An Interior Check, Where the Exterior Is Commanding

I do this about once a year: realize I’ve written a lot about where we are and what we’re doing but nothing about how we’re doing.

If you’re curious about previous years’ internal check-ins, here’s one from 2020 in Florida during the our first winter on the road, here’s one from that first summer in Minnesota, and here’s one from 2022 in the Pacific Northwest. I find them fascinating, but then it’s my brain looking at my brain, so there ya go.

(All photos are in this entry are from our current campsite.)

Inside the Airstream

As I write, we’re at a campground near the small town of Mayo in Yukon, Canada, close to Alaska but not there yet. The lower circle is Edmonton, basically the farthest north we’d traveled until now; the middle circle is where we are, and the highest is Fairbanks, where we’re headed in the next week.

What’s life like in the trailer up here?


I came close to taking a photo of the dishes and recycling left out on the kitchen counter, the brochures and camera equipment and binoculars and backpacks on the table; the maps and hats and gloves and camping permits on the ledge behind the sofa; the coats and rain jackets and fleece sweaters on the sofa; the hiking boots and rain boots by the door; the bear spray, the bug spray, the horn (to scare away wildlife) hanging on the door. My god, I’d rather not show you that.

Up here in Yukon, we have extra clothes, extra maps, extra implements of exploration flung around the trailer so we can grab them in a sec without having to dig under the bed or in the back of the truck. It’s all a testament to the fact that we’re living outside, and the inside is merely where we sleep and store the outside gear.

Of course this drives me crazy, but I’m hardly inside to notice—as it should be.


We’ve made it dark inside the trailer precisely because it’s light outside: the sun’s in the sky for 20 hours a day up here. We’ve been getting in bed around our normal time (9-10 pm), but here we close the blinds on the two skylights and the three long, fixed windows near the ceiling.

Turns out those blinds are held together with cotton string, seemingly, which breaks after frequent use. So, now we just keep those blinds closed day and night. This is counter to the heart of Airstream design, but it’s temporary while we’re in the land of the midnight sun, and we’re hardly indoors anyway!


With all the mess, plus the dirt from our boots that I can never fully clean because the rugs are down, plus the closed-off feeling—the Airstream feels like home, now more than ever. When I am inside, it’s warm and soft and squishy. A refuge I love.


Of course I hesitate to speak for Tracy, and not just because he’s a private guy on the blog. He’s a private guy with me, too. He lives his life very much inside his brain, whereas I live mine with my mouth.

Thriving on Difficulty

Here he seems to be thriving, despite the challenging driving conditions when he’s towing the trailer, despite the fact that up here so much of what he has planned doesn’t turn out the way we thought.

Trails are closed due to flooding, museums are closed due to low attendance, stops on the route have burned down. Tracy really does rise to the challenge: gathering data, making plans, changing plans.

Missing the Kayaks

The loss of the kayaks is hard on him, though. (We left them in Iowa due to a broken roof rack.) Getting out on the mirror-smooth lakes and rivers here, below the snow-capped mountain ranges, was his dream. He picked many of our stops with kayaking in mind, so each stop is a reminder of what we’re missing.

But, hell, looking at lakes is a fine pastime, as well.

Being a Woodsy Man

There’s been no kayaking, but Tracy’s caught fish and fried it up for lunch.

Plus, there’s no fire ban where we are and firewood is free, so he’s been chopping wood (wearing a flannel shirt, no less) and making campfires, and we’ve been cooking nachos on the cast iron over the fire and actual s’mores.

We each remarked:

We’re just like regular campers!

All we need is crying children and a barking dog.


Banjo does not bark, unless it’s at the animals we really need her to not bark at. Like bears. Or a recent porcupine in the campsite.

No Fun

So we’ve been keeping her on a short leash or in the tent; no lounging outside the trailer without us around. She hates it. There are so many smells out there, so much to investigate. She wears a constant look of resentment on her face up here.

No Independence

She’s been refusing her food sometimes, which I thought was part of this resentment. It would be just like her to think, “You tell me what to do all the time. I’m not going to eat this just because you’ve put it in my face. In fact, get it out of my face.”

After many trials at feeding time, I think she’s getting her signals crossed about what we’re telling her. We tell her to sit white we get her food ready, and then she has to look us in the eye until we say, “Go!” And point to the bowl. Then she can approach it and eat.

If she starts for the bowl before I say go, I’ll fuss at her and make her go back and sit for a good long while looking at her food. Sounds cruel, but Banjo needs to remember who’s boss.

I think these days she’s hearing my “Go!” and thinking I’m saying “No!”

Sometimes I can get her back on track by starting the routine from scratch, making her sit, look me in the eyes, and wait, then I tell her to go once again. But sometimes she gets tired of that game and gives up, then looks at me and her food like she’s above all this foolishness and wants to be left alone. Which also is so Banjo.

The last few meals I’ve used the word Okay instead of Go, and that helps. Poor thing. She’s a predatory animal in the wilderness who’s not allowed to even look around much (we keep her walks short because the mosquitos swarm her), and she’s a willful individual who can’t even choose to eat when her food is inches from her face. Banjo is on strike.


You know me: I will complain about the campground, the people, the weather, and one good view will perk me right up.

My Brain

My sleep is better than it’s been in 30 years, thanks to drugs. Seriously, as we left Texas this early spring I started on hormone replacement therapy, plus I’ve tried various antidepressants that have side-effects of helping you sleep, and by now I’m on the right meds and doses so I’m sleeping 6 to 7 hours a night. This is the biggest improvement to my health, well, ever.

Oddly, as all the crap side-effects of chronic insomnia fade away, a new element has entered my brain: anxiety.

Some of this is hormones due to menopause, and it’s gotten better with the hormone replacements. Some is due to all the frequent travel we’ve been doing. We love the freedom of not having camping reservations to dictate where we go when, but that means you never know each day you hitch up where you’ll be spending that night, and not in a “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” sense but more like, “Shit, where are we doing to stay?” sense. Some mornings I wake up and think, “Where am I now?”

Some of it is Banjo’s defensiveness. She’s gotten increasingly attached to Tracy as the alpha family member, especially because she’s fearful in campgrounds with many other dogs. When she walks with me, she’s more insecure, keeping her ears back and tail tucked. I try to exude confidence. I tell myself, “I am in charge here! I won’t let anything happen to you, Banjo!” But really I’m thinking, “Dear God, please don’t let that family with four dogs come around the bend right in front of us.”

Banjo gets four walks a day at minimum, and I take her on only one of those: her morning walk. Which I dread when we’re in a campground. That does not help my morning anxiety at all. But, you know what? Banjo and I have had exactly zero bad encounters with dogs in the mornings, so I know this is more an unwarranted phobia than a concern based on reality. So, I’m working on it.

This Blog

Contradictory feelings are the rule, with camping, Banjo, and this blog.

I’m frustrated with how long it’s taking me to learn to use my new camera: the best shots in the blog are still from my crappy old iPhone with just one lens.

I’m frustrated with my prose, which has been rushed so I can get all my mediocre photos of this incredible place posted each day. I’ve been careful to describe these economically depressed places without seeming to judge the locals (whom I do not know). I’ve tried to express my frustration with the strong tourist vibe built around White people’s exploration, mining, logging, trapping, all while being simultaneously impressed by stories of heroic survival, amazing sacrifice for others, harmony with this extreme wilderness. There’s just too much contradiction in extremes for me to express with my casual narrative style.

I’m frustrated with the website’s layout, even (above is a mockup of my idea for a new homepage). So, I’ve written almost 600 posts here! Among them are a few pieces I am proud of, but those are lost in the long one-way chronology of travel. I’d like to create a homepage that invites users to open past posts, that shows off past photos, that allows you to view photos full-screen, but I am not a pro and not patient enough to learn.

I meant it when I said that I think with my mouth (in this case, my fingers on the keypad). I’m writing here despite all these frustrations and contradictions because I am not good at thinking without talking. So, my interior check starts here. Thanks for giving me the platform by occasionally reading and commenting!

6 thoughts to “An Interior Check, Where the Exterior Is Commanding”

  1. Out of all that great info I’m only going to comment on Banjo’s release word! I think you’re right about her mixing up the words. When we did puppy school we were told that they’re actually rather poor at learning language and were taught to go ‘uh-uh’ to signal no. Not sure which is easier to change with her, ‘no’ or ‘go’. We use ‘dig dig’ as a release word, taken from my in-laws who use it. No idea why but it’s kind of cute when you say dig!dig! and they dive into the bowl. I don’t like doing too often though because Baxter sits there drooling like a leaking tap and that’s no fun for him OR me!

    1. Eww Baxter! Some of our foster dogs used to drool like crazy, too. I think Tracy was told not to make them wait long because digestive acid would build in their stomachs. Okay, I’m trying to use Okay from now on – what you were taught totally makes sense.

  2. I commend you for being so dedicated to your blog, in spite of your self criticisms! I’d thought about writing one briefly as you know, but am just too lazy. Too lazy mostly to set it up so I can just write. And I balk at the idea of HAVING to write as well. So thanks for sharing your journeys!

    1. Renee, doing a basic set-up is really easy when you use WordPress themes and templates. As long as you don’t have a real specific idea of how you want it to look, you can go with a pre-set design and be writing right away. I’d be happy to walk you through that, if really that’s the main barrier for you. I’d love to read your stories.

      I write this thing because now that I’ve started, I can’t stop! It’s a compulsion, not an obligation. I have to keep myself from writing every single day.

      1. Will let you know if I decide to try. Right now I’m so busy hopping from one project to another, I can’t imagine where I’d find the time. And I still would love to write that book about my folks. So it’ll be a while. Things here are not as structured as your lives have to be, as you plan where you’re going and when you have to be there. That means Distractions R Us!