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
priorities

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.

catching up

I’m so sorry it’s so long! But it has been a wildly busy time. First of all, residency: I returned to my recent MFA alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan College, to serve as residency assistant for this summer.

I worked July 4-14, and every day was jam-packed. It was glorious being able to continue to be a part of this program I have so loved. (There was a little excitement with a missing college fleet car that I could have done without, but that is life.) And it was very nice to be able to attend every session I wanted to, and none I didn’t. I got to sit on a book reviews panel the last day of residency, and I really enjoyed being able to share some of what I love about doing this work. Highlights included Belle Boggs‘s reading, Cameron Barnett’s entire visit, and the company of returning faculty I love like Mesha Maren, Matt O’Wain (review of Meander Belt and interview forthcoming), and Jon Corcoran. And of course, hanging out with my buddy Abby. Hops really enjoyed having her as suitemate in the dorms.

Also accomplished this week: my buddy Liz picked up my Honda in Texas, and visited the brewery where I used to work, and picked up beer & whiskey for me (thanks Margaret for storing the Honda, and Aaron for the beer & whiskey), and she’ll be driving up here in a few weeks to help me begin my new life! I signed a ten-month lease on a little house, and got the first of my utilities lined up! I made a new friend (courtesy of Abby) who is a mountain biker! I’m pretty excited about starting this next chapter. But also loving being in the van; so this is bittersweet.

waking up to this again was lovely.

vanlife confessions

Confession: I have been in some hotels recently.

It’s been triple digits some, but even in the 90s and even sometimes in the upper 80s, driving the van is unbearable. Foxy has no AC, and if it’s hot enough outside (and with the big, hot engine), the fan just blows hot air. Hops pants and goes glassy-eyed, and I start to panic. We’re miserable. The nights tend to be survivable, but the daytimes just aren’t, especially if we have to drive. I am feeling some guilt and shame about buckling and paying for hotel rooms. But you know what? There are no rules for this lifestyle except the ones I set myself. And, funny thing, back when I first conceived of this trip I thought I might spend as much as one night a week in a hotel room or an Airbnb. I haven’t done anything like that. (I’ve also paid for more camping than I originally expected to.) I’m not on a mission of purity here; I’m trying to live my own best life and do what makes sense to me. And this last week, it has made sense to be in some hotel rooms. I still feel some guilt and shame about this, but I’m trying not to. I don’t even know where this voice in my head comes from. If you’re following this blog because you’re looking for a vanlife purist who never goes indoors, it’s time for you to move along.

some days this is what “on the road” looks like

Now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest… it has been delightful to wallow in the air conditioning, and having power and (sometimes) wifi is pretty dreamy, too. I’m calling it a vacation from this life which feels awfully like a vacation. And we are getting ready to move into a dorm, because this week – actually, by the time you read this it will have already started – I’ll be at the summer residency for West Virginia Wesleyan College’s low-residency MFA program in Buckhannon, WV. This is the program I graduated from in January; now I’m back serving as residency assistant, which comes with free room and board and allows me to attend all the morning seminars. I’m looking forward to doing some laundry. It’s funny how the dorm suddenly looks like a luxury! I remember being at the winter residency, back at the beginning of vanlife, when I graduated: folks were doing their usual grumbling about the dorm situation, which is admittedly roughing it, for a bunch of adults with settled lives in houses and apartments and such. I remember thinking, come summer, this is going to look sooooo good… and so it does. So, although we are very much living out of a van, we’re taking a little hiatus from sleeping in it. And that’s okay. Hear me? Okay.

While I’m at residency I expect to be very busy, and the travel-related content I try to share on this blog will be limited. I may take a week or more off from posting here; don’t worry.

And after res, I’ll only have two weeks or so before I start a lease on a place to live in Buckhannon, where I’ll start teaching in August. More to come on that major life change… in late July, then, I’ll be wandering around West Virginia, looking for the coolest temperatures (elevation! lakes!) and ruminating on what these seven months and counting on the road have meant. We are in the twilight days, of this trip at least. For those of you who have been following along, do you have any questions for me about how vanlife works or what I’ve seen along the way? You can leave a comment here, or use this contact form for privacy if you prefer.

Elkins & Buckhannon, WV

I am feeling very much at home in West Virginia – and also feeling how far I have to come before I can claim a home here, too, because I respect people’s earning of their homelands. But I have high hopes for this place. I love the people whom I know here.

I visited with my friends Doug and Melissa at their home. Hops got to know their Italian greyhound, Geno – Hops’s curmudgeonliness in full effect, but they did soften up at the very end there.

not quite touching though (photo courtesy of Doug)

It is such a treat to be with Doug, always. He was one of my earliest, best friends in this state, and I’m so excited that we’ll soon be neighbors (more or less). He’s also my official teaching mentor for the coming year. I’m a lucky woman, again.

One of my nights in town, I attended a fundraising event for the Nikki Giovanni Scholarship at the Hindman Settlement School. We enjoyed readings by Doug Van Gundy, Ann Pancake, Crystal Good, Glenn Taylor, Bill King, and Jowhor Ile, and music by the duo Born Old (which is my buddy Doug again with his friend Paul). I also got to see Vince Trimboli, whose new book The Book of Rabbits is fresh out, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Finally, on my way out of town, I stopped to look at a home I hope to rent, very near the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College where I’ll be teaching. Fingers crossed!

Somehow I did all of this with no pictures for you. Sorry! More to come as I head north to Pittsburgh. Pictures, promise.

an announcement

And now time for the big news! I got word recently that I am the recipient of one of two Irene McKinney Fellowships for the 2019-2020 school year. I will begin teaching writing composition classes this fall (with the possible addition of a literature section in the spring) as part of a nine-month teaching appointment at my MFA alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan College.

there will be winter!

Because I was already slated to serve as residency advisor there in July (within the low-residency MFA program I’ve recently graduated from), my van travels will be pausing in July to get moved in and ready for this next adventure. I say pausing, because the fellowship lasts just nine months, and I imagine I’ll be restarting again in May of 2020 when my West Virginia sojourn adjourns. Things could always change.

I am already, in April, mourning the end of the traveling life; but teaching will be a great challenge and adventure that I am looking forward to. And I guess it gives me some peace to know the shape of things. I can now see my next few months forming: I know there are a few places I need to see before July, so my itinerary starts to round out in my head. And I’m already thinking about what I may have to offer my students in August. It’s an exciting world.

For now, nothing much changes in the day-to-day, except that I have textbook selection to do! I’ll still be posting pictures of breweries, trails and vistas, reading books and visiting friends. For now: onward down the road.

flashback to Padre Island, last December

catching up with my time away from Foxy

I have neglected this site as I have neglected my van and my dog.

On Christmas morning, I was with three generations of old family friends; by Christmas night, I was with my friend Abby’s family, none of whom had met me before but who welcomed me nonetheless. Meanwhile a dear family of friends watched over Hops and Foxy for me. I feel lucky.

I left Foxy and Hops in the Texas Hill Country. I traveled to Houston, to fly to Atlanta, to join Abby there. We drove up into West Virginia together, to West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, where we are both in the MFA program. I graduated; she has a little time left still. We spent 10 days or so there, then backtracked (with a stop at a state park a little out of the way), through Charleston, WV, to Atlanta, on for me to Houston and back to the Texas Hill Country to rejoin dog and van. Whew.

Here are a few photos to tide us all over til I’m back in the van.

Not pictured: at Abby’s we saw three coyotes trotting down the dark road behind her house; when we got back, we saw a group of four or five eastern bluebirds (my first!) AND a blue jay, who kindly appeared to show us the contrast. On our trip home, we stopped at the lovely Taylor Books in Charleston, where we squealed over the books of our friends like Mesha Maren, Jessie van Eerden, Katie Fallon and Doug Van Gundy. I swore I would buy no books and then bought two books.

I’ll be back with regularly scheduled programming eventually, I promise. In the meantime, we follow the twisting road. Thanks for your patience.