rob roberts and talon on a standup paddleboard on flathead lake

14:1 | The Perfect Ratio for Vacational Whimsy

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Parenting, Sailing

Last Wednesday, I eased a stand-up paddleboard down the Clark Fork River through an eerily smoke-filled Missoula with a group of new and old friends. We had the river to ourselves, paddling our craft beneath a blood red sun. We weren’t about to let the dense wildfire smoke deter us from enjoying the inaugural adventure of a wedding weekend extravaganza.

This was the float where Kevin Colburn coined the term “vacational whimsy,” an apt description for fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants holiday planning. Vacational whimsy isn’t for the faint of heart. Rather than rainbows and gumdrops, unplanned adventures can lead to rainstorms and gum in your hair.

talon on a standup paddleboard on flathead lake - on the horizon line

 

But, sometimes, letting whimsy direct your downtime allows the stars to align into an unexpectedly magical mix of people and energy. That’s why it’s addicting.

Last weekend, the stars aligned. The Montanabama Wedding brought together dozens of people who all felt inclined to trust the whimsy. It led us into long breakfasts, late nights at the campground, costume-fueled dance parties, skinny-dipping off sailboats, and inventing the new sport of SUP-tooning (surfing an inflatable stand-up paddleboard behind a pontoon boat).

brianna randall SUPing behind a boat on flathead lake

The latter was definitely a highlight. We laughed at ourselves for getting thrill rides out of slow craft while wakeboarders flew past us towed by jet boats. (“It’s kind of like snowboarding without edges,” said one friend, watching his wife try to turn the SUP. “And boating without edges, too!” replied the pontoon driver struggling to turn.)

Our vacational whimsy worked because of the combination of personalities, the access to interesting recreation, and the beautiful location on Flathead Lake (which we remembered was beautiful after the smoke cleared on Saturday night). It also worked because we stumbled upon the perfect adult:baby ratio for Rob and I to fully participate in all events–14:1.

brianna randall and talon roberts at a wedding in montana

Yes, it’s true. It took more than a dozen adults to corral Talon from trotting into the lake or throwing pint glasses onto concrete. Even with the superb supervision, he still got two bloody noses and demolished a glass vase. Plus, with so many helping hands, Talon was able to have way more adventures of his own. In a mere 72 hours, our 1 year-old rode in more watercraft than many people board in a lifetime: sailboat, packraft, SUP, pontoon boat, and canoe.

rob and brianna randall and talon on spindrift sailing flathead lake in montana

We couldn’t have planned the easy flow of last weekend if we tried. Partly, this is because you can’t plan for magic. And partly it’s because planning is definitely not our strong suit. For instance, it’s currently 1:00 p.m. and Rob and I still haven’t decided if we’re driving 9 hours to Bellingham today to spend the long weekend with our friends at Controlled Jibe.

We’re waiting for vacational whimsy to guide us. I’m ready to trust that whimsy when it hits.

rob roberts and talon on a standup paddleboard on flathead lake

 

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.

The Little Red Bible: Goodbye Wedding Tasks, Hello Bon Voyage To-Do’s!

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life, Sailing

A couple of weeks ago, Rob bought us a red, wide-ruled notebook (picture what you get for an 8-year-old as back-to-school gear).  It’s replaced my 3-page “Wedding To-Do List” in a place of honor, right next to the Field Guide to North American Birds and the big pile of bills.  While the wedding was fun as hell, I don’t miss the mundane organizing tasks a bit…especially since our new red bible is so titillating.

For those of you who don’t know, we’re leaving Missoula this spring to explore islands, oceans, and cultures west of North America.  A couple years back, we decided to search for some brand-new horizons.

We’re quitting our jobs in March, packing our belongings into a 5×10′ space, renting the house, selling the car, and taking one backpack each into the sunset.  Our goal is to crew on sailboats through the South Pacific, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia in 2013, eventually buying our own boat.  In between ocean voyages, we plan to climb mountains, fly off cliffs, dance on beaches, meet new people, and see what may find us.

The dream is going to be a reality in just under 6 months. Which means we have to get our s$i@ together, starting with keeping all our random “oh, we should do this before we go” ideas in one place, instead of exclaiming them to each other at all hours.

Meanwhile, back on the homefront, there’s a LOT to do before we set sail.  Rob isn’t big on electronic lists, mostly because we look at computers enough in the office.  And I find comfort in physical lists, probably because I LOVE crossing things off in big, black, permanent marker.

This red notebook is our ticket to get outta dodge.  Below are the 7 list categories so far, with one example of what’s under each category:

  • Wish List (Go Pro Hero 2 Camera)
  • Items We Need (UV water purifier)
  • Life Maintenance (buy emergency international health insurance: here’s the front runner)
  • House Prep (build a wall to separate the garage in half, creating a locked storage area for all our stuff)
  • Odds and Ends (find a new home for the chickens)
  • Sailing Prep (decide if we’re going to get a USGS Captain’s License and study like hell)
  • Timeline (put the the car up for sale in February and the house up for rent in January)

Some lists are a lot longer than others (like the Wish List), and all of them will probably get longer this winter.  Luckily, we keep crossing things off, too, inching that much closer to a new horizon line.

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