Van Newsletter #2

National Parks

  •  Big Bend National Park, TX
  • White Sands National Park, NM 


  • Explored an abandoned gypsum mine 
  • Got stung by a bee for the first time ever
  • Went geode hunting in NM
  • Drove over 100 miles of painful washboard road


New Mexico 

     The beginning of December was spent in Cosmic Campground, a dark sky sanctuary located by Glenwood, NM. Did you know that you need to wait at least 20 minutes after looking at any white light before your eyes are fully adjusted to viewing the night sky? I saw the Milky Way for the first time in my life. Other notable constellations included Pleiades/The Seven Sisters, Auriga, Aries, Cassiopeia(my personal favorite), Aquila, and Jupiter.      We rise and sleep by candlelight, it is both a blessing and a curse that the lights we had installed use so much of our batteries. The same with the fact that we have no water heater. Ice cold showers = clear skin, healthy hair, and increased immune systems. Candlelit winter nights and mornings, guided by the stars outside. Our circadian rhythm thanks us for our agreement to follow natures intended plans. With an abundance of dried wood we made campfires each night and listened for the howls of a pack of grey wolves that we shared the mountainside with. On the last night we stayed up with the fire well into the pitch darkness of the night, but were quickly ushered inside by a howl that sounded as if it was 10 feet away. I experimented with cooking many foods in the fire. Mini potatoes, a block of tempeh, baby corn, butternut squash.

     My cheeks are flushed from the sun beating down on my face. It is always my right cheek that is facing the sun, I’m not sure if its because I’m always pointed North or if I instinctively turn my left cheek down. Growing up my father always told me to wear my sunscreen or else I’d grow up to have crocodile skin. "Do you want to have crocodile skin when you’re old?" He’d ask before stepping on to the beach. I’ve encountered multiple older nomadic people now, mainly in RVs, whose faces look like leather. Their skin permanently tanned from years in the sun, thick wrinkles crease their foreheads. Like a brown leather couch that has been sitting in the living room for 20 years. Their demeanors are calm and kind, each crinkle in their skin showing a genuine expression. I do not trust the man without scars. The one who never let the sun shine too bright, who never let his dreams get the best of him. The one who put comfort over curiosity. I think to myself that crocodile skin doesn’t seem so bad after all.


As we drove to Texas, on a highway busier than usual, we discovered a new GAME. So imagine this. The van chassis makes it so that we sit at the same level of semi-trucks. Ty slows down the van as we pass by. I stare out the window. Smiling. Waiting. As soon as our windows have a clear view between them I start to pump my fist. It takes them a moment but most of the drivers eyes are caught. Their blank stare quickly spreads into a smile. HONNNNNKKKKK. or Honk Honk Honkkkk. or HooOOOOonk. They blow their horns. We erupt in laughter each time. There is so much joy. I am reminded there is kindness in the world. There is kindness in a semi trucks horn. A small gift, a small laugh, a small connection. From one stranger to another.

 I am currently writing to you from the shores of Amistad Reservoir, a town that sits right on the border of Texas and Mexico. It is centered around a military base, the small businesses of mexican families who migrated over, and weekend fisherman. Border patrol has visited us twice, first by driving slowly by in their truck, with no response to my friendly smile and wave, and again by boat. There is a feeling that we are being watched. Perhaps it is by the deer though. Everyday the same mother deer and her two fawns bound across the street. A grey fox, an oryx, an armadillo, and a road runner, can be added to my list of animals spotted.      Unfortunately we have been here for two weeks, as our driveshaft is disintegrating and the van shakes violently when driven. We are awaiting a part to be shipped to O’reillys before turning around and heading back West, since we learned that the humidity and a rusted van may not be a good match.


     Christmas Eve. I sit atop a rock overlooking the entire valley that is Sierra Vista, a woodpecker is chipping away on a fallen branch, a blimp is rising in the distance. Did you know each blimp ride can cost up to $100,000 dollars in helium? Helium, which has been in short supply even since my first job at Party City when I was 17. In the passenger seat I try not to inhale the diesel fumes as they seep into my brain. Cold start to the morning. We decorate a tiny tree in the forest. Adorned with tinsel and baby blue bulbs the rest of the trees in the forest look bare. A small celebration.

     Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I am yearning for nostalgic memories right now; the Christmas lights, the cookie baking, the time spent under a cozy blanket. A cup of peppermint hot chocolate from Walmart offers a brief feeling of the warmth that I speak of, the kind that radiates from the inside out. I am missing family.



     I forgot how quiet the desert is.

     The van sits in a Phoenix neighborhood, a man concerned about his neighborhoods safety comes over to investigate the two harmless twenty year olds, only to tell us that our tires are sitting too far up on the curb and that HIS rv is in a storage facility. We are at Ty’s moms house again, and the van is getting renovations.


     A short trip back to Colorado for some much needed alone time while Ty renovates the van. We have a permanent bed fixture now and our daily chores have been cut down by 90%. Our water tanks have been replaced by an in-cabin 65 gallon tank. It is more spacious and comfortable than ever. Ty drives to Colorado and our days are filled with drinking tea and playing board games. We spend the next 3 days on I-25 and I-40 listening to audiobooks, stopping just long enough to pee and eat lunch. Our diesel heater is a work horse, preventing the van from becoming a refrigerator in 20 degree nights.


“We need to get out of here”, we both agree. We have spent far too long in the state of Arizona. However for the remainder of January we will reside where I am writing to you from right now. A simple clearing in Coconino forest, 30 minutes outside of Flagstaff. I sit writing a few feet from the fire ring we dug in the sand. Trees cut down due to termites offer us endless wood for burning, and endless heat to keep us comfortable sitting outside. Orange pine needles piled up on the ground are a stark contrast to the dark volcanic sand. Two owls are talking to each other high in the distance. On the horizon the mountains of Flagstaff are completely white.     This past week the full moon has cast a dim light that shines throughout the whole night. At times it is quite peaceful and I am tempted to follow the moonlight and go on a midnight walk. At other times it is eerie, as its bright enough to see shapes but not bright enough to see exactly what. When we drive I can’t tell the bushes from cows in a field. In the forest I wonder if the shapes are trees or something living. I look away before my eyes can concentrate. If something darts in the distance I try quickly to forget it. We must understand that we are not alone in the world, especially the woods, but if we mind our business, whatever else is here will mind theirs too.      In the daylight we are free to explore the surrounding forest covered in craters. Ty bikes while I run alongside him for 5 miles through the trails in the hopes of seeing O’neills Crater. A little slice of the moon. The crater is a bit dissapointing. More like a little slice of space. When we arrive back to the van our legs are stiff and sore and lunch is made immediately.

     The passage of time feels skewed. Without clocks constantly ticking and store hours needing to be checked the days feel endless. The only difference between a 30 minute drive and a 7 hour drive is how much I adjust the lumbar support setting on the passenger seat chair. Strangers ask how I am not cold without wearing a jacket, unknowing that a day ago I was somewhere 30 degrees colder. After 3 days of going to the same Anytime Fitness I am already able to recognize the 6am regulars. I have experienced a snowy winter, a colorful fall, and sweaty summer all in the span of 5 days. The concept of a familiar face seems so far away. Oftentimes going into a town feels like I am imposing on the everyday routines of the people that live there, I am just pretending to fit into their schedule. I am grateful that I am able to come and go from their routines as I please. I feel as I have been sitting here for 4 hours and yet only 50 minutes have passed. How strange is life.