Like everyone across the world, our plans have been disrupted by coronavirus.
We’re grounded, grateful for a place to shelter, dreaming of the day we’ll be back on the road, and reviewing the fabulous times we’ve had in five-plus years of nomadic living.
Judy and I renewed our nomadic vows for our longest Epic Van journey since we began in 2015. We vowed to use best practices learned over nearly 100,000 miles of wandering to make our 2019 journey from Oregon to Maryland, and back to Arizona, our most rewarding adventure yet. For us, best practice revolves on leisurely rhythm and simplicity: wake up at 9 a.m., stop for a couple of hours every day and appreciate our natural heritage and neighbors; witness our history, through trails, landmarks, national parks and forests, historic downtowns, museums and roadside oddities; read something from a book and share one together; improve healthfulness through better diet and frequent hiking, and blog about it a little bit more! So here’s our report card on 10 weeks and 8,449 miles on the road:
“It does not matter what material we use. We need the technique and we need the idea. And then we need the poetry, the love that transforms the material into a piece of art.” – glass artist Lino Tagliapietra
Our recent visit to the Corning Museum of Glass in Rochester, New York, was an awesome kaleidoscope of color, texture, history, passion and whimsy. We spent hours wandering its halls, learning of the ancient making and uses of glass, watching glassblowing in the museum’s demonstration studio, where New York-based artist Deborah Czeresko, winner of the recent Netflix competition show Blown Away, was making glass potatoes with sprouts, and walking wide-eyed through the contemporary galleries. It is inspiring to see the infinite viewpoints of the artists and the deft manipulation of the delicate medium. Here are some images, with the museum’s descriptions, for your visual enjoyment.
We ran into another pair in the laundromat yesterday. A couple whose eyes burned with unfulfilled desire as they peered into the van. “You live here?” “Really?”
As we give them a tour, extolling the virtues of our “Minimal home, maximum life,” listening to their longtime dream of a life on the road, talking about where we camp, how many miles we’ve driven, all the places we’ve visited, we gently broach the subject of hobbies.
It’s the one subject that can kill the dream. If you like to garden, you need a patch of dirt. No go in The Epic Van. Although I have seen campers with hanging plants outside their rigs. Totally weird to me. You’re a woodworker with a lathe? You better hang onto your workshop. Taxidermy. Not enough walls.
Our hobbies – books, hiking, history, yoga, museums, food, photography, blogging – neatly tuck into our home on wheels. Almost. There is the knitting challenge.
I once read (and I can’t remember where) that a man greeted friends and family not with the usual, “How have you been?” but with, “What are you reading?” I thought it was a brilliant place to begin a deep and insightful conversation about what someone is thinking. And if it’s not the first thing we ask people, it usually comes up fairly quickly.
We just spent a week with cousins Patsy and John Grady, two of our favorite readers, and shared many suggestions that were quickly typed into our iPhone notes under Books Not Yet Loved.
We read on our iPads, digitally checking out books from our Scottsdale library, and from “real” books we bring with us from our holiday book exchange, and others we pick up in our travels. And we read aloud to each other, me reading to Tom while he’s driving or cooking, Tom reading to me at night, because my voice instantly puts him to sleep.
What are we reading? Get out your iPhone. Here’s some of them:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer
Here are some lovely trees, and flowers, and fungi, and leaves, and water, and a snake, all seen at the Holden Arboretum near Cleveland, Ohio. Enjoy!
Yellow Pine, Idaho, is rooting into in my heart.
It’s a modern pioneer town of about 50 people, 70 miles from the nearest town, carved out of the wilderness on the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River as a stopping point for miners. Its post office opened in 1906.
Every time we visit, we learn to love it a little more: its remoteness, its natural beauty, its unique residents, and its quirky rituals.
So many places. So little time. Check out some of the cool things we’ve seen.
All my Montana photos are full of sky.
Our hike through the Oregon Dunes was a lesson in how man can screw up nature, wrecking perfectly functioning ecosystems, probably beyond repair.
We’ve hiked other dunes in Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and the gypsum sands in White Sands, New Mexico. So I was expecting to be slipping and sliding my way up and over shifting peaks. Instead, other than a few, small patches of sand, we were trudging over stable trails, under the shade of tall trees, hemmed in by bushes. What the hell kind of dunes were these?
Well, they’re dunes altered by man’s ignorance.
In March, we drove through Alabama, just a week before the anniversary of the 1965 civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, and we paused to witness the racial struggle still happening in our country.
We walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and as we reached the crest, I could hear the voice of one of the marchers from the spoken history at Selma’s Interpretive Center. She saw Sheriff Jim Clark and his goons waiting for them: “I knew we were going to get beat.”
We followed the road the marchers eventually took to Montgomery, the fields where they slept, now marked with plaques, and made our way to the newest twinned museum and monument, the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which traces the direct line from slavery to lynching to forced labor to today’s mass incarceration, and the searing National Memorial to Peace and Justice, which documents the unprosecuted, officially sanctioned, serial lynchings across the south.
And we attended Sunday services at Montgomery’s First Baptist Church where we saw community sadness, solidarity and struggle, along with hope for the future.