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

A day in the life – Canadian style!

Hello from New Brunswick!

It is a rainy morning here in New Brunswick, on my first day in Canada on this trip -which will include Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I thought it would be a great opportunity to write a post about a typical day in the life of a full-time RV-er, albeit a shoestring budgeted solo van camper and not a fancy-pants RV! LOL, all you motor home and fifth wheel friends!

Last night I arrived at the coast of Maine after spending a few hours chilling out in my favorite place in the world – York Beach, Maine, before driving about two hundred miles further north. Or as my Maine relatives say “a little bit fatha up noth”. (Who needs those pesky “r”s?) I didn’t want to cross into Canada that late in the day so I pulled into a Circle K/Irving Gas business with a small parking lot for overnighters just 15 miles from the border crossing. There was only one other car there, so I took the end parking slot away from the lights with a view down into a shopping center below and a pretty valley beyond.

Placing my reflectix “curtains” in the windows only takes a few seconds, and then I have a cozy little cabin. My full-size bed is already made up with a summer quilt so I opened the roof vent to let the cool breezes in.  I crawled into bed and read a while by the little LED lamp while my I-phone charged on the portable generator.  Not too long afterward, the phone was charged and I was ready to fall asleep.  No noise keeps me awake when I am ready to sleep!

Ready to sleep in my cozy van!
Looking over Baxter State Park, Maine, and Mt. Katahdin, almost to the Canadian border.

This morning I awoke early as I had fallen asleep before 10 pm and had a full 8 hours of good sleep. (I sleep SO WELL in this van!) After my morning ablutions and use of my porta-potty, I cleaned up and was ready to drive. I don’t do breakfast early, but merely munched on some peanut butter crackers and my bottled water as I drove.

Crossing the border was pretty easy. Although it is Canada’s birthday today and lots of people will be visiting, no one else was up at 6 a.m. so I was the only car at the crossing. The usual “just camping for two weeks, no alcohol or firearms or tobacco” and showing my passport routine took 5 minutes. As I sped up to highway speed, it was amazing to me that the countryside actually looked different from Maine! I was not too surprised to see a moose in a wet area off to the side of the highway before I was very far down the road. My first hundred miles or so was sparsely populated, with lots of undulating rivers deep in the valleys as I crossed over them. Truly beautiful! Part of my fun while driving, besides looking at gorgeous scenery, is listening to books on Audible.  I have about ten books in my “library” that I can listen to as I drive.  I am currently working my way through the Harry Potter series (for about the 15th time).  On book four today, The Goblet of Fire.  The miles speed by as I watch for moose and eagles, enjoy the landscape, and listen to the wonderful British narrator Jim Dale read to me!

The clouds started gathering ahead, and pretty soon it was getting foggy. I decided I would pull over and fix some hot lunch.  First I mixed a can of creamed corn with a box of cornbread mix and baked that in my portable stove as I drove further east across New Brunswick. When the bread was baked (about 40 minutes), I pulled over and swapped out that bread pan for another disposable aluminum pan filled with a box of Spanish rice and can of black beans to cook. I drove a bit more until I saw an exit with another Circle K/Irving Gas with a large parking lot.

Black beans and Spanish rice for lunch, with some hot cornbread

Pulling in, I unplugged the portable stove before shutting off the engine. (Only use when engine is running — otherwise it could drain the car battery!) Making use of the facility bathroom, and throwing away my morning trash, I returned to my van for my hot meal.  Spanish rice with black beans cooked perfectly, and some tasty cornbread, all hot and ready to eat!  Total cost of meal – $3.25, and it will last two meals!

My little power generator will recharge my cell phone about 100 times before it even loses one bar! Best $150 ever spent!

Now I am sitting in my cozy van, listening to rain drops on the roof, as I wait for the fog and rain to dissipate.  I’m in no hurry, and will take a nap after finishing this post.  I am on my way across New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island and the whole “Anne of Green Gables” experience.  This is a long-awaited visit that has been on my bucket list for a very long time as I have loved those books since I was a little girl and have re-read them many, many times. But for now, the rain and fog have me holed up in my van for a few hours.

It is so refreshing to travel this way.  A couple of hours here and there of driving, and then a stop to enjoy a beach or a nap or a rainy hour of reading in my cozy van with the raindrops hitting the roof.  I am warm and dry, with my comfy bed, books, my laptop and cell phone, good food and drinks…this is the life!

 I will complete this post later today as it is only noon now, and so much more is to come…!

And the rain has stopped! I quickly crossed New Brunswick and drove across the Confederation Bridge (8 miles!) to Prince Edward Island. There was no charge on the bridge crossing in this direction – the toll will be charged when I return.  Canadian $46 is about $38 American. I just use my debit/credit cards and let my bank take care of the conversions.  I don’t even bother to get Canadian money as I just use the card instead of cash everywhere.  Since this (2017) is the 150th birthday of Canada, I obtained a free Canada Pass for the year which will get me into all National Pass places – including some of the Anne of Green Gables sites! Gotta love the FREE price!  But even those places that are not on the National Pass list, the cost for each was less than $5.00!

I arrived on Prince Edward Island around suppertime, and headed up the coast to the village of Summerside.  You can imagine my delight in finding that a harbor celebration was taking place that day to commemorate the birthday of Canada! There were vendors, live music, and fireworks – what a great welcome I had to the island! (and yes, of course, it was just for me – haha!)

I found a public parking lot right across from the harbor, and felt very safe leaving my van there while I enjoyed the festival.  The live band was playing a lot of American songs that I knew, but also some Acadian and Canadian music, which I really enjoyed.  I walked around and met some very friendly people.  Families were all over and having fun. It was great to see the Canadian flag everywhere, and people dressed up to celebrate.  We must have sung “Happy Birthday to Canada” about every hour or so!

The coast of Prince Edward Island, Canada
Purple, pink and white lupines grow along the sides of the roads – beautiful!

This is the fun part of traveling with a flexible schedule – coming across a festival, finding a place to park, and enjoying time with the locals.  I knew our Fourth of July was coming and I would be in Canada, so this celebration on July 1st was a good substitute for me, and I still got to watch fireworks! Yay!

When the fireworks ended, everyone else drove away.  The parking lot was NOT posted against overnight use, so I just put up my Reflectix curtains and slept.  No one disturbed me, and the sea air and sound of the tides was perfect sleeping condition!

Total cost for the day – $55 gas, $15 food, $2 postcards.

NOTE:  I did not post this for several weeks, and I again happened upon another festival when traveling the coast of Maine after I returned to the States – a clam festival in Yarmouth, Maine – two weeks later.  I do google search sometimes for what is free in an area, but both times I just drove into a festival and said, “Yay! A festival!” This is so much fun!

I have to say, Prince Edward Island is a most spectacularly beautiful place to visit! I highly recommend you make the time to travel there. The scenery is lovely, and the people are wonderful. As I was hiking a trail there, I followed a Canadian family and overheard the following between a mom and her tween daughter:

Daughter in a complaining voice: “Mom, why are you aaaaallllwwwaaayyysss talking to people and giving them directions?”

Mom in a patient kind voice: “Honey, we are Islanders! It is our job, every one of us, to be friendly and make sure our visitors have a great time here. That is our responsibility!”

I felt like applauding the parent for being so patient with her daughter but also taking the opportunity to teach her a good lesson. Lots of great people in Canada – glad they are our neighbors!

I hope you are having a wonderful summer and that you find joy in simple pleasures!

—Scout, out!

From my bookshelf…

“Islam was no more responsible for Josh’s death than it was for Lee’s. Josh was killed by Islamic extremism – Islamic fundamentalism. Lee was killed by Christian fundamentalism.  Those bigoted Christian fundamentalists that expend all their energies sifting through the Bible so they can find ways to condemn people who are different, like gays, and totally ignore the spirit of the great commandment to love others as self.  That’s been my one great lesson from this whole miserable ordeal. Fundamentalism kills.  Fundamentalism of any kind. Narrow-minded, simplistic thinking that allows no room for honoring and respecting the life experiences of others.”

Children of Covenant by Fred Howard, 2017

Planning a ROAD TRIP on a shoestring budget

On the road again –
Just can’t wait to get on the road again…

Goin’ places that I’ve never been, 
Seein’ things that I may never see again…”

Read more: Willie Nelson – On The Road Again Lyrics | MetroLyrics

This is where my head’s been at for the last month. Spring is here and summer is just around the corner.  I have worked the last few months to replenish my savings account so I can head back east and north for the months of June to September.

I have loved spending the winter here in New Mexico with my daughters, but I am ready to travel full time again.  I will add my tentative itinerary at the end of this post for those interested. First, though, I thought I would share with all of you the process I have developed of planning a major road trip on a shoestring budget.

First, I make a list of people/places I would like to visit.  Of course this involves family, especially kids and grandkids!  Top priority there!  Add in extended family and friends, some whom I have not seen since college back in the 1970’s.  Looking at the atlas, I think about places I would like to visit if possible, and any celebrations/special events I know about that I would like to see.  I plan to travel to Arkansas, Virginia, New York, Maine, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Canada, and then back to Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Florida. Here is my initial list:

Rough draft list of possibilities

I have columns for location (and automatically put them in a logical traveling order), who I am visiting, any special events/places in the area, if I would be boondocking, mooch-docking, campground or hotel, dates I may need to be there (such as a birthday), and the approximate miles between locations.  I sit with this document for several days to let my brain simmer.

I like to look at a paper atlas at this point, in case I missed something.  I will also look at some blog posts I have saved from other people describing places I’m interested in, and also will spend some time on the laptop doing research. This trip I specifically would like to visit Canada in their national parks celebration, including the Tall Ships events and my childhood favorite – Anne of Green Gables. I also would like to visit Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Orlando, which I missed last year.

After research and rumination, I do a second draft of the same list with my modifications so it isn’t too messy.  (This first rough draft is usually a mess after a few days of switching things around and adding/subtracting details!)  When the details look good, I get a good feeling.  Now this tentative schedule may get totally disrupted by weather, illness, money not stretching far enough…any number of situations.  But I am ready to head out with the big picture in mind, and a “take it as it comes” mindset. I am never too far from family or friends, and I don’t have a need to stick to every detail. I don’t have a problem with things changing.

To continue the planning, I now move to my expected expenses for the trip. On the back of this form, I will add up the total miles to figure out my gas costs – the biggest expense of the road trip for me!  This is money that has already been saved and earmarked for fuel.  This trip looks to be about 7000 miles, give or take.  Although gas is now about $2.20 per gallon, I will adjust to $2.50 per gallon to be on the safe side.  So fuel costs will be $1800-$2000.

Then I add the days when I am traveling and need to eat.  Since I am usually visiting with someone every few days, I eat very simply on the road – usually about $5 per day.  At this point, it looks like about 25 days on the road, so cost would be approximately $125 for groceries.  (Not bad for four months!) I double that to include supplies and such, bumping it up to $300 just to be on the safe side.

Next I would look at optional expenses – such as campgrounds, ferries, events, tolls, etc.  I know I want to take the ferry from Nova Scotia back to Maine and that is $200.  I would like to spend a couple of days in Orlando at Harry Potter World, so that is a huge optional expense. Campgrounds will probably run me about $300, so I place these optional expenses at $700.  If money is tight, I will change my plans and boondock, travel non-toll roads, etc.

So it looks like my costs for the four-month summer trip will be approximately $3000, barring any unknown calamities.  This is money already saved for the trip.  (I recommend people travel with at least $1500 extra -banked- for emergencies.) I will continue to work 10 hours a week while on the road (teaching Chinese children online English classes) to pay for my regular bills of insurances, Planet Fitness, and Verizon.

Now that I have the rough draft ready, I print out blank calendar pages to plot the day-to-day details:

The month of June – rough draft

The distance between two scheduled stops is figured (love to google: mileage from Albuquerque, NM to Fayetteville, AK, for example). I divide the total miles on that leg of the journey by 250 – that is the maximum I want to travel in a day.  Then I look in the atlas to see where I would be and figure where truck stops would be, or towns with Cracker Barrels or Cabella’s, etc. –any place I can sleep for the night in safety for FREE. I do have phone apps that tell me of boondocking places and campgrounds, etc. so I can quickly decide where to stay while on the road, even at the last minute.  I do my best to be at the overnight stop by 4 pm so I can check it out, get a “safe” feel or continue to another place, all before dark.

If I think I might use a campground, I look at some in the area.  I usually stay in State Parks, Federal Parks, or COE (Corp of Engineer parks), as they are less expensive than a private campground, they don’t care that my vehicle is older than 5 years, and they are generally more nature-inspiring!

After all this planning, I will let my family and friends know my tentative itinerary.  Always communicate that the dates may change based on weather, traffic, and who knows what else may happen on the road! I keep in touch with those I am planning to visit the week before I am due so they know if I am on target or will be earlier/later than scheduled.  At this point, some may not be able to host me and so I would revise my plans as they let me know.  I really do “fly by the seat of my pants” so this is the most organized I can possibly be!

Tentative Itinerary for June-September 2017:

  • 5/29 Mon. leave Albuquerque, NM — to Amarillo, TX
  • 5/30 Tues. –to Oklahoma City, OK
  • 5/31 Wed. — to Fayetteville, AR
  • 6/3 Sat. — to Memphis, TN
  • 6/4 Sun. — to Nashville, TN
  • 6/5 Mon. — to Knoxville, TN
  • 6/6 Tues. — to Clemmons, NC
  • 6/8  Thu. — to Buena Vista, VA
  • 6/11 Sun. — to mid-Pennsylvania
  • 6/12 Mon. — to Albany, NY
  • 6/26 Mon. — to York, ME
  • 6/29 Thu. — to Bangor, ME
  • 6/30 Fri. — to New Brunswick, Canada
  • 7/1 Sat. — to Pugwash, NB (Tall Ships event)
  • 7/2 Sun. — to Port Hawkesbury, NB (Tall Ships event)
  • 7/3 Mon. — to Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • visit (Anne of Green Gables, etc.)
  • 7/9 Sun. — to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 7/13 Thu. — ferry from Nova Scotia to Portland, Maine
  • drive to Dixfield, ME
  • 7/17 Mon. — to Sebago Lake, ME
  • 7/18 Tues. — to Raymond, ME
  • 7/19 Wed. — to Portland, ME
  • 7/21 Fri. — Sanford, ME
  • 7/22 Sat. — to York, ME
  • 7/28 Fri. — to Albany, NY
  • 8/20 Sun. — to Cochranville, PA
  • 8/22 Tue. — to Buena Vista, VA
  • 8/27 Sun. — to Charlotte, NC
  • 8/28 Mon. (my birthday!) to Myrtle Beach, SC
  • 8/29 Tues. — to Conway, SC
  • 9/1 Fri. — to Savannah, GA
  • 9/2 Sat. — Tybee Island, GA
  • 9/4 Mon. — to Jacksonville, FL
  • 9/5 Tues. — to Orlando, FL
  • 9/9 Sat. — to Tallahassee, FL
  • 9/10 Sun. — to Mobile, AL
  • 9/11 Mon. — to New Orleans, LA
  • 9/12 Tues. — to mid-Louisiana
  • 9/13 Wed. — to Houston, TX
  • 9/14 Thu. — to Waco, TX
  • visit MAGNOLIA store and town
  • 9/16 Sat. — to Lubbock, TX
  • 9/17 Sun. — to Roswell, NM
  • 9/18 Mon. — return to Albuquerque, NM!

I will be contacting people at this point to see if I can stop for a visit along the way.  I would request to park my van in their driveway.  I would love to share a meal or two with them, and see the family! If there’s something awesome to do in the area, I ask them to please let me know if we could enjoy that together.  If not, just hanging out is FINE with me!  Most family/friends will get back to me quickly and I highlight those that can host me, and which dates.  Now my tentative road trip plan is pretty much set.

I know other people may plan more, and do things differently, but this works for me.  I love seeing family and friends and doing cool stuff, but I am also fine with boondocking along the way on my own. As a confirmed introvert, I can easily go for da-a-a-a-a-a-a-ys without talking to another person.  I can always GOOGLE an area and find interesting things to do that don’t cost anything.  Nature itself is my favorite go-to, and America the Beautiful has so much to offer!

So, I hope my detailed process for planning a road trip is helpful to someone.  Please comment if you have other tips and tricks to planning a long trip!  Hope to see you this summer!  Happy trails!

—Scout, out!

From my bookshelf…

“There is a love and respect at the center of everything we do together. It’s not just business, it’s personal.  When you come to work with me, I had to be assured you’d bring your heart.  Heart sealed the deal.  That’s why the E Street Band plays steamroller strong and undiminished, forty years in, night after night. We are more than an idea, an aesthetic. We are a philosophy, a collective,with a professional code of honor….That it’s an honor and great fun to join in concert with those whom you’ve invested so much of yourself in and they in you, your fans, the stars above, this moment, and apply your trade humbly (or not so!) as a piece of a long, spirited chain you’re thankful to be a small link in.”

From “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, 2016


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


  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.




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






Working remote — best job ever!

Life on the road…a dream for many!

But how do we afford it???

Since I am not a trust-fund baby and I am not of retirement age for a few more years, I needed to have some income to pay for gas, insurance, and food.  Since I started this venture debt-free by purchasing and renovating an older camper, and paying down all other debts, my financial needs are low, but they are NEEDS!  From my research of success stories, I learned they recommend having three lines of income.  So, how to make money on the road….???

The task of funding my travels is solved!

  1. Online Teaching: I have applied, trained, and started working for VIPkids — providing half hour on-line English classes one-on-one to Chinese youngsters.  What a fun class, and so easy from my “mobile classroom”!  I am just now in my first week of classes, spent about $25 buying a small whiteboard and some fun props, and so far am making about $18 an hour, not including bonuses. The minimum required is 7.5 hours per week, and I can open my schedule however I want, different every day or just work 1-2 mornings in a week! I LOVE logging into “my classroom” on my laptop and encouraging adorable little kids to sound out simple words, read, and just plain have fun together!  Being silly and making them laugh is a top priority – what a perfect job!!!
“My classroom” with VIPkids
Teacher Tevis in her orange T-shirt (VIPkid color)

The curriculum is all created – I just follow the powerpoint for the assigned class.  It is simple to do the activities with the kiddo, and there is a short learning objective to accomplish.  VIPkid does a great job of providing a variety of fun learning activities to accomplish the learning objective.  Once I’d done a few lessons I felt completely comfortable with the whole setup.  I open my classroom about 15 minutes before the first class of the day to review the slides and what I should be doing, and then I am ready to have fun and make little kids laugh and learn!

The requirements to apply and all information related to VIPkids can be found at www.vipkids.com .  Please use my referral code if you want to apply – thanks!  http://teacher-recruitment.vipkid.com.cn/home.shtml?refereeId=2792627

My only difficulty will be making sure I have good wi-fi wherever I am traveling.  I do have a Verizon my-fi ($10 per month) and my phone cellular hotspot –although that uses up my data! I am planning to purchase a booster receiver for campground locations as that will assist me in the reception from the campground wi-fi. So far I am boondocking at my daughters’ home and using their wi-fi.  Thanks, Tara and Morgan!!

The peak times for classes are 4-9 pm Beijing Time.  Since I am in Albuquerque (Mountain Time) at this time, that means 3-7 am for me –pretty much the middle of the night.  There is also 9-noon on Beijing weekend mornings but that doesn’t work for my schedule here so I don’t open my schedule for that time period.  The good thing about working in these early morning hours is that at a campground most people will be asleep and I will have most of the wi-fi bandwidth available — win-win for me!! I can sleep any time, before or after classes, so depending on where I am anywhere in the US, I sign up according to Beijing Time and just set my alarm!

2.  Affiliate Marketing:  While I have included an affiliate link for Amazon (the only company I am willing to represent) here on these blog posts, it takes time to build a following and start getting commissions from affiliate marketing. I do need readers to click through the Audible ad on each post or the ad at the bottom of the post to get to Amazon, then log into their account for whatever they wish to purchase.  So far, I have about 4 cents in commissions, LOL!  Ah well, everything in time!

3.  Ambassador:  I am also an ambassador for RentWizard, letting folks who own RV’s know about the rental site and how it works.  RentWizard is like AirBNB, so anyone can rent an RV, or you can list your RV if you’re an owner and open to possibly renting your RV out.  Since the RV owner sets all the criteria and can accept/reject any offer, it is a safe website to list your RV as a rental and qualify you to use many of your RV costs as tax deductions – even if you don’t actually rent it out that year! Anyone interested in either working as an ambassador and/or listing their RV can log in and use my code:  57C831  – and you get an extra 6 months free!  This has brought in a few commissions for me but is also slow to start being reliable income.  Check it out at www.rentwizard.com !

So, is it worth it?

Keeping costs down, all the hassle with wi-fi, and not having a dependable income yet – is it worth it?  YES, YES, YES!!!  I love the freedom this choice has given me, and the ability to move around as I wish, and all the options of where to stop and for how long! I love knowing I make my own schedule every day and that I can go visit someone at any time without “taking vacation from work.  When I look through the Facebook groups, of which there are quite a few, I see so many others choosing the full-time RV life-style.  I am part of a terrific community!

I’ll be flying back to New York for Christmas in a couple of weeks, and then coming back to Albuquerque for a while.  Have to say, I love the New Mexico sky and mountains and culture — so much to see here!

Albuquerque balloon fiesta
Albuquerque tumbleweed snowman


Happy holidays from NY and NM!


From the bookshelf…

“This country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression, and, if you include the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the challenges we face now are more dire than at any time in our modern history.”

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In,   Bernie Sanders

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
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.

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.

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!


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


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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!

My little Ford camper van lit up at night with 4 little LED strips!
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!

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!

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


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

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!