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Daffodils & Orchids… March 5, 2016

Orchids (from Walmart) and Daffodils (from my garden).

Orchids (from Walmart) and Daffodils (from my garden).

…seems a fitting name for this mixed-medley pictorial of what I’ve been up to, am doing, and look to accomplish in the sweet by and by <grin>.  The inspiration for this namesake, pictured at right, greeted me every morning at breakfast for nearly a week. And even now, the Orchids still bloom.

spring_buds030516

Pretty blossoms dapple a flowering shrub in my backyard.

Lots of stuff is starting to blossom here in the Ozarks. Springtime and Autumn are my most favorite times of year. Daytime temps are in the 60s & 70s, nights are in the 40s, and sunny blue skies are common.

What more could anyone ask…???

Part of the enjoyment for me is being able to get outside and play in the yard.

Pictured below is the view of my yard, looking north from my house.  There is a circle drive around island of trees in the center. My RV, “Louise” (’02 GWV 20′) is on the left and the yellow trapezoid-thingy marks the spot where I would like to put a permanent RV pad.

Area where I would like to install an RV pad..

Area where I would like to install an RV pad..

Closer look at where I'd like to put an RV pad.

Closer look at where I’d like to put an RV pad.

Composted mulch

Composted mulch

Right now, in the area where I want the RV-pad, there is  HUGE pile of composted wood-chip mulch which I am now trucking by wagon-loads to top-off various flower beds such as the one (below, right) alongside the driveway to  my garage.

One flowerbed done... and a zillion to go .

One flowerbed done… and a zillion to go .

Note for the record that I LOVE my little wagon. It has proven itself as an amazingly useful utility not only for landscaping chores and but also for getting a trunk-load of groceries into the kitchen in one fell swoop…!!!

Anyway, the lovely rock planter has now had winter debris removed, a nice thick layer of composted mulch added, and Zinnia seeds planted. Also, I’m thinking that the oak pallet (in the background) might make a good base for a nice broad entry step to an RV when I get the new pad installed.

And behind that, if you look real close, you’ll see the right rear quarter-panel of my Tib… and the rear of my son Adam’s motorcycle.

Coldframe on deck.

Coldframe on deck.

The coldframe, at left, was constructed with an old bathtub, some plywood and a storm door, all of which came to me free at one time or another and — thanks to me being a ‘collector of things that have value’ — ultimately came together as this fun place to grow stuff.

Dill and Basil seeds planted in the freshly mulched coldframe.

Dill and Basil seeds planted in the freshly mulched coldframe.

This year, as you can see on the right, I’ve planted some dill and some basil. Now all there is to do, at least with this bed, is keep it watered and watch it grow.

Still, my yard is (to quote Bernie) YUGE…!!! Way more than I really want to handle by myself… which is why I am so thankful for the assistance of my darling daughter Shawna who is a big help with all sorts of household stuff.

And now, with the weather so appealing, the outdoors to-do list is long. In addition to moving all the aforementioned mulch, I have a bunch of flower seeds to plant and some maintenance work to do…

Anybody wanna come help…???

Seeds, seeds, and more seeds.

Seeds, seeds, and more seeds.

FYI: All the seeds in the ‘kitty litter’ bucket were harvested from last year’s plantings -and- various roadside patches that caught my eye. The boxes-and-boxes of wildflower, zinnia, and other blooming seeds were purchased at the end of the season last year for 1/2 off… so the whole batch only cost about $5.

Unhinged gate.

Unhinged gate.

Other little projects to be tended in the not-too-distant future: The gate — leaning oddly to the left in the pic at left — has come loose from its hinges. Not a big project… just  one of many that takes time.

Anyway, enough about work… even though it mostly feels like play. As a closing note for this time around I’ll share a pic  of the two beautiful designer-art pillows my son Adam gave me for my 67th Birthday…!!! He said he thought they would look good in my RV… and I think that, as usual, he’s right…!!!!

Twin Turtles

Twin Turtles

(((hugs))) ~Christine

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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: 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