Overcoming anger at silly things – Camping across the U.S., Day 1

My anger at not being able to find packing peanuts at the fucking post office stiffened my limbs and overtook the space in my head that previously held excitement about our upcoming road trip. I have no excuses for why I waited to go to the post office until the day we were leaving. But I knew it would be terrible, so I kept putting it off. Plus, I wasn’t totally sure that I wanted to pay $100 (with insurance) to mail my violin to my parents’ house where we’ll be able to pick it up before the final move to NYC. A large part of me wanted to sell it for the cash. But at the last minute, I decided to go ahead and mail it. I was happy with my decision until that moment in the post office. I only needed a small bag of peanuts to finish the job… and after going to 2 nearby stores and coming up empty, I had to settle for $14 worth of bubble wrap. Procrastination always costs you.

I didn’t know how to overcome my anger though. It was just a little thing, but we had so much to do before setting off in the road that any wasted time just sucked the joy right out of me. Funny enough, the only thing that helped me turn the corner was when I started thinking about how I would tell the story here on my blog. It gave a purpose to the shittiness. And little by little, my blood returned to normal temperature, and I could breathe again.

Luckily, we got through the rest of the morning relatively unscathed as we packed up the car and finished last minute errands.

In the early afternoon, we left Tucson and headed to our first campsite just south of the Grand Canyon. It was a 10 acre plot of land back 5 miles on dirt roads that can’t be navigated by GPS even though there is cell phone service. We could see in every direction for miles which of course gave us phenomenal views. Unfortunately for us, it was a very windy and rainy day/night. And with no hills or trees to block it, our tent was pounded throughout the night. We hardly slept, and I don’t think our dog, Domino, slept a wink. On top of that, she woke us from our light slumber at 4am because she had to puke. It was a long night. But the clouds and rain did give us some gorgeous views that made it all worthwhile. 

This picture makes it seem way calmer than it actually was. We were being pelted by wind and rain pretty much the whole night.

Somehow, we kept high spirits, packed our shit up in the morning and drove to Flagstaff. It seems counterintuitive to skip the Grand Canyon when we have a National Parks pass and are planning to hit up numerous parks and forests, but being Arizonans, we’ve been there and done that. And once you’ve seen it, there are way cooler things to use your time to go see. So we passed it by and headed to Lake Powell for an afternoon dip.
*** So of course, after I wrote this post and made final edits, WordPress somehow glitched and erased my finalized version, ūüė° giving me yet another opportunity to practice my anger management skills. Lucky for me, I have this blog to express my frustrations on! Thanks for reading! And maybe this re-finalized version is actually better… Maybe.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to our “Camping across the country” fund. My final  teaching paycheck got delayed (because of course it did), and these donations have kept us afloat. We are so incredibly thankful to all of you! Even if you can’t donate, thanks for reading and following this blog. 

Special shout out to Morgan Brown and Beth Brown who were the very first people to donate and help make this trip more doable! We are grateful and so is Domino.

Finding space: moving on

If we weren’t moving to NYC and if we weren’t going on a month-long road trip across the country, I would be returning to work as a teacher today. I have mixed feelings. I picture my desk, in MY classroom, with a new teacher sitting there trying to figure out the best way to teach a bunch of teenagers how to be full-functioning adults who¬†don’t quit after the first or fifth try at something, who don’t throw chairs when they’re upset, who ask questions when they’re confused. Goals. But I will miss teaching those angsty teenagers. They have so much emotion – about EVERYTHING. Such strong opinions – about EVERYTHING. Life flattens us sometimes as we age. Which is why we have to embrace it when life beckons us to¬†move on.

I have no doubt that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. In 7th grade, when we had to come up with an experiment for the science fair, I decided to run a research study in various classrooms to prove my hypothesis that teachers call on boys to answer questions more often than they call on girls. I was incredibly proud of my first experiment (and my hypothesis was right, by the way). I don’t think anyone ever told me that I could actually do experiments just like that one as a JOB; in fact, my 7th grade science teacher told me that my experiment wasn’t “real science.” Maybe we should start respecting “social” sciences as still being REAL¬†FUCKING SCIENCE. I think people are starting to make the connection though; afterall, I am entering a master’s program in Neuroscience and Education.

I am so ready for this.

With all the teachers going back to work today, it has become real. I am not going back. I am going on an adventure. First, through nature, and then throughout New York City. And I cannot fucking wait.

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated to our “Camping Across the Country to NYC” campaign. You give me confidence and peace of mind that this is going to work!

  • Krystal Saum $100

  • Anonymous¬†$20

  • Anonymous $50

  • Anonymous $100

  • Heather Shearer-Cross $50

San Diego: A big trip to prepare for an even bigger trip

It’s not like we haven’t been camping before. Just a month ago, we spent 5 nights camping – definitely our longest adventure (read about our week without a house¬†here). But this trip was different. Every minute, we were asking ourselves: what will it be like when we’re doing this for a whole month?!

In 8 days, we will leave Tucson to begin our cross-country road trip to explore every National Park and beautiful place we can squeeze in along the way before settling in NYC. We are starting to get very excited! And pretty freaked out, too.

And while it seemed extravagant to go to San Diego just 2 weeks before the big trip, we¬†learned a lot on this trip that will hopefully make our traveling more doable. We all romanticize road trips, but in actuality, they can be incredibly frustrating and fight-inducing, especially when your “flexible itinerary” leaves you not knowing (or agreeing on) what exactly you should be doing or where you should be going, and eventually the hangry sets in and decision making becomes nearly impossible.

With that in mind, as soon as we got back from San Diego, we started seriously planning out our big trip. Some flexibility is always good, but having an itinerary of¬†destinations and adventures planned out with relative timelines is a relationship-saver. Another relationship saver: gin and grapefruit juice! Since we couldn’t go have a cocktail on the beach, we brought our own cocktails to the campsite.:)

Another realization on the San Diego trip: the¬†biggest challenge on our trip will definitely be that our dog is accompanying us and obviously cannot go a whole lot of places. On top of that, she is not an off-leash dog (as the stubborn, independent dog that she is, we have little confidence that she wouldn’t just run off… which she has done more than once). So it is always a constant battle to keep the off-leash dogs away from her because of course, the other owners don’t seem the slightest bit concerned or apologetic that their dog is running up to a dog they don’t know anything about. Not that our dog is aggressive – but they don’t know that!

While we didn’t get to do any of the things that we normally do in San Diego – like sun bathing casually on the beach, jumping wave after wave as we go further and further out¬†into the ocean until one takes us under, eating fish tacos at our favorite beach restaurant with open air windows overlooking the ocean, or cuddling up¬†in a nice, comfy hotel bed¬†– we had some great discoveries that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

  1. Our campsite in the Cleveland National Forest was $14/night (half price if you have a National Parks pass), had its own water spigot (amazing), and was only 1 hour from the beach. Yes, it’s a drive, but we saved hundreds on hotel costs! Even just a campsite in the city is $45+!
  2. There is an amazing neighborhood park that overlooks Pacific Beach and the city. My pictures do not do this place any kind of justice. It is a busy park, but we easily found our own shaded corner to chill for several hours without too many off-leash dogs wandering over. 
  3. When traveling, always, always, always pack extra food. We really wanted to get a take-out order of a couple of fish tacos from our favorite spot, but discovered the harsh reality that they don’t offer take-out. We were majorly bummed and tried calling a few more places to no avail. Luckily, we had plenty of food in the car to make a pretty decent lunch. We ate: multi-colored carrot sticks (the purple ones have the most nutrients), snow peas, pre-packaged beet salad, and tortilla chips with pre-packaged Kale and quinoa salad as a “dip.” Later in the day, we supplemented with PB&J.
  4. Campsites where you can forage for firewood are the best!
  5. We still need to make a list of camp meals to make on the trip. Since we’re car camping, we’ll be able to bring in fresh vegetables and not have to rely solely on dehydrated foods. In San Diego, we made a big pot of (almost) vegetarian chili which was perfect for the cool evenings (see the recipe below).¬†
  6. The coolest thing – by far – was when we learned that Domino (our English bulldog/American bulldog mix) can swim!! She is 10 years old, and we literally always thought she would be too top heavy to swim. But as we walked into a calm alcove of the ocean with her, she got pretty excited and starting jumping in the water. I think she liked the splash. And then she jumped right into the deep water! My heart jumped and I¬†leaned towards her in case I had to scoop her up and save her, but she immediately started kicking her little, squatty legs – and she swam!¬†Of course she swam right back to shore and ran directly out of the water to shake off. I still don’t know if she was proud as she pranced around on the beach or just terrified that we might make her go back in. We didn’t. It was already perfect. Though I’m pretty sure that we’ll be seeking out more swimming holes on our big trip!


The one thing we DIDN’T learn was what this weird, dark cloud was hanging over the skyline. We kept debating: smoke, smog, or storm?


If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider donating to help us pay for camping, gas, and food as we go¬†“Camping Across the Country to NYC.”¬†Additionally, your donations will ensure that I am able to continue updating this blog as we travel. Even $5 would pay for a coffee or a beer at a place with wi-fi where I could write my heart out. If you can’t donate, then support me by clicking the follow button so you can read all about our travels.

Here’s the recipe we used for our vegetarian chili. You could easily make it vegetarian by switching out the beef broth for vegetable broth. Please share links or ideas of your¬†camping meals/recipes in the comments below. We could use some more ideas!:)

Camp Chili


1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Onions, diced

1 Green Bell Peppers, diced

1 Red Bell Peppers, diced

2 Tbsp Chili Powder

1 Tbsp Cumin

1 tsp Garlic Powder

1 tsp Onion Powder

1 tsp Paprika

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper, or Chili Flakes

1 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

2 cans Kidney Beans

1 can Black Beans

1 can Diced Tomatoes, 28 oz

32 oz Beef Broth

Preparation Steps

1. Heat large pot over medium heat on camp stove or fire.

2. Add olive oil, onion, bell peppers and sauté until softened or about 5 minutes.

3. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic and onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and cook for 1 minute or until onions and peppers are coated in oil and spices.

4. Add beans, diced tomatoes and beef broth and simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes up to 1 hour or until chili has reached the desired consistency.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2 weeks and counting

To celebrate our last 2 weeks in Tucson before the big move and the cross-country, National Parks tour, we decided to practice our camping and road-tripping skills with a trip to San Diego. Our favorite city on the west coast. How could we move to the east coast without one last trip? I want to feel the sand and jump in the water and let the ocean convince me that my fears and anxieties are inconsequential to the immensity of the ocean and the world. 

Remind me what beauty is. 

Remind me what fun is.

Remind me what life is.

And most of all, give me an escape from this 110 degree desert heat! 

So we packed up our camping supplies, loaded up the car, and left Tucson only 20 minutes behind schedule. Past the solar panel fields, past the black and white speckled feeding lots, past the Center of the Universe (seriously, you need to click on the link and read about this place – so quirky!), past the windmills and the boulders that top the mountains. 

We’re doing San Diego on a budget! Check back in the next couple of days to read about our cheap camping spot, favorite beach finds, and random inspirations. 

And if you enjoy reading this blog and about my travels, please consider donating to our “Camping across the country to NYC” fund. Even $5 would help me prioritize this blog and sit my ass down at a coffee shop to write and upload posts. Plus there are cool rewards for donations! Check it out.

Fat Wars, a Supreme Court Justice’s nervous breakdown, Boxing, and Cultural Norms. Podcast Roundup.

Rating: Add this to your Queue

Radiolab Presents More Perfect (mini-series) – The Political Thicket more perfect

This is the best new podcast (well, mini-series) this summer! Interested in civil rights? Curious about the behind the scenes of the Supreme Court? Obviously, I’m an NPR podcast junkie, but they just do such a good job! They tell amazing stories with great production value.

In this episode, they discuss a case most of us have never heard of, but one that apparently was viewed by Earl Warren (Chief Justice ’53-’69) as the “most important” case decided by the court during his tenure. Bigger than the cases that mandated Miranda rights, the right to an attorney, and even school desegregation. The case is Baker vs. Carr – a case nobody ever talks about, except apparently in law school. It asked the court to consider a big question. And caused a Supreme Court Justice to have a nervous breakdown. The case is interesting, and the telling of it in this podcast is enthralling. Do yourself a favor, and subscribe to this podcast.

Rating: Meh

Another Round – May She Forever Reign another round pic

For the first time… umm, ever…. I’m not going to recommend that you listen to this episode of Another Round. This is literally one of my favorite podcasts, but for some reason, they decided to devote most of the time to discussing Blac Chyna’s revenge on the Kardashians. To be fair, I have negative interest in pop culture in general, let alone the Kardashians and who is dating or making babies with who. So this episode totally lost me.

Instead, I recommend you listen to this more recent podcast:

Rating: Yes!

Another Round – The Greatest (with Claressa Shields) another round pic

The first part of this episode is dedicated to Muhammad Ali, who recently passed away. While I appreciated the chance to learn more about this amazing person who was a hero to so many people, I enjoyed the second half of this episode even more. In it, Heaven and Tracy interview Claressa Shields, boxer and Olympic gold medalist. Shields is a 21-year-old badass who followed her father’s footsteps as a boxer even after he told her that he didn’t want her to be a boxer because it wasn’t good for “pretty girls.”

Rating: Meh

This American Life – Choosing Wrong this-american-life-logo1

A somewhat interesting episode, but if you missed the episode below, I highly recommend that you listen to that one instead. This episode has some merits, but you probably don’t need to spend an hour of your life listening to it.*spoiler coming* In summary, sometimes people choose wrong even when they KNOW that it is the wrong decision. For example, apparently in basketball, shooting underhand can make a player way more successful at free-throw shooting. But nearly all basketball players refuse to shoot this way because they don’t want to be made fun of. Even basketball players who have tried this method and succeeded, stopped shooting this way because they didn’t want to look silly. They would rather miss every basket and lose the game then to be perceived as being ridiculous or “shooting like a girl” (p.s. the girls don’t shoot that way either).

The most interesting thing about this episode, though, is that there are a couple of basketball players who DO shoot free-throws underhand (and do well). The argument is that these people have a “low threshold” in that they don’t need other people to tell them it is ok or a good idea to shoot in this way. They know that it works, and so they do it. Most of us, of course, don’t want to stand-out or be abnormal in any way. Even famous basketball payers. The flip side of this is that since these people don’t really care what others think of them, they’re also kind of assholes. So the existential question is: do you want to be a stand-out asshole or a mediocre person with friends?

But now you know the gist of the episode, so you can just skip it and listen to this one which is so much more interesting:

Rating: This. 

This American Life – Tell Me I’m Fat this-american-life-logo1

This is my #1 recommended episode for this week – though, it’s from last month. whomp whomp. You probably missed it, though, with all the summer vacations and family gettogethers. And I’m here to tell you that it is well worth your while to go back and give this a listen. People have very strong opinions about being fat, and typically, we shy away from even saying the word. In fact, in the first act of this episode, they talk about “coming out as fat.” Because most of us only talk about being fat if we are initiating a discussion about losing weight or want others to assure us that “no, you’re not fat!” As a teacher, I literally hear this discussion every day, whether from other teachers or from high schoolers. And it is sooo disheartening. Mostly because people desperately want to lose weight, but hardly ever actually do or even if they do, can’t seem to maintain. Even if you think you are well-educated on “fat” issues, you need to listen to this episode.

The fat wars are real, and are having a devastating impact on real people’s lives. This episode is an important listen for anyone who is a person. It is true that we have an obesity epidemic, but it is also true that we are handling it completely wrong.

Rating: If you have extra time…

Invisibilia – The New Norm invisibiliapodcast_icon_hotpink-01_sq-2359778531d9733109e3674a5cecf5a711aa511f-s300-c85

If you have time, add this one to your queue. This episode definitely has its merits and brings up some interesting questions and ideas, though it didn’t quite meet my high expectations from the first season of this podcast (which if you didn’t listen to the first season – just go ahead and add all of those to your queue).

In this episode, they explore the norms of a culture and of sub-cultures within a culture. Apparently, people in Russia don’t smile. And not just because it’s so cold there. American smiles were (are?) viewed as false and cheap… (and they’re not totally wrong, are they?) In Russian culture, smiling is way too intimate an act to share with strangers. So when McDonald’s opened in Russia, they had an uphill battle to fulfill their motto: “We love to see you smile.”

Similarly, oil rig workers in America don’t cry. But should they? Would it make them safer if they felt comfortable sharing their feelings with each other? Would it make them better employees? Would there be fewer injuries and deaths on the rigs? The second half of the episode explores an unlikely experiment that asked hyper-masculine men to share their deepest feelings with their coworkers. I wish they would have explored the norms (and spectrum) of masculinity and femininity a little more with this, but it was still an interesting story.

So that’s it for this installment. What podcasts are you listening to? I would love some new recommendations and might even review them in the next podcast roundup!