Hannah has always had this powerful radiance within her, ever since we were kids. Sometimes it's quiet, and sometimes it's so loud you have no choice but to dance with it. She was my first friend I can remember that saw me cry. First from physical pain when I fell from the swing in her back yard and got the wind knocked out of me. And then emotional, all fun stuff of puberty and beyond. She would love so tenderly with that radiance that would sneak up and surround me.
Sometimes quiet, and sometimes loud. Always warm, and always there.
She brings that heart with her everywhere, which is evident when taking a look at her sojourn on four wheels. The Goldenrod is what she and her other half, Ethan, call their beloved mini school bus. With four months left open in their calendar, they started in Bend, Oregon and made 35 zigged zagged stops ending in San Clemente, California. Amongst mountains, desserts, star ceilings and sun showers they created an unruffled home within their 21-foot surroundings. Even with 2688 hours of adventures, Hannah and Ethan managed to slow down. They slowed down their stresses, slowed down their concerns, slowed down their routines. They took the time to be still and close with each other, shuffling aside each other in their morphed kitchen-bedroom-nook. What a way to test your patience with not only your partner but with yourself, your habits, and your intentions. Below are some morsels distilled from their Goldenrod Log.
We bought the 21 ft preschooler bus on a whim a year ago. It had a yellow stripe, the radio worked, the second Ethan opened up the passenger door we were sold. Despite running out of gas within 10 minutes of the sale, we got really lucky. The engine seems to be in ship shape, not much mileage, and loads of character. We tore up the seats and picked up the stray lollipop stems and gum wrappers---Oh and when I say “we” I mean 95% Ethan and 5% me. Ethan had a metal shop help raise part of the roof and fashion a rack which I like to call the veranda. “We” tore out the floor and insulation, repaired rust spots with fiberglass and rustoleum, put in a floor, re-insulated, lined the walls with tung and groove cedar, built custom cabinets, storage and bed frame, installed a pump sink, installed a marine woodstove, sewed custom curtains and a bunch of other things I can’t remember. The end result is the coziest cabin on wheels.
Honey and Hot Sauce at one of our finer breakfast spots. Every meal in the bus has hit the spot. We did a little grocery shop at the old Bainbridge Island pantry (Ethan’s mom April, happens to make the most delicious things from her most beautiful garden). We have her honey, her raspberry jam, her apricot jam, a bag of last season’s frozen blueberries and her pesto. In the little space we are appreciating the little things all the more. In the sluggish bus (our maximum speed is 60), we are forced to go slow. While moving slow, we seem to have endless time. I am doing things I never have the patience for at home, like mending and embroidering a quilt by hand, and writing in a journal. Ethan is beginning to fly fish and deep into some serious fantasy novel. Ethan is also nursing an unfortunate cough, rattling as much as our engine. It’s a good time to be moving slow. Not the best thing for the wet Olympic Peninsula but good thing we have our little wood stove.
The Hoh Rainforest. Vibrant moss heaven even in the winter.
“Corn muffinios” in Nehalem Bay (a staple we would make on our sailboat, essentially jiffy mix sans oven). Cranberry bogs and lambs nestled into fog drenched mamas near Cape Blanco. Blackberry Basil Meade at Yachats Brewery.
The further south we got the only vehicles we saw were border patrol. After a park ranger got shot in 2002 pursuing drug cartel members, the area is teaming with army clad, tight jawed, men packing and patrolling with drug sniffing dogs. After two checkpoints and passing roughly 30 border patrol trucks we arrived at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Arizona Mexican border and decided to stay a while.
My vintage postcard collection grows.
Coming out of Tonto we stopped in Globe, another quaint old western town, ate a delish breakfast burrito with green salsa, bought a sun hat, and charged as many antique shops as Ethan would let me. Blossoming into a quintessential Arizona tourist.
In case you forgot we are glampers... Ethan made his carbonara and a strawberry spinach salad with homemade dressing using every cooking tool and dish we brought in the process.
We headed into the Tonto National Forest next. Ethan insisted on this rather remote boondocking. We waddled along the Mogollon Rim threading our fat needle through tight trees along an ATV only stretch, testing Goldenrods grit. She prevailed!
Greek Easter in the RV park. The Greaster that kept on giving with lingering lamb chop musk for days.
We left Lees Ferry for Flagstaff. We didn’t realize how much we were jonesing for somewhat of a city, the first of the trip, and one that so reminded us of Bend. All encompassing gluttony surmounted our stay. Our first stroll around town left us with a high-altitude-three-drink hangover, bursting bellies, and ravaged pockets. Next, we took on Whole Foods with full on reckless abandon. We rounded out the gorging with prime rib at our RV parks very own steak house.
We mix it up between boon-docking (free forest service roads or BLM camping), campgrounds, and RV parks every few weeks to get the laundry and such done. Entering the RV scene is always interesting. Our stay at Flagstaff’s Black Bart RV Park was rather noteworthy. It was our closest camping option to town, little did we know that the establishment also had a 50 year old steak house with singing waiters. You heard right. Singing waiters. We saw it on the hand-painted billboard and thought that must be dated or some sort of joke. Then we heard the choir through the walls as we took showers.
Curiosity peaked and we approached the nondescript, windowless building only to witness a park regular licking his cell phone clean with some kind of passionate fever near the entrance. We almost retreated, exchanging looks of terror, but got up the courage to move past him and poke our head through the windowless door into the dining hall. We simply had to continue the indulgent tear. Come on, dinner and a show. We managed to take these beastly steaks down despite having jaws agape at the most talented staff serenading us. This month's set: strictly Disney. Ethan could have laid down and died right there when every employee joined in for “Be our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast with a choreographed dance using their serving trays. (Some of you may know that Ethan having two older sisters has quite a special place for Beauty and the Beast.) Never in my life have I been so dumbfounded and pleasantly surprised. We didn’t speak the entire meal.
Keeping up our health with Spam sammies. Resurrecting more memories of boat living.
Watercolor has been on every packing list I have ever had. Not that it always leaves my bags--I am quite daunted by the medium--but it’s there if compelled. My grandmother, Laurette, better known as Grandmummy or Gangang, and my all-art-powerful mother instilled this in me.
I rinsed my brush in a mug full of the Colorado river, recalling my grandmother’s miniature Grey Poupon jar she used when painting on our sailboat. I am not loose enough to embrace the way the colors pool and bleed. It’s only a matter of time before my page turns to pulp. Paints are packed nonetheless out of revere. This trip the paints fit in the Bus’ original first aid kit, next to envelopes and stamps, where individually packaged Benadryl and yellowed gauze once lived. I am compelled to test the water for the first time, five weeks deep.
Majestic, a word that had to have been invented at the sight of them and all they hold. The way they stretched to the heavens, the fern fields between, below, and hanging off of them, the mist sifting through trunks so wise our existence knows no true knowing, the bark with its knots akin to anatomical hearts.
Here is the liquor store in Page where Ethan got his fishing permit. We spent the next few days at Lone Rock Primitive Campground on Lake Powell. Another sun-bleached moonscape. Where lighter fluid and sunscreen hang in the air. Where the 80s still reign.
Big love to Natty, Jesse, Nolan and Laura for making the haul from LA to the moon and camping in a parking lot. (DEATH VALLEY This crew lugged a divine flourless chocolate cake in a cooler full of melted raspberries and ice along with one lone birthday candle to bring home my belated 26th.
Two of our days were wet ones well spent. Ethan tried some fishing and caught his first fish of the trip on the Owens River. A whomping 4 incher. We made a pilgrimage in sheet rain to Holy Smoke (a bomb BBQ joint) and an endless second hand shop, that has supplied my wedding dress! We spent both rainy afternoons at Keough hot springs.
We peeled off the highway out into sagebrush high desert openness. Soon enough the road ended at a trailer park. Sunbleached rigs with sunbleached fake flower pots. In the midst of these sunken homes was a raggedy wooden building with a roof of steam. We entered the pools. The wooden building formed a courtyard of chipped mint green, that wrapped around the cement pool of chipped baby blue, a moat of turf between the water and the walls and signs that read “Walk Slippery”. A hot spring turned community pool in the swinging 1920s. Popcorn and candy at the canteen window. The spring water sprays like a sprinkler, raining over the shallow end. We dive and loop, breaststroke and backstroke, we stand in the hot rain, we handstand in hot rain. We float looking up at the cloud, baby blue by proxy. So this is what baby blue feels like. Pool noodle aerobics, pool noodle meditation. Sweet boy tugs at my ankles, sweet rain pets my face. Again and again till we walk slippery. Till prunny skin and gummed grins last well after we towel off and return to the bus.
Our fleece pants, the grins we exchange when we turn on the twinkle lights for the second time, the pot holder in the shape of a Russian doll, the bag of garlic and the ladle swaying furiously (the no-elbow-room-kitchen dance). All warm and all golden. This is why they panned the rivers and tunnels the mountains. This is why I’ll marry this man again and again.
Ethan thought of the name Goldenrod when we first bought the bus. It has this yellow stripe down the side and Ethan’s grandfather owned a restaurant named The Goldenrod Diner. It stuck. Little did we know at that time, that the inside of this would soon be filled with pure gold.
With the night out and the curtains down we could be anywhere. Kinda like that feeling when you submerge in water, that feeling of your world being softened, turned to murmurs, that feeling of quiet in the body itself as it’s suspended in blue. Instead of blue we are in yellow. A dense glow. Ready to burst with gratitude.