Three Surprising Ways Road Trips Resemble Relationships

Good evening, Dear Reader! I just want to say that tomorrow is a beautiful day to get a colonoscopy (consider this your PSA if you are over 50). I’m headed over to do just that in the morning, and {insert sarcasm} I am so incredibly excited…about the large pizza and frozen custard I’m going to get as soon as it is over. I’ve been doing all the prep stuff for the last two days – the clear liquid diet, the delicious gallon of prep-juice they make you drink, and doing my best to stay close to home just in case I…um…well. Yeah. Anyway – I just want to tell you, Dear Reader: If you ever thought I was completely full of shit, I assure youI. Am. Not. At least, not anymore.

Now, all of that is out of the way. Let’s kick off the weekend early because of, well you know, by setting up today’s post. 

Last Saturday I found myself with an infrequent day of bliss. All my ‘people’ had other commitments, and I had none. So I jumped in my car and headed out to finalize one of my 2022 Bucket List items. I located the Sandy Creek covered bridge near Hillsboro, MO, along with a lovely state park. This completes my goal of seeing all four covered bridges in Missouri. (Watch out, Arkansas. You are next.) Before heading out, though, I had the wherewithal to pack some car-camping stuff and used the HipCamp app to locate a place to sleep. Hummingbird Hollow is a lovely private (primitive) camping site at an animal rescue sanctuary. And, it just so happened that it was the night before the full moon. When I stepped out of my car at 2:30 a.m. into the pitch black night to potty, the Hunter’s Moon (literally) was breathtaking. Or maybe it was the 32* weather that took my breath away. {Shrug}. Nonetheless, it was exceptionally awe-inspiring.

(I wasn’t drinking and driving. I was in for the night.)

I say all that to finally get to my point of today’s post. So, if you are ready, let’s go over my musings and how I realized that road trips and relationships have a lot in common.

Grab that drink. Settle in. Try to follow along. Here are three surprising ways road trips are like relationships.

1) Hazard lights are vital to your safety. If you’ve ever traveled east on I-44 through the Show-Me State, you’ll get this reference immediately. Once, my fella and I were traveling to the home of Mark Twain and rounded the corner on the interstate to find ourselves face-first in a traffic jam. He, the experienced transportation guy, immediately punched his hazard light button, and I remember thinking…“Oh yeah. Those.” Up until that point, I thought those things were just for when you were stranded on the side of the road. Well, I experienced the same thing on I-44 last Saturday. I topped a hill just east of Conway and realized traffic was at a stop. I hit my hazards and held my breath and watched, via my rearview mirror, while a Prime Trucking, Inc. semi-truck nearly ended my life. (Sorry, Mom. These are the things I don’t tell you.) I was slightly shaken by this and exited at the World’s Largest Gift Store to regain my composure. But, I thought about that near-miss all day. I sat on my bumper, resting for a bit and sipping my coffee at the bridge, and something occurred to me. Several times in my life, my internal hazard lights begged to warn me about some of the relationships I was in. Some only required a slowdown, and some were downright dangerous. It would have been nice if I had remembered my internal hazard lights in those cases, listened to my gut, and exited the relationship immediately.

2) Nothing fun happens on the interstate. After said near-miss, and a purchase of fudge in Uranus (I. Am. Not. Kidding.) I exited just past Rolla (hoping to run into the infamous Joshua Rogers) and decided to take Highway 8 towards Potosi and then north on Highway 21. First, let me just say: Both of these roads feel a little like a drunk toddler designed them, but if you can stomach switchbacks, there are a lot of fascinating sites to see along the way. The same goes for relationships. You gotta mix up the stuff sometimes. Frankly, getting out of my normal routine for a fancy, expensive dinner takes effort on my part. I know this. If you haven’t guessed, I’m more of a backyard-firepit-grilled-steak-two-shots-of-Scotch-via-lawn-chair kind of gal, preferably dressed in my “mom clothes” while I listen to Alan Jackson sing about what time it is somewhere (bonus song!). But every once in a while, a nice dinner out where I am required to wear a dress and put on perfume, or a trip to the beach for the holidays instead of watching Home Alone and Elf for the forty-millionth time, is nice. More than nice, really. Possibly necessary. So – get off that relationship interstate and have a little fun, for goodness sake. You may discover something about yourself and the person you love that surprises you.

3) Use a map, but reserve the right to take a detour. When I turned 18, I wanted to drive to Rockford, IL to see my friend, Ryan. My mom was nervous, but my dad handed me a road atlas, highlighted my route with a yellow marker, gave me $50, and said, “You’ll go North or East. On the way home, you’ll come West or South. And for God’s sake…stay out of East St. Louis”. To this very day, I always have a Rand McNally Road Atlas in my car. I have a $50 bill tucked away in a secret spot. And, I do my best to stay out of scary spaces (although some rural Ozarks counties are just as spooky as East STL). My point? Every relationship requires goals. Planning for the future together is essential and possibly life-saving. But I always reserve the right to live in the moment and throw caution to the wind. I may want to take a side road here and there or slow things down a bit. Let’s suppose you know a thing or two about generalized anxiety disorder. In that case, you know that anxious people are hyper-focused on the future. And…90% of what we worry about never comes to fruition. So, I try not to get too ahead of myself in life and in relationships. It’s just more fun that way. 

So, with that I leave you with a fourth bonus analogy: Sometimes the road…and that relationship…gets bumpy. Hang on and stay the course. As always, I leave you with a fun little song today. Send me good vibes, and let me know your relationship advice. Or, drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite road trip. I’m always in the mood for ideas. (Saturday, off to Eureka Springs, AR to meet James Dean, the author of my favorite children’s book, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Read my post about that book here.)

As always, if you liked this and thought to yourself, “All my friends need to read this!” then do all that social stuff that makes us all famous and paranoid.   

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge – Hillsboro MO

Road Trips with Ronnie

Good morning, Dear Reader! I’m back from my little jaunt, and I’m happy to be home. That said, I believe these little trips are good for my soul. There are just some things that can’t be processed without the help of a back country road, a little whiskey, and gas station beef jerky. I managed to drive 1,426 miles over six days – two of which I spent working in an office. I would have liked to have more time in Minnesota. It was stunning. Iowa was…peaceful…and hot…but I can say this about the upper Midwest: People sure are friendly. And not in the snarky “Bless her heart” Southern way that I’m so used to.

Along the way, I knocked another Missouri covered bridge off my bucket list, stopping to see the Locust Creek Covered Bridge on my way home. And let us not forget: I witnessed every covered bridge in Madison County, Iowa, and even traveled down Francesca Lane. I’m amazed by the craftsmanship of these bridges and disheartened by the graffiti. People are assholes.

I returned in good spirits, although I found myself a bit sad. I read a quote yesterday that really resonated with me:

“Ironically, when we start to get better, we also often get sad. Because we start to realize just how much we missed out on, how badly certain people failed us, and what the younger version of us actually deserved. Healing involves healthy grieving. No way around it.” – Unbreakable & Uplifting

Ain’t that the truth.

I wasted many years making other people happy at the risk of my own wholeness, and this year was the year that all stopped. How do I do it? Well, a lot of therapy and a little IDGAF. Want some tips? Okay, then.

Grab a drink. Settle in.

Let’s talk about how to practice a little self-care with my five favorite things I do to take care of myself:

1) Stay in touch with those who like you despite your flaws. I typically will plan my trips around a quick little visit with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. That way, I can balance the solitude with the excitement of catching up. Last March, I visited my friend, Bonnie, in Massachusetts, getting hooked on Outlander, laughing over shots of Irish Whiskey, and freaking out a little after our tarot readings. This time, I was up north in Minnesota to visit Candi and Dave. I even met a guy I’ve worked with for nearly three years that I’ve never seen in person. September brings California, and maybe I’ll touch base with my cousin while I’m there. As I age, I realize just how much of a vital role some of these people play in my life.

2) Embark on new experiences that stretch your comfort level. Hot, sticky, and buggy is the only way I can describe the last week. I slept in my car for two nights in the middle of nowhere without electricity or ‘bathroom’ facilities. I had to plan out potty breaks and research where to wash my stinky body. Sometimes, I felt my anxiety rise a bit due to the unknown. I pushed through it and, each time came out of the experience with a better sense of ‘self’. Whether a solo trip or learning to cook, every new venture provides an opportunity to learn about yourself and others. I am still amazed at people’s generosity (strangers, even). This trip restored my faith in humanity for sure.

3) Sad songs or songs that envoke the past have no business on your road trip playlist. So, with that in mind, I binged Southern Fried True Crime podcasts. (I know. Weirdo.) But I also did listen to a heck of a lot of Pink and Eminem. My Good Vibes 2022 playlist is public. Take a listen any time you want.

4) Simplicity is always best. As I’ve preached for nearly twelve years, less is more, especially when traveling. Less clothing. Less food. Less coffee. Less alcohol. Less contact with the general public. Less self-judgment and less fear. Living your best life really starts with clearing out the clutter. My car looked like a New York City apartment – small and full of crap – and I didn’t need half the stuff I packed “just in case”. It made me stop and realize I still have so much I continue to hang on to “just in case”.

5) Epic is overrated. I’ve often said this, and I’ll repeat it today: There is something to say about living a mediocre life. And I don’t mean mediocre as in ‘less than’. I’m saying that not every experience must be epic to be memorable. I once took a road trip to Hannibal, Missouri. It wasn’t epic in the least bit, but it was memorable. And it changed the course of my life. After all, any day that ends with a cold beer and a cheeseburger with the prospect of getting kissed can’t be all bad, right? Right. Unfortunately, I’m stuck between “I need to save money” and “You only live once”. After California, I’m taking a bit of a break. Next year will bring a road trip through Yellowstone or Michigan’s U.P. And, 2024 will bring Norway, baby, and the Northern Lights.

The bottom line is: It’s okay to live a simple life, as I’ve stated for years. Your life could be mornings with coffee, watching the sunrise with nowhere to go. Or you could climb that mountain – not for the selfie but for the experience. Cook healthy food not to lose weight but to care for your body. Spend less time working and spend time with those you love before they are gone. Stop. Listen. Turn off distractions and the constant need for more. Ditch the comparisons and consumerism for a life that’s wild and free. Adventure awaits.

As always, here’s your song. And it really is YOUR song, Dear Reader. This blog – my creepy online diary – gives me something to look forward to. I love sharing my epiphanies and stories with you. I hope you are inspired, as well. Smooches all around, People. Muuuuaaaaahhhh. (For an awesome Ronnie Milsap playlist, click here)

PS…If you liked this post and thought others might, too, feel free to share on all the socials. Please and thank you.

Road trips, bridges, and love.

Good morning, Dear Reader. I’m closing out a big weekend of self-care like I haven’t had in a very long time. Friday night started with indulging in Season 3 of the Netflix hit, You. And Saturday, as I promised in my last post, I hit the road about 8 am Saturday in 16-degree temps to start completing one of my 2022 bucket list items: See all four of the covered bridges in Missouri. Today is Sunday, and I’m closing the weekend with a pedicure, a massage, and (fingers crossed) hugs from two of my favorite humans.

Thanks, “What The Forecast” app.

The road trip kicked off perfectly. After dropping $50 worth of petro into the subbie, I set out with my thermos of coffee with cream, road atlas, ice scraper, and a small cooler of snacks. This trip did not disappoint in many ways.

Sadly, not a Milk Dud in sight.

First, no one was out – except about a dozen of Missouri’s Highway Patrol Officers. The sky was clear, and although it was cold, the weather was great.

Secondly, Dollar General’s were not in short supply, and we all know how much I loves me sum DG. I hit two of them just for the sheer fun of it.

Lastly, breakfast was terrific. Road trip breakfast rules really need their own post, but suffice it to say, I was all set after a bit of ‘the Trucker’s skillet’ in Mountain Grove. My belly was full and I wasn’t planning on any more significant stops.

I headed east from my hometown and braved Hwy 60 E to Hwy 34 N. That was “fun”. Hwy 34 is the kind of road most definitely designed by a drunk toddler and is littered with tiny country homes proudly displaying the confederate flag. In addition, the inhabitants of these rural counties clearly have not received the memo (or TPS reports or whatever) stating that Trump lost the last election, as witnessed by the tremendous amount of Trump/Pence 2020 signs still present in just about every single yard. In other words, it was the kind of trip that made me a bit uneasy without a former law enforcement officer and his 9 mm Glock 19 as I drove around in my little liberal-hippie foreign car, if you know what I mean. Oh well. It wasn’t like I was planning to buy a home there. I was just off to see a bridge. And I did. And it was lovely. And I have three more to go.

Of course, you didn’t come here to read about my little road trip, but it is a nice little setup for today because, for the journey, I prepared a bunch of new playlists. And that windshield time and those tunes brought up so much emotion that I couldn’t help but form multiple blog posts in my brain as I listened to the likes of Ben Rector, Depeche Mode, Taylor Swift, and the Drive-By Truckers. Yes – my taste in music is a bit eclectic, but that’s what keeps y’all guessin’, now dudn’t it? (Take that accent, Shannon County.)

So what were you thinking about? you ask. Well, grab a drink. Settle in. I’m about to share.

The topic today is LOVE. More specifically…falling and being…in it.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

–Maya Angelou

Yes, I know. I know. I had sworn this topic (and feeling) off in August 2020. But it just keeps gnawing at me, and here’s a little secret: I’m a bit of a romantic (despite my hostility toward Valentine’s Day.) Plus, over three days, I’ve had three conversations with three different people who have, well, been a little square with me about my fear of falling in love again. I pondered the take-aways from each conversation and thought maybe we could rest here on the topic together today. Is that okay? (I hope you nodded your head ‘cuz I’m going there.) Ready? Got that drink? Here’s the advice I’ve received lately. I hope it helps you today, Dear Reader.

1) Might as well be all in. If I must cite my source, I have Amanda to thank for this one. Her point was: If you are all in, you can’t have one foot in and one foot out. If you are going to be in love, then love unabashedly! If you commit to being ALL IN, you might be surprised by how much the Universe responds to that. And by ‘you,’ I mean ‘me .’ But it might apply to you—[Shrug].

2) Stop thinking in terms of the ‘Worse case scenario.’ This one comes from a friend who has experience in the area of failed relationships, and yet remains positive. This dude isn’t a stranger to the ‘love gone wrong’ scene. He simply doesn’t dwell on it as I do. I don’t remember his exact words, per se, but I do remember he said, “You’re kinda jaded…” blah, blah, blah. I took a deep breath (as I tend to do when people call me on my shit….) but instead of getting defensive…I agreed with him. I also asked him to replace ‘jaded’ with ‘cautiously optimistic’ and promised to stop quoting Taylor Swift (“It’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames .”)

3) Red is bad. Green is good. Thank Miranda for this nugget. And we are talking about flags here with the red and green references. To be clear: flaws and imperfection are entirely different from red flags. But I’ve spent so much time in therapy making sure I know how to recognize red flags that I haven’t paid enough attention to the green flags right in front of me. What are green flags? In my recent experience, green flags = chairs that get pulled out, coats that get held when you are slipping them on, doors held open, texts to let you know he’s home safely, inclusion in decisions, out-of-the-blue calls to remind you that you are beautiful…I could go on. The world is enveloped in a mist of green these days. And it is so fucking refreshing.

4) Don’t be around anyone who makes you believe you are hard to love. In August, my therapist said this, and it’s just now sinking in. I was with someone for years who constantly asked me, “What is wrong with you?” (enunciating each word while dramatically rolling his eyes). The sad part is, I started to believe that there must be so many things wrong with me or he wouldn’t be asking me that all the time. Right? Wrong. If someone ever does this to you, please take my advice based on the hundreds of dollars I spent on therapy. Put on your shoes. Walk out. Call an Uber if you have to, but get the fuck out of there. It. Does. Not. Get. Better.

5) The key to long-lasting love is finding someone whose crazy matches your crazy. I used ‘crazy’ lightly here. I have a son on the autism spectrum, and I’ve become tolerant of particular quirks. This tolerance has proven to be a great trait in a mother and as a dating woman. So what if, when you pack an overnight bag, you pack everything in threes? Okay [Shrug]. You only like a specific type of bacon. Okay. You only buy black underwear. Okay. You have one side of the couch that is your favorite, and I can see you twitch a little when I sit there. Okay. It’s an oversized couch. I can sit in another spot. Trust me…you haven’t even scraped the surface for me on ‘weird quirks’. Again, after all the money spent in therapy, I would hope that I’ve learned the difference between quirky and fucking batshit crazy. Batshit crazy is leaving bullets on a washing machine while sending text messages about shots to the brain and placing recording devices around the home while secretly putting location tracking apps on cells phones. So, yeah, no. Check the locks three times, and wash your laundry daily. Your quirks aren’t crazy to me. In fact…your quirks don’t even phase me. I find them endearing.

So, bringing it back to love and the point of all of this. You can live your life afraid of falling back in love – all the while missing out on some great people & experiences- or you can be all in. Hey! Here’s a novel idea for you: You can be both afraid and open simultaneously. After all, to quote Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the movie Bounce, “It’s not brave if you aren’t scared“. So…jump in with both feet or get off the damn diving board. Ain’t nobody got time for your wishy-washy bullshit. (Again…by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’.)

I’m leaving you today with another Taylor Swift song. (Trust me, no one wants me out of the phase more than I). BUT I heard it today, and admittedly, it was the platform of today’s post. It’s one of those songs that spoke to me, and I remember thinking, “My God. That’s me in that song.” (“I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break…burn…and end…”) Except for me…it wasn’t a cafe on a Wednesday…more like a bar & grill on a Saturday…but you’ll catch the reference if you try hard enough.

Peace out, Dear Reader. I leave you with a few questions to ponder: Was ‘the one who got away’ actually a blessing in disguise? Are you ready for the past to be in the past? Are you prepared to step out of your comfort zone and be all in? Do tell. I really want you to know I’m rooting for you.

And remember, if you liked this blog and think others might, too, then share the love on social media. Please and thank you!