It’s 9AM and today is already off to a roaring start. I’m writing, for one thing, so that’s good.
I’m in Cleveland, which has, so far, been a bit of a test of my ability to stay positive about wherever I am. I prefer rural areas, “the country,” which is something I’ve known about myself, but living in an RV amplifies the feeling. Navigating around citiess can be challenging and I’ve heard that Cleveland won’t be super-friendly about my boondocking ways. I’m here to see my friend Samar, who actually lives in New York City, but spends his weekdays here as a consultant for McKinsey.
I’m about thirty minutes south of downtown Cleveland (which isn’t “down” at all, it’s all the way north; funny how we use “downtown” to just mean “the sky-scrapery part”) in a place called Cuyahoga Valley National Park which is - how should I say this? - a particularly modest national park. A “scenic byway” (a highway) runs right up the middle and the park itself is actually little more than a few trails and picnic areas off of this “scenic byway.” Looking at the map, I’d be surprised to learn that there’s any part of this place where you can’t hear traffic and overnight camping is explicitly forbidden everywhere, although of course that hasn’t stopped me from doing my thing.
I picked up a trail map from a box at the park headquarters and across the top of the map is a quote from James Snowden Jackson (who even is that?): “I have admired the rugged fiords of Norway and the bald peaks of Yosemite, but I gain strength each day at home from the beauty of our own Cuyahoga Valley.” That really cracks me up. I feel like it fits with the overall ethos of the Midwest in general: there might be other, nicer places, and they’re worth seeing, but this place is ours and that’s what makes it special. A nearby plaque says, “Not long, nor wide, nor deep, the Cuyahoga River has a history that makes it important beyond its size.” I love the way they embrace mediocrity around here. It’s refreshing.
Anyway, I woke up as I always do, with the sun, around six o’clock, and since I was parked (semi-hidden) on a trailhead, I skipped my usual first-thing-in-the-morning seated meditation and set off into the woods. As it sometimes happens, my walk turned into a jog, which turned into a full-blown, hour-long run. I splashed across a few small creeks and once my feet were sufficiently muddy, I stopped caring about dodging the puddles.
In this part of the country at this time of year, one must make friends with wet. Mud follows you. I have a small, shoebox-size external storage compartment on the outside of the RV where I stash my trail runners, but everything inside always ends up wet anyway. It kinda-sorta helps keep the inside clean and homey, if not warm and dry. After the run I stretched barefoot in a fast-moving and extremely cold creek, but ultimately couldn’t muster up the energy for a full bathe. It’s been 10 days without a proper shower, so I need one pronto. Instead, I just splashed my face a bit and dunked the top of my head below the surface.
Since I was moving so much I didn’t realize just how chilly it was, but by the time I got back to Sputnik my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t flick the lighter to get the much-needed coffee going. So, to warm up, I wrapped myself in blankets and did nothing for a little while.
Breakfast was coffee, an egg scrambled into last night’s leftover couscous, two pears, more coffee, and late-morning gruel in my crusty mug. The crusty mug is the mug I use for oatmeal every morning. It’s called the crusty mug because I never clean it. Since I pour hot water and oats into it every morning, it basically cleans itself. I’ve been getting aggressive about garnishes and today was no exception. I added honey, granola, shredded coconut, half a banana (sliced thin so it disappears), walnuts, raisins, and a heaping scoop of almond butter. More delicious than anything that can be bought anywhere, I’m certain of it.
At this point, the sun is up. A school bus full of children just pulled into the lot, so I’m going to run to the bathroom before I have to wait in line. As this journey continues, I’m going to keep writing. I hope you find it interesting. I feel like I’ve been tapping into cosmic-levels of superhuman conciousness in these last few weeks, but I’m finding it extremely hard to write about. Hopefully the more mundane aspects of my life aren’t super boring, because that’s what seems to be coming out right now. Regardless, I’ll keep writing in hopes that it might lead to something bigger. It always does.