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.
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.
Austin has fantastic parks and food and things to do.
You can drink a beer in the grocery store.
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.
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.
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)
We went to the Thinkery a number of times, Zilker, the Butler Park splash pad. We saw the trail of lights.
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.
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.
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.”