It’s a relief to leave 2021 behind. For many people it was a year of changes, including health challenges and life style adjustments. This was often related to covid-19, but for us it was selling the CI lab/homebase in Monticello, Utah, and becoming full-time nomads, living in our 24-foot Cougar RV. Thanks to a friend, also a full-timer, we found Black Rock Road in northern Arizona in the late autumn of 2021. We began settling into into a lifestyle and routines, while not totally foreign, were different in that there was no longer a homebase.
Now it is January 2022. Clifford and I are busy with our projects and we especially enjoy sunny and calm days when we can work outside. Whenever possible, I sit outside with my morning coffee and my “stack:” books and journals that get my day started in an uplifted way. I make the daily intention of well-being, beauty, and harmony. Observing sunrises and sunsets, I find beauty and harmony, as well as on my frequent walks in the desert.
On my walkabouts, my favorite place to walk is in the wash with its ruggedness, as I make my way through boulders, gravel, sand, and vegetation.
Pine Mountain to the north of us is highlighted by morning and evening colors, but can stand alone as the impressive feature that it is, particularly with a fresh coat of snow. I never tire of gazing at it through our north-facing window.
I also begin employing Segment Intending, which means for each activity of the day, I make an intention of positive results, of seeing what I want to see. This helps with my walkabouts, finding beauty in the landscape that I might otherwise overlook.
Music continues to be a fun activity. Clifford and I play UK folk songs together almost daily, and he is expanding his singing repertoire with a selection of pop songs, bluegrass, country, celtic, and more.
I still edit for a couple of authors and I spend time editing and sharing photos most days, as well as writing blogs of our journeys. Domestic chores and errands are a part of our days, including trips through the scenic Virgin River Gorge on our way to Littlefield to pick up our mail.
We are grateful for quiet and privacy we enjoy here, as well as the scenic aspects of this spot of Arizona desert. It is a good place to spend the winter.
Clifford and I are dispersed camping in northwest Arizona at the invitation of a friend. Many days are sunny and warm enough for us spend time outside. It is always fun to sit out when Clifford is playing and singing. Inside or out, I enjoy a good cup of French Press coffee as I go through my “stack,” as I call my journals and inspirational reading material. I have gained insights that would have been helpful to have learned fifty years ago, but better late than never, as the saying goes. Valuable insights have led me on a path of greater happiness in just being where I am and appreciating being alive to enjoy the beauty that surrounds me.
Even though I was dismayed to see no trees when we first arrived here, I have grown very fond of the creosote “forest” and the play of light on the mountains and mesas. With so much openness, I am always observing the sky, watching the variety of clouds and colors that come and go. Sunrise, sunset, and stormy days are most interesting.
Some days the cloud progression is quite enchanting:
Sunsets frequently put on a show:
I walk most days unless it is too windy. The wash is my favorite place to walk because of its ruggedness, boulders to gravel to sand, but some days I hike up the sides of the mesas that are not too far away.
When I hike up the mesa, photos taken from that vantage point reveal the vastness of the land. We are not hemmed in with buildings, utility poles, streets. It is a good place to be. I guess it helps that Clifford and I are introverts by nature and we appreciate the quiet and privacy we have here.
Photos on my walks are shared with family and friends as well as posts to Facebook photo groups, which I find uplifting and worthwhile. There are many people who are seeing what is beautiful in the world and I am happy to contribute to this positive awareness.
We and our neighbor pick up trash that has been strewn about by people coming into the parking lot off the exit and trash left by some campers. Hopefully our actions will prompt others to be more mindful of the importance of caring for our environment.
Clifford: Behind the scenes, Clifford’s non-profit is becoming more active with plans to get the website updated and active again. Sewing is a handy skill that he employs as often as need be. Sometimes we hike together and occasionally he goes on longer exploratory hikes by himself. Always, his ham radio is a commitment he takes seriously. And music, music, music – a new life direction that had been put on hold during the years of active research.
Mid December brings much colder temperatures and late December is a time of celebration with the winter solstice, our anniversary, and Christmas.
The last day of the year, a rainbow appears over Cougar.
Clifford and I appreciate the views, as well as the peace and quiet from our campsite on Black Rock Road.
In early November, we decide to go to Mesquite, Nevada, just for an outing. The drive though the Virgin River Gorge is quite stunning on this beautiful blue-sky day.
Building an interstate highway through the gorge was an engineering feat. It is the kind of highway where one should mosey, but no, most people travel at breathing-taking speeds, totally missing the breath-taking views.
November 7th is a special day of gratitude as I sit out with a perfect cup of coffee after a short hike with Clifford. Today marks one year from the stroke. I am well, I can hike, I can read and write. I can talk to my kids — I feel very fortunate and very blessed.
Most days I go walking. I could probably walk for miles and not get lost here. As it is, I try to vary my route a bit every day to see what I can see. One day, I find the wash, which obviously is subject to flash floods when there is enough rain. The vegetation here is more varied; boulders, gravel, and sand form an interesting rugged pathway across the desert basin. It is my favorite place to walk.
Clifford and I go for short walks together now and then, but often I walk alone.
After the trip to Wallace with my sister Nancy, the next few days are spent reorganizing Suburban and Cougar in preparation for leaving Montana. Clifford and I want to be on our way before the weather turns colder than it has been. The autumn colors are at their best in the nearby woods. Nancy and I walk to the side channel of the Bitterroot River one more time.
Thursday, October 21, Clifford and I finish packing and leave Florence a little after noon. The autumn colors along the Clark Fork River are quite striking as we head east from Missoula toward Butte.
Although we usually stop at the rest area south of Butte on I-15 or at Divide Bridge Campground, this time we push on through to the rest area at Dubois, Idaho, arriving at sunset, 284 miles, a very long day for us.
The next day is windier, so not as easy driving, and we stop at the Devil’s Creek RV park in southern Idaho around 3:00. We set up on the far end of the reservoir rather than in one of the RV sites. I have time to post photos to the RV Bunch on FB, play fiddle, and make dinner before heading to bed. A good productive day despite the hours on the road.
Drizzle and rain in the night and the misty morning provide some photo opportunities for me.
We take time to repair the rear view camera and leave Devil’s Creek about 2:00 in the afternoon.
Construction as we approach Salt Lake City slows us down, but we arrive at the Perry, Utah, Walmart about 4:00 and are happy to get a spot along the median with grass and a tree.
The next morning is Sunday, October 24. We always plan our drive through SLC on Sunday so there isn’t as much traffic. We are up early enough to do a bit more shopping and leave by 10:00, but we are disappointed that the rear view camera is still not working despite our working on it. Driving through SLC is taxing enough, but doing it without a camera makes it even worse. As we drive through Salt Lake City, we feel the wind starting to pick up.
By time we get to Beaver, 200 miles to the south on I-15, we pull off and find a place to park in a trashy dirt lot behind the Flying J. It is very windy now and we are both glad to be off the highway and parked for the night.
Monday is much too windy for travel and despite putting down the stabilizers, which we don’t usually do for an overnight stop, we are rocking and rolling in the wind all day. We bundle up against the wind and walk to nearby Denny’s for a meal. We keep busy the rest of the day with our various projects.
Our friend David calls to see if we are still in Montana. He informs us that the campground in the Virgin River Gorge where we had planned to go, which also happens to be where we met him several years ago, is closed. That is disappointing to us, but David encourages us to go to Black Rock Road and camp there near where he is set up.
When I open the door the next morning, I am surprised and delighted to see a landscape covered with snow. Trash has disappeared under white fluffiness.
As the sky clears, snow on the nearby mountains is quite scenic.
We are not traveling today, waiting for the roads over mountain passes to clear. Cell service is good here, so both Clifford and I work on our projects, mostly editing for me, and for Clifford, whatever he has going on.
By Wednesday, the 27th, the snow is mostly gone and the highways are clear, so we leave Beaver and head south through St. George, and cross the border into Arizona.
With David’s directions, we find our way to the spot he has suggested for us on Black Rock Road. There are desert views in every direction and gently rising hills in this valley basin, sloping down to a wash and upward to nearby mesas, but not a single tree. The acres and acres of creosote are green and alive, but without trees, it feels kind of exposed and barren to me.
I appreciate the views, and how peaceful and private it is here, but coming from the mountains, trees, and rivers of Montana, Black Rock will take some getting used to for this Mountain Girl.
On Sunday morning, August 15, Clifford and I prepare to leave our Hip Camp as soon as possible to get through Salt Lake City in a timely manner. The further north we go, the smokier and hotter it is.
South of Pocotello, Idaho, we experience one of the worst things for travelers – a blow out on the RV. Yikes! Fortunately Clifford is able to maintain control and we get safely stopped alongside I-15. In the 95+ degree weather with absolutely no shade, Clifford begins the ordeal of changing the tire, having to unhitch and jack up the RV, and the whole tire-changing routine is done with semis whizzing by at breath-taking speeds.
As he is finishing, a fellow stops to help and even though the tire has been changed, this man is able to take care of the problem we’ve been having with the RV brakes. A piece of serendipity.
We arrive at the Idaho Falls, Idaho, Walmart in early evening with the intention of getting new tires. This Walmart does not have the tires we need and we spend the night in the crowded lower parking lot along with other Rvers.
First thing Monday morning we find the Big O Tires and they fit us into their busy schedule. With new tires, we continue the northward journey. It has been a long hot day and we are looking forward to arriving our destination – the Divide Bridge BLM Campground south of Butte, Montana.
We have stayed at this campground along the Big Hole River several times. At the turn off to the campground, we are disappointed to see that it is closed, as it is being used as a fire-fighting staging area. Why was this not posted at the exit??? We have no choice but to continue on up highway 43 until we find a spot big enough to do a U-turn with Cougar and then make our way back to I-15.
Hooray for rest areas, especially those that are large with clean facilities. We pull into the one south of Butte and park at the far end as the sun sets red. The smoke is so dense we can scarcely see the surrounding countryside. This will be our spot for tonight and we are grateful for safe accommodations.
Although it’s only been three months since Clifford and I returned to Monticello from last winter’s Arizona home, it feels longer since so much has happened. We’ve sold the lab/home base and gotten rid of almost everything we own. Even though I was not enthusiastic about moving to Monticello, it is still hard to leave all that was good and stable about being here.
As we leave this time, it is different than ever before, as there is no home base to come home to. Cougar (our 24’ RV) towed by the old Suburban is IT. It is our full-time home now. We finish last-minute items on the final to-do list and are on the road in the early afternoon of Thursday, August 12th. It is a hot (99 degrees in Moab as we go through), hazy (wild fires abound in western US), and dreary drive to Price, Utah.
We arrive at the Price Walmart parking lot in the early evening, glad to be off the highway. Going into Walmart is a welcome breath of cool air, but sensory overload. We have not been to Walmart in over 2 ½ years; the well-stocked store is bright with color and sound. Even though I don’t feel great after the hot drive, it is interesting to browse as though I have never been in a Walmart store before.
The next morning, we pick up a few more supplies and then head north to Provo where Clifford has reserved a spot at a “Hip Camp.” A hip camp is about what it sounds like, a place between cool and funky, a place where someone can make a few bucks by letting travelers camp in their backyard. This place is, no doubt, the epitome of just that. Our bearded camp host, an old hippie, says we can park anywhere and points out a grassy spot under a big tree next to a mud puddle where ducks are happily splashing about.
Even better, there is a back gate that opens onto the bike trail along the Provo River. A foot bridge gives us access to the Provo City Riverside Park. We spend the next day in the park in a shelter alongside the Provo River, picnicking and playing music. We are grateful for the cool shade of the trees and the ambiance of the river.
This Hip Camp has been a very pleasant stop for us.
As many folks know, a major move challenges the hardiest of souls. In retrospect, I can only say that that I am grateful for having survived July 2021. Consolidating all my belongings into what will fit into a 5 x10 storage unit is challenging to the max. A ba-jillion decisions have to be made, and since much of what I am sorting requires my personal attention, many nights I am still working at midnight. Clifford has hired people to help him with packing up the items from the non-profit lab that are to be kept, but even with help, it is a big job.
While it appears that chaos reigns, slowly but surely everything is sorted and packed for storage or put out on the FREE tables. Clifford’s stuff is hauled to his storage unit in a nearby town. The conundrum of how and where to move my stuff is resolved when my daughter Ang and her friend Rama drive all the way from western Montana to southeast Utah to get the U-haul cargo trailer, which is all packed and ready to go, and drive all the way back in two days. I so enjoy seeing them and wish they could have had a relaxed visit, but they have obligations back in Montana.
It is hot hot hot at both ends and all along the way for them, making the journey and the unloading a real challenge of endurance and fortitude. Thank you, Ang and Rama!
Through all of this, the saving grace is my quiet early morning time sitting on the deck in back with a good cup of coffee, some inspirational reading, and my journal.
Although there aren’t many flowers in the yard and no trips up the mountain, I watch for the photo opportunities that bring me joy, namely colorful blossoms, from milkweed and dandelions to the beautiful Rose of Sharon shrub in the front yard.
Most days we manage to fit in a bit of music, playing with the UK folk group on zoom as I learn to read music on The Fiddle with Clifford playing dulcimer. In his spare moments, Clifford begins recording songs he has been singing, a new passion in his life. Or maybe a secret passion opening up. I’m not sure.
Once my stuff is gone, the focus shifts to preparing the house for the realtor. Scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming throughout the house and spiffing up the backyard take precedence, along with preparing Cougar, our RV, to be our full-time home.
Toward the end of July, monsoons finally make an appearance and great thunderheads, rain, and rainbows are a welcome relief to the hot dry days of most of July.
In mid-June as the temperatures reach the upper 90’s, we make several trips up Abajo Mountain for picnics and music, a respite from the heat.
I am delighted to spend time on the mountain, finding the wild iris still in bloom despite the warm temperatures. Yarrow, balsamroot, and other wildflowers are flourishing.
In the evenings, when the valley below cools off, we return home and continue with the work of packing and clearing.
The trip to Santa Fe that we have been considering in order to pick up a violin that has been donated to me by a former music colleague has been put off due to her circumstances and the heat the Southwest is suffering from. However, toward the end of June, I find out that I can still retrieve the violin and there is a break in the weather. So, we make plans on rather short notice and a quick trip to Santa Fe is underway.
As we travel, I am quite intrigued by the clouds, some of questionable origin, but over the mesas of New Mexico there are some that look like clouds used to look.
We have a good drive to Santa Fe, but the motel we chose because of its affordable price, is very sketchy. However, it will have to do. The next day, I pick up the violin and seeing that it is not playable as is, the Violin Shop does a much appreciated rush job of new strings, bridge, and bow. Mission accomplished, I have the violin, now to be known as “The Fiddle.” This instrument will be much more suitable for all the fiddle music that Clifford and I have been playing with our zoom group for the last year.
I would have enjoyed having more time to visit friends while in Santa Fe, but Clifford is anxious to get back to Monticello. As it is, we have time for dinner with a couple of long-time friends, and I look forward to a more relaxed trip in the future.
The return to Monticello to resume the moving process brings June to a close.
June starts with an outing up Abajo Mountain for a picnic and music, a welcome respite from all the sorting, packing, and cleaning that we have been doing since we returned to Monticello home base in early May. With this impromptu decision, I make a picnic lunch, we pack up our instruments and off we go. We are pleased to find that the spot where we camped last summer is available. I am happy to walk about the familiar favorite trails and to find a few flowers blooming.
I begin my days sitting on the deck in the first sunlight or under the trees on the warmer days, reading or journaling. Clifford begins his day with his ham radio connections, and then we both proceed to whatever areas are next to attend to. Every day more items go to the FREE table – dishes, clothes, extra bedding, furniture, books, lamps, and on and on.
For a few days in early June, dramatic cumulus clouds make an appearance and there does appear to be rain to the east, but nothing right here.
When I am not sorting, packing, and cleaning, I edit for a couple of authors, and most days Clifford and I play fiddle tunes from the UK zoom group that we have joined. Clifford is also singing and recording songs and when I have the energy, I play cello in the evenings.
Although there are not many flowers blooming in our yard, I am always open to the possibilities.
As we pack, the scientific instruments that Clifford is keeping are moved to a small storage unit in a nearby town, while the stuff I’m keeping is consolidated, imagining it fitting into a small storage unit.
Along with all the sorting and packing going on in the house, I am also cleaning and repacking Cougar, our RV, as it will be our full-time home once we leave Monticello. This itself is a daunting task.
The change that is afoot for Clifford and me is that due to a change in funding for Carnicom Institute, we will be selling the home-base/lab in Monticello, Utah. This is a big decision and we begin packing, sorting, discarding, and cleaning soon after returning from the winter journey. We put out a couple of tables with a FREE sign and begin giving things away – almost everything we own.
Clifford will be saving only the most important scientific lab instruments and books, and these will be put into storage. I will be likewise save only the most important items in my life – journals, photo albums, artwork, and so on. The sorting and processing seems both overwhelming and endless.
In mid-May, a trip to Salt Lake City to see a cardiologist is postpone when the Suburban won’t start the morning that we are to leave. The cardiologist appointment and the motel reservation are rescheduled and the sorting/packing/cleaning continues.
My source of peace during this stressful time is the early morning hour spent on the deck in the backyard where I read or write in my journal, sipping tea, enjoying the backyard trees and blossoms before the busy-ness of the day.
In the process of packing books and journals, I run across a couple that are added to the daily reading stack. It must be that the timing is right for them now.
We make the rescheduled trip to Salt Lake City, a long drive for us, with a stop at Soldier’s Summit for a picnic at a very sketchy picnic table alongside the store. It is a welcome stop from the long drive.
When we arrive at our motel, we find the hotel under construction, but the room is serviceable and convenient with a kitchenette.
Going to the hospital for the cardiologist appointment, a long wait wearing masks in a crowded overly warm waiting room has my blood pressure up and my heart in a-fib by time I see Dr. Day. A procedure is recommended and scheduled, and then we are on our way. Driving back to Monticello the next day, we take time to explore the Price Canyon Recreation Area. The road is much too steep for us to consider camping there, but it was a good diversion to check it out.