when you get an idea in your head, like ditching fixed life for the romantic notion of a camper and the open road and working your way around the country ... the preview that plays in your mind's eye includes sunsets, porch-building alongside your family, simple meals in country kitchens, and great conversations with dusty old-timers in front of some local barber shop. it's the ultimate road trip! the glow of the vision is tinged with a bit of sweat and grit, and some knowledge that it's likely to pretzel your mind into new shapes, your hands into mud, and your heart into scary new corners.
the process involved in getting to that moment when you literally pull out of the driveway? that whole bit isn't quite imaginable, one shred romantic, or really desirable in any way. it's just an impediment to getting to the vision, one to be tackled methodically, steadily, one piece at a time, as the process as a whole is waaay too hard to swallow all at once. it's a big pile of things that you can't see over, dim the vision, and keep you from ever getting closer. the massive laundry pile that never has a bottom, no matter how many pieces you fold. you can never quite finish.
i had no freaking idea it would be so hard. none. and i'm glad i didn't, or i never would have started the whole thing. it became a slog-fest of epic proportions, full of delays and issues and snafus and random issues that conspired to drag the whole thing out. is mercury really in constant retrograde? is God out to stop us? isn't there some explanation for all the things that keep happening? car repairs, the mechanic locking the keys in the truck while it's running, house repair projects taking longer than expected, rusted padlocks, doors that won't lock when it's time to leave, water pumps that won't prime, rain that won't stop, hitches that you can't remember how to hook up ... i really can't remember all the issues as i think the post-birth pain eraser has already started to take effect.
simply put, the closer we got, the more things there seemed to be in front of us. always one more thing. always. you start to smell the ocean before you can see it, right? and while i could feel the trip actually getting closer, i couldn't see it. head down, slogging, hoping that when the day is over you can actually move one (or two or three!) of those little post it notes from the "to do" list to the "done" window. i had to do something more than cross it off a list, i had to be able to literally move that little scrap of paper across the room and stick it somewhere else. triumphantly. with my filthy hands that felt like worn-out sandpaper.
one thing that started to become a bit clear, in the looking-for-explanations department (because there has to be one, right?) was that we said at the outset that we wanted to take this trip on faith. one step, one town, one job at a time. no fixed income, steady support, or advance knowledge of where the next cell phone bill and tank of diesel were going to come from. living on the fly, trusting God to keep us pointed towards opportunities and connections and needs that we know how to meet, assuming that our own needs will be met in the process. (another romantic notion?). but that process would somehow magically start once we got on the road, not in the weeks leading up to it. we'd prepay a year of storage fees and phone bills so that we could lessen the month-to-month burden in the faith department. etc. riiight. it seemed to become abundantly clear that if we were going to live that way, we needed to start doing it now. not once we had everything financial figured out and lined up and taken care of. the delays kept coming, right and left.
the art sale is a good example. michael had planned his final jobs in the city, and had an exit date. we still had no idea where the money for a camper was going to come from. we started down the road of holding an art sale, which was something we could do together, and suddenly seemed to make perfect sense as a way to raise money for the camper. then one more install job in the city was offered to him, that would only take a week and would be worth forfeiting a week of packing time for. we hemmed and hawed, seeing it as a sure bet for raising a good chunk of what we needed, but it would make the art sale impossible to pull off in time. should he grab it? old life ... new life ... old sources ... new sources ... we hesitantly chose to turn down the job and go ahead with the sale. the results? they speak for themselves.
so back to the packing and prepping ... how did we turn this mess ...
one small bite at a time, with the delightful addition of elves that arrived just as michael and i needed them respectively, to get our exhausted selves back on track and out of the stage where you look vacantly around the room you just walked into, with 3 things in your hand and 4 thoughts in your head and "ummm" coming out of your mouth, having no idea what you were about to say or how any of the things in your hands got there. the spin cycle.
despite very little sleep and irregular meals (just discovered that michael dropped 10 lbs and i lost 6) none of us got sick, a miracle in its own right. and i managed to work in a trip to the hobbit marathon in honor of my birthday last week, for which we had neither that time nor the money nor a viable vehicle in which to make the trip, but did it anyway and it worked out somehow. (sometimes there has to be a pause button.)
the closer we got, the more it seemed that it just might actually happen. three days stretched blearily into 7 or 8, but the piles gradually disappeared and tasks were completed and the pair of jeans i wore for (ahem) something like 12 days straight slowly transformed into this ...
eventually though, the lists were set aside as they were small enough (i thought ... we forgot the bikes!) to keep in my head, and knew that we'd be able to pull out some time before midnight. TN and family for Christmas, or bust! we loaded, drained tanks and taps, packed dregs, strapped down, stuffed in corners, corralled cats, and locked up.
it was 9:30 pm, December 24th, 2014, when michael gingerly inched his way out of the driveway, and we started down the rainy foggy road for one last time. giddy. weirded out. excited. chock full of adrenaline (the driver), relief (me), and finally!! (the boys).
we got out! now to gather our wits, take care of TN residence paperwork (and blog about the crazy trip down), do some painting and fixing up needed here, and figure out where to go next ...