Migrations of Winter


I’ve had six winters to weather since this traveling lifestyle began.

The first was slowly zig zagging from Austin, Texas to Arizona and back to West Texas. That was my rookie year and so yes, I was a fortunate snowbirder roaming a particularly warm southwestern ease in a Class C Dutchman that while was not particularly reliable, was neither in any way stylish or cozy. Your typical white box on wheels, with limitations on scope and ability.

By the next winter, though, I would have my bearings. I knew what I wanted from travel, and it was drastically different from the experience I’d had the first year. I was looking for a Bus, Volkswagen that is, and vintage. But primarily small. I didn’t want the weight, fuel and size of an RV. So, I got myself a 1978 Champaign Edition VW Bus. And I spent the winter, living in it, in Loveland, Colorado. The entire Front Range, really, which includes such gorgeous mountain vista-filled towns as Ft. Collins, Boulder and Estes Park. And it was freezing cold. Cold like drink a bottle of whiskey because your van has nothing but tin between you, it and the feet of snow and ensuing slush that never seem to end.

But, I survived it. There were even a few perks.

The next onset of winter would find me and mine living in a beach house, perched on the cliff known as Manzanita’s Cherry Street, overlooking that part of Oregon’s slice of the mighty Pacific Ocean. While beachfront and indescribably beautiful, it was still Oregon and north, and thus the rain was thick, the cloud cover heavy. I felt withdrawal from sunshine at times, but I embraced it. And at times you could drive far enough north or south on the coast that you might find yourself high enough on the hillside to rise above the clouds.

At that moment you forget the ocean, it’s just you and your mountain and a sea of endless clouds below and sunshine above.

And they’d go on from there. Two spent in various towns in the Smoky Mountains, both near Asheville. I might easily describe that city as the most promising Mecca of reviving Appalachia the east has ever seen, but I’ll leave it up to your imagination and personal travel agenda.

The best thing I can say of our experience in the Smokies was this: we conceived our middle boy there and his baby brother was born there as well roughly two years later.

And then there was this past winter spent living in vacation houses in Astoria, Oregon. I and we seem to return to that state over and over again, so much so that the middle child I mentioned, so lovingly crafted in the Smokey Mountains, was born there. Mountain deserts and coastal rainforest, an accepting, beautiful populous to match. We fine dined, frequented breweries and tallied up our days looking at the Columbia River or shivering along the ocean’s wind. A beach fire or two may have been had.

And now we’re here, early Spring in Death Valley. Practically as far away from winter as one can get. We have still mountains of Spring in fact, family reunions full of Summer, and an unknown Autumn.

The next Wintertime we’ll know is too far forward to be predicted. And Death Valley’s in bloom. One can hardly argue. Still, sometimes we do.

Still, I don’t despise the cold, the snow, the blowing. It’s part of our world, and if we choose to visit certain places in their natural glory, then we just need to button up our jackets. See the soft glow, white sheen of the season for what it is, the pure idea of freshly fallen snow.

So much so, that we named that middle child for it. His name is Winter.