In the belly of the Whale: Mid-meal Messy Mayhem

So, in my last post on my kitchen, I showed what it looked like closed up and ready for driving, and what it looked like open and ready for some action.  What I didn't show was what it looked like while I was actually cooking…

As you can see, it's a tiny space indeed! But with some acrobatics and a balancing act on whatever tiny ledges are available, we make it work. The good news is that in cleaning my whole kitchen, I don't need to take a single step.

Boondocking 101: On Water

Dry-camping in Colorado. Well worth learning how to conserve water.

Mastering (i.e. attempting) boondocking* (i.e. dry-camping) is a new skill that has taken over our lives in the first months of this year. Appropriate somehow, since we started our journey in the Western deserts and water conservation is a big theme in these lands.

Filling up with our 39 gallons at Joshua Tree

Living in a trailer, we’re living in an odd half-state between “normal” home conveniences and tent camping – all depending on 3 magic lines – electric, water, and sewage. When connected to all 3 lines as a “full hook-up” we get to live like we are in a normal (albeit tiny) home with high pressure running water, tv, lights and air-conditioning, and could go about taking long showers and sudsing up a ton of dishes without a care in the world. Pretty excellent, considering our backyards are some pretty spectacular places. 

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Top 5 Eats and Cheats from Hiking the Grand Canyon

Bright Angel camp’s temporary cooking station.
The most fun part (for me) of prepping for our Grand Canyon hike was thinking about food. Meal planning four days of camp food was a new challenge for a city girl like me. No sandwiches, as cold cuts won’t last out of the fridge and bread is easily squished. Canned goods are heavy, raw eggs are delicate, hard-boiled eggs go bad too fast, and don’t even think about fresh veg and fruit. Moose goo, S informed me, was the hard core hiker food of choice, but the idea of eating dry pellets of peanut butter and corn flour dough wasn’t too appealing.

Gear for 4 days in the Grand Canyon. It’s….mostly food.
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The Top Ten Significant Insignificant Observations at the Halfway Point

We’ve seen six months of sunsets. Hopefully that qualifies us to make these insightful insights.

Six months into our trip and we’ve already done a lap around the US, circling the country (and more) from Channel Islands to Key West, and from Acadia to Portland.  Completing a circle usually calls for some kind of reflection, something that highlights lessons learned or nirvana(s) experienced.  This is not that post. (Although you might want to check out this post for more details on where we’ve been.)

We have some serious thoughts that we’ll no doubt put on the interwebs in the coming months, but I thought it might be fun to highlight some significant insignificant observations that we’ve had on our trip.  Some are observations that anyone might have had driving 25,000 miles around the country over six months, and some might be more conditioned by the fact that we haven’t lived in the US for about 10 years.

One: Why did anyone let us drive an RV without taking some sort of course first?

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Half way there! 25 National Parks, 25,000 Miles and Counting….


Summer’s in full swing here in South Dakota, and we’ve hit 25 National Parks out of 50, and put 25,000+ miles on the road with The Dude.  With the Whale in tow, we’ve hit 10,000 miles since January and have managed to drive about 3/4 of the way around the United States.

It’s hard to believe that in 6 months we’ve managed to drive down the Californian coast to the Texan-Mexico borderlands and swing up along the wildflower-ridden Appalachians.  Then it was down down down the length of Florida to the Southernmost tip of the US in Key West, and the up up up along the East Coast to the icy lobster-rich waters of Bar Harbor, Maine.  From that easternmost point, we darted westward, exploring the Boundary Waters of the North Woods of Minnesota, and then across the Great Plains to the Badlands.

It’s been a dizzying, amazing ride so far.  And now, there’s only 25 National Parks to go…

 

Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns: It’s what’s inside that counts

Natural entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns is a national park many have heard of, as it’s famed for beautiful limestone cave formations and the underground fantasy world they create. Guadalupe? I never heard of it. It’s claim to fame is hosting the highest mountain in … Texas. And while it is striking to see any peaks in the barren desert and mild slopes in this corner of Texas, I wasn’t sure it justified us spending a week of dry-camping in a parking lot. (Indeed, the campsite for RVs is a parking lot, and the heat brought out all the loudest generators in Texas.) While I don’t have a favorite park, it’s a running joke between S and I that I have a least favorite.

Guadalupe National Park aka Tip of the Permian Reef

Carlsbad Caverns on the other hand…  Cave exploration there requires reservations for ranger guided tours, which fill up fast (hint: reserve very early), so we had just one day to explore underground.  Much to our dismay, for time seems immaterial in that underground realm, and the hours slipped away too fast. The world below was almost unreal in its spectacular beauty of pale delicate speleothems, moist rooms crammed with spindly stalactites and fragile draperies. Continue reading “Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns: It’s what’s inside that counts”

50 in 50: Month Two in 30 Seconds

Month 2 of this adventure saw us in Arizona, zooming from Sedona to Saguaro to the Petrified Forest and then into the Grand Canyon. From there we made our move to Texas where we hung out in Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns and Walmart parking lots, found a home in Big Bend, and somehow also made pit stops in the artist haven of Marfa, Lockhart to eat meat in the home of Texas BBQ, and Austin to see bats and hipsters.

 

The Peace of Wild Things (and Places)

Sunrise in Voyageurs National Park.

Wendell Berry’s poems, fiction, and non-fiction have been a near-constant companion on the road.  As some of you who have read earlier posts know, we started this trip with the goal of restoring body and spirit in some of the country’s most beautiful places. There are few authors who better speak to that desire than Mr. Berry.

As an example, here’s a short poem that I used to read in the urban jungles of Beijing.  It may have single-handedly brought us back to the American wild.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

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