The teardrop tour has returned to Tucson after 15,000 miles and 20 parks visited. It has been quite the adventure. I am grateful for the many people that helped out in big and small ways along the way. More than anything it has been such a pleasure to catch up with old friends.
As much as I planned, the tour always threw in a few unexpected twists and now that thing called Life just threw in an even bigger one. I plan to continue to check off the parks but will need to do it in smaller chunks for the next few months. Stay tuned! I will continue to be posting reports but will not be as frequent. Sign up for an email alert to tell you when something gets posted.
Thanks always for following along!
Sunday, July 3, 2016
I am sure that there are many who would turn up their nose at living in my little camper. Indeed, many snide comments have been made about just how claustrophobic they would be if they had to be in there even one minute. Sure there are drawbacks. There is the limited storage space so, gosh, you can only carry what you actually need and not what you kind of like, want, might need, just in case and for an emergency bring along. There is the risk of being exposed to temperatures outside of the range of, say, 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit. There is the occasional inconvenience of figuring out where to park your house. There is no squeezing into a tight spot or subtly leaving it somewhere hoping that no one notices. Of course, it has limited guest rooms so that may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on who’s invited.
But there are so many advantages to carrying your own house with you. Housekeeping is greatly abbreviated. I require neither vacuum nor ironing board. I simply haul it over to the car wash and spray it down once a week just like the car. I am greatly enamored with the benefits of a high-pressure wash. I feel like more things could benefit from its thoroughness including bathrooms and small children.
Second, you never have to check into a hotel and wonder how clean the sheets are. How many studies have been done now showing that this is one of the most disgusting things we expose ourselves to on a regular basis? We all go in with the delusion that this is a private room and, thus, it must also be sterile. And this is coming from someone whose favorite things to do is pop abscesses. At least in the camper you already know it has been a month since the last time you were willing to part with 16 quarters but you also know no one else had been dirtying the sheets.
Finally and most important, there is the bliss of having your own bathroom. Yes, you can sit there as long as you want without arousing suspicion or wondering if the person next to you will leave first. If you run out of paper, it is your own damn fault. The only person that peed on the seat was you. And of course the big bonus is that when in North Carolina you can skip the genital exam. But really it comes down to not having to wait, for anyone or anything. Let’s admit that the last thing you want to do when you have to go to the bathroom is wait in line, find out you need a key, wait in another line to get that key, wait in line with the key to have some mother with three kids beg to go in front of you because her 4 year old can’t hold it any longer so that when you get there you have a wet seat where her three toddlers missed and the bathroom looks like it has been toilet papered by teenage hooligans so that there is none actually on the roll. I no longer participate in the bathroom circus. I have peed in rest stops. I have peed while pumping my gas. I have peed in the parking lot after getting my groceries. I have simply pulled over to the side of the road and peed. I consider this a HUGE upgrade from the tree that I have historically settled for.
While I probably won’t make it onto MTV’s Cribs or be the highlight of the historical home tour, I will never have to stand in line for a dirty throne and that, my friends, is living large.
Friday, July 1, 2016
I assumed I had left the zoo behind. The quantity and diversity of wildlife in Theodore Roosevelt, Tetons, and Yellowstone spoiled me. By the time I left Montana, I resigned myself that nothing else would offer up quite as much excitement. This was reinforced by the relative paucity of animals I saw in North Cascades, Olympics and Rainier. The good times were behind me and ahead lay California, which has no shortage of wildlife but none that I regarded as warm and fuzzy.
However, checking into the camp near the Redwoods, I was asked to sign a waiver. This is not such an uncommon practice as the national parks are quite adamant about keeping a clean camp so as not to attract hungry wildlife that would turn the campground into a buffet. All those had been for bears. This waiver was regarding the elk, oh and yes, sometimes a bear or mountain lion wanders by, too, but her great concern was for the elk. I don’t exactly think elk when I am at the beach but I took her for her word. She also advised me that people “fight” over my campsite because it gets the most elk traffic, so I was to be sure to look out my camper before stepping outside in the morning so as not to step on any elk. My campsite had plenty of evidence of hoofed beasts and the place smelled like a barn so maybe this wasn’t so far off.
Indeed there were 40 elk hanging out the next morning. And you can imagine my disappointment that they had not chosen my campsite, making them the only people that have expressed no interest in the teardrop. They were clear across the gravel path in the site directly opposite of mine, probably avoiding their own piles of shit as I am attempting to do with varying success. They settled in like they owned the place. My return from my day of sightseeing found them in very nearly the same spot. All was going well until 4 large bulls decided to saunter through. This had the ladies all up and prancing. It is good to know that flirting has no biological boundaries.
What was most disturbing was watching the herd attempt to cross a busy highway to get to water. National parks have a slow speed limit for a reason. They say they want you to slow down to see the animals but really they want you to not hit them. I have learned to enjoy going a bit slower and it makes it one of the more challenging parts of returning to civilizations. Unfortunately, the Redwoods were cobbled together through an accumulation of land donations, state parks and national park designation in a sad scrambled to save the last of the trees. However enough development had occurred that the end result is a narrow, winding highway through the park areas with a 65mph speed limit. The herd is left playing leapfrog through a race course. I was shocked by the impatience of motorists who would honk and accelerate by frightening the poor animals who really just needed a drink of water. Even the police vehicle, who had the power to really hold up traffic and just let them cross, did the same. I was subject to this same impatience this morning when I stopped for a herd crossing the road. Trucks behind me blared their horns and attempted to maneuver around me. It is amazing how brave they can be up against these animals as they sit behind one ton of steel. Somehow I don’t think that they would be quite so aggressive without it. It is a little disheartening to see so many people with so little regard for magnificent wildlife that they saw it as a hindrance to their day instead of a special addition.
So as it turns out, it’s a zoo in California, too, but at they have some nice animals at least.
As I said before, getting to Crater Lake is no cakewalk. I am not talking about the lovely scenic drive. I speak of the shear cliffs that guard the circumference. There is a reason the water is so clean. Only a few fools can manage the steep trail down and fewer still find motivation to soak their dirty bodies in the ice water. And that is exactly the spot I was in as I sat contemplating the blue water: unmotivated. I can assure you that not every day is a high but every day seems to have and unexpected twist and today was no different.
My visit to Crater Lake has been longer than absolutely necessary to see the park but with the extra time, it has become an odd vacation within my vacation. It is a rare place that I am content to simply sit and watch the water be blue. And I keep going back to do that for hours at a time, sometimes twice a day, just to watch the light change over the water. It soothes me as I tend to the darker, dusty corners of my mind. With increasing pressure to return home, there is the increasing anxiety about what to do next with my life. I had wrongly assumed that becoming a doctor meant I had a career that had intrinsic meaning. I learned much too late that there is a great difference between taking care of someone and caring for someone. How do you create a meaningful life? And why is it that I struggle to keep relationships glued together? People do it all the time. Is there something wrong with me? And what happens if time runs out before I am ready to say goodbye to the man that means the most to me?
I sat and watched a large family jump off the cliff into the icy water. Some went with little prompting while others stood for long periods worried about all the possible outcomes. At over 1900 feet deep, there is certainly plenty to consider. It would take me 2:06 minutes to run that depth on a really good day and there haven’t been a lot of really good days lately. But the reality is that no one was going down that far and the only real guarantee is that you are going to get wet.
A man finally walked up next to me with his lunch. We watched the antics and discussed the variations of technique. He is a ranger in the park and I invited him to have lunch with me. He excitedly told me of his plans to come fish and jump off the same cliff tomorrow. I expressed my fear of heights and the fact that I had been sitting there for over an hour and had pretty much made up my mind that this was just not going to happen for me. I had hoped to simply wade in slowly.
“It will always gnaw at you that you never did it and it will be unfinished business.”
He was right. Maybe the future does not work out as I want but right then I had the chance to be sure that when I look back, the past was as good as it could be. Life does not always give you the option of wading in. You might as well choose to enjoy the rush. I ran and jumped off, unwilling to look down into the endless blue and depths of possibilities I cannot imagine. There will always be the hard, cold truth in the end but there will also be the pride of taking a chance and flying, if only for a moment.