Caravan dreams

Even in Tucson we have a sort of winter, where the sky clouds up for a few hours a day, the daytime temperatures linger in the 50s and 60s, and little sprinkles are eagerly anticipated by all residents.  Along with this “winter” comes a sort of winter doldrum for me, a person who is happiest around 90 degrees (in the dry desert).  With the early sunset, cold overnight temperatures, and holiday distractions, we don’t do as much camping this time of year.  And so I start dreaming of places to go, where “travel adventure awaits,” as Wally Byam put it in his marketing materials sixty years ago.

I’ve been trying to figure out what direction we will head in 2010.  I don’t mean compass direction, but more of a philosophical direction.  What’s the goal, where’s the trend, what makes sense for us at this point in our lives?  It’s a process that involves taking into account a lot of complex factors, such as our careers, our ages, Emma’s needs, finances, and strategic business goals.  Every year I’ve stared into the mirror, trying to figure out how we might spend our time, not because I had to change anything, but because I like a dynamic life where things grow and change constantly.  (Warning: It’s not for everyone, and it certainly wreaks havoc on relationships of all types.  I have a compatible spouse, an absolute prerequisite.) Once I’ve got a few ideas, Eleanor and I make the final decision.  Some years it’s easy, but in other years it’s a lot harder to read the crystal ball.

That annual thought process has determined our route across North America over the past three years, but in a broader sense it has also led to the life we live today.  Since I’m not a fatalist, I figure it will also lead to the life we live tomorrow.  Making thoughtful choices for one’s own life is a responsibility that seems worth taking on.  We only get so much time.

We’re not limiting our choices to Airstreaming in North America this year.  We’ve been nursing some ideas for international travel, and 2010 may be the year to stretch out and do that.  Or in the words of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “now for something completely different.”  No conclusions yet, just a lot of interesting possibilities in this very interesting world.

For years people have been asking me if I would someday start leading caravans based on our  travel experience. I’ve always said that there are others (commercial operators, clubs, individuals) who are better suited to that job than I.  But this year I find myself considering even that possibility.  I could see a changed-up sort of caravan that busted all the rules and took some worthwhile risks, for a very small group.  It would be for people who are willing to get their hands dirty and feet sore, people who want to touch life rather than watch it through the window.  You can really only get a sense of a place after you’ve spent a few days living like a resident, doing something harder than browsing the visitor center.  That takes an extra effort, and I wonder how many people would be willing and able to try a caravan like that.

A few ideas have popped up.  I like the idea of a Four Corners archeological tour of remote Ancient Puebloan sites.  We’d hike a lot every day, and probably spend a couple of nights in tents when we were too far from the Airstreams.   I am also extremely intrigued by a rugged route from Newfoundland up the coast of Labrador, to see icebergs, moose, fishing villages, 16th century historic sites, and track down the elusive bakeapple.  We could even try to arrange a swap with a European Airstream owner while we’re at Alumapalooza (about 50 of them will be attending).  There are other ideas as well, all riddled with logistical challenges and gumption blocks.  That’s part of what makes them interesting.

In the end, I doubt we’ll lead even a tiny caravan anywhere.  I like showing people around and sharing, but I don’t really want responsibility for anyone else’s good time.  (Hey, it’s hard enough just figuring out our own route to happiness.)

But thinking along these lines leads to fresh ideas.  At this point everything is on the table. We might even spend part of the summer here, absorbing the heat and watching the lightning shows of the monsoon.   We could finally get to those great high-altitude parks in the west that are only fully visitable for short windows of the summer, like Lassen, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia.  Anything is possible.  That’s the cool part.