Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park Doesn’t Have Cell Service

I spent the weekend in a gorgeous place in the middle of the desert, learning about abandoned mines and the Nevada State Fossil–the Ichthyosaur. We had originally picked Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park as a place to basically get away from home, do some Vanagon camping, and not deal with Life Stuff for a few days.

It may have worked a little better than I expected.

I knew our cell service might be a little spotty on the trip, but I will tell you that Nevada has way better service in what I call their “boonies” than California does in ours. Maybe because there’s more of it? I can’t get connected basically anywhere in the Sierras, but get me across the state line, and…boom! I can do google searches and play with social media as much as I want. And I had kind of figured that in the State Park, there would be rangers, so there would be service. Nope. From Friday night to Sunday late afternoon when we left–not a sign of the Internet or anything from or about the outside world. So, seriously. Zero. Life. Stuff.

It was a little weird. I didn’t actually miss it; there’s a lot about the world these days that I don’t mind tuning out from. But I did notice how often my brain would, just in any moment of silence, drop into that groove that had me almost reflexively reaching for my phone. A gap of ideas as I was working on a chapter, a question of trivia that my husband and I didn’t know the answer to, a picture I wanted to share on Facebook. It was, honestly, a lesson in the mindfulness part of well…mindfulness–Wow! Look how often I’m doing that.

And can I tell you how fast I was writing? I know–we all know–how distracting the internet can be when we’re supposed to be putting words on a page. I get that, but I also tell myself some version of the “I can  handle it, and I can quit anytime” storyline. But both Saturday and Sunday mornings, while my husband was out on his bike, I draft or revised an entire short chapter in about an hour and a half. Seriously. We woke up really, because the Vanagon has no curtains, and the sun comes right in the windows. I don’t move really quickly, but by 7:30 or so, my husband had hit the road (not literally, thank goodness–been there, done that!), and I was writing. By 9:00, I had the chapter done. And I hadn’t noticed the time passing, not at all. I would think, okay, that’s a chapter–it must be 11:00 or even noon. Nope. Not even close. I wasn’t looking up, I wasn’t looking around, I wasn’t looking beyond the pinyon pines at the edge of our campsite.

!pinyons.jpg

The other thing that happened was that I ran out of books. I know, right? Catastrophe. Partly, it was because we were both doing a lot of laying around and reading, and partly it was because we ended up with a minor charging problem, and I couldn’t get to my kindle for a few hours. Know what I did? I sat in my beach chair under the shade cover, head back against one of the pillars, and–for an hour or two–either stared out at those trees and thought, or closed my eyes and dozed. I didn’t even have my phone with me.

I know. No big revelations here. There’s enough talk on the very Internet we should spend less time on, about how we should spend less time on the Internet. And they’re right. But maybe, after this trip, I know just a little more deeply that they’re right.

So…what am I doing about it? No promises about how long this will last, but for now and maybe for a little past now, I’m going to disconnect a little more. This is going to be a challenge–in part, just because I’m trying to take apart a habit. Also, though, as toxic as all the crap in DC is, I believe it’s important for me to stay in touch with it, to know when it’s my turn to dial my Senators, to call out the idiots and say, “We see you.” But my new mantra is going to be, “Right now, I’m doing X,” meaning, I’m doing one thing, and being on my phone simultaneously, in whatever form, is doing two things. I’m going to put it away more frequently, turn it off, delay checking in with whatever my brain thinks I should be checking in with.

And I’m going to see–when I’m not in the desert, when I’m not on a weekend, when I’ve gone longer than two days–how it feels.

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