Category Archives: Reflections

Gift #5: Freedom

As I wrote earlier, this trip has given us 5 unforgettable gifts.  The first gift is having the luxury of time to explore and meander. The second gift is being able to take the long way around and discover the road less traveled. The third gift is the shared passion Timm and I have for this journey.  The fourth gift is we have become emotionally closer to our family and friends.

The fifth and final gift is freedom.  It is hard to express how free we have felt these past 10 months.  We have been free in so many ways:

  • Free to wake up slowly every morning.  Free to lay in bed awhile longer and enjoy the warmth under the blankets.
  • Free to wander the country.  Free to visit whatever cool parks or tourist attractions we happen upon along the way.
  • Free to stay an extra day in a dispersed camping spot that is… well… free.
  • Free to follow the sun.  Free to pack up the RV and move on down the road because the weather is turning rainy or cold.
  • Free to sit for hours gazing at a warm campfire.  Free of guilty feelings about gazing at the campfire for hours.
  • Free to eat whatever we want because we know we’ll burn off the calories on tomorrow’s 8-mile hike.
  • Free of nearly all time commitments.  Free of appointments, meetings and reservations.
  • Free of nearly all health-related problems.  Free of all but only minor aches and pains.



A Birthday I’ll Always Remember

Our original plan was to end our adventure around my birthday November 4th at a great park somewhere in the desert southwest.  Fortunately our plan worked out that way.  My birthday was the second-last day of our adventure, and we spent the day in Grand Canyon National Park.

Flying over the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

We have visited many many amazing parks on our trip, but there is no place as truly grand as the Grand Canyon.  It’s such an iconic place that we’ve all seen so often in photos and movies, that when you first see it in person, it’s hard to wrap your mind around it.  Standing on the rim, the canyon appears larger than life, and yet it also appears two-dimensional and flat.  To really experience the canyon, to understand its immense size and scale, and to fully appreciate its beauty, you have to hike down into it and then fly over it.


Facebook Running Narrative – Part 2

In addition to writing this blog, I also post a steady stream of comments and photos on Facebook.  Since my Facebook posts are visible only to my family and friends, I’ve replicated them here for all to enjoy.  You can read Part 1 here, which chronicles the start of our trip January 26 through June 9.  The following posts are listed in chronological order from June 10 through September 30.  They provide a nice running narrative of our trip.


When there’s 22 hours of daylight, there’s no longer a need to rush.


We climbed a thigh-burning 1000 feet in a half mile for an incredible view of the turquoise glacier-fed Muncho Lake in British Columbia. Canadians don’t seem to like switchbacks… the trails go straight up!


Time: The Most Precious Currency

Time has come today
Young hearts can go their way
Can’t put it off another day
I don’t care what others say
— The Chambers Brothers, 1967

In January, I wrote an article about my two jars of marbles that mark the passage of time, one marble for each Saturday until I reach the age of 80.  Every Saturday, I move a marble from the one jar to the other.


Two jars of marbles

In the picture above, taken in January 2012, the jar on the left is the weeks past, and the jar on the right is the weeks ahead until I’m 80.  I’ve been doing this since I was 39.  This ritual helps me to be conscious of the passage of time in a visual way, as I watch the marbles move week after week, year after year, from one jar to the other.


Two marble tins

When I packed for the trip in January, I brought 50 marbles for the remainder of the weeks in 2012.  I placed them in two separate Altoids tins, one labeled “Weeks Past,” and the other labeled “Weeks Left.”


Should We Stay or Should We Go?

The end of our trip is approaching.  Our original plan was to finish our trip just after my birthday November 4th at Zion National Park in Utah.  When we reversed course at Death Valley in March–heading in a big counter-clockwise loop across the country instead of clockwise–our new plan was to finish our trip at Yosemite National Park in California.

Last week we spent five amazing days at Yosemite.  After all the parks we’ve visited—on this trip and in our twenty years of travelling together—Yosemite is our favorite park of all.  The weather was perfect, sunny and 70s every day (in spite of a snowstorm two days before we arrived).  The waterfalls weren’t flowing heavily (we would need to come in the spring for that).  But it was like visiting an old friend.  We had a terrific time, and perhaps it seemed like Yosemite would make a fitting grand finale to our trip of a lifetime.

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park


Phases of Our Trip

People tend to divide their lives into a series of phases, one leading to the next.  Phases are delineated by major progressions in our lives, such as leaving home to start college, moving from one city to another, getting married, having children, changing jobs or becoming a grandparent.  A new phase might also occur due to an unexpected event, such as winning the lottery or the death of a family member.  Some phases we bring upon ourselves with purpose and intent.  Sometimes, new phases are brought upon us due to random chance, the same random chance that has affected the entire universe since it was born 13.7 billion years ago.

Even our trip of approximately 1 year has distinct phases.  We tried to be conscious of each passing phase so we could improve upon the experience to ensure the next phase was even better.  We’re now starting to enter the final phase of our journey and then we’ll return to something that at least resembles normal life.  These final phases have yet to be written.

Here are the phases of our adventure so far.

Phase 1 – Preparing for the Trip
Timeframe – April 2011 to February 2012
Duration – 11 months
Location – Cricket Lane in Union, Kentucky
The day we left Cricket Lane
Description – The year of preparation for this trip was filled with giddy anticipation.  We had talked about going on an extended RV trip for years and finally, we felt the time was right.  Once we made the decision to go, I counted down the days until we would depart.  Every evening, I went to bed dreaming about wandering the country in an RV, hiking and exploring.  I remember getting ready for work with a brochure of an RV on the sink, so I could start the day thinking about our “new home.”  I made a list of the songs that reminded me of the trip.  I never looked forward to anything as much as I did this trip.

In addition to looking forward to the trip, we also spent the year getting ready to go.  We created a task list of about 250 items that had to be done, such as selecting, buying and equipping the RV, buying health care, getting our investments squared away, figuring out how to get mail while on the road, getting last minute doctors checkups, getting the dog shots up to date, etc., etc.


Gift #4: Closer to Family and Friends

Earlier, I wrote about the first 3 of 5 gifts this trip has given us.  The first gift is having the luxury of time to explore and meander.  The second gift is being able to take the long way around and discover the road less traveled.  The third gift is the shared passion Timm and I have for this journey.

The fourth gift is we have become emotionally closer to our family and friends.  This was a surprise and the opposite of what one might expect because we are physically very far away from everyone we love.

The Hoctor Family


An American’s View of Canada

We spent over a month in Canada this summer and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.  We felt warmly welcomed and right at home.  Canada and the United States are alike in many ways.  Both countries are thriving democracies and capitalistic societies, most citizens speak English, and the two countries have shared values about right, wrong, and the rule of law.  The border between Canada and the USA is the longest undefended border in the world and a model of peace between all nations.

But we’ve also noticed some obvious and some subtle differences between Canada and the USA that make each country unique.  Note that these are not scientific facts based on research and data.  Like all broad statements, they don’t apply to all Canadians or even to a majority of Canadians.  These are just some things we’ve observed during our limited time in Canada, from our exploration in a small part of a very big country, mostly in National Parks in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon.

A quick disclaimer:  I do not wish to offend any Canadians with my comments.  Also I do not wish to offend any Americans or people from other countries when I talk about how awesome Canada is.  These observations are for entertainment, humor and conversation purposes only.

The stunning Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park

Beautiful Land.  Canada is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Canada has been blessed with majestic mountains, crystal-clear turquoise lakes and rivers, endless forests, and an abundance of glaciers.  Even when we weren’t driving through the parks and just moseying along the regular countryside, the land was often green, pristine and beautiful.


Close Encounters of the RV Kind

While back home closing on our house, I got a chance to have breakfast with my dear friend Marcia McMillen.  We talked for 3 hours about life, spirituality, art, health, family, homes and careers.  And of course, we talked about our trip, as Marcia and her husband Tom have been two of our most avid blog readers and followers of our trip.  Marcia remembers things we wrote in the blog that even I’ve forgotten. She even brought notes of 3 questions her husband Tom wanted us to write about.  One of the three questions Marcia and Tom asked was:

“How do you and Timm get time apart?” 

The answer is we don’t. We spend virtually 24 hours a day together, every single day.  On a daily basis, we are physically separated for less than an hour when I walk the dogs and if/when Timm chooses to use the campground bathroom.  In addition, once every few weeks, we’re apart for 2 hours when I go out to do laundry.  That’s it.  Every other minute of every day, we’re together, eating, sleeping, blogging, reading, driving and hiking.  Timm and I could force ourselves to have more time apart but it would be contrived, inconvenient and more trouble than the value it would give us.

Timm hanging out in the RV.


Mom, Why Are You Taking a Picture of Nothing?

Polychrome Mountains in Denali National Park

We were riding on a bus that brings tourists into the heart of Denali National Park in Alaska.  The sun broke through the clouds to light up the beautiful Polychrome Mountains.  Their red, yellow and brown rocks were laid down 60 million years ago when volcanoes erupted frequently in this area.  The driver stopped the bus so we could enjoy the spectacular view.  We all took out our cameras, slid open the windows, and started snapping photos of the mountain mosaic.

That’s when an 8-year-old boy in the seat in front of us exclaimed, “Mom, why are you taking a picture of nothing?”