A Plethora of Riches

The internet makes research easier and quicker than finding the proper books or sending away for brochures and such, but so much information is available online, that it’s almost impossible at times to process this plethora of riches.

I’ve been researching campsites and campgrounds for my upcoming adventure in May, and last night, when I realized I did not end up with a single hard fact after a couple of hours of perusing various websites, I closed down my computer. It would be nice if I could just drive for as long as I wanted, then magically find a perfect campsite when I needed it, but unfortunately, most campgrounds or campsites are down a side road. I could pass within fifty feet of one such and never even see it.

So, as frustrating as it is, if I don’t want to end up in motels every night for lack of a more interesting place to stay, I have to do the research. Besides, some places are only available on a reservation basis. I’ve been told you need to reserve a space six months in advance for Yosemite National Park, and though I really should visit the park, without a firm grasp of my itinerary, making a reservation seems a bit risky.

Most of the online camping directory sites seem to be geared for RVing rather than tent camping. For example, in one listing of places to camp, I found Walmarts, truck stops, turnouts, and various other places that might do in a pinch for parking an RV (though does anyone really get excited about sleeping in a Walmart parking lot?) but there is no way to pitch a tent. Or if tents are allowed, which I cannot imagine, there is no way I would ever tent camp in a Walmart parking lot.

Even some campgrounds in national parks and other national lands seem to be geared solely for RVs. One campground I researched that seemed ideal had a single spot for a tent camper. And that spot had to be reserved.

There are still tent-only campgrounds, but those all seem to be the hike-in kind. I might be comfortable out in the wilds by myself, but I am not comfortable parking my ancient VW and just leaving it at a trailhead for a few days. Besides, although wilderness hiking and backpacking is generally safe, I’m not sure the same would be true of a campground on the edge of civilization. And anyway, would I really feel comfortable walking five miles to camp? (I’m laughing at myself. I don’t know why this is even a blip in my head — five miles? Carrying a full pack? That is so ridiculous at my stage of fitness — or unfitness — as to be a non-issue.)

I know there are plenty of places out there for me to stay — after all, I found them when I was on my road trip. Admittedly, the parks and monuments where I camped were not insanely over visited like Yosemite and other parks in the Pacific states, but still, May is not the height of the tourist season, and I do not need to see the popular parks just yet. (After all, I have never been to the Grand Canyon, which everybody knows, but I did stay at Chiricahua National Monument, which few people ever heard of, and it was wonderful!

It’s a good thing I have four months to research. At the rate I am going, I will need every day of that time to prepare if I don’t want to stay in motels or (heaven forbid!) sleep in my car in Walmart parking lots.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Is Researching a Type of Planning?

People keep telling me I need to plan, that a person can’t go blithely into the future with no idea of what she is going to do, especially if she expects to undertake an epic adventure. Seems to me that not making plans guarantees adventure, but maybe I’m being too blithe.

Does research constitute planning? If so, then I am constantly planning.

I research the Pacific Crest Trail in case I want to through-hike the most challenging of all the USA national trails. (Well, second most challenging. The Continental Divide Trail is supposed to be even more daunting.) And I research other national trails, such as the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Arizona National Scenic Trail, or even the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail in Hawaii in case I want to go where I’ve never gone before. I research types of backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, food, water purifiers to find the best and lightest for my needs. There is no way I can or would ever want to carry 30 pounds for long distances. And yet, and yet . . . despite the drawbacks and physical challenges, the idea of a through-hike still lingers.

angelI research the state coastal trails of California, Oregon, Washington in case I want to walk along the edge of the world. I even have a friend who will help me dip my toe into such an adventure by taking me a ways up the coast from her house so I can walk back. She has even offered to keep me supplied so I won’t starve or dehydrate. My own personal trail angel!

I research walking across the USA in case I want to follow the roads. (This would have the advantage of maybe not needing to carry a lot of water. It seems to me that carrying a sign AUTHOR WALKING ACROSS USA. NEEDS WATER would be a heck of a lot easier to carry than gallons of water, and maybe as effective.) People who have taken such a walk leave with nothing and trust to the journey, but I can’t see me mustering that kind of trust. Or they push/pull a cart to make sure they have the water and food they need for the long dry stretches, and I cannot see myself doing that either. Still, the lure is there. Walking across the country is not a rare occurrence, but I sure don’t know anyone who has done it.

I research rooms for rent, apartments, and extended stay motel/hotels so I can stay in this area to continue taking dance classes.

I research freighters to New Zealand. Even though they are not that expensive ($100 to $150 a night) what adds to the cost is the medical and travel insurance ($400 to $500 per trip) and a whole panoply of red tape — doctor certificate of health, passport, shots (depending on where the freighter stops). I research distances. New Zealand is 6,000 miles from the USA. Australia is 1324 miles from New Zealand. If I go to New Zealand, would it make sense to extend the journey to include Australia? If I did go to Australia, should I go walkabout? (I found a two week walkabout trip for about $3500. But is that figure Australian dollars? One Australian dollar is worth $.78 American dollars, so would the walkabout be $2954 American dollars? Still a lot of money for such a trek.)

I research cars and other vehicles for a possible extended tour of the USA, the national parks, and all my online friends. Do I want to find a small camper that fits in my budget, and so have to deal with another aged vehicle with a lot of miles? Do I want to get a small van such as a Ford Transport Connect and build my own nest inside? Do I want to get a small SUV-type, such as a Kia Soul, which has plenty of room to sleep when the back seat is folded down, or a Honda Fit, which gets about the same highway mileage as a Prius? Do I want to get a junker, and let it take me as far as it can before it breaks down?

But oh! I already have such a car. Today is my bug’s birthday. I got it new 43 years ago today. I checked with my insurance agent about insuring it if I restored it, and apparently, unless I can get it classified as an antique, which allows but 2000 miles of travel a year, then all I would get if anything happened to the car is the blue book value of nil.

See? Research.

You’d think I’d be wasting my time by researching instead of actually doing something or even planning to do something, but the odd thing is, as I research, the impossible adventure becomes . . . possible.

One of the hardest things to do to make an adventure come true is to overcome the status quo of one’s life, but luckily, my status quo is going to overcome itself without any help from me once my father’s house is sold and I am . . . wherever I will be.

So, back to researching . . .


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.