January 11, 2003 - Alaska Plans
It's nice to have the weather as an excuse to stay inside this weekend. Since I go to work when it's still dark and leave work after the sun has already set, it feels like I have no life of my own during the entire week. So I need the weekends to rejuvenate and just have some time for catching up with myself. Basically I just look at this time as paying my dues and making the money that's going to get me to Alaska.
I received confirmation of my reservation at Anchorage RV Park yesterday and it's been fun getting all the brochures and books I've ordered about the trip itself (about 2,500 miles), the route to take and the roads to avoid, the sights not to miss, info on getting through and what to see in Canada along the way. My first stop will probably be Vancouver, BC, about 320 miles from here. There are a few very helpful bulletin boards and forums sponsored by the RV clubs I belong to, and my fellow full-time journeyers who have been down the same road where I'm headed have been very informative and supportive. It also seems like there's some great synchronicity at play now, too, since it looks like a couple of my Austin friends may be in Anchorage during the same time, and my favorite couple of RVers whom I met here in Portland will be there, making it the 50th state that they've visited together.
It also looks like my mom may be able to join me in Anchorage for the return trip south and she sounds excited like a little kid about it, too. I've really been missing my mommy lately, so that will be great. I've really been missing my kids, also. If anyone asks what is the hardest part of what I'm doing I'd have to say that's it - the not being there for the everyday sort of things - making "mommy" soup when they're sick, the kisses and hugs missed - that's the biggest price I pay for this journey I've chosen. But sometimes passion comes with a price and right now at least I am willing to pay it to follow mine.
It's also a little like the cosmic tables have turned, also. When I was trying to be and stay close to them and keep them my babies, they were wanting to grow up and be away from me. And it wasn't always easy to recognize that just because I wanted to keep them close by and safe from the big bad world, it was more important to foster a sense of independence in them - to encourage them to explore their own worlds and fulfill their own dreams. I hope that they will now allow me that same opportunity and not begrudge their mom's journey too much. So while it still hurts to hear my baby say she misses her mommy, I also hope that by demonstrating and proving the possibility of what some would say is impossible, that they will take that proof to their own hearts - that my granddaughter will know because she has seen it done - that she has the power to make her dreams reality. I hope that will serve a purpose at least as helpful as my mere presence would be if I were there not being true to myself and my own dreams.
March 14, 2003 - It's fun being a bum!
At 5:00 pm today it was official - I am finally unemployed again. Yippee! That job had really become a chore and I was so glad my assignment there was finally over. I have never been so glad to be "fired" from a job in my life. Once again, though, whenever I gripe about having to work at law offices, the people I work with turn out to be so cool that I can't regret having met them. Maybe it's something about cities named Portland, but this is the only other time I was given a going away party. They didn't make it a total surprise like the people in Maine did, but it touched me just as deeply. Besides making my favorite treats for a morning brunch, they took me out to happy hour after work and let me learn a little more about them which will make me miss them all the more - very cool people here.
But this turn of events gives me the opportunity to head on out earlier, and boy am I ready to hit the road. After being in one place the longest I've been in one place so far, I can practically hear my house screaming at me "Hey, have you forgotten that I have wheels???!!!"
Lesson learned: I need much more physical sunshine in my life than is possible in the Pacific Northwest in the wintertime. The constant grayness, dreariness and dampness is depressive to me and next winter will definitely find me somewhere in the heat and sun. And if one more person tells me what an unusually dry winter this has been, I'm just gonna have to hit them. I honestly don't understand how this whole state doesn't just wash away. I wish I could be at peace with where I am wherever I am, but I'm just not yet that evolved, I guess.
I've experienced quite a bit of uneasiness and insecurity lately - lots of people I've talked to say that they, too, are just basically more on edge. The tension in this country which directly or indirectly could involve every other nation in the world is affecting each of us in different ways, depending in some part on which way you stand on the war issue, but the affect is unavoidable.
In the practical world, as I watched the price of gas escalate, I began to question the wisdom of taking such a long trip to Alaska. I argued with myself about how expensive it was going to be - how many things could go wrong -- and how it made more sense for me to just stay around here, because God knows there's plenty of glorious sights just in the Pacific Northwest area alone to keep anyone occupied for the entire summer. And God also knows that the glorious summers here are the only reasonable justification for spending a winter here. And the thoughts went on and on and around and around.
I spent a lot of time agonizing over the decision, taking into consideration as many points of view as I could think of ---- and as always when I analyze things to death, I wound up more torn and more confused the more I thought.
It's funny because I've been playing with getting a web page online, and that's teaching me a couple of things. First of all, that learning such complicated new software (Dreamweaver) for someone just moderately computer literate is gonna take time and patience, and for the official impatient queen here those things are always in short supply. But besides that, in reviewing my old journal entries since beginning this journey, I've learned how much I've let me spirits fall. Even though I have no doubts about this life I've chosen, I've let things like the aches & pains and health concerns I've been experiencing in the past year lead me into - or at least at the edge of - obsessive worry, doubt, and other invasive negative thoughts. Reading back on how positive and intuitively I started out has made me remember what I want instead of what I've been settling for - to enjoy each day of the trip and keep looking out the window at the sights along the way instead of living in the dark clouds.
The final decision came after prayer and meditation asking for guidance with this choice. Very clearly, the first thing that popped in my mind was a question thrown back at me. "What would you do if you had no fear?" I had to laugh because when taken to that basic a point, the answer was clear - I wanted to go to Alaska. Maybe it didn't make sense, and certainly it was not the practical choice. But I didn't start this journey to be practical - and if I had let fear rule 2 years ago I would not have experienced all the wonders I've seen.
Maybe, also, at this point in my life I need the challenge and the victory of pulling off something that big all by myself. I've been in denial for months now about Don returning to Texas in May. Even though I had initially conceived of my full-time RVing life as a solo one, Don turned out to be the best traveling companion I could have ever asked for. Now the thought of going on alone is a bit daunting, but largely thanks to him and his constant support over the last couple of years, I know that I am capable of taking care of myself in this journey, even if I don't believe it myself sometimes. I still have no idea how I will get over simply missing him being with me, though, because I know that will be intensely difficult.
But I finally decided it was best for me to go to Alaska now especially since I had fears about it. It's only when I move through my fear instead of giving in to it that I feel best about myself. And no matter how I justified it, or where else I would go, my not doing what I want to do - what I've dreamed of and worked for during a dismal winter - would feel like giving in and giving up - and especially now I don't need that drain on my self esteem. I think it's important for me to know that I truly can do this all by myself at this point in my life - when I'm torn between feeling proud of myself for taking such a risk as full time RVing can be, and feelings of terror because I'm not employed at a stable job building a retirement fund with full insurance benefits, etc. But this is my choice and I absolutely have no regrets for allowing myself this dream. So I guess the best way to do it is with as much of a full-tilt-boogey attitude as possible.
Thankfully, the RV community is very friendly and helpful and gives a feeling of companionship and "being in this together." That really is one of the things that's most cool about RVing - people who are living the lifestyle they choose and love just tend to be more generous and giving, I think, and want to share it whenever possible. On a metaphysical level, this society more closely gets the principal "We Are One" and that is attractive to me.
It's all a matter of perspective anyway. It's 2,500 miles from where I am now to Anchorage. It's about the same from where I am now back to Austin. So basically I'm halfway to Alaska anyway, and it would be a shame to turn back now, don't you think?
April 4, 2003
I've spent 2 full days now with my map program, planning my route, highlighting the Milepost (the Bible necessary for Alaska travel) and surfing every Alaska web site I can. It's fun getting down to the nitty gritty and the fantasy now seems more real and yet more surreal every day. Sometimes I see the pictures of those mountains unbelievably tall and majestic and how moose roam freely in the midnight sun, that bears are a common sight from the highways and catching sight of eagles in flight is not a rarity - and I just can't believe I'm going to get to see all of that with my own two eyes, not just flat pictures on a page or through the lens of someone else's camera.
I've tried to plan enough to be reasonably prepared, while still leaving room for changes and unforeseen adventures that may come up along the way. Basic idea is to leave on the 13th of this month and to spend the rest of April in Vancouver area. There are some amazing things to see just in that area alone. After that, I head out alone and plan to drive about 200 miles a day or less with many stops in BC and the Yukon along the way. I've decided that my first long term stop will be Valdez, then the Kenai Peninsula and Homer. Around the first of July I will be in Anchorage to await my mom's arrival in mid month.
One of my RV buddies said the second best thing about an Alaska trip is the planning of it, and while it is enjoyable, it's also a bit overwhelming at times. I just figured that by the time I get to and around all the sites I want to see in Alaska, come back through the redwoods in California and back to Austin, I will have driven over 8,600 miles. Wow! I need to go to bed now to digest that and keep dreaming...April 14, 2003
It finally feels more real every day - sometimes I feel like my list of things to do is growing rather than diminishing no matter how many items I check off, but we've given notice of our departure date and they have a list of 30 people waiting to take our places, so barring anything major unforeseen, we will be leaving Portland next Monday.
I really am making headway at least on my list-of things-that-must-be-done-before-Alaska. I had to bring the RV in today for repair to the furnace, tomorrow I have to deal with the water heater smoking up the side of the outside vent (a problem I thought had been dealt with 2 weeks ago) and the next day to Goodyear to fix the slow leak in the right front tire. Of course, I have spent time bitching about all this unexpected expense and hassle, while also trying to be thankful that they happened now when they can be dealt with better than when I'm on the Alcan.
I spent a lot of time and ended up with a lot of sore muscles yesterday from scrubbing the roof and vents on top of the RV. I felt that I should at least try to do what maintenance I can manage by myself, since so much of it is necessary for safe travel and upkeep. Do-it-yourself labor saves money and I like the feeling of taking care of my own house. Don offered to do it for me because he remembered the look on my face the last time I got up there, but I know I need to learn to do these things for and by myself, and the sooner the better since he won't be with me after Vancouver. I don't even want to talk about that.
The effort was exhausting enough for someone with severely limited upper body strength, but what really got me was the utter terror I experienced getting to the top of that ladder and climbing onto the roof of my house. I never particularly considered myself to be afraid of heights, but somehow that 12 feet felt 12 times that high, especially when I actually stepped from the ladder onto the roof. That 8-1/2 feet looked more like 8 inches wide when I was trying to keep my balance on wet fiberglass. Don was great about handing me things I needed so that I wouldn't have to keep coming up and down, and when I was finally finished, I sat up there at the edge for about 15 minutes communing with the birds and God trying to find the courage to turn around and stick my foot out in search of that little narrow step on that little narrow ladder while maintaining a death grip on that little narrow handrail.
I tried reasoning that thousands of people climb up on top of their RV's successfully every day, and then tried creatively visualizing me reaching the bottom in one piece. Unfortunately, the image of me sprawled on the ground with broken parts being pissed off that my Alaska trip would be postponed once again was stronger, so I finally called plaintively: "Donnnn - I'm ready to come down now." He came up the ladder and stood there coaching and coaxing me in the disembarkation process assuring me I could do it. I wasn't convinced, but I finally managed to get down in time for the rain's arrival to christen all my hard work.
Now I'm trying to catch up with email and make some more progress on the web page since I don't know how accessible internet access will be at least until I settle in Anchorage in July. I plan to post pictures along the way whenever possible and think this will be a much better way to share them rather than as attachments to the email updates I send out to friends and family. I think I'll just send out the updates with links to the web page containing the pictures.
As it looks now we will be leaving here a week from today, on Monday, the 21st. Our first stop will be somewhere in Washington near the Canadian border where Don is going to store his gun, and then on to Vancouver for a couple of weeks worth of exploration of Stanley Park and other B.C. attractions.
We've been seeing a resident bald eagle soaring around the river lately and that's been a nice preview of raptor watching to come in Alaska. Wow - it's really soon now - I'm really going to Alaska!
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