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Monthly Archives: May 2016

One Down, ??? To Go

Well, it’s been an interesting month. We’ve moved more than halfway across the country and have camped in three time zones.  We’ve had to bug out of camp twice, once for weather and once for insanity.

I’ve started to make a blog post four times since writing about our Pagosa Springs experience.  It’s been a struggle – not the typical one for me.  In the past, it was a simpler struggle. Well, “simpler” in that it was pretty straightforward – it simply dealt with overcoming inertia.  It was a matter of breaking through anxiety that’s historically welled up from inside whenever I had a commitment.  This time, it was a variety of things ranging from bad computer habits to sickness to struggling with what I was trying to share.  So today I decided to put it all behind, get the post “out of the way”, so to speak and move forward fresh. One thing to note before providing a recap for everyone … and it’s somewhat important. At least to me.

Today is May 31st.  One year ago today, with the car loaded to the gills and Frank in firm control of the Garmin, the two of us took off on our little journey.  We started our second year on the road this morning.  I can’t say that I didn’t expect to make it a year. I had no expectations.  Despite that, I never though I’d be as content as I feel right now. So that’s a good thing.

The title of this post alludes to the fact that I simply have no idea how much longer we’re going to be on the road.  When we started out, I would tell people it was a three year camping trip, if only to avoid explanations that might arise from saying, “I don’t know what we’re doing!”  At a minimum, I expect to be on the road for at least another three years from now … that’s based solely on the fact that next year, the third year of our adventure, we’re only going to have made it as far as the Great Lakes region.  There’s still half the country left for us to visit.  If I keep feeling like I do now, I may never come off the road!  We’ll just have to see.

I posted the news on Facebook.  Terry, a new-found friend from the Teardrop Campers Group added a reply that I’d like to share:

You’ve done something few people ever achieve. You climbed out of a deep dark place and begin living again. God bless you… and safe travels.

Quite honestly, I don’t know how many people have been able to do that.  I know some who have, whether it’s overcoming the death of a spouse, or illness, or a bad marriage, or long term unemployment.  I can’t speak for how they did it. What feels weird though is that I never felt the climb!  It wasn’t like when you’re traveling, you know?  You have a map and you can measure how far you’ve gone and how much further you have to go.

There wasn’t this feeling of, “Okay, so last week, I was at ‘x’ place and today I’m at ‘y’.”  I knew I was doing better when I put the “Trust that everything will work out again, ” sign on the dashboard and was able to refer to it more easily over time.  But I saw that as a way of coping.  A way to deal with shit.  And that’s different than sitting in my camp chair at the Last Resort in Pagosa Springs, sipping on coffee, and suddenly realizing that you’ve reached a certain level of peace!  It was like, “Whoa! Where did that come from???”

If you’ve been following the blog because you’ve been working on your own “pit”, I hope you can find some comfort and encouragement in this.  You might not necessarily see the progress you’re making. Hell, you may even fight it, afraid to acknowledge any progress for fear that it’s going to be followed up with the “drop of the other shoe”.    Just accept from someone else that you might be closer to the surface than you realize.  :o)

Thank you, Terry for your kind words.  I do feel like I’m living again.  It’s not the life I expected, that’s for sure.  But I’m enjoying my morning coffee with a smile these days.


Okay, so on with the recap. I’m going to do this with bullets, some with observations or thoughts, others that are simply to capture time and movement.

  • As mentioned, we went back to the Last Resort for a few days after staying with my friend Keith.  We were in pretty much the exact same site where we spent two months last summer. The first morning there, I was sitting outside the Nutshell and noticed that the imprint of our tent was still visible on the ground.  The grass that was killed from having our tent on it for so long was growing back, but it was decidly different than the area around it. I figured it was going to take at least until the end of the summer before that imprint was erased. Maybe it would take until next spring.  It got me thinking about the imprint that past “stuff” has made on my psyche.  Maybe you can still see the imprint of years of pain and sadness, but it’s going away.  Hell, the imprint may still be there five years from now, but it won’t be as noticable.  I took comfort in that.
  • The drive up to Colorado Springs was pretty cool.  I was worried about how the car wold do, hauling the Nutshell over Wolf Creek Pass.  It did fine once I accepted that my last name wasn’t “Andretti” and that 35 mph was more than adequate to get us over the summit.  From there, we went the back way, up through the central Colorado valley instead of taking the interstate.  The scenery was spectacular.  Here’s a short video I took at about the halfway point.  It doesn’t fully capture the beauty of what we were looking at.
  • We had a wonderful time visiting with another old friend – Warren, a classmate from Dallas.  I’ve mentioned Warren and his wife, Dinah before. They came for a couple of visits when I was in Colorado last summer.  We spent quite a bit of time together during the week I was there.  They had me over for dinner one evening … we met for lunch at a cute little place in old Colorado city another day … and then another evening, they came out to our campsite to see the Nutshell firsthand.  I’m not going to share much about our visits – we touched on some things that have happened in my life that I’ve consciously decided not to share here.  Suffice it to say that the time spent together meant a great deal to me.  Thank you, Warren and Dinah, not just for opening up your home to me, but for helping me gain new perspectives on things.
  • Frank and I had to bug out a day early.  When we arrived for breakfast, Warren said, “Have you seen the weather report?”  You had to know that given our track record, we weren’t finished with snow.  We were planning on leaving for Denver the next day, but those plans were nixed.  After a wonderful breakfast … exceeding only by the quality of the company and conversation … we headed back to camp, got the Nutshell packed, and headed straight east towards our next reservation in Fort Wayne, IN.
  • We had a little time to kill between when we left Colorado and when our reservation started in Fort Wayne. Using Passport America, I found a tiny, TINY little campground in eastern Illinois, just outside of Decatur.  It was only $13 a night.  I used the time to reorganize the Nutshell, do some spring cleaning and get prepared for the summer.  As an aside, I am SO grateful the Nutshell came with two doors. Had I bought it new, I would not have paid for the second door, which is offered as an option.  As it turns out, I don’t know how we would have been able to manage without it!  We’ve been in almost a dozen campsites since getting it – some are laid out so that the best door to use is the port one; other times, it’s been starboard.  Here are a couple of shots to give you an idea of how we’ve set up:
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Using the starboard door at the Garden of the Gods Campground, Colorado Springs, CO

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Using the port door at Tom and Carol’s RV Park, somewhere in East Jabib, IL

I’ve figured out how to tie the canopy down so that I don’t have to worry too much about wind or rain.  I’ll explain that in our next post.  I just realized that it’s almost 8pm and I haven’t even started the charcoal for dinner.  I’ll take this up in the morning … it’ll get me going in the right direction on this blog.  If I can get myself squared away, I’d like to move to much more frequent – but shorter – blog posts.  Once I catch you all up to where we are right now, I’ll move in that direction.

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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Travels

 

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Pagosa – Then and Now

They say, “timing is everything,” or, “you have to be in the right place at the right time”. I guess that summarizes our Pagosa Springs experience last month.

I promised a while ago to post about that experience, but have been struggling with it and can’t put my finger on exactly why. I’ve started it at least a dozen times, but have tossed it in the trash each and every time. This time? I’m bound and determined to finish it. So here we go …

Frank and I went back to Colorado last month for one reason: to see two friends, Keith and Warren. I’ll get back to Warren in our next episode.

Keith and I went to school in NJ together from 2nd to 10th grade. His invitation came out of the blue … back when we put up our help request at youcaring.com, another dear friend, Donna, forwarded it on to all our former NJ classmates. As a result, I got this email out of the blue:

Hello from Pagosa Springs. I have a spare bedroom in a wonderful home on the lower Blanco. I live alone, the house is not quite an earthship, but a passive solar home. If you and Frank want a roof over your heads, a warm fire to sit around, soaking in the hot springs, you are welcome to come and spend some time. Give me a call. Keith

Keith and I hadn’t spoken in 40 years, so I was dumbstruck by the invitation. So I called hiss number. First off, I couldn’t believe that we were in Pagosa Springs and didn’t run into each other. I was even more surprised when he said that he knew the owners of the campground I stayed at last summer and was over there on a regular basis to buy eggs! And we still didn’t run into each other!

Now I wasn’t planning on being in Colorado this year. We were headed either to the Great Lakes or back east, the latter winning out when we were able to buy the Nutshell.  I thought about stopping in Colorado on the way back from picking it up in southern California  … just a quick stop to see Keith and Warren, another old high school friend from Dallas. Warren and his wife Dinah live in Colorado Springs and had stopped by twice when we were in Colorado last summer.  I wanted to see them again, too. Of course, the Colorado detour went out the window when my finger was crushed by the trailer hitch and we had to head directly back to Texas.

I thought that would be it, but then Keith mentioned in a later email that he had decided to quit his day job, move to Hawaii and buy into an organic farm. I figured our only chance to get together would be before that happened. So, after consulting with Frank (his only question was, “I’ll keep getting fed, right?”), I decided to take a quick 2 1/2 week detour, first to Pagosa Springs, then on to Colorado Springs before heading to Fort Wayne, IN to see my brother.

So we arrived back in Pagosa Springs in early April. And this is where I start having trouble figuring out what exactly to write about this experience.

Keith is a interesting guy. Sort of a renaissance man. He has a pretty wide variety of interests … and has delved deep into many of them. He has a wall filled with lift tickets and annual passes to the Wolf Creek Ski Area and other nearby ski areas. We had a late-season snow while I was there and Keith spent two days skiing, undaunted by the knee brace he now has to wear while enjoying his favorite sport.

Music is another of his interests. One of the rooms in his home is filled with old vinyl records – a collection that rivals all that I’ve seen with one exception (which happens to be the collection amassed by Donna’s late husband, Allen). We sat up listening to old records on multiple occasions while I was there … everything from old Willie Nelson to Dan Fogelberg (whose widow lives just over the ridge from Keith) to Chuck Mangione to It’s a Beautiful Day. Keith has a small collection of ukeleles and other stringed instruments, too.

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The sign over the front door reads, “Courage is being afraid to ride … but saddling up anyway!”

His home is very “zen”, and I’m not just referring to the thousand or so Tibetan prayer flags that fly in Keith’s yard. His house flows – from a big kitchen into a dining area and then into a sitting area. Note that they’re “areas” … not really rooms per se. And all along the south wall, there are floor to ceiling windows. A two-foot wide section of river rock lies all along the bottom of the windows where Keith tends to plants, flowers and a big tub filled with goldfish. The walls are painted deep reds, grey-blues and yellows: he said they’re the colors used in Buddhist temples.

The yard is filled trees, shrubs and rocks – piles of balanced rocks that Keith stacked as part of a meditation ritual. I asked him if he was a practicing Buddhist. He sort of laughed and said he was a “Catholic Methodist Buddhist agnostic atheist,” or something along those lines.  Whatever his beliefs, they suit him well!

The guy is also an incredible chef and is very much into organic foods. I ate like a king while there and quite honestly I can’t remember half of what we had. Keith would take breaks from his office (he’s a customer support tech for a specialized software company with clients in the banking industry), walk out to the kitchen and just start whipping things up. We had bison topped with gorgonzola; polenta; chicken mixed with some sort of grain; homemade rice pudding; smoked salmon with cheese and organic something-or-other that again escapes my memory. He even brought out a bottle of homemade limoncello from his freezer … something else he decided to give a try.

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It may not look like much snow, but there was over 2 feet of new snow at the summit of Wolf Creek Pass!

Keith has his rituals, too … whether it’s taking walks in the middle of the day to clear his head or going over to the springs for a soak when he’s finished for the day. While I was there, he came back from a soak with business cards from two people he met. He’s active in community organizations, attends restaurant openings … he even offered to speak with the lama at the local Buddhist monastery to see about arranging a tour for me and a fellow “crossing the country in a teardrop” friend (who wound up not being able to make it to Pagosa Springs as we had tentatively arranged). He is definitely a “people person”!

Now, I don’t mean to make this post into a “Keith is the Dude” lovefest. His lifestyle did make quite an impression on me, though. I think that’s because he is the antithesis to what I had become over the five years prior to going out on the road with Frank. I mean, here’s a guy with a wide variety of interests, who has no problem meeting and dealing with people, and who enjoys his life to the fullest. I mean, it’s 180 degrees from the life I had been living!  I had basically given up on people, had walled myself up in an apartment that I was afraid to leave and had completely abandoned any of the things I had enjoyed doing, including cooking!

I mentioned it to him the second night we were there, that I was truly taken in by how happy he seems to be, and how comfortable he is in his own skin. His answer was, “It’s taken a lot of work to get to there.”

And I can understand that. After having been on the road for so long … after spending so much time in the mornings doing meditation and Bible study … after so much introspective writing in my diary … after working so many exercises on changing perspective, I can understand that it can take work. And God bless those of you who haven’t had to struggle to be happy. I hope you’re not taking that for granted.

Which brings us back to the beginning of this post – the thing about “timing”. The brief time Keith and I spent together was a true blessing. It allowed me to see “possibilities”. How someone can align their lifestyle for happiness. How someone can counter the crappy elements of their day (“Customer Support” folks have to deal with a continual amount of bullshit) and not let it weight them down or take away their joy.

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Frank made himself comfortable while Keith and I visited.  He might be part “bass”et hound after all!

Now let’s say Keith and I ran into each other last summer when he was over to the Last Resort picking up eggs. I don’t know that I would have been able to see what I needed to see a couple of weeks ago. Back then, I was still onedge from starting out on our little road adventure. If anything, I might have felt jealous of how happy he was … or I might have felt worse about myself, thinking that I was incapable of anything close to “being happy” and what a loser I am.

But that’s not the case. Our visit came at a point where I was on an uptick towards feeling happy. To feeling better about myself. To seeing possibilities beyond suicide as a way out of a totally unhappy life.

Last summer, when Warren visited us in Pagosa Springs with his wife, Dinah, he made a casual remark about “taking a break while I figure out the next part of my life.” At the time, I commented in the blog about it, saying that while he threw it out there almost offhandedly, Warren’s comment made me think: perhaps there is something to follow this journey that Frank and I are on. Last summer, I don’t think I could have processed anything more than that.

One thing leads to another. Last year’s Pagosa experience was a stepping stone to last month’s Pagosa experience. It’s easy to see that last year’s entire road experience has been a foundation for what’s happening this year. I’m grateful for the timing.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Musings

 

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