Goodbyes are hard
Allot of people assume because we headed off on this prolonged trip that we are running away from something. In some sense I suppose they are right. We are running away from the grind, the American dream, and the sense that you need to have all your ducks in a row before you start living. But one thing we became increasingly aware of as we prepared to leave is how extremely blessed we are to have such amazing friends and family in our lives. The days leading up to our departure were filled with tearful exchanges of well wishes, beer and food drop offs to keep us going through the packing process and gift cards that contributed to many hundreds of miles of gas.
Our hardest goodbyes were the ones with those who we knew not only would we miss seeing in our day to day lives but that shared our hearts and understood the great pull that was calling us away. Not to mention the baby nephews, who we knew full well may be walking, talking, and have their own developed sense of humor by the time we return. Goodbyes are hard, and they should be.
Rhythm is important
For the first several days on the road we spent the entire day driving with a few haphazard stops when it became painfully obvious we could not keep going. This very quickly led to a pair of grumpy, sweaty and super stressed individuals (not to mention K2, see below) Thankfully it only took about 7 days for us to realize we needed/required a sense of routine and rhythm even amongst the care free, fly by the seat of your pants, we can do whatever we want mentality. Who knows what it will feel like in a couple weeks or even months but for now we are attempting to form our days around some sense of rhythm, structure and organization. This takes shape in planning our meals out, setting aside time in the heat of the day to work on this blog and social media or contact friends and family back home.
Surprised by the heat/We left our dog in Illinois (not really)
So maybe you all knew this already but the Midwest is HOT. 95-100 degrees with scorching sun and a relentless wind. This combined with a 1986 van that shakes, rattles and rolls along the highway even at 60 mph, and currently doesn’t have working air conditioning, makes for what seems a bit like torture at times.
K2 our faithful Alaskan Malamute had an extremely difficult time adapting to van life for the first week. This may not seem like all that long but consider careening down the unfamiliar highways of the Midwest while having a wild animal attempting to sit on your lap in 100 degree weather. This surprised us as we have taken several week long adventures in this very same van with not nearly the same level of anxiety and stress, and yet here we were. We fought, we cried, we drooled, and we all had to take a moment alone; we considered all the alternatives and we finally managed to convince her that we were not in fact attempting to murder her and that the back of the van could be her safe space, with a mountain of pillows and the blinds drawn. So this is where she now reluctantly bounces along. She is, im happy to say, doing so much better.
This country is gorgeous
We arrived in Fort Pierre National Grass Lands of South Dakota later this evening after another long day on the road. We would consider this, in a way, the beginning of our real adventure or life off the grid as the first week was mostly spent visiting amazing and generous family members.
The Grasslands offer areas of dispersed camping which are as primitive as they come. As we were trucking along Highway 83 leading into the designated lands we passed a giant Unimog overland vehicle, something that can only be described as a Tank. The passengers cheerfully waved and we attempted to communicate our jaw-dropping admiration as we sped past realizing for the first time that our horn doesn’t work. Oh well, something to add to the list!
We set up camp and cooked dinner just as the sun was beginning to set. K2 raced around the prairie chasing what we hoped weren’t rattle snakes. The evening was breathtaking and we sat in rapt wonder watching the burning ball of the sun set over the low hills to the west. The Grasslands are a stirring combination of flat, broad expanses combined with rolling hills and a comforting breeze that moves the prairie grass like waves. This seems like the beginning and it bodes well.