In 2023 I am going to overwinter in the desert. This week a whiff of Fall in the air prompted me to start my travel research. Of course, I knew my destination but not how best to get there. I was looking for a safe and convenient route for me and Lola the pup that involves as little driving as might be feasible.
To conduct the search, I turned to the internet. However, I ended up relying on an old fashion (though up to date version) road map of the U.S.
I always have enjoyed studying maps. For me, a good road map of these United States conjures romantic images of places with fanciful names like Tucumcari, the subject of a popular Jimmie Rodgers song back when I was a kid.
Left right march along. I’ve just gotta get home} (just gotta get home) Ten more miles to Tucumcari Then I’ll never more roam.
–Tucumcari by Jimmie Rodgers (1959)
In short order I had fleshed out a tentative but workable multi-day road trip that will get me to my destination five days out from home. As much as I would like to be able to wiggle my nose and arrive sooner, I do not think I can make this trip any faster and still be safe. Even on the fifth day I will need to drive half of it to get where I am going before darkness. Next, I turned my focus to each individual leg of the road trip. Breaking the total mileage into manageable day-to-day chunks is a good approach, but before I could book my first pet friendly motel, I realized I was not ready to put so fine a point on my plans. The desert seems a long way off into the future, so I decided to call it a night and put off this task for another day.
I have mentioned here before that I enjoy trip planning activities. For years, my “plan” was to escape from the snow and cold with Lee to various exotic locales, typically places in Central or South America, but also Portugal, and the beautiful lakes region of northern Italy where Lee has family. One common denominator was affordability.
Unfortunately, along the way my travel plans got waylaid by the double whammy of Lee’s early death and a pandemic without precedent in modern times. Except for Italy, I still have tons of research for each potential target destination, having previously conducted years’ long and deep dives into historic and cultured Portugal, biodiverse Ecuador, Columbia, the “gateway to South America” and the most populous nation of Spanish-speaking South America, undiscovered Nicaragua and its more well-known neighbor to the south, green and lush Costa Rica, and, last but not least, gringo friendly Panama with its canal. Except for Portugal, I have seen each in person.
Now, emerging at last from the twin calamities of Lee’s death and the arrival of SARS-CoV-2, it seems ironic that my welcome acquisition of Lola the pup during those hard days should have forced me to recalibrate my travel plans without regard either for my previous meticulous plans or for the hours of effort it had taken me to fashion them. In its simplest form I concluded that international air travel with a 65-pound, frisky Labrador is problematic at best. More importantly, as mentioned to me by Lola’s vet, it could be dangerous for Lola, hence, my revised current travel plan to overwinter in the North American desert.
Robyn continues to be employed full time and will not be accompanying me, though certainly I would welcome her company. Robyn is a gamer who is trying her level best to understand and support my personal agenda. Meanwhile, I suspect that in her heart she would prefer to have me remain at home nearby. There is an undeniable push and pull at work here, which we will work out between ourselves. However, two things now seem certain: first, come January 2023, Robyn will still be working here while living at home with her adult daughter and adult granddaughter; second, January 2023 will be when I embark on the road for points southwest to spend the bulk of winter elsewhere than in my own home.
Regarding the upcoming journey itself, I have neither preconceived expectations nor specific plans in mind. Naturally, I hope the trip overall proves to be personally rewarding as well as big fun. Yet should I sustain disappointment concerning any of the particulars – say, my ABNB accommodations turn out to be dark, shabby, and depressing, I experience ennui from having the “luxury” of completely unencumbered time, I turn miserable and mean without Robyn or feel lonely without my friends—the journey itself can still be worthwhile. I hope to be stretched and tested personally in ways I can’t even imagine at this early stage of the proceedings.
In my life I feel fortunate to have shared the close companionship of good women. (I am a widower today who also had been twice divorced before marrying Lee.) And, as evidenced by my growing connection with Robyn, my good fortune persists.
However, I am at the point of my life where I can engage in extended travel without the twin constraints of either lacking the necessary funds or having too little time. With these practical obstacles put aside, it is unmistakably clear to me that this desert journey is something that I not only must undertake but see through to a conclusion. I want to put to rest a gnawing feeling of dread in the back of my head that life’s window of opportunity will close on me before I have fully taken advantage of it.
I do not want to sound like I am being selfish, but this trip is for me.