On the way to Teton Valley Jun23

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On the way to Teton Valley

Showering, driving to work and those long minutes of lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, those used to be my best thinking times. New ideas flowed and solutions to problems presented themselves almost magically. Those were the moments when my brain slipped into some unnumbered gear, purred rather than groaned and totally thumbed its nose at my usual neuro-happenings. However precious, these were relatively short spurts. A shower, 5 minutes. Driving to work, 12 minutes. Trying to fall asleep? Well, that could often stretch into an hour, but by then any purring would have turned into a sputtering croak and I’d be up with a book trying to make it all stop.

In my new life, these thinking times are very much changed. I don’t shower nearly as often and when I do I’m on, there’s no auto-pilot there anymore. Either it’s a new strange shower at an RV park where water temperature is an unpredictable force keeping me on my toes. Or, it’s in our tiny rig shower where brevity is the theme and there’s a careful dance of sorts that surrounds your every move. A bend for soap, butt on glass. A turn to rinse, shoulder bonks shower head. Ali’s motto, think thin.

I am also tickled to say that now I usually fall asleep within seconds of going horizontal in our most delicious rig bed. I’m obviously sleeping better because of the physical activity and the complete lack of stress, but it’s also the bed. It’s the perfect combination of soft memory foam top, over firm mattress, over hard as bricks wood platform. I am literally a Goldilocks, having finally found “just right”. Sadly, Ali frowned on my idea of ripping out the rig bed and moving it into our next home. Oh well. The sleep number bed is still an option.

Hold on. I just got majorly distracted by this enormous freighter making its way down the Columbia River toward Portland. It’s bright red with a gigantic white wheel house at the back end. SO AMAZING! Our RV park here in Woodland, WA is on the banks of the Columbia and I’m plopped in a chair in a field of green grass.

Photo on 6-22-13 at 8.31 PM

Oregon is on the other side bathed in a showy sunset, the cottonwood trees are making it snow in June and the otherwise soft lapping of the river just turned crashy now that the wake of the freighter has made its way to shore. It’s weird to be writing about stuff we did a month ago and then slip in a “now moment”, but I’ve decided that’s just part of the thing. It’s moments like this when I am 5,000% sure we are doing the right thing with our lives. Gotta share.

sunset2

sunset

Anyway, back to the story of our long drive from Dinosaur in Colorado to Wyoming and the equally long-winded set up about thinking.

Where I now have a lack of both shower time and waiting for Sandman time, I have an over-abundance of driving time. Only these days I’m not driving to work, not trying to narrow in on action items for the day, so there’s none of that anxious, be-all-you-can-be energy to it. Generally the route isn’t at ALL familiar either, so the auto-pilot thing isn’t really happening. Instead, it’s a mix of over-communication leading up to and during lane-changes or freeway-ramps, followed by long stretches of deep empty time, punctuated by a few spurts of shared “wow, that is so pretty.”

It’s the empty time that I’m so enamored with these days and man oh man was there plenty of that on the way to Rock Springs, WY, our one night stop-over as we headed north to the Grand Tetons. Wyoming is essentially empty, relative to other overly human-filled states. I’ve never driven for so long through such remoteness, kinda like Area-52, cowboy style. Miles without any structures, except for fences and the snow barriers that dashed quick lines along the mountain-tops. Cattle, creeks, small lakes, snow drifts, forests, plains that stretched out across forever to meet the horizon, and us, a lone RV climbing and sinking into the hills, traveling along a desolate two-lane road. This – close your eyes, put yourself there – THIS, is the new brain-purring-time.

I know that it took me awhile to dispel my fear-riddled crazed approach to driving the RV, but on this day, May 15th, 75 days into our adventure, making my way through stunning Wyoming landscape, I was zen itself. PURR. (Note: caps yes, but no exclamation point, because purring can’t really abide that much emphasis.) My plush captain’s seat was hours warmed, Ali was alternately zoned-out or sleeping, no cellular connection in this wilderness to entertain the passenger, and quietly, my brain was frolicking in the unnumbered gear.

I was dreaming, imagining a potential new life. Not working on a finite problem in the strictest sense, but rather playing out scenarios, mental sketching – truly CHASING WHAT’S NEXT. Ali and I have been so inspired by all of the openness that still exists in our country. We’ve fallen in love with being outdoors and visiting smaller towns that are surrounded by big beautiful nature, be it red rock pillars punching up out of the earth, snow-capped mountains that hide lakes in their high cracks or this vast Wyoming frontier. So I was dreaming of land, a quiet, open place, with an old home that needs lots of love. Maybe we have a barn or two, chickens and possibly a goat and a beautiful garden that feeds us. In my purring mind, we were happily toiling over it all.

That's my whiskey still on the top there, the thing that's dripping.

That’s my whiskey still on the top there, the thing with a fire under it that’s dripping.

And then, after miles of nothing, Rock Springs simply appeared in the distance. We had just climbed again, switching back and forth up a sizable mountain. As we came around the final bend and started across the high ridge, we spied humanity from our lofty perch. The town was big enough to have car dealerships and the typical cast of big box retail stores along with a sprawling KOA which was out on the edge of town right beside Interstate 80 of course. We landed the rig while dark, furious looking clouds gathered and a gusty wind started up. Ali went off to do a grocery run and I juggled 4 loads of laundry through all of its phases. In the morning, after a rainy, blowy, Jake brake filled night, we hit the road again.

Since several of the campgrounds at Grand Teton National Park weren’t open yet for the season and the park is right on the western border of Wyoming, we chose to stay in Victor, Idaho. It’s about a half hour drive from Jackson, WY and an hour from the park entrance. For our route in, we had a choice. We could take the RV over Teton Pass, Hwy 22 which “tops out at around 8,500 feet, a monster with a 10% grade both up and down and lots of twists and turns”, or use the longer, southern route around the mountains on Hwy 26. Um, yea, not really a tough choice to make.

After following the Hoback River for miles along its gorgeous canyons, we turned onto Hwy 26 so that the Snake River could show off for us too. The sun was finally out, the road was clear, we were talking about the dream mini-farm, smiling and laughing with each other, nearly drunk from all the beauty and then, to take the moment to its rightful climax, our anthem came on.

At Christmas, before we left, our friend JoDee told us about this song and how it always made her think of us. The lyrics couldn’t be any more perfect and I still tear up every time I hear it.

I twisted the volume dial up as far as it would go and we sang our hearts out as we rolled through Swan Valley, Idaho and landed at the feet of the Grand Tetons. Two girls, in a van, driving across this land, just as free as they’ll ever be.