When we finally got our camper home from the dealership, after the much drawn out purchasing process, we sat in it and looked around and when faced with the reality of the size, decided that unfortunately, it would probably not be livable. I mean, how would we do that? How could we possibly get rid of that much stuff? How could we go without having our individual offices anymore? Where would we put our guitars?
Last year, after we made our big trip to Big Bend in the Apex to shoot the Deadly Beautymusic video over Thanksgiving weekend, we made an even bigger journey for Christmas. We went to Florida to visit our families. We played a couple of shows and got a bit of press while we were in Sarasota. In a lot of ways this trip seemed smaller or maybe just a bit easier because it is a drive we have done at least a dozen times. It is a relatively flat drive in comparison to that last journey. Also there were just two people in the 4Runner instead of four like when we went to Big Bend.
This time the trip to FL was different though because we were now towing our camper, more than 4000lbs and had the back of the 4Runner filled with guitars, amps and monitor speakers. Neither one of these things was new on it’s own, but the combination certainly was. This was the farthest we had ever driven with the camper. Also it was Sunny, the cat’s first big road trip! She is a trooper. I might even go as far as to say that she likes road trips.
This was a cool trip because we finally felt like we were really using the camper for the reasons that prompted us to buy an RV in the first place. We got to visit friends along the way, it kept us dry and comfortable in inclement weather, gave us and our loved ones privacy while visiting and we were even able to rehearse for our shows in the camper. So what if Rob had to put his guitar amp in the bathroom…?
This trip was more than just a road trip to see family and play a show over the holidays. This was two weeks of living in and really getting to know our camper. This was a test! Two weeks. How would we handle it? Would we be anxious to to get home and back into a bigger space?
The result was that when we got home, we actually slept in the camper in the back yard for two nights. We decided that it absolutely would be possible to live in the camper as long as we had some sort of office. We would figure it out. We could make it work.
We started the process of shedding our belongings in mid January. We started dividing our stuff into categories.
Visually, you would have never known, but we actually did make a sizable dent. We planned to have a garage sale… We put little price tags on all of our belongings. We chickened out.
We chickened out!!!
We never got to the point where we were serious enough to tell our landlords that we were going to move out. The plan was still in the back of our minds, but it just seemed overwhelming.
You may not know this, but your stuff OWNS you! Sentimentality OWNS you! AND fear OWNS you! Well, if you are anything like us, it certainly did. Also, you probably don’t realize that you are storing stuff that is actually trash. Like, did I really need that monthly calendar from 7 years ago?
You see the thing about people like us is that we like to conserve “supplies” and “information”. We love projects, which makes us kind of hoardy because, you might need that “thing” for some kind of future project… But also, we truly want to be minimalists. We don’t want to throw something useful away and we don’t want to waste – but then here we are with this double edged sword because you end up “saving” everything that “might” be useful in the future yet the less stuff you have in the first place, the less wasteful you tend to be. Know what I mean?
I started Yoga Teacher Training in February 2012. This is not something you can do without it changing you. Additionally, I did a particularly intense program where I left home when it was still dark out and then didn’t get home until it was again, dark out. It was ten hours per day for ten days straight in Feb and then we had 3 weeks off, then did another ten hours per day for another ten days in March. The learning, the evolving, the enlightening, the hours, trying to keep my blood sugar under control with this radically different sleeping and eating schedule, it really was very exhausting…
In any case throughout this process, I learned to meditate. This was not easy for me, at first, sitting still and breathing slowly made me want to climb the walls and hyperventilate! I decided that my wanderlust was a symptom of a greater internal problem; which is that when I become settled, I become dissatisfied, and I want to take off and move. I decided that it was imperative that I make peace with myself independent of my location. I thought, “I need to find happiness where I am right now instead of constantly looking at it as something that would be waiting for me somewhere else.”
I decided that my rented home was serendipitously a perfect space for a small yoga studio on account of the massive living room and hardwood floors. I would endeavor to be content andteach yoga in the small town of Manchaca! Clearly this was the prudent thing to do. Rob and I both read the Bhagavad Gita. We were to be egoless and content with the present. We were to attend to our duty, which for me meant humbly bringing the benefits of yoga to the people of my small community. We both convinced ourselves that we had been crazy to think of moving into our travel trailer! We decided that we felt a calm and a sense of relief now with this new, and more “sensible plan.”
That is where it all ended. Until it didn’t anymore.
I am sorry to leave you with a cliff hanger like that after our Big Announcement, but you will have to continue to read my blog to find out how we got to our current present, which used to be the future, but like I said before, the future is now!
Our very first trip in our new camper was to Fredericksburg, TX, the cutest little German town in the Texas Hill Country. We decided to do an overnight at a KOA, just to feel out the camper and get aquatinted with our new travel trailer. We even baked cookies in the propane oven, just to see how it worked.
Our second trip was an overnight in preparation for a future work trip to make a music video. We invited our friends and collaborators, filmmakers, Christine Carstairs and Robert Haynes, a married couple who also work together, to stay the night in the camper with us at McKinney Falls State Park right here in Austin. We wanted to test the camper and the situation of actually having four people in it; do a day of hiking and picture taking to prepare for our upcoming journey to Big Bend National Park to film the music video for our song, Deadly Beauty.
Big Bend National Park is an amazing and brilliant park in the extraordinary desert and mountains of West Texas, along the Rio Grande! Having heard about this pilgrimage of sorts, Rob and I took a traditional tent camping trip there, the spring previous to buying our travel trailer. We fell in love with the place so deeply that we wrote a song about it called Deadly Beauty.
There were Bear and Mountain Lion warnings everywhere in this park, complete with bear proof storage boxes at every campsite, as well as warnings about “curious” Javalina, breaking into your tent. Also there was some wild weather that came with this wild terrain. It came and went very fast and included a lot of lightning, a downpour, hail, not to mention temperatures reaching 116 degrees during the day and then dropping into the 50s in the evening! We did not end up setting up our tent, we slept in our car for four nights. To tell you the truth, there was one night that it was so gusty that I thought it might blow the car over… It didn’t, obviously.
Interesting fact: Big Bend is the least visited of all of the National Parks because it is so remote.
Suggestion: Read, Big Bend, A Homesteaders Story,by J.O. Langford before going to Big Bend, it will give you a much deeper appreciation for the land and the journey. I can honestly say that this is in my top 10 favorite books.
Also: Visit Terlingua, it is the weirdest, coolest little desert, formerly ghost town, right next to the park. Also, don’t tell anyone about it. I want it to stay cool.
In any case this trip was inspiring. As an artist and as a human being you can’t help but be changed by this journey.
Less than a year after visiting Big Bend for the first time we released our album,Brush With Greatness, with the song, Deadly Beauty, an homage to that unapologetic, raw, and wild place. We truly felt that being in the presence of and having the opportunity to explore this desert, mountains and river was a quite literal brush with greatness. The song Deadly Beauty without a doubt is filled with visual and aesthetic imagery, how could it not be? Making a video for this song was mandatory.
We asked Robert and Christine, our filmmaker friends who were our collaborators on the photos and album art for Brush with Greatness as well as script advisors cum directors and cinematographers on the music video for the song, Proof if they would want to go to Big Bend for four nights over Thanksgiving and shoot the video for Deadly Beauty. It was on! Four people, twenty hours in the car, four days in the desert, and sleeping in The Apex! It was actually quite magical!
RV Lesson #1: Plan your trip accordingly… It takes at least two hours longer than you think it will when traveling with a travel trailer. Just go ahead and tack on two hours to your journey when you are estimating how long it will be. Also you will go through gas about twice as fast. I can’t emphasize this enough! Fill up when you are at half a tank!!! Especially when you are in the desert, or anywhere remote. We coasted into a gas station on fumes and in a state of panic. Lesson learned!
We stayed at Big Bend Resort and Adventures Park, about 6 miles from the Western entrance to the park. Our thanksgiving dinner was Turkey Chili. We didn’t get in each others way once. Somehow we all maneuvered around the camper like an intricate ballet. Christine, despite being six feet tall and having insomnia, was sleeping on the dinette converted to a bed next to her husband Robert, and reported that she has never slept better in her entire life! These are minor miracles here!
RV Lesson #2: It is very possible for the RV break controller to become unplugged from your vehicle. In fact this happened to us in rather steep and mountainous terrain. This can be VERY BAD. At about hour 10, the vibration of the vehicle jiggled the plug right out of the socket. We have since created a little harness for the plug with zip ties to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore. ALWAYS continue to check the status of your break controller, throughout your journey, to make sure it has not become disconnected.
It rained and was overcast on what was supposed to be our first day of shooting, so we ended up scouting some locations and just taking stills while exploring a bit… The next two days of shooting were intense. We were following our video treatment, sometimes linearly and sometimes not. There were a lot of scenes and locations to get in a short amount of time, before we lost daylight. Not to mention, a horse and horse wrangler that had to be involved on the second day of shooting. Oh, yeah and the detailed and outrageous costume I had designed for myself… I was literally hiking up the side of mountains in a vintage evening gown with a feathered mask and headdress while onlookers and tourists gawked and tried to figure out what the hell we were doing.
Our main goal was to capture the beauty, diversity and wild spirit of this untamed land and share it. I think we accomplished that.
Here is the final product:
I love setting out to do something, and then actually doing it! It is immensely satisfying. Because of the camper, we were able to make our dream of a video for the song, Deadly Beauty a reality. Viva La Apex! Honestly, without it, our artistic vision could not have been realized. Also, we had a ton of fun!
By the way… If you are interested in seeing what team Carstairs/Haynes has been up to lately, check out the trailer for their festival bound horror/comedy short, The Spell Book. In another collaborative effort, Rob Houle, my wickedly talented husband and front man of our bandBefore Dawn composed the original score for the film and I designed and built the main character, the spell book.