Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vagabonding across the 39th Parallel: Setting out on the Road

The ultimate authority (Wikipedia, of course) defines a vagabond as "...an itinerant person. The word is derived from the Latin adjective vagabundus, “inclined to wander”, from the verb vagor, “wander”..." Vagrant and vagrancy are obvious derivatives with negative connotations, but to be an itinerant wanderer sounds appealing to me.

As any reader of this blog would know, I travel a lot. But, seeing as how most of my traveling involves taking students along, I always follow a carefully planned and conducted itinerary. That makes me pretty much the opposite of a vagabond. I've always longed to explore off our route on these trips, but there are a lot of constraints when one is responsible for a large group of people. So, with an open schedule for a few weeks, I decided to try a bit of vagabonding.

Not entirely, of course. We still had to have someone watch the animals, and we occasionally let people know where we were at. We stayed in an occasional hotel when the weather got really bad. We weren't hitch-hiking (can you picture me and Mrs. Geotripper on the side of the road with our giant tent and our thumbs out?)! But we set out on the road with a few vagabonding goals:

...we allowed an ultimate goal of reaching Rocky Mountain National Park, but we would plan our route no more than a day or two in advance...

...we would try to visit only places we had never been before, or hadn't been since childhood...

...if we did visit familiar sites, we would search out something new about the place...

...we would come home when the time was right (not too road-weary, and not too homesick)...

...and we promised ourselves to stop any time either of us wanted to snap a picture...
It's a miracle that we got anywhere, given that last item. This wasn't a geology trip, but since geology is everywhere you go, this story is geological, too. When we returned home, I looked at a map and realized that we spent almost all our two weeks pretty close to the 39th parallel, thus the title of this coming blog series. We had a wonderful time; please feel free to join us as we journey across the American West!

If the pictures look a bit familiar, you will realize that I sent several blog posts from the road. The top picture is Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the second picture is a herd of wild horses in western Nevada.