Well, it was bound to happen. After endless awesomeness on the roaming front, we hit a flat spell.
January wasn’t that much fun and I don’t just mean because of Trump’s Inauguration, although that truly didn’t help. During this time sweet Penny also cut her leg requiring stitches, but that wasn’t a big deal either. Traveling from about Christmas to the Super Bowl felt like a job and like we were just ticking days off. Disclaimer, we saw some great friends during that time. This is not a reflection on them or time spent with them. No regrets. You know who you are and we adore you and loved our time together. This reflection is more about where we were in the country, the weather barriers we encountered and the stuff we weren’t doing. It’s about those days in between visits, hugs and laughs. Just imagine how dark it would have been without our friends to add some light.
Basically, winter hit and we couldn’t really get away from it. We were really looking forward to getting back to some mountains and exploring the Chattanooga area and western TN & Arkansas. However, snow moved us out of Tennessee prematurely. The snow and freezing snap forced us down to the Florida panhandle for the second time. We liked the panhandle when we were there pre-holidays, but it’s not a place we were dying to be again, especially with temps in the 30s. Our van is warm, cozy and comfy in chilling temps, but there is not a ton to do. Reading, writing and catching up on movies is always welcomed, but day after day it gets a little boring. There was lots of staring not at each other and phones, sadly.
The weather affected our plan of taking turns riding the entire Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. As a result we only got to ride about a two thirds of it from mid-Mississippi to the end. Furthermore, once we moved beyond freezing temps, the Deep South east is crowded, hot and sticky, which meant there was not a lot of bike riding and everything felt damp. So damp. And we also found rain, lots of rain, for the first time on this trip. When we did find some nature, well, it’s winter so everything was brown. Cities were sleepy, days were short and, frankly, I was bored. I went to a lot of Pure Barre, which makes me very happy, but it was indicative of being near humanity, specifically, suburbia. A little bit of that is very welcomed, but when you are living in a van, you want to be in nature, not strip malls.
One of the most frustrating factors was that, based on our trajectory and grand plans, I had signed up for a physical therapy continuing education course at the end of January in Houston. We were using that as the excuse not to simply jet to the southwest, where we were aching to be. We couldn’t really go north because the weather was not cooperating so we slowly inched our way through the southeast. When we arrived in Galveston, TX we had 5 days to “burn” (a word that is indicative of the apathy during that time) before my course in Houston, which is about 2 hours away. I couldn’t do it. We spent one night in a fine RV park, but the unappealing sprawl of Galveston was waiting in the morning. I looked at Jon and reminded him that Austin, a place we would enjoy (and a place I’d never been yet), was just a few hours away. I proposed that we go and backtrack (gasp! Robos don’t backtrack…it makes Jon itch) to Houston for the course. It took about 30 seconds for him to agree.
Once we got to Austin we knew everything would be ok. Yes it’s a proper city, but we had friends to see, a Super Bowl to win and we knew it was our gateway to the west. It was just that. Driving west out of Austin brought with it lightness. I knew we were headed to Big Bend National Park. We were headed to space and nature and vistas and room to roam at a pace that we enjoyed. I knew it was going to offer opportunities to ride bikes, which it did. Our exploring on two wheels has been lacking, frankly, since December. I blame the east. No, no. I know I can only blame myself but the motivation was simply lacking due to weather and crowds (i.e. traffic).
As I type we are in southern New Mexico. Space is abundant. It’s awesome here, specifically the Gila National Forest. We have not pedaled much but we have hiked a bit which is a rare yet welcomed activity for us. Jon has a pretty sweet drone and hiking means opportunities to fly it and take amazing photos. I appreciate the means to the end. The point is, we are exploring again. Due to high elevations we are combating some winter conditions regarding riding, but that’s about to change because Arizona is a stone’s throw away. It’s been ok to take a break from the bike. Missing things is good. It fosters appreciation. I cannot wait to pedal with some regularity! It wasn’t until we got west that I could look back at those 6 weeks from Christmas to the Super Bowl and admit that they were dull and felt like something to endure. Not bad, nothing went drastically wrong (despite Penny’s leg injury and a basketball hoop falling on the hood of Ellie during a tornado watch in the middle of the night- terrifying). They were just boring and we only have ourselves to blame. Or can we blame extreme winter conditions that continue to dip too far south because, after all, aren’t we supposed to be chasing summer?