I am in the middle of Micheal Palin's Sahara on audiobook (in addition to Midnight's Children,) so I keep getting overly wordy about some of the stuff we saw or did on our trip. I could probably go on forever about this stuff, because it's fresh and because I love traveling (both the gritty and the glorious aspects,) but I think I will have to leave a lot of that to the wind and get on with some work. Maybe I will make a travel book? I would make a travel book if I weren't already piddling around with a different big project. Maybe I will next. But then how many travel books do we need? I keep hoping someone will send me somewhere exotic so I can really live the dream of observing strange and wonderful places for a living. But then how many people get to go to strange and wonderful places, these days? In these "tough economic times" as people say.
And that's not very fair, since I think there is plenty of strange and wonderful right in one's own backyard. I find strange and wonderful things in my garden, to say nothing of seemingly "normal" and "attainable" places like the Canadian Rockies and San Diego. I didn't find either of these places drab by any means.
At any rate. I packed and got ready. I made graham crackers, cheese crackers (from this book), oat bars, granola, and even Marshmallows on a whim just to see if they would hold up to flame-toasting. I tested several stuff-mixed-with-grains type recipes to figure out what could be made in a hotel room using just hot water from the coffee machine (thank you, bulgar and couscous, for being so easy to prepare). I threw the cooler and adventure quilt the car and set off.
We do this a lot, Anthony and I. We're always making snacks, throwing the cooler and the adventure quilt in the car and setting off. We are transplants in a fairly vibrant state, so even on weekends when we aren't tracing a new line between Eugene and Portland we're apt to be off exploring. So even though preparation time for this trip was hectic -- for me because I was covering additional houses at work, for Anthony because he had to finish up his final papers the night before we left -- and even though our daily spending budget was roughly ten dollars a day, we were nevertheless very eager to get moving. To get out onto the road and see. There's just so much to see.
The important thing to remember about vacation is to really let it happen. It's a lesson that I am constantly trying to learn. Our first stop was to be this glorious campground that we'd found on a previous trip by accident. It was nestled in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, surrounded by luscious rolling hills of the vineyards, and overlooked a glorious body of water. Serendipity cannot be recreated, and we weren't expecting to find it again magically by chance as we had before. However we evidently weren't expecting to find it at all, because I had forgotten to write down the name of the campsite, and the atlas we had used for that trip (with its helpful highlighted roads and circled landmarks) had not survived the Canada camping trip. We now had a new atlas with no such notations. And as things began to look less and less familiar, and roads became smaller and smaller, our atlas became less and less helpful. A different kind of journey began.
If you have to be lost, let it be in the Sonoma Valley. There really is no better place. Yellow rolling hills were dotted alternately with charming little agricultural towns and upscale tourist accommodations. Idyllic scenery to be wandering in. I wish I had been a little less abjectly frustrated at the time and would have let myself enjoy it. I'd driven most of that day, it was getting late, and we were already a few hours beyond my mental "this is it for the day" time-stamp. I was also becoming more and more crushed by the realization that we probably weren't going to be in the setting I'd thought we were going to be. We bought a fold out map of the area and began to scour it for campsites.
Any campsites, I conceded gruffly. I am sick of driving.
I always try to remember a story my mother told me about our very first vacation as a family, when I was approximately nineteen months old. We were to drive from Houston to go Camping In Colorado -- epic enough on it's own as Colorado was to Mom what Oregon is to me -- and presumably aiming for Mesa Verde. New parents cannot do things quickly. Pennies were meticulously saved, a tent was purchased, time off was scheduled. Visions of campfires and toasted marshmallows in the crisp mountain air fueled the excitement, and began to be a way of getting through the monotonous rhythms of the daily grind. When we finally disembarked the expectations were very high, and so it was all the more tragic when Dad and I got very sick with some stomach bug on the road and a week and a half turned into four days. The trip climaxed famously by Dad getting out to the car at a scenic overlook of the ruins, saying "Yes, there they are." And getting back into the car. Mom cried almost the entire way home.
The lesson that I try to always remember from this story is very simply: don't expect anything to be a certain way. Enjoy things for what they are, not what you want them to be. Plan fun activities, bring swimsuits just in case the water's warm enough, be excited. The best things that have ever happened to me have always been the spontaneous things that I could not have possibly planned better. Everything that I've received, seen, experienced. All the wonderful things have delighted me because I didn't limit them by wondering what they would be. And by all means don't set yourself up for disappointment and frustration by forming ideas in your head about what the unknown will be. Things can be disappointing and frustrating all on their own.
It took several more hours, but Anthony and I did eventually reach our original destination. We had another battle with the campsite manager when we realized we didn't have cash to pay for the campsite. The nearest ATM was about forty miles away. It was touch and go for a while, but we were staying two nights and Anthony is a master of the persuasive arts, so we were allowed to park the car at a campsite and tumble wearily out of the car.
Vacation day one. I was too tired attempt any of the dinner experiments so we had sausage on a stick over an open flame for dinner. The marshmallows turned out to be far too melty. There was a fierce wind that drove us into the tent much sooner than our stargazing selves would have liked. This is vacation, I thought to myself as I climbed into the pile of bedding, don't expect anything to be a certain way.