So Christmas this year was a bit more eventful that we had planned. It started as expected, with an excited five year old getting out of bed well before dawn and shrieking with joy when she discovered her milk, cookies, and carrots had all been consumed by Santa and his helpers. Coffee was made for the bleary eyed parents and the opening of presents was comensed and finished by 7:30 AM.
For once, I decided to be a considerate human and rounded up all the wrapping paper trash and took it out to our trash cans. As I was stepping down a small embankment to get to my trash cans, my right leg slipped out in front of me in the snow and my back leg folded up behind me in ways I instantly knew was wrong. I called my wife to come out and she pointed out my I was bleeding from my ankle, so yeah, compound fracture at that.
Thankfully, the Fire Department picked me up in no time flat and by 8 AM I was in the emergency room. X-rays showed that I had broken my tibia down at the ankle joint s well as my fibula up closer to my knee. By 11 AM I was being rolled into surgery, with a slight worry that my surgeon my be a bit annoyed at being brought in on Christmas Day. However, the surgery went well after a couple of days, I was sent home to start what would be a long recovery . . .
Thankfully, so far things have gone well and I’m out of my cast and into a much more comfortable walking boot. But I still have atleast another month of being non-weight bearing and even then it will take several more weeks before I will be really starting to get around. So my view has gotten a bit smaller than it used to be and I’ve got more downtime than I’m used to. So far I’m filling it with a bunch of long ignored home paperwork, guitar lessons and playing in my new group, the Broken Leg Band.
However, one thing I haven’t done in ages is any sort of writing. I was reviewing the blog and realized I kind of dropped the whole travelogue series years before we came off the road. So I’m going to try to start reviving some posts capturing some of the highlights of our five years on the road. I know the site needs some serious design updates as well. In any case, I’m hoping a little reminicing will help change this view . . .
Scientific American has now asked and answered the questions you were either to afraid to ask or never wanted to know. How fast is the bowel movement of an elephant and how does that compare, to say, a dog? Which species produce “floaters” and which “sinkers”?
Together, this meant that defecation duration is constant across many animal species – around 12 seconds (plus or minus 7 seconds) – even though the volume varies greatly. Assuming a bell curve distribution, 66 percent of animals take between 5 and 19 seconds to defecate. It’s a surprisingly small range, given that elephant feces have a volume of 20 liters, nearly a thousand times more than a dog’s, at 10 milliliters.
For the last several years, I, like almost all of my nerd brethren, have set aside their blogs and moved their rants, raves, quips and puns over to Twitter. When I first moved over to Twitter, I fell in love with the novelty of the 140 character limit. It felt like a Hemingway master class in brevity. It forced me to refine my thoughts and to make them punchy.
However, unlike Hemingway, Twitter discourages nuance and subtlety. Because the entire thought must be limited mostly to one sentence, you are rewarded for brutal simplicity. I’m coming to the realization that nuance and subtlety are ignored of at our own peril. Personally, I want to take a bit more time to work out my thoughts even if no one sees them.
So I’m going to come back here to the blog more frequently. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to write about, but I’m going to enjoy the freedom of the occasional run on sentence.
Off to the big city in the Airstream. I’m more of the wilderness type and Grace is definitely more the city girl so we try to mix it up with our travel locations. However, Austin is definitely a location we can both agree on.
McKinney Falls Campsite
The curse of the urban RV visit is that locations to stay in tend to be both over priced and over crowded. Thankfully, Austin provides a welcome alternative in McKinney Falls State Park. Just a few miles from downtown Austin, this amazingly expansive state park offers beautiful and enormous spots with lots of trails and incredible quantities of wildlife for essentially being in an urban setting. With the exception of the inevitible college kid party on the weekend (this is hook’em horn country after all) this place was a wonderful quiet home base for exploring the city. It also gave us a chance to have our first campfire since we’ve been on the road. Can’t believe it took us this long!
We aren’t the perfect demographic for a city like Austin. We tend to go to bed too early for things to heat up on 6th Street. However, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying many of the other charms of the city, including the food. While Austin is full of many excellent brick and mortar restaurants, it’s especially famous for it’s food trucks. We were big fans of The Lucky Belly at The Thicket and The Mighty Cone at The Picnic.
The Thicket Food Truck Park
The Mighty Cone
La Belle Shipwreck at the Bullock Texas State History Museum
We also had an informative morning at The Bullock Texas State History Museum exploring both the glorious and darker parts of the history of the Lone Star State. We even found a few exhibits that reference relatives of Grace! Does that make us honorary Texans?
Onion Creek Dog Park
Sometimes cities can be a bit tough for nomadic dog owners. Austin on the other hand is a dog owner’s paradise. The city is full of massive dog parks to let your pup run free. Our favorite was the Onion Creek District Park. This massive greenbelt features miles of creekside trails plus huge fields for your dog to run and play.
Rose Sink @ Glass River Design
Glass Sculpture @ Glass River Design
While we spent most of our two weeks in the city proper, we did make one day trip out to Saledo, just to the north of Austin where our Aunt Melissa and Uncle Joe run the amazing Glass River Design glass studio. They make some absolutely stunning glass work and they love to teach people about their craft as well!
While we didn’t make it out to the bars on 6th Street, we did at least get a little music entertainment. On the night before we were leaving town, we made to the Austin Opera for a fun performance of Donizetti’s “The Daughter of the Regiment”. It was a great send off from the big city.
So, we are finally on the road again and it feels great. We needed some time in Oklahoma to get our affairs in order and to spend much wanted time with friends and family. However, we were certainly ready to get back out on this new adventure of ours.
Sunset at home on the road
We started off our journey with a quick jaunt down to Dallas for a business meeting with a client. It’s a new experience hauling one’s house around for business meetings and a quite pleasant one at that. There’s something nice about being with family at home after business meetings in a strange city. We didn’t really get to spend much time poking around, but we’ve spent more than enough time in the big D and we were ready to hit the road.
Our first stop was just outside of Beaumont at Village Creek State Park. Grace was here to do some genealogy research in Beaumont and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, we were only here for a week, so I didn’t get to see much of the area, but we did make sure to squeeze in a few adventures together.
In The Bayou
The park itself was a real treat. Quiet, secluded and with lots of trails to explore. This was the first time Magda and I have had a chance to do some real hiking together and while she was a little intimidated by the sounds and smells of the swamp (I don’t entirely blame her), she was a real trooper.
On the Trail
We also made sure to make it out to get some Cajun food, something not to be missed in these parts. However, I’m not sure if the zombie gator is the best advertising for a restaurant.
On our last day in the area, we did finally make it out the coast. Hoping for some nice views, we ended up being surrounded by fog. That said, the smell and sound of the sea was well worth the trip.
This was a very quick trip and we definitely felt that. The next day we headed out to Austin for a longer stay which will hopefully feel a bit more complete.
After the somewhat frantic out and back travel we did for the first three months in the Airstream, we were ready for a break. While we were enjoying the sights, having to head out to a location for only a week or two before heading back to Oklahoma was getting a little tiring. Since we had the holidays coming up plus the kids’ birthdays, we decided to stop traveling for the year in the middle of October.
We settled into a nice little place in Luther, Oklahoma just a few miles from my parents. It was really nice to be settled in one place for a bit to get our bearings and really get used to this tiny house living.
Having a tiny house has some really awesome advantages. For example, doing a complete deep clean of the entire house, including moping, dusting and scrubbing of all the cabinets takes about 45 minutes. We are still really enjoy having so much less stuff in our life. It really is liberating.
It’s safe to say we are both loving our little Airstream, but I would be kidding if there weren’t challenges to living in 200 square feet.
We really haven’t been stepping on each other’s toes too much. However, it’s easy to feel like the walls are closing in, especially in the colder season when being outside isn’t a particularly appetizing proposition. Additionally, that cold weather has forced us to change how we use the trailer’s systems, namely the water systems.
One of the rules that many say about living in an RV is that it can’t be camping. This is our home and it needs to feel as comfortable as possible. The discomfort I might put up with for a backpacking trip for a week or two will get old if it’s my daily experience. When it gets really cold, with our exposed underbelly and thin walls, we are forced to drain the water tanks and live a pretty spartan existence. Suddenly, we start feeling like we are living in an aluminum tent and it can be a little stressful.
At the In-Law’s Place
That said, having a house on wheels has had some amazing perks as well. The best of which has been our ability to spend some time with our niece and nephews at their house. My in-laws have about eight acres of land and offered us spot on their lawn. It was fantastic to be house guests without feeling like we were being long-term pests. (At least, we hope it felt that way for my in-laws). Having the kids come over for little backyard adventures was fun for both them and us!
Avery Loves Magda
With that said, we’ve both been feeling restless feet for the last month or so. We’ve been planning and dreaming about getting back out on the road. We are heading south into Texas for a little exploration of the Lone Star State. Grace is looking forward to doing some on-site genealogy of some Texas ancestors. I’m looking forward to some wide open vistas and desert sunsets. And both of us are looking forward to being out on the road for a few months and stretching our traveling legs.
Falling behind is always my terror in blogging. I’ll get busy, things come up and the next thing I know you I’m a couple of months behind on posts. I then feel overwhelmed with the amount of writing I have to do to get caught up mixed with guilt of not doing what I need to do. Then I just give up …
Well, I don’t want to give up so soon, so in this case I’m going to have to make a compromise to keep this thing going. So here are inadequate but necessary catch-up posts of our travels from the end of this year. I’ll try to be better going forward.
Grand Tetons & Yellowstone
This was our big trip of the year and our first attempt at extended boondocking. We started off with a week in far eastern Idaho, in the small town of Victor, just over the range from Jackson, Wyoming. It was a great place to stop and get our bearings. I was really amazed at eastern Idaho, with its mile after mile of rolling fields of wheat and scattered potato farms. It reminded me more of Kansas than the rugged far west.
Victor was a very cute little town where not much was happening, which made it perfect. They have a nice main street with a few stores and restaurants to support the limited tourism trade on this side of the Tetons. It feels mostly like a bedroom community for the people who work in Jackson but couldn’t possibly afford the real estate prices just west over the range.
Cycling Near Driggs, Idaho
The town supports a fantastic, and for a guy who hasn’t been riding much, wonderfully flat, 7 1/2 mile bicycle trail between itself and neighboring Driggs. It’s a nice ride that lets you marvel at the Tetons without the traffic in the park. Additionally, it takes you by the most Idaho named drive-in possible, The Spud!
The Spud Drive-In
We also started doing our explorations of the Teton and Yellowstone parks. This was both amazing and in it’s own way upsetting. You don’t realize how big these places are when you are traveling out here. Once here, we suddenly realized how much time it would take to really explore these places and how limited our time was for our visit.
This is one of the early frustrations we are having on our travels. Due to some obligations back in OKC right now, we have to take short out and back trips which makes our stays seem more rushed and more like a working vacation than a working adventure. We will both be glad to have some longer stints in areas to get a chance to dig a little deeper into the places we visit.
On our first day of exploration, we certainly hit the wildlife jackpot. In one stop at Blacktail Ponds at dusk, we spotted within about a three-minute window: mule deer, a massive elk herd, moose and a red fox. Plus we were presented with an astounding sunset over the mountains.
Sunset at Blacktail Ponds, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The next week, we crossed over into the Wyoming side of the Teton, snagging an amazing boondocking spot at the aptly named Upper Teton View. You can read our in-depth review here. It was sometimes hard to work with this view presenting itself.
My mother joined us for a week and a half for this part of our trip which allowed Grace and her to do some exploration during the week while I worked. This was also our first test of our ability to do long-term boondocking. Overall we did well, though we did run out of drinking water on one day and were forced to run to the dump station a few days before we moved out. Once we have the composting toilet installed, I think long-term stays will become much easier.
My mother and I had a really nice long photo trek through Yellowstone on Labor Day weekend. Yellowstone really wasn’t as packed as I would have expected, but there certainly were a lot of people around. The best part of the exploration was getting to West Thumb right before dawn. The place was almost completely deserted except for a couple of intrepid photographers there to capture the golden dawn light.
Dawn at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone, Wyoming
As we were tramping around, we kept hearing nearby bellowing from a male elk. All of the sudden, two females came galloping at full tilt through the geysers followed in close pursuit by a male, in pursuit of a mate. These are the moments I think I most look forward to having on our trips. The sites are great, but this was a moment that was purely mine, a trapped memory to keep and revisit.
We capped off our trip with a dawn visit to Old Faithful and the surrounding geyser basin on Labor Day. While it was cloudy and gloomy, the lack of crowds made for a wonderful way to see this generally packed site. Actually, the surrounding basin was maybe even more amazing than the grand event. Mordor jokes seems appropriate in this land of steam and sulfur …
Old Faithful Geyser Basin, Yellowstone, Wyoming
It was too short of a visit, but a nice introduction to an amazing place. I hope to return here again before our adventures are over …
Hot Springs & Eureka Springs
The plan has been to spend the fall and holiday season back in Oklahoma, not only to be close to friends and family, but also to give us some time to finish some trailer projects and to better organize the trailer based upon what we’ve learned. However, we’ve already learned that the Airstream can struggle in really warm weather, so we planned a very short two-week trip up into the Ozarks of Arkansas with the hope that the slightly higher altitude and tree cover might make it slightly cooler than central Oklahoma. It was a theory anyway …
We started off in Hot Springs, which is an astoundingly odd National Park being that it’s a park that is really mostly a city with grand 19th century boulevards and amazing turn of the century architecture in the grand bath houses.
Quapaw Baths, Hot Springs, Arkansas
The whole place has an amazingly weird feel to it with old-fashioned tourist trap shops (magic stores, houses of wax, t-shirt shops specializing in vulgar clothing, etc.) along with the old architecture including crumbling 15 story former grand hotels and with amazing levels of extreme poverty as well. Not sure exactly what to make of the place. Maybe best described as an interesting combination of contradictions.
We did make sure to get a bath. Not sure it cured me of any particular ailments, but it was certainly a relaxing experience.
We then moved over to Eureka Springs for a week. A far more prosperous tourism community which felt almost artificial in some ways after the grittier Hot Springs.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
However, it was a nice way to finish out our big travels for the year. We had some great photo walks through town and generally enjoying some last moments on the road.
You can see the full gallery of Yellowstone photos here. And a small gallery from Hot Springs / Eureka Springs here.