We started the drive home with relief that we weren't taking a rental or UHaul back. We cruised past Pine Valley with a full tank of gas and made our way back through the desert. We planned to stop halfway again, and the GPS was taking us a new route.
It took us through the Tonto National Forest, and it was spectacular. Rows upon rows of cacti defined themselves in front of steep desert landforms, and the desert went from the dirty flats to big mountains. The car cruised up and over each mountain pass on the way back and slowly rebuilt a confusion of confidence.
The night caught up with us, as we were about an hour from the $40 motel we booked on Expedia. The stars were prevalent across the dark sky. We talked about bringing the van back in the summer for a camping trip out in the desert to stargaze.
We made our way to the front desk of the $40 motel, and boy was it a $40 motel. No complaints whatsoever, only stories. The guy at the front desk was a hoot, and welcomed us with his quirky jokes and desk clatter. He said the town had a famous historical feature known as the "Bucket of Blood" where an old western shootout took place.
We ordered a pizza and called it a night.
The next day held a few surprises. Surprise #1 was a drive through The Petrified National Forest. Olin got another stamp in her National Park Passport. We learned that the wood was more like stone, as millions of years of river water had flown through the down logs depositing minerals on the way out.
We enjoyed walking through the interpretive center and learning about the history of the park. We took a walk along the path outside, and Olin climbed the staircase all by herself. She stood on top of the stairs looking down with a content smile. We made a stop at the Painted Rocks and drove over old Route 66. Unplanned stops are always the best, unless they are on the side of the road and you're not stopped by choice.
After The Petrified Forest, the car chugged all the way to Santa Fe before we met surprise # 2.
Smoke poured out of the exhaust pipe and from under the engine. The temp gauge read smokin' hot. Collin walked a couple miles to the nearest gas station to get Coolant and came back looking mighty glum.
The car had made it 13 out of 15 hours almost home, and now that feeling of uneasiness returned as we uneasily shifted to the nearest AutoZone. Back in survival mode, Collin said he was "Never leaving home" once we figured out how to get back. I looked into tow options, UHaul trucks, and even posted the Subie up for sale at worst case scenario. We found a Subaru mechanic near the auto shop, and he said to come on by for a quote. He suspected there was more wrong than he could see, so we booked another night in the motel to make a plan. And meanwhile, the budget was dwindling.
After skimming a few options, we tried to rent a UHaul trailer. They would not rent them for one way use, so we toyed with the idea of seeing the mechanic again and knew we couldn't afford id. We got up in the morning, stress-ate a big continental breakfast, and Collin said, "F-it, let's see if it'll make it home."
And two hours later, we pulled into the driveway. Now to see if it really is the (dun dun dun) infamous blown head gasket.
Catch up with Part I here.
The Dana on Mission Bay was amazing. I checked in with the front desk, and we drove through the gated entrance and parked near what looked like a rainforest. Palm trees everywhere, and I listened for the sound of tropical parrots and expected to duck for toucans.
I thought to myself, is this real life? The room was cozy, refreshing, and spotless. They even gave us a welcome bag for the pups.
The balcony overlooked a mecca of sailboats, and we felt so happy to see this much water after being landlocked for a while.
We unpacked and went to check the place out. There was a poolside bar, hot tub, and events going on daily. I guess we had never "resorted" much, so this was pretty mind-boggling to us. I mosied over to the list of events and saw there was a poolside BBQ, kid-friendly poolside movie, and many other fun things to do without ever having to start up the car.
Insert wavy vision, and my mind started imagining us living here at this resort for more than a few weeks. We'd order room service breakfast every day and spend our days by the pool, sipping mojitos and watching Olin splash in the shallow end. I snapped back to reality and realized we were here for "work" and would make the absolute best of the next two days.
We threw on our guest robes and bopped down to the hot tub. And in case you're wondering, No we did not put Olin in the boiling jet water. Collin and I had been fantasizing about basking in a hot tub for a few weeks at this point and were determined to make it happen. We decided to take turns, the ole parent switchamaroo! We had gotten used to this via biking and hiking sessions- one waits with the kiddo while the other temporarily indulges. He eased into the hot fizzing water with one other guest already soaking on the opposite side. The man studied our family with a half-smile as if anticipating what our next move would be. I sat on the lawn chair with Olin under a night lamp, as the sun was almost completely down. Collin said, "Come on, she'll be fine in the chair." I laughed, knowing that as soon as I got into the steamy water that she'd be running around the concrete tempting her fate at falling into the pool. "I'll wait my turn," I said with a crack-like stare eyeing down the hot tub. "No, really, come on," he said. Fine, I thought, we'll see how this goes. I sat along the edge of the hot tub and dipped my feet in up to my knees. "Come all the way in," Collin persuaded. I momentarily debated if it was worth the toddler screams that would ensue if I were to leave Olin on the edge of the hot tub without an invite to join us. I took a deep breath and plunged waist-deep into the hot, steaming water. It felt wonderful, relaxing. Olin sat on the towel, and I held her hand as I sat with my back to a rushing jet. "Ahhhh, this is nice," I told Collin. "See? She's fine," he said. She had the look, though. I know that look better than I know the taste of mac & cheese. Why aren't you letting me in that hot tub with you and Dad? I imagined her almost two-year-old brain thinking. She started with a low squeal and teasing us like she would plop into the hot water. Collin smiled, and I couldn't help but crack up at the situation. We had done this to ourselves more times than we could count (the worst was the time we took her to a silent city council meeting and forgot the snacks at home mid-row, with no escape on either side). The man sitting across from us asked where we were from, and we struck up a conversation to distract him from Olin's nearing tantrum. We embraced a few more minutes of soaking in the hot water, then Collin said he was going to take Olin for a swim in the heated pool. I took in a couple more minutes, wished the man a good vacation, and followed my family over to the pool. The stars were out, and Olin was giggling as her Dad pulled her back and forth in the warm water. We were all enjoying our time at the Dana.
We woke up feeling rejuvenated and headed back to Ocean Beach. I introduced myself to a few Red Bull hosts and was stoked to see where the day would lead covering this event.
On the return from Big Bear Resort, the bus dropped me off with a few new friends at the University of California San Diego parking lot. They gave me a ride to meet Collin where he was parked a few miles away near the library. It was bad news.
As he had pulled into the parking lot, the timing belt had went AWOL.
Along with what Collin discovered as two missing belts, the harmonic balancer came loose on the crankshaft. We were S.O.L. I saw a familiar panic arise in his face that was present most of the summer we lived in the van. I felt an immense pressure of guilt that I had put my family in this situation. We were stranded at a college campus in SoCal with no idea what to do next.
A very sweet friend I had made on the Switchboard trip offered me a ride to an O'Reilly's Autoparts. Collin called in all the parts we needed, and they were available for pick-up. I came back with belts, but at the time that wasn't enough to fix the Subie.
We retreated back to the Dana via Uber. It took three Uber drivers before one finally let us all in for a ride- two adults, 1 baby, 2 dogs- CHECK. We were feeling less excited about all the resort amenities and didn't speak. We Googled mobile mechanics, but everything was closed, as it was almost 10:00 PM. It was a sleepless night to say the least.
The next morning, we got up at 7:00 AM and anticipated the mobile mechanics to open at 8:00 AM. Collin called a few regular mechanics, but they were closed for the weekend and would not return until the following day when we were scheduled to be halfway back to New Mexico.
$250 bucks and an Uber ride later, Collin was on the way home in the Subaru. A mobile mechanic had saved her, temporarily, and given us the okay to make the 15 hour drive home. We were relieved to be back on the road and celebrated with California burritos.
The burritos were worth the drive alone. Fresh avocado, zesty steak, grilled chicken, and rice all tightly wrapped into a wad of heaven. We hung along the sidewalks of OB and ate our burritos as the dogs sniffed every person that walked by.
It was time to go home.
And then this happened... See Part III.
Collin and I halfheartedly tossed around the idea of driving 15 hours each way from New Mexico to San Diego.
We only had the Subaru for a week, and with well over 200,000 miles on it, he was pretty concerned about driving it all the way to the Pacific Ocean. I mentioned taking the van to save on hotels, but then we were invited to have our lodging expenses covered.
Vaguely discussing renting a car, we decided to test our luck and the Subie's. If anything was wrong with the car, a 900 mile drive would surely let us know. Plus, the guy said he had filled the car with all new fluids, changed the spark plugs, and even replaced the head gasket a few years sooner.
I had been invited out to cover the Red Bull Switchboard event at Ocean Beach and do a write-up on the experience. Collin was tired of the road, maybe still recovering from our 7,000 mile summer road trip. I was determined to get to the event, as it seemed like too great an opportunity to pass up.
Only a couple days away from the weekend, Collin said he and the fam would join me on the last minute road trip to San Diego. We'd only be there for two days. I really hoped this would open up some doors in the outdoor-writing-realm, because if you don't chase your dreams, no one will.
I felt giddy about getting back on the road. I wasn't entirely confident in the Subaru, but something was telling me I needed to work this gig in Ocean Beach. Collin put in a request for a couple days of PTO, and I spent Thursday morning packing up all the baby & dog stuff.
We blazed through Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The hanger was setting in as we pushed through to a near Chik-fil-A (we hadn't eaten it in over a year living in the backwoods and all). And it never tasted so good. A huge plus of living in the mountains is the zero-access to fast food.
The scenery alongside the road was incredible. We had come from big pine trees, driven through the canyon by the Rio Grande River, and now we were face to face with the desert and all its astonishing landforms (and hundreds of cacti).
Collin was right about breaking the trip up into two sections, so we got a nice sleep and a continental breakfast. We hadn't eaten a continental breakfast since Van Life adventures back around the outskirts of Seattle, and man, do we love continental breakfasts. I always feel like such a fatty when it comes to free breakfasts, because I can't pick just one thing. Like, yeah, I'll take some fruit loops with a mix of sausage, are those eggs?, and toast- why not, a bagel, oh- and a plate of freshly battered waffles with extra syrup.
We were 7 hours from San Diego, and the roadside scenery was entertaining the whole way there. Until we had a bit of a scare.
We pulled over at a gas station to "top her off." Collin went inside and realized it was going to be near $5.00 a gallon and said a big fat NOPE. I silently agreed, heck naw. We continued down the road, as our gas log blew off the top of the Subie, classy-like. I ran down the middle of the road and scooped it up along with the pen. Luck.
Collin drove the family stationwagon around some monster canyon-wall curves, as the road kept getting steeper by the minute. The engine was getting hot, about halfway between toasty and burnt toast on the temp gauge. I turned the heat on full blast to cool her down, and we kept on truckin'.
"Shi*t, we are going to run out of gas," he said as we neared the top of the pass, "Look up gas stations, now." The nearest one was 20 miles away. Traffic was backing up in front of us, go figure, as we crossed over the border patrol checkpoint. He looked from the gas gauge, to me, back to the gas gauge, and idled the car through the checkpoint. "Do you have any fresh fruit?" asked the patrol officer. I said no, and we drove on.
We were coasting downhill at this point, thank God. Made it all the way up the pass, and the gas needle was floating on empty. Praise Jeebus, Hellelujah, a sign with a gas pump made its way into view, and we took a hard right.
Three miles into the drive, no sign of the gas station. We took a left and, yay, another hill pointing down. We coasted to the bottom of the hill, and there off the isle of black asphalt was the glorious two-pump waterhole.
So we had more than a full tank now, and the milkshake made everything better. We were almost to San Diego.
We made it to OB just in time for sunset, and it was a beautiful one, mate. After trotting along the beach with college bonfires on each side of us, I remembered I had been here before on a road trip years before. Funny how life works out sometimes. Olin bopped around observing the waves come to and fro. Collin said with a big, cheesy, smile, "Hey, I am going to put on my snowboard gear and walk out into the ocean." I said "okay" and took a few snapshots before returning to the Subie to check out our hotel.
Read Part II here to see what shenanigans we got ourselves into next.
Remember when you were a kid and you never felt as awkward as you do now, or at least you didn't overthink the awkwardness? And just as easily as not overthinking, you kept dreaming and imagining all the big things you could do with your life? You dreamt of actually going to the moon and never questioned the silly thoughts and wonders that crossed your mind.
You never thought you were crazy or immature. You just went with it and kept on dreaming.
You played sports or maybe drew a lot of pictures with your No. 2 pencil. No one fussed at you for being childish or criticized you for making art instead of balancing your checkbook.
You just followed your child-like instincts to do what floated your boat, and you probably didn't question your every decision about whether it was setting up your life to be perfect or following the American Dream. You just were, and that was enough.
WHAT HAPPENED TO DREAMING?
Today, we are faced with the evolution of technology and comparing our lives to our friends and family more than ever. Bob is engaged, Sue is on her 4th kid, and by golly oh gee- Stacy is making it big in real estate! What the f*ck am I doing with my life?
It's easy in the hustle & bustle of today's society to forget what actually lit your fire as a kid. Work consumes most of our productivity hours in the week and Netflix & Chill is marketed to us like it's 90s Space Exploration.
Do you still draw like you used to or paint just because you enjoy it? What about piano lessons or learning that song on an acoustic guitar?
For some reason, it is drilled into us as we enter the Adult Realm that our creativity doesn't matter as much as it did when we were kids. We feel guilty for taking time to paint a picture or sit down and just breathe.
Yet, you are praised for getting promoted in your job or working overtime until your fingers fall off and you can't think for yourself.
I am here to tell you, your CREATIVITY MATTERS. #CREATIVELIVESMATTER
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I'm calling it. I am sick. I am tired. I am sick and tired of not dreaming (Thanks, Wanda Sykes).
If you dig deep enough in that little soul of yours, I promise that child-like wonder you had from your Tonka truck days still exists. You may have to nourish it and put some effort into rekindling the desire and curiosity, but it's still in there.
And not a soul in this world is going to dig it out but you.
NO ONE WILL MAKE YOU DO IT.
I want to preach. Because I feel like too many dreams are out there dying in today's world.
If you are waiting around for your family or friends to get on your rear and tell you to get back to dreamin', good luck. People got their own problems they are worrying about. Ain't a person on this planet gonna make you do it but Y O U. And I am giving you permission to FOLLOW YOUR GUT on this one. See where it takes you. If you fall, get back up and try again. Try, try again.
And if you're a parent yourself, that doesn't mean it's too late. You are never too old to stop dreaming. Never. In fact, your kiddos will know when you are passionate about something and maybe even get inspired from it. Be an inspiration.
MAKE A LIST.
What is something you did as a kid that really stoked your heart up? Write it down and make it a point to do it once a week or once a month if your life has gotten so consumed by other "priorities." Grab some paint at the Dollar Store and slap it on notebook paper just to get the creative blood in your veins again. Wipe the dust off that instrument in your closet and give it a little TLC, even sign up for a music class.
Stop Meme-Sharing and actually buy the random ticket to God knows where. Just go and do it already.
We don't live forever. The clock is ALWAYS ticking. Show your family and friends extra love and draw them a handmade card. I know it's inside of you, because I have been trying to dig mine out of me. And it takes some work. It takes a hell of a lot more work to chase your dreams than it does to get up and clock in everyday. It doesn't always pay the bills, and it sure as dog poo doesn't always please everyone in your life. But how about you focus on pleasing you for a change?
DREAMING IS FREE. THE HUSTLE IS SOLD SEPARATELY.
To create and live a life of your choosing is probably the hardest thing you'll ever do. You have to throw in factors like what's best for your family, meeting your basic needs, and there will always be sacrifice.
You have to wake up every single day and GET AFTER IT. Chasing your dreams is not something you will ever have a solid answer for. There will always be missing puzzle pieces, and it keeps life interesting. We are always changing.
And in return, always chasing. It's human nature. It takes energy and effort to wake up and love what you do with your day. Write it all out. What is most important to you?
I sat down and drew a sketch of an elk the other day and took my time coloring inside the lines. From there, I felt inspired. Inspired to draw more, like I used to. Inspired to take a trip and see more wildlife. Inspired to be myself.
We get older, but that doesn't mean we have to change who we are to adapt to acting like adults.
Share your dreams with me! I would love to hear what you are truly passionate about and what you want to do with your life. What made you happy as a kid? Sports? Travel? Art? I want to hear all about whatever it is! Drop me a comment below or send me a personal email! Tell me about your dreams: email@example.com :)
Life should be anything but ordinary. If every single minute of every single day was planned out for the rest of your life, how would you feel about it? Some of you may prefer it that way, but the essence of life would be stolen. And you probably couldn't stick to all those plans regardless.
Dictionary result for life
We were lucky enough to end up as life in the world distinguished from inorganic matter. And on top of that, we have the mental capacity to study and understand what the heck that even means. We are ALIVE. So what do you do with this big something of life?
Sure, you can play by the book and keep it safe. Go to school. Pay a large sum of money for the right books and tools to get educated. Maybe, most likely, even accumulate quite a bit of debt before you fully understand what a credit score even is. Work your butt off studying for a degree you aren't sure you even want while working a minimum wage job to feed yourself Ramen.
Deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life at the age of 18 is a pretty big deal. Yet if you say you aren't ready to make that decision at a not-yet legal drinking age, you are given the look of disappointment and immediately labeled as uneducated, ungrateful, or a simple lazy bum. All because your unripened brain couldn't commit to one major to focus on for the rest of your l i f e.
CAPACITY FOR GROWTH
According to a not-so-recent article published by NPR, the parts of the brain involved in critical decision-making are not fully developed until age 25 and in some cases, 30. How the heck are we supposed to commit our lives in debt to a lifelong study of whatever degree the dart lands on before we are truly even capable of choosing between Frosted Flakes or Fruity Pebbles for breakfast?
The trick to feeling like you are making the right and best, greatest decision for your future is simple. Don't. Don't rush into anything that makes you acquire guilt, confusion, or insecurity. If you are doing it for someone else, it's a mistake. Step back and breathe. Contrary to what we are taught from books and school, it's okay to relax and take time for yourself. To just be.
To be able to Learn and Grow, we must first hold ourselves accountable for our own decisions. You went to college because your dad made you? Not buying it, you walked through the door with your own two feet into orientation and signed those papers. You dropped out because life at home wasn't peachy? Nah, you left because you had other priorities in mind. We are the only ones who can be truly held accountable for what we do with our one, precious life.
Life is a sum of all our decisions. And then you have the little bits of surprise and chaos thrown in there that spice up those decisions and might even pull you down a new path altogether.
YOU AREN'T LAZY FOR LIVING
There is always someone out there who will not agree with whatever path life takes you. Your parents are probably just trying to help you avoid the mistakes they made and help you have a better life. Your grandparents just want you to be happy and are likely a little detached from our generation's way of doing things. Anyone else can say whatever they want, but it's up to you to let it get to you and affect decisions you make about your life.
It's okay to not have everything figured out between high school and college. And even after that. Hell, I just turned 28 and am still figuring things out.
Get up and get after whatever it is that makes you feel alive. You will fall, inevitably make mistakes, and you'll get back up and learn from them. And along the way, you will begin to understand who you are and what it is you seek from life. It's a great accomplishment to understand what it is you are actually looking for to start with.
Maybe you will decide to pursue a higher education with confidence in your decision of which degree to get after. Maybe you will travel the world. Maybe you will stay in your home town to be near family, because you will realize the importance of being close to the ones you love. Or maybe you'll say to hell with it and buy a van to live in down by the river.
Whatever it is you decide, it is up to you to be happy and content with the life that spawned from those initial decisions. And I have to say, my initial decision to drop out of school led to some pretty cool outcomes. Not easy by any means. Not ideal. Not preferred or planned. But beautifully chaotic.
Who would have thought? Reproduction is a naturally occurring part of life. It's almost scary to think of the reproduction rate and ever-growing population of our planet, but it's natural and it's why we are here.
The odd-ball chance that you and I ended up with a shot at life in this world is pretty amazing. Pretty spectacular. It should be anything but ordinary. And you can decide what ordinary means to you. For me, it means structured and routines, full of plans, and set dates. All those words make me cringe. There's nothing wrong with plans and structure, but the thought of knowing what I am doing day-to-day for the rest of my life is daunting.
I enjoy the unknown. The surprises of life. But that doesn't mean you have to. I do believe plans have their place and help alleviate stress, especially when you combine into a family.
The picturesque Get a Degree, Get a lifelong job, and Start a family scene that was in all of our elementary school books growing up doesn't always pan out. And the pressure of anything out of that ordinary picture is surreal, because we live in a society that has told us what to do with our lives since we were like 5 years old.
It's okay to think different. You can still contribute to society and have a family in your own creative lifestyle. Screw Stepford.
After you own your responsibility to decide for yourself and create a life worth living, WHAT NOW? Well, you have to take care of yourself. You have to preserve your body and mind and allow them to both develop alongside your direction of life.
There are three essentials that support your Functional Activity: Physical, Social, and Psychological Well-Being.
Keeping up with your physical health can also help maintain mental health. Sweating, breathing hard, and burning cals rids stress hormones and replaces them with endorphins. Cortisol- bad. Endorphins- good. Study up on it here.
What I am getting at is this. You are either a person who loves to be physically challenged or you are not. Maybe you're half-n-half. Either way, you can either create a life that makes physical exercise a priority or you can spend time creating a balance to include physical activity along the outskirts of other priorities.
The same goes for Social and Mental Well-Being. You likely don't just have people knock on the door nightly to conversate about the place the world exists, politics, and state of the nation. Maybe you are that popular. But the rest of us have to make that stuff happen. And if you're anything like me, you run from people and social gatherings altogether. Like physical maintenance, social health also requires a bit of effort and priority placement. Even if just a little bit of effort to meet the Functional Activity levels of life. Join a book club or something that makes you speak to people outside your comfort zone at least once a month.
Mental well-being is the most important of the three but also affected by the others (physical/ social). To be able to make reasonable decisions in your life, you need to provide a healthy environment for your mind to flourish. Try meditating, seriously. It doesn't make you a hippie and will help you grow the ability to be mindful in ways from what you eat to having healthy arguments. A healthy balance of all three Functional Activity essentials is key to living a good life.
We are always changing, and it's great! Even when we try to plan things down to the tee, we are still incapable of completely preventing change. Every single day, we do something different from yesterday. Sometimes it can be scary how similar our Facebook statuses are to those one year ago on that damned Timeline Throwback whatever that we are faced with in the mornings. But nonetheless, we are different and always evolving. Isn't it exciting!?
To be alive and considered life, we must have the capacity for continual change. Hey, if you don't like the path you're headed on, guess what? Time for a change! It is never too late to go back to school, travel the world, or ask that chick on a date (unless she already tied the knot, just make sure it's worth putting yourself out there for). Human beings are always changing and evolving. The technology we have created over the span of 10 years is inconceivable, and we just keep growing our knowledge and capacity to exceed our wildest dreams.
Mark Manson wrote a really cool article here about trying to change yourself. He explains it better than I ever could, so just read it. Change isn't about being or becoming someone you're not; it's about the decisions you make and the actions that follow.
Do something with your life. Let it flow, or don't. Bring your thoughts into actions, and work towards something extraordinary. You only live once, or so they say. Get off the damn couch and go make something of your life!
Dogs & Diapers