Can you hear my contented sighs from where you are? Because I have been doing nothing but exhaling dramatically with relief and happiness for the past 12 hours or so.

Yesterday morning was a rough one. I'd spent the previous day, all day, in the hot, hot sun. I thought I'd drunk enough water throughout the day. I also thought I'd put on enough sunscreen. Turns out I did neither. And then I drank beer.

When I woke up the next morning for the second time (the first time was because I was having a nightmare about a grenade-tossing loner type and me scrambling up a tree) I'm pretty sure I was mega-dehydrated. And, because dehydration works a lot like drunkenness in that you can't accept that you are, in fact, dehydrated while you are dehydrated (Nah, bro... I can totally drive thish car home....I'm totally fine, dude!... [stumbles off curb, breaks ankle]) I didn't realize it until 300 miles, five hours, and many, many bottles of water later when I was feeling a LOT better.

This was the first mechanical failure I've experienced on this trip. And it was a short-lived one thanks to the dozens of stops I made along the way to fill up my water bottle. The technology failures, though, they don't seem to want to stop. I was in Ventura, CA, before I realized the car charger didn't work. So, without a laptop, and with my phone as my only guidebook/map/emergency lifeline, I have to make sure that my phone is fully charged every morning before hitting the road. Yesterday, after pushing through the morning's nausea and listlessness, I got all the way to the bell tower in Balboa Park in San Diego, clearly one of the most beautiful and ornate buildings in the whole park, when my camera ran out of battery. I grabbed a few shots with my phone's camera (is there anything this little HTC Evo CAN'T do?) and made my way back to the car, determined to not have THAT happen again.

Other things, however, have been aligning magically. I was checking my email (from my phone!) from a state park bathroom when I saw that a friend from high school, who I'd been trying to meet up with since March when I was down in SLO the first time, suggested that we meet at a cute little bistro in a sleepy little town for dinner with his wife. I was literally ten minutes from the turnoff when I checked my email. So, I pulled off the highway, called him, changed out of my sweaty traveling clothes into something not sweaty in my car (I'm sorry, Orcutt, CA, for flashing you my boobs, but it's just so much more comfortable to drive without a bra), and, like, just like no time had passed between us at all, we were having wine and eating meatballs. I had arrived just a few minutes before my friend and his wife and handed the lovely hostess at Addamo's my camera battery, explaining that I was about to meet a friend I hadn't seen in fifteen years and could she please plug this battery into her wall for ten minutes or so so I could take pictures of this momentous occasion, and also, was my shirt on backwards?

My friend, the inimitable J.C., his lovely wife Colleen, and I laughed the night away. It's becoming more and more apparent to me that this trip is only partially about the scenery. Letting your hair down and laughing is equally important. Understanding that some friendships do not need physical proximity to endure...this has been the most important lesson yet. I've stayed with some incredibly wonderful people along the way and they have been so warm and welcoming. They have all been tonic to my tired, vibrating soul at the end of a day of driving.

And then, THEN! I got to spend the night at the Madonna Inn. It figures that I would drive all this way to get away from the snow and the cold to sleep in a (very expensive) room decorated, of all things, like a freakin' Swiss Chalet, complete with wooden skis and wood paneling. Gah! Whatever frustration I was feeling this morning wore off in seconds, though, when I got to the pool. The pool, y'all. The pool is magical. Swimming in the early morning in a pool surrounded by mountains with birds chirping in the background? Heavenly. Topped only by the music being piped in through speakers made to look like boulders. The song?

"Take it easy
Take it easy
Don't let the sound of your own wheels
Drive you crazy".

Will do, Mr. Henley. Will do.