Going Home, Day 1, 8/13/12: Leaving Fresno. Not.

The Penske truck finally arrives at Gene’s house, 9:30 a.m. — already an hour and a half behind schedule and it’s still morning.

Oct. 17, 2012

This is the second part of my epic journey home to Connecticut after eight years, for better and worse, in the middle of California. And the longest day of the whole trip — and we weren’t even on the road yet.

For Going Home, the prequel, Loose Ends, click here.

The Universe didn’t seem to want me to leave Fresno on Monday. Which is odd, because it didn’t give me much of a reason to stay the last 3 1/2 years of unemployment and underemployment — and made it pretty clear that it was time to go home, uproot again and head back across the country to Connecticut, from whence I came.

Even knowing what I had to do on this big day, and allowing for the fact that things don’t always go quite according to plan, things most certainly didn’t go as expected.

The upshot: My friend Alexis and I were planning to be out of Fresno and on the road by midnight. Well, we weren’t in Fresno come midnight, but we weren’t even near getting the trip started yet.

The best-laid plans …

I had the mental checklist etched into my skull a few days before the move:

  • Get up; get breakfast at the Jack in the Box drive-thru (Extreme Sausage, medium unsweetened iced tea — I’m a creature of habit); pick up Heather to help me with the move; get to the Penske lot down in Malaga, south of Fresno, between 7:30 and 8.
  • Bring the truck up to my friend Gene’s house, on a side street three houses from Fresno City College, by 8:30, unhitch the car dolly from the truck and load the truck as quickly as possible. Probably by 10, 10:30.
  • Drive over to the Derrel’s Mini-Storage on Maple between Olive and McKinley and empty out my storage bin. Hopefully by 11:30-noon. Go back to Gene’s, hitch the dolly and my Camry, drive down to the Fresno Bee parking lot, where I was allowed to park the truck for safekeeping, remove the car and drive back to my friend Jen’s guest house.
  • Shower up, doll up, pick up Heather again and head to Oakland get my friend Alexis, who was flying in from home to take the trip back with me. Her flight was arriving at Oakland International at 3:30. I would drive up to the Pleasanton BART station, then take the train to the Coliseum/Airport stop and the Sky Bus to the airport to meet her. It’d be about three hours from Fresno. I had already warned her that I would probably be late. I figured she could get a bite and hang there.
  • We’d get back to Fresno, get a bite and/or a couple of Zs, and get on the road around midnight. Alexis had suggested that we do the bulk of our driving overnight — especially through the Mojave and the Southwest — maybe leave at midnight, 1 a.m. and stop for the day around 2 p.m., wake up at 10 p.m. and clean up and eat and repeat the process.

If all went well, we’d be back in Connecticut by Friday the 17th, Saturday the 18th at the latest.

Well, as someone who remembers the early days of Monday Night Football, there was what Don Meredith always said: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d have a helluva Christmas.

They did what?

I went to bed at 10 after 1. The cellphone alarm went off at 5:45. Showtime! (And yes, I actually did say that.)

Actually, I lingered a few more minutes — as I knew they would be my last minutes in a normal bed for nearly a week. Then I swung my legs over the side and planted them on the floor and stood up and pulled myself together.

One thing I did was shave, so that I could do my face. This was one of those mornings where being trans wasn’t something in my favor. I rented the truck as my Frannie self, and I changed the gender and photo on my driver’s license two years ago, so while I had to get dressed for slinging boxes around — a T-shirt and shorts — I also had to throw on some makeup to at least not look like a boy, even if I would sweat it off once the loading started. Some foundation and eyeliner and a little mascara did the trick nicely. And once I was done with business at the Penske place, I could take the wig off and throw on a doo-rag and be ready to sweat.

(And for the crowning touch, a nod in the direction of home: The T-shirt I wore was from Mamoun’s, the semi-legendary New Haven falafel restaurant. Open 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., 365. And I had fond thoughts of that first visit back and my usual Mamoun’s meal: a baba ghannouj sandwich (which is heavy on the garlic) in a pita, a shish kebab sandwich, also in a pita (with plenty of lettuce, tomato and tahini), and Mamoun tea, with a squirt bottle of honey with this most exquisitely sweet taste I’ve never been able to nail down (though it does have a faint hint of lemon).

Heather would be ready a little after 7. I picked her up at quarter after and we stopped at the nearby Mickey D’s to get her usual morning pick-me-up: a coffee, no sugar, 10 creams. That small mission accomplished, it was on to the Penske place.

It was 7:40. I reserved the truck for 8, but I was banking that they would have it ready already.

And I was just at the end of the Central Avenue exit ramp off Highway 99, not even a half-mile from Penske, when my cell rang. Heather answered. It was the rental place. They guy told her that there was a problem with the truck, and it would be at least another hour or so before they would have it ready.

What the fuck?!? Already? They did what?

I didn’t expect this from Penske. After all, Roger Penske built his fortune on efficiency, which is one of the reasons I went with this company for my truck — I wanted something I knew could make the long haul. And on top of that, I was gonna have a bunch of friends there at 8:30, ready to do business.

“Well, they could’ve just not told you,” Heather said, trying to keep me calm and make sure I didn’t get too wound-up, as I would do often in my Frannie 1.0 days — and especially with a long day ahead. I was pretty calm and “Oh well” about it, because the last thing I wanted to do is be crazed before 8 a.m. when it was something that might not set us back too long.

And since we were there already. I stopped in to take care of matters.

The young man at the desk explained to me what happened: Whoever inspected the truck over the weekend punctured the radiator in the process. And the nearest 26-foot truck — their biggest size, which I had wanted — was in Lemoore, 45 minutes south. So it would take at least an hour to get it up to Fresno and inspect it, etc. I explained my situation, that people would be waiting to help me move, and he told me they would deliver the truck when it arrived.

We doublechecked the paperwork and I gave him my credit card. Another problem, more of an annoyance, really — I had checked off all the damage insurance boxes on my online form. When he brought them up on his terminal for me to see, they were all empty.

“I checked all the boxes! What going on?” I asked, nervously. It’s not a good sign when things are going wrong before you even get the truck.

“The boxes stay blank until we fill them,” he said. “We want to go over all the waivers with the customer so they understand them.”

So he explained them. And I took all of them, again, with Heather as my witness. I wasn’t taking any chances. I was skating on the edge financially without having to worry about paying for damages on top of it all, and since this would be a long haul, and I had never driven a truck this huge before, let alone one towing a car, I figured something was bound to happen at some point.

So with that out of the way, it was back to Gene’s house to at least greet my moving crew.

The crew in action

There would be another complication at Gene’s place.

His house is on a side street off Maroa Avenue, three houses from Fresno City College. I hadn’t realized until late the previous week that Monday the 13th was the first day of class (I mean, who the hell starts school in the middle of August? That’s not normal!), and his street was a resident-permit-only-parking street, and we knew the meter maids would be out in force to rake in the revenue.

Gene and I made plans to make sure there would be a spot for the truck. Since he had a permit but his girlfriend, Esmeralda, didn’t, he parked his car out on the street overnight and put out some of his trash bins to block the rest of the space in front of the house. And I had warned my friends about the first day of class, so some of them would park on the next cross street, Wishon Avenue.

Heather and I pulled up to see my first volunteer (I mean, besides her) sitting on the curb. Stacy, a friend of mine through Jen, was sitting on the curb. She took the bus and arrived a few minutes before we did. And one by one, the rest of the crew trickled in:

Jen. Angelynn, a sweetheart whom I met when she worked at the neighborhood Fresh & Easy on Tulare and R, where I would stop for my microwaved meals during my time at the Happy House. Robert, the Bee’s metro editor and former sports editor. (And as I write this, he, too, is headed home — to Wisconsin, from whence he came, to be the assistant managing editor for sports and news at the Green Bay Press-Gazette.) Jan, ham radio fiend and former IT guy at the Bee who has been a great pal, who also helped get my old laptop back to speed when my OS fried one night in February at Revue and, with his wife, Carole and her sister, had me as their dinner guest that night.

Jay, a friend from the Tower, one of my esteemed pub quiz rivals Wednesday nights at the Landmark; eleven months before, I was at his and Brooke’s beautiful backyard wedding at a well-to-do residence in Sunnyside. And Dax, a dear and longtime friend from Revue and husband of the gorgeous Megan, who’s been a good girlfriend. They just moved back to Fresno in March from Washington state, where Megan had been working, and they live a two-block walk from Gene’s, if that.

I’m glad I was among some straight-thinkers on this unsettled morning. Stacy and Jen suggested we move all the stuff out front to wait for the truck to arrive. And thus, the caravan began, the moving of my things off the patio, down the dirt path out Gene’s side gate and out to the curb. he and I had cleared the debris and odd junk that had been in the way, and smoothed out the path so that hand trucks could travel freely, without worry about tipping over.

Well, almost. There was the one bin loaded with Hot Wheels — or, as I would refer to them at trip’s end, the stupid toy cars — that spilled off a hand truck and scattered out into the dirt. I rearranged the cars and stray soil best as I could and slapped the lid back on, and away we went. And the water I left icing in the cooler in the backyard the day before was being consumed pretty quickly.

And one more thing out of the way: Since this was the first day of classes at Fresno City, and Gene’s block was residential-permit-only parking, with signs on most of the lamp posts, the parking-enforcement guy was out to slap $25

Yes, at last, the truck’s here. And from the Mamoun’s T-shirt, you know I have New Haven on my mind.

tickets on the cars of students who didn’t have the reading level to get into a community college in the first place. But we told him about the move, about the rental truck that should be arriving shortly, and also let Angelynn’s Honda and Jan’s Jeep stay on the street, unticketed. Yes, a parking-enforcement person with a heart.

Finally, around 9:30, the yellow Penske truck came wheeling around the corner, all 26 feet of it, pickup truck in tow for the driver to take back to the rental place. Jose handed me a copy of the rental agreement, then gave me a perfunctory lesson, about a minute long, on how to attach the dolly to the hitch and detach it, and how to secure the front wheels with the nylon straps and winches, and how to remove them. Dax told me he could give me a refresher later.

I stepped up into the cab of this 2006 International with 163,000 miles on it — what was to be my semi-home the next five days. I wasn’t sure how different diesel vehicles would be from conventional-engined cars, so took a quick turn at turning the key. I was shocked at all the gauges, in fluorescent blue and red, that came to light and life; I immediately segued to high-sch00l-freshman memories of hearing Tom Waits rasp Red Sovine’s “Big Joe and Phantom 309” from Nighthawks at the Diner on the radio — “and the dashboard lit up like the olllld Madame LaRue pinballllll …”

Okay, playtime over. Time to open the rear door, lower the ramp and get this shit going. I stuck the agreement in the overhead bin and headed back out. We were done somewhere around 10:30. I left my car and the dolly there to hook up when we returned. The car was in Gene’s driveway, the dolly in the street. And most of us headed to Derrel’s, the next destination.

Oops

We — well, most of us, as a couple had to drop out and head to work — got to the Derrel’s on Maple between Olive and McKinley a little after 11. And there, I encountered my first driving lesson.

One thing I needed to keep in mind with a truck this size: Make wide turns. As I turned left in the far corner of the lot, even watching in the side mirror, I found myself in a jam from which I couldn’t extricate myself.

I saw the truck brush up against the steel post protecting the corner of the back building. And even after I stopped and began to back up, I saw the truck pulling the post up through the ground. Couldn’t do anything about it at that point.

“No! Fuck! I’m just starting and this happens?” I asked Heather. “Oh, fuck! Like I need this on top of everything else!”

I made it around the other corner at the far end with no incident, then made the turn into the aisle where my bin awaited.

And where Tom, the manager, came up on his golf cart. he and his wife, Lynne, had been good to me the year I had my things in storage there. Even extended my introductory discount, since I was still looking for work and was good about paying on time.

But yeah, he wasn’t happy with me — though I’m not sure whether it was more because of the uprooted post or because I followed another vehicle in and didn’t punch in my own code at the gate. “I have to give a call in with my boss and see what he wants to do,” he said, as visions of dollar signs that I didn’t really have continued to fly around in my head.

But Heather and Dax and Jan went over to inspect the damage as I went about opening the rear door and lowering the ramp again, as the rest of us set to uncramming what had become a crammed 10×10 bin over the previous month.
Jay and Dax helped me rearrange things inside the truck, as I shuffled things around. I put all the standard-sized moving boxes with the records, CDs and books up front, near the cab, about six across and about six high, then laid some of the lighter stuff, such as my neons and some of the Christmas things, atop them. The stupid toy cars were next, then everything else. Last on board would be the things I would be keeping at my parents’ house: clothes, shoes, the bicycle and the car bike rack.

And whatever I didn’t sweat out of my system at Gene’s was gushing out of my pores at Derrel’s. Jen checked her iPhone sometime around noon and the temperature was only 93 at that point, on its way to the low 100s within a couple hours, but the heat index was 105. And it was hotter than that in the back of the truck.

And in between me dumping a huge box of DVDs and 45s off the ramp and on the ground below, Jay and Dax got me to stop and take a couple breathers. Stacy poured about half a bottle of water over my head, which helped immensely (and probably kept me from a heat stroke).

And one friend, whose anonymity I’ll respect here, played the role of angel. heather and Dax had told me that my mishap didn’t cause much damage — it was a hollow pole, after all, and the uprooting brought up a bunch of rusty water that had accumulated inside the hole. But another friend came over during one of my water breaks inside the storage bin. He told me he talked to Tom in the office and squared things with him — that it was a nominal sum of money, and he paid Tom for the damage. Then he slipped me some money for the trip.

Angels. There are angels in my midst.

And one of the angels came in the form of a breeze that cooled things down momentarily — just enough for me to get back on my feet and finish the damn thing and get going, as I was already behind schedule.

We were finished close to 1:00. Jen and Stacy told me that they had helped people move before, and that was the most organized move they had done. And Heather nodded in agreement. All I could think of was the lesson I learned at my first job as a teenager, as a busboy/salad boy.dishwasher at the Harten House in Waterbury. Milo, the chef (and son-in-law of the owner), told me the Six P’s at one point: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. The things you remember as you get older …

But I did have things at least roughly planned out in my head as I went along — where things would go in the truck, moving everything onto Gene’s patio ahead of time. And they helped make a stressful load-out much more manageable.

I left the gate of Derrel’s, never to return. Heather got a ride back from someone else, so she could shower and be ready for me to pick her up to come with me to get Alexis in Oakland. Dax and I took Stacy to a nearby bus stop, then headed back to Gene’s. he’s had plenty of experience with big trucks, so it was great to have a calming voice helping me from the passenger seat. We hooked the dolly to the hitch, plugged in the trailer lights, and he took me through the winch process after I drive the car up the ramp. I said my goodbyes to Gene, then we made the turn onto Maroa and down the streets of Fresno to the Bee. He gently guided me through my turns, telling me to make them as wide as possible, me gingerly turning the wheel and keeping an eye on how the car moved behind the truck in my sideview, which would become an all-too-familiar practice.

I drove around the Bee parking lot — which is a lot less populated by cars than when I arrived in 2004 — looking for the perfect spot: empty, not near cars, yet close enough to lights and security cameras. (It also gave me more excuses to practice making turns.) I found a spot on the far side of the lot from the front entrance, adjacent to the building next door, visible from E Street. I bought a new Club specifically for the truck and fastened it in place. We detached the car and then headed back to the Tower …

and one final trip to Revue, to pick up one last iced coffee. Dax’s treat. The people hanging out on the patio probably thought I was a ghost already or something — no hellos, let alone goodbyes. Dax decided to walk the few blocks back to his place; it’s something he does often, as he and Megan often walk their beloved little French bulldog, Tank, down to Revue in the evenings. We had one last long goodbye hug and I went back to Jen’s to jump in the shower and get ready to pick up Alexis. It was about quarter after 2. I left her a message saying I’d probably get to the airport a little after 6. I had to run one last errand before heading north.

Are you fucking kidding me?!?

About 3:30, after making my last walk-through to be sure I didn’t leave anything behind, I left Jen’s guest house for the last time. The last errand was heading out east to the Walmart on Kings Canyon Road in Sunnyside to pick up a prescription I had filled a few days before. Then an iced coffee at the nearby Starbucks on the way back west, then on the 180 headed toward Heather’s. I needed the cold liquid and I needed the caffeine. And as if I wasn’t pressing for time, my purse fell off the counter and spilled half its contents on the floor. Another girl waiting for her drink, a twentyish blonde, helped me out, for which I was grateful.

“You want this?” she said. It was the earpiece to a long-ago busted pair of shades. We smiled.

I called Alexis. It was a little after 4. She never got the message I left her in-flight. She was fine with it, as I warned her already I’d probably be late. And on my way when …

Going down Kings Canyon, I felt the AC fan slow down and my dashboard gauges dipped slightly.

My heart stopped.

Oh, no. It can’t be, can it?

I had a flashback to a winter night in the mid-’80s, driving back from a high school basketball game I covered down in Seymour, I believe, for my most heinous and evil first newspaper, the Waterbury Republican-American.

And the gauges on my first car, a ’76 Malibu, did the same thing, as my lights started to dim. It was the alternator crapping out. Not a pleasurable ride back to the office. And an expensive visit to the garage the next day.

And when you’re getting ready to go on a long trip — and not coming back — denial is not just a river in Egypt; it’s a wishful hopeful oh-God-don’t-let-this-happen-now state of mind.

I got on the 180 freeway to 41 to Shields Avenue, heading down toward West Avenue and then Heather’s house. It was almost quarter to 5. And as I got to the intersection of Palm, a little more than a mile from her place, the gauges and fans started waffling at an alarming rate.

No, no, no! Are you fucking kidding me?!?

Whatever God is, it laughs at me a lot.

YES, it was the fucking alternator! And it was quarter to 5. And my mechanic, Dave, closes at 5.

I stopped in front of Heather’s house  — I didn’t dare turn the car off — and decided to call him and plead upon the mercy of the court.

“Hey, Dave, it’s Fran.”

“What’s up?”

“This is a bigtime emergency. My alternator just went, and I’m supposed to be moving across the country tonight, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, where are you?”

I told him, and he said, “There’s a Kragen right near there. It’s too late for us to order one, but if you pick it up, I’ll put it in.”

Bless you, Dave! Bless you!

Well, it’s an O’Reilly Auto Parts store now, but I’d been there before — it wasn’t more than a block from Heather’s, in the shopping plaza right on West at Ashlan. so I rushed over there. Only to have Juan, the parts manager, look up my model Camry (’96) and engine size (2.2 liter) and ask me which alternator I needed, as there were two different ones listed. How do I know? You guys are supposed to be the experts! I thought. And what if he gave me the wrong one? So he came out and I popped the hood.

It cost $153 plus a core deposit, to be refunded when I brought the old one back. So I jumped in and …

No surprise — it didn’t turn over. So, time to call in another cosmic favor — I contacted AAA for a tow and told the operator my plight — my alternator went, I was moving home, and my mechanic was at the shop waiting for me so he could drop it in. So she was kind enough to expedite my call, which would be about 20 minutes.

“And would you be interested in hearing about our AAA life insurance?”

“Honey, I’m in a rush here!”

“I’m sorry,” she said, sheepishly. “They make me ask.”

I would normally rip someone for such a suggestive-sell move, but she did me a huge solid, and I had a long way ahead of me, so I let it slide as I called Dave to let him know about the tow.

I also called to tell Alexis the good news. She had some good news of her own — Oakland International didn’t have restaurants, except in the departure area, so she was taking a cab to a Japanese restaurant to hang out and eat and drink and drink and wait for us. Then I called Heather.

And sure enough, a tow truck was there within 20 minutes, and the operator worked pretty quickly.

And within 15 minutes after that, we were at the garage, where Dave and his two other mechanics, Les and Steve, were waiting for me.

I was pretty calm by that point. I mean, things were going as planned, I guess, even if they weren’t my plans. Besides, maybe if all my bad luck is front-loaded, the trip will go just fine.

Anyway, it took the guys about 20 minutes to drop it in and adjust it. I went to pay Dave, and he said, “This is a going-away gift.”

Wow. A big wow.

I’ve been going to Dave since 2005, when his original garage was three blocks from the Bee. And when I stopped by on my bicycle one afternoon a couple of years ago to let him know about Frannie 2.0, so it wouldn’t be a shock whenever I inevitable had to bring my old Celica back in, his response was, “Nah, I don’t fucking care about that! Besides, I knew about it already.” Someone at the Bee told him, I’m guessing.

And now he did me not one solid, but two — staying open late for me and not charging me for the labor.

Again, wow. And another reason to feel humble.

And now, on to O’Reilly to get my deposit back, then get Heather, and FINALLY!!! get on the road. It was about quarter after 6 when Heather and I left her house.

One more sunset, then fade to black

We headed up the 99 freeway toward Oakland, me feeling confident.

Heather was in cheery spirits, and to tell you, so was I. We got to spend one last bit of time together, just hanging out, and I got to see one last California sunset from the driver’s seat.

She had a going-away gift for me — two garlic bulbs. I’m a notorious garlic fiend — I like food with my garlic, such as the only true reason to attend the

One last trip up Highway 99, the Valley’s Mother Road.

annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, the stuffed mushroom caps — and she gave me the bulbs as a talisman for the trip, to ward off the travel vampires.

And we came up upon one of my favorite reasons to travel what is, generally a rather unwelcoming freeway: Atwater. The town north of Merced, around mile 195. Where the smell of the nearby garlic fields is overwhelming — even more so than driving on Highway 152 through Gilroy, the world’s garlic capital. I could smell it even with the AC on, so — emboldened by the fact that, with a new alternator, I could roll down the window with no electrical problems — I rolled down the windows and let the full blasts of upper-’90s heat and stinking roses hit us for the next three minutes.

Heather also plied me with a treat I had never had before: Chocolate-covered acai berries. That was a yum. She also occasionally took photos of me and of the setting sun. And about 25 minutes after the garlic fields, we were at sunset.

The San Joaquin Valley, for all its religious leanings, is truly a godforsaken place in the summer, and it takes hardy souls to live there. It’s not just the heat — which is hotter than just about any other place in the country, save for the Mojave and Arizona — but the air. The Valley’s air, especially around Fresno, is constantly competing with Los Angeles for the worst in the country. Being

Enter Modesto. Exit my last California sunset.

trapped in the midst of a 250-mile-long cauldron of a valley  — enclosed by two mountain ranges, with heat inversion, cars, cowshit and dust from fields — the air is brownish shade of yellow this time of year. Not to mention dangerous; lots of respiratory ailments in the valley, as I can tell you firsthand.

But it does make for some awfully majestic sunsets. I’ve seen many of them from out in front of Revue, looking west down Olive Avenue. And Miriam, my favorite bartender, often posts photos on Facebook of the awesome swirls of pinks and purples and oranges that comprise a San Joaquin sunset.

And being waylaid by a punctured radiator and near-heat exhaustion and a dead alternator allowed me to see one last majestic sunset. Even if I had to keep my right eye on the busy freeway as I looked out  the driver’s-side window with my left.

I wanted it to last as long as possible, knowing it would be a long time before I would see another sunset like this.

I said goodbye to the sun as I entered downtown Modesto, around mile 125. It ducked behind an overpass as I went through it. And then it was gone, On to Oakland.

I called her when the BART left Pleasanton, a little more than an hour later. She was annoyed, understandably, but not at us — just at the situation, as I was. Heather and I got off at the Coliseum/Airport stop, went downstairs to catch the Sky Bus — next time I return, it’ll be a Sky Train directly to the airport, as the support posts are already in place, but for now it’s still a bus — to the airport. From there, we took a cab down to Hegenberger Road. the main commercial drag between the airport and the Coliseum, to Yoshino Restaurant to pick up my co-pilot.

The cabbie driving the Prius didn’t seem very happy — not sure whether it’s because it wasn’t a long ride or because he’s naturally surly — but within five minutes, we were at the parking lot, where a green-eyed redhead in a straw cowboy hat, long green wrap skirt and cowboy boots and one small suitcase was waiting to get the hell out of there. It was 10:30 p.m., half an hour before the restaurant closed. Only seven hours after she landed. A huge hug of relief and back in the cab and back to the airport.

She nodded off on the BART, as you would expect, and I tried to get a tiny bit of shuteye as well. After all, it was two hours and 15 minutes back to Fresno from the station, and then we had to sneak in a couple of hours of Zs before finally getting on the road.

Alexis was hungry, so we stopped in Tracy, and despite my best efforts to get her to enjoy the wonders of In-N-Out, she wanted the tried-and-true golden arches next door instead. Bad move — not because Mickey D’s is bad for you (no doubt), but because the asshole in the minivan ahead of us was ordering for a family of 30. Any time I see a minivan at a drive-thru, especially an older model, I usually go somewhere else, because, especially in California, it usually means there’s a family of eight inside. But this van was special. It took about 20 minutes before we got our grub.

And around 12:30, just south of Turlock, I was starting to fade. I needed to pull off somewhere. If I were by myself, it would normally be at the nearby rest area along 99. But two other women in the car didn’t think it was such a wise idea. So on I went to a nearby Flying J truck stop. Well, I needed to get used to truck stops, right? So I pulled up along the diner side, in the safety of many lights.

I knew it wasn’t gonna be a long or comfortable sleep, as I had a hard time catching quality Zs in the dry climate, especially since I usually sleep with a CPAP machine, which has a humidifier tank attached.

I lasted until 10 to 2. I let the girls sleep as I turned the key and took a sip of iced tea and pushed forward.

We got back to Heather’s place around 3, where her boyfriend, Eddie, who works the second shift, was waiting for us. Heather brought out some pillows and finally, at 3:30 a.m., 21 hours and 45 minutes after my phone alarm went off, the longest day of the trip was finally finished. And we weren’t even out of Fresno yet.

What’s the adage — If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Glad I could provide some amusement.

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3 Responses to “Going Home, Day 1, 8/13/12: Leaving Fresno. Not.”

  1. Cary Collins Says:

    You had yourself quite an adventure…..

  2. Shelly Griska Says:

    Hi there! I happened on this post googling “Harten House” — my grampa was the owner, Jack Schmitt. What a surprise to see mention of Milo — I have fond memories. But you seem to have misremembered him as Jack’s son-in-law: that would have been Karl Grohs, who also worked there as a chef. I’ll be seeing him at Christmas time and will have to mention your blog!

    • franoramaworld Says:

      Hi Shelly. I’m trying to find the mention of the Harten House (and it’s been so long since I posted this one). But yeah, I might have mistaken Milo and Karl (or, as we called him, Eagle) at one point or another. I know Milo took over as the head chef after Karl left. I was only there a year — a 16-year-old kid with no confidence and little common sense. That job was thankless, but it did help me learn a few things about life. (And my life has taken quite a few turns since.) I still remember most of the people I worked with. And I’ve always tipped well because of it. 🙂 Thanks for dropping in!

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