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300 Days on the road

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

In Salt Lake City, we celebrated being on the road for three hundred days, nearly nine thousand miles, a dozen states, and two countries. The boys decided they wanted to mark the occasion by opening packs of the card game, Magic the Gathering, and the three of us did that, then built decks out of the packs we opened. We are boondocking at Flight Park, and as we played, we watched dozens of paragliders and hang gliders jumping off the mountain right outside our door, their colorful parachutes painting the sky.

Our journey to Salt Lake City was a bit spur of the moment. We were in Moab and headed toward the Grand Tetons. But after a closer examination of the map, we decided to visit Salt Lake City and see if I could connect with some dear lifelong friends. When I reached out to one of them, he said, “Our daughter’s High School Graduation party is tomorrow night. Please come!” So we went. It was a great way to celebrate 300 days on the road.

For our first 100 days on the road, every day we updated a small white board on our fridge with the following information:

Day 28 (or whatever the day was)

Destination: Bainbridge Island, Washington (or wherever we were headed)

Word of the Day: Blackberries (or “Glaciers” or “Redwoods”)

As we approached day 300, we resumed this white board practice, doing a mini-count down from day 296 to day 300.

Over those three hundred days, we’ve visited friends in Missoula, Seattle, Florence (OR), San Francisco, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. We’ve connected with family in Corvallis, Oregon.

We’ve made our home in so many places: Cities, beaches, forests, the desert of central Arizona, the canyon lands of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, County Parks, National Parks, and parking lots. We’ve made our home at Thousand Trails RV parks down the West Coast and Southwest. We made our home on the Sea of Cortez.

And all the while, we were living into a new definition and understanding of “home.” No newspaper greeted us on our front steps each morning; instead, our door opened wide to an empty beach, or to friends gathering outside their rigs for breakfast, or to tall saguaro cacti beckoning us out to trails, hikes, or vistas.

Even without a newspaper at our front door, and limited cellphone reception, we heard the news. In Canyonlands National Park, at the stunning Green River lookout view, Juliana noticed a woman with her head down in her hands, unable to take in the view.

“Are you ok?” Juliana asked.

The woman slowly raised her head, a Sisyphean effort, and looked toward Juliana. Juliana wondered if the woman was having a stroke.

“No,” she said, “I’m not ok.” Her voice was pale and her body soft with grief. “K.I.D.S.” she spelled out, because our youngest was with us, “and G.U.N.S.”

Juliana listened and then spoke. “Life is horrific,” she said. As they stood at the overlook in silence. “And yet here we are, taking in the earth’s beauty at the same time.” They talked a bit more. I wandered off, holding Jesse’s hand tight, and not just because we were near a substantial drop off.

As Juliana said goodbye to this woman, the woman said, “Thanks for talking. You’ve helped me.” None of the bullets travelled backward in time, back into the assault rifle that had spent them, none of the children or teachers rose from the floor, and returned to their families that afternoon. Nothing had changed, except for an acknowledgement of a shared grief and rage, exhaustion.

As we’ve been on the road: the world is burning. Climate change, war, despair – these forces are at work in the world, wrecking havoc and sowing terror. In many ways, we all have our heads in our hands, grief so heavy with us, ready to throw in the towel, and, at the same time, we’re finding ways to sing praises for the beauty and wonder around us.

All of it is true, and inescapable. Heaven and hell are right here.

A few months ago, I mused about what was gestating in our lives, what was being formed in us, as we lived on the road, and what might be born out of this experience. What is emerging isn’t entirely clear, but we have been profoundly and intimately shaped by over three hundred days on the road. And now, we are in the final weeks of our time on the road. We are planning to return to Minnesota in a few weeks. We may hit the road again in the fall. We may just settle back into our house, and put our hands in the fertile river bottom soil that makes up our yard, and plant more blueberry bushes and native plants, and find work in Minneapolis. We may do something else.

But right now, we are here, and we have two weeks left on the road. Last night we had dinner with my childhood friend and his family. It was a relaxed, sweet, precious time, as we ate outside on a beautiful evening.

After dessert, on the ride back to our rig on top of the mountain, Juliana said, “I’m glad we did this,” meaning upending our old lives, in order to taste new possibilities, to catch a glimpse of different way to spend our days and our life energy. “I’m glad we did this, too,” I said. “Every day of it.” 

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