Paradise Lost: A non-F. Scott Fitzgerald Story

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Yes, yes, if there was any concern whether or not this journey has truly been an adventure, then those questions will be erased.  I understand how privileged I am to be even on this journey, and to have seen sites that are so beautiful my heart wanted to explode and my soul die.  I’ve seen the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, the open and starry skies of Oklahoma and Arkansas, the rocky shelves of New Mexico and Arizona, the Grand Canyon and scenic mountains of Arizona, the beautiful beaches, lakes, and mountains of California including Coastal Highway 1 (especially Gualala and Bodega Bay, CA), Vista Point & Momo + Mammoth Lakes, and the great tipper: Yosemite National Park (takes the cake with mountains rising above your peripheral vision).  I’ve seen things, felt things, and have realized things that I am humbled to have even witnessed and thought/felt in this lifetime.  I am so blessed.

A week ago I was pulled over for the umpteenth time; this time for leaving a voicemail on my speakerphone function of my phone and then the officer seeing I was not wearing a seatbelt upon pulling me over.  Yes, I was leaving a campground with zero traffic and this happened.  I’ve developed quite the phobia of police officers and getting pulled over. 

Actually last night and a couple nights before did not help.  While writing I realize that family members and close friends and teachers are reading, but I can only be honest. 

About three nights ago, things were going decently well.  I had driven up to Gualala, CA and decided the cost of the town, despite being relatively cheap in California, was too much for me.  I headed out to another place called Goodale Creek Park based on reading how it provided cheap camping on this outdated site called http://www.freecampsites.net .  It was a heavy haul: about 300-400 miles of mountain roads and some open highways.  Keep in mind, I had just driven from Mountain View, CA to Gualala, CA the day before.  I have to say mountain driving can be fun with swerving roads and some intense downhill zigzags.  I sailed down one of the mountains of 80 E  (I believe) at night, and I saw a rock on the road that about 4-5 inches in diameter.  I had a choice to swerve or run over it.  It did not look large so I decided to run over it down the middle so I could avoid any flats.

Next thing I knew, BOOM!  I ran over it but it got hitched on something for a bit.  My car groaned and purred for the next 500 feet while I drove it to a careful stop and inspected all sides.  The tires appeared in tact, but the groaning of the mechanism could not be ignored.  Applying what my Tai Chi teacher called: “Bei Yun Fong Bean” or “giving convenience to others”, which is a Chinese Chan Buddhism saying, I immediately picked up my flashlight and walked through the pitch black winding road with the cold wind blowing on my neck and the sounds of rustling trees and flowing water sources.  After walking for about 5 minutes I realized this was worthless and decided to look for the stone with my car.  I found it after a 20 second drive and threw the heavy instrument to the wayside.

Next, I drove my car at a stunning 20mph up and down the mountain, and around winding roads.  The sound was loud and noisy, but I also believed that my car needed time to recover, like a person or creature, and so I talked to it and believed in its strength and will to recover.  Also, fuel light started to flash empty as well.  The car began to somewhat recover on the way down and was able to reach speeds of 45-50mph on the flat, straightaways.  The fuel light continued to turn on and turn off, and I drove with a purpose and a belief that God or Heaven was on my side and that it would be taken care of. 
Sure enough, for the 3rd time in my trip, I found the fountain of youth.  I was probably within 15 minutes of running out of gas but I made the dash.  I was in a little town and country store of Walker, CA.  I parked, realized there was no outdoor credit card machine (this was 12am), and thought that it was closed the next day.  Once I realized my miscalculation, I found out I had to wait until possibly 11am the next day.  I slept in my vehicle for a few hours and then felt a vehicle pull up behind me with a strong headlight pointed at me.  This light did not move, nor the vehicle, and after 3 minutes it was: yes, a cop!  To his credit, he was very nice and I do appreciate when police officers are very nice: they have very little reason to and most unwholesome people will feel the rush of power when they feel the side of the law on their side.  In fact, most people have never felt power in their lives and if you combine that with a bad upbringing, you get 90% of the police officers I’ve ever dealt with.  However, this guy was very nice, and once I told him I had run out of gas his tone softened up and said this was the only gas station for 11 miles, in which the other was in Topaz, CA.  He asked for my license just to “check that I wasn’t wanted in any other states.”  Afterward, he let me go.  I filled up my gas at 6am.

The car was still running slower and louder and so I pulled over to the shoulder often to let vehicles pass.  What ended up happening was on one particular pass, I continued to drive slowly.  As I drove on I almost ran into an orange bar from the ground which alerts drivers of turns by swerving and barely missing it I accidentally broke my right headlight, smashed in my right rearview mirrow (funny story is I later bought a cheap mirror at the auto store and super glued it on what was left of the half mirror which looks borderline acceptable – “Mama didn’t raise no fool”, or at least no unintelligent fool; I also remember the words of an old mentor: I’m a college student (now college graduate): how can I NOT think outside of the box and think of a creative solution to a mundane problem?).  and cracked the glass of my passenger side (looks like a transparent, stained glass now).  Now there is another better reason for the cops to pull me over in addition to being from out of town (how many times did I related my life story and why I had partaken this journey to a cop?  Too many times).

Now that I had fixed my mirror, and my vehicle was semi-functional I was back on my way and this time towards Monterey, CA.  I must say I have very bad car Karma or “Carma.”  Other aspects of my life are great, but I’ve crashed, been crashed into, broken down, and everything about 3-4 cars in my short adult lifetime.  Even this trip was spurred by being rear ended by a car. 

I’m not Christian or a very religious man (I’m a Taoist and Buddhist), but God sent me through the trip almost flawlessly.  Within 3 exits of Monterey, CA on the highway… guess what?  I was pulled over for driving too slow.  This was a female, Latina cop and I “Yes ma’amed, and no ma’amed” her to death.   She appeared nice and respectful, but serious enough.  After about 15-20 minutes (why do they take so long, especially with that search light?  To give us ordinary citizens a heart attack?), she gave me my information back and let me go in spite of the cracked window and slow-moving vehicle.  She said to be more careful and don’t get on the highway if I am driving this slow (politely, mind you, for real).  Then, she asked me to turn on my lights; I said they weren’t on and she asked if I drove without them on.  I said no, but I was hoping she’d go back to her car first as the right head light didn’t work.  I finally turned it on, and she didn’t notice and said “good” and I went on my way.

I also had a problem with a vehicle tail light repair order from last week dating back from April in Maryland.  That almost cut this trip short as I had to have the repair order approved in Maryland and my tags were set to be suspended last week (when I had found out).  By the Grace of God, that got resolved. 

Cops, cops, cops.  I’m trying to not develop that paranoia with cops, but after having been pulled over or approached about 8 times in the last 3 weeks, it’s hard not to but I’ll try to relax like they tell me in Tai Chi. 

I’m now tired, a bit hungry (got a great deal with 7 mini-avocados for $1 at a food stand this morning), and really approaching the end of my $$.  In addition, I STILL haven’t found a free nor cheap campsite as I’ve finally read that California State Parks are hurting in their budget and needed to change their policies.  It’s almost like a video game: trying to balance: gas, money, and time.   It’s equally difficult to be on the road, not having an official source of income (though I’m hustling two remote tutoring gigs in Maryland and will be paid this weekend), and simply not having a damn place with: shelter and a good working bathroom, electricity, and time/place freakin’ write.  All I want to do is write.  Durkheim, the Medicine Buddha, storylines, some book ideas, and the co-authoring of my friend Ted’s book is flowing in my vein.  I haven’t even updated my blog nor write much in the past week because I’m too damn busy trying to get settled!  On one hand, being in a different state like Arkansas, Tennessee, or even Arizona will cost me so much less to get situated, but this place and how it calls for me resonates within my soul.  Should I volunteer?  Should I find temporary work?  I’ve decided to not call an end to the trip despite my desperation, but the desperation is bringing the resourcefulness and creativity within me.  I do have enough food and gas for now, so I am okay in that manner. 

Since my battery dying at the end of this post earlier,and now that I have more battery power to write, then I have to say that I came out to California for a reason: I wanted to be a writer.  I have this built-in, inherited Cantonese stubborn streak to me and I refuse to go down without a fight.  On one hand, I can move to the next state over to build an easier living while writing more scot-free, but I will not have the rhythm and soul of California pushing me forward.  I could quit and give up the trip and call it a failure or a “quaint adventure” or vacation  I did not come here to sightsee, I did not come here and across the country to drive up and down the state trying to tear through their campsites.  I simply came for the weather, the voice of inspiration that called out to me, and a strive for the life I want to live in spite of setbacks.

I may have to live off the grid a bit and live in and out of various locations (maybe Pilot gas stations that provide $12 showers) and live out of my car until I can afford to repair it; also, I might have to avoid driving at night as getting pulled over because of my headlight would be troublesome.  I’m not giving up and I’m going to push forward and get some damn words on paper.  Yep yep.  That’s that.  

This certainly is not your typical adventure!  More words coming soon!  😀

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