Two Girlfriends, One Car crash, and Seven life lessons

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

Car crashes are NEVER good. 

Especially when your husband totals your girlfriends’ car.

I promise to tell the crash story (a.k.a. Part 2), but first, read Part 1 because it’s directly related to Part 2.

Oh, and then plan to read the finale, Part 3, to learn about John’s second cardiac event.

You’ll understand why I haven’t posted for six weeks!

March chest pain and my Girlfriend visit

It was a lovely Saturday morning on March 30th as John, and I began traipsing up Soldier Trail for a hike.  You’ll recall two months earlier we had unsuccessfully completed this trail because John had chest pain that led to his first cardiac stent.

Guess what. The chest pain happened again!

John placed a nitroglycerine tablet under his tongue- which erased the pain.

We turned around to go home, knowing a trip back to the Cardiologist was in order.  Since it was Saturday, John planned to call for an appointment on Monday. 

Coincidentally, my girlfriend Laurie was arriving in Phoenix from Wisconsin the very next day.  I planned to drive up from Tucson, pick her up at her hotel, and enjoy a girl’s road trip to the Grand Canyon.   

John assured me that he’d be fine almost pushing me out the RV door for my it’s-been-too-long-since-my-last-girlfriend-get-together-and-need-not-worry-about-John’s-health.

Northern Arizona Fun

Laurie and I reunited at her Phoenix hotel the next morning filling the parking lot with warm hugs and giggling.  I drove us north through Saguaro Cacti covered hills leading to our lunch destination “The Haunted Hamburger” in quirky Jerome, Arizona.   

Two hours later it was delightful hearing Laurie ooh and aah at the red rocks of Sedona.  Next, we passed Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff squinting at the bright snow cap.  Perfect timing brought us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as the sun was setting.  After dinner, we retired to our hotel room for conversation and more giggles.

Girlfriends who care

I was having such fun sharing the beauty of Arizona with Laurie that I almost forgot about John’s chest pain the day before.

That night I updated Laurie with John’s health scare.  She offered huge listening ears to my babbling words.  Being able to speak of the scariness to my girlfriend seemed to loosen the grip that fears placed around my heart. 

Intoxicating vistas and dirty hiking boots   

The next day Laurie and I awoke excited to experience the Canyon on a hike.  Before heading down the South Kaibab Trail, we packed snacks into our backpacks, filled our camelbacks with water, and grabbed our hiking poles. 

Again, it was exhilarating to witness Laurie’s joy as we descended from the ridgeline taking in the dramatic panorama of this natural wonder.  Our 3.5-mile hike to our lunch spot and turnaround whetted Laurie’s appetite for the Canyon. 

Heading towards the Crash

Laurie and I had Tuesday morning to hike a bit of the South Rim, meet an adorable Sheepadoodle, and enjoy the vistas before heading back to Tucson. 

On our drive, my cell phone rang around 3 p.m., and it was John.  I began to share on speaker phone about our awesome trip when he interrupted me. 

“I’m in the Trauma Unit of Banner Hospital.  I had a car accident with Kathi’s car, and I think I totaled it.” 

I responded…. “WHAT?”

I took a sideways glance at Laurie’s stunned face which confirmed what we just heard. 

He told us what happened, but all I remember is “Big black truck,” “blind spot,” “T-Boned,” “Neck pain,” “CT Scan,” “concussion,” “no brain bleed,” “discharged today.” 

The Totaled Car

Here is a photo of what used to be Kathi’s car.

Crisis Mode kicks in

Laurie asked me “Do you want me to drive?  Do you want to pull over for a while?”  My response was no.  My M.O. is always the same when a crisis arises.  (Probably from my nurse’s training).  I stay calm, focused, and begin doing mental checklists and triage to move towards solving the problem at hand.  I’d be fine to drive. 

(Truth be told, it’s 3 or 4 days later when I fall apart.)

2nd Time to this Trauma Unit in 3 months

Laurie and I drove straight to Banner Medical Center’s Trauma Unit.  It was Deja-vu.  Just three months earlier I was with my friend Kathi (yes, whose car John crashed!) in the same Trauma Unit after her biking accident and head injury. 

Luckily John had no broken bones, a few skin lacerations, and would certainly be sore for days.  The airbags had done their job protecting (perhaps saving?) his life!

Laurie Ubered it to her hotel from the hospital as I went in to attend to John. 

How to tell Kathi?! 

Honestly, this was the most stressful situation knowing that John was responsible for destroying our friends’ car! 

Before I arrived at the Trauma Unit, John left a voice mail with Kathi for her to call him.  She had been out with friends all day, and John was also supposed to be watching her cat, Lilac.

I too called Kathi’s cell phone, but she did not answer.  I left a general “hey, as soon as you get this message give me a call.”  My memory is a bit blurred, but around 5 or 6 Kathi did call us back telling us she and her friends were heading home. 

I was so grateful that she was not alone and had her best friends with her when she got the bad news. When we got home to the RV Kathi and her friends greeted us with nothing but concern and love. 

Fast Forward

I’m going to end this story now because the next two weeks were basically full of the post-trauma stuff you must do after accidents.  There was lots of contacting insurance companies, mixed with watching John’s deep bruising appear, whispering heartfelt apologies over and over to Kathi, and hourly thanking God that John was not seriously injured or dead! 

Ending on the positive

Here are some truths that I’ve walked away with from this car crash story.  These are gifts from my two girlfriends that I’d like to share with the world.  I am forever grateful for their maturity and friendship.

  1. Being on the receiving end of Kathi’s grace was humbling.  She could have been derogatory, scolding, belittling, tossing contempt our way, slamming John’s reputation, or gossiping about us.  Instead?  Her concern ran deep and wide as she continued to check on John and saying things like “cars can be replaced, people cannot.”  Thank you, Kathi.
  2. Shared misfortune can deepen friendships.  The car accident necessitated having some conversations about health and finances that you usually don’t have with your RV’ing buddies. Kathi and I had also enriched our relationship a few months back as we processed her bike accident and some other health issues.  We have a new special bond.
  3. Humor and forgiveness are priceless.  Kathi’s first words upon hearing about the accident were “Well, I didn’t want to pay for new tires on that car anyway!”.  This comment was a balm to our devastated ears and hearts.  We kept repeating how sorry we were, and “please forgive John” for this accident.  She accepted our sorrow and replaced it with forgiveness.  One sure way to strengthen a friendship is to be supportive- even when it hurts. 
  4. Healthy communication decreases stress.  To avoid the rumor mill going amok at our RV resort, Kathi offered to communicate to our peeps through email and face to face with friends. She could have turned it into a gossip mess or worse yet, internalized her anger, frustrations, and fears and stressed her body.
  5. Authenticity trumps platitudes.  Kathi and I had to practice real-life discussions on insurance claims and legal stuff which is entirely mentally draining.  I was honored how she walked toward the dialogue, not backing down.  At times it felt like we were unwrapping trauma bandages but luckily only to reveal the healing wounds underneath.  The good news?  She got a new car in the process, and all the insurance stuff is a thing of the past.
  6. I’ve lost all faith in coincidences. Laurie’s trip to Arizona was perfectly timed and medicinal for me.  Additionally, we had my friends Beth and Randy coming the week before John’s second heart cath.  Again, the timing of these friends’ visits proved helpful in distracting our stress from the moment.   My advice to my readers is to trust your gut when spontaneous travel plans arise.  There are going to be undeniable blessings that come out of it. 
  7. Seeing gifts in painful moments.  As Laurie and I received the news about John’s accident and continued our drive towards the hospital, I glimpsed her quietly clasping her hands together and just being still.  I knew she was praying for me right at the moment.  As I witnessed this gift that only she could give it brought tears to my eyes and strength to my resolve.

Your Turn

  • Have you been in a traumatic situation like this one? Who can you identify with?  Kathi? John? Laurie? Or me?
  • Is there someone who needs your forgiveness for a mistake they made?
  • Have you been able to verbalize your fears, frustrations, failures lately? 
  • Who would you be if you took out that one stressor away that clogs your brain?
  • Who is that friend or family member who you can go to in times of stress?

Whew!  We’re not done yet, Girlfriends and Guy friends.  There is one last (I hope!) chapter to this saga. 

Click here for part 3 of John’s second cardiac procedure and how much it cost!  Plus, you’ll learn about our health sharing co-op that we are a part of. 

Click here if you haven’t read part 1; John’s first cardiac event.

Click here to read about Kathi’s traumatic bike accident.   

Click here if you need a good laugh about our dog, Penny.  She promises to write another post from a dog’s perspective of life on the road- now that Johnny is done having cardiac events.

Love,

Gretty

Eating our way through a 2400 mile road trip.

“Yes ma’am.  That restaurant serves regular food other than BBQ-  they even got Brisket on the menu.”

 -Actual quote from Robin, the campground manager, Texarkana, Texas

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

Robin’s comic relief happened at mile marker 1131 of our 2400 mile road trip- point “E” on the RVParky photo below.

However, our first food-adventure began at point “A”, and we had only traveled THREE miles!

April 14, 2018.  Mile marker 3. Tucson, Arizona.  

It was NOT our choice to eat at Omar’s Hi-Way Chef Restaurant.

(To find out WHY we ended up at Omar’s read my next blog.) 

We were greeted by a tired-eyed waitress- sporting a fake hair braid, presented with stained menus, ushered to red vinyl-repaired-with-red-duct-tape swivel stools, and forced to inhale oily aroma’s wafting from the deep fryers.

John ordered a slice of coconut cream pie and our table conversation revolved around naming all the artificial ingredients found in his slice.

Me?

Not brave enough to order from the menu, I chose instead to sip slightly-warm-burnt-tasting coffee.  And then, as we exited – our footsteps stuck to the linoleum.

Ewww!

Was this Omar’s experience an ill omen to our 2400 mile food adventure?

April 15, 2018.  Mile marker 267 – Las Cruces, New Mexico

Lucky for our taste buds, the state of New Mexico replaced our Omar Omen with a savory surprise.  Dinner this night found us at Salud! de Mesilla which translates “To Your Health”.   

I was so delighted with the flavors that I forgot to take pictures.  The Tapas selections were delicious, but I never did figure out why there was a heavy St. Louis influence on the menu.

For example, I couldn’t help but notice the Toasted Ravioli, Provel Cheese, St. Louis style ribs, and Goey Butter Cake that were available.  (Having grown up in St. Louis I was familiar with these items.)  There was no explanation for the Midwest influence on this Las Cruce’s dining establishment.  It felt as mismatched as the rainbow-colored bagel bread they served us!

April 16th, 2018.  Mileage = 598.  Odessa, Texas.

I attempted to find a nice place to eat around Odessa, but restaurants named Dumplins, Mamacita, and The Egg and I, kind of turned me off.

Besides.  I had leftovers I had to do something with.

I created this “quiche” using a slice of leftover lasagna, half a bag of fresh spinach, some cherry tomatoes, six eggs, a pinch of nutmeg, and 2 cups of Mexican cheese.  (John ate two slices!) 

Red Ottoman Lunches

We’re usually driving over lunchtime so I thought I’d show you a sample of what our lunches on the road look like.

I love walking back to our refrigerator and plating fresh items.

We have this little red ottoman that I scoot between us and place lunch on.  While noshing we listen to our favorite podcast, The Hidden Brain, hosted by Shankar Vedantam.

Yeah, we get satiated and smart.     April 17th, 2018.  Mileage = 908.  Aledo, Texas

We love checking out local coffee shops.

This one was called East Parker Coffee Company in Aledo, Texas, just west of Fort Worth.  Noteworthy; it was super busy at 7:30 a.m. when we arrived.  Several comfy couches and seating areas were crammed with local high school girls. 

The only thing sweeter than their high pitched giggling was found in the fructose-laden-double-whipped-iced-coffees they slurped.

By 8:30 a.m. the girls were gone and we were left to enjoy our Americano’s and the coffee shop’s Pandora playlist.  Ahhhh…

April 18th, 2018.  Mileage still 908.  Fort Worth, Texas.

If you watch Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives you are familiar with the gregarious eateries that Guy Fieri visits.  We were happy to eat at one in Fort Worth, Texas, called Fred’s Texas Cafe.  The waiter, Steve, was as entertaining as the country music was twangy.  I wouldn’t say their burger was the best I ever had, but I did enjoy substituting my usual cheddar cheese for Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka) cheese.  It was stringy, chewy, and more flavorful than mozarella.  Oh, can’t forget the sweet tea.  The massive glass I was served (and finished) challenged the holding capacity of my bladder for the rest of the afternoon- but it was worth it.

April 19th, 2018.  Mileage = 1131.  Texarkana, Texas. 

When we went to Naaman’s restaurant (remember Robin’s quote at the beginning of my blog?) I had to laugh because EVERYTHING on the menu resembled BBQ.  Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE BBQ.  But look at my plate.  Ho-hum.  The brisket was tender but dry.  Whoo-hoo. Two slices of white bread!  The sauce?  Just OK.  Not a fresh vegetable or fruit in site- but free refills on that swaaaeeeet taaee.  Time to leave.

April 20th, 2018.  Mileage = 1438.  Memphis, Tennessee.

Last time I went to The Rendezvous was around 1990.  It has been a classic BBQ joint since 1948 when Charlie Vergos turned a basement coal chute into a BBQ smoker.  I was super excited to share this phenom with John and it did not disappoint.  We arrived at 4 p.m. thinking the place would be empty but found most tables filled.  Just as I remembered, red checkered tablecloths and white linen napkins graced each table. I love that. 

The aroma from that huge smoker in the basement entices you to walk towards it. When you hear the term Memphis BBQ, folks are describing the char on the Rendezvous ribs and the award-winning dry rub.

You gotta visit!

The next day we headed to another award-winning joint in Memphis called Central BBQ. Frankly, I didn’t think it could surpass The Rendezvous, but it did!  Our ribs were meaty, falling-off-the-bone tender, smoky, and rivaling the dry rub of The Rendezvous. 

I couldn’t stop devouring them- almost finishing an entire slab.

April 22nd, 2018.  Mileage = 1630.  Nashville, Tennessee.   

Lucky for us we only had 192 miles to drive to Nashville.  It was raining almost the entire trip, but it didn’t dampen our spirits or our visit with my nephew, Will Schmidt, who took us out to enjoy some famous Nashville Hot Chicken.  Yes, it seems I needed another culinary educational meal and was about to have my mouth burning from the “medium” seasoning on The Party Fowl chicken tenders.  It was a huge portion, had my arteries screaming for relief from the crispy fried coating, but I persevered and finished all but two of the tenders.  Who knew there was a thing called Nashville “hot chicken”? I was getting so dang smart…

April 23rd, 2018.  Mileage = 1830.  Kodak, Tennessee.  

It was still overcast and raining, but again we only had 200 miles to drive to our next campsite.  When we arrived it was recommended to drive a bit to eat in Pidgeon Forge, Virginia.  This was The Old Mill Restaurant where we ate. 

It was historic, beautiful, and full of southern charm, but the food was only adequate.  Actually, perhaps I have not acquired a taste for the gravy-laden, butter infused dishes that adorn these tables.  All in all, we enjoyed the beauty and history of this area of the country.

April 25th, 2018.  Mileage = 2400.  Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

We made it!  Our eating introduction to Millerville where our campground is located happened about two hours after our arrival.  We went to a small local Italian restaurant called Nino’s.  We were so tired we barely remember what we ate that evening. I do remember the large guy in the back tossing the pizza dough like a large frisbee as he made the other co-workers laugh hysterically.  They were speaking Italian, so I knew we landed in an authentic place.  Wow.

Here in the heart of Amish country?  Really?  Gotta love it.  (What I didn’t know was Nino’s was simply a warm-up for the feasting we were about to undertake out here in Lancaster County. (Can you say Smorgasboards?!).

Then, it was time to go “home” to our new three week site to digest the past 2400 miles.  Burp.  (Excuse me.)

 Your Turn

Tell me your favorite food or funniest memory from a road trip.  Maybe it was in a VW Bug or maybe you were in an RV.  I know you’ve got a silly story or a delicious tale to share!

Happy Trails from your Unlikely RVer,

Gretty

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