Here in Northern Alabama, it's 39 degrees at 9am, and the rain pelts the roof of our rig as we cozily relax inside. We realize that today is our seven-week anniversary since we left Western Massachusetts.
Taking Tina outside to pee around 3am, I did indeed hear coyotes in the distance. Our campfire was mostly extinguished by the light rain, but some smoke was still making its way skyward. The night was very still, and I could feel the presence of the stars despite the fact that they were obscured by clouds.
In just five days or so, we will make our way to Atlanta in order to enjoy the company of family and the celebration of Christmas. My sister and her family will welcome us with open arms, my mother will arrive from New Jersey to partake in the festivities, and we will rest for a few days in the comfort of family. Traveling is in many ways delightful, but there is a sense of calm in knowing that we will soon be parked in my sister's driveway, with free and unfettered access to a warm and cozy home decorated for the holidays and teeming with laughter, good company, and plentiful food. When those celebrations are over and we once again feel the itch to move on, we will continue south to Florida and join a few friends from Massachusetts who are spending the winter on an organic farm near Naples.
I am finding that the proverbial sayings about southern hospitality are indeed true. While I have experienced this in the past, it is much more apparent to me now. As we have traveled south, people have become friendlier, more forthcoming and more helpful, and this stereotypical southern characteristic shines through in many of our experiences. I do not mean to disparage our northern friends and family in any way, but it is widely recognized that, here in the southern US, people wave when you drive by, they chat with you amiably in stores, go out of their way to be helpful, and simply seem to be more ready to engage in idle and friendly banter. Having been born and raised in the northeast, I have noted this difference during many trips to the south, and it is something that I do not take for granted. For Mary, it's like coming home. For me, it's like remembering something that I've forgotten.
Today we have the luxury of not knowing where to go or what to do. We could press on in the rain and inch our way closer to Atlanta, stopping in one of Alabama's many state parks. We could also stay put, do some writing, play a game, write holiday cards, organize the rig, and have a rainy indoor day. While we have no cell phone service here (T-Mobile strikes again!), we happily have free and fast WiFi. It's also very quiet at this campground, and there's even bathrooms and hot showers without toxic air fresheners or deodorizers, so it's tempting to simply not move at all and make the most of a day of rest and relaxation.
We are thinking of our friends and family today, hoping that everyone is happy and well, and we are feeling especially grateful for the privilege of doing what we're doing. This lifestyle can't last forever, but for now we give thanks for the opportunity and take advantage of the open road that continues to present itself to us. America is a big place, and as we progress further in our travels, we consistently observe the diversity, the natural beauty, and the good people that make the American landscape what it is. We are so pleased with this traveling life, and appreciate the fact that we can undertake such an endeavor with no worries for our safety or well-being (aside from other drivers and the usual physical maladies of middle age). Sigh.
It truly is a wonderful life---even if I sometimes forget that fact---and there's nothing like the freedom of the open road to remind one over and over again just how lucky and blessed one truly is.