May I ask who's calling?
Ah here we are, the last spider leg of this many legged trip. From our quick romp about the Wyoming state fair, the blue bus moved her way towards Wind Cave National Park. Unfortunately for us, the elevator leading down to the park’s main attraction was closed but we still made the most of our trip by heckling the rangers for every detail of the great caverns below and doing a quick hike through the black hills for some prairie dog watching and bison dung viewing. We knew from the quick amuse bouche of the ranger talks about the great birth place of the Lakota people that Wind Cave may just be one of the many National Parks we must revisit to take on the spelunking side of the fun. So on we pushed to the Badlands National Park, where we camped two nights on the edge of a glorious canyon, home to a whole family of big horned sheep that seemed to have no fear coming right up to the window of the bus and grazing as we ate our own dinners as well.
We made our way into the park during the day and hiked up a precariously rocky ladder to sweeping views of the Badlands and the surrounding areas. We were captivated by the rock formations, fossils, and animals and could not believe that even on our very last National Park stop we got to see something entirely new. You see after park 12 or so, you think you have seen it all but that is disastrously untrue as the Badlands so gently reminded us. From the Badlands we took a quick stop in Sioux Falls to experience some South Dakotan urban culture and kept on keeping on to Omaha, Nebraska.
In Omaha we visited a close friend who had just begun his career at the Creighton School of Dentistry and between cooking him a fresh meal (something most dental students don’t seem to be getting a lot of these days) and exploring the surrounding college town, we let loose and discovered the best Omaha has to offer in nightlife. Two relaxing and giggled filled days later we, again, had to say goodbye. And between Omaha and our first stop back home in Michigan, we spent our last official night in the bus.
The first night I slept in the bus away from the comfort of home, I tossed and turned. The fear of going on a two month trip, not knowing if I packed the right things or was ready to be in an inescapable 24 foot tube with the man I was dating kept me up all night. Every window became an entry way for intruders, the front windshield an opportunity to be peeped in on, and every bit in between had the potential to be stolen, ruined, or an obstacle of the everyday comings and goings of regular life. You see, I tend to think the worst. One of my worst qualities at times can also be my best. I am always prepared with snacks and motrin and bandaids and whatever else you might need, I am adaptable because I have already mentally prepped for a change of plans, and I am flexible because when you are on edge 100% of the time it doesn’t take much energy to jump into the next thing. But, when you live in a bus, constantly moving and meeting obstacles, with a brain like mine you might just explode with every possible problem or issue. You have to learn to live in the moment. Yes, a cliché, but hold tight here. All of my adult life I have lived constantly prepped for the next thing to happen and that’s what made me a straight A student, kept me pushing to be better in the work place, and allowed me to succeed in the dance studio but I always felt like I plateaued at a certain point, when no one had the next challenge for me to conquer. Presence was another challenge altogether that I never really came to understand. You see, life will continue to challenge you; busted power steering coolers, cryptic arguments with your significant other, lack of dish water, a declined credit card. All of these things I could never really prepare for even with my purse chock full of acetaminophen and tampons. Presence, the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing, is a mode of living when we take all that we already know and approach the challenges that are not spun up in our minds but ones that exist in the now. When we are truly present we rid ourselves of the “what ifs” and the constant doomsday preparation, and we see what is actually in front of us. We conquer the challenge we need to (and ONLY that challenge) and enjoy the life we are living in that singular moment. When you are really truly living day to day with finite resources but in the most captivating locations on earth, there is no time but to be present. Enjoy what is here now because if you turn on the news or open up facebook you will quickly learn it may not always be here. It took me almost 9,000 miles and six weeks to realize this but you don’t have to be surrounded by a dramatic mountain scape or camping 10 feet from a canyon drop to look into the eyes of the person you love, look out the window into the world around you, and even look at yourself; take a deep breath and say “This is now and for now this is enough”. Tomorrow will come, it always will, but what about now?
My prophetic musings aside, I want to leave you with a quote from John Muir, one of the many brilliant minds behind the preservation of nature and the National Parks system, he said “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising.”
Adventure is constantly calling and you don’t need a blue bus to answer. So are you going to pick up?