Images of Knight in the Redwoods taken by Gail.
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.
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.
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 any more 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.
All but the first image taken by Gail.
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.
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.
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!
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, reallycomfortable) 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 canlive harmoniously with Mother Nature in this wild and wet and beautiful land.
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 :)