Heading West: A long-awaited trip gets started at last

by Beverly Mills Gyllenhaal
7 comments

Finally, we’re heading out on a trip that’s been years in the making. After spending a couple of months in our favorite winter camping spot, an Airstream park in Central Florida, the time has come to hitch up the Flying Cloud once again and move west. Over the next four months, we’ll divide our time between writing projects and chasing birds.

Working (and doing some birding) out in front of the Airstream during our Florida stop. This and top photo by Pete Cross.

The itinerary includes a trek to the songbird migration on the Gulf Coast of Texas, several stops to research bird conservation projects in California and the Midwest, and a once-in-a-lifetime tour of national parks.

It’s the third time we’ve attempted this adventure. Last year’s reservations — spread over 8,000 miles and 20 states — got cancelled in a scramble when the pandemic pushed our trailer into dry dock. 

Beverly finishes up this post in our makeshift office.

The excuse for not going in 2019? A sheer case of panic on my part. Anders had spent the winter crafting the perfect trip. The plan was to sell our home and hit the road for nearly half a year. We were both giddy at the thought of it. But then I started fretting over nomadic details like the mail, health insurance and vehicle registrations. What if we got called for jury duty and didn’t show up?

Anders at the table.

Let’s be clear – Airstream life suits me perfectly for weeks at a time. Our adorable silver bubble is the playhouse I never had as a child. Everything is in miniature, yet elegantly crafted. Each item that life requires fits into its own specific spot. We’ve even turned part of the dinette into an office with a laser printer and filing cabinets for all of our writing projects.

Beverly in the compact kitchen.

As with most things, however, there are two sides of the story. Although our Airstream has the comforts of home, the floor plan is undeniably squished. “Suck it in, I’m coming through,” is a common refrain because passing each other in the hallway is more or less a contact sport.

The tradeoff for the freedom to travel thousands of miles in search of adventure is that on departure mornings, the coffee hour is spent in a frenzy of cleaning and stowing. (Anything left on the counters will fly across the trailer, and even the glassware inside cabinets gets wrapped in dishtowels before we can leave.) Meanwhile Anders is outside lugging, lifting and hitching. And then he gets to empty the black tank at the campground dumping station. (Don’t ask; it isn’t pretty.) Unlike me, he never, ever complains.

“I’m going out to work on the roof,” he just announced, quite happily. Meanwhile I’ll be giving the fridge its bi-weekly defrost.

It’s tight inside but our living space includes the great outdoors.

Here we are, vaccinated, masked and leaving tomorrow for all points west. You might wonder what has changed that’s made me excited to be in the passenger’s seat this time around? For starters we didn’t sell our home, and Anders shaved two months off the schedule. The biggest change is that this time, after a year of lock down, the thought of wide-open spaces with skies full of birds feels like the perfect, catch-all cure.

We feel grateful to have this trip ahead of us. We plan to share occasional travel adventures and our usual posts about all things birds here on Flying Lessons in the coming months. If you’d like to follow along, you can sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.

When we’re lucky, a breath-taking sunset is just outside the door at the end of a day’s journey.

 

7 comments
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7 comments

Susan A Randolph April 12, 2021 - 12:53 pm

What an exciting trip to explore, to spread your wings after pandemic, and have a bit of adventure and fun!

Reply
william tyler brawner April 5, 2021 - 1:08 pm

Look forward to following the voyage you two love birds.

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Geraldine April 5, 2021 - 11:34 am

I’m excited to join you on this next leg of adventure. Keep writing! xxx

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Robbi Farrell April 4, 2021 - 8:27 am

This is so exciting! I’m looking to following along the way!

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Janet Abowd April 3, 2021 - 7:46 pm

So glad you’re doing this. If not now, when? Looking forward to following your adventures.

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lizagyllenhaal April 3, 2021 - 6:18 pm

A lovely description of life in your adorable silver bubble. It’s going to be a joy to travel along with you vicariously! Can’t wait to read all about it.

Reply
Emily Gyllenhaal April 3, 2021 - 12:42 pm

Good luck y’all. We are so excited for you..looking forward to hearing about all your adventures going West.

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