Day 108 of the Nowhere To Be Project took place largely on the top of Vail Mountain. This is because once we reached it after two hours of climbing, our legs were too tired too budge from our scenic perch. We hiked one of our very favorite trails, Berry Picker. It gets it name from the plethora of wild raspberries that line the path. It is a 3.2 mile climb through breathtaking terrain and ending at Eagle’s Nest. I’ve been hiking this trail for over 40 years and never tire of its challenge.
Today marked the first hike of the season and that one is always the toughest. The altitude paired with the ascent help make the climb a trek in all senses of the word. Many people choose to take the gondola to the top and hike down, but I always do the reverse. I want to earn that view because it makes me appreciate it more. That’s the thing with life and travel. We must amble through the rough patches tirelessly to be capable of feeling true gratitude for all of the lovely flat ground.
On day 107 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself back in the mountains of Colorado. For some reason, the mountains always nudge me into a contemplative frame of mind. I got to thinking about a conversation I had yesterday on a shuttle with a couple who had been up for 36 straight hours as a result of travel. It reminded me of the countless times I’ve promised myself that I’d sleep on the plane or nap during layovers. It almost never works out that way though, does it? If you’re anything like me and my husband, you make all sorts of empty promises to yourselves to rationalize travel…
“We won’t eat out”
“We will stay out of the gift shops”
“This is our Christmas, birthday and anniversary present to ourselves”
The list goes on and on.
The reality is that when we’re in the heat of a trip, we do anything and everything available to immerse ourselves in the experience of the place. We relish in the reckless abandon of each moment betraying the promises we made to ourselves at the outset. Oh, the wicked webs we weave when travel is our mistress!
On Day 106 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself crammed in the middle seat of a 737. Clearly, karma sought to even things out a bit after the pleasantness of my flight ten days ago. Life in the middle seat bears a striking likeness to middle age with it’s annoying limitations. If the middle seat is midlife, the aisle most definitely represents youth with its freedom to escape on a whim. That would leave the window as an ode to old age, I think. The window gives sight and with that comes the wisdom we often associate with aging. I don’t care for the middle seat. I don’t especially like the window either. I absolutely adore the aisle though. Does that mean I’m young at heart? Or perhaps I’m just trying to hang on to the zeal of youth with all my might? The bottom line is that no matter which seat we find ourselves in, we must find a way to make it fit. If we can do that, we might just enjoy the ride.
On Day 105 of the Nowhere To Be Project I was faced with a new side effect of constant travel. It came in the form of well-worn jeans that decided that today was the day they’d simply refuse to button. This happens to everyone, right? My mind immediately attempted to rationalize the affront by blaming the dryer for shrinking the pants, but deep down I knew that my Nowhere To Be Project lifestyle was the real culprit.
A life of constant travel brings temptation in so many forms. Food is a big one because for me, truly experiencing a place hinges on indulging in local dishes. Add to these bites the local wines that absolutely must be tried and I’m headed for trouble. So, even though I exercise daily and follow a plant-based diet, the jet-setting mojo is catching up with me. What to do?
Well, as tempting as it is, I’m not going to buy bigger pants and I will always aggressively shun the Spanx-life. I also refuse to change my pace of travel because who knows how long the opportunity to wander aimlessly will last? I will, however, do my very best to add additional exercise (e.g. more cardio and at least twenty burpees a day) and cut back on portion sizes a bit until that button on my jeans relents. How do you battle the side effects of fun?
On Day 103 of the Nowhere To Be Project I had the privilege of revisiting the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Florida. The museum presents key events in the history of Central Florida ranging from Native American occupation to the Florida Cracker pioneers to Walt Disney World and beyond. Sadly, the Pulse Nightclub Shooting has been added to Orlando’s historical timeline since my last visit. The two year anniversary of the incomprehensible mass murder of 49 innocent people just passed on June 12, 2018.
At first I wondered if the wound was still too fresh and raw for a museum exhibit to be appropriate. However, upon viewing it, I found the museum’s exhibit to be a moving, respectful and tasteful memorial to the victims. The museum’s approach is geared toward presenting the event through the lens of the overwhelming response from the community. Included in the exhibit are heartfelt letters and toys left at the nightclub in the aftermath of the terror, quilt blocks made to comfort the injured and the families of the victims and to memorialize those who were lost, and impassioned anti-hate artwork. The exhibit closes with a trip down a flight of stairs embellished with ribbons, each carrying a personal sentiment from a visitor. I hope you’ll make your way to the Orange County Regional History Center should you ever find yourself in Central Florida. We must never forget or relent. #OrlandoUnited
I spent day 101 of the Nowhere To Be Project in Mount Dora, Florida. It sits at a whopping 184 feet above sea level which is most definitely considered high altitude in Florida. I’ve been coming to this town for years because is represents one of the last strip-mall free corridors in the state. The charming downtown district is situated adjacent to Lake Dora and was founded in the mid 1800s by Dora Ann Drawdy who arrived there from Georgia in search of the frontier life.
These days you’ll find a scenic scattering of independently owned shoppes and restaurants throughout town. My personal favorites are the Hospice Hope Chest, where all proceeds support palliative care, and Goblin Market, an adorable restaurant with a cool library treehouse vibe. Their menu is not rich with vegan options though (hint, hint to the proprietors), so I’m mostly limited to salad when dining with them since my transition to a plant-based diet. There are many options for lodging as well including several b&bs and a hotel making it a very popular weekend and wedding destination.
It was 93 degrees with full humidity during my visit this afternoon which made the open air design quite stifling, but useful for the loss of a bit of water weight, haha. Mount Dora is a wonderful stop for those who are seeking an authentic taste of old Florida, but I would recommend visiting during winter months unless you’re interested in a nonstop steam bath. Welcome to the swamp sauna that is Central Florida for the better part of nine months each year!
On Day 100 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself on the verge of an emotional meltdown. I’ve been in my hometown for the past couple days to deal with some family stuff. I’m not one of those people who longs for the familiar comfort of their hometown. Quite the contrary actually. For me, my hometown is more comparable to a haunted graveyard than a welcoming respite. As a result, I came here very, very reluctantly after receiving some news that left me feeling compelled to leave my husband and dog midway through a RV road trip. In short, a sense of obligation led me back here again. Truth be told, I usually avoid being here at all costs because the ghosts of my dysfunctional childhood seem to lurk around every corner, both literally and figuratively. Every street holds a memory. The faces seem to stare with a sad and familiar knowing. This place nearly stole my spirit and that is why I left. I knew that happy people existed and I eventually found them. I also found my own happiness along the way and I protect it fiercely.
Many say that running away is never the answer. As a retired mental health professional, I can tell you that sometimes running is an effective survival mechanism. This is especially true if what you’re running from is incapable of change. Flight can provide sweet relief when you’ve exhausted every ounce of fight within you. My personal beasts only show their fangs in Central Florida so I generally stay away.
The good news about today is that I self-medicated with a joyful lunch with my happy, healthy, fang-free adult son. I followed this up with a trip to the mall (another perfectly acceptable coping mechanism, within reason of course:-). First, I devoured a scoop of Häagen Dazs dairy-free chocolate salted fudge truffle ice cream, each lick bringing a bit of calm and composure. Then I bought a luscious cruelty-free tarte lip gloss at Sephora in the cheeriest color I could find. Surely it will help me shine my way through the rest of my time here. Self-care comes in so many forms, doesn’t it? Maybe, just maybe, these small indulgences will keep the ghosts at bay until my impending escape.
On Day 96 of the Nowhere To Be Project I made my way to Mackinac Island, Michigan. It is a picturesque island in the upper peninsula of the state. There are no cars on the island, but bicycles and horses provide transportation around its quaint streets. While I’d never visited the island prior to today, it lived in my memory from the stories my mom told me about her visits here as a child. She and her family would drive up in the summer for a day or two for their “vacation”. Both of my parents came from meager means and according to their shared memories, Mackinac Island was a retreat for the wealthy. I remember my mom describing The Grand Hotel, an historic hotel on the island, as a palace. She recalled peeking in the windows as a little girl, awed by the grandeur of the elegantly dressed guests. Of course, The Grand Hotel was my goal today and I enjoyed lunch there in honor of my mom. The stately building is teeming with people and history. The sprawling front porch is a great place to rock away the hours to the sound of the surrounding water and the perfect spot for remembering those we’ve lost. The only thing missing today was my mom and I certainly felt her spirit with me. To that end, I’m pretty sure she forced me into her favorite fudge before boarding the ferry back to St. Ignace, haha.
On Day 94 of the Nowhere To Be Project we ran out of gas. I’m not speaking figuratively! We actually ran out of gas. Well, not so much me, but my husband (on his scooter). Luckily, we were just about a mile shy of our RV, so the push, pull and drag of his empty scooter wasn’t too treacherous. Even though he knew he needed gas, he decided to wait because we had groceries on board. On a tiny scooter, the gas tank is housed within the storage area. He was fearful that a fill up at the gas station might have spilled onto the food. That’s RV life, I guess. We’re living in a tiny, tiny space. Once parked, our only means of transportation are even tinier scooters.
For instance, we spent the day at a cute lakeside town in Michigan called Glen Arbor and I did a bit of shopping. When all was said and done, I had two small shopping bags of goodies that I WANTED and two grocery sacks of food that I actually NEEDED. Living tiny forces me to second-guess every single purchase because there is not an inch of extra space. If it isn’t absolutely necessary, I just can’t buy it (tell that that to the t-shirt and dress I bought today🙄). Prioritizing needs over wants is good because I’m learning just how little we actually need to live comfortably. It also requires me to be more creative by reworking the same garments into different looks and basic pantry staples into satisfying meals. The whole experience of living with less highlights the importance of treasuring life’s moments over possessions. Like right now, I’m sitting lakeside at our RV Park watching a mommy duck teach her brand-new ducklings how to swim. This moment is enriching my spirit in ways that the silly t-shirt I bought could never. Moments take up no space at all, yet satisfy the soul in ways that trinkets and doodads simply cannot.
Day 93 of the Nowhere To Be Project marks the third day we’ve been on Lake Leelanau…and I mean on. Our RV is parked inches from the water and all local roads literally wind around the lake. I’ve kayaked each morning, scootered to and from the bustling shoreside towns and grilled by the beach each evening. It is a lovely time of year in this part of the world with one exception, Mayflies.
When we initially pulled in to the RV Park late on Wednesday evening, we noticed the clouds of flying pests. It was then that the park attendant educated us on the little beasts. They hatch at dusk on the lake. They do not bite (thank everything that is holy), but do attach themselves to anything light and bright. Their lifespan is a brief 24 hours and the annual hatching period runs for about a week. What timing, huh? I have never seen swarms of insects like this in my life. Each cloud must have tens of thousands of Mayflies!!! Thankfully, they are mostly gone by morning.
The Mayflies got me thinking about life. The average human lives about 75 years, I think. Most of us get plenty of time to try, to fail and to figure out what’s important to us. What if we had just 24 hours. The Mayfly’s sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs, but they have to figure all of that out in just one day! Talk about pressure! Perhaps we should all try to live as the Mayflies do, as if this very day was our only chance to fulfill our dreams and our purpose??? I’m guessing that an attitude like that would make it much easier to focus only on the things that really matter.