Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Mothership

Mama in downtown Quincy, California

Thousands of miles and five months later and the Mothership still seems to be running strong.  Mama has turned out to be the most perfect summer road tripping vehicle.  She has taken me from Illinois to California to Montana to Oregon...and everywhere in between.  

The bedroom.  The high-tech shelving unit provides easy access to our everyday attire.

Mama not only gets me from one destination to another, but also serves as my and Kali's, home.  It is so unbelievably convenient to pull over, almost anywhere, and sleep comfortably.  I am so comfortable in Mama that even when offered indoor housing for the evening, I usually prefer to stay in the van.  Sleeping in my own bed, while still getting a regular change of scenery is the ultimate combination for me.  I hardly ever have to sacrifice a good night of sleep to be where I want to be. The only parking for sleeping restrictions is being flat and the considerations for peeing in the middle of the night.  As long as I'll be able to get up, considering it might already be light out, and pee, the spot will work.  

The under-the-bed storage houses lesser used and other season gear.
Mama's third major function after vehicle and bed, is a giant closet on wheels.  Everything I own is with me.  This is so nice.  For many years, I had my belongings spread across the country.  Now I have everything at my disposal at all times.  Since I like to play in every season and climate I have a hefty amount of crap.  Having this size of a vehicle is awesome for storage, but as I've learned, it doesn't matter if I'm living out of a backpack, a car, or a house...I'm going to fill every square inch with as much crap as I can.  Luckily, organization is a hobby of mine.  The organizational system in this van is an on-going work of art/science, that improves everyday.

good times.
happy hour!
A large amount of time is spent hanging out in Mama.  She is as comfortable as any living room with many of the same amenities.  We spend hours reading, writing, playing the mandolin and watching stuff on the computer (usually episodes of 30 Rock) parked wherever we feel like it.  If we are in a town, we can usually find a place to park where we can pick up a wireless internet connection.  There is no stove set up inside (yet), but it is not difficult to find a place to fire up the stove between the double side doors.

So, I love Mama.  She has been so good to me.  I can't express how grateful I am to Mike and Sue (my uncle and aunt) for giving her to me.  I doubt that they had any idea what I had in store for her.  Receiving her has really dictated my plans for the last six months and allowed me to do some things that I have always wanted to.  Not only do them, but do them comfortably and in style.  It has been a ridiculously, fun-packed six months.  Hopefully, the next six will be just as fun.  

I am starting to formulate some plans, but its pretty wide open.  I'm currently in Oregon, housitting, enjoying a healthy balance of running and chilling out.  I think I'll be around here for a while.  It is an easy place to be.  I have just registered for the Triple Ripple Trail Festival on Orcas Island at the beginning of October.  I'm pumped for this one.  It is a new event that sounds so fun.  Other than that, I don't have many plans.  I have decided I want to be somewhere where I can ski/snowboard this winter.  Maybe in Oregon.  Maybe anywhere.  I'm sure it will work it out for itself.  Depending on where I am and how much snow there is might have an impact on Mama, but until then I plan to thoroughly enjoy all the comforts she has to offer.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Going With It.

After two months of super-tightly planned activity (something new for me.  See Planning Ahead.), I've found myself, once again, with no plans and little driving ambition to do anything specific.  The morning Kali and I left Eureka and headed to Whitefish, I was open to anything.  I pondered the endless options open to me and realized that I would not be able to take any decisive action.  Nothing was pulling me strongly.  Knowing I have little money left and two months before my next planned job, did narrow things a bit, but still, the options were pretty much endless.  As it (always) turns out, no decision making was necessary in determining the next course of action.

Although I would have been perfectly happy to hang in Montana, another opportunity has presented itself, that seems even more perfect.  A house-sitting and farm work gig, in southern Oregon, one of my new favorite locales, has fallen in my lap.  I'm on my way.  Thank you very much.

This is where the balance between planning ahead and going with the flow is going to come into play.  "Going with it" to Oregon and staying in one spot for a minute and saving up a bit will allow me to plan ahead and execute the next adventures.  And since the adventures I have in mind involve body punishing activities, some routine will better allow me to properly prepare my body for the ass-kicking.

I have a few events in the next few months in mind.  Committing myself to those will allow me the freedom to focus on what is in front of me, instead of wondering about and contemplating the future.  It is as if I am free-er when I have some sort of parameters.  Hmmm.

So, it looks like more exciting times ahead.  Currently, I've been enjoying a nice few days of relaxing in Whitefish.  Ran a weekly road race put on by a friend, who has started a running club, since I left.  Ran on the new and partially completed Whitefish Trail.  Dance party last night.  Lots of sleeping and internetting.  Visiting friends.  Very chill.

Tomorrow, Kali and I are commencing the southward travel.  We'll take a "new for me" route back to Missoula, with a stop for a hike/run along the way.  We plan to kick it in Missoula for a few days, then possibly hit some hot springs en route to Boise, where Kali is flying out in a week.  I'll continue onward to southern Oregon, with a multitude of possibilities for fun along the way.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summertime in Montana

Although we have been grieving the departure of Dan, Camp Fancy-Free has moved onward to Montana and is happy to report we are thoroughly and systematically taking summer for all its worth. And it is really summer here. It was really hot last week and kind of humid. Kind of gross, actually. I’m not into that humidity stuff, these days. But, its nice and cool now. Just a little smoky from a nearby wildfire. Anyways, it the weather hardly matter, because I have been having way too much fun the last two weeks to notice.

After dropping Dan at the Portland Airport, we enjoyed a lovely ride along the Columbia River Gorge, through the amber waves of grain of eastern Washington and up and over the alpine splendor of the narrow strip of Idaho. We arrived in Missoula at a decent hour and still light out at 10:00pm. My best friend Sara, who has lived in Missoula a couple of years and is half-way through grad school there welcomed us back to Montana. We spent a couple of fun nights in Missoula, catching up with Sara and her boyfriend, Adam. Our visit was brief, however, because we had to get up to the Whitefish area for the wedding madness that was about to ensue…and I’ll spending more time in Missoula on my way out.

Columbia River Gorge heading out of Portland

After the very scenic drive through the Flathead Valley we made it Whitefish, made a few brief visits with old friends and then caught up with the bride, Rebecca and company. After a couple of drinks we headed up to her home in Eureka, which is about 50 miles north of Whitefish, not far from the Canadian border. We parked Mama on Rebecca and Todd’s land and that is where she remained for the last two weeks.

The Float
The next morning Kali, Rebecca and I left early to drive to Polebridge, Montana for Rebecca’s bachlorette party. Polebridge is a super-small, funky little town way off the beaten path on the western edge of Glacier National Park. The town consists of a restaurant and the Mercantile, known for its pastries. It is also right on the North Fork of the Flathead River, where the bachlorette party would be taking place. Four other women met us there and we dropped a car and headed upstream.

Some genius logistics had already been arranged and we got to our put-in spot just as the bachelor party arrived from a two day float trip that started from the Canadian border. So, the raft was already set to go, we just had to exchange our full coolers for their empty ones and two moms handed their babies off to the dads and we were on our way.
Kali, Me, Rebecca (bride) and Dawn, our trusty rower, in the back

It was a perfect day. Gorgeous weather. Awesome people. And the peaks of Glacier towering over us. There was also a ridiculous amount of pre-mixed drinks and beer. The time flew by as the water slowly carried the raft downstream. We stopped for lunch, jumped in a few times and laughed really hard all day long. Everyone was surprised it was over when we arrived in Polebridge. I think we caused quite a scene at the busy pull-out spot, when seven super-smashed girls arrived and broke down the raft and all the gear. We then had dinner in Polebridge and then set up tents and passed out early. I’m having a hard time thinking of a single day that was more fun.

The Farm
After having way too much fun on the float it was time to get down to business. Not only was the wedding one week away, but Rebecca and Todd also own a small organic farm in the midst of the busiest time of year. With the farm alone, they are the most hard-working people I know, but with the wedding in addition, they are just insane. Kali and I did what we could to help. We spent the week picking peas, carrots and beets and I was hired to do some massive weeding. The two weekly farmers’ markets they attend coincided with the arrival of their families so, we helped sell their bountiful harvest while they visited with their guests.

The Wedding
As the wedding drew closer, they started to get super busy with last-minute plans and entertaining guests. We hung out with their out-of-town family members and helped out where we could. The day of the wedding we helped set everything up at their neighbors where the ceremony and reception took place. Their neighbors have picturesque gardens, the perfect venue a wedding. The wedding itself was fairly traditional considering the not so traditional nature of the couple. Everyone had a blast, and we stayed up late dancing to the rock-a-billyish band they hired.

The Runs
Despite getting caught up in the nuttiness of the week, I managed to get in three awesome trail runs. A friend of Rebecca’s, Sarah, who was in town for the wedding, is into trail running and is familiar with the area. Our first one was on the way back from Polebridge. We took the backroads to get back to Eureka and stopped to climb up the second highest peak in the Whitefish Range and run down. It was maybe a 12-14 mile round-trip, the perfect hang-over cure. From the top you could see peaks forever in all directions.

A few days later, with my downhill muscles still incredibly sore, Sarah took me on a ten mile loop not far from where I’m staying. Once again awesome views and the peak of the wildflowers around here. I feel like my words are inadequate to describe the scenery and unfortunately the mobile camera is broken. :(

A couple of days after the wedding we did a run I wanted to do the whole time I lived here, but could never make it happen logistically. We got up very early one morning and dropped off a car at the Strawberry Lake trailhead, outside of Kalispell, then piled in another car and headed to the Columbia Mountain trailhead, outside of Columbia Falls. Twenty-seven miles later, Sarah, Kali, and I got back to the car at Strawberry Lake. It was big. We didn’t actually know for sure if it was 27 miles. Some guidebooks said 20.5 and others said 27. Turns out it was more like 27. Anyhow, it was great. The first eight miles are a steep climb up Columbia Mountain. At the top, Alpine Trail #7 traverses the ridgeline to Strawberry Lake and beyond. From the ridge, you would be able to see in all directions, on a clear day, but it was too smoky to see much. We got some nice views of the western-most Glacier peaks and, once again, the wildflowers were amazing. It was a nice cool day, with the smoke actually providing some relief from the sun, and we got caught in the rain with seven miles to go. An amazing day…and week. I really appreciated finding someone else who was into the same kind of treks and the same pace that Kali and I are at.

Next ?
Now I really have no plans. Kali and I are planning to finally move Mama today. I think we’ll head into Whitefish and see what happens. There are plenty of people to visit and much fun to be had as we are at the peak of summer. I keep meaning to update this more frequently, but it seems as though I have only been getting a chance every two weeks or so.  Too much fun.