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four years ago today [2012.10.22]

i woke up covered in snow this morning.  the girl at the campground had said it wasn't going to stick.  i was laying in bed in the morning not feeling like getting up right away.. although i had the heat on, i think i was still cold.  it felt like i didn't have to rush, though i decided i ought to get up and go outside to see the little bit of snow that was there before it melted.

as i started to explore, i discovered at least several inches of snow covering everything, and it was still coming down.  the top of my camper was bowing down in the middle.  i opened the hatch to try to get some of the snow off the roof and some fell on my bed.  i didn't have a snow brush or anything so i was using my hands which were quickly freezing through my old gloves.  i had forgotten my folding bike outside the night before and had to get the snow off of it and pack it up.  waking up to this much snow certainly was an adventure i hadn't expected.  i couldn't get that much snow off the roof.. when i went to close it, i almost got smacked in the face with the piece that helps you put it up, as it quickly slammed down with all the weight on it.  usually bungee cords help pull the tent material together though the roof slammed down so quickly that they couldn't react and the tent material was hanging off the sides of the camper.  the roof wouldn't budge when i tried to lift it back up to put the tent back inside, so i had to drive with it like that until i got to lower elevation where the snow had melted.  i think i put the truck in 4x4 to help make the way through the snow, especially where it wasn't yet plowed.  the four wheel campers factory wasn't too far out of my way that day, so i stopped by and was told it was probably fine despite the bowing and driving with the tent material out.  gratefully, i never had any issues with leaks or anything after that.. i'm glad the camper was durable.

on my way to another campground, i saw some dark clouds all around.  i rode my bike around the lake at the campground and appreciated the warmer temperature.  it was a bit crazy.. in just a few days' time i had experienced summer, fall, and winter.
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four years ago today [2012.09.16]

i woke up on the side of the road in washington and took a short drive toward the campground i'd be staying at for a couple nights.  i got there early so i stopped at an overlook above the river where the campground was.  after checking in at the campground, picking a spot, and setting up my camper, i took out my folding bike and went for a ride to explore the area down the road.

back at the campground, i went for a walk down the trail to the river, and later in the afternoon i watched the sun set behind the nearby mountains or hills.  it was nice to take a little break from driving so much.. it'd been 3300 miles since i left my friend's place the first day.  after pretty much just cleaning myself with baby wipes the previous 9 days, it was also really nice to be able to take a shower and feel clean.  i don't recall what else i did that day.. i probably cooked soup or pasta for dinner, and most likely worked on the computer.
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four years ago today [2012.09.08]

parked on the side of a road somewhere in a national grassland, i woke up in the middle of the pitch dark night hearing strange animal noises and feeling weird energy, and it looked like the rear window of my camper was broken.  it was pretty cold and i didn't want to get out of bed to look nor to write down the insights i felt.  at some point, i awoke with an understanding of perception.. early that morning i had written "I woke up a couple hours ago with an understanding about the reflection through which we see ourselves being the same transparent mirror through which we’re seeing the world, though can’t quite remember the exact words right now." when daylight came, i saw the rear window of my camper door was intact and the only signs of animals were some cattle up on a hill across the road.

i recall it appearing like a lot of the national grassland was fenced off or being used for agriculture rather than a park or preserve, so i headed west toward the badlands instead of explore longer.  after seeing a lot of the rock formations there, i drove down a dirt road surrounded by hundreds of bison.  i then headed over to another little part further out on the map, sheep mountain table.  it was a bumpy dirt road that led me to a much more desolate area where i only saw a couple other vehicles.  i got out to take some photos and was standing near the edge of the cliff when the wind stopped.  all of a sudden there was no sound at all, no sound of nature or man.. all that was left was complete, perfect silence, the voice of god.  it was a truly amazing and beautiful experience that words cannot begin to describe.  it was only my second full day on the trip and i had already discovered and felt the presence of god.  i looked forward to whatever other peaceful places i might find on this journey.

nearby there was a high clearance vehicle road that went further into the park.  i took it to the end where i set up a couple cameras for time-lapse shots of the sun fading across the badlands formations and the stars passing by.  it was nice to be able to spend the night sleeping under the stars in what felt like such a remote place.
 
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four years ago today [2012.09.20]

i spent the day at a campground not too far from north cascades national park where i was exploring the day before.  i did some laundry there and probably worked on the computer most of the day.. around this time of the trip i unexpectedly had to do a lot of work for a client who decided they wanted much more than they had originally specified for the web application i had built for them.  it was quite frustrating to have this affect my trip and make me feel rushed while exploring places, though it was really nice to be able to work from almost anywhere i wanted.  i spent a couple nights at this campground.. it certainly was much easier to get work done without having to go looking for somewhere to park that had a usable phone or internet connection.  there were plenty of beautiful, quiet places i could've stayed for a while, though many, if not most, were without a signal.  at the campground, i stayed at a nice spot in the shade under tall, thick trees.  in the afternoon, i went for a walk and explored the creek that ran through the back.. i think this was the campground where i saw a yurt in person for the first time (i'd been told about them years earlier when i became interested in alternative homes or living options).
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four years ago today [2012.09.10]

on this day i woke up just outside of devil's tower national monument.  i think i had seen a photo or something of it not that long before this trip and thought it'd be neat to go out there.  it was awesome to be exploring and seeing these places i wanted to visit.  i went into the park and explored some of the trails in the morning and then headed back into south dakota on the not so direct route to montana via north dakota.  i stopped at a green spot on the map there, just outside of theodore roosevelt national park, where i saw some interesting landscapes.

in a lot of places i visited or drove through, i felt i could've stayed longer and explored more, though i wanted to keep on heading west to stay on track to make it to the west coast before it got colder (as i had begun the journey much later than i originally wanted to). in the future i'd eliminate as many constraints as possible to being open for spontaneity.  i faced a few limitations, like non-existent phone service when a web application client decided they want much more than they originally asked for, having paid a lot for a campground membership that was running out with locations only on the west coast states, and having left when it was already starting to get cold in some places in my journey.  next time, i wouldn't drive as much each day and would see how i feel during the journey rather than sticking to a pretty rigid plan.

i did this a little later for part of the trip and would enjoy doing it the whole time.  life is so much nicer when we're relaxed and in the present moment rather than thinking we need to follow a certain plan.

allowing ourselves to be more flexible and spontaneous opens us up to new opportunities.  the day before this when i was at the tour at wind’s cave national park (which going there wasn’t part of my plan), i recall i was in the elevator with the young park ranger who gave the tour, and i think after everyone else had gotten out, she said something about being hungry (wanting pizza or something).. had i been more flexible and spontaneous, i could’ve asked if she wanted to join me for dinner and perhaps made a new friend.
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four years ago today [2012.09.06]

on this day i was about to embark on a journey across the country, one without a date to return home.  my home would be my pop-up truck camper as i began life on the road.  it was a new chapter in this adventure called life.

summer was almost over.  i had been helping a friend with his startup company since i left florida the end of may, much longer than anticipated.  i wanted to get on the road west weeks earlier to have plenty of time to explore before it got too cold in the northern states.  i planned out the first 10 days from chicagoland to the first campground i'd be staying at in washington, and figured i'd make my way towards the coast after that, though had no other plans set in stone.

i felt i might not want to leave once i got to california.  i had been there once before, nearly a decade earlier.  i recall sensing the beautiful, relaxed feeling in the air when i first arrived.  it was quite unlike florida.. perhaps it was because i was on vacation someplace new, though there was still something about it that felt different.  the nature was quite striking and there was so much of it.  i'd been to washington and oregon a couple times after my first trip to california, and also appreciated the landscapes found there.  i was excited to be heading out west and getting to explore the middle states of the country i'd never yet seen.  something about the wide open land always called to me.
 
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four years ago today [2012.09.17]

i spent this day at the campground i arrived at the day before.  i most likely worked on the computer or took it easy and rested in the camper.  around dusk, i went for a walk down the path to the river.  i probably cooked soup or pasta or something simple.  living life on the road, i often ate cereal for breakfast (or sometimes oatmeal), and veggie wraps for lunch.  as mini-meals, i would snack on bars, bean chips with salsa, apples with peanut butter, or something else i could easily eat between wanderings.  i occasionally would stop for a sub with eggs and veggies or a veggie taco somewhere.  i don't recall cooking too often, though it was nice to have the burners in the camper and be able to cook something simple when i did do so.

i'm looking back at what i wrote on this day, and it looks like i was realizing how much stuff i had brought with me.  i do recall this first journey of life on the road being a bit ridiculous in the amounts of stuff i had with me.  i honestly didn't know if i was coming back or for how long i'd be gone, so i had pretty much everything with me.  i remember having to step over things or move multiple things around just to find what i was looking for.  the journey the following year was much simpler as i didn't carry as much.  minimalism in life, especially life on the road, is an enormous help.  besides making it easier to find things, it frees up mental space of things you need to think about or take care of.

i know if i were to do life on the road again, it'd be much simpler this time around.. in the technological improvements alone, i'd need much less gear to be able to create the same kind of images and videos i did on this trip.  when thinking about acquiring something new or keeping something old, have a look at how much you'll actually use it and consider if you really need it.  if you're barely gonna use it, it's probably not worth getting or keeping around.  it's also helpful to only keep something that's versatile with multiple uses.  i used to have gear that was only for very specific types of shots that would take up so much space and just sit there for weeks, months, or longer.
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four years ago today [2012.09.09]

on this morning i woke up on sheep mountain table in the badlands.  i had spent the night sleeping under the stars with my camera photographing them all night.  i explored the area a little more before continuing on my journey west.  when planning the route toward washington, i decided to zig-zag my way across the map so i could visit all the northern states on the way there.  this day i took a slight detour out of south dakota into nebraska.  i would look for green spots on the map to go visit.  after either having lunch or a bathroom break at one of these green spots in nebraska, i headed back to south dakota on the way towards wyoming.

while in nebraska, i learned that the google maps app on my old phone might know better than me.  i had seen what looked like a shortcut that it wasn't telling me to take.  when i attempted to follow this road, the dirt path went up a pretty steep hill in the middle of what seemed to be a field.  i decided to try to follow it anyway as i had already started going that way.. i ended up having to put my truck into 4x4 low and then go up backwards back over the hill just to get out when i saw there wasn't a road or path on the other side.

i explored a couple places along my route in south dakota and decided to check out wind's cave national park when i saw it on the map.  i took a tour in one of the caves, and then drove up through one of the nearby state parks where i saw some more buffalo that were also right on the road like in the badlands.  i wanted to make my way towards devil's tower to photograph the stars over it, though i recall it being a bit of a drive and i think i was getting tired plus i didn't know if i was going to be able to find a spot with a good view that i could park at all night.  i'm glad i decided to keep going and made it there.. when i arrived, i found a spot along the side of the road just outside the national monument with a clear shot of the tower.