Reno>Idaho

It was a good decision to take back roads instead of highways on my way from Reno to Wyoming.

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Night fell on the backcountry Idaho road I was traveling. Decided to stop for the night and met a fellow family of travelers with fantastic stories of visits to Moscow in winter during the Cold War, Papua New Guinea, and remote areas of Africa.

Grand Teton national park today and for the next few days. It’s just over two years to the day since my best friend and I fell in love with the mountains here. I’ve been dying to explore them ever since!

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Travel update: Lake Powell

Upon leaving Tucson, I left this little sausage with my best friend J——.  She’ll stay in Arizona until I’m stable enough to overfeed her again.

Her real name is Pixel, but I'm calling her Sausage until she drops a pound or so.

Her real name is Pixel, but I’m calling her Sausage until she drops a pound or so.

It was a lonely start to the drive.  When I’m leaving, my head is full of plans and dreams and excitement over the new places I’m going, and I don’t usually feel sad to go.  It’s not until I’m about an hour out of town – coffee already drunk, new highways and merging and checking the map all out of the way, bike tied and re-tied to the car, and little travel bumps worked out – it’s not until I’m settling down for the long haul that I realize I just said goodbye and I won’t see those friends again for a while.  It’s a lonely realization, and I feel even worse thinking that maybe I didn’t say goodbye the right way, that I should have cried or carried on or said “I’ll miss you” more.  Am I a jerk for not coming to this realization earlier? I wonder if I seem cold when I’m leaving.  I hope not.

A lonely drive up to the Utah border, but the scenery helped me forget my internal self-torture for a while.

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The dam on the Colorado river that created Lake Powell

I cheered up even more when I saw the beach where I was planning to camp.

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Not pictured: approximately 1 billion RVs

However, this is where the misadventures began.  First, I neglected to actually remember my tent when I hiked down the beach from my car (the adventure wagon is tough, but this was some seriously deep sand).  Then, I made the mistake of following the instructions on my tent.  The instructions read “it if is very windy, stake down your tent”.  They really SHOULD read “If it is EVEN A LITTLE BIT WINDY LIKE WITH A GENTLE BREEZE OR EVEN REALLY ANY TINY BIT OF WIND AT ALL, stake down your tent”.

Sure it's cute, but no fun to chase across the sand while the RV dwellers give you weird looks

Sure it’s cute, but no fun to chase across the sand while the RV dwellers give you weird looks

Tent successfully staked down, I swam in the freshest, most perfect waters as the sun went down.  The stars began to come out, the sky darkened…

…and the neighbors in the RV brought out their ATVs.

I knew what I was getting into at this beach – every review online mentioned the noise from the hundreds of RVs and the lack of respect for quiet hours.  It wasn’t surprising, it was just… loud.  And obnoxious.

I’m new to camping, and I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me to sleep with the noise of the tent flapping in the wind (to me, it sounded like rodents or insects trying to chew through the tent).  I was irritable and having trouble getting comfortable, even on the soft sand.  After the sound of the ATV’s died down I slept, only to be woken again when the same campsite began a profanity-laden screaming match.  At that point I gave up on sleep for a little while and stepped out to enjoy the moonrise.  A perfect yellow crescent made its way up through the clear, brilliant stars.

Long exposure of the moonrise

Long exposure of the moonrise

A little before dawn I slept again, and got up with the sun.

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Much preparation and independence are required, but this I could get used to this camping thing.


I would have stayed longer at Powell – truthfully, I should have stayed another day.  But I’m not used to this complete freedom.  I produce my best work under pressure, not when I’m given no restrictions.  I’m not yet used to traveling with no schedule, being allowed to change my plans and stay an extra day.  I didn’t know then (and I’m only just learning it now) that you can still be spontaneous when you travel on a budget.

That’s one of the reasons I’m taking this trip, this long hiatus.  I know that I work well under pressure, when more is demanded of me than I might think to demand of myself.  I did well in my previous job when I took on a management position with no experience and little support.  I achieve more at a fitness class than I do in my own home practice.  I’ll keep seeking out those structured opportunities that stretch me – but why shouldn’t I also learn to stretch myself? What an interesting challenge to learn how to build structured goals for myself that challenge me to grow my potential.

Farewell to Tucson

The first leg of my trip is coming to an end, and I’m heading for Utah tomorrow.

It’s been a relaxing couple of weeks as I transition out of a typical working life and into a life and schedule of my own choosing.  As the pictures show, I’ve had a few adventures.

thunderstorm over a valley near Tucson, seen from the top of Mount Lemmon

Thunderstorm over a valley near Tucson, seen from the top of Mount Lemmon

I’ve had fun seeing friends, traveling, and relaxing, but it doesn’t feel entirely successful, yet.  I’m still getting the hang of a rhythm – is there even a rhythm to a life with no schedule? Day and night happen pretty predictably – everything else is subject to change, and I’m the one who decides when to sleep, eat, exercise, read, see friends.  It’s tremendously freeing, but also scary, to have so much freedom and so much responsibility together.  I really need to know who I am and what my priorities are in order to avoid being buffeted by the tides of whims, passing emotions, and the desires of others.

night-blooming cereus flowers - they bloom in the desert only once a year

Night-blooming cereus flowers – they bloom in the desert only once a year.  I feel so lucky to have discovered these, entirely by chance, as I found out about the opportunity from the news while watching TV for the first time in probably a year.

Tomorrow I begin meandering back to Reno via a couple of Utah’s gorgeous national parks.  I’ll say farewell to Tucson’s formidable heat (yay), lots of cacti (bummer), old and new friends (boo), and my cat (boooo).  My goal for the next week is to do my mini-road trip Mary-style.  I have a bad habit of worrying about what someone else would do in my place when I’m on a trip.  I worry that I’m wasting my time, or not doing it right, or that if I’d only planned better I could have done something really spectacular.  That worry poisons my experiences.  This week, I’ll try to go a few days without poison.

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Sunset over Tucson, midway up the hike to Romero Pools

Happy as a clam

Did you know that the phrase “happy as a clam” is short for “happy as a clam as high water”? (Clams are safest from predators at high tide).

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San Diego is magnificent.  I’m still trying to figure out why the rest of the continental US hasn’t packed up and moved there yet.

 

The Imperfect Drive to Tucson

The first leg of my long travel journey was the trip from Reno to Tuscon to temporarily re-home my sassy cat, Pixel.  It felt like the first step of my long year of traveling, and I had high expectations for everything to go well so I could feel like I’m making a fantastic decision by quitting my job to go exploring.

beautiful open road

beautiful open road

So, of course, it didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted.  Even with all the extra time I took to pack and get ready, there were speed bumps – I managed to leave a lot of packing until the last minute, and had to make frequent stops to check on the cat when she decided to dramatically flop around in her crate like a beached marine mammal (she was faking it.  Drama queen.).

I put a lot of pressure on myself to have this first step go impossibly smoothly, and I put myself through even more mental stress by telling myself I was supposed to be having fun, dammit.  It certainly didn’t make me feel like a cool, confident, seasoned traveler when I didn’t enjoy myself.

But I had an interesting revelation when I looked through the pictures I did manage to take once I calmed down enough to enjoy the drive.  It was a day that was supposed to be filled with adventure and wanderlust and seeing new places, but was actually full of stress, worry, and self-doubt.  The thing is, you can’t see it in the pictures – you can’t see any of what I was feeling. It looks like a perfect sunlit day, gorgeous clouds, blooming cacti, Joshua tree forests, and quirky roadside scenery.

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some of the aforementioned quirky roadside scenery

What does it mean? Did the pictures give me an objective view of my experience, reminding me that all things considered, it wasn’t such a bad day? Or is it about the story I tell – as an optimist, I’ll focus on the positive regardless? And what about other travel blogs I read where everything always seems to go right and everyone’s hair is perfectly tousled and all the pictures are perfectly set against picturesque seascapes? What’s the hidden story behind those impossibly beautiful images?

In any case, I would like to offer the following caveat to accompany these pictures: I was worried almost the entire day – worried the bike would fall off the car, worried the cat would OD on the sedative I gave her, worried the car would break down in the middle of July with us far from friends and help – hell, I even beat myself up for worrying about anything at all, telling myself if I were really cut out for this life, I wouldn’t be so anxious. And still, it was an absolutely perfect drive.