sometimes, you can go home again


For me, I did just that, when moving back into Knight. I have to admit, I was nervous to move back in. Excited. And nervous. I so missed living in my cozy home. I missed the warmth of my surroundings. I missed the simplicity of my small space. I missed being able to see out from every direction. And I missed being able to pack it all up in a short time and move on to different views in a new place. But I was nervous all the same. The last time I’d been in the RV was for the mad sprint back to Illinois to get out of the Oregon rain, when I was consequently slammed into a brutal winter with frigid, deadly temperatures and winds. In Oregon, Knight had become inhospitable because of the moldy environment the rain had created. I hoped that the steps I had taken had been enough to make Knight the friendly, welcoming home I’d known prior to being overtaken in Secret Camp. But I had no real way of knowing until moving back in. And it’s spring. The rainy season. I had an additional anxiety over moving the cats back in. Would they still love being in the rig? Or would they feel confined after having a bigger space to live in than they’d ever had before (other than when they each had experienced living life entirely outside as stray, abandoned, or feral cats in their previous lives)? And how would I. feel moving from a house back into Knight? 

Winter in Illinois has been a long one. Today, it feels still present as the temps sit below freezing and the wind howls out of the north, making it feel so much colder. I used to love winter. I used to love rain. I think I still do. But right now, we sit on the cusp of April and the calendar said spring arrived a week ago. So, my four-season soul is telling me it is time. Time for flowers and green buds on trees. Time for light or no jacket temperatures. Time for the greening of the grass and the buzzing of bees. Lucky for me, the forecast says it is arriving for real this coming week. I am ready for it. I am ready for time outside and open windows. Fresh air smells and breezes blowing through the rig.

The cold and the sometimes rainy, sometimes snowy precipitation of the last two months kept me inside and hunkered down. I was unable to do the work I needed to do on Knight until the last week or so before moving back in. But because of that, I had plenty of time when I first got to my parents’ house to finish writing a book I had started writing back in the fall. My first novel, and the first in a planned trilogy. Writing this blog has been a great creative endeavor for me, and it gave me the courage to put words out there in the form of fiction. I cut my teeth on a children’s book, and then dove into a full-on novel. When I went out on the road, I had thought I would write a book, but I did not dream I would write fiction, let alone a children’s book and a YA novel. But now that I’ve done it, I’ve found how much I love to write fiction. 

When I was young, I wrote creatively all the time. I wrote and I read. I used to have to be told to put my book away and be social. I carried a book with me all the time and everywhere. Any free moment I had, I’d escape into the world living in the pages of whatever book I was currently reading. When I did not have free time, I made it, eschewing conversations with family while on vacation or reading while eating, in order to find out what happened next. I was a journal writer from the age of about eight or so and I also carried around a notebook or loose scraps of paper on which to write imaginary scenes or stories that would pop into my head. No one read these things. They were purely for my own entertainment. As I got older, the creative writing stopped. When I got to grad school, the fiction reading stopped. While I got back into reading fiction after I graduated, I was completely surprised when I felt the desire to write fiction. I was also intimidated by the thought. But once the ideas for both books popped into my head, there really was no question for me as to whether or not I’d pursue them. And now they are done and it’s time to start book two in the trilogy. (Check out my “Books” tab where you will find the links to both books on Amazon.) 

When we first moved ourselves into my parents’ house, the cats had a difficult time adjusting to all the space. They seemed to be disconcerted with not knowing where one another or we were. Towards the end, however, they discovered the fun in chasing the laser light around an entire floor or chasing each other up and down the stairs. Towards the end, however, I was very ready to move back into my home. I had to do several things to get him ready, and I had less than a week to get them all done because the weather didn’t cooperate before then. But, with the leak in the bathroom fixed, new faucets in the bathroom and kitchen, the switch for the porch light repaired, a new bed with airflow netting under the mattress, mold killing primer on wood, and touchup paint, we could move back in.



So, I came home again. It has been wonderful to be back in my cozy little space. The cats have been joyful, especially Gatsby and Bubs. It took Arlo and Nola about a day, and then they, too, were back into the groove and seeming happy and contented to be home. We aren’t leaving the area for a while, but we are camped for now at a nearby campground with Knight overlooking a little pond with geese and ducks already hanging out. It has rained a LOT the last few days. It felt a little like the coast of Oregon again. Except colder. But Knight seems to be holding up in the rain. And after tonight the overnight temperatures will not be dropping below freezing and the daytime highs from Tuesday onwards, at least according to the weather app, will start to climb into the upper 50s and lower 60s. The chairs and awning will come out, Gatsby will chill on my lap, and we will watch as the flowers start to pop out of the ground, the leaves begin to bud, and the grass goes from straw brown to soft green, as the birds flit about the trees and the bees wake up. Oh yeah. And we will have to have our plan for how to get the cats to the storm shelter if the sirens sound, for it is April in the Midwest…


the permanence of impermanence


I’ve been back in Champaign for one month now. It’s a strange thing being back. I’ve done this before, left for a while and then returned for a stretch of time longer than a week’s visit, and I always have this odd feeling of disconnect from the place I grew up. Usually, though, it also comes with feelings of nostalgia. Perhaps I wasn’t gone long enough this time, but those nostalgic feelings are missing. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly elements of Champaign that I find I am really happy to take advantage of again now that I am here. Like shopping at the food co-op. I really missed my co-op when I was on the road. I found others, in sometimes surprising places, but the one in CU is exceptional. I have yet to see another one with the selection here, especially with the vegan options in the bakery and deli. So, I will miss that again when I leave. And, along with that, I will miss the ease with which I could get my favorite vegan burger, not at the co-op, incidentally. It’s been great to reconnect with a few people here, as well. Most especially my former students. That was pure joy. But on the whole, I find my nostalgia is for the road, my longing is to be back out there again. 

Oh, to be back out there again. When I made the decision to return to Champaign for a few months, it was not without some fear and trepidation. I was afraid of getting stuck here. It is nothing against Champaign. It’s a great little town in so many ways. It is more about my own soul and where my passions reside. It was something to overcome the idea that coming back here did not mean I had to stay here. That I could pick up again when my designated time was up. That my home sits out in the driveway of my parents’ house right now, and, in April, I can point it where I want it to take me. Which is, oddly enough for me, the desert. 

The desert. In earlier posts from my travels, I spoke of my newfound love of the desert southwest, especially in fall. I soaked in the contrasts of red, yellow, and green. My eyes were drawn to the ruggedness of the landscape against a backdrop of big, blue skies. Yet, when we made the decision to go to Oregon, I could not wait to see the lushness of the rainforest and the wildness of the ocean. It was time for that change of scenery. The wildness of coastal Oregon is a different beast from the wildness of southern Utah. Both are amazing. Both stir the spirit. I look forward to going to the coast of Oregon again, just not in the rainy season. But now, the desert is, once again, beckoning. I am ready for warmer temperatures. Yes, this girl who would have never, ever spoken those words in the past is now saying them. I was always a cold-weather person, preferring winter and fall over spring and summer. Life on the road has changed me, even in just six months. Now, sitting in February in Illinois, I dream of the warmth of the spring sun on the rocky mountains of New Mexico. Things can always change. People can always change. Even at nearly 50, I have changed. 

50. Half a century. A long time to live through the eyes of a child. I can remember when I thought 50 was old. Now, I am reflecting on that timeless observation that even at 50, I feel I’ve only been here for the blink of an eye. And while I’ve changed, inside, I feel in many ways like the same girl I was as a teenager, or younger even. Some of the same insecurities and vulnerabilities still arise in me regarding my place in the cosmos and my relationships with those around me and with myself. Some passions and dreams have changed, while others have remained constant. My perspectives and ideas have certainly shifted, formed, dissolved, and reformed a thousand times over the course of my lifetime. I’m sure there is more of that to come. I count on it. In terms of Earth time and Universe time, 50 years traipsing around on this planet doesn’t even count as a blink of an eye. 

In the blink of an eye. That is how quickly things can change. I was reminded of this a few days ago. I have largely been absent on Instagram since coming back to Champaign, only touching base there briefly and occasionally. One evening, I was doing just this when I came across a post that revealed the passing of an old friend. It was a shock to make this discovery through an Instagram connection who I did not even realize was friends with this particular friend. I am not on facebook much at all, so I had missed the news there. This friend was a person who embodied joy, with a laugh that was infectious and light and from her heart. We lost regular touch over the years, but at some point, got reconnected over facebook. We had lunch not too long ago. At least it feels like it was not too long ago. Last year, I think. We caught up over all the years’ events. She talked about her stage four breast cancer and how, when nothing else had worked, she had changed her diet and had been declared cancer-free. I had thought just a week or so ago that I should contact her while I was in town to make that trip out to the farm to visit and to meet her family. So, this news of her passing was a surprise. And it got me thinking. 

It got me thinking about how things always change. We never know exactly how, and we never know exactly when. The only thing in this world that is permanent is impermanence. The one thing we do know is that we are only ever guaranteed the moment we are currently in. We westerners have such a tough relationship with death, on the whole. But we are all going to get there. It’s inevitable. While hearing the news of my friend’s passing was surreal and difficult, it also made me think about how lovely it was that she had the extra time that she did with her family. Death has something to teach us about life, if we let it. What would we do differently if we knew that today was our last day on Earth? How might our lives change if we lived each moment as if it were our last? Each and every moment is unique. You will never get that slice of time back. Even the hard moments. They pass too. There is beauty in this truth. There is also freedom. So, what if we were grateful for each moment we have? What if we were present for each moment we exist? How would that change our perspectives and our relationships with one another and with ourselves? 

How would it change you? 



9 days, 1 blizzard, 1 blowout and 6 new tires, a protesting brake, and 2700(ish) miles later…


Gold Beach, Oregon, to Champaign, Illinois, in nine days. The original plan had been for six days, but the original plan did not involve obstacles. Reality did. We were in a race against the weather and an appointment scheduled for the 29th. Our chosen route was to head south and then across to Reno, where we’d pick up I-80 to zip through Nevada, Wyoming, and Nebraska. We chose this route because the weather looked to be amiable for that drive when we headed out and there were fewer steep inclines and declines to deal with than I-70 across Colorado. Even the wind was supposed to cooperate, which was a big deal for me driving a 30 ft long 12 ft high beast (I say this affectionately). I do not have a fondness for driving I-80 across Nebraska in the winter, as my one memory of doing so involved an accident on black ice. In college, friends of mine and I were heading to Colorado to go skiing. My roommate and her boyfriend and I were in my car. There were five guys in a Suburban. Alyssa was sleeping in the front seat. Mike was driving and I was in the back seat. Somehow, Mike and I both managed to look in the rearview mirror in time to see the suburban skid sideways, then fish-tail a couple of times, before flipping over and landing in a concrete-lined ditch. No one was hurt, but the Suburban was totaled, and we spent the night in the hospital while the guys were checked over, just in case. We ended up renting a station wagon, as it was the largest thing left, and somehow fitting ski gear and eight people in my VW Fox and said station wagon. We made it, but since then, I’ve had an aversion to the idea of driving I-80 across Nebraska at any time of year, but definitely mostly in the winter. 


But it seemed the weather was going to cooperate. And it did appear to be a better course than the mountains in Colorado or the extra-long drive to head south to I-40. I swallowed the lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach upon acknowledging that this did appear to be the best way to go. Mother Nature had other plans from the start, though…


We opted to leave a day earlier than originally planned. Unfortunately, this meant a drive down the coast through torrential downpours and over winding and bumpy roads. Our “short” drive took a loooooong time. As I said in my previous post, we did wake up to glorious sunshine and a spectacular and scenic drive the next day. It was also a long drive due to the slow procession through the mountains, but it was beautiful. We had to wait for clearing weather and roads in the Sierra Nevadas. Also a stunning drive, with the sunshine and snow-capped mountains. After spending the night in a town east of Reno, we had a choice to make. I was awake for hours in the middle of the night looking at weather conditions and forecasts for our chosen route. It’s winter. The weather can change rapidly. To my horror, I was finding that I-80 was closed to light-weight, high-profile vehicles (that would be me) in parts of Wyoming due to severe blow-over risk from high winds. They were also reporting icy roads, including areas of black ice, and blowing snow. Nebraska showed sections of ice or snow-covered roads as well. It was 


to get better in that the winds were supposed to die down, but it seemed clear that it would be too risky to count on that. I looked up I-70 conditions in Colorado. Ice covered, nearly the entire way across the mountains. Again, conditions were supposed to improve, and many towns were predicting above freezing temps during the day, but at the highest altitudes? Well, that might not be the case. Colorado has this great thing where there are cameras placed all along their roads and you can see current road conditions at these various locations. What I saw through the lens of many of these cameras made my stomach lurch. I could not imagine conditions clearing up enough in a day to make the road comfortable for driving Knight over.


We wouldn’t hit the mountains for two days, but it seemed clear that we had to make a call that morning, sitting outside of Reno. We decided to head south to Vegas and then to Kingman, Arizona, where we’d catch the I-40 to Oklahoma City, and then the 44 to St. Louis. This should have been a comfort. Elevations wouldn’t be as high. Temps during the day would be warmer for the cats in the back of the rig. But I-40 is a trucker route and the roads can be in not-so-great condition. I still relaxed a bit. It was better than the alternatives. We headed south. About 50 miles from our intended stop, I got a high pressure reading on one of the back tires. It jumped up instantly from 90 psi to 96 psi. We pulled over, but I couldn’t see what the problem was. It was an inside tire, so it was difficult to see, but all seemed okay, even though the tread was worn, and it was obvious new tires would be in order before we left Illinois to head out again. We let the tires cool and started off again. The pressure started climbing again. We ended up stopping at a small, middle-of-nowhere town. I changed all the batteries in the sensors for the Tire Pressure Monitoring System, thinking perhaps this was the issue. It wasn’t.


We headed out the next morning. All the tires read in normal ranges. I kept an eye on the trouble tire from the day before. The pressure increased to levels above the others but did not hit that critical level from the day before. However, 30 miles outside of Vegas, the rig started vibrating. Or it seemed something on the rig was vibrating. Quite loudly. Pulled over on the, thankfully, wide shoulder. Couldn’t figure out what it was. Double-checked the tire pressure with the manual gauge. Everything read close to what the sensors read. So, we took off again. The vibrating was still there. I was only going about 30 mph because I was still trying to figure out what was going on. And then there was the loud, explosive boom. The sound like a gunshot. I knew immediately what had happened, so I pulled quickly over to the side of the road. Gail said later that pieces of tire actually flew over the top of her car. We were 27 miles from Vegas. Traffic was fairly light, and the shoulder was fairly wide, but it was still nerve racking to hang out there while waiting for help to come, which it did, 1.5 hours later. Another 1.5 hours and I had two new tires on the driver’s side back axel. While those tires were being changed, we decided not to risk another such incident and go ahead and get the remaining tires changed. We made arrangements to go to the shop for the same business who was at the time changing the tires on the side of the road. 


When we arrived at the shop, it was busy. We had been told they could get us in and out quickly, but that apparently was not going to be the case. We waited. The cats did marvelously well with all of the noise and commotion going on in the very busy lot where tires were being changed on trucks and semis were pulling in and out getting weighed or stopping at the shop for various reasons unknown to me. I think the cats did better than I did! I tried to be patient. I really did. But when it was supposed to be my turn, as in every other truck that had been there had had their tires changed, I was at the end of my patience. No one had been in the bay when we arrived, so I knew there was no one waiting for other services besides the tire services when I arrived. I had been waiting ages, so I went into the shop and asked one of the techs how much longer it would be. I was informed that he had been left on his own to do everything, but that I was next. He was obviously agitated (and understandably so!). However, as he was rolling up the tires for the rig, another guy stopped him. I overheard the conversation. He was telling the kid that he needed to do the oil change before he changed the tires on my rig. 


No. Way. I intervened. I had been waiting for well over an hour. He tried to tell me that the guy waiting for his oil change had been waiting longer. The only thing is, this wasn’t the truth. No one had been in the bay when we arrived. I told him this. The tech agreed, so he brought me to the supervisor, who had been the one to change my tires on the side of the road. The supervisor also knew no one had been in the bay, so he sent the tech on his way to change my tires. The tech was still agitated, but appreciative of my intervention, as it seemed that he was having a challenging end of his day. He told me he was staying overtime to make sure my tires got changed. So, I didn’t complain when he stopped for a couple of minutes to take a few drags off a cigarette before continuing with the work of changing my tires. As time rolled on, it became obvious we were going to be staying in the Vegas area. Fortunately, we found an open spot in Henderson. Vegas RV parks at this time of year can, apparently, be packed to the gills. We felt lucky to find a spot. After 8 hours of dealing with the tire issues, we were able to make our way to the campground and then to grab some food for dinner.


The next day found us in Gallup, New Mexico, where the overnight low was 15 degrees. Brrrr. We managed to stay plenty warm enough overnight and prepared to hit the road at 7 a.m. the next morning. Except… 


Except that one of the tires read 55 psi, while the others were at 68-71 psi. It was the last tire the tech put on, and I happened to witness him having difficulty getting the air valve extension onto the valve. I was immediately suspicious of this, as I’d seen him retrieve a tool from the shop to help him get it on. This was a Saturday. The truck stop we went to had truck tire service. They legally could not work on RVs but were nice enough to check the tire and said that the leak was definitely coming from the valve area. He could hear it. Seriously? 


Seriously? We tried the shop they suggested. It was supposed to be open. It wasn’t. No one was answering the phone, and no one was anywhere to be found on the grounds. We went back to the campground and called roadside assistance. They found an open shop for us but said that they wouldn’t cover anything other than taking the extension off and filling the tire because the extension was an aftermarket piece. But they did find an open shop who could help us. I was not at all happy. This shop did get us in right away. Sure enough, a seam on the extension was broken, most likely because the tech had overtightened it with that tool he’d retrieved. Steam was coming out of my ears at this point. And then I was shown the kindness of a man who ran a shop and knew of my plight. When he rang up my ticket, he charged me $12 for a new extension. That’s it. He charged me nothing for the hour it took his tech to do the work. When he told me the cost, I had the hardest time not weeping from the sheer kindness of this act. Just when I was at the end of my rope. I wanted to hug him. But I knew if I did, I’d lose it. I could barely thank him enough without a quaking in my voice and tears escaping from the corners of my eyes.

We were off again at 9:20. Two and a half hours later than planned, but it still we could make it by Monday. Which would be just in time. If we drove far enough over the next two days, we could have a shorter driving day on Monday. We could arrive in Champaign early enough to beat the high winds and dropping temperatures due to hit early afternoon. Sunday’s drive was long, but uneventful, until it was time to stop. Pulling off on the exit, and coming to a stop, produced a very loud groan of protest from one of my brakes. Was this ever going to end? The brakes gave no indications of trouble prior to this point, but we had traveled a LOT of miles with a fair number of steep-ish descents. It shouldn’t have been surprising. After much discussion and conversations with family members who know more about this sort of thing than me, we decided to push for home. We had five more break pads still functioning just fine. Funny thing was, once we got started again, the brakes quit making any sort of noise. Maybe they’d just been dirty from the windy, dusty desert conditions. I don’t know. I’ll find out in the spring when we check them all.

We left Springfield, Missouri, for our final stretch home. It looked like we’d make it just ahead of the high winds. It felt like smooth sailing. I-44 was in better condition and had fewer truckers than I-40 (which had been treacherous at times due to BOTH scary bad road conditions and scary fast and numerous semis). The traffic around St. Louis was light enough. We decided to head up to Springfield, Illinois, and then east to Champaign, just in case the winds arrived a little early. This way, they’d be at my tail, mostly, rather than directly broadsiding me. Or so I thought. Just 12 miles outside of Springfield, I slammed into a brick wall that was the wind. After breaking through this brick wall, the wind hit hard from the side. It had arrived early. Very early. Turning east onto I-72 didn’t help much, except for short stints. It was a terrifying drive, much like the one through the grasslands in South Dakota, except four times as long. As I drove, I did battle, and feared that with any given gust, I’d lose the battle and topple over or blow off the side of the road. I was sooooo close to my destination. So. Close. Yet it felt we’d never get there. It was a tough place to be. The winds would only get worse through the remainder of the day, and the temperatures would plummet. So we kept on. And finally arrived. Frazzled. Fraught. And Fried. But safe. 

a different angle

Knight has more complaints. And I hope he survives this deep freeze without any more injuries. But we are all safe. Over the course of the 9 days, 2700 (ish) miles, and almost daily obstacles, I wondered at my course. Was this what I should be doing? Why did the universe seem to have it out for me? Was it bad karma? Should I not be going to Champaign? I was looking at the drive with an entirely negative perspective. I saw everything that went wrong. I saw the obstacles and the delays, the setbacks and challenges. In my rant against the universe, I got caught up in seeing the obstacles that life always throws in our paths as some sort of evidence that the universe had it in for me, rather than realizing that we actually overcame all these obstacles. We all got home safe. Each time something went wrong, we got through it. Each time something went wrong, we had a safe place to stop, or we were just outside of Vegas where help arrived quickly (I’ve heard horror stories of people waiting for hours upon hours for help or help never arriving or being stuck on the side of the road with no cell service to even call for help), or we actually found a place to stay in a city that has few options for RVers this time of year, or a kind man only charged me for a part and not labor because he knew of my misfortune, or I managed to get to my folks’ house without the rig tipping over or blowing off the road…the list goes on. When I shifted my perspective, I realized that in each situation things could have been oh so much worse. Life will always happen. Obstacles appear on every course. We can choose to see the obstacles as evidence of how unfair life is, or we can choose to see the lessons those obstacles have to offer and our tenacity at getting past them. It’s that tenacity that brings us forward to new opportunities, opening the door to possibility, opening our eyes to choices and dreams and a life truly lived. 9 days, 1 blizzard, 1 blowout and 6 new tires, a protesting brake, and 2700(ish) miles later…I feel fortunate, and I feel oh so grateful. We are here, we are safe. Knight is intact and I have the opportunity to tend to his needs and get him ready to roll again in April. The road is already calling me again, but until I can heed that call, I will use this time to catch up with family and friends, get Knight ready, finish the book I am writing, and enjoy the moments I am given between now and then.


farewell for now, oregon


I’ve said goodbye to Gold Beach and the Oregon coast. For now. The rain finally got to me. It wasn’t simply the rain; it was all that came with it. The constant vigilance against mold. The dark inside the trees. The torrential downpours and wind and hail that made it impossible to do anything other than hunker down. It is beautiful, to be sure, but it is also relentless. You know who is boss in these parts in the winter, and it isn’t you. The first month in Gold Beach was a joy. The rain wasn’t too much and there was ample opportunity for exploration. That all but disappeared the second month. Everyone was stir-crazy, including the cats. They were getting bored with the same view. Even the deer wandering through our camp no longer caused them to perk up and get excited. The cats, it seems, are also drawn to the movement this life affords. When we stop for too long, the space inside the rig shrinks. So, I said goodbye to Gold Beach on Sunday and drove through a pouring rain down to Fortuna, CA. 

I was ready to go. But it was hard to leave. I didn’t imagine it would be as hard as it was. I made a final trip to the local Ace Hardware, where I’d been enough times that they knew me, and felt my first tug at leaving when saying goodbye to these jovial and kind folks. On the drive down the 101, I spoke my goodbyes aloud to those now-familiar and loved landmarks: Kissing Rock, Cape Sebastian, and Harris Beach. Yes, I got misty-eyed, and promised I’d return. Next, we dove deep into the Redwoods, along winding, wet, white-knuckle-driving-in-a-30-ft-RV roads. More rain pounded the roof as we stopped for the night, but, in the morning, it was sunshine. Glorious sunshine. I entered new territory on the 101 the next day. A drive I hadn’t done before, and it was stunning. The giant Redwoods dwarfed Knight, but sunlight still filtered through. The Redwoods gave way to a drier climate as we turned east, going through three or four different ecosystems before landing in Yuba City for the night.


breaking free
Along the way, we hit a lake. An enormous lake. The road hugged its shore for ages. It brought to mind an Italian lake: Lake Maggiori, located near the border of Switzerland. The lake, the views across the lake, the trees and hills—they all transported me across the ocean. I didn’t care that I couldn’t drive any faster than 35-40 mph. I didn’t want to leave that lake too quickly. When we finally did part ways, the road wound through a deep hill landscape with green grasses and decreasing numbers of trees. It looked like spring. It felt like spring. And all the while, the sun smiled upon us. 
Movement. It is like breaking free. To be moving again makes my heart sing. To be moving again under a big, blue sky? My heart is singing in three-part harmony. The cats are loving it too. Not the driving, of course. Though, even with that, they slipped right back into the routine after the first day. I marvel at Bubba. He’s got a social anxiety disorder. Not kidding. And he’s not one to like change much at all. But, for some reason, he is the most chill guy on travel days. He dives under the covers on the bed in the back and makes himself comfortable. When we stop, I find him sprawled out under the covers, sawing logs. As long as the road isn’t too bumpy, he’s good to go. And Gatsby has gotten a new lease on life. Every new stop is yet another adventure. He bounds from his place on the bed to look out every window and then beg me to take him outside. He is joyful. Nola is almost as excited as Gatsby, and Arlo just wants to know that he’s still with his peeps, and then all is right in his world.


heading back

Today took us over the Sierra Nevadas and into a town 35 miles east of Reno. There had been a blizzard in the mountains on Sunday, hence the stop in Yuba City; I-80 was impassible without chains. By yesterday afternoon, all was clear on the roads. Oh, the winter wonderland of the Sierra Nevadas after a heavy snow. It was stunning. Fresh white against blue sky, with a few high thin clouds to accent the scenery. We drove over Donner peak. With the fresh-fallen, deep powder blanketing the peaks and valleys, adorning the trees in a heavy dressing, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how the tragedy befell the group of pioneers stranded in the mountains in the winter of 1846. In looking up details about the Donner Party, I discovered they began their journey westwards on April 16th(my birthday is the 15th) from Springfield, Illinois (I am headed to my hometown of Champaign, Illinois, about 90 miles from Springfield) to make their way to the west coast after the head of the party read a book called The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California. Seems I am essentially reversing their intended journey! Especially as I plan to stick around in Illinois until just after my birthday. I didn’t read all of this until I was safely encamped at my current location. It makes me even more grateful to have safely made my journey over that pass today, and glad I didn’t attempt it just two days prior.
Just 1,879 miles to go. I am heading back to Champaign for the next couple of months. Knight needs a bit of work done and stopping at my folks’ is the perfect spot to do it. It’s winter. Here and in Champaign. The drive home will be a race against the weather. So far, the forecast seems to mostly be in our favor. We had one delay because of the blizzard in the Sierra Nevadas, which worked out well because it is also delaying us from a very high wind day in Wyoming. But the next few days will be long drives (at least, for me, drives more than 6 hours in this rig constitute very long drives) through less scenic landscapes than the previous three days. Much of it will be flat. Normally not my favorite, but with the desire to make haste in the eastward sprint, I’ll be glad not to chug up too many more mountain passes, nor crawl down on the other side, weary of using my brakes anymore than absolutely necessary. So, it’s goodbye to the west for now. A sad farewell, though I know I will return to these parts later this year. There is so much to see out here. I’ve barely scratched the surface. When I roll out in April, I’ll make my way somewhere. Gold Beach isn’t going anywhere. She’ll be waiting for me upon my return. Maybe next fall. Maybe some other time. But to the West, I will return.


time doesn’t always fly


It’s been a while since my last post. December was quite a month to cap off the year 2018. You know how there is that saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun”? Well, sometimes it does. But it doesn’t always. Life out on the road has shown me this more than almost any other time in my life, except perhaps for the time I lived in Germany. That period of life was closest to what I experience now, except that now I am older, I’ve racked up some graduate degrees, tried my hand at a few “careers,” and gained the sort of personal wisdom only time and experience can deliver. I’ve discovered that a meaningful life is one that is not dictated by university degrees or income or status, but rather by how you live each moment (including the tough ones because they always arise), your perspectives on life and the world you live in, and your kindnesses. 


   the allure

December was a month during which experience, emotion, and the weather ricocheted from one extreme to another. Rolling into January has shown much of the same tendency in all three areas. I have stayed in this one spot for a month and a half now. One of the things I have discovered is that movement is part of this life for me. I like the movement. Not every day, but at least once a month. I can tell this because, after a month, I started looking to where next might be, even though at this time it is better to stay put. I also know that, for me, I have a difficult time staying in the types of RV parks that are most prevalent: the tightly packed parking lots. I prefer more privacy and scenery. I prefer peaceful surroundings. These can be found in a lot of state parks and a very few private parks, which are fewer in number during the winter months. Even the private parks deemed “resorts” and costing a fortune tend to be neighbor stacked on neighbor places. This works great for many, but for me, the allure of the road life is a combination of scenery and outdoor space. However, private parks are the only places you’ll find monthly rates at a substantial discount from nightly or weekly rates. Boondocking is something I want to do, but at this point, I am not set up completely to be able to be self-sustaining in a location without electricity. So, for now, I stay put.


A different shape

As I have been here for a month and a half, I have started to realize a few things. First, I have discovered that time takes on a different shape out here. Before I left, I spent the first few months working two full-time jobs (one of them teaching as an adjunct professor, completely online) in order to prepare for being out here on the road. Those days were long. They seemed to never end. But the weeks flew by, as I realized all I was doing was working. And the months crept along, as the time for my departure seemed ever far away. How does all that work? Different chunks of time seem to pass at different speeds. But vacations always seem to fly. Or those weekends when you have nothing to do but enjoy your time. In those instances, the saying “time flies when you’re having fun” certainly seems to apply. Once out here on the road, all of that changed. 

Time can still fly when I am having fun. There aren’t always enough hours in a day to hike as far as I want to hike when I am on a beautiful trail. It feels like I have been out here forever, though. It’s only been six months, but it feels like at least twice that long. Granted, not all days are fun. Some days are just hard work. Some days you are met with frustrations and worries. I have had a whole lot of days devoted simply to the work of writing, and other days have been spent attending to living needs. It isn’t often convenient to shop for food or pet supplies, especially when you are a plant-based vegan and you feed your cats a specialty food. Those errands can soak up an entire day, easy. Here, at least, the drive to the towns where I can find what I need is beautiful. It’s relaxing. It’s a journey in and of itself. I do not tire of the coastal drive. One thing is constant in this life, though, even when I have a bad day: I am not bound by the same time as I was when I was working and living in the “normal” world. Yes, I do have to hope to make a living out here, but when I hit a writing wall, I can go for a hike in a forest or go visit the ocean and let nature rejuvenate and revive my mind and soul. As on vacation, I lose track of the day of the week and the date of the month. If it weren’t for my watch and phone, I would really be hard-pressed to keep track! 


the slow weaving

I like it like this. I like the slow weaving of time stitching together a patchwork of experiences. I like the understanding that even when I have a hard day, that patch of the quilt will be finished in its time, and a new patch will be started. I live in a rainy environment now. I am having to deal with some issues that have come up from this. I have devoted two entire days this week and given up my bed to sleep on the futon (which is, thankfully, really comfortable) to mold from condensation. Those days saw tears and frustration aplenty. Those days saw worry over not being able to complete my writing project any time soon. Those days saw anxiety over the idea that I could lose the battle with nature out here or the one battle with time that I have. Those days saw me wondering if I needed to give up and go back to the old way of living. But I would persevere and get through it. And the next day, I would wake up feeling like maybe I had won that skirmish, and if I could win a single skirmish, I might stand a chance in winning the next. I don’t want to “beat” Mother Nature, per se, I just want to be able to live harmoniously with her, but I do want to be able to live. In my little house on wheels. In the beautiful places of North America. I have learned from these experiences more about how to set up my living space so that I can live harmoniously with Mother Nature in this wild and wet and beautiful land. 


a colorful quilt

This life continues to stretch me. My quilt of experiences is growing, as is my stick-to-it-ness. I realize every day is a new beginning. Each gift of a day brings with it an opportunity to grow and to learn and to choose how you want to live that day. The quilt of experiences that time is stitching for me out here lends itself always to making each piece a color or design of my own making, even when the events of life aren’t always of my own choosing, what I do with them is, the way I color them is. It also is teaching me to be patient with myself. I am an imperfect being, as are we all. There is no real sense in regretting any of our reactions, as that means we are dwelling in a negative space and spending our energies reliving those events, rather than acknowledging them and then focusing on what you have learned and how you can handle it differently the next time. And then move on. We can all lose time and create quilts with very little color or pattern if we dwell on what has been or constantly look to what is to come, even if it is just looking forward to a weekend or a vacation. Life is lived in the moment. We can all let time stitch together a beautifully colorful quilt. It is one of the gifts that time can give us, we just have to accept it. When you live in the moment, time doesn’t always fly, even when you are having the most fun of your life, and, yes, even when you are facing the toughest of days, but that is the beauty of living.



And because my furry family has been so integral to all of my experiences here, from the joy I get in seeing them when I come home from a hike or a long day of errands–and vice versa, I think–to the comfort I receive from them on the toughest days, I am including pics of them on this post 🙂





in the spirit of taos pueblo


I struggled with whether I should write this post or not. After my visit to the Crazy Horse Monument and the stir of emotions my experience there elicited in me, I was reluctant to share the experience at the Taos Pueblo. I did not want to be disrespectful of the people living in this community. I did not want to contribute to the exploitation of their lives and livelihoods. In the end, however, I decided to share, because I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see the Pueblo, to have a glimpse into Pueblo life. And it is only a glimpse. But I am ever grateful for it nonetheless.
The Pueblo was built sometime between 1000 and 1450. The people who live in the Pueblo today maintain many of the traditions practiced by their ancestors and passed down across the centuries. They had recently held a fall Feast Day, which I sadly did not make it to. For these feast days, the Puebloans allow visitors, but absolutely no photos are to be taken. The feast day honors a combination of traditional beliefs and beliefs incorporated from Christian efforts to convert the “heathens.” As such, there is a melding of custom. A blend of old and new. A demonstration of a people not quite willing to give over their beliefs, but open to influence from the outside. It is an outcome often seen throughout history in conquered peoples. They might be forced into submission, fed a new system of beliefs that they are told they must live by, but they don’t give over completely. Sometimes, they just go underground. They practice in secret. They hide symbols at the base of newly constructed churches that pay homage to their old gods. They hold feast days to honor Christian saints while performing ancient rituals that only those belonging to the Pueblo understand. They invite people in to share in the celebrations, but keep them at a distance, only allowing them just so close. Close enough to see hints of the history and spirit of a people and system here on this continent long, long before the arrival of the Europeans. But not so close that we share in their secrets. Those they hold closer. And I understand why. It is a way to ensure that their traditions are not turned against them. It is a way to hold on. It is a way to maintain what little power they have to go on living the old ways to any degree. 

just an ordinary day

The Feast Day I had missed was held the week before my visit. We had been unable to go that particular day, and we had also wanted to save the trip there for when a friend of ours was to be in town. The day we went, it was just an ordinary day in the Pueblo. A day when work was being done on maintaining walls and structures whose purpose I could not fathom and was too afraid to ask. It was a day when artisans were selling their goods to the few tourists who arrived on a chilly weekday morning in October. It was a day when the bakers were selling their fry bread from an entryway into their home. It was just an ordinary day. An ordinary day in the life of today’s Puebloans in Taos Pueblo. A place that is now set up to be on display for visitors, where community members sell things to tourists as a way to make a living. They have somehow managed to fit this life into a way of living that still honors private gods and death and tradition and community. 

Dog town

The first thing I noticed, before even stepping inside the walls of the Pueblo, was the dogs. So. Many. Dogs. They were everywhere. For this animal lover, the sign stating the do not pet or feed dogs rule was the only rule it killed me to follow. Not pet the dogs? How does one NOT pet a puppy who is weaving around your legs? How does one not pet and even hug a dog who is shivering in the chilled air? Now, to be clear, these dogs were not neglected. They all looked fat and happy. But still. I had to shove my hands into my pockets more than once to keep them from straying down to the top of a furry head or from impulsively scratching an upturned belly. Inside the Pueblo and just outside its walls, the dogs were roaming with little concern for cars, as there were few around. They greeted visitors but were so well behaved. Not one jumped up on anyone that I saw. Not even the puppy. 

As the three of us wandered through the Pueblo and into a few stores, we wondered at the age of the Pueblo. At the history palpable in the adobe walls and outdoor ovens still in use and emitting smells that caused my stomach to rumble. We passed by one abode with a dog lying at the door, which was just barely cracked. I noticed the signs on the door. One said, “Not my President” and another said, “Water is Life.” And a third said, “Open.” As the other two wandered down the adjacent narrow walkway to see what it held, I ventured over to the door. I’m not going to lie. One of my first thoughts was that maybe the dog wanted inside, so if I went in to see what was inside his home, where the sign read “Open,” he would be able to go inside if he were allowed. I opened the door slowly, unsure of what I’d find.

Artful Acceptance

Paintings lined the walls and a fire burned in the hearth. It smelled of incense. An earthly, calming, peaceful smell. A young man sat at the only table in the room, a small desk lamp casting a glow on the paints and works in progress strewn across the table in front of him. He greeted me with a warm smile, and his dog with a chuckle and kind words as the dog took up his post at the man’s feet. I wandered around the room, looking at the paintings, and spoke a little with the young man about his work. I found a magnet. A perfect addition to the magnet collection adorning the cabinets in the RV. I called out to the other two when I heard them passing by so that they would know where I was, and they joined me inside. I went up to buy the magnet, talking with the gentleman a bit more about the pieces he was currently working on. I pulled out my money as he wrapped my purchase and laid the cash on the table. The man did not take my money. I pushed it a bit closer to him, to be sure he saw it. He still did not take it. It was as if he was purposefully avoiding touching it. I was a bit perplexed as I took my bag and headed out the door.

We finished our wanderings and made our final stop at a home selling frybread near the entrance. Inside the door, the fire glowed and flute music played. An older man worked on some sort of craft at a desk in the corner of the room, while a woman worked in the kitchen. We claimed the last two pieces of frybread and sat down in front of the fire to share in the sweet goodness. It was the perfect end to the visit. 

My gift

It humbles me to witness this life. To be welcomed into a community, even if it is a welcome that has become a necessity for survival. I never sensed from the people inside the Pueblo any regret or any resentment for my presence there. I am sure they must feel it sometimes. But I did not see it. I only felt welcome and an openness and kindness from those I encountered. Gail shared with us something else. Something that made the day for me. Something that signified what is good in a place where private gods and death and tradition and community take precedence over the mighty dollar. After I had taken my little brown bag with my magnet inside and turned to leave, Gail had turned back to say something to me. It was then that she saw the young man pick up the money when he thought no one was looking, cup it in his hands, and bow his head over the top, in gratitude for the gift he received.
But this was my gift too. It wasn’t about the purchase. It was an understanding that my action brought a gift to this young man. My small gesture meant something to him. It was a gift he did not take for granted. And for me, this simple act was in itself a gift of gratitude. This young man, unbeknownst to him, gave me a powerful gift that day in his private gesture of gratitude. It is this that has stuck with me. When we can all look to our every day and be grateful, when we can see the gifts in the smallest of interactions, in the receipt of a smile or a kind gesture, praise for a job well-done, and even in the mundane, and be grateful for these gifts, we make the world a more forgiving, kinder, gentler place. When we can show a bit of the spirit of Taos Pueblo in our everyday lives, we might touch on something that reaches beyond politics or division or selfishness or self-preservation and into a gratefulness born from honoring private gods (whoever those may be for any of us) and death and tradition and community.

The image below is from a plaque at the ruins in Mesa Verde National Park.

walking in an alpine wonderland


I had wanted to do a hike in the stretch between Questa and Red River. I had planned on it. Somehow, I had not gotten to it yet, and found myself sitting on a day before a friend was coming to visit and the realization that, if I were going to do this hike, it was now or never. The weather was dictating that we leave at the conclusion of our friend’s visit. I found that in the two and a half weeks we had been staying in Questa, I was compelled to hike more in the Rio Grande Del Norte. The National Monument was spectacular, and its proximity to where we were staying also made it convenient. So, I almost missed this hike between Questa and Red River. I almost missed the chance to experience a new favorite hike. It seems that in each location I land, each new environment, I find a new favorite hike. I can no longer name just one. I cannot say I have one favorite hike above all others. There are several, each with its own personality. Each with its own significance. Each bringing about a different set of emotions and thoughts for me, different senses of myself. This hike, then, is another favorite. Another special place to add to my growing tally. I think I might need to start a list before I lose track of all these favorites.

Into the Wild Place

After reading up on my options in the Red River area, I decided on hiking the Columbine Trail. Not the entire thing; it is approximately 8 miles long in each direction. I would have liked to have hiked the whole trail, but it would not be this time. It was not until I got to the trailhead that I realized that this trail is a National Recreation Trail and that it wanders up a river through a designated wilderness area. This immediately rendered the trail meaningful and significant to me. And here I was, hiking it on a Monday afternoon in October, with only two other cars and a truck pulling a horse trailer in the parking lot. Not likely that I would see many people on a trail that is 16 miles round trip. I immediately sensed that wildness upon entering the trail, with towering rocky walls rising up on one side and forests on the other. This was a place for (mountain) lions, not tigers, and bears. Oh my! Add to that the aspen trees changing color—their leaves glimmering in the sunlight, quaking in the wind—and the green of the conifer needles providing a contrast to the yellows of the aspen leaves. Wilderness indeed.


From a distance

The trail hugged close to a river, crossing over it several times in the distance I traveled up the narrow passage between mountains. After crossing the river for the first time, I found myself looking up to rocky outcroppings and ledges perfect for mountain lions to perch, eyeing the scene below for their next meal. I saw a cave, dark and deep. Deep enough to not know the end of it. Curiosity aside (and I was curious), I was not about to climb up to check it out lest someone be home. It was then that I realized I had forgotten my bear spray. Again. I was not worried about it for the bears I might see, was hoping to see. These would, as in previous areas so far, be black bears. I was less concerned about becoming a meal for black bears since cubs would not be so young and they are not the carnivores, grizzlies are. I wanted the bear spray for the mountain lion I was hoping not to see, for you are very unlikely to see one unless they are hungry. I did not want to become the main course for a mountain lion’s next meal. So, I wish I had not forgotten the bear spray. Again. As a poor substitute, I took out my hiking poles, not needed for the actual hike, and prepared to wield them as swords should the need arise. I hoped it did not. I eyed the rocks closely as I walked. I turned around to look behind me frequently, as these big cats prefer to, quite unfairly, sneak up on their prey from behind. I hoped I did not see a mountain lion, unless, of course, I spotted her up high on some lofty ledge, dozing in the sun and not at all interested in me. 


up close

I did hope to see a bear. I really, really want to see a bear. Not from my car, as has been the case in the past, but out on a trail, where I am a part of the wilderness with the bear, and not simply a spectator in a fiberglass and metal can with glass windows keeping me still one step removed from the experience. I do not count seeing the bear on the Lost Lake trail, since I only saw its bulbous backside as it ran to take cover as I approached. I did not get to see its face. I did not get to see the grace and wisdom and secrets held in its eyes. So, I do not count that as a real sighting. Of course, should the occasion arise that I get to look a bear in the eyes, even a black bear, it’ll probably scare the crap out of me. I’d have to resist the urge to both pee myself and talk to the bear and scratch it behind the ears as I do my cats. It is maybe a good thing I’ve not seen a bear up close and personal. But I still want to. I did not see one on this trail either. 


down with the llamas

What I did see are llamas. Three llamas. Three llamas carrying tremendous, bulky packs for their humans. I was heading up; they were heading down. I was no more than a half-mile into the trail. There were four adults, two children of around 4 or 5, and a baby. And three llamas. I asked if they were just out for the day, eyeing the llamas’ burdens as I did so. They were. They had just gone up for lunch, they said, and were on their way back down. That must have been some kind of lunch they had, and I wondered if I’d see another 20 people following them down the mountain. After some small talk and petting the llamas, I headed on my way, and they on theirs. I then kicked myself for not asking to take a photo of these three gentle, beautiful beasts of burden. 


over rocks and streams

I never did see those 20 people I imagined had to have been a part of the lunch party. I did not see another soul walking the trail, in fact. No people, no llamas, no mountain lions, no bears. Just me. My boots shifting through fallen leaves that provided a resting place for raindrops that had fallen the night before or sinking into soft soil overlaid with brown needles muting the sound of my footfalls or scuffing over rocks and small boulders sporadically strewn across sections of trail. Birds flitted through the trees, one of them calling out a warning that I took to either mean stay off my turf or a mountain lion is right on your tail. Either way, I hastened my pace just a bit. The gently flowing stream provided a consistent humming, threading its way through my own breath and heartbeat. And twice, the woods opened up into a broad meadow, whose grasses and spongy soils I wanted to lie upon to watch clouds dance in the sky and leaves sway to the music of the wind. 


around and within

My soul melded into this place. I lost my edges for a time and became a part of all that was around me. Even in my nervousness over the very unlikely potential to become prey to an element of this landscape, to a creature who belonged here more than I ever would or could, I still felt wholly a part of it all, welcomed into its fold for a time. It is a place I will return to. Maybe next time, I will throw my camping gear on my back and make my way to the end of the trail, to camp out there for a night, maybe more. To see what new magic the rest of the trail holds. What mysteries can be felt in the nighttime space of this wilderness. 


Oktoberfest…new mexico style


The first time I experienced Red River, NM, was at the end of a drive around the Enchanted Circle. It was the last stop before returning to Questa, the town outside of Taos where we were based for three weeks (before we had to head out because of a forecasted winter storm and near record cold temps). I had no big expectations, as I was primarily interested in the scenery on the drive. And by the time we got to Red River, the scenery had become majestic. We moved from a broad valley to a narrow passageway between towering and rocky peaks, and into a ski town with an identity crisis. Red River, it seems, cannot make up its mind as to whether it is Wild West tourist town or Bavarian ski village. I loved it, but especially its Bavarian persona. It is always nostalgic for me to find myself in a town in the US settled by Germans. The Bavarian flair, with hotels that are always named Auslander, takes me back to the home of my heart: Garmisch-Partenkirchen. No matter where I am or what I am doing, Garmisch will always be special. It still holds people near and dear to me. People with whom neither time nor distance can erase the friendship we share. Each time I return, I feel I am home again, welcomed into the fold as if no time has passed. And the town itself, with the mountains surrounding it, opens its arms as well. I relax into my surroundings every time. I often fantasize a return to living there, as it was also a simple life, full of good people, nature, and travel. 

Thus, I have an affinity for Bavarian-themed towns. They make me smile. This is what Red River did for me when I first saw it, especially since it was also a ski town with a form and color familiar to me. That first visit, we made our way into the Red River Brewing Company and found ourselves sitting outside by a warm fire eating a massive bowl of edamame, drinking a beer, and people watching. And planning to return to this town for their Oktoberfest the following weekend.

I have been to a few Oktoberfest celebrations here in the US and enjoy seeing how each of them, though all celebrating a German tradition, reflect the character of the town holding them. This one was no different. It had the obligatory Oompa band, whose leader spoke German and English. It had beer. And I even tasted a local gluhwein, though it’s still a bit early for this winter drink. Most of the beer here was locally or regionally brewed. You will not find Miller Lite at the beer stands in Red River. I had a taste of one of the best weissbiers I’ve had outside of Germany, along with two really good Oktoberfest beers (entry to the fest came with six beer/wine tastings).  All of this was great. It was the stuff that makes an Oktoberfest no matter where you are. 

Then, there is the local flair that makes each Oktoberfest its own experience. Here, there were plenty of lederhosen and dirndls to be seen, for sure. But often with a twist. Like cowboy boots paired with a dirndl:

the best thing

But…the best part of this Oktoberfest? The best part was the people. The happy spirit of people enjoying a beautiful fall day, surrounded by mountains with the aspens changing color, sunny skies, and temperatures warm enough to shed the coat. The stalls sold local goods. As such, they were not German, but, rather, mostly of Native American and Mexican traditions. The mix of cultures was impressive. It was also moving. It was as it should be, everywhere and all the time. Here, no one cared the color of your skin or where you came from. Here, everyone greeted others with a smile and a laugh over some shared comment (and even offers to share a drink). Here, there was a carefree spirit and a pleasure in the company of others. It made this Oktoberfest one to remember. It was a special event given our current atmosphere. It was evidence that when we drop our guards and shed our preconceived notions of “other,” we can still be kind to one another, still see the humanness of the other, and still take joy in shared experiences. For an afternoon, all was right with the world in this little corner of New Mexico.

Prost, y’all!

the nature of taos


When we first decided to come down to Taos, it was the town itself that drew me. I have always loved the town in the impression it imprinted upon me on those brief meetings I’d had with the place when passing through. I don’t think I ever stayed the night or spent more than a couple of hours wandering the streets and taking in the vibe. I identified with the town’s free-spirited nature, embodied in the hippy artists walking the streets, the art galleries, and the shops selling New Age spiritual goods. I liked the looks of the old town. The adobe buildings with their rounded edges, flat roofs, and a low center of gravity against the backdrop of wide blue skies and soft mountain peaks. Taos held a bit of the exotic for me.  I envied the artists and their hippy ways. Envied their talent and the idea that they could live doing something creative. I occasionally like to dabble in creativity in the form of drawing, but I do not have the patience for sticking with it beyond a sketched drawing in a book that then gets stuffed away for several months or years. It’s the same way for all things having to do with sewing or knitting. Or cross-stitch. I tried those things. They were supposed to be relaxing. I found that once I got past the parts where images take shape and colors change frequently, I got bored. And then anxious. I could not stick with the tedious background for the life of me, and there were many an unfinished project tossed aside for something more interesting. I guess that says something about how I live my life, too. Though out here I am growing more patience, while also having the benefits of changing shapes and colors at the same time. I still don’t see me knitting any time soon, but I may pull out those sketchbooks more often now. 



Turn up the heat

When we arrived, the plan was to stay as long as the weather allowed. There is now snow on the peak outside my window. The weather has allowed until now, but we will push through some below freezing nights for the next several days while a friend comes to visit. There is a big reluctance in running the rig’s heater all night. It uses a lot of propane for one. For another, it uses a lot of propane. And with that, there comes the visions of the RV going up in flames in the middle of the night that does not compel me to tempting that possibility unless I have to. Prior to this RV becoming the place I call home, it was used almost entirely during the summer months. Since 1993. Imagine the dust buildup inside the furnace. I had cleaned up the outside when remodeling, but for all I know, the inside is a jungle of the accumulations of time. We did test the heater. It turned on. It smelled (yes, they always do upon first use, even in a stationary home). It set off the fire alarm, which happens to be located on the ceiling just above the location of the furnace. That was the end of our test of the heat. I am sure we will brave it again, taking it in small doses, to see if we can clear out the cobwebs without disaster striking. For now, though, the ceramic space heaters work just fine. On Tuesday night, when the low goes down to the mid-20s, if all six of us wake up as popsicles, we might have to revise our plan.


the pull of nature

I am glad to be staying for a little while longer. The daytime temperatures are going to be good fall temperatures. And I am not finished yet with this area. I had assumed that Taos would be the big draw for being here, and that I would hope to find some good hikes to go along with forays into town, but, as with other places we’ve been so far, the natural spaces are where I am drawn. The town is secondary. Thus far, it has primarily been the place to go to run errands. I will be glad for the opportunity to wander the streets with a visiting friend, without the distractions of feeling like it is necessary, since I am there, to get some shopping done, and thereby foregoing the wandering through the old town to peek into galleries and admire the history of the place. 


revel in the wildness

I have wished for that sketchbook on a couple of occasions as I have explored a place I never knew existed. Taos is in the mountains. It was the place where I breathed more freely again when passing from the even drier areas south of here to this transition zone where desert meets alpine on my way into Colorado from Texas. But the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument is something different still. And I never knew it existed. It was only named a National Monument in 2013. Prior to that, it was a state park and BLM land. It is wild. It has a sense of age around it, seemingly almost unmolested because it does not get the traffic seen in other, more popular canyons. This time of year is perfect for hikes into and above the canyon. There are even fewer visitors. The company you keep is more likely to be lizards, tarantulas, and big horn sheep than it is to be another human being. And maybe a rattlesnake because, apparently, this is the time of year when they are most active, with feeding frenzies in the morning to prepare for winter when they don’t hibernate, but they do become nearly inactive. So far, I have not seen any rattlesnakes. Or heard them. Which is fine by me.  I am okay knowing they are there, and I would even be okay seeing one, as long as it was stretched out (they can only strike when they are coiled), sunning itself, at a nice and safe distance. Safe enough that it would not feel threatened by my passing. I have seen tarantulas. Several of them. I don’t fear them in the open, out on trails. They are in their place, and they are not likely to decide that my leg is something they want to crawl up. So I have the freedom to be fascinated by their big, furry bodies. They still creep me out a little when they scamper off. 


revel in the beauty

Walking along the rim of the Rio Grande Del Norte is quite the experience. The steep canyon walls and the river below invoke a sense of grandeur. But to go down into the canyon and sit by the river, watching the flow of the water as it tumbles over rocks and glides southward to form the border between Mexico and the US, while often not quite making it to the Gulf of Mexico these days because of drought conditions and water usage upstream, and looking up at the canyon walls above, gives a person a feeling of timelessness. The Chislo trail was a short, but steep, hike from the rim down to the banks of the Rio Grande. Each round of the bend in a switchback brought with it a new perspective on views below and above. The rocks above give texture to the space rising above your head, and the precariousness with which some are perched give pause for the thought of how they continue to hang on. They could come crashing down at any moment, adding to the din of river and wind and landing below to provide another obstacle for the river to flow around as it passes through. The river itself gets larger and louder. Louder isn’t really the correct word. It isn’t all that loud, as the rapids along this stretch are not that big. The water actually flows quite gently through much of this section.


face into the wind

It is the wind that is loud, and it doesn’t let up during the entire hike and the time I am out there. I used to love the wind. I found it invigorating. Except when I am on my bike. The wind would make me feel alive. Somewhere along the line, in the stressors of day-to-day living, the wind became something whose presence only served as another force pushing against me in my goal to reach a destination or to move freely about my day, making my way more difficult than I felt it needed to be. As I’ve shed those stressors, I find that the wind is my friend again. I admire its strength when it gusts through canyons or across grasslands, or its gentle presence as it passes softly through the leaves on trees. Even when I am driving Knight and it feels the wind will surely blow us all over, I am nervous as hell and scared, but I still admire this force of nature.



listen to the music

I am going to be sad to leave this rugged wilderness before I’ve had a chance to explore more of the mountains around it. There is so much to see here. I know I will be back. I will find my way again to the banks of the Rio Grande, and hopefully have the opportunity to sleep on the rim, falling asleep to nature’s music. I still have several days left to take in this place, to do a few things I have yet to get to. And, now, it’s time to head off, to make my way to a new trail.




Pit toilet wisdom. Discovered in one of the campgrounds at Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.
dream time


I have been pondering on dreams lately. We talk a lot about dreams, but what are they, really? We can have bad dreams when we sleep, and, if they are bad enough, we call them nightmares. We refer to waking nightmares as well, and of experiences that are “like a bad dream.” In both cases, we are making an analogy between real-life experiences and the sometimes not-so-good dreams that occur when we sleep. But it seems to me that our good sleeping dreams are differentiated from our waking dreams, which are always of a positive nature. They both refer to something that is not real, but rather than one being an analogy of the other, it seems we hold two different meanings for what our waking dreams represent and the good or ordinary dreams we experience when we are asleep. 

Are our waking dreams always good things? Do they represent the things that we feel we were born to do, before life got in the way? Are they fantasies designed as a way to escape the stressors of our work-a-day life, in no solid way meant to reflect a life we would rather be living than the one we are currently living? If given the choice, would we choose our dreams, and, if so, what keeps us from choosing them now?

Before Gail and I left on this journey, we both had so many people tell us that we were embarking on their dream life, that, if they could, they would be doing exactly what we were setting off to do. I was completely taken aback by these comments. I had been ignorant to the rising popularity of setting off on a vagabond’s journey. It was news to me that this life I currently lead is a life so many are choosing, and a life still so many others would love to live. What is it that is leading to this new trend? I also found out that there are two somewhat separate road life worlds: the RV world and the van world. I had no idea. My idea of living on the road was formed around the desire to go out and explore, and then write and photograph what we observed. The choice to live in an RV had to do more with its effectiveness in accomplishing what we hoped to accomplish, while allowing enough space for two people, who needed their own privacy, and four cats.

I had never been an RV person. I have slept in my parents’ and my aunt and uncle’s on a handful of occasions, but I’d never dreamed of owning and camping or living in one. I am a tent camper. That is something wholly apart from what I do now. Now, Knight is my home, and it makes all the sense in the world to live this way to me. Not because I live in an RV, but because I live a life in motion. Was this my dream? Not at all. It was a decision born out of an idea that, in and of itself, was not really a dream either. I do feel like now I am living a dream. Mostly a wonderfully intoxicating dream fueled by my surroundings and the freedom in my days. It is still terrifying sometimes. When I think about it a little too much, or in the wee hours of the morning when the ghosts of our fears tend to rise up in the darkness and take hold of our thoughts. This life itself isn’t terrifying, but, rather, the idea that it could end because of the realities that come crashing down. No matter what, you cannot avoid the real world, and one has to make a living out here in order to make a life out here. There is no one way to do that, but, for me, there are plenty of ways not to do it. At some point, you have to believe in what you are doing. Believe in the power of your dreams to carry you down the path that is right for you. And then put one foot in front of the other, doing what you love, living your passion.

Before I left Champaign, I happened upon a book. It came at the right time, it was the right story, to read as I was ready to take a leap of faith into a great big unknown, with only the vaguest of notions as to how we would turn this idea into a real way of living. Daphne Kapsali took her own leap of faith when she quit her job to go live in a family home on the Greek island of Sifnos to find out if she really was a writer. In 100 days of solitude, she writes of this journey, of her surprise to discover that her own story inspired so many others, or simply made them believe that sometimes people could chase their dreams into reality. I am now reading it a second time, because Gail and I are making choices out here that are scary, and it helps to know we aren’t the only crazy people out here, and that sometimes crazy pays off. I have to believe that, because it is more frightening to believe otherwise.

It is now October. It is past the season of vacationing. Yet, here we sit in an RV park outside of Taos with fellow RVers. Even as the days get cooler (refreshingly so) and the nights get colder, the park swells with newcomers and then drains to nearly empty–except for the long time renters, like us, and more permanent residents who are evidently preparing their RVs for a New Mexico winter—only to swell yet again. I watch these comings and goings, and I wonder how many of these people are living their dreams. There are all kinds of RVs in this park. Big bus-sized ones all the way down to the cutest little trailers. Brand new and flashy or old and worn around the edges. Have some been forced into this life due to circumstances beyond their control? Is their home on wheels not the choice for a dream life, but a necessity for survival? Who are the retirees and who are the work-while-adventuring folks? And who is simply, unglamorously, down on their luck?

The other day, a very large RV moved in across from us. This one is rougher around the edges, and everywhere in between. Duct tape has been put to good and plentiful use in ways that I cannot even fathom to what purpose it is intended. Inside resides an apparent couple and two large dogs. The license plate tells me they are from Colorado. I wonder what their story is. I get the feeling it is not necessarily a happy one. I send out good vibes hoping that, if this is the case, their luck turns on the power that hard times can sometimes hold, when we have no other choice than to rediscover who we are and what we really need to survive and what is truly important to us. Sometimes, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain in finding what really makes you tick. 

As I said in the beginning, living in an RV was not my dream. So what was? I’ve had a lot of dreams in my life, and most of them have centered on the freedom to travel and explore. If I was born to anything, it was that. In this way, living in an RV is allowing me to fulfill a dream. But, out here, I find my dream is shifting into a new shape. It is stretching in different directions and filling in with color. It is still evolving, and I find that I don’t yet have the words to name it, but I know it has to do with exactly what I am doing right now. It has to do with nature, with creativity, with the people I meet along the way, and those I simply observe. It has to do with quiet and turning inwards. It has to do with the stories of others and of the places I visit, as well as my own. I can’t name it just yet, but I will enjoy the journey of discovery. In spite of the scary bits.

What are your dreams, and what do they mean to you? If you had the choice to do anything or live any way you want, what would you do? How would you live? Please, feel free to respond in the comment section. These questions are part rhetorical and part tossed out there in the hopes that some of you will answer, because I really want to know.