Sunday, June 30, 2013


 It’s funny how things work out—or how our minds weave things together.

When Rex and I first entered Grand Teton National Park, we were ready for an easy warm up hike around Two Ocean’s Lake—an accessible but relatively less-frequented area of the park. A 2-mile drive on a gravel road, then a six-mile walk around the water—a great way to get started, we thought.

Shame on us for not first checking the park Web site: The road to Two Oceans was closed to cars and bikes—foot and horse traffic only. Rats. We don’t mind walking four miles, but four miles plus six miles is bit much for two out-of-shape flatlanders. 

As we suspected and soon confirmed, the road to Two Oceans Lake was closed because of budget cuts. As the park service explains, sequestration requires Grand Teton to permanently cut 5% from its budget, adding up to a 14% total decline since 2009.

Today, we decided to walk the road to Two Oceans. We wouldn’t make it all the way around the lake, but we just might see some interesting birds anyway.  Or so we told ourselves.

The road segment of our walk took us an hour each way. We enjoyed the scenery, but we were still annoyed. On our bikes we could have been at the lake in less than 10 minutes. What harm could a bike do? Do bike riders leave more trash than horsey folks? Does the park service have something against bicyclists?  Why would the park service inconvenience us? Hrmff!

Whatever the real reason, Two Oceans did not disappoint.  Rex immediately spotted several interesting ducks, including a female harlequin. And this fine bird greeted me as I approached the lake.

Bald Eagle on Two Oceans Lake, Grand Teton National Park

As if to say “no hard feelings,” our nation’s symbol welcomed us. In fact, in a twisted way, sequestration helped us today. I very much doubt that this bird would have been in this spot at this time if the lake had been more accessible to more humans.

We walked on for another 2.5 hours on the lake trail, watching osprey fish and American Widgeons float, muskrats dog-paddle and Western grebes court. A trumpeter swan paraded all morning, and a white pelican skimmed, mere inches off the water, from one end of the lake to the other.  Two Oceans was truly magical today, partly because there were no people there, but mostly because we were there. And we were glad we came. 

Now please don’t read this as some back-door endorsement of sequestration, or an elitist argument in favor of limiting access to our country’s fragile ecological preserves.  I advocate neither—quite the opposite, in fact.  The lesson learned today is much more banal: just do it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Settling In

Maintaining a blog requires even more labor and dedication than I thought.  As of last night, Rex and I were seriously considering letting this thing slide. I could just post photos and an occasional update on facebook, I thought to myself. And I still intend to do that, partly because I promised Cynthia Peacock I would--and that's enough reason alone.  Plus, I fully acknowledge that for 99.9 percent of my audience, anything more is overkill.

But damn it--I hate facebook!  I'm sure many of you have the same tortured relationship with the thing.  It's like an editor: can't live without it, can't shoot it.  My current beef is the increasingly unavoidable advertising.  Add to that the fact that facebook will not allow me change my current city to "No Permanent Address."  Can't sell any advertising off that city, eh? Anyhow, I am again resolved to here make record of our nomadic life.

But first, we need to catch up.  Rex has put together several posts about our activities since we arrived in the Tetons about one week ago. We'll be adding those over the next few days. In the interim, here's a synopsis of the action so far:
  • April 20th: sold our house in Austin; moved into a 30-foot fifth wheel travel trailer we purchased in January (luckily) for this purpose
  • May 20: left Austin and traveled north to see family and friends, perform some property maintenance, and install a solar array on top of the trailer
  • June 19: drove away from my parent's farm, heading west on US HWY 20 toward Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park
  •  And no, I have not completed my dissertation, thank you for asking. I'm working on the fourth version of the conclusion, as the 3rd draft is "still awful," per my adviser.  Pray for me.  
    Still working--in the Teton County Library, Jackson, WY

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Just Sew Savvy

Day two on the road was rather uneventful, except that our truck seems sick, and at least two Ford dealers--one in Douglas, Wyo., and another in Casper--could not solve the problem.  More on that later.

I'll take this lull in the action for a brief, unpaid, and completely deserved commercial announcement on behalf of my friend Jeannie Hobbs and her business, Just Sew Savvy.

Place mats by Jeannie of Just Sew Savvy.

This evening, Rex and I used these place mats, which Jeannie made and gave to us as a parting gift.  Aren't they sharp?  Jeannie has a real knack for finding just the right material for a project and vice versa.  I've since purchased several other pieces from her and am delighted with each of them. If you need a unique gift, want to support artisans and their work, or just like to look at fiber art, please check out her Web site.

Just Sew Savvy exemplifies several things we love about Austin, including 1) the entrepreneurialism that thrives there, 2) a general appreciation for locally produced products, and 3) the amazing number of open, creative people from all walks of life who live there. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day One, of Sorts

It's hard to say when this adventure started. Was it April 17th, the day we closed the sale of our home in Austin, Texas? We have been living in this trailer ever since. Or was it May 19th, the day Rex drove away from Austin, headed toward Dallas and leaving me in Austin to finish some last-minute tasks?  Or was it May 21, the day we left Dallas together, but not before we lost a wheel on the trailer? That day certainly felt real.

These dates are great candidates, but we are counting today, June 19th, as our first real day on the road.  Once we drove away from my parents' farm in Northeast Nebraska this morning at 9 a.m., our two-month prep session was over. We didn't get the air conditioner in the front of the trailer fixed, so we will learn how to live without it--or figure out how to repair it on the road, with almost no tools or shop space. We hate this over-sized love seat in our living area, but a slightly uncomfortable couch rates as a first-world problem. We don't fully understand how the refrigerator automatically switches between propane and electricity, but it seems to work without us being in-the-know.

So off we go, as we must, because we must get started. Yes, even during this extended experiment in full-time travel we cannot escape deadlines. At least this one is mostly self-imposed. We could have easily stayed in Nebraska--or Kansas, or Austin--for much, much longer, because there were so many things left undone and catching up that did not happen and things left unsaid. And believe me: We were often tempted to put this day off.  But its hubris to think that we can do all we wish, and it would be cowardly to keep putting this off.  Onward!

This photo sums up the day.  I took it about 7 miles west of Gordon, Nebraska.  We are staying in Gordon tonight, and plan to be in Wyoming tomorrow.
Sheridan County, Nebraska

Getting Started

We created this blog so that our family and friends could follow along as we traveled the Western United States in a fifth-wheel travel trailer, which we affectionately call the TI.  We write about the national parks we visit, as well as the flora and fauna we encounter along the way.

We here also reflect on life untethered.  As two modestly ambitious farm kids who love to garden, build, renovate, cultivate, and just generally improve, the idea of being liberated from the responsibilities of a home with four walls and a foundation seems, well, liberating.  What might life be like if we concentrate on experiencing it, rather than chasing our tails, the Jones, or whatever project seems so damned important at the time?  Would it be richer, poorer, or just different?  Might we learn something that we could hold on to when we return to a more conventional lifestyle?  Will we return to a conventional lifestyle?  We’re out here trying to find out.

If you have ever wondered what it might be like to hop out of the squirrel cage, please follow along.  We will do our best to share what we learn, and maybe even inspire a few readers to set out on their own quests.