Settling in for the winter – Albuquerque style

I’m baaaaack!!!

At the end of September, I completed a four-month road trip which was highly successful. I arrived back in Albuquerque and pulled into my daughters’ driveway. A thorough van cleaning was in order. I am happy to say that 1.5 years of van life has been without any sign of spiders or mice or snakes – whew! (That really was a concern of mine going into this adventure!)  I attribute the lack of creepy crawlies to peppermint essential oil on cotton balls placed strategically throughout the van, and some unwrapped Irish Spring bar soaps tucked in several places.

I am back to teaching almost every day. I found that trying to teach while on the road did not work so well for me.  It was entirely too stressful to be dealing with people not having sufficient wi-fi at their homes, or finding a place with sufficient wi-fi at random places. At one truck stop, I even paid $3 to use the truck stop wi-fi for truckers, only to find that the router faced the back lot where trucks are parked and not toward the front lot where I was allowed to park, so — no go, and I ended up cancelling my classes at the last minute.  This did not endear me to the company, to say the least.  I finally decided in July that I would only schedule classes for when I was at a family/friend’s home where I already knew the wi-fi was sufficient.

So now I am parked in Albuquerque and teaching most mornings, from 5 am to 8 am.  Once Daylight Savings Time kicks the clock back an hour, it will be 4 am to 7 am.  Gotta love Mountain time!  (It was so much easier back on the East Coast when the same classes were from 7 am to 10 am!) I am struggling with readjusting my internal clock to be ready to teach at 4 am.  I tried sleeping earlier at night to get my 7 hours in before 4 am, but that meant going to sleep at 9 pm – not a great solution!  Then I tried sleeping 3 hours before classes and 4 hours after classes – also not a good solution.  So now I stay awake through the night and go to sleep after classes are finished…which means sleeping most of the day. It works, but I am unhappy at missing daylight!!!! This is the biggest adjustment I have to make for the winter. *Addition: I am back to dividing my sleep to before and after classes; I just needed sunlight!! Much better now!

Living the van life all summer, where I went to sleep with the sunset and woke at dawn each day, was much healthier for me. I like being awake early in the morning and having sunshine all day.  It also greatly benefits my Seasonal Affective Disorder to live in the sunshine! But it looks like this sleep/work pattern will need to continue at least until August 2018, when I will reach 62 and my financial situation changes. At that time, I can just work Saturday/Sunday evenings, 7 pm to 10 pm, and be back to my normal circadian cycles with the daylight!

Fortunately, I arrived back in Albuquerque in time for the annual Balloon Fiesta. With about 700 hot-air balloons of all shapes and sizes, the 10 days in early October are always exciting in Albuquerque! This year, I was happy to volunteer for a day of crewing for a Brazilian team.  This meant arriving at the Balloon Fiesta Park by 6 am, helping to unpack and inflate the balloon (a big Armadillo!), and then after launch I jumped in the back of the crew pickup truck as we tracked the balloon northeast through the city and out into some wide open space where the pilot set down. (However, I did not enjoy seeing snakes nearby!) It was an interesting hour as we reached the balloon and helped deflate and pack up the balloon.  After we loaded the basket into the truckbed, I climbed into the basket for the ride back to the park.  Standing in the balloon basket as we drove down the highway was pretty fun – we got lots of funny looks from people, and some friendly waves.  What an adventurous morning!  Definitely sign up to volunteer crew (see website – www.balloonfiesta.c0m) if you are in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta in early October – it was loads of fun!

It was also great to meet an RV-ing couple, who had also volunteered to crew for the same balloon team.  Jeannie and Dave were there all week, and they both got to ride in the balloon – yay!! We had a good time comparing our 2017 summer trips – seems we were in Maine this summer at the same places at the same time! Now we know….  We may all end up in Alaska next summer, too, or some other place on the road!  Some of the best people are RV-ers! They find adventures everywhere!

Inflating the Armadillo balloon
…and the Armadillo is up and almost ready to launch
Only three people in the basket – rats! Maybe next year I will get to ride!
The “skin” is deflated and ready to pack into its bag.
The basket is in the truck bed, and next I climb in for the ride back to the Park.

My next adventure is coming in 3 days – I will travel up to Santa Fe and Taos for some sightseeing.  I will sleep in my van at free overnight places, and enjoy the many sights of this area. The night temperatures have dropped, so I will be packing my fleece snug-sac and warm clothes.

I plan to take the Turqoise Trail up to Santa Fe. I can’t wait to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the Loretta Chapel with its legendary stairs, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Palace of the Governors, and Meow Wolf.   I will also visit Taos Pueblo, the Kit Carson House, and Martinez Hacienda in Taos.  It should be an exciting four days!

With my winter base in Albuquerque, I am a short drive away from all the New Mexico Pueblos, as well as many sites in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. This should be a fun winter as I take advantage of my central location and ability to drive to some amazing scenery, museums, and historic sites. Currently I am planning on making at least one trip per month for several days each. Of course the holidays are almost here, so plenty to celebrate!

In January 2018, I will fly back to South Korea to visit my youngest daughter for a couple of weeks.  I am still deciding about next summer’s itinerary. I would like to drive up to Alaska but that may not be in 2018.  After all, I have two wonderful sons with my nine amazing grandchildren on the East Coast… and so much more to see there!  For now, I am enjoying the beautiful skies of New Mexico – and Chinese Lantern Festival is this month also!

I hope you are having a wonderful fall.  Enjoy the season, and talk to you soon!

Scout –out!

From my bookshelf —

“Now with the bare planks beginning to reveal themselves from under layers of varnish, I admire the different types of wood my grandfather used to construct this gondola. The fore and aft decks are fashioned of mahogany and cedar, beautifully grained woods that also give off distinctive scents. I recognize cherry and walnut used for the trasti, the crosswise pieces of wood that stabilize the prow and stern as well as the wide span across the middle…As I lock the gates of the boathouse behind me, I realize why I am in such a happy mood.”

The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli, 2014

OH, NO!!! Engine trouble…

8543 miles of solo traveling since the end of May, and in the last week of my four-month road trip, I heard a clicking/rattling sound in my engine last Sunday.  Aaaaggghhh!!!!!

As a solo, non-mechanical, 61-year-old lady, this is my worst nightmare! I happened to be in Waco, Texas, where I knew NO-ONE.  My closest brother/mechanical friend was hundreds of miles away.

It sounded like something plastic was fluttering inside the engine. I pulled over at the next exit with a service station, fortunately just a mile down the road, and popped the hood.  I looked so smart as I peered into a complete mystery of an engine! No, actually I do know the main parts of the engine and can check the oil, add oil or washer fluid, etc. — the few basic things I know.  Well, everything LOOKED okay! Except for a few drips of clear fluid on a horizontal thing-a-ma-jig behind the battery which was dripping down behind the passenger front tire. But the liquid was clear and not smelly.

What lies behind the battery? Horizontal, thing-a-ma-jig. Some dripping liquid – could it just be AC condensation? Fingers crossed!

I texted my son and described the sound and the clear drips I saw. He texted back to check the oil.  This I can do! I grabbed a napkin from my van and proceeded to “oh so professionally” wipe down the dipstick, stick it back in the appropriate hole, and pull it out again to look at the measurement on the end – it was only half full!  How could this be? I had just stopped 3 days before in South Carolina and had a complete oil change that was due!  Was the oil leaking out?!?  What if the oil pressure dropped and the engine seized!?! What if I was stuck in the middle of Texas with no vehicle?!? Yes, these thoughts immediately flashed through my mind.

My son advised me (from New York) to add a couple quarts of oil and see how it sounded when the oil was full.  Fortunately, I had pulled over at a gas station with a little store (really, it’s not just for Dr. Pepper and Cheetos?)  They had oil.  I actually had a small funnel in the van which, ahem…I sometimes use when out hiking without a bathroom.  Now I would use it for its intended purpose! Go figure.

I added the 2 quarts of oil and after a few minutes, and a Dr. Pepper, I got back in the van and drove a few blocks.  Still fluttering sounds from the engine – crap! But the oil pressure gauge on the dashboard read that it was fine, so that was a relief.

Google Maps is my go-to for finding stuff, so I searched for local mechanics. Then I looked them up to see if there were reviews on their websites and how far away they were.  How blessed I was to find one just six blocks away with good reviews.  But it was Sunday!!!!!  Sundays may be great for church and stuff, but lousy for mechanical problems that need an expert!

Fortunately there was an inexpensive hotel just one block from the mechanic so I parked there for the night.  Four months on the road and this was the first hotel I used – really not happy as now I had lost my bragging rights! Oh well, it was pretty nice to take a hot shower, lay on a bed and watch TV, and play the “WHAT IF” game.

What is the “WHAT IF” game?  Something I do periodically as I travel, coming up with different scenarios and deciding how I would hypothetically handle them.  Keeps me sharp and thinking outside the box when there is not a crisis in front of me.  But now I was playing it FOR REALS!!!  What if the oil was actually leaking and I woke up in the morning to a big puddle under my van and a catastrophic repair was needed? What if it wasn’t the oil and they couldn’t find the problem? What if something else was broken that I couldn’t see? Okay, would I have to stay in Texas for a few days – which would mean I would lose my online job if I cancelled last minute.  Or would I need to rent a car or buy an airline ticket to Albuquerque and then come back in a week to pick up the van…if I could afford whatever repair was done? Or I could take a bus, but nah, that is too slow and I had classes to teach Tuesday night. Okay, then, what would I leave here in the van and what would I take with me? What if the old (1999) van had repairs needed that were more expensive than its value? Would I scrap this and buy another old van? So many questions….

After I lay on the bed and thought my way through various scenarios, I felt perfectly at peace.  No matter how this played out, I was still (relatively) in control and could handle whatever happened.  I had thought of many different ways this situation could go, and many different options for what I would do.  See, this is why I play the “WHAT IF” game…so when a crisis does arise, I can comfortably think my way through to good outcomes.

Long story short, the next morning I found no oil puddle under my van and the dipstick still read full.  A wonderful mechanic took a look at my van as soon as he opened on Monday morning.  The clear liquid was indeed condensation from the AC unit which I had been running all day in that Texas heat (whew – glad I was right!).  The mechanic listened and looked as I started the van for him and promptly saw that the serpentine belt was paper thin and ready to shred.  I probably would have lost it a few miles down the road if I had not stopped when I did!!!

One hour and $60 later, I was on the road with reassurance from the mechanic that all else looked good in my old van.  He was pretty impressed with how I had handled things, and was so kind.  If anyone is near Waco, see Discount Automotive down on Highway 6 south of Waco – Jimmy is a wonderful guy and a terrific mechanic.

With gratitude for all my blessings, and a peaceful heart, I continued on the last few days of my road trip.  I stopped in Roswell, New Mexico, to see aliens – such fun!

Having a drink with the Aliens in Roswell, NM
Area 51 – yup, I entered!
Alien autopsy in Roswell, NM

Before I left Roswell, I walked to the public library to see THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE! Hey, I could always use some more knowledge! This sculpture is just beautiful!

The Tree of Knowledge at Roswell, NM public library
This was the beautiful tree trunk – titles, authors, important words from so many literary works! Spent quite a while reading as far as I could see!

I arrived at my daughter’s house in Albuquerque on Tuesday evening.  My four month journey was at an end.  So at almost 9000 miles in four months, spending less than $4000 on gas/food/stuff with just $64 for campground fees, $65 for one hotel night, and $150 for engine repairs/oil change, the trip was a great success! I saw family and friends – some whom I had not seen in 20+ years, spent a few weeks with all nine awesome grandchildren, crossed over 15 mountain ranges, walked/swam seacoasts and lakes and rivers, read 68 books, climbed some lighthouses, appreciated some museums, boondocked everywhere, saw beautiful vistas that were memorable, and made some amazing memories.

Now it is almost time for Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta (I get to crew for a Brazilian balloon team – YAY!!) and a mild fall/winter here in New Mexico.  I will teach 3 hours most mornings, and make some local trips here -to Taos, Santa Fe, Indian pueblos, state parks, etc.  If I missed you this 2017 trip, I will do my best to include your area next time! For those who are west of me, I will make a trip in that direction before too long!

Thanks for virtually traveling with me this summer!

–Scout, out!

From my bookshelf…

“But if you send something creative out into the world, it can be received and affect people in different ways than you expected or intended. And that was the most beautiful thing I learned on tour: that the stories I wrote down were mashed up in other people’s minds in MORE useful ways than I could ever have imagined. All across the country, I met so many people who were changed in a small way by what I wrote. And I, in turn, was changed by meeting them. What a lovely thing to experience.”

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day, 2017

Clothes – laundry — the simple, easy way!

One of the most significant decisions in minimizing to an RV lifestyle is the subject of clothing.  We all have closets and drawers full of clothes! A big part of downsizing was going through the clothes and deciding what to keep, recognizing that storage was minimal and the difference my new lifestyle would require in clothing. I took my clues from Marie Kondo’s book, The Art of Tidying Up.  I cleared a big area of the living room, and piled ALL the clothes from every closet and dresser and shelf and basket in the house.  Then I ruthlessly went through the mountain of stuff, throwing each item into the three SAVE – GIVE – TRASH piles. Since I would no longer be working in an office, all the work clothes went into the GIVE pile. Then I immediately bagged the GIVE and TRASH piles into garbage bags – white kitchen bags for GIVE to go to donation and black garbage bags for TRASH (underwear, socks, old holey sweats and T shirts, etc.)

With a much smaller pile of clothing to KEEP, I then decided to select 8 outfits for warmer weather and 8 outfits for colder weather.  I chose my favorite clothes and put them together into piles of tops and bottoms – and found that most were of the black/white/aqua coloring.  The rest I put into more white garbage bags to give away. I made a pile of 10 sets of underwear and socks, a swimsuit, one casual dress, a hoodie, a winter coat, two pajamas, and set them aside. Then I took all the garbage bags out to the car, drove to the donation center to toss in all the white bags, and to the dumpster to toss in all the black bags.  DONE! One ruthless afternoon, and no more dithering back and forth about clothes!

FYI – At the same time, I did the same thing with shoes – keeping a pair each of slippers, sneakers, hiking shoes, sandals, flip flops, and casual black shoes. All the rest went to GIVE or TRASH, depending on their condition. The shoes are in an inexpensive 12-pair hanging shoe bag , hanging over the back of the headboard and behind the bed. Used dryer sheets get tucked into the shoes so the van doesn’t smell like a locker room. (I prefer the lavender dryer sheets!)

Now I have been on the road for over a year, and am happy with the clothing choices I made. Most of the outfits coordinate and I have easily transitioned from warm weather to cooler weather to warm weather again. The layers work for me, and I have been very comfortable.  If I buy something, I donate the old so I am not adding more stuff into my van.     8 outfits for each season works well.

I do not have laundry facilities in my van by choice. I keep a small laundry basket handy and toss my dirty clothes there until it is full. Then I find a laundromat or use a family/friend washer when visiting.  I actually prefer to use a public laundromat or campground laundromat so I am not imposing on others.  Here is a picture of my laundry basket, which has detergent pods, dryer sheets, and a coin purse of quarters at the bottom, ready for the next laundry day.

The laundry basket – ready for the next washday

After I have washed and dried my clothes, I set them up as outfits.  I place a pair of capris/leggings down first on the table. Then I select a top folded lengthwise and underwear, and roll them together with the underwear inside.  Then this small bundle gets rolled up into the pants in a tight bundle.  Rolling prevents wrinkles and keeps the outfit tightly together.  I vary which tops and bottoms to combine so I don’t get bored with the clothing choices.

Capris, summer top, and underwear – outfit ready to be rolled up tightly
Top and underwear rolled into a small bundle, then rolled into pants

I use fabric cubes to store my clothes. One cube will have warm weather clothes (usually capris and a summery top with underwear) and another cube will have cooler weather clothes (usually leggings and a tunic and underwear). Then I just pull the next roll out of the appropriate cube for the weather that day and get dressed.  The rolled clothing bundles also make it easy to pack my gym bag if I am showering at a Planet Fitness or a campground or friend/family shower (Really? You never got into the shower room to find that you left your clean underwear in the van, or worse yet  — dropped it in the parking lot?!?!?) The fabric cubes are between the bed and back doors, and easily accessible from either inside reaching over the bed or outside via the back door.

Warm weather cube with outfits rolled into individual bundles
Cooler weather cube – outfits rolled into individual bundles

If I were a young mom raising kids again, I would definitely do this for the children in the family, even living in a home and not on the road.  Roll together a day’s outfit including underwear and socks, and it is so much easier to get them dressed for the day! And clean underwear gets used every day! (Seriously? your kids didn’t wear the same underwear for several days until you noticed?!?!?) The kid picks a bundle and puts it on – no more “which shirt do you want to wear? are those matching socks? no, please don’t choose an orange plaid shirt and purple striped shorts” arguments in the morning!

This is also a great technique for vacations, camping, etc.  You get the correct number of outfits and don’t end up with seven shirts and 3 pants and one pair of underwear. Keep a travel bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel, and you are good to go!  It takes me about 10 minutes to pack for a trip – even going 2 weeks to South Korea to visit my daughter.

When I load the fabric cubes according to weather, it makes the morning choices easier – no more hunting for longer pants or a cooler shirt! I know which cube has warm weather clothes and which cube has cooler weather clothes.  There is another cube with extra underwear, the pajamas, and socks. One more cube has the swimsuit, hoodie, dress, etc. Everything is rolled to prevent wrinkles, even the casual dress! The laundry basket goes back into the van, making sure there are more detergent pods, dryer sheets, and quarters for the next laundry day – if not, I stop and purchase those things right away before the first dirty clothes get added on top.  This way I know I am ready for the next laundromat visit – no hunting for quarters or having to buy detergent from an expensive vending machine!

Ready for the next washday with detergent pods, dryer sheets, and quarters in a coin purse

It takes one washer to clean the laundry basket-ful, and another washer for sheets, towels, pillow cases – which I do once or twice a month depending on how often I slept in the van versus someone’s spare bedroom or my tent.  I spend very little time on clothing and am very comfortable with this setup for my particular lifestyle.

Everyone’s life is different, and your clothing preferences/lifestyle may differ, and so I humbly offer this as a starting point to thinking about how to simplify life.  

 

From my bookshelf:

“Very often we view God as a sort of grand puppeteer – making this one to jiggle and that one to dance, all on cue. I wonder, however, if this analogy isn’t all wrong. I wonder, instead, if it wouldn’t be better to analogize God as the master conductor instructing the various sections to respond on God’s signal – this section then the next, rhythmically responding and harmonizing with excellence. I wonder if God isn’t instead this great music maker, teaching all creation to play and sing along to the melody of love. God speaks: “Listen. Do you hear it? Do you know the tune? Join with me. Let us make music in the key of divine love!”

–Essay by Will Albright, The Jesus Lens: Seeing God through Jesus     from the book Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God                     by Thomas Jay Oord, et al, 2017

 

 

 

 

Interrupting the big picture…happily!

One of the best perks of life on the road is the ability to stop at any time and lend a hand/be available to someone in need.  Whether it is your own family or an old friend or a complete stranger, there is nothing quite like the great feeling of being “in the right place at the right time” to make a difference for someone.

This month I began my four-month road trip as planned. Stayed a couple of days longer at one place to facilitate get-togethers with more family, added an extra night the next week to meet up with a niece I hadn’t seen in ma-a-a-a-a-a-ny years, and ended up arriving at my son’s house just as my daughter-in-law received a diagnosis of possible pre-eclampsia with the 7-month-in-utero twins.

What a great blessing to be able to extend a quick visit for over a week to help during the crisis. Fortunately, although the crisis quickly escalated, the twin boys were born naturally in the OR within days, and are doing fantastic in the NICU.  Carrie is able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House next door so she can focus on the twins.  The other five siblings are at home, being cared for by family and friends.  It was a privilege to be a part of the “village” that cared for my family.

I say this because many times when I was working the 9-5 from a sticks-and-bricks stationary home, I would hear of something happening and be unable to physically help. I am rethinking part of my future planning – to always allow for helping others. Now that I no longer need to keep to a rigid schedule, like so many who live on the road, should we not stop and help whenever possible? Isn’t this one of the best perks of our “go with the flow” schedule!?!?!

Also during the month of July, I was privileged to visit the beautiful land and people of Prince Edward Island, Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed all the Anne of Green Gables attractions, including a musical theatre production in Charlottetown one evening. As I happened to arrive on July 1, the birthday of Canada, I was able to walk into a harbor festival in Summerside for a wonderful evening of music, good food, and fireworks with some lovely people.  My little van parked in the public harbor parking gave me instant access, and I was able to stay there for the night – sleeping with a wonderful sea breeze coming in my windows.

The coast of Prince Edward Island has 37 lighthouses, 9 of which are open to climb and enjoy a magnificent view.  The red cliffs along the coast were my afternoon delights – a different beach/park each day as I wound my way around the island.  For any bikers, this is a biking paradise as bike trails wind around the entire coast – I enjoyed walking many of these trails.  Each hill I crested provided yet another spectacular view of waves, cliffs, beaches, lighthouses, and so much more.  The pink, purple and white lupin that grow along the roads are so pretty. Yet the entire island is sparsely touristed and never felt crowded.

When I arrived back in Maine, I was able to spend more time with my oldest brother than I have spent with him in years. It was a great time to reconnect and feel more like part of his family again! Another few days with another brother and his family, and I was so happy to help celebrate a favorite nephew’s 40th birthday.  Spending more time just chilling and visiting – instead of rushing to see each person on a quick visit – this is what is different with my current travels.  I spent some time with a friend from Long Island who summers at Point Sebago and met her family – the last time I saw her was when her first daughter was born and now the three girls are all adults!

An evening with two older cousins in Portland, Maine, made me very happy, and I learned more about my extended family than ever before. How sad that our previous generations allowed animosity and resentment to separate the family so that we did not get to know each other and spend time together while growing up.  Happily, we are changing that as adults!

The next day I went to visit one of my cousins at her camp on Sebago Lake, which I vaguely remember from the past, and it was my great pleasure to have an afternoon to visit with her and one of her sons. My “first cousin once removed” is an amazing inner city high school teacher and I am so proud of the work he is doing and the relationships he is investing himself in with young people. What a glowing example of a teacher who cares, really cares, about his students as individuals! It was wonderful to hear about what they are accomplishing in Nashville, and I loved connecting with him over the picnic table lakeside.

  My favorite cousin and her family was next on the list for a visit. While I have often stopped by for visits “on the way” somewhere, this was the first time in decades that I spent several days with her. Despite this, we have always maintained a connection that is more sister than cousin. I enjoyed spending time getting to know her family members a bit more. As I was leaving, she remarked how much more she would miss me now that we had actually spent some days together – exactly how I feel!  Slowing down to spend more time with a person makes such a stronger connection, and I am so glad I have these opportunities. Pulling my little camper van into a driveway for a few days means we spend so much more time together yet I can sleep in my van and not inconvenience anyone – although my wonderful “first cousin once removed”, Sam, was willing to give up his bed to make me more comfortable!!  Pretty cool for a 16-year-old young man to be willing to sacrifice his bed for me! His big sister, Deanna, was also wonderful to visit – they sure have grown up and are terrific adults.

By the way, Google informs me that the child of my cousin is NOT my second cousin, but is my first cousin once removed.  Google also says they should be addressed as niece and nephew – yay!  We usually just say “cousin” and leave it at that, but whatever the name, they are some pretty awesome people.  I was able to meet my “first cousin once removed” Stuart’s wife, and their four kids I have only known through Facebook.  Much as I love Facebook and social media to keep in touch with people, FACE TIME is so much better!!!

Now I am back in New York, spending time with my son Sean and his family, and making some smaller trips to visit friends and places in the area.  I am looking forward to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, next week.  Two months of my four month trip are done, and it has been wonderful!  I have reconnected and met so many family/friends – I feel so blessed.

How have the finances been?  Here are the stats for the first two months:

JUNE (5 weeks, including last week of May):

Gas $470 – for 2786 miles; Food $130; Other $270 – TOTAL $870

JULY (includes trip to Canada)

Gas $433 – for 2638 miles; Food $183; Other $381 – TOTAL $997

August will be less expensive as I am based mainly in New York at my son’s home and just taking small trips.  Lots of time chillin’ with the fam! I am also working more online classes to replenish the funds as I did spend more on food and entertainment/touristy stuff than I had planned. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to travel and plan my work around the more important things of life! In June I earned just about $525 and a little less in July as I did not work at all while in Canada, and much of the time in Maine.  When I leave New York, I will reduce my teaching schedule again to fit my travel schedule.  Since my phone/insurance bills are only $300 a month, I am in good shape.  With no other debts, I can enjoy this lifestyle by keeping it simple and doing a LOT of boondocking!

Where have I boondocked on this trip?  Besides the driveways of family and friends, I have overnighted in:  a harbor parking lot, a hospital visitor parking lot, on a town street beside a park, at Walmarts and Cracker Barrel restaurants, truck stops and secure 24-hour highway convenience/rest stops.  I have only paid $24 in campground fees, for 3 nights, and have otherwise boondocked for free.

Hope your summer is going well, and you are happily connecting with family and friends, too!  Life is too short to waste, and too beautiful to miss! While not everyone has the ability to travel like I am doing, have FUN and ENJOY each day!

Scout — out!!

From my bookshelf:

“It was not nature that moved me…it was the feeling of smallness, of isolation, that I craved. How I wish I felt at home in the crowds of Salem, the salons of Boston. Still, when I am in society, I feel their need and hopes on me like an actual physical presence….Company is a burden to those at home in the solitude of their souls.”

The House of Hawthorne, by Erica Robuck, 2015

OFF-GRID and inexpensive life on the open road

Living life on the road…on a shoestring budget

doesn’t leave much wiggle room financially, and I like being free of expensive habits. So here are a few of my budget-savers which you may want to adapt for your travels!

Generally, I spend less than $5 a day on food.  I don’t have a fridge in the camper, and just use a cooler, which I keep covered with a cooling cover I made with Reflectix material and duct tape.  I shop at Aldi/Dollar Stores for inexpensive packaged food and snacks.  The cooler, which I use without ice, keeps food protected from the heat and I store eggs at room temperature, hard cheese to grate, peanut butter and jelly, bread, fruit, fresh vegetables, crackers, raisins/M&Ms/honey nut cheerios snack mix, etc.  In my kitchen drawers, I store package goods — tuna salad, chili, corned beef hash, soup, stew, bags of cornbread/cake/brownie/cookie mixes, bags of chips, etc. I keep a variety to last a couple of weeks at a time. If I spend $30 on food supplies at a time, that lasts me quite a while, in part because I plan my trips to stop in for visits with family/friends and am often fed by them! (MOOCH CAMPING is fun, love visiting with them, and keeps me social/engaged with everyone!)

Cooler (front passenger seat removed)
Portable 12 volt stove with the fixins for apple cobbler

Above is a simple 12 volt portable stove which plugs into the 12volt power source on the dashboard. An hour before stopping for a hot meal, I plug in this stove while the engine is running (it looks kind of like an old fashioned lunchbox and sits in a Reflectix-lined basket in the console area of the van) and add a quick meal — can of chili with cornbread mix on top, soup with biscuit mix on top, water and pasta, French bread pizza, chicken and gravy, beef stew, corned beef hash with fresh eggs on top, you name it! Or for dessert, a brownie mix, cookie dough, or pie filling/cake mix for a cobbler or buckle (shown above, apple pie filling with a spice cake mix).  20-40 minutes down the road, the meal/dessert is ready so I unplug the stove and leave it closed and hot until I stop to eat. Costs around $30 from Amazon.

12-volt beverage heater

Remembered from my old college days, I recently purchased a new beverage heating coil, seen above, about $10 from Amazon. Adding water to a coffee mug (not anything plastic), I can plug this into the dashboard 12 volt power source while the engine is running, and heat a cup of hot water within minutes.  Great for adding oatmeal/cream of wheat packets, ramen noodles to make a quick meal, just a cup of hot chocolate or tea, etc. (I don’t drink coffee, or that would be another quick cup.)

Portable 12 volt/solar generator,

Another great money-saver is the solar/12 volt generator I use to charge my phone, laptop, Kindle, or run a fan. No need to carry fuel!!! When driving, I charge the generator through the 12 volt power source on my dashboard.  I can charge my phone and Kindle easily at night from the generator so I don’t need to run my engine.  I run my laptop for several hours a day off this generator, as I teach online classes one to three hours a day to fund my travels.  This generator can be charged one of three ways – through the 12 volt power source in the van dashboard while driving, if hooked up to a solar panel (which I may add in the near future as it is a separate kit), or through anyone’s 110 house plugin (AC input) while visiting – adaptors for all three are included. This smaller than 8-inch generator has 2 USB ports, and can be plugged into with the normal 110 current plug of most fans (AC output), and will switch from AC to DC if low on power.  It has a power level LED display, and an ultra-bright LED emergency light. The cost on Amazon was less than $145. Since there is no fuel and the size is very compact and lightweight, I can easily stow this generator out of sight when I will be away from the van.

2 gallon solar shower

Another great addition when on the road this year is a simple solar shower pump. I purchased a new 2-gallon plastic pump multi-purpose sprayer for $10 from Walmart’s garden aisle. I spray painted the plastic bottle with black matte so it will absorb the sunlight more easily to warm the water. I am currently replacing the small spray nozzle on the end with a hose to pipe adaptor and a normal garden hose sprayer.  I can pump the handle a few times and have a decent flow of warm water to rinse off feet, shower, wash my hair, or general cleanup.  2 gallons is not a lot of water, so I am sparse with the water usage.  If I want to take a private shower, I have a hula hoop under the bed with shower curtain attached and I can just hang it up from a tree limb and voila! clean and happy camper!  To be honest, I usually shower at Planet Fitness centers across the country (my only “other” expense at $20 a month to use anywhere) or at the homes of family/friends I am visiting along the way.  But this is still terrific for beach rinsing, etc.

3 drawer kitchen cart in cabinet
Washup sink area on top of kitchen cabinet

My kitchen/washing setup in the van does not have fuel, running water, or refrigeration.  I have a three drawer cart in a homemade cabinet, with a drop-in sink above and a stand for bottled water above the sink.  The three drawer cart has plenty of space for my packaged goods, cooking utensils, spices, pot holders, paper plates and plastic cutlery, cutting board and knives, mugs, etc.  The sink can be easily lifted out to toss the water appropriately.  I use the bottled water to wash, brush my teeth, and spot clean, as well as drink.  The 2.5 gallon jugs of water cost about $2 and I carry one and a spare. I also have a small mirror hanging above the sink to check my bed-head before leaving the van!

Cabinet for potty
Portable self-contained toilet with double bagged waste bag -ready for emergencies

The portable self-contained potty is stored in another homemade cabinet. This cost me $35 for a comfortable potty which I can use in the van or tent. I initially purchased “double-doodie toilet waste bags” which cost over $2 apiece – pretty expensive.  However, I do like the set up and easy disposal so I created my own, using dollar store/Aldi kitchen garbage bags, quart-size ziplock bags and inexpensive toddler disposable diapers, at a cost of less than 60 cents each. I prepare a tote bag full of ready-to-go waste bags, usually about 18 at a time, which lasts me several weeks.  PREP:  I refold the kitchen garbage bags into the ziplock bag and place a diaper in each one.  USE: Then it is quick to grab a ziplock bag, remove the diaper, unfold the kitchen garbage bag (but leaving the bottom end still in the ziplock bag!!) to place into the portable potty.  I pull the kitchen garbage bag top up and over the seat and then place the open diaper in the bottom of the garbage bag.  The diaper soaks up liquid waste, any solid waste is at the bottom of the bag which is double-bag protected with the ziplock bag.  After usage, fold the kitchen garbage bag with waste and diaper down into the ziplock bag (already “attached”), zip it closed, and dispose of the package.  To anyone concerned, this is hygienic – baby diapers are also tossed into regular trash, no medical waste requirements.

Screenhouse sets up in 5 minutes at the campsite (usually I place it over the picnic table provided for bug-free eating)

If I decide to spend some time at a campsite (rare due to expense), I have all my camping gear stored under the bed.  I have a tent, a screenhouse, and gear for cooking over an open fire.  If I do stop for some camping R&R, I will go to a state or federal park or COE (Corps of Engineers) site, which is less expensive than a private campground. I am not interested in amenities and activities, just want a private space under the trees to chill and make a campfire.

Acrylic painting from Cambodia; Cut out family pictures on the wood trim around the van interior
Cut out picture and place on sticky craft foam. Trim and hang – I just staple them to the trim.

Just as an additional FYI, I love to live surrounded by my family so I took a bunch of photos and scanned them into a thumb drive and the cloud. Then I took the original and cut around the person(s). Buy colorful sticky craft foam and attach the photo to the sticky side.  Cut around the photo leaving a colorful edge, and decorate the interior of your van.  I just staple mine to the wood trim.  My family is always with me!

Okay, this concludes some of my tricks to an inexpensive road trip.  I am leaving in about a week for four months, heading east and north.  Happy trails!

Scout…out!

From my bookshelf:

“It is perfectly legitimate and even admirable for Americans to promote their personal values through either religious or political processes…. the role of spiritual leaders in America’s civil rights movement is a wonderful example of the healing role faith can play in our national life. But when we attempt to use our government to force others to worship as we do, or treat those who differ as second-class citizens, then we are violating the basic tenets of a democracy…. Unfortunately, many people of faith today focus more on the quarrels that divide us than on the values that unite us.”

Living Faith by Jimmy Carter, 1996

Anxiety? Depression? Coping strategies on the road

The mind is our greatest battlefield!

So, everyone who travels in an RV must be happy and fulfilled every day, right?  Does the sun always shine brightly?

I know I’m not the only person who has chosen the travel lifestyle but still battles with anxiety, depression, and/or other mental health issues.  (And how many of us battle physical health issues?  spiritual health issues? emotional health issues?  relationship health issues? etc.)

Just like the sky is not always sunny, so too we as human beings don’t always have internal sunshine.  Some days there’s clouds, or wind, or rain, or tornadoes/hurricanes/major storms.  Some days are dark and we struggle to get through the day…hour…the next 5 minutes.

Part of the reason I chose to full-time RV is that I was struggling with a full time job in the midst of some serious anxiety, and bouts of depression.  I have suffered from these battles off and on for most of my life.  At times I have needed to turn to medications and therapies, and it’s a smart person who recognizes when the red flags are waving and gets outside help.  Most of the time, though, I have ridden the waves pretty well with self-monitoring.  However, in 2016 I found myself struggling more and more with anxiety and depression, and while medication and therapy were helpful it just wasn’t enough.  I felt my work performance was slipping and it was increasingly difficult to show up every day and concentrate. Just the thought of a meeting or a snowstorm or just going up the staircase with coworkers often sent me into a panic attack.  I tried going back on anti-anxiety medication but hated how my brain turned to mush – also not good for work performance.

Then, I was in a minor fender bender and several days later awoke to incredible vertigo and could not drive, or barely walk down a hall without my world spinning, which lasted for months.  I tried, for a few months, to do my work from home remotely, thanks to a wonderful manager.  But while the anxiety symptoms abated when I was away, a phone call or an on-site meeting would dump me right back into anxiety for days before and days after. So I came to a critical point:  If I needed medication in order to do my job, and that medication messed with my brain, did I want to continue that route?

During the early part of 2016, I had decided to purchase an old van to renovate into a solo camper for vacations and possibly as a “tiny home”.  I moved into the van I found on Craigslist and renovated while living in it at my son’s home (see other blog posts for more info).  During this time I was battling the depression and anxiety, and then the vertigo.  Within weeks, due to the decreased stress of no rent, etc., and the fresh air of van camping, and working remotely, and other external circumstances changing, I found the depression was lifting.  The vertigo was handled with an OTC medication as needed, and it lessened bit by bit.  The anxiety, though, was still kicking my butt.

By August of 2016, I felt my best choice for good health was to resign from my job and begin full time RV travel with some type of part time work to support the traveling.  While it was difficult to resign from a job which I really enjoyed and paid decently, I didn’t want to continue with a medicated lifestyle. Now, seven months later, I am medication-free, depression-free, and almost completely anxiety-free.

I know from experience that depression and anxiety are life-long battles for me, and for many folks.  A concern of my family/friends is that I am off traveling alone – Would I slide into depression without my support system (family and friends)?  Would I let my health deteriorate and no one would notice? Would I hole up in a campsite somewhere and not take care of myself?  Yes, these are valid concerns for those who love me!  I don’t fight their loving concern, but I also don’t let that concern make decisions for me.

My red flags are familiar to me, and I mitigate those symptoms by a few simple daily routines:

*Complete B vitamins – sustained release

*Outdoor exercise (simple walking 20+ minutes)

*Journaling, creative stuff

*Healthy eating

*Healthy sleeping

Due to the freedom of the RV lifestyle, I can be alone or get together with people according to how I feel at any given time.  I don’t have a schedule or deadlines.  I purposely “go with the flow” instead of making a hard-and-fast itinerary.  If I choose to spend a day in bed reading, that’s okay.  If I want to visit someone, that’s okay.  If I just want to sit at a beach and stare at the surf, that’s okay.  If I want to walk in the woods, that’s okay. If I want to eat at a restaurant surrounded by chatter, that’s okay.

Since I do need to fund my travels, I work a few days a week for a few hours.  The schedule is mine to book, and the work is not stressful for me.  If I start to get anxious, I can take a break – I am only required to work 7.5 hours a week.  All I do is spend 1/2 hour at a time with a Chinese child online speaking English with the teaching PowerPoint provided. (See other blogs for work information).

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and this lifestyle choice would not work for everyone. If I find myself not doing well for a couple of weeks and not able to rise above those dark days, then I would head to family for support and reconsideration of what is best at that time.  But for now, this is working for me and I am happy and content with my choices.  I like having a clear head, and enjoying the fresh air and freedom of the camping life.

Do you have a battle you are fighting? What steps are you taking towards health? How are you coping?  Hey, just being honest with each other can go a long way to making a difference.  I bared my soul…doesn’t hurt and it might help someone else!  Feel free to share…

Scout…out!

From the bookshelf:

“There are two truisms about a person.  The first is that they do not change. The second is that they do not remain the same.”


Aspen Allegations by Lisa Shea, 2013

 

Please remember, if you are ordering online via Amazon/Audible and would click through the link at the end of this post, I will make a small commission to help fund my travels. (no additional cost to you) –Thanks!

RV-ING IN COLD WEATHER

How low can you go?

NOT The Limbo….

F40 degrees?  F20 degrees?  Below ZERO???

While many northerners like winter camping and have a winterized rig set up with a heater, I chose to not go that route and prepared only for 40-90 degrees weather.  After a childhood in New Hampshire and most of my adult life waaaaay above the Mason-Dixon line, I wanted to keep my winters mild as I travel. However, Mother Nature is fickle and most of the country has experienced some cold weather this year.

Without a heater (separate from the engine heater), my van can get pretty chilly.  I had insulated well when doing the renovation, and have Reflectix for the windows so that helps quite a bit.  Fortunately, I like sleeping in the cold and am able to keep warm under covers.  Here is my secret:

No-sew fleece body-sack “mitten”

Just like a mitten will keep you warm by creating a body-heated air pocket around your hand, this snug-sack will create a body-heated air pocket around your body while you sleep under the covers.

Fleece No-Sew Snug-Sac for RV-ing in the cold
Wearing the Snug-Sac

Instructions:

  1. Purchase a length of fleece a bit longer than your body height.  If you are large-sized, you may want to follow the modifications below for double-sized snug-sack.

2. With fleece folded (as it comes off the bolt), cut a 2-inch fringe along the raw edges at every inch or inch-and-a-half.  DO NOT CUT along the top or bottom – leave these edges open.

Finished Snug-Sac, ready to stay warm tonite!

3. Knot the fringe from both sides together to make a body-sized sack.  Keep the bottom and top open.  The top is for your head cover (hood), if desired, and to get into the snug-sack.  The bottom is so you can stick your feet out and walk around when not in bed.  I also use it like a radiator with my feet sticking out when I get too warm under the covers!!

4. When ready for bed, climb into the snug-sack and pull it up and over your head if you want a hood.  Otherwise, snug it up around your neck and climb under the covers.  Because the snug-sack is all around you, your body heat will warm up the air pocket and keep you toasty!  If the fringe-knots bother you when sleeping, remember to keep that part towards your body front if you’re a back/side sleeper – or towards your back if you’re a belly sleeper.

Pattern for Snug-Sac

Large-size Modification:

  1. Purchase fleece at double the length of your body height.

2. Open fleece to full flat size and then cut to two body height pieces, laying one on top of the other.  (If patterned fleece, have both pieces with pattern inside or both pieces with pattern outside…either one is fine as long as the finished piece will match on both sides.)

3. Cut 2-inch fringe along BOTH sides of both pieces every inch to inch-and-a-half.  Knot both pieces together along the two sides.  Keep top and bottom open.  Continue as above.

Pattern for LARGE Snug-Sac

When I wake up and it is especially chilly, I walk around in my snug-sack as I get warmed up in the morning!  Then I fold it and stow it away with my pillow in the quilted pillow sham on my bed.  (The other pillow sham stores sweatshirts/hoodies and extra towels.)

Snug-Sac folded into pillow sham for the day

Speaking of getting warmed up in the morning, here is my morning walk while here in Albuquerque.  I have a beautiful mountain vista for most of the walk:

Walking the Tramway path, Sandia foothills

Hope everyone has had a great January, wherever you are!

—Scout, out!

From the Bookshelf:

“Clark looked at the Indian.  Light-haired, slightly built, poorly dressed, unprepossessing.  But he commanded the space in the middle of this dance ground, a master.  He commanded the crowd, a master.  Christ, he must know a hundred Indians at this place would shoot him in an instant. Evidently, they had just been shooting at each other.  But the man rose up and dared them, and from the force of his spirit and the fear of retribution, they dared not.  Remarkable, and just like him.  As commander of the scouts Clark was supposed to be the leader of most of these men.  He felt envious of their real commander, Crazy Horse.”

–from Stone Song, a novel of the life of Crazy Horse, by Win Blevins, 2016

 

Wanderlust…or FERNWEH

Wanderlust, is a very strong desire for or an irresistible impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.  The term originates from the German words wandern (to hike or to wander) and lust (desire), meaning you have a lust for travel.

Fernweh, which, again Germanic, literally translates to distance-sickness (fern meaning distant and wehe meaning drift), refers to a longing for far-off places. This is similar to the state of homesickness, as it makes you sad and depressed when you aren’t travelling.

 

This love of traveling and visiting other places is not new to some of us, but it is rather perplexing to many of our family and friends.  While some love the comforts of home and the structure and stability of a settled life, others love the freedom to travel and experience new places and new people and new food and new…everything!

Many years ago when I was 14, my family moved from New Hampshire to Oklahoma (for complicated reasons not important to this post) and thereafter I usually moved just about every two years…from various places in Oklahoma, to Missouri, to New York City, to Illinois, to Long Island and then upstate New York.  I have never felt a “this is my forever home” feeling, although I always enjoy a “this is my home for now” settled feeling wherever I am.  I am connected with family (my children, my brothers, my cousin Leslie) and friends who I wouldn’t hesitate to stop and visit whenever in their locate (Kim Calleja, Linda Monez, Tim and Ann Moore, Marcia Poole, Dawn Stephanoff, Elizabeth Rossi, etc.)  While I feel connected and have roots with people, I really don’t have roots for a location.

For the moment, I am enjoying staying in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with my daughters Tara and Morgan, and their housemates Dayton and Emily. Albuquerque is a beautiful area, with SO MUCH to see and experience. My plans for the next few months while getting established in my online business include:  Ride the Rails train trips to Santa Fe (will probably have to do this many times as there is so much to see there and at only $10 for the two hour trip!!!), the pueblos and petroglyphs in New Mexico, the Indian Cultural Center, the Rio Grande Bosque, the Sandia Crest tramway, and all the beautiful state parks of New Mexico.

The sky is SO BIG here in New Mexico and the weather is almost always sunny.  I feel like I breathe deeper out west here where the horizon is so expansive, and the mountains I see in the distance are actually on the other side of the state!

When I was leaving Arkansas after visiting my brothers David and Kevin, and all the great family there, I headed across Oklahoma and Texas to New Mexico.  Someone had said this was a boring drive, but I found it to be so very exciting! Having just crossed some of the same territory two and three times in the last couple of months, I love driving these miles.  I don’t even have music or the radio on; I just drive and look around and enjoy every little thing.

 “Coyote!”

Coyote

“Tumbleweed!”

Tumbleweed – killed a few of these on I-40 on a windy day!

“Big Jim Bowie knife!”

Biggest Bowie knife, in Bowie, TX

“Big canyon!”

Palo Duro Canyon, just south of Amarillo, TX
Second largest canyon in USA – beautiful!

“Huge can of Whoopa$$!”  (no picture -darn!, was in traffic, but seen outside of Dallas Speedway in No Limits, TX)

I imagine when this territory was the home of Native Americans and wildlife…buffalo stampeding across the ground…then the pioneers and adventurers coming in dribs and drabs…the Oklahoma land rush…the years of bloodshed and disease and sorrow – a part of our history I think of with great shame for the greedy white people who thought they were superior to the natives….

The beautiful mesas and canyons and arroyos…the vast plains…the rocky hills and mountains…and the sun, always the vast sky above and around me!  Perhaps it is the big windows on my van as I travel, but I am so very aware of the big blue sky – and the stars at night, wow!

An appreciation for the arts and culture of peoples around me has always been part of this FERNWEH.  For now, in Albuquerque, it is the Navajo, the Apache and Comanche and Ute tribes, the Zuni and Pueblos – so much history and art and traditions to experience.  This week (Dec. 21) was the night-long drums of the longest night of the year and the celebration of first sunrise.  I hope to spend all night next year to experience this! Add to that, all the sacred ceremonies and beautiful art and historical villages

While crossing part of Texas again after Christmas, I stopped at Palo Dura Canyon just south of Amarillo.  What a beautiful spot, second largest canyon in the USA, second only to the Grand Canyon itself…and far less touristy or crowded! New Year’s Eve “last night hike” and “first 2017 morning sunrise” were spectacular!  20 miles of gorgeous canyon views, and a great drive as well.  Definitely, this is a place to return for camping adventures!

Where will I be heading next?  After a couple of more months in New Mexico, I will be heading back east, stopping to visit family and friends along the way.  I’ll be stopping in Arkansas, Missouri, North/South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Maine … then heading into Canada for their 150-year anniversary and free national parks there during 2017.  Plan on seeing Prince Edward Isle (Anne of Green Gables, anyone?) and the Tall Ships at port in Nova Scotia.

I cannot get enough of these experiences!  Are you amazed by all the beauty of our country?  Do you experience wanderlust or FERNWEH?  Do you desire to travel here and/or abroad? Do you feel trapped, or in a rut, or just ready to go out and explore?  There are so many of us out there, part time and full time travelers – come join us!

–Scout, out!

 

From the bookshelf –

“She felt suddenly as if she hadn’t been breathing, not properly, for a long time. It was as if her entire body was exhaling…. It was a most peculiar feeling. Nina breathed in suddenly, all the way in, and felt her shoulders uncurl, as if they’d been jammed up around her ears…”

The Bookshelf on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Safety First!!!

The most frequently asked question of solo women RV-ers:

“But what about your SAFETY ?!?!?”

Personal safety is, of course, a very important issue.  However, conversations with RV-ers both on social media and in person all come to the same conclusion:

Our best defense is common sense/intuition

always being aware of your surroundings…

choosing wisely where to stop…

moving on if you feel “ummmm, doesn’t feel safe”…

keeping someone informed of where you are.

So what else can a gal do to stay safe?  Personally, I carry on my key ring a small device that emits a 120 decibel alarm if I pull the pin, and a very bright LED flashlight with strobe. This is with me at all times.

High decibel personal alarm on key ring - just pull the pin
High decibel personal alarm on key ring – just pull the pin

 I also have a Louisville Slugger (baseball bat) in my van.

Louisville Slugger - made famous by Carrie Underwood
Louisville Slugger – made famous by Carrie Underwood

Additionally, when any door is opened on the van, four LED strips light up the world inside my van — powerfully bright.

Small LED lightstrip
Small LED lightstrip
img_0621-1
4 of these LED lightstrips really illuminate the entire van

From extensive readings and interviews, I see that a few women carry a gun of some kind.  If someone is licensed and trained, a firearm could be of benefit, but I know I personally do not want to drive around “armed and dangerous”! I also do not have a dog with me, or pet of any kind, although I know many women travel with canine protection.  I have taken a defensive strategy class, and recommend that as well. Growing up with six brothers had taught me most of this already, but a good refresher class was part of my start-up strategy!

Vehicular safety is also an important facet of all RV-ers.  Preventive maintenance is key, and saves an abundance of breakdowns and problems on the road, which can be particularly unsafe.  Besides a full tool kit, fire extinguisher, a good spare tire, jack and flares, etc., I also have an emergency kit with water, protein, safety blanket, surgical and CPR masks, etc.

Jumper cables, Flat fire foam, flares, etc.
Jumper cables, Flat fire foam, flares, etc.
Home emergency backpack with water, protein, weather radio, space blanket, first aid supplies
Home emergency backpack with water, protein, weather radio, space blanket, first aid supplies
Auto fire extinguisher on passenger door panel next to other emergency supplies
Auto fire extinguisher on passenger door panel next to other emergency supplies

When parked at a rest stop or campsite, I lock my van doors from the inside and add a locking steel-corded bungee cord (actually bike lock cord) so the doors will not open if the lock is busted. Only the driver door can be entered with just the key.

img_0704
Bungie cords are locked inside the doors to prevent opening during travel stops

Very few RV-ers have a story of when they were in an unsafe situation, and few have encountered violence of any kind.  Media tends to portray our American world as full of violent crazies and while we recognize there are some out there, they are not usually encountered by RV-ers.  Most solo female RV-ers have just used common sense, and never remained in a place where they felt unsafe, so the fear is reduced significantly with experience.

An excellent book recently recommended is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.  The emphasis on learning survival signals and trusting your instinct is fantastic!  Passing on the recommendation to everyone!

A great protocol in traveling which I discovered in a Facebook group post, and now follow, is the 9-2-4 rule:

9) Leave your overnight location around 9 am (avoid those hurrying off to work in the morning and school buses);

2) drive in 2-hour increments with a break in-between so one doesn’t get over-tired;

4) arrive at your next destination by 4 pm — and if you feel unsafe, you have another hour or more of daylight to find another (safe) overnight place.

This usually has the RV-er traveling about 250-350 miles a day at an unhurried pace, with time to explore and relax.

Smartphone apps are abundant and provide great assistance on the road, especially with boondocking and destinations.  Most travelers use a GPS, and apps like RV Parky, AllStays, RVovernight and Gas Buddy are terrific resources that are free to upload and use. There are many more apps that help a traveler plan and execute a safe trip.

img_0714
How many travel apps do you have?

While many folks like to plan ahead, there are a significant number of us who may have a general idea of where we want to go but we don’t plan much beyond today and perhaps tomorrow.  By the time I pull onto the road in the morning, I usually have several options in mind for my next overnight destination.  But since I am always ready to turn left instead of right, or detour to something I want to see along the way, those plans may change throughout the day.  When I have parked for the night (by 4 p.m.) I send a text message of my location to my home base, my son and daughter-in-law in New York.

If stopping to hike (alone as that is how I travel), I will let my home base know the logistics of where I am, how long I expect to be hiking, etc.  If I am hiking from a campground, I will let my campground neighbor know the same.  NOTE: It is always a good idea to befriend a couple or several couples in your chosen campground, and also to let them know you’ll be gone from the campground for a while.  Good neighbors will keep an eye on each other’s RVs and equipment.

There are also some “tricks of the trade” which I have seen:

some solo female RV-ers will place a pair of men’s workboots and an extra camp chair outside their RV;

A heavy-duty dog chain/collar hung up by the RV may offer a measure of security, especially combined with an audible “bark”;

Sitting a teddy bear with men’s cap or a cardboard cutout of a male (I have Sheldon Cooper from the TV show The Big Bang Theory) in the driver’s seat works for some. I don’t think this Sheldon could protect me, or the real Sheldon character either! LOL, sorry Jim Parsons!

Car alarms, emergency road assistance, HAMM and CB radios, On-Star or HUM diagnostics and service, AAA, etc. are all good options.

Safety is very important, but the fear is usually unwarranted or greatly exaggerated.  Above all, step outside of your comfort zone in a wise manner that keeps you safe but allows you to adventure beyond what most people live.  I find that many people who are negative about a solo female RV-er are speaking from a place of good intentions, even love, but misplaced…and sometimes even jealous or envious of your adventure while they feel stuck in their own lives.

 If you dream of traveling, or any other dream, use your resources to learn and plan well, but then step out and find your adventure!

Scout…out!

What book are you reading now?

From my bookshelf…

“Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between two points, life has a way of confounding geometry.  Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us.  There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition, and a willingness to be surprised.”

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart   by Gordon Livingston, M.D., 2004

*NOTE*

Disclosure:  Amazon is my only affiliate link – I get commissions for purchases made through this link.  If you click on  “Search Amazon” below the following ad, my affiliate link is coded into that click. Thank you!

It’s the final countdown…

3…2…1… go!

On October 9, 2016, this little camper van FINALLY got on the road for a six month road trip!  Last minute adds…LED lighting strips inside the van (WOW! are they bright!), a new muffler and tailpipe, and then all new tires.  The engine sounds good, the interior is comfy and just how I wanted it (thanks to son, Sean, who worked many hours on the cabinets, floor, electrical, wood trim, etc.), and a sad goodbye to the New York family but excited to go see the Virginia family!

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My little Ford camper van lit up at night with 4 little LED strips!
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Interior – cabinet for kitchen unit with water and sink on top, and smaller cabinet to hold emergency porta-potty, and bed to the left. LOVE my wood floor!

Leaving Albany, New York area, I so enjoyed driving Route 88 through the Leatherstocking Region (south central NY) … especially with the beautiful autumn foliage! This area includes Cooperstown – a favorite place – I lived there for a couple of years and it is a wonderful area with wonderful people.  (Kim, I waved hi in your direction as I passed through!)  For those not familiar with the area, I love the Baseball Hall of Fame and the old Doubleday Field located in Cooperstown.  This is also where James Fenimore Cooper lived and wrote Last of the Mohicans, Pathfinder, and other amazing Leatherstocking Tales, novels whose locales are in the Cooperstown area.  Everyone should visit this region and enjoy the places Natty Bumpo traveled!

Switching to Route 81 out of Binghamton, I headed into the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania.  When I first traveled through this area back in 1969-70, it was SO painful to see the strip mines left bare and ugly all around, I was mortified!  Maybe some of you will remember Paradise, by John Prine, sung by Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, John Denver, and others…

“and daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County beside the Green River where Paradise lay?  Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking, Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”   –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmQfaQP_x38

The song was about the Western Kentucky coal mines, but I always pictured these stripped Pennsylvania hills when I heard the song. Now, several decades later, this region is back to beautiful forests on those same hills! How happy it made me to see all those trees…I was smiling all the way through Lackawanna County!

By the time I reached lower Pennsylvania, land of caverns and battlefields (Gettysburg, for one), I was ready to stop for the night.  Love’s Truck Stop outside of Lebanon was a great boondocking site!  One great part about traveling in a camper van is that I can park amongst the cars and not have to hear or smell diesel/generator fumes from the big RV rigs and trucks.  Just put up my Reflectix window coverings, pulled the pillow and quilt out of the pillow shams on my full size bed, and nighty-night!

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My little camper van at night with interior LED lights on but Reflectix window coverings up – screen windows left uncovered for breeze

Refreshed after a great night’s sleep, I headed across the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland and then Virginia. Battlefield after battlefield, traveling this area always causes me to reflect on our country’s past and the many sacrifices made by previous generations! I can’t even acknowledge the current political debates in the face of such loss – neither Trump nor Clinton make me proud of America right now. With the millions of decent, hard-working Americans in this country, how on earth did we end up with these two as presidential candidates?!?!? Rhetorical question…I understand politics and elections and big money; just really sad to consider the results!

Well, on a happier note, I finally pulled off Route 81 at Lexington, VA and headed to the little town of Buena Vista where my oldest son lives with his family.  Am enjoying a couple of weeks with my five amazing grandchildren here, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Yesterday I walked through Lexington, and the Stonewall Jackson cemetery — I just love all the history here! The mountains all around us are just beautiful, and I encountered a deer just a block over from Jason’s house!  So much to see and experience – like the Natural Bridge (a favorite spot!), Virginia Military Institute, Robert E. Lee grave (and that of his horse!), etc.  History, nature, family…all a person could ask for in a vacation spot!

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Loved this shop with baby cribs full of yarns, and this crocheted bicycle out front, in downtown Lexington, VA

Scout…out!

What book are you reading now?

From my bookshelf:

“These people live hard lives by ancient values, and they’re proud of that.  They’ve developed a philosophy to deal with drought and death.  When we arrive from the outside and insist that they learn to read – books that, as it turns out, are mostly about very different places and concerns – we confuse them. Possibly even undermine them. I think Miss Sweeney will tell you that their young are as sharp as any. And their elders may be wiser.  Compared with them, after all, we of the settled, literate society have a kind of inflexibility.  So your project raises questions.  Do they want to be part of what you call the ‘larger world’? And who should be teaching whom?”

–The Camel Bookmobile   by Masha Hamilton, 2007

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