can’t really avoid airplanes

I’ve been taken by this vision, fantasy really, of one imagined morning on our coming RV odyssey.

We’re in Yellowstone and the morning is cool.  Or maybe we’re in the grand canyon and it’s warm and the dust hasn’t yet been kicked up into the morning air.  Come to think of it, it doesn’t matter where we are.  Maybe it’s better in Yellowstone because we’re there so early in the season and we’re posting up at such out of the way campgrounds that there’s a good chance we’ll be the only ones there.  Maybe not, but I see it that way in this daydream.  It’s just us parked in the middle of some sprawling wilderness.  The kind of place where there’s a stream and maybe you see a moose wandering around in the morning mist.  But it’s just us.  Three or four little parking skirts on dirt loops, no hookups no wifi not even vault toilets.  It’s true, we’re staying two nights at places like this.  The ranger I called and spoke to said there’s a good chance we’ll be lonesome out there, since the spots only open that same week we arrive.  Maybe that’s what planted this seed.

Anyway it’s early morning and I’m awake and the family is awake and maybe I’m standing outside the RV smoking my pipe.  The scenery is enveloping and the silence is like when my buddies and I used to wake in the morning while camping – not a modern city sound to be heard.  Birds and condensation dripping and a stream rushing and maybe the rustle of a breeze.  But no engines and no sirens and no airplanes.  Can’t really avoid airplanes these days I suppose, even period-piece movies get shots fouled by airplanes missed in the editing room.  You’ve got Sir Gawain on his steed charging up a pastoral green hillock and real faint way off in the background the contrail of 747 bound for LaGuardia.  The bored passengers have no thought for their unintentional anachronistic cameo.  Some jerk on the internet first noticed it in the theater and then someone screencapped it from the Blu-ray.  So maybe there’s a plane; you can’t get away from them as well as you can everything else, but it doesn’t really matter.

I’m standing outside, the door to the RV is open and the family is knocking around inside.  Their close and I’m glad we’re here together but I’m having what they call a “personal moment.”  Gazing out into God’s country and thinking about how small I am how the stuff I worry most about in the world is some of the most insignificant in the world.  E-mail and human resources; paltry compared to the glacier-cut granite slopes hemming in our private campsite.  I’m out there marveling and puffing my pipe and – listen this is the important part, the part that makes the fantasy, the daydream capstone  – from out of the RV’s front-cab windows pours the Grateful Dead.  Yeah I said no noise but in this case it’s not noise it’s all compliment.

It’s not just any Dead.  It’s the 1976 New Year’s Eve show from the Cow Palace.  It’s one of my personal favorite shows; the band was so hot, 100% on and soaring.  I think it’s an underrated show.  If you haven’t heard it, you should go listen to it.  Sharaun says she finds the Dead repetitive; it’s actually a pretty fair criticism as criticism goes so I can’t really fault her.  But in the morning of this fantasy maybe “Eyes of the World” is blaring and it’s just blending perfect with my morning in the middle of everything and nowhere.  Tobacco always makes me salivate, so I’d be spitting on the very landscape I’d be adoring – maybe that seems contrary but it has some sort of old-country charm in my head.  Anyway, the Dead are just burning with a fever through the cab’s windows and for those ten minutes everything is about as perfect as things get.

It’s me and the family and God and the wildness and the Dead.  Oh man how silly.  But that’s the fantasy, that’s it to a tee.  I see it all the time and I’m the kind of foolish that’ll try and make it happen when that morning comes.  I’ll put on the Dead and light my pipe and stroll around and it’ll be good.  Kind of silly to pre-see it like that, though.  The best mornings will be the ones I haven’t pre-seen.  Those, those’ll be the knockouts.  I sometimes think I have too much time to think about this trip; that I better cool it with all the daydreaming or I’ll ruin the thing for what it can actually deliver. We’ll see.

No proofread; go.  Goodnight.

ain’t no flies on me

At the top of my lungs I yelled, “I DIDN’T WRITE YET THIS WEEK BECAUSE I WAS BUSY.”  The emptiness of the void brought my own voice back to me, diminished just a little, ‘I DIDN’T WRITE THIS WEEK BECAUSE I WAS BUSY.”  Turns out that few minutes each night I don’t write where I feel pangs of regret and maybe even some kind of personal-guilt (which is, I think, a mostly Catholic thing) really don’t matter.  There’s much to be proud of of and happy about.  Out here in my corner of the internet are some 900,000 words, so there ain’t no flies on me.

I guess the past two nights I’ve been doing work.  Not sawmill-work but instead the lustful work that is getting to 80% on the itinerary for our coming RV odyssey.  The approach has been more structured than I first thought it would have to be.  At first I was trying to fit a trip into a number of days, but realized quickly this wasn’t working.  Realizing I had to first set some boundaries, I instead started by defining the average miles we’d be willing to drive on a driving day.  Next, I defined a driving vs. not-driving ratio to ensure we had sufficient “off time” to where things would feel like a vacation instead of an extremely long drive with no real destination.  With those two guideposts, it was easy to come to reasonable totals for both total trip miles and total trip days.

Oh and things are moving forward.  We have a start date, we have budget, we have an end date, we have a better-than-rough route, we have a good number of “zero days” sprinkled throughout.  In fact, today I put $300 down to reserve our thirty foot RV.  Not only that, but I made the motions at work to get the slotted time away.  I mean, things are coming together, and I’m a little more sure this thing is actually happening – even if the cost is somewhat “extravagant” for a family vacation (although, as six-week-long vacations go… eh…).  One day in the future, when I get each night’s campgrounds defined, I’ll share a more detailed itinerary.  But tonight I’m excited enough about the major stops and locations that I just wanted to run them down.

8,200 miles.  Where are we going?  What are we seeing?  A day at Crater Lake.  A stay with my family in Oregon.  Four days in Yellowstone.  Half a day at Mt. Rushmore.  A morning at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  A day at Niagara Falls and a day at Antietam.  A couple days to tour DC.  A two-day drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway with a back-country overnighter.  A dip into the deep south to hang with our southern folk.  A day in the Ozarks.  The better part of three days in the Grand Canyon.  Hoover Dam and a day in Death Valley.  Independence day with friends in the California high desert and then back home again some forty-five days after we leave.  Those “days” I mention are what I call “zero days,” no-driving days, stoppage days.  On top of that we put thousands of (hopefully scenic) road underneath us.

Yes I’m sad that we had to cut Glacier and Badlands and Arches and the Rockies and the Keys and New Orleans.  But man, I think we’re doing really well for six weeks.

There’s still lots to be defined and tons of details to settle.  That means I should get my nose back in these books and websites and sign off now.


decant, decant, decant

Spent the morning working.  Well, I say that… but in reality I probably spent about two hours working and another two hours playing around with the details for the coming of our planned RV odyssey.

I’m glad I did.  I always plan in a series of refining steps, like some alchemist who decants, decants, and decants some more in search of the Philosopher’s Stone – a perfect itinerary.  Today my re-plan, my second-layer planning, led to a couple revelations: #1, I don’t have to burn any vacation like I’d thought – I can take six weeks of pure “paid family leave” and be just fine; #2, Even my second itinerary, which I intended to slow-down the aggressiveness of my first try, was yet still too aggressive.  In re-evaluating things, I started from basics – asking myself how many “zero-mile” days made sense per week of driving.  In other words, what’s the ideal driving vs. not-driving ratio for a “leisurely” RV jaunt?

I Google’d, asked friends and family, and in the end decided that a 40/60 driving/not-driving ratio is ideal – with an even 50/50 split being as miles-heavy as we’d be willing to go.  Coming to this realization meant we had to do some tweaking to the route, taking out the southernmost Key West and the northernmost Glacier National Park spurs.  With the route streamlined to around 7,500 miles we were able to hit near the 50% ratio.  We still plan to hit most all of the same landmarks we’d planned on, as well as visit with family and friends, so the plan didn’t suffer too greatly.

We also got a chance to do some more thinking on the type of RV we want to rent, and get a better idea of cost for the ~30ft Class A vehicle.  Yeah, it’s all in the master spreadsheet.  I also found an hour this past week to register a new domain where we’ll host Keaton’s roadtrip video diaries.  It’s just a  bunch of test entries in an unfinished theme right now, but it’ll do nicely I think.

It’s kind of silly to stop for a minute and think about how excited I am for this trip (which, I might note, is just an ambitious “plan” until we put some money down – which will chart our course more deterministically).  Being that it’s five some months away and, as mentioned, solely on paper at the moment.  But… I think it’s the realization that I’m bound and determined here… it’s going to happen… we’ll make it happen.  That kind of stuff.  And, for reals y’all, the anticipation is high already.

Until tomorrow, when I wake up back in California – see ya.

bonding all the way

Friday at last.

California is one of only three states in the union that gives new parents paid time-off for “bonding leave” (furthermore, the US is the only “wealthy” nation that doesn’t do this nationally for its citizenship) when a new child is born.  I did not take advantage of this perk when Keaton was born and I’ve come to sorely regret it.  It’s time that’s gifted to me to be with my family and I left it on the table.  Before Cohen ever got here I had decided I wouldn’t be repeating that mistake again.  Today I had a revelation and decided what I want to do with the time.

I want to rent an RV and take the family on an extended cross-country road trip.  Driving from location to location, overnighting alongside rivers and in national parks and maybe even in Wal Mart parking lots.  Visiting friends and family, experiencing history, bonding in the first degree.  I have my eyes on this little number.  Start here, head to the forests of Oregon and Washington, cross the country in the north hitting Seattle, Glacier, Yellowstone, Teton, Rushmore, Badlands, Great Lakes, Niagra.  Down the eastern seaboard hitting Gettysburg, D.C., the major eastern ranges (Appalachians, Smokies, Blue Ridge).  Down again to the Everglades, Keys.  Back up and out across the heartland and I want to do the Ozarks, Rockies, Arches, Moab.  Turn down again for the Grand Canyon, across Hoover to San Diego and then back home along the 101.

At first I thought it was too ambitious, even in six weeks time. But I did a super quick hardly-any-planning route-check and Google Maps says it would be a seven day, ~10,000 mile drive going straight-through (Google Maps is crazy), so maybe six weeks isn’t too far off with enough stoppage time to make it seem more exploration and experience versus just driving, driving, driving.  Something like $5,000 in RV rental and mileage alone, and says nothing for fuel and the cost of travel and sightseeing.  But… a six week discovery-cation… bonding all the way.

We are totally doing this.  100%.  Stop me.