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Thursday, October 25, 2012

A "Homesick" Travel Virgin Finds His RV Mantra, and It Might Not Include The Whole Damn World

Sand and Clouds converge on Henry Mountains

Regarding Gumo's comment a few days ago, that he's "homesick for places he's never been," it's been expressed before in many ways. But that one... that one... I own. It's my nutshell mantra, and like any worthy adage, It's soul and wit lies in it's brevity. I want it tattooed on my chest, recited at my eulogy, engraved on my tombstone.

In "The Hand of Distance," Judith Thurman wrote, Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground. While the spirit of the phrase is true, it's far to wordy for a tattoo... especially if it hurts to get one. 

Carson McCullers, author of several national treasures, including, "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter," wrote, It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known. Is it mere coincidence that I'm reading "Lonely Hunter" this week? I think not. 

There was a recent time in my RV life when I became "homesick" for Europe, a place I've never been. The allure of distinctive cultures so different from "American Pie," architectual antiquities dating back to Christ and before, uniquely seasoned food, tongue tripping languages... everything... was beating down my heart's door. I finally had to fend off my frenzy with the pointy stick of "rationalization," things like, "Mark, you could travel the west for a year or more for what it would cost to go to Europe for a couple of weeks." And, "It's not like it used to be, it's commercialized, crowded as Space Mountain at Disneyland." 

But it's Europe... Everybody must go, at least once. So I studied up on it, took a closer look and found some truth between the lines. It has become "touristy" and crowded, because Europe is small compared to the USA. Campgrounds are expensive and often full. Affordable Hotels lack "stars" and private facilities. There are long lines in front of "must sees," where tour guides spew dates and data like Rick Steves clones. 

Europe was beginning to sound like one big tourist attraction, with everybody trying to make a buck. After some soul searching it sounded like the opposite of my travel purpose, which is to ramble through deserted landscapes that delight mind and senses... preferable on a lonely backroad or trail. And yet, I'm still "homesick" for a place I've never been...  Parisian galleries and food, the Alps, from Switzerland to Italy, history beyond newbie America, Norway's serrated fjords, and real fishing villages that harbor creaky old boats and escort creaky old fishermen to sea. Why? Why?

A character in one of Travis McGee's books mentions "Weltschlmerz;" It's a kind of "homesickness for a place that doesn't exist." The term was coined by German author, Jean Paul, to express the "feeling experienced by some... who understand that physical realities can never satisfy the demands of the mind.

Well, perhaps Jean Paul was never fortunate enough to explore the American West. The marvels I stumble across have yet to disappoint my "uncultured" and feeble mind. If and when that happens, I'll book a flight to Europe.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to see if Hanksville, Utah, has a tattoo parlor.

We have one bar of signal here, camped at the vertebra-like slot canyon-ed base of the San Rafael Swell. It's backbone severs Utah north to south with an uplift that's visible from space. It's a playground, for sure, but uploading photos often breaks the tentative hold on internet connection. At best, it takes 15 minutes per photo. Words sometimes get through... I'm saving what you are missing for a later post where service is kinder. Oh, and Jim, that Wilson Amplifier doesn't make a bit of difference here :((.

Approaching the San Rafael Swell... not far out of Green River, Utah.

There are some great backroads that explore beautiful canyon zones... and they have Goldie's seal of approval. 

Our current camp is a BLM free one... at the base of the "Swell." Not to far from Goblin Valley, a few miles off highway 24 to the west.

Sue Bee, on the edge of Horseshoe Canyon... yesterdays glorious hike to Indian rock art. Stay tuned!!!!


  1. Can't wait to see the rock art photos...you know how I love me some petroglyphs! I dream of Europe too...the hotels that are probably full of smoke and moldy carpet is what always gets me to push the idea aside.

  2. Have you been to or are you going to Goblin Valley? Well worth a day trip to ramble around amidst fantastic formations.

    Europe is stunning. We had never been so we did a Sound of Music bus tour from Vienna to Munich. We also toured Germany from the Polish border to the French border onthe train. Loved it!

    Now I know when or if we make it back, we will go on our own to hike/bike the beautiful Alps, see waterfalls and canyons. I also want to visit Switzerland now.


  3. They've got buildings from the time of Christ... right? we've got Trees twice as old as that! ;) 4700 years old I believe the oldest surviving bristle cone is!

    We had one up behind us in Red Canyon... don't know how old it was... but it'd been there for a bit!

    They've got the blue Danube? Blue? more of a polluted muddy brown...

    We've got The Virgin, the Colorado, the Columbia, the Snake, the Green, the Rio Grande, the milk, the poudre,

    They've got some paintings some old dead guys painted... we've got,
    The Grand Canyon, Glacier, Zion, Yosemite, Sequoia, The Smoky Mountains, Bryce canyon, Arches, Yellowstone, Lake Pend Orielle, The Redwoods, Oregon beaches, Washington Sounds, Alaskan Vastness... not to mention Canada's Yukon Getting there!space they can't conceive of.

    I'm not telling anybody not to go... just... you needn't feel like you missed anything not going... and if you go you will still miss as much... only that'll be here! :) Nobody can see it all anyway... OK... maybe Donald Trump if he quit chasin' more dollars...

    but I'll bet you a pair of nickels... he's NEVER been on top of a 14eener! and if I'm right... they don't have any of those in U-rup neether! :))

  4. Nope, never ever did have a hankering for travels in Europe. South America doesn't turn my crank & I've never been able to get real excited about Alaska. So far, the American West seems to do it for me so guess I better just stick with that for now........

  5. Mark, that's beautiful country you're in. We just left there after a couple of weeks boondocked and hiking a different canyon nearly every day.
    Interestingly, we too had one bar but the Wilson antenna and amplifier upped that to two--and three when the sun went down.

  6. Walden Creek RV steveOctober 25, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Mark-- I remember when you and Bobbie took me up to one to the top of Colorado so I could deliver mail in style- truly special-- but much like that- Europe still awaits you-- When I walked up to the Acropolis in Athens - you just need to experience it-- I was lucky to stay at the Hilton in Athens - not due to any wealth I assure you- I was playing the free points game at the time -It can be done! I believe the term is--- JUST DO IT! If a poor(borderline) small farm town Wisc cheesehead can tackle Europe -for you it would not even be a challenge-I think the only thing holding you back is your love of the west-Take care!

  7. I am unexplainably homesick for Russia, during the summer. Hope you'll share a photo of the tattoo.

    Is Sue Bee your toad? She seems to approve of the view, and I do too.

    Look forward to your better connection and rock art.

  8. Just love the desert scenery, can't wait to get there.

  9. How "swell" it is.... Looking forward to some rock art. Rock on!

  10. Just catching up on your blog after a week of "iffy" internet ourselves. Totally understand that "homesick" feeling. It's a draw in the pit of the stomach and it never lets up. I've travelled Europe, Asia, S.America, Russia and I just feel like I've touched the tip of what there is to see. The draw is always there....

  11. Nina,
    Thanks for your comment...
    That "draw" is a symptom of the "disease." What are ya going to do... just roll with it :))


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