Roaming Robos: In limbo

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Welcome to the second of 12 monthly installments of Roaming Robos, a travelogue of sorts, written by Jon and Pamela Robichaud. Follow along throughout 2016 as they sell their belongings, rent their house, pack their bikes and three-year-old boxer Penny into a Sprinter Van, and travel across North America in search of adventure.


Limbo is defined as “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.” And that pretty much sums up how Pamela and I feel these days, with our cross-country trip set to begin in less than a month.

We have an estimated departure date of March 20th — the first day of spring, somewhat fittingly — so our time frame is not uncertain, but we do feel like we currently exist in a transitional state.

As I write this, Pamela still has a few weeks of work left, our house is on the market (not yet rented), and furniture and belongings are being sold while trip-related items are arriving daily. We’re doing all these things to shift from a permanent 2500 square foot (232 square metre) dwelling to 72 square feet (6.7 square metres) on wheels. But rather than moving forward, we’re just shifting stuff around in circles, from place to place, spinning our wheels.

Soon enough, the wheels on the van and bikes will be spinning, literally. But we’re in that phase before a big trip where it feels a bit dizzying.

In the future, I look forward to sharing stories from the open road; tales of new roads and new friends. But I also want to make sure all sides of this adventure are taken into account. And this chapter is all about limbo.

The devil’s in the details — and there are a lot of details

People might romanticize that we just woke up one day, bought a van, rented our house, and boom, we’re off. Not so much.

There is a very cerebral part of planning a trip like this. We’ve spent an entire year of planning to get to this point. Money had to be earned, and spent, and earned, and spent, and earned, and spent — you get it.

Pamela needed to get to a place where she felt like she could leave her physical therapy position of six years. We also wanted our boxer, Penny Love, to be one year older — the difference between a two-year-old puppy and three-year-old dog is significant as we approach long travel days in the van together.

And then there was health insurance. We are both healthy people, but we both also have minor pre-existing conditions, and we do need to have health insurance for medication and follow-ups. So no, we couldn’t throw caution to the wind and just “take off.” Pamela diligently researched several health insurance companies, brokers, and how to obtain tax credits to help take the sting out of monthly premiums.

Car insurance needed to be changed and canceled. We’re leaving behind a Subaru Outback, so that car needs a secure home.

Then there is getting the proper size storage unit, which we are splitting with some friends.

We have a great property management company in our corner helping us rent our house, which will yield some passive income, that in turn will help fund a big portion of the trip.

We’ve got new bikes (a pair of Specialized Diverges) that needed to be built and ridden, so that we can make any adjustments, if needed.

And, after all this, it turns out that we could really use some extra power in our van “Ellie,” as well as a rocket box on top. So, yup, gotta figure out the finances and the logistics on that.

Don’t misunderstand, this is not complaining — this is a major life change that we sought out. Pamela loves having projects, and crossing things of a list, but I also want to paint an honest picture of the start to this journey. While it may be drastically different to how other people might approach it, it has been calculated, task driven, and required quite a bit of brainpower.

Don't knock it until you've tried it. Fat biking is fun!
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Fat biking is fun!

All about stuff

Management of stuff, physical and emotional, is a constant struggle between taking and giving energy. And, in the end, the state of limbo where we currently reside is all about our stuff.

This process has had to be deliberate. We are trying to have less stuff, but, in so doing, we have new stuff, and we don’t know what stuff we might need in the future. (Just ask George Carlin about stuff; this video sums it up perfectly.)

As a result, we are shipping stuff to Portland, Oregon, and to New England, in hopes to replenish the stuff we choose to take with us with stuff we may need in the future.

I’m quite certain that, in the next few months, the concept of new or old stuff will make us laugh. We will likely scoff at the stuff that we send ahead in anticipation. And all this new stuff that we’re acquiring, because we think we might need it on the road, is making the concept of purging seem redundant, since empty space seems to continually be filled with new stuff.

In summary: Somehow, in an effort to become minimalists, we’re accumulating new stuff.

Hopefully this pending trip is the first of many adventures like this, and the next time we head out, we’ll take our extremely efficient “van kit” and hit the road. But only the process — the limbo — we’re in now can lead us to that place.

Pamela could power through all the purging, selling, and organizing for days on end, without a break, because organizing keeps her calm and is part of her anxiety-management program.

On the other hand, I need to take breaks, mentally and physically. I prefer to pack and organize at a slower speed. Neither of us judges the other for their approach to packing and purging; we can only accept them, and not take personally the pace that the other is working. The energy that each of us brings to the process is going to be what it’s going to be, and the tasks will get done. This is only one lesson of a zillion that we’ll learn, and be reminded of, living together in close quarters.

Penny, on the other hand, is doing a great job of pacing back and forth between us, letting out little whimpers of stress (moving boxes and clicking tape rolls are terrifying, after all) as she oversees the progress. She understands quite a bit of English, but has yet to master “Don’t worry, you’re coming with us.”

Since I don’t pack as efficiently as Pamela, often distracted by shiny things, we figured a little fat biking could be fun. As I wrote in our first article, our goal is to follow the sun and not the snow — so why not have a little fun in the snow before we we shove off?

Pamela isn’t a big mountain biker — she considers it Type III fun, and thought fat biking would be similar. But when you hit groomed trails in Colorado sunshine, all is right in the world. There is no fear of fall or injury, but rather the sensation of floating over the snow. The bikes are heavy and slow, with disc brakes and wide, knobby tires, but the experience is reminiscent of the fun you had as a kid on your first bike.

Pamela and I rented fat bikes outside of Steamboat Springs. They had a few Specialized models to choose from, both unisex and women’s specific. I rode the FatBoy SE, and Pamela played on the Hellga. Before we knew it, two hours and 18 miles later, we were happy, smiling from ear to ear, and exhausted. We’re hooked.

While it’s been a mild winter in Boulder, I’m happy to know that we can look forward to two-wheeled fun in the winter. I’m already looking forward to our next fat-bike adventure. While the goal of our year of travel is to find summer and follow it, I’m happy to add some fat tires back to the collection when we return to Colorado.

But that’s a lifetime, and thousands of miles (and even more kilometers) from now. For the moment, we’re humming Jimmy Cliff lyrics under our breath: “Sitting here in limbo, waiting for the dice to roll. Sitting here in limbo, got some time to search my soul.” Sounds about right.

Next month, we’ll have two-wheeled adventures to share. We can’t say what the road will show us, but we’re looking forward to finding out.

About the authors

RobichaudJon and Pamela Robichaud are early adopters and investors at Skratch Labs, a nutrition company based in Boulder. In addition to her physical therapy career, Pamela helped form Team ten20 Cycling, a Boulder-based women’s cycling organization with over 100 local and nationwide members.

In 2016, they are packing their bikes and dog into a Sprinter Van and driving across North America, stopping along the way to ride as much as possible. Follow their adventures here and on their website, RoamingRobos.com.

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