Shifting Gears

coconino national forest campsite

As I begin the entry, the words that first come to mind are “This Is It”. It’s Friday morning of Memorial Day Weekend. I’m watching the sunrise through the pines. The only sounds to be heard (other than the whistling of the tea kettle and the tap-tap-tap of Dottie’s toenails on the floor) have been a pack of coyotes in the distance and the first calls of early rising birds. We’re “dispersed camping” in the Coconino National Forest, south of Flagstaff, and things couldn’t get much more perfect for us. red flowerOur food stores and fresh water tank are full, our waste tanks aren’t. We have good cell phone coverage, the satellite internet receiver found its signal quicker than usual, and we even pick up the NBC station out of Phoenix. Although we are surrounded by trees, we have enough sky for adequate solar gain to recharge the battery bank. This is exactly what we had fantasies of when we set the rig up. We haven’t spent nearly enough time living this way.

One of the challenges of our annual pilgrimage to Seacliff is that it puts us on the road over Memorial Day Weekend, one of the biggest camping periods of the year, so we end up competing with everyone else. Each year we stress about available space, up until the time that we actually find a place to be. We may have stumbled upon the answer to this recurring problem. Of course, we’ll see how the rest of the weekend progresses. Maybe next time we’ll plan to spend a week. The sense of peace and quiet are in sharp contrast from the past couple of nights, spent in parking lots along the interstate as well as the perpetual cacophony that we’ll be in the midst of soon enough.

yellow-headed blackbirdNot only are we experiencing a change of place, but a change of season. Back in South Central Texas, bird migration has peaked, wildflowers are well past their prime, and summer has arrived, regardless of what the calendar says. Here, it is early spring. It snowed last week. The wildflowers are just coming on, and we’ve caught up with the migrating birds.

Now, a little about the past week…

We’ve found it to be something of a universal truth that the longer you stay in one place, the more stuff you tend to accumulate, and the more stuff tends to get spread out. Having been in our “big house” for almost 8 months, even though we made a conscious choice to reduce our support of the Texas economy, that truth became evident. Preparing for departure is always a challenge, especially when someone else is going to stay in your home during your absence. The process of moving out seemed to drag on for an eternity…and we really were not satisfied with the way we left things when we finally said “enough!” and hit the road.

yellow flowerOur choice to be nomadic has many wonderful things about it, but it is not without challenges: walking away from gardens that you’ve spent hours, days, weeks, even months to establish and nurture, and tried (many times in vain) to protect from the voracious appetites of the omnipresent Hill Country white-tailed deer (and more recently, armadillos), “unplugging” from a network of people that you’ve worked hard to connect with (fortunately, Facebook will help maintain some contact as we wander), or (internet junkies that we are) trading a stable fiber-optic-as-fast-as-we’re-willing-to-pay-for-connection for one that costs half again as much for about 1/5 the bandwidth and speed, latency, and a “Fair Access Policy” that limits our daily usage to about 375 Mb per day.

Each season, we’re finding it more difficult to untangle the knots that bind us to “home”. On our first morning out, Laura had the urge to turn around and go back. After seeing five “life birds”, that urge seemed to fade. We spent two lovely days at South LLano River State Park, watching birds and playing in the river. Daytime highs were nearly 100 and we had to run the AC 2 out of 3 nights to be cool enough to sleep.

Prairie Dog Fork of the Red RiverAfter an overnight stop at Waylon Jennings Memorial RV Park in Littlefield, Texas we continued on to explore Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. A lovely park, but the Grand Canyon it isn’t. We did get great views of Mississippi Kites, Black-Headed Grosbeaks,and Bullocks Orioles. Our plan was to just spend one night, but due to forecasted high winds we decided to layover one more night. That didn’t work out quite as expected; we ended up being evacuated a few hours later due to a wildfire that was racing towards the park. At last report, the fire was still burning and the park was still closed. The evacuation center directed us to the local Walmart for the night. In the morning, we took the opportunity to pick up a few things we had on our shopping list before heading for Interstate 40. Unfortunately, the winds that were supposed to abate did not. The crosswinds were strong enough that there were times I was not willing to go more than 50mph. Fire at Palo Duro CanyonFortunately, we drove out of them as we traded Texas in for New Mexico. Wednesday night we slept in the parking lot of the Sky City Casino Hotel before making our way to the little piece of heaven we’re currently enjoying.

Despite the loveliness here, we are already making plans to move on. Maybe we’re just a little gun-shy after our Palo Duro Canyon experience but the winds are back up and we don’t feel safe staying in a national forest filled with holiday campers committed to the notion of campfires despite red flag warnings. Pulling a trailer in those same winds doesn’t seem like a good idea either, particularly on the interstate. It’s a dilemma.

3 thoughts on “Shifting Gears

  1. Mom

    Thanks for the update. Seeing Shaun,Michele for weekend is great. She has lots of pots of beautiful flowers for deck, etc. Now if rain stops so they can stain the deck. Is to be warmer but still rain. Great surprise when Steve and Leeanne came and brought lunch. He was tired but pleased. His van was at race.he was trying to figure out how Leeanne could drive both home and h could sleep. I am only one awake. Since we couldn’t see you two your updayeuupdate was great. Did you like Cracker Barrel? Helen’s phots have been wonderful. What great vacation they are having! Are you moving on today! Love and miss you, mom

  2. Laura

    Sounds like you had a fun day, Mom. Glad Steve surprised you. It was a nice treat to eat out at Cracker Barrel but we ate too much. As soon as we walked in the door it was obvious why you like it so much. I don’t know if they are all built the same but at the one in Flagstaff you have to go through the gift store to get to the restaurant. I could so see you shopping while Dad naps in the car. Kids should be home today and we are ahead of schedule. It is windy but reasonable and if that holds, we’ll get to Seacliff late afternoon on Monday.

  3. Brad

    Happy trails to you guys. I’d like to take off and ramble across the country but we have too many knots tieing us down here. We will leave for Colorado for the month of August to escape the Texas heat.

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