The Road, Home

This 3rd post of the series was originally published on Airstream.com

Posted October 5, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button

This series, From Beauty’s Doorstep, is based on five-years of full- time travel, aka LIB (Living in Beauty)

“An ant hurries along a threshing floor with its wheat grain, moving between huge stacks of wheat, not knowing the abundance all around. It thinks its one grain is all there is to love. So we choose a tiny seed to be devoted to. This body, one path, or one teacher.

– Rumi, continued…

Mid-morning, July 18, 2016.

The key turned in the ignition and the Beast eagerly rolled over, launching into a full and satisfying purr. Jim adjusted his seat and mirrors, powered up the air-conditioning and activated “Tow Haul.” 

All systems were go. He paused ceremoniously for the command.

After adjusting my sunglasses, I flipped up the visor and holding my gaze on the sparkling San Diego Bay, I said,

“Engage.”

Jim grinned, responding “Aye, Captain” and pulled the rig south onto the Silver Strand toward Imperial Beach, where we caught Interstate 5 North.

July 18, 2016 – Leaving San Diego with the Coronado Bridge in the distance

Thus, the first moments of the first day of our five-year mission to explore the world of No Fake Deadlines (Jim’s appellation for retirement, Airstream style) had begun.

Grounded in hope more than bravery, we left our hometown with no plans other than “North.”

Opportunity and spontaneity would be our reward.

Merging onto Highway 163 North, we skimmed the shaded western edge of The San Diego Zoo where we still held an unexpired membership. Lowering the window, I closed my eyes, to take in the soothing fragrance of eucalyptus, the food staple of the koala. I remember thinking, “No wonder those adorable guys appear to be so relaxed.” But, I must have spoken out loud. 

“What?” Jim asked, shouting over the noise, “You okay?”

Raising the window, I said, “Did you remember to take your blood pressure medication?” But, a slight tremble in my voice betrayed the deflection.

“Yes, I did” he said, and repeated, “You okay?”

Wow. So perceptive. No doubt, after forty-one years of marriage, he can also hear my inner-dialogue stuck in a broken record monotone, “We are out of our minds, we are out of our minds, we are …”.

“Never better,” I replied.

Without further comments, we drove on, feeling the intense weight of the moment as we passed almost every benchmark of our lives. The Kyocera plant where I worked on the inspection line while attending college. Rady Children’s Hospital where our son had surgery. Lawrence Welk Dinner Theatre where Jim’s mom and dad danced to Begin the Beguine on their 25th wedding anniversary. 

Then, we approached the West Lilac Road Overcrossing Bridge on Interstate 15 – a landmark portal between the San Diego and Riverside County divide – a boundary we seldom cross on day-trips.

July 18, 2016 – Lilac Road Bridge as we left San Diego County

“Ready?” Jim asked as we drew closer to the gaping open mouthed bridge. Then, whispering to himself, he said, “Here we go.” Aha, he’d been masking too.

As our silvery minnow of a rig slipped through that grand arched overpass, the most remarkable thing happened. It was as if our backseat hitchhikers, Anxiety and Doubt, said “Thanks. This is where we get off.” 

And, whoosh, a wave of peace washed over us.

In that instant, as we descended the mountain toward the valley, a red-tailed hawk appeared at eye-level on the passenger side with a snake locked in its talons. For an unforgettable wide-eyed moment, the hawk stayed beside us until it caught a thermal and soared behind the ridge. 

Before we could even catch our breath, the view of the Temecula Valley opened up before us, rising out of a low mist, cloud-shadowed, mysterious, with streams of sunlight illuminating the mountains from behind. Had it always been this beautiful?

Our eyes felt new.

… Look wider and farther. The essence of every human being can see, and what that essence-eye takes in, the being becomes. Saturn. Solomon!

– Rumi, continued…

The Road is Our American Legacy

Now, five years later – with liberated hearts and eager eyes – we strive to observe everything from The Lilac Bridge perspective. And, if that sounds maudlin, we do not apologize. Dying people are allowed to say such things. According to the actuaries, we have, at best, twenty years remaining to us, and we plan to spend as much of that time as possible being enthralled.

So, until a “Must Exit” appears, we will indulge in this, our chocolate box of surprises, The Road.  

‎⁨Near Carbondale⁩, ⁨Eastern Rockies Corridor⁩, ⁨Colorado

We share America’s highways with legions of other active retired seniors who, like us, are living and traveling throughout our golden years in efficient and sustainable vehicular homes.

Our generation entered on the post-war housing emergency, and the current housing crisis is unlikely to fizzle out anytime soon. The road smoothes out the bumps, gives us a new purpose and helps us to fulfill our dreams.

Saint George Sound, Eastpoint, Florida

Many of our senior RV friends travel to visit parents, children, grandchildren and old friends. Some are artists, musicians, painters and photographers. Many are looking for a new fishing hole, golf course or rail trail. One of our dearest van-camper friends visited every baseball field in America – just doing his thing.

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Our thing is visiting public gardens to soothe our souls, and hot springs to rest our bones. We also love to sample the regional cuisine and brew. The first order of business upon entering a new area is to find the local suds or diner. Cafes and breweries are the best welcome centers in town.

Driving off the ferry into Port Townsend, Washington

American Interstate System

While Jim and I were running through duck-and-cover exercises in primary school, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was blasting through granite mountains with left-over WW2 explosives to create the largest public works project in the United States.

Like the dawn of the internet – for the better and for the worse – the new American interstate system restructured society. Even with the tacky billboards, speed traps, tourist traps and roadside litter, few could resist the ecstatic call to hit the road and drive Route 66 in a new Mustang with a glorious music renaissance riding shotgun.

A vehicle and a drivers license was your ticket to ride the long and winding road.

‎⁨Nauvoo⁩, ⁨Illinois⁩ where we sheltered during an mid-October blizzard

Jim and I are among the first to learn to drive the new highways and the first to experience a lifetime in the most mobile nation in the world. Many of our fellow nomads from the born-to-be-wild generation have already evacuated from a fire, flood, storm, tornado or plague and understand the logic of a permanent mobile lifestyle.

We’ve experienced a house evacuation due to a brush fire and suffered property loss from an earthquake. These days, our team, Beauty and The Beast, relieve much of the stress from the threat of impending disaster and serve as our managed retreat solution from risk sensitive environments.

In fact, the interstate system – our Cold War friend – was designed for evacuation and the efficient transport of military troops and equipment in the event of an attack. Perhaps that’s why The Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways was signed into action with little fanfare.


‎⁨Steamboat Springs, ⁨Colorado⁩

But, the story ends so well you can almost smell the eucalyptus.

The power grid is safe with our Airstream because our usage is but a fraction of the household average. Like many seasonal travelers, we live where and when the weather suits. Our need for heat and air-conditioning is low. But, in the event of grid failure brought on by a polar vortex or heat dome our own multi-tiered power system kicks in and we don’t miss a beat.

‎⁨Black River⁩, ⁨New York⁩

This phase of our life is not about going where we have to go. It’s about going to places where we want to be, in the way we want to get there and in the way we want to be there – places where we feel happy, safe and comfortable whether or not they offer basic services

We buy food at roadside stands from local farmers. We travel light. And for fuel efficiency, The Beast kicks gas. With low diesel usage and DEF to turn exhaust into harmless nitrogen and water molecules, we are lean, clean and green.

Still, we hope to be carbon-neutral in our lifetimes.

Meanwhile, we will continue tapping in on that era of glee when free public access connected Americans to each other by way of the larger network of existing roads and informal Auto Trails like the The Lincoln Highway.

We are fascinated with the ancient trade routes created by indigenous peoples, such as, the Natchez Trace Parkway, The Santa Fe Trail and The Old King’s Highway. And also the old postal routes such as The Boston Post Road, The Pony Express and The Old Spanish Trail.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

But, like us, the system is no spring chicken. It needs improvements, and help is on the way. At least it’s not as bad as the Old Plank Road. The relic, built in the 1920’s was a marvel of engineering in it’s time.

Still visible like a skeletal serpent winding through the dunes of Imperial Valley, the wood road serves as a reminder that infrastructure upgrades are important. Jim remembers viewing parts of the wooden highway from the back seat of his parent’s Chrysler New Yorker on U.S. Highway 80 in the late 1950’s.

Unfinished Business

We have unfinished business too, like traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail. And, following the Mississippi River on The Great River Road from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to Boothville-Venice, Louisiana. Also, we’ve yet to catch the Alaskan highway, a trip we long to make before the glaciers melt.

With so much before us, there’s no time to think about settling down. 

Often, on nights when when we are watching the stars fall like confetti, we ask ourselves, “What took us so long?” 

‎⁨Mount Desert Island⁩, ⁨Maine⁩
(State Line Squirrel, in the foreground, began his career as Pico’s emotional cockpit support buddy and also moonlights as a model to mark our travel progress. Over time, he has faded and is now part the LIB blue-hair brigade, as well as part of the scenery.)

Sheepishly, we cast blame in the direction of the 1978 deregulation of the airlines which made the whirlwind European vacation more affordable than domestic travel.

Like many Americans, we re-discovered the County, State and National Park systems after September 11, 2001 – but by that time, parenting and elder care held precedence.

If not for a tremendous amount of planning, good fortune and a life-changing surgery for Jim, we would still be like most people who leave their home country unexplored. But this continent is worth a lifetime of exploration and, for those who pay attention, The Road is an immersion in world history, geography, religion and culture.

The view from The Road is universal.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

“Where’re you from?” is the usual salutation. “San Diego,” is always our response – and hopefully, that will never change.

On that day, before we passed The Lilac Bridge, I feared the loss of connection to a place I love. I also feared no longer being identified by that place. But thanks to our San Diego friends and family, my fears proved to be nothing more than an inferior mirage.

Less common, but frequent enough, we are asked, “Where do you live?”

When I hear that question, I direct their attention to our Airstream. “Well, right there!” I say.

Cumberland Mountain State Park, Crossville, Tennessee

Because I know precisely where I make my home. I live in that place up the road and down the hill, way across the valley, betwixt and between the gnarly Outta Here and then over the bridge to a sweet spot nestled right up beside the wide open Out There.

Yes, that’s where we live, in Beauty.

Engage!

… The ocean pours through a jar, and you might say it swims inside the fish! This mystery gives peace to your longing and makes the road home… home.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


26 thoughts on “The Road, Home

  1. I do so enjoy the ongoing saga of your exploration! I hope you are able to carry on for as long as you want. Keep those pictures and posts coming!

    1. Hey Steve! We’re so happy to have you on the journey with us, a valued member of The Collective. As always, thank you for the encouragement and for your hopes for our future. May you carry on as well.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your travel experiences. Enjoyed the audio and photos.
    Robert & Deborah
    2012 Airstream 30’ International

    1. Hey Robert and Deborah!

      Thank you for joining us. We are happy to share.

      Safe and Happy Travels in your beautiful Airstream!

      Carmen@LIB

  3. I greatly enjoy your writing and photos. Thank you for sharing your journey with the rest of us.
    May you continue in great health.

    1. Hey Marilyn!

      We are grateful for your travel blessing, especially this week as I begin Medicare. (Whew, made it!)

      It’s so great to have you with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  4. So inspiring, insightful, and beautiful! OK, need to get back to planning our Alaska trip: Marine ferry up, the Alcan home.

    1. Hey Mary!

      Alaska!!! Sounds like a plan! How exciting! Who knows, maybe we will see you there …?

      Are you reading Mileposts?

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  5. All those looking to conquer their trepidation to travel should be grateful for your time and effort spent sharing your travels, experiences, and personal challenges overcome, to achieve these rewards.

    This three part series should be read by anyone considering a similar path.

    And, whether they know it or not, Airstream is fortunate to have you both as their ambassadors.

    Thank you for letting us tag along.

    1. Living in Beauty wouldn’t be same without you, Dean. Thank you for keeping an eye out for us and for recommending wonderful places to go.

      Have you been to the new Airstream factory tour? It is amazing. They even have a new museum.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. That is such a compliment. I’m so glad you enjoy the pics. We love documenting and sharing – and having you with us sweetens the journey.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  6. Love your stories and am living vicariously through you. Although I have never really “camped” I want to live your lifestyle so badly! The freedom! Ah, it is so appealing! Hopefully I can convince my husband to get an Airstream and go on the road.

    1. Hey What’s Cooking!

      There’s nothing so satisfying as travel, but sharing our journey with others is a close second. Generations of Airstreamers inspired us to hit the road and we are happy to pass that flame on to others. Thank you so much for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. I’ve driven bits and pieces of Lewis & Clark as well as Great River Road. Highly recommend! I find myself staying longer and putting on fewer miles per month as gas prices skyrocket. It’s still manageable and I love the lifestyle. Thanks for your posts – they’re inspiring!

    1. Hey Robyne!

      As gas prices soar, we just stay longer in one place … but it has to be a very good place! So more research is necessary. Also, our e-bikes help us to keep costs down and burn enough calories to justify a beer after the ride.

      Thanks for the encouragement for the L&C trail. A stop along the Natchez Trace where Meriwether Clark Lewis died inspired us to learn more about him and plan that trip. One road leads to another doesn’t it?

      https://www.nps.gov/natr/learn/historyculture/exploring-the-meriwether-lewis-site.htm

      We’re not sure if the Lewis & Clark trail will be next year or the year after, but it must be done.

      Thanks so much for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  8. I have followed you, since you spent a couple days here at Bluestone Vineyard. Reading your comment about where you are from, well it will never change…i still consider myself from San Diego (Coronado to be more exact) and i love going back to visit. And like my tshirt says you can take the girl out of San Diego, but you can’t take San Diego out of the girl!

    Also looking forward to following a few of your trips, as i bought a Class C last month, going over it now, a few short trips this Fall, then next Spring who knows where it will take me.

    Cheers
    Terry

    1. Hey Terry!

      Oh my goodness, you have been onboard with us for quite a while! Those Bluestone Vineyard days with the wonderful staff and that amazing film crew are still with us – close to our hearts. Good people, good times. We must swing by and visit you again someday and pick up a case or two while we’re there.

      You’re a fellow Coronodan! My sister was born in Coronado. We will be there again soon to visit our doctor and vet and eat at our favorite restaurant, Crown Bistro … No, we don’t live there now, but we were lucky to make our home in that beautiful beach village for twenty years.

      When you feel confident enough with your new Class C, you might consider a visit to Anza-Borrego State Park in the springtime to take in the desert bloom and soak in the hot springs at Aqua Caliente … so beautiful and peaceful there. If you are ever looking for a place to go please email us at this site and we will be happy to share what we know.

      New wheels! Woo-hoo!!! Have fun out there!!!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  9. I bought my first class A right off the showroom floor. The name Bounder from Fleet 1995 brand new. If a RV can get there I’ve been there. Now me and my Tommy my chihuahua live in a Class A motorhome year round. Would never go back to a home or a apartment never.

    1. Hey Lane!

      We feel the same. The mobility, the efficiency … let me just say this: We met a man named Al – a first year grad of CalTech – 99 years old. Met him our first year on the road. He had traveled in his RV with his beloved wife throughout the continent. They had gone up into the Yukon and traveled all the way down the Pan-American Highway. They caravanned across the Dorian Gap laying down a wooden road and taking it up behind them. Al told me that there is no more efficient way to live. He was an engineer who had designed the most sophisticated systems for aircraft (I looked him up). He said houses – as they are currently built – are inefficient. He owned houses but he only rented them out as an investment. Fascinating guy. He and his wife lived their entire life in RVs which he designed himself and had built to his specifications.

      The Road is for everyone. It doesn’t discriminate. The people who occupy The Road are not looking for anything other than enlightenment. It’s all about the experience, the joy and the feeling of accomplishment.

      So happy to have you with us, Lane.

      Safe and Happy Travels to and Tommy!

      Carmen@LIB

  10. Hi Carmen and Jim, Great reading and always fun. I’m among your San Diego friends who think of you often. Hope to see you when you’re “home” for a while. Be safe! Lori

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