In thinking about this trip the other day and all that it will entail, it struck me that maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis. It’s a concept that I always frowned upon in the folly of my not-nearly-misspent-enough youth. Who were these oldsters trying to pretend they were 23 again, and why didn’t they just live the previous years of their life in such a way that they wouldn’t feel they had been missing out, and now had to take drastic measures to catch up? Well no one ever mentioned that when you hit midlife you still feel 23 inside, and that ten years can vanish out from under you in a blink. But even after swallowing the bitter pill of realization that 45 does indeed constitute “mid-life,” this still doesn’t feel like a crisis. There’s no panic or scrambling or desperation in my plans. So what then to call it? Yesterday, as I continued to ponder on the proper term for this madness that has overtaken me, I read an article in which Jennifer Aniston was talking about her motivations for pursuing an acting role well outside of her comfort zone in the new movie Cake, and described herself as having a “midlife contemplation.” I certainly like the sound of that a lot more, but it was still a shoe that didn’t quite fit: too passive and peaceful for a madcap sprint across the country in not-nearly-enough time. If crisis seemed too crazy, contemplation seemed too calm. Then today, over a steamy bowl of Hot and Sour Soup, I received the above glimpse into my future. Renewal. I like the sound of that. REnewal. A reboot, a rejiggering, a review and redo of how I’m looking at and living my life. ReNEWal. See new places, try new foods, have new experiences, think new thoughts. RenewAL. Every part of me: heart and mind, body and soul. RENEWAL. That seems to me . . . just right.

Whitman’s Sampler Tour

On paper, two months seems like a ridiculous amount of time. Contemplating living out of a campervan for approximately 66 days (give or take the occasional hotel) can seem, well, challenging, to say the least. But trying to see and do everything in America that intrigues me in that whisper of a fragment of a second? Impossible. When more rational minded folk look at my anticipated route, “ambitious” has been the overarching response. So, I’ve decided to consider it a “Whitman’s Sampler Tour.” A taste of this, a nibble of that, and later I can come back and order from the all you can eat menu at the places I want to revisit. Soak in the scenery on the road, stop at a park and hike for a bit, hit the top hotspots in town, and be on my way. With that in mind, I present the current itinerary. Feel free to make suggestions of “Must Dos” in and around these areas, or point out any glaring omissions.

  • Mammoth Cave, KY
  • Nashville, TN
  • Memphis, TN
  • Austin, TX
  • Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, TX
  • Balmorhea, TX
  • Valley of Fires State Park, NM
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Taos, NM
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO
  • Arches National Park, UT
  • Four Corners Monument
  • Mesa Verde National Park, CO
  • Monument Valley
  • Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
  • Grand Canyon
  • Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, UT
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  • Zion National Park, UT
  • Valley of Fire State Park, NV
  • Death Valley National Park, CA
  • Santa Barbara, Solvang, Morrow Bay, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, CA
  • Yosemite National Park, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
  • Redwood National Park, CA
  • Florence, OR
  • Silverton, OR
  • Portland, OR
  • Mount Hood National Forest, OR
  • Long Beach, WA
  • Olympic National Park, WA
  • San Juan Islands, WA
  • Vancouver, BC
  • (some random places in central Washington)
  • Glacier National Park
  • Devil’s Tower, WY
  • Custer State Park, SD
  • Wind Cave National Park, SD
  • Badlands National Park (Mount Rushmore) SD
  • De Smet, SD (Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead)
  • Dyersville, IA (Field of Dreams)
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, IN
  • (undecided place in OH or PA)
  • HOME!

Mixed Emotions

The date for our departure is drawing nearer. Routes are being finalized, purchases are being made, and I am hurtling through the entire gamut of emotions. Am I really going to wave a cheery goodbye to Step Doug in New Jersey and then spend the next two months with little substantial human contact? Will I be consumed with loneliness? Or terrified navigating unknown roads and adventures entirely on my own and miles from home? Am I insane to quit my job and spend two months with no income, only outgo? Only to return to start my employment search from ground zero? Will I be bored from the long stretches of solo driving? Or overwhelmed by all the new experiences? I have been hesitant to tell too many people about my plans, partially for fear I’ll chicken out and look silly, and partially for fear they’ll think I’m crazy. Or shoot it down. But more than anything I am excited about this new chapter in my life. To go and see and experience so many things I have always dreamed of or only recently discovered. To fend for myself in the great outdoors. And to build some amazing memories with my best friend.