It looks like rain outside. This would not be news in Portland, OR, where I had been living since 2000, but here, this is a big event. In the almost five months I have lived here, it’s rained two or three times. And when it does rain, it rains HARD. The wadis and streets flood in a matter of minutes. People flock to the streets to watch cars get swept away.
The grey-white clouds and high winds outside my office window remind me of a time right before I left for Toronto in the fall of 2013. I took a trip to Colorado to visit one of my first friends. We met when she was one, and I was a newborn. Our birthdates separated by one day, but that day was enough to make her a Libra and me a Scorpio. Our families did everything together – celebrated birthdays, Thanksgiving (I believe 30 years in a row), traveled internationally, and shared wine and conversation over Abba, Don McLean, and Neil Diamond after countless dinner parties. Over the years, we had lost touch, but that September I needed a friend and I needed distance. She opened her home and heart and provided both to me. Off on a plane I went. We went camping, reconnected, and talked about our careers. She has been involved in ESL for most of her working life, and I was just beginning to consider it. The trip was exactly what I needed – a chance to contemplate what was next for me as at that point nothing was settled in my life. All possibility, and no idea of probability.
Then the rains came. I saw they were heavy, but didn’t appreciate their magnitude. We turned on the news to see the devastation, but when I looked out the window, it didn’t seem that bad. To me, what was apparently true for one part of the state wasn’t applicable to me. And since I had a goal, albeit a small one, I wasn’t going to let the weather ruin my plans.
My goal was to karaoke in Wyoming. Not that state specifically, but as one of the United States. The only goal I had – my bucket list, if you will – was to karaoke in all fifty states (I think this remains my only solid goal in life, as I am still working on the rest of everything else). My friend had taken me to a bar in Colorado the night before where I sang the Eurythmics “Here Comes the Rain Again” in honor of the storms that had just started, and Bonnie Raitt on request; I was asked to join a country music band (while flattered, I said no). That Saturday night, I was going to drive the 100 miles up Route I-25 to Cheyenne where I read about a bar that would allow me to knock that state of the list. All news outlets were advising people to stay off the roads, but when was I going to be this close to Wyoming again? I decided it was too long a wait to pass up the chance. I looked up the traffic conditions and saw that the highway was open, but flooded, so I would be able to get there. So off I went, without bothering to look at my return trip.
It was too late to turn around when I noticed that I-25 SOUTH bound was closed. Oops. Not a single car was allowed to get through as the pavement buckled under the weight of water and instability of the drenched earth. No matter, I thought. It wasn’t raining at that moment, so I could get to WY safely, sing a song or two, then figure out how to get back to headquarters. All possibility, no probability. Ten minutes later, the skies opened up again. The biggest bolts of lightning I have ever seen (sorry, Texas, these even beat yours) – three at a time – turned the sky into day for a brief moment before thunder blackened everything out again. When the rains came down, I couldn’t see a thing. I was one of maybe three others stupid enough to be on the roads.
With some difficulty (not much though, considering I was in a new place at night with flooded streets and no visibility), I found the establishment. It wasn’t at all too my liking. It was trying to be fancy and sophisticated. I was in Cheyenne, dammit. I was expecting a dive, or at least something country-western. Instead I got faux 1920s sterile glitz. The AC was on too strong. I took a seat at a glass bar, alone, in the middle of the room. At least the karaoke was going to happen.
The shtick of the night was to encourage people to sing Disney songs – doing so got you a free beer or well drink. Wasn’t going to pass that opportunity up, so I offered up Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World” and enjoyed a local brew for my efforts. I stuck around long enough to then sing CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” before deciding that a late night and/or more booze was not a good idea if I was going to try to make it back to Colorado. The rain was still coming down hard.
As soon as I hit the state border, I was faced with the reminder of the closed highway and no alternate routes, for they were all flooded as well. Truckers were pulled alongside of the road. The stops were all full. So were the hotels. Simply put, there was no place to stay for the night. Thankfully, a large-chain motel was gracious enough to offer its parking lot and use of the ground floor restrooms for a few of us that were facing the fact that we were going to be sleeping in our cars for a while, if not for days, until the roads reopened. Given that it was close to 2AM at this point, I figured I would try to make the best of it and snuggled into my rental car as best I could. I laughed at the idea that here I was, a woman in her 40s, trying to fall asleep in a car because of the stunt I pulled despite knowing better.
After a fitful three hours, I gave up on the sleep idea and wandered into the hotel lobby. Reports stated that all the roads were still closed. Truckers stated it was “impossible” to go south and continued to wait in their rigs or at the coffee stop for the roads to reopen. I started to get a little nervous – my flight was to leave early the next day. I had to get to Denver again in less than 24 hours. Something had to be open. Possibility.
Years of driving cross country, stubbornness, or simple common sense worked in my favor – I knew there had to be a way back and I was going to find it. I didn’t mind driving; in fact, I love it, so going extra distance wasn’t going to bother me. I called up Google maps on the lobby computer and mapped out a route back; it took me through Nebraska due east, then dropping south and going back west into Colorado to Denver. Road reports said it would be smooth sailing and would only take four hours. I printed off the directions and left before sunrise. Ta-da! Probability.
The drive itself was easy and the scenery unremarkable. The only memorable thing about the trip was that I drove through a McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin and the worst coffee I have ever had – and that includes Nescafe. The only reason that stop was notable (besides the god-awful coffee. Seriously, I didn’t even finish half after not sleeping) is that I had sworn off fast food at that point and it was my first time patronizing such a place since January 2012. But desperate times and all that. I forgave myself for the discretion. I arrived in Denver just after 9AM and went to bed.
That side trip taught me a lot about myself. It highlighted by stubbornness at the expense of safety and stupidity. It showed me I can laugh at this fault, and that I am not in a hurry to change it. I saw that I can handle adverse solutions and not panic – AND come up with a solution if I need to. I can see possibility. Often, I freak out and depend on others when things hit the fan; I see myself as someone who naturally turns to others in times of crisis. I prefer to work as a team in good and bad times. But sometimes, there is no team; there is only you. Yes, I always have support from friends and family that strengthens me emotionally and I draw on it often. But that night I was feeling pretty alone and was OK with it. Even when there was no solution in sight, I knew something would work out.
It rained as promised here in Oman. Traffic got bad, there were some flooded streets and wadis, but nothing out of the ordinary for this part of the world. Oh, except Dave and I bought a TV so we can watch movies on a larger screen instead of relying on his computer and borrowed speakers from school.
Note: It is my goal to karaoke in all 50 states and document the experiences. This was my first post to do so, so I am editing it retroactively to get it on the list of stories I am telling about singing across the US and the lessons I am learning from doing so.