Road Questions

ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT TRAVELING IN AN AIRSTREAM—people want to ask you about traveling in an Airstream. For people like My Amazing-Missus this is all fine and dandy. She genuinely enjoys visiting with others and they with her. Me too; on a case-by-case basis.

airstreaming in red rock canyon state park, hinton, oklahoma

airstreaming in red rock canyon state park, hinton, oklahoma

Recently we were camped in a beautiful park on a beautiful day. I looked outside and no one was around. So, I decided to lubricate the gaskets around the Airstream’s windows. A car pulled up and a gentleman got out. I’m guessing he was a bit older than me. He started with the most oft-asked questions of the Airstream-curious:

1.) Are they still making these?
2.) How long is this? (Remind me to tell you that joke I made up in the category of “does size matter?”)
3.) How much does something like this cost (if you don’t mind me asking)?

He looked familiar. Turns out we were acquaintances years ago. I had heard that his lovely wife had been diagnosed with dementia and is now in a nursing home.

He told me that years ago the two of them had dreamed of having an Airstream and seeing the country. That’s why he had stopped to take a look at ours—just to reminisce a bit.

He asked if we were traveling full-time. I told him not yet, that I was still working. He said, “Go to work Monday and tell them you’re retiring. Don’t delay. You never know what tomorrow holds.”

Is this a sign, I wondered. Is he a prophet of some kind?

It’s not like we’re just sitting around. We’re out there. Seeing the sights. Seeking adventure. I’ve taken the sage wisdom of Ferris Bueller to heart:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. (from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Remember that girl, the one from the Beatle’s song: “She was a day tripper, a Sunday driver yeah…”

For now we’re day trippers; long weekend trippers at best. But we’re moving, we’re going, so we can stop. and look around.

Remember that guy, the one from the Beatle’s song, the one they called the “nowhere man”? Funny thing. I used to see him as a sad, aimless, clueless, hopeless shell of a person. But now I feel like I sort of get him.

He's a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to
Isn't he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere man please listen
You don't know what you're missing
Nowhere man, The world is at your command
He's as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see
Nowhere man, can you see me at all?

Maybe he is a bit like you and me.

Oh yeah, my joke. An old guy and his Amazing-Missus walk in to an Airstream dealer.
Walt (the rv sales guy): How can I be of assistance to you folks today?
Me: We’re thinking of buying an Airstream.
Walt: Great plan! How long do you want it?
Me: A long time. We’re planning on traveling across the country and back again.

It's not you; it's us

In a moment that was surprisingly emotional, I stood at Bambi’s side and admitted that we had been looking around, dreaming of another. We’ve been together for two years and she has been nothing but wonderful to us. But, it’s time to move on.

The words are hard to type, but here it is: our beloved Bambi is For sale. There. I’ve said it.

The only thing that makes this easier is that I know she will make some other people very, very happy.

To try to explain the WHY of this decision, only makes me seem more shallow and selfish. The fact is that we have enjoyed our Bambi adventures so much, that we’re ready for more. So we’re shopping for a larger Airstream. While Bambi is perfect for weekend getaways, as we just discovered on a ten-day, 2,000 mile road trip, we need a bit more room and capacity for the longer roads.

As people selling pets always say, she’s for sale to “A good home.” I mean that with all seriousness. I would sell her only to someone whom I was certain would take meticulous care of her.

In the spirit of full disclosure, in case you’re already dreaming of your first adventure with Bambi, let me warn you there is a downside to traveling with her (especially if you’re a confirmed introvert): you will seldom stop for gas, or at a roadside park for lunch, or at a campground that you won’t have someone who comes over to you to ask questions about this little, silvery wonder. They’ll want a “peek” inside, and usually they want to know how much she cost (yes people actually ask that). I’ll always tell them she cost far less than she is worth because she is a magnificent memory-making machine.

Relative to other travel trailers, Airstreams are expensive, and Bambi is no exception. She is very rare in that she has a lot of extra equipment you won’t find on other’s of her model. She doesn’t have a single scratch or ding and she has been wonderfully cared for. She just made a trip back to the factory where she was built in Jackson Center, Ohio, for a complete checkup. She is in tip-top shape.

So, if you’re ready to wander, or know someone who is, let me know: hey.pops.hey@gmail.com. As they say: “serious inquiries only”.

#LifeDownByTheRiver

The reality of “retirement life” is out there (as is everyone’s future reality). Because we tend to edit the memories of our past to make them sweeter somehow, the angst of my first coming-of-age pales in comparison to this second coming-of-age.

I’ve often wondered why the older members of church congregations loved to sing the hymns of transcendence: “In The Sweet By and By”, “Over in Beulah Land”, “The King is Coming”, and so on. Maybe there’s an escapism in there somewhere. If your birthday cake is suddenly incapable of holding all your candles, and everything that can ache does ache, and you’re tired of going to the funerals of your friends, you’re probably not nearly as concerned about the POTUS pissing off that pudgy little North Korean dude with the bad haircut and starting WW3, as you are if you’re 18 and buying a corsage for your prom date, even though that whole experience can be fraught with anxiety.

There’s a reason why the marketing slogan, “Calgon, take me away!” was so successful.

Don’t take me too seriously; ever. I’m not trying to get into some clinical, fight-or-flight, when-the-going-gets-tough analysis here. But, don’t you sometimes just want to get away? Isn’t it fun to imagine that chair on the beach? Not in a shirking of responsibility sense, or total escape way, but in a pack up the car, we’re going on an adventure way.

Going even further and farther, I’ll admit, the imagined life of a bohemian has always sounded very romantic to me.

“Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.” —Wikipedia

Of coure, I would want to have good food and clean restrooms on the journey. Back in the day, in the first coming-of-age, I had all the trappings of the lifestyle for a time: The VW Bus, the guitar, the bell-bottom jeans, the beads and the bongos. What I lacked was the funds. No doubt I could have subsisted on little, but when you’re bus won’t even start, well…

Note: I still can’t believe My-Amazing-Missus’ parents ever let me drive on to their expansive dairy farm south of Tulsa in that VW Bus and drive off with their daughter. But I’m glad they did.

Today, there is apparently a growing number of wandering bohemians in search of; well, it looks like what they are actually searching for is the right photo op, or as we knew them: “Kodak moments”, to get just the right shot to post to Instagram, to build a following, to get brand sponsors, to fund their idyllic lifestyle. The trend is trending to the point that it caught the attention of a reporter for the New Yorker magazine.

At times, the vanlife community seems full of millennials living out a leftover baby-boomer fantasy: the Volkswagens, the neo-hippie fashions, the retro gender dynamics. --New Yorker

“Leftover baby-boomer fantasy”? I can live with that.

The “movement” has been dubbed “vanlife” because one of the guys, Foster Huntington, noted for giving it traction used the hastag #vanlife to document his journey. I first discovered the guy a few years back because his book “Home Is Where You Park It” fueled my fascination with getting the Airstream and hitting the trail.

No discussion of the vanlife or the trailerlife or the AirstreamLife would be complete without remembering the amazing Saturday Night Live skit featuring Chris Farley as the motivational speaker, Matt Foley. Here’s an excerpt from the SNL script:

Mom: Your father and I came up with a brilliant idea to give you kids some direction - a motivational speaker.

Dad: Yeah. One of those guys who speaks to big groups at high schools and churches.

Stacy: You mean, to come to the house?

Mom: Yeah.

[ the kids get up to leave ]

Dad: Hey, come on, you guys. This set me back a few bucks. Okay, his name is Matt Foley. Now, he's been down in the basement drinking coffee for about the last four hours, and he should be all ready to go. I'll call him up. [ opens the basement door ] Matt, we're ready for you! [ turns to the kids ] His speech is called "Go For It!" Now, he's used to big groups, so make him feel like there's a crowd here. [ calls down the basement again ] Matt! Come on up, buddy!

Matt Foley: [ runs up the stairs, bouncing back and forth as he talks ] Alright, how's everybody? Good! Good! Good! Now, as your father probably told you, my name is Matt Foley, and I am a Motivational Speaker! Now, let's get started by me giving you a little bit of a scenario of what my life is all about! First off, I am 35 years old.. I am divorced.. and I live in a van down by the river! Now, you kids are probably saying to yourself, "Now, I'm gonna go out, and I'm gonna get the world by the tail, and wrap it around and put it in my pocket!!" Well, I'm here to tell you that you're probably gonna find out, as you go out there, that you're not gonna amount to Jack Squat!!" You're gonna end up eating a steady diet of government cheese, and living in a van down by the river! Now, young man, what do you want to do with your life?

Brian: [ nervous ] I.. actually, Matt.. I kinda wanna be a writer..

Matt Foley: We-e-e-elll.. la-de-freakin'-da! We've got ourselves a writer here! [ jumps across the room ] Hey, Dad, I can't see real good.. [ lifts his glasses off and on his face ] ..is that Bill Shakespeare over there?

Dad: Well, actually, Matt.. Ellen and I have encouraged Brian in his writing.

Matt Foley: Dad, I wish you could just shut your big yapper! [ stumbles back across the room ] Now, I wonder.. Brian, from what I've heard, you're using your paper, not for writing, but for rolling doobies!! You're gonna be doing a lot of doobie-rolling when you're living in a van down by the river! [ turns to Stacy ] Young lady, what do you want to do with your life?!

Stacy: [ sarcastic ] I want to live in a van down by the river.


So what does it take to make the leap into life on the road? Maybe some courage, a bit of desperation, a chorus or two of Que Sera Sera… Whatever it is, I don’t have it yet. Props though to my Bro-In-Law and Cousin/Sis-In-Law for taking the plunge. Happy trails!

Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive.
— ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

RIP brother Pirsig.

The Journey

THIS IS AN ESSAY ABOUT JOURNEY. Let’s start here.

“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’)