Christmas Day 2005

Christmas may seem a rather odd day to make a journal entry but holidays are always quiet for us and it seems a good way to use the down time (last week was busy — see Paremus). After four months on the road, we’re back in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kathy was scheduled for a round of visitors with her doctors last week and routine follow up tests over the next two weeks. Quite comprehensive with a PET scan ordered by the chemotherapy oncologist while her surgeon prefers an MRI and a mammogram. She is feeling good and we anticipate positive outcomes from the tests.

We decided to put down stakes for several months both because I need to focus on raising venture capital for Paremus and RV travel in the West is somewhat limited in the winter unless you like Palm Springs, Phoenix or Tucson. Our opinion ranged from ‘yuck’ with respect to Palm Springs — see comments below — to ‘not-our-cup-of-tea’ for much of Arizona. If we leaned a bit more to the ‘roughing it’ style of trailer life (limited hookups, no WiFi, no cell service), we probably could have found something interesting in southern Arizona or New Mexico. However, we still like being connected.

We have parked the Airstream and taken a short-term apartment in San Rafael for a few weeks. We plan to rent a house for the next 4-5 months on the Peninsula while I chase venture capitalists and go back to work full-time with Paremus. After that, our plans a really depend on the outcome of my fund-raising efforts. We could end up in London as I mentioned in an early journal entry if the lead VCs are UK-based but it’s too soon to declare definitively where we will be mid-year. That said, we do plan to end up in Santa Fe at some time, maybe as early as May where Kathy will live while I long-distance commute to Paremus’ corporate offices. All very much TBD.

What have we learned on our four-month, 15,000-mile, 11-state odyssey?

  • We really can live small and simple. While it’s nice to spread out in a two-bedroom apartment, it seems absolutely spacious after living comfortably in a 25′ travel trailer and a large house would seem extravagant. When it’s time to build our house, we will definitely rely on ‘small-is-beautiful’ design principles.
  • We are definitely not ‘RV people’. The act, even some of the rituals, of traveling with your home behind you is enjoyable and offer opportunities to do things and visit places you simply can’t do otherwise. Ultimately you need to stop to hook up to civilized comforts such as water, electricity and waste disposal. With rare exceptions, such as remote state parks like Oliver Lee in New Mexico or Balmorhea in Texas, most RV parks are either depressing or odd. Even the luxury RV park in Palm Springs with the golf course didn’t quite feel right. ‘Real RVers’ love them and park their rigs in these places for months on end. For us, RV parks are necessary evils. A place to stop, empty the tanks, do the laundry and replenish the larder before we move on. Will we travel with our Airstream again? Absolutely. Difficult to say when but we do plan to explore the rest of the US and Canada someday and re-visit many of the places we enjoyed in the West.
  • As much as we have enjoyed living in San Francisco for the last 15 years and the Bay Area for over 21 years, it’s time to move on. It may be the gray, winter weather we are currently experiencing, perhaps the abysmal traffic or simply boredom with having lived in the same place for so long. I would guess it’s all of the above with the added desire for a bit of adventure. Moving to Santa Fe, London or even New York City (Paremus is focused on financial services) may be considered mundane by many but we find the thought of a new location rather exciting. Of course, as often happens with the best-laid plans, they may go awry and we’ll find ourselves settling down again in the Bay Area.

A few final closing notes about some interesting (good and bad) places we visited:

  • Bisbee, AZ: An odd little town next to a humongous open out mine that was closed 30 years ago. Charming in some respects but also depressing. Hasn’t made the real breakthrough as a high-end tourist stop. Hard to do so with a butt-ugly hole in the ground and huge piles of mining tailings. We did stay at a funky ‘trailer park’, the Shady Dell, with a collection of old aluminum trailers used as motel rooms. Not on the list but a fun place to visit.
  • Santa Fe, NM: Of all the places we visited, this seemed closest to a place we could seriously call home. Big skies, lots of sunshine, relaxed, manageable traffic, reasonable real estate prices. A tourist town, of course, but not obnoxiously so and very few ‘day-trippers’ that you find in Carmel. Cold in the winter. We need to determine if we are confirmed California ‘weather wimps’ or we can adjust to winter evenings with temperatures in the low double digits.
  • Taos, NM: Also an interesting little town. ‘Crunchier’ than Santa Fe and more remote. We like areas where piƱon and juniper are the dominant vegetation. It’s on the list.
  • Marfa, TX: Charming little town in West Texas routinely covered by the NY Times. Quiet when we stopped for coffee. Surrounded by “miles and miles of Texas” as the Bob Wills song goes. Too remote to live in Marfa permanently since the nearest town is El Paso which has no obvious redeeming characteristics.
  • Palm Springs, CA: This whole area is on another planet. Completely lacking any character. Why do old people voluntarily barricade themselves behind gated walls in mind-numbingly boring, look-alike communities? I guess it’s the golf …
  • Southwest, USA: Absolutely grand, breathtaking vistas and stunning landscape diminished by the relentless encroachment of suburban sprawl everywhere. I suppose it’s a basic American right to be able to buy cheap, Chinese-made products in thoroughly unattractive stores but the ‘soft’ cost is high. Not only is there the well-understood economic displacement but the visual pollution is disheartening when the first thing you see approaching a small town is the soulless Wal-Mart box. Globalization. It’s hard to rant and rave against it when a large part of your working life has been marketing and selling products to ‘global’ enterprises but the downside becomes very real when you see the impacts firsthand. Off soapbox.