I'm here. I've finally arrived. Eight weeks of traveling and six thousand miles towing my tiny house behind me.
(7 minute read)
The drive from Temecula to Oceanside had me pretty choked up. It had taken me years to get here and now I was only 30 minutes away from my destination. Oceanside was on my bucket list, but not for the obvious reasons. This trip wasn’t for a vacation in a beautiful beach town along the Pacific Ocean. It was a request from my husband that I promised I’d honor.
Many of you know my story and why I’m traveling around the country in a teardrop trailer. But some of you are new to my journey and might need the backstory to understand.
So here is the abridged version.
In 1993 I started bartending at a VFW in Spring Lake Park, MN. My first night on the job I heard a man tell a joke and his voice permeated my soul. I knew in an instant that I was going to marry him. I didn’t actually see his face until several minutes later and was relieved and happy to see he was rather handsome—since I would be spending the rest of my life with him after all.
Turns out, it would actually be him spending the rest of his life with me.
His name was Klink. He was 46, I was 27, and neither one of us cared about the age difference. Sometimes the soul knows things that we don’t. He was a Vietnam Vet, and one of the most amazing human beings I had ever met. We became best friends and soulmates, built businesses, healed old wounds, found a safe place with each other, and loved each other deeply. We were connected by a force bigger than us and we both understood it.
Cancer #1 struck him in 2002—Non Hodgkins Lymphoma—and he battled it like a rock star. Four years later, in 2006, it struck again and this time it decided to stick around awhile. Two and a half years later our doctor gave him six months to live. They stopped all chemo treatments and wouldn’t ya know it, he went into remission six months later. But the years of chemo damaged his heart and his body and what followed would be endless health complications including spinal meningitis, COPD, congestive heart failure, a-fib, and HIB. We maintained as much normalcy as we could but for the next few years I watched him slowly struggle and suffer.
In the spring of 2015 he was diagnosed with lung cancer, (cancer #3) and we both knew this to be the beginning of the end. A year later the cancer had metastasized to his bones and then to his brain.
Klink died on Thanksgiving Day, 2016.
He requested his ashes be scattered in three places; Alaska, Manasota Key, FL, and Oceanside, CA. Each place had significance for him but none as much as Oceanside. We had a vacation home in Manasota Key and I had already brought him to the beach there last year. He worked in Alaska right after we met and it changed the trajectory of his life. But Oceanside. This was his place. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton after his tour, and lived in a house on the beach with a group of guys and their dog, Captain Barney Good Vibes. It was a tumultuous time when he came home from Vietnam in 1970. He was 20 years old when he got off the bus. His CO told him to take off his uniform, grow his hair, and not tell anyone where he’d been. Nice welcome home for someone who just put his life on the line for his country. I cant help but believe that Oceanside was his sanctuary after the war and shaped who he was to become. Back then there was no diagnosis of PTSD, no help for veterans struggling with what they experienced. They, and many before them, had to figure out how to cope on their own and O’side in the early 70’s gave him the means to do that.
Weepy-eyed, I merged onto Oceanside Ave and struggled to catch my breath—the last few years flashing in front of my eyes.
I’m here. I’ve finally arrived. Eight weeks of traveling. Six thousand miles towing my tiny house behind me. The reality of what I was doing finally catching up with me. I was honoring his wish, his request, but at the same time I was also honoring mine. In the time since he passed, I closed my company, became a Health Coach, left my home, bought a truck, bought a teardrop trailer, and decided to roam the country for a few years. I felt no purpose living in Minneapolis anymore. No need to stay. I wanted a new chapter to unfold for me and this was my way of allowing that. The weight of the last 10 years had lifted and exposed to me a new freedom and gift that I didn’t want to waste.
And so here I was, honoring two significant pieces of my life. The end of one thing and the beginning of another.
My inaugural journey was to take Route 66 to SoCal and drop Klink off at the beach. Then maybe go north for awhile. The reality of being in Oceanside hit my chest and knocked the wind right out of me. I did this. I made this happen. I significantly changed the course of my life. I chose my own stars. I’ve always believed that destiny is a balance of what happens to us and of what we choose. It’s not all planned out or predefined. We get to choose our path and then allow the Universe to unfold for our choices. I was living the manifestation of my dream and of my husbands wish, and I couldn’t contain my emotions any longer.
I pulled into a car wash and started scrubbing down my truck and teardrop. A few minutes later a woman approached me and asked if I was okay. I jokingly told her I was just having a small emotional meltdown and I’d be fine. She touched me gently and asked if she could hug me. Tears poured down my face as this kind stranger and I embraced at the car wash. When she let go she asked how her and her husband could pray for me and I was a bit dumbstruck. Nobody has ever asked me that before. They just tell me that they are. It was nice to be offered a choice on the subject and give my input, since it is, after all, my life. I though about it for a moment and then told her that praying that I am safe on the road is all that I need. She obliged happily, we parted ways, and my heart smiled for the first time all day. I felt like I had just received a hug from the Universe, and from Klink.
I spent the week exploring the area; Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad, San Diego, remembering Klink’s stories of adventures and escapades. I rode my bike up and down The Strand every night at sunset and imagined him playing catch with Captain Barney Good Vibes, flying kites during the day, and campfires on the beach at sunset. The population of O’side was 38,000 in the early 70’s, it’s now over 115,000. It used to be frisbee on the beach, marijuana and peace signs, but now it’s tourists snapping selfies and slow moving traffic. Although you can still see remnants of what it was like when he lived here, small beach condos and rental units have mostly taken over, which is why they now call it The Strand. There is a stretch about three blocks long that still has little vintage beach houses for rent and I liked the idea of knowing that he lived in one of them. As I rode my bicycle past a tiny yellow house, I gazed inside the windows and pretended that I could see him being happy and young and healthy.
On Sunday night I climbed up into the lifeguard station and settled in. The crowds had given way to a cool breeze and the soft light of the sunset provided a peaceful and calm setting. I opened Spotify on my phone and let James Taylor take the stage. The music of JT was a thread throughout our entire journey together and if I’m already feeling melancholy, than for god’s sakes, let me go down with Something In The Way She Moves. He sang this song to me for 23 years and whenever I hear it, I hear Klink. I see and feel Klink. As bittersweet as it is, I want this feeling to always be with me. I want to always have this connection and I know I only have to close my eyes, press play, and he’s there.
I also know how lucky I am to have this.
Stepping off my perch, I walked down to the beach, found a stick and wrote his name in the sand. Klinker Spirit. His birth name was Duane Charles Weisen but I only knew him as Klink. I never once called him Duane. Not even when I was pissed off at him. His family called him Duane, and one or two of his close friends, but not me. He was always Klink to me. His dad gave him the nickname when he was a little boy and it meant “an odd brick in the wall” and it stayed with him throughout his years as a tile setter.
I started Klinker Spirit a few weeks before he died and it was an homage to his strength and spirit as he fought for his life. And then after he died, he kept showing up to visit; a dragonfly hovering in the garage for 4 hours, the color orange. His spirit was with me so much afterwards that I can’t seem to write his name now without adding spirit to the end of it. He’s no longer just Klink. He’s the spirit of his former self.
I stepped out into the water and opened up the small bag that held his ashes. The surf was soft and smooth and I let the contents spill out and penetrate into the blue water; expanding like puffy clouds of drowning smoke. I waded through his ashes, wanting him to penetrate into my skin and absorb into my body. I let him swirl around me before he settled down onto the ocean floor, and then become part of all-that-is. As I walked back to the shoreline, I watched a slow wave come in, slide over his name written in the sand, and pull him out to sea. He will always be part of this place now.
And just like that, it was done.
I went back to my spot and sat for a bit, contemplating the 23 years I had with him and now my future without. How grateful I am. I looked over and noticed a guy and his dog playing catch on the the shoreline where I had just left his ashes. The dog was as happy as he could be and the young man seemed patient and peaceful as he played with his good friend. For a brief moment I saw Klink and Captain Barney Good Vibes—playing together as the sun went behind the sea—and my heart skipped a beat.
And then it smiled.
I hopped on my bike and started to make my way back home. I rode by the tiny rental homes with folks sitting outside enjoying libations and laughter. I peddled by several campfires on the beach, watching friends and families hanging out enjoying each others company with the gentle sound of the waves behind them; the pier lights illuminating the water in the background and the smell of marijuana wafting through the air. Maybe it hasn’t changed all that much since 1970.
I eventually came to the four-way stop which brings me back to Oceanside Blvd and my own tiny house on wheels. I started riding an electric bike since I’ve been on the road and so I always signal my turns with hand signals. As I slowed at the four-way, I noticed an old white van rolling up across the street from me, both of us coming to a stop at the same time. The driver was shirtless and had long brown wavy hair with a tie-dyed headband. We both paused and then I lifted my hand to signal my left turn; arm straight out, horizontal. He looked at me and nodded his head. Then held out his arm for a right turn; arm straight out and forearm vertical. And then he smiled and gave me the peace sign.