Posts By Judy Nichols

Turns out The Epic Van is hedonic thwarting machine

  • Daybreak at our camp at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California.

There are some things you just know. In your gut. But it’s nice when science proves you right.

Like I know that I’ve been measurably happier in the six years since Tom and I quit our jobs, sold our house and started wandering the country in our fancy-ass camper van. When people ask, I tell them, without irony, that I love every minute. Every minute.

Now I know why. Scientifically. And it’s called thwarting hedonic adaptation.

From the archives: Big Bend National Park

  • A roadrunner welcomed us to the last site at Cottonwood Campground.

While we’ve got the emergency brake on, I thought we’d share some of our favorite spots from our five years on the road.

One of the top 10 is Big Bend National Park. Here’s the post from our visit there:

Big Bend National Park: Two campsites, four hikes and a burro ride

Emergency brake on

  • The beach at La Manzanilla.

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.

West to East Chronicles – A report card on our coast-to-coast adventure

  • Rolling along the highway.

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:

 

Translucent vision: The Corning Museum of Glass

  • Endeavor by Lino Tagliapietra. A flock of birds, a school of fish, a fleet of boats - the abstracted shapes of this sculpture lead us to find meaning and beauty in form, pattern, and repetition. Here, Tagliapietra was inspired the fleet of ornately decorated gondolas that gather in the Venitian lagoon for the Fiesta della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension of the Virgin.)

“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.

Joy comes in the morning … with knitting needles

  • Knitting fingerless gloves for Christmas gifts the first year in The Epic Van.

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.

‘What are you reading?’ he asked

  • Road reading with sunset and bugs.

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:

Trees, trees, trees … and a snake

  • View through the leaves of a blackgum.

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: Pioneer perfection

  • A view of Yellow Pine.

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.

Epic views: Shot of the day

  • A view from Skyline Drive in Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.

So many places. So little time. Check out some of the cool things we’ve seen.

All my Montana photos are full of sky.