Winter Wonderland My A…

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A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ~ Carl Reiner

Well, it had to happen sometime. I was bound to have to deal with winter. I had been having a lovely time avoiding it but that has come to an end. Not only did I have to deal with winter, I had to brave the “Polar Vortex” of doom because everything sounds more ominous when you add of doom to it.

If you’ve never had to feel a wind of -40 below, I hope that never changes for you. Fun fact. -40 is the same in both Farenheit and Celsius. Either was it;s really really really cold. Unfortunately, I was going to be in even colder weather. A couple of things I learned. First, don’t touch your lock with your bare hands when it’s this cold outside. It will freeze to your skin. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to not try to rip it off but instead let my hand warm the metal. That was the longest few minutes. Secondly, cold hands make everything harder. From opening my fuel tanks to depressing the pump handle to actually fuel my truck. Two pairs of gloves weren’t enough. Neither were multiple layers of clothing.

After leaving Denver and heading to Michigan, I knew that my life was going to suck for several days. While I only dealt with the tail end of the polar vortex (of doom) the effects were still there. For the first time since having Large Marge, I didn’t turn her off for days. I needed to keep the engine running to ensure my fuel didn’t gel up and leave me stranded. There are additives we use to keep diesel from gelling, but in the temperatures I was in its better to be safe than sorry. Every time I fueled I added more additive as per the instructions from not only other drivers but from our road assist people and idled my truck as I slept.

My first big problem came on Day two of my drive to Calgary as I was headed into a winter storm in North Dakota.

That red dot was my current location and I pretty much needed to drive through that whole thing. No big deal, I thought. It’s dry so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Famous. Last. Words.

Part of my route took me off the interstate and on to a small two lane highway. While the snow was indeed light and dry instead of a thick and wet, what I didn’t take into account was the wind effect. Soon after pulling onto the two lane highway, I realized I was in trouble. Within 30 minutes I couldn’t see the lane so I drove using the feel of the rumble strips on the side of the road to gauge where I was. Another 30 minutes later, I could no longer feel those. As I gripped my steering wheel a bit tighter I realized that I was in real danger. Between the blowing snow and the drifts piling up,. I couldn’t exactly tell where the edges were. This particular road had very little to no shoulder room so one wrong calculation and I would be in a ditch.

A drive that should have taken me 45 minutes took over two hours and I knew I needed to find a safe haven to park for the night. Luckily, at my turn off from one highway to the next I found a place to park.

As I sat there shaking, trying to relive the pressure and the stress of my drive, all I could see was this.

It’s like the universe was telling me it was time to wind down with some gin. The only problem is that would require pants (because that’s always the first to go when I stop) and a long cold walk across a parking lot. My love of gin would just have to wait. There was no way I was getting out of my warm truck.

The next day wasn’t as bad because the plows had been out. I, however, was now behind schedule. The nice thing about doing this Calgary run so often is that I know exactly where my stopping points are and how long it takes me to go from point A to B. I knew I could make up the time but I also knew that it would mean more stress.

The wind was still blowing the snow around, making lovely patterns on the roads, but I could at least make out where the lanes were. This was a huge improvement from the night before.

My last fuel stop was in Minot, ND. I pulled into the station only to find out they were out of fuel. No big deal, there was another station a couple of miles up the road. Unfortunately, they were also out of fuel. While I had enough to last me, getting fuel before heading across the boarder is the cheapest option. The Canadian taxes on fuel are a killer. Alas, this is what I had to do.

Everything was going fine on my drive until the sun went down and the snows started up again. While not as heavy, they posed their own challenge. I tend to drive slower than most trucks on the road. Sometimes it’s due to my governor on my engine that doesn’t allow me to exceed 65mph; sometimes it’s because I just want to take it easy and save on fuel costs. Typically I don’t care when I get passed, but this night it was a horror show. The winds had caused the snow too accumulate in the passing lane, so when another truck passed me it was complete white out. There was more than once I was forced to apply my breaks as I was in a whiteout condition and couldn’t see anything ahead of me. After dealing with this for a couple of hours my nerves were frayed and it was time to stop for the night.

My resting place was just outside of Swift Current in a extremely bright weigh station. Frazzled and exhausted, I wasn’t ready for sleep and chose to sit and watch the snow fall.

After my load was completed I was looking forward to a couple of days off. My fleet manager had other ideas and sent me a load I couldn’t refuse. The bastard really knows how to get me to say yes. So, I’m back in Washington with another apple load heading to Florida. A quick look at the weather and its going to be another few stressful days. Winter here in the states is pretty unpredictable as it is, but add in the stress and uncertainty of road closures and ice covered terrain, well it really adds a whole new spin on it.

Of course, it is awful pretty to look at.

I know I’m nearing the end of my rope. Since returning from Ireland I’ve been on full tilt with nothing more than 24 hours off between loads and it’s really starting to take a toll on me both mentally and physically. Little things are setting me off and my mood swings have been pretty severe. I had planned on working through until the first weekend in March when I head home to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday, but now I think I really need a couple of days off before that. I’m going to ask to be sent to Tulsa after this load for a bit of R&R with my girls.

Until next time my lovelies. Xoxo

Long Hard Road

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Someday I was dreamin’ that a song that I was singing takes me down the road to where I want to go…

Let’s see, in this edition of where is Tj…I was taking a bit of a break down in Louisiana about 120 miles north of New Orleans but now I’m back on the road. I had considered renting a car and driving down to Nawlins and doing a restaurant review (since I haven’t done one of those in a while) or just walking around the city, but I found myself in a weird place and contemplative and not feeling up to exploring alone.

As I’ve written about before, the miles I drive are a church of sorts. It’s a way for me to safely take out all the hurt bits I carry around with me and look at them objectively and in some cases, let them go. This is what driving has always been for me. A safe place to let down my guard and not be fierce and at the ready all the time.

Watching the miles go by has a way of centering me that nothing else, besides being near the ocean, can do.

Unfortunately that hasn’t been working for me of late. My mind, usually calmed by the road, is more agitated than usual. Part of it is on high alert waiting for the next blow that will rock me off my feet and pull the rug out from under me. Part of it is dizzy with anticipation and feelings of excitement. These two sides are warring for dominance while neither gives an inch. I’m finding it harder to rest and even harder to stay centered. I’m naturally a pessimistic person because I’d rather be pleasantly surprised rather than let down, but dammit that naysaying bitch isn’t getting the upper hand this time.

Look, here’s the deal. I’m a social butterfly. If you’ve met me you know how easy it is to fall into a friendship with me. I fully embrace people at first glance and have told more than one of you that you’re probably going to have to get a restraining order against me if you want to stop being friends (by the way, I wasn’t joking). When you grow up without family, you tend to find your tribe as you go through life. My tribe is vast and far but no matter the distance the connection will always be there.

A chance meeting at a bar where a young woman sat alone and I decided she needed company, we quickly became fast friends. Co-workers who kept me sane while a crazy boss took out their insecurities on me. A guy who asks for directions and instead gets a life long friend. Each and every member of my tribe is special and unique and I love them all fiercely.

While making friends is second nature to me, one thing I don’t do is let anyone in fully. There are people who have known me for more than 30 years who would swear they know me and know everything about me but don’t really have a clue to what I hold inside. Some bits are too ugly and harsh and don’t need to be shared. Some have been slowly coming out to a select few. Some, well only one person has ever made me feel safe enough to bear it all, and that’s the crux of my current dilemma. Feeling safe isn’t something I’m used to so it’s thrown my brain into a tizzy and makes me want to bolt for the hills at times. I’ve had a few of those moments over the last few weeks. When you stop letting yourself feel for years and all of a sudden you’re awash with emotion it can be a bit jarring.

Anyway…what does that have to do with driving? Nothing I just needed to get that off my chest. Ok, back to the driving gig.

After my Calgary load, I picked up apples in Washington and headed towards Florida. For three days I was driving in heavy fog, so much so that it put me a bit behind schedule. That’s because I had a huge storm bearing down on me from behind.

Once I dropped down from the north into the south the danger of snow was passed and I was driving in rain for two days. Rain isn’t as scary as snow and ice, but it can still have its dangers,. Especially when people forget that slowing down is in their best interest.

This job has taught me a lot about patience. Sure, I still get frustrated with drivers from time to time, but usually my frustration comes because a car is putting me and my livelihood in jeopardy with their antics and unsafe driving. I get it, I used to be that driver, but now I fully understand the folly and just how much danger they and I are in when someone cuts me off or decides to exit in front of me by blowing across three lanes of traffic to make the exit. On that note, if you do this, please stop. You cant always see what’s coming up beside a trucker. Also, just go to the next exit an turn around. It’s safer for everyone.

While driving on Interstate 26 on my way to 75 and through Atlanta I saw a total of 14 accidents due to people forgetting that roads are slippery when wet. Obviously none of them are Bon Jovi fans.

Yeah, I should probably apologize for that one but I’m not going to so lets just move on.

Once in Florida I made my delivery and had planned to take a break but took a load to Louisiana instead. I was fully enjoying the sunshine while my buddy Jay was dealing with this.

Of course I may have rubbed it in that I was in a t-shirt and skirt and sitting outside. I may have even complained about there being too much sun to Jaz as we spoke on the phone while it was cold and rainy in Ireland. Was I being a bit of a shit? Yeah, I kinda was. Was I going to regret it? Sure ’nuff.

I had planned on taking a 34 hour break in Louisiana but instead was told that there was a load for me heading back to Calgary at the end of next week. I quickly ran some errands to get my nails redone and some groceries.

Ok, girl time now.. I’ve been doing acrylic nails for about a year now and I love them but I wanted to try dip nails and zomg I love them even more. Please excuse my dry cuticles. They aren’t as thick as acrylics but just as strong. Let’s see how they last the next couple of weeks.

I’m currently heading to Denver where I will take a small break to celebrate my daughter graduating from massage school (Yay Morgan!) and do a bit of laundry to get my heavy winter clothes all ready for what’s next.

As I looked at Facebook and saw a post by my bestie, my blood may have run a bit cold.

This is what I’m getting ready to drive into after Denver. -64? I can’t even comprehend temperatures that low and honestly I don’t really want to. I remember how cold -50 was when I lived in Madison and I hoped to never see that again. Well, it just goes to show you that no matter how much you may wish and hope, you can’t always get what you want.

I should be able to survive in my truck but fueling is going to be a nightmare. This is my payback for being a shit. Jay is also laughing all the way to Florida. To be fair, he’s had a rough couple of weeks so I’m happy he’s getting a bit of a reprieve.

Wish me luck because at this point I’m definitely going to need it.

Back on the hamster wheel…

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Disclaimer: this post contains feels. If you are allergic to feels or are uncomfortable with feels, turn away.

One of the reasons I don’t take time off very often is it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. A few days here and there are fine, but a significant amount of time off and I struggle. Add time off with an emotional trip to another county with low lows and high highs. How do you recover from that?

Well, you start by running a fever for 3-4 days, followed closely by one of the most severe bouts of insomnia you’ve had in years and add driving a giant truck around the states and well welcome to my life.

My first load post Ireland was veggies from Florida to Ohio with the knowledge that I was ultimately headed toward Calgary. After hooking to my load and doing my daily drive, I found myself in a rest area in Ohio for the night. As I went to the restroom to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, I saw a couple of guys with a thin piece of twine trying to secure a mattress and box spring to the top of a van. I walked along watching them all I could think was, that’s not going to hold and they are going to kill someone. I veered over to them and said, “hey, I have a couple of tie downs you can have. Follow me and take them to secure that properly.” That was followed by relief and plenty of gratitude which I brushed aside. They asked me if they could pay me and I told them to save their money and have a drink on me instead.

My good deed done for the day, I went to bed so I could make on time delivery the next day and headed to my next pick up. After the veggies I was dispatched to haul kegs of bud light. Ugh, the smell of cheep beer. I’d apologize if I offended you by calling bud light cheap beer, except I spoke the truth so you can just deal. Hey, I’ve had my fair share of cheap beer, but I’d like to think that I’ve grown out of such nonsense.

With the beer delivered I made my way to my Calgary load.

This is my 5th or 6th Calgary load, but my first of 2019. The first time I went to Calgary I was so excited. Everything was shiny and new. Now, well to be honest the drive is pretty boring from start to finish. The best part of this route is I get to make a stop in Madison, WI and spend a wee bit of time with my bestie. On this one I was especially happy because I was able to deliver her Christmas presents from Ireland as well. Huzzah!

While the shine has worn off of Calgary, the load behind Calgary is always the highest paid load I pull. This one will take me all the way back to where I began in Florida. I’m ready for a bit of a warm up at this point. Of course in a few short months I’ll probably be complaining about the heat. I’m never satisfied.

Everything seems off and i’m not exactly sure what to do about it. I feel like an exposed nerve. I’m no longer in sync with my life. Where I used to love the solitude of the road, now it seems oppressive. My routines have changed and where I felt I had a plan for my life, now there is just a big question mark.

Years ago I was too raw and open. I felt too much too deeply and it made me anxious and somewhat angry. I feel the stirrings of that now. All of the walking and exploring I did in Ireland woke me up inside. Now, the sedentary life of a trucker is painful. I’ve been trying to stay active, but when it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit out, walking outside isn’t that pleasant. It’s also hard to walk without a destination in mind especially considering I live in parking lots. While the road used to be a balm it just feels like I’m on a hamster wheel going nowhere.

I know these feelings will pass, but I’m starting to think I need to actively reign them in and do what I do best: compartmentalization. I don’t feel they are doing me any good at this time and are starting to become a distraction. After this year I have some decisions to make. Do I stay on the road or do I transition to a regional or local route so I can set roots down somewhere[? Do I stay with my current company for another year or do I start moving towards hauling for concerts? Do I throw a wrench into everything and do the impossible and actually take that left turn at Albuquerque?

In the meantime, I’m planning the rest of my travels for the year. I have a trip in April set and one for the fall and I have an idea of where I want to be for Christmas. The only question is, what do I want to do for my birthday in June. Flights to Europe are too expensive for that time of year, so that’s out. I could stay in the states and be pampered at a spa retreat but running away sounds like a solid plan right now. Last year was the first time in 28 years that I worked on my birthday. While my job doesn’t ever feel like work, it still is. I swore that was a one off. I was thinking Iceland but now I’m reconsidering that and thinking a beach somewhere sounds better. I’ve got a bit of time to plan and since it’s just me, there’s no one else to consider.

Sorry for the downer of a post. Not everything is wine and roses all the time and if you’ve been reading since the beginning you know I try to keep things real. Don’t worry, my wacky irreverent self will be back before you know it. I just need to put a few things away.

Day 9: Dublin, Lemmy, and Serindipity until the end

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Rested and packed, I bid farewell to Bodyke and hit the roads to head back to Dublin. Today is going to be a good day because today is also TATTOO DAY!!! Making that appointment was my first step in making this trip all about me and what I wanted to do in Ireland.

I hit the roads and planned to stop at the same service station in Moneygall to fuel. I still giggled as I walked through and saw all of the pictures of Michelle and Barack Obama.

One of the things I had planned to do was to try to talk to one of the truck drivers and see if they would let me sit in the drivers seat of their truck and take a picture of me. If I had time to work my magic you know it would happen (I hear I can be quite persuasive when necessary) but I was a bit behind schedule and I didn’t want to be late for my appointment.

Once in Dublin, I checked into my hotel but was told my room wasn’t ready. They took my bags and put them in storage. I stashed the car in the car park and grabbed a taxi to the shop. My car originally was scheduled to end today but I decided I wanted to do a bit more exploring down to the south and extended it by two days.

Once at the shop I showed up just moments before David, the artist, did. He took one look at me and said “You’re appointment isn’t for another hour, you know that right?”

I instantly regretted not putting the appointment in my phone and realized I could have actually gotten that picture in an Irish truck. Sigh, I knew there was a mall across the street so I headed over to kill some time.

One of the things that made me giggle was the pictures in the frames for sale. Instead of seeing some model(s) overly airbrushed, I saw this:

I almost wanted to buy one just for the picture in it.

When I got back to the shop there were two guys sitting in the waiting area. I asked David if he was ready for me and he said he was just finishing up with the changes I requested and I grabbed a contract to fill out. One of the guys went back to get his piece started and I sat down. The other fella was talking to his artist about placement of his tattoo and as he rolled up his sleeve I got a look at some of his art. There were some nice pieces on his arm and of the ones I saw they were kinda skull related.

As the artist left, and because silence bothers me when I’m a bit off kilter, and maybe I really wanted to hear his voice some more (I know, I’m shameless) I asked “So are you getting another skull? You seem to have a collection going.”

He tells me what he’s getting and points to his tattoos saying “They aren’t all skulls. This one is a heart and this one a snake..”

To which I blinked and replied “yeah but they all have skulls.”

He looks at me, looks at his arm, looks at me again, puts down his sleeve and says “So are you here on Holiday?” I explain my story in the self-deprecating way I sometimes do and end with “so yeah I was here for a week over Christmas and don’t know anyone.”

He looks me straight in the eyes and says “Well you do now! What are you doing after your tattoo? Do you wanna get a drink at the pub?”

This was my first real invitation to hang out with someone from Ireland (not counting the drunk dude last time I was in Dublin) and I jumped at the chance with a loud “Yes!” because I am absolutely starved for company other than my own. We shake hands, introduce ourselves, and I shamefully do what I always do which is promptly forget his name.

Look, I’m not too proud to admit that I’m shit when it comes to names. It’s not because he was forgettable (he’s not) but because I absolutely stink at remembering people’s names. It harkens back to being a transient and it’s such a hard trait to change. Well, that and my brain might have been flooding with dopamine at that point and he gave a good handshake and he smelled good…

Whew, I have been on my own waaaay too much. Reign yourself in, girl.

At this point our artists were ready for us and we hit our respective chairs.

I’m not going to go into the whole process other than to say, within a couple of hours a fella was up and gone but not before connecting with me on social media so we could meet up later and so I could remember his name and call him Jaz and not a fella. I also got a nice look at his tattoo.

… four hours later I realize we’re not even close to being done and I should let Jaz know.

We text back and forth. I tell him I’m hungry and he offers to bring food to me.

Wait….Some dude I just met is offering to go and get me food and bring it to the tattoo shop? He can’t be a real person, or is he the first real person I’ve met?

Anyway, I decline the offer of food because I can’t eat while getting a tattoo. I send him a shot of where we are at in the design and he says “Looks deadly with all the pointilism and all but just so you know, my tattoo would eat your tattoo in the wild.”

Ok, I may have laughed a little too hard at that because I was in so much trouble. I have certain weaknesses and witty retorts are definitely high up there. Oh and now I have a stupid grin on my face that won’t seem to go away.

After a few more hours my tattoo was done. I had asked David what his name should be and he immediately said Lemmy. So….here’s Lemmy!

I may totally and completely love Lemmy. He’s my new BFF. My partner in crime (because he doesn’t have a choice.) He was well worth the 8+ hours in the chair. David’s touch was so great I may have to have another piece or three from him,.

If you’re in Dublin or planning a trip to Dublin and you want some work done, go see the boys at Old School Tattoo. They won’t do you wrong.

I had tried to get a picture of David as he worked but getting that perfect shot alluded me. The best I did was this:

Man I have a cheesy smile sometimes. Especially when I’m being silly. Ah well…

Tattoo all finished it was time to meet up with Jaz. He asked me if I wanted to eat first or get a drink and after 8+ hours under the needle it was time for some gin.

(I will apologize in advance for the lack of pictures. I was too busy enjoying the company to even think of my phone)

Our First Stop was Fibber Magees

Within 30 seconds of walking into Fibbers, I felt like I was at home. I love dark gritty bars and that’s pretty much what this was. Fibbers has its history in the metal scene and Jaz was great at painting me a picture of what it was like growing up in Dublin and how Fibbers was a fixture in the scene.

What was amazing was the beer garden. It was a congregation place of not only Fibbers but one or two other bars making it a massive space nestled in behind the buildings. It boasted a large screen for watching games and a few pool tables. It was perfect.

After that we were off to The Gin Palace. I think I died and went to heaven. I was overloaded with choices. After a perusal of their menu, I, of course, chose the one gin they were out of. On to my second choice and after more talking and laughing, I realized I really needed some food.

A walk around the block for a quick bite of shawarma (of which I saw quite a few in scattered around) and then it was time for The Oval with a final stop at The Foggy Dew.

With a light heart and sore cheeks from smiling, we headed to the taxi stand so I could head back to my hotel. As I was reaching for the door Jaz asked “So do you have plans tomorrow?”

I did. I had a few more places I wanted to see. I had extended the car rental so I could head south. I turned to him and said “No, what did you have in mind?” Just like that, all my plans happily tossed out the window, I had a lunch date for the next day.

The next day came and I was awake at 12:30 with plans to meet at one and feeling a wee bit tender. Knowing I needed a bit more time, we pushed back out plans until 2 and I headed for the shower downing a bottle of water on the way.

After meeting up and grabbing a quick lunch (traditional Irish stew for myself and a lamb shank for Jaz) we were off again on Tj’s personal tour of Dublin Pubs.

Our first stop was to Paddle and Peel. While this was a craft brew pub, I was told they had PBR and I just had to see it for myself. As an american we all know PBR is not really good beer. Yes it’s a sponsor of WFTDA and being a part of Roller Derby for years I drank my fair share, but that still doesn’t make it good beer by any means. Unfortunately they were out. What they did have was some interesting brews including (if I remember correctly) a chocolate hazelnut ale called Sumthin for Santa. The can was cute if not a tad bit disturbing as you turn it around and see Santa’s butt crack.

Don’t worry my lovelies, that was what Jaz had. I, of course, stuck with Gin.

We had a couple there and then we were off to Frank Ryans. It had a great vibe and a eccentric design interior.

After Frank Ryans I needed a bit of food and we went for New York Style pizza at DiFontaine’s. We both went for the Pepperoni and Jalapeño and while it’s an unusual topping choice, it was good. They actually did a decent NY Pie.

We then topped off the night with a trip back to Fibbers (where I may or may not have almost started a bar fight). No I’m not going to go into details on the incident except to say it was my fault, I was sassy, aggressive, and stupid. Jaz was a gentleman. No one actually came to blows and got hurt.

After Fibbers it was off to bed and we made plans to spend NYE together with some of his friends.

The morning of NYE I headed back to drop off the rental car and then met up again with Jaz.

This was my last night in Dublin. I hadn’t done anything I had planned to do upon returning but I was having the time of my life.

It was at this moment above, on New Years Eve, that I was grateful for the chance to experience Ireland solo. If not for the unpredictability of storms and nature, my entire experience would have been different and I would have missed something truly unique and special.

We started off the night at a The Kimchi Hophouse for some bulgogi and the start of our drinking.

After that we were off to Thomas House where I met the lovely Shona. (No picture, but she’s great). Thomas house has the same sort of vibe for me that Fibbers did. It is exactly the type of place I would frequent if I lived in Dublin. After a drink we were off again to Fibbers and to ring in the New Year.

For the first time on my trip I felt relaxed and at peace. Between all the conversation of getting to know one another and the laughter and stories we each traded, there was an amazing friendship being built. With everything that happened from the moment I left the states, I would never have guessed that a chance meeting with a fella in a tattoo parlor would be what I was soon coming to understand as a life altering event.

In this world there are people who will float in and out of our lives. For many people, I am that ephemeral friend as I flit and flutter from one place to another; there one moment and gone the next. Always on the move. Always looking for the next thing. Occasionally we will meet someone who just sticks with us and changes us just a bit in that meeting. I’ve met several people like that over the years. From Marc, and our meeting one afternoon on a street in Los Angeles, to Sarah who one day at Bonnaroo plopped down at my picnic table and told me we were going to be friends (to which I’m grateful). Meeting Jaz in that tattoo parlor was one of those instance. It was interesting to see how two people, from different continents, could be so similar.

Where this particular friendship and story goes? Well, that’s a tale for another day. For now, it’s all still being written

As the morning of the new year rolled around, I’m off and gone before first light. My flights went off without a hitch although I do have to chide United on their food selection.

Beans? On a plane? For a 8 hour flight? Did you really think that was a good idea?

After my layover in Newark (this time without the fancy Polaris lounge but just the average ho-hum lounge) and my quick flight to Tampa, I was finally reunited with my truck and more than ready to get back on the road.

I’ve needed this last week to fully process everything and write this particular Chapter of my story, mostly because now it’s really and truly over. I definitely came back from Ireland a different person. Part of it was my personal journey. Part of it was their culture of what I can only describe as kindness. Part of it was their food. (America, we really do eat shit, especially those of us who live on the road full time.) What had the biggest impact on me were the lovely people I met who touched my life in profound ways. We have facebook and social media for now, but I will see them again soon.

If you have that place you’ve always wanted to visit, make it happen. Get out of the states and get some perspective on the world. It just may be the thing you need.

Thanks for reading as always.

Cheers!

The real Day 7…

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So, I realized after I uploaded the last post that I had completely skipped a day (which is weird because it was my favorite day). I started to go back and edit it and rework the post but I decided to let my error stand and roll with it. I mean, I never claimed to be a perfectionist (as you can tell by the errors you’ve read). Instead I will ask for your forgiveness. I came back with a bit of a cold and being back to work has been a bit of a challenge for more than one reason. While I’m excited to introduce Lemmy, you’re just going to have to wait one more post.

Ok…the real Day 7.

One of the things I knew I wanted to do in going to Ireland was to visit Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Reed rope bridge (please do yourself a favor and click on the hyperlinks and read more on these beautiful places). Both of these are located on the coast in Northern Ireland. I knew I had a 5 hour drive each way and I needed to start early if I wanted to get there in time to do both, so I set my alarm for an ungodly hour of the morning (because even in Ireland I’m not a morning person) and set off before the sun rose.

The route I took to get there was the blue route which took me through Belfast. While I really wanted to stop and explore Belfast, I was on a time crunch so I just did a drive by. Also, and I should have realized this before but I would be traveling to another country since Northern Ireland is part of the UK. I had completely forgotten until I got the text message from my cell carrier that said “welcome to the UK, this is what this is going to cost you!” Lol

It was mostly motorway driving with two lane roads the last quarter of the trip. All of it beautiful and scenic with plenty of opportunities to yell out to them, because I really am eternally 5 when it comes to some things and the sun had risen and given me a bit of life.

Once there I parked, bought my ticket, and decided to be a bit lazy and take the bus to the bottom. Man, I am so glad I made that choice.

Once there, my inner 5 year old came out again and I just wanted to climb everything. It’s hard to describe the basalt stone and the pure natural geometry in it. Even the pictures does not do it justice.

Of course, before you could get to the relatively flat and easy to traverse landscape above you had to cross the tumble of death.

As I made my way across it I really wanted to know the number of broken bones they see each year.

I loved hopping and jumping from stone to stone as I got closer and closer to the edge where the waves were crashing. Ok, I kinda wanted to get a bit wet. Hello….5!

It was about this point that I spotted a really cool tide pool with something inside that i really wanted to check out. This was also the point where the life guards noticed how close to the edge I was getting and started hollering at me. I pretended to not hear them but I tend to be a very honest person and in the end I turned back. This was the best I could do for a picture of the tide pool from afar.

Thwarted in my attempts at being dangerous, I just hopped and jumped around the rocks trying to get higher and higher.

It was at this point that I just sat down and watched the people around me. Children skipping over the stones with fleet feet like mountain goats, whole families helping each other to that perfect spot for their family portrait. A wizened woman smiling on as her grandson tries to coax her up the stones. It was a beautiful setting, a truly lovely day, and not for the first time this trip I felt so utterly and completely alone.

That’s the thing about being in my profession, while you get used to seeing the world and not being able to share it, when it comes to the truly magical moments, that is when loneliness can hit you like a punch to the chest and make you ache for days. This is how I felt. I knew I could share the story and the pictures but I can’t share the sounds, smells, and the feel of the place. That kind of sharing can only be experienced with someone else, and when its someone special to you, that just increases the magic.

Ah well at this point in my life, sitting on theses rocks looking at this amazingly wonderful place, I know I can at least share this magic with my kids one day and that will be enough for me.

When my thighs were starting to burn with the strain of all the climbing, and my balance got a bit wobbly, I knew I was done. I made it safely back to the bus stop, rode back to the top, and headed for my next destination.

A short 7km away from Giants Causeway is Carrick-a-Reed Rope Bridge. While a small attraction, how can I not cross the ocean on a rope bridge? I mean, it’s me.

Once there I parked and paid my admission and set off on the 1km hike down to the bridge. The view from the path was just lovely.

Once there, you go down a set of stairs and then make you way one at a time over the bridge. They ask you not to stop to take a picture on the bridge until your return trip.

I loved watching how each person crossed the bridge because everyone was different. It’s neat to watch people overcome their fears to do something which takes them out of their comfort zone.

Once it was my turn, I crossed as slowly as I could and just looked down into the water and rocks below and just marveled at the feeling of being suspended by a bunch of rope and some boards. I mean, it’s sturdy enough obviously but still, it’s brilliant.

Much of the island was closed due to rains and other reasons (which I’ve since forgotten) so I couldn’t explore much.

I could however sit there for hours and just enjoy the day if it was a bit warmer. That day it was 9 Celsius or about 48 Fahrenheit with a decent wind off the ocean.

When it was time to cross back, I totally took my time and took pictures.

I even tried a selfie but to be honest it’s not that great because I was a bit paranoid about dropping my phone and it falling into the ocean. That would have been the worst.

Side note, this is the first day I wore my winter jacket. I had just worn a hoodie up until this point but this day required the extra warmth.

A short hike back up the hill to the car and I was back on the road. I decided I wanted to take a different route home since I had a choice so I took the coastal route back. I didn’t get to see a lot since the sun sets pretty early in Ireland in winter but they were still roads I had never traveled and that’s the point of an adventure.

I made it back to the golf village around Midnight, feeling a bit peckish as I didn’t really eat since breakfast. I made a quick dinner and headed to bed with the plan to rest the next day and clean and do laundry before heading back to Dublin.

Now we’re really caught up, all the days are straight, and more importantly you get to meet Lemmy tomorrow. I love Lemmy.

Cheers!

Day 6 with an quick overview of my brain

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So I realized after posting my last update that it encompassed more than one day, which is fine but ultimately messed up my tidy day by day walkthrough of Ireland.

In other words, welcome to my brain. It’s messy, noisy, and non-sequential but it’s really rather glorious if you like weird twists and turns and non-sequiturs. Hey, you’re still reading so you must!

So, to recap and catch everyone (including myself up)

Landed 12/21

Bodyke 12/22

Galway/Ennis 12/23

Ennis 12/24

Bodyke Christmas drunken extravaganza 12/25

Now Day 6

Whew! Glad that’s all cleared up.

Let’s see I promised Cliffs, Crows, and Customs

On the 26th in Ireland they celebrate St Stephens day. Being that I’m not catholic and have no idea who St Stephen is or how/why he became a Saint, I’ll let you use whatever your favorite search engine/information stream is for more information. All I know is that in America we know it as the day our vacation ends and we have to go back to work.

On this day, since I was still on vacation, I decided to head to the Cliffs of Moher.

If I had come earlier in the year, I could have gone to Doolin and taken a boat ride under them and to the Aran Islands. Oh gee, I guess I need to plan another trip.

One thing that was plentiful were the number of ravens (ok I lied, no crows just ravens) who had little to no fear from us silly humans. Most likely hoping for a handout or two.

There were lovely walking trails along the tops of the cliffs. While this was my plan I made it as far as O’Brien’s Tower

Two things about visiting Moher on St Stephens day. First, no need to pay an admission fee since no one was working, yay! Second, no toilets were open because no one was working, boooo! As I started to walk past O’Briens tower and head towards the path, I saw it was a muddy mess with plenty of traffic and I really needed to use the toilet, which there were none open because it was St Stephens day. Did I really want to chance a walk and an embarrassment? No, besides I might have been feeling a bit tender from my personal Christmas celebration.

Back in the car I took my time and just enjoyed the scenery and wondered about St Stephens day. Being the heathen that I am, I know little about Saints except that Patrick is used as a way for gaggles of ‘that guy’ having an excuse to get black out drunk and piss and fight their way all over Wrigleyville or the fact that Chicago dyes the Chicago river, which is already a shade of green, into a nightmare of atomic proportions.

I did ask a fella about it and he told me of the other term of the 26th of December being Wren Day.

Look up Wren Day and search images or give a quick listen to a song by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. I highly recommend the song but I’m also a sucker for Irish music.

Day 7, my last day in Bodyke was spent in contemplation and laundry. The cottage had a washer/dryer combo which was pretty typical from what I saw of flats, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the dryer to work which meant I had to hang everything. No big deal since this is how I like to roll when home, but yeah I just decided to laze and watch my clothes dry. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

OOOOOOOOOH! Ok, I totally spaced this (there goes my brain again) So, my second trip to Brogans on Christmas Eve I had their mussels and OMG… Yes I’ve been told the mussels in Brussels are wonderful (side note Mussels in Brussels is my new all girl punk band name) but to date these were the best mussels I’ve had.

They are served in a white whine, shallot, and garlic cream sauce and I really really really loved the sauce. It was perfect.

Next up: Dublin, Lemmy, and serindipity

Day 2: Driving in another country – Dublin to Bodyke and beyond

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Waking up I headed down for breakfast. While it’s was your usual buffet fare, it was still better than anything I have ever had in an American Hotel. Sorry USA, your standards for food are very lacking.

After I checked out I hopped a cab and headed over to Enterprise to pick up my rental car.

Ok, I’m not going to lie. This was my favorite part of this trip. I have always (since I was a teen) wanted to drive a right hand drive manual car. Yes I know I’m weird. I’ve been star struck with anything European and knowing that people drive on the other side of the car and road was always something that fascinated me.

One thing I didn’t pack for this trip that was a definite fail was my dash camera. I would soon lament the lack of it after hitting the road.

Making it out of Dublin was my first issue. I’m very comfortable with a manual transmission, but it had been so long since I had driven a car I forgot that you don’t have to double clutch to change the gears like you do in a semi. While working a gear shift with your right hand is second nature to me at this point, it took a bit more brain power to shift with my left. I had the option of going through town to pick up the motorway I needed, or to hop one motorway to another. I chose the route through town just to give me some practice following and understanding the flow of traffic.

Once done, I was off for Bodyke (which is not pronounced as Body-key but bo-dyke as I would later come to find out). About 3/4 of the way there I realized I needed to fuel up. I stopped at the next service station which was just very confusing.

I just…

I really kinda have no words. It was surreal and the last thing I expected to see in Ireland.

As I understand it, Falmouth Kearney was Barack Obama’s maternal great-great-great grandfather and he was from Moneygall. The Obama’s visited the village and there was huge fanfare and hullabaloo.

Right!

Back in the car I pulled off the motorway to make my final leg of the journey through the countryside of County Tipperary and County Clare. Ok, I’m not too proud to admit that I totally squealed like a kid as I steered left and right down the curvy two lane road. Word of advice, there is no room for errors on Irish roads. In America we have lots of space. Many of our roads have shoulders, or at the least a flat patch of ground if you need to pull over. More often than not, in Ireland you had road, 3 inches of dirt, and then a rock wall. This made things a bit more interesting.

As the road dipped and twisted I did what I always do when I see farm animals I yelled out their name, except adding the word Irish to the beginning. “Irish Cows” or “Irish sheep” because I’m eternally 5.

Finally, I arrived at my final destination the East Clare Golf Village.

It was exactly what the name says, a little village by a golf course…

out in the middle of nowhere…

in a town called Bodyke…

And I’m here for a week…

Well, at least I have a car!

After checking in and settling in, I headed to Scariff which was the closest town with a market to get food and gin. There is no way I’m getting through this week without gin. Once back at the two bedroom two bath cottage, I poured myself a drink and then sat there in a daze. I knew I was heading to Galway tomorrow but what after that? Oh yeah, Christmas where everything is totally shut down in Ireland. Sigh.

The next day I drove to Galway and I did a bit of walking around and shopping for presents (which I can’t talk about because they haven’t been delivered yet. I did manage to reign in my inner 15 year old and not buy one of these.

I never owned a swatch back in the day but I did have several for short stays. Usually surreptitiously snagged from a boy while they were otherwise engaged elsewhere. Hey! The Sting was one of my favorite movies growing up and I adored Ellen Brennan’s character in that movie. What Can I say?

After Galway, I headed into Ennis for some dinner at Brogan’s. I had come across Brogans back in the states when we were searching for Christmas dinner (before we knew everything was closed on Christmas) and I also had another truck driver from my company suggest it as she’s originally from County Clare.

It was pretty packed with people downstairs but I was told I could get a table upstairs. There I met three lovely women and they kinda changed everything for me. When I walked in I was feeling down and out, still kinda in a daze wondering what the hell I was doing and going to do for the next week or so. Struggling with the idea of just holing up in my little golf cottage and drinking myself into a stupor until I needed to go back to Dublin, thereby avoiding everyone having a joyous time with friends and family, or doing what I always do which is making magic happen.

As I ate, and between tables, these ladies and I talked and laughed and had a great time. They told me of their Pan-demic” of 2018 as Storm Emma brought higher than normal snowfalls and the stores were sold out of bread and milk well ahead of the storm. Of course some people had a laugh at the whole Pan-ic.

While Becky and Chelsea regaled me with stories of winter in Ireland and how they wish they would get more snow, I shared the ultimate horror of growing up in the upper Midwest where 2 days after it snows you begin to wish it was gone, and knowing that the universe was out to get you when everyday you would wake up and have to shovel the sidewalks.

Miss Becky

Miss Chelsea

I had a lovely meal of Clonakilty Chicken which was a pan fried breast stuffed with Clonakilty black pudding and wrapped in bacon with a creamy mushroom sauce. Since this was my first trial of black pudding I thought it was a safe way to go and in the end, the black pudding was what I loved the most about the dish.

After dinner I headed downstairs to the bar to see who I would soon dub my new Irish bestie, Ellen.

My Irish Bestie Ellen ❤

Since we’re Facebook friends now, and she follows this blog I know she’ll be reading this. Ellen, you were a godsend on a dark night and your kindness will never be forgotten.

This woman bought a total stranger a Christmas gift so she would have something to open on Christmas Day. The world needs more Ellen’s.

While at the bar I sampled one of their house cocktails, The Burren. While I never made it to the actual Burren, the drink was lovely.

This delicious drink was made with Bombay Sapphire, violet liqueur, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, passion fruit purée, and Pinot Grigio and was very dangerous.

If you ever find yourself in Ennis in County Clare, please do yourself a favor and go to Brogans. While you’re there, give these ladies some love from me.

Christmas was spent…well in a drunken stupor. I had decided on a steady diet of mimosa and went through two bottles of champagne over the course of the day and night. Also, pants were not allowed. Not a bad day if I do say so myself. Plus my toes were toasty and cute with one of my presents from Ellen. ❤

Next up, Cliffs, Crows, and Customs.