It began at home, obviously. I woke up to an awesome breakfast of bacon and eggs. Bacon because I was going to be going three days without meat, and I felt like I should gird my loins. Which, after I write it, sounds really, really bad, like some sort of breakfast meat underwear. Ew.
So I ate my bacon (that sounds better, right?), and then it was road trip time. Once I’d packed. I’d left it to the absolute last minute, as I often do, but luckily I didn’t need too much for the trip, and I had a nice long list to follow.
Thinking that the journey should be its own reward, or some crap like that, I ignored Google’s suggested route and took the side roads through nowhere.
And I mean nowhere.
I hadn’t realize how many little country roads – with speeds ranging from 30 to 75 – I’d be traveling down. Most of them were nearly identical when it came down to it. I’d either be passing abandoned, decrepit, broken down, burned down, “no trespassing” houses, barns, and building, or I’d be passing things that just..well, defied easy classification. I couldn’t tell if they were flea markets, tent cities, or just hoarders who had spilled out of their homes and trailers.
Part of that problem was because of the weather. It rained. And rained. And rained. And rained.
It went from so heavy I couldn’t see, the cars around me were doing 30, and there had to be a good two inches of water on the road to a light drizzle. I almost preferred the heavily rain because, as I had discovered upon setting out, the Jeep was out of washer fluid, and so when it was just drizzling, the windshield got dirty.
For a while there, the road was further slowed down because, while the rain had – a rare instance for the drive so far – stopped, there was half a house up ahead. I couldn’t tell if it was the left or right side. Then it pulled off to reunite with the other half house. Everyone picked up speed…and then slammed on their brakes as the rain began again.
Going slow had some advantages, though. I quickly learned that NE Texas is the cemetery capital of, well, probably the universe. I lost track of the number of cemeteries I drove past. Even with my backwoods, twisty, turning driving path, there were more cemeteries than there were turns. In a lot of cases, I would have bet that there were more people in the cemeteries than the towns I was driving through. They ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand. One claimed to have a population of 777 on their sign, but I think that they just made up the number for the symmetry of it.
And then I got lost. Okay, to be fair, I got lost four times. But only one really mattered, and that was when I was in one of the little funky – and scary – towns along the way, not more than 10 miles from my destination.
It was kind of an awesome town, and if I hadn’t been lost in it, I would have enjoyed it. The houses were old, and half were restored but half were falling down. There was a leather shop that advertised motorcycle gear. It was funky with a capital funk. But when I took a wrong turn, my phone’s GPS decided that I had entered a black hole, and it pretended not to see me anymore. I had to keep twisting and turning down roads, including one that led me past some public housing that had what looked like a guard house, complete with dog chained in the front yard, at the end of it.
Then I arrived. Town’s population: 199.
I followed what I thought was the right trail to parking, went to grab another gulp of water, and turned to find a blonde guy, dressed all in white, sporting a pony tail and lots of tattoos, looking in my car window. It was a cult!
No, it was one of the guys who lives here, and he was helping me check in. He brought me into the main ashram, got me settled up with my bill, and then led me to the ashram I’d be staying in.
There were five people hanging around – two guys, three girls. All of them had their cell phones next to them. Two were friending each other on Facebook. I began to question how far away from everything I had gotten.
And then I learned that I was supposed to bring my own towel. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one, though, because they have them on request.
Ah, mantra class.
On the plus side – they have cheat sheets! You don’t have to memorize anything, except the exact pronunciations. All the words are in front of you, along with their meanings. I’m totally planning on swiping one of the print outs to take home with me. The mantras are actually very cool, very relaxing, and very interesting.
After we did the mantras, which last about twenty minutes, then we ate dinner. Vegetarian.
And I learned a lot of stuff about the people I’d be bunking up with.
First, there was water cleanse girl. She’d been on the cleanse for almost 24 hours before she broke and decided that she was too hungry to keep doing it. She ate her dinner – a big dinner (rice, beans, veggies) – and remarked at how surprised she was that her stomach hadn’t shrunk after 24 hours without food. I pointed out that was only a day, and she’d already had a few handfuls of the trail mix (does that count as granola?) in the ashram.
Next up was the silent retreat girl. She hadn’t been silent so far. But she had the best of intentions to be silent sooner or later. She was straight out of a sorority, wearing a t-shirt from her sisters that said “I didn’t go to college to find a husband. I went to find my bridesmaids.” Go higher education! She also mentioned that she had some jerky in her room. Someone at the dinner table pointed out that you weren’t allowed to bring any meat on the premises. She said, “Oops. My life coach didn’t warn me not to bring it!”
Dinner ended, and I decided to explore the property a bit. It’s big. And pretty. When the road on the property ended, I head out onto the shoulder of the highway to reach the other entrance. I found a dead skunk. Its eye was staring up at me. And, yes, there was only one eye left. I didn’t say the dead skunk was all in one piece. Plus there were cigarette butts and a squished “Sutter Home” plastic bottle. Apparently the skunk had been having some sort of pathetic party by the side of the road.
I headed to bed early – most people here apparently go to sleep at 10. It wasn’t until I was fully settled into bed, covered up and comfy, that I realized that there is a distinct lack of locks in the ashram. The bathroom doors have locks, yes, but I have a feeling that a feverish two-year old could bust those locks.
The locks aren’t really such a big problem. I don’t feel unsafe about anyone here, and the place is set well back, has gates and barbed wire (although I think that’s more to keep wildlife out), and is in this itty bitty town. But…zombies. The number of cemeteries around here tells me that if there is a zombie uprising, I’m going to be surrounded pretty quickly. How will I be able to protect myself if I can’t even lock the ashram? I’m just saying – if zombies do show up anytime before Monday afternoon, I might have a problem on my hands.