Sunday, March 13, 2016


It's spring in Illinois.  The air smells different, and many different bird songs surround me when I step outside to try to get some signal on my cellphone.

My trip gave me what I wanted, a sense of the earth.  Bus after bus, hike after hike.  I moved across the Andes, seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, touching.  A landmass takes time to feel and explore.  My body moved across the land in a thin line, barely scratching it, but the experience lives inside me.  Light, leaves, water, rocks, sky, clouds, snowy mountain peaks.  Conversations in English, Spanish, French, and bits of Portuguese and Quechua mixed in.  Meeting fellow travelers from all over the world, and local dwellers of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

Living with just a few clothes in my pack.  The freedom of solitude, of spontaneous decision making, of anonymously hopping on a bus, minutes after deciding on a destination.  It is a restorative experience.

Three months felt like not quite enough, meaning it was just the right amount of time.  I'm glad to be home.  Time for new things, new directions in life.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Illinois sunset

The changing sky last night kept interrupting me as I made a blueberry shortbread dessert.

 The landscape near my mom & dad's house has changed, with the result that our view of the sunset isn't through trees anymore.

 I kind of like the openness.

 The shortbread turned out great by the way.  I made this recipe.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

west and the van

So I've posted a lot of pictures here.  But how about some words?

Sometimes I feel a little dizzy at all the travels.  It's just over three months that I have been on the road.  There have been some stays with friends or family, and other stretches with long drives, other whiles living out of the van while it sat in one place.

The crazy van idea has worked well.  It's functioned for all the various situations I've put myself into. Hotel parking lots work well in urban areas.  National parks have free campsites and the van worked well off-grid.  It worked well parked in a driveway when visiting a friend.  Parked on a farm.

I officially fell in love with the van in Badlands, South Dakota.  I arrived just before dusk after crossing flat prairies all day.

At one point I saw a butte.  It was a little hint:  you're almost there!

Then I arrived at Badlands.  I stepped out of the van, I felt the dry air, and saw the desert landscape around me.  It felt like the west, all of a sudden!

After the sun set I drove through badlands able to see a little in the dusk (although it was too dark for photos).  I noticed lightning to the south so I parked and watched.  After a while I climbed out my window and onto the top of the van.  Evening breezes, lightning flashes in the distance.  A brief sprinkling of rain.  After a while I laid flat on the roof and watched the Milky Way gradually increase in brightness.

And that is when I fell in love with my van.  It's still white and looks boring on the outside.  But it's a good pal for watching the night sky.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

photos on instagram

Just because it's easier to do from a phone, I have started posting on instagram.

This is the link, or you can follow me @paulathonney.

Phase 3 of the journey begins now.  Heading over to West Virginia today.

Friday, August 07, 2015

timber frame pavilion

In a couple of weeks I'll be helping to build a timber framed pavilion.  This is a rough sketch of the building, minus the rafters, which will not be timber framed.  A nice basic structure.  Lots of braces.

Hopefully I will have pictures of the real thing to post later this month!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

a passage by Sir Wilfred Thesiger

"For years the Empty Quarter [of the Arabian Peninsula] had represented to me the final, unattainable challenge which the desert offered.  Suddenly it had come within my reach.  I remembered my excitement when [British researcher O. B.] Lean had casually offered me the chance to go there, the immediate determination to cross it, and then the doubts and fears, the frustrations, and the moments of despair.  Now I had crossed it.  To others my journey would have little importance.  It would produce nothing except a rather inaccurate map which no one was ever likely to use.  It was a personal experience, and the reward had been a drink of clean, nearly tasteless water.  I was content with that."

From Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger.

As I prepare to go timber framing next week, Thesiger's thoughts resonate for me.  I've been offered an opportunity, which opens up a different world.  And I know it's going to be hard at times.  But I'm so glad to have the chance.

Friday, July 31, 2015

southern illinois

It's very beautiful here in the summer.  More beautiful still from inside of an air conditioned car!