How to celebrate Thanksgiving on the road?
Last year we could have been out of cell service, camping at a pullout along route 1 in northern California. We’d been hopscotching up and down this stretch of coast just south of the redwoods for several days. We’d met some hippy kids who were tent camping the same route, and they planned to cook in a fire pit on the beach.
We parked the Cricket on the street in Mendocino and slept there in stealth mode, which means the pop-top was down and the window shades were closed. The days were sunny and sometimes even warm enough to walk barefoot on the beach, but the nights were cold. We slept in hats and jackets, and I woke to find my breath condensing on the wall next to me. Brrr. Our journey down this stretch of coast would have been slower, had the weather been warmer.
We spend months exploring the 750 miles of coast from northern Washington to San Francisco, and still I feel like we haven’t even begun to spend enough time there.
Last year, it happened that we were in Mendocino for Thanksgiving. The town reminds me of Vermont in a way (Victorian wooden homes and an interesting cast of characters in a remote but well visited small town) so it wasn’t a bad place to spend Thanksgiving. We could see a sliver of ocean from our garden-side table. We had thought about being at a mountain lodge, and that would have been nice too.
Please stay here with me in Mendocino,
Where life’s such a groove,
Thanksgiving was our first big holiday on the Cricket adventure. We weren’t sure what to do, disconnected from our annual rotation of being with family in Colorado or Connecticut. It caused us to have some interesting conversations about what the holiday means to us, what we want in a Thanksgiving experience.
Nine years ago Chris and I flew to Japan on Thanksgiving Day. It was a great day to travel. I can’t remember what we ate on the plane; our real Thanksgiving meal had been at home, a week or so prior, when we could schedule it with family.
In the Cricket, Chris and I had each other, the setting was awe inspiring, our days were carefree. I miss it already! (Like, seriously. I think about running away to California. Yesterday, a conservative publication called it “Hillary’s Utopia.” That sounds good to me.)
Last year’s day was awesome, but it still helped us decide to go “home” to Colorado for Christmas. I wrestled a lot with the meaning of Christmas, and it seemed to be the same things we had missed while in Mendocino for Thanksgiving — being with our people, performing familiar rituals. Cooking, drinking, eating, being together. So this year, that’s exactly what we are doing.
At Esalen’s Summer Solstice Sadhana I took a workshop on body, breath, and meditation with Jody Greene — and she blew me away with the depth, vulnerability, and thoughtfulness of her teaching.
Jody has a really dry sense of humor, and a bluntness about the way she speaks. She is SO funny, I laughed about 35 times in our morning together, about things that matter like learning how to be sweet to oneself. (This article is something of an exaggerated version of Jody’s directness of thought that I experienced.)
I love the way Jody teaches both what she has personally learned works for her, and that it is important to find what works for you. And that what works will change. I love that she takes a mind-body approach to how she works on well-being.
My time with Jody was limited. Usually she was leading meditation at 6:15 a.m. while I was writing and soaking in the hot springs, and later she was hands-on-assisting in one of our classes. I attended the workshop led by her on the second-to-last day of the festival. Had I known sooner how much her style of teaching connects with me, I might even have disrupted my morning pages routine for some more time with her meditating just after dawn.
I would definitely seek out Jody’s workshops again. If you are a human being, are into self-knowledge, struggle with pushing yourself too hard, have injuries that need to be accommodated, or just want to learn more about yoga or mediation, I encourage you to do the same. I can’t say so enough.
While we’re out adventuring, life continues back home … invitations for events we can’t attend come through the email, the creative district grows, our friends make families, our families continue their own adventures. Sometimes we feel lonely out here on our own. Thankfully we have each other, but friends along the way help a lot too.
Sometimes we manage to cross paths with fellow travelers. On the central California coast, we met Dakota and Chelsea of Traipsing About — and I hope we cross paths again. It was really fun to hike and talk travel life with a couple who know it well. Dakota and Chelsea have made their lives as travelers for some years now, and I had several moments of clarity talking with them about the nuances of this lifestyle and the ways it affects a relationship. (Short version: you have a ton of fun, get really close, perfect your team skills, go a little crazy sometimes, and then have more fun, repeat.)
Traipsing About was one of the blogs I read — often in bed on weekend mornings, saying to Chris, “hey, look at this!” — as inspiration for our own adventure. They have such an open-hearted approach to the ways they explore the world together, the ways they’ve learned to do it well. Talking and laughing with them definitely helped me embrace the messiness of this life a little and, during a month in which I often struggled with being cold and dirty and not quite in the zone, helped me remember what’s amazing about having an adventure partner with whom you get to make (almost) exactly the life you want.
Further down the coast, we met Cass and David, transplanted east coasters making life in LA. Their apartment walls are covered with cute pictures of the two of them exploring around the world and with her amazing photos of the scenery; their books represent dreams of future adventures; she also shares a fantasy about doing something like our current adventure. You can hear the sincerity in their voices when they talk about their love for the places they’ve been, especially around the american landscape.
Via Cass & David’s hospitality, Chris and I ended up being able to bike up the LA coast from Hermosa Beach to Santa Monica, by way of Venice Beach. Our 30-mile round trip, fueled by yummy burgers at Bareburger (humanely raised meat, of course), gave me a chance to see several places I was interested in, but that we hadn’t been able to properly visit while towing the trailer (beach parking is tight). How better than to do it along the strand, on bike, on a beautiful March LA day under the spring sunshine.
We checked out the canals in Venice, Muscle Beach, the Venice boardwalk. We got pretty good at biking through sand where it had blown (it had been really windy) into piles in stretches across the sidewalk.
We also took a weekend ride with Cass & David to the Manhattan Beach pier, ate custom made ice cream sandwiches, looked at the big and often empty houses. (In San Clemente, where we’d spent six weeks over the winter, the architecture is a uniform pale terra cotta — so it was fun to see the conglomeration of styles in LA.) Sharp new glass and metal cubes next to their now awkward-looking 1980’s ancestors of the same materials, and then Italian villas with stone and pillars and exuberant style next to the few beach shacks that remain, New England-y wood shingles and simple design. The people watching was fun, too — the fellow bikers and dog walkers on the strand, many skateboarders, players on the volleyball courts (we’ve never seen so many volleyball nets in our life — all arrayed on the beach), people enjoying the nice days.
Cass is a photographer (her site was built with David’s web skills), and we visited a favorite gallery of hers, looked at beautiful large prints on aluminum, photos from all over the world. It’s pretty stunning how a directional lamp can use the aluminum to really make well-captured light in the photos glow.
As travelers, Chris and I have stayed at the homes of quite a few people — I hope we’re good at being fun-and-helpful-but-not-too-obtrusive houseguests. With Cass and David there was something really genuine about how easily we all got along. Their cats were even friendly, and reminded us so much our beloved Malachi.
We’re so grateful for the opportunity to meet these fellow world-explorers, and for one more adventure in LA. And if down the road, David & Cass start a blog about their travel adventures, I’ll definitely read it.
Let me begin at the end:
After a week in the Redwoods, we spend a day scrubbing. Unlike Chris’ post-Burning-Man-clean, which involved sweeping dry white playa dust out of every nook and cranny, this joint effort required parking in the open sun and working mold out of cracks with old toothbrushes. We needed to air out, dry out, and let our little Cricket know that we wouldn’t sacrifice him to this moist fairy-tale environment.
After camping for almost a week in the dark, damp, and divine old-growth forest, we felt a bit mossy ourselves. Luckily, the camper was de-mildewed without too much fuss and we were left mostly with memories of our time traipsing among and communing with the stunning old trees.
It was a refreshing way to close our time in the Pacific Northwest which, as we entered autumn, had become more mossy and drizzly by the day. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. We were lucky with the weather and with the opportunity to see these beautiful places. It was mid-November and we enjoyed a sunny streak that allowed us to wander around the dense forest floor almost every day.
In the Redwoods, we camped at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. We chose this place (and are so glad that we did!) for its unique benefit of offering camping within 14,000 acres of old-growth Redwoods right on the coast (other areas of the parks are more inland). We could (and did) hike into the famous Ferm Canyon. We traipsed around, hugging old trees (many about 500 years old, although potentially up to 2,000 years old), climbing on and under the fallen trunks of even older trees, marveling at the filtered sunlight, the almost unimaginable height of these trees, their girth. And then, suddenly, we would drop into view of the ocean, the landscape opening up to cold waves and coastal fog.
Our uniform for the Redwoods forest sounds pretty outlandish as I type this poolside in the southern part of the state, but it was practical for that place and time: rain pants over regular pants, heavy-duty hiking boots, rain jackets. The key was waterproof layers — while it could be mild in the sunshine and we would start to unfurl, it was damp and dripping in the woods and our explorations, mostly confined to paths for practical reasons (the forest floor is a soft mulch-y bed of leaves, branches, trunks, and other gently decaying or moss-gathering materials) could still sometimes take us through wet patches, or through a brief rainstorm.
Unlike most of the National Parks, the Redwoods are jointly managed by the State of California and the National Park Service (this arrangement has existed since the mid-1990’s in an error towards cooperative forest management), and the locations are scattered through the northern part of the state. These beautiful parks are a portion what was saved after logging decimated about 90% of the 2 million acres that existed back in 1850. In the early twentieth century conservationists started to realize that these old giants needed protection, and they began to set aside land. Today, the parks contain about 40,000 acres, about half of the remaining old growth trees in northmen California.
But let’s talk less about lack, and more about what there is to see and do and appreciate about what remains of these amazing forests.
These trees are the tallest species on earth (they can reach up to 350 feet). Looking up at the trees, and reading statistics like “one Redwood can provide enough wood to build thirty houses” we marveled at how these trees could even be toppled and pulled from the forest. They are so huge it’s hard to imagine moving them, or even wanting to try — human beings are a strange sort.
Some facts that we learned about the cycle of tree life in Olympic park and in Oregon also applied in the Redwoods —you can see where a tree fell, began to decompose, and where, along the line of the rotting trunk, new sprouts found purchase and nutrition, becoming new trees. When that old trunk was finally gone, there would be a line of new trees with arching root structures where they had sat astride the old log. I loved spotting this evidence of old blossoming into new.
Chris, ever in tune with nature, perceives that the trees are mystical because of their age and size, like they are old wise beings. We would walk into the forest and stand with our hands on the trunks feeling their spiritual vibrations and communing with their history. There were other people in the park and on the trails, but there were many quiet and private moments to be found.
Another interesting way to commune with the redwoods was to (occasionally) enter a tree directly. In general, redwoods are quite resistant to fire (because of their thick bark) and rot/insects (due to the nature of their wood) but occasionally the elements will compromise the interior wood of a tree, leaving a hollow “chimney” that is almost like a very tall room. Standing in one of these spaces is a great way to contemplate how immense the trees are. It is also a way to — thrillingly, sometimes almost frighteningly — feel their power, feeling that we were becoming one with the tree itself.
By the end of our stay camping among these giants, we were indeed feeling like we were becoming part of the forest. We were sad to leave, but glad to dry out a bit. It was exciting to be on to new adventures as we proceeded down the coast. Yet among our frequent conversations of “if you could pick one place to go back to,” the redwoods is always a contender. I suspect you’ll hear more from the Crickets about future adventures in this magical land.
This post is a joint effort — photos by Chris (except those of him, of course!) and text by Alexis.
It’s been a while since our last update, largely because we have been dealing with life (travel) choices and resetting some of our daily patterns. Plus, the longer we go without updating, the weightier each update seems to feel.
In many respects, these things are exactly what I want to be writing about — the real challenges of scrapping everything and heading out on a new adventure. What happens when you change your life so dramatically? What are the ways you grow? What are the ways you fight growth? Where do you come out on the other side?
I always wanted this blog to be a place where I can choose authenticity. As I’ve said before, neither Chris nor I feels good posting an overly curated version of our adventure, one that makes it look like we’re always wandering around beautiful vistas with sparking eyes and big hearts. As this recent post indicated, it’s not true. (Although in many instances it is true!)
I find though, that it’s difficult for me to write about growth and change while still in the midst of it. It’s also challenging to write about the not-so-fun moments without sounding like I’m complaining too much because really, our life is pretty amazing, and I don’t want to forget that. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this tightrope — how can this blog be a space where I highlight the things I’m grateful for while still being honestly reflective about the things i’m struggling though? (Some folks do this quite well, and I’m trying to use them as inspiration to push through.)
Where (both geographically and metaphorically) have I been lately?
We’ve settled for a little while in San Clemente, CA, halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles. It’s warm enough to keep smiles on our faces. We camp on a bluff overlooking the ocean, and we can bike into town to use the library, visit the farmers market, do yoga, and grocery shop (we drive the truck, too, of course). Chris has taken up a new hobby (I’ll keep it secret until he decides to tell you about it) and I’m starting to build the routines that allow me to feel creatively productive and fulfilled.
We laugh about it — we’re basically trying to recreate a normal life here. We had to drive 12,000 miles (6,000 on the Subaru and 6,000 on the truck) to end up 3,000 miles from home, trying to recreate the patterns of the life we once knew? Funny, but true.
Recently we were in a similar geographic location that almost offered these things but, somehow, not quite. We spent several weeks before and after Christmas in Morro Bay, CA, just a few hours north of here. It was a beautiful town, smaller, quieter, and a little less built-up than here; further from the highway; right on the ocean with some really stunning natural formations and a lot of cool outdoors stuff to do. (The big rock foremost, but not only.) I loved it. In many ways it was a better “fit” than here as far as the culture and vibe, for me, personally. Plus, there was a bar called The Libertine that I could have gone to every day to try carefully curated beers, like sour stouts with yummy vanilla overtones. I felt like one lucky duck. Yet — almost every day was a struggle. It wasn’t about the place, of course. It was about who we were at that moment, what we were fighting in ourselves.
We had stopped there to make some sort of routine, having identified all the benefits of doing so in Morro Bay. It was the first place we could reasonably bike from our campsite into civilization, which was a big deal. It was warmer and drier than where we were coming from. I reveled in everything awesome about Morro Bay, and yet, floundered. Everything seemed hard. When I had a week alone, during which I though — I can finally make my own schedule!! — I didn’t do any of the awesome things I had hoped to.
(As a sort of aside, I’ve been wanting to write about Morro Bay for awhile and a recent post by Nikki, the female half of the Wynns, dislodged my writers block. She blogged and made a video about her solo adventure in the RV that was awfully similar to my week alone in the Cricket. It kind of makes my heart sing to know that I’m not alone in sometimes struggling through moments of girl power. It makes me a little teary, too. I can be sometimes overly independent, and it was an interesting lesson to find that just because I can do something by myself, doesn’t mean I really want to. Teamwork is awesome.)
So, even though the place was obviously not the main problem, we moved, and I have to say, it felt GOOD. No, it felt GREAT! Just putting some miles between us and whatever funk we were in was awfully therapeutic. Plus, there was the benefit of moving south, to a location where the nights wouldn’t be nearly so chilly. That’s helping a lot. Every moment of challenge is created by a whole web of factors, and sometimes sorting out the practical physical ones makes dealing with the more complicated behavioral ones a lot less challenging.
I’m learning about the minimal things I need to be comfortable. Sometimes I feel like a badass camper chick, and sometimes I feel really spoiled. It is what it is. I know I need warmth, and to not spend all my nights or days bundled in layers. Hot showers are also surprisingly important to me. Having found a yoga studio with bathing facilities that makes me feel like I’m in a zen spa makes a big difference in my overall mental health. I probably will, but I wish and dream about never having to pay for a lukewarm shower with quarters again. I like a hot beverage in the morning. I need quiet time alone. I value stability in my friendships, and regular opportunity to connect with those I love.
I’ve learned that I have some either / or both preferences, too. I can take a lot of discomfort, if I know roughly when it will end. I kind of revel in that dichotomy. Similarly, I really like going “offline, and off the grid” because it helps me clear my mind and live in the moment, but I also really like good cell service and the ability to create a wifi hot spot, because it helps me connect.
I need more routine than I thought I did. I’ve long known that I need some regular practices like morning pages, I’ve long loved to set goals for myself and to live by lists, and I’ve learned that I’m pretty good at helping others set these patterns in place for themselves, too. Still, I thought of myself as kind of a disruptive force — I don’t like set mealtimes, I like to move between many projects, I’m always craving some kind of change or something new. I pushed past my own limits though, via the many vagaries of this travel lifestyle that I wanted so badly. Which brings me back to being here, in San Clemente with Chris, laughing about how all we want to do is be normal, predictable, stable.
We have four weeks stretching ahead of us, in which we know how all of our basic needs will be met. We have some exciting things we want to do as day trips in the area, but we’re both so keen to focus on the day-to-day life patterns. We’ve talked a lot about routines that will work for both of us (together and alone), and we’ve scheduled several of those into place. I’m trying not to overwhelm myself, but there’s a lot I want to do. Every time I accomplish some small goal that I set for myself, I feel a little stronger. It’s really exciting! I’m starting to feel like Alexis again.
I’m grateful for the friends and family who have listened patiently as I worked through all of this, and who have encouraged me through advice, empathy, and reminders of the broader context within which I exist. I’m so excited for this new lease on life and travel in the new year. I know there are more challenges to come, but I’m feeling a lot more optimistic.
Plus? Chris and I are learning so much about how to work together. Making our way through all of these challenges, as friends and partners, is strengthening our relationship in ways I never even dared to hope for. It kind of makes my heart swell. I’m not necessarily getting what I thought I would out of this trip, but I’m getting good things all the same. I guess that’s life.
“Where are you now?” if often the first question friends or family ask when we talk. I give updates big and small: the Pacific Northwest, Portland, a rocky cliff on the Oregon seashore where the waves crash hard into rocks, a field next to a barn, or walking the streets of a town.
So, where are we now?
Well, we updated the map tracker to show all of our scribbles in and around Oregon… back and forth from the coast … up and down from Eugene or Corvallis to Portland … an excursion out to Bend.
So that tells you where we were (roughly).
And as you can see by looking at the live tracker, we are now into California! We are moving slowly down the coast. We plan to go to San Francisco next, and have made reservations for the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving at a lodge outside of Yosemite. It’s cold enough there to make four non-aluminum walls and a roof a necessity. (NB: It also has a salt water hot tub!)
Then, back to the coast I imagine (nothing is decided) and heading south into warmer and sunnier climates. (Not that we are complaining!)
So that’s a quick update. More to come soon!