And We’re Off!

Milepost 595   Greenville, Illinois,  Temp: 36*

We surprised ourselves by getting an early start yesterday.  We were due to stay at our daughter’s place near Detroit the first night but found out there was flu in the house.  We opted to drive instead and made it 200 miles almost to the Indiana state line where we stayed at a hotel for the night.

We covered 395 miles today as we watched the outdoor temperature rise on that little digital thermometer that’s imbedded in the rearview mirror.  Coldwater, Michigan, 14 degrees; Fort Wayne, Indiana, 24, degrees; Indianapolis, 32 degrees, Greenville, Illinois, 39 degrees.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Getting out of the frigid north.

The other thing that we watched changing by degrees was the southern accents at all the fuel stops and restaurants where we talked to people, finally reaching Greenville, Illinois, where we checked in at the Super 8 and went next door for supper at Huddle House.

Huddle House and the Super 8 on New Years Eve.
Huddle House and the Super 8 on New Years Eve.

“Ya’ll enjoy!” said our server, Jarod, as he served our supper.  I never thought of Illinois as the South, but the accent is definitely here.  I think it will become even more evident as we continue toward Oklahoma city tomorrow.

Because travel in the US is not just about seeing the sights.  It is a cultural thing as well.

See ya’all later!

The rig is parked behind the Super 8 at Greenville, Illinois.
The rig is parked behind the Super 8 at Greenville, Illinois.

Starting With Zero

Milepost Zero:  Kingston, Michigan, 12-29-13

 We’re leaving in the morning!  Yippee!  We have been working toward this for three years!  We’ve been downsizing from a 10-room house on 30 acres to a 29-foot fifth-wheel on the open road.  Tomorrow  morning I will set the odometer on the pickup at zero, and we will head out of snowy Michigan and into new territory.  The first leg of this epic journey takes us across the midwest and the southwest to California where we will be doing a work/camp thing to earn a free campsite at a small private campground called Kenney Grove Park north of Los Angeles.  It’s the first time for us to attempt this sort of thing.  From there, in June we head north to Alaska where some of our kids have spent their summers for the last eight years.  We might not return to Michigan until August.

It’s the time of year when a lot of folks are getting a fresh start, although not everybody is starting at zero.   lt’s a time of hope and resolve:  Lose some weight, exercise more, pay down debt, and so on.  Not everybody is actually taking to the open highway toward a new destination, but many are setting a new direction in other ways.

It can be a hopeful time, but can also be a bit depressing if your goals are born out a dissatisfaction with life and the way things are, especially if your hopes are deferred by burdensome obligation.

I like my daughter’s approach to a new year and a new beginning:

Stacy with another pina colada in Mexico.
Stacy enjoys another pina colada in Mexico.

Earlier today in a Facebook post Stacy announced, “Hey everyone; I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it in the last few months and I’ve decided to scrap my [weight loss goal] by my 40th birthday.  This is not a decision made from discouragement or laziness, but is a decision made from a place of immense freedom. It has been dawning on me lately that I am so very okay with the way I am NOW! I really like me and I don’t need to change at all. That said, I find happiness in the chase….the chase to be better, be stronger, live life more to the full. So THIS chase will be my focus. I want to hike more, climb more mountains, be healthier, see more places, try more exotic foods, feel more, taste more, challenge myself more, and kick ass more. THAT will be my focus for momentum this year!”

Sounds like Stacy is harking back to a Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham, a children’s book about a guy named Sam who doesn’t like to try new things like…  well, green eggs and ham, but when he finally does, he finds them delicious.  Trying new things can be risky but fun.

There is security and comfort in staying put.  But not so much adventure.

To arrive in a new place you must first leave the old place, whether or not the old familiar place offers security and a sense of roots,  or whether it mostly offers monotony – and the roots feel more like a ball and chain.

A new direction,  a new destination

So anyway,  we are not really starting at zero when you consider all the adventures we have pulled off in the past.  Our direction was to the southeast last winter where we lived on the beach in the tropics.  But this time we are heading to Alaska, a place where we have never been, first by way of California and the coast highway, and we’re doing it with a heavy duty pickup and an RV.  This is something we haven’t attempted before.

Maybe we should name the rig “Green Eggs and Ham”.  Because we’re going to be trying something new.

In the next few days, watch for new posts from parts farther west.  I may not get to post every day – because I’ll be driving – but I’ll try to let you know where we are every little while.

What new things are you going to try in the coming year?

Preparing for Departure (by Kaye)

Kaye posts the latest steps toward our anticipated departure from the winter on December 28th:

Milepost 12-21-13  Kingston, Michigan

Life on the Road:  Preparing for Departure:

Today: The Friday before Christmas and the day before Solstice

Location: All snug and cozy in the recliner where I can gaze at the lights of the Christmas tree

Outside: Dark, evidently freezing rain. Sounds like schools are closed – all over the place.

Miles traveled: Probably none. Hopefully we can stay put today.

Walked: Not today. No safe place to walk these days. But soon…

Hubby is: Sleeping

Recent happenings: Oh, my! So many things happening so quickly.  So many decisions. So many plans coming together – and some still up in the air

Surprises: The fact that we will be living in southern California for the winter and spring.

Unexpected: The fact that my mom has decided to move into a smaller place.

Noticed: How weird it is that we have been down-sizing for three years and my mom is suddenly trying to do it all in a couple weeks. Even weirder that I won’t be around to help her with it.

Discoveries: My friends don’t all think like me and sometimes don’t agree with me.  Yah, not a new discovery, just need to remind myself sometimes.

Made me smile: Kind words and good friends

Made me sad: Divisive declarations on Facebook, assumptions and allegations

Made me drool: That picture on Facebook of a “breakfast bake” made with refrigerator biscuits

Blessings: Oh, so many! One that comes to mind is the restorative power of sleep.  AND an amazing husband! Amazing, I say.

Reading: No time to read. So sad. But soon. Very soon.

Watching tonight: Perhaps a Christmas movie. Or perhaps West Wing…

Considering: What I can choose to leave behind from what I’ve already packed

Working on: Packing up all our stuff – to take with us, to donate, and to put in storage

Accomplishments: Wrapping up the remnants of 40 years of living at Hidden Hollows. Nope, we’re not done yet, but we have come a long way and are getting close.

Lessons: I can only do what I can do.

Today’s agenda:  
Finish several packing projects
Clean the cabin.  Again.
Pack things up for heading out for Christmas

Looking forward to: Hanging out with our kids and relaxing for a couple days before the final push and the big departure date

A Race Against Time

Milepost 12-10-13   The newer RV arrived yesterday, and Kaye and I are on a mission to have it ready by our departure day, December 28th, when we hope to head for California for the winter and spring.  Today we emptied the cupboards and drawers of the old RV and carried everything across the yard (through the snow) to the new rig for sorting and re-assigning places – for the stuff we want to take with us for the next phase of life.  It feels like we are in a race against time.

It’s a small slice of the larger race against time:  Life.  And it is informed by bucket lists and lifelong dreams and a watchful eye on the clock of human life expectancy and physical well being.  Can we get everything done before we are too decrepit to climb the proverbial mountain (because it’s there)?  Or will we die trying?  Or will we die NOT trying?

I climbed to the top of a mountain with family members on the Skyline Trail at Glacier National Park.
I summited a mountain with family members hiking the Skyline Trail at Glacier National Park.

It’s been 10 years since Kaye was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, and we have been keenly aware of our mortality since that day, two days before Christmas, 2003.  There’s nothing like cancer to remind a person of the shortness of human life and to cause one to formulate  some quick plans about how to spend what’s left of it.

We decided to travel more, to see more of the world, but our financial situation wouldn’t accommodate us.  All of our capital was in real estate, and none of it was liquid.  We had to make radical changes.  For us, it meant downsizing, and we are still in the process.

Finally, later this month, it looks like we will get to hit the road and wander around the country for a few years…  perhaps until we can’t climb the steps of the RV anymore – let alone the proverbial mountain.

To my younger friends who haven’t yet given a thought to the future and how to make the most of it,  I have some words of wisdom:

  • Enjoy the moment.   Stop and smell the roses.  Don’t wait until retirement to have adventure or to take risks (and don’t seek adventure if you don’t like to take risks; they go hand in hand).
  • Upsize when you need to.   You need a bigger house and vehicle  during the family years.    And a bigger garage — for the Harley.
  • Downsize when you need to.   For us it was after the kids had moved out and we realized our house and 30-acres were too big for two people.
  • Prioritize from the outset.  If money is important to you, get an education.   With a college degree, on the average, you’ll make 30% more over the span of your career (if you can get a job in your field).   At 17 years old, a major factor in my decision to become a teacher was having summers off.  No way would a 2-week vacation every year satisfy my need for extended adventure trips.
  • Love people more than stuff.   Your friends and family will determine your quality of life more than the job you have or the stuff you own.  Respect them even when they don’t seem all that respectable,  hold them tight for the most part,  but give them space when they need it.
  • Go climb a mountain.  Start on your bucket list while you are still young.  Believe me, it’s a big world, and there is too much to see in one lifetime, so you better get started now.
My kids set the pace.

My daughter, Wendi, has visited all 50 states and has backpacked with her husband from Mexico south through South America to Argentina.  She and Scott own an adventure tour business in Alaska where they spend their summers.*  My middle daughter, Angie, has lived on four continents and resided with her husband in India for two years.  She planned their 10th anniversary trip to Florence, Venice and Rome without the help of the tour companies.   My oldest daughter, Stacy, has visited 46 states and will get the other four in 2014 before her 40th birthday.  She could write the book on lone wolf adventures for women (and she might do it), as her husband often works weekends.

Three sisters at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
Three sisters at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

They’ve been great adventuring role models for me!  Maybe this post isn’t really about the race against time that is life, but more about the race to keep up with my daughters on their adventures!

Angie, Stacy and Wendi camping on South Manitou Island as young adults.
Angie, Stacy and Wendi camping together on South Manitou Island as young adults.

Anyway,  Kaye and I are taking off to assume the gypsy life for a while – and the risks and adventures that go along with it.  Maybe we will meet other vagabonds along the way.  Perhaps we will bump into YOU somewhere between the oceans in the next couple of years.  I hope you will give us directions if we seem to be lost.

Just remember, “Not all those who wander are lost.”   –J.R.R. Tolkien

 What adventures are on your bucket list?  In what phase of life will you make them happen?   Click  “Leave a Comment” at the top to tell me about it.  Also, if you’re interested in life on the road, please “Follow” (in the left sidebar) to see where we end up next time.

* Also see the BBC story from Lonely Planet writer Roff Smith mentioning Wendi and her work at the famous Black Bear Coffee House at Denali.

Oh, The Irony… (Our New Home Has Arrived)

Milepost 12-9-13   Today we went and picked up our newer RV,  a 2001 Coachmen fifth wheel that will be our home for the next couple of years,  and we drove over snowy roads with a blustery cross-wind while towing it home.  Exactly the sort of weather we are trying to get away from.  How ironic.   Or maybe just really appropriate.

We just brought home our new home-away-from-home... in a snowstorm.
We just brought home our new home-away-from-home… in a snowstorm.

We will spend the next few days transferring stuff from the cabin and the older RV into the new rig.  We are moving out of the cabin so it will be available to rent while we are away.   The plan is to head west to California for the winter around December 28th, so we have a lot to do in the next couple of weeks.

It just occurred to me that perhaps we should christen the new rig before we take off.   When they were still at home our daughters used to name all of our vehicles.  We took “Oliver”, our white Ford van for our last trip to California back in 1991.  It was a month-long camping trip that included 8 national parks on a wide circuit from the Tetons and Yellowstone over to the Redwoods and Yosemite in California and then back east via the canyons, Bryce, Zion, and the Grand, and over to Texas for a quick visit to Carlsbad.

The Ford van was perfect for our family of five in the Teton Mountains on an extended camping trip.
The Ford van was perfect for our family of five in the Teton Mountains on a 6000-mile trip.

So, how does one name a vehicle?   I am not sure what method my daughters used back in the day,  and I don’t know if the style or appearance of the rig had any bearing on its eventual moniker.  Shall we call the new RV “the RV”?  Or “The Coachmen”?   Or shall we be a little more creative?

I’m open to suggestions.

My first car I simply called "The T-Bird".
My first car I simply called “The T-Bird”.

Take It Or Leave It?

Milepost 12-3-13

 We are in downsizing mode.  Again.  This time we are packing for the trip to California where we are scheduled for a 5-month work/camp stay at Kenney Grove Park in Fillmore,  through the winter and spring.  We get a free camp site with full hookups in exchange for some part-time handyman work and camp hosting,  an opportunity that Kaye found on the Workers On Wheels website.

Then around June 1st, we head north up the coast highway on our epic journey to Alaska.  We probably won’t get back to Michigan until August.

We have been down this road before, but not quite this far.  It’s the weight of everything that’s the biggest consideration this time, and I do mean weight — as in pounds and ounces.  We are moving into a 29-foot fifth wheel RV that will be our home for the next few years.  We have to cross the continental divide several times in the next year,  hauling this rig and every bit of  cargo we put into it.

So, the importance of each item has to be weighed in terms of its actual usefulness.  Too many heavy things will result in higher fuel consumption and engine work load.

This is where we part with our decorative knick knacks and pottery collection.  The 12-piece cookware set will be left in storage and a single skillet selected.  The glass cookie jars are out, the light weight plastic containers are in.  The toolbox will be culled until only the most essential tools are included.  My piano and organ are going into storage.  I’ve already moved to on-line banking so I don’t need to carry much of an office,  so even the office supplies will be reduced to a bare minimum.

Let's see now, which tape dispenser shall we take, the desk model filled with sand, or the store bought plastic one?
Which tape dispenser shall we take, the desk model filled with sand, or the disposable plastic one?

This is a deeper level of downsizing than we have experienced up until now.  Three years ago we started sorting and pitching so we could move out of our 10-room house and into a one-room log cabin. A lot of our stuff just went into storage sheds, even after we had yard sales and umpteen Craigslist listings to reduce our inventory.

But this is where the rubber meets the road.  Actually.  Because there is only so much space in the RV and only the essential necessities will pass muster.

This can be really difficult.  Kaye is a book lover who had a library in the big house with hundreds of volumes.  Now she will carry a dozen titles at most.  Fortunately, she owns a Kindle and has it loaded with hundreds of digitized books — which are weightless.

And I am leaving my workshop locked up at home with all of my prized power tools and sawhorses; I’m only taking one toolbox, and there’s no room in it for a table saw or a chainsaw.  I’m hoping we don’t have a repeat of our earlier Smokey Mountain encounter where we came around a bend in a narrow mountain road and found a tree down across the road.  I had to use my small campfire axe to cut it in two so we could get through.

Well, it looks as though we will leave the Michigan log cabin around December 28th for our westward winter wanderings — which will turn into our spring and summer sojourns.

With careful packing, our load will be light enough to climb every mountain with ease.   And our adventurous spirits will reach new heights as well!