Saturday, 19 September 2015

Well. From the way I got to Alamo, turned the car in, and got to the airport, you’d think I’ve done this before (which I have, more times than I care to mention). Gate 15, fight 3160. Boarding starts at 1155 hours. It’s 1018 hours now. Gonna be a long day.

I’m running on a can of Manzanita Sol, a mini blueberry pie, 40 mg of fluoxetine, and 4 mg of aripiprazole (for those unfamiliar with the generic names, Prozac and Abilify, respectively). And I’m actively telling myself to breathe. Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe.

I shouldn’t have any problems doing this, making this trip. Because. I’ve made so many like it. Hell, I got stuck in the Baltimore/Washington airport for over 8 hours on a weather delay once. And I got stuck overnight on a flight through Heartsfield, in Atlanta. So, yes, I have the physical ability to do this, without the medications. That said…

I’ve changed. Things have changed. Life has changed. On earlier trips, I was a different person. One who didn’t understand panic attacks, stress and anxiety. One who’d never officially had an attack (turns out, I’ve had them all my life, but that’s another story). So, here I am, enduring sensory overload on a grand scale, dealing with the SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) that’s part of my ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Trying to filter out everything I can. My MP3 player is running, and I don’t intend to turn it off until I have to, to board the plane. It helps me filter out life. Yeah. I know. It’s more accurate to say, “Drown out life,” but, it gives me something I can focus on, and lets me ignore all the other sounds around me. Like the woman 2 seats to my left, laughing and blabbing on her phone, the two guys across the aisle, fidgeting, the Starbucks Coffee to my left, the human male in the Bermuda Shorts, and canary yellow shirt, with the lipstick red baseball cap, and socks that come up to his knees.

I also watch signs. Animated signs. Like the JCDecaus sign at the main walkway. “It’s simple. Just pick a size. Verizon”. Tiny dog, mall dog, medium dog, wow dog, then saying. Advertising their phone plans, obviously. There’s the ad for Las Vegas, which covers like 50 yards of the ceiling.

I’d hop on WiFi on the plane, but this is a Chromebook. A limited Chromebook, which does NOT have an Airplane mode. So, I won’t be on WiFi on the flight. From here, to Baltimore/Washington. Doesn’t mean I won’t be able to write. I’m able to edit a document offline. Works best if I edit one I’ve already written. So, “Untitled document” it is. And when I get home, I can sync up the Google Drive, and send this wherever.

The trip. It started on Saturday, 12 September 2015, at 0327 hours, when I woke up, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Didn’t really matter, since I had to wake up at 0400 hours anyway, to get to the airport. I drove my Yaris. Parked in Long Term Parking. Hope the car’s there when I get there. $9 a day for parking. It will cost me a minimum of $72 to ransom the car.

I screwed up at the TSA checkpoint. Yeah. Left my belt on. My belt. The one I picked in November 2010. The one with the gigantic buckle, with 2 hooks in it, and two rows of metal rings every inch or so along its entire length. Yeah. Forgot to take that off. Suffice to say, the check in scanner went nuts, and I had to be checked by hand.

Got lucky. Got a window seat on the plane. That helps, actually. It gives me something to do. Look out the window, watch the clouds, watch the ground, try to figure out what I’m looking at. I bought the most expensive 20 ounce Sprite I’ve ever had. $3.08. Owie. But, that Sprite was all I had for breakfast. Literally.

Had to kill over an hour before boarding started. I suck at killing time. And that may be saying it politely.

Oh, cute! The little girls to my left are watching a movie on an ACER tablet. No idea what movie. Animated. Probably one of the Barbie movies. Their mom is in line at Starbucks. There’s about half a doze of us grown ups watching the kids. We’ll probably kill anyone who trys to steal them, or hurt them, or steal any of the stuff they’re watching. They have on Cowgirl boots, and denim shorts. Look to be maybe the same age as Karen DeLabar’s two oldest. Maybe a year younger.

Where was I? Oh. The trip out. Yeah. Got a window seat. The lady who sat next to me (maybe in her 20s?) slept most of the flight to Midway. The guy on the aisle slept almost as much. I got to star out the window a bunch. Saw some towns on the ground that reminded me of where I lived back in the 60s. About 64 through 69. A little town called Merigold, Mississippi. So small, if you went grocery shopping, you went to Cleveland, about 10 miles away. There wasn’t a grocery in Merigold. I used to ride my bike around the block, which was like riding half way around town. We had a general store, and a country doctor. And one church I can remember. I went to first and second grade there. 3rd grade, they moved us to a school in Cleveland. That was an entertaining bus ride. Geeze.

Some of the towns were tiny, just a few blocks, some were bigger, maybe 10 or 20 blocks. Laid out like bricks. I also watched the roads. Found it amazing how straight some of them were. Straight for miles and miles. As far as I could see, from 30,000 feet, which was actually a long way. You could recognize the interstate highways. They were the wide ones with the diamond and cloverleaf interchanges on them.

At Midway, I listened to music until I had to board the plane. Got lucky a second time. Another window seat. Some crazy lady from New Hampshire wound up in the middle seat. She kept swapping things with one of her sons, who wound up in the middle seat a row behind her. She was tiny. One of those toothpick humans you feel like you can pick up and throw, like a javelin.

I am certain she noticed when I took my meds. Yeah. I finally got the chance. And yeah, I needed both the fluoxetine, and the aripiprazole. (If I got that last one wrong, I’m still learning its generic name). Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if half the plan noticed that.

Landed at LAX, found my way to the shuttle bus to National/Alamo. And that’s where one of the most entertaining stories of the trip comes from. The shuttle made three stops to pick people up. I got on at the first one. A woman got on too, we both sat in the back half the shuttle. We both spoke English as our primary language. At the second stop, four more people wound up in the back of the bus. Two couples. They spoke spanish. And they had a big conversation, with lots of laughter. At the 3rd stop, the back of the bus filled. five women in hijabs got on. I was polite and joined the Spanish speaking group so they could sit together. Three munchkins got on with them. And five males. They all spoke a variant of Arabic as their primary language.

I smiled as I thought about how many of my conservative friends from Virginia Beach would have had fits sitting on that bus, and I tried to guess how many of them would have been incensed, upset, outraged, and of the “This is America, Dammit! We speak English here!” perspective. It was so funny to think about that.

I got to the rental car place, and had a choice to make. Stand in line to get the car, or use the self service kiosk. The line was over an hour long. I went self service. We’d rented a mid-size. Turned out, I got to pick the car. Got to the mid-size row of cars, and had my choice. A black Toyota Corolla. A white Nissan Sentra. A white VW of some kind. A black Chrysler 200. And a burgundy 200. I picked the 200.

Then, I got the car, left the Alamo lot, and turned right onto the road outside the Alamo lot. And realized I had no fucking clue where I was. So, I pulled into the nearest gas station and asked how to get on 405 north. It was easy, almost a straight shot from the gas station. Onto 405, North. Which was a five lane wide parking lot.

And I remembered why I don’t like Los Angeles. And California on the whole. And it occurred to me, “I have to drive her into this on Sunday. Oh, this is gonna be fun.”

It was 120 miles to Bakersfield, where I had to call her and get instructions for how to find the RV park she was in. I got there, obviously.

Dinner Saturday night (the first time I ate anything other than four 70 calorie servings of peanuts, one 40 calorie bag of pretzels, and two cups (yes, cups) of Sprite, and that expensive 20 ounce Sprite I’d had that morning, on the whole trip), was In-’n-Out Burger.

After that, we settled in for the night in the Hurricane.

Next up? The story of Sunday, 13 September 2015. 🙂

Sunday, 13 September 2015 – Day two of the trip. Welcome to Universal City, Hollywood. That’s where we went. Pat got her first dose of LA traffic. I thought I handled it pretty well. We got where we were going, without any wrecks, or other incidents. Although we did get lost. If you’ve never been to LA, suffice to say, the road signs suck. And yes, that’s coming from someone who lives in Virginia Beach, where the road signs are not great.

Pat and I went one way, Steve and Silver went another way. Pat and I started with the first showing of the Waterworld Stunt Show Spectacular. Lots of water splashed about, lots of smoke, and simulated (controlled) fires. Lots of pretend gunfire. zip lines, and all kinds of stunts. It was fun

I’ll have to post the picture she made me pose for. She insisted on putting me on the Water World Jet Ski they had set up for pictures. So, I have to find that, eventually, and show it off.

After Water World, we did the Special Effects show. That was fun to watch.

Next up was the lower level. We rode the three rides. The Mummy Returns, Transformers, and Jurassic Park. The Mummy was the fun one for me, but, it nearly pushed her over her limits. Especially the part that went backwards. She had that nice, pale green tint that says, “Oh, too much!”

We got a drink after the Mummy. And in a Minion cup, no less. So, I have a giant Minion cup. Bob, I think. Anyway. It’s on the RV, so I won’t show it off until after she gets home.

Next up was the Universal Studios Tour. We saw several places they’re making TV shows. Things like the soundstage for “The Voice”, the city hall from “Back To The Future”, and “Texas”, which got used for all kinds of movies, like “High Plains Drifter”. It was a fun tour.

Then, Steve and Silver had played out, so we gathered up, and headed to dinner. Dinner was at Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City. I had a Barbecue sandwich. It was OK. Not spectacular, but not bad. Of course, for barbeque, I’m spoiled. We have Pierces a bit over an hour from the house. And as good as Hard Rock was, it was certainly not in the same league as Peirce’s.

We finished by visiting the Dark Horse Comics store. I behaved. Pat knows it. I didn’t spend anything, although I certainly could have. 🙂

Then, we went to the hotel, and crashed for the night, in LA.

Ah. The view out the window from 30+ thousand feet in the sky. Of course, like I said, the Chromebook doesn’t do “airplane mode”, so I’ve got WiFi turned off. And yes, it can write off line. It’ll sync up at home.

Now, we’re about 3 hours from Baltimore. Well. 3 hours flight time. It’ll be more like 6 when you add in the time zone changes. It’s already 1639 at home, and it’ll be 2240 or so when I get off the plane in Norfolk.

Gonna be a long night.

Then there was Monday, 14 September 2015 – Day 3 of the trip. Yep. We went back to Universal City Hollywood. Did the Studio Tour again, and got to see things we didn’t see the previous day. Like Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives.

Rode the Minions Ride from Despicable Me. Got turned into Minions, and then accidentally turned back into humans. Sigh. Would have been fun working for Gru, I think. Anyway. Got a picture with Gru, took pictures of her with minions. Ate lunch. Wandered around a bit, bought two keychains (left them in the Hurricane). Gathered up Steve and Silver, and piled in the car for the next part of the trip.

The drive to San Diego. We-ha-hodwy! What a drive! We found the hotel in San Diego, then Pat and I ate at On The Border (the closest one to the house is over 3 hours away, at Potomac Mills). And I hauled Steve and Silver to Wendy’s. It was a short day, but not short, you know. Well. You would know if you’ve ever been on the San Diego Freeway between LA and San Diego.

Hi, Rachel in the OC! Yeah. Drove right through the OC. Maybe I should have let someone know I was going to be passing through. But, no. I had a full schedule, and beside, the drive nearly killed me. Geeze. How do you guys deal with the insane number of cars of on the road?

I’m supposed to say, “Hi, Alley!” too. Since I was out that way.

Didn’t get to visit Ruth. She was north of Bakersfield. Way north. Like a 3 hour drive north. Would have loved to visit Mortuary Momma, but sometimes, things just don’t work out.

We spent the night in the hotel at San Diego. They tell me I snored to waked the dead. Not that I noticed, of course. But when I woke Tuesday morning, Steve and Silver were in the room with the TV and sofa. They’d abandoned the bed during the night, ‘cause I snored. Thanks, genetics, for the gift.

On Tuesday, 15 September 2015, we went to the San Diego Zoo. I took tons of pictures. Before it poured. And it did pour. Got pictures of flowers, birds, elephants, polar bears, lots of pictures. 🙂 Then, it rained. We took the bus tour of the park in the rain. Yes, we all got soaked. We all wound up in San Diego Zoo rain ponchos. When Steve and Silver played out, Pat and I finished what we were doing, and we all gathered into one group, and headed out.

Where we drove from San Diego back to Bakersfield. Hours and hours and hours. I was cooked, fried, crispy crittered, a useless husk of a human. Pat had never experienced anything quite like LA at 1500 hours. It was… Entertaining is a good word. I’ll go with that.

We dropped Steve and Silver off at their house, then went exploring, looking for a place to eat. Wound up at In-’n-Out again.

Back at the Hurricane, we collapsed, singing, “It never rains in Southern California…” It rained in Bakersfield that night.

Look, Mom! I’m at BWI, waiting for the plane. So, how come I heard Tatu from Fantasy Island, “The Plane! The Plane!” ??? It’s 2040 hours. Boarding won’t start until at least 2115 hours. As Wakka says, “Woo-ha!”

Wednesday, 16 September 2015 was spent taking it easy. If you call driving all over Bakersfield taking it easy. We visited the California Fruit and Nut Depot. Then, wandered to LongView Brewery for lunch. We spent time at the Hurricane. And we took naps, and we wandered out to dinner. After driving a zillion miles looking at everything, we wound up at a Del Taco. Then, we went back to the Hurricane, and collapsed. We did watch two movies Wednesday. Kingsman (I like it), and Big Hero 6 (also good). Other than that, Wednesday was a quiet day.

Thursday, 17 September 2015 was anything but quiet. Oh, it went well enough for a while. We drove to Morro Bay. Ate Del Taco for breakfast, and drove, and drove, and drove. She’d never been to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) before. So, we had to stop and explore the coast a bit. She was happy, took tons of pictures, and walked, and walked. Pacific beaches are not like Atlantic beaches. One, they have bigger waves, and smaller (WAY smaller) beaches. Atlantic beaches don’t have rock cliffs near them. Except the ones on say, Aquidneck Island, in Rhode Island. Pacific beaches had different birds, and other animals. They also have strange grass. Looks more like cactus to me.

After killing a while on that beach, she decided to wander to Morro Bay. We went shopping. I bought four fairy stickers (they’re in the Hurricane, so you won’t see pictures any time soon). We bought lunch. And she took pictures of harbor seals. They had plenty of them to take pictures of.

Then, things went bad. We went to Morro Rock. Took pictures of the otters. Took pictures of the beach facing the Pacific ocean, then, took pictures of flowers, including cactus flowers. Then, we visited the beach along the bay. And that’s where she stepped in a washed out trench, rolled her left ankle, and went down.

I felt helpless. I felt awful. I felt like a failure. The casualties? She skinned her right knee, and elbow, and messed up her ankle. The 18 to 130 mm camera lense also bit the dust. And with her taking pictures on the trip home, I knew she’d want to visit Best Buy on Friday.

We limped back from Morro Bay. Had dinner somewhere. I can’t even remember where. Oh. Now, I remember. Panda something. Can’t remember the name. It’s like fast food chinese, like a Moe’s or Qdoba. But Chinese, not Texican. From there, we wandered to the Hurricane, and collapsed. We watched Kingsman again.

And so ended a too eventful Thursday.

And then it was Friday, 18 September 2015, and time to get ready for the trip home. We went shopping. Best Buy, where we replaced the damaged lens. Then, Walmart, where she picked up cleaning supplies, one more 12 pack of soda, and some other odds and ends. We went back to the Hurricane, and cleaned it up for the morning departure. She started laundry so she’ll have laundry for the trip home. We raided the California Fruit & Nut Depot, where we picked up some things. Then, I printed out my boarding passes, and the instructions to the rental car location. Then, we took the evening off, went to eat at BJ’s Brewery Restaurant.

We crashed early Friday night. ‘Cause we had to move early Saturday.

And so ends the story of the trip. I got home from the airport about 2330 hours on Saturday, 19 September 2015. She won’t get home until the end of the month. In the meantime, I get to get things done around here. 🙂

And that was the trip.