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I seem to have made some little progress in clearing my slate of projects over the past few days and am starting to breathe a little easier.  Last week, it seemed as if I was overwhelmed with a mountain of pre-trip planning that was preventing me from taking care of other, more basic, interests.

I think I can now relax as the "hard stuff" seems to be behind me.  All the tickets for immeditate travel have been purchased, the hotel reservations made, and the only remaining thing I need to do is pack (typically done during an "all-nighter" right before departure).  I've read a total of four guidebooks (plus countless online information sites) in preparing for two days in Portland and four in Seattle.  Possible overkill, perhaps, but I have a very good idea of what I'd like to see and do during my free time there.

I also (finally) got my car repaired this past weekend.  I'd previously replaced brake pads on the front right side earlier this year but the fine mechanics at Brake Masters told me Saturday that it was a hardware problem rather than a wear issue — the calipers were actually getting stuck closed on the right side of the brake pad.  They replaced the entire assembly and that (hopefully) will do the trick; I'm supposed to go in for a check-up after 5,000 miles to make certain (the way I drive nowadays, it could take me a couple of years for me to drive that much and this car will long since have been traded in for my SUV by that time).

I felt great once I got my car back that morning; I hadn't been driving much for the past several months (living withing walking distance of the grocery shop, post office, and work has it's advantages) and suddenly it seemed like I had extra freedom.  I hadn't realized how much I'd enjoyed driving around with the breeze in my face and seeing the nice scenery along the route between the brake shop and my home.  If I would have had my camera in the car, I probably would have found some rural road somewhere to drive on looking for photo opportunities (I did take a "victory lap" through the grounds of the nearby Albuquerque Academy, however — I'd never been in there).  I haven't gone anywhere since, though (and I still walked to the post office this morning).

Now that the Northwest trip planning is out-of-the-way and I know I can drive somewhere if I have/want to, I seem much more relaxed.  I can now resume reading my manuals on volunteer work & teaching English as well as read up on Nepal in general.  (In order to keep track of the political situation in-country and other local news, I've just added a headline feeder to my blog...)

Last week at this time, I'm sure I felt very anxious and overwhelmed.  Today, I'm very relaxed and calm.  I may even find some time to work on some audio & video projects (like burning some of the CD's and DVD's I've downloaded to make room for more!).

Two weeks from today, the traveling begins in earnest.  I'm ready and I can't wait!