Testing, Testing... All Systems Go (To Mt. Washington)
After a month of preparation, we took the trailer on a test weekend to hike and explore New Hampshire’s White Mountains and drive up Mt. Washington
The month of August was spent preparing the Spriglet and our 4Runner, “The Great White,” for take-off. My sister and brother-in-law visited from Australia during the first two weeks of the month and our intention was to leave a week after they headed back Down Under.
The reality was that we were not prepared one week later. The Great White’s repairs weren’t finished (we upgraded a lot of its systems to ensure it was in strong shape to lead the way on this adventure; My Love will share the nitty gritty automotive details on his blog, launching soon, if you’re interested in that side of things) and My Love had to take care of some family business in Costa Rica that kept being delayed, all of which prevented any sort of departure-as-intended on this adventure.
The delay demonstrated (the first of what will be many more such lessons on this trip, I am sure) that everything works out as it should, because it truly took every day we had to feel 100% ready to go. I cleaned and redecorated (as I shared here), then carefully chose what would accompany us based on a combo of need and weight. I organized everything down to the pens, pieces of paper and paperclips (just kidding, there are no paperclips) in the trailer and car, as well as what was left behind in storage and at my parents’ home.
Meanwhile, My Love washed the Great White and the Spriglet (the latter of which required removing hundreds of tiny black dots of artillery fungus by hand — yeah, nasty), scrubbed the roof and the awning of the trailer and then waxed both vehicles! While meditative, it was tiring to get this baby ready inside and out. We couldn’t have done it if not for my parents entertaining and spending quality time with their granddaughter every day. I'm sure they're still asleep, resting up since we left.
Even though the organization was extreme, it is deeply satisfying to know that we took the time to prepare as much as possible, and also to have put so much love and care into the vessels that will be carrying us over the lands. Putting the time in up front will allow us to take each day as it comes from now on, without the myriad of minute to-do’s that always nag at the back of your mind (at least, at the back of most moms’ minds).
Though the time was needed and being used, and we could see everything working out positively, we still became antsy in late August waiting for news from Costa Rica. So we decided to do a weekend trailer test run to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Mt. Washington was a destination we both really wanted to see that wasn’t fitting well into the path of our debut Canada loop. A free weekend while we waited provided the perfect opportunity to visit the area, test out our systems, practice setting everything up and breaking it down, and to live in the trailer for a few days to see if we had what we needed, or as the case was, more than we needed.
The Great White’s final repair was complete late on a Thursday afternoon and we brought it home and hooked it up to the packed-up-and-ready-to-roll-at-dawn trailer.
It was about 7 AM on Friday morning when we actually pulled out and the excitement was high as my parents waved us off. The views as we drove through New Hampshire of the morning steam evaporating over the surface of the lakes as the sun rose overhead was breathtaking. Growing up in Vermont, I never realized just how beautiful its neighbor is, but she’s a real looker.
“Wow! We’re really doing this!” My Love and I said to each other, eyes wide. We marveled that everything we needed (albeit a very carefully curated collection of possessions) was right behind us. We’d imagined this moment for nearly two months, and what it would be and feel like, but the reality was captivating the first time we set off.
The concept that absolutely nothing held us down to any particular place, and we could just pack up and head to the next town on a whim felt amazing. It is just what we need right now in our lives as individuals, as a couple and together as a family. Which makes the tumultuous decision of whether or not to leave New York, and all the moments that have followed very worth it.
Driving up along I-93 into the White Mountains and by Franconia Notch was stunning. The small highway carved a path through rock faces, lakes and dense greenery as we slowly climbed through the mountains. It was a bluebird day with Simpson’s-esque puffy white clouds and I alternated between internalizing squeals of excitement and sitting in stunned silence.
We camped at the White Birches Camping Park in Shelburne, NH, about fifteen minutes from the base of Mt. Washington. It was a pull-through site (as opposed to having to back in), which was a blessing for take one with this thing. We unhitched the trailer, not without a few snags that earned us stares (and later on, pointers and advice) from our more experienced neighbors. Many of our neighbors were “lifers,” having stayed at this place for as many as 19 summers.
With the Great White set free, and our stabilizers and chocks in place, My Love set about attaching our electricity, water and sewer hook-ups, while I set up the interior. The World’s Cutest Human ran between us and crawled around inside the car, not sure what to make of herself and what we were doing.
As I took items out of cabinets and put them into place inside, I found that many things didn’t really have a place when the trailer wasn’t in “staged mode.” That’s to say that when I redecorated, I arranged everything as though it would always be on display in a pretty little picture.
I quickly learned that every item inside the trailer needed to be 100% functional — some things were simply being moved from one spot to another to get them out of the way without ever serving a purpose. There is quite literally no space for frivolity when three humans are trying to coexist in one extended 22’ long room. We made notes and lists throughout the weekend of what had to go and what we were missing.
The first few hours of day one ended up being low key time in the camping park. We were (and still are!) deeply tired, not only from the past few months of moving, but the past three years of our New York lifestyle. Just under the surface is massive exhaustion, and either of us could sleep for a month straight if given the chance. So My Love leisurely flushed our water system (a set up task we had yet to do), while I played with the WCH on the playground and took her swimming in the pool.
It was arresting to realize that my new reality would involve more carefree play time with my daughter. Even though I’ve spent every day of her life with her, the time is always shared with an impossibly long and distracting to-do list, and it seems much of our time is spent by me setting up something for her to do while multitasking a chore.
I am thrilled that I will be able to give her 100% of my attention more often and that I can play without thinking or saying, “Mommy needs to ______ in five minutes.” It felt amazing.
Later that afternoon, seeing the skies clear of all clouds, and on the advice of our neighbors, we headed for the Mt. Washington Auto Road. The Great White is My Love’s other baby, and he wanted to take it to the top of the mountain. It’s a beautiful and at times scary drive, being that there are no guard rails the entire eight miles up with steep drop-offs to the sides.
The views are awesome, in the original sense of the word, and we stopped every so often, and of course, at the top to take photos and watch the Cog Railway climb up.
(Click to see individual photos)
There was a vintage car rally at the bottom and we drooled over a couple of old Bel Air’s — a pink one for me and an orange-red one for My Love. The interiors were totally dreamy; those old gear shifts are incredible!
The following morning we headed for Conway, New Hampshire to ride the Scenic Railroad. The WCH is obsessed with trains and was thrilled with a day that involved riding one, preceded by eating delicious local micro batch ice cream. We were thrilled to see her light up so excitedly. She always explodes with growth when we travel and we hope that this trip does the same.
Before we packed up on our last morning, we headed back to the base of Mt. Washington for a short hike around The Lost Pond Trail (across from the entrance to Tuckerman’s Ravine) and down to Glen Ellis Falls. The combo of the two — which involved crossing a river by hopping from rock to rock thanks to a wrong turn — was overly gentle, but a perfect length to stretch our legs before the drive back to my parents’ home.
As during my play time at the campsite, I experienced many moments of, “Oh yes, this is exactly what I need!” while hiking. My soul medicine is being surrounded by trees, woods and water — and spending peaceful reflection time (made less quiet by the two year old running commentary machine on My Love’s back) off the beaten track with my family will hopefully reset the systems that weren’t working in NYC.
Returning to the campsite, we left too little time to eat lunch and pack up, which made our debut departure process stressed and full of high tensions (mostly emanating from me), but it also showed us the importance of following an exact routine until this becomes second nature (we created a checklist when we got back to help train ourselves, which may seem to be overkill, but forgetting something when hooking up a trailer could be catastrophic).
We arrived back at my parents on Sunday afternoon with our excitement levels through the roof. I felt more informed and prepared to make a final round of tweaks, subtractions and additions to the trailer while My Love finally headed to Costa Rica for three short days.
Aside from what to bring, what not to bring and how to run things, the weekend most importantly solidified that we have made the best choices for us right now and have most certainly set ourselves on the right path. Where this will lead we do not know, but we are so very ready to go!