Friday, March 24, 2017
Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, and Sleepy...On Travel, and Winding Down in "The Circumference of Home"
This update comes to you from a low bandwidth boondock camp on the westward side of Utah's Abajo Mountains, 7500 feet above sea level, deep in a forest of aromatic ponderosa. Finally, we outrun the stubborn dome of high pressure and resulting record-setting heat, and are able to go about our walks, hikes, and bike rides in coolness of body, mind, and spirit. #heatsucks!
Either Bobbie and I are overdosed on our hypothyroidism meds or global warming is real and upon us. This "new normal" messes with the "comfort level" of my beloved southwest Sonoran Desert playground, and threatens to rein in future wintertime Rv sojourns.
Checking southern Arizona's forecasted "Highs" between December and March should not be an exercise in "fear and loathing." If this really is the "new normal," it climbs beyond the upper limit of acceptable temps required for long days of desert play. At least when it's too cold I can add another layer of clothing. But when it's too hot, well, there's only so much I can take off without offending prudish gang members :). Adding carbon-based fuel to that fire, our Rv "style" is primarily Boondocking, which means no plugins for Goldie's energy-sucking air conditioner. (FYI: When you find yourself loitering in the frozen food section of supermarket's, clutching bags of frozen peas to underarms and back of neck, it's time to engage the "wheels" of your Rv and vamoose). Au revoir, Tucson; farewell, Phoenix; Box Canyon out, and headed north to higher ground in search of lower temps.
The southwest's upward trend in temperatures over the past decade is truly noticeable out on "the trail." I grew up in Arizona during the 50's, lived in under-insulated tin-can trailers of one sort or another from suburban Phoenix to a sprawling grassland ranch down south on Meh-hee-co's border. It was the good ole days, when a mere three-strand barbed wire fence was good enough to separate "them" from "us." And by-the-way, that ranch couldn't have survived without a fence-hopping workforce.
I recall some of the years we lived in Phoenix when temps didn't reach 90 till May. And in June, July, and August, when temps routinely topped 110, we somehow managed to survive with only a single evaporative cooler on our hot-box trailer de jour. We even got along without AC in our vehicles until 1960. Imagine pulling that off nowadays in temps that nudge 120.
Anyway, last week we found our comfort zone—the middle 70's—on south-central Utah's Cedar Mesa. We set a boondock camp five miles off the pavement on a rutted "slippery-when-wet" sinkhole of a road on top of Comb's Ridge, offering prayers to the Weather Gods that it wouldn't rain. An hour later, friends Erik and Maureen rolled in pulling their new high-clearance travel trailer, and joined our camp. It was a spur-of-the-moment meet up, the kind where the designated rendezvous point remained in flux till the last second. That evening we aligned a row of camp chairs on bluff's edge, sipped Lagunitas, and toasted a fiery sunset.
About this time every spring, the realization of another winter's passing begins to sink in. I reflect on the miles traveled, friends reacquainted, happy-hour conversations, and the thousand miles hiked and biked. Hours spun into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and, "Poof," an entire season of people, places, and landscapes evaporates into the haze of past tense. We are appreciative of being granted another chapter in our book, another line in our third act, another brick in our wall.
But now, like a speck of dust borne on the dying winds of a desert haboob, I must fall back to earth and face the stationary reality within my "circumference of home." Strangely, I'm ready, eager even, to not travel, to not dump, to not camp, especially in noisy campgrounds or formerly "private boondocks" that are seemingly now known to the entire Rv world. I'm ready to not contend with the gridlock of endless road construction projects. I'm done with neanderthal tourists in "Cruise America" campers, who, in a million acre plot of vacant Govie land, choose to camp 20 feet from our open windows and run their freaking generator at all hours of the day and night while simultaneously screaming gibberish at the top of their lungs in an effort to hold a conversation over the clamor of, yes, you guessed it, their freaking generator!
No. Lord. I'm ready to rest these tired eyes on familiar beauty, fill my lungs with brisk, clean, exhaust-free air and revel in the luxury of space... like a full-size bathroom that doesn't require contortionist maneuvers for someone my size to take a shit, a place that doesn't reek with the malodorous funk of a week's worth of pee and defecation. Ready... at least until the next haboob of discontent plucks me from the nest of routine and drops me on the road again.
I'm gravitating to the belief that wanderers need an occasional rest stop from travels and exploration—a circumference of home—if for no other reason than to "digest" where they've gone, what they did, and whom they met. Maybe then we could write more from a point of reflection and perspective, instead of a rush of in-the-moment "puppy love" like some redolent newbie full-time Rv cheerleader. Yeah, Grumpy.
People change. All too soon new becomes old and tired, including travelers. I almost feel sorry for aspiring full-time Rv'ers/boondockers because, from my perspective, the Golden Age has passed. The internet has whored nearly every unknown, untracked, and secluded campsite (preaching to choir here) and guided hoards of to the exact GPS crosshairs. Even National Parks, our supposed last refuges of nature? Hell, there's shorter lines at Disney World, where the food's cheaper and frustration less.
Still, I never return home quite the same person as before leaving, and this is good. Travelers are, to varying degrees, irrevocably altered by exposure to new and different landscapes, cultures, and people, even those that aren't "worlds away." Likewise, "home" is never quite the same upon return. Someone is born, someone dies. A new house goes up next door, blocking the view of Mount Abram (sigh). A newly renovated Hot Springs Pool awaits testing, as does a new restaurant. Best of all, winter's snow is all but be melted... at least in town. I'm reminded of T. S. Eliot's verse:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
In my current read, "The Circumference of Home," Kurt Hoelting writes about "living locally" on Washington's picturesque Whidbey Island. In the book he quote's from Richard Nelson's "The Island Within," and I thought an Rv audience might appreciate a little "home" cooked food for thought: "What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it's flat or rugged, rich or austere, wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received."
Later, Hoelting reaches deeper, questioning our motives for travel: "There is nothing so human as the desire to explore our world, to cross the horizon, to see a different night sky, fresh landscapes, other ways of being human... Yet travel, if we let it become an end in itself, can be a way of actually running from our lives, in the vain hope that we will eventually find ourselves in the guise of other places... just another addiction, which only separates us further from the actual life we have been given."
I had to "chew" on that one for a while. What am I running from???
Be it spokes, paddles, boots, or plain ole sneakers, the BCB tries to convey the importance and meaningfulness of self-propelled movement in the outdoors. Listen to how Hoelting expresses this sentiment: "There is a greater wholeness to the fabric of a landscape we have walked through, a more considerate quality of approach, that makes both the path and the destination feel more alive... and we don't experience the same separation between where we are and what we are." I will leave you with that thought...
I realize much has been left unpublished regarding this winter's travels... I'm still working on the reasons why. Perhaps this interminably long post will partially make up for my truancy and give you something to "chew" on.
Till next time, Love and Cheer to all,
mark and bobbie... winding down within our "circumference of home."