public lands, a love story.

last year we were so fortunate to be able to experience so many of our public lands, parks and monuments. I decided to start collecting patches along the way as a way to remember the places we had seen.

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I bought our first official patch at the padre island national seashore. the kind volunteer behind the counter at the gift shop explained to us how we could drive onto the beach and camp there. he also told us how the beach in texas is considered a highway, and if we chose to we could drive for miles on it. we were thrilled with the possibility.

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it was there that I started thinking about this quilt. from every park, monument, forest or historical site that we stopped at with a visitor center, I bought a patch and added it to this quilt. it’s like a living memory, a work in progress. hand stitching the patches over fabric that is covering holes in the antique bedcover that is older than me.

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when we were at yellowstone, it just happened to be the month of the 100 year anniversary of this amazing place. we were lucky enough to be caught in the middle of a herd of bison crossing the road; they were feet from our car, and I will never forget that feeling, the feeling that we were visiting their home. we were their guests. it was humbling. and it was my favorite day.

death valley was spectacular.

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our year of travel took us from cleveland ohio to the eastern shore of texas,

to the peaks of alaska, and back around…

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we stopped at badlands national park after visiting deadwood and sturgis.

we were not disappointed. even saw the elusive big horn ram.

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this is one of our favorite campsites; a wildlife preserve in western nevada.

without the bureau of land management, the national forests, the department of antiquities, the national monuments or the national forests none of this would have been possible. we have so much left to see. and we saw so much.

it is vital that they stay funded, operating and protected.

after alaska.

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our trip to alaska was a learning experience.

we realized a lot about what we need to exist.

number one on that list:

our car = our freedom. without it we were trapped in a cycle of bad food choices, nothing to do that didn’t rely on the shuttle schedule and ultimately a scary health moment that led us to the decision to leave. isolation is one thing, but being hours away from medical care is a whole other ball of wax when you have a chronic illness.

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number two:

good friends can be made everywhere you go. we met a handful of people that we will definitely stay in touch with. and then we met a few people who became close friends. being in the same situation; living, working, eating, playing together builds strong friendships. that was a positive. that was something we wouldn’t change.

number three:

alaska is just alaska. so on the bus ride (the torturous, five hour bus ride from anchorage to healy) I kept waiting. waiting for the “WOW!!” moment when alaska would knock my socks off. that never came. I mean, it was pretty and it had trees and mountains and more trees…but it wasn’t like, OH OK THIS IS AMAZING. it was just, *shrug* alaska.

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number four:

I never saw a bear: in fact in the months we were there the total wildlife I saw amounted to three moose and a handful of sea gulls. seriously.

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(ok I did get to see this, which was pretty freaking cool. the bus they used in the filming of into the wild which was an inspiration for coming here in the first place.)

number five:

we really just need each other. (I know, right?) but for real. life is about the people you choose to share it with. and then making that time the healthiest, happiest time possible.

stay tuned. we’re moving this party east :)

 

 

All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

 

months and miles.

 

today marks the day. the sixth month anniversary of loading up the car, waving goodbye to lake erie, cleveland, ohio…..and heading out on the great adventure. 

we honestly had no idea what we were doing. like, no clue.  

IMG_6561I mean, sure we’d plotted out a general course…looked at a million blogs about how to do what we were doing, but, seriously. 

not a clue. 

so here’s a bit of what we’ve learned: 

–you’re going to need half of what you think you’ll need. we made so many packing mistakes and ended up tossing or donating a lot of things along the way. the essentials are called essential for a reason; only pack what you know you’ll use daily.

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–travel slow, and if you find a spot that looks good, stay there. we spent a lot of time chasing good weather mainly because we weren’t equipped to live comfortably for long stays in rain or high winds. but if the weather was good, having enough supplies (read: coffee) to stay in one spot for five or more days will definitely save money and stress)


–always stop for the brown signs on the highway exits: they mean good things: national parks or monuments, state parks or really fun touristy stuff! some of our best adventures were “oh hey what’s that sign?!” trips off the beaten path.
–buy a national parks pass. just do it. the national parks are the best idea the US has ever had, and getting in free across the country saved us so much financial worry and, wow was it worth it. 

–if you find a spot you like, stay there! bonus tip: free camping is abundant, you just have to know how and where to look for it. there are multiple apps to help with that; we used one called Allstays. we spent a total of $16 on camping in 6 months, all of that in Texas. and if all else fails, most walmarts, and some other retail stores (camping world, cabella’s) allow overnight camping. just ask :) 

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–adapting to your environment is key. travel bloggers on instagram are not showing you everything (like where do they poop?) the sooner you realize that you’re now technically homeless and relying on your current, constantly changing, environment for all your needs, the sooner you’ll be able to adjust to your newfound freedom!

 

–you’re much tougher than you think. I never thought I’d be able to hike to the top of this canyon…or sleep in my car in a dark forest in the rain….or survive a windstorm in new mexico. I didn’t know how tough I really was.

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–time is a social construct. (think about that one….I must ask at least once a week, “wait, what day is it?” because we don’t have to be anywhere, do anything, on anyone else’s time….weekdays or weekends don’t matter. it’s weird and takes time to get used to.) 

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–this country is huge, beautiful and is so vastly different if you just travel more than 300 miles outside of your comfort zone. if you don’t like where you are: move! there is so much out there to see and experience. 

–people out there (away from the cities) are much nicer, kinder and more generous than you know.  this was possibly the hardest thing for us to get used to, being from the service industry. we were so ‘on guard’ and had our defenses up against everyone, and just did not expect the kindness of strangers once we were away from the cities. 

–don’t wait. we’ve met so many women, or couples in their retirement years who’ve said to us (all_of_them_have_said_this) “we should have done this at your age, good for you guys.” 

don’t wait. honestly.  

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where we go from here: 

today we are in yakima, washington, on our way to a town north of seattle for the week. we are then boarding a plane, friday, for anchorage, alaska. 

yes, alaska. eep!! we’ll be working up there for the summer outside of denali national park. I can say this: we are excited to be off the road for a while, but last night, as we spent our final night sleeping in the car (fittingly in a walmart, just like our first night in new jersey) we were talking about how we are actually going to miss the freedom we’ve had, the autonomy, the rising with the sun, going to bed when it gets dark, and the general not-seeing-any-other-humans that has been so great. we’re going to have a bit of a time adjusting. 

but it will also be nice to have showers, and meals, and a bed whenever we want. that will be nice.
so, stay tuned from alaska! 

xoxo, j 

All images © 2013-2019 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life 

 

 

finding life in death valley.

my son needed a little break from the winter doldrums back in grey-skies-will spring-never-arrive-cleveland, so we sent him a ticket to fly into las vegas and planned a few days of camping and a visit to death valley national park.

now the name death valley conjures up a desolate, barren wasteland of nothingness. a mad max-like expanse of desert as far as the eyes can see, with nothing growing, just the occasional blowing dune, or skeleton of the tourist before you who didn’t bring enough water. (always bring enough water)

so, we were pleasantly surprised when we found that death valley had really more life than death. and just as many highs as lows.

one of the most spectacular highs being dante’s view.

I mean, come on.

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from the top you could see 360 degrees for miles. and on the way up there (you climb a mile high over 13 miles of winding road) was so much green, and wildflowers…..no death anywhere. 

stunning.

and the sunset from there, well, it sure takes the mind off dreary cleveland weather.

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there were lots of opportunities to climb things.

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and climbed they both did.

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this is called the artist’s palette: it’s mounds of colorful mineral-rocks left after volcanic activity. it basically looks like a melted ice-cream sundae.

the lowest point of the trip (get it, lowest) was badwater basin: literally the lowest place in the western hemisphere. we got there before 9am and it was already climbing above 90 degrees. it’s the craziest place I’ve ever been, will probably ever be. the smell in the air is like sulphur/salt; the “ground” crunches beneath you and the silence (once you get away from the other tourists) is deafening. you’re almost 300 feet below sea level, and surrounded by mountains that reach a mile into the sky that are topped with snow. 

insane. 

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view from above:

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there’s 250 square miles of the white stuff; looks like snow from up here, it’s basically table salt. 

my favorite part was hiking through mosaic canyon. the boys left me to do their own climbing of the walls instead of just hiking the path, so I enjoyed the cool canyon walls and the silence all by myself. 

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(hikes in a skirt)

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even though it’s name is intimidating, and some of the days were hot and tough, I think we conquered death valley. it is now one of our top five national parks; it is park number 25 (if you’re keeping track) that we’ve visited since december (including national monuments, not including national forests) *btw: national monuments, like white sands, are not “national parks” merely because it takes an act of congress to make it so. death valley didn’t become a national park until 1994; it had been a monument since the 30’s. your history lesson for the day :)

onward, we go!

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 All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

white sands.

a long time ‘bucket list’ item was seeing the beauty that is white sands national monument. we headed into new mexico to make use of the warm-ish weather and avoid the rain that was pummeling the west (including parts of arizona and nevada, where we had been…) and so it seemed we were finally going to make it to the sands.

on our way there we passed another point of interest, the very large array which, like me, you’ve probably seen in movies like contact and maybe, like me, you’ve thought ‘wow, that looks amazing!’

well, it did not disappoint.

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I mean. you just can’t get over how big these things are.

and they’re talking to space.

amazing.

then we were on to white sands.

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look how happy this little gal was running on that cool white stuff.

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the cutest picnic areas I’ve ever seen.

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we had a few days of nasty windstorm, but our stay here has been really great. every night we’re rewarded with sunsets that just take your breath away.

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I think we’ll stay here a few more nights, and then, well, who knows…..

**oh! I have put some of my digital prints up on society6 for purchase. take a look!**

 

All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

 

 

 

lucky.

it’s been a while. updates are hard when the internet is spotty. it’s not that we haven’t had things to update!

we’ve been to many places since my last post:

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california 2.2016

we left the california area and headed back through nevada. but not without seeing some fabulous graffiti and abandoned things along the way.

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fresh jerky / 2.2016

stopping at the hoover dam for a quick tour (can you say breathtaking?) we decided to camp at lake mead for a few days.

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hoover dam / 2.2016

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lake mead / 2.2016

we ventured in to las vegas, although avoiding the strip completely, we managed to stay in a casino/hotel, have a crappy buffet…

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vegas night lights / 3/2016

oh.

and adopt a rescue dog. who we named Lucky.

Lucky Scout Sparkles, to be more precise.

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lucky, at her first state park, valley of fire / 2.2016

we’re pretty happy with her.

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today we’re in sedona, arizona.

we’ve done a little zig-zag, avoiding rain and visiting some old friends. the scenery here is stunning, the internet is slow, but I’ve managed to crank this post out in a starbucks while listening to some ladies discuss energy healing.

we woke up to this taking place right outside our car window as we made coffee and stretched out our morning bodies:

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I’m beginning to think that our new doggie friend isn’t the only lucky one.

 

 

All images © 2013-2019 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

images.

driving across the country, the landscapes and landmarks fly by the window, and just like in life, you don’t really know what you’ve missed until you sit back and contemplate the memories (or in this case….scroll through iphoto)

also, just like in life, being on the road has it’s ups and downs as we’ve learned. every turn can bring something strange and wonderful.

on your way to the outermost part of civilization in the united states, where there are no rules, no zoning, no government….you first have to pass by Salvation Mountain. and learn about a human who just wanted to share his love with everyone through his art.

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salvation mountain / california / 2.2016

then we ventured through slab city, weird and wonderful as it is….

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slab city / california / 2.2016

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slab city / california / 2.2016

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slab city / california / 2.2016

the previous day, on a long stretch of boring road, out of nowhere pops the most amazing sand dunes you’ve ever seen (well, you’ve never seen any!) 

where did all that sand come from?

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imperial sand dunes / california / 2.22016

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imperial sand dunes / california / 2.2016

I mean, this is some Mad Max shit right here.

 

which led us to our current park(ing) spot…Joshua Tree. we’ve only explored a teeny little corner of it so far, but it is magnificent.

from the big boulders…

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joshua tree ntl park / california / 2.2016

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joshua tree ntl park / california / 2.2016

 

to the little teeny cactus…

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joshua tree ntl park / california / 2.2016

 

….and the sunset from our campsite….not bad.

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joshua tree / california / 2.2016

 

 

All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life