2003 Road Trip Diary: Chapter 10

After looking out over the Bay for a while I decided to call my parents. They were happy to hear from me. Probably happier to hear me happy after months of my job-related venting. Picking up on my good mood, my mom told me that I should be a writer so that I could have the freedom to travel like this. The freedom to explore. The freedom to live wherever I wanted. Maybe I’ll be able to do that someday.

I returned to the hotel as Carleen was getting out of the shower. We were planning on meeting our friend Ethan for dinner in Mill Valley. The steaks at the Buckeye Roadhouse were excellent. So were Ethan’s powers of observation, as he pegged Carleen as pregnant the moment she ordered a club soda with lime before dinner.

The next day Carleen and I took the ferry over to San Francisco for some urban exploring. The weather wasn’t ideal, and the rain frequently chased us into hotel lobbies and stores. We nonetheless managed to take a cable car up Nob Hill, walk over to Union Square, backtrack over to North Beach for some lunch and more bumming around, and then meander our way back to the wharf, where we caught the 4:05 ferry back to Sausalito. A power nap and a couple of showers later we were on our way to Berkeley for dinner at Chez Panisse. Dinner was excellent, but the day’s walking had taken its toll on Carleen, and she fell asleep while we were crossing the San Rafael Bridge on our way back to Marin. I fell asleep about ten minutes after reaching the room. You can’t stop Craig and Carleen; you can only hope to contain them.

The next morning we drove over to the Marin Headlands to take in the views of the Golden Gate and the Bay and kill time before lunch in Berkeley with Ethan and Sonja. While they had been married close to five years at that point, they had recently separated. In the car on the way over Carleen and I speculated about how awkward this would be (lunch together was Sonja’s idea, not ours). After discussing it a bit, however, we decided that it wasn’t exactly our problem. Would they, like most couples in that situation, be subtly staking out claims to friends and restaurants and the elusive moral high ground? Probably. But given how seldom we saw either of them anymore – and given how we were determined to remain friends with both of them regardless – we figured we were pretty low on the list of claims to stake.

Upon arriving in Berkeley it became clear that lunch wasn’t going to happen. Ethan’s car had been broken into the night before (he hadn’t realized it until ten minutes before we arrived). It was totally cleaned out, with three busted-out windows and a mutilated dashboard. Carleen and I grabbed a burrito while Ethan took an inventory, talked to insurance people, and seethed. We called Sonja and changed lunch to dinner. Ethan eventually got things as sorted as they could be, and the three of us spent the rest of the afternoon shuttling around the Bay, first to drop off Ethan’s apartment application at his prospective landlady’s house – he was sacked out on his friend Arthur’s couch for the time being – and then to pick up Arthur, who had just returned from a SCUBA vacation in Honduras and needed a lift from San Francisco back home to Berkeley.

Arthur thankfully accepted our invitation to join us for dinner, which meant that there would be an extra person there – complete with fresh tales of Central American adventure – to diffuse any Ethan-Sonja awkwardness that may have arisen. The gambit worked, with unpleasant stories of broken eardrums, blood blisters, and the bends filling the spaces where unpleasant divorce talk could have otherwise arisen.

The next day was Napa. We had planned this before we knew Carleen was pregnant, but it was still a nice enough afternoon even without her being able to actually swallow the wine she was tasting. I was not so limited, but I have to admit that wine tastings are nearly wasted on me. I love good wine. I enjoy it immensely. I’m even capable of swirling it around a glass with a contemplative expression on my face, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that my palate doesn’t tell me much beyond whether I like something or not in the most basic of ways.

It began to rain as we headed back to Sausalito. Carleen was leaving the next day, and this fact combined with the dreary weather was depressing me. We shopped in Berkeley a bit and then had a nice Thai dinner, but I was still in a funk. As she drifted off to sleep that night, Carleen said that she wished that I could race her plane back home and be waiting for her when she got to Columbus. She wasn’t serious about this, but it hit me kind of hard. Being out on the road seemed selfish while I had a pregnant wife back home. I knew Carleen was a big girl and could handle me being gone for another week or two, but at that moment I wanted nothing more than to throw all of my things in the car, race east on I-80, and be home in three days. It was a fleeting feeling, but one that would return to me more than once before the end of my trip.

I sat by the window listening to the rain and pretending to read as Carleen drifted off. I watched her sleep for close to an hour.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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