My 1979 Motorcycle Trip up the Alaska Highway

The bike along the Alcan. It was just a muddy old dirt road the whole way back then.

The bike along the Alcan. It was just a muddy old dirt road the whole way back then. This is exactly how the whole road was, except for when it was under construction–then it was much worse!

This is the final installment on my series on my 1979 motorcycle trip: I hope I haven’t drug it out too much and bored you! If I have, I hope you’ll at least look at the pictures and read the conclusion of this post. In it I try to find the moral of the story and find meaning in it all.

Up till now it has been a pretty standard motorcycle touring trip, but this week is somewhat unique because in 1979 very few  motorcycles drove the Alaska Highway. Back then riding it on a bike really was an adventure because it was a wild road. None of it was paved and when it rained it turned into a quagmire of mud and when it didn’t rain every time you ran into an on-coming car or truck it was like a Sahara dust-storm with rocks thrown at you for good measure. I’ve driven the Alcan many times and the thing that stands out about the old days is how many banked curves there were. The road was built in 1942 for military convoys to take supplies to Russia during WWII. It was a quick and dirty job built with the sole idea of getting  military trucks to Fairbanks, AK fast where the supplies would be flown to Russia. It was basically the exact same road in 1979 when I rode it.

Today, the Alcan is paved almost the entire way and the worst of the banked curves and winding portions have been straightened and yet there are hundreds of motorcycles running it for the “adventure” of it. The truth is there really is no adventure to it at all. Fall is the rainy season and back then, when it rained it stopped being a dirt road and became a mud road. Today it’s not much different than any paved country road.

The bike along an Alcan lake. That's fresh snow on the mountains.

The bike along an Alcan lake. She’s got a lot of mud packed on her! That’s fresh snow on the mountains.

While I didn’t run into a lot of rain, I did run into some so you can see in the pictures the bike got plenty muddy! But as soon as I got onto the dirt north of Dawson City BC, I ran into end-of-season construction. It was a horrible mess!! I literally was driving 10 MPH through this nasty mud and after about 50 miles of it I was done! I told myself if I didn’t get out of it in the next 5 miles I would admit defeat, turn around, drive south to Prince Rupert, BC and put the bike on the Alaska Maritime Ferry and take it home in shame! Fortunately, I did come to the end of it and so I kept heading north and luckily there was almost no more construction.

What I did run into was cold… and snow! October in the Yukon and Northern Alaska is winter, and it was just settling in as I passed through. I remember putting on every piece of clothing I had and still shivering as I drove along!! It was cold! And at the end of every day I had to stop early, set up my tent in the dark and crawl into it to finally get warm in my -10 degree down sleeping bag!

I was glad to get home! It was a cold, dirty and wild ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Finally I was almost home to Anchorage and winter finally came roaring in! Just as I was driving in near Eagle River the skies opened up and it started to snow! I slowly crawled home to my moms house. I took the photo below the next morning after I woke up. BRRRRRR!

The last half day into Anchorage was the worst of the trip. It was very cold and raining, sleeting and finally snowing on me. I’m just grateful I made it alive!

Conclusion

I gotta admit it, there were some very unpleasant and low moments on that trip–most of them having to do with cold, snow and really bad roads, but here is the bottom line, I wouldn’t trade my memories of that time for anything in the world! Weirdly, the worse my memories are, the more I treasure them! Of course there are many more incredibly wonderful memories than bad ones, and I love them just as much, but, have you ever noticed that when you get together with friends and swap stories it’s always the times of hardship that you re-tell with the most gusto and the biggest smiles!  Humans are designed to thrive at their best when they are overcoming adversity and discomfort. It’s such a terrible shame that we have virtually eliminated them for our modern lives. We aren’t fully human without them.

As I look back on my life, I never regret any of the adventurous things I’ve done, but I do very much regret all the empty  years without any life or adventure in them–what a waste of breathe they were. A few years after this trip I sold the bike, got married and started a career. All adventure and passion disappeared from  my life and I fell into a pattern of monotony, drudgery  and tedium, all in preparation of the mythical “golden years” when I could finally be happy.

Some will say, “But you took care of your family, and raised your kids. That’s most important.” And I’d agree with that except for one thing, I raised them all wrong! I raised them to be sheep and not to be wolves. My life was the worst possible example I could possibly have set for them: Be a sheep; follow the herd; obey your masters.

Instead of a childhood full of nature, fun and adventures, I left them with a childhood full of Nintendos, toys and years of be-a-sheep brainwashing. You might say, “But you could have taken them camping on your vacations.” Right, 51 weeks of being sheep-slaves and 1 week of being wolves. Pathetic. But I was too worn out and depressed from my miserable life to do even that.

That is something I would do very differently if I could go back now and start over. My life and my children’s lives would be as fully alive and awake humans, not as walking, dead-inside sheep.

skeleton-conformist

Posted in Uncategorized

My Motorcycle Touring Trip in 1979: Part 2

Afer Yellowstone, it was on to the Grand Tetons, which is still one of my favorite places in the country.

After Yellowstone, it was on to the Grand Tetons, which is still one of my favorite places in the country, in fact I’m going there again this summer. You’ll have to forgive me for the quality of the scans of these 36 year old photos.

This is part two of my report on my 1979 motorcycle trip across the West. When we left off last time I had flown down from Alaska, bought a motorcycle, and was taking a trip to see the National Parks of the West. It’s amazing to me how much I’m still just like that 24 year-old version of myself. The mountains still compel me to visit them and the magnificence of the National Parks call me, leaving me no choice but to return to them year-after-year. Right now I’m working very hard to get ready for this summers trip which is almost the exact same route except I’m doing it in reverse–I’m starting from Flagstaff and going north. Another major difference is I’ll be moving much slower and spending much more time in fewer places. That’s a luxury I didn’t have in 1979 with winter coming on fast. But its also a sign of maturity that comes with age because I’m more at peace and settled now than I was back then. I’ve finally learned to slow down and smell the roses!

Old Faithful is probably the most famous part of Yellowstone.

Old Faithful is probably the most famous part of Yellowstone.

The bike in Yellowstone. Look how close that food is getting to that buffalo!

Another thing Yellowstone is famous for is its buffaloes. Back then we had very little respect for wildlife; look how close that dummy  is getting to that buffalo! I’s a wonder he wasn’t killed.

When we left off last post I was at Yellowstone NP.  From there I dropped down through the Grand Tetons NP and kept heading south to Rocky Mountain NP then on down through Colorado to Highway 550 where I rode through stunning fall colors. The drive down 550 (commonly called the “Million Dollar Highway”) from Ridgeway, CO through Silvterton and Ouray, CO is still one of my favorite drives in the country. When I look at these pictures I took 35 years ago, It’s like I’m transported through time and get to re-live those experiences just like it was yesterday.

From GTNP I climbed up into Rocky Mountain National Park.

From the Tetons I climbed up into Rocky Mountain National Park.

A pretty close approximation of my motorcycle trip in 1979.

From Colorado I drove south to the Grand Canyon NP and Flagstaff, AZ. At Flagstaff I ordered a new back tire for the bike and had to wait a week for it to come in. In those days big Japanese bikes weren’t all that common so many shops didn’t carry tires for them.  It’s pretty amazing the similarity in my life today and back then, I still spend a lot of time hanging around Flagstaff and Highway 550 in Colorado still has a magnetic pull on me.

I love Highway 550 the "million Dollar Highway" and I've driven it many times in the last 5 years. I still think this was one of the nicest fall colors I've ever seen.

I love Highway 550 the “million Dollar Highway” and I’ve driven it many times in the last 5 years. I still think this was one of the nicest fall colors I’ve ever seen.

Near Aspen, CO.

Near Aspen, CO.

No trip to the Lower 48 would be complete without a stop into Las Vegas so I planned to spend a few nights there, but I’ve never been a gambler or drinker so I was only there for one day. I was a Christian back then so one of my goals for the trip was to visit a Christian Commune in Eureka, CA (they were pretty common in the 70s). So I headed over there next. On the drive from Las Vegas to Eureka, I stopped into Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Volcanic NP.

Lassen Volcanic NP.

After checking out the commune for about a week I decided that it wasn’t for me. Having people take that much control over my life didn’t appeal to me.  I’ve always had an on-again-off-again relationship with Christianity. I wanted it to work and threw myself into it with my whole heart but it promised to change me and it never happened. I loved the social elements and did everything I was told to make it a mystical, profound experience that worked in real life; but it never did. Much later in life I finally gave up on it entirely and searched for an alternative that would work.  I’m so glad to say I finally found exactly what I was looking for; and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Nothing on the trip had called out to me enough that I felt like I needed to settle down there so I decided to go home to Anchorage. My family and friends were there, and I had a job waiting for me, so going home was the easiest decision. By then it was October 2 and winter was coming in fast so I decided to just ride straight back to Anchorage going as fast and as far each day as I could. I took I-5  north to Seattle, entered Canada and drove the Alaska Highway. I put in some really long days in my rush to get home.

But that is a story for another post. Tune in next time for the story of my ride up the the Alcan.

One of many wild mountain roads I  climbed over the trip.

One of many wild mountain roads I climbed over the trip. Climbing the switchbacks is hard on your vehicle, and going down works your brakes hard, but it’s more than worth it to me! 

 

Posted in Adventure, Alaska, Travel

My Motorcycle Touring Trip in 1979

Here I am in Colorado in 1979. Even at the age of 29 the mobile life had a call on me.

Here I am in Montana in 1979. Even at the age of 24 the mobile life had a call on me. Unfortunately, all these photos are scans of 36 year old photographs, so they aren’t the best.

In my last post I recommended photography as a great hobby for vandwellers; today’s post is a perfect example of why. These photos are 36 years old, and yet when I look at them now those experiences coming flooding back to me like it was just this morning. I’m very grateful I was carrying my camera and somehow managed to hang onto these photos through all the decades since then. Highly recommended!

My life has a strange, round-about trajectory. When I was a young man I was pretty adventurous doing numerous trips that were way out of the typical American comfort zone. But like so many others,  that all ended when I got married and had kids.  I bought into the American Dream hook, line and sinker and did everything I was told. I bought a house, got a job I worked at for the rest of my life and got rid of all the adventure, fun and joy in my life. That was my story for the next 30 years until a divorce forced me into vandwelling and the death-grip that traditional life had over me was broken. When the scales fell from eyes I could finally see that most of what society had told me was a giant lie so I started thinking for myself and living for my own happiness and not as a cog in a machine or an a bee in a hive.

Fortunately, even in my younger days I loved photography and mostly by luck I have some photographs of some of my early adventures.  Today I want to share photos from one of the best times of my life. First let me give you some background.

This is a map roughly showing the route I took. It was about 1 1/2 months from the end of August till the beginning of October. After 36 years my memory is fuzzy on a lot of the details. I also couldn’t get Google maps to cooperate so it’s not exactly right.

I grew up in Anchorage, AK and at one time I drove a school bus for 5 years. If you think about it, that’s a great job because it gives you your summers off and in Alaska, the summers are glorious! But, you must live very cheaply, so even 36 years ago at the age 24, I intuitively knew that cheap living with part-time work was my best way of life. One summer I got a job as a Tour Bus Driver in a very remote Eskimo Village called Kotzebue. It was north of the Arctic Circle on the Arctic Ocean and the only way in or out was by barge or air. I remember that summer as one of the best times of my life because at that time the local Eskimos lived very traditional lives of hunting and fishing. I believe that spending that much time with authentic people who followed a traditional hunter-gatherer life had a tremendous impact on who I am today. This wasn’t a lesson out of a dusty book, it was living, breathing people who were living a way I admired and wanted to emulate. To this very day, I consider the hunter-gatherer tribe to be the best model for a good life.

Here I am in Glacier National Park, back when it still had glaciers!

The photos will be chronological with the trip. Here I am in Glacier National Park, back when it still had glaciers! You’ll have to forgive the quality of the scans of these old photos.

The best thing about the job was the tips; they were very good!! The next best thing was that I was given a place to live and one meal a day at the local hotel, consequently, I was able to save a lot of money. In September, at the end of the season I had to decide what to do next, and since I was young and fancy-free, I decided to take that money and give myself the gift of travel. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life so I decided to travel and see if anyplace grabbed me and maybe I would know that was where I was supposed to be.

Back then I knew nothing about boondcking on public Land, so I stayede mostly in campgrounds, although many were free or very cheap. This oe was in Ashley NF in Montana. I tent camped the entire trip which was fine with me, I was young and had done a lot of backpacking.

Back then I knew nothing about boondcking on Public Land, so I stayed mostly in campgrounds, although many were free or very cheap. This one was in Ashley NF in Montana. I tent camped the entire trip which was fine, I was young and had done a lot of backpacking so it was normal for me.

I had already fallen in love with motorcycle touring and had taken one very long cross-country trip across the Lower 48 so I knew I wanted to do that again. I already knew Alaska very well, but the rest of the country I didn’t know at all. So with a pocket full of cash from the summer I flew down to Seattle and brought a brand new Suzuki GS850 motorcycle and had them turn into a full-dresser with a full Vetter fairing, Bates saddlebags, luggage rack and tank bag. Since I had lived in Alaska all my life I hadn’t seen any of the National Parks in the Lower 48, so on this trip I set out to see as many of them as I could in the Western States before it got too cold.

September is winter at high elevations up north so I ran into snow numerous times. This was in Glacier NP.

September is winter at high elevations up north so I ran into snow numerous times. This was in Glacier NP. It was very cold! In fact being cold became very normal for me on the whole trip, especially on the ride up the Alcan to Alaska in October!

Why a motorcycle, after all, winter was on it’s way? Quite simply, just for the sheer joy of riding! To me, there is so much absolute pleasure in riding, and especially riding long distance, that it’s worth the massive amount of problems that come with it. In fact I love it so much that after I retired in 2006 I gave serious thought to moving into a big touring motorcycle like a Gold Wing towing a trailer and live on it instead of in a van. But to be honest, at this point in my life comfort is more important than the thrill of riding so it wasn’t going to happen. Just as important, I couldn’t have a dog and that simply wasn’t an option, I’d rather have the companionship of a dog than the fun.

First, I rode across Washington and Idaho to Glacier National Park and then headed south  to Custer Battlefield National Monument which was a strangely moving experience for me. I got there very late in the day just before closing and they let me go through so I had the place all to myself. I could almost feel the ghosts stirring on that sacred land. I think my experience that summer living closely with Alaska Natives primed me for the experience. From there I went as far east as Devils Tower National Monument

Devil's Tower in  Montana.

Devil’s Tower in Montana.

Being from Alaska, I love the mountains and being on a motorcycle I loved riding their windy, curvy roads even more! So next I headed down the spine of the Rockies hitting National Parks along the way. The first one I came to was Yellowstone NP, but because it was late in the year and I was coming in from the north the pass I was riding over was snowed in so I had to turn around and go back.

I was turned away from Yellowstone by snow on my first attempt to get into it.

I was turned away from Yellowstone by snow on my first attempt to get into it.

That was actually a blessing in disguise because it forced me to enter Yellowstone from Cody, Wyoming, which I loved! I’ve always been a fan of Native American life and the Mountain Men and there were many museums and monuments to them that I was very excited to see.

Back in 1979 Cody, Wyoming was full of museums to the Mountain Men and Native Americans. I loved that place!

Back in 1979 Cody, Wyoming was full of museums to the Mountain Men and Native Americans. I loved that place! I also liked that it was warmer!

This was a monument to the Mountain Men of olde times.

This was a monument to the Mountain Men of olde times.

I spent about a week in Yellowstone and ran into another guy on  a full-dress BMW and we rode and camped  together for a few days. One day we actually switched bikes and I rode his BMW and he rode my Suzuki. I liked the BMW but it had nowhere near the power of my Suzuki. One thing you’ve got to say about big Japanese motorcycles is they have an abundance of power! You roll that throttle on and things happen fast and in a big way! You’ve got to be careful or it will be too fast and too big! The BMW was smooth and quiet but it would never give me as much of a thrill. It’s a tortoise and hare situation.

Here I am camping with my new biker friend. You can barely see his BMW on the left.

Here I am camping with my new biker friend. You can barely see his BMW on the left. You can’t mistake that opposed twin, boxer engine! 

This post is long enough so I’m going to quit now and I’ll start up where I left off in my next post. My hope for you is that your life is full of treasured experiences and memories.

It’s not he who dies with the most toys who wins…

it’s he who dies with the most memories!!

Posted in Adventure, Alaska, Photography, Travel, Which Vehicle to Live In?

Photography as a New Hobby

What makes a DSLR special is it;s interchangeable lenses and total control over the picture. This is my kit and gives me everything  from extreme wide angle to telephoto. The 50mm is very fast for low light, the extension tubes let me take a picture of a fly's eye and the multiplier lets me take a picture of a birds eye in flight.

What makes a DSLR special is it’s interchangeable lenses and total control over the picture. This is my kit and gives me everything from extreme wide angle to telephoto. The 50mm is very fast for low light, the extension tubes let me take a picture of a fly’s eye and the multiplier lets me take a picture of a birds eye in flight.

I love Nature Photography! In my whole life, it’s the thing that has brought me the most consistent joy and as I’ve gotten older I’ve not lost interest, in fact I enjoy it more today than I ever did. In today’s post, I want to make a case that if you are just starting out on your new life as a vandweller, you might should consider it as a new hobby for your new life. Here’s why I love it so much.

1) It gets me out into beautiful places: If I’m going to take beautiful pictures, I have to travel to the most beautiful places in the country and find the best of the best in those places. I’m not looking for snapshots that are okay, I’m looking for photos that will make the viewer stop and say “Wow, that is so beautiful, I wish I were there!”  Finding those places means I have to get off my butt, and get out there myself!

2) It involves my whole person. At the moment of taking the picture, every facet of my being is tuned in at a heightened state and working at its full potential.  My body mind and spirit are at their peak:

  • My body: Usually getting to the great photos means a hike or enduring some physical discomfort. Often it’s early in the morning, late at night or in bad weather. It also means months of planning to get to that spot and driving some distance to be there.
  • My Mind: There is a steep learning curve to taking full advantage of a DSLR camera so I’ve spent years reading and studying the technical aspects of how they work hoping to take nature photos that will make me go “Wow!” When I’m looking through the viewfinder, my mind is fully alert
  • My Creativity: Like most of you, I’ve always believed I’m not a creative person, so this has been by far the hardest part of learning Nature Photography for me. It’s taken years of practice to awaken the dormant creativity that I believe lies hidden in all of us even if we are unaware of it. Wouldn’t you like to find that part of yourself and bring it to it’s full potential?

3) I can re-live the experience months, years or decades later. When I review my old photos, I become a time traveler and I’m transported back to those decisive moments of taking them. I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly vivid those memories are to me.  Soon, I’m going to do a post filled with pictures from 1979, when I was looking at those pictures, and writing that post, it was like I was actually there, and I’m amazed at the number and intensity of 36 year old memories that came flooding back to me.

Why You Should Consider a DSLR

The reason I’m posting this is because the price of DSLR cameras from Nikon and Canon have dropped to exceptionally low levels and if you are interested in nature photography, now is a great time to get one. I know many of us are on a tight budget and it’s not even a possibility, but if you are in a position to afford it now would be a good time. You may be wondering why you would spend so much money on a new camera when your cell phone or point and shoot takes very good pictures already. The answer is that the unique attributes of a DSLR let it do many things your cell phone or point and shoot can’t:

Picture Quality: With its higher-quality and interchangeable lenses, larger sensor, and lower noise, DSLRs have far better picture quality.

Total Control: Going beyond snapshots to “Wow-shots” requires total control over the exposure and focusing of the camera. For that reason DSLRs have full-manual controls over both. You make the creative decision about every aspect of the photography process instead of letting the camera, with its very limited abilities, make them for you.

Filters: Very few cell phone or point and shoots allow you to attach filters like a polarizer and that’s a major loss. In my opinion no software can duplicate the effect of a good polarizer so there is nearly always one on my camera.

Depth of Field: Depth of field allows you to control what is in-focus and out of focus in the picture. Sometimes you want just the main subject in-focus and everything else to be blurry. At other times you want everything in the frame from front to back to be sharp and in-focus; with a DSLR you have total control and you get to make that decision based on your creative vision. You can’t do that with a cell or most point and shoots.

Low Light: Again, total control allows you to take pictures when no cell phone or point and shoot can. A DSLR will allow you to focus manually and expose for any amount of time from a few seconds, to minutes, to many hours. It also has drastically less noise at higher ISOs which opens up low-light photography at dusk and dawn and astro-photography at night

Astro-Photography: The only way to take pictures of the Milky Way, night sky or star trails is with a DSLR. Those require total control over the camera and nothing else will give it to you.

Macro: For taking pictures of tiny or small things a DSLR excels. It’s true you can do macro surprisingly well with cell phones or point and shoots–up to a certain point–but you’ll soon exceed their limits and wish for a better camera with macro lenses or even extension tubes which cost very little but get you down to the macro level.

High Speed: If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of a sporting event, your dog running, or birds in flight, you’ve run smack dab into just how slow cell phones or point and shoots are. They are slow to turn on, slow to focus, slow to save the picture and slow between shots. This is one area that a DSLR blows all those cameras away, and the better the camera body, the faster it is.

Flash Photography: The word photography means painting with light, and the advanced flashes available to DSLRs allow you to create your own light, greatly expanding your ability to paint with it. Once you learn how, the external flashes available to DSLRs will totally change your photography, giving you even more control over every nuance of shadows and form of your subject.

A DSLR will let you take total control over light, even allowing you to create your own with a flash attachment.

A DSLR will let you take total control over light, even allowing you to create your own with a flash attachment.

The Big Disadvantages of DSLRs

There are many advantages of a DSLR,  but they also have several major disadvantages and I want you to be well aware of them before you consider buying one:

  • Cost: While the camera itself is surprisingly cheap, once you start adding on lenses and accessories it’s cost skyrockets. You can end up spending a lot of money and if you don’t, you’ll miss out on a lot of their abilities which can be frustrating.
  • Size: Your cell phone fits in your pocket so you always have it with you. I carry a Nikon point and shoot in a bag on my belt at all times because it’s so small. That’s not true of a DSLR! They’re big, heavy and cumbersome and you just can’t carry one around all the time. Because of that some people buy them and soon give up on carrying them around because they’re so big.
  • Complexity: If you set out to learn to do everything a DSLR is capable of, you are in for many year of frustrating learning. Many people never do and all they get is mediocre pictures so the camera ends up collecting dust in a drawer.

Even with all those drawbacks I consider learning and using a DSLR one of my greatest joys. If you’re thinking one might be for you then you’re in luck, right now they are remarkably cheap! You can get an introductory model from both Canon and Nikon for less than $400 that are remarkably capable and come with very good lenses.

Canon T5 with 18-55 IS lens: This is a good, solid introductory camera but don’t take that as damning with faint praise. By today’s standard it’s introductory level, but even a few years ago this would have been an amazing camera. Buy it from Amazon here: Canon EOS Rebel T5 with 18-55mm Lens

Nikon D3100 with 18-55 VR lens: Like the Canon T5, this is a great first camera capable of taking those “Wow” pictures you are looking for. Find it on Amazon here: Nikon D3100 Digital SLR Camera & 18-55mm Lens

I was using my Canon DSLR to photograph these bears when the guide asked if I wanted him to take my picture. So I handed my Nikon AW 110 to him and he took this shot and I think it’s a great shot. My point is that point and shoots are very capable cameras and they’re fairly cheap. Only consider a DSLR if you have a very specific need, like art photos, macro, astro, wildlife or bird photography.

Who should and should not buy one:

Because of their cost, size and complexity most people are better off sticking with their cell phones or if you’re really interested in photography stepping up to a good point and shoot. Probably 90% of the pictures on my blog are taken with my Nikon AW 110 which cost $250, is waterproof and takes great pictures. Because it’s small, I carry it with me nearly 100% of the day.

The only reason you should buy a DSLR is if you have a specific need that the other cameras can’t meet or if you specifically want to unleash your creativity and make works of art with a camera and are willing to pay the price to do so. The price will be in time spent learning and practicing your new art and in purchases to expand your cameras abilities.

If you’re ready to do that, either of these cameras will delight you!

 

Posted in Photography

You Must Be Crazy!

1.It took me a while to find mine: full-time RVing! (This is me at Valley of Fire State Park in NV)

It took me a while to find mine: full-time RVing! (This is me at Valley of Fire State Park in NV)

(Today we have a guest post by a fellow blogger, Becky over at Interstellar Orchard. She has a great blog that I highly recommend to you!   http://www.interstellarorchard.com/ She has also just come out with an e-guide to getting started full-time RVing on a budget. Find it here: http://www.interstellarorchard.com/solo-budget-rving-guide/ Highly Recommended!)

I use to wince when the alarm went off on weekdays. Dragging myself out of bed to get ready in the dark felt like torture. When I’d drive to work I wouldn’t even notice the beautiful sunrise because I’d still be half asleep. Then I’d work for 8.5 hours or more, just counting down the time until I could leave. I’d always rush home to try to get chores done before supper, and then stay up a little too late trying to squeeze in some down time and regain my sanity. Then it was off to bed, and dreading the next morning.

I should have been happy. This job was in the field I’d gone to college for. It paid well, and was steady work. The kind of job that would allow a young go-getter to put a good down payment on a first house. But I was miserable.

It didn’t feel like living. It felt like some vast sort of cosmic trick played on humanity, to make us feel like we had lives when really we were little more than slaves to the routine. But at 26 years old, it was all I knew. Everyone my whole life had been telling me that this was the correct thing to do. You graduate from college, get a high paying job, get married, buy a house, have kids, raise them, retire, and then you could have fun.

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Work-camping at Zion National Park in UT under a double rainbow, love my little RV

When I first learned through a blog not so very different from this one that you really didn’t have to go along with the status quo, It felt like I’d received a second lease on life. I didn’t dare tell any of my friends or family yet about my plans to escape ‘the real world’, because I knew what their response would be, it’s the response I myself would have had a few months before, back when I thought the only options were to either be a cog in the machine, or be destitute: “You must be crazy.”

Once I started looking for other ways to live, I found full-time RVing, and knew that was what I wanted to do. I quickly discovered that the big motorhomes and fifth-wheels that most people went full-timing in would be way out of my price range. I’d have to go small, but that was fine. Living with less would leave me more time and money to do what really mattered to me. I found the popular RVing forums, and started asking questions about living in a small travel trailer. All the replies from the retired folks with their 40+ foot monster RVs were the same: “You must be crazy.”

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Ichetucknee Springs State Park in FL, nice place for a dip in March.

The day eventually came when I traded in my cute little car for a mid-size truck that could pull my future home. It wouldn’t be too much longer now. By this time, I was sick of my job and there was nothing to keep me from quitting. They needed me more than I needed them. I knew about budgeting and had calculated that I didn’t really need the extra money and certainly not the high stress that came with it. When I informed my manager that I was quitting and going to be taking a lower paying retail job instead, she cocked her head and gave me a funny look. She didn’t need to say the words aloud, I could read them in her face: You must be crazy.

When it was getting close to launch day, I finally started telling my relatives of my plans to be what amounted to a modern day gypsy. I was able to stave off most of their concerns by explaining in detail how I planned to make a living on a road by taking seasonal jobs, and other logistics like health care, mail forwarding, and staying in touch. Their biggest concern though was when they learned I would be traveling solo. “You’re young and female, you can’t possibly go alone! You must be crazy.”

YouMustBeCrazy 4

I don’t miss any more sunrises or sunsets – Yosemite National Park

Six short months after that, I quit the retail job and hit the road in earnest to see more of this beautiful country. On my maiden voyage from South Carolina to South Dakota to set up residency there, I camped in beautiful state parks, went hiking in the middle of the weekday, parked overnight in Walmart lots with nary an issue, and generally went where I wanted when I wanted. Freedom at last.

I happened to drive through St. Louis during rush hour, and got bogged down in traffic for a time. No worry, my 17′ trailer was no wider than my truck and changing lanes wasn’t nearly as hard for me as RVers with big rigs. I had no deadlines to meet, nowhere to be at any particular time. So I enjoyed the view of the Arch outside the passenger side window, and shook my head sadly at all the poor sops leaning on their horns look frustrated, no doubt trying to squeeze in some errands in before supper. You poor people, living like that. You must be crazy.”

YouMustBeCrazy 5

Caving at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, TX

 

Posted in Adventure, Inspiration-Spirituality

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