Flexibility

(Read to the end for a Bonus!)

Apparently, I’m an unusual character. I enjoy the big snow storms that come to us up here on the mountain. Snow storms in the city are stressful and inconvenient. Here, though, the monotone palette is soothing. The quiet of a snow laden landscape is a salve to my soul. Driving has a similar therapeutic effect, which is why I try to travel as much as I can.

Today, a steady, light snow has been falling. Another layer on top of the already deep covering. Truckers have told me that the road to Denver is a sloppy mess, but that everything up here is fine. That will mess up my drive down to the valley, this evening, but I’ll enjoy the mountain part.

Last weekend, I had planned to make a food trip from Denver to Hays, Kansas. There are a couple of restaurants that I want to visit. One is supposed to serve a mean plate of chicken and mashed potatoes. The other is a kind of hip looking joint, situated in a tiny town along Kansas State Highway 383. Both looked promising and I was excited to go.

On Thursday evening, though, the forecast was for snow, wind and ice along my entire route. Snow is fine with me. Wind, however, is a different thing. Adding ice to that combination was not the recipe for a pleasant, relaxing drive. I’ve been blown off the road twice in Kansas. So, I decided to postpone that trip until another time. Autumn sounds good.

Springtime in Kansas brings massive rainstorms, and summer is just hot and humid. Autumn, though, can be beautiful. The fields are ready to harvest, the light is getting good, and school is back in session at Fort Hays University. Yeah. Autumn it is.

Friday morning came and I still felt the need for a road trip, so I began looking other directions. In the end, I decided to visit a long time friend in Paonia, Colorado. We hadnt talked in about five years, and I’d never been to Paonia. The weather west of the Continental Divide was supposed to be fair, so I opted for that.

To get to Paonia from Denver, one travels Interstate 70 into Glenwood Springs, then turns south on Colorado 133. Both are picturesque drives. The I-70 portion takes you west through the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels, over Vail pass and then into Glenwood Canyon. Turning south out of Glenwood Springs, one travels State Highway 133, which skirts the north fork of the Gunnison River. This is a truly fun drive. Curvy enough to keep you interested, but not challenging enough to make you nervous. Even the portion that climbs McClure Pass is pretty easy going.

Friday, the sky was mostly overcast, with periods of partly cloudy. Grace was in good form and took to the road eagerly. Without a deadline or agenda, it was easy to get into a groove as we glided along. Traffic was surprisingly light, so we were able to cruise along, relaxed and free.

Grace, in her natural state. It’s difficult to keep her clean, up on the mountain.

In Glenwood Springs, I stopped for gas, then lunch at KFC (Solo breast and a jalapeno. The service was excellent and the place was very clean.). Afterward, I picked up a bottle of Malbec at Springs Liquors and headed over to 133.

Truthfully, I cant remember a drive that I’ve enjoyed more. The lazy, meandering road was exactly what I needed, and Grace handled it like a trotter. I’m grateful.

Next time, I’ll tell you more about this trip. For now, though…

Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Bonus! As promised, here’s a short video, to give you a sense of my marvelous drive!

Deep Winter

It’s mid-February in the White River National Forest. Snow happens almost every day, and we cope. Gratitude comes easy for me, and I am thankful for the beauty of it, and the moisture that it brings.

Cold no longer bothers me, as I’ve been doing this for two years. I know how to keep warm, and how to enjoy it.

My life is good.

In the deep winter, though, a lot of things change. Wildlife stays mainly out of sight. Bears are sleeping. Deer have moved high up, even above the 9,000 feet where I stay, although I occasionally see a few crossing the road.

Recently, standing beside Grace before turning in for the night, I’ve heard the chirping of a lion. It doesnt bother me (too much) because it’s quite distant.

When I first came to the mountain, I was near enough to hear the low growl, and the chirping wakened me. That made me nervous.

Mountain lion attacks are rare, but you may have heard of a recent one. In lion country, to run is to take your life in your hands. Just like a house cat will chase a moving object, so will the big ones. I dont run, and I stay upright.

Another thing that changes in winter is economics. Silverthorne and Dillon experience high levels of ski season traffic. Prices of everything go up and it takes time to get across town.

For the most part, travelers are polite, but some are rude, dumping their trash in the parking lots or on the sides of the road. Many are fearful on the snow packed roads and simply drive where they feel safe, instead of staying in lanes. I get that. People also park wherever they want, because snow has covered up the lines.

For townspeople, it’s a love/hate thing. They love the business, but are glad to see the end of ski season, when things can get back to normal.

Upcoming Trip

Speaking of travelers, I’ll be headed out to Hays, Kansas next weekend. I’ve heard raves about a place called Al’s Chickenette, so I’m going to check it out. Along the way, I’ll also visit the Destination Kitchen in Norton. Both look super online. I’ll report back later.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and following.

Enjoy the Life you’re living.


Morning Routine

Some people have asked, What’s your routine in the morning? What’s the first thing you do? Living out of a vehicle, it cant really be the same as if you were in a house. Right?

My first alarm comes on at 5:20. I shut it off and lie in bed. This is gratitude and imagination time.

I think how grateful I am for my warm, cozy bed. It’s -9 degrees outside and below freezing inside, and my bed is very comfortable, so I simply enjoy it for a couple of minutes.

Then, I begin to imagine what my life should look like. This morning, I was leading a small group in meditation. We focused on breathing and future/present self. (This is a key to building your reality.) I do this until 5:30, when the last alarm comes on.

Pushing the covers back, I lie very still, allowing the heat from the bed to dissipate into the space, while my body adjusts to the cool. Believe it or not, this does take the edge off most mornings.

After a minute of letting the space warm a bit, I sit up and do some breathing. Just a quick little meditation before the day begins. Then I grab some socks and begin to dress for the new day.

Next, I climb out, move up front to get Grace started. I also take a minute to enjoy the morning, again breathing in the newness. Noticing my surroundings, the sky and stars, what the city smells like, etc.

Then, I make my bed. Yep. Every day. This is a mindful thing, if you make it so. Attending each movement and making sure everything is right.

It isn’t about discipline or rules. It’s about focus. From that brief time of breathing when the first alarm came on, until this, I’ve already had three or four progressive bits of mindfulness.

Some mornings, I shave with an electric razor, others I don’t. Then I brush my teeth, tidy things up and climb in the drivers seat.

“Good morning, Gracie!”, and I’m out for another day.

Ellie Hoskins

It’s 1972. I’m sixteen years old, sitting on a guardrail about halfway between Amarillo and Dallas, Texas, eating a biscuit and thinking about the earlier part of the day. I’d been on the road for a day and a half and had was feeling grateful.

In the ’70s, hitchhiking was a much more acceptable way to travel. I’d been in Texas for a while, but hadnt gotten to the point where I enjoyed it. (Willie and Waylon and the boys were just getting started.) So, I decided to head back to Colorado. That summer, I spent in a park outside of Golden, playing my guitar, exploring the mountains, and just enjoying life.

Toward the end of July, I headed back to Dallas. Winter would be harsh in the Colorado environment, and I still had a bedroom in my Dad’s house.

Interstate 40 runs through the heart of Amarillo. At that time, it passed through several neighborhoods, some of which were old. You know, the ones with clapboard houses painted pastel shades of pink, turquoise and green.

I arrived about mid-day and was walking along the sidewalk when an older woman called out to me from her front porch chair, “Y’et yet?”
“No, ma’am”, I answered.
“How long?”
“Two days.”
“You hungry?”
“Yes, ma’am”.

She invited me in and began to prepare a magnificent meal, which consisted of three fried eggs, bacon, gravy and homemade biscuits. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed. While she cooked, we talked and she told me some of her story.

Her name was Ellie Hoskins. She’d been a Methodist minister, preaching to folks around the area, including parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico. When her husband died, she stopped traveling and took up in this little home that they’d bought. Now, she spent a lot of time setting (sic) on her porch, ministering to passersby.

After an hour or so, it was time for me to leave, if I wanted to make Dallas that night. “Before you go”, she asked,”would you let me pray for you?”
“I’d appreciate that”, I said, sincerely. So, she did. Then she handed me a plastic bag that contained three of those homemade biscuits. “They’ll keep you going”, she said.

Sitting on that guardrail, in the warm Texas evening, I was grateful for those biscuits, and for Ellie Hoskins. She might not be preaching to those church congregations, but she was still affecting lives. This is obvious, as I’ve never forgotten what she did for me.

Grace and Gratitude

Back in August, the original Stew Wagon (Maggie), gave her last gasp, and I had to replace her.  This is her, down in the meadow after an early autumn snow, 2017.

If you explore the blog, you’ll find all the adventures that we shared. I learned a lot about this lifestyle while traveling with her.

Happy trails, Maggie.

–==|VS|==–

This is Grace. We’ve done some short trips together, and I’m excited to get her out on the road for a long haul. She’s a 2004 Chevy Tahoe, 5.3 ltr, 4WD beauty. Stealthy and strong. Already, she’s made her own place in my heart.

–==|VS|==–

Gratitude

This morning, I spoke to the north chapter of Colorado Trusted Advisors. It was an opportunity to share my story, and encourage them toward mindfulness. There were lots of questions, which is always encouraging.

It will probably help you, as the Reader, to understand a little about the background.

For a long time, life beat me up. The long and short of it is that, in 2015, I was literally praying to die. Things had come to the place that I felt completely worthless, and that I was a drain on everyone around me. I remember telling someone that I was “waiting to die”.

They asked if I had some illness or what? When I said no, they responded with a strong “That’s bullshit! You’re gonna sit around for thirty years waiting to die?”

That was the catalyst the sent me down the Vagabond Trail.  Instead of continuing to play the victim, I decided to reinvent myself into a traveler, and that’s how this whole thing began.

So, this morning, I shared that story, along with the great life I have now, and how grateful I am.

We talked about how we can change our circumstances by changing our self-image. Also, about how mindfulness and gratitude can make us better advisors. Overall, it was a very good time for everyone, I think.

Cheyenne…again.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a little trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming and Ft. Collins, Colorado. Leaving early on a bright, crisp Saturday morning, I made the drive up to Cheyenne for breakfast. There’s a coffee shop there that I wanted to visit.

As you might guess from the photo, Wyoming is noted for being a windy state, and this Saturday was no exception. I cant estimate wind speeds, but there were times when it was a struggle to keep Grace in her lane. I didnt do much photography, because I couldnt keep the camera still. Most shots were done from the driver’s seat, or from the shelter of the bedroom area, shooting through the open door. This one, which illustrates the old song, about deer and antelope playing, was shot that way.

IMG_0153Edit

When I arrived in Cheyenne, about 9:00 in the morning, I was surprised to find the place almost empty. Of course, with wind like that, I dont blame people for choosing to stay indoors. What I didnt realize was how many businesses were closed on Saturdays. There really wasnt much to see, so I decided that I’d ask the folks at The Crooked Cup.

It’s a tiny place, with very limited seating, but it’s clean and cozy. Staff are friendly and the food is good. As is my habit, I didnt think about documenting my time there, except for this shot of kolaches and coffee.

Kolaches

When I asked the guy at the counter about things to do on a Saturday, his answer was kind of humorous – “Um…I mean…It’s Cheyenne.” When he called out to the woman in the back, she said, “I think there’s a museum up the street, but I dont know if it’s open.”

So, I had some wonderful, made from scratch kolaches and a very good Americano. Then I wandered around town for a bit, before I decided to head down to Fort Collins. I had a meeting there on Sunday morning, and figured there would be more going on, since it’s a college town, and I was right. More about that, next time.

–==|VS|==–

On the way, I came across this old house and had to stop for some photography. Here are a few of those shots.