In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This week has been killing me! Spring has finally sprung here in northern Iowa and while the sun beats down, the mercury climbs, the days grow longer, and the snow recedes I've been able to do nothing except watch the progress from behind a pane of glass. While I'm happy to be able to stay with my grandparents and help them out it is a bit of a change for me. I'm used to spending lots of time outside and getting in some exercise. At my grandparent's house however I'm pretty much committed to being there 24 hours a day with my grandfather in his current condition. If he needs to get up to move or go to the bathroom someone needs to be there to help him. They do have someone, Nancy, who comes in the mornings to cook them breakfast, do laundry, dishes, help them out, and cook lunch but she's not really able to physically help my grandfather as much as he might need. She does however make it possible for me to shake loose long enough on most days to run to the store and find an internet connection for a few minutes, but that's about the extent of my adventures these days. It was pretty hard sitting around the last few days as I saw the first Robin of spring out the window with a large flock of Canada Geese providing a backdrop as they winged their way north.

So I was happy this morning when my dad showed up to relieve me for a couple days. He won't be able to be around for the weekend and since he thought 12 days straight might put me in the looney bin he's taking over for and I'll relieve him Friday night and then stay through the weekend (which I usually have off). It felt wonderful to walk out to my van this morning with the temperature already above freezing and the sun having just come up. All around was the happy chirping of birds that's been absent for these past months. It took me a couple seconds to place the unfamiliar call that fell upon my ears but soon enough realized it was that harbinger of spring the Robin. While much is made about seeing the first Robin of spring around here it's no comparison to actually hearing the first one.

I was amazed how much snow had receded in only a couple days as I began my drive back to Estherville. In just a few days the novelty of the bare earth will have worn off and I'll see it for the disgusting thing that it really is with all the mud, dead animals, and refuse that have been covered by a blanket of pure white all winter emerging from their hibernation. But for now anyway it looks beautiful and I'm very much enjoying it.

Upon returning to Estherville I had to take care of a few things at the shop before the day was truly my own but even that was o.k. It seemed a pleasure to leisurely stroll into the parking lot to retrieve a car without shivering and racing the cold and wind from shelter (shop) to shelter (vehicle). With all the inside bays full of cars I even enjoyed the ability to spend some time working on a truck out in the parking lot where the sun kept me plenty warm.

With my work done at the shop by mid-afternoon I had grand plans of getting out for a hike to enjoy this fabulous spring weather and try out a new camera lens I'd purchased the week before; but I was having a hard time shaking the lethargy that had set in at my grandparent's house. Instead I drove to my dad's acreage, pulled up next to the lilac bushes in the sun, reclined my seat, and took a nap. It was a wonderfully short nap, made all the better by realizing I was by myself when I woke up rather then on duty. I laid there and enjoyed the suns rays streaming in for a few minutes before returning my seat back to the fully upright position and preparing to leave. But still I couldn't motivate myself to do anything that might require effort so I spent some more time peering into the depths of the naked lilac bushes at the rabbit trails carved in the snow, the new buds ready to erupt with green in a couple weeks, and all the empty birds nests from years past that are invisible come late spring and summer.

A little flicker of movement just a few feet away caught my eye and I found myself nearly face to face with a female cardinal who flitted around from branch to branch and down to the ground looking for a small snack or perhaps a suitable place for a new home. I watched her for a while and then took a harder look around until I spotted a brilliant splash of red farther ahead and deeper into the bushes that was her mate. When I tired of them I looked farther in front of the van and was immediately struck by the ugliness that was emerging from the melting snow; the plastic bags, the yellow buckets, and the antique wagon wheels (don't ask). Soon enough though my brain was able to ignore these things and instead focused on the large pond that had been created next to the house from all the melt water. As my eyes perused its perimeter they spotted more movement on the far edge; another little bird. It was too far away to get a good look at so I pulled out my binoculars and trained them on what turned out to be a little Junco hopping around and pecking at some spilled seed or something; then I noticed another, and another, and another again. All told there were six or seven of the little buggers happily scavenging for a meal.

By the middle of the summer such a trivial gathering of birds will be boring beyond belief, but now, during the first few days of truly spring feeling weather, it was a joy to just sit and watch them in action for ten minutes or so through the binoculars until a few of them seemed to be startled and flew into the bushes. The reason why was soon apparent as a pair of my dad's mallards came waddling out from behind the house to root around in the newly formed pond. They happily and quietly quacked away as they waded up to their bellies and exuberantly rooted around in the thin layer of mud over ice for whatever they might possibly find appetizing.

I never realized how filthy and disgusting ducks were until my dad got some a few years back. We dredged out the slop from this old cement pond in back of the house and fixed it up as a little duck haven. The ducks loved it and it made our hearts happy to see them contentedly sailing around their little lake until in only a few short days they'd turned it into a cesspool of filth which plugged up the pumps filter every few days. After a couple weeks of keeping that disgusting puddle of mud clean the warm feelings in our hearts were gone and we left the cleaning duties up the ducks, which of course they neglected.

Anyway, back to the present tense, I was quite content to watch the filthy ducks root around in the mud and was entertained when the male took alarm to something and stood bolt upright, quacking his loudest to ward off all predators. He was quite an intimidating sight with that ridiculous tuft of fuzz that grows out the back of his head and I'm sure it was enough to make any attacker take heed as they went unmolested.

Finally I'd had enough of animal kingdom and I set out again to find something to entertain myself. Even after my nap I still felt a little drowsy but really thought I should enjoy the day before it got dark. That's when I realized that after this past weekend we're now blessed with an extra hour of sunlight every night so instead I went home, wrote this out, will eat some dinner, and then go for a hike to enjoy the last of the day; something I haven't been able to do since sometime in early December.

I'll let you all know how it goes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the writing,it is full blown spring here now with green showing on the Tulip Poplar buds and Daffodils,Hyacinth and Forsythia in bloom.Those Juncos (we call 'em snowbirds)and Robins which have been here in the largest numbers I have ever seen are gone now,the Cranes flew over last month in flocks of over 100,you could hear the calls even over the sounds of traffic.
End of life care,like infant care,is hard-but there are sweet moments you will remember and treasure;also when and if you are a recipient of that care it will be easier for you for your having been there as a caregiver.
Thanks for your many kind and gentle words here and on the iAtn-Peter

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.