Frequently Asked Questions I Made Up

To make up for my lack of updates, I thought it would be fun to do a bonus blog post on some questions that I imagine people may be asking themselves, but aren’t asking out loud.  To be clear, I have made these questions up in my head…I have a lot of time to think while I’m driving!   I will now answer these imaginary questions:

Q –  Is Harlan actually on the trip with you?  How come I never see any pictures with him in them?

A – Great question!  Yes, Harlan is on the trip with me.  Turns out, he hates having his picture taken.  Not exaggerating here.  When I point the camera at him, he will do one of 3 things:

  • Block his face with whatever object is at hand
  • Flip me the bird (nice)
  • Give me a hate stare

All of these tactics get the result he is going for which is for me NOT to use his image.  I now feel compassion for paparazzi.  I feel like I am trying to take a photo of the elusive Sasquatch and end up with many blurred photos of his head turning away.  That is why our IG feed is filled with pictures of his back, walking away from me.

No Pictures Please

Q – Where do you sleep while on the road?  Campgrounds?  Hotels?

A – Another great question.  Some nights we sleep on the street, and there is a science to this.  I will explain more below.  Some nights we sleep in a campground at a reserved space.  It is rare that we reserve these sites ahead of time because our plans change often.  Some times we sleep at somebody’s house (people we know!) We have only stayed at a hotel one night so far and that was a nice treat.

When sleeping on the street, we have to be sure that we are being respectful and not parking right in front of somebody’s home.  In CA, especially beach towns, many cities don’t permit overnight parking anywhere near the beach, so you have to be kind of stealth re. parking at night.  Although it’s legal, a lot of home owners don’t love vans parked on their street with people living in them.  (Side note:  as the housing crisis becomes even more of an epidemic in our nation, I think more and more people will be living in their vehicles and we are all going to have to be more tolerant of alternative living situations.)

I have found the best code of conduct (for us) is to find a flat place to park, on a street, by a fence, field or empty lot , not blocking anyone’s view, and pull up after dark.  All meals have been cooked and cleaned up, all teeth flossed and brushed, and we just pull up, shut all the curtains and go to bed.  Then in the morning, we get up early and drive away.  No disturbance to the community.  I will say, I never have had a great night’s sleep when we park on the street because I am always prepared for getting rousted and having to “move on”.  Not sure this would ever happen, but it literally keeps me up all night.  So that’s the drawback to this way of living.  The bonus is that it’s absolutely free.

When sleeping at a campground, we get the luxury of hooking up to electricity and water and I get a great night’s sleep knowing that we won’t be disturbed at night and that we can take our time in the morning.  The drawback to the campground is that it can be pricey – $80 a night in SoCal for an ocean front site – the ones that all the Instagram photos show of a beautiful sandy beach right outside their window.  What they don’t show you is that 2 feet from their awesome campsite, is another RV complete with kiddie pool, dog run, lawn chairs and astro-turf. My mother said to me:  Which view do you choose to see?  So wise that one.

$80 View – looking out the back
$80 View – looking out the front!
Stealth Parking on the street.

Q – Where do you go to the bathroom?

A – Well somebody has got to be asking this question, right?  This amazing van has a bathroom with a toilet and shower.  For some reason, Harlan and I decided the first day we picked it up that we were not ever going to use the bathroom.  And we haven’t.  I think it had to do with the turd that was in our “potty” that was discovered by the rental guy as he was giving us instructions.  We then had to drive for a few days with this waste matter in our tank and then dispose of it (referred to as “black water”) and just suffice it to say that between the reality of the turd, the chemical smells of the pellets used to break up the turd, and dealing with the “black water” itself, Harlan and I were united in our determination to never deal with that again.  So…to answer your question, we pee in a jug when we have to (like overnight) and we use a restroom at other times.  If this seems gross to you, it is.  And.  You get used to it.

OK, that does it for the imaginary questions.  Got a real one?  Ask away!  I’ll do my best to answer.  And as always, thanks for following along!

Weeks 7, 8 & 9

Monterey sunset – Harlan’s phone

Oh man.  Time is flying by.  The first of November found me in tears as I lamented to Harlan that we only had 4 more weeks traveling like this.  In true teenaged fashion, Harlan seemed nonplused, and a little incredulous that time was actually moving as quickly as I said it would.  We have 24 more days in our Road School van and, just like the hours of daylight at this time of year, the days are disappearing before my eyes.  There is something poignant and beautiful about knowing one’s time is limited.

I conceived of this trip to give Harlan a break from the pressures of life, to give him space and clear his calendar of academic deadlines, and to take a breather from the daily grind.  I hoped to show him sites along the way and introduce him to people that would inspire and spark his creative mind.  There have been many learning opportunites along the way – some that I expected (like US history, talking about Japanese internment camps, the anchovy fishing industry of the Monterey Bay, economics, nutrition, phys ed, psychology, geography – reading maps, charting distance, sociology – the differences in towns we visited, neighborhoods – the tent cities of Oakland, the streets of Carmel, the culturally rich Bay Area, the food!)

Then there were the learning opportunities I wasn’t expecting – learning about all the natural disasters and charting the devastation, and in some cases driving through and seeing the damage first hand.  Or the many discussions we have had about gun control and mass shootings (Las Vegas, NYC, Denver and most recently Texas have all had mass shootings since our journey began.)   I must admit, as a mother, it is very hard for me to rationalize the violence and try to reassure my child that he is safe.  As one wise friend said,  “Safety is an illusion and this is so hard to tell our kids. Continue telling your son that he is resilient, strong and courageous. We don’t need to be safe from the inevitability of risk, fear, pain and death. We just need to believe in ourselves enough to know that we can handle those things when they happen.”  This feels right to me and I am doing my best to affirm his strength and agency.

One big thing Harlan has learned on our trip is that he misses Boulder and wants to go back to school there.  I love his clarity around this decision and I also love that he had the space to arrive at this decision with zero outside pressure from either of his parents.  Now that Harlan has decided he officially wants to go back to school, he is motivated to apply himself academically.  I believe Harlan will be coming back to Colorado refreshed and excited to work.  In full transparency, I had hoped he would get the travel bug and want to continue to learn on the road with me, but that’s my dream not his.

And that brings me to a very big life lesson I have been learning.  It’s called Differentiation.  As in, my son is his own person, not a mini-me.  We may look related, but he is definitely an individual.  One I grow more proud of each day.  He is wise beyond his years.

Morning walk

Here’s a story from our Instagram account:

Glad I did a practice swim yesterday. I’ve got a broken toe, some scrapes and a weird muscle injury that I’m treating with accupuncture and Advil. Harlan is fighting a cold. We do this triathlon in less than 48 hours and I’m freaking. Actually a slow, quiet dread is upon me. My son (who I’m secretly calling “Baby Buddha” right now) is telling me to relax and enjoy the ride in so many words. His exact words are “who cares if you come in last?” He is so wise. He told me if he gets short of breath in the water he has no problem flipping on his back and kicking. He said he doesn’t even care if it takes him an hour to finish the swim portion. Who is this kid? Over and over this Fall I have been learning the lesson: Slow down and Enjoy the ride. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Our home

The journey continues to be both outwards and inwards indeed! Both Road School 2017 and the triathlon have been epic journeys of the heart, mind and soul and nothing like either of us expected. Harlan has been fighting a cold so he wasn’t able to race today. We started our training together 2 months ago as a way of spending time together and as a rhythm to our days. I never pictured racing solo (and having a great time!) I keep learning that the journey is what it’s all about, not the destination. Something Harlan already seems to know.  Which is probably why he didn’t need to do the race. Happy to say he’s recovered from his cold. 

Marin Triathlon
I did it!

Now we turn our attention to Southern California – Los Angeles & San Diego – for the final leg of this beautiful journey. Thanks for following along with us!

Highlights from Week 7

Marin County Triathlon, weather turning to Fall, telegraph ave, Berkeley


Week 8

San Francisco, Pancho Villa tacos in the Mission, show at the Bottom of the Hill for Harlan

A landmark
Harlan’s point of view
My favorite cake

Week 9

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Jellies!