Last year, I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a $3 bean burrito and Modelo Chelada (my drink of summer), relaxing in my Crazy Creek as I watched the desert sky melt into a tranquilizing melange of pinks and purples.
It was the first day of my month spent roaming the southwest, camping out of my car with my dog. Bruce doesn’t like change, prefers a couch to the ground, and really isn’t much of a camper. So, the little hellhound had taken his first opportunity to run away.
He returned to our campsite by the time it became fully dark, about an hour later, absolutely covered in cactus spines.
I made the mistake of inviting him to sleep in the tent with me, which he promptly shredded.
After that, he slept in the car.
Earlier that day, I had locked most of my possessions in a storage unit and set off with no real plan other than to explore northern Arizona, southern Utah, and Colorado. Just me and Bruce without any obligations to anyone (unless you count the Grand Canyon 50k I ran at the end of the month.)
When I shared my plans with people, about 85% asked if I was okay and offered to have me stay with them, not understanding that I was looking forward to this experience.
The other 15% were jealous.
Every day I picked a spot based on a trail I wanted to run, a mountain to climb, a canyon to explore, or a river to wash myself in. I drove to that location, charging all my devices along the way.
I became an expert at setting up my Big Agnes tent in record time. I watched the sun rise and set every day. I spent hours quietly journaling, meditating, and becoming acquainted with the natural inhabitants of the desert.
One time, I spent an entire afternoon doing nothing but watching the sky as storm clouds slowly coalesced in the distance, uniting from various directions and steadily growing heavier before I felt the first raindrops.
Some days were blustery and nights were just gnarly. There was more than one time I sat awake for what felt like hours, leaning into the wall of my tent to keep it from collapsing on me, praying for the wind to stop.
It always did, eventually. Except for one night, when I camped on top of Moki Dugway in Utah, right as a major storm was rolling in. I had no choice but to curl up in the front seat of my car while Bruce glared at me with a “WTF, mom” expression.
We didn’t sleep that night.
Without anywhere to keep him safely contained, Bruce came with me pretty much everywhere. It was interesting for both of us.
I often didn’t have cell reception and would get lost. But when you have no set agenda, getting lost isn’t such a bad thing.
One time I got lost and found myself here:
I spent one day roaming through Snake Gulch outside the Grand Canyon, hunting for petroglyphs and pictographs. As a writer, I felt particularly moved by these story-telling images that remained so well-preserved thousands of years later.
I miss that trip. The freedom and simplicity.
This year, I didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo at all.
I was working.
But my heart ached a little as I remembered.
Now, I stand at my fancy new desk, using electricity that doesn’t come from a 12-volt power inverter, I can’t help but wonder…
What would the coyotes think of me now?