We left the mountains of Colorado and our campsite in the White River National Forest two weeks ago. It was bitter-sweet leaving the mountains, leaving the west, knowing that we were bound east to the flatlands of cars and people and strip malls. Yet, most of our family is east, including a new grandchild on the way. We’ve missed that being on the road, the comfort of our tribe. And so we are creeping eastward, a few miles at a time.
Our first stop was South Dakota where we had work to do. From a tax standpoint, the four best states to live in are, in order of advantages, Alaska, South Dakota, Texas, and Florida. For the full-time traveler, this presents an interesting question. Where to reside? It is not a rhetorical question. If you’ve cut ties with real estate, no longer have a place to call “home,” where do you establish residency, and how? Residency is determined by a number of factors, including time spent in the state. That qualification alone rules out Alaska–too hard to get to. South Dakota, however, has become something of a haven for the full-time traveler. Among other benefits, SD requires that once legal residency is established, one need only spend one night every five years to maintain residency status. Other benefits? No income tax, chiefly. SD has turned residency into a cottage industry. There are kiosks sprinkled throughout the state that provide turn-key services for getting driver’s licenses and vehicle registration. We stopped into one and had our licenses in less than fifteen minutes. Too, there are several small companies in the state that, for a nominal fee, will set you up with a physical address, along with a “PBN”–that is, a Personal Box Number. It is legal and once you’ve got that you’re on your way. So it is that we are now residents of South Dakota. Ironically, nomads with an address.
Lake Superior has claimed a hold on my imagination for as long as I can remember. Did you know that Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world as measured by surface area, holds enough water that if it spilled out over North America, and leaked down into South America, would cover both continents to a depth of 12 inches? Pardon please, my full-blown nerdness–just a little factoid you might find of interest. We’re in Grand Marais (pop. 350) in the UP., that is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the uninitiated. Jim Harrison, who lived here during the summer season once wrote, “It is good to live in a place largely ignored by the rest of the world.” The U.P. is such a place. Remote, weather-worn, and a place you go to because it is simply there, not a place you pass through on your way to somewhere else. The people, what few there are, are friendly and warm, generous and without pretension. In contrast, the land is harsh, wild, and filled with critters big and small, wolves and bear, mink and brook trout.
From here we will continue due east, returning to New England through Canada. Then, after a month or so, we will wind down our travels, arriving in Maryland in September. As noted before, we are looking forward to down-time spent with family in the year to come…but already we are sketching out plans for the road ahead, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the trout waiting for my fly, the moose Lucy will chase.