Four years and 17 days ago we drove away from Jim’s parent’s house in Salem, Oregon heading south. The plan was to spend a couple of years driving the PanAmerican Highway, working on my writing, and explore in-depth a new-to-us continent. As the sun sets on one decade it is clear that having such a plan rarely works out exactly as we expect. Today I write this from a campground in Coos Bay, Oregon somewhere we never thought we’d end up having not yet made it to South America. As the saying goes…the best-laid plans.
How we ended up here is well-documented and for now, we are counting down our days until we once again head south, this time to lead our 2nd Baja Amigo’s Caravan mostly an excuse to spend some time away from the wind and rain of winter on the Oregon Coast. Some years ask questions and some answers them. In what is sure to be a transitional year I have a feeling answers will be found, it is only the timing that will remain in question.
First and foremost in our minds is the continuing decline of Aspen as age and a life lived at the edge is making its mark. This dog used to be FIERCE. She was a fetching machine and whether diving for coconuts in Lake Atitlan or racing down a sandy beach or field of grass she was laser-focused and relentless. She was 100% on or off and when on was always in forward motion. Even standing still at the end of her leash her body would be slightly straining at the lead, muscles ready to go.
Adopting a fur baby means you are rarely sure of their real age. The Humane Society in Salem judged her to be five years old and so this coming Sunday will mark her 7th birthday as a Delameter and what we are calling as her 12th birthday. Our sweet girl has explored three countries and seven states. She has hiked mountain trails and raced along countless sandy beaches. She is an aficionado of craft beer and fish tacos and is my faithful companion rarely willing to wander far from my side. And now she is hurting and our hearts are breaking.
We don’t know how much time we have left, but the reality is that the numbers include days and months, not years. This particular transition is sure to bring me to my knees and will take an enormous emotional toll but the goal, for now, is to give this true adventure dog as much adventure as we can in the meantime. Even a trip to Toyota for general truck maintenance brought a smile to her face with new friends to meet, new dogs to sniff, and best of all, the discovery of a very special treasure, a tennis ball, in the dog park. As the countdown to Baja brings us closer to sun and sand our biggest wish is for our girl to enjoy one final trip to her favorite destination.
Aging fur babies are not the only transition we currently face as ongoing discussions about the inevitable move of Jim’s parents from his childhood home to a downsized life in a retirement community occupy many conversations. In their mid-80’s they’re still fine living on their own in a cottage on-site but here reality is that a large home with a big yard and lots of stairs is no longer working for them. With transition comes strong feelings and many challenges and the emotions often run high with different parties expressing themselves. Over 50 years in a singular location does not bode for ease in such an endeavor.
It isn’t new news that the reason we are currently in Oregon is to not only assist in such bittersweet transitions but also to simply spend time with them and in spite of the occasional heated moments our hearts are full and these are memories that will remain long into the future.
Many of our friends are also facing transitions of their own with an alarming number of them experiencing the pain of divorce and separation. Hearing of moves to new countries, new homes, and new lifestyles have been disheartening and in some cases sent shock waves through our dinner conversations. These transitions will continue to play out and we often feel helpless and unable to offer up more than deep sympathies and send love to all parties involved. Surely many of them will be happier at the end of the day but the middle portion of the journey is challenging. One huge plus in our current locale~ being near enough to be physically present to spend time with so many friends and our visitors to camp are frequent.
Our tribe truly sustains us through all of the ups and downs called life.
As for us, I am once again putting time and energy into my work as a freelance writer and eagerly anticipating seeing my name in print once again. The goal remains to transition more of my time to writing and less to campground work to put us in a better position to, once again, hit the road full-time at some point. Our immediate excitement and planning is because, in a mere 18 days, we depart for routes south to meet our new caravan members for yet another month covering the width and length of Baja. In addition to these new friends, we will also be lucky enough to meet up with many of our travel tribe along the way.
This year marks the beginning of a new decade and also the beginning of the 3rd decade of wedding bliss for us. June 2nd marks our 30th wedding anniversary and, as most have been, will be celebrated on the road in the form of a two-week road trip. Transitional? This remains to be seen but we have found that when we open our hearts to possibility great things happen. We have lived this life with ideas in place but a willingness to veer sharply from the path when new opportunities arise. Discovering magic can not be preplanned.
Transition is hard, often heartbreakingly unbearably so. It never comes easy and it’s often utterly transformative. What will the year ahead bring? No one can say for sure but as long as we lead with our hearts it will be sure to take us down an unexpected path.