Bend, OR

At home on the road

My family does not have a history of staying put so something as simple as a kiss on top of the head, the smell of my grandmother’s perfume, or a candy bar materializing in my coat pocket feels more like arriving home than any physical address ever could.

A trip to the doughnut shop is standard procedure every time I visit my grandparents. Even as an ornery teenager I never minded my grandfather’s 5AM wake up call, not even the time he woke me up with a gong. In between slow sips of coffee and his gentle nudging to go for a third bear claw, he made sure I knew just how much he loved me, how proud he was of how I was turning out.

Continuing south and on toward another migratory phase of life, these simple traditions keep the comforts of home close to my heart no matter where we land.

Dust to Dust

Christening the new bar with plenty of beers and a few tall tales

There is no better way to determine your material value than packing your life into boxes and moving them. Some thing I so desperately wanted months ago hardly holds value today. Even the coveted electronics we use daily will be obsolete dumpster food in a few short years. In the last few years we’ve streamlined this process, to the point where if these dozen boxes burnt up in a fire, well, that might be for the best.

In the barn next door,  the belt sander is still hot and the dust is just beginning to settle. The men of Wine Glass Ranch are putting the finishing touches on a handcrafted beetle kill wood bar.  The bar is the most recent addition to our guided hunting operation. I walked in just as the foot rest, piping from an old windmill well, was being added.

In one hundred years we, and our dozen boxes, will be dust. The hands and the tools of it’s creation long forgotten, but this bar will remain. The trusty Wine Glass brand applied to the bartop will instill this piece with with bragging rights for decades to come. It has history, meaning, most importantly a good story. While the boys clink bottles, I can’t help thinking our own story is shaping up pretty well so far.  And if that’s all we leave behind one day, we’ll have done at least one thing right. Cheers.

The Best of the West

We’ve been stationary for six months, nostalgic for the road. Over 25 days we’ll hit 2 countries  10 states, and 4000 miles to hob nob around our old haunts and catch some surf before the snow. San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Baja California, Arches, and Zion are  a few of the highlights. Check out our route below and feel free to comment, we love suggestions.

Quiet & Easy

The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away.

– Matthew B. Crawford Author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

A highly recommended read from us here at Ranch Notes.

It’s a Hot One

Helping the calves out of the water tank

At 4Pm the temperature levels off at 103 degrees. As we bump along the pasture, the brittle grass crunches beneath the tires of Logan’s Ford. We speak of the dangers accompanying this heat wave as we ride out to the herd. Drought is not an uncommon occurrence here in semi-arid West Nebraska. This year we are at less than half the normal rainfall.

As Logan wrangles a few unwilling calves from the cool waters of the stock tanks I consider our circumstances.  While we are prepared for whatever nature might throw at us, insurance policies and drought planning don’t make wasted cornfields and brown prairie grass any easier to swallow.

The work and responsibility increase but most farmers and ranchers are just hoping to break even for the year.  A $0 year, that is the goal.

Between Now and Then

Our next locale

As we roll into the next temporary phase of our life, we’re fighting an urge.  Five months in Central America, ten months in South America, six months on the ranch, four months in Aspen, seven months on the AT… That’s a lot of rambling.

Our desire for permanence has grown.  But between now and then, we we’ve got to strike while the iron is hot.  Soon we’ll trade the plains for the mountains and hang our hat in Aspen Colorado, working a season in the snow.  Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Consider the End

New life at Wine Glass

On the outskirts of the herd we came upon a cow fretfully pacing the perimeter of her motionless calf. Born only days ago, the life of this helpless creature was a short one. The mother’s wide, panicked eyes stay with me even weeks later, her growing anxiety piercing the otherwise silent  prairie.

As humans we tend to sweep our mortality into the dusty, unused corners of our minds, avoiding the confrontation, never letting it get above a whisper.  Here on the ranch, we are reminded of our origins, where the thread between life and death twists and frays. Despite our absurd denials, the truth is, we are all animals, woven together in the beauty of an inescapable pattern.

What’s next?

Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail

2184 miles through 14 states from Georgia to Maine

Over 7 Months beginning April 2013 (that’s 10-15 miles per day)

We will walk approximately 5 million steps in the direction of our goal

10% of those who attempt to complete the trail actually accomplish it

We plan to sign the book at the summit of Mount Katahdin and join the short list of successful AT thru-hikers


Lonely in the Middle

Lost in the wide open nothing

Times are hard for dreamers.

A few months ago we looked to the future and saw a season working in Antarctica followed immediately by more distance from the homeland. We interviewed and discovered we had merely gained status as alternates. Thoughts of touching down on ice this November melted quickly away.

We find ourselves in a moment of disillusion. When it comes to explaining ourselves and our dreams, the picture is bleary and out of focus. We’re on the receiving end of a lot of blank stares and unrestrained indifference. We’re itching for inspiration and understanding.

There’s been talk of returning to familiar places but ultimately we left them where they should be and our only option is to move forward elsewhere. Our dreams remain strong but to thrive on them is the current challenge.

Here We Are

Sandhills sunset

This is the magic hour in Western Nebraska. A warm haze blankets the land.  The late sun caresses every surface causing the countryside to blush a gentle amber glow.

Just a few months ago we lived every minute of the day side by side.  Now our time is made up of stolen moments like these.  We finish a ten hour day, finally together soaking in the last few seconds of July. The world is smaller from the tailgate of this Ford flatbed. Reminiscing on the PanAm cannot be avoided. Contemplating the present is as transitory as the way we manufactured it. When it comes to dissecting tomorrow the lingering question mark feels both ominous and liberating.