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.

We also put the house on the market so we had to prepare it for sale and get it ready to be left unoccupied if it didn’t sell before we left (which it didn’t).  This separate task list had hundreds of items on it as well.  We also packed everything into boxes so all our belongings would be 100% ready to moved into storage when the house sold.  Finally, we prepared Little Wolf to not be visited for a year.

Despite our overwhelming excitement, we decided it was best to keep our plans a secret from my work because I wanted to leave on my terms and when we were ready.  If something fell through or there was a significant delay in our departure (one of us broke a leg or got sick, for example) and I didn’t resign, it would be awkward at best for both me and the firm.  It was difficult and stressful to keep such a big secret for a year, as I have many dear friends who were also my co-workers.  But, finally the day came.  On January 2nd,  I resigned.  I wrapped up my work and said goodbye and thank you to people I had worked along side for 17 wonderful years.  Several days later, we drove away in the RV, leaving our lives, family, friends and home behind.

Phase 2 – Pre Crash
Timeframe – January 2012 to February 2012
Duration – 1 month
Location – Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California
Timm and Theresa look out of one of the Wind Caves in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California
Description – The first month of the trip was one of major adjustment and learning.  First, we had to learn how to live in an RV full time.  We had several mishaps on the road, such as nearly losing our dog Darby, frying a battery, dragging a hose as we drove down the road and blowing out the hot water tank.  I was trying to make the RV as home-like as possible while Timm was dealing with feelings of claustrophobia.  The dogs were unruly, simply because they were not yet trained in proper campground and RV manners.  We were also not yet aware of the joys of dispersed, remote camping so we spent every night in relatively crowed campgrounds.  We were also making reservations ahead of each move to a new park.

Even while working to make a new, peaceful life on the road, we were very conscious and aware of how blessed we were to be visiting beautiful, natural lands.  We loved hiking in each park, seeing the canyons, hearing the quiet of nature and smelling clean, fragrant air.  Each morning, I would wake up on my own with no alarm clock and my first thought would be “I don’t have to go to work and instead, I get to go hiking!  How incredibly lucky am I?”  Every day, I woke up giddy with happiness.

Towards the end of the month, Timm and I discussed and evaluated our first month on the road and agreed that we loved the hiking and our time out in nature.  However, we didn’t like the regiment and hassle of making campground reservations ahead of time and locking ourselves into a schedule.  We didn’t feel we had the freedom we were looking for and too much of the trip was about the campground and moving the RV.  So, we stopped making reservations and started to be more spontaneous.  We also slowed our pace down, stayed in fewer places longer and relaxed more.

But before these improvements could take hold, random chance paid us a visit and spiraled us into the next phase.

Phase 3 – Crash!
Timeframe – February 2012
Duration – 18 days
Location – Yucca Valley, California, near Joshua Tree National Park
Description – Those of you who have been following our trip will remember the crash that totaled our RV. To summarize: a police officer in a high speed chase was driving about 100 miles per hour when he broadsided our RV.  The RV was totaled but luckily, no one was seriously injured, including our 2 dogs.  We were all very shook up and distraught.  Yet, we decided to use the accident as an opportunity to improved upon our 1st month on the road.  As my friend Tony Martin says, we had a chance at a “do-over”.

I try to not think about the crash anymore than I have to so if you’d like to read about the 18 days we took to get a new RV and get back on the road, as well as how we changed to a different type of RV to make it better fit our vision of the trip, please read the following blog articles.

We Made the News
The Universe Has a Sense of Humor
We’re Rooting for You
Our New RV
Why We Downsized our RV
Goodbye Yucca Valley

Phase 4 – Post Crash to Canadian Border
Timeframe – February 2012 to May 2012
Duration – 4 months
Location – Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota
Theresa walking in Buckskin Gulch in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
Description – The next 4 months were far more peaceful than the first month.  In our smaller, more nimble RV, we disperse camped as often as we could in quiet, remote locations.  When staying in a campground, we called ahead same day to see if they had space and they always did with only minor exceptions.  As a result, we were able to shift the focus of the trip to the hikes and we extended our immersion in nature by camping in undeveloped camp spots off by ourselves.  The training with the dogs started to pay off as they began to master walking nicely on a leash, staying on the trail when off the leash and not barking at every stranger they saw.  Timm and I adjusted to being together literally 24 x 7 by showing each other even more love, patience and tolerance. Everyone was setting down into our new lives on the road and enjoying each day even more.

Phase 5 – Canada
Timeframe – May 2012 to June 2012
Duration – 1 month
Location – Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon
Theresa with the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake in the Yukon, Canada.
Description –  Getting up to Canada was a major milestone of our adventure.  We were both excited to see Canada as neither of us had been there.  In addition to visiting the beautiful parks in the Canadian Rockies we also explored along the Alaska Highway, read the Milepost and learned about the Canadian people.  Both Timm and I noticed that this phase was distinctly different as yet again, we found ourselves enjoying the journey even more.

Phase 6 – Alaska, The Last Frontier
Timeframe – July 2012 to August 2012
Duration – 6 weeks
Location – Alaska
Description – Timm had always wanted to spend a summer in Alaska.  We were finally there, after driving 1300 miles through Canada.  It’s a huge, mostly road-less state that is truly “the last frontier.” Despite a long period of rainy, cold weather, we explored most of the state that was accessible by car and RV, climbing and hiking to experience unparalleled natural beauty.  We budgeted for 2 big events, which we saved for Alaska.  The flight seeing tour over Mt. McKinley and the glacier cruise in Prince William Sound were 2 of the best days of the entire trip.

Phase 7 – Mad Dash Through Canada to Seattle
Timeframe – August 2012
Duration – 1.5 weeks
Location – Yukon, British Columbia, Seattle
Traveling the Stewart-Cassiar highway from Alaska to Seattle
Description – Other than the crash, this was our least favorite phase of the trip.  We were very happy and relieved to have sold our house.  However, we determined for multiple reasons that it was best for me to fly out of Seattle to get home to move our possessions into storage and close on the house.  We drove nearly straight through Canada due to the time constraint to get home in time for the closing.  It was worth it, however, just not preferred.

Phase 8 – Selling the House
Timeframe – August 2012
Duration – 1 week
Location – Cricket Lane in Union, Kentucky
Our house, Cricket Lane in Union, Kentucky
Description – I flew back to Cincinnati to close on the house and move our belongings into storage.  Timm stayed with the RV and the dogs in Seattle, while doing several much needed errands such as car and RV maintenance and repairs.  It was a stressful week because the sale did not go smoothly but in the end, we finally closed and I flew back to Seattle to rejoin Timm and the pups.

Phase 9 – Washington
Timeframe – September 2012
Duration – 1 month
Location – Washington
Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington
Description – The month we spent in Washington was the most peaceful time of our entire trip.  Having sold the house, we were at our most unburdened and free.  Without thinking about it, we moved into a natural rhythm that was the ultimate in freedom of mind, spirit and action.  We were blessed with beautiful weather so we lingered, wandered, lollygagged and explored in and around the highly diverse landscapes in Olympic National Park, Mt. Reiner and Mt. St. Helens.

Phase 10 – The End is Not So Far Away
Timeframe – September 2012 to Likely November 2012
Duration – ~2 months
Location – Oregon, Northern California, Arizona, Little Wolf?
Timm and Darby gaze at Mt. Hood from atop Mt. Lookout in Oregon
Description – We are in the last phase of our trip, with about 2 months remaining.  As the end of our trip looms in the not too distant future, Timm and I have started to discuss life after our adventure.  This was largely prompted by a dinner we had with a friend of mine from graduate school, Jay Beeks, who I have been looking forward to meeting since we realized we’d be visiting Portland, Oregon.  Jay lives in Beaverton just outside of Portland, with his wife Cindy. Jay is very knowledgeable and has a diverse background, including extensive experience in green energy.  Jay is working on his PhD right now.  A career in sustainable/environmental leadership or a PhD are 2 areas that interest me for my future.  In addition, Oregon is one of the top locations in which Timm and I would consider living.  Naturally, meeting with Jay prompted us to start thinking about life after this adventure.

So, like the preparation-minded people that we are, we’ve started to intertwine planning for the future into our thoughts and activities.  So far, we’re just dabbling with possibilities and thoughts, exploring options and bouncing ideas off each other.  As my wise brother David advised, “Don’t think about life after the trip too much.  Make sure you enjoy the end of your trip to it’s fullest.”  He’s right and we’re not letting “the end is near” spoil the now.

Yet, knowing this trip can not go on forever, my first waking thought has changed slightly.  I still think “Wow, I get to do whatever I want today!”  Yet, my next thought is “Enjoy this day even MORE.”  And I feel even more appreciation for each passing minute because I know it won’t last forever.  I suppose this is how every day should be lived, as if it were our last.

Timm and Theresa behind a waterfall at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

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