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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Unanticipated Merits of Summer Employment; Plus, A Novel High-country Hike

The spirit's "uptick" is in play—counting down the days now till Goldie's RV rubber hits the road. On the brink of Autumn my mental and emotional footing finds solid ground. The most tedious  chores of summer are in the rearview mirror, and my Polo work-shirt is laundered, pressed and hanging in the closet awaiting a well tanned, rested, and wandered thin Gallery Boy's triumphant return from saguaro strewn deserts come spring. I take immense pleasure in performing the few remaining RV tasks—little toy projects compared those "life and death" maters from long ago treadmills...the one's where back seat driver bosses from hell scrutinize every move, or lack there of, and second guess. Indeed, by comparison, RV problems are water off this ugly duck's back. 

I'll likely deny it next May, whining as I trudge off to my seasonal day-job, but right now—having just been laid off and staring down the barrel at six, count em, six months of wandering the desert in flip flops and shorts—I'm wondering if the part-time RV/part-time work scenario isn't responsible for refreshing my screen of excitement and "can't wait for tomorrow" attitude" that seemed to go AWOL during our Full-Time outing. Now the feeling is more like those days when school was about to let out for summer. Remember the anticipation while turning in books, the impending freedom of no more homework or tests, and a whole lazy summer to make mischief with friends? 

Of course, everyone is different (thank God); some will argue that the full-time life is perfect, or that it's time for me to grow up. But after a year or so, we found the full-time experience grinding down to routine and began to feel "disconnected." Just like love, passion, chocolate, losing five pounds, and everything else that's to good to be true, it really hard to sustain (sigh). 

Rightly so, you say. The flash/boom of initial fireworks isn't meant to be sustained; the full-time lifestyle is just that, a roller coaster with ups and downs like any love affair. Once newbie elation over getting out of jail tapers off, excitement tends to mature into a regular and routine life. 

But what explains the relatively short lifespan of full-timing? How many people do you know that are still going strong after 5 years on the road? 10 years? Is Full-timing a misnomer, a temporary fling before we settle back in a little cottage near the grandkids? 

Well, the statistics seem to suggest yes. That full timers drop out like flies after a few years...after such huge investments in rigs is a little surprising to me. Most return to a sticks and bricks someplace purdy and put in a garden. Oh, they keep the RV for a while, just in case, but usually end up selling it for a lot less than they'd like. The few that can afford it buy a second home someplace warm in the winter...Florida or Arid Zona, and pack the megaphone and pom poms in a closet. Channel surfing 400 satellite dish stations replaces the windshield. To be fair, age and illness and spousal deaths force some of these changes on people who would otherwise keep going. Au contraire, say it isn't so. 

So it occurred to me while interrogating my deep inner self (oxymoron, I know) that it just might be the thing I hate the most that will keep us on the road every winter...till they pry the Driver's License from my cold dead hand. Working! Dear God.

The more I thought about it the more convinced I became, that coming home to a job every summer might be what's keeps my love affair for The Road hot...not taking even one minute of it for granted. You want to really really appreciate something? Try going without it for six months...or, better yet, make it finite, like Life. Yes, we are all going to die, some sooner than later. I suggest cramming for the finale like it was a final exam, do those things that brings happiness and try to appreciate the many blessings of health while they last. If it takes a job and coming home off the road to keep me interested in Life...wide-eyed and bushy tailed for the next outing of the day, a hike, a bike ride, a walk—whether someplace new or old favorite—then so be it. Change must be good for me. Those good old travel endorphins are building again as I prepare Goldie for departure and lay plans in "sand." I can't wait for the change, shift, diversion or whatever you want to call it. I like feeling anticipation; I like planning and changing plans; I like the idea of getting out of town and hanging up the work apron. 

For me, that is the "glass half full" part that comes from not eating "ice cream" every day...having a job to come off the road to, a commitment to follow through on. Nothing like a little "finite" to make me appreciate the now. Admittedly, coming home to a place like Lovely Ouray makes it sort of a "win-win." And the paychecks are nice, as well as necessary, to fund the next round of RV adventures. I think volunteering on a seasonal basis and staying put in one's RV could have a similar effect at building anticipation for change (I'm thinking of Jim and Gayle and Debbie's stay in south Texas). It's good to look forward to a new beginning be it commitment or freedom. They counterbalance each other like Yin and Yang. The greater the commitment, the greater the anticipation...that the end is near. There is a feeling of accomplishment or "giving back," as we move on with fresh eyes and renewed spirits. 

Just random thoughts from an asymmetrical misfit...an oval peg trying to squeeze into a rectangular hole. Now for a novel hike!

It's cool that we can still discover new trails to ascend around Lovely Ouray. I don't know why we haven't hiked this particular Hayden Mountain Trail, it's not like we didn't know it was there as it's only a few miles up The Million Dollar Highway. The trailhead is on the Ouray side of Red Mountain Pass just before Ironton. 

We parked at the Crystal Lake dam. A gentle breeze toyed with Red Mountain's reflection...a watercolor waiting to be painted. Cotton-ball clouds were already building, threatening to fulfill a doom and gloom forecast issued by cyber geeks at NOAA.  

Ala Paul Simon, there must be fifty ways to climb Hayden Mountain. We have accomplished most of them over the years, all steep leg burners. One hundred yards beyond the dam our trail turned into a demon...a relentless, dispiriting ladder. Zig after zag after zig it stair stepped us breathless, pushing quads, hamstrings, and buttocks to the edge of fire. The last few years my legs don't seem to recover between back to back hikes. What's that all about? 

I hoped for some autumnal color distractions to take my mind off the effort, but the first hard frost has yet to arrive and loosen summer's green grip on aspens.  

Unseasonal rain, humidity, and warmth spills over into September this year. Not halfway our tee shirts were soaked and left us mopping brows with shirt tails and sleeves. "My Birthright for a Breeze, dear Lord."

At timberline we paused to check on the deteriorating weather situation, and decided against trying for Hayden's summit(3.5 miles), especially at such a slow uphill pace. Being a goal-oriented type, I thought it would be nice to at least make the saddle and have a look at His Majesty Hayden from a new vantage point. Hearing no rumbles of thunder we continued the ascent, up, up, up into the vast, unprotected openness of alpine tundra, falling away into the green abyss of late summer at some forty five degrees. 

Exhausted, dehydrated and cranky, I resorted to Gatorade and MoJo Bars for a pick-me-up. But it was one false summit after another, always something in the way of Hayden. That our trail began to peter out was understandable. Most flatland day hikers would have bailed by now...especially with storms brewing on the horizon. I knew we had to be getting close to the saddle, though, and set my jaw. Bobbie was "game," as usual.

Finally, I spied a few volcanic Hoo Doos, poking crumbly heads above the tundra. The incline slacked off to a chorus of cheers from tired legs. The topography abruptly change into a surreal Martian-like landscape, devoid of vegetation. We skirted what looked like a long-dead volcano; it had deep fissures and cinders the color of lavender and rust. I tossed my Gatorade bottle and pulled out the trusty Canon...hoping to capture the subtle beauty of  earth-tone hues.

Thunderheads continued to build on our backside while we were mesmerized by our volcanic surround of understated, but rich colors.

A bare limb—carried, no doubt, from woods a thousand feet below—marked the saddle. North through the gap skies hung clear and blue over the Uncompahgre Valley...Grand Mesa's flattop plane visible 100 miles in the distance.

I spied the familiar ridge route to Hayden's summit (the green ridge in the right hand upper corner of the above photo). But Hayden itself remained hidden behind the spent volcano. Geeze Louise, must I climb this cone of cinders and rubble to connect the last dot? Thunder rumbled it's distant drum. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the photos and a flash flood bullet narrowly dodged...



  1. Next month will be 5 years of full timing for us, with 10 months of that time spent volunteering. Maybe that's what has kept us going this long since we are always anxious to get back on the road after sitting in one place for a few months.
    Seems like you guys have found what works for you, and that is what is most important.
    By the way, my legs hurt just reading about your hike!

    1. Trying the "Reply Box" option here...might be too much pressure tho :))
      Well, Happy Anniversary, then.
      You are right about finding what works for "you." We must be masters of our own domains...who care how anyone else does it :) I find it interesting tho...that the drop out rate is so high, and nobody talks about that much in blogs and glossy magazines... Thanks for your input.

    2. This is something that I have thought about for a bit now. Staying anywhere for too long generates a sense of being in a rut. Some folks are comfortable with that. I was too once upon a time, that all changed 5 years ago.

      Now having experienced the freedom of moving when and where we choose I don't think I could go back to a stay in place lifestyle until I am forced to.

      A number of people traveling full time that we have met divide their year up between two places which they go back to again and again. I would tire of that quickly. Five months in Texas was too long. More than a month is too long for me.

      I enjoy cranking the engine and heading to a new spot even if it is just a few miles away. I enjoy exploring the area and getting a bit familiar with it. I start getting bored and feeling like I have slipped into that rut when I stay too long.

      So, essentially, I agree with your post but don't think you have to be somewhere for many months to experience the joy of heading out. Of course, there are far worse things than being "stuck" in Ouray for a few months, south Texas comes to mind.

      I would definitely come back to this part of California because there is just too many trails left to hike and mountains to see. I know it is the scenic beauty that continues to motivate Boonie.


  2. What a post...what beautiful photos...I am staying close to the iPad for part 2!

    Just celebrated year 2 of full timing. It's been a blast! We do feel like we have to cram so much in sometimes...don't know what the future holds. So far so good!

    1. Part II is done and ready to fire...
      I can tell you guys are having a blast. That you are not concerned with the future is a good thing...can't live it till it gets here anyway. Love it!

  3. stunning pictures, Mark and I'm also anxious to read Part 2!

    1. Thanks, my wordsmith blogging friend. who you going to take on next? :))

  4. Colorful Colorado, awesome! The reason the Aspens havent changed yet is because I'm arriving in CO on Oct 4th!! SO it's all about me! My legs are hurting now and my knee is swelling just thinking of that leg burner...will look forward to part II.

    1. Sondra,
      So it's you whose holding up fall...it should have snowed by now.
      Thanks, now get your butt out here!

  5. Another set of amazingly beautiful photos! At least you had to run down hill to avoid the storm instead of up hill:)

    We are starting our fourth year of fulltiming and still loving every minute of it. I believe the fact that we tend to do longer stays often (a month) keeps us very content with this life style. We have those very necessary days to just live. Always moving and playing tourist every day would wear anyone out quickly. Besides, we haven't found that place yet that we might want to settle.

    Looking forward to part II!

    1. Can't run uphill at 12,000 feet...anymore, anyway.
      It's good that you have developed a travel style that suits the both of you...
      and you are right about playing tourist...that was one of our mistakes. Something tells me you aren't looking too hard for that settling place :)

  6. I'll bet it is true that a part-time RVer gets a lot of pleasure from anticipation.

    The downside is that a part-timer can never, ever, be comfortable in ANY RV, because they never really adjust to a new and permanent "normal."

    1. "Never, ever?"
      Hmmmm, maybe you are right... but I'll bet there are exceptions to Never Ever...there always are, and you of all people know that.
      As for a new permanent normal? No thanks...I'm in love with change too much. If you won the lotto I think you would change a little bit... I could be wrong tho...this once.

  7. I have some friends that full-timed 15+ years and now travel, mostly to Alaska, part-time. They.purchased a winter home in FL.

    Howard and I know that we could not full-time, but truly enjoy part-time.

    Lovely thoughts on RV'ing and gorgeous photos of beautiful Ouray. We travelled there many times, but not recently. Jeeped Engineer Pass, Black Bear and others. Truly fun times!

    1. Thanks Sheilla,
      Wow, you guys jeeped Black Bear eh? Gutsy!
      But not full time for you tho...hmmmm, Grandkids?

  8. We are beginning our 8th year of fulltiming and still love it. Spending the summers months around Ontario Canada moving around visiting with friends and family makes everything wonderful. But then the winter months we are off exploring the southern states, searching for sunshine and warmer weather.
    Lots of great place to see and revisit and the getting out and about.
    We plan to do this as long as our health allows us.

    1. Well hell, George... it's the food fare that keeps you going. I swear, those meals you guys concoct are right out of Julia Childs cook book. It is a good thing to get south from Canada in the winter...I feel the same about Ouray, we just have a shorter distance to drive :). Thanks for your input and we'll see you for dinner someday :)

  9. We've only been fulltiming for 18 months, but we did sell all the real estate and worldly goods years ago before we started. So I guess we really don't have a sticks and bricks lifestyle to return to. We are looking to buy some raw land in northern Idaho that would be the perfect summer boondocking base camp. Then we could have a place to garden, a place to invite people to stay, but still not be tempted in any way to come off the road. We are looking at some interesting work camping jobs to mix things up. Just about any job can be fun and educational if you only have to do it for a month or two!

    1. John V (wow, now I have a John Q and a John V... I'll try not to get you mixed up)
      Well I added you to my blog roll...I could tell we are like minded in a few ways and I especially liked your write up on Obama care and alternatives for less costly surgeries in foreign countries (example: by pass in India 1500 bucks. USA 106,000...check his post out, folks)
      I also see eye to eye about having a little piece of land (if we can ever sell one or both houses) for the same reasons as you mentioned. Cowboy Brian and I have discussed this a few time as well as Susan and Maikel. I envision a garden too, with food costs soaring like the are and all the pesticides. Also would like to be able to have a few hook ups for friends...maybe even charge a fair price and have a little compound :)) Idaho would be a good place...just need to go south for winter. Thanks

  10. Although I have only been at it for 6 months now, I must say it suits me more than I ever dreamed. I can't yet conceive of what would make me say "I'm done."

    I do find myself becoming more isolated from the face-to-face, and more connected to my friends who live inside this little black box, however, which is a bit disconcerting. But not at all unpleasant. ;-)

    Your cotton-ball clouds are outstanding!


    1. Cyber friends do help...we're here for you when you need us :))
      I like your lifestyle of working on the road. It sure beats a cubical and gets you around the USA to boot.
      Here's to Cotton Ball Clouds in both our futures.

  11. Mark,

    Forget about that square hole, make yourself a round one or ditch the concept all together.

    Eric & Carrie Ann in Chicago

    1. E and C,
      I guess I was born to question status quo...wired to roam externally and internally. Aren't we all on some level "misfits?"
      I hope your bags are packed :)) Ms. Autumn seems to have arrived overnight...

  12. Yep, change every 6 or 7 months fires things up. Six months on the road followed by work, big projects or volunteering really builds up the anticipation for the coming excursion. You nailed it.

    I've been reading your blog for a while and enjoy it, keep up the good "work".

    We have been going to Ouray for the last 20 years but have been side tracked the last 2 summers. Hmmm, I think I'll need a Ouray fix this coming June...

    1. Thanks Terry,
      I think too many RV blogs only do the rah rah version and neglect the whole truth. Just trying to keep it honest, and share our version and search for the right blends of seasons, travels, mountains, oceans, cities, and wilderness.
      I hope you get your "Ouray fix" come June...as you probably know, there is still a lot of snow in the mountains in June so it's hard to get to the alpine zones. Mid July is perfect...wildflowers everywhere.
      thanks for your comment!

  13. Wayne thinks we'll be floating around forever when we finally get our turn to "full time", but I take the more realistic approach that after a few years we'll probably settle into a winter in one place, summer and fall traveling routine. Will that be settling into a long term volunteer/workamp situation or something we own? Who knows. Personally I could care less if we have a house ever again. I won't miss my garden or the housework, I've been neglecting both of those things around the smaller house we still have for 4 years at least now! Got rid of all but the most basic stuff in 2010 and don't miss any of it. By the way, we got five extra vacation days in 2015 and I'm trying to work on a November trip to Zion but he's not biting yet! Twenty three hours of driving each way for us....

    1. Pam/Wayne,
      If Wayne is smart, he will let you win this difference of opinion...for a couple of reasons (grin). There are so many advantages to "settling" in one place for an extended time over continuous "floating." I fought it too...but now understand that a little bit of "grounding" keeps the fire burning. I believe I will RV till I die, just not full-time...or, if at some point we do give up a sticks and bricks to live in an RV full time, then we will spend "seasons" as opposed to days/weeks in places we are fond of and that feel like "home." Having a little casita on a cheap plot of land is my idea of the ideal future travel/stay RV lifestyle. Of course my "Casita" will need to have a garage/shop under it :).

  14. Five years full timing here. We don't travel as much as I thought we would. We winter in Tucson for the biking and hiking, and up until this year we would spend summer in Seattle to spend time with my mother in law. She's gone now, so things can always change. Our biggest issue is where would we live full time? We're done with cold weather. Done! Tucson is too hot in the summer. I figure we'll do this until we're too rickety to set a sewer hose. Then we'll have to pick a final resting place. The Ouray Tourist Board should license your photos. I am always happy when you post something new.

    1. Allison,
      Well that was a nice "loop," Tucson, up to Seattle and back every year. For one month, September usually, I love the Seattle area as a jumping off point. We like Anacortes, Whidbey Island...and of course the san juan islands by ferry, and Victoria, BC is always beautiful. But when the rain sets in...it's back south in time to follow Ms Autumn back to Utah and finally, Tucson, where we like to winter for a while every year.
      I like your idea about getting paid by the Ouray Tourist Board for photos...and it's nice to know a new post brings you "happiness." Thanks so much,


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