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A dispatch from the winding road

| 11 May 2018 | 03:20

Last September, we ran a story about newlyweds Ricky and Megan McAndress, who had just hit the road in their Airstream Argosy. It was goodbye to the routine of house, jobs, and Milkweed (the art space they co-founded), and hello to the blue highways. They purged their belongings – but not the typewriter, for they are letter writers. Now they’ve landed, and dropped us a note.

Dear Dirt,

It’s been near seven months since Megan and I steered southwest from the Hudson Valley. Milkweed crazies and disc golf and Pennings and running on the AT rolling away in the side view. Back then I’d scan the mirrors every four seconds to make sure the trailer was still attached. Our Argosy (Ourgosy) pulls pretty well just on the tow ball. We don’t have weight distribution or sway control hitch. Perhaps it’s a metaphor.

All the rest of our things crammed in the truck bed or in the trailer. We would go on to purge three or four more times along the way. Dwindling our possessions really has freed up the mind space and relieved a peculiar anxiety. As astounding as traveling is, cutting out the unnecessary stuff has been equally life changing.

We saw the eclipse in Murphy, North Carolina, in the Nantahala National Forest a couple weeks after leaving New York. Wild phenomenal event had a surreal effect on me, the remainder of the day was spent sitting in wonder, coming down from the trip. Forced consideration of the cosmos and the unseen forces, and me right in the middle of it.

We stuck to the blue highways mostly, across PN, VA, TN, KY, MO, KS, OK, NM, UT, NV, CA, AZ, TX, LA, MS and AK. Over the Appalachians, Ozarks, Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, and California Coastal Range.

At the campsites, inevitably an amused neighbor would point to our plates, and I’d say “Yup, all the way from New York.” Never once was I shown even the slightest grief for the leaves stuck in my hair, days old shirt and quirky granola behavior. Politics are boring, so we don’t spend energy ruminating on that. Best to find common ground first, then let our characters join the party. Most people out camping are looking for the same things, a refill of whiskey and a spritz of bug spray.

Green fields turned to desert exactly on the border of Oklahoma and New Mexico, and then the visceral expanse of space hit again, simultaneously shrinking my existence, and bombarding me with inspiration. I read somewhere that the frontiersmen of the northwest became loggers and builders, strong and brutish. But those of the southwest became more introspective. I fell deep into my books and meditative trail runs. Enchanted exploration, wild sunflowers in the breeze, native spirits and rough cut turquoise. Dancing on the astral plane.

Jump cut to city traffic, car horns blaring, headache inducing reality. Austin, Texas isn’t so bohemian anymore. A week or so after we arrived, Rocky, our six-year-old brindle pit mix, needed both knees replaced at the same time. Of course he rallied through just fine, but it was a considerable emotional and financial hit. Friends and family in Austin came to our rescue and gave us jobs and a nice long driveway to park our trailer for three months. Spoiled with parties. We went from being proudly self reliant, to suddenly being taken care of by such a generous group of people. Allowing the community into our lives brought back a gracious warmth that perhaps we had let go of when we left Warwick.

About every other person we met on the road shared their dreams of hitting the road and living out of a trailer or a van. Rampant adventure lust. Money is one of the first things people will bring up when chatting about living on the road. I don’t think of it as prying, but more like people wanting to talk it out. About how to make it feasible for them. We have no plans to ever buy a house, I would much rather take the task of finding a place to unhitch the trailer each night. That said…

We landed back in Chattanooga, TN a couple months ago, where family duties called and we happily obliged. We moved out of the trailer *gasp! temporarily, and I think the dogs are happy to have a little more space to move around. There are trailheads all around us, jobs have fallen into our laps, and we’re making new friends every day. It all seems to be happening just outside of our control. We have a renewed sense of community spirit and we’re eager to be involved here. We looked at 30 acres of farmland for sale this morning just outside of town, and I think we’re gonna go for it.

So much love,

Ricky & Megan