Traveling in the Present

4/7/17

“The role of the traveler today- like the role of any artist who treads outside the bounds of mainstream cultural imagination- is to be a storyteller of new possibilities, and most importantly of all, a messenger of hope.” Simon Yugler -Travel Alchemy

Traveling has a very special alchemy.  It gives me the freedom of being outside my normal day to day and places me right in the present; a much more pleasant and freeing place to be than my past or future. It helps me really know what I don’t know and I am relieved of the pressure of pretending to know. Travel gives me hope about humanity and expands my world by leaps and bounds.

There is a spirit among fellow travelers that says, hey, we are on the same road, at least for a moment. We share some unspoken part of being human. It’s as if we know in our bones that our ancestors and the many ancestors before were nomads, or travelers with a yearning to know more, learn more, see more, typically in search of food.  As travelers, we are trying on a nomadic life, sharing our stories, enjoying company with strangers in the strange lands where everything is somehow familiar, everything is new and we are looking for food, gas and perhaps a connection.

Traveling gives me the opportunity to widen my vision, open my eyes, feel the air, smell the atmosphere and take the opportunity to slow things down enough to see that every moment can be sacred, a little, tiny journey in itself. I see things I like and things I don’t. I hear things that hurt my heart and other things that grow it. I find atmospheres that sooth my soul and others that make my soul curl into a tiny ball trying to protect itself.

Now that Henry and I have arrived in Evanston, the traveling becomes something else.  It becomes the contrast to “on the road” traveling.  It is discovery and finding the places the fit us.

Evanston is a city, like every city, where you are expected to know, know what lane to be in for the turn you are about to make, which streets are one way, or where to park to go to the grocery store, what the customs are around leash or no leash for Henry, even when the law says leash and all kinds of everyday things. The expectation of a city is that you know what you are doing at every moment.  “Knowing” is how not to get in the way of anyone’s rushing and the very important business of getting to the next place or meeting, or appointment.  When I get it all right, I avoid the glances at my license plate and then at me, that clearly state that I am a foreigner here. The angry, dirty stares that say, “Oh, right, you are from California, of course, you know nothing about being here. You idiot, learn the roads here!” They don’t know I grew up here, I own this place.  Grant it, I have to relearn landmarks and roads, but I belong, even if my license plate says I don’t. At least my license plate says I am pretty cool.

At the end of the day, we are two tired travelers. We’ve arrived. Henry lays with his tail curled under in an attempt to achieve the fetal position and stop moving just to go inward. I have never seen him curl up so tightly. His eyes are bloodshot and I imagine he feels as I do, a sensation that we are still hurtling through the air, on the road at 60-80 miles an hour.

 

Tired Henry
Four Dogs Tired

I have been trying to tell Mr. H no more endless car rides for a long time but he just doesn’t seem to be listening.  It is as if he is saying, I am too tired and I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

GPS on “Walk”…Wait, What?!

4/6/17

Last night in Tulsa OK, Mr. H and I took a long, leisurely, kinda’ southern stroll, through the historic Swan Lake neighborhood of Tulsa. With the GPS set to Walk, I found the restaurant Roka and got an amazing dinner to go. Just easier to get food to go while traveling with my buddy.  As we waited for the food, H and I chatted up the incredibly kind waitress at the restaurant and met some folks that fell head over heals for the buddy.  We also met a fellow Airbnb host, originally from India, who invited us to stay on our next Tulsa visit.  Hmm, as beautiful and friendly as this area was, I am not sure when a next visit would be.

 

This morning I loaded the car with my belongings along with my very reluctant dog, put my phone in its holster, and set it for the next stop The Magnolia Hotel in St Louis.  I looked at the google map enough to see a 5 and read it as 5 hrs.  I was so happy it was not the expected 6.  After grabbing a wonderful latte at Shades of Brown Cafe, I was puzzled that the GPS was taking me on lots of side streets and roads that went right next to the highway and wondering why it wasn’t putting me on the highway. I was enjoying the greens and browns of land, the old broken down houses which were once someone’s dream, the gentle hills so much, that it didn’t occur to me that the GPS was telling me the walking route to St Louis and that it would be 5+ days to get there!  Not 5+ hours.

I did get to see lots of Tulsa and things like the self-proclaimed,  “Most Inspirational Rest Stop”.  It was an absolutely huge cross that made me think about who built it and how it would be to have that smack in the middle of a lawn.  It sure is a way to remember that you’re supposed to remember god, or faith or whatnot. Not my cup of tea, in fact, it was really off-putting for me but I imagine it is something someone is very proud of.  Now the windmills, that’s something that inspires me and even makes me proud, like I own energy saving ways.

This whole walking route also made me think about Forest Gump and wonder if I would want to walk my way across the US sometime.  Still thinking about it.

The GPS and I reconciled our differences, her British accent helped a lot with that. We got on track with Drive not Walk and continued on the road.

After several Rest Stops, tumbles and rolls in the grass, we made it to St Louis about 3pm, walked around the amazing Arch, saw some really disturbing history about slavery and got to see what an amazing city St Louis is.

Henry rolling around the grounds whenever possible.

 

Today The Mojave

4/3/17

“The transition from the hot Sonoran Desert to the cooler and higher Great Basin is called the Mojave Desert. This arid region of southeastern California and portions of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, occupies more than 25,000 square miles.”

Wikipedia: The Mojave Desert (pronunciation: /mˈhɑːvi/[5][6] mo-hah-vee) is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America.

Henry and I left Needles, CA this am, drove through the deeply beautiful lands of a rain-shadow desert, The Mojave, on I40 and arrived in Gallup, NM this afternoon.

At some point on the 5+ hour drive, I became overwhelmed with the amazing and varied landscapes of our country.  I was awed by the multiple layers of rust, golds, pine greens, and sky blues as they textured over and around the Mojave, its mountains, and rocks. As the tumbleweed blew erratically across the highway it seemed to have avoided the paint brush and just remain a dry beige. (Note I said highway, not freeway and that’s how you know I’m not in CA anymore.) The rocks that look carefully painted, are between 1.7 and 2.5 billion years old, and I am a small speck that has a large impact on something so ancient, so grand, so beautiful and so precious.

Between awesome, stunning views and thoughts of responsibility for taking care of what was all around, I was overcome with apprehension over what we have done to our planet? What are we doing?  We have plants and animals in the mountains, deserts, streams, waterfalls, lakes and oceans depending on us. Depending on us like a baby depends on its mother’s milk. Again, what are we doing? Who do we think we are?  Most importantly, the question is, what am I doing, and what is right for me to do?

I believe we are stewards for the plants, animals, and humans of these lands. Dictionary.com . Steward, [stoo-erd-ship, styoo-] the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving:  New regulatory changes will result in better stewardship of lands that are crucial for open space and wildlife habitat.

Sometimes t can feel like the earth is bleeding. As I drove along, it seemed as if I could feel its yearning, its desperation for us to recognize its power, and know how dependent we are on it and how absolutely necessary its thriving existence is for us to just breath and live.

I know I have done some good things for this earth and I know I haven’t. I know my mother was right about using natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, wool, and cashmere, not just because they felt good, but because they were natural to human living. I know my mother was right about minimally using man-made medicine so there is less to contaminate our bodies and less to throw out and contaminate the waters and all who drink it. I know my mother was right and I know there was a value that says we need to take care of ourselves, we need to take care of the land, and we need to take care of everyone around us. I know she was right.

What would it be like if I could allow these lands to be something sacred; something that I let in enough to change me, rather than always being about me changing it, expecting it to accommodate me, make me happy.

2 Rules Broken or…Wait a Minute…

4/2/17

Rule #1 Stop driving after 5-6 hours, 7 at the most, each day.

Rule #2 Fill up gas when half full.

I got carried away on the first day.  I really wanted to make it out of CA even though I knew that wouldn’t happen.  When I reached Barstow, CA, my gut said not here, go to Needles, even though I reviewed this option at least 3 times before my departure, the first time with the AAA lady and we agreed, Barstow was enough for Mr. H and I, for one day.

As I approached Barstow, it just felt wrong, the energy of the place was wrong, and I didn’t need more information than that. But that meant driving another 2 hours, making the day a 9 hour trip with stops, and forgetting rule #2, fill the tank at half full.

As incredibly beautiful and desolate the Mojave is, it does not have many signs saying when the next gas would be.  I set my GPS to show me gas and the first one was disappointingly way off on the other side of the freeway, the GPS marker said “short detour”. From my side of the road, the tall Mobil lollipop sign was filthy, barely legible, and didn’t look open, but as I drove by I saw it was filled with trucks.  My thoughts took to comforting me for missing the stop; That’s okay, I don’t need to support ExonMobil right now or ever, or for that matter any gas company, but then where would I be? What a mess we are in. Exon, with all their money, should have a clean sign, right?! And on and on.

There, my justification for not stopping was complete. But a slight concern about getting gas felt like a gaping unknown and took me down unnecessary imaginings of driving on the car battery or ending up on the side of the road waiting for AAA, happy I had Henry with me to ward off any weirdos.  As if he would.

The fact is I had plenty of gas to drive another 100 miles or at least 75. Certainly enough to get to Needles. I began to wonder if the energy of the Mojave made me feel the concern for enough gas when I had enough. The fear of being sucked up by the desolation of the desert, getting left and lost there fed my concern for enough, enough gas, enough whatever.

Seeing the dusty Mobil sign made me think it was better I missed it as all the really bad stereotypes of truckers came to mind; the bearded guy, that calls you honey, the guy with nails that are never cut and always dirty, the guy who smiles with too many teeth missing and those left are yellowed and brown, the trucker with the southern accent which gives no credit to how smart they might really be, the blonde cowgirl/woman trucker that calls you honey, and is scarier than all the men put together, and on and on. All the while I knew my feelings would be different with a companion other than my K9, Henry. It would be a discussion about should we try it or drive on.  On my own, I didn’t even want to try it. I looked to Henry for approval of my decision, but he was busily focused on the back of my head working at getting into my brain to get me to stop…just stop anywhere.

Two hours later, I reached Needles with 2 notches left of gas, eye holes in the back of my head, from Henry staring and saying,  “It’s time, way past time to get out of this frikin’ car!”

I want this trip to be uneventful, except for good words spoken between myself, fellow travelers and hotel and restaurant clerks. I want it to be a nice trip, a really nice trip. It can also be interesting, but definitely nice.

And, about the rules for travel, I made them up, I can break them.  Just sayin’.

Rule #3  Do what is needed to make this a nice trip