07.12.134:45 AM ET

50 Dates in 50 States

Three years after the death of her soul mate, M.L. Brocklehurst hit rock bottom—and decided to recover with an action-packed road trip. Armed with an online dating profile and plenty of fuel, she travelled across the U.S., matching each state with a rendez-vous. In this excerpt from her book, she goes on date number 13 in Georgia.

I wound the window down and cranked up the radio. ‘It’s just you and me now, Randy,’ I said to my trusty GPS. ‘I know you can get cranky but don’t go misbehaving and leading me astray now will you? We’ve got a lot of miles to go together, so just play nice.’ I cajoled as we headed north to Georgia and my date there with a gentleman by the name of Phil.

Phil knew a thing or two about long-distance driving as he was a truck driver and had covered every state in the US several times over. We’d organised to meet just over the state line at a small Italian restaurant he knew about.

He had given me the address to plug into the GPS and I could see from the screen that I was going to make our date with plenty of time to spare.  I eased off the gas, took a deep cleansing breath and smiled. On the road again!

I arrived early at the Italian restaurant Phil had directed me to, and so had he. I recognised him straight away although at six-foot five he was taller than I anticipated.  Whilst stocky, he wasn’t overweight and his head was shaved completely clean.  He had a New York drawl and he proudly told me, an Italian heritage.

As our table wasn’t ready, we shared a bottle of white wine and settled in at the bar.

‘Well, Melanie’, he said, addressing me politely, ‘It sounds like you are on quite an adventure.’

‘You could say that. And it’s really only just begun.’ I smiled. ‘I’ve made the trip from west to east but now I’m heading back again.’

When I told him about the long solo drive west I would soon undertake he gave me some tips on how to stay awake—lots of coffee, regular stops, loud music and open windows.

To keep himself entertained whilst out on the road, he told me, he had developed a keen interest in photography.

In fact, he said, opening up a bag he had with him ‘I’ve brought some of my photos to show you if you’re interested’.

He clearly had a passion for photography and as I flipped through the stills of everyday objects, people and situations I was impressed by his ability to make the mundane seem almost enigmatic. Some of his photos were really good, and I enjoyed listening to him talk about life on the road as I sifted through them.

I admit to having preconceived notions when I saw that Phil was a truck driver. So talking about photography and art was the last thing I had expected on our date.

I was again pleasantly surprised at the strangeness of life—although I do think it odd to bring a photo album to a first date. If I’d not been interested, it could’ve been a big mistake, which, Phil admitted, it was on a few of his previous dates. He told me the ladies had just flipped through a couple of pages, and then shut the album. I wondered why he continued to bring it and pondered the possibility it was a test.

He seemed grateful that I actually spent the time to go through the entire album and appeared interested in him and his views as I asked him questions along the way. I think just because of that, he asked me out on a second date.

‘If we’re in the same state at the same time in the next few months I’d love to have dinner again,’ I said. ‘I may even share with you the photos of all the places I’ve been!’ I laughed as we parted company.

As I walked back to my rental car, I thought back on my dates so far. Although several had been what I could term strange, it had been wonderful to meet them all and hear their unique perspectives on life. None of them though had come close to making me feel as I did with Sam.

It may not have helped that Sam and I were still chatting every night by phone, but I really don’t think that would have made a difference to my wanting to see any of the guys again or not. It really hit me between the eyes that Sam was special and someone I wanted to spend more time with.

My original plan from Georgia was to head back to the western states to attend two conferences in Nevada. I´d signed up for another Loral Langemeier event and was also going to catch up with my friend and coach, Kevin, in Las Vegas.

I’d known Kevin since I was in the Army back in 2001, where I had worked for him briefly. We had become good friends and over time he and his wife, Barb, had become like another set of surrogate parents. I had a habit of people adopting me as an extra daughter, and he and Barb, together with Daisy and Andrew who were looking after my dog, Jessie, were the parents I turned to for advice when I was at home in Australia.

Kevin, as a professional coach, had always helped me clarify what it was I wanted next out of my career when I got restless—which was generally every eighteen months.

The last time I had seen him had been in July in the middle of the Australian winter. Knowing about my trip, we’d organised to have lunch together before I left. Although it was a bright clear day, the temperatures were hovering around freezing when we’d met up in a Canberra cafe.

As we’d been talking about my trip he told me about his too.  He and Barb were also US bound and coming to the country to attend an international coaching conference. We agreed tentatively to meet up and then he’d leaned over and said to me ‘You know what, Mel. You should come to the conference too.’

‘Really? Why?’ I’d asked, cautiously wrapping my fingers around the hot chocolate I was drinking in an effort to get warm.

‘Because I have an inkling you’d like it... and the people’ he’d replied. ‘You have all the skill sets it takes to become a great coach’.

I’d read up about the conference after we talked and decided, what the hell.  The speakers they had lined up over the three days were impressive and it didn’t hurt to find out more. So, I signed up.

As I sat in the parking lot suddenly uncertain of what I wanted to do next it would have been good to have been able to pick the phone up and speak to Kevin now.

I was meant to drive through a new set of states and have more dates before reaching Vegas but I got a knot in my stomach as I thought about it. Instead of plugging in the coordinates for my hotel, I unconsciously plugged in San Diego. Quickly Randy had flashed up an approximate driving time of almost forty hours. I blinked as I registered what I had done. Driving forty hours back to San Diego—that was a crazy idea.

Still, I got out of the car and rummaged in the back until I found the information on the coaching conference. I checked the date, did a rough calculation of how long it had taken Rachael and I to drive across country and to meet up with someone in each state.

Then, I took out my list of goals again from my wallet and ran through it.

Find a partner was my number one goal.

I looked again at Randy’s screen glowing in the darkness. Almost forty hours of straight driving to San Diego.

‘Sod it’ I muttered and hit the road. I was heading back to see Sam.