Living a Dream Part 1:

Preparing to leave your house and live in your car and tent for 2.5 months with your family

We signed off all things internet from June 21 – September 1, 2019 and it was delightful. We’ve been home for a week now and there has been an understandable clamoring from friends for details such as pictures and a slideshow and I apologize for not giving the most enthusiastic response.

There are two reasons for this, first, when you’ve been outside in the mountains all summer the last thing you want to do is sit in front of a slow computer with your neck bent just so and your butt going numb. The second is that my computer is ancient and hanging on by a thread and it has been very reluctant to wake back up after it’s summer nap. So for the moment it is easier to write and before I torture myself with the slllooooww processing of images, I’m going to start with this four-part story of our trip.

Lucy turned 13 a few days before we left

In the telling of a story you change it for yourself and for the others that took part in the original happenings. Because this story includes my kids, who will read this before you do, I want to be especially sensitive to what is told. This is a disclaimer of sorts, because if this were my own usual, no-kids-involved story telling it would likely take on the cynical, storm cloud humor that has been me from as early as I can remember. A conspiratorial, tell-all tone that could be interpreted as vulnerable but is more often seen as too personal, revealing, akward and even unkind. Instead, I will do my best to keep that side to a minimum and stick to the kid-approved, emotionally sanitized version. Just know that there’s nothing emotionally sanitary about a four-person family stuck together for 2.5 months.

So here goes with Part 1...

Seven Things to Do Before You Leave

Jerome finishing the threshold minutes before Sarah, Fiona and Sylvie arrived.

FIRST, if you plan to rent your newly built studio addition while you’re gone you’ll want to have finished construction on the house before the tenants move in. Preferably more than ten minutes before. But if they’re super awesome people they might be ok with you nailing down the floor, installing the bathroom mirror and finishing the plumbing a few days after they arrive. With their toddler. Because they are awesome.

A small sampling of the seemingly sacred objects that needed to be packed away for safe-keeping.

SECOND, if you plan to rent the main part of your house while you’re gone you’re going to have to pack up and move out most of your personal belongings, including the landfill that your children have called their bedroom for the past ten years. This will take more than a day and your children will question you about every seemingly sacred object and where it should go and your brain will have zero space to process things like planning a 500-mile hike.

Seamus saying goodbye from a safe spot after his last-minute shave.

THIRD, if you are leaving your pets behind you will need to set your tenants and pets up for success. Which means building an escape-proof  outside bunny fort (because free-range house bunnies are not loved by most people). This means that while your children are asking what do with their seemingly sacred single socks you will be digging a two-foot deep trench to bury chicken wire around the bunny fort while fighting off the 5 billion mosquitoes that picked spring of 2019 for their family reunion in your back yard. And if your cat’s butt needs to be shaved because he has long-hair grooming issues, try to remember to do that before you’re all in the car and about to pull away. 

FOURTH, if at all possible, quit your job more than 12 hours before you plan to leave. Or if your partner is a teacher pray for fewer snow days next time you do this.

FIFTH, when the fourth cup of coffee isn’t working and you still feel like crying and you can’t find your list and you’re recovering from pulling off a successful 13thbirthday party in the middle of construction, packing and moving, say yes to all the help. Let your friends come take your kids away to swim and feed them dinner, let your friends come over and throw out stuff and tell you where to put stuff, let your new tenants bring you more coffee and let your students bring you care packages filled with car snacks and exciting new games your kids have never seen.

Staying up late three nights in a row to sew Jerome a warmer down sleeping bag out of the down quilt we used on our 2002 CDT thru-hike.

SIXTH, the best cure for overwhelm is action. Empty the entire compost bin onto your garden, mow every inch of your lawn, sort your 30 year old collection of beads before you carefully pack it and repair all your gear right before you have to put it in the car. This will be far more helpful than any last-minute time spent on social media and when you get back you will not regret your efforts.

SEVENTH, make your leaving date absolute. We had our main house tenants moving in the day we left. If not for that it could have easily taken us another two weeks to get on the road. You won’t miss what you didn’t have time to do.

(Over) Packing

The Saturday morning before we left Jerome and I were discussing the need for a car-top carrier. I was opposed to one because like having a bigger house, it lets you have more stuff and I always want less stuff. But Jerome was concerned about the ease of packing and unpacking the car every night and the ability to keep things organized. So we did a quick search on Craig’s List and there, posted not ten minutes earlier, was a used car-top carrier that would fit our car. It was an excellent price and only an hour away. Score. Jerome was right, the carrier made the car-travel part of our trip more comfortable and convenient.  (And I was right too, we over packed).

Ready to go! (It was raining and the kids were not psyched about standing outside the car to take a photo).

And so, on June 21, following a summer solstice worthy flurry of activity and only a few hours of sleep, we said good bye to our kitties and bunnies, swept up our muddy boot prints and backed out of our driveway and into the pouring rain. 

Can you guess where the first patch of snow was on our trip?

Next up . . . . Living a Dream Part 2: The All-American Road Trip to see All the National Parks

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