Lost in Wanderlust

Solitude is creativity’s best friend. – Naomi Judd

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go. – Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Solo traveling with few hard dates or appointments leaves time for contemplation and to wander through whatever doors open along the way. Solitary time is fertile soil for growing any creative endeavor.

Over my first 30 days wandering in VanGeist, my intent was not a full month of self-discovery, but to focus on setting up VanGeist and honing daily rituals for life on the road. Unfortunately, the bane of those who first begin van life, “vacation mode,” settled in like a barely known relative ignoring all hints to leave.

Whether from the wind-in-the-hair feeling of unfettered freedom, or absent the bond of home routines, vacation mode rarely lasts a full van life month. Not that there is anything wrong with wandering and playing and visiting wonderful places, all while treating oneself to amazing local foods. But now, for me, time to change.

VanGeist’s odometer tells the story: 3,300 miles since starting September 20. Averaged over 30 days, that is a lot of road time. While I am happy with my efforts to set up VanGeist to suit my needs, and have certainly immersed in nature both where I have been before and new to me, two of the important reasons for this adventure of near-full-time solo travel have yet to appear.

Over the previous six months, my work to stabilize diet, lose weight, and increase walking/hiking combined to allow me to be in the best physical condition since…well, more years than I care to admit. But who goes on vacation restricting foods to mostly vegetables, little fat or sugar, healthy protein, and no alcohol? If you must know the answer, it is NO ONE. Such is part of the dark side of prolonging vacation mode. And for the record, I believe part of the blame should go to Trader Joe’s and their October pumpkin-everything madness.

Also AWOL during this inaugural month was any serious writing time. That was probably the key, hoped-for activity from my new, solitary travels. Momentum from expected time spent in secluded spots should have built toward honing skills and taking me closer on the path to publishing. But such efforts, other than blogging and journaling, were clearly MIA.

If all this sounds like I have not enjoyed myself these past 30 days, that would be misleading. I have had a blast and enjoying every day, so no regrets per se. But I feel a strong tug to “come home” from the vacation and get to work. Guess it is time to trade in the Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts for working clothes.

Coffee & Motorcycles

I love it when I stumble on a shop or store pulling off a hybrid approach to things.

This morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I stopped at Rust is Gold, a coffee shop (excellent coffee, btw) blended with the owner’s and worker’s two passions: racing and working on vintage motorcycles, and good coffee. They mostly work on their own bikes, but locals know them as a place to stop and borrow a tool or chat about a repair, or even collaborate on an upgrade.

I’m not a biker, although I wished I’d learn to ride in my youth. If I had, I’m sure I would have owned a string of motorcycles over the years. Much, much later in life I took a quick, intro course a local motorcycle shop gave to screen would-be riders who wanted to learn to ride later in life. Nope. Wasn’t anywhere near coordinated enough to learn all that. Plus, as I’ve heard from motorcycle friends, back in the day it was easier and safer to learn to ride. Now they tend to discourage people from learning since it’s significantly more dangerous to ride these days.

Anyway, if you are a motorbike fan, then enjoy the gallery below of their set up. If not, and in the area sometime, stop in for a great cup of coffee.

Ghost Ranch Hiking

Ghost Ranch entrance

The famed northern New Mexico Ghost Ranch excels at workshops and retreats, yet also provides some excellent immersive nature hikes. During my visits over the years, I’ve slowly chipped away at the list of hiking trails with just a few left to explore. Yesterday under partly cloudy blue skies and temperatures pleasant in the sun, but one-layer short in the shade, I thinned the list by hiking the four-mile Box Canyon Ti b’uiu’u trail.

An enjoyable, gentle hike, the path wanders through the grassy plains between towering mesas and then beside a meandering creek as the elevation rises and the canyon narrows. In between two mesas, the trail plays hop-skotch with the small, wandering stream adding a whimsical enjoyment in finding different ways to cross the creek. This rock or that one? Or for fun, jump from bank-to-bank or from that big rock.

Along the trail there were also a handful of unexpected sweat lodges, and although not old, they added historic ambiance to the hike.

To read more about the Ghost Ranch and see photos from a previous hike on the Chimney Rock trail, check out this post from 2019.

Back to Abiquiu

Riana Campground on Abiquiu Lake
At Riana Campground on Abiquiu Lake with the famed Cerro Pedernal mesa in the background

I seem to be constantly revisiting this magical place in northern New Mexico for some reason. This is my…fourth? fifth? trip here, but each time I feel the urge to buy land or small house and base from here. But, as we all know, now is probably one of the worst times to purchase real estate, and this area’s land or house asking prices are at record levels.

Abiquiu is place you either love or don’t get the attraction. It is certainly not a bustling community with a 2019 census population of 151, maybe making it to 500 or so if one counts the surrounding areas. But it is home to numerous creative types along with a small hispanic and indian population. Seems to be a tourist destination of sorts, too, with the long-term tie to Georgia O’Keefe and the related Ghost Ranch learning and nature center down a road a bit.

Abiquiu is isolated but does not feel remote. Despite the demographics, the buzz and activities at Ghost Ranch, Bode’s in downtown Abiquiu seem to belie the small population count. “Downtown” is a generous word here, since that only includes Bode’s gas station/eatery/grocery/retail store, the post office, a library, the Abiquiu Inn, a health clinic, plus a few outlying places. Taos is 80 minutes away and Sante Fe a bit over an hour south. Access to things you need periodically, including serious enjoyment in arts and culture, is in either place via scenic drives through this marvelous country.

I feel a connection here to the Earth and its amazing geography and to the spirits or those intrepid ancestors of locals who struggled to survive in this bleak, but beautiful, country. And for me it is also a place of calmness, a retreat from stress and too many people and issues. Between amazing hiking or an environment conducive to going within to write (or for many here…paint, sculpt, or create through photography), the land softly hugs my soul while comforting the spirit.

If you haven’t read my other posts with tons of photos from previous visits, check out my New Mexico image portfolio page with links to previous posts for more of my insights. Be sure to watch the two-minute video below of the drive from Bode’s in Abiquiu to Riana Campground on Abiquiu lake, plus two amazing photos at the end.

Drive from Abiquiu to Riana Campground
(sorry for the bug-splattered windshield…I should clean it before shooting videos through it!)