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!

Week 6

Peaceful Autumn Evening

We are half way through! How can that even be possible?  I knew it was going to go fast and it has.  And I’m sure Harlan would add that there are moments when it feels like the days are inching past.  When I was packing for Road School, I included a baggie of words, photos and images so Harlan and I could collage journals together.  (Side note:  I believe it was Day 3 of our trip when I realized this would never happen.  No way was Harlan going to eagerly collage with me and plink out Kumbaya on the ukelele.  Yeah right!)  Well, last night, I finally got to collage my journal cover!  6 weeks in I had some free moments and bandwidth for creativity!
Last week, a dear friend reminded me over dinner about something I experienced my first time in India.  The country and all the ways it flooded my senses was, at times, completely overwhelming and the only way I could process all of it was to take hours of down time, lying on my bed, staring at my phone.  No judgement.  Everyone processes new stimuli differently.  Road School 2017 has completely come in and captured all of my senses, turned my life upside down and given me new experiences to process daily.  And my bandwidth for creativity has been severley compromised.  I had plans y’all!  I was going to write a book!  I was going to create cirriculum.  I was going to paddle board every day and meditate.  I’ve barely been able to return a phone call!

And you know what?  That is actually the best gift of Road School (in my opinion.)  To be present with each day and not overload it with expectations, with productivity, with conversations that take me out of my experience with Harlan and our time together.  It’s taken me 6 weeks – the half way point – to feel like I’ve relaxed my expecations of myself.  I’ve slowed down, and  for the most part, each day unfolds in the flow.  Harlan and I wake up and figure out the day together.  Many days, the “agenda” gets tossed out the window for a different set of circumstances.  To live this way feels ancient, as in an inner wisdom based on weather, shelter, food – the natural factors that dictate our activities.  It also feels like an immense privilege – to be able to create each day with no need to consider a job, school or any other timetable.  It is incredibly freeing and I highly recommend it.  I wonder how I will ever go back to a schedule when this is over?

For those of you who are following along on our journey (and I am so glad you are!) last week we were pet-sitting and enjoying the creature comforts of having a house.  While staying in the Bay Area, I went to a Snatam Kaur concert in Oakland which was beautiful and got to visit with a few friends.  

Smokey Air and a skyline I don’t recognize

We took the Larkspur ferry into San Francisco one day and visited the city.  Harlan really enjoyed checking out a record store. And I got to reminisce about all the places I lived and worked a 100 years ago and basically be my mother when she used to point out all the places she lived and worked in San Francisco 200 years ago.  Hah!  But the highlight was the ferry ride back where we met a friendly woman who gave Harlan advice about keeping his hair healthy and how to keep his one dreadlock from becoming one giant clump and then gave him expensive Kiehl’s facial cream samples and basically made me believe in human angels. I loved her. Never got a contact for her but her name is Jen and she’s a barber in the financial district of SF. 

Nice Hair Buddy

Harlan and I decided to escape the smokey air and head back south to Santa Cruz to resume our triathlon training – which had been put on hold.  I dunno folks, I’m kind of freaked that we are going to be doing a (Sprint) triathlon in less than two weeks. Harlan remains unphased. 

Yesterday we biked, swam and paddle boarded. And meditated (awww yeah!) and today H went to the gym and I’m about to go to yoga with my all time favorite yoga teacher. There is a fire in the Santa Cruz mountains (what?) and today the air was filled with a familiar smell of smoke. I also think it is our first cloudy day we have had in weeks. 

I’m sure there’s much more to share but I’m running out of steam and Harlan and I are going to watch a movie on the iPad. The first time we’ve done that on the trip! 

Until next week…

Harlan’s beach fire
Never gets old
Working from Home
Creating

Week 5

Week 5 has come and gone and my update is a day late.  I am struggling with what exactly to write.  Not because you as a reader cares per se, but because I want to make sure I get it ‘right’.

Part of me wants to tell you about the beautiful week we had in Calistoga, enjoying the town and bumping up our training for the quickly approaching triathlon we are doing at the end of the month.  Or the achingly perfect night we had at Limantour Beach in Point Reyes, where the beach was warm and still and the sun set in a blaze of orange and pink and I offered my full moon prayers up to the night sky.  Only as we drove away in the dark, did the giant moon rise above the trees, startling us with its size.

And then there’s the piece I want to share about housesitting for a few days in an actual home, with laundry and a dishwasher and kitties and separate bedrooms – privacy!

But much of the actual reporting of details is overshadowed by the raging fires up in Napa and Sonoma counties going on right now as I type.  In fact, just a few hours ago, the entire town of Calistoga, where we were just days ago, is under mandatory evacuation.  Here in the Bay Area, where we are pet sitting, the air smells like a campfire and the sky has an eerie orange glow.  We started our journey in early September with ash raining down from Washington forest fires and ash is falling down again.  A surreal sense of familiarity.

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Morning Sky in the East Bay

Perhaps most important for me to convey, but hardest to put into words, is the deep gratitude I’ve been feeling for this time I am spending with my son.  Harlan has been going back and forth between his dad’s house and mine since he was a toddler.  For most of his life, I haven’t been able to be with him every day.  As Harlan has grown and matured into a young man, he has naturally pulled away from me.  I have felt that this was right and natural for his age, and have accepted it as a milestone of growing up.

But to have this chance…a second chance if you will…to be with my son, to wake up with him every morning, to plan our days, to swim laps side by side, to eat together, to turn off the lights and go to sleep in unison – is a gift.

Don’t get me wrong, this ‘gift’ is not always appreciated or easy.  I am “on” as a parent 24/7, teaching, nudging, supervising, buying ingredients, making meals, cleaning up, (a lot of energy is spent around food – which anyone who knows me knows that is not my strong suit – cooking or feeding!)  Harlan is a typical teen – he is definitely not overjoyed to hang out with his mom every minute of every day.  In fact, he can lapse into morose silence quite easily.  And I can chatter happily about anything and everything, which bums him out.  What we do have is respect for each other and an ability to have conversations about what is annoying us.  We also share a sense of humor for most everything and can usually laugh about things.

I know I have been given a rare opportunity, at a time where most 15 year old boys are launching out in the world, establishing their independence, I have this precious window, a tiny sliver of time, to be with my son and parent him, perhaps fill in some of the blanks that I skipped or missed, to see him as the fine young man that he is vs. the cuddly little kid I sometimes wish he still was.  Harlan was the baby of the family and I still tend to want to baby him as my ‘go to’ first response.  I am getting to know him.  To think I may have missed this chance if not for this journey is a sobering thought.  This feels big and deep and personal.  Again, not easy for me to put into words.

Every day continues to present learning opportunities.  It’s crazy how much he is being introduced to by traveling as we are.  Here are just a few things I can think of in just the past few days:

  • Weather Patterns
  • Fires
  • Distance calculations
  • Different Cultures/Ethnicities
  • Food
  • Cooking
  • Cities
  • Music
  • Map reading
  • Camping
  • Solar panels
  • Interactions with all ages
  • Tides
  • Swimming/Cycling/Running
  • Nutrition
  • Self Awareness
  • Patience
  • Self Care
  • Hygiene

This week finds us finishing up our housesitting gig and enjoying the comforts of a home and cats.  Continuing to train (although the air is quite compromised which is imposing some rest days – probably a good thing) and we will push off on Sunday to a new destination.  Stay tuned and, as always, thanks for following along!

 

 

 

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Pt. Reyes

Week 3

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Landed in CA
Week 3 update.  The themes this past week have been:

  • Back to School
  • On the Road
  • I Love Music

Last week Lili started college at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.  She was happy as a clam at high tide (or I should say a geoduck to be exact.)  That’s the school mascot, voted #1 worst school mascot by MSN Now.   But “Greeners”  (as students/faculty from Evergreen are called) just laugh the haters off .  Before I left Lili at the parent send-off dinner, we were led in a rousing version of the school song:

Go, Geoducks go,

Through the mud and the sand,

let’s go.

Siphon high, squirt it out,

swivel all about,

let it all hang out.

Words to live by, for sure.  She’ll do just fine.

While my Road School sidekick was back in Boulder, playing his last 2 School of Rock gigs, I decided to head south to a warmer climate and find some sun.  I was thinking of naming the van “Sun Chaser” but that implies a lack of sun, so for now, she’s still nameless.  Anyone want to send in ideas?  We’d love suggestions!

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Need a Name!
The Washington coast is a fascinating mix of New England cranberry bogs and oyster farms and logging trucks with areas of clear-cut that make me sad.  Washington is beautiful and/but I find myself moody and melancholic there.

I loved Portland!  Such a great town.  I enjoyed meeting up with my girl Linda and her husband who have just bought a van and joined the rest of the United States traveling on the road.  #midlifevanlife for ever!

The California coast fills my heart with joy and I was blessed with no fog (repeat, no fog) and tons of sun.  The state is having a heat wave and we plan to take advantage of that next week.

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CA Coastline
While Harlan was back in Boulder it wasn’t all just down time and video games.  His favorite band (Reel Big Fish – a ska punk band) was playing in Longmont.  I had sent them an email, I found on their website a few weeks before. asking if Harlan could interview the band.  Last Monday I received an email from their manager who said Harlan should meet them at 7pm at the venue.  I was thrilled!  Harlan was terrified!  He worked with his advisor at Pacific Sands Academy to come up with relevant questions and his dad got him to the show.  Harlan was able to interview the trumpet player on the tour bus and it was a great learning experience for him to push through his nervousness and go for it!  He’s writing a paper about it all.

Picked up my buddy at the airport.  We are now free to dive into Road School 2017 without any further scheduled commitments.  Yay!  Looking forward to getting to the coast and beginning our triathlon training in earnest with swimming, running and biking and always living, loving and learning as we go.  Stay tuned and thanks for following along!

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West Coast Sunset