Tag Archives: Wonderful people

WOW, Now what?

First I’d like to thank anyone who checked in, commented or just plain enjoyed any part of our adventure via this blog.  We never considered having a big audience or following, only wanting to chronicle a little and maybe make a vicarious thrill available for family and friends.  Next thing we knew, we realized we had to keep up.  Writing regularly was the only way to avoid that overwhelming list of “things we should do”.  It grew to be a true joy and an integral part of the Voyage!

Second, I invite pretty much any of you to borrow the Tramper for your own trip.  REALLY!  Through some nice, mutual agreement (not necessarily financial), I would love to see someone else’s dreams facilitated.  A new pair of tires, a battery, or maybe some cool as yet unknown accessory could comprise a rental arrangement.  Additional requirements would include a discussion of the “value” or replacement cost and the suggestion of insuring the camper.  One final requirement would be a display of commitment or intent.  “You” would have to demonstrate a beginner’s understanding of towing safety, RV boon docking, propane safety, and a willingness to learn about the Tramper in particular.

Its simple really, remember I knew nothing about any of this before locating the derelict camper in Delaware.   The details of this learning adventure would likely include a nearby camping trip where I could explain things briefly and hand over the reigns.  Out of this, I would get a return investment of vicarious thrills  and a few weeks or months with “no Tramper in my yard”.  Driveway access to my workshop is narrowed by the sleeping beauty.

barely room to walk through

barely room to walk through

I also want to begin talk of my internal voyage.  We didn’t run away from a bad life to do this trip.  To the contrary, we loved our home, family, jobs, friends and the routine of daily life.  I LOVE TO WORK.  We left to celebrate all that we love and can still do.  We took the chance of “all that could go wrong”, Murphy’s law be damned, and did it.  Now we return safely and are faced with our life.  The rest of our life.  Life after the Trampervoyage; whatever that is to become.

Honestly it feels at once overwhelming and underwhelming.  During the journey we floated high in conversations.  There we were, living the dream.  People congratulated us.  People seemed to envy us at times.  Most encouraged and cheered us on.  The accomplishment was in the moment and in “where to tomorrow?”  Now, we have returned and there is no tangible evidence.  No physical accomplishment.   Maybe THAT is what drives me to make and fix so many things.  In creating tangible projects, I create my own little trophy.  I create my report card.  After all, wasn’t school sometimes more rewarding than work?  You got grades!  Someone told you how you were doing!

Today I broke away from Jane to do something separate.  We have had the incredible blessing of being together for nearly every task and joy for 190 days, 24 hours per day.  We were rarely apart.  Doubtful many couples could say that at any point in their marriage.  We’ve continued that at home, working on unpacking, cleanup and other home tasks.  But today Jane went to see her sister; I went to see the elephants!

In March of every year, Baltimore hosts the circus.  Hopefully each of you has some fond memory of the youthful attraction enshrining the circus.  Maybe you ran away and joined?  (If so, tell us some of your stories)  Anyway, one of the more colorful local traditions includes an Elephant Parade.  Tenders march the big beautiful beasts through the city streets, up from the arena to the Lexington Market for a big lunch buffet.  Then after a desert of watermelons, they parade back down to their cages, I presume, to await their other performances.

You can agree with the spectacle or argue the treatment of zoo and performance animals everywhere, but I thought it was WONDERFUL.  Without these few “suffering” performing animals, most of humanity knows nothing of their immensity.  Most of us could not fathom the emotional eyes of an elephant, nor the grandeur of the whole animal kingdom if it weren’t for our contact, albeit limited through showcases of zoos, circuses, and aquariums.  The size, shimmering fur, smells and splashes of them all would all be reduced to photographs or TV shows someone else framed for us.  I saw intimate views of a fox family on public TV last night, yet my memory of the litter berthed under my mom’s porch was more vivid.  Those kits nipped and yipped playfully and beautifully, nursing until they were weaned before we “encouraged” them to move out of that urban den.

What then, does any of this have to do with the Voyage of the Tramper?  A full circle is a difficult journey.  Its hard to come back.  I have found myself looking at all that makes up a person.  I find myself lacking the same “value” I had as a productive, functioning and working member of society.  I felt as though I had retired.  I read a version of “retired” in Steinbeck’s East of Eden that I will avoid as I can with all my heart.  Retired meant surrendered.  Retired meant finished with all productive contribution.  Samuel moved to the city in retirement, and eased uselessly to his death.  He invited it.  He accepted it.  And he chose to cease contributing.

The happiest “retirees” I know now are volunteers.  Giving some of themselves to causes they value.  My sister, retired at one time, wrote the word “something” on her calendar a few days each week.  When called upon by the limitless needs of one charity or another, she could honestly say: “Sorry, I’ve got something that day”.  In this she protected bits of her time as needed.  Hospitals, The Aquarium, Red Cross, soup kitchens, and more, there are any number of fulfilling ways to “retire” and be fulfilled by those around us.  On our Voyage we met hosts at campgrounds and made breakfasts sandwiches with a local North Carolina church.

I have selfishly preserved a few extra weeks to work on our house and home before returning to work.  I had the luxury of free time.  Time sometimes takes on different dimensions.  Everyone I know who is retired says they don’t know how they got things done while they worked full-time.  Perspective changes.

When I have two hours available and two hours of “work to get done”, it gets done.  When I have a week stretched out ahead, pressure is off, things can be delayed.  Procrastination is a vine.  Working raises the stakes.  Work schedules create the skill of prioritization.  Working is vital.  I think working is a part of vitality.  Being productive raises self-worth.  Even exercise at a gym is a form of productivity.  Even playful exercise is rewarding and productive; improving health, re-creating us, building muscle all the while.

I found walking, then running along to keep up with the elephants invigorating.  It reminded me of my love of our city.  We have been in the cocoon of our Voyage for 6 months.  We truly felt disconnected from 2012-13.  In rural and wild places, this was only natural.  But the majority of our journey carried us also through rural, agrarian places.  Through what felt like a different time.  We often felt like we were living “in the fifties” right along with that old Tramper.  Cities became shocking.  The resort at Beaver Creek, overwhelming.  A modern pace of life distasteful.

Being home too has been bewildering.  70 square feet of living space and just one basket of clothes each has us in a simple mindset.  We see now we have “so many things” in our home.  I’m longing for the simplicity.  Too many clothes, too many dishes, pots and pans.  I am, today, adapting better.  I was part of the crowd who wanted to see the elephants.  I saw the elephants themselves, line up, gladly clasping tails in trunk and parade back to the arena.  In this too, I jump back into life, a life I love!

-David

ENJOY THE PARADE!

I had forgotten that it was going to be crowded, that it would be hard to get a good view

I had forgotten that it was going to be crowded, that it would be hard to get a good view

I had forgotten too, that I AM PART OF THAT CROWD

I had forgotten too, that I AM PART OF THAT CROWD

...and what a privilege, to be part of the crowd!
…and what a privilege, to be part of the crowd!

The BIG Buffet

Clearly the eye of a veteran

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Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages...

Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages…

the elephants begin to leave and I realize that I CAN KEEP UP WITH THEM

the elephants begin to leave and I realize that I CAN KEEP UP WITH THEM

lets stay together

lets stay together

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I Think they were Glad to be out in the sun! (I know I was)

I Think they were Glad to be out in the sun! (I know I was)

"hold hands when you cross the street"

“hold hands when you cross the street”

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Everyone, step-in-line

Lets go get ready for the show

Lets go get ready for the show

We love to ride: Pass this on

-David

The Voyage Continues

Or does it?

If you read between the lines.  If you’ve read all of the comments and our replies.  If you’ve glanced at a map or noticed a change in our pace.  If we bothered to tell you anything at all.  Put these pieces together and take note.  A circle is completed as we write from our Towson home.  Travel decisions each day were affected by so many things.  We left in hopes of “6 months to a year on the road”.   A chance to bike, hike, ski and live wherever the day took us.  One hundred and ninety days later we felt the calls homeward.  Each day on the road we asked, “where should we go tomorrow?”

As we drove down from the Rockies toward Denver, my answer was “maybe we should head home?”  This thought was cemented as we spoke of finances.  A warm day of mountain biking was enough to detain us in Kansas, but not to change our direction.  A few grey days on the road, and storms that kept threatening from the North nudged us Eastward.  A final clear day, snow on the Ohio and Pennsylvania grass led us to see I-70 as a good way home, despite previous months of avoiding Interstates.

Over my shoulder we knew the Baltimore sign depicted the long road from Fort Cove, UT

With a quick picture over my shoulder we knew this Baltimore sign depicted the long road we drove from Denver, and Utah near Zion and Moab

Locals had led us to unexpected jewels!  Serendipity showed us safety and regular smiles!  I got to ski a whole lot!  We hiked peaks, canyons and caverns!  Jane saw warmth and wildflowers!  In fact, today we see the old tricks of March; wet snow, heavy branches and refrigerated blossoms.  No worry, it melts fast this time of year.

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The pressures that led us home were many.  We ran out of paper towels.  The Tramper account has seen only withdrawals for months now.  Both of us need to find jobs and pay some bills.   Marfa kept raising concerns about that big Continental Divide.  If needed, I’d imagined a plan to rent a truck in Utah, towing the heavy Tramper over the mountain passes to Denver if necessary.  With  Jane driving the 4Runner sans trailer, it would do fine.  The concerns continued, passes provided 25 mph crawls, but the transmission temperature never went out of control again.

Ahh, but the concern for this and other bits went on.  The 5  Day weather reports gave us windows to travel in.  (I won’t tow in snow and have even avoided rain as much as practical)  Safety is always a lens of concern for me.  My focus on joy and adventure is tempered by wanting to get home safe.  My responsibility to “keep Jane safe” is not just a funny topic.  Many nights were lightly slept in anticipation of noises or vehicles arriving nearby.

Yes, we crested one of the highest points in our journey, skied a few more times, and headed East.  I poked fun at our nation; “they’ll be nothing to do between here (Summit County, CO) and the Appalachian Mountains.”  “My cousin used to drive from Colorado to Baltimore in 36 hours.  We’ll be home in 3 or 4 days”.  Fortunately Kansas threw a surprise at me.  The world is full of surprises.  You’d think I would have remembered that lesson from earlier in the “Voyage”. 

We have many thoughts to share.  We have over 11,000 pictures to peruse and condense to a more sharable 100 or so.  We have memories of our longest “vacation” ever.  We have lists of new friends.  We have blog and Facebook followers.  And we have lots more to say.  We will be looking back at the trip and looking at its impact on us.  One visitor we met in Colorado asked, “How has your perspective changed”.  I shied from an answer, telling him I will know more a few months after our return.  If I don’t change actions or lifestyle, how can I say my perspective has changed?

We wonder if there are other questions out there.  We are likely to post retrospective thoughts.  Maybe a bit of logistics, maybe we’ll post what we’d do differently, perhaps a few suggestions for future travelers.  I want to post a piece with all of the barns we saw.   I see a whole post of cool things seen on trucks.  Trains became our favorite night time neighbors.  Wind energy prompted inquiry all across the country.  We hope to add more thoughts and questions.  Our life now has the vision of the Tramper.

Over all it was such a treat!  Jane and I lived in a 70 square foot space, awoke and stayed together 24/7 and not once broke into fisticuffs as Jimmy Cotton, our new friend in North Carolina had feared.  We truly hope that as we traveled, you enjoyed.  As we posted pictures, you felt a fraction of the awe we shared.  Surely if we can do The Voyage of the Tramper, whatever you are dreaming of is possible too!

-David

DAY 182 – 03/12/2013 – Two Last Ski Days in Colorado

“I noticed the carny nature of your trip”, said the gruff-looking security guard as he allowed us to camp in the ski area parking lot overnight.

I won’t name him nor will I name the ski area where he works. We don’t want him to get in any trouble for his kindness which I’ll describe below.

I wrote down this quote as soon as he said it. It was too good not to note. At one time in his life, he was a ‘carny’ – a carnival worker and a vagabond himself.

After we left Sequoia National Park, we turned Eastward for home. Marfa, the 4Runner, faced one more great challenge: getting back over the Rocky Mountains! But, David wanted to ski a bit more. We were right there, where all the big Colorado resorts were. And, we had a good line on a discount for some of them.

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Up and up and up, over one of the passes through the Rockies

So, we picked one and it was a beauty! Fresh snow all over. Deep and puffy and so much fun! Certainly the deepest powder we skied all winter.

But, the one barrier to enjoying all this snow was the Tramper itself. We were in Summit County, a very chi-chi area of Colorado. We were actually rejected by the only campground open. Because the Tramper was too small!! Tiger Run has a HOA (home owner’s association) and I guess the trailer owners have an attitude because they live in an expensive resort town. Phhfftt! It’s still a trailer park, for heaven’s sake!

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Soon we will say goodbye to the beautiful West!

We checked into the La Quinta that night. Seemed simpler than driving around looking for a place to park. What a nice hotel! (We have only used a hotel one other time on The Tramper Voyage. In Kayenta, on the Navajo Rez. Because the Navajo Nation has their own laws which we do not know.)

Still, we couldn’t leave skiing behind, yet. So, we decided to do what we’ve done successfully before. Park overnight on the ski area parking lot. Did we ask anyone if we could do this? Nope. Sometimes, it’s better to ask forgiveness than for permission.

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As snow kept piling up around us, we settled in and made dinner. Then, an authoritative knock on the door! David opened up to reveal the ski area security guard. “There’s no overnight parking here. Didn’t you see the sign?”

Well, no, we didn’t. David got out and began talking with this gentleman, explaining why we parked here. David is one of the most personable people I know. He didn’t try to convince the guard to let us stay. He simply began sharing some of the Tramper Voyage with him. Soon, there was a smile on the guard’s face. He turned out to be a kindred spirit; one who had wandered with a carnival! He said that which is quoted at the beginning of the post. He could see then that we were not some 20-somethings who would get drunk and do something stupid. (Apologies to my 20-something friends who would never do this!)

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Dawn. In our ‘secret’ location.

The guard showed us to another parking lot. A bit higher up. A bit more secluded. Nicer. Wow! I’m so lucky to be traveling with David. He connected so nicely with the guard. OK, maybe part of it was my sad face!

– Jane

PS –  In her ever accommodating and sometimes apologetic way, Jane insisted I “take a few runs on my own”.  I don’t always agree to those suggestions, skiing or biking entirely with her is a joy and only slightly slower or less intense than I’d do alone.  But today, up I went above the treeline and into a bowl.  A bowl is a huge open area of snow, usually “bowl-shaped” and exposed.  This one had filled with snow!  Lots of snow!  I like the exposed nature of these places as there are always surprises. High mountain winds can scour one place to an icy plank while, with a little thought, you can find where all that snow was deposited.  Several turns of each of my runs found that familiar ice.  I kinda like ice, having grown up skiing Pennsylvania boilerplate.  But then I found it, each run was also buoyed by the knee-deep glee of a powder day.  Bounding up and down til I was near spent, I laughed my way back to our meeting place before leaving the western slopes!

– David

DAY 163 2/20/2013 A Navajo Welcome

Marfa the 4Runner had seemed to recover without event from the Transmission “Overheat” in Red Pass, Colorado.  We skied and travelled another hundred miles with no sign of that pesky red light.  Then, on a 45 degree day crossing level  desert West of 4 Corners, CO, without any big hills; there goes that light again!  Dang!  If its going “ON” now, we’ll never be able to travel in a “hot climate”.   Stop again.  Check fluid level again.  Bend the front license plate up to allow more air.  Let it cool and drive some more.

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Automatic transmissions are NOT my favorite.  In fact, all of our family vehicles are “standard” 5 speeds.  One reason is that an automatic provides a black box of invisible problems that often can only be mysteriously and expensively solved.  As teens, my friends derisively called automatics, “slush boxes or washing machines”.  It is just this trait that causes problems.  By nature, there is slippage.  Slippage generates heat.  Clutches are a direct hookup.  Poor Marfa, she came off the assembly line with a 4 speed automatic and often can’t decide which gear to be in.

We drove about 30 careful miles to Kayenta, a small dot on the Arizona map deep within the huge Navajo Reservation.  She didn’t trip the light, but we just can’t be crossing hundreds of empty desert miles with our fingers crossed.  Again we saw signs for “just what we needed as we slowed into town”.  NAPA auto parts, gas stations and hotels greeted our tense bodies.

Jane and I have affinities toward the Native American cultures as well as deep concerns for their present state.  (I detest the word Reservation, and wonder what their overall feel for that is sometimes…) We posed with heads hung low for a picture back at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina.  (link) We beamed when we saw the message in that town: UNITY!  Yet with mild trepidation we parked and opened the darkly tinted and steel barred doors at the dusty NAPA in Kayenta.  A big friendly cat sat calmly on the counter.  Surely a good sign.

Another safe haven

Another safe haven

Sam, the manager and I discussed the possibility that the transmission filter may be clogged and leading to poor flow.  Marfa’s fluid has been changed twice.  Once at home and the other time errantly blasting everywhere in Alabama (link).  Then too we had car parts stores and safe level ground available for repairs; “where is my super-suit”?  By phone later, Lynn too, concurred that the filter needed to be checked and changed.

Agreeing that the simplest, cheapest solutions are worth a trial, I ordered a filter and pan gasket.  Unfortunately, it would be THURSDAY before they arrived.  As is often our path, Jane and I simultaneously came to the same decision and looked to getting a hotel for the night.  OUR FIRST NIGHT IN A HOTEL IN 162 days!

"I'll wait right here; and won't eat much"

“I’ll wait right here; and won’t eat much”

The Wetherill Inn had a very nice stray, greeter dog wandering its lot. Also a good sign for us.  He seemed to enjoy our carefully measured treats as we moved a few belongings in for a good night sleep in a King Sized bed.  Funny, who needs all that space?

I also decided that paying a shop to do the drain and change was better than spilling red transmission fluid anywhere out here.  Sam suggested seeing Edward up at the crossroads where we came in.  The shop is part of an Alon gas station and showed years of red-brown dirt from completed jobs all over the floor and shelves.  It may not seem culturally sensitive to mention that everyone we’ve been meeting has beautiful shiny black hair and the proud features of the Navajo.  They have also been universally friendly.

After making an service appointment we walked over to the Blue Coffee Pot.  Jane and I always look for small, local businesses so the “Cash Only” sign didn’t bother us a bit.  We sat, self-consciously at a table in the sun.  Smiles beget smiles.  We looked around, not wanting to betray our slight discomfort nor the love for the people around us.  A family waited patiently for their food beside us and gently asked if we were traveling and where to.  Husband, wife and son all asked about pieces of our trip.  Laughing about relatives who’ve travelled to some of our destinations.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADonald senior gave us his phone number and asked that we call if we needed ANYTHING.  “Its really rugged out here.”  As we explained our path, Donnie the son, smiled warmly saying “We all have to work together”.  (UNITY again…)

Note the preponderance of pickup trucks with feed

Note the preponderance of pickup trucks with feed

Later we went to Navajo National Monument, parked in a delightful free campground and hiked to view Betatakin, yet another Ancestral Puebloan ruin.  A great sunset accompanied our cold little cookout while we grilled elk burgers bought way back in Salida.  Another calm and cozy Tramper night while musing how great the privilege to sleep within the Navajo Reservation.   The Navajo rugs and silver in the gift shop beguiled us more.  We had NO Hesitation leaving the Tramper alone in the campground while we took Marfa to town for service.

That arch is 452 ft tall and deep within lies Betatakin Pueblo, residence of about 100-120 people

That arch is 452 ft tall and deep within lies Betatakin Pueblo, residence of about 100-120 people

As seen from above, across the canyon.  In Summer, you can tour with guides

As seen from above, across the canyon. In Summer, you can tour with guides

Again we feasted on delicious Navajo breads and tortillas for a lunch at the Blue Coffeepot.  Today’s social bridge was a 4 year-old angel named Summer.  She was pulling the hood from her “Peace sign print” winter coat playfully over her face.  Her grandparents too, couldn’t have been nicer or more full of smiling warmth.  Delores and John insisted we take their phone number in case we needed it.  Delores came over to the table and spelled the name of her town: Chilchinbito, about 30 miles away.  Suggesting we stop in if we need them for anything graced us once again.

Jane and I quietly glanced at each other, lumps in throats, squelching our tears of joy, knowing grace and thanks.  Seeing no evidence of malice in races that have known the history of the Trail of Tears and the worst of settlers and pioneer  treatment is the fulfillment of that Cherokee sentiment.  UNITY.  We could all learn from that one.  Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Cherokee, and Navajo, all peaceful responses.  Love!

-David