Dreaming Typical Travel Days

a road off into the distance


When your bedroom is a conversion van, sunrise tends to act like an alarm clock, roostering visually through the thin blinds to set another day in motion. Perpetual motion.

Unlike the beeping droning warning of another day’s worth of impending doom that tends to be the tone set by most alarm clocks, however, the sunrise does not scream “Wake up! It’s time to work!” The sun simply makes its daylight point and continues about its business. There is no snooze on the sun, but in this traveling life there is no regret for the day of the week it is, either. Weekends blur into weekdays, the only real difference I suppose is a self-imposed schedule to generally work away my Monday through Friday mornings in an effort to stay generally in line with the rest of the workaday world boxed up in their cubicles and expecting everyone else to do the same.

I watch the air fill into my Lady’s lungs and back out again, her chest rising and falling, a tide of peaceful morning. Her skin is violet cast, she turns her body over, her version of snoozing the sun. A ten month old boy is sleeping in his small cot next to our bed. In a few hours this small bedroom which mom, dad and baby share will be transformed into a working vehicle, the bed put up into a couch, baby’s cot folded up and tucked away, the engine perhaps purring with another day’s adventure into the Black Hills or off to Mt. Rushmore or further down the line to a new state, a new place to call home and explore and meet locals and hope to avoid anything resembling a chain store or strip mall along the way.

Pants pulled up, shirt re-situated, I slink out the side door of the van and make the several steps walk to the door to our Airstream. We’d spent the spring renovating it, which primarily consisted of adapting its contents to our particular family of six’s needs. I can already here the stirs of our middle child, a two and a half year old ball of yarn in a whirlwind. As I open the door and step inside, he’s pushing aside the curtain which leads from the tiny bedroom he shares with his much older brother, freeing himself from the bondages of another night’s sleep and set free into the lounge.

Nanny, the boys’ grandmother, my Lady’s mom, already has a pot of water boiling. She dumps the contents into a French Press and the two year old and myself watch as the liquid steams over the coffee grinds, changing from clear to dark, dark brown. A thin, khaki foam builds up on the surface. She pours one cup, then two. I hand her some milk from the refrigerator and we each add a splash.

She takes her coffee outside for a morning smoke, a few minutes of first thing in the a.m. peace and quiet before the full rambunctiousness of three boys in the open air of South Dakota’s wilds is fully awakened. I unfold a table from its resting place, hiding built in to the wall, and the toddler climbs up for a simple breakfast of strawberries and dry Cheerios. The water is boiling again, this time a few eggs for myself and my oldest son, when he decides to stroll out of bed.

By noon I will have worked enough hours to feel good about our finances and my contributions to society, I suppose. The eldest child will have spent an hour on a laptop studying this, that or whatever other thing he’s interested in learning about this month. The two youngest boys will have played, perhaps bickered a bit, inside and out.

When the clock strikes one we’ll head off on some adventure, which almost always involves a scenic drive to a nice long hike. We walk cities, climb mountains, float rivers, go to zoos and aquariums, science museums, explore National Parks, live in State Parks. We get to know the ladies at the local diner and the gentleman behind the counter at the corner store. We take photographs and sometimes we don’t take photographs for the sake of fully experiencing everything.

Sure, some days we just have to wash clothes or clean the Airstream. Some days I’m required to work well into the afternoon and others I need to spend an entire day trying to figure out why the van won’t start or the electric jack won’t raise and lower.

We still bicker from time to time, we are all humans after all and living in a small space, nearly 24/7 access to one another. But our life feels like a 70’s soul love song, climbing the highest mountains, crossing the widest rivers, the deepest valleys. It’s absolutely frighteningly beautiful to, whenever the fancy strikes, call just over the horizon your next home.

The sun begins to fall back down out of the sky. The toddler and my oldest boy gather sticks and a paper bag for me, I light a fire. The sound of a beer cracking open breaks the silence and they begin talking about their day, about the fire, one star breaks through the night sky, then two, then a trillion.