3496 miles

by Sonja Kramer Haag


The trip is going well. It has been great to see so many places and so many people in such a sort time. Though, I am getting exhausted. I decided to drive only 4 hours today, out of San Fransisco to Humboldt Redwood State Park and camp for the night. I need to collect myself, my energy and my thoughts before I continue on to the last leg of my trip.

I am looking forward to getting to Vancouver and staying for a week. The sprint through every city had been working well up until I reached San Fran, the one city I wanted to take my time with and really look around. I got in late Saturday night around 10. My GPS was taking me to Sam’s house where I would park and walk to his restaurant to meet him. Parking seemed a little difficult so I pulled over as soon as I found a spot, apparently to soon.

The night went on, I had some great food, as you may have read earlier, and plenty to drink. The next morning before Sam had to go back to work we took a walk together to where I thought my car was.

“Definitely on Folton,” I kept saying.

4 blocks east down Folton I didn’t recognize a thing, 4 blocks west down Folton, still, nothing was coming to mind except a raging headache from the vodka, wine, beer, and shot of whiskey I had to drink the night before. We had been walking for little over an hour now so I told Sam to get to work. I had to stop at his place and recharge my phone so I could continue to use the maps and not get myself lost even further into the bowels of San Fran, and then I would continue looking.

Sam didn’t have a car that I could borrow to make this trip a little easier, and my bike was on top of my so you can imagine the panic was setting in just a little bit. I kept telling myself it was a great sunny day to be out for a walk and I wanted to see the city anyways, so this was one way to do it.

This is what I did know about the location of my car;

  • 4 blocks from Sam’s house
  • No significant landmarks, no pretty houses, no parks, possibly a warehouse near by
  • Parked in front of a wooded fence
  • Parked facing East
  • 2 simple direction after exiting off the freeway and I was parked (which of course I can’t remember)
  • It was dark
  • The neighborhood seemed kind of dodgy

So the search began. I got 4 blocks east of Sam’s house and I started zigzagging. Did this for about a half hour when nothing looked remotely familiar.

What was going through my head;

  • Should I hail a cab
  • Should I asked if anyone knows where a wooded fence is in the neighborhood and seem ridiculous and then embarrassed when I have to explain I lost my car.
  • Should I rent a bike, though I could not find a bike to rent in the neighborhood
  • I want to curl up in a ball and cry
  • What if my bike got stolen and it makes it that much harder to spot
  • What if my car was towed and I am looking for hours without a car to find

I couldn’t help but think that if this situation had arisen when I was still working at Belair, where my patience was stretch so thin, that I would be on the corner in a ball without the will to go on.

It took a lot to continue to talk to myself through small steps, encourage myself to keep walking, that I was going to find my car and that it would be fine and I can laugh about it later.

I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to get towards the highway because as soon as I got off it couldn’t have been more than 3-4 blocks and I was already parked. So, going with the original knowledge that I was parked on Folton, I headed west towards the interstate and was going to keep walking until I reached the interstate and would then retrace my steps if nothing else. As I walked further from Sams the homes became less significant and there was more security measure taken (bars, on the doors and windows), It began to feel more right, that’s when I passed it, The African-American Arts Community Building with a big display window and colors for miles. I remembered this from the night before! I literally skip a step and nearly kissed the building. My paced picked up, I started recognizing the area and that’s when I saw it, the wooden fence, and YES! It led my right to my car. My god I have never been so happy to see a piece of machinery. I hugged it, I kissed it, I made jokes with it and I had to express my happiness to a couple passing by (clearly they had never lost their car before).

What I thought was four small blocks from the house was actually 4 big city blocks. Different!

Ahh, so with that situation out of the way it was 3:00 by then. I was starved and tired and I had Sam’s keys. I went back to The Corner Store, had a most delicious bloody mary and some brunch that included a fried egg and bacon, everything my soul needed.

I felt defeated, still, and exhausted. I made it to the Golden Gate Bridge, took a walk around, conjured up the energy to take down my bike and travel across and back. It was great, the bridge is a feat of engineering that moved me to near tears, that and the fact that I wanted to enjoy the moment of realization that I had traveled over 3,000 miles on my own to this landmark, this city, that I had fantasized for years about, only to be challenged and pushed to near breaking point, with some one.

The hardest part of this trip has been leaving friends and family to move on to another home, another couple of open arms, to people who are genuinely excited to see me and are interested in what I have been doing, what I have to say. Each stop is harder to leave than the next.

It’s this feeling of love and comfort, and I keep saying it, community, that is becoming most important to me. Yes, it is great that I can be out there, independent and doing this on my own. I had to prove that to myself, and there may come a time where it will need to be proven again, but I can tell you now, the home that I choose for myself in the future, the home that I have in Milwaukee, I will be truly home when I get back, and I won’t let myself get lost in the “what is to come” but pay more attention to the “now”.

These places are always going to be there, it’s the people who keep moving, keep migrating, don’t take any minute of that time that you have with these people who you care about for granted.

With a heavy traveling heart, love to all of you