Being in a choir was not the usual thing for Val, although she did sing pretty well. This particular choir was quite a large group. They were practicing a moderately difficult program to be performed over the course of a week at a conference. There were singers from all over the world who had come for the music and for the fellowship. They were a faith based group, which made it possible for Val to feel a small degree of comfortable, but that wasn’t saying she was all the way there by any means.
She was standing in the alto section without being sure that was where she belonged. It was better than trying for notes up in the stratosphere. She was standing near another singer who didn’t seem as timid and unsure as she was. She decided they should become friends, and set about making it happen. She was good at that job even though she came across as being the quiet type at first. It just took her a while to get warmed up.
Valerie, who preferred to be called Val, was a Virginia girl with a slight southern twang to her speech. Like everyone else, her family had its share of dysfunction, but it was still a supportive, intact family. Val had finished high school and her first year at university when she met her friend in choir. They found out they shared a high love for adventure. Val also had a dry wit and a sense of humor that drew friends. She looked at life with an expectation of fun, and who wouldn’t want to be around that?
After singing in each other’s ears for a week the conference ended. They went their separate ways, but their friendship started its long distance phase. Letters went back and forth frequently. There’s something about the safety of writing to someone far away and not having to deal with judgment, for at least as long as it takes for a return letter – they became very well acquainted with each other’s personal lives. They were both writers, who actually preferred the written word as a means of working out their everyday angst. Their bond deepened.
Val was working on her degree in elementary education which left her somewhat free in the summer. Her friend had children who were old enough to be self-sufficient. So it came about that in the summer of 1996 her friend, Louise, invited her to do a trip out west with her. They would meet at Louise’s home in Florida and travel to Colorado in Louise’s aging Dodge van, camping as they went. Val went for it.
Patterning themselves after the duo of “Thelma and Louise” of Hollywood fame (well, except for the illegal parts, which make up most of the movie, oh, and the ending…) they set off to have an adventure. They had a great time traveling the Florida panhandle the first day. Safely reaching the campground Louise had lined up for the first night was their first triumph. They managed to set up their tent, have a walk on the beach and survived their first camp meal out of a can. It was the next day they were excited about and spent some time discussing. Neither of them had been to the city they were coming to next, and they had a list of what had to be seen and done.
“Thelma and Louise” in New Orleans, yeah, it had a good ring to it. Let the adventure begin…