the conclusion (post 7 of 7)

This is a guest post by Kim Bagby, Steve and Mimi’s daughter-in-law. At Mimi’s invitation, she and her husband, Joe, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their recently completed trip:


“This is meandering, poorly written gibberish.” – Me, regarding my final post. June 4th, 12:22am.


Suffice it to say this post has been a struggle. Our journey has involved so much writing, I’m uncertain how any of you have managed to make it through up to now. Bless your little hearts and your, I assume, weary, weary eyes. I can’t say another thing without expressing deepest gratitude to Joe’s mother, Mimi, for not just inviting us to write for her and Steve’s blog, but also for taking on the role of our editor. If you’ve found these posts at all readable, it’s thanks to her.


What can I say about the past few months? A lot and also nothing. To be honest, I’m kind of tired of talking. So much of this time has been mundane and boring, while the rest has been almost too big and heavy to think about. We were gone for a month and now we’re home, wondering what to do next. I do think this trip had a deep effect on us, but we also lost a father and father-in-law – it’s possible the residual effects have little to do with the actual trip.


“How about you not tell me what to do?” is one of my most used phrases. “Have you ever tried to tell a Bagby what to do?” is one of Joe’s. So it’s ludicrous that here I am, on the interwebs, attempting to tell people what I’ve learned from the past few months. There are millions of “lessons I learned doing ____” blog posts online, each implying you can take someone else’s random lesson, apply it to your own life, and reach some magical new level via generic internet advice. Well, I would never tell you that’s the case here. You do you. Unless you are a wayward stagehand, 20 minutes late to your booth, literally nothing I say should guide you in any way. And if you are a wayward stagehand, 20 minutes late to your booth, then get off your phone and go to work.


So, as ridiculous as I feel this may be, here are things I’ve come away with after our last few tumultuous months…


  1. I’ve learned to just do it. Just quit your job and do it.

Ok, I absolutely recognize that we don’t have kids depending on us. We’re healthy. We’ve been fortunate with work lately and could afford time off. Not everyone is in that place – this “lesson” comes with a lot of privilege. I recognize this and I have deep gratitude for it. However. I learned very early on in life, through a series of sad events, that it all can change in a second. I mean, everyone “knows” that, but it takes a few lessons – and they always seem to be sad ones – to “know-know” it, right? Taught early, this lesson keeps repeating itself as I grow older. I’ve learned to just do it, whatever it is. And I don’t mean that in a cheesy-internet-wouldn’t-that-be-nice way. I mean whatever it is you’re thinking of now – literally just fucking do it. Someone far wiser than myself recently told me “You’ve figured everything out until now, you’ve handled it all. Whatever is next, you’ll figure it out too.” And really…it’s been that simple (yet groundbreaking?). Was it profoundly stupid for both of us to quit our jobs? Yep. But we’ve figured it out so far. It’s been good for us to get out of that comfort zone, good to shake up our routine with a bit of fear of the unknown. I was more scared than excited as we left town on this trip. I thought we were going to turn around after three days. I thought we might strangle each other. This trip turned out to be the best we’ve ever taken (according to me…you’ll have to check Joe’s post to see if he agrees). I think it’s partially because we were out of our comfort zone and partially because we were in a mental place where we were looking to connect with family and friends. It’s rare in life to take this big of a leap, and I’m so, so glad we did it. We aren’t sure what’s next, but we’ll figure it out.

city ‘o city bathroom walls. Denver, CO

  1. I’ve learned we can exist on so much less crap and so much less space than what we have.

Since we’ve been back, we’ve been downsizing. We took multiple carloads of stuff to Goodwill and a literal dumpster load of stuff to the landfill. It. Felt. GREAT! We don’t need all the crap that we have and it stresses me out having it. Goodbye stuff!

But can we live in a car forever? That would be a hard no. We’ve started looking at smaller houses, though. At first, I thought it was just the post-trip high…but my desire to spend less time cleaning and doing yardwork has stayed strong. Same for my desire to work less and pay a smaller mortgage. I’m not sure what we’ll find in the cookie cutter Las Vegas housing market (2 bed, 2 bath, townhouse, pool, 2 car garage with space for a woodshop and lighting equipment storage is kind of a big ask…) but we’ve been looking. We’ve already had listing agents evaluate our current house. According to them, we’re ready to sell as soon as we find a place that we like. So once (if) that happens, anyone interested in buying our house should hit me up…

  1. I’ve learned that being gluten free sucks.

I know, I know. Gluten free people are the worst, but I didn’t continually blog about the gluten thing just for Celiac-smug kicks. I constantly brought it up because it’s constantly a struggle. Literally the only thing keeping me from stuffing my face with items from contaminated fryers is the fact that it turns out Celiac is a real disease (who knew??) and it can cause cancer. I am so. over. cancer. ruining. every. fucking. thing. person. relationship. life. I don’t want to be in my mid-sixties cursing my mid-thirties self for making decisions that cut my life short, so I stick with the stupid diet. There were days on the trip where we’d hit up farmers markets and make our own food, but other than those days it was really, really hard. Poor Joe is just along for the ride. Having just been officially diagnosed in January, we’re still very much learning how to navigate this new food world. My take overall? I should have never passed up a single donut. I say that, and I don’t even really like donuts.

  1. I’ve learned our dogs are 11/10 verygoodboys…most of the time. But I kinda already knew that.

The dogs loved this trip and behaved amazingly most of the time (and also kept us warm over cold nights), but by the end of the trip I was dying to eat in a normal restaurant like a normal adult. You could say it was a dog roller coaster of emotions. So sweet, such little freedom destroyers. In a happy turn of events, they now seem to be excited about getting in the car for normal rides. They have, however, grown a sense of entitlement about sleeping in our real bed with us. Not allowed, Harry and Leeeroy. Not now, not ever. You’re dogs and your paws are disgusting.

  1. I’ve learned that Joe is pretty alright. But I kinda already knew that, too.

Gross, right? I’m not cheesy, but I do have to say it takes a very special sort of person to put up with the crazy shit I’ve pulled on Joe in the past few months. Quit my job? Ok. Live in car as a 6’ tall person? Ok. With dogs? Ok. Go to every single farmer’s market we come across to make gluten free food in the middle of the night on a camp stove? Ok.

The patience of a saint? Nope. The saints have the patience of a Joe. I’m still floored he agreed to it, and I’m so happy and thankful he hung in there. This has been the best time, buddy (I mean, like, except for all of the sad stuff…). Now let’s take our sweet new camper car to the beach? Or New Mexico? Or Utah?

  1. I’ve learned that I need to focus on my health.

By no means have I ever been a health nut. However, I used to work out most days of the week. I used to eat better, weigh less, and generally feel better. The first few weeks of this trip we had the time to hike and eat really well. I’m dedicating my summer to getting back into that habit. This, especially with my body feeling like it’s out of my control due to the Celiac thing, needs to become a priority again. It’s been far too long since I’ve really felt good. I’ve always known that without your health you don’t have much, but that has been in the forefront lately. Feel free to shame me each and every time I try to bail on the gym this summer, Las Vegas. ***Everyone should be aware that I wrote this post while consuming Milk Duds and cheap white wine for dinner. Obviously, this one’s going to be struggle.***

  1. I’ve learned that I have no idea what’s next. The Kim I know would be planning and planning. Strangely, I’m fine without.

We both worked a few shows once we got home, and then did a bunch of work to get our house ready to sell. We’re now in a lull and have to figure out what’s next. Joe’s found his place in the world of production lighting, but I’m not sure where I’m headed. When I quit my job to start this journey, I assumed I’d start looking for another one when we got home. Turns out…I don’t want to. They call it funemployment for a reason, you guys. How does one get paid to live in their Honda Element? Ideally, near the beach? Ok, in reality I have a lot to figure out this summer. I have no idea why I’m not stressing about it yet.

  1. I’ve learned how to make homemade buttons.

We now have a button maker and make awesome buttons. I made some last show for my boss. Thanks, Meg!

  1. Our family and friends are awesome.

I can’t say thank you enough to those that made time for us, and especially to those who opened their homes/driveways to us. I’m sorry if our dogs pooped in your house (Nick). I’m sorry if we missed seeing you. Hopefully, there is more of this life in store and we’ll make it back around. You guys are what it’s all about.

  1. I’ve learned writing is not my thing.

May the deities bless the writers of the world. Even this short foray into “guest blogging” has been exhausting. Writing, and more so having feelings, is not my glass of vodka. I’m so very glad that there are people in the world willing to do this day in and day out. I have a new sense of thankfulness for the stories I read, be they news, books, blogs, whatever. Deepest, most genuine gratitude to the writers of the world. One of you, I am not. Now I need a nap.

  1. I’ve learned that the way we had been working and building our lives is weird.

We might work 100+ hour weeks and have unreliable jobs, but our lives are not really that complicated or at all hard. Certainly not “having cancer hard.” So I’m surprised that looking back I feel like we were just staying afloat managing life’s day to day mundanities. I’m sure it’s impossible not to end up back there, but I’d like to remove us from it as much as possible. A break has been nice. I don’t think anything less would have allowed us to really think about what our next move will be. I want to roll my eyes every time someone talks about “living authentically” but maybe that’s the best description of what I’m looking for? In a less eye-roll-inducing sort of way, of course. I’m finding comfort in our uncomfortable life. Even if we end up right back in the rat race, it was nice to decide which route to take back in.

  1. Since everyone has been asking, I figured out what my favorite parts of our trip were.

Favorite part: the fact that we took the leap and did it – everything else was a bonus. As far as our posts, there’s a special place in my heart about finding the Love Muffin Cafe. If you’re so inclined, you can read about it here.

Thank you to everyone that’s followed our strange little journey. It will meander on as we rejoin real life, but I feel peace in saying this portion is complete. We have both slight confusion and deep gratitude that anyone would be interested in our weird little lives. We hope we were at least mildly entertaining.


I hear that Joe’s post includes a soundtrack to our trip, and I have one song of my own to add. There were days on this journey that we felt weary, heavy, and old. But there were buoyant, goofy, and ridiculous days as well – as if we were born-again college kids wandering around the country. This song has been rolling around in my head, and it brought a smile to my face to hear it was a favorite of Steve’s.



Thank you, thank you kind readers. We just might see you out there soon…especially if you have a particularly alluring driveway.

-Joe, Kim, Harry, and Leeeroy



2017 #hotelement road trip stats:

6275 total miles

17 states

5 states visited twice

2 states visited 3 times each (Iowa and Mississippi)

28 cities

3 time zones

3 homes of family or friends

1 driveway

1 Walmart

2 truck stops

1 RV park

2 campgrounds

1 Airbnb

4 hotels, 2 ½ of which were unexpected

1 ER visit

2 Vet visits

2 Verti Marte stops

ZERO law enforcement encounters

1 credit card number stolen

ZERO breakdowns, vehicle in nature

ZERO breakdowns, personal in nature

1 baseball game

13 blog posts

2 memorials

1 bachelorette party

6 dog friends

Unknowable quantity of old friends, their significant others, and their kiddos

Unknowable number of extended family members

A slightly smaller unknowable quantity of close family members

the conclusion (post 7 of 7)

This is a guest post by Joe Buttry, Steve and Mimi’s middle son. At Mimi’s invitation, he and his wife, Kim, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their recently completed trip:

The completion of our trip was certainly bittersweet. It was so multi-faceted that it is almost hard to quantify. It alternated between fun activities with people who are important to me and a goodbye to my father. If you have followed any of our journey, it is clear he was always near the front of my mind. He has been since late 2014, when he was diagnosed with his second major cancer. Not always in a sad way. Doing something that he would have enjoyed and taking a second to acknowledge that is not something that leaves me sad. Most of the time when I think of him it is with a smile.

Early on in our trip, my mother asked me if this crazy-ass road trip was a direct response to Dad’s death. (My words, not hers) It was hard for me to answer that with total certainty. There is no doubt that the last 2 and a half years have been transformative. It has been said that you aren’t a man until you lose your father. I don’t know that I feel more like a man (or what that should feel like), but I am certainly changed. In a way, everything is a direct response to his death. I guess I felt like I was in danger of stagnating. And this trip, which was really Kim’s idea, got me off the couch before I got trapped.

I don’t really have many pictures for this post, so here is sleeping Leeroy

I have a clearer idea of the things I want. Traveling is one of my favorite past times, and I work in an industry that allows for a lot of it. But I have always avoided it. I have allowed that to become a hard line. When I travel, I want it to be fun, never work. (Maybe if Kim and I could travel for work together we would do it, but not for now) The irony of Dad’s tendency to not only travel extensively but live tweet every delay is not lost on me. He loved his work and took great pride in it, and so do I. I am fortunate to be able to make a good living without having to get on a plane. I also don’t do my work for the money. I do it because I like it and it is fulfilling. (I mean, I totally wouldn’t do it without the money, but I try to keep money out of my work decisions. You know, like a poor artist who could make a lot more but doesn’t because they do their work “because they like it”. When this decision comes to roost, please donate to my GoFundMe.)

I also have a clearer idea of what I don’t need. Kim and I have started looking for a smaller place. We don’t live in a large house, by any means. But it is bigger than the two of us need. We just spent a month in about thirty-six square feet. We can make due with something smaller, and a smaller mortgage would allow for more travel and less work. (No. I’m not saying a tiny house. I just lived in thirty-six square feet for a month with no toilet. I need more than one, normal, non-composting toilet located in my house, not in a truck stop.) I want to be able to dedicate my free time to endeavors that I want to take part in and as little time as possible cleaning rooms I don’t need and never really use.

I have seen what it truly is to be there for someone. Kim has been there for me. My mom was truly there for my dad. When it was hard, Mom was there even more. She put her needs on hold and dealt with his.

That is the kind of support that I got from Kim. This was also the most stress I’ve been under during our relationship. Kim was always there for me. And there were times when she was thrown into the deep end with little warning. She put my needs in front of her needs. She shouldered the weight of our responsibilities when I needed to go and help take some off the shoulders of my family. In the aftermath of his death, she was a source of strength when I needed to be steadied. She sacrificed her own time with my dad to say goodbye to make sure that I had all the time I could. She was in the room with my mom and I when he took his last breath. She was truly there to do whatever could be done to help, and some of what was asked of her was very hard.

Sleeping Harry. Our dogs have the same face, don’t they.

I am tired of writing about myself. That anyone ever found this anything but self-aggrandizing is a little strange to me. It started as a cool way to honor my father, but then people read it. (not a ton, still waiting on a book deal. Not really. I am very ready to not write for a while.) That was cool, but it meant I had to keep writing it. Dad wrote with such ease. I don’t know if that was natural talent, or 45 years of experience. I imagine it is some of both. What I can tell you is that I don’t have one drop of that ease. Such advanced concepts as picking one tense and writing in it allude me. If it wasn’t for my mother’s diligent editing these posts would barely be in English. I’m not joking. On the last post, she congratulated me for how few tense changes there were.



As Dad’s cancer progressed, he started to write letters to my brothers and me. My favorites were the ones where he listed his favorite movies or books or songs. In that vein, here is my soundtrack to my trip.

Tom Petty-You Wreck Me

It’s lame to say that this is Kim and my song, so I won’t do that. Even though it totally is. The line that puts it on this list is

“Rescue me

Should I go down

If I stay to long

In trouble town”

Rescue might be a little strong, but I could have seen myself wallowing a little bit. This trip and this blog kept that from happening.  Our history with this song runs deep. We danced to it at our wedding. We danced to it when we saw Petty at Red Rocks. We dance to it in our kitchen. We dance to it with our unwilling dogs. I really hope this marriage works out for many reasons, one of them being I like this song and a divorce would probably ruin it.

The Tragically Hip-Bobcaygeon

This one made the list after the fact. Sure, it’s a song about a girl. But the imagery is very clear and when I think back about the sky in Moab, I think about Gord Downie’s description of the stars in this song.

“It was in Bobcaygeon

I watched the constellations

Reveal themselves one star at a time”

Downie is also a victim of cancer. He has a non-curable brain tumor. (Why do you guys read this shit? It’s a constant downer.)

Ryan Adams-Lucky Now

This melancholy song about getting old starts out with lines that speak to me.

“I don’t remember

Where we wild and young

All that’s faded into memory

I feel like somebody I don’t know

Are we really who we used to be”

Kim and I are not nearly as much fun as we were in our youth, and at times it feels like we have left all of the fun behind and turned into boring adults. (Because we totally have.) I can tell you a way (maybe not the best, but A way) to fight that feeling is to say “fuck it”, build a bed in your car and travel for a month.

Replacements- Unsatisfied

This song encapsulates the depressing-ass mid-thirties ennui that could lead a person to do something like we did. Our life was everything we ever wanted, yet we were not satisfied. It is also just a killer song, even if hipsters are actively trying to ruin the Replacements.

Butch Walker-The Dark  

The whole album Afraid of Ghosts is Butch Walker’s ode to his father who he lost to pancreatic cancer. There are 3 or 4 songs I could have chosen. He has spoken about his father, who was in failing health before his diagnosis and how after they found out about the cancer, it changed. His father, who everyone thought would be fine, was now different. Not a fear, or anger, but as if he knew he had a limited time left. I saw that same change in my dad. The stubborn, determined fight of the lymphoma gave way to a man who didn’t fear whatever came next.

This song is about the feeling of riding a motorcycle and feeling his father beside him, but I’m not cool enough for that. If you listen to it, just swap the word “bike” for “homemade camper”.

“I’m just riding

I’m running away

Heat from the engine

Digging in my thigh

Into the dark

With my father at my side”

Johnny Cash-Jackson

This was the song Kim and I blared as we headed into Jackson, Mississippi. It sounds like Jackson was harder on their relationship than it was on ours. We just drove through. It was kinda boring.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-Room At the Top

This is a song about embracing escapism. I don’t know if this trip is about escapism or about plowing into your hurt with reckless abandon. I certainly think that the decision to do this blog was born from a desire to come to terms with Dad’s death. (So why not do it episodically so everyone can read along!) The person whose point of view this song takes is in a good place for the night and not going to give that up.

“I’ve got a room at the top of world tonight

And I aint coming down”

This song also includes my favorite Mike Campbell guitar solo.

The Refreshments-Down Together

Kim and I don’t see eye to eye when it comes to music. The Refreshments are one of the few things we agree on (especially in terms of “what driving music is”) and this song kinda captures the playful teamwork that makes our relationship good. It’s also a happy song, and this list could use a few of those.

Biz Markie-Just a Friend

Sometimes when long rides got boring we made up songs. Mine tended to be based on this song. Kim usually used “Copacabana”. Why Barry Manilow? She had no idea. This was a clear win for me. The whole thing was gross. I will deny it if anyone ever asks.

Bob Dylan-Trying to Get to Heaven

Aren’t We all?

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers-Your Name on a Grain of Rice

This is a real bummer of a song. It’s pretty clear that it is about a girl, but most songs are. I feel ok co-opting it for this. It hits the sad moments of our trip on the head.

“I see the sun settin over America

I’m tryin to leave my darker side behind

Feelin my way down a blue desert highway

Wish my rear view mirror could tell me a lie”

Butch Walker-Closer to the Truth and Further From the Sky

This song is really only in because of the imagery.

“And the static singes the speakers like a thousand hymns of inspiration

And the road just winds through the canyon like

A big black snake headed for salvation and

I’m getting closer to the truth, and further from the sky”

I have been on that road and felt as though I was headed to my salvation. I think that the uncertainty I felt towards dealing with the loss of my father eventually gave way to action. Some action. Any action. It would have been easier to do nothing and let a wave of depression or hopelessness run over me. Instead, I decided to go and look for what I needed. I didn’t find it, because it doesn’t exist. I probably knew that at the beginning. But riding on that road, the big black snake headed for salvation, I knew that it wasn’t on my couch in Las Vegas.