Posted in travel

Where the World Is

“The world is not in your books and maps. It’s OUT THERE.” ~Gandalf, to Bilbo Baggins

ready to roll!
I’m grateful for books and maps when I’m not traveling… But given the choice, I prefer travel! Of course, my travels won’t involve a dragon (unless it’s the dragon-kite we flew on the beach last year), so I don’t need to muster as much courage as Bilbo did…

Hopefully we’re also better prepared than Mr. Baggins, who had to make do without his left-behind pocket handkerchief. We, at least, had time for a packing-list.

Still, what’s a journey without an obstacle? Ours was not a fire-breathing dragon, but a diesel-spewing fuel line just outside of Burns, Oregon. Jon climbed up and disappeared under the hood, emerging with some of his creative not-quite-cussword vocabulary… and the part we’d need replaced.

Just as we were about to (laboriously) unload the motorcycle from its trailer, prayer-for-an-assist got answered in the person of a Sheriff, who gave Jon a lift to town—and then proceeded to take him from shop to shop in search of the part we needed. At High Desert Diesel (bless their hearts!) they took the part off a truck that was in their shop for repair (and would be there anyway till after the new part came in).

The High Desert guy drove Jon back out to where I was standing guard on the truck (well, ok—sitting guard, in my camping chair. With a book. And a sandwich) and Jon had it fired up in about three minutes flat!

One of the things I love about a road trip is the lovely, lengthy conversation it often becomes. With so much time unfilled by other stimuli, we TALK. About work, about stories from our past, about pipe dreams, about goofy abstracts. We made up verses for a new song. We talked about things we saw, and things those things reminded us of…

I sat for hours with the open road-atlas on my lap, tracing our route landmark by landmark as we talked. I know, I know—my phone could have told us where to go… But you know what? Like Bilbo, I DO love a map. Especially combined with SEEING the world that’s “in” it.

Posted in travel

Anticipation—Part of the Journey

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Jon writing out our packing list…

My dad used to say that the enjoyment of travel was divided into three parts: 1) planning & anticipating; 2) the trip itself; and 3) re-living the memories. I always suspected he got his greatest amount of enjoyment from that first category—the man was a planner! He put together a six-month road trip through Europe in 1984 with every night pre-planned and reserved, all arranged by letter in that pre-internet era… So he knew trip-planning!

I’ve been feeling some of the same thrill this week as we prep and pack for our week on the Oregon Coast, leaving tomorrow. Jon has the truck half-loaded with camping gear and scuba gear, and our packing-list is growing even as we cross things off.

imageThe weather report for the whole week looks gorgeous—sunny and in the 60s, when we could have expected Oregon rain—and we’re talking eagerly about poking through tide pools, climbing the lighthouse, eating clam chowder, visiting the aquarium, motorcycling along the coastal highway (we’re driving the truck and trailering a bike), flying a kite on the beach, scuba diving along the shoreline, maybe even taking out a fishing charter…

We always get asked if we’re “taking the house” on vacation with us—a reasonable question, since we live in an RV, but no. We have reservations at a lovely campground right by the shore, and we’re perfectly comfortable in a tent. Besides, I think it would feel like “cheating”—less of an adventure—if we didn’t leave home when we left home. (True, we wouldn’t have to pack if we hauled the home… But it’s a big rig, and so much more than we need for the week!)

imageYesterday morning Facebook popped up one of its suggested “one-year-ago” memories to re-post: a photo of us on the coast last summer. Perfectly timed to amp up my excitement!

We just stopped at Walmart for a cooler and sandwich-fixin’s, and came home to pack our suitcase. I must be a girl—I took more than my half!

Think I’ll sleep tonight? I have my doubts.

 

Posted in Family

Newton’s Law of… Summer

Wonder Woman 2017 filmMy 13-year-old daughter asked me last week if I’ve seen “Wonder Woman.” When I shook my head, she grasped my arm and leaned toward me earnestly. “It’s beautiful. You have to see it.” Accordingly, we made plans to see it together yesterday. She’s right—the movie is beautifully done, and though I’m more a “Pirates of the Caribbean” kind of girl, I enjoyed the artistic accomplishments of the film, as well as my artistic daughter’s appreciation of it.

The really precious time, though, was after the movie, when we came out from the chilly air-conditioned theater to sit on a padded bench in the sunshine. We both put up our sandaled feet (with matching turquoise toenails–we tend to share an aesthetic) on the table in front of us and leaned back into the cushions—she rested her head on my shoulder and we held hands while we listened to the music piped out over the “entertainment square” and chatted until her ride arrived.

I suppose a “silver lining” of not having custody is that we don’t have the usual parent-teen conflicts going on, and the time we do spend together is usually spent in meaningful conversation. Last week we talked about her art, her friendships, the social dynamics of junior high, her thoughts about eighth grade, her current reading, and some “woman things” that I can hardly believe I’m discussing with my little girl… (Well, she may a young one—but she IS a woman now…)

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my mom & my daughter with kayaks last summer

My mother has promised to take each of the kids on a special Spring Break trip during high school. My son Christian knew exactly what he wanted to do, so they went sea kayaking in Mexico last year. Elena Grace, though, hasn’t come up with a plan for her trip, so yesterday we were brainstorming some of the adventurous things she likes to do. Turns out zip-lining is high on her list, so I texted my mother to see how she feels about that. (She’s not wild about heights, but she’s plenty adventurous—she kayaks and river-rafts and fly-fishes and scuba dives and travels around the world, and she just bought herself an RV for further adventuring!) I got a text back from her with a thumbs-up.

Today the kids are heading north for the first of a couple summer adventures with “Grandy,” as they call my mom. This first one will be taking out a crab boat in the Washington coast’s Deception Pass, and later they’re staying in a Montana cabin and going kayaking. Elena Grace says she’s been looking forward to the trip, but at the same time hasn’t gotten up sufficient interest or energy to pack for it. (“Wait, you’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you?” … “Well, yes…”)

She thought for a moment and then observed, “I’ve been really lazy this last month since school let out. I’m kind of enjoying it, and kind of feel guilty about it at the same time. I’m just hanging out with my phone or my friends, or going swimming some days. And I know I’ll have fun on the trip, but I’m not in that mode yet.”

imageAnother moment of thought, and she added: “You know that thing about how moving things keep moving, and things that aren’t moving stay still?”

Yup, that’s Newton’s First Law of Physics. “Inertia,” I supplied—and she seized on the word.

Exactly. I’m feeling inertia. I haven’t been in motion, so it’s hard to get in motion.”

It’s an apt observation, and true of more things in life than just summer vacation. (It’s probably why my husband brings me coffee in bed before I even get up—I have a serious inertia-issue before my caffeine kicks in!)

She texted late last night to say she still hadn’t gotten around to packing. “Inertia?” I asked. “Laundry!” she replied, with an emoticon-grimace. Ah well, she’ll get it done—she inherited her mother’s propensity for procrastination (along with the associated ability to get things done in a last-minute flurry). She’s my own little Wonder Woman.

Posted in Lists, RVing

Like a (Dry-Docked) Sailboat: RV Living

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sailing with my mom & daughter 10 years ago

Because I’m a sailboat skipper, I’m amused by RV terminology that borrows from the marine arena. Like the “shore cord”—the cord we plug in at an RV park to power the rig’s electrical system. On a sailboat a shore cord (which you’d plug in at the dock when you stay in a marina) makes sense—it goes from the boat to shore.

So today’s list is about ways that RV-living reminds me of sailboat-living. (Just add water.) And some ways that RV-or-sailboat-living is different from living in a house…

  1. The toilet flushes with a foot pedal. [What does it say about me that this is the first thing that comes to mind?] This is reminiscent of every sailboat I’ve ever chartered. And to add to the illusion: the skylight over the shower is just like a sailboat hatch.
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    spaces have multiple uses…

    We have to pay attention our blackwater tank. We leave our gray tanks (sinks & shower) open all the time, but we empty and rinse the black (toilet) tank about once a week, keeping it closed and dosed with a chemical treatment between-times. Most people pay extra money for “RV toilet paper” that’s supposed to break down more easily in the blackwater tank. We opt to use the trash can instead—that way we never worry about our tank getting clogged. I don’t even think about it any more, until I find myself reaching for a trash can when I’m on a “land-based” toilet. (TMI?)

  3. Spaces have multiple uses. Our bed lifts up to reveal storage beneath. Our garage has seats and a bed that can be lowered from the ceiling when we need more “living” space.  The stove and kitchen sink convert to countertops. We set up our Total Gym in the garage when the seats retract to the ceiling. The bench at the foot of the bed holds our linens. The bunk above our kitchen doubles as storage space since we don’t host overnight guests. Even the back wall of the garage can be lowered down to create a porch, complete with railings. (It also doubles as the ramp up which we drive the motorcycle when it’s getting parked indoors for a move.)
  4. imageThings have multiple uses. We don’t own a dozen pots and pans; we own one “red copper” frying pan and one deep square red copper pan (which can go in the oven, be a stovetop pot, or serve with a frying basket). The stand for our bedroom space heater is really a stack of boxes that hold photos and sewing stuff. The sewing machine in its case is the “shelf” where I perch my purse. Our TV trays serve in roles ranging from dinner-table to computer-desk. Almost everything does more than one thing.
  5. We have power back-ups. When the “shore cord” is unplugged, our fridge and water heater switch to propane power and our lights run on solar. If need be, we can run the onboard generator. (“Onboard.” There’s another marine-echo…)
  6. image“Outside” is part of the living space. It’s not a sailboat deck, but we eat dinner and hang out on our patio for most of the year. We didn’t host dinner parties during the winter, but we do have some merry patio-parties under the “fairy lights” built into our awning.
  7. We hear the weather. Rain on the roof is a lovely sound, though we couldn’t even converse through a hailstorm last fall! Combined with the outside living, I feel closer to the weather and the world than I ever did in a house.
  8. We don’t buy many things in bulk. Just toilet paper and coffee. For the most part, we buy other things as we need them.  We don’t keep a cupboard full of canned goods or “stock” supplies—we buy them as recipes call for them, or as we’re actually going to use them. (The glaring exception here would be the pickles, which we canned ourselves last summer and have in abundance!)
  9. imageWe can’t move the furniture. Everything is built in, from the bed to the couch to the huge surround-sound TV in the garage that we’ve never turned on. This is one reason to choose a rig with a configuration you actually like. (And yes, we have a few notes about layout that we’ll keep in mind when we decide to trade this one in… Especially the kitchen.)
  10. Space gets cluttered easily, but clean-up is quick! There’s just not that much house to clean. By the same token, it usually doesn’t take long to find something I’ve misplaced. There just aren’t that many places to look.
  11. We’ve learned to live without an “entryway” for dirty shoes and without a coat closet for the helmets and motorcycle jackets. I just vacuum more often, and the otherwise-unused end of the couch collects coats.
  12. When someone knocks at the door, they’re looking at our knees when we open it. The steps up are so steep, the front door is most-of-a-person taller than the person standing outside. I usually come down the steps to talk because standing elevated in the doorway feels awkward.
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    moving without packing!

    We never have to pack. Well, OK, “never” is an exaggeration. We still have to pack when we go camping (to the mountains where we wouldn’t drag the monster RV), or on a motorcycle trip, or to visit my mom. But we’ve moved four times without packing a single box. And if we wanted to, we could take the whole house on a trip with us—we can go almost anywhere without “leaving home.”

  14. imageRVers are unabashedly interested in each other’s homes, in ways that brick-house-neighbors would never admit to.  Even models with the same name come in different configurations, and we all seem to get a charge out of seeing how individual rigs are laid out. Home repairs (like last weekend’s replacement of our roof-fan to the bathroom) are carried out publicly and discussed in detail (our near neighbor, who also has a Grand Design Momentum, called for Jon’s help for the same repair, just days later). We commiserate about design flaws, brainstorm solutions, swap stories of difficulties, share winterizing materials, and unashamedly ask to see inside each other’s homes. It would never cross my mind to ask a casual acquaintance to show me their bathroom or closets in a brick-and-mortar house, but it doesn’t even phase me to be asked the same here. All in all, it’s the same sense of shared adventure and camaraderie (maybe minus the bathroom-tours) that you’d find among sailors moored at a marina.
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    I choose closet-space over washer/dryer

    We don’t do laundry at home. I thought this would be a major pain in the neck, but truthfully it’s not that much more work to walk a basketful of dirties over to the park’s laundry than it would be to walk it to a laundry-room in a house. Initially I thought I’d be begging for a washer/dryer in our rig, but now I wouldn’t trade the closet space for that minor convenience. An amusing side-note: thanks to the coin-op laundry, quarters are a hot commodity around here—definitely higher-than-face-value. Part of my pay, working for the RV park, comes in the form of rolled quarters every month!

  16. image
    My Useful Person! I’m grateful for his skills

    Getting professional home-repair done is a pain, because it can involve dropping off your home somewhere, and being homeless while it gets worked on. Our rig has a number of issues that are covered by the warranty, but we’re waiting for our vacation-week this summer to take it in to the dealer while we’re out of town. There is a mobile RV-Repair guy who makes frequent visits to the park—but Jon can do pretty much everything Jake does. (Side-note: it’s an unbelievable blessing to be married to a Useful Person when you’re living in an RV! Jon’s “automotive technician” skills spill over to a lot of handy-work for which other people are calling Jake.) For the major stuff (e.g. rear A/C unit that hasn’t worked since we bought it) it’s a shame to let that warranty go to waste, but I’m betting a lot of people pay Jake rather than hand over their homes for “drydock” repair.

  17. image
    decals & velcroed angels

    “Home decor” mostly means decals (which won’t fall off the wall) and velcro under knick-knacks (so they won’t fall off the ledge). It also means we don’t have a lot of knick-knacks, because horizontal space is scarce. My Willow-Tree angels and his dad’s service flag are all velcroed in place so we don’t have to fuss when we move.

  18. Internet connection is precious. Theoretically the park has free wi-fi, but it doesn’t really reach most of us most of the time. Since we can’t hardwire a cable, I finally invested in a wifi hotspot so I could get my freelance writing done (and yes, blogging too) but I spend my online-time watching the “meter” running in the corner of my screen, trying to get my gigs to last as long as possible.
  19. imageWe’ve gotten creative to keep things organized and accessible. Lacking bedside tables, we used to keep a basket by each side of the bed with the various things we’d use there—books, medications, phones, water bottles, kleenex… And we’d always be rummaging to find what we wanted, till I made us each an organizer to hang by the bed, with pockets for those items. I’m thinking I should market these things! (And send a cut to my mom, who used to make similar organizers for our crayons and coloring books in the back of the car…)
  20. Christmas-shopping just got challenging. My mother expressed as much when she asked, “What do you get for the person who’s already gotten rid of almost everything I ever gave her?” For the record, I’ve kept lots of things she gave me—but she does make a point. When space is scarce and belongings minimized, gift-giving takes on a whole new aspect… So one of these days (before next Christmas!) I’ll do a list of ideas.

This list could go on, but if you’ve made it this far you’re already a tenacious reader…

When I was a kid, I used to pretend my bedroom was a sailboat. That particular game-of-Pretend requires rather less in the way of imagination these days! (A girl’s gotta have dreams… Just sayin’.)

Posted in Reading Reviews, travel

2017: A Year for Reading Rihla

a dusting of snow at our RV park
a dusting of snow at our RV park

Boise Idaho is bearing up under record-breaking conditions this week. We have more snow on the ground than EVER. (Well, at least the “ever” that dates from 1875 when someone started measuring.) We have wind-chill warnings for -25F and more snow on the way, possibly to be followed next week by rain, of all things, and likely flooding…  All that to say that I’m not going out much this week!

Aside from my “commute” to the RV park office (thankfully, only a three-minute walk) I’m playing Hobbit and holing up in the cozy confines of our RV! Nevertheless, my mind is free to wander. No, wait—that’s not what I meant. My mind is free to travel, and I’ve decided that this is going to be my Year of the Travelogue.

The Way Martin SheenMy mom & Jon & I watched “The Way” (Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez, 2010) during our Christmas visit, and it fired up my already-engaged gears on the subjects of Travel and Experience. I’m ultra-aware right now of the possibilities inherent in living-on-wheels, and the travel-bug isn’t new to me… Even more than GOING places, though, it’s an urge to EXPERIENCE places, which is what that film really explored (in my opinion). And that’s not to exclude whatever place I am right now, even when that might be holed-up-at-home.

For over a week now, I’ve had the Wikipedia-page for “Rihla” open on my iPhone, and it keeps drawing me back.

… the genre of work called Rihla … or the creative travelogue: a mix of personal narrative, description, opinion and anecdote…

I abhor travel guides, but I love travelogues. And I think this excerpt from Arabic culture has nailed the distinction: a travelogue is a creative and personal work. It’s a work about a person’s experience, rather than merely about a place. (It’s what this blog is for me.) Continue reading “2017: A Year for Reading Rihla”

Posted in travel

Travels with Toots

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toilet training with Toots (and a book!)

Toots is the teddy bear I’ve had since I was a year old. Well, we’ve always called him a teddy bear, though his actual shape is sort of open to interpretation…

He’s had several face-lifts in that time (in fact, he had a whole “body-lift” a couple years ago after a dog got to him and left only his head and one arm… Thank goodness my mother is an expert seamstress, and dedicated to the cause of beloved bears!)…

Toots has been with me on a lot of travels. When I was ten, my family drove around Europe for six months and eighteen countries (including behind the Iron Curtain, and through countries that don’t exist on today’s maps)—Toots was with me for the whole trip. He has earned a lot of passport-stamps.

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He’s been present for my adult milestones too. Yes, that’s a photo of me with Toots on my [first] wedding-day. He has comforted me in hospitals and rehab (and I missed him in jail)…

In short, Toots has been a fixed point through the journey of my life… although until this year, he has often been relegated to closet-shelves while I was married.

Yup, until this year. My hubby, Jon, however, celebrates the kid in me (probably recognizes it because his own is near the surface!) and he has brought Toots back out of the closet with a flourish.

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Salmon River, Idaho (Toots in the saddlebag!)

We started with a motorcycle trip to see my parents over Memorial Weekend, Toots riding along for 600 miles in a saddlebag. And when we stopped to visit my grandma for what would turn out to be the last time, I wasn’t sure she recognized me… but she definitely knew Toots! I was glad we’d brought him along.

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Last summer Jon & I took our first vacation together, a camping road-trip to the Oregon Coast… and Jon not only made sure that Toots came along, he made a game of posing with him in as many places as we could think of. Toots cooked biscuits and gravy over our camp stove. Toots flew a kite on the beach. Toots enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder. Toots climbed the lighthouse tower… Continue reading “Travels with Toots”

Posted in RVing

Death of a Salesman(‘s Commission)

RV park rainbow
here we are at rainbow’s end

We all know—don’t we?—the demographic that comprises full-time RV-ers… They sport hearing aids and golf pants and live in Arizona or Florida half the year.

Once again, it’s time to challenge my assumptions. When Jon and I moved into this RV park in February, I was surprised to find two-thirds of the sites occupied by long-term residents… And I was downright shocked to realized that I am not (as I had supposed) on the youngest end of the age spread. My image of RVers was pretty severely outdated, as it turns out–we have nearly as many young families in the park as retired folks.

At one end of our row we’ve got 20-year-old newlyweds–he’s in construction, and she’ll find a new vet-tech job wherever his work takes them next. At the other end of the row, a young single mom with her feisty four-year-old daughter. Suzie’s five home-schooled kids mostly live on their patio in warm weather, and I’d pass one or two of the boys in the early morning, fishing poles perched at a jaunty vertical like jousting knights on their bikes. Continue reading “Death of a Salesman(‘s Commission)”