Still Preparing for our National Parks USA Tour, NEW YORK

New Jersey >> Upstate New York =

~200 miles, 3.5 hours

In a small town outside of Ithaca, New York, where rolling hills are pockmarked by large family farms as well as lush vegetation, I have visited numerous occasions now. Last time, I was with both Burt and Cee when we visited with one of my girls from college.

Five years ago, Becca was ready to pop with her soon-to-be-born son. Along with her husband, Joe, the five and ⅞ of us 😆, enjoyed an after-Thanksgiving music jam. With blue and red lights illuminating a wintry barn, Joe jammed on the guitar, Becca crushed the [drum] kit and Burt bowed the violin as I danced around with a 15-month-old baby in my arms.

22 years ago, Becca and I met as young, innocent undergraduates. Drawn to the same mentor, our college life revolved around the Recreational Sports department in which we led our peers on outdoor education trips, such as weekend excursions spent camping in or backpacking through California’s diverse backcountry.

Back then, I was hungry to feed my starving spirit. In Becca, I found the mirror of a deep soul who enjoys spending time in the kitchen as well as watching foreign films (in subtitles!) Together, her and I would spend hours talking about our mutual love for our planet and the futures we envisioned for ourselves.

Over the past two decades, I have traveled to visit Becca in places like southern Oregon, the mountains of southern California, in Keane, New Hampshire and in the far away land of Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa, where my girl studied abroad for a year and a half. Since then, Becca has carved out a beautiful life filled with gardening, working at Cornell University, and being an all-around badass wife, mother, employee, environmentalist, friend and human being. It is such a privilege - and a pleasure - to consider her one of my sisters.

On our first night of arrival, she gathered a number of her friends together to welcome us on her sprawling, 80-acre property where the kids ran around catching lightning bugs and the adults rubbed elbows. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I retired early to the sanctity of the bedroom that Becca made-up for us. I needed to tune out and relax. I simply didn’t have the internal space to engage with strangers, especially after making the three-and-a-half hour drive from New Jersey through torrential rain and flash flooding conditions.

What's more is that I hadn’t been sleeping well due to all of the constant change in our life. I just needed to rest. Meanwhile, Cee was very happy to run ahead and join in with the small gang of six other children as they rejoiced in summertime play. When we first began our Mama Caravan journeys, Cee was extremely insecure and attached to my side. What a gift to witness his evolution of greater ease, comfort and self confidence. One of the couples in the group, who are Becca and Joe’s closest music companions, was more than willing to return a few days later to help me get that tent up on our roof. Before a farm to table meal of dahl soup and chicken salad, we finally achieved our goal! But, the roof of my van coupled with the height of the cross bars made the tent ladder about 20” too high from the ground. :(

Without the stability of the ladder, the roof top tent is useless. Oi! Currently, there are two, cylinder blocks on the roof to provide that support when we do finally use our tent. (In Yellowstone, I am intending, as we will have friends joining us. There, I can leave it up for five days straight before I have to labor through all of the effort of putting it down again.)

After a long weekend of reveling in a small town ‘Merica 4th of July, complete with fireworks exploding overhead, a fair with mechanical rides and fried dough, and a parade with motorcycles, firemen and other local people throwing candy out their car windows to parade watchers like us, Cee and I finally struck out on the road on our own.

Since our stateside return, the north eastern region, and middle of the country, have been experiencing flash flooding and lightning storms. It’s a nice way to puncture the usually suffocating humidity and heat that this region experiences during the summer. Our “caravan” however is not well prepared for inclement weather. I am still working out the kinks in our camping system because I have mainly only had summer weather in mind. Meanwhile, the west has been baking in heat. Just the other day, one of the hottest consistent temperatures was recorded in Death Valley, California. That seemingly stable world that many of us once inhabited continues to change at great speed, which is another reason why I am taking advantage of the ongoing opportunity that both Covid & the loss of my partner have brought with it as I continue to road school my young son across the USA.

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