MISSOULA, MONTANA – Last week, my family and I traveled through the largest wilderness area in the U.S. (outside Alaska).

It’s in central Idaho. There are no roads or towns or cell phone towers. We were completely isolated from civilization (except for the bush plane we saw one day delivering the mail to some homesteaders living along the river).

We traveled by river. It took us five days to cross the wilderness.

More below. But first…

Our Epic Two-Year Journey

Greetings from Missoula!

My family and I are on an epic journey of self-discovery and reinvention.

Three summers ago, we left behind our friends, families, jobs, schools, and belongings and hit the road with a small suitcase, a little cash, and our passports.

We were a broken family. We were divorced… disconnected… and lost as a family. We set out to see the world, and to heal ourselves and our bonds with each other in the process.

We’ve been to more than 30 countries over the last two years, but we’re currently in the U.S. – our home country – traveling with a tent trailer and sleeping in campgrounds, barns, driveways, city parks, parking lots, backyards, horse pastures, and anywhere else we can pitch our tent comfortably…

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Exploring America with a tent trailer

Rafting Down the River of No Return

Last week, we rafted down the Salmon River in Idaho for five days with Verle and his family. (They call it the “River of No Return.”)

We navigated the river’s rapids in rafts by day. And by night, we slept at the edge of the river in tents… eating, chatting, roasting marshmallows around the campfire, and playing on the sandy beaches.

Verle, his kids, and their families made us feel like part of their family.

It was an awesome, trip-of-a-lifetime experience that none of us will ever forget. In more than two years of traveling around the world, this was the best thing we’ve done.

Here we are in the raft… and further down, the kids on the beach one of the evenings…

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Rafting down the Salmon River with Kate

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Miles, Dusty, and new friends

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Kate on our five-day river trip

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The kids on the beach

Two Nights Outside Missoula

Tonight, we’re camping in the driveway of our hosts Randy and Jackie in the outskirts of Missoula. They’re putting us up for two nights.

Here’s our tent in their driveway…

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Randy and Jackie’s driveway outside Missoula

And here we are having dinner with their family last night…

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Dinner with Randy and Jackie’s family

Yesterday was Penny’s birthday. She turned 8.

We love celebrating our birthdays on the road. We buy a cake, some drinks, and some small presents. Then we have a little party in our Airbnb, or hotel room, or wherever we find ourselves…

Here we are with Penny’s cake. We’re at the city park in Missoula…

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Celebrating Penny’s eighth birthday in Missoula

Tomorrow we hit the road again, headed north. We’re going to try and enter Canada.

They’re probably not going to let us in, though, so we’ll turn around and look for somewhere to hunker down in Idaho for the winter. (We want to spend the winter in the mountains.)

Throwing My Hat in With the Bears

Turning over to the financial world… I’ve kept silent on the stock market since March, when I guessed it would bounce.

The S&P 500 is up more than 25% since then. But now I’m throwing my hat in with the bears.

It feels like a mania. And with valuations near their highest levels in history… a day-trading bubble in stocks like Tesla… and now the beginnings of a downtrend forming, I’d guess we’re very near a long-term top in the stock market – especially looking at it in terms of gold.

If I owned Tesla, Apple, or any of the big technology stocks… or any of the stock market ETFs and passive stock market strategies… I’d be selling now and going to the sidelines in gold. Just saying.

– Tom Dyson

P.S. Although our river adventure last week was a family trip, Verle is a professional river guide on the Salmon River. His company – Action Whitewater Adventures – has been running commercial trips down the Salmon River for 58 years. He’s the best outfitter on the river (and a really great grandpa, too).

If you’ve ever fantasized about traveling through 90 miles of untouched American wilderness on a raft and navigating whitewater, call Verle. His website is www.riverguide.com. It really is the ultimate American summer family vacation, and safe for kids of all ages.

Like what you’re reading? Send your thoughts to [email protected].

FROM THE MAILBAG

Tom has returned from his trip and is back to answer your questions. Today, readers ask about digital gold… monthly gold investing… and metrics for the Dow-to-Gold ratio…

Reader question: Thank you for all of your family’s travel reports and pictures. I want to ask what you think about digitized ownership of gold. I have not seen this discussed in your Postcards. I have been looking at the Australian mint that offers digitized gold backed by the Australian government.

Tom’s response: I haven’t researched crypto or blockchain gold yet, but I’m planning to. As soon as we settle down, it’ll be one of the first subjects I want to dig into. I love the concept. I’m just not sure it’s ready for taking seriously.

Reader comment: Tom – I just emailed you about crypto paying 8% return if you lend them your gold-backed crypto in three month increments! This is blowing my mind, but I need confirmation from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Is this legit? Own gold and make an 8% annual return?!

Tom’s response: I’ll check it out and get back to you.

Reader question: Appreciate and enjoy your travelogue as well as your financial insights. Wondered if you have a favorite business where one can buy gold through investing some regular amount monthly? I am talking about physical gold. It would just be taken out of your bank account or charged to your credit card on a regular basis.

Tom’s response: I like Onegold.com.

Reader comment: I’ve followed your writing for some time now and find your Dow-to-Gold thesis compelling. I recently read an article saying the Dow is weighted by price of the stock, not profitability of the company – or something like that. The writer was insisting that it was not a fair measure of value and therefore, in his opinion, not a reliable metric for today’s tech-heavy society. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that regarding its contemporary suitability for the Dow-to-Gold thesis.

Tom’s response: It’s true. The Dow is old-fashioned and uses a flawed methodology. No serious financial professional pays any attention to the Dow. I should probably be using the S&P 500 or the Wilshire 5000, or something like those. But I don’t really care. The Dow-to-Gold chart over 100 years looks identical to the S&P-to-Gold chart and serves our purpose just fine. Besides, I find the Dow more comfortable. Not sure why…

Meanwhile, other readers are curious about basic investing terms… and the Federal Reserve’s role in money-printing…

Reader question: Hi, I am a novice at trading, etc. I love gold. I know nothing about it. Would you please give a brief summary on gold? E.g. What is an ETF? What is spot price? I own some gold in my managed retirement fund. My account managers have been selling it to help me raise cash. Foolish move, I think. What is this “greatest financial experiment in history” we’re living through?

Tom’s response: An ETF is an efficient vehicle to own assets through the stock market… gold, commodities, bonds, tech stocks, whatever. ETF stands for Exchange Traded Fund. The spot price is the immediate price of gold in the international gold market where banks and central banks trade with each other. The greatest financial experiment in history is the idea of using unbacked paper currencies for our savings and national reserves. It’s pretty crazy, if you think about it. And now they’ve yielded to the temptation to inflate…

Reader question: Hi Tom, I’m enjoying your postcards, thank you! Why does the government not just print its own money? Why do we have a Federal Reserve that prints it for us, then we have to pay interest back to the Fed? Since it’s not backed on anything, why not just have the Treasury print its own money and save the interest? Seems like the Fed is making out like a bandit on this type of arrangement…?

Tom’s response: The Federal Reserve is supposed to be the guardian of the banking system and the currency. They didn’t want the government interfering with its decisions, lest it become corrupt and make politically-influenced decisions. Well, the government has now merged with the Fed, and the Fed is now monetizing the government’s debt, so none of this matters any more. The current financial system is destined for failure…

Reader comment: I have read your letters from the start and enjoy them greatly. Canada, unfortunately, already has a very socialist government and a ridiculously large medical budget, so don’t go there. I live in Alberta and we are the most U.S. part of Canada so you would have no problem here if you could enter the country. Beautiful scenery but already in the low 40s every night. Keep your pen flowing!

Reader comment: I’ve enjoyed your family’s journeys. Come to a small expat haven, also a haven for Mexicans from nearby cities (San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico). Easy 5-hour drive from the border below Tucson. Inexpensive housing options, volunteer opportunities. Kids can learn Spanish. I’ve lived here for over 30 years, it doesn’t get a lot of ink, but it’s beautiful here in the winter.

Reader comment: Congratulations on deciding to remarry, I am sure your kids will be over the moon happy!

Tom’s note: As always, thank you for your kind notes and messages. Please keep writing us at [email protected]economics.com.