DAY 2: By far the worst morning of the trip. Woke up in a panic - and I mean, literally, sweating in bed. I knew it was do or die for this trip. They don't call St. Louis the gateway to the West for nothing. I knew that if I wanted, I could turn around now and head home - not get my job back, but at least take the $4,000 I had targeted for this trip and use it for living expenses as I searched for a new job. Day 2 was to involve an all-dat driving affair all the way to Fort Collins, CO ... a long, LONG way from home, which scard the living daylights out of me. If I had to put a number on it, I was about 60 percent sure I'd cancel the trip and go home when I got up and went to the bathroom at the Hyatt that morning. My brain and heart were telling me to turn around and go home, but luckily my instincts won out. I just did what I had to do to get ready, do the first day of my ice-changing routine in my three coolers, and hit the road around 7 a.m.
Was thankful that the Hyatt was so close to I-70 so that I wasn't driving around lost in a major city. Clear sailing out of town, but then hit some really nasty weather near the MO/KS state line, including about 15 minutes of absolute downpour in which I could hardly see. T say that this enhanced my feelings of fear, depression and hopelessness would be an understatement. But then something happened that turned everything around - a workout.
As planned for 16 months, I stopped at the YMCA in Blue Springs, MO, just outside Kansas City. For those who don't know, if you're a Y member you can get in free at any Y in the country - a wonderful perk. It was really, really hot (about 90 or so), and there was no shade in the parking lot, making me fear for my perishables in the car. But got in there and my body just went to work unleashing the pent-up emotions I had been feeling. Went in the pool and, lap after lap I hammered it out, snapping off flip-turns like I was a pro. I literally could feel all the doubts and fears fading away as I got in a mile and a half (2,500-yard) swim. Afterward, the wonderful folks at this Y not only offered to fill my water bottles with fresh water but I also got free range of the kitchen area where I fixed myself lunch from all the stuff in my car and then washed everything in the sink there. Major, major turning point here.
Got back in the car and felt like a new man. Still had hours and hours of mind-numbing dull driving ahead, which was rough at times, but that feeling of despair was gone.
By the time I hit extreme western Kansas (loved passing all those wind farms), the sun was setting and I decided to popin a CD that a friend made for my trip. A song came on that would ultimately alter my trip forever - "Here's to Life" from Shirley Horn. If you've never heard it, I urge you to do so on YouTube. It's an incredibly moving song - both the lyrics and the orchestra - and there is not a song on earth that better sums up my trip. Listening to that song as the sun set over those endless miles of farmland was magical.
However, rough times lay ahead. The sunset also meant sun in my eyes, combined with road construction on I-70. The two combined made it so bad that at one point I literally gave up hope that I'd make it to Fort Collins alive. The altered road configuration with the sun directly in my eyes was a freaking nightmare.
Fianlly, the sun set, and - completely exhausted and not seeing well at night to begin with - I knew the push was on to get as far as I could into Colorado before complete darkness set it. By the time I got to a town called Limon - about 90 miles east of Denver - I had had it. Tried to check into one motel but they said they were all booked because of an event in town, but suggested another place that might have a vacancy. Wound up getting the motel they suggested for $54 (including tax) with a little haggling, and off I went to sleep as the Cowboys were wrapping up a victory over the Giants on opening night of the NFL season.
Was exhausted but full of hope now that I was officially out West. Too late to turn back now ... the trip was ON!!! And a great day was to come ...