Four Years, Going on Thirteen


I first met Renée on a smoking porch at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I was sucking down Camel Lights, she was staring at me through a window. We had a very brief but strong friendship for a few months, and her visage would be forever implanted in my DNA as “the one”.

Life didn’t play out as smoothly as a romantic comedy though. We parted ways for various reasons. I moved into the 9-5 world of being a graphic designer for a PBS affiliate in Erie, PA. She went off to backpack Europe.

A few years later she would show up at my door. I was a single father of one who owned a house and lived far from where her dreams were pointing. She was living with her mom in Detroit and we had a short, wonderful long distance relationship for a few months before, again, we went our separate ways.

It was a monumental time in my life. I was fed up with the corporate world, even if it was drawing pictures for a non-profit. She showed me the limitless possibilities of travel, and put me back on track to finding true freedom.

Though she was gone, without a trace, I thought if her every single day. I began plotting my escape. A trip to England. A move back to Pittsburgh to start my own web design business. The purchase of an RV once that business was successful. These were my stepping stones.

A couple of years into traveling, she emailed me out of nowhere. I immediately bought a train ticket to Colorado, where she was living.

Another whirlwind of a few days happened. This time, I wasn’t going to lose her. I was the embodiment of freedom by then, my son and I living in a 1977 Volkswagen Bus and open to wherever the road might lead us. It took a few months living out the harsh winter of the Front Range to convince her, but eventually she hopped into our Bus and joined our little life on the road.

Our first trip together, while my son visited family for a couple of weeks back in PA, took us from Nederland, Colorado along Route 40 through some of the most gorgeous scenery of my life in northern Utah, on to Nevada’s Route 50, America’s Loneliest Highway, and then into California where we’d spend a week or so driving up and down US 101 from Humboldt to Crescent City and back to San Francisco.

We slept among a family of redwoods, waking up surrounded by elk. We picked up hitchhikers and ditched them whenever we needed some time alone. Countless kind souls pushed our bus through parking lots so we could catch it in gear on a daily morning dead battery.

Since then, four years ago today, we’ve spent every day but eighteen together. We’ve lived in army tents and middle of nowhere spas in West Texas, traveled from coast to coast and up and down both multiple times, lived in treehouses in the Smokies and beach houses in Oregon; found ourselves calling everywhere from New England to the Keys to the Pacific Northwest home for moments or months at a time.

We’ve had two children together. Her mom moved in with us, traveling or not. We’ve fought screaming at the top of our lungs and even managed to spend a few nights completely alone, naked and sleeping in and just together.

There have been times, especially with children and family and tragedy, when it didn’t seem that we’d make it. But I’ve never been with someone as long as I have with her, and I don’t plan on going anywhere without her in this lifetime.

Here’s to the first nine dreaming of you, this most wonderful four together, and fifty or so more down the line. I love you, Lady.