I realized a few days back that it has been over three weeks since my last post. All is well; it’s just that Alan and I are in the middle of a “refresh and repair” project at a rental property. Between that and dealing with snow storm after snow storm, there hasn’t been much time to do anything other than shovel, plow, paint, repair and shingle. Yup, Alan decided he wanted to re-roof the place himself, and we managed to somehow squeeze it in during a short spell of sunny weather. Notice I didn’t say “warm, sunny weather.” Let me tell you people, if you haven’t shingled a roof during winter in the northeast, you’ve missed a memorable experience. You also haven’t frozen to death which, I’m pretty sure, is what nearly happened to me. Thank heaven our son, Ryan, devoted a full weekend to working with us. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have finished before the next storm came along. As it was, it began snowing three minutes after Alan wrapped up the project and climbed down from the roof. Literally, three minutes.
The “refresh and repair” project is far from over, but I didn’t want to let Valentine’s Day go by without sharing a few thoughts about our camping lifestyle and the extraordinary amount of travel pleasure we’ve enjoyed throughout the years. Of course, you all must know that Alan is my #1 Valentine. I wouldn’t embarrass him (or myself) by going on and on about all of his finer qualities, although I certainly could. We’ve never been mushy-gushy about our love and this is no time to start. Instead, the focus is on a young couple who fell in love with each other and the great outdoors, and deepened that relationship with nature during more than 40 years of marriage. Let’s get to it – before I have to start shoveling again.
This is us, 41+ years ago.
But it’s not really us.
This is us. The real us. (This photo and the ones that follow it were taken on our honeymoon way back in 1979.)
Life is truly fascinating. One small decision we made back before we were married – turning to camping as a way to cut travel costs so that we could indulge our wanderlust – impacted our lives forever in ways we never could have imagined. I grew up in a small city; Alan grew up in a suburb of that small city. Both of us spent copious amounts of time outdoors as kids, but neither of us camped with our families or really even traveled much. When planning our life together, we knew we wanted travel to be a priority and so it has been.
Our young twenty-something selves were determined to explore some of the iconic National Parks of the American West on our honeymoon, and we headed out in a two-door sedan with the trunk packed full of camping gear and a cooler on the back seat. That inaugural National Parks trip cemented what would prove to be several key elements of our life together: (1) the correct choice of a partner-for-life makes every day – even a bad one – grand and glorious; (2) the adventure of traveling is even more thrilling than we had imagined; and (3) our National Parks and other magnificent public lands provide unending enjoyment and are more than worthy of exploration, celebration and protection.
Alan and I continued tent camping for the next 15 years until my particularly bad reaction to a round of insect bites prompted a temporary retreat from sleeping in the outdoors. That problem resolved itself with the purchase of our first travel trailer ten years later. Throughout our lives, traveling and camping remained high priorities – to the point that when we talked about having kids, we agreed that their appearance wouldn’t decrease our travels; we would simply take them with us and find ways to adapt, as many other families had done.
Over the years, we’ve stayed in a quiet cabin in the mountains (with a toaster that threw toast up in the air - and onto our plates, if we were quick) and high-rise hotels on the ocean (where we could easily walk out our door and onto the beach). We’ve stayed at cheap places and expensive places, fancy RV parks and fairly primitive campgrounds. We’ve cruised in Alaska and flown to Hawaii. We’ve done Disney, Dollywood, Hersheypark and Silver Dollar City – and not just when we had kids.
Through it all, the focus of our travels has been mainly on the splendor and beauty of the natural world, the museums that explain it, the parks that preserve it and the countless opportunities it presents for activities, adventure, exploration, fun, solitude and memories. While we’ve enjoyed every mode of travel and every type of accommodation, it’s thanks to camping that we most often start our days in beautiful locations and end them with appreciation for all we’ve seen and done in new or favorite outdoor places. Those experiences have enriched us as a family and as individuals, and our sense of contentment is almost palpable and never-ending.
The love affair is ongoing. Further aging, perhaps, will bring with it physical limitations that may prevent Alan and I from enjoying certain outdoor activities. But, with legal protections of our public lands in place and continuing good stewardship, I know that the great outdoors is not going anywhere, and its abilities to refresh my soul and restore my spirit will not diminish. The natural world will remain one of the greatest loves of my life and my engagement with it will remain one of my greatest indulgences and delights.