ahead. I was expecting a large body of water. I was taken aback at how dried up this river was. Iíve seen water-filled ditches with more water than this ďriver.Ē

There was a refinery that I passed on my right; it was owned by Fina. OMG! I thought the paper mill in Brunswick, Georgia had a bad smell! Ewww! Note to self: never move close to an oil refinery.

Shock of the day: When I approached the city of Monahan, Texas, the speed limit on the Interstate went up to 80 mph. I had to do a double take. My first thought was that vandals changed the sign. There was a second sign right after the first one that said trucks and cars with trailers must go 70 mph. I was elated. I could drive 80 mph and do it legally! I set my cruise control and happily continued on my way. Of course, I had to call my good friend Pumooda and tell her about the speed limit signs.

One of the things I noticed about speed limit signs in Texas is that they have different speed limits for daytime and nighttime. The daytime speed limits are posted in black letters on white backgrounds. However, the nighttime speed limites are posted in white letters on black backgrounds. If the speed limit is 70 mph or higher, then a nighttime speed limit of 65 mph is posted.

About five miles before I-20 merged with I-10, I entered the first mountainous area of my trip. It was beautiful. Parts of the road were lined with landscaped jagged rocks and boulders. I started thinking about the freeways in San Diego where they had similar landscaping. A couple of tears ran down my cheeks before I was brought back to the reality that I was still in Texas. I still had a ways to go, but I was getting closer.

My cell phone reception up until I entered this area had been excellent. Once I got to the mountains, my reception was virtually nonexistent. It was a little unnerving at first. Itís funny how quickly we adapt to technological advances to the point that we become naked and vulnerable when theyíre suddenly not available.

Approaching an exit around 169 miles from the New Mexico state line, I noticed the gas prices for regular unleaded were $2.69. I was wondering how long it was going to be before I approached these high-priced gas stations. At least it was a modern-looking station (from what I could see from the interstate). However, I wasnít about to stop for gas. Luckily, I fueled up 100 miles ago when the gas cost $2.29 a gallon. Even then, Iíve got two five-gallon containers of gasoline in the back of the truck. If a gas station didnít look safe, I wasnít going to stop.

I did make a stop to take a couple of pictures of this beautiful rainbow:

Once I got to the El Paso county line, the speed limit dropped back down to 70 mph. It was a nice ride while it lasted.

Finally, I got to New Mexico. By then, I had been on the road approximately eight hours. I made a reservation at the Super 8 in Lordsburg, New Mexico, and it was going to be another couple of hours before I got there.

Dark clouds were forming overhead as I drove on. I was looking at the various shapes each cloud formed. One had a lopsided triangular shape to it. I wondered if it was the beginnings of a tornado, but I blew it off (no pun intended). I figured mother nature was playing her optical illusions again. By then, it was nearly dark and I couldnít see the sky.

Then the wind hit the truck.

You know how when youíre riding in a vehicle you can hear the steady sound of the wind, and itís a constant sound? The sound of the wind went from a soothing rush to a sudden roar. At the same time, my truckís steering became more difficult to control. I immediately slowed down. I looked around and noticed other vehicles hitting their brakes at the same time. This lasted for about 30 seconds before whatever hit us died down. There was no rain, no hail. Was it a tornado? I honestly couldnít tell you. Whatever it was, it was powerful.

Finally, I arrived at my hotel. I didn't feel like eating the food I brought with me. I wanted some comfort food, so I decided to treat myself to McDonalds. I got my food, brought it back to my room, and enjoyed my gourmet chicken nuggets and fries. I went to sleep shortly after.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Roadtrippin': Day Two

So much for setting the alarm clock. I slept right through it. That was Godís way of telling me that I needed more sleep. I know Iím a heavy sleeper anyway, but this alarm was obnoxious-sounding.

This particular hotel offered a free ďcontinentalĒ breakfast. In other words, you have your choice of two cereals, bagels, and doughnuts with milk, orange juice, coffee, butter, cream cheese, and jelly. I took a cup of milk and two bagels with cream cheese to go. I could get addicted to bagels with cream cheese; it was tasty and filling.

From the time it took me to wake up to the time I walked into lobby to check-out, one hour had passed. At least carrying my stuff down the stairs was easier than carrying them up the stairs; Iím not complaining. I did do something stupid: I signed the credit card receipt without even looking to see how much it was. I finally checked when I made my first fuel stop of the day in Louisiana. Iíve got to be more careful.

I remember crossing the Mississippi river when I left Mississippi and crossed into Louisiana. Thatís a huge river! The only other river Iíve seen that could come a distant second is the St. Johns River in Florida. It got my attention.

Along Interstate 20 from Georgia to Louisiana, I did not notice much of a difference in the landscape. Honestly, I could have taken a picture of the interstate in Georgia, and it could have looked like the landscape in Alabama, Mississippi, or eastern Louisiana. Once I got halfway through Louisiana, I noticed that we were still surrounded by trees, but they werenít pine trees. I donít know what kind of trees they were.

When I arrived to Texas, their welcome station had free wireless Internet. Of course, you know I had to stop and check this out for myself. How do you think it felt when I was able to access the Internet from inside my truck? I had been marveling at how strong my cell-phone service connect had been throughout my trip. I have been able to make calls at will to friends and family and not have to worry about racking up long distance charges. Thinking back at how road trips used to be, I canít help but marvel at the technology readily available to us.

Texas seems to take their slogan, ďDonít Mess With Texas,Ē seriously. Shortly after getting on the road again from the Welcome Station, I passed a sign that displayed, ďDonít Mess with Texas, $50 - $1000 Fine for Littering.Ē

Passed a sign about 30 minutes east of Dallas, Texas: Prison Area, Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers. Considering that I work in a prison, I thought the sign was hilarious. I called a friend of mine to tell him what I saw, but he didnít sound too impressed. Just me, huh?

The closer I got to Dallas, Texas, the more I noticed the landscape change around me. I saw more open fields of wildgrass with shrubs and scattered trees here and there. The change was more obvious after I crossed through the Dallas and Fort Worth area. For someone who has spent 31 years in an area in which all you see are pine trees, seeing a wide-open plain was absolutely breathtaking.

Oversleeping cost me two-and-a-half hours of driving time. I was supposed to be to a small town in Texas to meet a couple of friends and spend the night. We were going to go out to eat when I got there. I was on the road 11 hours before I finally arrived.

God bless them for being patient and understanding. They went ahead and picked up dinner and brought it back to their house so it would be ready when I got there. We had fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes with cream gravy, green beans, carrots, and potato salad. I remember picking up a piece of chicken and originally thinking that it was two pieces stuck together. My friends chuckled when it dawned on me that it was one single piece of chicken breast. I guess what they say is true about things being bigger in Texas. Even the drumsticks were bigger than the ones we get at the local KFC in Georgia.

It was so good to see Claire again. I had not seen her since she moved from Waycross to be with TxLobo. As far away from home as I was, it was almost as if I never left. Her husband TxLobo has greatly impressed me. I mean, OMG!!! He took what was originally a small house and added to it. He did almost all of the work himself. I was in awe at the practicality and craftsmanship of all of his home-improvement projects. Claire told me he was the ďjack of all trades, but the master of none.Ē Well, he may not be the master, but heís pretty damn good at what he does! The house felt like a home Ö a real home. If he was my neighbor, and I wanted to have something done to my house, Iíd hire him. By the way, did I mention that he can cook and knows his way around computers like the back of his hand? I should have asked if he had a brother. :-P

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Roadtrippin': Day One

Iíve waited 31 years for this.

I donít think itís hit me yet that Iím finally embarking on this long-distance drive. I had planned on making this trip for so long that it didnít hit me until the week of the trip, and then I felt like I was caught off guard. Reminds me of the time when I lived in Atlanta in the 90s and we kept hearing, ďThe Olympics are coming!Ē Weíre like, ďYeah, yeah Ö in another six years Ö five years Ö four years ÖĒ It wasnít until two weeks before the Olympics were due to start that it finally hit us, ďOh my God!!! The Olympics are coming!Ē

In an unrelated bit of family trivia, it was also 31 years from the time my Uncle Luther disappeared without a trace in February 1965 to February 1996 when a good friend of his called us to let us know that he was alive but ailing in Waco, Texas. But I digress Ö

It was a cool, overcast morning when I left the house. I had no idea where I was going to make my first stop, but I was going to drive as long as I could before I felt the need to stop for the night. Iím running on three hours of sleep, but Iím so keyed up right now that I donít think I could go to sleep if I tried.

The longest I ever spent driving someplace was six hours, and that was in my 1984 Mercury Lynx that had no cruise control. I would not attempt this cross-country drive if my truck did not have this luxurious must-have feature. In fact, my truck has been a blessing to me. The seat is comfortable and supports my back. Even if you were to make frequent stops on a road trip, the seats in your vehicle can make or break your enjoyment during the trip.

My sleep deprivation was already taking a toll on me when I got to the city of Albany, Georgia. I misread the signs and took the business route of US 82 (the long way) rather than the bypass. I lost 30 minutes of driving time in stop and go traffic. I was upset with myself. I wondered if I needed to make a stop and take a nap, but I decided to keep going.

I never thought Iíd get out of Georgia. It took me five hours to get to Columbus from Waycross. In addition, the City of Columbus had some kind of celebration going on and the police department was having to direct traffic. Instead of taking 10 minutes to drive through the city, it took 35 minutes. I never thought Iíd be so glad to see the sign that said, ďAlabama State Line.Ē I made much better time once I got to Alabama. One thing I will say about US routes in that state is that theyíre almost like the interstate roads as far as being at least four-laned and having speed limits higher than the standard speed limit of 55 MPH.

After dark, the full moon came out. There was not much traffic on the interstate, so I was able to enjoy the whitish-blue glow cast upon the trees and the road. It was really nice. I love full-moon nights.

By the time I got to Meridian, Mississippi, my body was letting me know that it was time to pull over and get a room. Honestly, I was still hyped up and could have driven another two or three hours. However, I had been awake 21 hours and only had three hours of sleep the night before. The body was willing, but even I knew that my sleep deprivation made me a few clowns short of a circus. I needed to get off the road.

I stopped at a couple of hotels before I found one with a vacancy. However, it only had vacancies on the second floor. This is not a good thing when you have a pinched nerve in your back and an injured knee. I decided to take only what I absolutely needed and would just take extra medication for the pain. No matter what I did, I still had to make two trips. What added insult to injury is that the hotel offered free high speed Internet service, but I got a room with a damaged CAT5 port. I could not get service to my computer. What did I learn from this experience? Pick a town and make your reservation if you need a specific room to accommodate you.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Roadtrippin': The Beginning

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting an ongoing journal of my road trip from Georgia to California. It is a combination vacation/self-actualization journey.

Why is this trip important to me?

San Diego was a place in which I had started developing my own interests, my own friends, my own identity. The house we lived in at Miramar NAS (now a marine base) was the first place that felt like home to me. I had just turned four years old when we arrived, my dad being transferred there from Virginia Beach. By the time I was ten years old, I had spent 50% of my life in one home, one neighborhood, one school. It was what I was comfortable with ... what I was familiar with.

Dad retired from the Navy when I was nine years old. My sister still had one year of high school left. Mom and Dad didn't want to take her out and put her in a strange school, so we rented a house in the Clairemont area of San Diego. I had to change schools, but I thought it was cool that I could walk to school instead of riding the bus. In addition, a lot of schools back then were similar, so it wasn't too different from attending one school or another ... just different students and teachers.

When my sister graduated high school, there was no reason to stay in San Diego. The cost of living was too high. We had some land in Colorado, but a snowstorm prompted my parents to change their mind about moving there. Dad suggested moving to Waycross because Mom's family was there. Mom liked the idea.

On July 7, 1975, we left San Diego. I had to leave behind everything I was familiar with. I didn't want to leave. I had to say goodbye to my friends. I had no idea what to expect.

We arrived to Waycross on July 14, 1975. I thought we had arrived to Green Acres (the TV show). We had been travelling on a road that had sporadic run-down wooden homes and mobile homes. Mom didn't realize until later that the particular route we took might not have given me a good impression of the town (you think???). We pulled up to my maternal grandmother's house, and I looked around. There were rows of older-looking wooden homes. Mom and Dad were looking where to put the luggage and the moving truck. I was still looking for Arnold the pig to show up with a welcome basket in his mouth.

The next few months were not pleasant.

I was not used to the high 90F+ temperatures and the high humidity. No matter how many times I showered, I still didn't feel fresh and clean. It felt like someone opened a Pepsi or Coke and poured it over my body.

My body chemistry made me a buffet treat to all the biting insects in the area. What's worse, I was having allergic reactions to their bites. I remember one night being taken to a family member who was a pharmacist for help because I was seriously ill. I somehow managed to get numerous mosquito bites all over my body, and I couldn't stop scratching. Mom told me later that I had a fever and they were worried about me because I got so sick. I looked like I had a relapse of the chicken pox.

It was hard for me to converse with people. I was not familiar with their southern accents, and I'm sure they got tired of me asking them to repeat what they said. Some even started making fun of me for the way I spoke. I was a sensitive child, so their ridicule hurt. I just wanted to fit in, and I was failing miserably.

We didn't have these problems in San Diego. Why did we have to leave?

I learned to adapt. It took me awhile, but I managed. Cooler weather helped, also. Unlike California, we actually had cold weather during the fall and winter months. I loved it. It was such a reprieve from the hot sticky weather I suffered through before. Regardless of the time of year, when it's around 70 - 72 degrees with very low humidity, and I feel a breeze, I immediately think of San Diego.

I longed to see San Diego again. I had brought this up with Mom a couple of times over the years. She kept brushing it off as silly and stupid. Why would I want to do something like that? It's not going to be the same as when we lived there. I didn't expect it to, but why should that stop me? I learned not to mention it around her. It was obvious she would not be supportive of this venture. Dad was more supportive, but after dealing with Mom, I didn't bring it up again for discussion.

When a loved one dies, it tends to make you philosophic. Two months after my mother passed away, I started looking at where I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I started seriously thinking about making the trip. I had the finances, a well-maintained vehicle, the vacation time, and the desire to revisit a lost childhood. That is when I knew that the time had come to to make the return.

I do want to clarify that I love living in Waycross. I've grown to love the landscape, the people, and the history. As an adult, Waycross is my hometown.

But speaking for the 10-year old little girl who had to say goodbye to everything she loved, I'm finally going home.