The Adventure Begins (Began!)

20140126_111122_resized_1Scene 1: Leaving northern New Mexico, headed towards northern Nevada for a seasonal work-camping job as a warehouse associate for the on-line lynchpin of the Evil Consumer Empire, facing a temporary adventure in the belly-of-beast. A drastic although necessary step to fund the first stages of the journey… The Queen still needs lots of mechanical work, not to mention lots of gas on a very regular basis, and the Princess must have her expensive mail-order, natural, grain-free kibble supplemented with raw, “happy cow” beef. And The Cosmic Change Agent in training still has lots of debts left-over from the “old” life that must be paid…

Monday, October 7, 2013
The adventure begins, at last. After spending one last night “stealth” urban camping in the public parking lot in old downtown Santa Fe, we left The City Different this morning, after one last cup of strong Scottish Breakfast Tea from Tribes Cafe, at 10:07 am.  It seemed appropriate, somehow, to leave my little village of Madrid, in the coal and turquoise-mining mountains south of Santa Fe yesterday evening, to be ready to start our adventure fresh this morning from the spot where we first played at van living on a part-time basis through the summer (forced to face our fears after the faithful commuter Saturn wagon was stolen last April). A prelude to the main trip, starting out by going north last night, in order to be heading south to Albuquerque this morning, en route to Highway 40 West and all that lies in wait for us in our new life.  This is not just a trip, but a journey, which started in a spiral, not a line.

What a day we had! Layla is pretty content with her new home—except when it is moving, especially at high speeds on the open road with trucks (and everybody else!) roaring by. I was convinced I would have difficulty keeping my speed up to 50 or 55. Instead I kept looking down to find I was going almost 65! So, I spent the day in the Zen meditation of attempting to function as my own cruise control–with limited success. But she does just float along at 55. 65 is pretty easy, but doesn’t feel as safe (not to mention the extra gas it requires!)… she is almost 25 years old after all and still needs quite a bit of work—cracked frame, leaking engine seals and head gaskets, front brakes down to 20%, an alignment, cracked windshield (but not directly in line of sight, thank the Goddess)… the list goes on. Oh, and it would be nice to have a cigarette lighter (for charging appliances, not smoking!) and some kind of sound system. It will all come. I’ve been replacing her one piece at a time. When that process is finished, she will really be quite something. And to find out today that I am getting almost 12 whole miles to the gallon (instead of the 10.4 I was getting commuting in her)—my cup runneth over…

So, she may need some work—but she is a queen indeed, with the heart of a road warrior!

Now I know why I was so uncharacteristically flip flopping on my itinerary… did I go north, or did I go south to end up west? Turns out I was the one who wanted to go North—the vision quest (as elucidated by the Tarot this morning at the recycle station)—two lane roads, comfortable cruising speed, Red Rock scenery—the classic road trip. Obviously, it was Esmarelda who wanted to go South. “Give me the four lane highway,” she was subliminally shouting,” the open road, speed. I want to be free!” So, we struck a compromise—but on her territory. We are taking the more prosaic, direct route, but at my speed (mostly). We didn’t even make my original, modest goal of reaching Winslow this evening (created when we had 3 days to make Cactus Springs, not 2).

But, we all made it safe and sound. Layla is a road warrior as well, or will be soon. She spent most of the day between the bed frame and the wheel well. But whenever we stopped—at the travel plaza outside Grants for our salad lunch, at the rest stop at the Arizona border—she emerged to lounge on the bed, cool as a cucumber.

So, with the excuse of giving her a well-deserved break, I stopped 30 miles short of the goal of Winslow and the Anasazi ruins state park, to land here at the KOA in Holbrook. Appropriately enough, this is where Esmarelda spent her first incarnation, as a senior citizen transport vehicle for the city. I wonder if she is waxing nostalgic tonight, or having panic attacks. No need to worry, my Queen, we are headed off early tomorrow (just after my shower—the first in six weeks!—and the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast here at the campground).  I am in Paradise—my brand new extension cord snaked out my small slider window to power my laptop and recharge my smart phone, pristine clean bathrooms, all night laundry and no need to be “stealth” as I sit here tapping away at my chronicles.

The QME camped at the Holbrook KOA on her first official night on the road.

The QME camped at the Holbrook KOA on her first official night on the road.

I’ve decided that this is the vandwellers’ version of a 5-star hotel vacation—a night at the KOA. I embarked upon this adventure of giving up sticks and bricks to live in a van on the road, and stuck with the three years’ worth of travails it took to make it happen, largely because I knew this life would bring me closer to nature. But the Taurus sun-sign part of me will not be daunted and sometimes wins out over the Aries moon and chooses comfort over adventure, so here I am on my first night in a KOA. Although this is certainly an Aries Moon version of comfort—a 25 year old van in a campground with the delicious, haunting sound of the train whistle periodically filling the silence of the Western night.

2013-10-07 18.11.37_resizedI had a revelation while cooking my dinner tonight on my 2-burner Coleman stove (which I finally made myself fire up just yesterday for the first time). I opened the side door, which is just behind the “kitchen” in the van (a $20 cabinet I bought at the resale store). “This is like camping indoors—the best of both worlds.” I think I actually said this out loud…The joy in finally living the life I’ve dreamed of, that seemed to allude me all week, as I worked my last shifts at the café and catering, attended my “goodbye” party (dancing to my favorite band who just happened to be playing in my hometown Tavern), leaving the village last night for the last time… I finally began to actually feel the joy, just in bits and pieces at first, cruising along in the van with the cat with the magnificent southwest vistas in front of me, a perfect fall day… fixing a wonderful, simple lunch at a highway rest stop. But, in true Taurus, pleasure-loving fashion, it didn’t hit full force until I made the decadent decision to pull into the bourgeois campground, steal some of the cats’ raw hamburger to make a fresh, homemade version of “hamburger helper,” talk to my two best friends on the phone, accomplish the minimal van dwellers’ housekeeping tasks of straightening up the van and re-doing the ice chest, and revel in the dearly bought decadence of reading May Dodd’s journal via Kindle on my laptop, enjoying the story of a very Aries, adventurous heroine of the 19th century west, vicariously experiencing through her marvelous story a wondrous and tragic chapter of history. It inspired me to actually sit and write this instead of just going to bed (or doing laundry!).  I don’t want the experiences of this day to be lost to me forever.

I know that so many things that are magical to me in this moment will soon become commonplace—Layla’s undaunted courage… voluntarily taking a walk in her harness soon after arriving here, in a totally strange place, after a crazy day spent mostly under the bed, being tossed around like gelato for a milkshake in the blender at Ecco Café—definitely not your run-of-the-mill domestic feline companion; making dinner in my indoor/outdoor kitchen; feeling so cozy and complete in the absolutely perfect space that is The Queen Maria Esmarelda. The bounty of electrical power and showers after 6 weeks of stealth urban camping with no power and sponge baths (which I actually like, by the way—so much more efficient than the hour I used to spend every day in the tub! I can’t wait until I have solar power and can be this independent in the middle of the wilderness—just imagine!).

I may have doubted my sanity over the last three years, or my ability to make this happen, but I never, ever doubted that I would love this life. And I do, I do, I do! And I always will. I was born for this—and I think the QME and Layla were, too—three adventurous females with gypsy souls, together at last. Here we are, incarnating the power of The Divine Feminine, in her Triple Goddess aspect, our old lives already half-forgotten in the wonder of discovering the new

Sekhmet on her altar in the Queen Maria Esmarelda.

Sekhmet on her altar in the Queen Maria Esmarelda.

And tomorrow, can it really be tomorrow?—visiting The Temple of Sekhmet just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. This has been my heart’s desire for the last thirteen years, since I first heard of its existence. This is truly a pilgrimage, not just a journey. I am a little afraid that my high expectations will unavoidably bring disappointment, but whatever the journey brings it will be a gift. To be in Sekhmet’s mighty, loving presence, at a Temple dedicated to Her, to the gift economy, to the recovery of the sacred desert, at the start of this grand new chapter of my life—it is already perfect!