Posts made in September 13th, 2018

Finding the Ocean – Chapter 3

On September 1, 2017, I did something a little crazy. (Again.) On a complete and utter whim, I took off on a 4,700 mile road trip to go find the ocean. Just me… and the dog.

Continue along on my healing and soul-inspiring journey below, or start from the beginning


I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and messages as I write and share this story. I’m a little surprised at how many people, women especially, don’t find this crazy at all. Maybe the super-spontaneous decision to just hit the road is a little wacky, but this idea of taking some time for yourself and “going off the grid” for a while is something that really seems to resonate with people.

So many women have shared with me how they’ve dreamed of doing this very same thing… just getting in the car and driving off somewhere. Or heading to the airport and getting on a plane to anywhere. So, why don’t we do this more often? What’s holding us back?

I worried about so many things before I actually did this. I didn’t want people to think I was having a nervous breakdown, or leaving my husband, or acting crazy, or being self-indulgent. It was none of those things. I just felt this overwhelming need to get out of Dodge and not think for a while. I wanted to see what was around the bend. No plans, no commitments, no schedules, no map.

So, off I went. And, hard as I tried to forget Jacob, I couldn’t. He was everywhere. First, the eagle, and then… the billboard.

Be Kind. What was that all about? Was it part of the #11forJacob movement? I wanted to know who had put it up, who had paid for it, and whether there were more. Was it part of a campaign? Why here? Why South Dakota?

I grabbed my iPhone and took a quick picture through the windshield. I figured I would just Google it once I got home, but then I forgot and never did. Until now.

More on that in a minute.

First though, I want to take a moment to give you a general idea of my path since I’d left my house in New London. As I was sharing these blog posts with my husband, he kept going to Google Maps to trace my route as I read the story. That made me realize that others might like to do the same thing.

So, I put together a quick video to show you my route so far, along with some helpful tips about Google Maps that I think will enhance your experience as you travel along with me. As I embed these maps in the future, not only will you be able to see where I’m heading and where I’ve been, you’ll also be able to see and experience some of the sights I saw along the route… including the exact location of that “Be Kind” billboard. Click the map below to start the video.

Here’s a link to the actual map if you want to give some of this a try:

Now, back to that amazing billboard. As I was writing this post, I finally got around to Googling and looking for answers to my questions. Mostly I wanted to know if this “Be Kind” billboard was part of the #11forJacob movement. As it turns out, I still don’t know.

I found an article about a billboard company named Newman Signs that had started placing positive messages like these throughout North Dakota in 2016. However, the billboard I had seen was in South Dakota, not North Dakota, and it was owned by Lamar, not Newman. So… I’m still curious about this. If anyone knows the answer, please let me know. Otherwise, I may just call Lamar and ask myself.

At any rate, I was incredibly moved by that billboard. I took a photo of it at 7:26 PM. Eleven minutes later, as I was still pondering it, I looked down and noticed the song that was playing… “Healing Begins.” I’d never heard of it before. I took this picture at 7:37 PM.

The thing is, I am a classic rock kind of girl… or Top 40, or occasionally country. So how I happened to be listening to a song called “Healing Begins” by a contemporary Christian band named Tenth Avenue North eleven minutes after passing that billboard is beyond me. I chalked it up to synchronicity.

By now, Zoey and I had been on the road for over 4 1/2 hours. We made our first pit stop about 45 minutes later, at the Fuel Mart in Spencer, SD. I filled up the tank, fed Zoey, made myself a peanut butter sandwich, and off we went again.

I drove for another 3 1/2 hours, crossing the Mountain Time Zone somewhere around Stamford. By the time I hit the rest area in Wasta, I was ready for a break. It was too late to try and find a campground, so I figured I would just lay my seat back, close my eyes, and rest a bit.

No go.

I’m a light sleeper anyway, and trying to fall asleep upright in the same seat I’d been sitting in for the past 8 hours was agony. I got out, moved some stuff around (including the dog) and put the seats down in the back of my Explorer. I discovered my yoga mat tucked under the seats, so I grabbed that, thinking it might make a nice little bed. It did not. One-eighth inch of PVC definitely does NOT make for a nice little bed.

I did manage to drift off at some point, and by sunrise, I was awake and ready to roll again. I had some yogurt, fed Zoey, took her for a walk, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and hit the road. Although it wasn’t camping, it was good enough for now. I set a goal of finding a nice campground for my next night’s sleep.

It was around 7:30 AM. I looked at the GPS on my car and saw I was still 21 hours and 40 minutes away from San Francisco. No problem. In theory, I could drive straight through the night and be there by this time tomorrow. Even if it took me two days of driving, that would give me plenty of time to see the sights and still meet Ross in Montana by Thursday. Piece of cake.

Not long after, a little orange light that looked something like a witch’s cauldron with an exclamation point inside it appeared on my dashboard. Hmm. Wonder what that means. I turned up the radio and continued driving.

A few minutes later, I received a sterner message from my dashboard. “CHECK LEFT REAR TIRE PRESSURE.” Hmm. I hit the “OK” button and kept driving. The message went away, but only momentarily.


Good lord, really? I had no idea how to check my tire pressure. That’s what those nice people at Walt’s Oil Change in Willmar do for me.  I wondered when they had done that last. I looked up at the transparent sticker in the upper left corner of my windshield and noticed I was almost 2,000 miles overdue for an oil change.

And this, people, is where a little planning might be helpful before embarking on a crazy, spontaneous road trip such as this.

I pulled into the next gas station, which was Love’s Travel Stop in Box Elder, South Dakota. I could fix this problem. I just needed a tire gauge. I vaguely remember getting one of these gadgets in my Christmas stocking sometime in the mid-1980s, so I had a general idea of what they looked like… or so I thought. It turns out tire gauges have come a long way in the past two and a half decades. I stared at my choices for a while, feeling a little overwhelmed. Finally, I decided on the cheapest one, which was the only one I knew how to use. Put it on the tire valve, and a stick blows out of the top, telling you what your tire pressure is. Easy.

I went back outside, found the air pump across the parking lot, and drove over to it. I unscrewed the valve and checked the pressure. This told me nothing, as I had no idea what the pressure was supposed to be. I tried looking on the tire itself, but couldn’t find anything.

Next, I rifled around in my glove box and found the owner’s manual for my car. I turned to the page titled, “Inflating Your Tires” and began reading.

Safe operation of your vehicle requires that your tires are properly inflated. Remember that a tire can lose up to half of its air pressure without appearing flat.

Yeah, yeah… blah blah blah.

Every day before you drive, check your tires. If one looks lower than the others, use a tire gauge to check pressure of all tires and adjust if required.

I eyed the people around me filling up with gas. Did they check their tires every day before they drove? Is this a thing? I seriously wondered about this.

At least once a month and before long trips, inspect each tire and check the pressure with a tire gauge (including spare, if equipped).

OK, Ford. I get it. Enough of the shaming. Just tell me how much air to pump into this GOLL DANG TIRE so I can get on my way.

You are strongly urged to buy a reliable tire pressure gauge, as automatic service station gauges may be inaccurate. Ford recommends the use of a digital or dial-type tire pressure gauge rather than a stick-type tire pressure gauge.

I looked at my stick-type pressure gauge. Hmm. Lesson learned. Read manual first.

I skipped ahead. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. How much air was I supposed to put in the tire?? I couldn’t find anything. I back-tracked to where I’d started and found the answer on the page BEFORE the “Inflating Your Tires” section. Brilliant.

You will find a Tire Label containing tire inflation pressure by tire size and other important information located on the B-Pillar or the edge of the driver’s door.

I opened my driver’s door, and sure enough. There it was.

“Cold Tire Pressure: 35 PSI”

I wondered what they meant by cold. I didn’t care. I pulled the hose off the machine and started pumping. It sure seemed like I pumped a long time before the tire finally got to 35 PSI. Oh well, all fixed. Just to be on the safe side, I checked the other tires, too. I gave them all a quick shot of air, put the hose back on the air machine, and threw the owner’s manual back in the glove box. I bought myself a strong cup of coffee, gave Zoey a Milk Bone, and got back in the driver’s seat feeling very accomplished and empowered.

Now there was just that small matter of the oil change. I was nearing the outskirts of Rapid City, so I decided I’d better get that taken care of. I didn’t want any more surprises.

Next time… a steel tack and some spray paint

P.S. To see the yellow “Street View” guy on the map below, click the “More options” link in the box at the upper left.

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