Today, August 26, 2022, after a lifetime of work, family and responsibility, beneath those crazy stars my wife Donna and I are setting out from Buffalo, NY to see and experience America in our first van life expedition. Our mode of transportation will be a sleek, 2019 Ram Promaster van equipped with solar panels, 600 amp hours of power, a gas stove, refrigerator, shower, double bed, USB ports etc.— all the comforts of home.
Friday, August 26, 2022
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Paul Westerberg. It might seem a little perilous to meet and stay with people you've known only by way of social media/text, but I had met enough of the Westerberg crew over the last twenty years to know it was going to be okay.
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
We pulled out beneath the gray sky and picked up a couple of coffees and some sticky homemade muffins at the Mackinaw Bakery. Donna also bought a couple of tchotchkes at the bakery—small decorative ship anchors because I don’t know, we were near water? I don’t understand the tchotchke thing at all.
From there we crossed the wondrous 26,372 foot Mackinac Bridge over Lake Michigan to the upper peninsula. Such a massive and magnificent structure makes you think with resources and commitment the things people can do together are limitless.
Monday, August 22, 2022
Sunday, August 21, 2022
We were trying to hit the road by 7am, but with goodbyes got off a little late. We planned to drive for seven of the nine hours it took to get to the Badlands in South Dakota. Badlands—Tuesday and then Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custard State Park on Wednesday before moving onto the Grand Tetons in the later part of the week.
Saturday, August 20, 2022
We pulled out of our little Oacomo Flatts paradise about 9am and went rocking down the sunshine filled rolling South Dakota hills along 90W at 75mph—speed limit 80. We listened to a playlist called “Home” which I made for a friend who was moving out of state. I never quite got it to him, but it was literally songs about planes, trains and automobiles ranging from “Leaving on a Jet Plane” to “Take the A Train” to “No Cars Go” and it was freaking awesome.
If you’re wondering about the rules for these free dispersed camping sites they’re pretty simple. You can stay for up to two-weeks, you need to be one-hundred feet from water and self-contained, meaning—take your garbage. That’s pretty much it.
As the sun set the infield ring was pretty full with tents and we had a couple of vans, at a comfortable distance on either side of us last night. Our neighbor to the left, Steve, was from Washington and was on his way home from a high school reunion in Madison, Wisconsin. He drove VW Eurovan and was an Environmental Toxologist—he studied the pollution levels in the air, land and water. He was also a birder. We shared a cup of coffee with him and he pointed out a western meadowlark to us which had a beefy yellow breast. He got his camera out and took some pictures of the bird that were really good. Nice guy.
Friday, August 19, 2022
The plan for the day was Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and
Custer State Forest.
The dirt road out of Sage Creek seemed much rougher on the way out than on the way in. This may have been an illusion produced by the excitement of arriving and the disappointment of leaving—we really loved the stars, grassy hills and the little prairie rodents in this dehydrated inferno paradise.
Thursday, August 18, 2022
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
While there really wasn't a way for Donna not to hear me when I woke up at 4am, I did try to limit the impact by setting up the coffee the night before and writing by the light of my laptop screen and my high-powered rechargeable flash light pointing at the van wall. This provided more than enough illumination for me to work without affecting Donna all that much even though she is a light sleeper.
Monday, August 15, 2022
Sunday, August 14, 2022
At the beginning of our second day on the road my oldest brother Joe, sent an unprompted text that said: “Let Donna drive, you patriarchal bastard.”
Despite the great night watching the sun fall behind the Tetons, Donna’s superb fire and listening to Outlaw Country on SiriusXM, I couldn’t sleep. I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the blog that I typically wake up by about 4am, but out here doing the van thing a new pattern has emerged—one night 4am, next night 2am. This was a 2am night.
Saturday, August 13, 2022
Unlike the previous night when I was in a state of delirium comparing myself to Shakespeare and wrongly thinking I was so clever and funny her response to my behavior from the night before was hilarious. Almost always, unless I’ve been a real asshole about something, I can smooth things over by complying to her commands and corrections by smiling at her and muffling my laughter. She’ll eventually smile back, womansplain what I did wrong, and we’ll move on like have for nearly three decades.
Friday, August 12, 2022
Donna is an introvert, and the numbers presented by my family can overwhelm her and shut her down. So, she again hung back at the hotel while we went for coffee at the Airbnb, then later during the pre-wedding picnic and still later for the Bills game that night at Sidelines Sports Bar. It’s an odd thing to explain where she is sometimes and to convince family members it's just a numbers thing and she does like them. But, after three decades I’m so over these lame explanations and have taken to just saying she’s sick of me and is hanging back to do her own thing—they get that.
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Starvin Arvin’s is at 1320 S. Townsend Avenue in Montrose and is fabulous. When we pulled up at just past 10am the parking lot was packed, so we sent Caroline—did I mention Caroline is a great animation artist and you should check out her Instagram and then hire her? —inside to see how long the wait would be. She sent a text back almost immediately, that they had a table for us right now. Once inside I wasn’t surprised. The place was rocking.
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Monday, August 8, 2022
The deep brown rock and sheer walls were perhaps less visually appealing than say the Grand Canyon, but the magnitude of this place was not to be taken for granted. The Ute Indians occupied this area of Colorado for ten-thousand years but avoided the canyon for superstitious reason. My newfound fear of heights quickly came to the surface standing at the barricaded edges of the canyon, and I totally got where the Ute were coming from about their superstitions. While the formation and beauty of such a place boggles the mind there is little good that could come from significant interaction with the canyon—namely a sure and painful death with one slip or fall.
Sunday, August 7, 2022
Caroline spent the day following up on job opportunities and I worked on this blog and did laundry. Doing laundry, I watched clips on YouTube of the previous day’s NFL games and basked in the glory of my first fantasy football win of the year. I’m a little football obsessed these days, to say the least. Myself and three of my oldest friends have a very active group text where ninety percent of the content is Bills/football related and the other ten percent is us lying about how cool we were in high school. In the drought years by the middle of October the Bills would usually be like 2-4 and I would check out, choosing to use my Sundays for other things. I like the Bills being relevant much better.
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Friday, August 5, 2022
Thursday, August 4, 2022
We encountered truly stunning terrain with the rising sun kissing the face of the craggy red buttes as we descended toward Sedona. Though we only stopped for gas and a greasy microwave sausage and egg sandwich on a croissant it was obvious why everyone comes here. The little town was incredibly bright and sunny, lined with endless shops, restaurants and cacti. Of course, as we slowly made our way through the turn-abouts that cut through the center of town I thought about the water source and how many teacups Donna would find here. (Ground water is the primary source).
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
After Caroline got up, I made us some egg-white breakfast burritos with peppers, onions, cheddar cheese and turkey bacon. Caroline was quiet and again I could sort of tell she was thinking about her job situation. But I didn’t say much this time. I’m usually not one of these people who has some—the sun will come out tomorrow—cliché to soothe your troubled soul. When people have tried to lift me up with these kinds of statements they typically don’t land quite right. I appreciate the good intentions, but they never really did anything to make my situation better. Caroline needed someone to give her an opportunity not me vomiting out useless platitudes.
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
I spent a lazy day here working on the blog and watching people back their big campers in and out of their spots. It’s a thing of beauty to see the counter-intuitive action of turning the steering wheel on your vehicle in the opposite direction of where you wanted your trailer to go. I congratulated a guy who put a thirty-foot Airstream in a spot in one try. He said, “Thank you,” and looked at me like I was nuts.
Monday, August 1, 2022
|Karen & RJ's House|
Sunday, July 31, 2022
|Caroline in Buffalo|
Saturday, July 30, 2022
Friday, July 29, 2022
This was a trend I was noticing at these sites—the late camper that would pull in after dark and leave early the next morning. These were mostly young people who I suppose pushed themselves to the limit trying to wring as much out of the day as possible . . . and smartly didn’t saddle themselves with writing a blog about their experiences. Now that I’m thinking about it I don’t think I really saw any people my age at these BLM sites besides Steve, the birder/ The Environmental Toxocologist with VW Eurovan at Sage Creek outside of the Badlands. The older people were at the RV parks with their fancy toilets, satellite dishes and reruns of the Golden Girls.
Thursday, July 28, 2022
It was hot all night and hard to sleep at the North Joshua Tree BLM site where I had been camped out for about thirty-six hours—like ninety-five degrees hot when I got up. For the most part I had gotten away from my every other night wake up at 2am thing and was back to my regular schedule but it was so unbearably hot during the night in the van I got up and sat outside in just my shorts for a long time without much relief. I did doze off in my chair for bit and was awoken by the sound of howling coyotes—I think they were saying: “We got a fat one here. All hands-on deck.”
I went back inside and slept restlessly for a few more hours. When I got up my pillow was wet with sweat. I opened up the van hoping for a little respite from the inferno that was the van. The shade was there but unlike the previous day there wasn’t a trace of coolness in the air. Like with the flies outside I was going to have to accept the heat and be Zen about it. I again got on my jacket and skull cap and sat outside to fend off the bugs. That didn’t last long though because the heat was just unbearable.
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
I took a quick run around the Joshua Tree one last time and still didn’t find what I was looking for or Cap rock, which was perfectly fine with me. The real highlight of the morning was a second chance to ride that wonderful, desolate desert road Rt. 62 out of Twentynine Palms going east this time.
Monday, July 25, 2022
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Today was going to be a travel day. My ultimate destination was the BLM site Six Mile Canyon in New Mexico which was a touch over four hours from FR-525— which I really hated to leave. However, I was going to add about three hours to my ride with detours through Rough Rock, Arizona and Canyon De Chelly in nearby Chinle, Arizona.
Saturday, July 23, 2022
Today’s little odyssey came with a Texas twist. My brother Joe is a big shot at Cooper Natural Resources, and though he wasn’t going to be there he had arranged for me to stay at the company’s hunting ranch in Brownfield, Texas, just south of Lubbock. This west Texas oasis is used to entertain clients and is normally unoccupied, but as fate would have it, I was passing through the area at the height of dove hunting season.
Friday, July 22, 2022
Thursday, July 21, 2022
|Tom Landry's Fedora|
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
If the hundred-mile stretch of burning desolation on Rt 62 out of Twenty-Nine Palms, California near Joshua Tree was the best ride of my trip, the ride out of Arlington on Rt 30E was the worst. Google had alerted me that just outside the city there would be a thirty minute delay due to an accident. These Google Alerts had been pretty good at predicting slow downs in densely populated metro centers but not so great in more rural areas. They nailed this one to the minute as I set out on my eight hour ride through northeast Texas and Arkansas toward Memphis.
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
|Kev, Me, Rich H.|
Monday, July 18, 2022
Truth be told, I could have made another week on the road with ease. Of course, I would’ve had to figure out where to go. Virginia Beach in mid-October sounded like a good detour, maybe some museums in D.C. or the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. One big takeaway from this trip was this itinerant road life was very agreeable to me. I’ll talk more about that in a summing up conclusion post.
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We pulled out beneath the gray sky and picked up a couple of coffees and some sticky homemade muffins at the Mackinaw Bakery. Donna also bou...