Captains Log. Day 168.

We just rolled into Sedona via Tucson Arizona by way of Las Cruces New Mexico after pausing in Marfa Texas on our way out of Austin.

We’ve been traveling full time for 168 days. We’ve spent all of the major holidays on the road and we’ve had a birthday and are about to have another.

Without a doubt, second only to making a family with Becky, this has been the best thing I’ve ever done.

This is an interesting time in the trip because it’s time to think seriously about deciding when the mission is complete.

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t said out loud here what the mission is and that this whole trip started when we decided we were going to move to Austin, TX. First we thought we’d take some extra time to get there. That turned into maybe we’d take a lot of time to get there.

The challenge we were facing with extending the trip became the span between when school got out and when we’d have to land in a place in order to get them enrolled.

Once we decided that the school timeframe was artificial and not something we had to adhere to the sky was the limit. Our thinking expanded and instead of just driving to Texas we’d decided to discover America and see which places really spoke to us.

The only restrictions we had after that were weather and money. We’d have to get south fast enough to avoid difficult weather and we’d have to see if I could continue to earn while on the road.

Long story short, after we threw out the convention of public school and decided that we could do it ourselves we had no real limits on where we’d go and how long we’d take to get there.

The thinking was that, barring new information from the trip we’d move to Austin. Along the way we’ve found some places we love including Charlottesville and Asheville.

Which brings us back to our move to Austin.

We’re Not Moving to Austin.

We love Austin. Austin is all kinds of fun. We have very close friends in Austin and their introduction to the city was perfect.

During our stay my mother, brother, and college roommate and good friend all visited us. All that was a great time.

We stayed for seven weeks in what has been the down and dirtiest trailer park we’ve ever been in but with a location that is incomparable. Pecan Grove RV Park is central. You can get to Zilker, the Greenbelt, downtown, Congress St and south Austin in minutes. Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong both had extended stints there. We wrapped up Austin in McKinney Falls State Park for 5 days. It was a welcome change.

mckinney-falls

Austin has fantastic parks and food and things to do.

Greenbelt

 

enzo-greenbelt

You can drink a beer in the grocery store.

beer-wholefoods

I saw the Cylcocross Nationals there.

We ate great food and beer at a ton of restaurants including Odd Duck  Hops and Grains, Jester King and a dozen others. We had an absinthe drip at Peche and dinner at Lenoir. We saw Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn. We ate fried chicken stuffed in a donut. We had tons of tacos.

chicken-donut

Lenoir

chicken-shit-bingo

We made full use of the urban transportation options. I used a Car2Go most of the time unless we were traveling as a family, where we’d require the van, or if there was drinking involved in which case we took Uber or Lyft. With the exception of one crazy surge the cost was always well worth the convenience. We had rides almost always within minutes.

Car2Go

I worked out of a co-working space called Vuka. Its in South Austin. Its a very cool space, minutes from Pecan Grove, and right next to some great lunch and coffee places and our friend’s house. PLUS it has stand up desks (hooray for not dying)

vuka vuka-sign

We went to the Thinkery a number of times, Zilker, the Butler Park splash pad. We saw the trail of lights.

Thinkery
Thinkery Recycled City

 

Trail of Lights Austin

I love all this about Austin.

Its a big and fast growing city.

I don’t think we want a big fast growing city.

We didn’t love the pace and the traffic and the lines.

I met a lot of people who had been there a long time and groaned about the pace of growth and what the city is becoming.

I worked a lot of the time I was there and I’m sure it didn’t help.

At any rate it… It’s great. We love it. It’s not for us at this stage in our game.

Had we simply moved there directly I’m sure we’d settle in and love it. But we didn’t. We sampled a number of places and along the way and we’ve begun to get a really good idea of exactly what we’re actually looking for.

So Now We Head West

We landed in Marfa at dusk with a mechanical. The jack that lifts the front of the Airstream wasn’t working. This had happened before but it was battery related. At the beginning of the trip I was in the habit of pulling out the brake stop while we’re parked. As it turns out even if you’re running on battery the brakes stay engaged and it sucks the battery down very very quickly.

That wasn’t the case this time. I had to open the jack, there’s no manual override, and we had to get it working or we couldn’t disconnect from the van.

I pulled it open and some gears and wires and switch parts came out…. I ended up spending some time with it and figured out how to bypass the broken switch which turned out to be the problem. So far we’ve had four mechanicals this trip. The first two were the result of user error, this one wasn’t.

Marfa is a cool place that we hit on the wrong day. If you’re going to go to Marfa make it on a weekend don’t go midweek. Marfa is in the middle nowhere near Big Bend and Mexico. Its a kind of an artist colony. There’s the Chinati Foundation and a number of other galleries.We ate at Padres which is a seedy place that I reckon hasn’t seen a lot of kids through the door but would be great for an intimate show.

There are a handful of weird restaurants like the Museum and Grilled Cheese place, Food Shark… alas… none of the shit was open.

Boo.

What was open is the El Cosmico. I heard about this place from our friends in Austin. Lance told me about it because I was explaining my vision of AirBnBing yurts and tee pees and containers and whatnot… somewhere… maybe Asheville… we’ll see.

On our way out of town we stopped at the Prada Store. Becky got a great picture of a chicken.

We stopped just for a couple of days in Las Cruces, NM in order to break up the drive. Vince and I rode around Tortugas Mountain. On our second day we visited the Farm and Ranch Museum, kids loved it. There’s a lot kids can learn on the road and through homeschooling that they’d never have the opportunity to learn in a traditional public school classroom setting.

From Las Cruces we made our way to Tucson, AZ. We had a lot of plans for Tucson that just didn’t work out. We ended up having to deal with a mechanical (cracked heat/ac drain pan) and Vince was sick for a day. We mostly went to Tucson for the weather truthfully. We needed some guaranteed sun. We spent a lot of time in the pool. We visited the desert a couple of times and made a trip to Old Tucson, the movie set for a lot of old westerns and now a bit of a tourist trap but fun nonetheless.

And now we’re in Sedona Arizona.

Where We Go From Here

From here we’ll head north to St. George UT and after that it gets a bit fuzzy.

There’s a LOT of the west we want to see the challenge now is timing. I have a hankering for Bend Oregon. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard about it for years in bike and other outdoor magazines. Its got a lot of breweries, skiing, riding, a river, just about 100,000 people which seems to be just about the size city we’re looking for. Big enough to have a few things going on. Small enough that you can get around easily and really know the place.

Who knows….

I do know this… even with the challenges and difficulties and even injuries on the trip (dislocated shoulders, cut the end of my thumb off with a mandolin) I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Its the best thing we’ve ever done.

We do want to settle in the not too distant future and get into a routine somewhere but that doesn’t mean we won’t schedule extended travel again. I can’t see how we wouldn’t. We’re aiming to wrap this up perhaps by the end of June.

A lot has changed. Our thinking on many of the conventions that we’d just accepted previously has changed. Where and when we work, how we prioritize our day, what education should look like, what comfortable living looks like, what we aspire to have be or do has all shifted for the better.

If you’ve considered doing some extended travel but something is holding you back I’d think real hard about if you’re stops are real. There are few challenges that can’t be overcome with some planning and a change in mindset.

I’m pretty sure you live about once. You could walk in front of a bus tomorrow. I think the sentiment that sums this up best is a quote I recently saw attributed to Tom Hiddleston but originally belonged to Confucius.

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

Confucius

Captains Log. Day 90.

Ok, actually its Day 128…. I wrote this post a while back and couldn’t publish it.

A lot has happened since I wrote this. I withheld it, if I’m to be honest, because I didn’t want my mother or my wife’s parents to know that I’d hurt myself because I didn’t want them to worry.

I’m better now… so here’s the story. The following post was written about a month ago.


 

We’ve been traveling, 5 of us, “living on the road” full time now for 3 months. This is… a lot of time and at the same time not nearly enough. Rather than waxing philosophical as I’m prone to do I’m going straight into updates.

Last week I dislocated both my shoulders to varying degrees and I’m pretty sure I cracked a rib.

The story of the dislocated arms unfolded thusly.

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We had just wrapped up about a week in Charleston SC, a fantastic place, and I had plans for us to stop at not 1 but 2 of the International Mountain Biking Associations “Epic Rides“, Bull Mountain in Dahlonega, GA and FATS (Forks Area Trail System) technically in SC but right on the border.

We had a fantastic campsite at on Stom Thurmond Lake – yes really Strom Thurmond Lake. Its amazing how many places are named after complete assholes. My joke is

“Strom Thurmond Lake is where they profess to hate the water but secretly love to take a dip.”

… anyway.

On this day I felt particularly strong. I’ve been riding a bunch and getting in more climbing and more elevation than I have in years. FATS is not technically challenging at least not like we have in New England and so I was wide open.

I came around a corner and there lay the decision that would end very badly for me. I could whip around this corner on the low side and continue bombing this twisty gorgeous single track on an exquisite 68 degree sunny day… or I could take the high side launch over this set of roots and dig in around the corner.

I chose the high line.

When my tires finally landed I was so much further down the trail than I expected that I was unable to stop before I ran directly into a small set of 2 trees 6 or 8 inches in diameter and about 5 inches apart.

I saw it coming but was moving much too fast to correct the course. I got high up on the bike in anticipation of the impact instead of laying it down. I hit the the trees with both forearms and crushed into it. I’m not sure what it looked like but if we had a video I’m sure I would have been in the air above the handlebars.

The first impact dislocated my right shoulder and since I had launched above my bike it also badly bruised my left thigh while taking a chunk out of my right shin and forearm.

I don’t know for sure but I think that the impact from falling is what dislocated my left shoulder.

I landed in the type of pain that allowed me to do nothing but yell between gasps. This is probably the most painful thing that’s ever happened.

I was a couple of miles into the wood, 15 miles from my family and a little more than 1,000 miles from “home”. I kind of rolled around for a while, tried to get up and realized that my arms weren’t functioning properly.

I used the leverage of legs to get myself on my ass. My hands and forearms were working fine but I couldn’t lift my arms from my body.

I started thinking all the things that you would think at a time like this. Is anything broken? How am I going to get back to Becky and the kids? Is this the end of the roadtrip? Do I need to go to the hospital?

Finally I moved one of my hands to the top of a tree that was broken and laid over at about waist height. I put my right hand on it with the help of my left and thought the thing to do would be to pull the arm back in like an action figure, I’d just pull it up and away form  my body to pop it in.

It worked.

The sound and pain of that is… a lot to take. I should note that I’ve come to find out that this isn’t the “right” way to do this however the way this joint is set if you’re healthy enough and you get the ball into the right area it will pop in.

I put the left one back in the same manner as the right. It was less painful coming out and going in then the right but it was still extreme and the sound… oh the sound…

There was immediate relief but at the same time I was now presented with hallmarks of passing out… blackness closing around the corners of my field of vision, “jelly” legs… I took very deep slow breaths and started walking then moving my arms a bit.

What happened next was pretty odd.

I think I was hopped up on adrenaline or endorphins or whatever happens at a time like this. I decided to ride out. I rode maybe 100 yards towards the exit and then was compelled instead to turn around and finish the ride.

I thought “I may never get back here… any damage I did is already done… right? I feel ok. I should just finish”

This is obviously insane but that’s what I decided. I turned back around and continued my ride. I carried on for more than 10 or 15 minutes before I came to my senses and realized that this is crazy.

I turned around again and headed back to the van. Thank God I did. By the time I got to the van the relief from whatever natural chemicals had fired was gone.

We had to leave the woods obviously.

It was time to go. We waited until the next morning and overnight I took a lot of Advil… and maybe some bourbon.

There’s a lot to do to pack all of us up in the van and hook our 6,000 some odd pound airstream to the ginormous van. I do most all of the heavy lifting typically. On this day Becky had to do more than her share.

I was useless.

We decided to head to Stone Mountain, GA which is just outside of Atlanta. I could get medical attention, there’s plenty of stuff for the kids to do etc.

Well, we made the drive and when we pulled up to register we found this.

IMG_2621

This is called a 7-Pole or 7-Plug connector and it’s what comes out of the Airstream and into the van. This controls the lights and brakes etc while we’re driving. This photo doesn’t show all the detail but it was shredded.

We managed to fix this with a bit of googling and an overnight Amazon delivery we installed a weather tight junction box and a new 4 foot plug. This was our first attempt at any real repairs and frankly it worked out beautifully.

The timing was, however, horrendous not only because I had these only semi-useful T-Rex arms but because we had the pressure on to get to Disney World for a bought and paid for vacation just a few days down the road.

I’m coming up on two weeks out now I’m still sore. I’m functional but sore.


A lot has happened since this post ↑

You’ll see more updates here soon. I’ll leave you here by saying 2 things.

  1. Life, it seems to me, is made up of a series of split second decisions and the ramifications thereafter. I’m ready to be wrong but I’ve got a developing theory. More about this later.
  2. Dislocating both shoulders at once is actually not the most painful thing you can do to yourself. I believe I’ve identified something more intense albeit quicker to heal.

More about Disney, holidays on the road, Austin and 11 hour drives with kids soon.