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Workamper Rendezvous October 27, 2015

The Workamper* Rendezvous in Heber Springs, Arkansas, last week (10/20-22/15) was amazing… They – being head honcho Steve Anderson and his awesome crew of family and friends — fed, entertained and educated us with a smorgasbord of creative wisdom and delicious expertise…!!!

Education, education, education filled the halls and meeting rooms of the Heber Springs Community Center while the 2015 Workamper Rendezvous was in town.
Education, education, education filled the halls and meeting rooms of the Heber Springs Community Center while the 2015 Workamper Rendezvous was in town.

FYI: This event is NOT just for those who are (or would like to be) earning an income while living full-time on the road. Even though all the info is geared to assist those who choose to explore this dream, anyone who enjoys camping in any kind of RV could definitely learn a lot.

I, for example, learned much more than I already knew about the 30amp electric system in my RV. Excellent info that will save me tons of $$$ on needless repairs precluded by a few ounces of preventative wisdom.

I also learned the legal difference between a domicile and a residence… Do you know…??? <smile> Because if you don’t and you happen to fit a particular demographic profile, you could be wasting big money paying taxes that you are not legally obliged to pay…. thus proving that sometimes, ignorance is not bliss…!!!

And the social environment of the whole event was wonderfully convivial. Attendees were mostly in the 40s-to-70s age range; retired (or soon to be), or already ‘living the dream’ of freewheeling independence, earning their keep through various means as they wander scenic byways, tour national landmarks and mosey through life at a pace uniquely their own.

The convivial crowd of workampers and wannabes gathered at the Rendezvous.

The convivial crowd of workampers and wannabes gathered at the Rendezvous.

Which sorta-kinda describes almost perfectly the overview of ‘living life’ that I envision and am enacting for myself as my transition from full-time mom and head-of-household-working-professional ebbs away from the sacrificial duties of titles and tasks, flowing into the realm of ‘whatever I choose to do next’.

As anyone who has already made this passage knows, it could be likened to navigating the Straits of Magellan, tossed about by shifting gusty winds, feisty currents, the narrowness of the channel through towering rock cliffs and the deceptively beautiful wailing of emotional sirens.

Me and my darling brood (left to right): Adam, Patty, mom (aka: me), Shawna, Shalom, Josh.

Me and my darling brood (left to right): Adam, Patty, mom (aka: me), Shawna, Shalom, Josh.

My personal crossing from the ocean of family responsibility to the sea of doing for myself began just over 4 years ago when my youngest darling daughter turned 18. And in fact, that day of emancipation had been envisioned from the birth of my eldest child… at least from the standpoint that I as a mother had one very important job to do: to prepare my darlings for adulthood; to make sure they were as equipped and as ready as I could coach them to be to take on the joys, challenges and responsibilities incumbent of adult life… on their own.

And now, with all of my darlings living their own dreams (and happily thriving), I am in what long-ago colleague Alan Lakein would call ‘the end game’ of my transformational journey and I am ‘trying on for size’ the doing of things that I have for (lo, these many years) imagined I would be doing ‘after’ my kids were grown.

Thus as my Maiden Voyage was (to me) all about proving to myself that I and my rig were up to the challenges of solo RVing… attending this conference was (for me) all about finding out how easy (or difficult) it is to attend and participate in such events given my mode of transportation. And under this heading, I really learned a lot.

These full-timers live in style and tow their 'garage' (which houses their auto and an office) with them.

These full-timers live in style and tow their ‘garage’ (which houses their auto and an office) with them.

Mainly, that having a very mobile (20′) van-type RV does give me easy access to convenient parking at an event. However, with the RV being my only transportation -and- my home, it is neither easy nor convenient to get involved with ancillary activities that take place away from the main event.

For example, there was a solo RVers meet-and-greet held at a park pavilion one evening which I would have much liked to attend. Yet the fact that the gathering was (for me) too far from my campsite to walk, and that driving there meant I would have had to back-into my campsite when it was pitch-dark decided my fate.

On the other side of the coin, I loved the camping experience. In contrast to other sections of the park which were full nearly to capacity, the section I chose for my 3-night stay was empty, save for Louise and me <smile>. Thus things were blissfully quiet -and- I felt no compunction about turning up the volume on my radio when the spirit so moved me <grin>.

The dwelling inside the stately bus is truly glamorous... Thus the term coined to describe this lifestyle:

The dwelling inside the stately bus (pictured above) is truly glamorous… Thus the term coined to describe this lifestyle: “Glamping”.

This area of the Dam Site State Park campground was bustling with big rigs.

This area of the Dam Site State Park campground was bustling with big rigs.

Back to the downside, I learned very quickly that the duties of being a solo RVer take precedent over and may interfere with the desires of an event attendee. Thus a couple of times – mainly because I am ‘old’ and simply cannot cram as much action into an hour as I once did – I found myself doing necessary routine RVer chores instead of attending a conference presentation.

And it also became self-evident that in order for me to pursue my envisioned ‘home ranger’ lifestyle in a long-haul manner, that I will have to allot time not only for travel, routine maintenance, sleep, general housekeeping, provisioning, cooking & eating, etc. -and- time to ‘do stuff’ (like visiting places and enjoying events), but that I must also factor in ‘time to write’… because, of course, this is the gold nugget of my personal work-camper plan… to supplement my retirement income by peddling my wordcrafting charms… <grin>

The 'empty' area of the park that I had to myself for my 3-day stay.

The ’empty’ area of the park that I had to myself for my 3-day stay. And yes, that is the lake in the background… which gave me a great view from my bedroom/living-room window…!!!

So, that is my current story <smile>, except to note with great glee that my eldest son, Adam, has now officially moved to Austin, Texas, where he has (as of yesterday) commenced employment as Field Services Engineer with Crushing Tigers, Inc. Wow… not too shabby for a homeschooled boy with a post-grad degree from the hands-on school of hard knocks…

Yes… I am very (very, very, very) proud…

Until next time, (((hugs))) and happy travels… ~Christine

*The term “Workamper” is a registered tradename of Workamper News.

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Maiden Voyage: Happy Endings October 25, 2015

So where we left off, Suzy had delivered me back to Louise and I headed south from Violet Hill with plans to overnight in Mountain View as the last stop on my way home to Shirley.

Having checked-out several RV parks online, I’d selected one along my planned route and headed there. But when I arrived, though the office was open, no one ever came to the desk… and there were no instructions for self-check-in.

Also, there was some sort of (very large) ‘demolition fire’ consuming the remains of what had once apparently been a (pretty big) structure, smoldering right across the street… making it unpleasant to breathe and taste the air.

Thus, having spent 20 minutes of daylight doing nothing and wanting to be tucked in before dark, I called the second RV park on my pre-selected list to get exact directions to their location and got a friendly recording telling me to leave my number for a call-back.

That’s when it suddenly dawned on me that in the time I’d spent waiting and doodling around, I could have been half-way home… where I would not have to attend any of the tasks necessary to bed-down comfortably in an RV park for one night. And that the only reason, really, that I wanted to stay in Mountain View was to meet a friend for lunch the next day… which I could still do, by driving back in my car, even if I went home that night.

So I did, feeling rather gratified that I had proven everything I needed to prove to myself, about my own capacity for extended travel, capability to solo-RV and about my vehicle… sweet Louise… which I now knew from first-person experience to be steady, reliable, easy to maneuver, mechanically sound and uniquely comfortable to my pragmatic ideals and eccentric tastes.

I slept rather well in my homebed that night, though a part of me missed my traveling berth. Sometimes life feels like having to choose between rich-creamy vanilla ice cream and deep-dark-chocolate mousse… and knowing that you can have as much as you want of either, but only one at a time…

This cozy corner of my petit-rv serves as my entertainment center, office and dinner table.

This cozy corner in the combo living-room/bedroom of my petit-rv serves as my audio entertainment center, office and dinner table.

It was wonderful to shower in my own sticks-and-brick bathroom, and pull clothes from my large/spacious closets, and get dressed in the luxury of my almost-enormous bedroom with the window-wall overlooking the broad back deck and yard full of autumn-gold trees. Still, there is nothing more convenient than having ‘everything you need’ literally at your fingertips… thus, my tug-of-heart.

Which was what I pondered, at length and in depth, as I headed back to Mountain View that Thursday morning, only this time I was driving my Tib (2008 Hyundai Tiburon); thinking about how much I enjoy my mobility and the great medley of things (projects, events) that I am at my liberty to choose to do and am sometimes blessed to share with friends.

Miriam, who I was meeting for lunch at Jacks Fishing Resort & Jo Jos Catfish Wharf where she works, has been on my ‘friends list’ since 2010 when we met doing advocacy work with a law-reform organization. A vibrant woman with a deep love of family and devout relationship with God, I have always admired her tenacity, forthrightness and pluck.

It had been some time since we’d chatted face to face, and it was good to catch up. She and her husband are doing well, her work keeps her busy and she has not much been involved with advocacy stuff for a while, she said. She asked about several of our mutual advocacy-friends, some of whom neither of us had seen for quite some time, but we shared what we knew. And we had a great time just chit-chatting about various of our mutual interests, such a the health benefits of good nutrition and the amazingly beneficial properties of various herbs and essential oils.

Lunch, by the way (I had the Seafood Platter with breaded deep-fried catfish, shirmp, and clams, baked potato, cole slaw, hushpuppies, baked beans, green tomato relish, and homemade tartar sauce), was beyond delicious. Possibly the best clam strips I’ve had since childhood visits to Howard Johnson’s…!!! Everything – including the beautiful waterfront view and convivial service – was absolutely wonderful and definitely goes on my list of ‘great places to eat’…!!!

I also learned that I could have gotten an RV site there, at the fishing resort, instead of going home the previous night… and have stowed this info for ‘next time’.

Which is where my meandering journal shall pick up with the story of my great adventure at the (amazing!) Workamper Conference  last week (10/20-22/15) while staying at the Dam Site State Park & Campground in Heber Springs, Arkansas.

Until next time, a bushel and a peck of happy (((hugs))) ~Christine

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Maiden Voyage: Suzy October 17, 2015

Suzy and I have been friends for nearly 15 years. We met when gozarks.com was in its heyday and she contacted me (as editor) with some questions about the region of the Ozarks where I lived as she had a hankerin’ to move.

Suzy's hand-laid cobblestone paver-brick floor, tougue-and-groove planked walls, handcrafted mini-4-poster bed.

Today, Suzy’s reclusive residence in Izard County sports a hand-laid cobblestone paver-brick floor, tougue-and-groove planked walls, handcrafted mini-4-poster bed. Hard to believe this was once a dirt-floored pole barn.

Which she did, to a small (neglected) house on the Middle Fork of the Little Red River that she (amazingly) hand-crafted into a sprightly manifestation of elegant utility, homespun charm and humble grace. Replete with simple touches of user-convenience and common sense, every necessity of living life comfortably was delightfully woven together as an accommodating home.

We lunched there several times over the course of many months, in her charming kitchen, next to the massive stone hearth in her ‘open floor plan’ living room, over which she had hand-carved a mantle to read: “This is my rest forever. Here I will dwell because I desire it.”

The email from Suzy that came with this pic: "This photo shows a gaillardia in bloom. These are domesticated wildflowers, and they grow in even poor soil, resist droughts, and really require no care at all. The foliage just looks weed like,  but butterflies do enjoy hovering around the flowers. I'd never seen these, until I grew some. I'll save seeds, if you want some."

The email from Suzy, about a month ago, that came with this pic: “This photo shows a gaillardia in bloom. These are domesticated wildflowers, and they grow in even poor soil, resist droughts, and really require no care at all. The foliage just looks weed like, but butterflies do enjoy hovering around the flowers. I’d never seen these, until I grew some. I’ll save seeds, if you want some.”

Lunch with Suzy was always a delicious treat for me, still being immersed in the parenting and homeschooling of children, the duties of caring for my disabled husbnd, and the breadwinner agenda of a professional work-a-day-world.

To just sit and relax in the company of another intelligent woman, swapping stories of times past and hopes yet to come, was like going on a picnic in a different universe.

Then it came to pass that she was literally flooded out. The river rose terribly high, twice in one season. Her household was decimated both times. And after recovering from the first intrusion, when the second deluge came barely a heartbeat later, she knew it was time to move.

For a while then, she relocated quite near me in the city of Fairfield Bay. But during this time we were both rather busy with other stuff in our respective lives – me, with navigating through a divorce and moving my brood to the abode where I and two of my five adult children continue to reside, and she with similar though different lifestyle evolutions.

We kept in-touch with email and when she announced plans to relocate to a remote chunk of land in Izard County where she would realize her dream to be a self-sufficient homesteader, I celebrated for and with her.

I visited her remote hide-way once, soon after she’d settled in to her bare-bones L-shaped polebarn with a dirt floor. Completely off-grid, water was pulled by the bucket from an ancient hand-dug well, the single working remains of a farmstead that had thrived here, an hundred years ago.

She planned to camp inside the polebarn, which she’d designed, had constructed by a local contractor and equipped with a wood stove, over her first winter while she figured out the parameters of her envisioned home. And now, on my homeward-bound travels, I would be getting a chance to see more than photos of what she had accomplished.

We had, however, determined that it would not be feasible to take Louise up the driveway to Suzy’s abode as it is passable only by vehicles with a lot of undercarriage clearance and quick maneuverability, like the 4-wheel drive pick-up truck she drives. Thus we chose to meet at the local Post Office, which closes at noon and seemed a good spot to park Louise while Suzy ferried me to her home for our visit.

Yes, Suzy does (finally) have 'running water' -- a la the 'gravity flow' system she installed, which she fills from a large reserve cistern filled by rain.

Yes, Suzy’s mountain hideaway does now finally have ‘running water’ — a la the ‘gravity flow’ system she installed, which she fills from a large reserve cistern filled by rain.

This was a good plan, except for the overhead wires… which I almost (but not quite) learned more than I care to know about, the hard way.

That is, when I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that there were some electrical and phone lines high overhead, draped from the top of a tall pole at the front corner of the parking lot, near the street, running diagonally across the parkong lot to the back-rear corner of the building… but factually, I didn’t really give them much thought.

At least not until I got out of Louise, preparing to get in the pick-up with Suzy, and noticed that the low end of the lines were now resting on the upper-front fiberglass roof of my mobile abode.

Thus my next move was to calculate how I might-could backup to be clear of the lines without inadvertently taking them down…

Which I was, ultimately, able to do <smile>… but not without some very careful maneuvering.

And me chastising myself for being so stupid as to having gotten myself into such a fix to begin with – and at the same time congratulating myself for having recognized a potentially bad situation and having figured-out a ‘no harm done’ solution.

Ah-h-h-h… the challenges of RVing….!!!

The short ride back into Suzy’s dominion was every bit as rugged as promised. Had she intentionally constructed some sort of modern gauntlet to keep unwelcome visitors at bay, she could not have done better than Mother Nature’s protruding ‘wash board’ of tree-roots, gaping gullies, dry washes, and jagged terrain.

The 'volunteer' butternut squash vine sprouted of its own accord from ground enriched with Suzy's vegetable-scrap compost and produced a good harvest.

The ‘volunteer’ butternut squash vine sprouted of its own accord from ground enriched with Suzy’s vegetable-scrap compost.

But then, like a mirage in the wilderness, the gentle harmonious homestead she’s sculpted comes into view; unassuming; a simple modern metal-sheathed structure with a pleasant screen porch, surrounded by a patchwork of garden spots, blooming flowers, and running vines.

Step through the unpretentious doorway of this handsome polebarn and enter a custom tailored wonderland of clean lines, well organized structure and methodical fancy.

The walls and towering ceiling of the large L-shaped living area are precisely fitted tongue-and-groove, the masterwork of which one cannot truly tally without knowing that each board was sawed by hand and patiently installed over months of diligent physical pursuit, as was each stone-paver in the hand-laid floor, each plank in the raised woodfloor section areas, and the design of each piece of handcrafted furniture, such as her mini-4-poster bed.

Truly, a testament to what one person can accomplish, alone, with creativity, intelligence and diligence… while living on a fixed (frugal) income, with no electricity, no central heat, no air conditioning and no running water… A living work of art in perpetual motion, beautifully intertwined with the elements of Suzy’s nature.

We spoke of many things, as we always do, and noshed on bagels with cream cheese. We compared notes about how new chapters were opening in our respective lives, enticing and encouraging each of us to explore new horizons, and thus she was doing some deep-seated thinking about what she wanted to do ‘next’.

With many chapters of that conversation yet to come, Suzy delivered me back to Louise and I again headed south with plans to overnight in Mountain View as the last stop on my way home. But when I got there, things changed. And that is where my Maiden Voyage saga shall continue and conclude <smile>, next time we chat… Until then, (((hugs))) and happy traveling… ~Christine

Addendum: Subsequent to our visit, Suzy decided to sell her minimalist-mansion on 40 forested acres with natural spring-fed pond. If you’d like to know more, lemme know and I’ll get y’all in touch…!!!

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Maiden Voyage: Friends October 14, 2015

Filed under: COMMUNITY,EDITORIAL,EN ROUTE,RELATIONSHIPS,TECHNOLOGY — gozarks @ 8:56 am
After home from my Maiden Voyage, I took Louise for an oil-change... and finding a local shop that could accommodate 10' of hard clearance was a challenge...!!!

After I got home from my Maiden Voyage (see: Intermezzo), I took Louise for an oil-change… and finding a local shop that could accommodate 10′ of hard clearance was a challenge…!!!

Monday evening (Sept. 28), as I enjoyed the accoutrements of my mobile apartment in Camelot, I had no thoughts on where I would end up Tuesday night. Setting out from Vicki’s Monday morning, the only destination I had clearly in mind was lunching with a friend in Mountain View, Arkansas, on Thursday, October 1st, after which Louise and I would traverse the final 50 miles of my trek back home.

Thus I got out my road maps for Arkansas and Missouri… the paper & ink variety that take up half of your berth when spread open <smile>… and I looked at what sorts of ‘points of interest’ I might visit along my way.

I recalled, from my drive to St. Louis, signage which promoted Mammoth Spring, and that my mom, Anna Mae, had (when I was a child) referenced this place as one that she and my dad, Gerald Edward, had visited… perhaps on their honeymoon…??? Or a vacation…??? Or coincidental to a visit with relatives who, as I understood it, lived in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas…???

Or perhaps when my dad was stationed, with the Army, at a base in Missouri…???

All I know for sure is that all of these things brought my mom and dad to this region several times before I was born. And that my mother always spoke fondly of these memories… which I deemed ‘reason enough’ to make a visit to Mammoth Spring State Park.

Examining my maps in contemplation of a course from Mammoth Spring to Mountain View, I noticed that Cherokee Village – home to long-long-time friends Ruth & Larry – was right along the way.

This brought to mind a virtual tsunami of recollections, from whence we first met (through our respective work with the Ozark Small Farm Viability Project nearly 25 years ago), through the mega-support they generously gave when the kids’ dad nearly died (1993) and our family of six was suddenly indigent, on to the present day with them preparing to relocate from their home of nearly 20 years in Cherokee Village to the great state of California where they, who are roughly ten-years my senior, will be in close proximity to daughterly kin.

So I called… And Ruth was elated to hear from me. How propitious, she said, that I could stop by to visit right at this moment in time, because she and Larry had set a closing date for the sale of their house and, true to her promise, she was about to get in touch with me so we could get together before they left the state.

And of course, she said, I would be warrmly welcome to camp in their driveway overnight… It was absolutely wonderful for me to visit, and they would be looking forward to my arrival which I estimated would be somewhere around 3pm on Tuesday afternoon.

The route I chose (east on U.S. 160 from Poplar Bluff to Alton, then south, ending up on U.S. 63 into Cherokee Village) was about 110 miles, which I allowed myself 4 hours to travel since I needed to make a provisioning stop for milk, bread, eggs, ice and few other things on the list of stuff I wanted to add to inventory before I overnighted again, anywhere.

Because one of the things known all along but quickly realized anew when the reality of the moment setts in, is that once you are settled into a site – whether it is boondocking in a friend’s backyard or with full hook-ups at an RV park – you simply cannot ‘run to the store’ at the drop of a hat to get whatever you ran out of or forgot…. you just don’t want to… it is too much trouble (at least for me) in terms of maximizing my own personal enjoyment of the moment, delivering too little happiness in return for the stamina I have to investment <lol>…!!!

Still, I do not enjoy ‘doing without’… thus my penchant for preparedness.

The drive was a joy and a pleasure, traveling on winding, hilly and mostly 2-lane blacktop, through a landscape of farms, rural communities, small towns and pastoral views. Autumn colors having not yet taken hold, green was the predominant roadside hue, with the sky overhead radiating such a dazzling blue that I just wanted to drink it all in and saturate myself with it.

Overall, this journey was deliciously uneventful… even though I did manage to get turned-around with directions a couple of times… but hey… such should be the worst problem I ever encounter in life <grin>.

Selecting the precise spot to park when I arrived at Ruth & Larry’s proved to be a bit challenging. The paved driveway, which was generously offered, was sloped too much for my personal comfort and the road in front of their house (which was level) was narrow with no shoulder to speak of. Finally, I determined that I could perhaps straddle a ditch between the road and their front yard, which – with my hosts’ permission and after checking to make sure the ground was firm – I did, and it worked out fine.

That is, I managed to park level enough so that if I wanted to cook an egg I would not have to keep chasing it off one side of the frying pan…. but alas, things were off-kilter enough that I did not feel comfortable running the 3-way fridge on propane – which is a glorious option and works perfectly when things are level… but that I am unwilling to operate when the vehicle is, so to speak, a quarter-bubble off plumb.

Our visit that evening, shared over a delicious meal prepared by Ruth, included the company of a mutual friend, Suzy, who I’ll tell tall tales about in the next installment of this missive. Our conversations were warm, laced with funny stories, friendly and enlightening. One of those ‘good times was had by all’ happenings that roll merrily through our lives..

I retired, bone weary, around 11pm and the next morning, having brewed coffee on the propane stove in the old percolator and enjoyed a second round of brown-rice with scrambled egg, around 10am my leisurely visit with Ruth & Larry resumed.

And I must say here that I find this to be the most luxurious part of the whole RVing experience… that I can, given merely a fairly level parking space, ‘house guest’ at someone’s home without having to invade their space or consume their resources… that I can, during our visit, take care of my own personal wants and needs (ie: scrambled egg with brown rice) without being an inconvenience or imposition to them… Yet we can, for a span of time, be neighbors and visit. Share a few laughs. Give each other some (((hugs))), and then wander along our respectively merry ways.

Having now experienced this fabulous luxury of ‘bringing my own accommodations’ — well, let’s just say that it is the only way to fly… and that Wednesday morning was definitely a first-class ride…!!!

Larry, who has for a while been experiencing some unpleasant things with his health (which is part of the ‘why’ they are relocating) was in a wonderfully chipper mood and over the course of a couple of hours, he and Ruth and I ‘solved all the world’s problems’ regarding the general state of the economy, the instability of wall street, gun control, sex offender registration, the state of health care, the good vs bad of immunizations, and …. well, you get the picture.

A man of considerable intellectual prowess retired from a successful professional career who, when his health supported it, vigorously enjoyed golf, fishing, and creating beautiful furniture from cast-off wood, Larry now spends much of his time relaxing, watching TV and communing with the families of birds that visit the feeder viewable through the couple’s living room picture window.

Just before noon, Louise and I followed them in their auto up, down, around and through the maze of intersections from their home to the City Center, where they had an appointment to keep and I would head-out on day-6 of my roving adventure… which this time I had determined would take me through the tiny-town of Violet Hill (roughly 30 miles south of Cherokee Village) for a visit with (previously mentioned) friend Suzy… and which is where I shall pick up this story, next time I write.

In the interim, please accept my most heartfelt thanks for the warm-fuzzies shared with me by those who have been reading my Maiden Voyage notes. It is rewarding to know that the words I have written somehow sing sentiments and ideas which in some way resonate favorably and harmoniously with others – be you close family members, yet-to-be-met cousins, new or long-time friends.

I feel that an apology is incumbent upon me, for failing to thank each of you more personally and directly… but alas, even in my age of retirement, it seems to be increasingly challenging to get done everything that I want to do… no matter how much I want to do it…!!! So I’ll just say thanks muchly for all the the warm fuzzies and that I look forward to our paths meeting for a real-time visit, soon… (((hugs))) ~Christine

 

Intermezzo October 12, 2015

My Maiden Voyage lasted six days. I have now been home for twelve and wow… what a lot has happened during this time. Thus, though there are still a couple of episodes of my debut adventure yet to be posted, I thought it would be good to chronicle what’s been happening on my homefront.

Starting with the here and now, eldest son Adam posted something on Facebook this morning:  How sound (resonance, frequency, amplitude) levitates a droplet of water.

Of course the fact that sound-waves have a direct and observable influence on matter is really old news, ie: singing notes of a certain pitch and volume shatter glass. But I mean, wow… some of the scientists among us learned how to LEVITATE one form of matter (water) with sound. And the implications are tremendous… especially when considering that the human body is about 55% H2O…

Anyway, a lot of the last twelve days has gone to catching-up on all the stuff that didn’t get done for several weeks, respective the sudden and long-awaited opportunity to take my Maiden Voyage. Yesterday, I began autumn clean-up in the back yard.

My backyard, mid-summer 2015.

My backyard, April 2015.

This is what ALL of my several raised-beds looked like as of  yesterday.

This is what ALL of my several raised-beds looked like as of yesterday.

By yesterday, the scene was not so bucolic as above.

For one thing, my recovery from death last January definitely put a hitch in my slow but steady giddy-up. For another, the whole death experience provoked me to reflect and introspect on what I (me, myself) really and truly want to do (see, experience, enjoy) with the here-in-now moments of my life, now that all five of my darling grown-up children are charting courses of their own.
And I realized that, while gardening and landscaping has always been a passion of mine, it has also been a family (many hands make light work) activity. And now, as more and more of the physical labor is mine alone to do, no matter how much I enjoy the doing of it, I do not wish to do it ALL of the time.
Eldest son Adam and me at the airport the day he flew-out for orientation with his new employer.

Eldest son Adam and me at the airport the day he flew-out for orientation with his new employer.

Which brings us to what has taken up much of my time these past twelve days… That my darling eldest son Adam has accepted employment out of state… In Austin, Texas, to be exact.
About which we are all elated, thrilled and overjoyed for him to be exploring this tremendous opportunity… and have been busy sorting out how things are going to work around here after he moves.
One bed (of many) weeded, planted with bulb-sets, mulched and watered.

One bed (of many) weeded, planted with bulb-sets, mulched and watered.

All of which and many other details of daily life have filled all of my days so far this month… but I gotta tell you, it sure did feel good to get my work-gloves dirty yesterday. (((hugs))) ’til next time…  ~Christine
 

Maiden Voyage: Camelot October 6, 2015

The second leg of my debut as a solo RVer had initially envisioned a visit to Lexington, Kentucky, but plans changed and on Monday, the morning of September 28th, Louise and I headed south.

As we did, I thought (just as I am thinking right now) that I feel somehow awkward – kookie-strange and weird – anthropomorphizing a mechanical vehicular means of transportation (ie: an ‘inanimate object’) as if it were human.

Growing up with a FoMoCo engineer as my dad, such tomfoolery was not warmly embraced… although neither were we a dull sort, but none of our several vehicles had names beyond manufacturer, make and model.

Thus my grandfather (my mom’s dad) drove a ’49 Ford Sedan and called it , simply. the Ford.

1949 Ford Sedan: My grandpa and grandma bought one of these new the year that I was born, and it was the first car I ever "drove," sitting on grandpa's lap, when I was 4 or 5...
1949 Ford Sedan: My grandpa and grandma bought one of these new the year that I was born, and it was the first car I ever “drove,” sitting on grandpa’s lap, when I was 4 or 5.  Photo courtesy AlfvanBeem – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons

My dad’s auto of choice was a ’57 Thunderbird.

I remember riding in my dad's 1957 Thunderbird. Wow... would I love to have a ride in it now...!!! ~Image courtesy Auto Trader Classics

I remember riding in my dad’s 1957 T-Bird. Wow… would I love to have a ride in it now…!!! ~Image courtesy Auto Trader Classics

But neither of these automobiles ever had any people-flavored nicknames, and growing up with this (unspoken, inculcated, memetic) predisposition tends to amplify it as ‘the norm’ – which of course it is neither normal nor abnormal for one to give a pet-name to a car, toaster, poodle, pony or computer… <smile>, but simply a mannerism of expressing a dimension of one’s own personal countenance.

And in the ‘why & wherefore’ of all-things-considered, boiling it all down to one (spectacular <smile>) reason for doing the dance I’ve begun, it is to explore those dimensions of ‘me’ that I intuitively know to exist but that have, for the past half-century, played second-fiddle to doing certain — like being a mom and having a career — and that now there are some other things that I would like to do.

Thus in the hopes of inspiring this ‘new and improved’ state of creativity in myself, I am purposefully doing things that are NOT ‘normal’ for me… like dubbing my 2002 Great West Van as Louise -and- giving myself permission to totally ‘go with the flow’, change plans mid-stream and even tell someone off without feeling even a teeny niggle of second-guessing guilt…!!!

Because the circumstances that culminated as my revised route could have caused me anguish. For one thing, I put a lot of thoughtful energy into formulating any plans I make, and this trip certainly was no exception. And there were others who were half-counting on me to be in Lexington for a day or two. So when events went counter to what I’d envisioned, it was unsettling to have to re-make plans midstream… Especially when, from my perspective, there was no ‘good’ reason that the change had to happen and was simply the result of a professional colleague doing something quite mean-spirited.

And usually, when I encounter stuff like this I tend to just let it go.. brush the dust from my sandals and move on.  This time, however, as my friend Vicki (with whom I was backyard boondocking)  became aware of what had transpired being a forthright advocate of justice for all, she said to me: “So… did you call her on it…???”

Thus I shed my political-correctness and told the unpleasant woman to go bag it… and bottom line, it felt good <smile>, kinda like I started resonating in harmony with a new frequency <smile> as I re-thought travel plans for the balance of my first roadtrip.

Bidding Vicki a fond fare-thee-well mid-Monday-morning, the drive from St. Louis to Poplar Bluff seemed a reasonable distance (150 miles) to travel in one day and I wanted to get comfortably settled into a site before dark so I could just kick-back, relax and the enjoy comforts of my roving home.

As I got closer to Poplar Bluff I googled RV parks, looking for one with WIFI and full hook-ups, and a place called Camelot RV Campground was right on my path

And I must say, I believe that King Arthur himself would have appreciated the comfortable accommodations I found there. I mean, the woman at the front desk was friendly and attentive. Registration was quick, instructions on how to connect with campground WIFI were explicit, and directions to my site, #17, and how to exit in the morning were drawn-out for me on a map.

Settling in to a site takes a bit of doing. First, you park as level as possible. Then you go around the vehicle unlocking the lockers that have the stuff you need to hook-up. All of which, really, is pretty simple – once you know how. And it is not a steep learning curve <grin>.

But it does take some thinking and developing a process that works to make sure certain things get done, like plugging in to shore power, turning the propane on, connecting the tank-dump (sewage and gray water) line to the in-ground receptacle and opening the valves to let stuff flow.

Also, if the campground has cable TV, you hook-up your coaxial. And Camelot did indeed offer this free amenity, but I was coaxial-less <smile>… and even if I had thought to bring one along, probably wouldn’t have taken the time to figure out how it works… because there are a lot of various coaxial connector boxes and disconnected cables inside one of the aft cabinets which I know somehow relate to the TV installed overhead in the cab of the van, but at the moment I have nary a clue about what is supposed to connect where in order to get the TV to work…!!!

Which is not a big deal for me really, as I have no television (cable, satellite, public air waves) at home. Paid subscriptions just got too expensive for my pension-budget, and once the public airwaves went digital, my entertainment and news have all come through the Internet. Thus my keen interest to overnight at a campground with WIFI… (aka: I LOVE Netflix) and this proved to be my only disappointment.

Connectivity was intermittent and slow., making it impossible to watch even a 3-min Youtube, although I was able to get some email sent — but even that was touch and go. Had I planned on staying more than overnight at the park, I would have had to ask if this was the norm, or if something was amiss. But since I was ready for an early beddtime, it didn’t seem worth the effort.

What did seem worth the effort — and resulted in one of the most sublime moments of pure indulgence – was waking-up from an evening nap and cooking brown rice at midnight without thought or concern to whether my late-night movements were disruptive to my sleeping son or daughter who rise early to go to work…

Thus I listened to the radio, turned lights on and off, washed dishes and did whatever I wished in the privacy of my own little gypsy cabana… and abiding the principle that “my liberty to swing my arm freely ends where your nose begins” with respect for others camped nearby, I could just simply be myself….

Wow… What a hoot…!!!

7am breakfast of brown rice, scrambled egg and fruit juice kicked-off my departure routine. Then, after the kitchen was tidied and my bed made (all of which took maybe 10-min.) the 3-way refrig which had been running on shore power since I checked in, had to be switched off because I have not yet had the ‘coach battery recharge while driving’ issue redressed. Thus on this trip, while in transit I used a standard ice-chest when shore power was not available… which was most of the time.

Then the roof a/c and/or exhaust fan(s)  are shut down, turned off, curtains are un-snapped from front and side windows, decorative items (like my Mickey & Minnie Mouse Chinese Lantern that hangs above my aft table when I’m not tooling down the road)) and various electronics are stowed with items essential to navigating the day’s journey provisioned for easy access from the driver’s seat.

Outside, as electricity and sewer lines are disconnected, cleaned and stowed, lockers must be closed and locked, tire pressure and fluid levels checked, and a walk-around of the vehicle, making sure to bend over and look underneath and cast an eye to what’s going on up-top, confirms that everything looks the way it should.

Most time consuming of my exit protocol was flushing the black-water tank… which had (as I am told many RVs do) a bit of a nasty odor which we first noticed when the kids and I drove Louise home after purchase.

Son Adam substantially mitigated this problem en-route by pouring a bag of ice down the commode. And then, after we got home, daughter Shawna and I took Louise to a local park for a picnic, and while we were there we dumped the tanks… which I hoped would completely resolved the issue.

Alas, it did not. The annoying odor, though less intense, persisted. And so this time I was determined to give the tank a really thorough flush, pouring whole buckets of water into the toilet with the trap propped open, so that any residual sludge would gush through the system and out the drain. And for all of the rest of my journey home, the offensive odor ceased to exist…!!!!

And so you have the highlights of my first solo night in an RV park… 72 hours into my debut adventure with several more days yet to go. Thanks for the pleasure of your virtual ride-along company… and if you’d like to know more about what I do beyond roving in Louise, I am proud to share the happy news that I am again in print with The Municipal… in the October 2015 edition, find me on pages 24-26.

Until next time and the story of the third leg of my first adventure as a Home Ranger…… (((hugs))) and happy travels to all… ~Christine

 

Maiden Voyage: Lift off. October 2, 2015

My first excursion in Louise was like cruising the universe on a rogue moon.

Having quantum-leaped free from the gravitational jurisdiction of my native solar system, Friday last I set course for St Louis and the flux was on <smile>.

Aiming to be off the launchpad between 8am and 9am, completing the pre-escape checklist took a bit longer than anticipated, partly because I kept thinking of specialty tools that would make life more comfortable at all of the little stops along the way.

The item last grabbed at 10am as I shared mega-hugs with eldest son, Adam, was our family’s old campfire-soot-stained 8-cup percolator.

“You know, that wouldn’t be here for you to take if I hadn’t rescued it from Sassafras,” he chided.

I smiled at him, over my shoulder, reflecting backward with uber warm-fuzzies on the last time the percolator was used, on a family camping trip, fifteen years ago, to a nook in a cranny of the Ozark Mountains that we named SassafrasWilds.

Then finally, with the turn of a key and the engine purring like a quick-witted tiger on the prowl, five years of hoping, dreaming, wishing and navigating through the passage of my off-springs’s young-adulthood and my liberating emancipation from the work-a-day world to that stage of life we call ‘retirement’, I was cruising.

Wow… What a hoot!!!

Time of arrival at friend Vicki’s abode, where I was to backyard boondock for a couple of nights and which the google-gods calculated to be 346 miles north-northeast of my start, was estimated at 3pm to 4pm.

In fact, according to Louise’s instrument panel, we logged 354 miles portal-to-portal, with no digression from route. And for those (like me) who care about such things, Louise got just a hair over 13mpg on this first leg of our journey, which was all on U.S. Hwy. or Interstate with many long and sometimes steep grades.

Coupled with my penchant to ‘take things slow and easy’ (average speed was 60-ish) and my self-awarded liberty to stop whenever the spirit so moves me, actual travel time was 10 hours… which included 1 stop to check tire pressure and fuel-up right after leaving home, and one to refuel along the way, plus several to just to get out of the driver’s seat, have a snack, stretch my legs and take a potty break.

Truly, for me, an enchanted way to travel.

Chumming with Vicki – who I met at a conference which she coordinated in 2011 — was grand. Our friendship was seeded by our respective independent advocacy work on issues pertinent to social justice, professional accountability, individual equality, civic well-being and family health — my personal role in which has mainly been that of journalist: reporting on programs, events and activities being forwarded by various organizations that, in my cultured opinion, deserve to make print, and sometimes volunteering as the communications director or public relations person with organizations that are doing what I see as critical work in the fostering of healthy, happy, vibrant communities.

In this instance, my test-run with Louise included piggybacking my penchant for advocacy with my desire to travel and visit family and friends. To find out, experientially, how capable I am to maintain the pace requisite multiple consecutive days on the road, including the doing of routine operations (like dumping the tanks and hooking-up shore power) plus the daily housekeeping of my mobile mini-mansion, while at the same time driving upto to 300 miles a day -and- doing the things that I actually want to do.

Thus for two days Vicki and I dug into the subject matter of the organization she now serves as president: Women Against Registry, aka: WAR.

Our first task was to draft some written copy for new brochure to succinctly articulate the organization’s purpose which, in a nutshell, is to insist that society look at and do something about the harm being done to whole families and most especially to young children, by laws that were – with the best of intentions – intended to protect everyone.

A tenet I personally find to be too true in too many aspects of our great nation’s justice system today.

Thus a good measure of the time that Vicki and I shared – reaching back to include several months of email correspondence — was given to detailing plans for an envisioned conference that we’ve lovingly dubbed JAKE, which stands for Justice, Accountability, Knowledge, Equality… and which to us, sorta says all of everything about what we want life to be all about for everyone, all of the time… just and fair, with each of us accountable for our own actions being grounded in an understanding of the complex dynamics of social interaction and thus resonant with the quality of respect amplified by the tenet, “Do unto others what you would have others do unto you.”

So, there you have it… <smile> Phase one of my weeklong test run went great. Louise operated fabulously well on self-contained systems from Friday morning through early Monday afternoon, when I checked in for our first night together in a real RV park… my experience of which will I shall elaborate upon soon….

Until next time, (choose to) be the peace, love and joy that makes the world a friendlier, happier, healthier place for everyone… especially yourself… because you (and all of us) deserve it. (((hugs))) ~Christine