When I am writing, I sometimes imagine that we are talking to our families, to our friends, or maybe even to ourselves in twenty years. Occasionally, I like to pretend that our future offspring will read this one day and think, "Mom and Dad are so cool!"
The rest of the time, I feel as though I am hurling words into a great black void. In reality, that cloud of nothingness is actually teeming with people who read our journal. Usually, I am reminded of this fact when we receive a kind note from someone who likes our site. Today was a little different.
After an hour spent reading a train-wreck of negativity in an online forum (I like to call it "Bicker Kingdom") that harshly criticized our trip, our photos, and our intentions, I felt like a brawny boxer I'd never met had just delivered a crushing blow to my vulnerable underbelly. I was clearly not myself, feeling as thin-skinned and delicate as a soap bubble. Suddenly, I didn't want to share anything that I valued with anyone else.
Tyler was infuriatingly unaffected by it all, save for being concerned about me. I am usually pretty good about not taking things personally, and about being grateful for honest feedback no matter what package it comes in. But today, I was down for the count.
I hope that someday I'll be neither unruffled by negative feedback, nor addicted to positive comments, but instead, self-assured and steady as a rock.
Not a lot happened today, and yet here I am, writing about our journey once more. We drove through Russia in our LRC, and it was hot, and we were sticky, and dirty too. We passed through the city of Nizhny Novogrod and remembered for the millionth time how we really don't like cities. There were some nice houses though.
Throughout the day, we had several mishaps – getting cut off by a big black SUV, knocking mirrors with the car next to us, and finding ourselves stuck in the middle of a gridlocked intersection with a mass of cars coming our way. It was a normal drive.
Russia is blanketed in forest fires this summer, and today we drove past one of them. Just a small flame was visible; mostly there was a lot of smoke, some firefighters, and a very long hose.
We felt more at ease in the countryside (no surprise there)…
…and when it came time, we began our now daily hunt for a good free-camp. I opened the laptop and pulled up our maps, zooming in on anything blue – lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, something, anything aqueous. I made a waypoint and off we went, hoping it would pan out.
Often it seems that the third time really is the charm. The first river might be in the middle of a town, and the second point, a lake, might be crawling with like-minded people desperate to escape the heat. We patiently try and try again until we find a spot to call home. It isn't so different than looking for a free-camp when cycling!
Tonight, we headed towards a lake located a few kilometers off the main highway. It was along a paved side road (a rare thing indeed). When we reached our turn off, Tyler carefully dipped our LRC into a bumpy dirt track, swerving left and right to ply the smoothest course, praying we wouldn't totally destroy our car. Thankfully, a clearing appeared on the path, as it always does.
We parked, stripped down, and stepped through the initially murky waters of the lake before slipping smoothly into the clear middle bit. We paddled around, sliding on the slick muddy bottom, laughing as we sunk knee-deep into gaping holes in the lake's floor. After bathing, I shaved my legs, one foot propped up on an old tire.
A few degrees cooler, we got out and Tyler prepared supper while I set up the tent. It was just what the doctor ordered to soothe my dark mood – a delicious and lazy dinner of pizza and beer, that's our comfort meal.
For the first time in days, it is cool enough to slip under our down covers and snuggle up together. We aren't sticky, we aren't dirty, and I am grateful for the subtle and surprising drop in temperature. I listen, staring out into the darkness through the ceiling of our tent as Tyler reads another chapter of Bird by Bird to me. And then, we drift off to sleep.