To say I am overwhelmed might be an overstatement, but probably not.
We’ve been on this trip for 6 months. Just the 6 of us. 4 humans, 2 dogs. It has been awesome, see Facebook posts (they must be having the time of their lives our friends say!).
And it has been tough, (in a very 1st world way), I don’t post pics of us arguing, lost, or yelling at the kids (we are always cognizant of the fact we are afforded this opportunity by being born in this country, well at least Liz and I are, Hooper doesn’t care). There are days Liz and I are whooped, and nights like last night that we sleep at a rest stop, draped over with kids and dogs.
We’ve seen a fair chunk of arguably the most beautiful part of the country (world – by the number of foreign folks) the southwest 4 corners area. We now sit in San Diego, California, a city I always wanted to visit. We will be here for 3-4 weeks. Most people don’t get that opportunity. We will soak up as much as we can. In the middle of this visit we will return home to Easton Maryland, to attend a charity event I started with two sharp minded guys with a pension for silliness. And this is why am overwhelmed with joy, in 2013 I yelled at a guy (from a moving car, this still seems like something you should do) that he had the best beard in Easton. A social media argument ensued, and we decided to start a competition. Why not!?
My experience working with non profits afforded me some knowledge on how to set up the donation aspect of the competition online and the doers aka the sharp witted fellas began recruiting entrants to a beard contest. AND I had a cause. My niece was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and anything I could contribute through this means my family and I would.
Not rocket science, let’s see who can shave and grow the best beard in 2 months. (Speed kills, so we learned in subsequent years that 3 years was more appropriate for the hard core amongst us.)
The first year we made more than we thought we would, the second more than that, and so on. The formula we developed for donors to support bearded faces and the charity of their choice worked! The charities chosen needed the money, were thankful and were quick to explain just how the money helped. Win, Win and Win!
Now as we roll toward the end of the 4th year, we will have raised $50,000 for various charities.
Specifically for Kids, Pets, and Veterans. Watching the money come in from hustling beard growers warms my heart, and keeps me motivated to do more and better with Cover Your Chin for Charity. To visit my kids hometown and the friends we have there is icing on the cake. We will most likely settle down somewhere that affords us a view and quick access to hikes into the Rocky Mountains (life is short) but Easton and the great people of that area will always hold a large chunk of my heart.
Happy Weekend from Monument Valley, a Navajo Tribal land.
Don’t know where Monument Valley is?
It’s on the Utah Arizona Border, and was home to a bunch of John Wayne westerns and more recently Westworld, a show on HBO. Also a ton of car commercials have been filmed on this striking landscape. Who can forget this Peugeot commercial!
Ah the French so unique! Bleh.
I like the part of the car commercial at the end where the landscape begins to look like sky scrapers.
No I don’t, I hate it. I disdain cities in general. They give me the creeps. Too many people, too much waste.
I remember in my early twenty’s as I was overlooking the city of Pittsburgh after dark with a friend she commented on the beauty of the glowing lights. All I could think of was the wasted electricity, and the ephemeral importance of the goings on in the skyscrapers. Business goings on! Yuck.
This place is the opposite of that. Few people, few lights, all natural. It’s the real deal and it doesn’t give a shit about us.
It is not a monument to man’s creations or greatness but to time and man’s lack of involvement and meddling. In a day where every tech gadget is celebrated as life changing, I would suggest the life changing things that should be celebrated are those that have been around for many, many, many lives.
Oh, and this is where Forrest Gump decided to stop runnnn-ing. So that’s pretty neat.
When we weren’t working or schooling this week were out hiking, scrambling and running on the slick rock of this moving landscape.
You can’t help but be taken aback by the monolithic rich orange buttes that stand facing off against millions of years of weather. Your significance is put in check.
For me it immediately puts me in al state of contemplation where I realize that that butte will look damn near the way it does today a thousand years after I am dust. Not a bad thought though. It makes you realize the choices you make today matter, not the plans you have for the future, but the choices you make now, today. So you better do something you want to.
We’re on a Navajo lands, but everything is owned by Gouldings.
Gouldings RV park, Grocery store, Food Court, Hotel etc. Doesn’t sound like a Native American name to me. You wonder if these folks are still getting jobbed.
The Native Americans we have met have been nice, not quick with a smile, but nice and talkative once you engage them. Addie commented on a cashiers Steelers earrings, and she smiled and opened up to us that a dream of hers is to make a Steelers game in Pittsburgh. Kind of neat. A dream of mine was to see this striking desert scenery, so to each his own. It is probably best that I let Addie do most of the talking here, as I had almost asked where the beer was in the grocery store. That wouldn’t have been cool.
And when the cashier said she was ridiculed for liking the Steelers, she clued me in that most of the natives like the Cardinals, and Broncos, the “local” teams… this was after I asked her if the Cowboys were the local favorite.
I asked that. On an Indian reservation.
Of course they aren’t.
We are now just shy of 6 months of living in the RV, and about 4.5 months into REALLY traveling I would say. While there have been tough days, and days in the beginning when Liz and I would flop into bed after a trying day and say, “Are we gonna make it?” we are pretty settled into the lifestyle and I am already allowing some dread creep in to the fact that this adventure will end at some point. But enough about that, we have at least 6 more months to go.
Thankfully I have friends telling me what we are doing is exceptional. It reminds me nobody is doing this craziness, so it must be special. Because to be honest,
we decided to do it,
the house sold and
we started doing it.
If I do think about all we have done already I smile. Maybe I will publish a book of my photos, but for now this rambling post will have to suffice.
I get a real heart charge each time we pack things up, bring the slide in, condensing our spacious 175 square feet to 140 or whatever it shrinks to, (I still don’t know) and hit the road. Seeing new scenery has been my drug of choice and I can’t wait to head further southwest today for another fix.
Fort Collins, CO – October 27
We appreciate all the inquiries as to how we’re doing. It means a lot. We have plenty of travel stories to share that will come in blog posts once I hit my stride and Liz decides to quit slacking.
But I do feel some urgency to answer a common question.
What’s been the best part of the trip?
And that is easy.
Seeing old friends.
I mean it has been really, really great.
I thought I would write about this at the end of reconnecting opportunities, but this rekindling will be going on steady for the next few months or at least we have it planned that way. I am going to met a cousin I’ve never met next month!
As of 10/24 the number of years that have past since we have seen the friends we have been fortunate enough to reconnect with on this trip equals 157.
Weird stat I know.
But I just saw one of my very best friends in Denver who, due to distance, work and parental duties I haven’t seen in 10 years! So I hadn’t seen his wife or any of his three kids in that time. That sucks. It was great to end that stretch.
I saw an old high school teammate I haven’t seen since 1987! 29 years. I got to hang with my best buddies boys in Texas. And so on. Liz reconnected with some high school friends in Albuquerque New Mexico as well. It has been really heart warming.
The real heart charge is seeing my kids playing with my oldest friends’ kids. I went through elementary school and middle school with these folks and now, due to our travels these kids have been able to hang out together. To see the kids take off to play hide and go seek and hear them laughing and doing simple kid stuff, without having there noses touching something Steve Jobs dreamt up is icing on the cake.
It also has positive ramifications on our kids abilities to communicate and quickly make new friends I am hopeful. The oldest is becoming a bit less shy, and the youngest one is quick to latch on to a similar aged kid and start scheming, 2 heads are better than one, and less apt to be caught.
From only a year or two to 29 years the ability to see folks in their homes, and in their chosen locations of residence has been interesting, and a real blessing in all cases.
And the fact that many of these folks have invited this filthy nomadic crew to stay in their homes immediately shows that either they feel sorry for us, or they are still genuinely great people.
Here’s to more reconnecting to come!
( And warm showers, with proper water pressure so that we may wash away the road grime!)
Well, we’ve been trying to Find Fun… right?
Whatever that means. So writing hasn’t been tops on our list.
We’ve been keeping notes about our adventures, but the goal after the work is done for the day is NOT to sit back down in front of the computer screen to hone our blogging skills. So we apologize, because many of our friends have chastised us for our lack of updates.
“Where are you now?”
“Is it incredible?”
“Did you steal from me, and my family before you left town?”
These are but some of the texted questions that have blinked up on our cell phones.
In all seriousness we appreciate the positive comments from friends about what we are doing.
So here’s a quick update as I attempt to get my writing groove going, and post daily!
We are currently in the Enchanted State! New Mexico.
Liz spent her formative years here, and so she is excited to return and show the place off to our kids. We spent 4 days in the Roswell area which was a bit of a homecoming for me as well. I have always wanted to visit the area where my intergalactic relatives landed in 1947. We hit the INTERNATIONAL UFO MUSEUM as soon we rolled into town. It was a cute little homespun museum with plenty to read, and fun imagery to let your mind wonder. I think the kids wanted a bit more, but I learned some things about government cover ups, and bad Alien movies, and we got a sticker for the Jeep, so I was happy.
We spent the next 3 nights at Bottomless Lakes, which were 15 miles southeast of Roswell, and remote enough you couldn’t hear any road or highway noise, which to me is what we are after when we settle in for the night. Windows open, sounds of crickets and frogs putting to sleep as the breeze blows through the RV. This hasn’t happened much. Bet what we did hear on two consecutive nights were Raccoons in our storage compartments underneath the cabin rummaging through our stuff in search of food, and expensive watches or whatever raccoons are after.
I say this because even at partially full this camping area was providing enough food for these marauders to get fat. We listened to them go in and out of the trash cans throughout the campground after dark each night seemingly unconcerned with the ruckus they were creating. But they weren’t satisfied with being simply ‘Trash Pandas’. They felt compelled to invade our space after a gold mine of dog food. Thankfully our stuff was sealed away in a bin they couldn’t crack. I few prods with a tripod later and they slinked off and back into a thicket of trees to plot there next ‘home invasion’.
The Lakes were strikingly beautiful and alluring to someone that needs to swim in nearly every body of water he encounters… to say he has. If you read the rules after you do something, then you are exempt from the fretting that comes with doing something you know you shouldn’t. I didn’t see a sign. I am sure there are native American bones at the bottom of this lake, or a craft waiting for the signal to arise. The landscape in this state park begs this sort of pondering.
The flies were kind of crazy in numbers but didn’t bite. The park is surrounded by cattle country and maybe this contributed to the number of pests that hung out in the sunny hours. So we spent our time on the move, mountain Biking, Liz did her first real one, and is already looking at new mountain bikes, when all she needs are new tires. : ). The kids enjoyed hiking the same trails, and it is a win when you get a “I really want to do that again” and it doesn’t involve money, or electricity.
We headed to Albuquerque today and bypassed the Large Array unfortunately, because the youngest had a touch of altitude sickness. Either that or the eggs I made for breakfast weren’t nearly as good as I thought. We’ll settle in for work and homeschooling and a visit to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.
Remember when I said being away from road noise is the goal?
As I type this I am approximately 100 yards from I-40 in a KOA in Albuquerque. If you close your eyes you might imagine the cars zooming by are waves crashing on the seashore that covered this area millions of years ago. Or you can turn on the AC so you can sleep. : )
Laurel Hill State Park
Hey this is our first official stop!
The spot they gave us was seated right next to the bath house. It was clean enough. But were they trying to tell us something. Did they know we were new at this?
Neighbors: Fine. We watched a guy with a jay feather tow behind trailer tinker with the leveling of his trailer for an hour, and that was kind of fun.
Being newbies we may find this to be the case, but they put all pet owners together in the same area so on a bike ride we noticed a bunch of nice spots that were unclaimed but apparently didn’t allow our 4 legged boys. One woman’s trio of yapping toy poodle things made me realize why we were herded into our own area.
Another epiphany struck. It occurred to me that we are now never too far from our own poop. It travels with you. The novelty of going number 1 or 2 while your wife is guiding the vehicle down the interstate was somewhat sullied by this realization.
Conversely, the idea of using restroom facilities outside of the RV also brings another thought, not sure how to describe it but it is delightful. Part birthday present, part thieving for a good cause.
In any case…
Milestone: We dumped the black and gray tanks! I woke up thinking about this procedure! And we didn’t get “anything” on us.
A bit nervous, but confident. The process goes that you dump the black tank, which is all your toilet waste first. Most RV parks and campgrounds have what is called a dump station and you connected an expandable 4 inch hose to your holding tank and the other end to a hole in the ground that goes…somewhere. I assume the parks have large treatment systems or septic tanks. I haven’t asked about this yet, but that’s what I will assume.
We had to park on a -5 degree slope towards the front of the coach and subsequently the RV needed leveled but the auto leveling wouldn’t work perfectly. With auto leveling all 4 hydraulic legs come down and do the work for you, so unlike the guy in the tow behind trailer we don’t have to fuss jacking up one side, then the other, then back to lower one side etc. Since we were on the slope only the front jacks needed to be lowered. The wife dug in to the manual and within a few tries had the front deployed and left us only sloping -1 degree. Good enough for us and a manual deployment of the hydraulic levelers was in the books.
The water here has a heavy iron smell and stinks to high heavens, but after some time we either got use to it, or it dissipated. I need to understand this as the smell reminds me of visiting relatives in my youth maybe it was their well water or maybe it was a less filtered iron heavy water. Not sure, but I love how smells can take you back unlike any of your other senses. Unfortunately, this wasn’t smell of cookies baking, but more a rotten egg sulfur melange.
The running and Mt. Biking was solid here as there were some nice trails, as well as a lake to cool off in.
Kids give it: Pretty nice. But it may blend in with the others in about 3 weeks.
Dogs give it: Meh, they don’t like getting stuck with all the other “animals” so much.
Parents give it: Hey we got one in the books and we didn’t back over anyone.
You can’t stay here.
It is my Mom’s place on the Allegheny River, and she doesn’t have a 30 AMP hookup.
However, the Belmar Bridge and conjoining bike trails are thoroughly enjoyable to anyone who would like to cover some scenic miles along the Allegheny river.
Rent a SUP at Wiegels, grab a sub at Leonardos, and stroll through the parks downtown to make it an enjoyable visit to Franklin Pennsylvania.
Kids give this location: 5 stars
They got to eat whatever they wanted for breakfast and late night snacks thanks to my brothers lax bed time/sugar restrictions on his kids made this place hard to beat.
Would love to say we have a detailed plan for our travels. travels that will take us across the United States logging 10s of thousands of miles.
We do not. We aren’t to that point yet. We had hoped to be 10 months into travels by this point. However,
at this point after approximately a year of having our home for sale and dozens of humans marching through our bedroom while we were forced out with the dogs, running errands, or even sitting in the neighbors driveway to see how long the potential buyer spent to hopefully give us some glimmer of hope. Hope, that the cat and mouse process would come to an end. As of this posting it has not yet. But there is interest, apparently our adjusted pricing is such that more folks are ‘considering it’. I guess for the last 9 months the folks who “liked” our house didn’t consider offering 5% less than the asking price.
Lessons learned I suppose, but I don’t look forward to acing this course the next time. Selling a home has been the pain in the ass everyone said it would be. We’ve even given in to a superstition I had never heard of. I don’t think I actually followed directions. Typical.
The laboring process has afforded us time to slowly get rid of lots of stuff, and make final adjustments to the house, painting, fixing leaky facets, etc. We have also been afforded time to identify what type of rig we want for our travels. Right now we are focused on a Class A recreational Vehicle of either the Gas or diesel powered variety. We should probably be doing more research and RV dealer visits, on a constant basis, but trying to run a business, and home school two varmints eats up most of our time. (More on this process to come, as we vacillate on the what features matter most to us.)
Hopefully the final adjustments to the house will be enough to seal the deal with an interested party, but as things have gone thus far nothing is certain.
I’ve hit a wall of maturity!
Well may be not maturity, but somehow that line comes to mind when I think of life changes. I remember a friend in high school laying that epiphanic line on myself and some of his all-of-the-sudden immature friends. It was a sea change moment for him. We didn’t get it. “What a dick. He’s going to Penn State he’s not lecturing at Oxford.” We collectively thought, and I never talked to the dude again. Why would I? I was busy making mix tapes of my farts.
But the fact remains, we can go through some major changes in short order. The way we look at things can be altered by a large life changing event ( insert your choice here- birth, death of a loved one, illness, financial windfall, varmint attack, whatever). My little epiphany came when we decided we might want to sell the house.
Wow, I have collected a lot of shit.
And it feels all of it is of vital importance. Like t shirts from high school, receipts from a $47 pair of socks I purchased trying to gain a client of an upscale men’s store, old dog toys of long past dogs, old National Geographics (why does parting with them feel like a crime against education?), old whiskey bottles, rocks.
So, with a renewed sense of what matters I
have begun to purge a lot of junk. And it feels great. It is freeing. A new flexibility is upon me. My father always preached “waste not want not.” It has not come easy and the process of purging has involved burning things, landfills as a last resort, scrap yards, yard sales, and plenty of goodwill trips. All in the name of shrinking our footprint. We still have a ways to go, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel, just over the stack of 1987 National Geographics. A visit to the scrap yard netted us $5.50!
My dogs have been pushing this idea on my deaf ears since I was a kid. Nothing is more important than the ones you love. The things you love are nice, but you really only need to bring one tennis ball.