For the next few days, I find myself alone in this van like I have so many times before.
This morning I will back seamlessly into a grocery store parking lot under the careful gaze of men. “Impressive park job,” they’ll say. “Where’d you learn how to drive that big old thing,” they’ll say.
Inside, I’ll scan the aisles for cans of propane for my stove and meals to prepare for one.
Across the street, I’ll haul full, sloshing red gas cans precariously up the ladder and tie them to the roof rack for the long journey ahead.
“No, I don’t need help, but thank you for asking,” I’ll say.
I’ll lift the van’s hood and check the engine oil and then I’ll take off down the highway at the helm of that unpredictable old bus.
Hours later, at the mouth of the dirt road, with cell phone service a distant memory and the dogs pacing back and forth, I’ll jump out to switch on my manual locking hubs and check to make sure I have my off-road jack.
Then I’ll roll the windows good and down and send Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” blasting through the speakers.
And beneath those 33 inch tires, the deep ruts and jagged rocks will read like every comment from a stranger or remark from a family member or message from a fellow traveler….“Aren’t you scared?” “What if something bad happens?” “What if you can’t figure it out?” “What if you breakdown?” “What if someone sees that you’re alone?”
What ifs, what ifs, what ifs…all tumbling and tossed about in torrents of dust as I steer that big orange van south. Always south.
Happy International Women’s Day ✊️ from @briannamadia and @vanlifers