I had to make a tough choice. Even though the answer was clear, I felt like I was walking myself voluntarily to the gallows while right behind me was a waterslide park where I had a free all-day ticket – including free ice cream!
I left Big Bend, Ca. in a hurry on Sunday when I woke up with increased tooth pain. I’d departed from Seattle just after finishing up a crown replacement that never quite settled in. I figured it would or it wouldn’t. And, it didn’t.
So I’m back in Seattle through Thursday, doing dental stuff, getting caught up on work, and generally chillin’. I’ll be back on the road on Thursday afternoon, heading to the Bay Area, missing the giants on the coast. But, like I said to Crater Lake, “I’ll be back.”
What I Learned in the Country About Living in the Country
My time in Big Bend, between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen along the Pit River, taught me a lot about what it’s like to live off the grid and the main drag.
Finding Work Is Tough
The main message I heard from my friends who’ve been living in the mountains for more than 30 years was, “Finding work out here is tough.” They got together in the late ‘70s with a dream of living in the rural Northern California, but they needed to find work.
When they were still building their first log cabin, Terri worked as a waitress. Then, she joined a scrappy, small, let’s-change-the-world “hill country” medical clinic where she stayed for decades, holding hands with and caring for people of all ages in every kind of medical condition. She loved her job. And, she drove to work in all kinds of weather, which meant many, many heavy snow days. No excuses.
Meanwhile, Gary took care of nearly everything at Big Bend’s Indian Springs public school, where the student population would sometimes swell to 50 but is currently 14 – for all 8 grades. He drove the bus, maintained the buildings and fields, ordered all needed supplies and equipment, did janitorial work, and coached both swimming and basketball. I think they should name the school after him.
Getting Power, Food, and Water Requires Skill, Money, and Effort
Yes, you can put up a lean-to, dig a hole in the ground, and pull water from a stream, but if you want electricity or the option to flush, you’ve got some thinking to do.
Gary is a natural genius for all things mechanical. He’s a patient, tenacious problem solver. He always noodling on the water pump, amount of available electricity, and how best to build the next structure needed – greenhouse, root cellar, etc.
I’m not so good at that. I would need help and I would likely need to pay for at least some of it and that could get expensive.
It Takes A Lot Energy to Grow Your Own Food
If you wanna eat, you gotta hustle. Start, plant, weed, water, fight bugs, harvest, can, dry, store – feeding yourself by yourself is a major commitment of love and energy.
I am okay with this challenge. That means I can grow food instead of sitting on my duff earning money to buy it at the store.
Fresh Food Feels Amazing
I’m not talking about lettuce fresh from the produce aisle. I’m talking about a salad you just picked from the garden, including all kinds of greens, deeply-colored tomatoes, onions, carrots, cucumbers, and more. It’s food that is alive and if you ever meet Terri and Gary, you’ll see that they are rocking some incredible well-being.
Terri insists on a salad every night. They even grow a salad garden in the winter in their greenhouse so there are always fresh greens. She says her mother did the same thing and she credits it with her outstanding health. This woman is fit as a fiddle, my friends. Eat your salad!
I Really Like Fresh Air and Starry Nights
Gary, Terri, and I went for several hikes near their home and each one offered great scenery and lots of colorful dirt and rocks under my feet. I loved the wildness of the landscape.
And, being able to see a ka-jillion stars at night keeps us humble and reminds us that we’re a tiny dot in a very big universe. I think it’s good for our egos – keeps them in check, which helps us feel happier.
Next Up, San Francisco
I’m headed next to the Bay Area. I get to meet my friend Brooke’s baby, go sailing with my high-school buddy Paul, and visit college friends living near Stanford. It’s going to be a social fiesta and I can’t wait!