Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lazy Sunday

I haven't been home in months for a Sunday so I decided to remind myself why I live here. I drove to the water and to the local farmer's market to see what I've missed the past four months of being on the road.

Everything is the same.

I love going to the farmer's market and seeing all of the fresh produce for sale. There is something about buying directly from the person that grew the veggies. It's almost like you have your own garden without all of the work.

I took Max to visit his pals that were up for adoption. In July, I was strolling along the same farmer's market when I saw Max and decided to take him home with me. Little did he know that he was in for the ride of his life across the country.

Seeing the other dogs for adoption made me a bit sad since I wanted to take all of them home. I think he remembered some of his old friends but most of the dogs seemed new. The best part was watching a few being adopted.

So, we explored the farmers market and looked at local art booths for the day...ending it at the dog park. Life is a bit slower for me right now and there is no sense of fighting it. We have become accustomed to running around each day exploring and taking pictures. It was nice to do some of that and return home for a change. However, I know this will be short lived and I will want to get back on the road. For now, we will live life at life's pace.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Malocclusion: Disease of Civilization, Part VIII

Three Case Studies in Occlusion

In this post, I'll review three cultures with different degrees of malocclusion over time, and try to explain how the factors I've discussed may have played a role.

The Xavante of Simoes Lopes

In 1966, Dr. Jerry D. Niswander published a paper titled "The Oral Status of the Xavantes of Simoes Lopes", describing the dental health and occlusion of 166 Brazilian hunter-gatherers from the Xavante tribe (free full text). This tribe was living predominantly according to tradition, although they had begun trading with the post at Simoes Lopes for some foods. They made little effort to clean their teeth. They were mostly but not entirely free of dental cavities:
Approximately 33% of the Xavantes at Simoes Lopes were caries free. Neel et al. (1964) noted almost complete absence of dental caries in the Xavante village at Sao Domingos. The difference in the two villages may at least in part be accounted for by the fact that, for some five years, the Simoes Lopes Xavante have had access to sugar cane, whereas none was grown at Sao Domingos. It would appear that, although these Xavantes still enjoy relative freedom from dental caries, this advantage is disappearing after only six years of permanent contact with a post of the Indian Protective Service.
The most striking thing about these data is the occlusion of the Xavante. 95 percent had ideal occlusion. The remaining 5 percent had nothing more than a mild crowding of the incisors (front teeth). Niswander didn't observe a single case of underbite or overbite. This would have been truly exceptional in an industrial population. Niswander continues:
Characteristically, the Xavante adults exhibited broad dental arches, almost perfectly aligned teeth, end-to-end bite, and extensive dental attrition. At 18-20 years of age, the teeth were so worn as to almost totally obliterate the cusp patterns, leaving flat chewing surfaces.
The Xavante were clearly hard on their teeth, and their predominantly hunter-gatherer lifestyle demanded it. They practiced a bit of "rudimentary agriculture" of corn, beans and squash, which would sustain them for a short period of the year devoted to ceremonies. Dr. James V. Neel describes their diet (free full text):
Despite a rudimentary agriculture, the Xavante depend very heavily on the wild products which they gather. They eat numerous varieties of roots in large quantities, which provide a nourishing, if starchy, diet. These roots are available all year but are particularly important in the Xavante diet from April to June in the first half of the dry season when there are no more fruits. The maize harvest does not last long and is usually saved for a period of ceremonies. Until the second harvest of beans and pumpkins, the Xavante subsist largely on roots and palmito (Chamacrops sp.), their year-round staples.

From late August until mid-February, there are also plenty of nuts and fruits available. The earliest and most important in their diet is the carob or ceretona (Ceretona sp.), sometimes known as St. John's bread. Later come the fruits of the buriti palm (Mauritia sp.) and the piqui (Caryocar sp.). These are the basis of the food supply throughout the rainy season. Other fruits, such as mangoes, genipapo (Genipa americana), and a number of still unidentified varieties are also available.

The casual observer could easily be misled into thinking that the Xavante "live on meat." Certainly they talk a great deal about meat, which is the most highly esteemed food among them, in some respects the only commodity which they really consider "food" at all... They do not eat meat every day and may go without meat for several days at a stretch, but the gathered products of the region are always available for consumption in the community.

Recently, the Xavante have begun to eat large quantities of fish.
The Xavante are an example of humans living an ancestral lifestyle, and their occlusion shows it. They have the best occlusion of any living population I've encountered so far. Here's why I think that's the case:
  • A nutrient-rich, whole foods diet, presumably including organs.
  • On-demand breast feeding for two or more years.
  • No bottle-feeding or modern pacifiers.
  • Tough foods on a regular basis.
I don't have any information on how the Xavante have changed over time, but Niswander did present data on another nearby (and genetically similar) tribe called the Bakairi that had been using a substantial amount of modern foods for some time. The Bakairi, living right next to the Xavante but eating modern foods from the trading post, had 9 times more malocclusion and nearly 10 times more cavities than the Xavante. Here's what Niswander had to say:
Severe abrasion was not apparent among the Bakairi, and the dental arches did not appear as broad and massive as in the Xavantes. Dental caries and malocclusion were strikingly more prevalent; and, although not recorded systematically, the Bakairi also showed considerably more periodontal disease. If it can be assumed that the Bakairi once enjoyed a freedom from dental disease and malocclusion equal to that now exhibited by the Xavantes, the available data suggest that the changes in occlusal patterns as well as caries and periodontal disease have been too rapid to be accounted for by an hypothesis involving relaxed [genetic] selection.
The Masai of Kenya

The Masai are traditionally a pastoral people who live almost exclusively from their cattle. In 1945, and again in 1952, Dr. J. Schwartz examined the teeth of 408 and 273 Masai, respectively (#1 free full text; #2 ref). In the first study, he found that 8 percent of Masai showed some form of malocclusion, while in the second study, only 0.4 percent of Masai were maloccluded. Although we don't know what his precise criteria were for diagnosing malocclusion, these are still very low numbers.

In both studies, 4 percent of Masai had cavities. Between the two studies, Schwartz found 67 cavities in 21,792 teeth, or 0.3 percent of teeth affected. This is almost exactly what Dr. Weston Price found when he visited them in 1935. From Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, page 138:
In the Masai tribe, a study of 2,516 teeth in eighty-eight individuals distributed through several widely separated manyatas showed only four individuals with caries. These had a total of ten carious teeth, or only 0.4 per cent of the teeth attacked by tooth decay.
Dr. Schwartz describes their diet:
The principal food of the Masai is milk, meat and blood, the latter obtained by bleeding their cattle... The Masai have ample means with which to get maize meal and fresh vegetables but these foodstuffs are known only to those who work in town. It is impossible to induce a Masai to plant their own maize or vegetables near their huts.
This is essentially the same description Price gave during his visit. The Masai were not hunter-gatherers, but their traditional lifestyle was close enough to allow good occlusion. Here's why I think the Masai had good occlusion:
  • A nutrient-dense diet rich in protein and fat-soluble vitamins from pastured dairy.
  • On-demand breast feeding for two or more years.
  • No bottle feeding or modern pacifiers.
The one factor they lack is tough food. Their diet, composed mainly of milk and blood, is predominantly liquid. Although I think food toughness is a factor, this shows that good occlusion is not entirely dependent on tough food.

Sadly, the lifestyle and occlusion of the Masai has changed in the intervening decades. A paper from 1992 described their modern diet:
The main articles of diet were white maize, [presumably heavily sweetened] tea, milk, [white] rice, and beans. Traditional items were rarely eaten... Milk... was not mentioned by 30% of mothers.
A paper from 1993 described the occlusion of 235 young Masai attending rural and peri-urban schools. Nearly all showed some degree of malocclusion, with open bite alone affecting 18 percent.

Rural Caucasians in Kentucky

It's always difficult to find examples of Caucasian populations living traditional lifestyles, because most Caucasian populations adopted the industrial lifestyle long ago. That's why I was grateful to find a study by Dr. Robert S. Corruccini, published in 1981, titled "Occlusal Variation in a Rural Kentucky Community" (ref).

This study examined a group of isolated Caucasians living in the Mammoth Cave region of Kentucky, USA. Corruccini arrived during a time of transition between traditional and modern foodways. He describes the traditional lifestyle as follows:
Much of the traditional way of life of these people (all white) has been maintained, but two major changes have been the movement of industry and mechanized farming into the area in the last 25 years. Traditionally, tobacco (the only cash crop), gardens, and orchards were grown by each family. Apples, pears, cherries, plums, peaches, potatoes, corn, green beans, peas, squash, peppers, cucumbers, and onions were grown for consumption, and fruits and nuts, grapes, and teas were gathered by individuals. In the diet of these people, dried pork and fried [presumably in lard], thick-crust cornbread (which were important winter staples) provided consistently stressful chewing. Hunting is still very common in the area.
Although it isn't mentioned in the paper, this group, like nearly all traditionally-living populations, probably did not waste the organs or bones of the animals it ate. Altogether, it appears to be an excellent and varied diet, based on whole foods, and containing all the elements necessary for good occlusion and overall health.

The older generation of this population has the best occlusion of any Caucasian population I've ever seen, rivaling some hunter-gatherer groups. This shows that Caucasians are not genetically doomed to malocclusion. The younger generation, living on more modern foods, shows very poor occlusion, among the worst I've seen. They also show narrowed arches, a characteristic feature of deteriorating occlusion. One generation is all it takes. Corruccini found that a higher malocclusion score was associated with softer, more industrial foods.

Here are the reasons I believe this group of Caucasians in Kentucky had good occlusion:
  • A nutrient-rich, whole foods diet, presumably including organs.
  • Prolonged breast feeding.
  • No bottle-feeding or modern pacifiers.
  • Tough foods on a regular basis.
Common Ground

I hope you can see that populations with excellent teeth do certain things in common, and that straying from those principles puts the next generation at a high risk of malocclusion. Malocclusion is a serious problem that has major implications for health, well-being and finances. In the next post, I'll give a simplified summary of everything I've covered in this series. Then it's back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Joshua Tree National Park

I gave thanks yesterday by visiting the closest National Park to where I am today so Max and I headed to Joshua Tree. I have never been to this park before even though I was born and raised in Southern California. It is a beautiful area with lots of cactus, open fields and rocks which people took advantage of to climb.

We had a picnic and drove around the park to explore. It was a good way to spend Thanksgiving for us.

I know it's the shopping season, but try to take some time to get outside. It does wonders. Here are some pictures from the day. For more click HERE.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving so i'm going to take a moment here to be thankful for what's in my life. I am so grateful for what I have and what surrounds me. My friend Dian has been writing 39 things each day for 9 days so far that she has been thankful for. I am pretty amazed how she comes up with all of this on a daily basis but it has inspired me to write my own little list. Here are a few things that I am grateful for today:

- My friends and family.
They give me the courage to follow my dreams and be the best person I can be. I also am grateful for the family members I have lost and how they have impacted my life in such a profound way.

- Being in Nature
The place where I feel the calmest and happiest.

-The roof over my head and food on my plate (or hands)
I am fortunate to be able to have a shelter each night (no matter where that may be), and the ability to eat whenever I want

-My freedom
I am fortunate that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I can hop in my car and drive for days if I feel like it. I have a voice and I can use it. I can say whatever I want and express my opinions.

-My dog, Max
He brings me such joy on a daily basis. I love all animals and we are fortunate to share this earth with them. Let's be kind to them.

-My Health
I can move around freely, see, hear, feel, walk, take care of myself and the ability to go wherever I want to go.

-My human emotions
I can go on a journey without leaving the couch. I have the power to change moods, laugh, cry, and love.

I am also thankful for these smaller things in life that bring me joy:
electric blankets
a good meal
great music
sleeping outdoors
thoughtful gestures
watching max play at the dog park
meeting new friends
having friends that stick around through everything
experiencing life through clear eyes
laughing out loud
exploring something new
a good book
getting lost
learning something new
passionate people
seeing things differently
flip flops
being at the beach
hot baths
unexpected surprises
taking a picture that makes me smile
making others smile through images
chocolate covered pretzels
being silly
a hand written note
another day

So here I give thanks. Thank you for reading my blog and following my adventures. Your comments and thoughts have kept me going. I am thankful that I am able to explore, see new things and share it with you. This has been a wonderful exercise. I plan to do it often.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You Can Do It Too (Part 2)

Some of you who have stumbled upon my blog have asked me how it is I am able to do what I am doing. Living on the road for months at a time is not simple, but with a little planning, you can do it too!

I have posted some tips previously on how I did it, but I will also mention some other tid bits that might help get you started...or at least thinking if it's the right thing for you.

For any solo journey that takes you away from your current comfortable environment, here are a few things to prepare for:

It's a big step to leave the comforts of home to go out on the open road or to a foreign land. Be aware that your journey isn't "home." You will have to adjust to doing things You might have to miss a shower, eat food you are not used to, learn a new language, new customs, etc.

In order to enjoy yourself, you will have to be flexible to all situations that come your way. It's easy to think..."ah, I am flexible!"...but until you find yourself in a situation you didn't plan for, that is when you will know. Things won't always go your way.

Remember to eat and sleep. These two things will be a huge factor in doing this for the long haul, for me at least. I know my brain starts to go a bit crazy if I skip meals or don't get enough sleep. Keep exploring and stay curious. That will keep your mind working and not focused on the negative.

Material Things
Forget what things look like or who makes them. Pay more attention to the function. Does it work? Perfect. That's all. If you are unsure of what to pack...lay all of your things out at once and take half of what you think you will need.

I took two bags of clothes. One for cool weather and one for hot weather. I wore one pair of shorts most of the time, 2 pairs of Capri's and about 3 pairs of jeans. Daily shoes were sandals. I mixed up tshirts and as you can see, wore the same black puffy vest the entire way. It held my camera in a small pocket so it came in handy when I didn't want to lug a bag around.

Nobody cares how you look. They will never see you again so as far as they are concerned, you look great. Also, if you are a woman...ditch the makeup. Pack like a guy. Soap, shampoo, sunscreen, lip balm, done. You think you will need a dress? You won't. If you are packing heels, this might not be the trip for you. If you miss looking through your newest pottery barn catalog to see the newest table top settings, it's best to stay home.


As much as you move to stay busy and the brain active, there will be some down time. Before your trip, write down some things that you want to get out of the experience. Is is learning more about yourself? Visit a place you dreamed of ever since you can remember? Climb the highest peak? Write this down so you can remember why you are doing what it is you are doing. There will be times of question, but referring to your personal guide will keep you on track.

Remember, this is YOUR time. Don't do something because it's something that others think is cool...this is a commitment to what you want to do. If your goal is to explore and see where that takes you, then that is your goal. It doesn't have to be big, it just has to make sense to you.

How long do you want to be on your journey? Forever sounds nice but it's not realistic. You will see in the last paragraph that the time you allow yourself has a lot to do with financial limitations, or life limitations. If you have children or a partner, your time may be limited. It's a good idea to map out how much time you have so you can choose a journey that best suits you for how long you have to explore.

I've said it before but if you have a hard time being alone, this is not the trip for you. You will be alone. Everyday. You will be alone with your thoughts. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Remember, nobody knows you so you can be whoever you want to be. It's a good idea to be around people sometimes to get human contact. Once I didn't talk for 3 days and when someone finally said hello to me I was like, "mahoowh." Don't lose your voice.

Keep your lifeline alive. Call friends once in a while. See how the world you left behind is doing while you are away exploring a new world. It might be just the thing to energize you and help you continue on your journey. Also, it's ok to feel lonely, tired, drained, and exhausted. You will feel all of this during the course of your trip. It's good to feel. Let it happen. You are human.

It takes strength mentally and physically. You will not be on your usual diet so being open to eating different things is a plus. Remember, the comforts of home do not apply anymore. I don't eat mammals so sometimes it's difficult to find something that I can eat. I know there is always something to snack on. Keep a first aid kit with all of the stomach things you will need.

Remember to move around. If you are in the car all day, be sure to stop on a trail to walk some. Not being active will take a toll. Be sure to make it part of your day, everyday.

Ah...what everyone wants to know. How much will it cost? Of course it depends on the length and what you plan to do. At the beginning, I camped so that was around $20 a day (give or take), you factor about $30 a day for food and factor in how much gas is and where you want to go. I would say that you might spend $100 a day. Of course, it will go up if you stay at a motel, or go down if you live in a van and park it on a residential street.

On really cold nights, I stayed at Motel 6 because Max couldn't stand the cold (yes, I will blame it on him). They are pet friendly and cost about $35 dollars on average a night. That is about the same for a fancy hook up site if you had a big rig. Some nights, it was worth every penny. You will see what I mean when you haven't taken a shower in several days and the warmth of a sleeping bag on the floor isn't as thrilling as it once was.

So, add up your expenses for traveling as well as the costs you have if you decide to keep your home base. For me, I rented my home while I traveled, which was a lifesaver, financially. I have all of my bills paid online which I would recommend.

Decision Time
Are you going to make the leap? Remember, nothing is permanent so you could always go back to what you were doing before. I have a feeling you won't. Go for it! I look forward to hearing about your journey. Thank you for being a part of mine.

A bigger THANK YOU if you become a fan of my photographs on facebook. This was my little personal goal on my trip...taking pictures. I hope to be able to sell images of the USA through my eyes soon. I will keep you posted on the fan page.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Malocclusion: Disease of Civilization, Part VII

Jaw Development During Adolescence

Beginning at about age 11, the skull undergoes a growth spurt. This corresponds roughly with the growth spurt in the rest of the body, with the precise timing depending on gender and other factors. Growth continues until about age 17, when the last skull sutures cease growing and slowly fuse. One of these sutures runs along the center of the maxillary arch (the arch in the upper jaw), and contributes to the widening of the upper arch*:

This growth process involves MGP and osteocalcin, both vitamin K-dependent proteins. At the end of adolescence, the jaws have reached their final size and shape, and should be large enough to accommodate all teeth without crowding. This includes the third molars, or wisdom teeth, which will erupt shortly after this period.

Reduced Food Toughness Correlates with Malocclusion in Humans

When Dr. Robert Corruccini published his seminal paper in 1984 documenting rapid changes in occlusion in cultures around the world adopting modern foodways and lifestyles (see this post), he presented the theory that occlusion is influenced by chewing stress. In other words, the jaws require good exercise on a regular basis during growth to develop normal-sized bones and muscles. Although Dr. Corruccini wasn't the first to come up with the idea, he has probably done more than anyone else to advance it over the years.

Dr. Corruccini's paper is based on years of research in transitioning cultures, much of which he conducted personally. In 1981, he published a study of a rural Kentucky community in the process of adopting the modern diet and lifestyle. Their traditional diet was predominantly dried pork, cornbread fried in lard, game meat and home-grown fruit, vegetables and nuts. The older generation, raised on traditional foods, had much better occlusion than the younger generation, which had transitioned to softer and less nutritious modern foods. Dr. Corruccini found that food toughness correlated with proper occlusion in this population.

In another study published in 1985, Dr. Corruccini studied rural and urban Bengali youths. After collecting a variety of diet and socioeconomic information, he found that food toughness was the single best predictor of occlusion. Individuals who ate the toughest food had the best teeth. The second strongest association was a history of thumb sucking, which was associated with a higher prevalence of malocclusion**. Interestingly, twice as many urban youths had a history of thumb sucking as rural youths.

Not only do hunter-gatherers eat tough foods on a regular basis, they also often use their jaws as tools. For example, the anthropologist and arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson described how the Inuit chewed their leather boots and jackets nearly every day to soften them or prepare them for sewing. This is reflected in the extreme tooth wear of traditional Inuit and other hunter-gatherers.

Soft Food Causes Malocclusion in Animals

Now we have a bunch of associations that may or may not represent a cause-effect relationship. However, Dr. Corruccini and others have shown in a variety of animal models that soft food can produce malocclusion, independent of nutrition.

The first study was conducted in 1951. Investigators fed rats typical dry chow pellets, or the same pellets that had been crushed and softened in water. Rats fed the softened food during growth developed narrow arches and small mandibles (lower jaws) relative to rats fed dry pellets.

Other research groups have since repeated the findings in rodents, pigs and several species of primates (squirrel monkeys, baboons, and macaques). Animals typically developed narrow arches, a central aspect of malocclusion in modern humans. Some of the primates fed soft foods showed other malocclusions highly reminiscent of modern humans as well, such as crowded incisors and impacted third molars. These traits are exceptionally rare in wild primates.

One criticism of these studies is that they used extremely soft foods that are softer than the typical modern diet. This is how science works: you go for the extreme effects first. Then, if you see something, you refine your experiments. One of the most refined experiments I've seen so far was published by Dr. Daniel E. Leiberman of Harvard's anthropology department. They used the rock hyrax, an animal with a skull that bears some similarities to the human skull***.

Instead of feeding the animals hard food vs. mush, they fed them raw and dried food vs. cooked. This is closer to the situation in humans, where food is soft but still has some consistency. Hyrax fed cooked food showed a mild jaw underdevelopment reminiscent of modern humans. The underdeveloped areas were precisely those that received less strain during chewing.

Implications and Practical Considerations

Besides the direct implications for the developing jaws and face, I think this also suggests that physical stress may influence the development of other parts of the skeleton. Hunter-gatherers generally have thicker bones, larger joints, and more consistently well-developed shoulders and hips than modern humans. Physical stress is part of the human evolutionary template, and is probably critical for the normal development of the skeleton.

I think it's likely that food consistency influences occlusion in humans. In my opinion, it's a good idea to regularly include tough foods in a child's diet as soon as she is able to chew them properly and safely. This probably means waiting at least until the deciduous (baby) molars have erupted fully. Jerky, raw vegetables and fruit, tough cuts of meat, nuts, dry sausages, dried fruit, chicken bones and roasted corn are a few things that should stress the muscles and bones of the jaws and face enough to encourage normal development.

* These data represent many years of measurements collected by Dr. Arne Bjork, who used metallic implants in the maxilla to make precise measurements of arch growth over time in Danish youths. The graph is reproduced from the book A Synopsis of Craniofacial Growth, by Dr. Don M. Ranly. Data come from Dr. Bjork's findings published in the book Postnatal Growth and Development of the Maxillary Complex. You can see some of Dr. Bjork's data in the paper "Sutural Growth of the Upper Face Studied by the Implant Method" (free full text).

** I don't know if this was statistically significant at p less than 0.05. Dr. Corruccini uses a cutoff point of p less than 0.01 throughout the paper. He's a tough guy when it comes to statistics!

*** Retrognathic.

Reading The Signs

A big part about taking a road trip is flexibility. There have been numerous times where things didn't go the way I planned. However, my planning usually involves looking at a map and thinking, "oh, this looks interesting."

Sometimes a wrong turn might lead you to another place that you didn't think you would see but in the end it was exactly what you were looking for. I don't get too upset when things go wrong. In fact, I have been fortunate that something hasn't gone terribly wrong. There have been some close calls and some uncomfortable moments being on the road solo in an unfamiliar place.

It's my own fault. Those situations happened because I didn't plan the next sleeping spot or I didn't know where I was. I camped solo in a crazy area in Wyoming through a storm. That wasn't the brightest idea. I've also stopped to take a picture in the road while it was foggy. Not so smart, either. I was yelled at by a Native American for taking pictures of horses on a reservation when I didn't know I was on one.

My brain tends to shut off when I take pictures. I am right there in the moment and somehow forgot where I am (like in the middle of the road on a foggy day).

After my drive through the desert, I wanted to visit Yosemite. There is an East entrance to the park that said, "closed in the winter" on the map. Is it winter yet? There isn't that much snow on the ground, I should be ok...right? Apparently, some people think it's winter so the road was closed. From where I was, it wasn't a minute was a long drive to get to the closed road.

It was just another change in plans. The sun was setting so I drove to Mono Lake to soak up the beauty of the area for one last moment. I had to laugh because right when I got there, a photographer with a HUGE camera on a tripod started running on the trail (I arrived at the same time with my point and click in my pocket) yelling at the sun..."wait! nooo...stay here...don't do it...not yet...hold on...don't go down..." I was trotting right behind him laughing. I was thinking the same thing.

So, here are the pictures I took from that evening. I didn't get into Yosemite, but I was able to see an amazing sunset on the lake. You never know what you will get when plans don't go the way a you expected. Go with the has a way of planning itself for you.

For more pictures, click HERE

Monday, November 23, 2009

In The Middle Of Nowhere, Nevada

After playing in the road, it was a long day of driving ahead in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. We headed towards the Great Basin National Park to visit. The road was closed so we drove up a bit to see some trees and caught a glimpse of deer which was exciting. Each day I see a wild animal is an adventure for me. However, Max is not a fan. He goes crazy each time I slow down or stop and starts barking even if there is nothing to see. The Buffalo in Custer State Park traumatized him I think.

We drove through a dust storm, saw lots of tumbleweeds, cows, dirt, telephone poles, the road, more dirt, weeds...oh, and a weird lady mannequin head! Very exciting stuff. Pretty creepy actually.

It was interesting that we didn't see many cars. When I played in the road, only one car drove by. I have no idea why! Look at all of the things to see!

I made the most of what I saw on the road. Here are some pics. For more, click HERE

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stupid Tree

As Max and I backed up to venture out for the day, somehow a tree appeared out of nowhere and smashed into the back of my car. I heard a "CRUNCH!" I stopped, looked at Max as if to say, "what did you do?"

I backed into a tree (Similar to this one, except it wasn't that big, that pretty and it wasn't in the middle of nowhere) and it smashed the bikes into the back of my car and put a huge dent on one side. So much so that I am unable to roll my back window down. That back window is essential for me to get to things out of the back of the car while leaving the bike rack on. Now, I am unable to retrieve things that way. Oh well, I am thankful that

-I didn't hit another car
-The tree is safe
-My window wasn't rolled down and smashed inside of the car
-The bikes are ok (at least I think they are)
-The rack didn't break (It's still hanging on ..bent and all)

But still...

When you are driving, you have plenty of time to think. So, I thought about this over and over. I decided it was time to stop thinking. What's the cure for blowing off some steam when you've been traveling for months? Playing in the road, of course! I know I told you not to...but I just had to do it one more time!

So, I stopped in the middle of nowhere and set the camera on the ground and ran around like a crazy lady for a good 30 minutes. Ahhh...that's better...

Now, back on the road...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Off the Beaten Path

After I left best friends animal sanctuary, I headed to Zion National Park and wandered around the Southwest tip of the state. Once off the main freeway, there is um...not much around. I drove through a few dust storms and several farms along the way. Even though there wasn't much to see, I stopped to view the lone trees and farm houses.

I have never been to a place where you can see the road from one mountain range to the next and everything in between.

I've been thinking about all of the places I've been and how fortunate I am to be able to do what I do. The fact is, you can do it too! With just a little planning and a willingness to leave your home for several months, you can be on your way!

There are times when I feel lonely, tired and frustrated. But, those times pass when I reach a National Park or a place I've always to explore. Some of the best experiences have been when I've been lost or decided to do something on a whim.

I look forward to sharing a little "best of" list with you. For now, here are a few snapshots of what I came across today in Utah. For more, click here.