I write first thing every morning. (To clarify: first thing means after making tea or coffee.)
Most days, I end my morning pages with a list of three things that I am grateful for. This practice helps to keep me positive (not always a simple task for this ever-striving perfectionist). There’s a little bit of science and a lot of anecdotal evidence supporting regular intentional gratitude.
Now that we’re back home, I’m reflecting on themes of our travel adventure. This morning I typed up all of the gratitude notes that I made while on the road. It was pretty amazing to be reminded that even during the most difficult cold and lonely times, even when I was angry at my travel partner, I could find three things to be grateful for every day.
Making word clouds is an awesome way to see patterns in qualitative data. The website wordle analyzes text and creates a graphic that shows word size based on the frequency of the individual words in a text. There are several display settings and other options.
I think the above image speaks for itself.
XO with gratitude,
Chris and I spent a night “back country camping” at White Sands, on a little loop trail in the dunes with about 10 sites. This allowed us to stay out in the dunes playing and taking pictures past dusk … and to wake among the dunes in the morning.
Dusk and dawn (and even under moon- and star-light) are spectacular times for photography and watching the scenery in this very cool moon-like place. Our camping setup was super simple — the Cricket was a mile away and we walked there in the morning to make coffee.
What and where is “White Sands,” anyway?
White Sands is a National Monument in south-central New Mexico. It’s a pretty unique place…
… White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dune field.
The gypsum crystal dunes feel a little different from beach sand … the gypsum is more damp and slightly more clumpy/crumbly than sand. Sort of like the salt fields, Chris says. (Gypsum is water soluble and not usually found in sand form.) We learned that the high moisture in the dunes means that:
The dunes freeze in winter so they are much harder than in the summer. This makes sledding faster but it also makes falls hurt more and can even break bones.
Yikes! For us, it was fun to build an expanse of sand pyramids with and dig holes in while watching kids sled down the non-frozen dunes in April. The gypsum seemed like it should pack like snowballs, but it didn’t quite hold together. It was fun to see the effects of water dripped on the things we built/dug.
… White Sands is also adjacent to the White Sands Missile Range.
The park is in the southern part of a 275-square mile dune field that’s contained within a larger, 3,200-square mile missile range.
Occasionally the park closes due to activity in the missile range. When we entered, we were also given several brochures warning us about what to do (and not do!) if we found “UXOs” while hiking.
UXO = UneXploded Ordnance
UXO = bullets, bombs, duds, grenades and shells that have been used but have not exploded
UXO can be: new or old; shiny or rusty; clean or dirty
All UXO are dangerous!
The area now part of the missile range was also the US Army’s first detonation of a nuclear weapon.
Prior to the Cricket adventure, Chris and I visited the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. More recently, we’ve also climbed over sand dunes on our trip to Death Valley. Both were pretty spectacular and fun to explore …. but on this trip, 11 years after my first visit to White Sands, I’m still convinced that it’s one of the most special places.
I feel such a sense of expansiveness at White Sands. I love the stark contrasts of the New Mexico blue sky and the white of the dunes. The colors that come out as the sun moves above us are delicate and seemingly infinite.
It’s definitely a desert love kind of place.
Alexis & Chris
It has, shockingly, been almost two months since we last posted. Time flies when you’re having fun!
(Or, sometimes, it simply takes us a little while to sort through photos and percolate on impressions of the things we’re seeing and doing.)
(Or, other times, honestly, we’re busy figuring out what’s next and how to survive life on the road.)
Since we last wrote, we have traveled through much of the southwest… from California’s Death Valley; into Nevada’s Lake Mead & Valley of Fire; we’ve seen Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and the cactus flowers blooming in Arizona; made short trips into Mexico and seen some amazing art in New Mexico; met up with family at Big Bend in Texas; and then rested for a bit with friends and family in Colorado.
Phew! There will eventually be posts on all this, and more.
As I write this, I am relaxing on a couple-of-week visit to friends and family back east. After everything amazing we’ve seen on the road, it’s still really good to be back here in the land of trees. This New England girl was getting majorly burned out on the desert.
Meanwhile, Chris continues on with the Cricket to see some magnificent southwestern destinations in Arizona and Utah. (He is a bit hardier than I.) You can find updates from him on Facebook and Instagram until he shares his photos on this blog.
We will reunite in Durango, Colorado, where we’ve rented a place for the summer. For me, the single most challenging things about being on the road is the loneliness or lack of community. I am so thankful for Chris’ company, we have grown closer in so many ways as a result of traveling together like this. Yet even with his regular presence, and with the fellow adventurers we meet on the road, in campgrounds, on hikes, or online, I started to feel like I was missing something. I’m such an introvert, and I so value my time alone, that it surprised me to discover the extent to which I wasn’t getting my relational needs met.
I’m really grateful that we have the wherewithal to stop, nest a bit, and experience a different sort of adventure living temporarily in a different place. There’s so much going on in Durango, and we are lucky to have a dear friend there; I’m hopeful it will be a good place to make new friends, do some volunteer work, dig in to projects that are more difficult to accomplish while camping, and explore the surrounding area via weekend trips in the Cricket.
From there we’ll drive to Burning Man (we both got tickets this year!) and then … we will be heading “home”!
I put home in quotes because for eleven months now, our little Cricket has been home. We tow our home behind us. We leave our home in campgrounds while we explore new places. Home is where we cook, eat, sleep, laugh, argue, connect online, and store our things. Yet after many conversations about what’s next, we are pretty certain that our more permanent location will indeed be back east. Despite all we’ve seen, we haven’t found a place that matches what we love about our community, the location, and the opportunities we have here. But the resettling part of the journey is still more than four months out, and for now we continue our year-plus adventure in ways both expected and surprising!
I promise, there’s more to come.
“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!
Chris loves just about everything autumnal. Including (especially) pumpkins. And I love Chris.
So on my walks about Portland, I ended up taking a handful of snapshots of the amazing pumpkin art and other Halloween decorations.
It was all so very creative!
I love the nuances to the expressions in some of these jack-o-lanterns.
Look at that face!
A little family walk.
And finally, we look forward to Thanksgiving…
… when (most likely) we’ll be somewhere in California.
Several weeks ago, while we were still in Salt Lake, Chris & I had to do an impromptu repair on the Cricket. The hinges that help the top pop up had broken. (This was scary! But it all worked out well.) Our contact at Cricket sent us new sturdier steel hinges by next-day delivery, and told us the swap would be easy. We weren’t so sure, but it turned out she was right.
We had to unattach the tenting on the sides and prop the roof on some spare wood,
and then do a bit of prying, awkward angle drilling, and holding in place. Finally here Chris attaches the new hinges with a rivet gun.
I’m so glad for my strong man.
Old hinge (broken into parts) at left, new hinge at right.
Chris is on his way to Burning Man (the theme this year is Carnival of Mirrors) with the Cricket in tow.
First through the Bonneville Salt Flats …
and then to Sun Tunnels where he spent the night.
Wishing Chris & the Cricket safe travels & lots of fun!
Just an hour or so after I’d wondered out loud to Chris about any remaining hope of getting Burning Man tickets, an email came — & he’s in!
One curious cricket will definitely be going to the Carnival of Mirrors. Maybe two?
At left, an image from the Burning Man gallery, by Yaan Anderson.
At right, Chris’ piece in the Music Room at Wisteriahurst, Holyoke.
Those of you who know his’ work will surely agree that Chris is a Perfect Fit for this experience in the desert. Yay!