We’ve made it to Oregon (June 2021). We’ve been back on the road full time for two weeks. We’ve meandered across Idaho’s western side, checking out the sights we never had the time to experience. We had just come back to Salt Lake City to do some business, get our COVID shots and see some friends and family.
I am really torn between wanting to go back to Salt Lake. I really miss the physical presence of my friends and family. During COVID, it was hard to be distant, but the thought that, what if I caused a friends death or illness, always lurked in the back of my mind. Leaving Salt Lake a year ago, that first month or two, ripped my heart out, not being able to have a party, to give everyone a hug and even go to a communal campfire. Let’s just face it I love to be held and to hold, to share stories of the road and a beer.
Sorry for the ramble…
I don’t know if there is a right way or a wrong way to “become a vagabond” a “wanderer”, part of the allure is living off the clock. I know I’ve said it before, but not having a set schedule is more conducive to my mental state. The lack of deadline stresses, fear of letting someone down, rush, rush, rush… now we pick a direction and head that way.
We have maps and Apps, books and sometimes cell phone service, these all act as guides, but we now have the time to explore that dirt road to “somewhere?”… stop and take a nap when we are tired. If we see a hot spring or lake on the map, we may make that our destination for the day, which may turn into two, three or even a week…or it may be a bust.
What drives us to pick a place and stay? I was asked this question by more than one of our followers. Trash, weather, bugs, sound, people, cost, and access to water are all deciding factors. Of course we have to be able to access it with our van and trailer as well. We are 11’ tall, 8’ wide and 35’ long (but we bend in the middle). At times we seek out the most remote area we can find and have to get out our mountain bikes to check out the road and clearances, as well as someplace to turn around. It sucks backing up a 1/4 mile with a trailer. Good news though, Chris is learning how to back up a trailer!
We look for silence that is deafening, bird song, the sound of water, open space, tall, LIVE, trees in the mountains, shade in the desert, access to water, and a sense of safety and security.
What drives us out of a spot…even after picking the perfect spot…bugs, gun shots, people, noise, weather and other factors beyond our control. These things often come up after a night or are noticeable within hours.
We both crave silence. Normal nature sounds are welcome. You can hear yourself think. We perform our daily duties like a well oiled machine and most things are done without the need to speak. On the other hand, we have meaningful dialogue when off grid.
I will often get immersed into the nature that surrounds us. It is a means of creativity, an inspiration to dream. The life of a wanderer is never lost… perhaps temporarily delayed or caught trying to find the next shiny object.
It’s raining and we are confined to the van for a bit. The thunder and raindrops make us feel like we are playing tent. It makes us feel alive! The rain on the roof of the van, the smell of wet earth, the crackle of a campfire…the birds all vying for the loudest call, and being able to identify the bird by its call. The desert and spring time flowers. The landscape so beautiful I wrestle with the words to describe its grandeur. The sound of the winds. Each of these seeps into your soul until a city becomes a strange land of traffic and sounds, rushing people, such that you wish to do your business and move along.
Our world has changed in so many ways. Our lives are slower and more meaningful. Our demons hide from the joy of living! Living like pioneers on the way to the next new land or adventure.
Life on the road is no cake walk. Compromise, silence and space, solitude and good old Mother Nature. A tough re-entry into the world of civilization and then back to our happy place.
Leaving the back roads and beaches of Mexico was… in itself…hard. It was in essence the hot and humid weather and the need for COVID-19 shots, that drove us back to Utah. We have been officially off the “road/van life” for a month now. We have been doing service projects for friends and family and van fixes …including one very inconvenient tow, all month. May 2021, has been Service Month… literally.
We have helped with a remodeling project.
We helped recondition and sell a speed/ski boat.
Assisted a great, close friend to buy a new car. Helped our sister and brother-in-law get a good deal on two great eBikes and of course, we both got our vaccinations for COVID-19.
The spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the US. People are being vaccinated. We spent more money than our normal monthly budget for unexpected van repairs, spent a few nights in long stay hotels, and had to give up the van twice for two different repairs, one, after a minor mishap with the trailer.
My body has decomposed in this month, it’s shed thick calluses off my feet, lost at least half of its once healthy glow, my sinuses blazing with rivers of snot from seasonal allergies, lungs full of said rivers. My mind has shut down as things around me change, and I’ve all but shaved my head.
The routine has changed from outdoor living in peace and solitude, a primordial existence with Mother Nature, to City life. Now, four hard walls with a shingled roof, flush toilets and showers on demand with plenty of hot water, shelter us.
We ran to Kara’s house, loaded up the Hyside raft we sold, the IK we sold, the oar frame on the new roof rails, everything else suspended from the ceiling of the trailer. All the toys in one heavy ass trailer. It sucked the gas mileage from North Salt Lake, UT to Twin Falls, ID to under 9mpg… keeping it at an avg. of 68 mph. SUCK…
I drove the whole way with gusty tail winds, strong head winds and strong sideways burst…nuts! The Memorial Day holiday traffic is evident, from seeing 3 crashes south bound in Utah, to plenty of slow traffic driving north. We listened to an ebook talking about how US drivers fall asleep or just plain old don’t pay attention because our straight roads are hypnotic.
Nothing in the outdoor recreation world has changed since COVID-19. The prices of the recreational equipment, led by the demand and short supply, is up by thousands over retail value. That’s what has lead us to the west side of Idaho, a place we’ve yet to experience. Once we offload the extra weight we will head back to the Northern mountains of Idaho to decompress… as has become our norm… 3 days of mostly silence between talks of destinations and a sorta plan… at least a direction. Time is of no urgency unless a set destination is planned.
We spent the first night at a Harvest Host golf course right on the Snake River and a beautiful river gorge.
The silence is welcome. All 3 of us, Gandaulf included, need to hear nothing but the wind, river, birds, crickets, our own breath and heart beat. Until the controlling and aggressive “city personalities”…calm down and a synchronicity of calmness and kindness resumes… this is how the re-entry, repositioning, has been. Sometimes you just need a little space. Doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. I can fight it or move through it, it’s always a choice, and 15-30 minutes of uncomfortability in a day… doesn’t ruin the whole day.
We have been back for almost a month and it feels like a year. The amount of stimuli experienced in one day is a month or twos worth on the road. It’s hard to find any solitude when we get back to the city and live out of the van. The last time we slept in the van was April 27th. We’ve been camping out in my sister-in-law Kara’s house for the last two and a half weeks.
We got our first COVID shot and are now waiting for the second and then back on the road. This was our first service work. This month has been dedicated for the benefit of others. We helped out Kara any way we could with tearing out and replacing walls and old carpet for hard flooring. I mowed the lawn and keep up the outside and helped when I could inside. I have a real aversion to being inside lately. The van is cool since it’s a small comfortable space filled with few frills and only the basics to live, eat and sleep.
We had so much planned for this month but best made plans fell to the wayside when we got new tires on our trailer, let the service shop hook up trailer to the van, then said trailer proceeded to come unhooked and ran into the back of the van. Another small detour in life on the road. The body shop has had her since Wednesday and we pick her up on Monday morning. It’ll be nice to have her back.
Being back in the city really changes you after a while. The roaming soul falls asleep and the restless one takes its place. We are both ready to get back into our home and take off towards our next goal, Bend, OR. We’ve read about it and drool every night. With COVID restrictions loosening up, the Canadian border could open by July maybe still enough time to venture to Alaska. We have nothing left here except family and friends, what more do you need? So we’ve decided this would be service month, giving, just because. It’s part of the whole be kind thing. It’s been fun to use our talents to help out where ever we can.
There are things we don’t have in the van, like TV. This is the number one robber of time. It’s an old pattern I thought might be broken while on the road, but for at least one of us it remains the same. You become used to having a flush toilet and shower right there, no effort needed. Hungry? Want something to eat but don’t feel like cooking, go get something. These are just a few of the “city habits” we pick up and become softened by. I like living like a wanderer, seeker, explorer, and pioneer. When in the city, there is too much to rest on…to depend on. You loose that sense of one with nature, with your own self.
Things always happen beyond our control, we still just roll over it, but the stress meter climbs everyday.
Traveling this year has been full of trials and upsets, joy and sorrow. Mainly due to this pandemic circling the globe now for the second time…COVID, the *rona, the cove…by any name it still brings a certain amount of fear and a huge amount of cautiousness. We have done our best the last six months to be away from people and close social contact. This is some real shit, at least to half the population of the world that is taking it with seriousness.
We also have just come through an election that was pins and needles. The amount of stress we felt was overwhelming. The tension was felt even into campsites and passing through small towns. I have to wonder how someone’s mind can become so blind to the lies and prejudice this man exudes. At least now the flags have come down and people are just cordial and most maintain distance.
Our plans originally fell to the wayside with travel restrictions, closing airports and whole countries. We were going to drive to Alaska this past summer but the Canadian border remained closed. We instead played in Montana around the Canadian border towns at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. We kayaked and fished, stayed in the wild outdoors until the weather crapped out on us. Then we headed south.
Our next plans were to go to the Baja for this winter. There were quite a few women travelers that had planned a trip the year before COVID. This border still remains closed.
Of course we could fly… but now-a-days that is only a guarantee one way. We have kicked it around several times over the last month. All our bag of tricks are slowly getting taken away with the third big surge of COVID in the US and worldwide. I have friends who got stuck outside of Ft Lauderdale on a cruise ship when the first panic hit in March. Travelers were stuck in all parts of the world and some took months to get home.
Things have kicked in again this year. This time the entire country is sharing in the East Coast’s fate from the first big wave of COVID. We are nervous about large gatherings and towns. We are hyper-vigilant, now more than ever. We avoid established, park here, park here type campsites for the more primitive. We are totally self contained so we can stay away for days and be totally off grid. The beauty of being completely off grid?… No cell, no XM… now that’s remote.
So here we sit, off a 5 mile washboard road from hell. Quite narrow and steep…then it opened up as we crested the hill. Before us, Lake Mohave, Telephone Cove, Nevada. We are near where all three states come together. This little cove is peaceful, quite and secluded. Pebblee stone and sand beach gently sloping into a bay of sky blue. The desert sprawls out before us, ten old cottonwoods hold tight to their small purchase of land, providing shade and shelter for the small desert birds and large loud Mina birds and ravens.
There are a few other campers scattered up and down the beach in assorted RV type vehicles right up to full on converted school buses. Every little pod is a world in itself. Children and dogs run up and down the beach. Adults talk to others from a safe distance. Roof top tents sprinkle the far shore, full on trumpees occupy the next cove, flags faithfully flying, then comes the various pull trailers and full on 5th wheels the size of half a city block… how the Hell did they get down here anyway?!? Then a few do it yourself van builds round out the mix.
The temps in the Colorado corridor range mid 40s to mid 50s at night and high 60-80s in the days. It’s a perfect climate for whatever you want to do. Yesterday we went trail riding with the UTV and came around the corner to the most beautiful private cove. BHAM!! There is no way anything other than a UTV, dirt bike, horse or snowmobile could swim threw the 12-20” sand oceans comprising the trail.
We returned to camp and cooked up a nice gourmet dinner. Nice end to the day.
This morning we woke to see a couple stand up boards on the bay, a kayak and a canoe. The bay was like glass and the sky reflected like a mirror, painting its best morning hues. We are planning a kayak trip after a few minor chores. The lake is higher but an algae bloom has got me worried so Gandaulf will need to stay dry today. I am not taking any chances with him either.
Slow lazy days sitting in the midday sun, stairway to heaven playing softly in the back ground, makes us think, “maybe this is as good as it’s gonna get this winter”…aside from a true “house”, this may be our pseudo Baja.
In my head I hear this stately gentleman’s voice, like the Nat Geo guy from the 60s and 70s, walking us through what we are seeing in this incredible, one to one encounter with everything from insects to archeology. Am I smart or just a parrot repeating a previously recorded message from being immersed in this reality. A city kid with absentee parents, handed off to who ever had time for me. Off in a rant…
So I’m experiencing life on another level, and with understandings of my mind, through the eyes of many. I have a 360 degree vista of the Sedona wilderness I’ll call it. The low drone of the occasional UTV or Pink jeep tour going to the native ruins down the trail a bit breaks the desert silence. The colors of the late afternoon sun deepen the reds and cream colored sandstone cliffs and mesas surrounding us until the last pink and orange of the setting sun paints the landscape. The night soon takes over and dismisses the last of the blues and purples for its inky blackness.
We decide to have a fire, which is my hypnotic friend. It takes hold of your consciousness and transports you to a dream like state of reality. Tomorrow I explore the Boynton Canyon vortex. The fire transports me into the universe and the energy that surrounds us. My senses become alive with the vibration. The warmth and brilliance of the flames brings me back. I take the last sip of my drink and head off to bed.
The night brings tormented dreams of a long gone past. I wrestle with the memories and wake up from a fitful sleep with tears running down my face. I quickly close one hand then the other and still my mind…it was only a dream I tell myself, but this place has a way of seriously messing with your psyche. I find Chris and reassure myself that I am here and now and drift back to sleep.
The morning comes early these days. We have parked so the sun comes in the windshield and begins to take off the chill. We sleep in today, making up for too many fitful nights for me. I roll over and snuggle in deep to Chris’s chest and drift back off. Gandaulf will have none of this and decides its time to get up. Licks all around, and he begins running circles over top the covers then bounds towards the door.
I get up and open the door. A rush of cool air fills the van and I shudder with it, standing in only my oversized tee shirt and bare feet. I mill about the van making coffee and getting breakfast for the dog. Chris finally slides off the end of the bed, sleep still hanging on her eyelids. A cheerful good morning as I slip on my jeans and shoes and head out the door.
The morning air is still and I survey the vista that surrounds us. I can smell the fire from last night and hear a small bird in the trees. I take a deep breath in and raise my arms to the sky, stretch and release into the day. The coffee is beginning to perk and the heavenly aroma fills the senses.
Today I go one way and Chris another. She’s not much into the spiritual sights so she decides to go for a trail ride on her bike. We pack up for the days adventure and I get Gandaulf in the UTV and head towards the Boynton Canyon trail.
The dusty road to the trailhead covers me, Gandaulf and the UTV is a fine layer of silt and I squint as my eyes become dry and irritated. Only six more miles and we will be free from the choking dust. We putt along trying to read the heavily dusted brown USFS signs to the trailhead. As soon as the NO PARKING signs begin to appear I know I’m close. I secure a parking spot, glad I am in the UTV since the parking lot was quite full.
Gandaulf springs up and stands up, paws hanging on the door barking with joy…the dog loves to hike. It’s only a mile hike but I soon realize, it’s all uphill. After quite a bit of slick rock scrambling I reach a ridge and I see hundreds of carrins stacked in every direction. I can see Kachina Woman, the female portion of the vortex. She stands stoically in deep burnt orange against the clear blue sky. There are trails leading all around her base and makeshift alters under the cedar trees and along rock outcroppings. I stop for a minute and feel the energy. Gandaulf looks up at me tilting his head inquisitively.
Another hundred feet or so and I crest the saddle between Katchina Woman and her male counterpart. Several juniper trees stand atop, twisted and distorted in ways unlike anything I’ve seen. Cacti grow bent into circular shapes. The piñon pines grow in abnormally twisted trunks and branches, as if drawn towards the vortex.
Sitting atop the male pillar is a gentleman playing a Native American flute. It’s shrill soulful melody calls out the native in me and I transform into energy. I ground myself under one of the twisted junipers and sit upon its gnarled roots. Gandaulf cuddled up beside me and drifted off to sleep.
For what seems like hours, I sit quietly in meditation. The energy flowing through me, giving and taking from Mother Earth. My mind empties and not a thought exists, only the vibration and ebb and flow of the energy. In my minds eye I become one with the tree, feeling my roots deep in the earth as if in a lovers embrace. I see the ancient cliffs and feel the ancestors speaking of peace and love and deep sorrow. I can feel a troubling sadness and want to weep in this sadness. I am startled by voices and return to my place under the tree. I hold the tree and let it hold me in an embrace of loving kindness. I thank the Mother for this time and the message she gave me. Gandaulf rolls over and I scratch his belly as I return to the present. I breathe deeply and rise, scanning the 360 degree horizon and feel gratitude for this beautiful encounter.