This past spring, husband and I sold our Charleston, South Carolina, home and left it all behind to camp throughout the Rocky Mountain corridor with our four year-old son, Reese. In total we spent three months on the road, living out of a small camper trailer, and exploring communities throughout New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona to see where we'd like to own a small ranch property for the summer. These are excerpts from my journal from that time that I'm sharing for the first time. Enjoy!
June 13, 2018
We pulled out of Texas and made our way into New Mexico, and it dawned on us that it is going to be harder than we thought to find available campsites in the laissez faire, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants way that we're preferring to travel. After hours of spotty phone calls and online research in less than ideal service areas, we decided to take our chances at the Coyote Creek State Park in Guadalupita, about forty-five minutes south of Taos in the Sangre de Cristos Mountains.
Thankfully, they had a spot for us with partial hook-ups. For those not in the know, that usually means access to water and power, but not sewer/grey water, which means that if you have a small camper like ours, you'd best make use of the communal toilets and showers on the campground to prevent filling up your tank before you're ready to break camp. Not totally ideal, but hey we were in no position to say no.
To our delight, once the sun started it to set the cool, crisp mountain air settled into the little valley of our campsite. We went to bed that night with the windows open and the air conditioning off, happy to have a little chill on our skins after the torching Texas gave us.
I woke up early the next morning before Frank or Reese awoke. I bundled myself up and stepped outside of the trailer to enjoy a few quiet moments of solitude outside with a warm cup of coffee to watch the sunrise over the Sangre de Cristos. My soul is happy, I thought. It all felt so right, to be here in this part of the world, at this moment.
After having my first mindful moments of the day, I opened my phone to check the day's news. To my horror and disbelief, I learned that Anthony Bourdain had died by suicide.
This is a hard one. I still can't believe it's true. I never met the man, but it somehow seems so personal. I used to religiously watch his show No Reservations on the Travel Channel as a broke college student, and would dream of traveling and seeing the world the way he did: by going off the beaten path, seeking out the street food and food of the poor first, and staying curious about his journey no matter how bad or odd things get.
It seems so coincidental that he would pass on during this big adventure my family and I are taking, and particularly that I would receive the news on such a peaceful and soulful morning. If there is anyone who has slowly and steadily given me the confidence over the years to say "yes" to this crazy adventure my husband felt called to take, it is Anthony Bourdain. In his own unique way, he encouraged me, as well as many others, to stay curious, and always look for the ways in which we're more alike first than the ways in which we are different.
May you Rest in Peace, Tony.
I hope our journey can be an homage to his life and legacy.
After negotiating with the campground host to let us stay another night amid all of the weekend camping reservations, we drove through the Sangre de Cristos down into Taos.
Taos is a small desert town that is just teeming with history and creative energy. I wish we had the flexibility to have done more, like hit up one of the many museums or one of the legendary spas, but such things are pipe dreams when traveling alone with a small child. Instead, we made do with a delicious lunch from local cafe Chow Cart (get the chile rellenos!), a visit to the laundromat, and a public playground hosted by a fantastic toy store downtown called Twirl. Reese played while Frank and I relaxed in the chairs provided, sipping turmeric cardamom lattes from World Coffee across the plaza. It was about as close to perfection as one can get in this sort of situation.
We drove around looking at available homes from our truck windows throughout the few days we spent in the area. I'm so in love with the adobe style of architecture, that is still used today (yes, even the McDonalds is built in this traditional style). I was dreaming of finding a minimal adobe style ranch home tucked up into the hills. The stark nature of the desert, in contrast to the elevated landscape in the mountains just a few miles, really took us by surprise. It took some getting used to before I could really appreciate the beauty of it.
A bit about camping: it is a lot of freakin' work. All of this down time I had anticipated during our long drives from destination to destination that I had planned to write or whittle away my reading list becomes sucked up by searching for and calling campgrounds, looking for a place to park ourselves for a few nights. And if I'm not doing that, then I'm having to dislocate my shoulder to get something for Reese. Or trying to prep food while going 65 miles per hour down the highway. Once we do get to a campsite, it takes at least 20 minutes to set up our camper and get everything squared away for the night. When you're living in such tight quarters, everything takes a little longer too. I'm always cleaning up, having to put things back into their place immediately, and taking things apart to access one thing or another.
What I've realized as this reality had begun to set in is that when you're camping, or living on the road - that is what you're doing. There really isn't much time for anything else. This is our sole endeavor for the foreseeable future. And as much as it stings sometimes, I'm learning to accept the realities it brings. Daily hours of alone time that I used to relish so much are now a thing of the past. Having systems in place so that I could dedicate the better part of the day to what I needed to do feels like a distant memory now. There are many things I miss about our old life in Charleston, and some things I'm glad are long gone. Learning to root myself in an identity that is separate from those things comes easier now that it used to - but I'm not going to lie, it still stings.
I'll end with this:
"If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food." - Anthony Bourdain