Tag Archives: road trip

Clips of Faith

Before I left town, I had the opportunity to go to New Belgium’s Clips of Faith short film festival.  Of course it was fun to try the final few New Belgium beers that I had never tried and hang out with my soccer teammates (Jay was out in the field for work).  I was also pleasantly surprised by the film selections.

The final film left me misty eyed.  This was based on a couple’s 5 month road trip  to South America.  The similarities between their adventures and our adventures on the road transported back to the highlights of an epic road trip.

As I watch the couple climb over sand dunes I laughed thinking about how Jay would tease me about my obsession with sand dunes.  I hate sand and refuse to hang out at the beach, but I couldn’t get enough of land locked sand dunes.

Besides the fun flashbacks, I was also touched by the final narration of the film.

The narrator asks:

Is it possible to be happy with this life?


Did you enjoy your story?

These questions get to the heart of what we are still trying to ask ourselves.

I hope you enjoy the clip!

Sharing a Story: Life on the Road

This post is part of the “Sharing a Story” series where I use a picture to reflect on our year on the road.  Click on the “sharing a story” tag at the bottom of the post to see more of the series.

Seeing our sandwiches in a boots box reminds me of life on the road more than any other picture.  A road trip is filled with beautiful sunsets, starry skies, and breath taking vistas.  In between, you are spilling crumbs on your car seat cushions as you try to pull together a sandwich without getting out of the car because there is a downpour outside.

We developed this boot box storage system in the 2nd half of our journey.  From the passenger’s seat you could barely access the fridge and barely access the non-perishable rubbermaid food box.  After near shoulder dislocation, we stored some snacks and non-perishable lunch fixings in the boots box and had it rest on top of fridge for convenient access.

Having easy to reach snacks on hand saved us from what Brad and Sheena have termed “Hanger”.  This is the special kind of angry that arises when someone (usually a woman) has low blood sugar.  When hanger surfaces in the middle of driving when there are no restaurants for miles and no nice picnic options, a boots box full of nuts, chips, and raisins is a life saver.

Whenever possible, the boots box became a lunch box for transporting our sandwiches to a picnic table overlooking a lake or valley.  Just as often though, we sat in the car, eating silently as we restored perspective through sugar and protein.

Recently Jay met me at my work and we headed outside for a picnic lunch.  He had made sandwiches and brought out the plastic cups for juice.  It felt like a moment of normalcy in an otherwise surreal couple of months.  Maybe if we pull together a picnic lunch and take it out on the lawn in a boots box, we’ll be able to eat peacefully, gather our thoughts, and be ready for where the road is taking us.

Sharing a Story: Canada Day and the Threat of Zombie Apocalypse

This post is part of the “Sharing a Story” series where I use a picture to reflect on a story that happened during our year on the road which I never told on the blog.  Click on the “sharing a story” tag at the bottom of the post to see more of the series.

Sharon celebrating Canada Day in Waterton Lakes

It all started when we ran out of propane halfway through cooking our weiners for a traditional Canada Day meal.  We hadn’t bought the fire license that you needed to have a campfire in a Waterton Lakes National Park campground, so we were using our propane stove to cook the brats.  Great plan, until the familiar roar of flame dwindled to a purr and then ceased all together.

We had three options: 1) drive 45 minutes to the closest store and hope it was open on this holiday weekend, 2) eat a non-festive cold meal of dry cheerios and fruit, or 3) make friends with someone who already had an excellent campfire.  Jay, being more of an introvert was leaning towards option one.  I didn’t give him a chance to move in that direction, I jumped into action telling him I would be right back.  I hurried down the camp road to the site of a group of Canadians our age that I had chatted with the night before as they were setting up camp.

Sure enough this group of six had a great fire going and were roasting their own weiners over it with actual roasting sticks.  I opened with “Can I ask you a favor?  Can we put our weiners in your fire?”  Laughing, they offered up sticks and condiments and beer and suggested the only thing we would need was our own chairs.  I hurried back to Jay to share the news and we gathered up all our essentials to make new friends.

As Jay and I arrived at the campfire, one of the guys was whittling a stick into a sharp point at one end.  He looked up at us, welcoming us into the conversation they were having with, “What about you, how would you prepare for the zombie apocalypse?”  Clearly we had joined the right group of campers.  Jay is a bit of an expert on zombies so he immediately launched into a discussion of the importance of a chainsaw as the weapon of choice.  I contributed the idea that zombie outbreaks usually occur in cities so we were probably quite safe out here in this campground.

The jokes and stories continued into sunset and it didn’t take us long to feel comfortable with this group of friends.  At one point one of the girls was joking sarcastically about how we had obviously found the party group within the campground.  She said, “3 teachers and 3 IT guys, you really know how to pick the cool kids”.  I laughed thinking how I really had found kindred spirits since most of my friends back home are in teaching or IT and have that wonderful clever wit.  The other campers our age a few sites down were just blasting loud music and throwing darts at cans of beer that they held between their feet.

At one point the conversations shifted from how to fight off zombies to how to fight off small children.  One of the teachers asked one of the IT guys, “How many five year olds do you think you could take on at once?”  He sat and thought about it for a few minutes, clearly giving the matter serious consideration.  Finally he said “One ….. I think”.  We chuckled as he explained how in his haste to run from the threatening gang of five year olds he would probably trip over one of them and take him down.  The elementary school teacher piped up with “Oh no, five year olds are easy to take down, they are top heavy, just a swift hit to their foreheads” as she motioned with a football player’s blocking move.  At that point we all lost it, convulsing with laughter as she smiled meekly realizing how bad that had sounded.

The Canada Day campfire is one of my favorite memories from the road.  We spent a lot of time alone or just making pleasantries with strangers.  This was one of the only times we really got to know people outside of our volunteer trips.  Happy Canada Day, eh!

Sharing A Story: I’m Not a Robber, I Swear!

This post is part of the “Sharing a Story” series where I use a picture to reflect on a story that happened during our year on the road which I never told on the blog.  Click on the “sharing a story” tag at the bottom of the post to see more of the series.

lake in McKinney Texas

view from the Wimmer's backyard

We write a lot about the nights we spent in a tent, 113 in all, but that was only a third of the total nights on the road.  So where did we sleep the rest of the time?  Well, we were fortunate enough to connect with friends, family, friends of family, and a couple of couchsurfing hosts.  Buffy and Jack Wimmer were one of the first friends we stayed with, during our first month on the road.  They live in a suburban community north of Dallas, Texas and we arrived the weekend after the Super Bowl.  If you remember the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, the big story was the unusual cold and icy conditions.  We were driving in those conditions through Louisiana and were relieved to have friends to stay with for a few days as the storm moved on and we finally got to enjoy some beautiful days.

The Wimmer family were neighbors when I was little.  Amazingly, our families have stayed in touch and they welcomed us in with open arms and embarrassing stories of my youth, just like real friends do.  Lucky for us, Buffy and Jack Wimmer’s daughter (who is close to my age), Kate, was in town for the weekend to do some wedding planning.  Kate was getting married in April and we were excited to be coming back through Texas for the wedding.  So after a night of great home cooked food, delicious beer, and laughing until I cried, we slept in and then planned a leisurely day of cleaning our car and biking.  Meanwhile, Jack went to work and Buffy and Kate left to go shopping, leaving us at the home alone.

Jay was getting the bikes ready in the garage and I was tidying up inside when the doorbell rang.  At first, I considered just ignoring it.  It was probably just a solicitor anyways.  Then I realized that it was so obvious that somebody was home that I would feel rude ignoring the doorbell.  I hurried to the door and turned the handle.  But it didn’t turn!  It was locked and there was no way to unlock it without the key.  We knew where the side door key was hidden, but not the front door.  The front door had windows next to it so I could see this man outside looking at me all confused.  I motioned to him, “one second”, and then hurried to the side door I was used to using and jogged around the side of the house.

Now I was coming up behind him as he still stood facing the front door.  I suddenly realized how suspicious this seemed.  How could I have been in the house but not know how to open the front door?  Still several feet away, I shouted a cheery “Hello!”.  He was startled but immediately started explaining what he was doing there.  Turns out this man was a neighbor who was locked out of his house (ah the irony!).  Buffy and Jack kept a key to his house and he needed it.  I quickly suggested that I could call Buffy on her cell phone to find out where she keeps it (thus proving that I know Buffy and it makes sense for me to be in the house).  I reached Buffy on her cell and found the key and all was well again.  In the process I nervously yammered on all about how we knew the Wimmers and why we were staying there and he was probably relieved to get the key and leave before I told him the story of my birth and every year since.

A Year on the Road: By the Numbers

Lake at Oak Mountain State Park

Lake near our campsite at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham Alabama

Hours volunteered: 550 hours, an average of 10 hours per week

Shoes covered in Black Prairie Soil

Jay’s Shoes Covered in Black Prairie Soil at Community Garden

Organizations We Volunteered for: 

  1. Byrd Elementary School, Richmond, VA
  2. Plano Community Garden, Plano, TX
  3. Garden of Tomorrow, Phoenix, AZ
  4. The Wellness Community, Phoenix, AZ
  5. Flagstaff Cultural Partners, Flagstaff, AZ
  6. Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark, Meadview, AZ
  7. National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government
  8. Sparked.com
  9. Scottsdale League for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ
  10. Vilonia Fire Department, Vilonia, AR
  11. Disaster Response, Phil Campbell, AL
  12. Salvation Army, Guntersville, AL
  13. North Country Trails Association, Allegheny National Forest Chapter, PA
  14. Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Hungry Horse, MT
  15. Muskoka Foundation and Napi Friendship Association, Pincher Creek, AB
  16. Banff National Park, Banff, AB
  17. Materials for the Arts, Astoria, NY
  18. Meadowood Recreation Area, BLM, Fairfax, VA
  19. Ronald McDonald House, Falls Church, VA
  20. Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, Prescott, AZ
  21. Grand Canyon National Park, employee bike sharing project, AZ
  22. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  23. Grand Canyon Trust, Kane Ranch and Utah
  24. Muskoka Foundation & Chinle Junior High School, Chinle, AZ
  25. Wabi Sabi Thrift Store, Moab, UT
  26. SAME Cafe, Denver, CO
  27. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
  28. COPMOBA – Fruita and Montrose, CO
  29. Grand Canyon National Park Vegetation Program, AZ
  30. Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona, Phoenix, AZ
  31. Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix, AZ
  32. Fresh Start Foundation, Phoenix, AZ
  33. Arizona Trail Association, Patagonia, AZ
  34. Trips for Kids, Tucson, AZ
  35. United Way, Valley of the Sun – Project Connect, Phoenix, AZ
  36. StartingBloc, Los Angeles, CA
sharon and jay at the red balloon picnic

Jay and Sharon at the Red Balloon Picnic volunteer project with Phoenix Philanthropists

States & Provinces: 3 Provinces and 32 States, and the District of Columbus (note, we traveled through New Jersey and Delaware, but didn’t stop.  Every other state we actually stayed in for at least one night).

administration building, Banff National Park

Administration building at Banff National Park where the event was held

In the order in which “they appeared”.

  1. Virginia
  2. North Carolina
  3. South Carolina
  4. Georgia
  5. Alabama
  6. Mississippi
  7. Louisiana
  8. Texas
  9. New Mexico
  10. Arizona
  11. California
  12. Nevada
  13. Oklahoma
  14. Arkansas
  15. Tennessee
  16. Maryland
  17. West Virginia
  18. Pennsylvania
  19. New York
  20. Ontario
  21. Michigan
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Minnesota
  24. North Dakota
  25. Montana
  26. British Columbia
  27. Alberta
  28. Washington
  29. Delaware
  30. New Jersey
  31. Washington, DC
  32. Washington
  33. Oregon
  34. Idaho
  35. Utah
  36. Colorado
view of Coke Ovens colorado national monument

view of Coke Ovens, Colorado National Monument

Miles on the car: approximately 20,000

flooded road in Arkansas

the view out the windshield of the flooded road we drove through

Top Posts (most views):

  1. The Accident: Service Driven is on Hold
  2. We are Alabama: Tornado Relief and Recovery
  3. Photo Review: Overland Expo 2011
  4. Photo Review: Dismals Canyon National Natural Landmark
  5. At Your Request: Our Engagement Story
  6. Photo Review: Wedding #1
  7. 25 Years of Life Saved – Celebrating My Sister’s Survival
  8. 18th Week in Review: The Big Announcement
  9. Wolverine Clarification
  10. 6 Questions That Can Make a Stranger Your New BFF
dismals canyon

Dismals Canyon, a National Natural Landmark near Phil Campbell

Top Posts (most comments):

Jay and I at his brother’s wedding last year

Budget: Well, this one is hard to figure.  We have money left in the account that we had set aside for this trip, but we also spent more than we expected to spend due to Jay’s accident (which came to about $6,000) and our car repairs ($2,000).  In the end we were able to make a little money along the road and were given gift cards which helped offset our costs.
crab cakes and bacon breakfast

crab cakes and bacon breakfast

We tried to track our spending along the way, but we weren’t consistent.  We generally stayed pretty close to our goal of spending less than $2,000 a month.
Of what we recorded, mostly things with receipts, it broke down to:
  • Food: 37%   –  >$6,500
  • Automotive (mostly gas and parts): 29%   –  >$5,200
  • Health care: 14%   –  > $2,500 (this is regular medical, doesn’t include all of Jay’s emergency expenses)
  • Household (mostly consumables): 7%    –  >$1,300
  • Personal (clothing, bike parts, etc): 6%   –  > $1,100
  • Entertainment (fees to parks and museums): 3%   –  > $600
  • Other: 4%   – > $700

We toasted this new milestone with tequila shots as the sun set

Nights under the stars: 113, most of those nights were spent in our 3 person Marmot Aeros tent in free campsites on federal land

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Idaho

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Idaho

National Parks & Monuments Visited: 

We also visited a lot of state, city, and regional parks and camped on Forest Service and BLM lands.

  1. Congaree National Park, Hopkins, SC
  2. White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, NM
  3. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Gran Quivira, NM
  4. Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR
  5. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
  6. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  7. Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
  8. Arches National Park, UT
  9. Canyonlands National Park, UT
  10. Zion National Park, UT
  11. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  12. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ & NV
  13. Death Valley National Park, NV
  14. Great Basin National Park, NV
  15. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, AZ
  16. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, AZ
  17. Canyon De Chelly National Monument, AZ
  18. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  19. Juan Baptista de Anza National Historic Trail, AZ
  20. Saguaro National Park, AZ
  21. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  22. Tumacacori National Historic Park, AZ
  23. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, ID
  24. Oregon National Historic Trail, OR & ID
  25. Colorado National Monument, CO
  26. Banff National Park, AB
  27. Jasper National Park, AB
  28. Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
  29. Yoho National Park, BC
  30. Glacier National Park, BC
  31. Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC
Jay looking at Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Jay looking out on the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands 

Breweries Visited: 60 different breweries in Alberta, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington

Jay at Brewery in Atlanta

Jay at Brewery in Atlanta, GA

Going Back to Work After a Career Break

Sharon volunteering at Fresh Start Treasures

An earlier picture of me that looks similar to how I will look today headed to my first day on the job.

On the bad moments on the road, Jay and I would say that instead of feeling like we were on the adventure of our lifetimes, we just felt homeless and unemployed.  Well, this week, in only one week we went from a life on the road with vague ideas of where we would be the following month, to sleeping in our own bedroom and getting dressed in blazer and nice shoes for a day at the office.  The fears associated with being homeless and unemployed are gone.  They have been replaced by new anxieties about the world of work and living in community.

So now, on most days I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate for my new life.  I can’t wait to get involved in the community; make a commitment that lasts longer than a week.  I’m looking forward to baking and cooking in a real kitchen.  With all the time I’ll save in not having to plan where our next campsite or volunteer opportunity will be, I can read and write and volunteer.  At work, I’m excited to see how I may be able to fit into the team and really make a difference.

And in the down moments of stable life I worry about the new job not meeting my expectations, or that I will not meet their expectations as a team member.  I worry about gaining weight again as I go back to sitting for long periods everyday.  And I know that I will miss all of the time I used to have with Jay.  For a year we were almost always within speaking distance of one another and now we will be doing separate things in separate places.  I mourn the loss of freedom that comes with the open road.  The freedom to change course midstream and follow good weather and opportunity.

Time to get ready to go to work, thanks for all the warm wishes as we go through this transition.

A Year on the Road: and it’s over…

Pulling out of the driveway of our old house

One year ago we were cramming everything we thought we needed into our Rav4 and pulling out of the driveway to start our new life.  Today we are cramming everything we think we need into our Rav4 and driving to our new semi stable housing in Flagstaff, Arizona.  In 2008 we left our home in Flagstaff to moved across the country to northern Virginia.  I drove one car with my mom and our cat.  We made the drive in four days.  Jay followed in the second car with his brother for a week long road trip.  So we basically just made our way back, but this time it took us a year.  If I have learned anything this year, it is that some places have the power to pull you back or to keep you there.


unpacking at our new home

Tomorrow I start a full time job.  What’s so special about this job?  It is with an organization I already know, doing meaningful work that I am good at, and I will be working for someone I know and respect.  If I have learned anything this year, it is that finding both a place to live that suits you as well as meaningful work that pays the bills is very difficult.  When I got such a job offer in Flagstaff, I had to take it seriously.

So what’s next?  Well, we say semi-stable housing, because this job is a temporary position.  The position ends at the end of June at which time we hope to be chosen as the next IMBA Trail Care Crew.  As an IMBA Trail Care Crew we would go back to a life on the road for two years, traveling, biking, volunteering, and blogging.  For the next 6 months we’ll be in one place, biking, volunteering, visiting local breweries, and taking photographs.  Should we keep up this blog?  Should we start a different blog?  Should we change the approach to what we write about here?  Please let us know what you think in the comments.

Product of the Week:

Video of the Week:

This video, produced by Nina Tisara shows the new wedding venue that I picked out while I was in Virginia.

Next week we’ll do some total numbers and summary from our year on the road, but for now here are the regular weekly stats:

Hours volunteered:  Sharon volunteered as a Starting Bloc mentor (4 hours)

States: 3 – Arizona, Virginia (Sharon), and Colorado (Jay)

Budget: over

People Visited: Cindi and Morgan Holt, Nate, Nicole, & Laya Holt,

Jay: Pat & Cindy Kennedy, Steve Hendrickson

Sharon:  Melinda Bloom and John Tewksbury, Kelly Pugh, Terri Defazio & Phil Jordan, Dan Bloom, Steve Bloom, Hadyn & Soren Kihm, Stephanie & Natalia Kihm, Anne Bloom, Madelon Bloom & Chris Kihm, Mariel Tewksbury & Nathan Norton, Mariana Balgurevich, Salandra Fleming, ShaShauna Littlejohn, Marlene Mouanga, Tiffany Kudravetz, Kelly Corbally, Lisa Dorsey

Nights under the stars: 0

Best meal:  Jay: Beef tri tip made by Morgan Holt;  Sharon: Chicken Fajitas at Guapos

Best beer:  Starr Hill’s The Gift (Sharon) & Breckenridge Brewery’s Oatmeal Stout (Jay)