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.
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.
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.
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.
our year of travel took us from cleveland ohio to the eastern shore of texas,
to the peaks of alaska, and back around…
we stopped at badlands national park after visiting deadwood and sturgis.
we were not disappointed. even saw the elusive big horn ram.
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.
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.
would the radiator arrive? would they get it installed today? how much is it going to cost?
all things running through our head, and making it impossible to focus on anything else.
we left the hotel at 11 (after the kind lady at the front desk did our laundry because the public washer and drier were both on the fritz.
she folded it too.
so, we checked out at 11 and walked carrying all of our things, the short walk through two parking lots to the McDonalds, got ourselves some coffee and some free wifi, and sat down for the long wait.
I occupied myself with trying to figure out how to supplement our income on the road….loaded up my photos to blue melon.com in hopes of selling some, did some jeannieknits social media, generally just pissed around on my computer to keep my mind occupied.
we decided, after not hearing from our buddy Randy at M&M Wrecking, we should give him a call;
“the radiator isn’t here yet.” Randy informed me immediately.
“do you have any idea when it’s coming…I mean, it’s today right?”
“yeah, today or tomorrow”
“no, Randy, it has to be today. you have no idea….”
“ok, ok, yeah…it’s coming on a truck from dallas to el paso and they’re supposed to stop here….maybe I should call Napa and see if it’s in.”
“yeah, could you do that please? and give me a call back”
*more anxious waiting*
“hey it’s Randy, from —“
“yes, randy, what did you find out?”
“the radiator is here, but…did you guys pay for it yet?”
“no, we didn’t pay for it….why?
“well, since our boss is in the hospital they froze his accounts and we need cash to pay for the radiator. you need to come pay for it at Napa..” not shady at. all.
“seriously? ok, well can you come get us and take us there?
“that’s just what I was fixin’ to do, m’am.”
good ole texas.
a few minutes later, up rolls the tow truck and in we hop with all our our gear…and off to buy our radiator.
after installation, randy came over to me (I had been reorganizing the car and generally just keeping an eye on these two mechanics in charge of our literal survival)
“we need antifreeze”
“so, you gonna come with me or should I ask the other guy?”
OH…we need to go buy the antifreeze now. seriously. what the hell.
off to Napa, back to the shop.
when they were all finished, and everything was running as it should be, the “foreman”, a mexican named SoSo, told us the amount and then informed us that his credit card machine wasn’t working.
“drive them to ATM” he motioned to Randy. “get cash out.”
are you fucking kidding me??
back in tow truck, off to ATM, cash in hand…
“can we get a receipt?”
finally on the road out of Texas, the Welcome to New Mexico sign was the best thing we’d seen in a week. we always make an effort to stop at the information center, because there’s lots of free goodies there, and usually the people there are super helpful; New Mexico’s visitor center was adorable and like a mini museum. we set to work, grabbing pamphlets for what we thought we’d like to see, free magazines, etc. the gentleman behind the counter asked us to sign the visitor book, and as xander was signing it he noticed the name above us was from Toledo, Ohio.
“Toledo! what are the odds?!”
we hadn’t even noticed the older woman, in a baseball cap, gathering up pamphlets and maps in the tiny visitor center room with us.
“You two again!” came a voice from under the hat, and we realized immediately who it was.
Diane. We had met Diane in the Del Rio Campground (other side of texas) almost two weeks ago. and yet, here, in this remote information center, there she was.
after what must have been a very entertaining and conversation for the two people behind the counter, we got ourselves all caught up (filled her in on our car mishap) she said to us,
“well, I’m headed to dinner in Las Cruces. how about you guys join me, my treat.”
I practically burst into tears. we are so depleted, both psychologically and financially, after the terrible week in Van Horn. this was a huge gift.
we ate at an authentic mexican restaurant, recommended by the lovely workers at the visitor’s center, and caught up on everything we all had seen and done since our last visit.
Diane is retired, and traveling on her own in a van. She’s determined to see all, or as many of the National Parks that she can. She tells wonderful stories, and in my opinion, is one brave woman.
when we were parting ways in the parking lot, we each gave Diane a big hug, and after exchanging phone numbers, she yelled to us,
“next time you have car trouble, don’t hesitate to call me!”
like our own traveling guardian angel, right there.
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’.