“And you know, when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.” ~Billy Joel
July 6—Happy birthday, Rob!
We left Sage Creek Campground (aka Woodstock) and hit the road for Albert Lea, Minnesota. On the drive out of the park, we saw a TON of wild bison, including a huge male that suddenly appeared ten feet from my vehicle window as it crested a rise next to the road. That was a rush. After the early excitement, though, I slept for a lot of the day’s driving. The road often completely mesmerizes my brain: highway hypnosis. I have to fight it when driving, but when I’m a passenger it takes over and stupefies me.
I was sad watching the hills turn to flatlands: the day after Christmas, when all the presents are opened. In Minnesota, I thought about my grandmother Lavinia growing up in Lakefield. She got the nickname “Minnow” because she could swim in the coldest lakes for hours without getting chilled or tired. Her grandparents owned a dairy farm (she loved buttermilk all her life) and her parents owned the town pharmacy (her father was the pharmacist) which included a lunch counter/soda fountain (run by my great-grandmother who also taught piano lessons). She took great pride in the fact that her father got shunned by the local Episcopal church crowd when he applied for the first liquor license in the county. She also remembered a crowd hanging a stuffed strawman of Kaiser Wilhelm between the pharmacy and the shop next door and burning him in effigy at the start of WWI.
At 6pm (Day 29) we crossed the 5,000 mile mark—and Len has driven every single one of them, except for that fifty feet or so that I drove so he could listen to the bearing/brakes squeal in the Rawlins Tractor Guys parking lot. This 5,000-mile mark is also roughly when he began a slow tailspin of quiet rage (the male version of a meltdown). Suddenly everything became frustrating, difficult, awkward, painful, and rage-inducing. The trailer didn’t want to park correctly, his favorite flashlight went missing, he barked his shins on the hitch, and the road, in other words, just generally sucked. The fact that we are headed home, back to reality, was surely part of it, but there really is a point at which it gets OLD living like a refugee, carrying everything with you, picking up stakes and moving every day, trying to keep track of where you are, where you’re going, and what you need to do in order to get there. No matter how beautiful the scenery, no matter how interesting the history, no matter how fun the adventure, the pressure builds until…
Things I’ve learned (so far) about long trips in the trailer:
- We didn’t need nearly as much expedition-type food as I stocked. We’re actually going home with a lot of what we brought (some frozen, some dried). We only ate a PB&J once. It was just easier to grab a protein bar or cheese stick for lunch.
- The one-month Sirius Satellite radio subscription we forgot about and barely used.
- Cooking outside when it’s 90 degrees or above is like preparing food in the Devil’s Kitchen.
- Swamp cooling really does work and all it requires is a damp cloth and a breeze.
- I didn’t need anywhere near the amount of clothes I packed. We spent days in a row in variations of the same clothing when we were out in the wilderness and when we came back in to civilization we mostly just washed those dirty clothes and put them back on.
- Len only wore two of his three watches. I wore my one pair of earrings every single day.
- Being on the road gets easier … up to a point, and then it tips and suddenly everything seems hard again. 30 days on the road with 25 different sleep spots is definitely a more aggressive travel plan than we’ll want to execute in the future. As with most things, you plan them in the comfort of your home, sitting on your soft couch and dreaming of the road, assuming a much greater future energy store than reality bears out.
- Plan a little extra time for a minor meltdown every seven days or so. Be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t occur.
- Don’t overestimate the amount of writing work that can be accomplished on the road. In reality, it’s pretty small. But take good notes and store up experiences that will seep into future writing.
Next Up: Champaign, Illinois.