Falling Rain

It has been raining. Mostly light squalls that come and go. I spent an evening laying in my sleeping bag just listening. I mean, for the first time I can remember, just listening to the rain on the tent. It does make quite the cacophony as it falls. I noticed the pattern of stops and starts, increases and decreases. I noticed breaks in the storm and the peace when it faded. I really listened to the rain.

I have been in Yellowstone for 6 days, having arrived early. The first two days were sunny and warm and amazing. Then the cooler, rainy weather came in. Cool also means cold, like dipping into the 30’s at night. There was rain and drizzle in between periods of calm. The clouds have been hovering and the geothermal features much more noticeable with their steam and hot water contrasted against the gray looming clouds. The rain has not completely stopped for three days. 

It feels like fall is coming. Well, to be honest, it feels more like winter is coming when I have to get up to pee in the middle of the night. But, there is something about being near the water of the lake and the clouds that caress the mountains, playing a silly game of hide-and-seek. It is peaceful and calming and exciting in it’s own way. There is something magical, soothing, deeply moving about the change of seasons. It is palpable. 

Yesterday the Universe took wonderful and beautiful care of me. I had already chosen to stay around camp and explore that which is here. I needed a day out of the car after two days of touristing about. I woke up early, though I did not want to. The noise of the neighbors and the car doors and alarms got to me. I had enough time for breakfast and tea before the first squall hit. I used that time inside the tent to get dressed and pack for my day of adventure. Each time there was a break in the rain, I got out and did something. I hiked to the beautiful and historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel for a wonderful lunch, great views and a spectacular vintage vibe. During my hike back, the rain started to come. I saw it in the distance and wondered if I would make it back in time. I made it back just as the drizzle turned to actual drops. Perfect timing. I had a snack in the tent and did some writing. The next break I investigated the nearby touristy boat rides that went around the lake. Well, not all the way around, but out on the water and there was reported to be some historic narrative that came along. I walked to the ticket counter to check it out and, sure enough, there was one more cruise that had plenty of room. Thy sky looked good for a break so I walked back, got my money, and paid about $20 for the experience. It was tourist day, after all!

We got out on the water and another round of rain came through. You could see it coming. We learned some of the early history of the lake, the hotel now visible from the water, and some of the natural features around us. Well, those we could see, anyway. As we made our way back to the marina, the rain stopped. Again. I had a nice walk back and was greeted by a beautiful bull elk feeding in the small clearing on the other side of my tent. He was pretty rambunctious as he began to rub his antlers on the ground in a circle and get himself all excited. This guy was ready to rumble!

I had enough time to make some soup for dinner, get changed and brush my teeth. I contemplated using the rest of my firewood and chose not to. I had one more full day and then a morning and not only was I not paying these ridiculous prices for more wood, I wanted to conserve so that I did not have to. Then what happened? The next round of rain started. I was safely tucked away in my tent with articles to write and movies to watch. This rain, well, it has not completely stopped for hours. I mean as in all night. It has been raining for about 12 hours with only minor slow-downs. It never got cold enough to snow, but it never totally let up, either. Still, as I write this, it started again. I managed to get out to the bathroom after I woke up. I could see some clear sky, but, we have been denied that pleasure as of this writing. 

I have one more set of tourist attractions to see today and then need to start packing for may departure tomorrow. Despite all the rain, I am still completely dry. I see where the water is leaking under the tent, but nothing has crept into my safe haven. I keep checking. Like a baby’s diaper when the little one gets up from a nap, I am checking the underside for leaks. So far, so good! The rain means I cannot cook, at least not out in the open. I could find a picnic area with a structured cover and cook there. I still have firewood to burn, which I hope to do this morning or tonight. 

Rain or not, I plan to leave tomorrow. I have seen this park like never before, despite having visited several times over the years. I have spent time hiking and exploring in new and fun ways. But, I am done. I am done paying so much money for everything. I am done with the tourists and the crowds. I see why people love Yellowstone, but it is a sad trade-off. I still have my dream to work here over a winter season. I really want to see her sparkle and shine in the snow. I imagine the bison and elk hovering near a hot spring whose steam wafts for miles. Ahh, winter!

For now, and for today, I am a bit chilly but I am happy. I am glad I came, glad I stayed in the park, and glad to have spent the time. I am happy the seasons are changing. The cooler weather envelopes me like a warm blanket and it gives me energy. I am also at 7700 feet where the seasons change a little differently. I question what these changes will be like as I move East and then South for the winter. This will be the first winter of my life that I am not in the snow. What will my body think? What will this do to my internal clock? I am very in tune with the change of seasons and I am unsure what that means for my life on the road. Tomorrow I will seek out warmer temperatures and less wet conditions. Just because I can do it does not mean I want to. I mean the cold and the rain. I can, but I do not have to. 

Fall is in the air. I can feel it, I can sense it, I know it. The rain has stopped for now. Time to get out and make some tea.

Cool morning greetings to you all!

Helping a Biker

I was driving back to the small town in which I had spent the day. Earlier, I rode my bike into town, a mere 6 miles one way. The day was cooler for this time of year, intermittent clouds, and a mild wind. I was in need of this sort of movement for my body. I hiked seven miles yesterday and needed a change of pace. I have been off my bike for a couple weeks and wanted to get back into it. Besides, I paid some extra money to make sure my tires would not go flat with every little thorn or burr they ran over. Bike ride it is!

I putzed, talked to my mom, drank my tea and sat around most of the morning. I was open to riding into town and possibly having a beer or lunch or both. I did not want to commit until I knew what the day had to offer. I also knew this day had to be my own, where I went with my feelings and my agenda. I had to make the decisions and the choices. This autonomy helps me rebuild the energy I give when with others. My day.

I had been in this little town dozens of times before, but never stopped or spent time. I am in a hilly area, but it was not too bad heading in. The wind was either at my back or non-existent. When I arrived I rode the entirety of the town, which took about ten minutes, and then parked the bike to walk. I really wanted to look in the antique shops. I have decided that in my next house I will buy pieces that speak to me or that are unique. I will not buy furniture just to have it. I want things that make a statement, that are different or one-of-a-kind. Besides that, there is no way I can put anything else in storage or take anything with me. Safe to shop when one cannot buy. 

I messed around the town and even got a nice tour of the printing press museum. The woman there was also part of the annual Brewfest that I have attended for the past four years. I was excited about the printing history, being such a book nerd and all. It was interesting. I perused all of the antique and artisan stores, then landed at the signature bar/restaurant. I told myself to check the beer list first, then decide what I would do next. After all, this Pilgrim needs to walk away from that which she does not love. Fortunately, love lived here in the form of Calvetica Stout from Ft. George Brewing, a favorite of mine. I had the beer and a smoked pork sandwich. I was full and happy and ready to ride back.

Little did I know that the way back was nearly all up hill. Sure, throw that at me while my belly is full and my mind a little tipsy. I was working hard. I managed to pedal the entire way down the highway until the turn towards camp. I did see a biker blow by me, quite fast, with just a T-shirt for gear. I notice bikers more than anyone in a car. When one rides like that, the shirt comes up in back and I noticed the thinner while male with the beige shirt riding up his back. I also noted he only had his helmet for protection. After the pang of jealousy, I rode on. I eventually had to walk the bike up a couple hills, as they did not stop and got more steep. I got pretty tired, my legs got weak, and I was really glad the temperature was rather cool for mid-July. I rode when I could, walked when I could not ride, and stopped to catch my breath in-between. 

I also did some recon while in this town. I noticed a grocery store where I could get my groceries and ice, and a car wash that I wanted to use to clean out the Jeep a bit. When I got back to camp, I sat and recovered. I needed rest and liquids. After I rested from my seemingly all uphill ride to camp, I set out to drive back to town to get the supplies and wash the car. I was hoping to use the vacuum at the car wash as there is this crap stuck so far down in my driver seat that I cannot reach it with my hand. The remnants of my many meals at the wheel, and a couple toothpicks thrown in for good measure. I know it is there and it bugs me every day. I try and try and I just cannot get my hand down that far. I may try some duct tape tricks to coach out the crap. 

As I was driving, I noticed a biker on the phone off the side of the road. I have been that biker on the side of the road and I have been rescued by strangers and helped by others. I pulled over and asked if he needed anything. He was young, anxious and came right over. He said he would greatly appreciate a ride at least to the next town; incidentally where I was headed. He had people who could come get him, but that would not be for another hour or more. He gathered his things and I made room. I also handed him some wipes as he clearly had been working on the bike. He was very appreciative and told me what had happened and how he got stranded. Yes, he was also that bike that passed me earlier. Oops, sorry about the mess, but I live in my car and you will have to hold this food box in your lap. 

We made light chatter during the five minute ride. He offered to buy me a beer. I politely declined. I mean, it was only like five minutes in the Jeep and it cost me nothing extra. Truth be told, had he been older and a little more interesting, maybe. But, I had things to do and ice to take back and food to save. I appreciated his gratitude and was happy to help. He said I was the only one that even stopped. Hey, it is a biker thing. But, it is also a human thing and I was happy to be the one to make his day.

I got my groceries and my ice and headed back to camp. My legs were still shaky as I ate cheese, crackers and dried figs for dinner. I watched the rest of a movie and drank some whisky with added blackberries and sugar. Not quite the quality of liquor I am used to making, but it did the trick and gave me a little buzz during my meal. I did eat some of the berries, but they are so seedy and the whisky was very strong in them. I threw the rest out. I finished my meal, my movie, then read for a spell as the sun started to set. 

My legs are still a little shaky, my belly is still very full, and I just feel good. Camp is empty (besides me), the air is cool, the wind silent. The sun is going down, and soon so shall I. I cared for myself this day, I followed the path that was revealed. I played tourist and Pilgrim and road rescuer. I listened to myself, I cared for myself, and I gave of myself. I was open and engaged and happy. I challenged myself physically and cared for myself emotionally. I listened, I learned, I helped. 

Pilgrim, walk away from that which you do not love. Today I walked towards it. It was me. It was a good day. 

Cheers!

When the Stars Align

If you follow me at all, and I appreciate anyone who takes a peek at my ramblings, you know that I have been house and dog sitting in Montana while my friend celebrated her 60th birthday with her son at Burning Man. 

I arrived dead tired and dirty. I landed before they left, knowing I needed some guidance on the dog and house details. I slept like the dead my first night and spent the second day helping them get packed, situated, and whatever other details were in the mix. They excitedly departed as me and Charlie began our journey of discovery. We already covered that in ONE NEUROTIC DOG. Moving on….

My week unfolded, I rested, got lazy, ate my way into oblivion, walked the legs off the dog, bicycled around, discovered breweries, made new friends. I hit a couple museums and took advantage of some great free services at REI. I got a little lazy so I forced myself to do a walking tour of town, then on another day bicycle everywhere. I did get the Jeep and my gear all cleaned and organized and that felt really good. I took several baths and fell in love with an Air Fryer. I was having fun. 

Then I got word that they were coming home early. My girlfriend fell down some stairs and hurt herself. Not sure if she broke anything, but she could not walk on her right foot and was advised to come home and get an X-ray. Whoa. Did not see that coming! Sorry to report that she did break her ankle. Oh, and the son picked up some sort of stomach thing and was pretty sick for a few days. It was one rough homecoming.

However, here I was, nothing else to do, at the ready, nowhere to go. I had my Yellowstone reservation assuming they would be back on time, not early. Labor Day was thrown in there, just to keep it interesting. They came back dirty, tired, each of them hurting in their own way. Slap that “S” on my chest, Michelle is at the ready!! We unpacked, cleaned, washed, disassembled that which they had previously assembled. I was able to take the lead and help in any and all ways possible. I was ready. Meals, continued dog duty, laundry, washing and cleaning and unpacking.  Ta Da! Here I go. 

But, they were home early. Now what? I did not want to over stay my welcome, but they did need help. I split the time difference and moved my Yellowstone reservation up one day while staying one extra day at their place. The gentleman on the phone making this change told me how lucky I was to be able to add a day. Not luck, dear Sir, not luck at all. 

Gee, thanks Michelle for that great overview. BUT, what does that have to do with the stars in alignment? On several points, this worked out beautifully. Let me say this, above all else, I am NOT HAPPY this happened to my girlfriend. We confirmed there is one broken bone and she has some good bruising coming in. She is lined up for a CT Scan to be sure the break is clean and can heal on it’s own. I wish that had not happened to her at all. Not at all!

What falls into place beautifully is all of the following:

  • After my summer festival tour, I needed a rest, access to modern convinces and lots of water. I got all of that and more. 
  • One of my oldest and dearest friends needed a house and dog sitter. It fit into my work schedule, my travel plans, and my roughly chosen route. It just fit. 
  • She had seen and visited all the places she wanted to during her Burning Man excursion. Leaving early did not damper her experience. 
  • She was with her son and others who could help pack and get her home safely.
  • I was here to continue with dog and house duty.
  • I was getting bored and gladly jumped in to help.
  • I had no agenda or plans that would cause me to leave before I was scheduled. 
  • I think like her, organize myself like her, and I have basically the same priorities as her, which helped as I stepped in with little or no disruption to how she “would do” it. A true comfort as she worked to ambulate around her house on one leg. 
  • On one day of cleaning, they napped while I kept a beer-date. I got in a bike ride, sampled great beers, and had a nice chat with a new friend. 
  • I had one more thing to come in the mail and the extra time allowed that to happen. 
  • A doctor she knew had a morning cancellation and she was seen on the first available business day AFTER a holiday weekend. 
  • The care of her broken ankle was correct and confirmed by the doctor. That may sound lame, but this important piece of information means that she has caused no additional harm in the care of the not-yet-fully-understood injury. 
  • I was able to add one day at the beginning of my reservation so that I could arrive earlier and not move camp. I detest the idea of camping for only one night.  

IF she had to break her ankle, and IF her son had to get a stomach bug AFTER their Burning Man adventure, NOW was the best time for this to happen. They are feeling less stressed and more relaxed as the mountain of post-Burning Man tasks dwindles.

I am glad that I was here. I am glad they still had a great experience. I am glad nothing happened to Charlie. I am glad nothing bad happened to me. I am glad to have been here to explore Bozeman. WTF, I am just glad!

What remains to be seen is if the added day to my Yellowstone visit means anything. I will not stress or obsess about it. I will let the Universe guide me, as it so expertly does when I let go, stop forcing, stop scheduling, stop trying to make it happen. When I stop to listen and let the stars align, all will go as it is supposed to. It just does. 

The process of letting go is the best way for the path to open up, for the best things to happen, and for the treasured moments of our lives to magically appear. Those experiences we could not have planned or scheduled or make happen. 

Cheers to happenstance, serendipity and the loving guidance of the Universe!

One Neurotic Dog

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am calling Charlie neurotic, but in all reality, it may also be me. We are one pair, for sure, both chock full of weirdness. 

So, here I am with Charlie the incredible anxiety ridden spastic dog. Charlie is a medium sized poodle, which means high energy and smart as a whip. He has a history, as we all do, and has had a lot of transition lately. To top it off, he is also a little older. The first two days of our time together were a little rough, with him acting out, any and all undesirable behaviors coming to the forefront. Pointless barking, obsessive pacing, compulsive licking of anything in range. Yeah, he was a hot mess.

Then again, so was I. As soon as I arrived in this city, my anxiety went up. The cars, the traffic, the roads, the people, the cars. I could see the mountains, in the distance, but I was not experiencing them. I was excited to see my friends and spend some time before they left. I was happy to help them pack and prepare and give them a less-stressful send off. But, man, coming to the city was a rough transition for me. 

I had some shopping to do, so I went to the mall. I quickly became overwhelmed. I mean, sensory and vibrational overload. People walking around oblivious to the mountains of excess in their midst. I was there to get new bras. I have been carting around my bras and worked them hard this summer. I treat myself to new bras every few years. I will pay more for good quality and I know I will use them hard. Anyway, I got help from a pleasant saleswoman who guided me like a boss and I got a good deal.  

After, I came back to the house and hid. I had to decompress from a trip to the mall. I can hear Charlie in my head, “Whose neurotic now?” True, little dog, very true. What has happened? Why is this so difficult? Like I have never been to a city before? In all honesty, this has happened to me before. My former spouse and I went on a motorcycle trip around the Dominican Republic. This was one of those organized tours with a group of free wheeling motorcyclists. The bikes were on site and, with a few minor modifications, I was able to ride my own. If you have ever traveled to this part of the world, you will know this place to be a second-world country. That means, they are not “first” like the US with our amenities and infrastructure, but not as destitute or corrupt as Haiti. However, this country does have its poverty and is lacking in public services. There is a very huge and noticeable income disparity and armed guards at Costco. We were fortunate to visit local places, but did stay in “nice” hotels. Mind you, by US standards, these places were not that nice. Again, it is all relative. It was the trip of a lifetime. When we got back, I quickly became overwhelmed, much like I am now. I was struck by the over saturation of US culture, the vast quantities of goods that nobody needs, food that cannot possibly be sold before it spoils, fast food on every corner, and stores so huge you cannot see the end. It took me a few weeks to readjust to the massive amounts of excess Americans live with on a daily basis after spending a couple weeks in a simpler place. I had to readjust. 

Fast forward to my current reality. I went into the local Walmart yesterday. It was a grocery store and clothing store and electronics store and everything else store. It was massive and gigantic and, once again, I was overwhelmed. I walked around, looking for the bathroom, but also just walking around. I noticed aisle after aisle of excess. I mean, do we really need forty-five different varieties of potato chips? Piles and piles of ugly and cheap clothing? Decorations that will clutter our homes? I was amazed and astounded. I was anxious and overwhelmed. I needed to leave.

I realize, as I continue my pilgrimage, that the city chokes me, overwhelms me, and stresses me out. I realize that I prefer a simpler existence where I can see and hear and feel myself and my surroundings. I want to be outside, but I also want to socialize and go to places where people are. Not hoards and crowds. Just a few people with a common interest, like at a bar or music venue. I prefer places where I can hear myself think and see all four walls of the building. I want to see the end of town from the beginning of town. I want to be in a place where my head will be clear and my senses palpable. 

I talk about Charlie as if he is the one with the problems. Sure, he has his idiosyncrasies. I am happy to report that he is way better now than he was at first. Me? Well, I suppose I am adjusting, too. I try to go out once per day, even if for a bike ride or a trip to the store. I try not to drink every day, even if it helps reduce the anxiety that is created from being separated from the environment and helps pass the time of these unstructured days. I try not to internet shop my days away, but that, too, is difficult. I am on the hunt for free or low cost activities and controlled socializing. Small doses in more intimate settings. I am adjusting to being indoors, though I always have windows and doors open. I am learning how to use an air fryer (LOVE) and taking advantage of unlimited electricity and internet. I am trying to stay out of my car and use my bike. I am working to cleanse myself and my gear, touch and clean and organize everything. I am trying hard to take advantage of my time in civilization. 

Me and Charlie take walks and play and eat. We are adjusting and figuring it out. The title of this should be ONE NEUROTIC DOG AND A SLIGHTLY OFF KILTER HUMAN. Feel free to interchange the words DOG and HUMAN as you see fit. I think both scenarios apply.

Cheers to finding our way, working through our issues, and doing the best we can. Cheers to lifelong friends and awesome appliances. Cheers to a simple and meaningful life. 

Cheers to Charlie and me!


Two Rodeos and a WaterFest

I am currently sitting on the back patio of my longtime girlfriend’s house in Bozeman, MT. She is like sister to me and her two sons my nephews. Our kids grew up together and we went through some of the toughest times in our lives with each other. She is my mentor, friend, and role model. I love this woman!!

I will be housesitting and dog sitting for her for the next two weeks. I came in last night after an 8 or so hour drive. Honestly, I was exhausted and only made it because I ate my way across three states. Those last couple of hours were a struggle. Had I not been headed for her place I would not have driven that far. I made it and slept about 10 hours. Restful, peaceful sleep of the dead. I needed that! I can still push my body and my mind, but it does need time to recover. Being here will offer me that and give her peace of mind during her absence. Burning Man Bound!

The Jeep will get the star treatment during my stay. I plan to detail her out. If I cannot get it done myself, I will pay someone somewhere to do it. I mean deep clean. I have food and spiders and God only knows what else taking up residence in my mobile Jeep home. I plan to completely empty her out, even take off the top case. Heck, let’s go crazy and take the top down for some naked Jeep exploring! All of my gear will get looked at, cleaned and organized. I find that process very soothing and a comforting ritual. A good cleanse to get me back on track. The next time I plan to clean her like that will be in Florida when I am staying at my parents place. The timing should be perfect and by then I am sure she will need it again. 

I am tired because I just finished working my summer circuit. The WaterFollies, or boat races to the locals, the Omak Stampede then the Moses Lake Rodeo/Stampede. I am not quite sure what the difference is between a stampede and a rodeo. The boat races were in the Tricities and we had a nice, grassy area upon which to camp. We had prepared meals and access to running water and plumbing. I was there with my close friend and we worked, shared camp and carpooled. The travel was much more fun with him around! I worked the paid parking area directing traffic, taking money and giving parking receipts, answering questions. The shifts were 8-10 hours, with breaks and lunch, in the sun and on my feet. Personally, I love working outside and to be moving the whole time. Sure, it gets hot and sweaty, but I will take this over sitting in an office any day. 

I had a few days break to regroup and mess around before I showed up in Omak. I actually spent time at a free campground outside of Okanagon, WA. I really liked that little town and, even though I got bored and antsy. I had fun exploring and hanging out. It was too hot to hike and not really a bike riding area. In Omak, we camped on the stampede grounds in and around a softball field. Overall, the grass was nice and we were out of the majority of the noise. Mind you, I said majority! I was still camped next to the carnival and roads. People were always walking around, horses and trailers on the move, workers getting garbage and so forth. The sounds never stopped, but somehow and by the grace of God, I managed to sleep. I enjoyed a shift that generally went 4:00 pm to 2:00 am. I know that sounds horrible, but when the temperatures peaked at 102, sleeping in the cool of night and morning was as blessing. I also got some nice time to chill and sleep as long as I wanted or needed or was able. No wake up alarm and time for tea. Score!

Moses Lake was much the same, except we were camped like sardines in a can. We were the only tents amongst a sea of RV’s and horse trailers. There were ATV’s, kids, dogs, and the rodeo traffic never stopped. This was more noise, more dirt and dust. However, in return, we got flush toilets and free individual showers. One cannot have it all, I suppose. I was fortunate to have the same shifts, even starting a little earlier. I chose to work those hours, as making money was the only reason I was there. I was a ticket taker and worked in the beer garden. My primary duty there was to check ID and provide wrist bands. Let me tell you how hard it is to put those stupid stick on paper wrist bands on people! Yuck. 

I showed up in Montana with 40,100 miles on the Jeep, a cracked windshield, and layer upon layer of dirt and dead bugs. I need this time and this rest and the ability to cleanse. I worked my body and my brain and that felt good. I struggle with the “children” who seem to be the managers at these events and some of my teammates who barely function in this world. I struggle with the heat and the dirt and the lack of regular or whole meals. However, I learned how best to care for myself and did so as much and as often as possible. I would arrange my food, downtime, even my work time so that I had what I needed to function as best I could. Me caring for me. 

I met so many folks, some amazing and some dirt bags. I watched people and animals push themselves to their limits, and I watched extended families enjoy precious time together. I even got to whip out some Spanish which only improved the more I used it. I met rich cowboys and struggling carnival workers. I met hetero and gay, men and women, and folks who live in between them all. I worked in blistering sun and heat, gentle drops of rain and cool breezes. I lived near a lake, in the green grass, and in the dirt. I ate steak and snacks and drank more water than a swimming pool can hold. The essence of who I am has, again, expanded. The core of my being is enriched from all of these folks and all of these experiences, no matter how positive or negative they were. My cup runneth over. 

Today, in this space and at this moment, I am blissfully happy. I am doing those things I set out to do. Those things I planned for myself. I am in and of this life. I am collecting experiences and adventures. I am living the life I was meant to live. How do I know, you ask? I know because I am joyous even in the dirt and the heat and the long hours. I can wake up with a smile on my face even after only four hours of fitful sleep. Those feelings of restlessness, discontent and angst I struggled with as long as I can remember are gone. Poof! I struggle no more. Even at my worst, hungry, hot and sweaty and dirty and tired, I am happy because I CHOSE THIS!! I am where I am doing what I am doing because I choose to. If it is really that bad, I can walk away. I can leave anything I am doing at any time. Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, that is fucking freedom! Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, owns me. Not anymore. 

Raise a fist in the air, raise your glass to the sky, put your hands together and give a CHEERS to absolute and unabated freedom!!

So, how is it?

How is the road? What have you learned about yourself? It is awesome and amazing?

I hear these things often. I do not always share that much about myself, so not every conversation or encounter leads to the opening of my life to a stranger. I take each part of my day one step at a time and assess each scenario, each conversation, each setting, each person and use that information to decide what I will share. This is not new, actually. I have always been cautious and discerning when sharing who I am and what I am about. Generally, I am fairly open about my life. Always on alert, but open and honest. Introverts like me do not enjoy or engage in small talk. If we are talking, we do so to share meaningful details about who we are and what we are about. Conversely, we hope to learn the same from the person with whom we have chosen to engage. Let’s not waste precious time in our lives with meaningless banter. 

Yes, I am on journey. Yes, it is an adventure. I know now this is a pilgrimage. I am not traveling to some spiritual or religions Mecca. I am not trying to recoup lost parts of my childhood or uncover family roots. I am not traveling to bring attention to a cause or highlight some illness or social issue. I travel for myself. I seek to dive deeper into who I am and what I am about. I seek to find a depth and breadth of understanding and confidence. This undertaking is about me. 

I am gathering experiences. I am seeing things and hearing things and talking to people whose individuality blends together into the sum of my days. I have no charming tales of unique characters. I have no lengthy summations or reviews of the sights and sounds of my travels. I can barely remember where I was last week. I do, however, have an increasing depth to myself. I take each and every one of those moments and use it to expand and build on my foundation. I can feel myself growing. I can sense a deeper understanding of my role on this earth and my purpose among “men”. Each cool forest morning, every glacial blue stream, even the nights pummeled by the wind are adding to the body of experiences that are adding to the body of me.

It is very difficult for me to pinpoint one or two things that have changed me. Well, to be honest, I am not really changed. I have the same likes and dislikes as I did before. I see the world through the same lenses that I did in my previous life. The core of me remains unchanged. I am, however, more of the me I knew I was. I am more confident. I am more open to random conversations with strangers in nearly any setting. I am still cautious and discerning. I still say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place. Sometimes my filters are too high and other times they are decidedly absent. I still love nature and physical activity, and yet I love to sit and read my day away. I am still who I have always been. 

However, I feel like I have a deeper understanding of myself. I feel like I can hear myself, my wants, my needs, my voice much better and more clear than before. I am not doing all the things I love, such as cooking or canning. I am not eating the way I prefer, with home made foods and fresh ingredients. My brain is not always engaged in meaningful or challenging tasks and, sometimes, my body just sits. But, I am doing things I love. I am outside. I am exploring. I am hiking or walking or biking. I am trying new beers and learning about new towns. I am setting the schedules and the tasks of my day; full autonomy. I am learning to listen and honor myself. 

I consider the details of my encounters, like the great conversation I had at the last brewery I visited. There is no need for me to detail or chronicle our conversation. There is no great story to tell or quip to share. Selfie style photos and quotes are not my style anyway. I take with me the feeling of connection, the positive experience at that place, and the satisfaction of camaraderie with someone new. My soul and my spirit were fed. Leaving that encounter with positive feelings, gratitude for our time and for having learned new things. I grew. That is my reward.

Sorry to disappoint, but I have no great wisdom to share. I have no profound personal discoveries or truths. I have a lot of information about camping! I can talk to you for hours about gear and things to help have a safer or more stress-free experience. I can tell you about the rewards and challenges of living on the road. Oh, yeah, that I can do. 

I am learning about my own insignificance on this planet, and yet learning how much we all need each other. I am learning about nature and about people and about the world around me. But, when it comes to grand truths, earth shattering epiphanies, I just have me. More tan, more fit, more tolerant of spiders. More clear in who I am and what I am about. Learning each and every day how to be a better and more genuine person. Learning how to best live in this skin I am in, as dirty as it is. Learning “me”. 

The life I was living was not doing it for me. It was not right for me. It was off and I knew it. This life I am living is doing it for me. This feels right. This feels true. You will see it in the sparkle in my eye, the bounce in my step, the quickness of my smile. You will feel it in the energy I emit, the patience by which I listen, and the welcome I offer. 

I still get upset at incompetence and needless chaos. I strive for order and organization in most things. I do not always enjoy chores, but I do enjoy the results. I tolerate bugs and dirt more than I used to. I am more patient during traffic delays and I am much more open to the unexpected. I am becoming more clear about who and what comprises me. I am also just beginning. I feel it, I know it to be true. I have only just started. I am only just beginning to grow. 

Here’s to becoming a deeper and more genuine version of yourself. May you find your way and your truth. 

Cheers!

My Arch Nemesis, the Wind

It was the middle of the night. I was covered in the dirt that had been blowing into the tent from both the top and the bottom vents. It started at around 10:00 pm and it was now one or two or three… I no longer knew. The wind blew like a madman. I was sitting on the floor using my yoga mat as a block to keep the dust from blowing in. Lame at best, but I thought it helped a little. I was tired and frustrated and felt like I was losing my mind. I told myself that I never remember having this much trouble with the wind! What the fuck was happening?? 

First, that is not entirely true. Later the next day, I recalled an eerie night on a motorcycle trip years ago. We were somewhere outside of Glacier National Park. We decided to ride the bikes in a few miles to an isolated campground. We were harassed by the ranger, who made us hang our scented items as a way to “bear proof” our camp. All this while others nearby openly cooked on their camp tables, slopping food all over the damned place. Later that night, the wind woke us both. We could hear it as it started it’s decent down the canyon. At first, it sounded like a breeze, and then it picked up speed, picked up volume, increased in force before it hurled itself against the sides of our tent like a linebacker at football practice. This routine repeated itself for most of the night. I am sure neither of us slept. I think at one point we felt the entire tent, with us and our gear inside, move just a little. Over and over this scenario carried out. Over and over we dozed and woke up and dozed again. Over and over the breeze turned into a roar that turned into a pummeling. 

In the morning we saw that nothing happened to the tent or to us. That is the only other time I can recall wind being an issue. There was another time outside of the Grand Tetons that cold was an issue. I had never been so cold during the night and, thankfully, I have not been that cold camping since. That night compelled me to get a better sleeping bag and always carry a wool hat. This time, I packed two. 

Here I am on my adventure. I am sleeping outside the majority of the time. I have a four-person tent that is 60 inches tall in the middle. I did take it to the coast and suffered a noisy and stressful night with the wind. Then, as I have written about since, there was the implosion at the Rally. I am on tent #2. I did some research and have better learned how to secure the “guide” lines. They are not called “guide” lines but I cannot figure out the correct spelling of “guy” lines. I am in the habit of securing my entire tent at all times, and using the newly learned techniques for the knots and the lines. So far so good. I even spent an evening on the Columbia River with my arms stretched over my head, holding onto the tent pole center piece, as storm fronts toyed with my little corner of the Universe. The gusts topped at 35 MPH. The tent held, but my arms were tired. 

Generally, and in the summer heat I am living, I keep the rainfly doors open. It is just too hot and stuffy to close up. The wind gave me trouble at my last camp, too. It picked up one night and blew dirt/silt into that pesky bottom vent. I cleaned for over an hour, taking everything out, wiping it down, and making it all brand new again. Now here I am, not sleeping, getting dirt blown into my sleeping bag, eyes and hair, and the wind shaking the tent mercilessly. Again with the wind. 

Finally, I shut the rainfly doors. In all honesty, I should have done that hours ago. The tent immediately became more stable and the dirt stopped. Well, mostly stopped. Now one of the stakes has failed and a flap is flailing about uncontrollably in the late night torrent. I had to get up three times to secure it back into the loose and sandy ground. Finally, I turned the stake in the opposite direction and that held. I nodded on and off the rest of the night, brushing dirt off myself every now and again. The wind continued into the morning and, only just now, almost 24 house later, has it started to subside. I do not trust this wind to say calm and I will be prepared to baton down the hatches again tonight. Current conditions are perfect, if only the wind will cooperate. 

This wind, though, let me tell you. This wind comes from miles away. I can hear it ramping up as teases, then thrashes the trees. This wind does not howl, it screams. This wind comes at you like a freight train, charging forward as it pelts the tent with debris and noise. I can see my solar light with its faint green glow dancing around in the dark as it hangs from the ceiling, holding on for dear life. I hear it start. Like the delay between lightening and thunder, I know it is coming, and I am powerless to stop it. I can smell the dirt and the dust and the pine needles that are blowing all over. 

I spent hours holding the yoga mat against the vent in a vein attempt to keep some of the dirt out. I moved myself more to the center of the tent. Memo to self – stop sleeping near the vent! My clothes are already in protective bags that will only need to be brushed off. I, on the other hand, will not see a shower again for a couple days. And, with the morning light and a good mirror, I saw how the dirt covered my face and my hair. Dirty, again. 

I went outside to pee and saw a clear and star filled sky. The wind was warm, and yet fearfully strong. Closing up the tent made it even more hot and sticky inside, further impeding my ability to rest. The cycle of this wind created a viscous pattern of torment for me. I heard it from far away and I knew it was coming. I also knew there was nothing I could do. I was powerless and helpless and tired and dirty. I could only sit by and wait for the inevitable. 

The wind continued into the next day. I was feeling a little deflated and irritable, but still went to brunch. I mean, if the tent made it through the night, it would be fine for a couple more hours. I gave it a careful scrutiny, checked all my lines and stakes, and made sure it was as secure as it could be. I ate my weight in breakfast foods, went to the store, and then came back. I just was not comfortable leaving camp for too long. The wind was blowing all over, everywhere, and even harder in some places that I saw along my drive into, and back from, town. 

It is now 22 hours after the raging winds started. There is a slight breeze as the sun begins to set. The temperatures are set to rise and reach over 100 during the next two days. I have the rainfly doors wide open. I have not cleaned up in the tent, as the wind continued long enough that I felt my efforts futile. I wanted to wait until I had a fighting chance to make an impact. I remember how I felt when the last tent imploded at the Rally. I wrote about that. This tent held. I cannot see any bends or damage or flaws as a result of the extreme wind of the night. That makes me smile just a little. 

I can hear the light wind in the tree tops. I wonder if it will flex its muscle again tonight. I hope not. I want to get some sleep, even if this place does look like a tornado hit it. If the wind starts to pick up, I will close the rainfly doors post haste. I will check the stakes and test my lines. That is all I can do. I am at the mercy of the elements. This, too, is part of the challenge of my journey. I was reading in my Pilgrimage book today and I found this: “… we can look to trying times along the road as either torment or chances to stretch ourselves.” The wind is stretching me. It is an unwelcome adversary and a constant reminder of my insignificance. The wind has power over me and I am powerless against it. The wind is forcing me to grow. The wind reminds me how small I am. What a bitter pill to swallow. 

I must raise my glass to the wind. I must give it the homage it deserves. Long after I leave the road and this earth, the wind will continue to unleash its will on everything and everyone in its path. 

Cheers, Wind. You have my utmost respect.