Circling Patterns

Life has a habit of circling us back into our past, taking us back to places from which, perhaps, we haven’t yet found what we were meant to discover.

Two years ago in April I first visited Abiquiu in northern New Mexico, introduced to it by a now former friend who has land here. It was a mystical experience I wrote about back then (posts here, here, and here). My soul felt rested here, making me wonder if this the place I should settle? Of course, since then, Covid-driven prices have made this area even more unaffordable than back then, so those thoughts are likely faded.

Now having circled back around these two plus years later and intending to spend a bit more than a week here, the land still makes me feel welcomed. As I sit here outside a quaint, vintage RV trailer I’m renting via airBNB, and staring into the distance at the layers of landscapes with different colors and tones, I’m left wondering why I’ve wandered back to this of all places when there are so many I’ve yet to visit.

We often, given the chance, lean to revisiting special places we’ve been. I wonder if it’s because we yearn to relive the good feeling those places gave us, or whether we’re sometimes more comfortable visiting the known rather than the unknown.

Certainly on this trip of now 32 days long, I’ve only stayed where I’ve never been until I arrived yesterday in Abiquiu. And before I’d been here 12 hours I’d decide to extend my stay from four days/nights to eight. It’s not that I’m lured to see more of the area, having deeply explored the area back in 2019, but there seems to be another reason.

I decided to stay because it’s a place I feel slowed down, connected, and one that stirs my creative juices. And so I reasoned that since I haven’t been writing as I’d planned to do on this trip, plus being way behind on YouTube videos (I have a mountain of video taken in the four national parks I’ve visited since the last post video on the channel), what better place to park it, give Obie a rest, and spend some serious days in creative mode.

PS: This is the first chance I’ve had to learn to fly the drone I bought for this trip! All the time before now I’ve been staying on one for or another of federal land where drones are forbidden. Outside of that, I could have used a few Walmarts I overnighted at, but at those places I like to be as stealthy as possible and a drone would definitely draw attention. Anyway, above short clip of the first test flight! More to come.

Drive, He Said

It finally dawned on me today (during driving of course) just how many miles and hours I’ve spent simply driving and enjoying the country. And varied country it’s been: from the wooded Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the grassy plains of the Dakotas, from the stark landscape of the badlands to the gorgeous mountainous west Montana and eastern Idaho. And today the long drive included the dry, desolate (not if you count the tourists/vacationeers in cars) stunning geography of Utah going into the Moab area.

Fact is, I like to drive. Guess I got that from my Dad who seemed to love nothing more than long drives on family vacations. I have memories as a kid of being ushered into the back seat with pillow and blankets before dawn so Dad could hit the road and start driving his 12+ hour day, traveling to some distant relative’s house.

I’m speculating though that the long, sequestered 18 months we’ve all been under has something to do with what is feeling like release and rejuvenation therapy on this experimental camping trip of 60 days. Almost half way there and I’ve passed 5,000 miles already while wandering through seven states (see the map here). The trip’s been all the more enjoyable since I’m venturing into states I’ve never been, and that adds to the wonder.

While I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve camped in one place more than a few days, there’s an undeniable itch each time to get back on the road and see more of America. Who knows: maybe I’m concerned another shutdown’s coming and I want to see as much as possible now. Whatever the reason, it’s been a blast so far.

Good Shit

Park workers spent a lot of time at the entrance gate to Teddy Roosevelt National Park warning me about the rattlesnakes. Statistics of encounter probabilities suggest they should definitely mention the other, more probable park hazard: buffalo shit.

Ah yes, but it’s royal shit since buffalos were brought back from near extinction and have more liberties and freedoms in the park than visitors.

Number of rattlesnakes I’ve seen in my five days here so far? Zero.

Number of buffalo pies? Too many to count. I rest my case.

Last night a large herd wandered through the campground, and I mean through everything: individual sites, the roads, around the pit toilets, loitering around the drinking water tap, blocking doors on RVs, you name it. All of us had to leave our tents and find places at a safe distance to observe this amazing interaction. No vehicles could move, and in essence, this heard of probably 60 buffalo shut down the camp for close to an hour.

Common thing here, and there are stories of campers injured by getting too close or spooking the herd (my observation is you’d have to do something unusual to spook them; seemingly so docile and indifferent to us around them). In one case, a spooked buffalo caught a tent line and dragged the poor camper inside to what seemed to them like forever but probably only seconds. He escaped with scrapes and bruises, and of course, a story to tell the rest of his life.

No one complained. Fascinating to watch up close these large plains beasts meander around, seemingly unaware there were people or roads or cars. Didn’t matter: they roamed wherever they liked.

There’s definitely some intentional behaviors in the herd, notably the snorting of bellowing of the males, esp. the larger ones. Hard to say whether this is a reminder to other males, instructions to the herd, who knows.

The big ones also love to paw in the dirt then fall over and roll around in the dirt. Repeatedly. Have some video of this going up on the YouTube channel when I can get through the 100+ videos I’ve taken so far!

Yesterday on my earlier drive out of the North unit to spend the day exploring the South unit, I encountered the morning herd commute across the road from the campground to the entrance. In one spot, a particular majestic large male stood stock still in the middle of the two-lane highway, blocking any car from going by for at least five minutes. I was at the front of the line about 15’ from him and enjoyed watching him. He could care less about us and who knows what was going through his mind. Plans for the day? That svelte female buffalo he’d been flirting with? Which meadow to have breakfast in?

Eventually he wandered off the road at a snail’s pace. Luckily, it was a lone male and not the herd in the road! Not uncommon to be stuck waiting for a going-nowhere-in-a-hurry herd to clear the road.

Stay tuned for the extended video on my YouTube channel of the park and lots of buffalo coverage.

There’s Hot and Then There’s This

“Go west young man,” Horace Greeley once said. I think ol’ Horace forgot to add this caveat: except in the summer, and the modern interpretation: especially in 2021.

My July-August travel plans had me heading west through the northern states, but the record heat is changing my path. Can’t avoid some of it, else I might as well head back home! So I’ve modified a path that loops into some of the west then heads south into the Rockies: where I’m told, by some campers here, it’s nearly just as hot at the higher elevations (but cools way down at night).

So it’s acceptance time and make the best of it.

Daily routine here at Teddy Roosevelt National Park (North) is to scramble in the morning with anything needing fussing with, do my yoga, meditation, good breakfast, early ‘net readings, etc., while it’s cooler. The day then becomes managing oneself from shaded, breezy spot to another, along with of course, copious amounts of water. I use plain coconut water as a an electrolyte replenisher at the end of the day instead of Gatorade. But let their be no confusion: when it’s this hot, and you’re living outside, the heat tells you what you’ll do during the day (or more pointedly, what you won’t do).

I had planned to so some extensive hiking. But, well, it’s too bloody hot to pull that off, as much because I don’t enjoy hiking while lugging a gallon of water along plus I tend to stay entranced by the hike and easily go past my point of heat stress. But occasionally I’m going in the middle of the day to drive somewhere for supplies and scenery and that helps charge the lithium portable batteries (plus the promised treat of the car’s Max A/C button!).

Still, managing to find time to write and wander a bit. Here at the Teddy Roosevelt National Park north unit I have commandeered this 1920s CCC-built pavilion of sorts to hang out in and write. Amazingly, it’s always shady underneath the expansive roof held up by full-trunk timbers. It’s also a great spot to await the buffalo herds that move through the meadow between this pavilion and my camp. Have yet to capture usable footage for YouTube, but they’re all over the place so just a matter of time. The two times they’ve been through this meadow I wasn’t in the pavilion, thus too far away (but so awesome to watch through binoculars).

Despite the dehydrating heat, I’m enjoying the benefits of camping in one place for a week. Usually I do shorter stays of one to two days. At that length it’s a hassle to set up full camp, so it’s been a treat to avoid that and just live in the wild (if campsites with good toilets, trash service, and clean potable water qualifies as “living in the wild”).


opened soft drink bottle near flying lemon slices
Photo by Tamara Velazquez on

It’s been a funky start to my long-awaited toward-the-west-coast trip. Supposed to roll out on June 16, but as shared before, had 12v refrigerator problems and the maker of the one I used wasn’t as quick to respond and ship a new unit as I needed. Thus I’m STILL in Ann Arbor as of today awaiting the new refrigerator.

But, as the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

I’ve turned around what could have been two-weeks of moping and gripping into some mighty tasty lemonade. (Translation: made good use of the time to refine the setup, fully test out all the gear with some getaway days camping in Ohio, tweak lots of stuff, send back some gear and ordered better replacements, got and installed a cell booster, and more.)

I eventually had to give up on my original IceCo GO20 12v refrigerator/freezer when they couldn’t get a new unit here fast enough. Instead, and taking action to grab back control of the situation, I ordered a different-brand 12v refrigerator from Amazon due to arrive today, then negotiated a refund settlement with IceCo on the faulty unit. Hopefully, this new brand/one will work out of the box in time for me to roll away bright and early tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, had lots of time for shooting and editing video for a good start to my Wandering Obie YouTube channel. Also had the chance to improve my on-camera work, general videography, and editing. Still FAR from where I want to be. Compared to the first two videos posted though, it’s clear (at least to me!) I’m improving overall.

Tomorrow I head up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) to some dispersed camping places and hope to stay there through the fourth holiday. From there I’ll wander through Wisconsin then up to Ely, Minnesota, for some memory lane moments and a tour of the Vistabule teardrop camper trailers. Should be fun and hope I can make a video out of the teardrop preview.

If you haven’t checked out the YouTube channel, now would be a good time to catch up on the video’s already posted and make way for some travel adventure videos coming soon. And of course, a chance for you to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Why This and Not That: My Philosophy of Nomadic Life 2.0

I’m frequently asked, when I share with people what I plan to do, why I’m not doing this back in a van like I did in 2019. They have a hard time relating to this new mode of travel when they think road travel should extend their home conveniences: standing, sitting, showers, bathroom, microwave, air conditioning… and on and on.

Actually, this is not usually their first question, which typically is “At your age?”

I think this new way to travel provides two healthy challenges for me. One is the general notion of roaming without a tether back to a safe home base, thus telling my inner logical we-must-plan ego to take a hike while I (try) to embrace serendipity. And the other is the daily challenge of flexibility and muscle use to live in and out of the Outback versus the laid-back convenience of my former 21′ Travato RV where I could freely stand up, sit, shower, normal bathroom, inside kitchen, and so forth. To that last challenge I say “motion is lotion” and think it’s healthy for me to be challenged to move like this every day rather than being sedentary. But back to this new mode of travel.

My takeaways from my Travato year were I was not always comfortable driving such a large, clunky, heavy box and at times that became quite stressful. Its size, while providing standing and creature comforts, was limiting to get to places I want to go, frequently difficult to park, and expensive to fuel. Plus, when I didn’t feel like doing much, it was too convenient to just stay inside and read or watch a movie (not that there’s anything wrong with those two choices). With Obie, the focus is on being outside. When I sold the Travato I knew I wanted to keep traveling but in a much smaller vehicle where driving was less stressful and I could easily take and park it anywhere I wanted to go.

What Obie and Nomadic Life 2.0 provide is an experiment in adopting a philosophy of being nimble, flexible, more basic, and free from any limitations on where I can go. I’m equipped for outside camping when the weather’s nice, yet staying inside when it’s not. Fuel efficiency is nearly double that of the Travato, meaning $$ savings plus longer distances between fill-ups. And being a car, zero limits to visiting places or parking as needed, even in garages (although with the roof box there will still be an awareness of low clearances (under 7’ whereas the Travato was 9’6”; most parking garages will not be an issue).

This approach is about embracing and enjoying the pureness of camping. Even when I sleep inside, it’s more related to tent camping than sleeping in an RV. And in my mind, a major part of these travels is to get more in touch with nature whenever and wherever. To that extent, I will try to stay away from traditional campgrounds and RV parks, and instead explore the vast, available public lands. Some of that will require driving on rougher roads, but Obie has high clearance, serious all-terrain tires, and skid plates for both engine and differential. I will chicken out on a given wild road way, way before Obie’s maxes his capabilities.

Some may think this relates to the folks highlighted in the Nomadland movie, but I’m not living out of Obie, although I plan to travel this way about 3/4ths of the year. And I’m not aligned with the more social RV crowd. Somewhere in between is where I am, and I think of that zone as explorers, those independent travelers whose focus is wandering and immersing in nature and cities while indulging in a lot of introspective time. That’s not to say I won’t be visiting friends around the country and hanging out, but more that I won’t stay long in one place like van lifers nor move from one rally to another group meet-up like a lot of the RV crowd.

I will delve much more into each specific aspect of Nomadic Life 2.0 over at my YouTube channel, Wandering Obie. Those topics are better suited to show-and-tell videos than writing here about them.

Stay tuned both here on the blog and over at the YouTube channel. Things are just getting interesting!

And We’re Live…

Posted a quick-n-simple welcome video to make the Wandering Obie YouTube Channel live and public. Lots more planned and coming, but wanted to get things launched. Check it out and subscribe!

Turns out I had a little extra time today, despite it being the long-awaited departure day to begin my 10-week west coast trip! Seems an hour north of Ann Arbor my 12v refrigerator/freezer fan died. Must have decided it really didn’t want to make the trip. And rather than wait somewhere up north in Michigan for 2-3 days waiting on the part to come in, I retreated back to home (and the house refrigerator/freezer to transfer all the goodies back to the cold!).

Will restart again once the fan arrives and in the near-term travel north through Michigan, over the Upper Peninsula, into northern Wisconsin then wiggling up to Ely, Minnesota to check out the iconic Vistabule teardrop trailers made there. Researching how that might play in future travels.

Stay tuned. The wandering is just beginning.

N.B. – Obie is my 2021 Subaru Outback, seriously modded with a custom camper conversion in the back where I can sleep and work when the weather isn’t so nice (yet I carry a full campsite in a roof box for when the weather is marvelous).

A Belated 18th Blogiversary

Being so wrapped up in my Obie project the past 5+ weeks, Tuesday’s amazing milestone flew by me before I had a chance to blog about it! 18 years ago on June 8 I began my inkmusings blog, later to evolve into

Where has the time gone?

Those early days of blogging were exciting since the form was new and we all felt like pioneers. I started out on Movable Type but eventually morphed over to the new kid on the block (at the time) WordPress 1.0. Ah, the good old days.

Since that June 8th post 18 years ago, my primary blog under its two titles ran up 181,842 words across 437 posts. Not all those years were actively blogging ones, else the numbers would be much higher. And I should note during those 18 years I’d spawned another six blogs with more focused topics, but they soon vaporized.

And now?

I’m beginning a new adventure, one that is raising eyebrows about what this 68-year-old thinks he can pull off! Wandering Obie begins on June 16th, Obie being the nickname of my new ‘21 Subaru Outback on which I’ve spent the last six weeks or so building a custom camper van-ish interior for these upcoming travels. Wandering Obie is the name of my new YouTube channel (formal announcement soon when I actually have a video uploaded!). It’s all about getting back to wandering America and Canada, enjoying natural settings and introspective times. This time, however, it’s a significant part-time effort versus the full-time van life I enjoyed during 2019.

Look for a blog post soon about the why: the philosophical, practical, and theoretical differences between this hybrid approach and how I roamed around America during 2019 in my Winnebago Travato Class B RV van.

I’ll be blogging consistently soon with lots about my wanderings, some of the usual blog fare, plus a few videos each week on the new Wandering Obie YouTube channel about where and how Obie takes me to interesting places.

Should be fun!

This Is Why

My posts here have been few and far between, and will likely continue as such through May.


Because Project Obie, that’s why!

New Subaru Outback that I’m doing a solo camper conversion in the back in anticipation of (finally) getting back on the road for some nature exploration. The when is taking off around June 10, the where is T.B.D., but likely heading West from here in Michigan.

Hoping to create a lot of videos enroute (maybe even with a drone!) shard via a new YouTube channel, and of course, blog here about it as I did in 2019 wandering in Tamasté.

Shots below show my first steps in reworking the interior (bed frame prototype), and the one at right what I’m modeling the build-out after. There’s so much more to this than just the woodworking… but that’s for another day and another post.