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Spirals

From Gina:

Some might say that 16,000 miles, equivalent to driving from New York City to Seattle and back 4 times, is too far to travel. Some might say that trip could get repetitive. Doesn't everybody have to do a little backtracking in life? They say that information has to be repeated 32 times before you can remember it. I don't know how true that is, but I do know that moving in circles is far superior to moving in straight lines. Perhaps spirals would be the better way to go. A lot can be learned in a 16,000 mile spiral.

I set out for an open road (some roads being more open than others) with a box of CDs, a suitcase, a guitar and a little sign taped to my steering wheel reminding me not to forget to change the oil. The first direction I headed was south, from New York City to Maryland to North Carolina.

Story #1: Picture this: a small coffee shop on a remote highway that winds its way through the mountains of western North Carolina. Around this coffee shop has arisen a small community of people, often coming and going - in for the summer, out for the winter, etc. From the minute I arrived I was welcomed into this small group of individuals. They made me supper and gave me a place to stay, I gave them a concert. I was in western North Carolina for 24 hours, but it felt like I had known these folks for years. They gave me food and shelter; I gave them a few songs from my soul. Clearly, I thought, their generosity deserved more than what I had to offer.

At once I realized what I had been trying to formulate in my head over the past several days. This was a lesson in grace! Not the grace of thoughtful giving, but the grace that receives thankfully. I was overwhelmed by the notion and overwhelmed by the gifts that were given to me throughout my journey.

Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Listening to pop radio and books on tape from the evergreens of Florida to the swamps of Louisiana to the expanse of Texas. Let me tell you, when they say that everything in Texas is big, they mean it! Texas to Nebraska to Chicago (the end of spiral one). I must admit that there are some mighty fine classic country stations in northern Illinois. Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and on to Seattle. By this time I had two traveling partners, the best travel buddies I could ask for I'd say. We didn't have the time to leisurely cross the country, but we certainly didn't miss watching the landscape change as it passed. It is good to know that there are still areas in this country not completely overrun with people. Seattle to Eastern Washington. I think the Palouse has become one of my favorite landscapes. Eastern Washington to Wyoming to South Dakota to Indiana to Ohio (the end of spiral two).

Story #2: In the west, campsites were our practical, budget accommodations. We stopped in Wyoming the first night of the long haul back east. There was not another car within miles when we pulled into the state park and it was 15 miles from the entrance to the campsites. The sun was setting as we began setting up our tent and building a miniature fire surrounded by buckets of water, in accordance with the fire restrictions. Gracious! It was dry!

Everything was going smoothly until the sun disappeared and the wind started to blow. Now, I had never been in Wyoming before, and no one had warned me about the wind. I figured growing up in Kansas was preparation enough. Apparently everyone else in Wyoming was smart enough to stay away from this windswept canyon. As soon as our tent blew over we decided to put out the small fire. We tried to set up the tent again using stakes and rocks on the outside and weights on the inside. No luck. Plan B was driving up to the tent and tying the poles to the car doors. This kept the wind from knocking it over but certainly didn't make us feel like we were in a sturdy shelter. After 10 minutes of trying to sleep with the wind nearly lifting us off the ground in our little tent which was beginning to feel more and more like a parachute, we decided to move to the more secure, concrete bathroom. We figured out how to turn off the 24-hour fluorescent lights and threw our sleeping bags down beside the spider webs, underneath the sinks and the toilets. Needless to say it wasn't the most restful sleep. We were awoken at 5 AM to the friendly wind whipping the door open and slamming it shut again. It was time to leave. It's no wonder many traditions associate god with wind. It's some powerful stuff.

Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa and back to New York City. The last spiral of my rock star summer. By the end of my Rock-Star-Summer I had played 27 shows in 14 states and sold over a hundred CDs; I had put 16,000 miles on my car, replaced the starter twice and used up three cases of oil; and I had broken even financially. But the most satisfying part of my summer was the connections and moments I shared with old friends, new friends, family and passerby's - the bikers who helped us start the car after the starter quit for the second time, freezing corn and quilting with my aunts, uncles and cousins, the hip-hop musicians at the gas station in the middle of Iowa, watching WWF (not my idea!) with old high school buddies, the folks in Illinois who packed me driving snacks before I hit the road again, kayaking in Seattle, playing on the beach in Florida, late night piano music before bed… on and on. These are the moments that made this summer wonderful. These are the people that enrich my life daily. These are the stories that inspire me. I share my experience to connect to the world song and hopefully one day my story will inspire you the way that you have inspired me.