A Few Parting Thoughts by Robert Witham
This fall has been an interesting travel experience. I left northeast Wyoming after Labor Day as is my custom and embarked upon a trip toward my first fall destination in southern Nevada.
This leg of my fall migration was expected to span approximately two months. Alas, those best laid plans of mice and men... The temperatures were in the 90s east of the Rockies so I hurried toward the Colorado high country in pursuit of cooler weather and eventual fall foliage.
I would discover on day two of this trip that neither my body nor my van appreciate being at high altitude. This was surprising as I have not experienced trouble at 10,000 feet in the past, and I assumed that all fuel-injected vehicles were able to handle the changes in elevation crossing the Colorado mountains.
As for why I could not breathe comfortably this fall I still do not know. Camping at 10,000 feet has not been a problem for me in the past, though I know many people who are not able to spend time at that elevation. My symptoms started out mild, but were worsening by the day until I finally decided to head downhill on the fourth day. As soon as I dropped a few thousand feet I began to feelbetter.
The van’s poor performance remained a mystery until I was able to talk to my mechanic afterward. It had been running fine until I started climbing the mountains west of Denver on I-70. The higher I climbed the worse the engine ran. I have encountered this in Colorado in years past with carbureted vehicles, but have never had trouble with a fuel- injected engine.
It turns out that this van model was equipped with one of two sets of fuel injectors designed for below or above 4,000 feet. This particular van has the fuel injectors for below 4,000 feet. In theory, the sensors on the engine should still allow the vehicle to compensate for the changes in elevation - but these are relatively primitive
sensors feeding information to a relatively primitive computer. That is the theory, but 26 years and 120,000 miles later this van was struggling to compensate.
The moral of this tale, if there is one, may be that no matter how carefully and reasonably we plan, life still happens. Our best laid plans often go awry. And that is alright.
My plan this fall had been to stay in the Colorado high country to photograph the changing foliage for this magazine. Instead, my travel plans were upended, but I was able to experience different things that I had not planned and to meet people I may not otherwise have met.
I often say that flexibility is essential for a nomad. This trip is a good example of that principle. Life throws everyone plenty of surprises regardless of chosen lifestyle, but for nomads this unpredictability is more acute than for those living more traditionally. We just live closer to nature and further removed from the “built world” of cities and subdivisions.
The upshot of embracing flexibility is that we have the opportunity to not only survive challenging situations, but to thrive. Remaining flexible in the face of challenges creates opportunities that we could never anticipate.