Thursday, March 2, 2017

Closing the Circle

This week marks our anniversary on the road. On February 27, 2016 we left our home of thirty years, handed the keys to the realtor and headed out towards an unknown future on the road.

We started here:

and headed into the Missouri Ozarks to spend some time at Bennett Spring State Park. This really was our shakedown cruise. We had stayed at a couple of state parks after we picked up the trailer, but for most of the previous year, Highlander had been parked at a friend's farm, while we modified and customized our new home.

We were ready to roll, and long story short, the house sold almost immediately, and after we finished up our three months at Bennett Spring we headed west.

Here is a bare-bones, compact itinerary* for our last year:

  1. Kansas City to Bennett Spring State Park, Missouri- 165 miles - Three month stay
  2. Bennett Spring to Cross Timbers State Park, Kansas - 234 miles
  3. Cross Timbers to Kanopolis Lake State Park, Kansas - 168 miles
  4. Kanopolis Lake State Park to Cedar Bluff State Park, Kansas - 125 miles
  5. Cedar Bluff State Park to John Martin Reservoir State Park, Colorado - 346 miles
  6. John Martin State Park to San Luis State Park, Colorado - 191 miles
  7. San Luis State Park to Mancos State Park, Colorado - 190 miles - Three month stay
  8. Mancos State Park to Monument Valley Tribal Park, Utah - 180 miles
  9. Monument Valley to Canyon Gateway RV Park, Williams, Arizona - 210 miles
  10. Williams, Arizona to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona - 96 miles
  11. Dead Horse Ranch to Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona - 145 miles
  12. Lost Dutchman to Catalina State Park, Arizona - 90 miles
  13. Catalina State Park to Rose Valley RV Ranch, Silver City, New Mexico - 219 miles
  14. Silver City to West El Paso KOA. El Paso, Texas - 134 Miles
  15. El Paso to Balmorhea State Park, Texas - 209 miles
  16. Balmorhea State Park to Fort Stockton RV Park - 62 miles
  17. Fort Stockton to Kerrville Koa, Kerrville, Texas - 240 miles
  18. Kerrville, Texas to Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas - 212 miles
  19. Weimar, Texas to Stella Mare RV Resort, Galveston, Texas - 135 miles
  20. Galveston to Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, Texas - 266 miles - Three month stay
  21. Johnson City to Mustang Island State Park, Padre Island, Texas - 238 miles
  22. Padre Island to Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston, Texas - 234 miles
  23. Galveston, Texas to Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana - 240 miles
  24. Palmetto Island to Southern Living RV Park, Shreveport, Louisiana - 252 miles
  25. Shreveport Louisiana to Hot Springs National Park KOA, Hot Springs, Arkansas - 201 miles
  26. Hot Springs to Petit Jean State Park, Morrilton, Arkansas - 112 miles
  27. Morrilton, Arkansas to City of Branson Lakeview RV Park - 177 miles
  28. Bennett Spring State Park, Lebanon, Missouri - 96 miles
A bit over 5,100 miles for travel between the stops. We'll figure a few thousand more for road trips and photo safaris at every stop, and call it 8,000+ truck miles for the year. Eighty-seven Gigabytes of raw and processed images. I count six hundred gallons of diesel, two oil changes, one wrinkled rear fender in Silver City, New Mexico, forty-five stops at WalMarts and other stores for supplies, two tattoos, one totally relaxed cat, a king's ransom in Verizon data fees, and a couple of very fortunate retirees being able to do what many people only dream of.

We don't do long hauls. There's no reason to. Pulling a rig this size through traffic is stressful enough. Doing it while road-weary and drowsy is unnecessary. I learned that lesson after a near-catastrophe coming back to Kansas City after a wonderful concert in the Flint Hills of Kansas in 2015. A big shout-out to whoever invented rumbles strip on highways. They saved our lives.

All this accounting falls far short of being able to tell how amazing this has been. To open your front door in the morning, and see a new place you've never visited and perhaps only read about is exhilarating. As I write this, I am watching turkey vultures perched, with wings outspread, on a bare-branched hickory tree, warming themselves in the morning sun. Dozens of them. Are you kidding me? (I haven't cleaned the windows yet. Photographing them this morning was all but impossible.) This is why we travel. To then capture these places, these things in a photograph and share it with thousands via social media is nothing short of a dream.

I was really late to social media, and still only participate on Twitter and Instagram, but this trip has solidified my opinion of the real value of reaching out to people. Through precious new-found friendships, Kath and I (and Moxie) have been able to meet some extraordinary people - Pamela and Jamie, Peternelle, Lyle Lovett, April Kimble, Robert Earl Keen, Carrlyn and Lee Miller, Tim Walker, Audrey Coulthurst, Paula Garner - this is only my face-to-face Twitter list. Other Twitter pals have given us recommendations for places to stay, places to eat, and things to see. Sarah Smarsh gave me a heads up about a new regional magazine, New Territory, that celebrates the land, culture, and people of the lower Midwest. My images of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts are in the latest issue.

Every day is a celebration of the possible, of new new challenges to seeing what's in front of us, of new opportunities to really live our lives, and to appreciate where we're from and where we're going, although we usually don't know what's ahead. That kind of thinking is, for both of us I think, a revelation. Once risk-averse, we are now willing to live based on the outcome of a series of coin tosses.

This is not at all a bad way to live. We'll keep doing it. Thank you for coming with us.

*If you would like information on any of our stops, drop me a note. I'm always happy to share our experiences.

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