Dear Everyone That Loves Me,
I am safe and sound. Thank you for your prayers for my safety. What I lack in preparedness, I more than make up for with street smarts and an East Coast tough girl swagger that will not leave my system despite all my granola munching and tree hugging. No one puts this Baby in the corner because this Baby will melt your face off with her stink eye.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Thanks for teaching me good manners. I thank the toothless owner of the filthy roadside gas station as profusely and genuinenly as I do the pretty Hawaiian-shirted and white-sneakered waitress at the seafood restaurant. You have taught me (among other things) to recognize a human being when I see one.

Dear Tara,
Thanks for teaching me that thirty dollars is a small price to pay for my sanity. Thirty dollars last night made the difference between anxiety and peace. Thirty dollars made the difference between curling my body into a tight ball to avoid making contact with the edge of what I presumed to be an unwashed, scratchy motel-issue comforter, and sleeping comfortably in a pin-drop silent, beautifully appointed room that was heated to my exact comfort level.

Dear Tim at the San Clemente Inn,
You, sir, are a rockstar. Thank you for joining the long line of people who think I'm roughly ten to fifteen years younger than I actually am. You asked me if I could handle hauling my luggage up a flight of stairs because I "looked young". I almost invited you to dinner, and not just because you judged my bare biceps to be the suitcase-lifting type. Thanks for that restaurant recommendation as well. I know a fellow eater when I see one. You, sir, have great taste in food. And you know your sleepy little town like the back of your hand. You made that last bit of driving so very, very worth it.

Dear Everyone That Told Me To Avoid L.A.,
Um.... it wasn't really that bad, y'all. I mean, have you sat in NY/NJ traffic? I have, and I'm here to tell you: It's the same damn thing! Only, at least in LA, you have PALM TREES to look at while you're crawling along! And the air doesn't smell like diesel or tar or defeat! Do you want to know a secret? I kinda liked it. Wanna know another secret? This part, this one stretch of an hour and a half of driving... this scared me the most about this whole trip. Not the winding turns down Highway 1 in the pitch black night. Not the random men who would give me the elevator eyes when I said "Table for one, please". Not the depressing, we've-made-this-only-a-modicum-above-tolerable motel conditions. Nope. None of that intimidated me. The traffic in LA is the only thing I was scared of. Why? I don't know, exactly. Maybe I was afraid of all the wasted time. (HA! There's a rock slide I'd like to introduce my pre-trip self to for a lesson in "wasted time"). Maybe I was afraid of getting into an accident and being stranded. Maybe I was afraid I would actually LIKE it. You see, everyone I know seems to hate L.A. But, they hate it in the way that everyone hates the prettiest girl in the room. They all want to BE the prettiest girl in the room- so they just talk smack about her to make themselves feel better. Well, L.A., I think you're pretty and I'm not intimidated by your long legs and perfect hair.

Dear Mr. Burdy,
Thank you for letting me do this. Not in a "thank you for unchaining me from the stove" sort of way, either. Thanks for letting me take an old car we share away for ten whole days and push her to the limits of her speed limits and mechanical capabilities. Thank you for enduring loneliness and having to explain to everyone that your fiance is a rather impetuous thing who loves to jump in the car from time to time, wholly unprepared, and drive for miles and miles just to clear her head. Thank you for making me smile proudly when male strangers ask me "what my man is like" because they cannot imagine why a woman would be on the road, by herself, without him. Thank you for being the confident, secure, and seasoned veteran of this relationship. Thank you for being a thoroughly modern man and a gentle, sensitive human being all at once.

Dear Madonna Inn,
I'm comin' for ya.

Dear Everyone I Know Between San Diego and Seattle,
I'm comin' to see ya. I promise. We're gonna have a beer, we're gonna catch up.

Dear Beach,
I don't even have words. If it weren't so inappropriate on so many levels to scoop up great handfuls of sand and throw them into the air in ecstacy, I would do it. I swear. Man, am I happy to see you.