moving in and moving on.

Some 21 months ago I moved out of my little rental house in central Texas. I gave up a bunch of my stuff, put a bunch more in storage, and moved into a van named Foxy. I spent 8 months and change traveling the country in Foxy with my little dog Hops, and then nearly a year ago I moved into a little rental house in Buckhannon, West Virginia, where I tried a new thing: teaching college English. This month I trekked back to Texas to clear out my storage unit. I’ve moved all my things into the house here in Buckhannon. I sold the van – Foxy has a new owner and while she’s aging, I hope they’ll get a few more adventures in before she’s done. Hops is aging, too. I’ve been awarded a second year’s teaching fellowship. I’ve fallen in love with my new home – I’ve made great friends, gotten involved in a great community of mountain bikers and trail builders and advocates, and I’m working to invest myself in this place. I’ve taken legal residency in West Virginia after 11 months of living here uncommitted. I want to make this work.

The symbolic and emotional significance of legal residency, selling Foxy, and moving my stuff out of storage is enormous. It feels a bit precious to put that out there; it’s an intimacy to share, and it all feels insignificant in the face of a global pandemic and the rightful and righteous unrest over the United States’ racial inequities. But it’s what I’m experiencing right now, and I wanted to say so.

Thank you for following me in and out of houses and vans and geographic loyalties over nearly the last two years. This will be my last post here, I think, although I plan to keep the site active, at least for the foreseeable; it’s a valuable reference point for me. Thanks for letting me share.

vanlife, chapter 1: by the numbers, and other notes

  • 8 months
  • 4 oil changes
  • 1 hit-and-run
  • 19 national parks, seashores, and forests
  • 30 state parks and forests
  • 55 bodies of water where Ritchey’s ashes swim
  • 21 households that took me in
  • 74 books read
  • 40-some mountain bike rides on 20-some trails
  • 75-ish hikes
  • 54 breweries and 1 distillery
  • 22 states
  • 0 speeding tickets
  • 0 flat tires
  • 1 (very minor) theft
  • 2 stoves
  • 1 time overrun by no-see-ums
  • 6 civil rights museums, monuments, memorials
  • 70 birds identified (not counting those in captivity)
  • 21 other wildlife identified (not counting those in captivity)
  • 14 turtles helped across the road
  • 7 artists honored by visits to homes and other landmarks
  • 15,000 miles (approximate, and with deep regret that I didn’t mark down the precise odometer reading when I headed out).

  • favorite trails: Oak Mountain in central Alabama; Blankets Creek just north of Atlanta, Georgia; Dupont State Park in North Carolina; Lebanon Hill in southern Minnesota; Palo Duro in northwest Texas, Big Bend in southwest Texas, and my new home trail in Upshur County, West Virginia.
  • favorite bookstores: Malaprops in Asheville, NC and Content in Northfield, MN.
  • favorite friends: never. 🙂 I love you all.

lessons learned:

  • this life is easier, and much more joyful, than I’d expected.
  • I like being alone just fine. also, I like to catch up with those I love.
  • Hops likes meeting new people.
  • I need way less of everything than I thought I did.
  • whew, it’s hot out here, y’all.

Before I get too misty-eyed, let me wrap up this wrap-up post. In nine months or so, the plan is start chapter 2. Thank you so much to all of you who have kept up along the way. If you got a postcard from me on the road, would you consider sending me one now that I have an address? PM me for that info. Lots of love.

Foxy in her new WV home-for-now

more updates

I wrote a post over at that other blog on how my teaching is going. Just a few days in, but I wanted to share. Hops and I are feeling fairly well settled in our little house; I have made some mountain biking buddies and found a gym and a pool. I like it here in Buckhannon, a sweet little town with everything I need for the next nine months. After that, I’m still psyched to hit the road again.

I still owe you a wrap-up post with all the juicy stats collected in my eight months on the blue highways in Foxy. It’s coming one of these days… and then we’ll really settle into silence until the next adventure.

Take care, friends.

still settling in; a second visitor

Well, I lied when I said there would be just one more post. There will be a couple, it seems.

My dad came to visit immediately upon Liz’s departure, and we have continued the projects that Liz started/helped conceive. We put my mattress up on a platform of plywood and milk crates. We repaired the screen door. We’ve been documenting a few maintenance requests. And walking the neighborhood, and exploring the town (a local Italian place turned out excellent! craft beer here is more expensive than I’ve seen it, ever!), and exploring a little further away as well. We spent a day in the mountains and today we’ll spend another. I’ve had a few more bike rides with new friends! It’s all very exciting.

We also celebrated Hops’s 11th birthday at a brewery after a good day of hikes – he napped well.

I am still touristing, a little, in my new town. As soon as Pops flies out, though, it’s back to work: I’ll have less than a week til orientation starts at the new job, and my syllabi need work. Busy busy…

moving in

The move began with a desk in the van, on loan from my buddy Doug for the duration of the time I’ll be living here in Buckhannon, WV.

Foxy as moving van

The next few days were a delightful whirlwind. My buddy Liz came to visit and help out. We moved in a bunch of free/gifted furniture, she helped me get set up; we enjoyed some local food & drink, and walked around the neighborhood.

I didn’t take many pictures, and none (sorry to say) with Liz.

It was a delight to have her here, and it was the end of an era. The next weeks involve a visit from my dad that I’m really looking forward to, and prep for the beginning of the semester and the start of my new teaching gig. Foxy has been emptied out, down to her frame and cabinetry. I’ve brought the mattress in to sleep on it indoors, which will make it a little harder to use her for weekend trips – I’d need help to reload the mattress, and back and forth. Well, we’ll see. There is a lot to be seen about my new life.

The end of the Foxy travels era also means the end of this as an active blog. I expect I’ll be wildly busy with the new job, and integrating into a new community. I figure I’ll post once more here, after several weeks, to let you know how the settling is going; but the next post is likely to be the last, at least for a while. The plan as of now is to hit the road again next May, when my nine-month contract with the college ends. At that point, I expect, I’ll restart this blog when I restart the travels. But the future is never known for sure, is it.

Thanks for being with me during these weird and wonderful months. Here’s a picture of Hops at our little house. Cheers and hugs, friends.

for a friend

Jeff was my employer first, starting in 2004 or 2005. I worked for him for several years and several different times, at the bike shop that changed my life in various ways and for the better. I learned a lot from him, and I benefitted from his generosity, for example after I had a serious bike wreck in 2007.

But we were better friends when we didn’t work together. And it was a joy to get to know his wife, Ruth, and their daughter, Liz, two amazing, funny, smart, badass strong women. He was great fun, and hilarious, and irreverent in all the best ways. He liked meat: there was a lot of grilling and smoking at the bike shop and lots of Sparkle burgers and Guy’s Meat Market. He was a drinking buddy and occasionally even a riding buddy. He never once missed my birthday. I remember an amazing birthday card he and Ruth gave me one year that had a chihuahua on it, and it played the Mexican hat dance. That card always brings a smile to my face. It’s in a box in my storage unit in central Texas now.

We had good times. I remember some silliness (that shouldn’t be described too closely) at my parents’ ranch property out west of town on a bike race weekend. Lots of silliness at the bike shop (and just as much angst) (and lots of beer). When he came out to visit his brother in Washington state, when Chris and I lived there, it was such a joy to see him. He was an essentially fun-loving, good-hearted man.

These pictures are screen shots from videos taken the last night at Bikesport, the night of the “tell it like it is” t-shirts, after the party had mostly shut down – I think it was just Chris and I and Jeff and Ruth left, and Chris and Jeff were negotiating over some Sram cables and housing. Jeff was overjoyed to be heading into retirement.

I’m sad he didn’t get as many retired years as he deserved. I’m devastated at the loss I feel now, and for Ruth and Liz, whose feelings I can scarcely imagine. But I’m so very glad I got to know Jeff. He was a good man and a good friend. Love you, buddy.

Jeff’s memorial service is today in Houston, so I am missing it, but don’t think for a second I’m not there in spirit.