David Mitzman | December 6, 2004
So what happened to Amy? She seems to have vanished temporarily. Yes, this is what I'm doing at 11pm on a Sunday night, wondering where other TC authors have vanished to...

Anna Gregoline | December 6, 2004
She was moving - not going to have internet for awhile.

David Mitzman | December 6, 2004
ah that would explain it. i've been lax on my TC reading lately so I prob missed that post.

Scott Hardie | December 6, 2004
Actually, she's still guessing at goos every couple of days. :-\

Scott Hardie | December 16, 2004
Is she driven away by the hostility around here lately? I guess she isn't coming back, unless she's taking forever writing a reply to Kris like I was.

Amy Austin | December 16, 2004

Hey everybody -- I'm back! I've finally made it here, but not without much ado! I only just today got connectivity with DirecTV and Roadrunner (Time Warner internet service). The times I popped in to make my goo guesses were when I had the luxury of a friend's computer briefly and by proxy from E -- who, although angry that he is behind me in guesses, was very kindly and sweetly keeping me current when I could not get online... lest this sound like "cheating", I have to add that he has told me clues over the phone that I was able to guess without even seeing the photo, and there have been a couple that I was able to get that he could not. In fact, the night that Estee Lauder's goo expired, I was on my friend's computer and unable to log into the game site (I didn't know until too late that she had some kind of program/software that would disallow this when active!) -- I'm still sore about not getting to enter my guess that night, too! And now that I've "outed" myself, I've taken away the power behind his threats of "turning me in" when I know an answer that he doesn't! ;> (But I would do the same for him if the roles were reversed...)

Anyway... about my trip! The drive over was very smooth and pleasant -- as much as a 40-hour drive can be expected to be! I had two very remarkable stops (both times when I was looking for a shower!) and didn't encounter a lick of bad weather! (Unless you count being *very* cold in Flagstaff, AZ!) In fact, 35 miles out of Flagstaff was where I made my first stop, at a place called "Meteor Crater" -- which is exactly what it sounds like... a gigantic hole in the ground caused by the impact of a falling meteorite! If you've never been or heard of it, I *highly* recommend making the stop should you ever have the chance -- it was an amazing experience, bordering on spiritual, and I left with the awesome sensation of being a distinct "part" of the universe... albeit a *very tiny* one! Simply amazing. I'm sure that all the statistics about it are bound to be available somewhere online, but let me just say that it's about 2.5 miles across and as deep as the Washington Monument is tall. There was much more of interest pointed out to us on a guided tour of the rim (half a mile out and back), but mostly, it was a sight that simply cannot be captured in words or in pictures -- much like I imagine most of the enormous bounty of natural beauty that our country and planet have to offer... It is indeed a modern luxury and privilege that we can see these things in reproduction, but the visitation in person makes such depictions pale in comparison. Now that I have seen but a snippet of what the Southwest has to offer, I can understand why it holds such a mystique and reputation for being "God's country" -- it is simply breathtaking. I am *REALLY* looking forward to making the trip again with E at a more leisurely pace, to include the south rim of the Grand Canyon and a more in-depth visit at the Painted Desert, along with some other planned stops.

Another must-do is to re-visit that second stop that I mentioned! This was in Oklahoma, where I happened to be on Thanksgiving Day. My family post-poned their celebration of it until Saturday, for my delayed arrival -- but I got to enjoy a "real" Thanksgiving on the road, as it turned out!!! Talk about a feeling of being "truly blessed"! It didn't even occur to me that I might be interrupting someone's Thanksgiving dinner when I was looking for a shower at a KOA Kampground that I saw a sign for at the most opportune moment (exhausted, feeling pretty dirty, and behind a line of cars going 45-55 through a stretch of 2-lane-turned-1-lane due to road construction) -- I pulled up at about 2:30 in the afternoon and, apparently looking every bit as ragged as I felt, asked if I might buy a shower there. I could see that there was a small gathering of folks there and smelled the wonderful aroma of good food cooking but was too tired to pay much attention. The very kind lady of the husband-wife team who built and ran the very lovely campground very graciously said to me, "Well, why don't you go and get showered and then come join us for dinner -- we're about to eat Thanksgiving meal, and dinner's on us!" Well, I was just flabbergasted by the gesture, and of course, I whole-heartedly accepted! It was a completely delicious and enjoyable meal, complete with all the trimmings and capped off by wonderful company, including a computer-projected vacation slideshow (normally something that seems to make a lot of people yawn discreetly, but I enjoy!) of a couple of ladies touring the country in their little Vanagon (yes, I believe they were "together")... the really notable part of this for me was that they had just been -- only days before me -- through some of the same mileage that I had just been and not been able to really stop and look around, and so I go to enjoy their pictures of the Painted Desert, along with some other national parks, and was very content. Even more remarkable still was the fact that as I sat and ate my dinner (a bit behind them as they started their meal while I was getting clean again), Judy took my dog out for a little walk and picked up her "offerings"!!! Can you believe this sort of hospitality??!! She even fixed me a turkey sandwich and a slice of pumpkin pie for the road. This was the second time in my life that a group of relative strangers have made for one of the most memorable Thanksgivings that I think I will ever have the pleasure of enjoying, and again, I left with such a feeling of universal love and good will/brotherhood -- in perfect keeping with the true spirit of this time of the year -- that I was energized for the next leg of my trip! I hope that all of you here will get to enjoy such fellowship before the year is out!

And, of course, the meal that I had with my family -- all of them there, save E and my step-sister/husband -- was the first one in over four years and well worth the wait. Except for moments of non-clarity from my increasingly feeble and IRRITABLE grandfather -- God bless his crotchety soul -- all was very well. And I got to finally meet my "new" nephew (he's 9 months old now!), who was more darling than his pictures could convey. Apparently, he took to meeting me very well, coming to me much faster than to my folks (who have seen him a few times previously) and becoming momentarily amused/amusing upon my arrival. This, of course, made me feel GREAT -- especially in remembrance of how my youngest sister (now 13) wanted nothing of me as a baby, (and I admit that it hurt somewhat, despite being 18 and totally uninterested in babies)... very unlike her brother (now 16) who adored me and would wait by the windows for my arrival when I had gone to college -- but really, I just chalked it up to the fact that of all my family, I am the one who most closely resembled his mama, my sister, and of course I was "in like Flynn" for that reason! And I admit feeling a twinge of "I want one" at that moment... but just a twinge.

That concludes the cross-country/family visiting portion, and to ensure that I don't completely lose you (if I haven't already), I will make a separate posting for what came NEXT...

David Mitzman | December 16, 2004
Wow sounds like an adventure. Last road trip I did was with my Dad from West Palm back to Long Island. Nothing exciting except I saw a Bently on the road (the one they modeled the Chrysler Crossfire after). I saw a Maybach recently too, that made me feel rich.

Amy Austin | December 16, 2004

So talk about lucky timing! After leaving my folks' upon completion of the Thanksgiving weekend, I traveled on over to just east of Fayetteville, where my Army friends (that I made online and had not yet met) live and stayed the night with them, planning to leave "early" on Tuesday morning to come to Jax, NC for some house-hunting. Well, we got on so well that I did not leave "early" on Tuesday, but in fact LATE. Not so late as to be considered indecent, just late enough that any real estate companies that could show me a place to live were closing and dark was falling by the time I arrived. So I stayed in a hotel that night... and the following... and -- long story short -- I signed a lease on Friday... afternoon. YAY.

I asked my prospective landlord if he knew the number to the utility company, and he gave me a phonebook. So I had to set about getting things turned on before the weekend, and I had the electric on by 4. It was about that time that I also newly realized that I, who have rented all my life and never had to turn on the water separately (either it was paid for in the rent or included with the "utilities"), would also have to get that turned on as well! Imagine the scrambling you'd do in a town you don't know to get the water on at 4 o'clock on a Friday! And MAN... these deposits are killing me... $200 for the electric co! I had forgotten how expensive moving can really be!!!

So, after a *really* unpleasant bureaucratic exchange with a trained monkey lady at the water co/city hall -- at about 1630! -- oh, and not to forget, the fight I had with E about not finding out about the non-inclusion and unanticipated expenditure of water/garbage/sewage, I left in a huff, too upset to even confirm that the water WOULD BE turned on that evening. By the time I got back "home" (if you can start calling that the empty shell that you will move into), it was just 5 o'clock -- far too late to catch a monkey on a Friday! SO... unsure of my water situation for the weekend and having already used one of my just two flushes (but really one and only, as the state of the water being off had obscured the future discovery of my second commode's issues!) and expecting delivery of my HHG on Saturday (such great timing, I had previously thought when I received the call on Friday to ask if I would be accepting direct delivery!), I called my friend in Fayetteville and asked if I might come stay the night with them again. Of course I could, so I got my bag and began to drive my '98 Ford Explorer, which had just completed 3400 miles of successful travel without a fault in the week prior, and I got... 9 miles away from my house. I know it was 9 miles, because that's how far it got towed BACK to my house only about an hour after my departure. Yep, tach dropped to zero, and I totally lost power. And I wasn't going to *any* "repair facility" -- AAA approved, or otherwise -- on a Friday night, without someone I know looking at it first!

My friends wanted to come and get me, but I assured them that it was unnecessary, as I had AAA on the way, and I had to be there the following day anyhow to accept delivery of my household. So they said that they would come out the next day as well, and John, an Army mechanic, would look under my hood. My truck driver that was bringing the goods is a racecar driver on the side, too, and he had a look also, since he arrived about 5 minutes before they did. Both guys were shaking their heads, and what I had convinced myself was probably a burnt-up fuel pump -- due to getting dangerously low during all that utility crap that I didn't have time to stop during! -- actually turned out to be a broken crankshaft on the bottom pulley in the front of my engine. This translates to "need a new engine" or "buy a new car" in case you don't know. Thank GOD that E bought that extended warranty (which at the time he told me he bought it sounded like a bit of an unnecessary thing for $2000... but only a BIT -- the truck was still a good buy at $10000, WITH the warranty!) -- it's about to pay for itself, and then some, as I figure the engine replacement, with labor, to be about $3500... not sure, since I'M NOT PAYING IT!!! Just $100 deductible and towing fees. Whew!!! I've just become a BIG advocate of the "extended warranty", folks! Lord knows, this would have been just THE most awful time for such a disaster WITHOUT it!!! (And the water was on by the time my tow got me back, BTW... ;>)

Thank goodness it didn't happen at any other time -- on my trip across or in the nowherevilles between here and my friends' house -- and at least I had a place to be stuck in while it's in the shop... for over a week now. It was supposed to have been ready yesterday or today, but because the replacement engine is newer than mine (and only 48,000 on it, I might add -- vs. the 117,030 on the blown one... I'm coming out of this pretty good!), there was a "snag" with intake compatibility, and it has now been promised for tomorrow. I can hardly wait. You know how Murphy's laws work... a car in the driveway means no need to go anywhere, but I am going STIR CRAZY here with all these piles of boxes around me everywhere -- and, until today, only talk radio for entertainment!!! EGADS, those anti-"liberal" hosts are insane! It's funny how the "conservative" and "right wing" crowds insist -- and perhaps rightly so -- that the "media" is controlled by "Democrats" and "liberals" and (gasp) "Jews"... but I don't know how they can complain, because it seems to me that they pretty well have the radio airwaves COMPLETELY covered. I haven't heard a single show that wasn't trying to be Rush Limbaugh -- Neal Boortz and Sean Hannity... YIKES!

So there you have it -- the life I've been having and you've been "missing out on" for the last 3 weeks (aren't you happy! at least about Part Deux!)... hope it hasn't bored you to tears!!!

Scott Hardie | December 19, 2004
Great stories, Amy. Even with all the frustrations, it sounds like you've had a move to remember fondly, especially Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for writing all of that.

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