Jun 2, 2017 - Aug 21, 2017

Canyonlands, UT

Much of this summer consisted of reconnecting with friends and family as we returned to the Pacific Northwest. As spring came to an end, we travelled north at a brisk pace, for us, trying to outrun the heat. We passed through the SW corner of Colorado and up through Utah's Canyonlands. We diverted through Boise, ID so that we could fly to Portland for my aunt's funeral and eventually landed in Nine Mile Falls, WA for about a month with Katie’s family.  After that we headed back towards the Puget Sound region and spent lots of time socializing and taking care of things that had been put off for a year.  We then headed to Salem, OR to be with my family and to experience our first total eclipse. We also had our trailer in the shop for a bit to deal with the few issues we ran into on our journey. With all of that going on, little to no photography was had after we left Nine Mile Falls. So, don’t be surprised that a number of this quarter’s highlights come from there.

What a Year it's Been


(click map to make zoomable)
A year ago, Katie and I cut loose the bonds that held us in place. Since then we have drifted, with only a few known goals and a few restrictions. It was likely easier for us to do this than for some because we didn't make strong emotional or physical investments into our home in Seattle--other than our lovely bathroom that Katie's brother did a big part of. Even so, it was somewhat harder for us to make the change due to our level of inertia. While we see many of our friends and family making significant changes over the past year, it took something mildly dramatic for us to break the chains. 

We have very few regrets at this point and have grown a lot this past year. Still affected by strong inertia, we continue to drift as we enter year two. While last year was about breaking free, this year is starting out to be about finishing some projects and assimilating what we have learned about the world around us and ourselves. 
There is much to like about our current situation, but it is clear that it is not a permanent scenario. We love our little home and the mobility that it is giving us, but we are at the same time aware of its limits and how it is somewhat restricting as we weigh our options for the near, and distant, future. 

Much like in scientific discovery, we have learned more about what we don't know than acquired any vast new understanding. How do we follow new threads of discovery while contributing to a larger whole?

Lots of existential thoughts to get lost in. So, let's do an accounting of the past year.  

Looking at the numbers

In the 12 months from Sept 6, 2016 to Sept 5, 2017, Katie and I:
  • Visited 8 western states outside of our home state of Washington.
  • Stayed in about 80 different locations.
  • Travelled 10,690 miles.
  • Burned up 566 gallons of gas.
  • Used 60 - 70 gallons of propane.
  • Used 4-5 gallons a day of water, not including toilet/showers/laundry which are currently external systems.
  • Spent 357 of 365 nights in our trailer (the only exceptions were flying to the Portland, OR area for my aunt’s funeral, staying a few days with our Seattle neighbors, and taking our trailer in for repair).
  • Spent 135 days using primarily solar panels to power work and trailer systems.  
  • Averaged about $500 per month for lodging.
  • Averaged less than $900 per month for groceries and eating out.
  • Made only three orders from Amazon (outside of gifts to nieces).  This makes up for the many orders prior to Sept 6, 2016 in preparing for the trip.
  • Watched one movie in a theater (“Arrival” on Thanksgiving day in Provo, UT).
  • Watched three movies at someone’s house (“Newsies”, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", and "The Martian”).
  • Watched two TV “miniseries" that I had recorded (BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” and “Firefly”).
  • Were the only two people in Topock, AZ to watch the Seattle Sounders win the MLS Championship. (I’m just going on a hunch here.)
  • Read 7 or 8 books. 
  • Listened to 7 Audiobooks.
As I stated in my mid-year retrospective, our gas budget goal ended up losing out to other goals such as seeing where the wind would blow us. Our original budget was based on not wanting to use more gasoline than the average of the previous four years of traveling--about 14,200 miles per year in our 37-mpg Honda Civic. That gave us a gas-budget goal of 388 gallons per year. We traveling fewer miles, but in a rig that ended up averaging around 19 mpg. This means we used half again as much gasoline as we had hoped. Something for us to work on in year two.

Solar power worked reasonably well. In sites with decent sun, we could work and run our trailer systems almost indefinitely. The only thing that really strained it was trying to do something intensive, like photo processing on the computer. Having a way to augment the solar at night and on stormy days would likely solve that. There were plenty of times that a wind generator would have done the trick. In the end, it was hard not to plug in when electricity was available, but I was far more aware of how much electricity I was consuming when I had to manage the generation of it. 

Entertainment was minimal, and rarely sought out. Usually, we had plenty to keep us busy throughout the day.  We might end up listening to a bit of an audiobook to wind down in bed and I would always read something to put me to sleep. We had a few things that I had ripped from DVDs and put on a tiny thumb drive (more like a pinky drive that was easy to lose). Nothing we hadn’t seen before, but they entertained us when there was a need. I thought I would listen to more audiobooks on the road, but with most stints being relatively short (2 to 3 hours max) and the places we were driving being relatively new to me, there wasn't a need to distract myself.

Did we learn anything?

A few things:
  • We want to continue to be connected with the outdoors.  Hopefully, in a more integrated way than only as a playground.
  • We want community in our lives. Specifically, community that recognizes its tie to the land in a way that includes the whole ecosystem.
  • The more abstracted we are from things we depend on, like power, water, and food, the more wasteful we become.
  • We love living small and want to set up systems that feed back beneficially into the overall ecosystem and reduce the number of external systems we are dependent on.  Maybe an Earthship someday?
  • Ultimately, we want to be more than just consumers. 
Figuring out where we will apply what we have learned so far is the next step in our journey. 
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