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


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

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.

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!




Pt. Reyes

Week 4

Evening Run


Week 4 has just ended. There have been some subtle shifts – in the climate as well as within myself.

Flashing back to Week 1 (where I agonized over every decision and tried to plan out every detail before the moment happened) I have to say that I am proud of how Harlan and I navigate our world these days.

Last Tuesday Harlan arrived in California. We immediately headed down to Santa Cruz. We had no idea where we would park or stay, we just knew the weather was beautiful and we both felt compelled to get down there.

On the drive down to Santa Cruz, I asked Harlan to google “Santa Cruz RV Park” and lo and behold, there is one! And it’s got the best view in town, right at the back of the Santa Cruz Harbor. Harlan handled the reservations on the phone and we were all set. Instead of stressing out, it felt very easy and stress-free.

Our View


Instead of driving around Santa Cruz, we plugged in the van to the power adapter at the camp site and rode bikes everywhere we wanted to go – surf shops, the grocery store, the gym, my yoga studio, the community pool to swim laps, etc. Harlan would ride his skateboard to the beach or the coffee shop each morning. It was an idyllic week – with big thanks to Miriam for loaning us 2 bikes so we could cruise around SC so easily.

Other than the absolute joy of being so close to the ocean, and seeing old friends, a highlight for me was going to a special service (called Kol Nidrei) the night before Yom Kippur. When I went to yoga on Friday morning at the Pacific Cultural Center, I saw that there was a Kol Nidrei service that evening and all were welcome. I am so glad that Harlan and I went. Even though we were with a group of strangers, the beautiful songs were familiar and gave us a chance to remember family members who have died and say prayers for them.

We rode our bikes home in the dark and just before we went to sleep, Harlan said he was glad we had gone (and that we had stayed for the entire service!)

Since Santa Cruz kicked off our triathlon training, we are bumping it up a notch and are now headed to Napa where we will do some serious road riding and swimming. Now that we know the event is coming up, the thought of a quarter mile swim in the San Francisco Bay is a bit daunting, so we are trying to get some quantity time in at every lap pool in each town we stay.  Luckily, that’s been very easy and affordable, with nice outdoor city pools still open in October – and a great way to shower too!
The weather has been absolutely gorgeous! The days have been warm and sunny and/but we are definitely noticing the shorter days and chillier nights.

Fall is in the air


Regarding Harlan’s studies, I want to share that our travels are providing many opportunities for “teaching moments” and I can see Harlan absorbing all of it. I keep introducing different situations and people to him and he stays open and observant, as well as good-natured most of the time.
As I spoke about in our Week 3 update, Harlan had the good fortune to interview one of his favorite bands – Reel Big Fish. After the interview we sent a ‘thank you’ email to the trumpet player, John Christianson, who sent back a lovely reply with a quote from Mark Twain that I think sums up the mission of Road School 2017:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Until next week my friends. Thank you for following along with us.

Lap Swim

Week 3

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!

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.

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!

West Coast Sunset

Week 2

Week 2 has flown by, and it’s been a whirlwind! The three themes have been: 

  • Plans Changing
  • Stormy Weather
  • Staying Loose

Or, to sum it up in one sentence: We drove 1200 miles in four days!

Talk about learning opportunities! Harlan has been a Jedi Master re. going with the flow.  Everyone we dealt with this entire week has been super adaptable and supportive as a matter of fact. 

Harlan and I were originally set to spend several days in Seattle with close friends, exploring the city and hanging out, but fixing the van’s broken refrigerator became our top priority. 

Last week our refrigerator stopped working. This was a big bummer. I put a call into Campervan North America (our great rental company) and Kathy asked if we might be able to drive to Bozeman so she could switch out the fridge. 

My immediate response was to say “No way!” It’s a long drive and completely in the opposite direction of our itinerary. 

But when I looked at the map, I saw that Bozeman was equidistant between Seattle and Boulder and an idea began to form…Harlan was supposed to fly back to Denver to do one final School of Rock show and Lili, my daughter, was supposed to fly out to Seattle to begin her freshman year of college in Washington. 
Instead of all those flights, what if I drove Harlan to Bozeman and Jeff drove Lili up to Bozeman and we switched kids? Jeff could drive Harlan back down to Boulder for his show and I could spend a few days with Lili in the van driving her to school.
I made a few calls and after a few minutes of discussion, everyone was on board with the plan. Harlan and I set out on our drive to Bozeman the next morning.  

Along the way we drove through Eastern Washington, the top of Idaho and North Western Montana. The smoke was so thick at times you could hardly see. It smelled like someone was having a campfire in the van.

When we arrived in Bozeman, the cold rain had started and we were grateful to stop at the Hot Springs/RV Park to soak off the chill. 
Harlan checked the weather for the next day and, to our dismay, read that there was a winter storm warning in effect with up to 12″ of snow predicted in the mountain passes we had just crossed. There was no way I wanted to drive this 22 foot behemoth back over those passes!

No mittens. Brrrr
Uh Oh
This view…for days

Harlan proposed an idea… What if we drove south avoiding the worst of the winter weather and met Jeff and Lili in Cheyenne? I thought it was a great idea because it meant I wouldn’t have to drive over those hairy steep passes and I could cruise along Interstate 80 back to Washington via a new route. I called Jeff who happily agreed. 
Friday morning arrived with a freezing drizzle. My heart went out to the folks who were sleeping in tents nearby. Brrrrrrr! (I continue to remain grateful for the shelter and warmth of this amazing van.) 
We headed over to Campervan North America to meet the folks who have helped make this dream a reality. On the way over Harlan practiced his handshake (firm but not too crushing) and tied his hair back (which I asked him to do.)  
True to her word, Kathy switched the refrigerator out  (it’s working perfectly – yay) and we immediately got on the road. On our drive South we encountered snow, driving rain, gusty winds and lightning! I am so glad we didn’t drive north because I know it would’ve been worse.
We pulled into Cheyenne after dark and did a quick meet up with Jeff and Lili. Jeff headed back down to Boulder with Harlan, and Lili and I set off across Wyoming the next morning. We made it into Idaho on our first night and enjoyed seeing Boise the next day. Rolled into Portland the following night and spent a nice afternoon exploring the Hawthorne district before driving up to Olympia. 
The low points last week were some of the driving conditions – you name it – I drove in it! Lightning, snow, hail, rain, forest fires and hours of gusty winds. I had a couple back to back 500+ mile driving days that I don’t want to repeat. And there was one campground in Idaho that was particularly devoid of charm. (Freight trains roared past our van the entire night. I still have no clue how Harlan got any sleep that night!)
Some highlights were the way Harlan and I navigated change and worked together to come up with creative solutions. 
We had a great discussion about one of the tenets of Buddhism being “no hope, no fear” (i.e. non-attachment ) and how that’s the best way to travel. Each day we worked out a schedule only to completely toss it out the window for a revised plan. Staying loose and seeing what magic awaits when we surrender to the universe vs. trying to force our own agenda was a huge lesson for us this past week. 
We also had many opportunities to talk about our country, the weather, and the effects of global warming that we were witnessing in real time, in real life.

I’m really grateful Lili and I had three whole days together in the van before I dropped her off at college. I can hardly believe she is sleeping in her dorm tonight! Harlan and I will check in on her next week and see how she’s doing.

What an incredibly full week! I’m taking a few days off to rest and take it easy and catch up on my writing. Stay tuned for week 3. 

Made it!
Tiny Library
Ready for school

Week 1

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park – Harlan
Week One has come to a close.  Could it really have been only one week ago that we arrived in Seattle to pick up the van?   (We need a name for this ride!)

Here are some observations in no particular order:

From Harlan:  So far, in this first week, this journey has been a bit of everything. Mostly learning, a good amount of physical pain*, waiting, hopefulness and complete boredom. I’ve been messing around on my skateboard and have been excited with the progress as well as optimism for my future of skating. As we are going along with the trip, my excitement for the rest of the remaining months is only going up.

*from skating

From Roxanna:  The Pacific Northwest can be both achingly beautiful – as in my soul leaps in true moments of joy while I drive on the backroads of Olympic National Park.  And it can also feel like the loneliest/quietest place in the world.

My mood is directly proportionate to the amount of sunlight I am experiencing.

I am able to do more than I ever imagined.  I have jimmied fuses to get a diesel stove-top  working, dealt with “blackwater” (which has absolutely nothing to do with the awesome song with that name), checked solar power battery gauges, emptied the gray water, maneuvered tight parking spaces, and the list continues to grow.

Sleeping bags suck to have hot flashes in.  Like for real.

Harlan hates the name Road School. This dismays me. I love it. I am not going to cave on this one.

Real maps (as in paper) are cool and often more reliable that WAZE.

It’s good to have a little alone time each day and my son is the one who broke that to me on Day 1.  He’s right!

When things get weird, go for a walk.  Nature always helps.

This trip sometimes feels like it will be over in a blink and other times stretches out to infinity, like the drip drip drip of the rain drops on our windshield.

Routine is good; falling into an easy pattern of setting up the bed and flossing (yes, every day) and brushing teeth before bed and conversely, stowing sleeping bags, folding blankets, brushing teeth (yes, twice a day) can bring a nice rhythm to the day.

Harlan has a good heart with a soft spot for underdogs.  I really love that about him.  I am appreciating the opportunity to get to know my son for who he is, not necessarily who I want him to be or who I think he is.  And in all the space that we have created, I am learning more about him and about myself than I ever would have thought.