it seems as though I haven’t had much to say about this year, from the looks of my posts here. in reality, there’s so much going on, so much keeping my thoughts occupied about the future of our world that creating beautiful blog posts have been the furthest thing from my mind.
but memorial day weekend is here, and this weekend traditionally marks a time in the calendar year where things tend to shift; we pack away the long pants, and pull out the summer skirts. we dust off the picnic gear, stow away the snow boots. so maybe it’s time to shift my thinking as well. back to focusing on beauty and creativity, and away from despair and darkness; looking towards a future of hope, one where there’s always that open road ahead, where you never know what will meet you. where the adventure awaits.
so we sit, and plan, looking forward to more travel; discussing a trip to acadia national park and plotting our next adventure. always moving forward, hoping and focusing on a positive future for everyone.
I’ve been the worst at blog-updating, but with good reason. we’re in alaska, as I might have mentioned in a previous post and we’ve been working six days a week. on the seventh day we try to get in adventures, laundry, internet time and rest. *try being the operative word.
we’re seeing most of the wilderness through the windows of the employee shuttle to and from work.
last week, on our day off, we were able to take a hike in Denali National Park (this is our 26th National Park/Monument since December)
it was beautiful
a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of seeing snow…..
which we had avoided all winter, but we didn’t mind as it was short lived and kind of beautiful to see.
most days it looks like this. (except when it’s raining, like today)
most nights it looks like that as well…which has been the hardest thing to get used to. the white nights. right now we’re at about 19 hours of daylight, which makes insomnia even more fun :)
we are looking forward to being back on the road at the end of september.
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.
I 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.
–travel slow, and if you find a spot that looks good, stay there.
–always stop for the brown signs on the highway exits (they mean good things: national parks, state parks or really touristy fun stuff!)
–buy a national parks pass. just do it. the national parks are the best idea the US has ever had.
–if you find a spot you like, stay there! (btw: free camping is abundant, you just have to know how and where to look for it. we’ve spent a total of $16 on camping in 6 months, all of that in Texas.)
–adapting to your environment is key.
–travel bloggers on instagram are not showing you everything (like where do they poop?)
–you’re much tougher than you think.
–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.)
–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.
–don’t wait. we’ve met so many women, 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.”
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.
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 last night 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.
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.
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.
and the sunset from there, well, it sure takes the mind off dreary cleveland weather.
there were lots of opportunities to climb things.
and climbed they both did.
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.
view from above:
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.
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 :)
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:
we left the california area and headed back through nevada. but not without seeing some fabulous graffiti and abandoned things along the way.
stopping at the hoover dam for a quick tour (can you say breathtaking?) we decided to camp at lake mead for a few days.
we ventured in to las vegas, although avoiding the strip completely, we managed to stay in a casino/hotel, have a crappy buffet…
and adopt a rescue dog. who we named Lucky.
Lucky Scout Sparkles, to be more precise.
we’re pretty happy with her.
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:
I’m beginning to think that our new doggie friend isn’t the only lucky one.
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.
then we ventured through slab city, weird and wonderful as it is….
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?
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.
we had spent the previous night in a sleepy little texas coastal town called rockport.
waking up to the foggy ocean air, and seeing what we had missed coming in under darkness; the palm tree lined streets, the tiny carribean colored houses.
after a tiny terrible mishap involving one of us (not me) leaving the other (me) high and dry waiting outside of the walmart after she ran in to use the toilet….making her absolutely frantic and hysterically erupting into a crying fit…after THAT, we headed south to fulfill a bucket list goal of mine:
camp on a beach.
we followed the road as it led into the national park that is south padre island. were finally able to use our national parks pass (high five) and onward we went.
after speaking with a kindly gentleman at the visitors center and purchasing two patches and a postcard, we headed out to look at each camping choice and decide what would be best for us.
choosing our camping / sleeping site each night is a bit like the process the Goldilocks used to pick her bed, or maybe, as xander describes it, when I’m driving around a walmart lot, examining every nook and cranny before picking the perfect spot, like a dog choosing where to do his business. it’s very important you get it just right.
we headed first to the $8/night site which was basically an oblong loop with sites on either side of the loop; pretty much each spot taken by either a large rv or a medium rv, several old men in various stages of beer gut shirtless-ness…also multiple dogs. next.
the second site was on the opposite side of the island, which was much windier (hence, the hangout place for windsurfers), was $5/night and had a few rv’ers there, but I was immediately turned off by the wind and chill…..ok show me this free beach camping I’ve heard about.
on padre you can camp anywhere on the 60 miles (yes, sixty miles!) of beach south of the park visitor center for free. if your vehicle can get there, you’re welcome to it. the beach in texas is considered part of the state highway system, so your car is expected to obey the speed limit, etc, etc.
can you get there without 4WD, we wondered? they told us the first 5 or so miles are so well packed that any 2 wheel drive vehicle can make the drive.
determined, curious, we headed down to the literal end. of. the. road….and stopped to look it over. there was a surprising amount of what looked to me “soft sand” right near the beginning of the beach/road.
off to the our left side was a big white camper van with it’s window open. we walked over and asked the white haired woman in the passenger seat if they’d ever driven on the beach.
“yes, we have…we’ve gotten stuck a few times…but if you stay in the packed sand, you do fine…. we don’t have 4 wheel drive on this, does your car?”
“yeah we don’t either, that’s what makes me worried” I answered.
“Hal!” she yelled over her shoulder “these kids should be fine, don’t you think?” Hal, a frail white haired gentleman appeared from behind her, “they want to go on the beach.” she told him.
“oh, yes! you’ll be great…is that your car? do the seats fold down? that reminds me so much of the vehicle we had when we were in Bolivia just starting out! don’t you just love it?” Hal bubbled. obviously we had found two more kindred spirits. after an animated conversation regarding possessions, travel, and driving in the snow vs sand…we were given more direction and a huge boost of confidence, then we were off.
car in drive
steady, steady, steady
though the mushy part….don’t hesitate.
and we were there,
we were driving on the damn beach.
I waved a big thumbs up out the window to our new friends, and away we went.
we picked a spot laughingly close to the entrance to set up.
we also learned quickly how to put up a tent in the wind and sand
and then how to quickly take that fucker down.
there’s sand everywhere. but, we are sleeping on the beach, under the stars and within ear-reach of the waves. I watched the moon rise in the front windshield and then followed it as it set through the back window. and then enjoyed the magic of the first light casting pink and greys over the ocean.
this morning we had ‘christmas’–a few days early, as we’re leaving here tomorrow (finally?) for the second mini leg of our journey. last weekend we had second thanksgiving. (although I was holed up in the bedroom under a pile of pillows and medication due to a stress-related migraine situation so only experienced the leftovers….)
we’ve had a rough-ish start (learning lots about what we really need) and loads of time to make lists, check them a billion times and on and on and on. complete with a trip back to ohio in the middle of it all. *frown face* that was rewarded with a stop at my new favorite place: waffle house (HASH BROWNS) *happy face*
luckily during this time, I had a lot of knitting orders to fill (keeping me occupied mentally and physically)–took the last large one to the post office this morning–so today is a day to relax, do one final sorting of things and, maybe watch some more terribly cheesy holiday movies.
I hear people say this all the time. 99% of the time, I’m pretty sure it’s sarcasm. For instance, when my (now former) boss would answer her phone; and in response to what I imagine was the standard, “How are you today?” inquiry she would reply, “Oh, you know, livin’ the dream.”
“I’d rather be anywhere but here.”
I’ve had a dream for many years, and after years of talking about it and pinning pins on Pinterest and posting posts on Facebook about how great it would be, I’m finally going to Live It.
We leave next week in a new road worthy vehicle (ok, a used Honda Element) that we’re going to spend time modifying into a camper / van. Then we’ll hit the road and start chasing the 70 degree weather while hitting as many National Parks as humanly possible.
(Yep. That pass gets us in free to all the Parks for a year. SO excited)
Part of the process has been letting go of things, again. Donating clothing we don’t need, selling the tiny bit of furniture that we’d bought since we moved back to Ohio less than two years ago. The relationships that were difficult, the new friendships.
Learning that life is short is something that sounds very cliche and meaningless in it’s overuse. But having worked so closely to death in my most recent job, it hit home every day. That was a large part of what pushed me (us) towards this step.
That, and after a while you just get tired of saying you’re going to do something ‘one day’.