Two Short Years

Just over two years ago I bought a 1978 Volkswagen Bus, Champagne Edition, Riviera Campwagen Conversion. My son and I lived in that Bus, primarily out of RV parks in the Loveland / Lyons / Longmont portion of Colorado’s Front Range, while we worked on fixing it up into something we could live and travel in. My secondary motive to purchasing the Bus was to convince the longtime love of my life to hop into it and onto the road with us. My proposal was simple: quit your job and wonderful life in the beautiful mountains surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park, live with us in this tiny, oft broken-down metal van and travel around the country relying solely on my Web Design income (which at the moment we left was actually $0 and no prospects coming in at the time, at all) and our sheer determination to find some of the greatest places in the US. The boy and I lived in the Bus for three months before she finally agreed, and so on the Winter Solstice we all (attempted) to leave Colorado for warmer climes. A series of breakdowns later, including Christmas Eve spent totally broke and in a dingy motel, we were on the border of Arizona and Mexico, in a little mountain town called Bisbee, our launching point for the next six months of living life as desert nomadistas, traveling from Flagstaff to Austin to Big Bend, then out of Florida into the Gulf Coast, all around Florida’s coastal parks, the Keys, up into Savannah, the Carolinas…

Our journeys were cut short, partly by tragedy falling over our new Lady’s family, but in no small part due to the stresses of living on the road like that for six months, new relationships, and the fact that I’d put a baby in her belly all mounting together. We’d spend the next three months living in and out of the Bus, interspersed with a lot of hotel rooms and crashing on friends and family’s couches. In what can only be properly described as a steel cage wrestling match chained to the ankle of a ferocious dog chasing down the spinning wheel of an out of control semi as it did cart wheels through a razor blade factory, we somehow landed in a gorgeous cliffside beach house, overlooking the Pacific as it lapped up onto the shores of Oregon’s coast. The Bus was left under whatever open air, rain, country farm stars and snow could fall over it. We held down the fort of pregnancy through the nonstop rain of an Oregon coastal winter, and emerged with a baby, and a new found love for one another. Lady’s mom came to live with us. The baby was out, and we had more time to be adults together. Alone time is key for any good relationship to last, and spend as much of your alone time with one another as possible.

We left Oregon behind less than a year after we’d arrived, just as the sun began to shine over our sand-and-stacks Tillamook rainforest home, we headed back to my family’s farm to recover the Bus. With the baby now added to the mix, we spent June, July and August searching the Adirondacks, Vermont and the rest of New England for a new place we might call home, somewhere a little more Eastern this time, where we’d be closer to family and friends while the newest Swartz boy was coming into his toddling. Vermont–particularly from Burlington to Montpelier and the small towns in between–is grand, but nothing was quite right. Saranac is perfect, but too far from civilization through bitter and long winters. We decided to turn back to the West, but as we strolled through my Lady’s homeland of Michigan, we slowed down, and soon realized we wouldn’t have time to do much exploring in Montana, Utah, Wyoming, our hopeful destination, but also realized that spending the rest of the summer exploring the Upper Peninsula would be just as rewarding. We considered returning to Oregon, but that was past now. We considered trying a new place in Colorado, but the rent was a few thousand above our budget. So at the last minute, before nearly breaking down and calling “Wherever we end up in Vermont” home, we drove to Asheville, NC, an hour east of where our original Bus adventure had ended and where our baby had been conceived. We fell in love with the city, and more so the small towns all around it, and put our roots down here, for as long as they’ll hold us in the ground.

I miss the road, the fulltime traveling of it all, the new home anytime you felt like picking up and heading a few miles down the road. But I don’t try and chalk it over with pastel sunset artwork either. It was hard, very hard at times, both with a nearly fully capable 8 year old in tow, and even moreso with an 8 month old baby. Not to mention the semi-ferocious mostly-German Shepherd mutt we picked up from a shelter in the desert… But living in a stick house is hard, at times, too, not nearly in the ways that living in a Bus is (but never nearly as fulfilling either). In the long run, I’ve been from California to Florida, Oregon to Maine, Michigan to Texas and about 80% of what’s in between and along the way, and what I came out of it with was significantly more gray hairs, a much deeper understanding of how automobile engines (at least simple ones from the 70’s) work, a new baby to add to my collection of children born in every state that I have no intention of ever coming close to completing, and the love of my life at my side through it all.

Not too bad for a couple of years work. I mean, Obama couldn’t even convince America to let the government give them free health care in two years.

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