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 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 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

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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