Showing posts with label Roadtrek travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roadtrek travel. Show all posts

Friday, May 5, 2017

Start it up! - SW Road Trip Spring 2017

Lenticular clouds shifted and slithered for hours entertaining us in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA, early on our spring 2017 road trip. More photos below.

We're back from five weeks touring the Southwest and Texas, and, as usual, I have way too many photos and stories. I rarely have time to blog while traveling in our small  Roadtrek van, but I attempt to jot down a daily account of trip highlights. I'm looking at it now, and deciding how to start. How about at the beginning?

The real beginning, of course, is a belief that life is short and we need to forget about amassing material treasures and instead gather treasured moments while we're able. Travel is one way to become a collector of experiences, and it is good.

In mid-March we drove from our southern Oregon home to Beatty, NV stopping a couple nights in Reno to admire the grandchildren. We need a grandkid fix every couple months so their adorable selves don't disappear, in our absence, into children we hardly know, and who don't know us. Most of our road trips involve a night or two with them, coming or going. Ok. Just one photo. 

 Noah and Hadley sharing a secret. She may be asking him if he has bacon to share. 

The Actual Trip

Beatty, NV on Hwy 95 is a gateway to Death Valley, and as such, has developed a quirky character. It's good to spend a night there, or nearby, if only to get an early start into the park, the entrance to which is just 32 miles west. Early morning light in Death Valley is not to be missed. Get up early!

During a road trip to the Southwest in 2007, we stopped at Rhyolite, a ghost town just a few miles outside Beatty en route to Death Valley.  It's well worth your time. We stopped again this year, for old time's sake, to discover that it's even better now. Something important we've learned after thousands of road miles; it isn't just the national parks and famous attractions that make traveling's also Rhyolite and other roadside oddities, small surprises that you often enjoy in blissful solitude, as we did in Rhyolite, or a sparse crowd, as in the Alabama Hills. (Coming right up!)

These ghostly Last Supper sculptures in Rhyolite are eerie and evocative. 
Rhyolite sculptures appear to gang up on our van. Also at Rhyolite: a house made from glass bottles, a colorful stone mosaic sofa, and a huge labyrinth. 
The sofa had been brightened up since we last saw it.
We've explored Death Valley several times, including during the 2016 Super Bloom (many photos) so  we put on blinders and drove through. Without the blinders, the park's beauty may have sucked us in again. But we had other plans.

Climbing out of Death Valley over the Panamint Mountains into California, however, we stopped for a quick hike at a place we'd missed on earlier trips, Father Crowley Point Overlook. Surprise!
These photographers, plus a few more, were clearly waiting, but for what?  They seemed pleased at our interest, even offering us a cold beer, and told breathless tales about having seen fighter jets fly through the canyon below them several times, including earlier this same day. Once was not enough; these guys were hoping for a rare appearance by the Blue Angels. We hung around for an hour or so before our need to find a camp near Lone Pine, CA, became greater than our desire to see screaming fast jets make impossibly tight turns through the narrow canyon.
Imagine fighter jets flying below this canyon's rim. According to the photographers, they do so almost daily. Check it out, should you find yourself at Father Crowley Point.

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

Just outside Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills rest in the glory of their movie days —at least 150 films or TV productions since the 1920s—while most travelers scoot by on the ultra scenic Hwy. 395, not knowing what they're missing. Alabama Hills, managed by the BLM, is a jumble of impressive  puffy-looking rocks and formations with the Sierra Nevadas, including Mt. Whitney, as a backdrop. 

Sunrise as seen from our dispersed campsite in the Alabama Hills. The Sierra Nevada Mountains glow in the early light, including Mt. Whitney, with the Hills in the foreground. We didn't arrive until after 3 p.m. the previous day, and had to hunt for a camp. Not bad, since it was spring break. There an official campground, where we stayed on an earlier road trip, before we learned that we could just drive around and camp any place that wasn't blocked to preserve vegetation. I don't think there's a boring view in the Hills. A person could spend a few days exploring on foot, including a loop trail to a famous arch. This place is a gem. 

Photography bonanza

Since our trip to Africa in 2013,  during which my best travel day ever occurred, I've come to see the world through a camera lens. I don't think of photography as missing out on the moment, but an opportunity to see more closely, more clearly, to be more aware of how landscapes and people intersect, and how light, color and form create magic. The light on the mountains in the panoramic photo above lasted a minute or two, max. I caught this view shortly after I awakened in the van and peeked out of my mountainside window. The sky was pink! The mountains were golden!

I threw on pants and a jacket, leapt from the van, snapped the photo above and a couple more, then RAN to the nearby Mobious Arch, maybe a quarter mile away, the object of which was to frame the sunrise on the mountains through the window of the arch. I was carrying my Lumix Panasonic camera, which I purchased for that fabulous trip to Africa, but I mostly used an iPhone7Plus. Except for telephoto shots, I now prefer the phone to the Lumix.
I documented our location on the Earth before charging toward the Mobius Arch. The light had already changed. Still good, but lacked the glow present just a minute earlier.
By the time I got to the arch, the pink sky and golden light on the mountains had disappeared, but the sun now shone gold on the arch. How fleeting the moments of beauty, and how relative. Had I not seen the pink and intense gold a short time earlier, I would have thought this photo was great. Next time I'll set an alarm.
That's a relatively small photography vantage point that I asked permission to share with a pro photographer who beat me to the arch by a half hour! He was most gracious. When I started to leave after light faded on the mountains, he urged me to wait for the sun to light up the arch. The sun obliged in a minute or two. 
The Alabama Hills have set the scene for numerous film and TV
productions, many of them Westerns.The couple above are modeling
for an outdoor gear catalog. 

Sunset the previous night saw the lenticular clouds settling into the Sierra Nevadas.

We sipped wine in our camp chairs, grateful for the present moment and those still ahead of us on road, where many surprises awaited. 
Next up: Joshua Tree National Park

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Forty-nine days on the road together? Not so bad. Really.

We recently returned to our rural Oregon home after a seven-week 10,000-mile cross-continental road trip (and back) in a class B - that means small - Roadtrek van. Holy moly! 10,000 miles! Just the two of us! (In the serious RV world, our trip is puny. Lots of Class B RV people practically live in their vans, along with their dogs, cats, and significant others. And they do so for months!)
A selfie taken near Yellowstone National Park in October 2008, our first road trip after PK's retirement.
Lots of folks express envy about our adventures, but, at the same time, others are horrified, incredulous, appalled, repulsed, terrified, or nauseated at the prospect of spending that much time in close quarters with their mates.

Here's a representative comment, uttered (sputtered?) by a dear friend in a long-term loving marriage. (A woman. Men don't confide in me like this.)

She said:  I can't imagine spending that much time with "his name." I'd go crazy! How the hell do you do it?

My friend is in a niche demographic of much-appreciated people who read my blog, which includes retired boomers who travel, or who would like to. People who love to cook, garden, and who relish life. People I've known forever. People I love. People I don't know but would like to. People, who in one way or another, have something in common with me, and also with each other.  

Most of us have been married for decades and have weathered all kinds of storms. We've survived raising kids, or deciding not to have them. We've had disappointments along with successes, and health issues that scared us.

We've rolled over at 5 a.m. to negotiate whose turn it is to take the dog outside, argued in the grocery store about whether to buy the organic chicken or the tofu, and evaluated and re evaluated our relationships, in the end, deciding to stick together.

It makes sense, after all the years of grind and grit, growth and giving, love and lust, struggle and survival, that we should cash in as we arrive at the golden time of life. And it really is golden.

Topped by gray hair and oddly outfitted with saggy necks, we're now holding hands as we navigate aging, a most challenging journey that requires a rugged 4WD and trip insurance, currently not available.

Could there be a more perfect time to extract ourselves from our comfort zones to embark on really really long and exotic road trips!?

Well, maybe not everybody is ready, but we are. PK and I have determined to log as many miles and experiences as possible before we're forced to acknowledge that we're inexorably approaching the glowering edge of the flaming pit of death.

I know, "flaming pit of death" sounds bad. It is bad!

I thought I saw the glowering edge a year ago when I was diagnosed with melanoma. Talk about sounding bad! All is well now, despite the fact that "invasive" and "metastatic" were part of my initial diagnosis.
Here's someplace I didn't want to travel. A radiology lab in a regional hospital watching glowing radioactive stuff light up my lymph nodes to guide a surgeon who was to carve me up a few hours later. Welcome to the Cancer Club 
The month-long drama of thinking we might be in for a life and death struggle jump-started us, invigorating the travel bug.
See Back from Cancer's Brink - 10 Lessons Learned

A week after the results of my surgeries came back benign, we bought a 2010 Roadtrek, and a week later we were chasing the super bloom in Death Valley.

Life is grand as we enjoy freedom, health and vitality. PK is only 67, while I am 71. I used to worry about our age difference. Now it doesn't bother me, except on paper, where it seems he has the youth advantage, but in real life, we're very much on the same page.
Not exactly a typical camp spot, we're at a very special place on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Well, we're not always on the same page, which brings me to how we tolerate endless days together without a break. It's true that we bicker. We sneer. We roll our eyes, suppress emotions, lash out and so on. On our 49-day road trip
we squabbled a few times, mostly about whether we should follow our plans or our hearts when unexpected opportunities arose. Our heads were not always aligned. Outcomes were about 50/50. We have not filed for divorce.

We had rainy days. In New Brunswick we hiked in raincoats after spending a long morning listening to the deluge pound the van's roof and deliberating, in a friendly way, about whether we should leave a day early. We'd paid for two nights. We stayed. It was OK.
Rainy day hike, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Red chairs placed in random spots in parks across the nation are courtesy of the Canadian National Parks.  We love Canadian parks!
When van-bound by weather or darkness, I read and/or write and always have photos to work with. PK has maps to study, books to read, and music.

Every now and then, we stream Spotify on a cell phone that blasts over our robust sound system, burning up cell data as we enjoy a bit of a dance party.

On the road, PK prefers to drive. I fill in when he needs a rest.
I cook. He cleans up. Just like at home. Division of labor is understood and pretty much undisputed.

On long travel days, such as during the tail-end of our recent trip when we were booking it to get home, we listen to books on CD, or music, or public radio stations, and time and miles. Sometimes we even have a conversation!

Mostly we've adjusted, after nearly 40 years, to the comfort of one another's company. I believe we appreciate one another more with every passing year - and mile.

Spending extended together time in a small space is offset by moving through space and time, landscapes and cities, most of which we've not seen before and which are always of interest and beautiful in their own ways. Even the low-key locales, not destinations but places we must traverse to get where we want to beKansas? North Dakota? Eastern Montana? Ohio? Missouri? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. All good!
Ohio! In the middle of the afternoon! An iPhone photo through the windshield.

A sorghum crop slashing across a Kansas landscape. This day featured 40 mph sustained sideways wind with gusts to 50 mph. Fun! We drove about 500 miles, as we were on our homeward push.
In Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. 

Oh yeah! North Dakota is walleye country!
Most often we camp in pleasing spots where we can spill out and set up our little table, unleash our bikes, or lace up the hiking boots and tramp around incredible places, only to return to camp, uncork a bottle and relax in our REI camp chairs. 

Real, but blurry, life in the van. One-pot dinner on the propane burner. PK prepping for the next morning, and for putting the bed together. After all our years of tent and river camping, our Roadtrek is extreme luxury. When one of us is working in our limited space, the other is outside or viewing van life from a swivel chair in front. 
Active retirement is a privileged state.  We've enjoyed an occasional music-centric cruise, and are booked for a trip to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador later this month, making up for having to cancel the same trip last year due to melanoma. But soon after our return, we'll be driving the Roadtrek south to the Baja Peninsula and the beautiful bay at Loreto, where seabirds, dolphins, and blue whales rule.

Few people have a home on the road and also a sticks and bricks home to which they can return. We're fortunate, and we never take it for granted. I've wanted to live this life for most of adulthood, during all those years working and raising kids, and now I'm incredibly grateful that we've made it happen. 

I can't complain about squeezing into a small van and traveling the plains and deserts, mountains and seashores, cities and villages in close-quarters in the company of the man I've spent the past 40 years with building this wandering life.

Photos from the early 1970s in the first year of our relationship, the ONLY photos of us until we had a child in 1977. The red and white Landcruiser was our first RV (!). PK removed the backseats and made a platform bed with storage underneath. A plywood box on top made additional storage. 
Photo credit: Pat Teel
Earlier posts about Road Trip 2016

Meeting a time traveler on the road