Road Trip – Part I

I am notorious for coming up with brilliant ideas and committing myself to them before ever really thinking it through or having a plan. I believe it comes from my desire to live life to its fullest and have as many unique experiences as possible while I’m here. This doesn’t mean I enjoy sky diving or bungee jumping. To me that’s just crazy. I hate the feeling of my stomach launching into my throat. I don’t need to tempt death in order to feel the presence and magic of life. I am capable of feeling alive simply by sitting on my lanai, drinking coffee and watching the sea gulls soar over our canal. But if I am set in one routine for too long, I have a yearning for change. This yearning led me to drive 2,200 miles in six days without a GPS.

A few weeks ago, I decided it would be fun to drive from my home in Cape Coral, Florida to Greensboro, North Carolina. I would stop and pick up my daughter at Charlotte airport along the way. She was flying in from Los Angeles after attending a film camp. We were invited to attend the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Nationals. This was the first time they were allowing disabled athletes to participate. I felt that after all the advocating I had done last track season for my daughter, (Arielle) we should go and support the USATF for their steps in bringing wheelchair racing into the public eye. My husband gave me his calm knowing look – “If you really want to go-go, I don’t want to drive all that way.” After twenty years together he knows better than to try and get in the way of one of my great ideas. I realized it was slightly foolish to drive so many miles for a single afternoon race, so I added in some college tours on our way home. Road Trip!

Everything was fine until I reached Ocala. I was driving on a back road with Semi’s in front and behind me and cows to my left and right when my cheap unfamiliar cell phone rang. This cell phone was purchased by my daughter after her phone went for a swim. She couldn’t go to camp with the ugly phone, being the kind mother I am, I let her take mine. I hate talking on the phone while I’m driving. I usually don’t answer, but it was my son. “Mom, I’m still at camp. Dad forgot to pick me up and he’s not answering his cell phone.” I knew I should have called to remind my husband to pick up our son. I only reminded him about five times before I left and posted a note on the cupboard. My blood boiled. I had flashbacks to the time he left our daughter at school and a kind teacher brought her to her house for cookies and milk. (Thank you Mrs. Mince!)

I watch the road for large trucks that can crush me while I hit the star button about a hundred times on my cheap phone to try and unlock it. I dial my husband’s office. He left twenty minutes ago. I start to worry. What happened to him? If he didn’t get to our son then maybe he was in an accident. No, he’s fine. He’s probably stuck in traffic. I call Kai (my son) back. “Dad is on his way. Make sure he pays the late pick up fee.” Kai tells me the counselors have to go home. They’re going to drive him home. This made no sense. I knew they had after care until five and it was only four thirty. I hear laughing in the background. Eric gets on the phone. “Did you really think I would forget our son?”- “Yes!” Breathe, breathe, was this a lesson from the Universe? Ha ha, sure it’s easy to be peaceful when you’re driving alone in your car listening to Deepak Chopra and Sue Monk Kidd, now let’s see if you can keep that peace while driving with eighteen wheelers on a two lane back road, boiling mad and trying to use an unfamiliar cell phone. Enter the Peace Ruiner! (That’s my husband’s nick name) I gave him a little “ha, ha” knowing it was all just a prank. Maybe I passed the Universe test since I didn’t scream superlatives at him, when on the inside, I really wanted to. Is that passing?

I made it to Charlotte and picked up Arielle. We couldn’t find our hotel in Greensboro. It was late, dark, and hilly and the directions said to get off exit 107. There was no exit 107, there was 106 and 108 but 107 didn’t exist. I was too tired to drive any further. Realizing I had a future driver next to me, I thought it would be better to teach the lesson of staying safe and finding a new hotel, rather than pushing myself through exhaustion to find our destination. This is the point I realized it would have been smart to have purchased a GPS before I left.

The track meet was a wonderful experience. We have some very talented athletes across the United States. I felt my stomach flip, watching them at their starting lines waiting for the pop of the gun. Too much pressure, I could never do that. Many people in the crowd were curious about the wheelchair race and we were greeted by a group of athletes and their parents who were excited to see us and my daughter’s racing chair. It gave me hope for a future where disabled athletes will be accepted as members on high school sports teams throughout America – not just certain states.

Half of my great idea mission was complete. Now, it was on to the college tours. There were only a few minor problems. I didn’t have any directions for the way home, I didn’t have any hotels booked, I did have two huge infected blisters on my feet and my stomach was acting up from eating too much junk food. Also it was Saturday night and I had been driving with little rest since Thursday morning. I was tired. The wonderful thing about having a daughter who is paralyzed is that I can’t complain. I watch her strength in tackling every day issues without the ability to move her legs and it makes me stronger. How can two blisters and an upset stomach even compare? I’m lucky. I got a good night’s sleep and a large cup of coffee at Panera. We sat with my laptop and together we planned our trip home. Part II – How Mountain Dew saved my life… coming soon!

K.D.Rausin

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