The road trip to end all road trips

One thing I’ve noticed recently is that a lot of people don’t ‘get’ marketing. They can sell something to someone who is similar to them, but they don’t know how to speak to people with different backgrounds and motivations.
Well, I didn’t know Susan Mopper very well before agreeing to let her hang with me for a few weeks, and well, you know how it goes. Friends are one thing, roommates are another. Similar to J last year though, we knew each other both a bit, and by reputation, which made it somewhat safe from both of our standpoints.
So without a worry in the world about what might go wrong, I planned an epic road trip. To me, what makes a good road trip is ROAD. And coffee. And food. But you never know what’s going to work for other people, especially those you don’t know that well.
Turns out, this lady is my sister from another mother (an overused phrase, but true in this case). You want to know something about me? Ask her. True story.
Long story short? My plan found a willing partner in crime, and after five solid days together we’re still buddy-buddy. Which means we’re both pretty chill, most of the time!
Our itinerary:
  • Friday: wake up early (haha … too much wine at Carne the night before put an end to this part of the plan!), drive to Prince Albert for lunch. A box of grapes, a rainstorm, and long drive later we arrived. Unfortunately the place Keith and I ate last year was closed …. So we went to another place where we ate with this lovely granny who told us essentially her life story in about an hour, while sitting by the fire, eating Karoo lamb. We planned to drive the Swartberg pass but it was impassable due to snow, mud, slush, etc. so we went on the paved roads and stopped to take photos of aspen-like trees over rivers. Beautiful. Dinner in Wilderness … the best steak in the area, apparently, and I think I ate a 500g t-bone all by myself.
  • Saturday: Beach WOD: sprinting (2x100m, 4x200m, 2x100m), breakfast at Moontide (LOVE this place!!), drove to Knysna for some salad and coffee by the heads, window shopping, oysters & champagne, to Storms River Rest Camp to check in, then back to Knysna for dinner at Firefly. One of my top five restaurants in South Africa, hands down. My introduction to just how awesome American country music can be on the drive home in the dark.
  • Sunday: Storms River Mouth hike (was supposed to be preceded by a repeat of last year’s running/HSPU/burpee box jump WOD but my body wasn’t having any of it), drive to Jeffreys Bay for lunch by the sea, and then another long drive to Hogsback, punctuated by the most hectic petrol station EVER. Hogsback was apparently JRR Tolkein’s inspiration for Lord of the Rings (he apparently vacationed there as a child). Dinner at a local bar & grill type place then back to the B&B to chill, accompanied by Two Minute Puzzle and Jeremy Loops.
  • Monday: Woke up to rosy fingered dawn. Breakfast, walk to a lookout point, hike through the Arboretum, lunch, and a long road trip through the countryside. Aloes and blue skies. Stunning sunset that Susan chased in the car, an aborted trip down a dirt road, and a non-paleo meal in a frontier town restaurant (the sad thing being we TRIED to order it properly … really we did!).
  • Tuesday: We were supposed to go horseback riding in the Addo Elephant National Park and hopefully see some elephants. But … long story short, we didn’t, and just drove straight back to Cape Town instead. Like straight back straight back, arriving literally 2 minutes before qigong.

But: mainly a lot of road, and a lot of country. A lot of driving, and a lot of drivers. Road that varied from flat, wide, and straight, to narrow, windy, twisty, and rutted. Even dirt roads in some parts. The non-reflective road paint on narrow roads at night could be a bit scary, I’ll admit.
I do want to take this opportunity to comment about the general awesomeness of the average South African rural driver. There are some exceptions, certainly, but for the most part the drivers are aware and courteous. It is common practice to move to the side of the road, if you can, and it’s safe, if you see a vehicle behind that wants to overtake (most roads, even national highways, are only one lane each direction most of the time). There was about 95% compliance to this practice on our road trip.
Secondly, you are aware not just of what is going on in your lane but of what is going on in the other direction. There were multiple occasions when overtaking another vehicle would not have been safe had the oncoming traffic not also proactively moved over. I love the predictable unpredictability of the Cape Town drivers but I also like the predictable predictability of the rural drivers. Just …. So on the ball. And fast moving. Which I guess you have to be with vast distances to cover.
What is also awesome is the speed limits. They are entirely appropriate: for well-lit, dry roads.
I’d been on the Garden Route before so while it was of course stunning, it was not new. What was new to me was Hogsback, which was amazing …. Like it reminded me of New England around Halloween amazing, but in its own sort of way. Seriously, I could have stayed there for a week.  And I could have stayed in Tsitsikamma for a week, and I could have driven for a week around the Eastern Cape and up the Wild Coast. There are some places in the world that are quite soul-less, and others where you feel like your heart is going to explode from sheer joy just by being there. That’s how I feel about Cape Town and some of the places we’ve been on this trip. But also San Francisco, and New England in the spring and fall, and even places I haven’t been, like Savannah, Georgia, Denver, and the Southwest.
Life is all about choices of course. Some are good, some are bad. Some seem like a good idea at the time. As much as I love it here, and I see something every day that makes me rejoice that I’ve chosen to move here, I do sometimes miss America. I miss the flags, the Dodge Rams, the football, the familiar chain stores, the dollar, the driving on the right, the American man.
Bottom line? I love my country. Both of them.
At dinner with Susan at Firefly we were talking about all numbers of things but one of the subjects was how some of the best relationships are the ones that never happen. The guy who comes to town and turns your world upside down … and then goes home. The guy who you meet and start to fall for right before you both are moving away. (high school, anyone?) These are special because you just never know. It never had a chance to fall apart, for familiarity to turn into contempt.
In some ways the best part of any relationship is that awkward time between when you were happily talking and getting to know each other, and discovering you had common ground, and before someone makes the first move. That time when you actually both realise you like each other and you’re not quite sure, and you try to play it cool whenever someone else might notice your crazy behaviour. That time when you have a huge silly grin on your face when you see each other but you both make each other so nervous you literally can’t think of anything to say or what you do say sounds stupid the second it comes out of your mouth, when you’re verbally (and sometimes even physically) dancing around each other with stars in your eyes. For a minute, you’re a teenager again. Everything is possible, everything is perfect.
But it isn’t. Or maybe it is. That’s the wonderful/terrible thing about imagination; about anticipation. That’s the yin and the yang, the dark and the light. Cape Town as a graphic novel. Life.
I’m sorry but you really cannot understand the euphoria of the good if you haven’t felt the despair of the bad. I’d much rather life be a roller coaster than a pancake.
Susan also made the good point that part of why we can appreciate this beauty so much is that we don’t stop often enough actually to notice and appreciate. Even living in places like Cape Town and Denver, you look, and you see, but maybe not as deeply as you could.
When you’re on the road, you have a lot of time to think, in between exclaiming: “My GOD that’s breathtaking!” or “Check out this idiot driving!” or “I’m starting to understand why they put warning labels on alcohol not to drink and walk in the road because you may be killed.” I do have a tendency to over-commit, by which I mean both that I over-estimate my own ability to do things, and that when I commit to something it’s no joke. I hesitate to start things because once I do start there is no stopping me. I guess it makes sense; you can’t coach passion and if you don’t have passion for something and you’re doing it for some other reason, at some point, that reason won’t be enough.
Getting out of town was just what I needed to clear my head. I feel, in a way, like I’m wrapping up the first part of this year as I prepare to go to the U.S.; many of my plans will commence upon my return, and in a way I’m actually kind of just waiting for that. So I’m of two minds. The impatient and petulant Ellie wants to get going already, wants to be like Neo and just be able to KNOW. The more chill version of me is looking forward to a long vacation, and understands that before you can be ready to learn a lesson, to get ripped down and built back up, you need to be prepared, to be ready.
Susan’s right: you can’t appreciate accomplishment if you haven’t put in the work to get there. Although one person’s idea of a good time is another person’s idea of work. Maybe when I realised that my version of ‘hardcore’ was unbroken rest, it helped.
I know it in theory, but you don’t learn lessons before you’re ready, and you don’t listen to advice until you decide you’re going to. At least I finally have the mental tools to handle it without getting cranky, and the first step in the breakdown process is to get ready for the dismantling that is going to begin. To move up the spiral you must move up to the next level, and stepping forward sometimes requires stepping back.
10 day rest starts on Sunday.
And will be broken with a triple. Because that’s how I roll. [and that’s what Laa-Laa has planned for us!]
  • “You were already part of the family. You just didn’t know it yet.” – Susan
  • “You are high maintenance. But in a very low maintenance sort of way.” – Susan
  • “If you don’t have to live without bacon, why would you?” – Susan
  • “You had me at ice cream.” – Ellie
  • “It’s just about doing things right.” – Susan
  • “I don’t know what’s worse, people who are intimidated by your strength or weak people who find it sexy.” – Susan
  • “You’re right. It is our fault that we’re surrounded by awesomeness.” – Susan
  • “That petrol station had more life than JBay and Knysna put together!” – Susan
  • “I f*cking love this song.” “It’s Jeremy. How could you not love it?” – Susan & Ellie
  • “Who wants rewards without doing the work?” – Susan
  • “I don’t know why they put a vest on that poodle. He’s already got a sweater on.” – Susan
  • “That would be like insta-death. Which beats a long, slow death I suppose. But I don’t want to die today.” – Ellie
  • “Yes! Good job.” – Shirfu

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