Opinel French Folding Kitchen Knife

I ate breakfast this morning on my friend’s porch in Prescott AZ. A left over piece of steak with a small omelet, fresh brewed coffee and buttered sourdough toast as I sat in the sun stretching like a sleepy dog in the non-humid, mountain surrounded wonder of this high desert. Whippoorwills punctuated waves of cicada white-noise. Breeze puffs rustled the junipers. I cut my steak with an Opinel French folding knife. We bought it in Portland just before we left – I have not had one of these knives since I was twenty four.

Karen and I are going to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in November of this year. Thanks. Everyone tells us that it is an accomplishment. I picked her up in Pluckimen New Jersey hitch hiking to the Delaware Water Gap in July 1975. We were hitched permanently before three months passed. But after only four years, with a two year old and a host of financial stresses, we had a huge fight, complete with me throwing a pot of beans through a glass window, and decided to split up.

The reasonable way to go about it (and we were very reasonable in those days; our mantra from the beginning was, “If it doesn’t work out we can always get divorced.”) was to simply sell all our stuff and separate. Of course we didn’t think about what would happen to our child – we were only 23 and didn’t think too deeply about anything back then (although we thought we were on top of it, children, especially children with children seldom are <grin>). But after that fight, we were determined to make the changes. As said, we were efficient if nothing else.

We sold most of our stuff. We calmed down. The stress abated and the extra money eased the crunch. And we realized that we didn’t need to split up after all.

BIG LIFE LESSON: Too much stuff makes stress – when in doubt, dump it. Now days I call that the major reset, back then we felt we’d shed the world’s weight; all before we’d been together five years.

It pissed my dad off royally when we sold the 76 Honda Civic he’d bought us. (Come to think of it, we did that a few more times as well.) But we were debt free and unburdened. And so we decided to take a road trip. That has often been our default position. Lost a job? Take a road trip. Beginning a new chapter? Take a road trip. Overwhelmed with complexity? Take a road trip. And so on.

I think I may have mentioned in an earlier post that our big wedding present was a North Face mountain tent complete with a snow tunnel. I also got a pair of Pivetta Hiking boots. And though I’d always been a musical geek who’d rather sit around all night and play guitar, we considered ourselves very out-doorsy and athletic. Go figure. We rounded out our camping gear with some new back packs (including a Kelty frame to carry the boy) and outfitted ourselves for the a Big Adventure.

We collected wooden utensils and a couple of Opinel French folding kitchen knives, reduced our necessaries to fit into two backpacks, taught the boy to use a toilet and bought one way plane tickets to LA. Once there, we’d hitch up the coast and visit some friends in Santa Cruz. For several weeks before leaving we practiced taking cold showers with the hose outside in our bathing suits.

Fast forward to now.

The paraphernalia has morphed, but the concept is the same. We have made similar road trips repeatedly over the past forty years. This one, a journey of many purposes is also an echo of that first adventure. And the items we’ve chosen are as important as the unfolding route. We only had a trace of a plan to begin. But providence or spirit or the highway wind has nudged us to revisit most all of the places we had been. It is humbling and glorious.

On the way through New Jersey we paused to note how different the corner was where I met Karen. Almost nothing remains. Just up the road we glanced at the spot where we were married outside at a garden by the Bridgewater town hall. We met with friends and family all along the way. Last Saturday we camped at a site alongside the Rio Grande. The only spot available was the same shelter we’d been in with the kids on Karen’s pre-Goddard quest in 93. Down the road from The Pilar Yacht Club raft rental.

When we get back home we have a monstrous amount of work to do – so in many ways this reflective odyssey is like taking a deep sweet breath before beginning a marathon. Our muscles become toned, our skin tanned; our lungs expand to hold more of the precious air and the unclouded vistas dilate before us. I knew our hearts would expand. I anticipated the goodness of it. But this trip, with all the revisits and spiral loop backs, where we meet our younger selves at each turn, is having a temporal effect. I feel younger every day. I turned twenty the year I married Karen. I will turn sixty four days after our fortieth. But time runs backward now. Every day I recognize more wonder, my eyes open wider. This road trip has become a metaphor, but I guess they always do. We quest out into our world only to realize the map is our skin. And the lines that grow are the paths we take, have taken and will take again until sundown where we get to rest by the whispering river, the brush spotted hills sliding into shadow.

 

 

 

 

And then I cut myself washing the fucking knife.

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Soylent Tornadoes

soyentIt’s hard to write when you are on a road trip. Harder still when you are camping. But when the mosquitoes and tornadoes come at you, it’s time to hunker down in a hotel with a bottle of wine and a king sized bed and rest up.

Hot shower. It was good. Maybe not as cool as taking a bath in a Minnesota lake by moonlight (with several loons cat-calling from a safe distance), but refreshing and necessary. We did a couple of loads of laundry and cleaned up our car refrigerator and ice chest. As a matter of fact, the dryer is just finishing up the last few pairs of socks.

We drove an extra couple hundred miles so that this break won’t slow down the trip. And since we ate leftovers in the dark, we have last night’s dinner fixings ready for tonight.

All good and well.

This morning I noticed that the “weather” we experienced was actually a catastrophic weather system. We stopped at a hotel in Houghton Lake around 10:30. The desk clerk was cryptic. We had no idea what she meant by “If you don’t have a reservation we don’t have any rooms. I don’t have enough power to run my pumps.”

We went on to Claire. The Days Inn there was pretty dark. Most of the street lights were dark. I found some guys in the meeting room (the front desk was dark and unmanned) who reminded me of the storm chasers in the movie Twister. They had all sorts of portable electronic equipment set up on tables. One of them told me a transformer blew up, that the power was half off all over the county. I told Karen I felt like a storm chaser.

We diverted off to route 10. By the time we go to Midland the lights were back on and things looked normal if deserted – even for midnight. This morning I saw the news about the damage. Two tornadoes. Cars crushed. Roofs torn asunder.

We were fine, traveling in our protected bubble, as usual.

King sized bed, air conditioning, hot shower and a mini fridge. All the luxuries – and a complimentary hot breakfast (with shitty coffee and stale biscuits). Finn passed out hard as soon as the door was closed – he didn’t even get up when I went down to breakfast. There was a news story on in the morning room about a 27 year old guy who created a new meal beverage call Soylent.

I wondered out loud if he knew that in the movie, Soylent Green, it was made of people because there was no food left due to climate change. That film is from 1973. Messages are coming in from all over. Weird weather, prophets on ABC morning news. And several of our friends “just happen” to be within a hundred miles. No one got hurt – but the lightning show was spectacular.

Karen says the clothes are dry, we gotta hit the road.

See ya later.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

 

first leg map

 “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”

-everyman/woman the day before leaving on a six week road trip.

NOTE: This was written before we left – we have only just now gotten to the point where we can post it. Note to fellow road trippers: There is no cell service in Yellowstone – and there is no 4G in Montana (if you are on MetroPCS)

Tomorrow is the day. Karen made the reservations at the first few campgrounds. We know where we will be on each of the first 8 days. We have made lists. We have amended those lists. We have met with financial adversity and defeated the foe – or at least bludgeoned it into a temporary coma. We have tested the tent, and the hammocks. We homemade deodorant, bug spray and sunblock. We are almost ready to load the car…

Christ. How the hell are we going to get all this into the car?!?

I am a few doors down on Lovejoy in the Alphabet district enjoying the smell of roasting coffee at The Local Roasting Company taking a break from packing while Karen gets stuck with long needles; her last acupuncture treatment before we depart. The Portland Streetcar runs along Lovejoy, the NS train just blew by out front. The door is open, the temperature is perfect. What a cool town! Me? I am worried about the weather everywhere else. Tell me why I am leaving Oregon when the weather is the best of the year? We have been out of state traveling for the last four. And though we vow never to do it again (that’s the same thing we say after EVERY road trip too).

If you have read any of our other preliminary articles about this road trip, you will already know we intend on making yogurt, kombucha and sprouts while we are on the road. The plan is to camp cheap, cook meals and photograph/scribble our way east, then south, then west and north.

Our son, Justin (who will have a birthday while we are on the road and we’re sorry not to be here) is holding down the fort. He worked with us on the building our camping inventory which includes hammocks with mosquito netting, our stove, Finn’s backpack and our camera bag. We can’t praise Sierra Trading Post enough for the amazing prices on our Mountainsmith accessories.

Our first stop is Craters of the Moon in Idaho. From there we are going to Yellowstone. It’s our first time. In the past, most of our road trips have been on a tighter time budget. We are stretching out on this one; trying to slow down and see.

I want to make an interactive map, but it is enough to just get all our clothes washed. Maybe after we get to Vermont.

On top of all this, we found out last week that our rent check bounced because the bank was withholding taxes. We told them not to, but something got mixed up on their website, so we discovered that we were not only very late on July but the money for August wasn’t there anymore. Par for the course, as they say. On the winning front, our tenant at the farm agreed to pay their rent early and for some reason Shell, Exxon and Texaco have chosen to extend enough credit to do the whole trip. That means we are leaving with only $50, but we are trusting that the universe (or the muse of road trips, Varvara) will provide. She always does.

And on top of all this, we still need to get everything into the car leaving enough space for us (and Finn). Photos to come –

My break is about over, so I will have to close this now. Check out our funding campaigns – there are several ways you can get involved – there is still time for us to route our journey in your direction. Drop us a line.

Chao

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The Writers Road Trip

This is a reprint of an article we wrote for The Writer in the World.

Descended at least culturally if not genetically from the ranks of our most exulted literary road warriors – writers like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, and Ken Kesey – my wife Karen Walasek and I have exercised and exorcised our wanderlust cyclically throughout our forty year marriage. There have been many, many journeys punctuated by periods of growing and transplanting roots. In the first twenty years of our marriage we lived in sixty different homes. We moved so often that family and friends were annoyed at having to repeatedly revise their address books. Banana boxes housed our possessions during those tempestuous early years.

We drove east, north, south and west, crossing the continental United States at least fourteen times. Most of these journeys were made by car, though a few began with planes or trains, and there was one drive-away rental car that we wrecked in Zanesville, Ohio during a snowstorm. We hitched home from Tucson to New Jersey for Christmas one year and got stuck on a milk run Greyhound from Pecos, Texas which became the scenic backdrop for my novel, Jam. Talk about long, strange trips.

As a novelist, songwriter and artist, I think of traveling as the little known tenth muse. I call her Varvara, or Βαρβαρα if you are Greek. Varvara delights in our discovery of ourselves through the strangeness of others. She coaxes and teases, leading by a trail of the tiniest breadcrumbs, whispering in her raspy alto. Her song is like the tug of the stars on my heart.

Most writers have used prompts. I assign timed ones to my students as a way to bypass the censor and get down to the deep stuff. A month long road trip is a bit like immersing your whole body in a writing prompt. Motion occupies the conscious mind and lets your creative self – wander – absorbing the peoplescape. All you have to do is copy down your impressions.

We began referring to these trips as vision quests after our “vacation” to New Mexico in the early 1990s took a surreal detour from the normal planned family excursion. Karen was about to attend her first Goddard undergraduate residency as we set off from our home in eastern Pennsylvania during the hottest part of summer toward the Southwest, bisecting Tennessee on Interstate 40. Our favorite movie at that time was The Milagro Bean Field War, Robert Redford’s 1988 film version of John Nichol’s novel. The movie became a template for our trip as we wandered around New Mexico in search of Joe’s bean field. It was a sweaty trial, six of us pressed into an overheating Volvo wagon. We didn’t know that the town they used in the film was chosen more for aesthetics than fact (the novel was a fictionalization of a real water rights war) or that plastic bean plants were driven into the dry soil for the filming.  Ruby Archuleta’s goad to Charley Bloom, the reluctant editor of Milagro’s alternative paper La Voz, surfaced as commentary on the deficiencies of our preparation: the air conditioning “wasn’t up to it.” The voice of our muse, Varvara, narrated the inner landscape as the sun purified us.

We didn’t plan it, but a member of Karen’s Goddard cohort lived at the mouth of the road to our primitive campsite. She prepared Anasazi beans, brown rice and corn bread, a gift that connected our modern family to the indigenous cliff dwellers of an ancient land. Looking outside her kitchen window at the neighboring straw bale adobe buildings across the fields, she explained that Joe’s actual bean field had grown right there, next to the Pilar Yacht Club, a whitewater rafting outfit.  Back then we were surprised, called it serendipity (which is another favorite movie.) These days we know it was part of Varvara’s plan.

Road trips have always punctuated the geographically stable stretches of our marriage. It’s a cycle independent of season.  We grind through our daily lives, making small headway in our various endeavors when the tumblers unexpectedly align, opening our sights to new possibilities. Once again, that lock has fallen open.

We bought a new/old SUV and a DSLR camera. We will journey across the north to Vermont through Canada, diagonally dissect the southeast to visit our farm in Tennessee and then power on to Prescott, Arizona via Interstate 40, retracing our earlier journey through Taos. We plan to return home to Oregon along the coast of sun parched California.

In this post Clinton/Bush/Obama culture, this road trip promises to braid new stories with the journeys and vision quests of the past four decades. Varvara is whispering themes of resistance, indigenous identity, and the impulse to decolonize as we head out to embrace the country’s changing narratives, both dominant and otherwise.  It is going to be a trip. We even bought a mini refrigerator and a blender for the car with plans to make yogurt and sprouts on the road. Maybe kombucha, too! You can come along.

Most importantly, we are journeying with our senses and writing muscles tuned. As the fabric of the land and American psyche impresses itself upon us, we are hopeful she will feed us with wonder and possibilities for a more resilient future. This summer, Karen is beginning her fourth degree, a low residence PhD program in Sustainability Education at Prescott College. And I am embarking on my third, also in sustainability, at Goddard’s Vermont campus. Both happen in August. Updates can be found here. I hope you will join us for the ride and do let us know if we are in your neighborhood. We’d love to connect. Who knows what plans Varvara has for all of us?

This is not the first road trip and it will not be the last.

Additionally, we are running a crowd funding campaign Wishlist on GoFundMe. Most of these items are going to become necessary before we are done (some, like flushing the fluids in the car are necessary now) and there are a few luxuries on there – check them out. We would love it if you just want to donate the item if you have it or can provide it. Contact us via social media or email.

I will update this post when the campaigns go live.

Updates for our preparations (we are leaving August 1) can be found here in successive posts as they develop – so please follow our blog as well. As said, after we depart, we expect to publish updates, which will include articles by Karen and Ron, photos and videos (if we get a Go Pro, we will publish Finn Cam – the record of Finn’s adventures from a dog’s eye view) every couple of days. I hope you will join us for the ride and do let us know if we are in your neighborhood. We’d love to connect.

 

We Are Going to Road Trip!

Our Crowd Funding site is almost done.

Follow us!

finn3

 

We Are Going to Road Trip, Again (yes, all of us)

Ron picked up Karen hitchhiking in the summer of 1975 when they were both nineteen. He was on an errand to buy groceries and she was on a camping expedition to the Delaware Water Gap, complete with backpack, dog, and ex-boyfriend in tow. There is a scene in the SF movie Minority Report where Agatha, a gifted precognitive, guides the Tom Cruise character through a crowded mall. It’s about timing and knowing when to move. (If you own the movie you can find the scene at 1:36:36 or, as long as Fox doesn’t ban it, check it out below.)

We like to think of our first meeting in this way, as a carefully synchronized event, one that wouldn’t have happened, if either party had doubted and waited a moment too late, or jumped the gun and left a moment too soon. All fate and possibility exists in finding the precise time and place.

And yet because we each trusted that tiny voice inside that said, “it’s time”, even if we had no idea why we were putting one foot in front of the other, because we listened and responded when we heard the instructions, “Go now!” we have been able to carve a life and relationship that will have lasted for 40 years this November. Road Trips have punctuated our marriage since that first sunny day. You could say that our successful lifelong relationship was built on the insights and worldview gained by trusting the myriad possibilities found on the road.

There have been at least fourteen cross country road trips, with and without children; sometimes with dogs, cats and a few with horses. Early on, Ron was in a band named Frostwater that toured around New England in a big Dodge van. When our son Justin was nine days old we were on the road. Touring with a band is really just one big road trip punctuated by tiny flashes of stage light, floating in a river of burned all night service station coffee. During this phase Frostwater played with luminaries like Pete Seeger and Alan Ginsburg.

Haul Away is a Frostwater cut on the Clearwater II album

More from Frostwater

The richness that these experiences afforded is greater that the wealth in any retirement account. We forgave ourselves the cost of drinking all that bad coffee. Eventually we learned to better prepare for our trips and have even cooked up a few meals in a wok on a hotplate when we couldn’t build a fire.

We have driven most sizes of moving truck, with and without tow dollies. We have done it via low cost all-nighters, and we have stayed in cushy hotels. We’ve car camped, wilderness camped (one wedding present was a North Face mountaineering tent that we used until we lost the poles on a road trip from Tucson down to San Blas Mexico). It’s as if we were born with a strange nomadic gene that erupts without warning.

All Ways Near, from Out of my Love by Ron Heacock

More from Ron Heacock

It’s not wanderlust exactly. It’s more like a call to find connection. It starts quiet and soft, but t grows louder, electrifying the air with the fury and drama of lighting finding ground.

Road Trips provides a special vitamin that helps you see. It’s true, travel cures complacency. Choosing a different road from the crowd is worth more than the cost of the disruption to your normal life. Stretching out and meeting new people in new places, for no other reason than to do it, is the best way to widen your world view. And it will teach you right away that the world is bigger than you thought. That’s not only fun, it is exhilarating. It is also liberating. The time has come; we are going to road trip! Can you hear the whisper; did you know that you can come along?

A proper road trip has to begin with a reason. That’s so the planning and preparation can be justified. You see, without the proper justification we would never let ourselves dream. We have too much work to do (NOTE: we work at what we want to, but it doesn’t mean we don’t work.) This time, we are beginning new degree programs. Karen is beginning her fourth, a low residence PhD program in Sustainability Education at Prescott College. And I am embarking on my third, also in Sustainability, at Goddard’s Vermont campus. Both happen in August.

Our basic route will take us across the North through Montana, cutting down through Michigan, East past Buffalo and Albany and Brattleboro, stopping in Plainfield Vermont for a week. Then we will be over to the coast – Provincetown and Martha’s Vineyard, down through Morristown, NJ, stopping off at our farm in Pulaski Tennessee before finding our way to Prescott Arizona. We have a conference in San Francisco in September – after that we will head home. Whew!

Because it marks the beginning of a new chapter, this road trip will also be a vision quest. Several of our past road trips have been also. Which brings me to the purpose for these crowd funding campaigns, there are two. You can follow along with us as we go. There are several ways you can help. Here’s how:

  1. Tell everyone you know (in person, email or through social media) who might be interested in Road Trips, Writing, Decolonization, Self Determination, Freedom and Resistance.
    1. Hook them up with the Blog, or our FaceBook Page. Like us!
    2. Share links to our crowd sourcing sites
  2. Help us determine our route
    1. We have some places we have to be at certain times, but the rest is unformed and in the ethers
    2. We want to read, speak and sing at impromptu events, house concerts, writer’s groups and book events See the blog for updates, songs, videos, pictures and articles.
    3. We would love to visit with you (Ron is a kick ass cook – we ran HillHouse Writers for close to a decade – we fed our guests meals to die for!)
    4. We want to include interesting places in our journey – we are out to make stories.
  3. We will be writing, photographing and filming as we go. We are seeking opportunities to co-publish, reblog and promote. You can…
    1. Introduce us to outlets
    2. Publish our serialized journey on your platform
    3. Help us find sponsors, we are open to using and promoting products and services that are sustainable and ecofriendly. For example, we purchase a lot of equipment from REI
    4. You can suggest new products and services

We will be compiling this trip and future trips into a printed publications. It is possible that we will create a series. The perks that we are offering on our Indiegogo campaign include these books as well as organized ways that supporters can influence and become part of our story. You will be able to subscribe to our writings as well.

This is not the first road trip and it will not be the last.

Additionally, we are running a crowd funding campaign Wishlist on GoFundMe. Most of these items are going to become necessary before we are done (some, like flushing the fluids in the car are necessary now) and there are a few luxuries on there – check them out. We would love it if you just want to donate the item if you have it or can provide it. Contact us via social media or email.

 

Updates for our preparations (we are leaving August 1) can be found here as they develop – so please follow our blog as well. As said, after we depart, we expect to publish updates, which will include articles by Karen and Ron, photos and videos (if we get a Go Pro, we will publish Finn Cam – the record of Finn’s adventures from a dog’s eye view) every couple of days. I hope you will join us for the ride and do let us know if we are in your neighborhood. We’d love to connect.

 

Please Be Patient

We are new. More to come soon. Real soon. The funding pages are almost done, an article will be coming out in The Writer in the World from Goddard. We applied for and were approved for close to $2,000 in gasoline credits (which will help us get from here to there – we are dependent on student aid funds, so the ability to defer our fuel costs could be a lifesaver.

I am working on a Logo, a funding page and setting up the infrastructure.

Sponsors anyone? Please let us know in the comments!