These first two weeks on the road were intended, in part, to be a dry run for our longer journey this summer. A short trip provided us with a chance to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and what we would do differently (or the same) when we’re gone for a longer period of time. One of the things we’re experimenting with is our use of technology on the road–things like which blogging platforms, internet connections, laptops, phones, and cameras work best for us. Included in the camera category is video…whether shooting video of our travels is feasible, and more importantly, whether it is interesting–both to us and to you.
For this trip, we used the basic movie setting on a non-HD, point-and-shoot camera. The plan was to include videos as part of our daily blog posts, but we found that our internet connections on the road (which were inconsistent at best, even with a mobile hotspot…) rarely provided the bandwidth we needed to upload them. We muscled our way through two painfully slow coffee shop uploads before waiting until we returned home to upload the rest. We’re rethinking our strategy for the next trip, but while we do that, you might be interested in this virtual hiking tour of the Great Smoky Mountain N.P…
After a whirlwind two weeks (and two especially long days of driving), we are back home tonight, looking forward to sleeping in our own bed and having breakfast tomorrow at our favorite cafe. Two days ago, we left 80-degree sunshine behind in the Florida Keys. This afternoon, we met friends of ours (in town from California) for drinks in chilly New Hampshire, rolling in to the bar directly from the highway. In order to make it on time, we logged our longest day of driving to date yesterday–817 miles from Savannah, GA to Yonkers, NY–adding to the trip total of 4,073 miles. Sal the Subaru was a champ on his first long-haul road trip, averaging more than 25 miles per gallon (fewer in the mountains than in the South). Our words per gallon fared only slightly better, due largely to the lack of downtime we built into the schedule. It’s something we plan to include more of in our longer trips later this year, but our priority for this one was simply to get far away from here and physically break away from our prior day-to-day lives. Now that we’re back, somewhat rested and fully reinvigorated, we have a long list of posts, photos, and videos to write, edit, and upload. We’ll spend most of April at home, writing, running, and finding a new rhythm. But before March ends, we have one more adventure planned: to participate in a charity trivia bee tomorrow night. After several days on island time, it will take a lot of focus and some strong coffee to ensure our brains are up for the challenge.
Dry Tortugas National Park is both the southernmost park in the system and one of the hardest to reach. Visiting the park has been on my bucket list for years, and we were fortunate enough to make it there on Monday (the fifth park of this trip!). Located in the Gulf of Mexico 70 miles off Key West, the Dry Tortugas can only be reached by boat or sea plane. We traveled there on the Yankee Freedom II, a two-level passenger ferry. The first hour of the trip—out past the Marquesas—was relatively smooth sailing, but the second hour took us across a deep-water channel, so the seas were a little rough. We arrived in one piece and were happy to be on land, if only temporarily.
The ferry boat docks at Garden Key, the largest island in the park and home to Ft. Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Millions of bricks from places as far away as Maine were used to construct the three-level fort during the 19th century. Construction was never completed, but the fort has been used for a variety of purposes, including a military outpost and a prison, for much of the last 150 years.
The fort is impressive, but the view from atop it is stunning. Surrounded by park waters in ten shades of blue, thousands of birds nest in the islands or make temporary stops as they fly between the Americas. In addition to exploring the fort and the island, we hit the water with snorkel gear and explored a few underwater areas, including the fort’s moat wall and old pilings from a former coal dock. (There are no services on the island, so for one all-inclusive ticket price, the ferry company provides breakfast, lunch, restrooms, and snorkeling equipment for day passengers.)
Satisfied with our adventure and just a little sunburned, we settled in for the trip back to Key West and arrived in time to watch the sunset. More on that later! In the meantime, take a peek at this video. Consider it a sneak peek of your own trip someday! -J
After driving 620 miles today (mostly in Florida…), we have finally arrived at our home for the night, a chain hotel right off the highway in Savannah, Georgia. We’re a stone’s throw from South Carolina, which will be the 14th state we’ll hit on this trip and where we head early tomorrow morning. But first things first! Tonight we sleep…in a bed! We’ve been camping for the last four nights, so this plush, king-sized mattress is a welcome change. We need a good night’s sleep to prepare for tomorrow’s monster drive: 15 or so hours up the scenic I-95 corridor. If things go as planned, we’ll be sleeping somewhere north of New York City tomorrow night. By the end of the day, we’ll be closing in on the 4,000 mile mark for the trip…and we’ll be ready for another night of rest before hauling back to New Hampshire to meet up with friends visiting from California and participate in a charity trivia event. Fun times are definitely ahead, but right now…it’s time for lights out! -J
Since leaving New Hampshire two weeks ago, we’ve kept a small notebook in the car with pieces of information about our trip: gas purchases, mileage, expenses, lists of things to bring on the next trip, strange signs seen along the roadside, vanity plates…the list goes on.
The last page in our mini road journal includes a list of states and provinces labeled “The License Plate Game.” The License Plate Game consists of writing down all unique states and provinces from license plates we see on the trip. The goal is to get all 50 states and Washington, D.C. before we get home; provinces are just a bonus. It’s not a competitive game as much as it is a team effort to complete the list, in part because it helps stave off boredom on the road and in part because it forces us to be aware of the little details around us. We found two of the tough stragglers (Alaska and Montana) parked on side streets as we wandered around Key West yesterday.
In the 13 states we traveled through to get to Key West (NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, WV, VA, TN, NC, GA, and FL), we recorded 44 different states plus Washington, D.C. and three provinces.
As we prepare to start the 30-hour, ~1,700 mile trip from Sugarloaf Key to New Hampshire, we have just six states left: HI, WY, ID, NM, UT, and ND.
We’ll be on the lookout for these last few states as we head back to the Northeast over the next three days. If we don’t see them on this trip, we’ll just have to continue the quest when we drive out west later this summer!
P.S. In case you’ve wondered what it’s like to drive hundreds of miles through southern Georgia or northern Florida, take a peek at this…and then rewind and watch it 600 more times.
On Saturday morning, we drove to downtown Tampa to meet a friend and mentor of mine, Janet, for coffee at a local place called Sophie’s French Café and Bakery. We were near the University of Tampa, and there was an arts festival in progress on the same street as the café. We sat at a table among the eclectic collection of mismatched chairs and tables and caught up on life, writing, family and travel. We also discussed plans for a visit later this year during which J and I will help Janet move her belongings back to New England to start a new job.
While telling Janet about our plans to travel and write for the upcoming 12 months, I mentioned that since leaving my job I’ve had a hard time remembering what day it is. Janet responded, “You’re on mythic time now. You’re living in the moment on Kairos time, instead of by the clock on Chronos time.” Her statement stayed with me over the past couple of days, as many of Janet’s observations have, and last night I started doing some research into the concept of “mythic time.”
Chronos is the Greek word for chronological or sequential time. This is the time of clocks and calendars, and the time that most of us exist in during our day-to-day lives. Kairos is the Greek word for mythic time, or those periods where time seems to evaporate: creative spells, long runs, meditations, getting lost in a task, etc. Further research into Kairos revealed that the term can be translated as “the supreme or opportune moment,” a moment where one must choose to act in order to take advantage of an opportunity in front of them. A closely related phrase is Carpe Diem, typically translated as “seize the day.”
I also read that the Greeks believed that mythic time was the time during which the gods lived out and recorded their stories. These stories were emblazoned on the wheel of time as lessons for humans, and then the wheel was set into motion, forming Chronos time. The metaphor of living our life on mythic time, completely in the moment and taking advantage of opportunities as they emerge, is beautiful to me. This year will be a time for J and me to live out and emblazon new stories and experiences onto our past, new myths and lessons for how we will live our future together…whatever it will be. -M
Greetings from the Gulf Coast of Florida! We’ve had a busy few days traveling south from the Smokies. We spent the last two days visiting with family and friends in Tampa, and tonight we are comfortably tucked into our tent at a campground in Naples. We are tucked into the tent this early (before 8 PM) because the “no-see-ums” are out in full force. We were able to have a leisurely dinner at the picnic table and take a dip in the campground pool before the bugs forced us to take refuge. Fortunately, we are only here for one night. Tomorrow, we’ll visit Everglades National Park on our way to the Lower Keys. Hope you are all having a great weekend!
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I am in the final weeks of training for my first half-marathon. I reworked my training plan before hitting the road to ensure I would be able to fit in both short and long runs in between our road travels. This week’s plan called for 15 miles, and I planned to pick up 2 in VA and 3 in TN before a long 10-miler when we reached my aunt’s house in Tampa. I researched running trails in her neighborhood and found a nature park with a 7-mile paved loop. The entrance appeared to be right around the corner from the house, perhaps a mile away, so if we ran there and back, we’d get 9 miles. Good enough for a safe, scenic route.
As it turns out, I grabbed just 1 mile in VA, 2 in TN, and zero in the Smokies…although we did hike 11 miles on Wednesday, which definitely counts as cross-training and a short-mileage substitute. So I arrived in Tampa on Thursday night with plans to go for a long run on Friday morning early enough to beat the heat. I thought we could do 10 miles in just over 1 ½ hours.
We set out early, entering the park via the North Tampa Nature Trail, just a half-mile from where we were staying. We wove our way through a bug jungle before we connected to a spur of the main Flatwoods Loop trail that I had read about. At the time, we didn’t realize we were on a spur and thought the 7-mile loop had begun. We stuck together for the first three miles and then broke off to run at our own paces…specifically, for me to slow down. I was feeling the effects of the heat and humidity, and I contemplated cutting my run short, to 6 or 8 miles instead. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep pace for 10.
We agreed to finish the loop separately and meet back at a water station we had passed earlier. It was a loop after all; as long as we kept running in the same direction, we’d get back to where we started. Or so we thought. I watched M run out of sight around a bend in the trail. There were plenty of people around—several bicyclists and a few other runners—so I didn’t feel unsafe. Plus, I had my cell phone with me, and the park was patrolled by rangers who could be also be contacted by phone (every water station listed the emergency number). I kept running, hydrating and enjoying the scenery of the first few miles.
After five miles, I needed a break. I walked a bit of Mile 6 and refilled my water bottles. I jogged a bit more, and then walked again. Somewhere around Mile 7, there was one fork in the road, where two separate loops appeared to join. It wasn’t clear which direction to go, but after some debate with myself, I decided to stay to the right. I was running clockwise in a circle; best to stick to the inside track.
Friday turned out to be an unseasonably warm day in Tampa—86 degrees before noon—and I quickly finished the water I had brought with me. Fortunately, the park had basic water stations every mile or two around the loop. And that loop…well it turned out to be further than I estimated. Not the loop itself, but the fact that we had started on a spur instead of the main trail. I was expecting to meet back up at around the 8-mile mark on my watch. I kept running. The sun shined brightly in a cloudless sky. It was hot, and there was very little shade on the trail. I ate a Goo (an energy product) and ran a bit more.
The GPS distance tracker on my watch kept increasing— 7 miles, 8 miles, 9 miles—and the trail kept twisting and turning with no end in sight. What happened to a 7-mile loop? There were fewer and fewer people on the trail. I ran long stretches without seeing another person while lizards and armadillos darted into the brush beside me. I kept running, drinking, running, walking. 10 miles, 11 miles. I kept thinking back to that fork in the road. What if he went left when I went right? What direction were we supposed to go? Why did we split up? Why didn’t he have his phone with him?
To say I was panicked would be an overstatement, but my level of anxiety was rising with every mile. Finally, around Mile 11, I flagged down a bicyclist and asked if she had passed a water station at a four-way intersection. “Oh, sure,” she replied. “About half a mile back.” I don’t know where the speed came from, but I practically sprinted the next half-mile. As I rounded the last corner, I caught a glimpse of the water shelter: empty. M wasn’t there. I lost steam and started trudging, thinking about my next move.
And just then, he emerged from around a bend, walking in my direction. I waved my arms to catch his attention. I was sweaty, sunburned, exhausted, and safe…but I wasn’t done running. We still had another mile to go before we got home. Final distance: more than 12 miles. What should have been an easy training run turned into a test of conditioning, endurance, and mental toughness…and I think I passed. I also think running 13.1 hilly miles in New Hampshire will be easier than yesterday’s run in the park. -J
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” –John Muir
More than once, the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (hiking it from end to end) has crossed my mind. Three or four months of solitude in the woods didn’t sound so bad, hiking beautiful mountains and clearing my head while I explored the world on my own two feet. We’ve hiked short stretches of the AT in several states, including the Jackson-Webster loop in New Hampshire, and on this trip so far, our 10+ miles in Tennessee and Virginia. While I’ve enjoyed each of those day hikes, with every mile I log, I wonder if I’m really up for 2,000 more. And then we chatted with a few guys who were in the early stages of their thru-hike attempts, and I wondered why I ever entertained the idea in the first place.
The majority of thru-hikers tackles the trail in a northbound fashion, meaning they start their trek at Springer Mountain, Georgia and walk in a general northeasterly direction until—approximately 2,180 miles later—they reach the end of the trail on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine. The journey takes the average hiker four to six months, although some take three and others take more. The trip is generally constrained by weather, since most hikers need to make it to Maine before it gets snowed in. In a less popular route, some hikers start at Katahdin in May or June and finish in Georgia in autumn.
The Park Service strictly regulates thru-hikers and backcountry camping. To minimize impact on the trails and ensure a level of traceability, hikers are required to stay overnight in designated shelters. There is a network of shelters (maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club and other organizations) that offer protected lodging and are spaced roughly a day apart on the trail. Backcountry tenting is prohibited, and ridge runners (volunteers who run back and forth across segments of the trail) patrol the ridge to enforce that rule.
The shelters are beautiful buildings, often made of stone and timber. But what they offer in beauty, they lack in comfort. At the Icewater Springs shelter we checked out, the bunks consist of two large wooden platforms, one about two feet above the other. Hikers (mostly thru-hikers, with a few day hikers thrown in for good measure) sleep shoulder to shoulder, often with strangers, in the three-sided structure.
We encountered several thru-hikers on the trail yesterday. Most were men, hiking alone, ages ranging from early 20s to mid-60s. We saw only one couple and one solo woman, likely in her 40s. As a general rule, they were a chatty bunch, not afraid to strike up a conversation or ask a question. We heard tales “vermin” in the shelters and of guys like “Machete Mitch,” a survivalist type who is hiking parallel to the AT (but not on it) equipped with only a machete, a compass, and an iPad. (Apparently survivalist does not mean electronics minimalist.)
The “vermin” didn’t sound too exotic…mostly field mice and chipmunks looking for food…but in my mind, even a chipmunk becomes terrifying if he’s running across my face in the middle of the night. Then there’s the incessant snoring from your neighbor, and if you’re extra lucky, a crying baby like one hiker reported from a shelter in the night before. (Parents: I understand the desire to take your kids into the backcountry overnight, but can we agree to wait until they are potty-trained?)
And while the majority of the AT does cross scenic ranges in sparsely traveled places like those I imagined, some sections cross right through major tourist areas or the centers of towns. One hiker shared the culture shock he experienced when he hitched a ride into Gatlinburg after two weeks on the trail…and was dropped off near a Hard Rock Café. Not exactly the scenery of Muir.
I have total respect for folks that attempt a thru-hike, tackling a strenuous journey and relying only on themselves while they attempt the adventure of a lifetime. Most sources estimate only 1 in 4 hikers who start the hike will finish it. I, however, have a 0% chance of finishing it, because I will never start it. But I will go to the mountains when they call, and I will return to the AT. I’ll just continue to seek out my adventures in metered doses, in 10-mile sections that can be covered in one day. -J
We spent last night at a hotel/conference center/golf resort in northeastern Tennessee. We selected it based on location and price (which was free…one of the benefits of years of business travel!), but the amenities were an added bonus. We were the only people in the pool and hot tub last night, and we were the only people on the golf course this morning. No, we were not up for an early round. Instead, we headed out at sunrise for a speedy two-mile run, weaving our way through the cart paths and footbridges along the rolling fairways. The only other people we saw on the course were members of the maintenance crew tending to the greens. We capped our run with weights and stretching in the spacious gym before heading back to our room. We treated ourselves to long showers and room service breakfast, knowing we have two days of a shower-less campground and outdoor oatmeal ahead of us.
We will arrive in the Smokies this afternoon, and we might go off the grid for a day or two. In the meantime, by special request, here is a list of the first 10 songs from Sunday’s roadtrip playlist (which we continue to listen to today). All of these songs have lyrical significance, and many are just plain fantastic. First up on today’s drive: replaying “Wagon Wheel” as we roll through Johnson City. -J
First 10 Songs from Sunday’s Drive
- Takin’ Off Today (Adam Ezra Group)
- Runnin’ Down a Dream ( Tom Petty)
- Cruisin’ With Jack Kerouac (Hot Sauce Johnson)
- Stuck Between Stations (The Hold Steady)
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan)
- Country Road (John Denver)
- Wagon Wheel (Old Crow Medicine Show)
- The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
- Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
- The World at Large (Modest Mouse)
Skyline Drive traverses the Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park. The north end of the drive begins in Front Royal, VA, a surprising town that appears to be maintaining itself quite well despite the economy. The architecture in Front Royal is familiar, each building crafted of the same stones, bricks and shingles of eastern towns ranging from Plattsburgh, NY to New Castle, PA to Greenville, SC. It is the architecture of hardware stores and insurance agencies, small public libraries and aging churches. We agreed Front Royal would go on the list of potential places to live “someday.”
At the entrance to Skyline Drive, Howard, the friendly, nervous, red-headed (and bearded) ranger, sold us our $80 Interagency Annual Pass, allowing access to the many places we hope to visit across the country in the next twelve months. Armed with our pass and some park literature, we hit the road. Skyline Drive is 105 miles of winding, rising and falling road filled with wildlife, old growth forest and very few other people. (Most park facilities don’t officially open for the season until later this spring.) After getting distracted by a handful of deer, two overlooks and countless circling hawks, it had taken us nearly 20 minutes to go the first five miles. It was looking like the drive would take longer than the three hours we had estimated. (The maximum speed limit on the drive is 35 MPH.) We were all smiles and in no hurry. Today, the deer posed for pictures, but despite our vigilance, the bears were elusive. Maybe we’ll be luckier in the Smokies…preferably from the car.
At the halfway point of the drive, we parked and hit the trail for a short hike to the outlook on Stony Man Trail, recommended by the ranger as a brief but rewarding trip into the woods. At 4,010 feet, it is the second highest point in the park, and part of the summit route overlaps the Appalachian Trail. The trail was well-maintained, and we cruised to the top in 20 minutes. Once there, we surveyed the valley and took in a recommendation from a local couple to visit the “Camp David of President Herbert Hoover,” also in the park. We determined that this newly found part of America was worth a second visit and a much more thorough exploration of Shenandoah National Park. Perhaps later this spring…
The second half of the drive went more quickly than the first. At the end of the road, we opted to take the highway to Tennessee instead of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although the Parkway is on our “must do someday” list, it wasn’t on our “must do this trip” list. We capped off our 415-mile day with a dip in the hotel pool and a tall draft beer. My first time in Tennessee has been more relaxing than expected. I’ll be enjoying the hotel bed tonight, since tomorrow night will bring the Great Smoky Mountains and our first campsite of the trip! –M
Here’s a look at what we saw from the summit of Stony Man:
Greetings from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains! We arrived at our hotel in Virginia tonight and made short order of the dinner we had packed from home: quinoa mac & cheese and veggie burgers…with celebratory champagne, of course. We covered 585 miles today, cruising through 9 states and spending the better part of 10 hours in the car. We split the driving into two-hour shifts and passed the time listening to music, chatting, and playing a made-up game of Vanity Plate Mad Libs. (Side note: People are strange.) We enjoyed warm breezes, sunny skies, and low traffic throughout the drive.
The scenery for most of the day was standard-issue Northeastern U.S. and nothing either of us hadn’t seen before, from the Mass Turnpike and George Washington Bridge to the farmlands of Pennsylvania. That was until we were about 15 miles from the hotel, when these mountains surprised us, lurking in the fog around a highway bend. A shadowy ridgeline stretching as far as we could see rose quietly above the flat, rolling plains around it. We couldn’t make out many details since we arrived after sunset, but we have a full day of exploring the mountains planned for tomorrow. -J&M
“Take a last look out on / Turn the key and we’re gone /
Who cares if Monday / There’ll be hell to pay…”
-Taking Off Today, Adam Ezra Group
We are taking off today. We are hitting the road for the first in a series of trips that will, over the next nine months, criss-cross two continents and five or six countries.
We’ve been planning this day for weeks and talking about it for months, but we’ve each been dreaming about this day our whole lives, long before we even knew the other existed. The day when we quit our corporate jobs to pursue an authentic, creative life. The day we awoke with no expectations or agendas or constraints other than the ones we assigned to ourselves.
We’ve been readying our physical selves by losing weight, eating whole foods, and getting fit enough to tackle 6,500-foot mountains and long stretches of road.
We’ve been readying our financial selves by living below our means, sticking to a budget, paying off debt, and saving money.
We’ve been readying our possessions by decluttering, donating, and downsizing, seeking out “the right stuff” instead of simply “more” or “less” stuff.
And we’ve been readying our ride. We traded in two family sedans for a road warrior, swapping a hybrid engine for all-wheel drive that eats mountains and standard trunks for a wagon that craves gear.
This morning, that wagon is packed and ready to roll. For us, there is no Monday. There will be no hell to pay at the office, because there will be no office. There will be no commute to the city, no gridlocked traffic, and no work e-mail to check. There will not be anything except the few things we’ve chosen carefully for the trip and a collection of dreams that have been piling up for the past 30-something years.
We know roughly how many miles per gallon we will get on the road, but we have no idea how many words per gallon we will write while we’re out there. Come along for the ride, and we’ll find out together!
T-21 hours and counting! We’re busy as bees cooking meals and snacks to take with us, getting the house ready so it’s sparkly clean when we come home, and packing our gear and the car. We both have a long training run planned for this afternoon, so we’re working our other chores around them. In many ways, it feels like a regular Saturday around the house, but there’s a building sense of anticipation with every tick of the clock on the kitchen wall. Still no decision on the first song, but the tunes are cranking right now!
It’s barely noon, and I’m crying for the second time today. It was a song that did me in both times: the lyrics of one and the opening chords of a guitar in the other. Twangy little rock-and-rollers singing about change and loss and freedom. In other words, songs that were written specifically to make me cry today. Well, not me specifically, but anyone on the precipice of a big transition that’s been in the making for a long time. Today’s two songs have made their way to our growing road trip playlist. We expect to do more than 80 hours of driving in the next two weeks, and that calls for a longer-than-usual set of car tunes. We’ll mix in old favorites with new tracks, shuffle up the genres, and throw in some spoken word for good measure. There’s been much debate but no decision yet on the track that will earn the coveted designation of “first song,” the song that will play during those first three or four minutes of the trip. Even though we’ll spend those minutes driving on the roads closest to our home, we’ll be driving away from what our lives have been and toward what they will become. There’s a good chance I’ll cry most part of the way to Virginia, too, but they will be happy tears: tears of boundless relief, tears of authentic joy, and tears born of emotions for which I won’t have words. With a little luck, the words will come later. In the meantime, I’ll be content to lean back, look out the window, and listen to the soundtrack of our lives. -J
So…I resigned from my job at the company I’ve worked at for the past thirteen years. My last day will be this Friday. After that, we’ll pack the car, hit the road and start a different kind of work, moving our lives in a new direction. I mentioned in a prior post that I expect some friction as I wind down over the next couple of days. That’s okay. There was plenty of friction in my day-to-day job anyway. As I sit in my kitchen and reflect on the job and people I’m leaving behind, I also know that I’ll receive encouragement and support from many of my friends and coworkers. Delivering my resignation turned out to be far less dramatic than I expected (probably because I was wrapped up in my own head about it). I’m guessing the next two days will turn out the same way, and I’m relieved by that thought. I’m grateful for the good people who I’ve worked with over the years, and I’m confident that the team I’m leaving behind will be successful . After Friday, the only employee I’ll be responsible for is me. I think I’m up for the challenge. – M
Today brought us three huge steps closer to the road and the freedom that follows it. We cleared the last few critical hurdles this afternoon, two on the financial front and one on the professional front. Without going into the gory details, there were three tasks that had to occur before we hit the road but could not occur any sooner than today, four days before we are scheduled to leave. I can happily report tonight that they all are done and done…and done. After weeks of waiting–waiting for things to go right, waiting for things to go wrong–we are finally able to take a deep breath and let ourselves sink slowly into the realization that what we’ve been talking about for months is actually going to happen. -J
The timing of our first few weeks on the road will coincide with the last few weeks of our training before we run a half-marathon back in our hometown. It will be my first half (his second), and despite a recent bout of bronchitis, I’ve done a decent job sticking to my training plan during what turned out to be a mild New Hampshire winter. What’s proving to be a bigger challenge is ensuring we stick to our training plans while on a road trip. Planning our workouts (especially our long runs) will be critical to ensuring we return home at the end of the trip ready to run the race. I spent part of today mapping out a workout schedule, taking into consideration which days we have extended drives planned (making it tough to fit in any kind of workout) and which days look like they’ll offer us a big block of free time (perfect for a long run). We’ll control for the variables we can (like choosing to stay in locations that seem to offer decent running routes) and be flexible when faced with ones we can’t (like weather or terrain or quirks of a small town road). We’ll also need to be more careful than usual when hiking during the first week of the trip. We’re planning to tackle some moderately challenging hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains, and what might be normal fatigue or a nuisance injury on any other trip could become a race-ruining injury on this one. No amount of internet research or advance planning will prepare us for exactly what we’ll find on the road, but having a plan in hand when we set out will give us the best chance of sticking to it while we’re out there. –J
I should be reading On the Road or Dharma Bums or The Undiscovered Self to remind myself of all of the reasons I’ve been chasing this life for the past ten years. It’s not that I’m afraid of quitting my job. This nervous/anxious/pensive response to readying our gear for the trip is more of a flinch, since I know that the next five days are going to hurt. I will disappoint some, anger others and likely perplex all. They won’t understand my motivations, they’ll question my motivations, and they will definitely criticize my motivations. On Friday, after thirteen years of working in the insurance industry, I will be free to make my own way. I’ll be free of debt, free of the fears of others, free of contractual obligations and ready to move on.
So, when the haters begin to talk and the questions begin to fly, it will be up to me to call upon the spirit of Kerouac’s “Rucksack Revolution” and to summon Jung’s analytical mind and ability to deconstruct the man-made trappings of what he called “the state” (…which has evolved in our time into “Corporate America”). Their voices remind me that the American Dream is not just a singular dream, rather it’s any dream. It’s my dream of hitting the road in the shadow of the travelers before me, experiencing life and writing in my own voice. Whatever happens from here will be up to me.
In the lyrics of Ben Harper, “the unfinished work of our heroes must truly be our own…” I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I’ll finish the work of those like Kerouac and Jung, but perhaps I will further their causes and leave an unfinished legacy for the next dreamer to pursue. -M
The anticipation is high, and the waiting is painful. These last two weeks are moving more slowly than any of the previous twelve months. We’re distracting ourselves by staying focused on trip preparations. We’ve sketched out the itinerary for our first two weeks on the road, and it’s shaping up to be a 50/50 split of camping nights and nights spent in other accommodations (like highway hotels or the homes of family and friends along the way). We have reservations for a few anchor nights, and we’ll play the rest by ear. I’m obsessively checking the 10-day forecasts for Key West (stunningly warm) and Gatlinburg (confusingly bipolar). We are planning to camp near Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains NP, and the overnight temps are still dancing in the 30s. I’ve started to work on a meal plan so that grocery shopping and food preparation and cooking gear all scream efficiency and economy. And given that writing will be a major component of this journey, we’ve created several new blog sites, including this one to track our travels. (In addition to this blog, we’ll each maintain our own individual blogs for topics ranging from food and fitness to poetry and photography. You can find links to them on the right side of this screen.) Each day brings us one step closer to the morning when we shift the car into drive and log our first mile. That moment cannot arrive soon enough. -J
After months of dreaming and scheming, we’re down to less than two weeks until we hit the road! We’re busy readying our gear, ourselves, and this site. Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to our much-anticipated departure. -J&M