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A Road Trip to Soak in

Updated: Jan 30

In the middle of September, I decided it was time for me to take a little road trip. The weather was still warm but edging into changeable fall, and the forecasts looked good to slip in three days of travel on the Olympic Penninsula just across the broad sea channel from Whidbey Island.

It had been five years since our 21-year-old camper-van had been out on a road trip with Ginny along, and it was time for me to get out and practice venturing further into my new necessity of living alone. We had always immensely enjoyed travel, and I didn't plan to give it up, but I needed to see what it felt like doing it alone. Since Chewy is too old to leave the familiarity of life at home—having his own dementia problems, it was just me and the van on the road.

I had decided to make it a point of getting to Sol Duc Hot Springs, which we had skipped on an earlier trip years ago, because it just sounded like soaking in hot water would be a good thing to do and enjoy the warmth in contrast to the cooler air. That gave a starting place and, as in our usual travel format, then venture from there as interest and necessity suggested.

The hot springs turned out to be a good idea: It felt very good for my body and mind, and there were good fellow-soakers to converse with. OK so far, but I did need to find a camping spot for the night. I knew the campground at Sol Duc was already booked, so I checked the first-come first-served spots, and they were also taken. Time to go to Plan B and check out the backups I had investigated online before leaving.

One of those was closed due to Covid, evidently, and another was also full. It was quite a ways further on to other possible ones, so I reverted to a boondocking spot off a Forest Service road I had approximately located for Plan B. The second night also had some closures and full campgrounds to contend with, but I finally squeezed into a space at a Department of Natural Resources campground. The point of this litany of events is that even after the summer season is over, school starting, Covid regulations, and weather changes afoot, there were still lots of people out there looking for travel adventures.

Ten to fifteen years ago, it was a lot different—twenty-plus years, even more so. Too many people and too much promotion by the RV manufacturing industry for the available facilities, and little funding for expansion of public camping. Many of the RVs out there are smaller ones like mine that the industry advertising pushes for boondocking as an alternative to crowded campgrounds. Add to this mix the changing world climate, which means the usual patterns of travel for adventure and warm winters no longer are definite. There's nothing inherently wrong with change in travel plans, of course; that's part of the enjoyment—for me, anyway. However, combining climate change with pandemics and overpopulation results in difficulty making plans for the future that are safe and even possible.

So, this little journey of mine, which by the way also included a spectacular beach with towering sea haystack formations (Second Beach off La Push) and a terrific little lumbering museum (at Forks, of "Twilight" fame), brought to a head the dilemma of planning for my future—with a dwindling number of years available for enacting those plans. For example, how many more picturesque waterfalls, enchanting forests, cool beaches, quaint towns, interesting shops, etc—like I've seen all my life—do I want to keep seeing? And, if it is also a goal of mine to escape during the winter to a warmer climate during the lifetime I have left, how do I answer these questions?

I'm still in pretty decent shape, physically and mentally, but I'm well aware that my time for making plans for the future is restricted by what I'm capable of—and also by the impinging changes mentioned previously. For sure, I want to do as good a job of planning and carrying out those plans as is possible. Are there any guidelines for doing this?

Well, I think there are: general ones for me at least, something to keep in mind as a foundation for more specific ones. So, I have to keep reminding myself that the only thing I can control in this whole thing is the present. The past can't be changed but lessons can be learned about what to do and not do, and these can be applied to the present and also to plans for the future.

Being adaptable is perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned, like in planning out my little trip by figuring out what is a good starting point and alternatives in case things (like camping) change. If I've thought about them beforehand, good and bad possibilities, then I can eliminate many surprises—and the emotional reaction that often accompanies them. When you think about it, plans are really just a technique for avoiding disturbing emotions. And if plans go well, we then get to enjoy the benefit of positive surprises and emotions from the unexpected, which is one of the elements of travel that motivates me, and others, to get out and do it.

So, planning for the future and adaptation as the future becomes the present are good guidelines to remember. The future is always going to change into the present, and I have to constantly be mindful of that reality as I plan for more travel—such as where to escape the cold—as well as the usual simple daily decisions of what to do about medical issues, what to get at the grocery store, meeting social obligations, and on and on. Overall, that's the way life works. If I can remember how the past, present, and future all fit together in one rolling, changing wheel along the path of time, I think I can keep it all straight—and maybe get to a warm place in December.

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