Righteous Surrender

I offered my heart, I offered my soul

You said thanks, but no. 

So I gave it to you anyway without even trying

I only wanted to show I wasn’t lying. 

 

In return I asked for nothing

Yet found you gave something.

It danced on a sparkle and twisted on a smile

Every time I noticed, I would grin like a child

 

Then one day you came with sapphires wide

I could see there had been a shift in the tide.

Now you gave the warmth of a kiss

The passion far from amiss. 

 

We placed in each a part

It’s called, a portion of the heart

It glowed with the light 

And for a moment all was right

 

Then in life’s furried haste

I watched as things began to waste

I tried to nurture what I helped create

But soon realized it was already too late

 

So I chose to be thankful for what we had to share

I did what I did because I care

I smiled and said you’ve always been free

And watched as you flew with glee

 

Away you went until I could see no more

But I found I felt far from poor. 

I was so happy I could hardly bear.

Grateful for the gift you chose to share.

 

 

“Our survival as a species depends on our ability to recognize that our well-being and the well-being of others are in fact one in the same” ~Dr. Marshall Rosenberg (Founder of nonviolent communication)

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Absence: Unplugging to Recharge

Recently I took a break from life; taking time for myself by unplugging. It is something I need to do periodically to remain healthy on a spiritual level. Doing this simple process has helped me find a balance I had been lacking. It has brought me back to a level of peace and comfort where I do not feel stressed or obligated to continue writing, working, or striving toward that which is higher. 

I have been busy since last we talked. I went on a three week trip and visited Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National park, and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a really awesome road trip because I got to meet up with people I know and love along the way and send some quality time with them. Come along with me as I give a little more detail. 😉 ❤

I left for Glacier National Park from Santa Cruz, CA. on June 23rd. I had anticipated leaving earlier than this, but my employer asked if I could stay a little longer and do some more work. I agreed because he’s an honest, kind, loving man who has only given me opportunity, friendship, and equitable relations. I guess you could say he is reaping what he sows. Anyway, when I left I drove in a marathon style, not my favorite form of travel, because I had to meet my brother in Glacier and pick up our backcountry permit on the 25th of June. We would be backpacking East to West across the park on a five day journey. The drive up was long, but otherwise uneventful. I was fortunate enough to catch a good shot of a rainbow in the Centennial Mountains of Idaho on my way up. When I got to Glacier I met my brother at Apgar Campground and we hung out until the next morning when We got our permit. The permit process was rather quick, but they did warn us about a couple stream fords and some snow hazards that were proving to be problematic to many hikes. In fact, so problematic that many turned around and didn’t proceed. Both Andrew and I being experienced backpackers knew the risks and felt confident in our abilities and decision making so we didn’t think to much of the warning. Now, with our permit in hand we made our way to the trailhead at the Northeast corner of the park. We would be scooting the Canadian border the duration of this trip. We hit the trailhead shortly after one pm and started our 13 Mile jaunt to our first campsite. The views, wildlife, and fauna are some of the best I have seen in all my years. The trek ended up being a little more difficult than I had anticipated and I realized I needed to shed some weight. My pack felt like a million pounds and I was obviously carrying to much food. This is something I tend to do without realizing. I’ve been hungry before and never want to feel that way again. Regardless of the weight we made it to our first camp by 7pm. It was a beautiful site set back in pines and aspens next to a sky blue lake. The scenery was beautiful, but the wind was not. It was blowing  at around 15 mph and gusting, at times, around 25. This created a bit of a problem setting up my tent, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. That night the wind settled into a nice lullaby and I was able to sleep fairly well. All in all day one was very uneventful. Day two was a little different though.

 

After getting an early rise, around 5:30 am, we made breakfast and decided to hit the trail early. We had a 14 mile day and we would be summiting Stoney Indian Pass. We wanted to get over the pass before afternoon thunderstorms had a chance to form. This would minimize the potential for swollen streams and slippery snow. It was a good choice too as the fords were already high from the snow melt. The first fiord we came to was thigh high and rushing with a force that threatens to drag you down with every footfall. It was the most aggressive crossing I have ever made. Once on the other side of the first ford the trail vanished into a valley covered in snow and glacier lilies. Beautiful yes, but difficult to navigate. We soon came to a second ford and traversed it without problem. We decided to rest here, fill our water, and grab a snack. The landscape was just too irresistible. After our brief rest we continued on the the pass, arriving around  noon. My first impression when standing in the saddle was one of amazement, joy, and fear. The west side of the pass was completely covered in snow for the first 1000ft and the angle was was pushing my abilities and gear limits. Despite the the horrific looking snow field we both felt confident we had the appropriate gear and know how to navigate the terrain. With this we put on spike on and made our way down. The spikes were a huge help as they allow you to dig into the snow and ice for traction and since the snow was starting to get suncups it was becoming slippery. All went well until we were about half way down the snow field. The intense angle and pressure I had been putting on my spikes caused the one on my right shoe to break under stress. As soon as it gave my foot when out from under me and I tumbled a few feet before self-arresting. I’m not sure if I was more scared or excited. It was the first time I have had to self-arrest and I hope the last. My brother came over and we both looked at my broken spike trying to formulate or engineer a fix, but it couldn’t be done. I would just take it slow and make my way down. For the next hour and a half I gingerly made my way down the slope of the mountain arriving at the lake marking the end of the snow field. The trail was flooded over and he only way through was a walk through the water and onto the last remaining 50 ft section of snow. This last section of snow ran 50 ft long by 100 ft tall. On the upper portion was a shale field, and below was the lake. The snow reached out passed the bank and fell into the water about 20 feet away from shore. I looked at it and thought I don’t want to go high because of the shale and I don’t want to go low because if I fell I would be in the water. I decided to go strait and take my chances. It was a calculated risk with one spike. My brother went first and I followed behind. About halfway across I felt my right foot go on an icy patch of the snow. As I fell my knee punched through the snow and I felt something enter immediately. There was no pain, but i knew it wasn’t good. Within seconds I had my pack off, pant leg off, and was pinching shut a gnarly gash that was roughly 4 inches in length and deep enough that I could see things I shouldn’t. I advised my brother I had some suture strips in my pack but that was all (he only had a couple bandaids). He got them out and we used all 8 of them to help close the wound. We then used his two bandaids and a makeshift wrap to stop the bleeding.  Surprisingly I remained calm and had my wits the whole time. When we got it all bandaged my brother looked at me with concern and said, “you can’t bend your leg, it’ll open instantly, we are ten miles from the nearest ranger station, and even further from civilization. What are our options?”. I replied, “Singular, I will walk straight legged to the ranger station, get this would cleaned out, and then, depending on what we find, either continue or take a ride out via the bird”. My brother, being a former paramedic and current animal nurse pondered on it for a moment and then agreed. He took some of my gear and put it in his pack to make my walk a little more easy and then we got on our way. We had already hiked 7 miles and I wasn’t looking forward to another 10, but it had to be done. The walk was slow going, but we made to the ranger station by 8pm. Once there the ranger summoned the backcountry medic who turned out to be a laughable representation of a medic.

 

The medic looked at my wound and her eyes flashed with uncertainty. At this moment I was thankful I had my brother with me. Her movements were choppy and clumsy and her questions and understanding seemed to only correlate with incompetence. My own experience as an EMT let me know my observations were accurate. After she tried to wash my wound out with eye wash, she failed to check my dexterity and range of motion. This didn’t go unnoticed by me or my brother, but we both held our tongues. Next she attempted to take my blood pressure which she read inaccurately. To add insult to injury she couldn’t figure out how the blood pressure cuff went on. Good thing she only calls for the bird to take people out and doesn’t have to give any form of medical care. At this point Andrew and I both questioned her reading as it was indicative of a stroke victim. She said Andrew could check it and he gave a much more accurate reading and then showed her how to use it. He also showed her a few test to check my range of motion and dexterity, how to check for a pedial pulse, and what to look for in the wound. She seemed eager enough to learn, but that didn’t fill me with the most confidence. After Andrew and her bandaged my knee he and I were at an agreement. My hike was over. After a brief discussion the ranger said we could catch a ride across the lake, into Canada, with a ranger and then hitch back to the states where I could get medical treatment. This sounded great, but I had no form of identification on me. Oh well, guess we will see what comes of it. That night Andrew and I made camp on the ranger station lawn and waited for the boat to come the next morning.

 

It was around 11am when the boat arrived to pick up my brother and I. He had decided he didn’t want to continue on without me and opted to leave. The ranger that would be giving us a ride to Canada was in his mid 40’s and rather friendly. As he took us across he received a call to check on a hurt hiker near the border where Andrew and I would be crossing. He notified dispatch that he would check it out and he would be taking a medical to the border as well. This was a reward as we didn’t have to hitch back to the States. After the 30 minute boat ride into Canada the ranger unloaded the boat and we got into his truck. I must confess it was a little unnerving to sit by someone who had a semiautomatic weapon so close and easy to access. As we drove toward the states he called the canadian border patrol to find out who was working. He wanted to know if this was going to be an easy transfer or if there was going to be problems. When he finished his conversation with border patrol he looked at me and said, “our nemesis is on duty today. She’s probably going to make things difficult, but don’t worry”. Then he smiled and we returned to our casual conversation. It took about 20 more minutes to reach customs where he and my brother both showed their passports and were welcomed. I on the other hand had no identification which seemed to upset the Canadian officer. She was rather upset that I was in Canada and that a ranger brought me in without paperwork. He explained over and over that I was a medical and the guy with me was claiming to be my twin. We are rather Identical and I know she could see the resemblance, but she protested and shouted. After roughly 20 minutes she relented and gave a piece of paper to the ranger and mumbled “they’re just going to send him back here because he has no paperwork and he’ll be my problem again”. I smiled at her and said thank you and hobbled back to the truck as quick as my leg would allow. We then went to the American side, 100 feet away, and the ranger said the same thing to the American patrol as he did the Canadian. The officer in the booth looked at me, then my brother, then me again, and said, “have a nice day and get that knee taken care of”. 🙂 And this is how I was an illegal alien for around an hour and a half. 🙂

 

Once back in the states my brother and I caught a hitch from the border back to West Glacier. A couple 19yr old college students were on a road trip and decided to pick us up. When they heard my story they offered to drive three hours in the opposite direction they needed to go to make sure I returned safe and got medical attention. The three hour van ride with them was enjoyable and time went rather quick. Once back in West Glacier I set up camp in the hike/bike campground and waited until the morning to go to the Clinic. I walked the 2 miles to the clinic where a wonderful Dr. treated me with the most equitable medical treatment I have ever received. He flushed me wound and removed the debris of rock, cut the dead skin, gave me a tetanus  shot, a shot to numb the area, and then stitched me up. I took 4 internal stitches to sew the inside back together and 5 stitches on the external portion to close the wound for a total of 9 stitches. Then the nurse gave me a ride back to the campground so I wouldn’t have to walk. I also had a follow up the next day to make sure things were going well. It ended up costing under $400. This was very affordable considering I don’t have insurance. I spent the next week just hanging out with my brother and doing some fishing. We both made the best of the situation and enjoyed ourselves. When it was time for him to go I took him back to the airport and headed to Yellowstone. I would be meeting a friend from Ohio there and spending a couple days with him and his kids.

 

It took a day and a half to drive to Yellowstone and I found myself missing Montana the further away I drove. Something in my heart yearns to go back. I entered Yellowstone from the west side of the park and did the car tour for the first half of the day. I checked out some of the sights and took in the scenery. It was nice, but it looked like it was all dying; probably because it’s the crater of a giant active volcano. The colors were mostly browns, reds, and a dull green that was close to burnt. I also saw my first “up close” buffalo. I’ve seen them in the wild of North Dakota from about 100 yards, but this one was about 10 yards. WOW, take away that 90 yards and that animal just went from large to a monstrosity. They aren’t the cutest animal for sure. I watched a couple geysers erupt and thought, “ah, I’ve seen better”. Once I reached the South East corner of the park I met my friend Clayton and his two children, Eli and Addison. I stayed at their campside the next two days and enjoyed their company. I also checked out morning glory. It was the one pool I wanted to see while I was at the park. That night Clayton and I took our cameras out behind the lodge and practiced our astrophotography. He has a really nice DSLR that made my little cybershot look unimpressive; nonetheless, I captured some good shots and enjoyed the lesson of learning by doing. Clayton gave some advice and we both worked together to figure out a couple settings that seemed to work. After hanging out for a couple days he and the children were moving to the West part of the park and I was heading East. I have some friends in Denver that I was going to see, but before that I wanted to visit the Uinta Mountains. I’ve been once before and enjoyed it so much I had to go back.

 

It took a couple days and a flat tire on a lonesome, backcountry dirt road to get there, but I made it. I have a trail map of the mountain range which I used to pick a nice, secluded backcountry spot that I could drive to. I’m glad I chose to come here as the weather was beautiful and the temperatures were mild and pleasant. I camped in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks covered in snow. There was a stream winding its way gently through the alpine valley with patches of grassy field and wooded retreats. I did some fishing and enjoyed the peaceful serenity that is nature. I ended up spending three days here. I would have stayed longer, but I needed to get back on the road if I was going to make it to Denver to see my friends Thomas and Jonathan.  

 

Leaving the Uintas was bittersweet as I found a peace I seldom find; nonetheless, I bid the majestic range a farewell and started my drive to Denver. It took me one night and two days to get there. I spent single night around Kenosha Pass. This is a pass I really enjoy, especially around fall when the mountain sides are brushed in hues of yellow and orange. I entered Denver from the Southwest as it was the most direct route to Jonathan and his family and instantly remembered why I left Denver. TRAFFIC! Wow, this is as bad a California. Fortunately I was able to navigate the streets well as my mind flooded with memories of a past not yet forgotten. When I pulled into the apartment complex Jonathan, his wife, and son reside I felt excited and eager. I have few friends across this land, but the ones I do have and get to see, even if only seldom, revive my soul like the the spring sun on a blooming flower. I ran up the stairs two at a time arriving at 403A breathing a little heavy. I lifted my hand to knock and the door opened. In a flash I was embraced by a man weighing around 270 pounds and standing 6’2” tall. I smiled, laughed, and cried simultaneously as I felt a warmth of love that is the gift of honest, transparent friendship. For the next 6 hours we talked, laughed, and caught up on life events from the past year. In no time at all the hour was late and I was bidding my farewell. I left that night and headed to North Denver where I would meet Thomas at his new home in NorthGlenn. That night I spent the night in a king soopers parking lot. Places to stay in the city are less than pleasant on the eye.

 

I arrived in NorthGlenn around 10 am thanks to traffic, and easily found the house of Thomas. Once again I felt the same emotions that I felt the previous day when visiting Jonathan. This time I was afforded the opportunity to knock. When the door opened I was greeted with a smile that could light the darkest of nights and embraced in a hug that would warm a polar bear. I spent the next few hours catching up, going to lunch at Chipotle, and having some ice cream at the ColdStone. At around 2-3pm I wished Thomas a farewell and set off back towards California feeling a little guilty. Thomas works nights, 7pm-7am, as an RN and was in the middle of his four day work week.

 

The drive back to Santa Cruz was less than eventful and I found myself staying in the national forest along the way. The last place I stopped was in Tahoe National Forest. I followed a road that went from pavement, to gravel, to streams and boulders. I passed nothing but ATV’s and OHV’s the entire time, but made it to the campground on the other side. This was a 36 mile drive I took to cut of 50 miles of driving on the interstate. The navigation said it would be faster, but because of the conditions it was twice as long. I am still awestruck that I made it through. It was on of the most tension filled drives I have made. It was a good things I started the drive early in the morning because I didn’t make it to the camp until around 2pm. After fixing some lunch I decided to take the 2 mile walk to the top of a ridge and check out the fire tower. In California every fire tower is manned during the fire season. It was a quick walk up to a spectacular view. I met the FS employee in charge, John, and we talked until the sun was fading. It turns out we both enjoy photography so we exchanged a lot of knowledge on astrophotography and took many pictures. When I left he wished me well and said if I was ever in the area again to just drive up and camp next to the tower. It’s always a treat to meet people and have the enjoyment shared. That night I slept well

 

Early the next morning I arose and started my drive to Santa Cruz. I wanted to beat the traffic. The drive was slow and eventless. Once in Santa Cruz I started back to work for until about a week ago. I did this so I could purchase an RV. I spent more than I wanted on it, but it was one of the few in my price range. I packed the RV with all my valuables, sold my car, and started to make my way East as I am going to visit my grandparents. There time is dwindling and I want to make sure I take advantage of my opportunities to enjoy them. Wth that I set out towards ohio.

 

Everything went well until around Elko Nevada when my abs light came on. Glad it was here, because the closed town to it is over a hundred miles in any direction. The mechanics got me in the next day and replaced the rear wheel cylinders on the brakes. It appears they went out and had I driven further I would have lost the brakes. Good thing I stopped. Unfortunately after they fixed the brakes it refused to start. They spent until 7pm fixing that problem. I was grateful they stayed over passed close to help get me back on the road, but the 800 dollar bill hurts. Turns out a wire that provides a constant 12v current to the inertia switch, I have no idea what that means, was bad so they had to bypass it. I spent the night in the local Walmart and figured I would get an early jump on the drive the next morning.

 

When I left elko the sun was just coming up the sky was shades of pink and lavender swirl. I drove all morning and made it to the east side of Salt Lake City before my beautiful RV decided to quit. It died at the 80E 215S interchange. I called a tow and waited the 2 hours it took for him to arrive. Cody, the tow driver, was super friendly and asked if he could look some things over before he towed me. I gave him the go ahead and was under the hood and the car in minutes. Shortly after peeking out of the hood he asked if he could see the keys. I handed them over he he started it up on the first turn. According to him it looks like it overheated. He offered to let me follow him to a local shop and didn’t charge me a dime. I was tickled. After talking to the shop owner he noticed my temperature gauge was bad, and offered to check the rest of it over on Tuesday. They were about to close and he wasn’t wanting to work his weekend. Here in Salt Lake they take Sundays and Mondays off and since I showed up on a Saturday I have to wait. No worries as he said I could leave my RV at the shop and just stay in it, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Tomorrow I will find out what’s wrong with it and go from there.

 

 

“Try to fall in love every time you say hi” ~Patrick: Humanity Matters Reborn: Episode 9~

Soap Box Truth: A Hasty Retreat, Avoidance, Dismissal, and Shunning

Current world events are staging to redirect the entire populace of this beautiful planet towards the vulgar, grotesque, repugnant, cringeworthy, abominable, nauseating, and insufferable disgust that is war. Don’t plan on being informed of this by your local news outlet, e.g., newspaper, journalist, news station, or any other form of controlled, artificial news. These types and forms of news are designed to distract and persuade to the point of control. It is their “job” to drive how the populace thinks. Check for yourself. All one needs to do is tune into a news station and try to find a story that is beyond, or far removed from, sensationalism. Find a story promoting a coming together of nations, a unifying of people, or a conflict solution through synergy created by collaboration. All very tough finds.

Truth is a kleptocratic governing body will steal more than just your wealth. They will also rob you of your free will and oppress you to the utmost while increasing privation all the more frequent. This governing body is made up of more than politicians. It includes news anchors, journalist, police officers, military personnel, teachers, supervisors, managers, sales representatives, and any other position that places morality on the back burner for purposes of economics and blind obedience. These perfidious parasites spew their mendacious venom in all directions and play biase to their income generator. In doing so they divide humanity, incite riots of race, spark violence as a solution, and educate for conformity. So how do we help change this course of self destruction?

Simple, we change ourself. When we do this and operate within a construct of moral, righteous behaviour we inspire our self; however, that inspiration isn’t limited to our self. It touches others as well. This wouldn’t be a bad thing to perpetuate. Yet how many will take up the call for the betterment of humanity? How many will be courageous enough to follow their true, inner self?

As unpleasant as the truth is it is still no less than truth. I would encourage all, myself included, to stop and consider the moral implications of what we each do in our day to day lives. Consider as well: One does not have to follow an order because it is demanded of them. Fear oppresses freedom, obedience oppresses free will, and oppressed liberty is slavery’s welcome.

“If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.” ~John F Kennedy~

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Life Nectar

It’s easy to walk into a kitchen, grab a glass from a cabinet, and fill it from the tap. Presto, thirst quenched in under a minute. What happens though when that option isn’t a viable avenue? What if on top of not having a kitchen you can’t purchase water either? How does one procure the life sustaining drink when the two most culturally accepted methods to obtain them are not pursuable?

I have found, through experience of trial and error, a couple things that helped resolve the above questions. The first being a water filter. I cannot begin to emphasize the value of this little contraption enough. It has the power to turn a brown, cloudy liquid into a clear, crisp revitalizing refreshment. It also removes giardia and a host of other contaminants. We opted for a four liter gravity system for our travels.

The system itself allows us to be hands free while it filters. No squeezing or pumping involved. I simply fill the “dirty” bag with water, hang it from a limb or lay it on a slope, and gravity does the rest. It’s a simple process, but does take time and a water source. Usually around ten to fifteen minutes per gallon. I pass the time by attempting to meditate or sitting quietly just being in my surroundings. E.g., today I filtered five gallons from a mountain stream in a national forest. the water is clear, no cloudiness like when you get it from a city source, and has a crispness that I cannot transcribe. As I listened to the stream I found my thoughts roaming ever more inward until my focus was blurred and time was no place to be found. It is most rewarding. It was in one of these states that I understood a second, helpful tool for the acquisition of clean drinking water. Perseverance!

Yes, I said perseverance. I didn’t associate this with the collection of water until I actually tried gathering it from alternative sources such as mountain streams or springs on numerous occasions. This new understanding arose from much personal experience. A couple contributing factors are unreliable water sources and people. Let me elaborate more on the first factor.

Water can be indicated on a map or atlas by a blue line. This blue line can be either broken or solid, both indicating water. The broken line usually refers to intermittent or seasonal water while the solid line, supposedly, represents a reliable, year round source. Unfortunately with the ever changing climate these solid lines are becoming less reliable. I know, from personal experience through years of travel, that some of these water sources have dried up and some are intermittent. I see this currently in California. Imagine having half a liter of water and driving through a particularly long dry stretch. In the middle of this dry stretch is a solid blue line on your map. However, when you arrive at said blue line you find a riverbed occupied by only loose gravel and dirt. The only option at this point is to drive, even if it’s out of the way, to the next reliable water source. Don’t be discouraged though; not all water sources are like this. I actually believe the second factor to be more irksome.

People, sometimes they’re the worst. They can pose problematic when you aren’t living the way they believe is appropriate or their rules and regulations tell them they are not permitted to accept what you are doing. We were in a National Forest recently when we ran into a rather annoying situation. We came in the back way to avoid the hordes of people and traffic. This has always been a solid way to circumnavigate the delays and avoid being in the way of others. On this trip it was considered the winter season in the forest so I knew not many people would be here. It’s late February and the temperature is swinging from a low in the forties to a high in the sixties. As we entered the park we could see the river about five hundred feet below us, but there was no possible way to descend the drop. Luckily there was a day use area to our right that had a trail leading down to the water. The only problem was a locked rail preventing anyone from entering the area by car. The sign read closed for winter. No worries. I can park off to the side, there are no “no parking signs”, walk around the gate, and down to the water source. We decided to do this and Monique would walk Lyla while I filtered. It took a whole five minutes before I was approached by a forest official saying I wasn’t allowed to be parked where I was, I wasn’t allowed to get water from the stream, and we must leave; safety reasons of course. He didn’t care we had no water and he didn’t seemed concerned if we got any. Our safety and health wasn’t his problem, but the safety of the closed area was his problem and he was to protect that safety at all cost. Perhaps he was concerned the toilet would spontaneously combust and needed to be sure the fire apparatus could make it through in a timely manner. I couldn’t say either way, but I did manage to fill up our four liter water bag. I returned to the van knowing I had at least managed to retrieve a gallon of water. I don’t think he noticed the bag I was holding had water in it. We then drove to the overflow parking near the campground to filter the water. Surely we would be out of the way and not bothersome to any. The campground was open and held around five campers on the forty plus lot. As I set up our water filter a second forest official came over and informed us we couldn’t be in the overflow parking area. Perhaps they were expecting a mass exodus of city dwellers to converge on the campground that evening and we were in great parrel by being parked there. I can’t say for sure though. I politely explained we were filtering some water and then would be on our way. He mumbled something about fifteen minutes and then left. We drove another fifty six miles after this and filled the rest of our water via a stream on the opposite side of the park; there were no officials in this area whatsoever.

I still have not figured out what I did in either situation that was problematic. Both officials seemed burdened by our presence and only wanted our removal as timely as possible. This I deduced through a correlation of words and actions. I must note that not all forest officials are like this. There are service members who commend us for reusing plastic instead of always purchasing new ones, thank us for practicing leave no trace, and express inspiration in what we are doing. These are the stars in the night that give me strength. Don’t be discouraged by naysayers, the opposites, the friendly, encouraging service members, are worth the brief discomfort.

“The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules, but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages” ~Banksy

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A “Rusty” Memory

I was working for a rehabilitation and nursing home in Englewood CO., as a custodian, and received the universal gift, love. It was mid-day when I found myself in the room of Mr. Rusty, having a fun round of questioning as I cleaned. This was a reoccuring theme between me and many of the residents. Our conversation soon led to his past and the boxes of pictures residing in his bottom dresser drawer. I’ve always enjoyed looking through photos and enjoying the memory of another’s past experiences.

 

As curiosity tugged at my mind I thought of some things; I have an opportunity to help, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally, the well being of another. It is a life reward that will bear no financial acquisition, but if money isn’t a motivating factor the treasure is immeasurable. I recall thinking, if I go through these photos my list of “corporate chores” will not get done and there is usually a questioning of why from my superior. I am confident my, although valid and justified, reason will be dismissed and shunned. At this moment I laughed and smiled thinking “I get it”, promptly asking if we could go through the bottom drawer.

 

For the next two and a half hours I sat in a small room of a nursing home learning, laughing, and loving. Turns out Rusty was a fisherman who enjoyed travel. He had an old 1970 something full size truck that had a camper attached to the bed. I still remember the yellowish tone and white stripe down the side of the pickup. The top of his little camper rose up to provide more head room too. He would take this camper to alpine lakes mainly, fishing for trout. He had been doing this, on and off, since retiring from the Denver Dept. of Water. This portion of his life filled an entire photo album. I am still honored knowing he took time out of his day to share a portion of his life with me; however, like all good things, it ended.

 

I was found in Rustys room, sitting cross legged like an Indian with pictures and a photo album around me. The look of shock on the face of the nurse will forever be engraved in my memory. She very curiously asked what I was doing so I informed her. She had an odd, unknowing smile and then told me I was being sought for the last hour. Evidently some water had spilled in front of the nurses station and no other associate had the ability or competence to create a solution: at least one beyond putting a yellow caution sign over it and then looking for the janitor.

 

The smile and joy on Rustys face when I left his room was worth all my trouble, or lack thereof. My supervisor, Clark Kent, never questioned me about the incident either, but I believe that my choice was admired that day by more than just Rusty.  
“There is more to health than physical and more to life than money” ~Team Juice Box

Classy, Employable Homeless

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Securing work is an extensive and arduous undertaking. There are many hours of travel required, countless numbers of estimates wanted, a constant attempt at networking, job cancelations at the last minute, and maintaining a positive, never give up attitude all the while can be daunting. These are a just some of the obstacles we have faced throughout this venture. Nevertheless, we remain steadfast and determined to achieve our goal of procuring enough financial security to travel, via van, to Alaska.

 

Neither of us mind the travel aspect of our jobs. It’s a requirement actually. We are continuously driving thirty to seventy miles, in one direction, to find a suitable gig. We have had to do this for a week straight before finally landing a job. This is an expense, gas, that we must make; however, we have no guarantee we will regain the financial expenditure. It’s a fickle beast, economics. Spending the majority of our time traveling does allow us to see much of the countryside and get to meet many delightful individuals along the way. It also gives us a unique perspective of the climate, geology, and population density of the area while venturing to, sometimes, remote locations for an estimate.

 

One warm Friday morning Monique and I found ourselves in the middle of a Redwood forest looking for a potential clients home. It was a beautiful location, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life in and around San Francisco. As we drove up the quarter mile winding drive, discussing what the estimate was to entail, we checked our schedule to determine an appropriate start date if we were chosen for the work. When we arrived we were greeted, as usual, with smiling faces and welcoming gazes. We were then shown the rooms to be painted and then asked if we had any other areas of trade. I confessed I had drywall experience, but wasn’t up to any job in that area. I also informed them I had practiced roofing roughly 12 years ago and enjoyed it. (I must mention that many times we go to these estimates there is more than painting being wanted. Yes, they advertise as a paint only job, but then want someone who can paint, do drywall, and build a couple shelves all for one low cost. I guess they’re trying to bundle like a cable company to save money. Sometimes we get passed up because we aren’t skilled in multiple trades. I was hoping this estimate wouldn’t be the same as many prior ones.) After looking at the roof, taking measurements, and discussing the entire project we arrived at a conclusion: the roof needed replaced, there was drywall work that needed to be accomplished, some insulation needed replaced due to water damage, exterior and interior paint was required, and a general, overall cleaning was required. All this from a painting ad. Nonetheless, we gave our best attempt and are waiting to hear back.  

 

Along with these estimates we constantly network, talking to locals and people we meet along the way hoping to get a lead. E.g., today Monique met a gentleman at the dog park who is a plasterer. They talked for some time, his dog and our dog playing enthusiastically with each other like cosmic friends who haven’t seen each other in eons, discussing what each did for employment and enjoyment. He shared pictures as the discussion became more friendly and personal to better understand the character of the other. After some time, the gentleman who we shall call Emerald, asked for Moniques number and offered to send us some business if he heard of anyone who needed some painting done. This is our most favorable way to network, nonchalant conversation. Although we do, occasionally, get opportunities this way it also comes with cancellations.

 

On more than one occurrence we have arrived at a job site to only hear it has been canceled. I can recall one job where we finished three quarters of the home only to hear the financial backing had fallen through and the job was no more. We both, Monique and I, enjoy seeing things through to completion so it was disappointing not to be able to finish. We understand this was beyond our control and derived from nothing we had done, but we still felt awkward leaving the job uncomplete. Another time we showed up to the job site the morning of only to receive a call telling us they had chosen to go another route. This being after we made the 35 mile drive, one way, to the defined location. Still on another occasion we were informed, during our walkthrough and estimate, that multiple days would be required and the workload was sufficient enough to involve three complete days. Unfortunately when we arrived they changed plans and only had one day worth of work. This not only plays havoc on scheduling but also on the amount of work we do. These obstacles make it difficult to maintain an upbeat attitude.

 

I found myself, especially in these circumstances, feeling completely alone. Abandoned at the helm of a ship whos controls and understanding are foreign. I stood upon this deck, shirtless and battered by howling sleet as evolutions fury unfolded. Hopeless, everlasting privation gnawing at my insides, muttering words of vicious discouragement. It is in these times that I actually grew an understanding of myself and who I truly am; even if only in the slightest of degrees. As I sulked in my dismay a couple things occured to me. I realized I wasn’t alone. Monique was here, supporting me with encouraging words of optimal positivity and providing a different perspective. I also became aware that my thoughts were influencing me in a negative manner. These unwelcome circumstances are all a part of the life I am living. How I react and adjust to these situations will directly influence my well being and influence those around me. Having a bad attitude or resentment towards another will not provide propitious avenues.

 

Yes we are essentially homeless and do not have a permanent residence, but we are honest, good hearted people who are no less than employable. Our lifestyle is one of a counterculture nature and a path that we find rewarding. It may seem weird and inappropriate to the untrained mind, but in reality our business practices are much more rewarding psychologically, emotionally, and financially for all parties involved. It’s a success when no one feels the black hand, dripping with iniquity, giving a vice like hand shake at the conclusion of a partnership.

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“Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor” ~James Baldwin 

Inadequate space: A prerequisite

One of the largest and most persistent burdens we have had to address is space availability. It often feels like we will always fall short in this area no matter how valiant our efforts. This can be both daunting and depressing. Trying to jigsaw everything two people would need to work independent of a corporation and have a luxurious sojourn simultaneously is no less than problematic. Yes, even with two vehicles, one for work and one for residence, we find our quarter cramped. How do we do it? I have asked myself this question an innumerable amount and have yet to find a solution other than perseverance

Each day we continually stack, unstack, restack, adjust, move, and tie down our different possessions. This has become somewhat of a science and we have been able to develop a system which allows optimal organization. We accomplish this by ensuring each possession, first and foremost, has a purpose. If we cannot define its purpose we let it go, usually in a donation bin, free library, or a public place. Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse is cliche, but effective. The next step in our revolutionary solution is categorizing.

We, in order to be as efficient as possible, categorize every article we own. An example of this is our bathroom category. This consists of our toiletries, e.g., toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, soap, razors, toilet paper, towel, washcloth, etc. etc. A second example is our kitchen category. This consists of our cookware/eating utensils, e.g., forks, spoons, knives, pots, pans, can opener, potato peeler, cutting board, tupperware, etc. etc. This allows us to retrieve everything we need in a most timely manner. No searching required. And now our third step, placement.

Where does one place an entire cookset, all your toiletries, and clothing in a minivan? The answer is….. Inside of milk crates. This ingenious invention has allowed us to free up space while consolidating most of our property. We have six total. They stack two wide and three high in the back of the van. This leaves, when we restack for bed, enough room for our 5’8” and 5’7” frames to lay supine. Unfortunately not everything fits with the category it is assigned, e.g., gas camp stove, ukulele, and mattress pad do not, in the slightest degree, fit into a milk crate. This is where our fourth and final step, stacking, comes into play.

We neatly do stack everything in front of the milk crates. This goes for our bedding, camp stove, extra food, painting supplies we bring, board games, art and craft supplies, etc. etc. This provides enough room for Lyla to lay and have a little romp room; however, at night we unstack our building and restack it all in the front seats. It’s a routine we have grown accustomed to and become most efficient at. In fact, most of the time we can keep the driver seat completely free of possessions. There is a large benefit to this as well. We can be considerate of the other if one wishes to retire for the night while the other would rather stay up. More often than not I am the one retiring around ten while Monique enjoys the quiet of the night. Works out well and I am completely happy with how it transpires.

All in all our system works for us. This doesn’t alleviate the troubles or confined feelings that one may and can experience when living in such close proximity. Those dealings are for a different post.

“Love with altruism and internal liberation becomes an eternal companion.” ~Team Juice Box~

Transparent Depiction

The previous posts have been icebreakers; a way for us to open, slowly, the door that is us and allow a few of our ideas to permeate the cyber world. Now, we would like to share, on a more intimate level, who we are, our current profession, how we achieve van life, and where we are going. I must confess there is nothing spectacular, over the top, or extraordinary about either of us. We are your average, everyday run of the mill folk.

I, the narrator, am Alan and the behind the scenes guru is Monique, my partner, love, and best friend. Together we bring the less than exciting “us” to you. I could describe our features in some sublime grandeur that elevates us to the status of greek mythology, but for simplicity sake I will attach a picture to the bottom of this post. Go ahead, scroll down if you’re anxious to meet us. We are just as eager to make your acquaintance. I will let you, the reader, make your own assessment on our characters. I’m usually over generous to myself and my loved ones in this area. Now that you know are physical features I shall delve into our occupation and the life of van living.

We are currently in the occupation of painting. No, not artistic painting, but house painting, exterior painting, and any other thing  an individual might consider needing a fresh coat of color. We are not however limited to painting We also do a wide variety of construction related and independent work, e.g., drywall, roofing, general labor, murals, playing banjo venues, creating postcards, and making prayer ropes. If you feel you could use our talents at any point feel free to contact us. We are always open to opportunity. The latter are for our personal enjoyment and we rarely make, financially, much on the projects. This allows us to work for ourselves and define our schedule as we choose, our compensation as we deem acceptable, and our gigs based on a mutual, respectful understanding of client and laborer needs. There is a joy and successful feeling which accompanies such negotiative practices. We both feel that with work, or any other aspect of life, one should have a feeling of worth and dignity. There is far more to health than the physical and we consider this fact with everything we do. It is part of the reason we live in a van.

Yes, you heard correctly. We live in a van. No, not a spectacular sprinter van or even a small camper van, but in a minivan. A Kia Sedona to be precise. It’s rather luxurious too. You may be wondering how we achieve this so I’m going to elaborate. We live frugally and have another vehicle. The second vehicle, a Mercury Sable wagon, doubles as living quarters when we are in separate areas working independently and as a storage/work space when we are working cooperatively. This tremendous advantage allows us to pursue many possible paths that may not be accessible any other way. We use both vehicles just as you would a house, i.e., we cook in it, sleep in it, eat in it, hang out in it, clean it, and care for it. A majority of our equipment is camping related which allows us to save space while still having modern luxuries, e.g., cooking on a gas stove. Another beautiful thing is our level of invisbility. We blend into any environment and surrounding as if we belong; exception being when we navigate 4X4 dirt roads to access a remote trail head. So the next time you see a Kia parked in your suburban neighborhood it might just be two free spirits sailing their ship on the waters of life. A wonderful addition to van life is we have an amiable friend named Lyla living with us.

Lyla came to us from the pound in Flagstaff Arizona where we found her smiling in good spirits despite her filthy appearance, less than adequate size, obvious neglect, and very noticeable abuse. There were some veterinarian bills and social introduction exercises that were needed for her recovery, but they were well worth the time and expense. Lyla herself is what we define as a mut. She seems to be a mix of a few different breeds and no one seems confident of her exact makeup. She isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but she does have personality. You can see it through her almond gaze and her fun loving excitement of life. She is a joy and pleasure to have. Also, if you have any questions, concerns, or general inquiries feel open to express them.

“Success: the liberated internal state.” ~Team Juice Box~

Alan has blonde hair, Monique is the only lady, Chris is the far left, and Clayton is the photographer. 15194326_1174561172611913_8866175852890218835_o

Enjoying Liberation

In our current cultural construct there is a lack of emphasis on freedom and a strong pushing of debt related shackles that keep dreams in storage. I have never understood the value of putting a dream on hold until the “appropriate time” or until “the moment presents itself”. These concepts are counterproductive to the dream and only convince the dreamer that he or she is not yet ready. If you are dreaming it you are ready. Nothing is going to fall into our laps and give us all we desire without a struggle or hardship. That’s just not the way reality works. One has to put in the work and make the mistakes to grow an understanding and knowledge base that will allow success to follow. Failure is a word that only represents giving up. That is not a term we enjoy. With this tangent now fulfilled we shall move on.

Living the way we do has provided us an opportunity to experience a freedom that eludes most. The 9-5, Monday through Friday tedium is not something we enjoy. Yes, we understand work must be accomplished in order to create an income that will sustain us however, we do not see why we need to devote the majority of our time to such. Truth is, when one is compensated adequately and lives within a boundary of necessity,  there is no need to work to exhaustion. We have all we need with a fraction of the cost that is currently expected by the mainstream.

Here is a little food for thought. Water is free at most public parks, if you have a vehicle you have shelter, second hand clothing doesn’t devalue your worth, and food can be affordable when simple. The luxuries of comfort are what we choose and our thoughts are most influential on our perspective; they hold might. You can be happy with little and it does not matter what others have to say. If you are living righteously you are succeeding.

 

“A rainbows pleasure is true loves form; you can’t have beauty without a storm.” ~Team Juice Box~

 

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