A Long Time Coming

It’s hard to tell a story with so many twists and turns. Sometimes the anticipation and planning is more stressful than anything I’ve done before. It’s different when it’s a long term decision. The path we choose now WILL affect the next phase of our lives. Saying that out loud really brings this into perspective. The decisions we have made in the past could be wrong… we always had the time and means to make it right. This decision may not be so easy to undo.

What on earth could be so dire? Well it’s the decision about our new home on wheels.

So you may be saying, so what’s the big deal?

When you are going from a house too big for two, to a custom created camper van with a living space of 73.5 square feet. Everything you own is contained in this space. How do you decide what to keep and what to discard? We grew up in a time when at least 40 years of our lives were NOT digital. That means for a photographer… boxes and boxes of prints and negatives. I have a wood toy chest from my childhood I have lugged all over the US every time I moved. Handwritten letters from past loves, friends and family. Artwork collected from around the world.

The electronics, furniture and other STUFF is easy to part with. There is just so much STUFF to get rid of…

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The process: We have really vacillated back and forth between a very used Sprinter van to a gently used Ford Transit. My mind has been designing and redesigning our cozy living space. The main goal is usable space and storage. A space that two women and a corgi can live in comfortably. A “home on wheels” that is comfortable and inviting. Our Tiny Home.

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There is so much I have had to learn. Solar, plumbing, electrical, wood working. The imagination is strong and the ability to recreate what I see may be tough. We hopefully will be buying our van this week and the build will begin. I hope we will be able to be patient and build out our space carefully and “hell for strong”, as my dad would say.

Two Miles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight: Home Sweet Home
I woke up several days later in a much starker environment than when I last was awake. The smell of sterile bed sheets, freshly sweated on pillows and a voice echoing in my brain, “Dr. Granger code blue.” I was in the hospital. No idea how I got here. In a panic I sat straight up and yelled out, “Breeze!” A nurse came rushing in. I was sobbing uncontrollably. “Where’s my dog? He saved my life!” The nurse tried to console me but another came in with a syringe and poked it into my IV and said, “that should work soon.”
I was awakened by a kind soft hand stroking my hair. It was my girlfriend. She was holding my hand and talking softly to me. I opened my eyes and looked at her. Her eyes opened wide and she said, “welcome back traveler.” The doctor came in and also welcome me back and explained I had really done a number to myself and it was a damn good thing I brought my dog along or I might not have made it.
Turns out the gash on my head was very deep and I had cracked my scull and caused a bruise on my brain. He told me I was lucky to be alive. Just then a 70 lbs beast appeared on the bottom of my bed and laid down beside me. He nudged my hand until I pet him. “Good boy” I whispered. The doc said I could go home as soon as I was able to stand on my own. He told me I had been in a coma like state for four days after the medi-vac arrived. He told me I was a lucky woman and that maybe I should not hike alone in conditions like this. I informed him I wasn’t alone and perhaps if I had been with another human there may have been two casualties. He concurred, signed my chart and welcomed me back home.

Two Miles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven: We’re Going Home

Breeze and I sat down on the side of the trail enjoying some scratches and reciprocating licks. My head pounded in the blazing morning sun. My mouth was getting that Velcro feeling again. Every time I stood up I felt faint and nauseous. I searched for two saplings or strong downed branches I could use to steady myself as I hiked the last few miles. Of course there was no guarantee we would find anybody at the lake, but it was a favorite camp spot for many hikers.

I played songs in my head as I hiked on. Breeze would come run circles around me and run off ahead. Each step corresponded with the pounding in my head. My mouth was a desert and I envisioned the lake just a few steps ahead. The sun was blazing and I just wanted to drop my pack and lie down in the cool shady areas just off the trail. I came upon another stream and I had a literal panic attack. Although it was not rushing as fast and was not nearly as wide I froze in my tracks.

I am not sure what happened. When I came to, breeze was lying beside me. I could hear the stream. I opened my eyes and the shadows had grown long and shaded the trail. I was lying on my side in a crumpled up lump of human and backpack with my dog curled up beside me. I sat up and was reminded of my head again. I focused on the stream and knew there was no going back. Breeze ran a circle around me and bounded across the stream with ease. I struggled to get to my feet without passing out and moved forward one slow step at a time until I was on the other side of the stream.

I looked at my watch… 4:55pm. I had been out for hours. I dropped my pack and dug out my pot. I chugged down seven or eight pots of water until I thought I would puke. I doused my aching head with pots full of water. It was icy cold and I could feel my swollen eyes and hair matted with blood as I wiped my face and wrung out my hair. I stood up and pointed my body in the direction it needed to go and demanded it to move forward. Everything took so much effort.

I walked in a trancelike state for what seemed like hours. In my blurry gaze I saw a sliver of blue. I opened my eyes wider and stopped. As things came into focus I could see the lake. I had made it. I sat on a rock that was just the right height as to not make me bend over or sit too far down and listened. I could hear the birds, the stream entering the lake, and the rustling of the wind in the trees. I scanned the horizon and followed the outline of the lake for a wisp of smoke. I unhooked my pack and let it fall to the ground. I hadn’t the energy to move another inch.

As the sun dropped below the ridge, I could hear the sound of the brookies jumping out of the water scooping up the larve of the night insects. I opened my eyes again and a quarter the way around the lake I saw two figures come out of the woods and enter the water, fishing poles in hand. I attempted to yell, nothing but a grunt came out. I attempted to stand up but my legs failed to support my weight. Breeze came over as if to sense my urgency. I told him to “go get the men” and pointed at the figures in the water. He cocked his head as I said it again, looked over his shoulder, then took off. I closed my eyes and listened intently. I could hear Breeze barking crazy and splashing around in the water. I could hear the voices of the men calling to him. I blacked out again.

I heard a commotion in my brain. I was in some other realm of consciousness. The roar in my ears grew silent and I heard voices. I felt the wet licks in my ear and on my face. I felt a cold splash of water and I opened my eyes. There were men standing all around me. I found Breeze sitting beside me and stroked his fur, “good boy I muttered”, and passed out again as I heard a voice say, “we’re gonna get you out of here.”

Two MIles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Five

Chapter Five: In the End… It’s the Little Things That Matter

Dawn comes early this time of year. Over twenty four hours have passed since I woke up in my own bed, complaining about how hot it was. Since I had a good breakfast and double checked my pack and called everyone on my team of drivers. This morning I am lying here awake wondering which way to go? Forward or back? Do I call in a rescue if I can get the Garmin to work? I still need to find the trail before I can decide which way to go. I sat up and looked around.

Breeze was lying with all fours in the air, head cocked towards me and smiling, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. I looked around and all I could see was dead trees. I struggled to get to my feet as I swooned as I attempted to stand. My head was pounding with the worse headache I have ever had. I am pretty sure I have a concussion or something. I sip down the rest of the water I boiled the night before but it did nothing to quench my thirst. I dug through my pack and laid out my clothes on a few dead trees anticipating the sun to come over the ridge soon. I pulled out another bag of food, boiled some more water and made breakfast.

Breeze had taken off to do whatever it is he needs to do. I sat down and enjoyed my meal. I sipped down two more pots of boiled water over the next hour and called for Breeze. I hear him bounding through the trees and he arrives with a squirrel in his jaws. He gently places it in front of me and gives it a nudge. I pick it up and checked it out for bugs or whatever lives on squirrels. Seemed pretty clean and was obviously killed by the dog. I dug in my pack again and found my Leatherman, yes the one I was bitching about. I carefully slit the belly of the squirrel open and gutted and skinned it like I saw on Bear Grylls. I stoked the fire and stuck it on a spit I cut from a nearby live tree. It smelled a little like chicken and tasted like a rabbit I had eaten once on a dare. I gave Breeze the head and a back leg along with another couple scoops of his canned food. We both sat back against a tree and felt the life course back into our veins.

I took my trail towel and cut a slice off it to wrap around my head to reduce the headache and close my wound a bit. I checked my watch… 3:45pm. The sun had been overhead for most of the day and I had dried out everything quite nicely. I had to take a few cat naps in between the rotisserie of my belongings. Breeze would take off and come back to check on me every so often. He’d kiss my face and nudge me awake. Probably a good thing with a head injury. I decided I needed to drink a bit more water and be off by 6 pm.

I packed all my belongings into my tattered pack and hoisted it onto my back and decided I needed to head north. Since as far as I could see was dense trees and acres of dead trees standing, fallen to the ground in huge tangles and ones leaning on other dead ones. I choose my direction carefully and wound my way over under and through the forest, so as to avoid as many climbing challenges as possible. The dead leaning trees creaked eerily as the wind blew. It was getting near dark again I still had yet to find the trail.

Tired and hungry, burning with thirst again, head pounding at a dizzying level, I decided to find a camp spot. Breeze was eagerly bouncing about running back and forth from me to an unseen area of the forest. I followed his lead and the trees opened up into a yellow meadow of flowers. There were two 15 foot Aspen trees standing at 15 feet apart. I threw down my pack at the base of one and pulled out my tent and set it up between the two. I love the sound of the aspen leaves in the evening air. I gathered wood and presto I had fire. There was a small trickle of a mountain spring not too far from camp and I boiled as much water as I could before the sun went down then used the last bit in another gourmet freeze dried meal.

The Hurry Up and Wait Game

The hardest thing of all this moving on is the hurry up and wait game. I guess we did it to ourselves.

In the US, perhaps as with many other countries too, forgive my ignorance… we have to invest our money in a home in order to offset some tax burdens imposed on us. Same holds true with a business… pay yourself or pay the government.

Seventeen years ago we built our dream home. We had no intention of moving outside the US or traveling to the extent we are currently planning. If you had told me back then that we would amass a good amount of money, enough to live very well on, I would’ve laughed. Today this is very much a reality.

The biggest hang up is our business and building it works out of. I have no doubt that our home will sell quickly. The business is hit or miss. The building is also a major wildcard. Part of investing in our future has been making these investments. It is the time it takes to liquidate all these that is driving me crazy.

It is the hurry up and wait game that we are embroiled in currently. People inquire about the business, the building and what not. We answer these questions and nothing seems to ever materialize. The other day some “YouTube” guys came in and took a tour. They are looking for a studio to make their videos. Another guy came in and sat down in front of me until we had so much going on I had to excuse myself. Another guy has been texting and has a walk through and interview on Tuesday. I hope that in all this action some solid lead will come.

In the meantime we continue to move forward with decluttering years of possessions. The various pieces of local artwork from different countries where we have traveled all have to go. The nick knacks, furniture and household items we have accumulated must go. It is hard to put what worldly treasures you think you want to keep and someday be reunited with, in an assortment of manageable boxes.

What will life look like when we finally land and put downs some roots again? Will we be able to live on our own and be healthy? A deep down part of me fears growing old. Being alone someday. The life of  a Gay Woman, a Vagabond, an Overlander, a World Traveler… all come with a price in the end. Growing old and alone. Hey… it’s reality. No kids, no family but those you’ve met on the road. No roots, no foundation but the means to buy whatever happiness you can… and even now that isn’t always a given unless you carry around pieces of gold.

So now… sitting in my backyard, surrounded by sounds of the birds in our little piece of forest. Somewhere in a small mountainside in Utah, my home, the simple greens of our oak trees and aspens are soothing that turmoil of fear. Life is here and now. Sometimes, yes we must settle with hurry up and wait.

 

Overlanding Expo May 2017

I don’t know who coined the phrase “half of the experience is the journey itself”, but they hit that nail dead on the head. We started packing last weekend. The Cruzer is taking some getting used to but she is capable of handling our gear. The way I figure it… I pretty much have everything I need to be self sufficient for several days.

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What’s the difference between a trip for several days vs. several months? Not too much. If you were living on the road, the road would be your home and you would need to stop and do laundry once a week, or so, just like you do in your brick and mortar home. I think you generally just stink and after while don’t notice. Ha! What a thought. So you don’t need to own but maybe two weeks worth of clothes… and I’m not talking three changes a day… think about it; what do you really need if it’s 50-100 degrees everyday. A chance of rain half the year. Twelve hours of daylight on average per day.

Food? Well unless you’re going down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon by paddle boat, you can go to the market once or twice a week and buy fresh. We don’t have a full on refrigerator after all. If you go camping for a week you go to one place and hopefully have enough food and ice to keep it cold. So there you have it.

One thing I would have to do though is organize the Cruzer. It was frustrating trying to find anything. I had to do a lot of climbing around and rummaging to find things I knew I had put in there somewhere. Oh well… duality noted. I think we will need to build compartments. That’s what I hope to bring home from the Expo.

Part Two: The Revelations:
First let me start by saying going to the Expo was a great thing! I met some genuine people there. The camp area was packed tight with all types of rigs from VW Buses to Hummers to Land Cruisers. All the rigs had basically the same equipment. Tents of all types and sizes. Gear necessary to support it’s occupants for a trip into the wild. Varying degrees of sophistication. Some old and some newer. Some costing thousands of dollars to build to several hundreds of thousands. What did each have in common? The owners and travelers desire to be self sufficient with the ability to escape the realm of responsible reality.

I was lucky to get some great neighbors on each side. The most memorable will be Mona and Al from San Francisco area originally.
To say they took a blow on the chin and continued to turn the other cheek would be an understatement. They lost their home in the fires that ravaged the area a few years ago. Still they remained hopeful and positive, and picked up what they had left and continued moving forward instead of becoming “victims”. They reminded me so much of Chris and I it was amazing. They complimented each other, obviously loved each other and yet were so totally opposite of each other. I think that is the greatest strength of any healthy, life long relationship. Mona and Al took me in and we became good friends in the short time we spent together. They have big plans for escaping just as Chris and I do.

I attended many seminars, Q&As, demonstrations and took from each a bit of vital information and revelations. I really enjoyed speaking with real people that have actually done what we are preparing to do. The greatest part was that maybe learning from them and their experiences, we can avoid some costly mistakes.

I got to experience the life of “up at sunrise and to bed at sunset”. I got to pick people’s brains on a personal one to one basis. I was taught as a student and was showed things I never would have known otherwise. I gained a confidence in what our future may look like. I came home with so many great, doable ideas and how to put them into something tangible that will increase our chances of survival as two women alone on our Overland voyage.

The best part of it all was when Chris finally joined me on Saturday night. There was no way I could show her all I had learned but I took her around and showed her it was possible. Our dream could come to fruition with the knowledge of those who have been doing the minimalist life style for years and years. I was able to get her buy in 100% to building our “home” on the road. We discussed at length weather or not we had the right vehicle. We discussed other possibilities if money was no option. In the end I told her I would design Lucky’s interior and before it went into production get her buy in.

Leaving on Sunday was bitter sweet. I had to say goodbye to my new friends. Pack up all our soon to be “worldly possessions” and hit the road for the long journey home. This 8 hours was the longest Chris and I had spent without the TV on, faces in our phones or iPads in a long while. It was the quality time we needed to do what we do best… discuss our ideas, hash out our differences and compromise.

The next phase will begin as I draw out my ideas about how we need to improve our home with the knowledge I gained from veterans who have gone before. Hopefully learn from their mistakes and leap into the next stage of our lives with a better knowledge and understanding of what could lie ahead. I feel it will be easier for us to transition into life on the road without time limitations and the burden of owning anything except what is “on our backs” as it were.

In conclusion, this was an enlightening weekend. It was a necessary step in the right direction. It affirmed this journey as possible. It drilled into my brain the realities of the dangers and enjoyment one can encounter when all ties are broken and life is lived not just endured.

“We travel not to escape life… but for life not to escape us”.

On The Road Again….

Well we are off… spent last two days scrambling around to get everything just right. It’s an eight and a half hour drive and 531 miles. First road trip… me, Gandaulf and Lucky, the Adventure Cruzer!

The Overland Expo will fuel my imagination and give me great ideas for finishing off Lucky’s interior. It can also be dangerous!  These guys live to outfit the lifestyle we are striving for. With our home on our backs, so to speak, everything we own inside a 12x6x4 foot space, we need to learn to travel safe.  We need to learn how to read a map… not always gonna have GPS or cell phone service… can’t just call AAA if we get a flat.  This weekend is gonna be like going to outdoor school. So excited!!

Flagstaff ARIZONA here we come!