Friends & Family Tour: Full Steam Ahead

PRECIOUS RAMOTSWE, creator and owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, friend of those who needed help with the problems in their lives, and wife of that great garagiste Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, felt that there were, broadly speaking, two sorts of days. There were days on which nothing of any consequence took place—these were in a clear majority—and then there were those on which rather too much happened. On those uneventful days you might well wish that a bit more would happen; on days when too much occurred, you longed for life to become a bit quieter.

McCall Smith, in his The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book #15, The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe

I am very much in agreement with Mma Ramotswe here. We have days by ourselves at campsites where all I hear is the voice in my own head, all danged day long. Texting for a few minutes with a friend far away is the highlight, because it gives me something to think about besides myself, and something to talk about with Tracy. How I miss talking about things!

And here we are, on the Spring Friends and Family Tour, seeing so many people that I actually canceled a plan to hear my friend John play in a band at a brewery late today because I needed a little quiet time by the fire at the campground. Nuts, right?

That was a good move, though, because I’m making the most of visiting and trying not to burn out. I am, after all, a retired nomadic recluse now. Ha!


I promised I wouldn’t turn this blog into an autobiography with nothing but reunion pictures, but look at my beloved uncle and aunt. You can see right away why we children called him Uncle Huggs, and Esther became Aunt Nester (Huggs an Nester, always the pair.)

It’s warm and wonderful (and a little strange) to be seeing people I love for the first time in a year, not knowing when I’ll see them again. These guys made the visit nothing but warm and wonderful though. We got caught up on family members and told the same stories again, and felt the “foreverness” that only family can provide.

There’s also something extremely comforting about hugging another person who feels built like you because they are: they share your genes. I’m not naturally a hugging person, but man have I missed hugging these two. (Okay, Buggs is my mother’s brother and Esther is not technically a blood relative, but she’s small, and she counts.)

While we shared a meal around the table—everyone keeps talking about ”the first time” we’re doing things like eating together inside—I eavesdropped on Finn’s undergrad senior physics thesis defense via Zoom. He’s all done!


Then there’s this silly young lady, who looks like she did when we were best friends at age 15. Karen lives in Miami and visited us near Naples this past winter and then again in the Everglades, which was a double treat. As we were pulling into Richmond, I texted her to see if her local brother might be up for a visit (she has only one brother; there is no far-away brother), and she responded, “I’m in Richmond!” Triple treat!

After a short hike with her and her family, we were hosted by her brother and his wife in their backyard for take-out lunch, and life felt a little Twilight-Zonish, as if I were merely on a visit home from college years ago and not on a visit from my trailer in the woods at the tail-end of a worldwide pandemic.

We told the same story yet again (yes, I did run into the crowd with Richard’s young friend at a Grateful Dead show and leave Richard and Karen behind when we’d been entrusted with this young friend and were supposed to stay together, but I note that that young friend survived the concert and is still Richard’s friend, even). All this story-telling seems to be part of recovering from the pandemic and making connections again.

The photo up top is a map of the many, many, many trails here at Pocahontas State Park. Each day I’ve been getting in a hike by myself to work off some of the lunches and beers we’ve been sharing on this tour, and each day I’ve gotten lost despite the many maps like this on the trails, in my pocket, and on my phone. See, there are not just hiking trails here, but serious biking trails where you step aside to let someone wearing full mountain-bike gear zoom by you, plus equestrian trails. So many trails that my head spins as soon as I get a couple of miles in.

These daily walks actually keep me grounded when I’m out on the Friends and Family Tour though, reminding me—as I visit people in their houses and think about what it was like to live near them (and what it was like to have instant hot running water)—that my home is now where the trailer is, where Tracy and Banjo are. Wherever they are. And I like that.