Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mark's Excellent Road Trip, Part Four: The Road Home

It's been a day since I arrived at home here in Denver, Colorado. This is the first chance I've had to write, and I'm so tired, I don't know if I can finish this post tonight. But I'll try. Today was supposed to be a "recovery day," but it didn't quite work out that way. Tomorrow should be better.

I got up early on Monday morning, and made myself a couple of sandwiches from the bread, deli meat, and cheese Lori had so graciously provided. She also packed me a goodie bag of apples, nuts, and muffins. They helped sustain me that first day. But even though I had a long drive ahead of me, I lingered at the Caminiti house. I wanted to get home, but I didn't want to leave. Anyone who's been a guest in their home knows what I mean. There were lots of hugs and thanks, and it was nearly 11:00 AM before my car headed towards home.

This time, I consulted my Maps app, and discovered I-17 north to Flagstaff. This seemed a much better option to me than desert mountain driving on state highways with no gas stations, even though it wasn't quite as direct. But it wasn't much better. Two Wide Load trucks carrying what looked like giant supports for a freeway overpass or something, spaced far apart, slowed traffic to a near standstill almost all the way to I-40, just south of Flagstaff. On the positive side, at least there were gas stations. With bathrooms.

Once I reached I-40 and headed east, I started looking for the Meteor Crater. But the first thing I noticed was the wind. It was insanely windy that day. I think it might be like that most of the time. Even my little Toyota RAV 4 is considered a high profile vehicle, and at some points, I felt like I'd be blown right off of the road, if not carried off to Oz. I hoped the wind would die down by the time I reached the crater, but no such luck. If anything, it was worse. Apparently, that's the norm, because in the gift shop, there was a T-shirt that read, "I survived the wind at Meteor Crater."

But despite the wind, I'm glad I saw this wonder that I've always wanted to see in person. I'm surprised how well the panoramic shot above turned out, considering I was afraid the wind would blow my phone out of my hand.

It's impossible to convey the sheer size of this crater unless you see it in person. Pictures don't do it justice. It's hard to imagine the size of the rock that made that hole. But there were fragments on display, and for sale in the gift shop! No, I didn't buy any.

That planned selfie standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona never happened. Winslow isn't right on the interstate, and I didn't want to take the time. My GPS now said I'd pull in at my motel in Alubuquerque shortly before 8:00 PM. No more unnecessary stops. It was getting late.

I fought wind on the highway all the way to Albuquerque. Or maybe it just seems that way in my memory now. But it was exhausting. I finally did arrive at about 7:45 PM. It's a good thing, too. Unbeknownst to me, their office closes at 8:00 PM. My papers were being prepared for a lock box when I arrived.

It didn't take long for me to eat something and go straight to bed. I planned to sleep until I felt like getting up, have some breakfast at the Einstein's across the street, and be on my way. But for some reason, at 5:30 on Tuesday morning, when I was fast asleep, the room phone rang. It was an automated wake up call. I hadn't asked for one, of course. Apparently someone gave the system the wrong room number, or it was a prank. I never really got back to sleep, and it sent my whole day sideways.

I did have that breakfast at Einstein's, with a large coffee to go, and headed north on I-25 toward home. But first, I "checked in" on Facebook with the following post:

Just about to head home on the last leg of my road trip. For some reason, I got an automated wake up call at 5:30 this morning that I didn't ask for, so I'm really dragging today, with an 8 hour drive ahead of me. Your prayers are appreciated!

As with each leg of this trip, I prayed that God would help and protect me. And the more I drove, the more I could feel people's prayers. I've often said in this blog that I've heard people say they could feel people's prayers many times before, but never understood it until I was diagnosed with cancer. Now, I understand what that feels like, and the feeling has never been stronger than it was that day. That feeling carried me all the way home. Each time I stopped, which was not often, I looked at Facebook and saw people's responses, and it encouraged me. I'll never be able to thank all of you enough for your prayers.

All day, I texted my wife to tell her where I was and how much longer I expected to be. I didn't want her to worry, and she wanted to know when to plan dinner. Despite my fatigue, this was the easiest leg of the trip.

When I walked in the door, my wife, my dog, and my cat were all there to greet me. My wife and I embraced for a long time. She told me I'm never doing that again, and I agreed. Later, during dinner, I also promised her that I'd never leave her for that long again. We don't have time for that. One long self indulgent road trip that could have been done cheaper by flying is enough.

I'll never be any stronger than I am right now. I'll only get weaker from here. So long driving trips that take multiple days are not in the cards anymore. Just another case of accepting my new limits, which seem to get more limiting all the time.

I can't close this road trip series without a Neal Morse reference. As you know, one of my goals for this trip was to listen to his entire catalog, or as much of it as I could, in chronological order on this trip. I listened to all of the studio albums I own first, then the live recordings. At one point, a live version of an epic called Stranger In Your Soul was playing. It's a song by Transatlantic, a band both Neal and his drummer Mike Portnoy are in. It's been one of my favorites for years, and it's a song I've actually performed live at a Prog Fest here in Denver several years ago. So I know this song very well, since I had to learn it. One passage in this song jumped out at me as I drove:

When you come to make love your only goal
Words cannot describe the feeling

I can testify that those lyrics are true, because I have made love my only goal. Not beating cancer or living longer, but love. And words really can't describe the feeling.

I get my next PSA test and Xgeva shot tomorrow morning. This test is for all the marbles. But just as the prayers of my friends carried me home on Tuesday, I know your prayers will lift me up no matter what the numbers reveal about my cancer. Because when you come to make love your only goal, words cannot describe the feeling. #waroncancer #bearingwitness #marksexcellentroadtrip


  1. So glad you were able to take your trip and happy it was such a good one. I know Sharon missed you and was glad you spoke of her in your blog. Saying prayers for a quick response to your PSA test results. Sandy

  2. What sweet things you have stated about your time with us. The feelings are very mutual. We loved having you. It sounds like the drive home was exhausting, and I was very thankful when you texted me that you were home. Love you