Our water baby loves a dip in Weir Hot Springs in Idaho.

Our Own Piles of Leaves | Poem + Photos

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Cultivating Creativity, Reflections on Life

Sometimes the falling leaves feel heavy, brown, smothering

adding up to all the moments I wasn’t quite enough

for me, my son, my parents, my husband, my everyone

burying possibility in a dank pile of mush.


But sometimes the falling leaves feel floaty, golden, freeing

each one an echo of an imperfectly grateful exhale

that becomes the laugh I least expected

forming piles of possibility in layers of fading sunlight.


The sun hides for months on end in these latitudes

sleet and slush the begrudged and grungy visitor

plastered in a haze across our once-bright windows

shrouding the memories of headlong hedonism.


I never welcome the grungy grey gracefully

but rather struggle to find the golden in the brown.

It always turns out, though, that freedom from smother

is simply the gratitude for good.


Open-mouthed kisses blown from wide-spread fingers

A husband sleeping on the couch to give his wife a quiet bed

Ukelele strums with mumbled half-assed harmonies

A photo book made with painstakingly perfect captions and colors.


Meanwhile, the leaves fall like so many stories

each one sighing through the air with its own

weight and momentum

settling into the piles that layer our lives.


Kayaking and canoeing the lower Flathead River with friends.
Kayaking and canoeing the lower Flathead River with friends.
Scenic cliffs on the lower Flathead River, full of swallows sailing through the sky.
Scenic cliffs on the lower Flathead never disappoint, full of swallows sailing through the sky.
"Where would YOU drop the crab pot? And do you think it's weird that the trap is bigger than our packraft?"
“Where would YOU drop the crab pot? And do you think it’s weird that the trap is bigger than our packraft?”
Our water baby loves a dip in Weir Hot Springs in Idaho.
Our water baby loves a dip in Weir Hot Springs in Idaho.
Our Philly-based visitors are psyched on the natural outdoor hot tub!
Our Philly-based visitors are psyched on the natural outdoor hot tub!
Fields like these make your heart sigh each fall.
Fields like these make your heart sigh each fall.
A brief picnic during our mushroom-hunting hike around Tally Lake in Montana.
A brief picnic during our mushroom-hunting hike around Tally Lake in Montana.
How doesn't love a good pile of autumn leaves?
Who doesn’t love a good pile of autumn leaves?
Talon kind of, sort of helps rake leaves.
Talon thinks he helps rake the leaves (but actually just drags them across the road).
brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog tonga vavau

Bang Bang (with goats and hot pants)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Videos

This is what we do on the average Tuesday in Tonga.  No, we weren’t on drugs, and no, this was not the result of a dare or a lost bet.  We spent a week on Tapana Island with our new friends, Billy and Magenta, perfecting our band’s repertoire and running around the island in costumes.

It felt a lot like a “Glee” episode — someone would sing a random snippet part way through cooking dinner, and the rest of us would pick up nearby instruments to accompany the remainder of the song. We even wrote a couple of originals that might appear in later videos.

Fun, right?  We think so.

If you like Riff Raff’s first music video, please share it.  Spread the love.  Send the barnyard animals and synchronized swimming scenes into the homes of your friends, so that they, too, can laugh at Rob’s amorous goat-petting and stylish swimming shorts.  Enjoy.

Disclaimer: no sheep were harmed during the making of this film.


brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog tonga vavau

Let’s talk about the future.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture, Traveling

brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog tonga vavau

A lot of people have asked us recently about our short- and long-term plans. Where are we going next? What will we be doing in Tonga? What are our goals for the future? (Besides making an album, since we have this awesome album cover photo all ready to go.)

To be honest, we’ve thought a lot less about these answers here in Vava’u than any other time since we left Missoula. Part of the reason we haven’t thought much about plans and goals the last couple of months is because we simply have less time to think. Passages across the Pacific give plenty of time to ponder what the hell you’re doing with your life (maybe too much time?). Partying in Tonga sucks that pondering right back into the sea, sweeping out plans with the tides.

It’s been busy in Vava’u. We’ve been playing a lot of music, and heading up weekly open mic nights at a local bar. We’ve been doing yoga almost every morning. We’ve been helping set up and plan a 4-day regatta and associated festival events so hundreds of people can have fun. We’ve been cooking and eating a lot. We’ve been designing and wearing a variety of interesting costumes. We’ve been sitting around with the tight-knit group of palangis and yachties who live in Vava’u, discussing particle physics, papayas, rainbows, religion, and government theory. We’ve been petting dogs, and avoiding pigs crossing the street.

pub crawl in neiafu tonga regatta vavau party brianna and rob on the horizon line

You see? We barely have time to swim anymore, much less figure out the future.

Rob and I have been living for free here in Tonga in exchange for helping out new friends. We spend a week or two at cooking and fixing things at Mandala Resort on Fetoko Island, and then a week or so in Neiafu watching 3 lovely boys while they’re parents are both working. We plan to keep helping people out, since they keep helping us out in return: so far, we’ve long-term-borrowed 2 mountain bikes, a few spear guns, lots of clothes, a kayak, and a sailboat.

neiafu harbor from mount talau

Our short-term plans are to fix up that sailboat so we can move aboard late November. In December, my sister comes to visit for the whole month! When I’m not hopping around in gleeful excitment about seeing Cassidy in 5 weeks, I’m mapping out the best beaches and snorkeling spots to anchor at while she’s here. Come the new year … well, I expect we’ll be doing more of the same: volunteering to work on interesting projects for friends, sailing around the dozens of islands in Vava’u between summer storms, playing music and eating fruit.

After cyclone season ends in March, we plan to hitch a ride to American Samoa and Samoa, and then on to Fiji for a few months. Rob and I are planning to head back to Montana for a summer visit in July. And that’s about as long-term as we can plan right here and right now. We talk a lot about lofty goals for the future, which include miraculous millions that allow us to jet each year between our home in Missoula and our second home on a tropical island.  Maybe the millions will roll in once we start selling our band’s albums … though I somehow doubt Johnny Cash cover songs will net enough for a second home.

pub crawl in neiafu tonga regatta vavau party on the horizon line travel blog

But it’s all just talk. We’re happy, healthy, and very much in the “now” here in Tonga. Come visit us and you, too, will see how these islands suck plans straight out into the deep Tongan Trench.

sailing in polynesia on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts drums yacht club tahiti

Boy, do I love Rob.

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

sailing in polynesia on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Rob’s writing a song. He sits on the bow, bent over the small nylon-string guitar we bought in Panama City, humming softly to himself: “Duh duh duh, dum dee dum dum, ba-daaaaaa.” I smile as he ends with a flourish. Rob’s only been playing guitar for two months, but the little ditty he invented has a catchy rhythm and clear chords. I have no doubt the soon-to-emerge lyrics will be clever, too.

That’s my husband, I think proudly to myself.

I still feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I say that word. We married each other one year ago today, in a sunny park along a cold river in the center of hundreds of family and friends. We vowed to explore the world and ourselves together. Making music together is just one of the many explorations we’ve undertaken this year, but — to me — it represents so much about our relationship. The willingness to try new things, the desire to be creative, the ability to take risks and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, the search for beautiful moments, the patience to teach and to learn, the ease with which we find humor in the mundane.

These are the things I treasure about my husband. About being a wife. About living together in small spaces in a vast world.

sailing in polynesia on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts drums yacht club tahiti

I was only mildly surprised when Rob turned to me a week into our Pacific crossing (once his seasickness wore off) and asked me to teach him how to play guitar. “My aunt told me I should try and learn something new on our sailing trip,” he said. “I figure I’ve got time, I love music, and I’ve got a teacher right here.” Many people don’t choose to learn new things at age 37. But Rob isn’t most people.

My husband is special, and I celebrate that fact on more days than just today. Out here in tropical ocean land, days in a row go by where I feel even more in love with him than I did on our wedding day. A few nights ago, as we discussed the many decisions facing us over the next months and the many decisions we’ve already made, Rob said to me: “I feel like the our relationship has been the most sure thing about our whole trip.”

I know exactly what he means. In the midst of queasiness, constant change, wonderful moments and horrible ones, Rob and I have depended heavily on each other. We can’t turn to friends and family, as we normally do. And we can’t just take a walk when one of us gets frustrated, either. It’s all or nothing out here. I marvel at how well we mesh, how well we’ve learned to navigate unknown circumstances, how quickly we adjusted to spending almost every minute of the day together.

Sure, there are plenty of times when we snapped at each other this past year, or when I wanted nothing more than to spend the day alone. That’s just life. But, amazingly, the more days that go by, the more we accept each others’ faults, moods, needs, mistakes.

sailing in polynesia on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Here are the simple things I cherish about him today, in this moment, on our anniversary, anchored off a lush island on someone else’s boat, at the beginning of our adventure together across the biggest ocean on the planet.
– He cooks one-pot wonders in record time, and makes sure I always eat enough.
– He can fix just about anything.
– He starts new ideas with, “Hey, Bri, do you know what we should do?” and I smile in anticipation each time, not knowing what the hell he might say next.
– He does what he wants, and means what he says.
– He pats my butt absentmindedly whenever he walks by.
– He has a pretty cute butt of his own.

Tonight, on our first anniversary, there will be fireworks. Not just the romantic kind, either — real ones that bang and boom. French Polynesia is conveniently helping us celebrate by throwing a huge party. It’s Bastille Day, and France is rocking out to celebrate their own anniversary of freedom and representative governance. The party might even be as good as our wedding in Missoula. We’ll be happily swimming in wedding day memories today (just like 30 of us swam naked in the river downtown after the reception): cupcakes and carousels and musicians and magic. Kind words, smiling babies, hula hoops, rap-toasts, elk meat and dancing. Good times.

We haven’t seen a carousel, elk or a rapper in months. We’d pay a lot of money to dance again with all of our friends. But we’re celebrating the fact that we’ve still got the magic, and we’ll renew our promise to keep making music together.

kung fu ninja kick on the horizon line blog rob roberts

Magic Mood Mixture (nope, no illegal substances included)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Dance, Yoga and Fitness, Sailing

kung fu ninja kick on the horizon line blog rob roberts

I know many of you who followed our voyage across the Pacific are secretly asking yourselves this very important question:how the hell did Bri and Rob keep from losing their minds during while bobbing around the ocean blue for a whole month?

First off, don’t kid yourselves: we definitely lost it at times. Second, we each quickly learned what would bring us back from the brink of insanity, and what would keep us as pleasant as possible during the crossing. For me: 1) music 2) exercise 3) caffeine 4) naps. Most of you know that this is the exact same mixture that keeps me sane and bearable on land, too. Just give me some espresso, a dance class or bike ride, and some good tunes to sing along to and my bad mood usually lifts.

Napping is new, though — I’ve always hated that groggy post-nap disorientation, and feeling like I was missing out on something exciting. Nothing like a weird night watch schedule to change my tune about the value of naps. Plus, watching Rob’s impressive cat-napping ability inspired me to follow suit. Rob’s magic mood mixture is about the same as mine, if you double his nap quotient and replace caffeine with mini-projects (fixing broken binoculars, rigging fishing lines, inventing a way to detangle all the ropes at the mast, etc.). Here’s some details on our passage sanity formula:

1) Music: Me playing the shitty nylon-string guitar we bought in Panama City (thank god we found it), and Rob learning how to play his first-ever song on the guitar. Either of us zoning out to favorite tunes with headphones blasting to cover the fact that you’re sharing a very small space with 6 other people, 3 of whom are bickering brothers. Me dancing as best I can, using the stays and shrouds as my partners as I kick, spin, arc, and flail to the beat of a bass. The whole crew singing to Johnny Cash as we cook dinner and do dishes, walking around the tilted cabin like drunk sailors (who haven’t seen a drop of alcohol for a month).

2) Exercise: A fascinating, innovative, hilarious endeavor given the motion and lack of space. I exercised a few times a day, although the definition of “exercise” is totally stretchy compared to what I’d do in regular life. Squats, lunges, pushups and crunches were ubiquitous, along with some fancier strength training moves that required holding on for dear life to something bolted on the deck. I tried out various creative cardio routines, consisting of jumping jacks, running in place, can-can kicks, mountain-climbers, and pretending the single step on deck was a stairmaster. Yoga stretches were a mainstay, of course, throughout the day. The end result? I’m more toned than I’ve ever been in my life, but a dying tortoise could beat me at a 100-yard dash. It’s tough to maintain any sort of aerobic activity when you can’t really walk without falling over.

3) Caffeine: What I would give for an espresso machine … sigh. Next time, I’m bringing lots of good teas and coffee. This trip, though, we made do with crappy instant (Buen Dia!), and some sketchy tea bags that barely tinted the water after steeping. I horded the one tin of stellar green tea, meting out one bag per day when at my crankiest.

4) Naps: Learned to love ’em. Not only do they refresh after getting up in the middle of the night for watch, they also make time go faster, provide an exciting position change from sitting on your butt, give you some alone time, and offer relief from intense midday sun. Rob brought napping to a new level, sleeping sitting up, in the cockpit, splayed out on the yoga mat, or folded into weird positions. While I couldn’t quite match his napping enthusiasm, I’m definitely a convert to taking one per day.

The biggest challenge was trying to add something new or creative or interesting into each day. Something that differentiates it from all the other rolly blue sameness. For me, even a new dance move or a new ingredient to spice up a coffee drink could push me over the edge from a low to a high. Rob and I both learned (and continued to re-learn) that there’s a very fine line between despair and contentment on a boat out at sea.exercise sailing dance yoga on the horizon line brianna randall

We Are Musical People, Yo.

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Dance, Yoga and Fitness

dance move

A drum beats through the background of my daily narrative.  A bass-line usually thrums in my brain and through my body while we eat, when I dance, as I work, while I play guitar.  But the background beat has been eerily absent for over a week.  My guitar and both of our iPods were casualties of the Todos Santos robbery.  Turns out that the lack of music is perhaps the most haunting loss of all.

We are musical people.  You’ve probably heard Rob singing loudly through the aisles of the grocery store in Missoula, or watched him unconsciously playing drums on the counter, the steering wheel, or on my leg when we sit next to each other.  He keeps time to the soundtrack in his mind, and had recently started recording our friends’ music, too.  I try to dance daily, and play guitar often while I belt out old rock songs (sometimes even on key!).  At home, we streamed Pandora constantly and our trademark Christmas gift to our friends was a mixed CD of our favorite songs from the year.

music on thanksgiving

The recent quiet seems to take up physical space in my body.  It almost feels oppressive, like a balloon that muffles my daily rhythms and makes my thoughts echo in my head.  I know: counter-intuitive, right?  The silence should serve to heighten my awareness of the world around me, not stifle my interaction with it.  But for me, music enhances every experience – kind of like a 6th sense.   It cements new memories, anchors me in a place, and activates my creative right brain while tamping down my overactive analytical left brain.  It’s like cream in coffee, hot fudge on a sundae, the icing on the cupcake: music just makes life more fun.

Rob and I have been singing snippets of the same Lumineers song for the past 10 days now (“I don’t know where I belong, I don’t know where I went wrong…I could write a song”).  We’re a broken record, a CD skipping endlessly on one track.  Not only is it annoying, it also tells me that our music sense is stagnant.   I hadn’t pinpointed the problem fully until we got in the shuttle from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo.  Our Mexican bus driver turned out to be an American rock-n-roll fanatic, toggling from Pink Floyd to Coldplay to Clapton to Radiohead.

guitar on bow

As Rob and I sang aloud to “Wish You Were Here,” I felt the bubble inside me pop and my body breathe a deep sigh of bass-filled relief.  I also immediately felt an insane urge to stand up and dance on the bus, now that my music sense was reactivated.  I hadn’t sashayed, spun or shimmied since my last Oula class at the Downtown Dance Collective over two weeks ago.  Completely unacceptable.

Luckily, all of the awesome dance songs I downloaded before our trip are waiting in cyberspace for me, ready to upload to iTunes when I get my replacement iPhone tomorrow.  I’ll be shakin’ my bootie in no time during a self-led solo Oula class at the entrance to the Panama Canal.  We also picked up some replacement tunes (thanks to Cassidy, our main source for all new music), and plan to buy a new cheap-but-functional campesino guitar in Panama City.

As for the Lumineers song – well, we might not be listening to that one right off the bat when we find a music-making device.  But you can damn well be sure that Rob and I will be singing and dancing along to something as we sail across the Pacific.  For us, music is almost as essential as food (almost).

wedding dance - on the horizon line - travel blog - fitness


Puppy Love

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Family and Friends, Hiking, Videos

bathroom jam mosierRemember our recent foray into homesteading? Here’s a short video clip that showcases a few highlights::

1) Kipp and Christine’s adorable 8-week-old puppy, Penny.

2) A not-very-good but fun-to-play rendition of our group’s version of “Wagon Wheel” (aka the “Freebird” of our generation), which is redeemed by Brad’s fiddle playing.  Note: stay tuned for future songs from our epic bathroom recording sessions.  Bathtubs make good studios.

3) Some funny shots of us hopping barbed-wire fences.

[framed_video column=”full-width”]http://youtu.be/Ay9-BOQnHqg [/framed_video]

Giving thanks (and buying stuff).

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Family and Friends, Food and Drink

On this post-Thanksgiving Sunday, I am grateful for my sister, my parents, and my husband who are my best friends.  I am grateful for the loving and close-knit circle of Missoula and Portland-based friends who are my family.

I am grateful for rainy walks by cold creeks, hot turkey soup, long soaks in wood-fired saunas, and dancing on the bar at Charlie B’s with my best girlfriends.

I am grateful for abundant food coupled with abundant creativity. I am grateful for the time to play music in the living room and make movies in the kitchen.  I am grateful for gracious hosts, cuddly dogs chasing frisbees, laughing children doing animal dances, and Moscow Mules.

And I am grateful that Rob and I have the incredible opportunity to travel and explore the world in the coming year … even though this opportunity comes with the poignant cost of leaving all these beautiful things behind for a bit.

With the leave-taking a mere four months away, we decided to participate in Black Friday sales to gear-up for our travel adventures.  Check out the recent purchases:

We clicked “purchase” on 2 one-way plane tickets from Missoula to Cabo San Lucas, where we’ll start the voyage in the company of our good friends Katie and Mark in Sea of Cortez aboard their 28-foot Pearson-Triton sailboat, Selkie.
We bought 115-liter waterproof SealLine Pro Packs, which will be our portable homes and closets for the next year or two. Everything we bring abroad must fit in these packs.
Rob did a happy dance when his marine-grade rigging knife came in the mail from Myerchin.com. “I’ve always wanted a marlinspike,” he said. It cost more than this dollar.
Click on this picture to watch a video on how well our newest toy works. It’s a knock-off Sony external mic for making videos on our GoPro or iPhone. Only $6!


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