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I am making a wish on each eyelash that I catch as it falls out. All those wishes have to add up, right? I refuse to waste a wish on anything pointless, like wishing that my eyelashes and eyebrows wouldn’t fall out, although I really don’t want them to. So what am I wishing for? Like birthday wishes, I don’t think you’re supposed to tell or they won’t come true. But I bet you can guess – they’re pretty much the same things that I pray for…

So I guess I can tell you more of the things that I wish but don’t waste the eyelash wishes on:

  • I wish the hair on my head would either all grow or not grow at all – it is so annoying having these patches of hair growing on my head! I really feel like a chia pet. Luckily, Nick is home from London and offered to shave my head again. I think I will be taking him up on that…
  • I wish people wouldn’t worry about me so much. Tonight I told Nick I was going for a run and he looked all serious and said “Really? Ok, but be careful. What time will you be back?” It is sweet. But I really do feel fine, these in-between weeks, after the initial week of hell and the next infusion. I can run, I can babysit, I can work, I can drive. I am good. And I feel bad wishing this – I am so, so thankful so many people care about me. I just wish they wouldn’t worry so much… 🙂 And yes, I am blocking out the incident at Training Camp, but that was also because I was stupid and rushed being better – I was still in that first week post-chemo. I will try to be smarter this next round…
  • I wish I could go to my cheap nail salon and get my regular mani/pedi’s again. Oh how I (and my hands and my feet) miss them…
  • I wish I didn’t have chemo brain. I hate it when I am not at the top of my game. And according to Sue, chemo brain lasts for months and months after the chemo stops. So I won’t be back 100% until well into 2013. Ugh. Good excuse for why I won’t be winning at trivia though. 🙂
  • I wish I had unlimited funds so I could buy more wigs. Now that I’ve started wearing them, they’re not so bad. But I don’t like to wear the same one all the time, I like to mix it up between wigs and hats just to try to have fun with it. Now to buy the electric blue one…
  • And then the most pointless wish of all: I wish I wasn’t sick! I know, as people keep reminding me, I am officially cancer free since the surgery, but the fact is the chemo makes me more sick than I ever felt with the cancer! I do understand why it had to be cut out and why I now have to go through all this chemo to kill all the cancer cells (especially after talking to my friend Laura who had it come back again, even after having a mastectomy!), but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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My first thought when I woke up on Day 60 was how in the world did I end up in the aviary at the zoo??? The various bird sounds were rampant. Then I heard a meow, followed by little barks – a dog? Wait, no, that was the parrot imitating a dog. Ah, wait,  THERE’s a real dog! Not just one… Katy, Michelle and Ian live in an animal menagerie. They have:

  • 12 cockatiels
  • 6 dogs (including 4 six-week-old puppies)
  • 2 cats
  • 1 African gray parrot

They rescue, adopt and sometimes breed. Often, like the parrot and one of the dogs, they’ve come from really bad homes and need to learn love. They all mix together well, with one dog thinking she’s a cat, one cat thinking she’s a dog and a dog making friends with a bird. A very active, fun household!

In addition to the sounds, I also experienced wonderful smells that morning, as Ian and Katy made their fabulous breakfast tacos. Yum! They were delicious! I was told one of the most important things is to use fresh flour tortillas. I can now vouch for that! I actually had TWO home cooked meals on Day 60. To my surprise, Ian also made us an incredible meatloaf dinner, complete with long grain wild rice and corn. It’s the best meatloaf I’ve ever had (sorry mom). Ian’s going to make some woman very happy someday!

While Ian was home cooking (and playing XBox 360), Katy and I went to the park. Zilker Park is this unbelievable 351-acre park in Austin. We started our walk at Barton Springs pool. Barton Springs is the fourth largest natural springs in the state, and Robert Redford learned to swim there. We wandered all around, including taking in a beautiful view of the city. It reminded me of Hyde Park in London – it just seems to go on forever, and you forget you’re in a city. Our exploring ended with me needing a drink – I was craving Sonic’s Cranberry Limeade – I’m really going to miss them when I’m back up north.

After Ian fed us, we went to fulfill a promise to my friend Jay (who I saw in LA). His friend and fellow comedy troop member Brent co-wrote Megamind, so Jay is coercing everyone to go see it to support him. Somewhat reluctantly I agreed, although it’s not the type of movie I typically rush out to. I am SO glad I did! It’s excellent. Fast moving, really funny (even more so when you realize who the voices are) and not at all predictable. Go see it – you will not be sorry!

Remember the really cool jobs I mentioned Katy and Michelle having? Well, Katy had the night off, but Michelle was working Shrek The Musical on its final night in Austin. After the show Katy, Ian and I met Michelle and the wardrobe folks at Trudy’s, a Mexican restaurant for celebratory drinks. David, who played Shrek that night, also joined us. He said they are heading to Oklahoma City, Denver and then San Francisco. I’m disappointed because those are all places I’ve already been, but if you’re in one of those areas, go see it. I’ve heard it’s one not to miss! Hopefully I’ll be able to catch it later in the year…

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Oh my goodness. When I got in my car in Los Gatos on Day 47, I glanced at my odometer and couldn’t believe I’ve put more than 10,000 miles on my car already. And I’m on the complete other side of the country, and need to drive back, so I can only imagine what it will read at the end of this trip. I know I’ve been driving a lot; I guess I didn’t realize quite how it all added up. I also can’t believe I’ve been on the road for 47 days – it really does only feel like a couple of weeks. People keep asking if I’m sick of being on the road yet. Absolutely not, I’m loving every minute (even the not so great minutes). Even all the many, many minutes of driving.

Driving in San Francisco is similar to London. You have to drive 20 minutes to get a few miles. Then there’s the added complexity of the hills. You’re kept busy praying that your brakes keep working – it reminded me of The Princess Diaries when Anne Hathaway is taught to drive. I can’t even imagine learning here! Thank goodness I don’t have a standard. I also paid a new high for gas – $3.25 a gallon. Actually, I guess I paid more in Vancouver, but I’m not even sure what that was exactly, as it wasn’t in gallons – it was like London. I paid more than I want to think about, really.

I was wondering how I’d feel – if I’d still love San Francisco. And I do. I so do – more than I’d like to. As soon as I drove into the city, parked and got out of my car, I was in love again. Standing on the pier I knew I’d be happy waking up here every day, just as I was in London. If only all my family and friends were here. It makes me wonder if Plymouth (the place I’m considering settling if I decide to change courses and open an inn back home) will make me feel this way. It is on the water (good). And historic (good). It’s not a city (both good and bad). But Boston is so close, as is all of the Cape. I’m skeptical. But then I remember what Sarah dubbed ‘the summer of love.’ We had such a blast that summer, spending many weekends in downtown Plymouth. So maybe it could be the place for me…

Pushing the future from my mind to live more in the present, I left the pier and hunted down an open-top bus tour to get reaquainted with the city, which is glowing from excitement at going to the World Series.  Here are a few of the tidbits I learned on the tour:

  • Levi’s invented jeans here for the gold rush.
  • Martinis and jukeboxes were both created in San Francisco.
  • The phrase ‘sugar daddy’ also originated here, for a man who worked in sugar and fell for a girl who was immortalized in statue.
  • San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest in the country (and my favorite).

Of course I learned other things, but those stuck with me. If you haven’t been here, please do visit. I love the piers, the unhurried bustle, the content atmosphere, the cool art everywhere, the friendliness – and it was the first place I’ve had guys start hitting on me by commenting on my cowboy boots – very funny! I also had a great mini-makeover at the Benefit counter in Macy’s. I ran in for one thing, and after Obsaitha worked magic on my face for a few minutes, I walked out of there with more product than I realized I couldn’t live without. And no, I don’t have buyer’s regret – I love Benefit!

I was so overwhelmed with excitement for being back in the city that I considered changing my itinerary once again and spending a few days just in the heart of the city. Then I thought about what really matters to me and that’s having more time to spend with my good friends in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to lose time with them just to be in San Francisco longer by myself. And I even cut my tour short to visit another friend – Neal, who I was close to at Dean. It was so good to see him and his family – he hasn’t changed a bit, which I love. (Perfect text timing, Neal!)

I was happy – I got a glimpse of a city I love, and know I will visit again as soon as possible. But it was time to go, as I wanted to take my time getting to LA – to enjoy the scenic route, stopping at many of the places Luke, Laura, Joy, Lauren and Neal all said are must-sees. So very many, it will be interesting to see when I actually reach LA!

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With Jason’s list in hand, I set off into the fog on Day 43, intent on seeing as much as possible. I knew, though, that I couldn’t do everything if I wanted to take my coastal route south and still make it to San Francisco by Friday night. Mother Nature actually helped me strike a few things from the list, as Jason and Amy had pointed out a couple that are only worth it on a clear day. Next time.

The sun did make it through the haze enough for me to appreciate the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge – and to see the sign for the Maryhill Winery. No, it wasn’t the wine I was going for – I remembered Jason saying that Stonehenge is right near there. And it was! No, not the real one that I visited multiple times in England, but a replica created as a war memorial. Not exactly the same, but made me smile.

The Bridge of the Gods mural was next, then Multnomah Falls – a really long waterfall that’s literally right off the highway. Those both deserved more time but were two-minute stops for me as I wanted a bit of time in Portland. I did follow some of the Oregon Trail, though, at least according to the road signs. And I went the path of Lewis and Clark, although the couple of times I attempted to pull off to see some of their sites, they seemed to far off the highway for me to pursue within my time limits…

Well, the vast majority of my time was spent at Powell’s Books – my, oh my, Jason, I will love you forever for that suggestion! You were so right. I loved it and didn’t want to leave, I could’ve spent hours in there! They have both new and used books on every subject imaginable. And I took advantage of their cafe and enjoyed a cuban sandwich for lunch – it was so good! (My friend John said his aunt works there – I’m jealous!) Luckily, they have a web site so I guess that will have to do until I can visit again. A friend called, and so not to disturb the other patrons, I took it as a sign to leave and walk around at least a little of the city while talking, before the parking meter ran out (trying to avoid tickets on this trip). I probably didn’t walk to the right parts of the city, but can’t say I loved Portland any more than Seattle. I actually like Seattle quite a bit more (if only it had Powell’s).

Then I got in the car and went somewhere I love as much as book stores (please don’t ever make me choose just one): the coast. I spent the rest of the day, into the evening, driving down the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. (Believe it or not, I’m actually giving Aidan a rest and just following the coastal route south. It’s longer than the routes he wants me to take, but so much prettier.) The weather turned windy and rainy but it didn’t stop me from getting out of my car at many beaches to capture a few moments on film. (Can you still say that even though it’s digital?) I also stopped at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse just before dark, and then went through some historic tunnel/bridge. It was pretty cool.

It is so funny, the things you learn about yourself on the road, mainly by talking to people who often ask you the same questions in different ways. My responses sometimes surprise me. During dinner the other night Amy and Jason asked me similar questions to ones Matt asked over lunch, and they all made me realize that maybe I’m not quite the city girl I claim to be. When I really think about what I love so far on this trip, it’s the coastal and more rural places, not the cities. The country/coastal ones are where I’ve most enjoyed and want to spend more time. I love London and Boston. Those are my cities. (Edinburgh, too, but that gets too cold.) And I haven’t found another city in my travels that compares. Of course, San Francisco has always been at the top of my list, but it’s been so many years it will be interesting to see how I feel after this weekend.

While it’s etched in my heart, I know London isn’t the place for me – at least for now. It’s killing me that I’m not home in Massachusetts for my oldest Goddaughter’s thirteenth birthday Saturday. (Happy birthday Allegra! You CAN’T be a teenager!?!?) The biggest reason I moved back to the US was to be closer to my family and friends – I hated missing out on so much when I was in London. Had I been able to move all of them to London, I would’ve been happy to stay there forever. So this road trip has helped me know I need to be back there – or be a short drive from there, or have a job where I travel and could fly back often. Now what exactly constitutes a short drive in my mind has expanded a bit, but not as far as the west coast! So maybe not Massachusetts, although if I stick with my bed and breakfast idea, which is quickly growing in my mind, that’s where I’d want it to be. And it’s a great combination of city and country. There’s Boston (and all the best sports teams), of course, to fulfill my city needs and then places like Tara’s wildlife sanctuaries for the country pull. Wish I was home now for all the fall events like Saturday’s Spooktacular (from 6-9pm at Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuary at La Salette.) If you’re in Mass and interested, go for me – and take pictures!

The sun is peaking through the windows. Time to go start Day 44 and see if I can make it to my destination by nightfall – depends how many stops beckon me…

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I woke up on Day 33 in Shamrock, Texas – and as one of my friends pointed out, that must be a lucky town. I think it is, because I had a really good day. Travelling Route 66 is a photographers dream (when you can find the route, of course). So I’ll pretty much let the pictures above do the talking for today, other than a few random thoughts I recorded on the road:

  • For awhile I felt like I was in the movie Cars – in fact, the first couple of pictures (night and day) are of the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn which was featured in the movie.
  • I must be a bit more careful – was playing it a bit too close with gas in the middle of nowhere Rt. 66. You have no idea how excited I was to see an actual working gas station – you’ll see pictures of many of the deserted ones I encountered along the way!
  • I learned a lot about the Dust Bowl (such a sad time) and barbed wire (yes, barbed wire) at the Devil’s Rope and Rt. 66 Museum in McLean, Texas. Neat little free stop if you are ever out that way.
  • Saw signs for the Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere and wondered why, if it’s so large, do you need signs? Wouldn’t you just see it? And then I did. It is amazing (and right around the corner from Blessed Mary’s restaurant which boasts ‘Burgers/More’ with the more part being Truth, Faith, Hope, Love. I would’ve eaten there but it looked closed. Oh well.) Full disclosure: it may advertise itself as the largest, but I guess someone recently built a copy of it a tiny bit bigger in Illinois (I think). But it’s still very cool.
  • For awhile I felt like I was the only person traveling on Route 66. I really thought it would be busier with tourists or whatever.
  • I saw actual, real tumbleweeds (remember the play, Walpole people?) and a mini dust storm. Now this feels like Texas.
  • I don’t think my windshield is ever going to be truly clean again.
  • I love the Amarillo Travelodge! It’s cheap, clean, has free wifi, free breakfast and best of all: free use of Gold’s Gym next door! I had a great workout. Really made my night. (In addition to my emails from London, check-ins from friends, seeing the Patriots’ sign and cool photo stops on Route 66, of course!)

So I’m not really sure what drew me to Amarillo, but it was a good stop along the way. It has a very cool section of Route 66 with a bunch of antique and specialty shops and eateries. Too bad it was a Monday and deserted. If only every day could be a bustling weekend!

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Talk about a city with a heart and soul. Nashville is like nowhere I have ever been. Admittedly, I haven’t been everywhere which is why I’m on this road trip, but this place has something special – an actual beating heart that shines through its people. They don’t call this the Volunteer State for nothing.

Now I know that the best comes out in people during a crisis (I’ve been through my share of them with work, and I, too, thrive in them), and that was certainly evidenced following the flooding from the Cumberland River which devastated downtown and surrounding areas, taking lives and livelihoods – and destroyed much of the Grand Ole Opry building. Of course people in most places pull together and pitch in to help recovery efforts following tragic events. But I can tell that the kindness and support offered then was no different than the people of Tennessee display every day. They care for each other, are interested in others and want to make everyone welcome. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

This spirit couldn’t have been better demonstrated than at the reopening of the Grand Ole Opry, five months after the floods, on Day 20 of my road trip. Tina, Kristen and I flew in from three different cities to spend the one night here and were so honored to witness this incredible event. It wasn’t just the stars, although they couldn’t have shown much brighter as the show featured: Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Josh Turner, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels Band, Diamond Rio, Montgomery Gentry, Lorrie Morgan and Blake Shelton, Ricky Skaggs, Mel Tillis, Steve Wariner – and the list goes on! It was the feeling that emanated through the building. The shared love of the music, the history and the community came through every note, whether sung or spoken. We got chills. 

In addition to the artists glowing with pride to be singing on the restored Opry circle, we witnessed other memorable Opry moments such as a video tribute to Nashville from President Obama (didn’t really go down too well with the people of Tennessee); a welcome home and thank you from the Mayor of Nashville (which went down much better); a hair-raising, electric performance of The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band and Montgomery Gentry; Trace Adkins giving Blake Shelton a tweet that invited him to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry; and a rousing concluding set by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner and Marty Stewart.

It’s the next morning and we’re still in awe of the fact that we were there and experienced such a historic event.  I was lucky enough to have my seat changed (not sure by whom) so I was in the front section and able to go to the stage as every artist appeared. Never have I been in a more welcoming venue for photographers – and with more polite people who actually took turns moving so everyone got a chance to be at the stage for the best view! I glowed when a man said to me at the end, “You’re going to have some great pictures. You put your heart and soul into taking them.” I told him I love it all so much, and he said it clearly showed. I couldn’t have gotten a better compliment.

The rest of Day 20 is a blur but combined Tina, Kristen and I remember: getting up way too early, traveling to Nashville, exploring the shops downtown in our quest for cowboy boots (yes, we found them – three for the price of one!), meeting the friendliest people on earth around every corner (including these two great ladies from Indiana who we ran into multiple times during the day and the night) and concluding the night after the big show at the bars of Broadway where live music filtered through every open door and poured onto the street.

We love it here. Nashville, we’ll be back!

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  1. Of course New York is better if you’re a local because of all the secret (or non) communication that I mentioned yesterday. BUT if you’re not a local, all you have to do is ask. The vast majority of the time if you ask, you’ll be helped. With a smile – really!
  2. New Yorkers actually like to talk to you. If you are brave enough to ask a stranger a question, you often can’t shut them up.
  3. Don’t be scared, even in skeezy parts. If you’re scared, it’s hard to hide it. Look relaxed and confident and everyone will leave you alone. I saw some scared tourists on the subway and it’s just so obvious, I felt bad for them.
  4. New York has the very best shopping in the world – yes, better than London. No, I didn’t shop more today, although I wanted to. It was so awesome to see stores open – real, full fledged stores – at 7:30 this morning. And they stay open late too! (I really, really wanted to go to Tiffany’s. They just introduced a new handbag collection and you know those are my two of my biggest weaknesses: handbags and little blue boxes from Tiffany’s. But I didn’t let myself go. What does an unemployed girl living out of her car need with a Tiffany’s handbag???)
  5. Don’t be afraid to wear your non-New York team apparel. Just be ready for some friendly banter with the enemy!
  6. It may not be London, but you really shouldn’t leave home without an umbrella. I was practically soaked to the bone in a downpour trying to get to my meeting this morning!
  7. Every where I look, it’s a picture. New York is so incredibly photogenic – and of course, I left my camera at the hotel today!

It was actually ok that I left the camera because I was in an office the entire day. Today was the first day of my job search. I had an orientation session and meeting with my job coach, then used their research library. Waking up at 6 am, getting dressed in work attire, joining the rush hour bus and subway crowds, I simply wasn’t looking forward to it. But it was great. Once I was there and focused on it, I was excited by the prospect of throwing myself back in the working world – as long as it’s in a role that I’m truly passionate about.  I think my cousin is right: once a workaholic, always a workaholic. It really is in our blood!

So this is another thing to work into my daily road trip agenda: the job search, research, networking, professional development, interviews – luckily a lot of it can be done online and via phone, although I’ll have to do some face-to-face.  My dream would be to find the right job, in the right place, that I could start in January. Of course, I have to figure out what that right job is and where the right place is, but hopefully the research and the road trip will help me figure all that out…

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