Pop Top Tour

I am not normal. My family supports my adverse reaction to the status quo. That’s why we are embarking on this journey. I’m scared to say that we’re getting ready to start, because I don’t want to jinx it. Every time I think we are about to get going, something goes wrong.

The most recent issue turned out to be that we ordered the wrong replacement canvas for Betty. Turns out our 1982 Vanagon has a top from a 1985 or later version. A simple glance at the top before we ordered it and we could have avoided this latest delay. That seems to be the theme of this trip though, a constant test of patience. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

It’s better than the alternative I suppose. The boring everyday routine. Our lives as a family unit have been hard lately, but not even close to boring…

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Bring on the Road

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How did I get here?

Pop Top Tour

afamilyselfie

“And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself yourself
My God!…What have I done?!” -Talking Heads

When my family and I bit the bullet and decided that a life on the road was worth a try, we planned for what seemed like forever. We knew we would run into some hardship along the way, but we had a solid plan in place and we were motivated. When the lease was up on our humble two bedroom apartment in the Denver Tech Center, we didn’t renew it. We stayed in Denver, camping in our van until we hit the road. We spent more than thirty days “stealth camping” in the Denver metro area.

Rotating between Walmart parking lots, paid campsites, BLM land …

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Pop Top Tour

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Where is the sidewalk?

Pedestrians on roadways

everyday St. Joe

St. Joseph, Missouri is home for Mom. We’re in the place where she was raised. The place where the Pony Express began and the life of Jesse James ended. It isn’t uncommon to find a scene such as this, men, women, men with women, men with women with babies, kids, elderly people with dogs and all the other infinite combinations of human beings walking perilously close to a road with vehicles traveling 35-40 miles per hour whizzing by.

This is essentially the first stop on the pop top tour when you think about it. So while Penny heals, I’ll share some of the images I’ve been capturing around St. Joseph, Forest City, and Kansas City, Missouri.  We’ve been occupying this space for several weeks now. It’s hot, humid and and slightly buggy. nothing unbearable though. The cicadas are buzzing in…

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Everyday St. Joe

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I’m trying to keep up with life right now. Attending online classes, concentrating on healing my daughter, preparing my van and getting out on the road. Sporadic posts are to be expected but I’m still here. Stay tuned.

Pop Top Tour

Highway in Kansas.

Penny is occupied and happy.

She is reading. Playing with her sticker book.

We feel bad for her, because there is nothing for her to do in the one little spot left among all our belongings.

We talk about the harrowing experience of the first tank of gas. The road goes by.

We talk about how many miles we drove yesterday, and hope that today’s journey will be easier.

We talk about how many miles we might be able to put on our ride. We are desperately trying to get to Mound City.

We are happy. Laughing. Talking about friends.

We talk about careers. We are just shooting the shit really.

Mechanical claws. Oil Derricks.

Highway signs and billboards everywhere.

We pass fossil creek hotel and suites.

A lone tree on a hill with no leaves.

Death. Birds flying. Irrigation ditches. Eighteen Wheelers hauling tractors. A horse…

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Notes from a Kansas Highway

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Prepping for The Pop Top Tour

Pop Top Tour

We spent some time with Betty recently to see the progress being made on the van and participate in some of the tear down. I cut the old ratty canvas from 1982 off the pop top, helped Dad while he got the top realigned, and basically watched the real mechanics do their job. When it comes to working on my own vehicle, I am about as boot as they come.

The say Forest City got its name from the dense forest that used to cover the area. The last census, performed in 2010, listed the population as 268. A man by the name of Joe Baldwin founded the town in 1857, before the Missouri river changed course and turned westward. Forest City was a popular shipping center along the Missouri before that, but when the river altered its course it left the town two-and-a-half miles inland.  Between 1861 and 1867 this…

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Scenes from Forest City

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Tearing up Roots

Come and follow my family as we explore the USA. I could use your support. And if the troll rears its ugly head, just ignore it. In solidarity with wandering families everywhere. F*ck the naysayers, because they don’t mean a thing. #VANLIFE

Pop Top Tour

“The concept of time, as it’s commonly understood by normal
people with normal jobs and normal goddamn lives, doesn’t
exist on the road. The nights spread out like the dark,
godforsaken highways that distinguish them, and the days run
together like Thanksgiving dinner smothered in gravy. You
never really know where you are or what time it is, and the outside
world starts to fade away.
It’s cool.”
Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star

We’ve been patiently waiting to embark on our tour of the USA in our Vanagon. We saved and scrimped and sacrificed, and finally after giving away or selling most of our belongings we hit the road. When our lease was up, we had to spend a month in Denver getting by without re-signing another one. So we slept where we could, and we found out what stealth camping was really all about…

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No Apologies

Denver

We are not rebelling against society, in fact it is exactly the opposite, we are trying to embrace it. I can tell you that I chased my daughter around every day of her life, carefully nudging her away from danger at every turn. I spent her entire infancy holding her hand on staircases, shooing her away from electrical outlets and discouraging her from climbing up tall bookcases or touching hot stoves. Ask anyone who actually knows me, and they would tell you that I am overly cautious with my daughter to a fault.

I have three kids. Penny is the first to have her pinky toe amputated, but not the first to suffer a painful accident. Accidents happen, that’s just life. It won’t discourage us from embarking on this road trip. The accident that occurred will only serve to make me more vigilant than I was before. I won’t shelter her to the point that she never gets to have any fun or take any calculated risks, we’ll just have a safety brief before we do things like this again.

Things like rollercoasters, skateboards, bumper cars, bicycles, petting dogs, catching spiders, climbing trees, climbing hills, crossing the street and all other inherently dangerous activities of which there are too many to list here. When this incident occurred, I was mortified. I was worried and scared for my daughter. All of the adults that were present and supervising her that day were. We all stayed cool under pressure, acted fast, removed her from any further danger and had emergency services there within minutes of it happening.

All of us shed tears, and spent the entire week trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath. None of us enjoyed it. We just picked each other up and gave each other support and love. We grew closer as a family. This accident has nothing to do with our decision to travel. Anyone that takes the time to get to know us would know that we love our daughter and have provided her with a wonderful life filled with people who love and care for her. Our decision to take her out on the road wasn’t made lightly, it was carefully planned down to the last detail. That’s Maizy’s doing, she is an analytical Virgo accountant. She has a three-ring binder bursting at the seams, filled with itineraries, budgets, curriculum plans and much more.

We’re not stupid, we know what we were getting into when we started this, and we spent years getting ready. We started our life together in an upscale loft right behind Coors Field in downtown Denver, moved to a hundred year old craftsman home in the Highlands neighborhood and eventually ended up in a custom-built home on top of a mountain in Evergreen. We decided that we wanted to try a simpler lifestyle when we realized just how much money we were spending to live that life. When the public service bill was pushing $400, we decided we could do better. We made a conscious decision to downsize, moved back to the city  in a small apartment just a couple of miles from her work, and started saving all that money we were spending. We sold our gas guzzling SUV and started the arduous task of downsizing. It took us two years to get rid of almost all of our trivial belongings.

As far as Penny’s education goes, it’s kindergarten. We can handle it. We may or may not home school her after the trip and she will have the final say. If she chooses to go to school we will enroll her in one. We aren’t planning on traveling forever, just as long as it takes us to get to every state. We want to make a truly educated decision on where we decide to set down roots. The assholes who pretend to know what we are doing don’t know that, because they never bothered to ask. Penny is one of the most social kids you will meet. She makes friends with everyone, and is constantly lamenting my shy demeanor. It makes her crazy when I tell her to give people their space. She gets upset and frustrated with me. Rolling her eyes and sighing heavily she says “Dad, it’s okay to talk to new people.”

While this accident was heartbreaking and hard to deal with, there is also a silver lining. She made friends with kids who are literally dying. A young girl with a lung disease just fell in love with her. That girl has been admitted to the hospital 47 times in her life, she is maybe twelve years old at the most, but she has one of the most genuine smiles you will ever see and it makes me feel guilty for ever thinking that my life sucks. Penny is already better off just for having known her. That is just one example. My daughter is going to learn more than she ever would spending a year commuting back and forth to a half a day of kindergarten five days a week. And I’m not knocking kindergarten or traditional schooling or people who live your basic normal everyday life.

Our family just understands how precious and fleeting life can be, and we want to enjoy it to the fullest, and show our daughter the possibilities. It isn’t for the rest of her life, and while it might not be for everybody, we are giving it a try. Anybody who doesn’t like that can just fuck off as far as I’m concerned. I’m tired of explaining my decision and trying to justify it. I’m tired of feeling bad for being different. From this point on, we don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about us. We are living life with no apologies from now on.

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