Six Hour Drive

I have a friend from college who moved up from LA to Monterey about a year and a half ago who I haven’t seen since then. We were/are good friends, though it was shaky a long time ago. He’s a devout Christian who was taught that homosexuality is a sin, so you can imagine that coming out to him was not easy (I still remember it pretty well). Side note: Before I came out, I used to go to church with him. Crazy, I know.

Anyway. Since I’m on spring break, I planned a road trip to visit him! He’s about six hours north from me, so this will be the longest drive I’ve ever made on my own (twice as long as my drive to Big Bear Lake). It’s hard to believe that I was afraid to drive on the freeway only a little more than two years ago. I will leave in about ten minutes and won’t be back until Sunday! Should be a great weekend!

Big Bear Lake

After work on Friday, I drove nearly 150 miles to visit my best friend from elementary school at his house/cabin in Big Bear Lake (I mean the city; his house isn’t actually in the lake. English is funny sometimes.). The almost three-hour drive is twice as far as the farthest I had ever driven in one sitting before, and driving up a mountain is a little scarier than flat freeway driving, but I challenged myself (after debating all week) and drove it successfully! The drive wasn’t even as scary or as tiring as I thought it would be, but this is still a big step for me. I never would have even contemplated such a trip two years ago.

When I arrived at my friend’s house/cabin (it looks like a one-bedroom vacation home, I’m so jealous), my friend had dinner waiting for me! He’s a pretty good cook (cooking is one of his many hobbies), and he made slow-cooked ribs for me! Over the course of the weekend, he also made me waffles and homemade pizza! Healthy and economical.

Besides just visiting my friend, the other excuse for driving to Big Bear Lake this past weekend was to attend a chili cook-off put on for the city’s Old Miners’ Days. We went around to 25+ booths that each let us sample some of their amazing chili, and we got to vote for our favorite. I loved learning about the Gold Rush and California history back in elementary school, so this kind of event appealed to me. I don’t know what chili has to do with history, but joining in on a small town tradition is always fun. Also, I just love chili.

Of course, we also did some walking around the local shops and took in some views of the lake and the scenery. Basically, I had another amazing weekend (three weekends in a row of hanging out with my best friend from elementary school!). Spending a couple days in a secluded little town up in the mountains really felt like a mini-vacation. It’s so relaxing to escape reality, one weekend at a time.

Lost In Pasadena

A friend of mine from graduate school has been visiting LA this week, so we made arrangements to meet up last night. He doesn’t have a car while he’s down here, so I had to drive to see him. We decided to meet at a bookstore in Pasadena, which is about 45 miles away from my office. I had never driven to Pasadena before, so I used Google Maps to plan my route. I printed out the directions and left for Pasadena straight after work.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t much traffic on the way there. I thought it would take over an hour, but it took me only 45 minutes. I figured I’d be really early and I could shop around the bookstore for half an hour while waiting for my friend (I love bookstores).

I followed my Google Maps directions and got off the freeway at the correct exit, but I then somehow missed the turn I was supposed to make after exiting. The street I was on was a one-way street (I hate those), so I couldn’t make a U-turn and find the right street. I had to continue driving until I saw a major street with which I could find my way back.

I have a terrible sense of direction. After making a few turns onto streets I thought would take me where I wanted to go, I was lost. I ended up somewhere in Alhambra, around 5-10 miles away from Pasadena. I don’t have a GPS, so that wasn’t an option. I would have called my dad for directions (he knows the area really well), but my cell phone was out of battery.

So what was I to do? Luckily, I had my trusty iPod touch with me! I drove around until I found a McDonald’s, since I know they have Wi-Fi. Unlike the McDonald’s near my house that has free Wi-Fi, I had to pay $2.95 to get a two-hour block of internet time, but that’s a small price to pay for finding a way out of being lost.

I typed in the address into Google Maps to get directions from where I was, and I found I was about 6 miles away from my destination. I got in my car and followed my iPod precisely, even looking at my odometer to see how many tenths of miles I was going before I was supposed to see a particular street at which to turn. In 15 minutes I had parked and was in the bookstore, making me only two minutes late.

I couldn’t believe that I got myself lost, even after I had printed out directions. I’m so glad I had my iPod with me. I would have gone crazy otherwise. Best purchase I’ve ever made!

Driving The Company Van

To right the wrong from the end of last week, I had to travel to my client’s warehouse again today. It was incredibly exhausting, especially since the delivery was a success this time, meaning I had to single-handedly empty the inventory from the company van into the warehouse’s receiving department. My boss was there, but he was tasked with organizing the boxes onto pallets so that the receiving department could properly accept the delivery.

After an hour of continuously unloading the van, I was sweating so profusely that I could barely keep my eyes open. I’m really not used to exercise anymore. I must have strained my left leg at some point too, because my left quadricep has been hurting whenever I walk or go up stairs since the delivery.

My boss and I had lunch before heading back to the office. Usually my boss drives when we do deliveries in the van, since he’s a pretty good driver and I don’t like driving unfamiliar cars (especially ones with less field of vision on the sides and rear). But my boss made me drive the van back this time, partly so I would learn how to drive the van (so he doesn’t have to come with me on deliveries anymore) and also so he could sleep.

It was pretty scary at first. Driving a big van feels quite different from driving a sedan, but taking it slow and being defensive (the way I usually drive) made it okay. Focusing on driving even more than usual, though, made me extra tired by the time we got back to the office. What a start to the week!

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The Carpool Lane

My friend/boss and I had a meeting in the afternoon with some of our clients. Unfortunately, the meeting was at the clients’ office 60 miles away. An hour before we had to leave, my friend/boss asked me to drive.

I’m still pretty uncomfortable driving long distances, especially if I’ve never driven there before and if I have a passenger. But my friend/boss is my boss, so I couldn’t say no that easily.

Some of the freeway junctions in LA are very confusing too. My printout from Google Maps didn’t tell me that I would have to change four lanes to the left to change to the right freeway.

Getting to the meeting was mostly smooth; I only hit traffic toward the end of the trip. Coming back, however, was terrible. We left the meeting around 5pm, right during rush hour. It probably took half an hour to move half a mile.

Eventually, the traffic loosened up, and I discovered the joys of the carpool lane. I don’t usually qualify to take the carpool lane. It was so gratifying to be able to drive really fast and not have to worry that I’m going to hit traffic or have a car cut in front of me.

I really should carpool more often.

Early And Late Meetings

I went to Target early today and met with the store team leader. He was really nice and encouraging. He said that he would give my resume to his boss (the district team leader or something) and we would be in touch. He’s going on vacation for a week and a half starting tomorrow, but he said he’d send off my resume today. I’m probably not going to be hearing back for a little while, but I think my meeting went well.

I’m working the closing shift tonight, as usual. My college friends are getting together and want me to drop by after work. They’re meeting at a bar about 25 miles away from my Target. I’ve never driven to that area before, so I haven’t decided if I want to go. I got directions, but it will be pretty late when I get off work. I don’t know if I’ll be able to see the road signs. On the other hand, I rarely see any of my friends these days. How can I miss any opportunity? We’ll see if I’m brave enough to go.

Planorama

Driving to the new Target was surprisingly easy. I never hit traffic; my travel time was exactly what Google Maps said it would be. My first experience driving on the freeway by myself was about as painless as could be.

About 20 different Targets from around the area sent team members to the new Target to help set it up. My Target sent about ten people, most of whom are team leaders. The big gathering was called a Planorama, because the main task we had was to set planograms for the entire store.

Planograms are basically the blueprints to the store’s layout. Given a particular aisle, the planogram tells us how many shelves we need, how many inches apart (vertically) the shelves should be, what products go on the shelves, and the exact location of each product on those shelves. Setting a planogram just means we follow the instructions and make the aisle look like it should.

Every new Target always has a Planorama weekend. I like the idea that all the people who work at different Targets make up one very large team, and we all gather to help make our team even larger.

Because I’m just a sales floor team member, I never learned how to set a planogram before. Now I can read the labels on the shelves and understand a lot more of the numbers and codes on it. There’s a lot of information encoded into those little strips of paper!

Participating in the Planorama was really fun. I love learning and doing new things, and I love being part of helping a new store get started. I almost wish I could go again tomorrow, but I’m scheduled to work at my Target the rest of the weekend. It’s okay, though, because I don’t really feel like getting up at 5am again for a very long time.