On the road again

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We left Sophia, our travel trailer, at home for this winter into spring trip. Another way of broadening our means of traveling.  We can travel faster, get better gas mileage, accomodate winter weather and go down dirt roads and up steep terrain not suited to Sophia’s needs. We have the freedom to stop and take pictures anytime instead of waiting for a place that can accomodate the truck and the trailer.  And, we miss having our home with us and home cooking.  Although, we’ve been fairly creative with food in our cooler and microwaves and hot pots at motels. Luckily, we have some stops with friends and family along the way; nourishing our bodies and our souls.

As always, every day brings surprises, beauty and reflection.  More blog posts on the way.

Here’s where we’ve been so far:

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Bill and Diane’s travels as of March 14, 2017.  Left Seattle February 25th.

Seattle, Umatilla, OR; Baker City, OR; Sawtooth Mountain Range, ID; Twin Falls, ID; Ogden, UT; Salt Lake City, UT; Moab, UT; Arches National Park, UT; Canyonlands National Park, UT; Monticello, UT; Cortez, CO; Shiprock, NM; Gallup, NM; Albuquerque, NM; Hatch, NM; Las Cruces, NM; El Paso, TX; Fort Davis, TX; McDonald Observatory, TX; Marfa, TX; Presidio, TX; Terlingua, TX; Big Bend National Park, TX; Fort Stockton, TX; San Antonio, TX; Wimberley, TX; Big Spring, TX; Lubbock, TX; Grants, NM.

 

Emerging from Turbulence

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Wild turbulence on the ground. Our 21-foot travel trailer rocks and jolts for hours as the wind roars in from the Pacific Ocean, on whose edge we are parked. Heavy pelting rain slams hard against the window.  It is dark outside on the first day of Advent – a time when new things come to birth. Our candle, lit at dinner, is left burning as if to hold space amid the chaotic power swirling around us.

I have felt this kind of power before. Years ago, I was giving birth to my son when primal sounds coursed through me and out into the labor room.  A doctor opened the door to ask the midwife if everything was okay. Later, someone said I was screaming, but that was not my experience. I was simply giving voice to something from beyond my reality that was creating a miracle – a new life. I did not feel in pain. I felt in power.

A moment ago, I walked out into the wind; the force of it slamming the door behind me.  “What are you birthing?” I asked the wildness. “Will it be healthy?”

I return inside with no answer. Soon the wind calms, the rain stops and my tensed-up shoulders drop a bit. Just as I get comfortable, the storm becomes fierce again with increased intensity. This is not an ordinary storm; these are not ordinary times in our country.  Are we in pain or are we in power?

I’m discomfited that I’m no longer so sure of what exactly needs to be birthed in the world.  All my reasoned ideas seem to collide or float insecurely, unsure of where to land. The election and its aftermath continue to feel like a battering storm that will not pass. Foundations of decency and integrity I thought deeply rooted in our country’s values are being dug up and tossed aside by hate and greed.

More time passes and still the storm rages. It’s bedtime, but how can I let go into sleep when I know not what else this storm will bring? I feel an urgent call to vigilance; to keep watch. To listen intently for sounds new to me. To see clearly what the wind may dislodge from stuck places.  I am aware that these valid reasons can also be bolstering my illusion of control. Yet, surrender does not seem the best choice in these times.

I have not yet met inside myself a place between control and surrender that has integrity.  Which is not to say it doesn’t exist. I’m just not sure how to find it.

“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” is a phrase from Plato that author Rebecca Solnit shares in her book, The Field Guide to Getting Lost.  The suggested answer is to get lost; to enter places of uncertainty, doubt, and mystery and you may find another way of proceeding. It’s letting the winds blow you to unfamiliar places, and perhaps, to unfamiliar people.

We were unfamiliar with our campground host at this RV park when we arrived.  I had knocked on his trailer door when we first arrived and found our assigned spot covered in water. John was very solicitous and friendly, guiding us to a drier spot and stopping by frequently just to say hello and share camping stories. I wanted to like him.  The “Make America Great Again” sign on his truck kept me wary. An accessible parking permit hung from the rear-view mirror.  I noticed he never traveled anywhere without his small dog. His disability is not visible to me. He does not know how I shudder when I see his Trump sign. We’re leaving tomorrow and I’ve yet to have the more extended conversation that I wanted with John. Nevertheless, I am unable to make him as one-dimensional as I might want to do, which is a good thing.

None of us are one-dimensional. Wandering around in the unknown dimensions means embracing discomfort. It means risking a crack in the walls we’ve erected to protect ourselves where we feel most vulnerable.

Leonard Cohen, who died recently, reminds us in the song Anthem to

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

In All the Light We Cannot See, a Pulitzer prize story by Anthony Doerr set in WWII, there are reminders of the goodness of people and their courageous acts even in the midst of inhumane horrors. Light travels at speeds and distances that are invisible to our understanding.

These wild winds we’re experiencing will open cracks that need widening and bear light forth at unimagined speeds.. We can meet the chaos which is birthing something new. We can embrace the power inherent in a complex labor. Even as we feel lost, we will resist that which would aim to still these winds of change. This is not a solitary process. It is one of solidarity. Let us take each other’s hands and walk boldly into the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back in Seattle!

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On October 10th, we arrived back in Seattle and settled into our RV park.  We’ll be here through mid-January.  Seattle welcomed us with warm and sunny skies but with big storms looming later in the week.  So, what did we do on our first full day back with our truck set free from the trailer?  We took the ferry to Whidbey Island, drove north to Deception Pass, stopped for ice cream in Coupeville, visited some favorite areas in the Anacortes area and drove back to Seattle. Once you’ve got the traveling fever, it stays with you.

We left Seattle on July 8th.  Traveled through 18 states; over 6,000 miles. Here’s where we’ve been:

Ellensburg, WA; Spokane, WA; Missoula, MT; Dillon, MT; Brigham City, UT;  Moab, UT; Farmington, NM; Albuquerque, NM; Amarillo, TX;  Oklahoma City, OK; Fort Smith, AK; Little Rock, AK; Memphis, TN; Nashville, TN, Great Smoky Mountains, TN; Greensboro, NC; Goose Point Recreation Area, VA; Flatwoods, WV; Ashland, KY; Louisville, KY; Mt. Vernon, IL; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; Overland Park, MO, Wilson Island State Park, IA, Sioux Falls, SD; Chamberlain, SD; Rapid City, SD; Sheridan, WY; Columbus, MT; Butte, MT; Anaconda, MT; Missoula, MT; Spokane, WA; Ellensburg, WA; SEATTLE.

We’re looking forward to the next chapter in our travels!

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Call in your spirit

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“People get sick because they leave parts of themselves at places.”  Today I listened to a Lakota elder explain that health and wholeness require, among other things, to keep all of our spirit with us.

We were visiting the Atka Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain, South Dakota. The elder, in a video, explained that when we leave a place, whether it’s something we loved or that was difficult, we need to call in our spirit four times.

She shared, with a chuckle, how her grandson responded when she was teaching him this. “He said, ‘Grandmother, you mean I have to call in a ghost?’”  She explained that it was the spirit that lived in his name so he needed to call out his name four times.

I tried it when I left the museum today where I had been inspired by the resilience and wisdom of the Lakota People and, again, horrified by the genocide that people who look like me had inflicted upon them.

“Diane, Diane, Diane, Diane.”

I got into the car and pondered all the times I have left parts of myself elsewhere.  How I have given over my spirit to people and things that diminish what it means to be human. How I left some of my spirit at places of beauty and comfort because I so desperately yearned for them to buoy my daily life. I wanted to stay there instead of facing the change that was needed.

I call my spirit back from those places. The good and the difficult.  Everything is enveloped by what the Lakota People remind us is the circle of life. Alchemy is at work in our lives in ways that often are not visible yet can be transformative.

Tonight I ponder about our country and how it is sick because it has scattered parts of its spirit in some treacherous spaces.  “United States” “United States” “United States” “United States.”  In its weakened state, it will take a strong circle of love to make it whole again. “United” not to act as a single entity but to model a united effort towards peace and justice.

We can start by calling our spirits in to enable us to be more whole and loving in our daily lives. We can encourage others to call back their spirit from places that diminish the sacredness of who they are. It isn’t always an easy thing for there are systems that seek to keep our spirits weak.  Together, we will dismantle systems to stop their destruction.

I don’t know when it will happen. I live each day believing that it will. I call in my spirit to strengthen my commitment to keep going.

 

Post by Diane.

Wilbur and Mole

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I want to spend a moment thinking about two of my favorite authors. E.B. White did not just teach us about punctuation and how best to compose a sentence; he also gave us Wilbur, the pig in Charlotte’s Web.

Diane and I have spent the last few days in Kansas City, Missouri and today in Iowa.

Arthur Bryant probably wrote the Bible on how to slow cook and smoke pork ribs. Kansas City may have another 50 barbecue joints but Bryant’s BBQ is what they are all compared to. As Charlotte might say “Bryant’s is some barbecue!”

Carl Sandburg once said that Chicago is the “hog butcher of the world.” Well, Iowa produces them all.

Wilbur is some pig. Arthur Bryant says so. So does Chicago.

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Bill and Wilbur at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ

E.B. White also, talked, a lot about commas. I never got quite the hang of commas. Except, commas are not something you end a sentence with he said, I think. Sort of like prepositions…

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Tonight Diane and I are parked right next to the Missouri River.

In our travels we have crossed over the Columbia River, the Mississippi, the Arkansas River, and other Rivers too numerous to mention.

In a previous journey we slept right next to the Mississippi, the Big Muddy, in New Orleans. While we were in West Memphis, Arkansas, we slept once again next to the Mississippi.

Kenneth Grahame, in Wind in the Willows, reminds us that Rivers are story bearers; they carry tales of secrets from far away, bring them by you and move them on.

Kenneth Grahame knew of the secret beauty of rivers. He learned about Rivers from Mole.

Kenneth says about Mole,

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before—this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

Diane and I have joined the Mole and Ratty in journeying by such Great and Small Rivers and have pledged to carry the stories that were brought to us from the heart of the world to the great insatiable sea when we arrive back home.

 

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Here’s to Wilbur, here’s to Mole!

 

Post by Bill.

It’s worth the drive . . .

So, the question is, how do we make a sense out of a place? Really, is it worth going all that far to go there?

Example one: we are living in South Everett at Maple Grove RV Resort. If you know the area you might believe that this is not a place for great cuisine. You’d be right, I think. Quarter-mile down the street from where we live there is a very tiny strip mall, maybe five businesses. Between a Pay Day Loan and a Shell gas station Quick Mart is Pasteur’s Noodle Soup. Quite simply the best Pho that I’ve ever had. 

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Worth the drive!

Example two: we spend a week in Moab, Utah. Stunningly beautiful! On the Sunday before we leave Yelp directs us first to a place that is closed on Sundays. Next, to a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away:
El Charro Loco. In, you guessed it, a very small strip mall. We walk in, two tables, out of many, have customers.

We order from what appears to be a generic looking Mexican restaurant menu. If the top rating is four stars, I give it five! The best flavors and presentation I’ve ever had at a Mexican restaurant for straight forward items like tamales and enchiladas.

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It really is worth the drive.

Example three: we are in Memphis, Tennessee, a city I utterly love! I want barbecue before we leave. One of my most frequent Google queries when I’m looking for something good is, “what are the best 10 (fill in the blank).” I do that for barbecue joints in Memphis. Predictably, get 10 choices…

Diane has stopped this morning at a hair salon in downtown Memphis. She is in a conversation with the person working with her regarding the best places for barbecue in Memphis. The woman says “There’s a place a few blocks from where I live and it is simply the best barbecue in Memphis!”  

The Bar-B-Q Shop. Not downtown, not in the top 10 list, in a very non-descript neighborhood; parking is easy.

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Really, it’s worth the drive.

Example four: of course, not everyone likes dessert pies as much as we do.

We are here in Columbia, Missouri. The home of the University of Missouri Tigers as well as several other colleges. The fourth largest city in Missouri. Really, it is a beautiful college town.

In a list we come across of the best 10 places you should see in Columbia, Missouri, is Peggy Jean’s Pies.

Even Google maps has a problem finding this shop. It is in, you guessed it, a mall. Bordered by a young kids’ activity center on one end and Sonic, America’s Drive-In on the other. As with the other establishments you have to look sharply to see the business name.

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We go in. We meet Jean/Rebecca, the mother/daughter, owner/operators of this business. A long conversation follows.

We leave with a small “baby” peanut butter pie and a small “baby” chocolate bourbon pecan pie. They are the best we have ever had!

We go back the next day. We are uncertain if their other pies can possibly be as good. We walk out with a small peach rhubarb pie, and a small White chocolate strawberry pie. So far, I will say, based on the two pies we’ve already had:

it really is worth the drive.

To answer the question; whether it is food or conversations or parks or museums or simply the people you meet while you’re there . . .

it really is worth the drive…

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Post by Bill.