The Journey


“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” — Albert Einstein

Kyle & Brooke Fuller. Photo and image by Molly Hennesy.

Kyle & Brooke Fuller. Photo and image by Molly Hennesy.

Let me tell you of a journey of two months and 6,000 miles; on a Vespa 150cc Scooter. A few years ago, I bought a Vespa. I called the moment a “mid-life crisis”. My Amazing-Missus said, “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re way past mid-life.” Nonetheless it was a courageous and/or stupid decision.

The long, 6,000 mile Vespa journey I’m talking about here was taken not by me, but by a young lady named Shreve Stockton. I came across her blog, Vespa Vagabond, about her adventure when researching my own Vespa decision, and I’ve been reading her blog ever since. 

In a recent post, she was talking about our desire for safety and security and remembering her Vespa ride:

“The illusion of safety” is a concept my aunt and I came up with right before my cross-country Vespa ride. I did not have room to bring a tent. And I didn’t want to bring mace because I didn’t know how the pressurized canister would handle the extreme heat and elevation changes of my ride (I didn’t want it to explode on me). And my aunt and I came to realize that “tent” and “mace” do not guarantee safety, or even do much to mitigate potential harm the way my helmet and leathers did. And even my helmet and leathers didn’t guarantee my safety. We want guarantees so badly and we just don’t get them. Perhaps a better term is “the illusion of control.” The ancient Greeks called it the “caprice of the Gods,” and built their entire mythology around it. I have an IRA and I wear my seat belt and I recommend both, but they don’t guarantee anything.

I like to think of our little Airstream venture as a Journey; a journey made up of small, individual journeys, adventures, and stories. Although we’ve had the trailer only a few weeks now, the Journey started years ago with the idea, the looking, the cost-counting, the dreaming of it all. Along the way, people have asked lot’s of questions. Here are some of the most frequent: Can we have a look inside? How do you sleep in that tiny bed? How do you shower in that tiny shower? How do you keep the toliet paper from getting wet? (This Bambi model has a “wet-bath” meaning the shower and the toliet are in one little space.) It’s a legitimate question.

Here are the answers: Yes, you may. Very well actually. It’s not too bad really. There’s a curtain that pulls across and blocks the water.

Another question I’m asked frequently, which really surprised me: “You do have a gun in that trailer with you, don’t you?” Here’s the answer: No. I’m assuming these people have answered Einstein’s dilema with “I believe we live in a hostile environment.”

I’m actually more frightened that lightening might strike. Is a little aluminum bubble where you really want to be in a lightening storm? I also worry that the big motorhome with all the slideouts up the hill will come unmoored in the night, bump our little Bambi and send her careening off a cliff with us inside. Obviously my nightmares are far more creative than some bad guy trying to break in and steal our peanut butter and jelly then shoot us.

“Oh, you should carry a gun!” they say. And I say, do you realize we have FIVE little Grand-Girls that play in this Bambi. If one of them were to find that gun… I can’t even verbalize the rest of that story.

Put me in the naive, “the universe is still friendly enough to survive” camp.

Maybe to Shreve’s point, a better question for Einstein to have pondered is: can we live with the “illusion of safety” to the point that we’re willing to risk all to go on the journey?

If you are married, remember your wedding day? The sweaty palms, the butterflies, the pounding heart. Remember the birth of your first child? Every news headline makes you wonder if you really should be bringing a child into this mess. Will they be okay?

If we truly could count the cost… Maybe we wouldn’t go. Fortunately, God somehow whispers to us through the beautiful stories of those who have gone on the journey before us, He gives us this inexplicable love that invites us to go on this journey for life. AND WE DO IT! Some of us take a metaphorical gun (just in case), some of us carry on in ignorant bliss. We learn that there will be pain, there will be scary times, there are no guarantees. And sometimes our toilet paper will get wet. But we go.

Last Friday night, our youngest, Kyle, and his beautiful bride, Brooke, said to the world: Our journey starts here, NOW. We have chosen to believe that the universe is friendly enough and together we move bravely forward. I am betting that these two will show others that the journey is worth it.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always -
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of a thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
—T.S. Eliot
(from ‘Four Quartets’)

Spending The Kids' Inheritance

Last fall I wrote this: I HAD A DREAM,  a post about why it seemed wiser to have money in the bank than experiences on the open road.

Today this is sitting in our driveway.

It seems wanderlust got the better of frugality. Or, in the words of John Muir, the naturalist, author, and environmental philosopher:

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.
— John Muir

So we picked up our tiny, little Airstream in Springfield, Missouri, and set out on our maiden voyage. The event was marked with a custom poster our son designed for us and framed for our “kitchen” table.

We spent our first two nights alongside the Grand River below the Pensacola Dam in northeastern Oklahoma. . 

Next stop, Shawnee, Oklahoma, home of the Grand-Girls. It took them less than a minute to make the Bambi their own.

These three are optional accessories.

These three are optional accessories.

Bambi? It’s not a moniker the girls gave her. “Bambi” is the model name. From the Airstream website:

Nimble. Agile. Some would even say adorable!

The Bambi trailer has always been a favorite among Airstreamers. First launched as a 16-foot single-axle trailer in 1961, the Bambi’s genesis was a proactive response to a nationwide trend. Americans were looking for shorter, lighter, more fuel-efficient automobiles that lacked the power to pull a heavy trailer.

Today, we apply the Bambi name to all single-axle Airstream travel trailers. Their immense popularity isn’t just because of how they look: they’re easy to tow and incredibly versatile, proving great things really do come in small packages.

Occasionally, I’ve had one of those “What the heck have we’ve done!?” moments. But mostly, we’re ready for the next weekend, the next adventure. So many have graciously, and I assume sincerely, offered their driveways as a road trip stopping over place. Be careful. We might just show up.

Stuck in Lodi

IS ADVENTURE ONLY FOR THE YOUNG? Is it important to be on some sort of quest no matter our age?

Harper, Stuck. A few years back.

Harper, Stuck. A few years back.

Stuck in Lodi again?

In my last post I started with a quote from Tom Sawyer: “There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” But what about grown men? Should we metaphorically “play in the street” from time to time?

Stuck in Lodi again?

Guys are pretty good at seeking adventure vicariously. Show me a little league ball team, soccer team or Pop Warner football team and I’ll show you at least one guy living the athetic dream through his kid. Not to cast stones though; every time one of my two sons would sit down at a set of drums I was sitting there too somehow. Is there an age limit on picking up a pair of sticks?

Stuck in Lodi again?

I don’t know about you, but I find it easier and easier to create lists of excuses: I’m not as young as I once was. Too busy. Don’t have the money. Prudence is a virtue too. (Isn’t it?). Folly is for fools. And on, ad nauseum.

Stuck in Lodi again.

I hear old guys talking about having earned the right to “coast” for awhile as if that were virtuous. To state the obvious: if you’re coasting, you’re going downhill. It can all start with just coasting. Then before you know it we’re:

Stuck in Lodi again.

But being stuck isn’t just for old guys. Amen?! There is an abundance of young people glued to impractical worldviews, bad relationships, unfulfilling jobs, distorted self images and unrealistic expectations. Not all, but some, at least some of the time are:

Stuck in Lodi again.

There I go again, throwing rocks without proper credentials (as in, “let him who is without sin cast the first rock”). Recently I went to my doctor for something called a “Welcome to Medicare Wellness Visit.” Sort of like an annual physical. I was poked proded and interrogated. One of the questions was, “Are you having feelings of depression?” My response: “I wasn’t until this all started.” Nothing quite says “you’re stuck in the senior spiral” like a mandatory “Welcome to Medicare Visit”.

Oh Lord, I’m stuck in Lodi again.

Maybe the thing that most keeps us stuck is fear. “Stay in the harbor where it’s safe.” “You go ahead. I’ll watch from here.” A few words on the subject from Seth Godin:

I’m listening to a speech from ten years ago, twenty years ago, forty years ago… “During these tough times… these tenuous times… these uncertain times…” And we hear about the urgency of the day, the bomb shelters, the preppers with their water tanks, the hand wringing about the next threat to civilization.

At the same time that we live in the safest world that mankind has ever experienced. Fewer deaths per capita from all the things that we worry about.

Risky? Sure it is. Every moment for the last million years has been risky. The risk has moved from Og with a rock to the chronic degeneration of our climate, but it’s clear that rehearsing and fretting and worrying about the issue of the day hasn’t done a thing to actually make it go away. Instead, we amplify the fear, market the fear and spread the fear as a form of solace, of hiding from taking action, of sharing our fear in a vain attempt to ameliorate it.

Stuck in Lodi again.

If you’re old enough and/or if you have refined musical tastes in southern rock, you know of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the epitome of the genre. And probably by now the tune of the CCR song, “Lodi” is running through your head. It is a song about a musician, one of the struggling, starving kind, trying to get unstuck, but clearly it’s about way more than that, that Lodi is more than a town on a map. Like Fogarty says in the first verse: 

“I guess you know the tune.
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.”


By John Fogarty
Creedence Clearwater Revival

Just about a year ago
I set out on the road
Seekin’ my fame and fortune
Lookin’ for a pot of gold
Thing got bad and things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

Rode in on the Greyhound
I’ll be walkin’ out if I go
I was just passin’ through
Must be seven months or more
Ran out of time and money
Looks like they took my friends
Oh Lord, I’m stuck in Lodi again

A man from the magazine
Said I was on my way
Somewhere I lost connections
Ran out of songs to play
I came into town, a one night stand
Looks like my plans fell through
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

If I only had a dollar
For every song I’ve sung
Every time I had to play
While people sat there drunk
You know, I’d catch the next train
Back to where I live
Oh Lord, stuck in a Lodi again
Oh Lord, I’m stuck in a Lodi again

How do we get STUCK? Maybe it starts with just settling; as in: settle for less than what we might have hoped for; and, as in: settle down—become comfortable, secure, boring even. I really like the ad series that’s playing right now about the Settlers: “We’re settlers, that’s what we do, we settle.”

If you haven’t seen it, click and watch.

So what’s the answer to not getting stuck or getting unstuck? It’s not a simple formula that’s for sure. You can’t read a book and solve it. A large donation to a TV evangelist won’t do it. A political messiah is useless.

The answer is a paradox: to find yourself, you have to lose yourself. And as far as I can tell you have to actually live it out; experience it, to even begin to understand it.

“Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” —Jesus. (Matthew 10:39)

I’m sure sometimes, maybe, “Lodi” or the Wilderness can be a nice place; for a time, but I wouldn’t want to get stuck there


PICTURE WITH ME an idyllic, mythic tableau of grandparenting. You know the ones that look like the “after” picture of prescription medication ads, not the ones where he’s plagued with those pesky side effects like: constipation, diarrhea, rash, swelling of hands, feet and face, wheezing, irratibility, increased appetite, night sweats and visions of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the Whitehouse.

In the first frames of these ads, gramps is relegated to the porch with an elephant sitting on his chest while the rest of the family is frolicking in the yard. But, then he takes his meds for HBP, COPD, ED, ADD, RA and XYZ. Now he’s splitting wood, and throwing another log on the campfire, where the kids are roasting marshmallows for s’mores. He gives grandma a knowing wink and a nuzzle, and thinks how much better the whole scene would be if he could light up a pipe and have a scotch. Then he notices something at the edge of the campfire’s glow: it’s Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade painting the whole scene. “I’m so glad I put on my clean cardigan and remembered to zip up!” he thinks to himself.

When you are of a generation that grew up with programs like Father Knows Best, Ozzie & Harriett, Leave It To Beaver, etc., you think of things like this.

Perhaps you’re aware that I am the grandfather to three grands; all girls. AKA, Pops and the Grand-Girls. It is a role I cherish. But, I will admit that sometimes I don’t feel adequate to this high calling. It has to do with gender roles. Don’t panic! This isn’t veering off to some weird place.

I know it’s old fashioned, but my culture has created in me some expectations and understandings—right or wrong. For example, when I think about rites-of-passage, the connections between a grandfather and grandson seem really obvious. A grandfather can teach the boy to shine shoes, oil his ball glove, bait a hook. He can buy his grandson his first pocket knife and teach him how to play mumbley peg or “dissect” a frog.

But who are we kidding here? There is nothing a granddad could pull out of his bag of tricks that will break the trance-like spell an iPad or video game has on a wee lad.

The fact is, I wouldn’t trade my three Grand-Girls for all the boys in the tri-state area. Turns out I love going to the ballet with them. We all love to read. And even though I don’t know an Elsa from an Anna, I’m still invited to sit in the floor and “play” Frozen. We go to museums together and weirdly enough we all like Chick-fil-a and dark chocolate. Who knew?

Sometimes, when spending quality time with the girls, I will suggest an activity, a game, or maybe a plot line and characters for an evolving make-believe story.

Sometimes, my ideas are met with enthusiasm.

Sometimes, not so much.

Sometimes, the creative juices are running way ahead of me.

Often times, our best times together are where memories are made.

the grand-girls at uncle kyle's graduation

the grand-girls at uncle kyle's graduation