I am currently in San Francisco and too exhausted to deal with downloading the photos to blog about Monterey, so I thought now was as good a time as any to tackle some of the excellent questions I received.
1.) Allyson and Louise both asked about my SheWee. At least one of them was serious. So the SheWee isn’t so much something one pees in TO, but rather something one pees THROUGH. It’s sort of like having a… an .. appendage. So it can handle as much output as I need. And it is AWESOME! Very easy to use and has come in handy: on the side of the road miles and miles from a rest stop, outside the campervannie when it’s been to cold to want to venture further, and when there were no bathrooms in the closed campground and I just needed to pee quick before I got eaten by a bear. It’s compact and portable and I don’t know how I ever lived without one before.
2.) Susan and both asked about the selfie stick. It is a little bit awkward using it in public, but honestly I feel almost as goofy taking “normal” selfies, I can just execute them a little more quickly. The one I have is operated via Bluetooth which is activated by a little button I have attached to my keyring. Juggling the stick and the keys and often Annie and trying to line up a good picture angle can be a challenge. I’ve seen others that you plug in to a USB port to charge which eliminates the little button, that might be easier. I have heard a few comments (“Mom-that lady had a selfie stick!”) and gotten a few stares, and the only other people I really see using them are Japanese tourists. But I also see them for sale in a lot of the souvenir stores, so maybe they are catching on? Bottom line: I feel a little self conscious, but I’m pleased with the results, and while I probably wouldn’t use it in the middle of a city, at a tourist attraction where everyone is doing goofy stuff and no one is really paying attention, I think it’s a nifty tool, especially for the solo traveler. The one other issue I have is it takes a bit of set up and doesn’t fit easily in a pocket like my phone, so I don’t always reach for it if it’s a quick in and out photo op.
3.) On a related note, both Mia and Andrew have asked what I am using to take my pictures. Just my iPhone 6. Most of them I hit with the magic wand in the edit function, a few I have brightened up, and the Antelope Canyon ones were on the Chrome setting, but other than that no fancy manipulation. Just a great camera in the phone and the natural beauty of the country.
4.) Susan also asked what audio books I’ve listened to. I will start by saying-surprisingly fewer than I expected. Much of the time when driving I’m just taking it all in, observing all the different landscapes and architecture, and ways of life. Orr making voice notes on my phone for the blog. Or figuring out where to go next and what to do and maybe where to stay. Honestly, my brain is so overloaded most of the time I can’t handle any additional stimuli. That being said, I have listened to: Closing Time by Joe Queenan- a bitingly funny and no punches pulled memoir about growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father (not as depressing as that makes it sound-he’s a very gifted writer.) One Plus One by Jo Myers-a cute comic love story about two people from vastly different worlds who are stuck in a car together for 5 days-set in England. And I’ve just started The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern- it’s about mysterious rival magicians in Victorian London. These are all CDs I checked out of the library. I tried listening to some on my phone, but for some reason the GPS lady is at an entirely different volume, and she was always interrupting to say TURN LEFT IN 1000 FEET! at crucial moments.
5.) Various questions regarding life in Marigold: Can I sleep comfortably in her? Yes, but then I’ve always been able to sleep anywhere. But I snuggle in to my sleeping bag cocoon, Annie curls up beside me, I brought my pillow from home, and I’m quite comfy. Did I expect it to be that cold at night? I was ready for cold, but not freezing temperatures, so while I have been OK if I wear a hat and lots of layers, it’s not ideal. No, it does not appear the fridge will ever work. And yes, I do plan to ask for compensation for the food I had to throw out and all the ice I’m buying for my cooler, and then inconvenience. As far as repairs and maintenance: they told me I didn’t need to worry about routine maintenance, but I’ve had the oil checked and topped off once just to be safe. They gave me an 800 number to call for roadside assistance, and my understanding is that as long as it’s not something that was my fault (like leaving the lights on so the battery dies), they will pay for it.
6.) Food questions: I believe I have had two Chipotle burrito bowls and roughly 4-5 separate taco related meals. I probably only eat at restaurants about 25% of the time, it’s just more interesting to blog about than making myself a sandwich. When I’ve been in the parks I’m almost exclusively eating from the “fridge”. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for breakfast-it’s either been free at a hotel or homemade. And Mia, thank you for saying I look to be losing weight. If it’s true, I think it’s A.) I’m getting more exercise, B.) I’m not actually eating as many big meals as it appears, and C.) 587 selfies later I’ve learned the most flattering angles to use 😉
7.) Both Marek and Claire (and Trish on FB) wanted to get Annie’s take on this whole madcap adventure. I think overall she is enjoying it. She never complains when we have the long driving days, she is always eager to get out and explore and LOVES the new smells and longer hikes, and she curls up close to me and sleeps peacefully through the night wherever we are. She does BARKBARK every time I leave her alone be it in Marigold or a hotel room, but this stops after about 30-40 seconds and then she just goes back to sleep. I don’t know if it’s from anxiety that I’ll leave her or FOMO (fear of missing out). One of my biggest disappointments is that she doesn’t seem to be able to relax when we’re just hanging out in the campground. I may get 10-15 minutes of quiet, but then the barking starts and I have to devote most of my energy to keeping her quiet. She also doesn’t like fire, so if I’m trying to start one, or even just lighting the campo stove, that sets her off.
8.) Yes, I miss everyone, even Norma, and yes, I will (most likely) be coming home 🙂
9.) Sarah asked if I initially had any hesitations about taking a two month break from the world, and if I now wish I could extend my trip. I remember thinking initially that two months was not nearly enough time to see everything I wanted to see, but a REALLY long time to be living out of a van. I wondered if I would get sick of the driving in a week or two, or lonely, or overwhelmed. Most of my concerns were more about handling this new lifestyle than what I was leaving behind though. And yes, now that I am, maybe 2/3 through I feel the end creeping up and it makes me sad and I daydream about stretching to three months or more. This has sort of become the new normal for me…
10.) Which ties into a question from Susan about making up time I’ve lost and staying out longer. Alas, I have Allyson’s island wedding to be a bridesmaid in at the end of May, so no chance of staying out any longer even if the rental place would let me. I’ve already skipped a few planned stops on my route: mainly the Petrified Forest and Great Sand Dunes National Park. I’m also going to have to cut the three nights I planned to spend in and around Vancouver. In hindsight, while I just barely planned enough time to see and do the things I wanted I should have added more time to just rest, or handle things like tracking down blown fuses, etc… I probably needed another ten days or so.
11.) Jen asked what the best and worst things about traveling aloneish are and if I ever feel like Cheryl Strayed. In my mind I am Cheryl Strayed, and she is definitely a huge inspiration for this trip and life in general (everyone here should read Wild, even if you saw the movie, and also Tiny Beautiful Things, and follow her on FaceBook). In reality, I am to her as a sidewalk crack is to the Grand Canyon. What she did was infinitely harder physically, mentally, and emotionally. But this is a start in that direction. I also don’t have as much time or mental energy for soul searching as she did and as I thought I would. The best thing about traveling alone is getting to make all the decisions. Where we go, when we go, for how long we go, when we stop, when and what we eat. Obviously I have to take Annie into consideration, but overall it’s awesome to have that freedom. The worst thing about traveling alone is that I have to do all the work. I can’t say “you do the laundry while I clean out the van,” or “you walk the dog while I make dinner.” Driving, navigating, dog wrangling, cooking, cleaning, decision making, blogging, bill paying, correspondence… it’s all me. Never a break. And, as much as I love having Annie with me, I have to think about her CONSTANTLY.
12.) Marek asked what I am most looking forward to on my way back to Virginia. If you mean as far as locales to see: Mount Rushmore, the badlands of South Dakota, and DeSMet South Dakota where Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up. Susan queried what comforts from home I miss the most. Being able to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning without it being a huge ordeal of getting dressed, putting on shoes and a coat, leashing Annie, finding a poop bag (not for me), walking somewhere, tying Annie to the purse hanger….Also ice in my soda, occasionally being a passenger, and just chilling on my couch.
13.) Lowlight: Believe it or not, that night in Texas when I couldn’t find a place to stay. It was so early on in the trip, my first real “crisis,” and I wasn’t as confident as I am now. I was really scared. You may be surprised I didn’t say Annie’s Great Escape. I’ll let you in on a little secret- the prospect of losing Annie, in any sense of the word, is so beyond my ability to deal with it that my brain won’t go there. Yes, I panicked and worried, but it was more in the vein of “How long will it be before I get her back, and I hope she doesn’t get hurt in the meantime.” Highlights are very difficult to choose, but include: watching a show at Gruene Hall in Texas, horse riding into Bryce Canyon, watching the sunset at my campground in Big Sur.
14.) Chimp wondered if the prospect of returning to real life seemed dull. Not yet. Perhaps because what that will be is undefined right now. First I have a week on a tropical island, and then I need to figure out what my next job will be and find it. So lots to keep me on my toes there. But I would like to find a way to incorporate more long journeys like this into my reality. Speaking of boredom, Susan wondered if I get bored on the trip. Hardly ever. I think because my brain is always going and I have SO much new information coming in constantly and it’s sensory overload 24/7 and every place I go is different and new that there’s no room for boredom. Sometimes, on long stretches of highway that don’t change for hours and hours I do a bit-and then I pop in an audio book.
15.) Andrea asked what was most and least as I was expecting. Tough one! I will say the Peabody Ducks were just as cool and just as big a production as I had hoped, and the Pacific Coast is as beautiful and breathtaking as I had hoped. Memphis was a lot more run down and deserted than I had expected, and it pains me to admit, but I wasn’t really expecting much from Yosemite because we have forests and rivers and stuff at home, but it BLEW ME AWAY! I had NO idea it was going to be that amazingly gorgeous. And that was before the snow! It’s also been overall chillier than I was expecting on the southern route.
16.) Mia wonders where I can most envision myself living. Where I would most want to live would be Big Sur/Monterey, but, aside from being way too far from friends and family, it’s so different from what I’m used to, I don’t know if I could adapt.
17. ) And Lisa comes up with the real tough ones-what have I learned about myself and what has surprised me. What has surprised me is my (increasing) ability to deal with change/uncertainty/plans being altered. I knew going into the journey that I probably would end up having to make alterations to my schedule, either due to time restrictions or unexpected detours. And I was really worried about how I would deal with having to let some things go. And every day brings new uncertainties as to where we will stay and what we will be able to do, and for the most part I am rolling with it. I’ve learned that I’m braver and more capable than I thought I was, confirmed that I prefer to be out in nature than in big cities, and realized that I am even more independent than I thought I was.
This has all been very stream of consciousness, so hopefully I didn’t miss anything and the answers made a reasonable amount of sense. This was fun-more questions always welcome!