Monday: The mist hangs heavy over the mountain tops, and the air is still and clammy. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains it has been a rainy spring and summer. Trees shimmer in dazzling shades of green and undergrowth is thick and deliciously tangled.
Right now as I look out over the deck from inside my daughter’s and son-in-law’s house, I watch two hummingbirds doing battle, buzzing past each other and circling back, both determined to keep the other from lingering too long at the bright red flower-shaped tubes sprouting from the hummingbird feeder.
Scattered around me on the hardwood floors like well-worn throw rugs is an assortment of dogs – Connor, snoring loudly, and Beasley with a happy eye trained on his beloved littermate Zeke, and my son’s old dog, Combo (his name parses his lineage). Sequestered in the back room is my son-in-law’s dog, Banjo, part boxer, part hound.
Banjo and Connor are sworn enemies. They’ve gotten into a couple nasty spats, so we keep them separated now. Whenever we are switching them back and forth, so they do equal time in solitary, they will walk stiffly past each other giving seriously meaningful side-eye.
I arrived back here Sunday afternoon. And don’t you know, I made it nearly 12,000 miles with no traffic incidents, on roads and freeways and interstates across twelve states, but 35 miles from home on I-81 in Tennessee, a semi-truck directly in front of me blew a tire with a loud pop, which explosion threw huge hunks of steel-belted tread back in my direction. To my left was a long string of traffic. With the heavy strands of tire coming at me, I tried to swerve and miss, but Roadcinante is limited in her swerving capabilities and also there was really nowhere to go.
As the pieces thundered underneath us, I hollered, “Shiiiiiitttt!” and hung onto the steering wheel. The minivan occupying the lane to my left slowed down and let me pull in front of them just as the semi pulled off onto the right shoulder.
It took a while for the surging adrenaline to abate. For the remaining miles as I climbed steadily upward I kept watch on all my gauges, worried something had been damaged, punctured, torn. But all seemed fine and I pulled up into the kids’ driveway around 5:30 p.m.
But then…the following morning, when I moved Roadcinante, I discovered a large wet puddle in the dirt where she had been parked.
I immediately found the leak (and let me just say right now how glad I am that I decided to follow the previous owner’s lead and never put anything solid in the system). Underneath Roadcinante, who had bravely soldiered through triple-digit heat, survived the deeply rutted roads at Arcosanti, healed her own brakes on the hill in California, warned me on the streets of Bozeman about the solenoids in the transmission that were about to go, and stoically absorbed the shock of hunks of rubber coming at her at 65 miles per hour, had suffered a breach in a joint in the “holding” tank (euphemism for pee-water) and was leaking that onto the ground at a steady drip-drip-drip.
The good news is, the holding tank is relatively small, and as I had just treated it, it was mostly water, and as it was only half full, it’s empty now. But I’ll put it on the repair list alongside Roadcinante’s generator, which has been acting weird and needs to be serviced anyway. I am imagining the grit and sand that must be in there. A veritable travelogue of my journey, the layers telling the “when” and “where” of my trip.
I’ll be heading out again later this month, traveling up to Hopkinsville, Kentucky to view the eclipse (a couple of months ago I secured a camping spot). The coordinators in Hopkinsville have arranged for a NASA scientist to be on hand for the day’s big event. And I already have my eclipse glasses, thanks to my dear friend in Eugene, Oregon!
For now, I’m mostly living and cooking and working in my kids’ house while sleeping in Roadcinante. One foot in, one foot out. Which is about how I feel. The road ribbons out behind me for thousands of miles, and as I sort through digital photo albums and compile notes, memories rise up.
That starry night in northern Florida. The 81-year-old man I met in La Grange, walking hundreds of miles to raise money for St. Jude’s Hospital. The cold mornings in Marfa, with the sun pushing the eastern boundaries. The heat waves coming off the border wall just south of Bisbee.
How the Pacific tugged not just at my feet but at something deeper, pulling me, mind and spirit, toward its power and beauty and deeply-held mysteries.
Wednesday: In March, while I was in New Mexico, I was contacted by a reader who wondered if I was coming to Portland, and if so, would I be interested in being interviewed for her radio show. Over the months we kept in touch, and in July I met and was interviewed by Dennise Kowalczyk for her KBOO radio show, The Politics of Living, which seeks to “elevate women’s voices” in the public arena.
Today the show is available here. The edited interview with me begins at around 17 minutes or so, but believe me, the whole show is worth a listen. Comic Sharon Lacey offers her philosophy on life as adventure and a regular segment of the show, “The She-Ra Solution,” offers historic perspectives on women who have made significant contributions to society but are often unknown.
Dennise also produces a podcast and will air our entire interview there. When it is available, I’ll provide the link.
Sunday: Yesterday I went to the Farmer’s Market, which I had missed mightily. I was glad to catch up with friends, and savored the gift of taking in the artfully arranged vegetables and flowers and felted wool hats and paintings, pottery and potted plants, photos and jewelry, baked goods and craft beers, all the while my foot tapping to the music of percussionists playing “Afro-lachian,” as their sign advertised.
A friend who shares my nomadic tendencies, immediately asked after our hellos, “So, how long are you here for?” I laughed and nodded. “Right,” I said.
I will move back into my house at the end of this month. But even that feels like a temporary situation. It seems as if, now unfettered, most of my belongings belonging to other people, and after discovering I can live and work in a 19-foot van without too much angst, the idea of being back in a house seems oddly overwhelming.
My home is 1,020 square feet. It is very small and decidedly modest. But after my months on the road, I fear it will seem cavernous, gulping.
At the same time, I will be grateful to have a kitchen again and, no question about it, glad for my own bed, which my daughter has pronounced “the most comfortable mattress in the world.” And I will listen again for the owls at night, and the rustle of deer moving beneath my bedroom window.
This morning it is 52°F and the breeze has autumn in it. The dogs are restive, looking for a patch of sun to lie in. By the time I’m back on my own front porch, the Canada Geese will be winging over the ridge tops, calling anxiously to each other in their migratory fervor. I will watch them, the fluid “V” of their traveling formation, and listen to their voices fading into the valleys, my heart trailing after.