14 Days, Many Lessons

Sucker Creek
Sucker Creek meanders along the Oregon Caves Highway.

Almost immediately after leaving for places unknown with our twenty-nine foot travel trailer (and with our less-than-expert towing experience) I figured out that this would not be the relaxed journey I had first imagined. Not right away anyhow. Traffic through Seattle was congested and abysmally slow. The hitch groaned incessantly. By the time we reached the Maytown Rest Area, south of Olympia, where we had agreed to meet up with our friends and travel partners, I was a wreck.

Since it was late in the day, we hauled ourselves, dazed with heat and stress, into our home-on-wheels and stayed the night. Squeezed in among the semi-trailer trucks, big rigs whose engines thundered through the entire night, the idea of sleep seemed absurd. We wondered what was to come.

Because we didn’t plan an itinerary, parking our trailer each night became a game of chance. One time in the Humboldt Redwoods we had gotten ourselves into a difficult spot, and it was getting late. There was only one campground in the area, Dean Creek Resort. I called and asked the woman who answered the phone whether she might have a site available for a twenty-nine foot trailer. There was a long pause.

”Do you have reservations?”


“No reservations?”


“No reservations… on a Friday night?”


“No reservations… on a Friday night… in the middle of summer?”

It did not sounding promising. She chuckled, and I thought she was ribbing me for my naïvety.

But then she surprised me. “My computer is slow and I’m just stalling,” she said. “Oh, wait. Here. We have a really nice one for you.”

We were lucky this time. And our luck held out for the rest of the trip. But gambling always has an uncertain outcome, and we could have found ourselves stranded just as easily.

Back home after fourteen days on the road we reflected on our trip. Despite the trials, both of us agreed it ended up being very full of beautiful, intimate, funny, and strange moments. I spent far less time with my camera than I normally would have, but made peace with that, finding joy in simply being out in the wilderness with friends, preparing meals together, sharing stories. And learning the many lessons of this new mode of travel that is “trailering”:

1.    Planning is not a bête noire to wandering. Wandering, not being fixed on expectations or outcome, is good practice for creativity. However, setting out with a travel plan is no different than tuning an instrument or attuning the eye before a photo session. Preparation is necessary for creating magic.
2.    A rolling stone gathers no moss. Staying in one place for awhile is an opportunity to sink into the life of that place in ways not so easy to do when one is always moving around.
3.    Some days not much photography happens. RV travel is comprised of a variety of activities that preclude making photographs. Besides the chores that you have in normal daily life—laundry, going to the market, meal preparation, and clean up—there are all the maintenance and safety tasks related to trailering. As Joel Meyerowitz says, “You cannot expect every day to provide a photograph of real consequence.”
4.    You cannot get from here to there without trial and error. The way is hard. There are no short cuts. There is a always a learning curve, learning what it demands and what you are willing to give. The way through is with patience and good humor.
5.    Sometimes just sitting around and talking with your travel partners is enough.

Newport, Oregon, fisherman
The wharf at Newport, Oregon. This is one proud fisherman.
Bastendorff Beach
With friends at Bastendorff Beach, Oregon.
Ferndale, California shop
Shop in Ferndale, California.
Zebras on a Petrolia, California, ranch at the Lost Coast.
Lost Coast Zebras
Zebras at a Petrolia, California, ranch on the Lost Coast.
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