I had arrived in the Smoky Mountains yesterday evening in time to go by the visiter center for a map and helpful advise on where to visit while I was here. I had been advised by Nick, the friendly South Carolinian Park Ranger of some of the best campsites in the smokies. We talked for awhile and he gave me a few options of some great hiking loops and where to park my car. “Newfound Gap is probably my favorite place in the park to catch the sunset,” he said. “If you leave now you can probably catch it.” I thanked him and hopped in my car and proceeded to drive the windy, snow banked roads up the steep mountains for the next 13 miles, driving slowly and admiring the beautiful mountains God created. With the windows down and radio off I let in the mountain sounds and cool breeze and told God I was thankful for being alive. I stopped on the occasional overlook along the way, to get out and breathe-in the fresh, cool, crisp air. I didn’t take a single picture though. Moments like these were for me only. I made it just in time to see the sunset. I pulled my car into the empty parking lot and watched as the sun made its final decent over the mountains in the distance and the sky painted for me the most beautiful landscape of clouds and colors. I grabbed my camera in the passenger seat quickly, lined up the shot, and snapped the shutter. I got it.
I set the camera down next to me as I leaned on the hood of my prius, taking in the last and final moments between me and this unique sunset that would never be seen again. I enjoyed the serenity and quiet of these moments so much, I decided to stay for the night and enjoy it longer. For dinner, I made a four cheese ravioli with a basil marinara I had picked up from a grocery store on my way here. After dinner, I used the rain water to clean my dishes before finally crawling into my sleeping bag for the night. I read my kindle for several hours in my car before finally drifting off to sleep. And just like that, it was morning. This was my view. I laid in my bed for what felt like hours just gazing out the window, still sleepy and with no real desire to move or get up. I had nowhere to be and a full day ahead of me. I had to remind myself that I was allowed to take this time, as much as I needed, to enjoy just being alive. But still, I felt like I needed to be doing something productive. The effects of working in a big city, still lingering in my soul. I ignored these feelings and decided today, what I needed was a detox. I turned off my phone and laid in my warm sleeping bag till noon. Today was my day, and it was going to be a great one.
From Septeber 16th @ 9:07AM
Outside, the gravel stirs and wakes me from my first night back in #HotelPrius after a short 2 month break. The shuffle of the rocks beneath the tires of the passing vehicles sends my brain to immediately think of a tow truck backing in to tow my car away. Somewhere between half awake and almost dreaming, I quickly turn to peak out the curtains behind my head. Thank God. They are just cars. I open and close my eyes again. I inhale a big long morning breathe. It’s about nine something in Nashville and I’m parked in an excess parking lot across the street from my climbing gym I joined last month. Today, this is where I will shower. The weather outside is wet and cold. Raindrops have been falling and collecting on my windows all morning. I usually love the rain, but after 4 days straight, I’m over it. I stay snuggled up in my sleeping bag waiting for the rain to stop so I can prepare for my day. Heavy condensation blankets my windows serving as an extra tint to the passing onlookers curious of the lone prius with all the stickers. I hear more rocks shuffling and turn to look out my curtains again. My nervousness has lead me to believe I may not be allowed to park here despite the sign that says “for customers only.” I’m technically a customer but I’m not sure they know that. I’ve been in #hotelprius for a full 24 hours now and the transition has been less than smooth. I struggle to remember where things belong and need to time to develop my old routines and systems. I’m a little rusty I guess but confident I’ll find my stride again within the week. It will all feel like normal again soon.
Heavy eyelids. Heavier with each passing moment as I stared out the windshield across my steering wheel into the darkness. Only my headlights and the moon illuminating the road in front of me. It was time to pull over and sleep. I hadn’t realized it but I had been climbing in elevation as I cornered the last long and windy bend into my parking place for the night. I crawled onto my soft, but chili bed and fell immediately asleep. I awake. My eyes open slowly and adjust to the sliver of sun peaking over the Shenandoah mountain landscape in the far distance. It is completely and utterly silent. I am up even before the birds. I’ve almost forgotten what silence sounds like. I reach for my phone as if to think it was actually possible to capture a moment such as this. I set the phone down and take a deep breath, doing my best to take in this moment as best I can. I shuffle in my sleeping bag and immediately notice the damp cool due that has accumulated around my feet. I left the hatch open last night, too tired to remember to close it. For several moments I stare at through the back of #hotelprius admiring the beauty and the magnitude of the mountains I have just met. If these mountains had eyes, I can imagine them saying to me “Stare at me as long as you like.”
My body woke me up hours ago, but I refuse to get up. The grey skies above have been wanting to rain all morning but haven’t. Its almost 10 now and my hatch is slightly open, just enough to create a subtle breeze, but also enough to feel the moisture in the air. Sticky. The kind of sticky that makes your clothes cling to your body and make you desperate for a shower. My mind is on the Californian man outside in his blue Oldsmobile. I can see him through my tented windows but he can’t see me. His windows are down and he has been trying to get comfortable all morning. Maybe all night. Finally, he sits up and I’m able to make out his face. Mid forties I’m guessing, with the obvious wrinkles and tan lines of someone who has seen some sun and has a few stories. His back faces me now as he stares at the city. I wonder who he is, I wonder what brought him here to Austin? I raise the hatch to step out and the hydraulics of the hatch make a nasty “I need lubrication” sound. I step out, stretch and turn to face him and we make eye contact. I give him a “sup” nob but he looks away quickly. I am tempted to ask if he wants breakfast, but resist because I don’t want to be let down. I quickly regret my decision and wait for another opportunity to ask again. It never comes. I’ll park here again tonight and try again.
I woke with the familiar feeling that today there was nothing for me to get done. There is no rush or hurry to sprint through a checklist of daily chores and errands. Not today. Nothing but me, this car, and the wind outside. It is unusually windy today. Without even stepping outside I know this because I can hear it. A faint and inconsistent whistle from the door seal from my drivers side window that I’ve been meaning to fix but haven’t. The car is shaking a bit too. I drift off to sleep again until my body refuses to let me keep sleeping and wasting this beautiful day. Routinely I use my foot to kick open the back hatch and crawl out, this time not hitting my head on the dowel rod that is my closet rack, as I have done so many mornings before. Mugishly, I slip on my sandals and fold my bedding along with my homemade curtains and set them in their designated place behind my seat. I make my way to the driver’s seat where I sit, reach for my toiletry bag from the passenger side floor board and unroll it. Using the built in hook to hang it from my rearview mirror, I unzipped the pocket with my toothbrush and toothpaste and apply a thin layer of toothpaste. I close my eyes and lean my head back against the headrest as I brush. I step out of the car again and tuck myself behind a tree. My morning pee. With nowhere to be or with nothing to accomplish before my shift at 3pm I roll down my windows, move around to the back of my car, brew some coffee, climb into my office, pull out my laptop, and write. It’s going to be a great day.
The vibration of my phone under my shoulder breaks my sleep. Immediately I can hear the sounds of city sirens roaring past the streets below me. My car is neatly tucked away in a small corner of the fifth floor parking garage on Congress and 1st. As I lay still, my eyes fading in and out of consciousness, I take notice of the sirens beginning to slowly fade, until I can’t hear them anymore. I doze off again and a awake a few minutes later. I’ve forgotten where I am. I open my eyes. Through my back window I can see the city that I have come to know and admire in our last few weeks together. The air is brisk. Even through my fog covered windows I can feel the outside air. It’s colder today then it has been lately, but I like it. It reminds me of Boston- my old home.
It’s early. I slip on my sandals and grab my pack from the front seat that is already preloaded with the days essentials and slowly make my way up the small steps to the double glass doors of the YMCA. The only thing in my mind is the warm water that will run down my face and back from the locker room showers. This is where I bath. Not everyday, but on days where I need it. For $25 a month I have access to every Austin YMCA in the area. A water bill alone in this city is more expensive than that. I’m lucky. I guess privacy is a perk to your own bathroom, but I don’t mind. After you’ve seen so many old-people butts, you kind of just get used to it. I like getting here early to get dibs on the warmest water and best showers. I like the shower in the corner. It’s got the best water pressure and most room. I take my time. It’s a holiday today and my week doesn’t really start until tomorrow. The day is mine to do what I want with. All 86,400 seconds of it. What will I do next? My options are plentiful.
I open my eyes and for a moment I forget where I am. My back is against the window and I can feel the small draft through the window. Sleepily, I raise my head and take in a deep breathe through my nose. Exhale. I arch my back and turn around to look out my window. Perfect! What a beautiful way to wake up. Immediately I take notice to the water. Like glass, reflecting the trees and small buildings across the river. I nexttake notice to the family of ducks playing and flapping in the water, breaking the illusion of glass, reminding me that I share this moment with the animals that have lived here from the beginning. As I lay cocooned in my sleeping bag, still, I watch. I watch as the sun makes it’s way through the small openings of my curtains and I feel it’s warmth on my face and neck. I lay in its warmth for several moments as my eyes adjust and transition to the bridge. Commuters. People sharing this beautiful city with me. These people, all going the same way briefly, but will eventually arrive at different destinations by the mornings end.
Today marks 1 month if living in Hotel Prius. It has been interesting to say the least. I gotta say, it’s do-able. Obviously, its a temporary gig and I don’t plan to do this for the rest of my life, but one thing is for sure, I’ve saved a ton of money just after 1 month. People ask me if I’m tired of it yet? Honestly, not really. It’s worth it. The benefits outweigh the cost any day. I have my systems and my routines and have even developed some consistency. In case your unsure of why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because one, I don’t want to pay for an apartment I don’t need and two, I’m still looking for the right job to land. It’s tough work finding jobs. In my free time I search and apply for jobs and this is a process that takes some time. Signing a least only limits my options. I’m mobile. I work. And I have the freedom to go or do what I want. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. I’m happy.
Warm thoughts. Think warm thoughts. It’s 34 degrees this morning and I’ll do anything to stay cocooned in my sleeping bag. My pillow is cold. So cold it feels wet, but I like it. I rub my face in it multiple times until the warmth of my skin reheats the pillow. This mornings’ wake up call is different. I can hear the opening of closing of car doors. The last few days of rain has caused the creek to rise a few inches, making this place somewhat of a not-so best kept secret. I open my eyes and see an older woman cupping her hands around my front window, peeping in. I’m startled, but I make eye contact to make it more uncomfortable for her than me. It works. She hurries back to her car and I can hear her say, “There is someone sleeping in there.” Feeling a little invaded I question, Who does that? Who looks through someone’s car like that? I get out to make it more awkward. She’s by her car now. “Sorry, sorry. We were just curious,” she says. “It’s okay” I say,trying to be friendly, but at the same time letting her know it’s not so polite to look through someone’s car especially when there are curtains. I smile and wave to let her know we are cool. She must feel so uncomfortable. I wait for her to leave and begin my morning routine. This stuff is bound to happen every once in awhile I guess. Just take it and run with it.