Tag Archives: sharing a story

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.

Sharing a Story: When We Won the Battle but Lost the War

This is the 2nd post in a new reflective “Sharing a Story” series, where I tell the stories we never told about our year on the road tied to a picture.


Jay and I both got our start camping through backpacking.  We learned to pack light and be self sufficient.  Forgot your fork on a trip?  Just whittle a new one from a nearby stick.  Hail or high winds?  Huddle in the tent and play cards until it passes or until your tent is carried away.

Before our year on the road I had not done a lot of car camping (where you drive to a campsite and put up your tent near the car).  It took a period of adjustment for it to feel ok and not shameful to retreat to the car to get ready in the morning or read a book in safety and silence. The first time that we really took advantage of the car was at this campsite pictured above.

It was actually our second time staying in the primitive campground at Leasburg Dam State Park in New Mexico.  Our experience was so positive on the first try that we were relieved to be passing through the same area and able to camp in the same spot.  We set up our tent on a nice sandy flat spot and then went about setting up the kitchen and preparing for dinner.  Just as Jay was putting the fajitas on the cast iron, the sun was starting to set and our peaceful new home was invaded.

Out of these tall bushes swarmed millions of little flying bugs.  They didn’t bite, but they were so thick that you couldn’t see through the middle of the swarm and if they flew past you, you would get a mouthful of bugs.  I was grossed out and we were shouting over the swarm, trying to decide what to do.  Dinner was almost done but it was getting dark and Jay needed to use a headlamp, which meant that the bugs were swarming under his headlamp and getting into our food.  Jay covered the cast iron with foil to let it finish cooking bug free and I gathered up some plates and forks and retreated to the car.  I turned off the interior lights so that when he opened the door the bugs wouldn’t follow him into our car.  There were already several lost bugs that had rode in on me and were now wandering the cab as I tried to swat them.

That’s when Jay got a genius idea.  He took our Goby Flashlight with magnetic feet (pictured below) and attached it to the rear of the car pointed away from the kitchen area.  A diversion!  The swarm fell for it and  hovered around the light, giving him just enough time to pull the cast iron and jump into the front seat of the car to safety.  Even still, a few bugs got in, but we were able to swat them pretty quickly.  


Once we were in the safety and comfort of the front seat, Jay served our dinner (with the cast iron resting on a hot mitt on the dashboard).  We ate in silence, trying not to notice the extra bits of protein in our fajitas.  To us it felt like a small victory – we escaped the swarm – but only by retreating to the car.  Which meant the next battle lie right outside, between us and a nice night’s sleep.






Sharing a Story: Cedar Mesa Primitive Area

Tonight I started looking back at our photos from the last year and was amazed at how staring at a single photo could bring me back to that moment when it was taken.  There were so many amazing moments on the road, and most of the stories of them were never shared.  I intend to start a new feature on the blog where I will tell those stories, one photo at a time.  Starting now…

After hiking in the Kane Gulch Primitive Area in southern Utah (near Natural Bridges National Monument) we searched the backroads for free dispersed camping.  We drove along this dirt road that was mostly smooth, except where it came to the wash crossings.  Every time we had to cross a wash it was a delicate matter of slowing down and angling the car just right to keep the car from scraping.  I still cringe at four wheel driving, so I was eager to minimize the number of dead end roads we drove down in search of a camp site.  Unfortunately, the first off shoot we tried was a bust.  The road deteriorated right away.  We stop the car and got out to walk a ways to see if something amazing would open up around the next bend.  No luck for a campsite, but we did stop and stare at some remarkably large and clear paw prints which we determined must have been a large cat like a mountain lion.

Our next side road was more promising.  The road itself was in better shape, but there weren’t any clearings near the road and there was evidence of people taking down trees (probably for firewood).  This was BLM land, so a certain amount of that was legal.  As we headed further up the road we approached a rise and the land around us just leveled out into a glorious plateau that would make a perfect camp site.

One small problem, cryptobiotic soil.  This is a unique and endangered type of soil.  Basically it is alive and it is very very bad to disturb it because it takes a really long time to grow back and it’s really important to a healthy desert ecosystem.  Anyways, there was a ton of really healthy looking crypto in the perfect camp spot, so we decided to go further in hopes of another campsite option.

The road worsened with some bedrock that made for dramatic swings of the car (especially since we hadn’t stiffened the springs at that point).  Luckily Jay was driving as I walked on ahead to look at our options.  Just a short drive ahead we found it!  A great campsite near an old fence.  It was sandy flat soil in an area with existing signs of human disturbance so we were in the clear.

As Jay parked the car I just had to see where this road would finally end.  I raced on ahead and just around the corner the dirt road ended in bedrock at the base of a horseshoe of sandstone cliffs.  From the bottom I could see this area where the rock had an overhang and it seemed like there were paintings on the rock.  We had just spent the day hiking in an area with lots of pre-historic pictographs and cliff dwellings.  Maybe this was an archaeological site tucked away down this dirt road!  I scrambled up the sloping rock at the base of the cliff to try to get a better view of the potential paintings or etchings.  The further I climbed the steeper it got and the worse the view!  Finally, I got cliffed out.  It wasn’t a very difficult climb between me and the overhang, but I was in the wrong shoes and didn’t have the skills to tackle it.

I traced my steps back and hurried to Jay to let him know what I had seen.  Together, we made the climb again and he took my camera for the final pitch to get a close up view.  That’s where he took this picture.  This picture that shows that the painting on the rocks was natural, caused by water, air, and the ingredients in the rock.  Just another beautiful natural wonder rather than human artistry.  I was a little disappointed, but as I watched the sun set over the Cedar Mesa area I still felt a connection with all of the people who had explored this land before me.  So amazing to think there are primitive areas like this left in the United States, with obvious signs of human impact, but with enough left unspoiled and rarely visited that it allows the mind to imagine.