Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Operation Moto Dog

Image liberated from

Image liberated from

“I believe embracing our crazy keeps us sane,” is one mantra that Mallory Paige follows. A young woman in her early thirties, Mallory has done some world travel and some VW bus vandwelling. While riding in a motorcycle sidecar in Ecuador one day, she got the crazy idea that she could ride from Oregon to Alaska and back on a motorcycle, and with a sidecar attached, haul her labrador Baylor along for the ride. Then near trip’s end, she advanced her internal throttles into full-crazy and decided to tour every state in the country. She’s been doing that for awhile now, proving to herself and anyone who cares to read her writings that both courage and fear are an integral part of us and part of life, and that the decisions we make have a huge impact on our lives.

I don’t advocate her site in the belief that everyone should run around the country with a motorcycle+sidecar combo or anything else. She does not appear to believe that either. I do so because her writing is superb, profoundly insightful, and inspirational. Regardless of what form your life dreams take, her website is a source of inspiration to implement your own dreams into your own life.

Example from today’s entry:
“I’m forever torn between wanting to nest in the familiar and explore the exciting unknown. When settled into a rooted routine there’s a part that longs for the discomfort of adventure. And when faced with the constant upheaval of travel, a part wishes for nothing more than a return home.

“I used to think it was a disconnect needing solved. First I thought staying home would cure it. Then I thought lots of travel would flush it out. Now I accept it’s just an innate quality of being alive. I’m sure anthropologists could explain its roots to our past nomadic ways. Biologists could point out all the ways we’re hardwired for such an experience. All I know is how it feels. A light fog of unsettled forever hovering in the background. The slightest desire for the other no matter what. Like a missing appendage, the double yearning forever haunts us, sending unexpected twinges into the phantom limbs of home and exploration.”

For me, the above explains in a coherent form my own felt preference for a dual-rig approach to living, which I set in motion late last year. Tour the country in an “adventure-capable” rig, then return “home” to bask awhile in the TT’s decadent comforts and conveniences (such as they are) before setting off again. Mallory has insights aplenty, like “I’m not fearless and you don’t have to be either to seek adventure. You just have to be committed. To give it a go.” She views herself as ordinary but committed to living in such a manner that brings out her life and herself in a fuller way. “I have a vision of the adventurer I want to become,” she says.

To the oft-heard comment “Lucky you, getting to go on a such a long, worry-free vacation,” she responds, “It’s not a vacation, it’s real life. Marked with the full spectrum – excitement, boredom, fear, fun, stress – of human experience. Much more difficult than the steady, routine-filled life I leave behind, but fulfilling to the core.” and, “Motorcycling, vanlife-ing, any type of long-term traveling is not about ease, comfort or carefree fun. It is not a stress-free vacation.” Me, I’ve dialed way back on the adventure aspect with a comfortable and competent pop-up truck camper, but the core reality is the same. To deflect the “homeless” aspect of full-time RVing, when people ask where I’m from (which assumes that I’m on vacation and am based out of a house), I tell them Illinois, but that I’ve given up my home to tour the country full-time. By implication, I hope to convey that this is how I now live, by choice. I’m not homeless so much as successful in finding a workable way to live, plus, fulfilling a past dream to experience all that this country has to offer, such as time will allow. It’s a double win. What with my obviously being retired by my appearance, that paints a plausible picture in their minds that this is an eternal, happy vacation, and they leave with pangs of wanting the same for themselves.

But in truth, this is no vacation. I’ve been on a few. I know what they are. This ain’t it. Living your dream is not much like a vacation. There are wonderful, joyful and rewarding aspects aplenty, but at least some of the time, you’re facing down your fears and uncertainties while immersed and operating in very unfamiliar territory. And, it happens to be territory where you can easily and unintentionally get yourself into deep weeds if you count on your ill-considered assumptions as being correct. My meager personal supply of courage or even bravado has long ago run as thin as broth, but I’ve found that you don’t really need courage to live in the way I’ve chosen – “chosen” being the operative word for selecting among a very few limited options.

All it really takes is the determination to persist in turning lemons into lemonade, and to learn to recognize and appreciate the upsides, some of which are remarkably up. It’s a life of incessant discovery, both of myself and of a wholly unfamiliar lifestyle. Distinctly non-outdoorsmanish that I am, I still get to appreciate a cool morning’s sunrise and the breeze through the trees, accompanied by the songs of birds or the tapping of woodpeckers. It comes with the territory. I also get to occasionally and unwillingly stay awake most of the night, waiting out the howl of wind rocking the truck and flexing the Intrepid’s roof and fabric walls, the sound of hail or dropping tree twigs hammering the roof and vital solar panels, or the concerning snort or crunch of unidentified paws on the ground nearby. I get to wonder what is keeping some device or equipment from working today. I haven’t personally had any vacations like this. Those were carefree. This is more like a continuation of life, just on a different plane than in my former career-in-the-suburbs lifestyle. I like it, and I like the relentless discovery of it, but it’s life, not a vacation from it.

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15 thoughts on “Operation Moto Dog

  1. Mary Barton on said:

    Both thumbs up 🙂

  2. Chris lemcke on said:

    one of my favorites yet!

    • Yep, life is good when all you have to do is pass along a website that many people would already be interested in reading! I’ve only just discovered it and read a few random posts so far, but there was something in each one that condensed some of my vague perceptions into words that I can relate to. Wonderful writing.

  3. Linda Sand on said:

    Yup, not a vacation. Been there; done both. Not the same thing.

    I opened a new window for her blog so I can explore it at a more convenient time. Looking forward to doing that.

  4. jr cline on said:

    You describe this life so well. 👍

  5. Ming on said:

    Nicely written, Doug!

    I hope that your health issues get resolved to your satisfaction.

    That is one of my main worries about life on the road, not personal safety but dealing with health issues without a home base. Did you have any issues adjusting?

    Sorry to hear about the e-bike battery, I agree it should last at least 5 years. Mine is going on 10y, down to half its range or less, but that’s still enough to putter to the grocery store and back.

    • Thank you, Ming. I’m down in Indy now to arrange consultation with a recommended surgeon, which could not happen in a timely way where I was. I was going broke at fee camps and would have had to stall for at least 3 weeks more just to be seen. And relatives down here are able to provide practical help should things get serious, which they may. All my medical/dental attention has been annual only, each time I went back “home”, so I have not adjusted to getting attention on the road, as it has not been necessary until now. I’ve been most fortunate, eh? I hope to find out fairly soon whether I will be “only slightly delayed” or “seriously delayed” in heading for Montana. And yes, it is amazing that such a magnificent specimen of physical vitality should need attention in any way. 😉

      Fabulous lifespan for an e-bike battery, I must say. Keep going until it better resembles dead weight!

      • Ming on said:

        oh dear, well here is wishing you a very definite “only slightly delayed” outcome to your suspenseful situation. Surgery is a drag, I’m still recovering from my major January one and it can certainly put a serious crimp in your plans for a while.

  6. Mary A on said:

    Ah… there’s several other souls living on the road on a bike with a pup, I suppose the best known are Ara and Spirit. Blog is “The Oasis of my Soul” Ara’s also on instagram. He’s also a real life chef.
    In an older GMC bus are also folks like Chris and Cheri, who work and publish internet stuff and apps.
    Another group of people who may or may not have homes are over the road truck drivers. Most of them do, but some, including myself, don’t. Yes, I have a place where some of my stuff is but that’s not home. I live in my closet, ok, truck it’s about 6’x9″ including driver and passrnger seats. 2 bunk beds, small fridge and an inverter which powers the microwave.
    The “tiny house” movement aint got nuttin on truckers! A tiny house would be huge after this. But, the sunrises, sunsets, and scenery make it worthwhile. We just won’t mention the early rising for a 5 am loading or unloading, the traffic and idiots in cages who don’t see the big white 13’6″ high, 78 foot long vehicle with about 10 lights, right in front of them, or the dozens of warehouses we have to wiggle that long 53′ trailer into spaces made for 1960’s 48 foot trucks. Stuff that make life interesting.
    Sometimes frustrating, but always interesting. Take care.

    • Fascinating blog, Mary. He’s apparently now in a truck camper due to recent back surgery. And what an interesting view of truck drivers you shared! I had never considered that some literally lived out of their trucks 365. I don’t consider truck/rest stop parking lots to be particularly conducive to sleep, so I’m not jealous of the overnight aspect. And nobody’s going to think you’re on vacation! I have always been astounded at the tight docking prowess of drivers in situations that I think to myself, “Wow, I’m glad I don’t do THAT for a living! I’d never make it!” Thanks for commenting.

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