90,000 Miles to Me
ship at sea in a storm

5,571 Miles • A Barrage of a Thunderstorm

This is a backdated post from September 12th, 2017

It’s been overcast almost every day since I set out. This isn’t New Mexico anymore! Sigh. I broke down and bought an 80′ outdoor use extension cord for about $24 so I can plug my power system in to a house electrical outlet and charge the batteries. The three solar panels simply aren’t getting enough sun to power the single thing I have plugged in: my 12V fridge.

Overcast turned to stormy recently and I got to lie in bed in my van during a barrage of a thunderstorm, feeling a bit like the Ancient Mariner:

And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.”

I’ve been in a few thunderstorms and plenty of rain in the van, but not like this. Every thunder clap shook me, the rain was pounding on the roof and I was loving it! I love thunder, love the feel of it in my bones, and it was awesome to feel it so near and yet feel utterly protected by the thin sheet metal of my home. I actually kept wondering: should I feel weirded out by this? But I just wasn’t.

I did keep checking for water, though, as I am absolutely paranoid about leaks. I’ve only had a leak in two spots, one from a corner of the side window and one from a bolt hole in the roof where a solar panel attaches, both of which I found the first rainy night and sealed up the next morning, and have added extra sealant since to be on the safe side, but I still check over and over like a mad woman every time there is any precipitation.

Because I don’t want to feel like this part of the poem:

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

I want the water to stay outside.

 

References: quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, artwork by Miguel Angel Estevez

 

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This is a backdated post from September 18-19th, 2017

Driving through Nebraska and Iowa, I saw a lot of this:

an empty road in Iowa

Long stretches of lonely roads are perfect places to think. I’m trying not to turn on any distractions. No music, no audio books, no podcasts, just me and the road and my thoughts or a meditative prayer. I get antsy for the first half hour or so and keep glancing at the clock to see how long it’s been, then it settles down and feels good for a while (okay, a few minutes), and so it goes in cycles. But I think it is important to be able to live inside my own head without needing to be “entertained” constantly. And it is a skill that can be developed.

September 19 was my first overnight in a Walmart parking lot. It went completely smoothly.

In the morning I was getting gas at a small town in Iowa and there was a farm stand on the outskirts, where the gas station bordered a field. It was unmanned, just prices marked on masking tape on the vegetables, leave money in a box. I got a very ripe cantaloupe for my breakfast smoothies.

Dinner was eaten picnic style as I sat on the end of a boat dock on this lake in Guttenburg, Iowa, just miles from the banks of the Mississippi. This photo was taken from an overlook just past the town and up a very steep hill.

lake surrounded by trees in Iowa

I saw the sign for the lake’s boat ramp around the time I was getting hungry and decided to pull over! So nice that I have the freedom to do that sort of thing. I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Dinner was a room-temperature leftover burrito half from the day before, when I had a chance to cook beans. When I decided on cooking with a sun oven, I thought through the variability of sun exposure in different parts of the country and different seasons, but overlooked the driving factor. I thought I would be staying in one place a lot more than I have been, and so it would be easy to cook, but I’ve been on the road a lot, and mostly during daylight hours, so the idea of parking for a few hours to cook when I want to drive all day is not appealing.

Hopefully that will settle down in a few months, but for now, there are a number of family and friend visits I want to make before winter. And anyway, it has been overcast pretty much since I left New Mexico. I’ve pulled out the sun oven twice.

I’ve really been getting into raw foods these last few weeks. I was looking for easy no-cook meal options, and ran across a raw “uncook book” at the library, and was intrigued. Some of it looks weird, but most of it looks like foods I am used to and I’ve tried several recipes and been pleasantly surprised.

Which I think is itself weird. That I was surprised, I mean. Many salads are raw foods, and they aren’t weird or unusual, and so is my morning fruit smoothie or picking up an orange or banana and eating it whole. Plus, many raw food recipes are vegan, and I’ve been vegan for more than two decades. What gives? I think we are just so culturally conditioned to the idea that food should be cooked, that I’ve never thought to question that assumption. Never even considered whether I was making an assumption.

Like culture shock when visiting another country, this experience is forcing me to question many assumptions. Socrates said that

The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but, well, maybe I would. To just go through life, day after day, decade after decade, merely reacting to whatever happens to me, doing what is expected or what I am told to do and not thinking about what is important to me, what is right, just, true, beautiful, a life without attention or appreciation would be mere drudgery. Speaking only for myself, I at least wouldn’t want to stick around for sixty or eighty or a hundred years of that kind of drudgery.

Maybe I am biased. Maybe the fact that I quit a secure job and left a secure house and community of support to set out on this adventure proves that I am unwilling to live an unexamined life. This adventure has been the exact opposite of an unexamined life, and I’m sure will prove more so the longer it lasts. 5,920 Miles so far…

Have you had that experience? The kind of culture shock that makes you re-examine your own culture and think that it is weird? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

4,574 Miles • Setting Out on My Grand Adventure
6,225 Miles • Crossing the Mississippi

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