Monday, April 22, 2013

Welcome Jules our newest Brand Ambassador!

Growing up, I remember having a few things that I loved above all else...traveling (I was an Air Force brat whose parents believed in seeing the world), movement (I dreamed of being a prima ballerina), teaching (my younger brothers might call me bossy), and playing dress up (I had a chest full of costuming). As it turns out, growing older and finding my place in the world hasn't taken me very far from those beginnings at all. Hi, my name is Julia, or Jules to many, and I am a yoga teacher and a full time road rennie.

A what, you ask? A road rennie. That's my term for myself anyway. My partner and I work full time at renaissance festivals around the country, so we lead a nomadic life, picking up and moving every two months or so to the next festival on our circuit. We're part of an expansive and often far-flung community of artisans, performers, crafters, and shop workers of all sorts who work in some capacity at one or more of the forty-something major renaissance festivals that take place across the country each year. My "uniform" consists of bloomers, multiple skirts, a chemise, and a fully boned bodice.

I also teach yoga within the rennie community, leading practice on an empty stage or in a shop a few times each week. In many ways, the practice I lead is similar to those taking place in studios in towns and cities all over the place. I lead my fellow yogis through asana and pranayama and meditation and intention. In many ways, however, rennie yogis face a unique set of challenges every time we roll out our mats. Mainly because being outside without the protection of four walls and climate control makes for some pretty interesting practices.

I'll tell those stories another time, though. For now, I'd like to focus on the travel aspect of my not-quite-normal life (I always thought "normal" to mean "boring," anyway). Like I said, every two months my partner, A, and I wrap up the breakables, pack up the yard, hitch the trailer (aka our house on wheels) up to the truck, and drive to the next festival. The most recent version of this happened just a week ago when we moved from Arizona to Texas.

For most of our transitions, we have at least one weekend off and several days to make our trek. Our springtime journey from the Phoenix area to just south of Dallas every year is the exception to that rule, and a stressful one at that. It goes something like this...closing weekend of the Arizona Renaissance Festival on Saturday & Sunday; Monday-Friday to pack up, etc., drive 1000+ miles, reset everything back into place, opening weekend of Scarborough Renaissance Festival that very next weekend. I call it a five-day mad dash, and there's really nothing about it that I like.

Under the best circumstances, things go smoothly throughout the transition with no unwanted surprises. In fact, the standard farewell greeting between rennies at the end of a festival run is to wish them a "safe and uneventful journey." In the 7 months since moving up in the rennie world from tent-dwelling to being trailer owners, A and I have been lucky enough to experience just and uneventful travels. That's not quite the trip we had this time around, however.

In the week prior to closing the Arizona faire, we had dutifully taken the truck in for scheduled maintenance and gotten two new tires. Come Monday after closing, we set about the check list of packing up tasks. We even high-fived after successfully hitching the trailer to the truck in record time and with minimal frustration with each other. We stopped at the shower house on site to wash the desert off our sunburned skin as our last to-do item before saying goodbye to beautiful Superstition Mountain for another ten months.
A was driving as we headed out the gates and set our goal for the night for Las Cruces, NM. We got about a quarter mile down the road when the speedometer hit 40 mph and the trailer started swaying very scarily. Not good! If you've ever hauled a 30' travel trailer, you know that smooth and easy is how you want the drive to go. We know more than a few people with horror stories of flipping trailers and rolling vehicles. We were determined not to let that be us. I quickly posted an info SOS message to the rest of our community on Facebook, and as the helpful tips and suggestions came pouring in, we tried changing all the things our more experienced gypsies suggested. To no avail.

We turned around and spent Monday night in the festival parking lot.

Tuesday we were up with the sun to continue trying suggested fixes. The shop we potentially needed to get into for welding work couldn't fit us in for at least a week. The next shop I called referred us to another that referred us to another and so on and so on and so on. I lost track of how many mechanics I called.

Finally, on the suggestion of the last shop I tried, we went back to the tire store where we had just purchased the two new tires. After all, those tires were the only thing different from our last three hauls, on which we'd had no problems. Two hours later, we tried the highway again. We were now able to go 50 mph before the sway from hell kicked in, but were otherwise out of ideas. 1000+ miles at 50 mph? No problem. It would take forever, but at least we'd get there in time for work to begin again.

Several hours later, as we drove through the expanse of desert east of Tucson, a fellow rennie sent a message asking what mile we were at. He was only ten miles ahead and wanted to take a look at things to see if he might be able to help. While parked on a concrete slab in the middle of what used to be a nuclear testing site, he switched the new tires to the front and the old to the back. Problem solved! As it turns out, the new ones I was able to afford are not the same quality as the old ones and were unable to handle the job of hauling closest to the trailer. I learned days later that this particular fellow rennie was dubbed "St. Joe" years ago for countless similar acts of travel genius. He is my new hero.

Back on the road and once again able to cruise safely, A and I set our sights on El Paso for the night. I did some mental math and decided we were only a half day behind schedule and that we had plenty of time, so long as nothing else went wrong.

After filling up and checking on the cat in Las Cruces, we were just about to drive out and get back on the interstate when a kind man tapped on the window. With a thick accent and difficult English, he informed us that our trailer's running lights were so dim that we were almost invisible on dark roads. He worried that if we were continuing into Texas, we risked being pulled over. I worried for worse. So we took that as our cue that Las Cruces was our limit that night, and made plans to look for the mechanic he recommended at Exit 2 just across the state line first thing in the morning.
Up with the sun again the next day, we cruised into Texas and began looking for said mechanic. The only one we could find at Exit 2 only worked on commercial trucks for professional drivers. That is certainly not us. So while A navigated El Paso morning rush hour, I put my smart phone to use Googling trailer repair shops. The first one I called said they could see us immediately once we got to them. Hallelujah!

Less than an hour after pulling into their property, the wonderful mechanics at this shop had replaced the trailer-truck connection and rewired the 12v trickle charger (what should have been keeping our running lights bright) AND our trailer brake system, which had never been connected in the first place. YOU MEAN WE'VE HAULED THIS TRAILER WITH THIS TRUCK OVER 2500 MILES IN 7 MONTHS WITH NO TRAILER BRAKES?!? Apparently so. I don't think I'm going to tell my mother that last part. But, back on the road again with new electrical connections, not only was hauling and stopping much easier, but we were also getting better gas mileage. Sweet!

Fast forward fourteen hours of driving across the expanse of almost nothing that is West Texas, and A and I decided stopping 150 miles short of our destination was a good idea, especially since the Dallas area was set to see some severe spring storms that night.

Exactly one year prior, Dallas/Ft. Worth saw 17 tornadoes in one afternoon. I hate tornadoes.

We consulted our interstate guidebook and set our sights on a truck stop in Ranger, TX, which the weather radar said would be just outside the storm's reach. We pulled into the parking lot around 11 pm to find no spots open. *Sigh* 40 more miles got us to a rest stop, but again there were no spaces available to park 45' worth of truck and trailer. *Double sigh* Apparently all of the interstate truckers headed into Dallas had the same idea we did. The next truck stop was only 20 miles ahead, but in passing the rest stop on the other side of the highway, there appeared to be some spots not occupied by truckers. So I did what any exhausted and fed up gypsy would do, I exited and headed back in the direction from which we'd come, barely making it into the only open spot at the westbound rest stop.

The last day of travel on this particular journey actually was uneventful, thank goodness!  We arrived at our destination with plenty of time to spare, paid our camping fees, and got the trailer parked in its new spot. We even got to be good Samaritans, lending our 4WD truck to a neighbor who was otherwise stuck in the infamous Scarborough mud.

It was only in retelling our adventures to friends that I realized how closely travel mirrors yoga. There were a few key things that I had to keep in kind during this last trip in order to maintain my sanity, and it turns out they're the same things I tell my fellow yogis and myself when on the the mat.
Breathe. Focus on the present; worrying about the future or dwelling on the past serve no purpose. Listen to your body (or trailer) and know when you can push a little further and when you need to back off. It's ok if you're not all the way there; you'll get there eventually, but maybe not today. Everything happens as it is meant to. Where you are today is exactly where you're meant to be, and that is perfect.