Our wanderings

Our wandering path

Roadtreking Reprise: Photo Safari 2 (for us)

  • Roadtreks parked at Chewing Black Bones Campground on the Blackfeet Nation, just outside Glacier National Park.

You know I love The Epic Van. And I love the company that makes it, Roadtrek.

The first year we were on the road, we went to the Roadtreking Photo Safari near Yellowstone. It was a gathering of my kind of people. We still have friends from that first meetup.

Now, three years later, we just finished our second Roadtreking Photo Safari, this one near Glacier and, once again, it was a blast.

My personal thank-you list is looooong. So, here goes. Thanks to:

  • Roadtrek, Mike and Jennifer Wendland, and Mel, for helping create and nurture this great community and for all the work to put this week together.
  • The Blackfeet Nation for sharing their home, their chief’s leadership, their storyteller’s wisdom, their delicious food, their beautiful songs and their dancers’ gracefulness and strength.
  • Campskunk for his generosity in minor (and not so minor) unauthorized repairs, and just for being awesome. Sharon for coming out to mingle with the riffraff. It was the highlight of the week. And feline Fiona for letting me take her picture. So accommodating for such a celebrity.
  • Mary Ellen and Sue for arranging and inviting me to participate in the Creativity in a Camper. It was great fun and I loved hearing all the stories and advice from our fellow writers. And for the wonderful books that I’m already tearing through.
  • Mary Jane (we finally meet) for her amazing Wild Tea and discussion of cook book publication, and Jeff for being a stand-up tea guy and a great hiking companion.
  • Sandy and Lynne for being lovely neighbors and lunch partners, and for forgiving American politics on behalf of all Canadians.
  • Dan and Rhonda for a great lunch and more Canadian/American political crosstalk. Are all Canadians so calm, considerate and insightful? It seems so. And Dan for allowing us to watch his creativity in action with his painting.
  • Linda for re-congregating our first photo safari group (missing you Mary Z), for a great late-night visit with Pat, our new friend Janet, Steve (we know you’re itching to go full time) and the nice man with the whiskey whose name I’ve temporarily misplaced.
  • Jeremiah for being an excellent bus driver, guide, singer and storyteller, for remembering all our names, and meeting ALL our expectations. And for the book recommendation.
  • David and Nancy for being just as interesting as we remembered, updating us about your lives and bringing gluten-free chocolate dessert to the pot luck. You’re the best. Next time in Big Sur!!! With your new rig?
  • Yan and Kiki for taking us to Hidden Falls, sharing huckleberry sodas and a barefoot walk in the grass, and for initiating us into Kiki’s Realm. I still have a warm feeling about it, but it may be from what came out of the bottle.
  • The Everglades: A fragile river of grass

    • Sunset in Everglades National Park.

    The Florida Everglades, the River of Grass, feels fragile, like any moment a hurricane will wipe it off the map, or humans, after decades of abuse, will finally kill it, or invasive species will forever alter it.

    The longer you’re there, the more fragile it feels.

    Fun in Grand Mesa National Forest, western Colorado’s land of lakes and magnificent overlooks

    • The view from our campground spot on Cabbott Lake.

    By Tom Nichols

    I never heard any of my outdoor-loving friends in Arizona mention Grand Mesa National Forest. There are so many wonderfully eroded canyons and expansive mesas in Utah and Arizona, so many famous peaks and alpine parks in Colorado’s Front Range, it’s little wonder that Grand Mesa National Forest, the nation’s biggest tabletop mountain, is never mentioned.

    Summer freedom: Warning lights and a stunning Colorado road

    • A tin-roofed barn nestled in a valley along Colorado 145.

    By Tom Nichols

    There’s nothing more liberating than returning to The Epic Van and setting course for Glacier National Park, the next leg of our Year Four adventure. I feel like a first-grader on the first day of summer vacation.

    Don’t call my awesome ride an RV

    • Sitting on the steps of The Epic Van in Texas's Palo Duro Canyon with our folding bikes and Pippi, our 16-year-old cat, who traveled with us until she went to the road trip in the sky.

    This may be totally stupid, but I have a hostile reaction when people say, “Oh, you’re driving around in an RV. Cool. My grandmother does that.”

    This usually happens after I’ve told them of our totally awesome, unconventional, fearless life on the road. After I’ve specifically told them that I live in a big camper van. (Which, OK, technically is an RV but, in my world, is my free-spirit house on wheels.)

    La Manzanilla, Mexico: Baby needs new shoes

    • Jackie rings the bell.

    In La Manzanilla, Mexico, and its surrounding villages, shoes can be hard to come by.

    Especially if you’re poor. And you’re a kid.

    So Lucero Castelazo, who now runs her late mother’s place, Casa Maria en La Manzanilla, also carries on Maria’s charitable spirit, collecting and distributing shoes for kids who need them. She gets money from friends and buys discounted shoes from companies in her hometown of Leon, a shoe-manufacturing mecca. Then she hauls them in her white van to La Manzanilla.

    When we visited for Christmas, we were lucky enough to be included in a couple of the distribution runs.

    La Manzanilla: Crocs, cameras and cormorants

    • Primi piloting the boat while Tom spots birds.

    At the end of the main road in La Manzanilla, after the farmacia and the paleta shop and the sidewalk stand of charcoal-roasted chicken and the stacks of beach toys and the tiny bodegas and the place with the coldest cerveza, you come to a chain link fence marking the edge of the crocodile preserve.

    La Manzanilla, Mexico: The warmth of sun and friends

    • The view toward the ocean at Casa Maria en La Manzanilla.

    I love Mexico. LOVE IT. The sun, heat and white-sand beaches take me back to Hawaii, where I grew up. The art is amazing, and the food makes me swoon in delight. I go whenever I get the chance.

    I hadn’t been since we started our full-time adventure in The Epic Van more than three years ago and was in dire need of a fix. So, we decided to get out of The Epic Van, take a vacation from our endless vacation, and spend last Christmas with the Castelazo family in La Manzanilla, Mexico, a small fishing village on the Pacific coast south of Puerto Vallarta. We celebrated the holidays early with family and friends in Scottsdale, left The Epic Van in mom’s driveway, and jumped on a plane.

    Speed tourism in Austin

    • Barbecue at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew in Austin, Texas.

    There’s a lot to love in Austin, Texas, and we only had 24 hours. So, we went for it. Here’s our visit hour by hour.

    Bravado and simple charm at LBJ’s Hill Country ranch

    • The reconstructed birthplace of Lyndon Baines Johnson on LBJ's Ranch.

    I remember seeing a photo of Lyndon Baines Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One after President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, LBJ’s wife Lady Bird and JFK’s widow Jackie by his side. The Kennedys were planning to spend the night at LBJ’s ranch on that day when Camelot died. I was eight years old.

    Visiting LBJ’s ranch is a strange mix of nostalgia for simpler times and a fairy tale the president created about his own life as a Texas cattleman. You can visit his birthplace, his first school and a living-history farm that gives you a sense of the hardscrabble times in which he was growing up.

    2 Comments

    1. Reply
      electricscootershq.org March 1, 2017

      Nomads and the civilised look at each other with disapproval and misunderstanding. Why would anyone want to wander the wilderness and live in a tent? Why would anyone want to live in a box and obey unnecessary masters?

      • Reply
        Judy Nichols March 3, 2017

        Ali, Mostly we’ve found people think it’s really cool. Many tell us they dream of being able to wander the world. Are you a nomad?

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