Nomading the Lower-48 Final Thoughts
Five-thousand, eight hundred miles later, seven states, countless cities, towns, beaches, and days and days of the countryside, not to mention many old friendships rekindled, and it’s all over. This winter, the ‘Nomading the Lower-48’ Adventure is now a memory. We’re recovering from our travels by shoveling snow off our stoop, balcony, and driveway back in Alaska. The adventure to escape the snows of Alaska seems like a foreign dream. This final Blog will attempt to capture some of our close-out thoughts and file away this away as a distant memory, but one to build on for next year’s continuation. (Nomading the Lower-48 Final Thoughts)
The bottom line is it was a trip of a lifetime! It is an adventure that we would commend to everyone eager enough to ‘suck on the marrow of life, live in the present, and not just dream about what could be. We will do it again; much of it we’ll do the same, and some of it a bit different. As we re-read this Blog series before we do it again, perhaps it’ll help us determine which practices will be the same or different.
Azzuri’s Magic Door
The RV can be a confining and congesting home, even for cats. Our lovely little Azzuri had an adventure that most cats could not even dream of. She flew to Tacoma under our seat, then endured five and half thousand miles of swaying, bumps, gale-force winds, thunderstorms, heat, and freezing temps in that little confined RV space. Her relief from the monotony and only a few hiding places was the RV’s “Magic Door.”
After every bumpy ride, when she peered beyond the open Magic Door, she lay stunned, amazed, and surprised – the view constantly changed. One day she’d walk out into a world of large deciduous trees and pine needles engulfed in a foggy, damp, and chilly environment. The next would be the arid temps of a high plain desert of red and orange clay. Another day she’d walk the dunes and survey the ocean from a beach followed by a parking lot filled with ducks and geese taunting and daring her to come out of that magic door and play. On one occasion, when the RV stopped quaking, she was thrust out into the snow (not willingly) through that Magic Door.
It indeed must have been a bewildering experience for her petite and pretty brain. At times, she seemed reluctant to even peer beyond the door’s screen to avoid the confusing imagery of new scenery. While she is an adventurous cat, we’re convinced that she was most happy to walk through that final door of the trip, the magic door that led her back to the stability and familiarity of her own house, back in Big Lake. She’s now resting comfortably, dazed by all she did over the past three months and grateful that it’s all over. The poor girl doesn’t know it, but she may have to repeat the adventure next winter. We hope she relishes every moment of the unchanging nature of our snow-bound house on the hill. After all, the only unchanging characteristic of our lives is that nothing stays the same.
The dreaded and inconvenient elephant of contemporaneous travel is Covid and the locally implemented restrictions. Ursula and I both had shots, we both had the Monoclonal antibody therapy, and we had contracted the virus before we left for the trip (not intentionally!). We felt, to a degree, bulletproof to future exposure. While we constantly practiced common sense behaviors such as avoiding large crowds, good hygiene, etc., fear did not cloud our mindset nor diminish our appetite for exploring all things in all the places we visited. We ate in crowded restaurants, explored museums, stores, roamed the streets and pubs of many ‘old towns,’ and did everything we would have experienced in a non-covid era.
However, we were quite conscious of the local restrictions, exhortations for safety, and the ‘mandates.’ The experience was eye-opening. We found that in most places, they shared my view that mandated policies and fear-mongering had become excessive, unrealistic, and impractical to live with. It appeared that people rationally recognized the threat imposed by the virus but refused to let it ruin their zest for life. If there were local restrictions, they’d figure out how to observe them and still get on with living.
Although we saw the economic wreckage of closed business and staff shortages, life carried on in most places. The nightly news would highlight particularly devastated communities, but that never seemed to be the places we visited. It was an odd mixture of acceptance and observance of rules or outright defiance. In Southern Oregon, when we once asked if we needed to wear masks to enter a store, the owner tersely responded, ‘ This is not Portland!’ This suggested to us that they felt even though the ruling class in the Capitol could enact laws out in the countryside, they’d be damned if they were going to observe them.
On the other side, in Santa Fe, NM, I did hear one store clerk yell at a customer whose mask had slipped off her nose. This was an exception. I don’t know if the clerk was just an ass and found an opportunity to demonstrate his true nature; had succumbed to his fears of exposure to the virus; or was in fear of being seen not to be doing the municipality’s job of enforcing their edicts.
It didn’t matter. Each place we visited had its own way of dealing with the current drama of the virus. That was exhilarating to see. It was refreshing to recognize that despite the craziness one observes on the nightly news, the rest of the ‘real’ country is really doing their own thinking, actions, and learning to live in this new area as it best affects their own communities. This observance buttressed my beliefs in the American people. It gave new hope that despite our overexposure to the images of suppression and fear-mongering narratives, real America ignores them, applying generally accepted prudent measures and just getting on with life.
We visited only one town where they required patrons to show proof of vaccination to enter a bar or restaurant. In many cases, as soon as you made a movement to recover your ‘card’ or ‘Ap,’ they’d just wave you through. In others, when you presented your proof, they’d just smile, not look at what you were showing them, and wave you through. Only in one place did I see anybody actually ask for an ID and compare it to the name of the Ap. My impression was that everybody was just going through the motions. It appeared they really didn’t think that any of these actions made a difference to anything. Still, they didn’t want their business to be closed down for compliance failure.
I’d say this says a lot about the times we live in. It speaks poorly of our elected municipal and state Representatives and their grappling and implementation of restrictive policies they don’t fully understand or observe. It also speaks sadly to the ‘people’s’ mindless supplication to meaningless edicts. However, unenforced rules seem to have a general canceling effect in the big scheme of things. Americans are adaptable people; they figure out what is essential, sidestep the silliness however they may, and move on. Having said that, I’ll leave this current reality to your own speculations and interpretations.
Catching the Plague
Even at the end of the trip, when I did catch Covid, for the second time (perhaps it was inevitable?), it was a minor blip in the road. No drama, no recriminations, no blame-gaming. Everybody just did what needed to be done to help the sick recover, to help the healthy avoid exposure, and then get on with life. Just like it should be, no?
Covid is a thing out in the country. Still, in our experience, we found it was a minor inconvenience in most areas. In others, by contrast, it was something only for everybody to talk about happening in other places.
Blogging ‘in Situ’
Writing a Blog at the end of an eventful day after a beer or two is the perfect recipe for a poorly thought-out blog abounding with typos and grammar mistakes. However, if the blogger waited till conditions were perfect for writing and producing the blog while on the road, it would never take shape.
So, successful blogs are a balance of effort with compassion. The blogger has to put in the effort to produce the best they can under imperfect conditions. The reader has to demonstrate a degree of compassion and acceptance for imperfection. With this balance, travel Blogs come into being. I’m grateful for all the readers of our Blogs and the compassion demonstrated by not highlighting the grammatical errors or the poorly constructed paragraphs of this Blog series. I’ve thought of going back and making it ‘better,’ but then, it would not be a travel Blog, would it?
Our planning for this trip was simple; drive the RV from Coast to Coast, and avoid snow along the way. Before departing, we developed a generalized route. We populated it with some of the towns, people, and sites we wished to see along the way. In general, we were pretty true to this plan, even though we didn’t make it entirely to the East Coast. In our defense, it’s a big country!
The key to our planning and sanity was that we wanted a relatively ‘laissez-faire’ trip. No deadlines, no suspense, no ‘we must’ dos .’We planned only a day or three in advance and ‘shot from the hip’ on most days. Because we were not in ‘High Season,’ it worked brilliantly. Yes, there were a few occasions where we recognized such an effort would not produce the outcome we hoped, and we knuckled down and developed a detailed, synchronized, and coordinated three or four-day plan. But that was the exception (visiting San Francisco, as an example). There were only a few occasions where we could not go or see or stay at some intended location because we failed to reserve far in advance. Somehow, it all just worked. Would I commend this type of planning and execution to others? Only if time is on your side!
Biking It – No Toad!
We didn’t travel with a smaller vehicle (lighterage?) to get us in-and-around once we docked the RV. In our planning we weren’t sure if this would be a problem in seeing what we wanted to see and doing what we wanted to do. None of our cars are capable of being towed on ‘all fours’ (without a trailer) the cost to buy a new (used) car was prohibitive, so we decided to see the world by bike.
As it turns out, although we had to be very conscious of selecting the location our RV park, it seemed to work out. serendipitously, we discovered a whole new world of locations and sites we never would have visited had we traveled by car. The West Coast has many magnificent bike paths that lead to the most fascinating places. They also have a biking culture observing cyclist safety and rights of way. Those practices and paths seem to dissipate the further east we traveled, but there were always opportunities to bike for the intrepid! So, not only was traveling by bicycle a healthy alternative, it was key to exploring many off the beaten path locations otherwise inaccessible by car, or just too far away to walk.
Now, looking into our experience ‘rear-view’ mirror, we were amazed at how seamless and faultless seemed our trip execution, despite a dearth of advanced detailed planning. It’s as if we flowed along with the confluence of time and action, and everything fell into place. Strange, but it was absolutely lovely to experience.
We’ve written extensively about the experiences in this Blog. Without echoing previous Blogs, we’ll highlight that Friends and rekindling old friendships is the highlight of this trip. Alaska is far off the ‘beaten path’ it’s impractical to hope that most of our friends would just be ‘passing through’ and visit (although some do). So, we made a conscious effort to leave Alaska to visit them. It’s been worth the while.
We’ve rediscovered that; we actually do have many friends; they appear to be happy to see us for short periods (one never really knows); when were visiting, we get along splendidly; and when it’s time to leave (read about the fish theory in a previous blog) it was time well spent and we all hope for a renewed contact in the near future. As we all age, it is a comfort to realize just how many timeless friendships we have out there. The kind where you can be apart for years and years, but when next you meet, it is as if no time has passed at all. Just wonderful.
The only regret is that it turns out that we have more friends spread all over the country than we had time; many were missed. We plan to work on that. Below in the Pics gallery, we’ve included a ‘rogues gallery’ of all those we visited on this Journey. If you’re reading this and not included, we hope to update the gallery with your mug next winter.
To update a previous blog, here’s the final tally on the beans that I previously counted.
-Days in Travel: 91
-Miles Traveled in the RV: ~5,600
-States traveled through: 9
-RV Camp-grounds: 24 Camp sights, 8 friends’ abodes
-Gas stops: 28
-Lost personal Items: Unknown, still can’t find shit in the RV, and perhaps never will.
-Amazed emotions over the bounty and beauty of this country: Inestimable
-Old friendships reanimated: 21?
-Beaches walked: 9?
-Expenses (see chart)
To round it out, Eating out was #1, buying Gas #2, parking at RV Campsights #3. Clearly, we could have eaten out less, but why?
Note: Travel (23%) included the one-time cost to ship the RV to Tacoma and the Airfare back home. It comes in at significantly less for in and around travel (Uber and others).
Best place along the trip.
So, of all the places we visited, where was the best, where was the worst? The best answer I can come up with is that the best place we visited was the place we were currently visiting. That is as it should be. When Nomading, one should live in the present. If the place you are at is not where you wish to be, then you should not be there. It’s that simple! Be at the best place you want to be! Yeah, it’s kind of a cheap answer and avoids the question. But, there is a lot of wisdom to it.
I think Ursula and I enjoyed the beaches most. They are all unique but also offer that exotic, freedom of living experience that we seek to achieve. Beaches help occasion a real sense of presence. Yeah, I’m not sure I know what that means, but the impression seems to fit.
We thoroughly enjoyed discovering the most isolated places we could find, whether that be on a rain-drenched, deserted beach in Oregon or the Northern California Coastline, 17 Mile Drive further south, walking amongst the giants of the RedWood Forrest, hiking in the enchanted Painted Dessert/Petrified Forrest, ducking into the mystical Carlsbad Caverns, driving over the dreamy bayous of Louisiana. Exploring some derelict old ruins along I-40 in the middle of nowhere Arizona, and on and on.
The next best would be visiting the ‘Old Towns’ and exploring American History. While they are fun to visit, I suspect they are interesting only for a few days. But, they are not to be missed. Old towns that have life in them (New Orleans) certainly rank at the top.
Worst Place? not so much
The worst place. Not many. Perhaps the RV camps that were mere parking lots with RV stacked on top of each other constituted the ‘worst places.’ But not really; if viewed from the perspective that they offered a means to an end, a close place to park next to that site or city that you wanted to visit, they were not bad at all. The worst place to frequent is that mental mindset where visiting all these places is not possible. That place is the best place to avoid.
Our Nomading goals were simple, avoid the snow, see the country, experience new places, people, food, and things. Equally important was to develop a better understanding and appreciation for our country. We’ve traveled extensively but primarily to overseas destinations. This trip offered us the chance to visit the ‘Real America’ and cleanse ourselves of the views built upon nightly news narratives and the prejudices of movies, TV shows, or book stories.
Avoiding the Snow
We both achieved and failed in our accomplishments. We failed at avoiding crappy weather. The snow and ice followed us on three occasions, gale-force winds and storms assailed us on two, our beach visits were often cloudy and windy excursions. It was winter, it was an unusually cold winter across the country, and in the end, none of it changed our course or intentions. So, perhaps only a partial fail.
Experiencing new places was a resounding success. As an Army dependent crisscrossing the country with every new state-side Army assignment, I had previously visited many of the sites we saw along our Nomading route. But, none of those excursions were recent. For Ursula, it was an entirely new world to discover. Often she’d comment that ‘this is not what I was expecting.’ Usually, her new views were much more favorable and optimistic than those previously held in her mind’s eye. Success!
We spent most of our funds on ‘Eating Out,’ as we tried everything we saw…and then some. We’d have gained weight if it weren’t for the fact that we had no ‘toad’ or towed car. We walked and biked everywhere. See! Being a “Cheap Bastard” by not buying another car to tow saved our health and waistlines. Enjoying the new cuisines was definitely a success.
It’s hard to get a view of the “Real America” as the real America is 330 million+ citizens and a hugely diverse landmass. But, if it were a sampling of views and environments and cities and country culture, RV Nomading is am excellent way to attempt to get it. I think we captured glimpses of the ‘Real America’ along the way. Success!
I’ve highlighted RV living throughout the Blog and will only close out with one additional thought. RV living can be difficult if your mindset is lured by such negativity. It is what you make of it. I can only offer one exhortation towards RV living that is essential. If you travel with someone else, love is not enough. If you want to survive the experience, you have to like them too. That’s it; it’s that simple. The girl I got to travel with is pretty cool. She’s pretty fun to be around (most of the time). Somehow we survived, and perhaps our friendship even thrived. Time to plan for next winter!
We live in a gloriously beautiful country. It is bountiful in its differences, similarities, and variety. It is all things to all people. The descriptions of its diverse magnificence are best left for photos and videos. For that purpose, I plan to produce another “Cottage Production Video” of our trip to capture and share much of what we saw and experienced. But, that may take some time as I learn how to edit with a new video editor. Stay tuned, and thank you for following this Blog – Nomading the Lower 48
Rouges Gallery of Friends
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Read the previous blog “Miles of Friends” , Link Here
Read this blog from the beginning, link here
Visit all the Nomading the Lower-48 Blog, link here
If you enjoyed ‘Nomading Final Thoughts’, drop a comment below.