West Coast Karma

Elizabeth Lloyd

© Copyright 2019 by Elizabeth Lloyd

Photo of Highway 101 near Florence, Oregon.

This is the story of a wish list vacation.  Drive Pacific Coast Highway.  It had been attempted twice before.  Both times it fell apart.  Now on the journey, we would be hit with an unexpected derailment to our plan.  No way to foresee that Florence was quietly waiting with a karmic trap.  Instilling a new found perspective and life long lessons, and possibly a meeting with Santa Claus.

Look, I think that is a gas station.” There was urgency in finding a gas station. We pulled into what appeared to be an open gas station. A dump truck sitting at the diesel pumps gave the station a deceptive appearance of open. “I don’t think this place is open, there is no one in the store.” We were in an unfamiliar city. The car was on empty. It had been pulling a bit to the right. A physical check of the gas pumps confirmed they were not working.

Standing between the pumps and the passenger window, we were discussing some sort of vague plan. My vacation plans made my husband crazy. Always unstructured references detailing only a list of things I wanted to see. He was a planner. The freedom from restrictions was exhilarating and would compel me to just throw a bunch of stuff in the car and yell “Let’s go!” Adventure!

While discussing the very real need for an open gas station situation, a weird look spread across his face. “What is that smell?” He glanced back over his shoulder at the dump truck. Trying to determine the origin of the smell. Then his head disappeared from my window. He squatted down to take a closer look at the right front tire. His voice, a little muffled, traveled up to my window. “I think we have a problem.” My brain did not want to absorb those words. “What?” “No, No, No!”

We had been planning this vacation for years. It had been attempted twice before. Both times it fell apart. It almost fell apart this time too. This was a wish list vacation. Drive Pacific Coast Scenic Highway. Two months had been spent researching vague destination points and plotting a loose travel map. The biggest dilemma had been how to travel. A train and car rental were evaluated. Much more expensive than driving. Unless the car broke down. My biggest fear was the car breaking down. Vacation time had a value that far exceeded money. Time was the one thing that couldn’t be replaced.

His words traveling up from the front tire were my biggest vacation fear smacking me right in the face. Leaning out my window, I tried to wrap my brain around the ominous stream of smoke chugging its way up the car. “Oh Crap!”

It almost should have been expected. Hundreds of miles of Rocky Mountain driving, a stint through Seattle, and the most memorable track of Highway 101 driving, in which we renamed one stretch Mountain Goat Pass. It was a twisty turning, steep downhill decent with no guard rails. Any attempt to take in the ocean view was muted by the steep cliff edge. Peeking out the passenger window, the drop off caused me to naturally lean toward the driver’s side of the car. Almost crawling into the driver’s seat. My husband briefly glanced at me, “What are you doing?” Responding “I don’t know, I think I’m trying to keep the car on the road!” He chuckled “Ya, well I don’t think that is going to help.”

Just prior to making our way into Florence, Oregon, we had stopped at a lighthouse. Lighthouse pictures had been a quest along the way. As the car coasted through the parking lot, we noticed a very disheveled man on foot, traveling in our direction. Pointing at the creepy looking man, I motion to the other end of the parking lot. “Park over there, I don’t want to deal with that guy.” We had no idea where the guy came from.

A fast exit was made from the car, to obtain the quested lighthouse picture, and avoid the creepy guy. Upon turning around, the disheveled man was hanging out the passenger window. Making an argument for some money. The man was saying “Just three dollars man, I just need three dollars to put some gas in my car.” “I’ve been stuck here for days.” Scanning the parking lot, there were no other cars. Now, I was pissed. I did not want to deal with this guy. Making my way back to the car, I barked “Excuse me!” The man made a fast track around the car to the driver side window. Still pleading his case for three dollars. Angrily, I spat, “We don’t have three dollars!” The words were echoed by my husband inside the car. “We don’t have any cash.” As we backed out of the parking lot the guy was still talking about being stuck there for days and just needing a little gas money.

This was still a topic of discussion when we pulled into the gas station. Taking in the waspy puffs of smoke rolling over the fender, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if the man had been telling the truth? What if I just put some bad karma out there. Because now we had a major car issue that was going to cause us to be stuck in an unfamiliar city. How ironic!

Over the streaming gray haze of smoke, a tense conversation about the immediate need for a mechanic bounced between us. We didn’t know the city. We didn’t know the reputations. We had Minnesota plates. We didn’t want to get ripped off on a repair bill. Our situation was not hard to decipher.

My husband, always my ‘Knight in Shining Armor’ always the logical fixer. Panic at this moment would not allow me to wait from him to dig out his gear. At the diesel pumps a large man was putting diesel into a dump truck. Apparently only diesel was still working at this station. “I’m going to go ask that truck driver if he knows anyplace to have the car looked at.” Visions of the dirty lighthouse man, heading toward our car, blinked into my thoughts. This was so ironic. Bad karma thoughts began to eat at me again.

A brief conversation with Mr. Truck Driver, and short explain the of our situation, he empathically pointed me back the way from which we came. Stating there was a mechanic two blocks back that was very good and very honest. Thanking Mr. Truck Driver, my thoughts were lost in bad karma. My stress level was on the rise. The car had been sitting for a while. The smoke rolling up the fender had started to dissipate.

Pulling back onto the main street, each rotation of the tire magnified the issue with a loud grinding noise. The painful sounds emanating from the car indicated this would probably not be an easy or cheap fix. Each rotation of the tire caused a new muscle in my back to tense. Intertwined with the grinding, my husband attempting to reassure me “It might not be as bad as it sounds.” The grinding held more power than his words.

The mechanic would hold the key to our vacation fate. After a car evaluation the mechanic told us he would have to order parts. The mountain driving had done a number on the brakes. He couldn’t say how long it would take to get parts. Could be tomorrow. If they didn’t come by Friday, then it might not be until Monday. “Oh No!” Again, my stress level was reaching a critical point. Mr. Mechanic was now aware of my exponentially increasing anxiety. We questioned if there was anywhere to rent a car. He pointed out the window. “See that white Buick outside, with the for-sale sign, just take that car.” My previous thoughts of getting ripped-off on a car repair bill prompted me to ask “How much do you need for rental?” He clarified, “No, just take the car until yours is fixed.” The answer took me by surprise, a ray of sunshine in this dark event. At least we would not have to pay for a car rental.

While paperwork and phone numbers were exchanged, I questioned Mr. Mechanic if he needed a copy of our driver’s license and insurance. He didn’t even look up as he responded “I don’t need that. I have your car.” An unsuccessful attempt to suppress laugher, chokingly escaped my husband. I found no humor in our situation. Car keys traded hands, cementing our predicament. Always logical, my husband said “I guess we better find a place to stay.” He was sending me on a place to stay project so I have something else to think about.

Digging a cheesy, thinner than newspaper paper, magazine out of my bag, we began to leaf through the pages of hotels, coupons and restaurants. Scrounging the limited options. My one and only request, if we were stuck here for days, I wanted to be stuck on the beach. After searching the magazine, we realized that Florence only had one hotel on the beach. The picture in the thinner than newspaper paper magazine didn’t look too bad. We decided to commit to it no matter what. It was the only hotel on the beach.

My lack of planning and quest for freedom, would bite me on this vacation. In an attempt to squeeze out just a little more vacation time, this trip began just before Memorial Day. Once on the road, we realized that everyone else in the world had the same plan. Many events, in many cities, were scheduled that weekend. So far, we had made it right on time to every cities event. Many nights found us scrambling for any room, anywhere. With that in mind a call was made to confirm vacancy. We were relieved that Florence had a room waiting for us.

When the Buick entered the hotel parking lot, an uneasy feeling crept in on us. Some areas had caution tape strung up. We examined the picture, and then our gaze returned to the hotel. My husband expressing what I was thinking, “I wonder when that picture was taken?” He knew I was already stressed about the car. The loss of vacation time, and the unknown cost of repairs. He knew I had a hard time dealing with really crappy or dirty hotels. At that moment he was just trying hard to expel the tension engulfing the white Buick. He asked “Do you want to stay here?” “I want to stay on the beach, this is the only hotel on the beach.” He parked the car.

From behind the lobby desk, a young dark-haired girl greeted us. “I just called.” I re-confirmed the room rate. It was the cheapest hotel rate we had paid so far. Part of me was relieve, because now we would have a car repair bill. Part of me was concerned. We had come to learn on our vacations, often times, room rate had a direct correlation with quality.

We followed the girl from the office, past identical room doors that opened to the sidewalk. She led us to a room directly under the caution tape. My husband glanced at me. He knew how I was going to feel about that. “I don’t want to stay in a room where they are doing work right outside the door.” We returned to the office for a new room key. Then, once again, past doors that opened to the sidewalk. She opened the door to the new room.

One small room with a bed and a bathroom. The details of the room were lost to the scenery framed by the patio door. An expansive, never ending view of ocean and beach, enticing and beckoning. Ten feet of grass strip just outside the patio door lead to a dock. “We can get our stuff later, let’s go see the beach.” Traveling the grass strip past several patio doors, I suddenly felt a soft mushing squish up between my bare toes. It was not sand. A vaguely familiar, nasty smell, penetrated the air. A look down solidified that I had stepped in dog crap. Really? A reminder that all was not right in my world. No matter how good the beachy, salt in the air, enticing ocean views were, there was still some crap in my life. Literally. My day just kept getting better.

Heel limping, toes in the air, in a strange dog crap dance, I made my way back to the room. Cussing a dog crap song, to accompany the dance, the whole way. In the bathroom, I stuck my foot in the tub and flipped on the faucet. As water hit my foot and began to spiral down the drain, a giant bug emerged from the dark opening. A scream escaped my mouth. Not normally afraid of bugs, this one just surprised me, and it was big. Now extremely irritated as the last remnants of dog crap were flushed from my foot. My cussing had echoed into the bedroom. Laugher from my husband flowed back to the bathroom. He didn’t even try to stifle it this time.

Then room inspection began. It was not great. But it had a coffee pot and an ocean view. As the room inspection proceeded, covers on the bed were flipped back. The sheets were so thin I could almost see through them. What was under the sheet? Now, really concerned. Pulling the sheet back, a strange mattress pad of very loose weaved, white material, and imbedded throughout, lots of black hair. Discussed washed over me. “Honey look at this?” “Ya that is kind of gross.” When my husband, who will put up with a lot, agreed it was kind of gross, then it was gross.

The young girl in the office was about to have any preconceived notions about Minnesota nice blown out of the water. This Minnesota woman was having a very bad day. We traveled back down to the office.

Trying hard to remain reasonable and calm, we entered the office. The girl looked up. Maintaining my bad day emotions, positive they were present in my tone of voice. Details about thin sheets and hairy beds hit her ears. “I don’t think the room is clean, the bed is definitely not.” She agreed to get us a different room. Again, we traveled down the sidewalk, past rows of hotel room doors. She opened the door to a new room. It was identical to the other room, but hopefully lacking a bug. Secretly, I was glad to leave the giant bug behind. Not really sure where it escaped to.

The room inspection began again, covers on the bed flipped back. Again, the very thin sheets. Again, I could see through them. Again, grossed out by hair weaved into the mattress cover. My frustration and very bad day were catching up to me. All I wanted to do was walk down to the beach and stick my toes in the sand. My wish was not huge. “I have to go back to the office.” The bad day just kept piling on.

Standing back in the office, I’m telling the girl about the new room, the bed, and the hair. This was the third room she has taken us too. She looked exasperated. “Let me walk down there with you and look at what you are seeing.” As we travel past hotel doors once again, she was explaining the place was purchased by new owners. They were in the process of rehabbing it. They had put a lot of money into it. We entered the room, and walked over to the bed. As I’m showing her the thin sheets, how you could see through them, she was explaining they wash them on site, “It has been cleaned.” Pointing out all the hair in the mattress cover, discuss reverberated in my comeback, “It is gross.” After all the main reason for a hotel was a place to sleep. She turned, her voice trailing her as she exited the room. “Just a minute, I’ll be right back.”

She returned with brand new bedding and mattress pad still wrapped in plastic. “Will this be okay?” Responding with a thankful “Yes, of course.” She was relieved, she did not want to see me again that day. Now that the bed issue was resolved, the beach was impatiently calling. Really, I just needed to be on the beach, bury my toes in the sand, smell the salt air, and listen to the ocean.

As we stepped off the patio onto the strip of grass, I looked down. “AHHHH, really!” Right in front of this new room patio was the dog pile I stepped in earlier. Just sitting there, with my footprint in it, mocking me. My husband was trying extremely hard not to burst into laughter. It would not have been the best thing at that moment.

Bypassing the dog pile, we headed for the beach. Warmth from the sand travel up my toes and spread to my shoulders. A feeling of peace washed over me. We strolled along the beach for a little bit and discussed ‘what next.’ We would head into Florence and get a lay of the land. The thought that we could be stuck for up to a week hit me again. Worry about the cost of fixing the car and our limited vacation time, was causing increasing levels of distress. The scraggily lighthouse man, who just needed three dollars for gas, stuck there for days, but no car in sight, had come knocking on my karma door thoughts again. Now, in the back of my mind bad karma thoughts pin ponged about. His voice echoed in my head “Just three dollars for gas.”

The stress was suddenly counter by hunger pains. While trapped in the events of the day we had not had a chance to eat. We needed food, now! A restaurant attached to the hotel was the closest place. The food was so mouthwatering I could have licked the plate. The restaurant was a bright star in the episode of uncertain vehicle repair agony. While we ate, we took in the view and people watched out the giant windows. Frothy ocean waves pounced on the beach sending hints of glittery mist into the air. Two naked little boys were playing in the sand. The scene emanated with not-a-care in the world feeling. Their innocent, carefree moment, promoting a small tinge of jealously. The view invited peace, contentment and a smile.

While paying the bill, worry about the car again crawled up in my head. The lighthouse man re-entered my thoughts. My thoughts were verbalized. “Could I have created bad karma by being a bitch to the lighthouse man?” My husband reassured me, “No, he didn’t even have a car in the parking lot. Did you see his teeth? I think he was using drugs.”

Back in the Buick, I’m telling him “If the car repair takes too long, I might go back to the lighthouse and give that guy three dollars to fix my karma.” Trying not to laugh he says “Let’s just see what happens, it will be okay, at least the mechanic borrowed us a car, we are not completely stuck.”

As we drove through town, we passed a strategically parked, white van in a strip mall parking lot. The back doors were sitting open. A homemade, cardboard sign was leaning up against one of the open back doors that read “Disabled, homeless Vet, anything helps.” A very Santa Claus looking man, with a long white beard, occupied a lawn chair leaning up against the other door. Bad karma thoughts bubbled up again, and I thought to myself, “I would rather give that guy three dollars.”

The little town of Florence was drenched in a feeling of welcome. Tourist and artist shop doors begged to be opened. Artist shops held a soft spot in my heart. They were highly addictive and would lure me in with their colorful façade, and whimsical works, peaking at me from the store front windows. My husband, not always enthusiastic about my need to scrounge, would sometimes complain. On this day, he was just glad there was a distraction to my worry. Always on a treasure hunt for the unique, an original, a one of a kind.

In one of the tourists shops my husband purchased a kite. He said it was for the grandson. The giant windows of an artist’s shop captured my attention and beckoned me to come in. All the pieces were handmade, by a local artist. The statement was equivalent to the most decadent moist, smooth piece of chocolate cake ever eaten by a chocolate lover. Each handmade piece was explored. With the unknow car repair bill sitting ever present in my mind, my budget was restricted. Just as it would be a sin to leave a candy shop without some candy, it was impossible to leave the artist shop without a creation. Sweet, brightly colored, handmade, clay blowfish, implored me to take them home. They were not expensive.

While in the shop the owner and I made conversation. We talked about the car breakdown dilemma. The owner told us about a state park with a hiking path that ran along a little stream. At the end of the trail there was a waterfall. Back in the car we decided if we were stuck again tomorrow, we would go hike the trail.

As we traveled back to the hotel, we passed the disable Vets van again. “I swear, if we are stuck here again tomorrow, I’m giving that guy three dollars.”

Back in the hotel room the red kite was assembled. It was getting late in the afternoon and the sun had started to make its downward progression. Once assembled, we headed for the beach. The dog poop warning was issued. It was just sitting there a few feet out in the grass in front of the door. With my footprint in it, mocking me.

Out on the beach, my husband worked the kite into the air. Then handed me the string. Waving him off, “I don’t need to fly it.” He shoved the kite string in my hand. “I really should go call my dad.” Taking the kite string, an easy breeze was tugging me to the mission. Soon completely focused on keeping the kite in the air. Dog poop, car repairs, lost vacation time, all began to drift away. A feeling of calm took over. For a brief time, there was peace. Watching as the red kite climbed higher and higher. Each small elevation, encapsulating me in the moment, and irritations of the day melted away.

Long shadows dancing across the beach lured me back to the present. Half a sun sitting out on the distant ocean horizon brought an end to the kite flying expedition. Reeling in the kite in a backward walk toward the hotel. A scan of identical looking patio doors finally found a distant image of my husband. Sitting on a flimsy patio chair, leaning back, and talking on the phone.

That night as we slid into bed, with brand-new fresh clean bedding, the oceans rhythmic lullaby called for sleep. In the limbo of almost asleep, my mind began to wander. Wondering if maybe, karma had far reaching tentacles and one karma act could touch many people at the same time. Possibly the universe gave us a broken car, forcing us into much needed downtime. So that my husband might have more than one night, in one room and one place. Possibly the universe gave us a broken car so a red kite on the beach, would have an opportunity to create a moment of peaceful solitude. When returning from the beach, kite in hand, pieces of phone chatter floated into the room. Those snippets indicated the kite had been put in the air on my behalf. To get my mind off the car and the three hotel room escapades, construction tape, bugs, dog poop and hairy beds.

Three am, always three am. “What is wrong with me?” Always waking up at three am. Slipping as quietly as I could from the bed, I tiptoed to the patio. Sliding into the plastic chair, drinking in the night. Memorized by the soft salty air, an attempt was made to imprint the moment on my soul. It was still, quiet, warm. With only the gentle song of the night time ocean waves caressing the beach. The reflection of the glittering moon spread across the waves like watercolor. Absorbing like a sponge the warm smell of sand and salt air. If I had to be stuck anywhere, being stuck here was really not that bad. As long as we are not stuck here for too long.

Slipping back into bed, again my thoughts wandered. If the car was not ready in the morning, we would go hike the waterfall trail. Falling asleep with that thought, knowing that five am would come way too early for my husband, and for most of the rest of the world too. But that would be what time my eyes would spring open and a quest for coffee would begin.

As expected, five am found me awake, fiercely pursuing coffee. Moving like a Ninja on a secret mission, the coffee ritual began with one of the two hotel provided coffee packets. Having learned, from countless prior vacations, that a small can of coffee, filters, creamer and sugar must be packed. It was as important as socks, underwear and deodorant. What the hotels provided in the rooms was never enough for highly addicted coffee people. Two small packets of coffee, four packets of creamer and sugar were laughable. Those two small packets of coffee might be gone by the time my husband woke.

Listing to the sounds of the gurgling coffee pot transforming the last drops of water into the magical, addictive, caffeinated liquid, I searched for shorts and a tee shirt. So far, efforts of quiet had been a success. My husband had often told me “If my life depended upon me being quiet, I would be dead.” Always dropping, bumping or stumbling over something. That was what happens when you haven’t had coffee yet.

Pouring coffee from the very small pot into a small Styrofoam cup that screamed, “Get out, move on, have a swig of coffee and leave.” Coffee in hand I made my way to the patio. The sun was barely up. Easing into the coffee, my eyes landed on a figure down by the ocean. The figure was searching for and finding shells. Wow! Someone who was up before me. How early was too early to start bugging the mechanic?

Eventually the need to do stuff took over. Back in the room bags of dirty clothes were gathered. Retrieving the key card from the bathroom sink the laundry room was my destination. Siting in the laundry room, hypnotically watching the washing machine chug through its cycles, my husband’s voice from the doorway startled me. “How long is this going to take?” He made his way into the laundry room. “Do you want to go get breakfast?” He commented on the ‘out-of-order’ sign on the other washer. “Do you want to just go the restaurant here?” I replied “That would probably be a good idea, I don’t want to leave our laundry in here too long.” Thinking, we are already down a car, some vacation days, probably a bunch of money, I don’t want to lose our clothes too. That triggered the light house guy to make an appearance in my thoughts. “Just three dollars for gas man, I’ve been stuck here for days.”

After breakfast, the hold your breath, dreaded call was made to the mechanic. It was bad news. The parts needed were coming from Portland and on back order. The parts might come today. Panic was setting in. A caged wolf feeling was penetrating my bones. There was absolutely nothing I could do about the situation. Florence had never been part of the vacation destinations. The thought of spending the entire weekend was causing me to melt down. In an effort to divert my attention, my husband says “After breakfast, let’s go hike the waterfall trail.” At least there was only a small parking fee, who knew what the car was going to cost.

We needed to stop for gas before heading to the trail. After filling the car, we passed by the disable Veteran again. The van was in the same spot as yesterday. Commenting on the disable Veterans van a verbal pledge was sent out to the universe. “I swear, if the car is not fixed tomorrow, I’m giving that guy three dollars to fix my karma.” We headed out of Florence. Curiosity about what was around the next corner, on this new unexplored road, brought my stress down. Several miles out of Florence pin pricks of car repair bills prompted a question to my ‘Knight in Shining Armor’ “What are we going to do if the car is not fixed tomorrow?” He responded, half joking with “If the car is not fixed tomorrow, I will buy this Buick and we will finish our vacation.” He might have been joking, but it became a serious topic of discussion for several miles.

The entrance to the trail promised an escape from the real world. The waterfall trail was lush and green. Wood and metal bridges covered terrain that might otherwise been difficult to maneuver. It was well maintained, not strenuous at all. The stream tumble, turned and churned over rock outcrops, making many small waterfalls. Deep in the trail, surrounded by lush mossy trees, the trail took on an enchanted feeling. A feeling as if we were part of some magical fantasy. Half expecting to see a fairy or some magical creature peering at us from the other side of the creek. The feeling sprouted a humorous conversation of ‘finding bigfoot.’ We were sure if bigfoot lived anywhere it would have been there. The hike was worth it.

When we returned to the hotel, we spent time on the beach. This time the beach was not helping to quell my anxiety. If I could have willed the car to be done, it would have been done. As the sun retreated into the ocean on that night, thoughts of having to go beg for a weekend reservation, or buying a Buick, plagued me.

Reflecting on the forced downtime the red kite made an appearance. That moment cloaked me in a soft, peaceful, emotional stillness. Everything in the world floated away, it was just me and the red kite high in the air. Sand beneath my feet, senses encapsulated in salty air and the ocean song. We would not have hiked the waterfall trail. We would have driven right past. The trails magical embrace demanded a carefree, childlike whimsy. Gifting me relief from grown up worries. My husband would not have received the much needed, more than one night, in one place, downtime he craved. All of that was good, but now my need to move on was overtaking all other thoughts. My need to move on almost made my bones hurt. The lighthouse man returned to my thoughts. “Just three dollars for gas man, I’ve been stuck here for days.”

The morning had not brought relief. The caged feeling was growing. Anxiety about car repair bills had filled every crevice of my being. With our budget in mind, we decided a fast food, drive through window, would be the best place for breakfast. The drive through window produced some cash change. Just a little over four dollars. With four crisp dollars in hand, a pit stop request was verbalized. The white van across the street was the destination. It was time to fix my Karma. We pulled up to the van. Handing the Santa Claus looking man four dollars, we thanked him for his service. As we pulled away, a side trip to the drug store was needed. “Seriously honey, our car has to be fixed today. I just can’t take it anymore. I’m losing my mind.”

After retrieving a few necessities, the store was exited. A scan of the parking lot located my husband waiting in the white Buick. Focusing in on him, the strange look on his face sent a wave of fear into my heart. “Oh no!” “Did he have bad car news?” Sliding into the passenger seat, fretfully wondering if we were going to own an older white Buick? His face still had that weird look on it “Guess what?” Not sure I wanted to know. Hesitantly, I replied “What?” The strange look still lingering on his face, “The car is done.” Positive we were stuck here, a joyful firework display of disbelief erupted in my brain. “What? Really? Are you messing with me?” He said “Really, the car is done.” Karma crept into my thoughts. “You know I just gave that guy four dollars ten minutes ago.” He cracked a smile “I know, that is weird.” Disbelief, shock and relief had taken over and I felt myself physically relax. “If I would have known that Florence required a four-dollar toll, I might have paid it sooner.” Karma was more than immediate in this Florence excursion.

Retrieving the car from the mechanics, my spirit was on the rise. So glad we didn’t have to beg for two more nights at the hotel. So happy to be back on the road. As we returned to Highway 101, we verbally and exuberantly waved goodbye to Florence. Then an unexpected twinge of sadness hit my exuberant goodbye. The karmic lessons and twilight zone feeling, played in my thoughts like a fast-moving mini movie. Our entire trip until reaching Florence had been plagued by city events that caused hotels to be booked for miles around. Florence was not like that, as if it knew we were coming and was making a plan for us. Then a humorous new thought began to swirl about. Maybe Santa Claus lived in Florence Oregon and granted us our wish. Possibly, wishes we didn’t even know we had. Surprised by the nostalgic feeling that quietly slipped in. Happy relief was comingled with pings of sadness, as if we were waving goodbye to a wise and knowing, new found friend. Maybe Santa Claus too.

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