Expanding horizons – of the body AND the mind

This month I was privileged to again travel overseas to South Korea to visit my daughter, Erin, for a couple of weeks, and the two of us also flew to Osaka, Japan for a few days.  As always when traveling, I enjoy the new experiences and a different perspective on life.

Subway trains reserve cars for WOMEN ONLY!
Standing on line at the train station – for WOMEN ONLY!

While spending a few days in Japan, one thing really stood out to me: The subway trains have specific cars for WOMEN ONLY.  The place to wait at the station is also clearly marked WOMEN ONLY.  What a wonderful gift this is, in my opinion.  No, it doesn’t solve the huge problems of sexual harassment, but it does provide an immediate answer for a woman’s safety and peace of mind for today! Needless to say, Erin and I happily used this feature as we traveled to and from Universal Studios – we enjoyed a couple of days at Harry Potter World in Osaka.  It was a truly magical time!!

Welcome to Hogsmeade, Osaka, Japan style!
Hogwarts Castle!! I’m in love with this place!
One of my favorite shops – the Owl Post!

 While in South Korea, I spent a lot of my time just being present in this lovely country.  Knowing that North Korea and our president’s dealings with that country’s leader did give me some pause as we were less than an hour from the DMZ. But at the same time, North and South Korea were deciding to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics together, and sending positive messages of cooperation. So I felt relatively safe, and enjoyed walking around Cheong-na International City, where Erin lives and works.

One thing that always impresses me is that even the police do not carry guns.  Only the military carry weapons.  The most common phrase I hear as I visit other countries or teach the Chinese children online, when I talk about visiting them, is “Don’t bring your guns!” Apparently most of the world believes that every American walks around with guns – well, many do, but not me, thanks.  I often am told when I ask about them visiting America that “nope, that country is too scary — too many guns!”  I’m sure most of us have seen the internet videos of cops in other countries arresting and taking down criminals without using guns – it is possible! Personally, I think more weaponless training is an investment that communities and government should support, as well as more restrictions on gun control. If other countries can do it, why not us?

Another obvious difference from the USA was the universal healthcare that South Koreans enjoy. Even my daughter, as an English teacher from America, qualifies.  A dental visit runs her less than $10, her prescriptions from the pharmacy are just a couple of  bucks, and a coworker who broke a leg had emergency room visit, xrays, casting, followup treatment, and physical therapy – with just a few dollars out of pocket.  These folks are even able to see dermatologists frequently, and have excellent skin care (while most of us here get put on a 9-month waiting list for a VERY expensive visit to a specialist to have our skin checked for problems, including melanoma!)

In Cheong-na, along the canal that runs the length of this lovely city, is a lovely park where families ride bikes, shop, dine, walk, run, and even exercise! Under the bridge overpass for the street level above, are free exercise bicycles and ellipticals and other equipment, some of which are hooked to computer games to encourage exercising! I saw people of all ages stopping to do a free workout during their walks.  It is a natural part of their everyday life.  They also have plenty of comfy seats/tables and even platforms to rest on! The local construction workers stop after lunch to lay down and nap for a bit before returning to work — who doesn’t love naps!?!?!  The sidewalks in town also have inserts all along the way in bright yellow with raised bumps for folks with eyesight difficulties – it makes it so easy to see where to walk, where to cross the street, where the bus stop is…what a nice feature!

The intergenerational families living together, and grandparents taking babies for walks in their strollers during the day, made me smile. Many Asian families share their living space and grandparents are often the day care providers so both parents can work.  I also saw older people out in the mornings, picking up trash in the public places – a couple hours of work paid by the government helps them financially, and also keeps the city clean.  Elderly people are highly respected, and treated well.  Even on the subway trains, free for those over 65, they were waved to a seat by a younger person getting up to let them sit.  As a foreigner, I was treated the same, which made me smile.

Two lovely customs which I really appreciated are: 1) always take/offer money/receipts with two open hands and a lovely little bow of respect, whether paying for a meal or buying at a store, regardless of the amount of money.  And the other custom, 2) Whenever you enter a place of business, immediately soft voices welcome you with (in Korean) “Warm welcomes” and as you leave, no matter if you purchased anything or not, again soft voices send you off with “Thank you for coming to our business, have a nice day.”  The South Koreans definitely have mastered the art of customer service.  It impressed me how lovely and gentle voices can make a difference in the atmosphere of your daily life!

A huge factor in Korean life is RESPECT FOR OTHERS.  Even in a large apartment building with excellent soundproofing, one does not run the vacuum or make loud sounds in the evening/night as “it is not respectful of others”.  People on the subway actually do not sit in the reserved seats for pregnant women/disabled/elderly, even when all other seats are full.  Conversations between people in public are kept to a very quiet tone, and headphones are used for music/social media as “it is respectful of others”.  It really was a pleasure to walk around in a safe and respectful little world, even in a large city much bigger than most of us live in.

No, everything is not perfect in South Korea.  The educational pressures are very high on children from a young age.  The pressures to drink socially at an alarmingly horrible intensity are even worse, connected to your career and your bosses. No place is perfect, but I understand why Erin is choosing to live over there in South Korea, and is reluctant to come back to America with its divisiveness, political mudslinging, police shootings, and crime. Sad to say, but saying you’re from Canada is met with more respect and well wishes than being an American!

I enjoyed the gentle serenity of South Korea, especially in Cheong-na, and the lovely people.  Not only did I expand my horizons by traveling overseas to new countries, but I also gained personal experiences so my perspective has expanded!  This is definitely one of the best benefits of traveling!

—Scout, out!

From my bookshelf:

“Using a fetching face to make men do as you wish is no different from a man using muscle to force a woman to do his will….Both are base, and both will fail a person as they age.  No, she had not approved of seduction as a tool.”

–Words of Radiance, Book Two of the StormLight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson, 2014

Serenity now!!!

Santa Fe and Taos road trip

At the end of October (2017), I took a few days to travel up to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, in my little camper van.  A beautiful scenic route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe was a refreshing sunlit start to some of my favorite places in the southwest.  Driving through the lands of the various Pueblo reservations was interesting.  I hope to visit each pueblo in the coming year as they are open to the public, and such a great historical (and yet current) testimony to our earliest Americans in their struggle to survive and prosper. The country is so rugged and I again recognize how easy my life is as a ‘townie’.  The open road and the big blue sky of New Mexico causes me to breathe deeper and totally relax as I travel!

Cottonwood trees shining in the autumn sunlight!
This is beautiful New Mexico country!
Beware of “falling rock”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first stop was in Santa Fe at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.  The art exhibition was, of course, most enjoyable to peruse. A particularly beautiful moment was looking at a gauzy curtain in front of a sunny window, where the shadows of the outside garden were made even more lovely – as purposely done by some artistic magician! I really appreciated the history and perspective about the artist, as I had heard stories about her and was rather pleased to get the accurate record.  From the museum, I walked around the old plaza area of Santa Fe where there are so many beautiful museums and galleries and open-air vendors.  I loved the Loretto Chapel with its mysterious and gorgeous helix-shaped staircase, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Of course, I will need to return to Santa Fe many times to see all the museums and historical places! Oh, too bad I only live about two hours away – LOL! Only one small issue, as a camper, is the restriction in Santa Fe against overnight parking anywhere. I did find a casino outside of town that had an RV area which I could use for sleeping, but nothing in Santa Fe itself unless I wanted to pay – which I try to avoid.

Loretto Chapel – staircase has no visible means of support!
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi – beautiful!

After seeing the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, I wanted to visit Ghost Ranch and her art studio – which was a gorgeous two-hour-plus drive north and west of Santa Fe.  I had to keep pulling over to take pictures as the scenery was beyond words.  The cottonwood trees were shining golden in the autumn sunlight – breathtaking!  A wonderful lavender farm was a great place to stop along the way, too! Cerro (Spanish for hill) Pedernal, which overlooks Ghost Ranch, is almost 10,000 feet tall, and I can see how O’Keefe was inspired by this location for so many years.

What a view! This would inspire me, too!
Cerro Pedernal in the background

My next stop was Taos, New Mexico.  Driving across the Rio Grande through the mountain passes was awesome! I didn’t even mind stopping for construction for 20 minutes, because the view was that great.  As always, the little stops along the way to read historical markers and enjoy each scenic overlook made for a leisurely morning.

Taos is a very different vibe from Santa Fe.  I compare the two cities as (being from New York), the difference between Saratoga Springs and Cooperstown -two towns I have lived in for several years each.  Saratoga Springs and Santa Fe have, in my opinion, that kind of ‘snooty’ vibe with upscale everything.  Cooperstown and Taos are more blue-collar towns with just ‘regular folks’.  I enjoyed walking around Taos and seeing the different architecture from periods of New Mexico history. Again, there are many galleries and shops around an old cobblestone plaza, a great place to lunch and spend a few hours.  The skyline drive in Taos to the ski area was a beautiful drive, and since there wasn’t much traffic this time of year, I could take it slow and stop to admire the scenery.

You want to come visit New Mexico now?

Just south of Taos is an old 1800’s Spanish hacienda (Hacienda de los Martinez) which is open to the public, and I absolutely LOVED this place. I spent several hours going through the collections and different rooms used for all the many tasks and purposes in a large Spanish hacienda.  Any person familiar with the American Girls books of Josephina would love this hacienda. There was even a play area with the Josephina books to read, and clothing and toys from that period, which a kid of any age would love.  And yes, since no one was there, I donned the clothing and enjoyed myself, imagining this life back in the 1800’s.

When done with the town of Taos, I headed over to the Taos Pueblo for the afternoon.  A delicious Indian fry bread taco was a treat, cooked in a small ‘apartment’ of the pueblo.  The local artists who live in the pueblo still, without running water or electricity, were so lovely and friendly. I “had to” buy some turquoise jewelry – who could resist?!?!?

Looking out the chapel entrance at the pueblo.
Taos Pueblo – still living here with no running water or electricity, these folks are just wonderful!
So here is your running water! A creek running through the middle of the pueblo.

The next stop for me was the Rio Grande Gorge and the bridge that crosses it, about 10 miles up the road. Whew! My hands clenched on the railing as I looked down into the gorge, and I did NOT make it across – I enjoyed the view from about ten feet away from the edge! At 565 feet above the river, this is a beautiful steel arch bridge on Route 64.  I then turned around to head back south towards Albuquerque.

My final stop was the Puye Cliffdwellings of the Santa Clara Pueblo outside of Espanola. My wonderful guide, Elijah, took me on a 1:1 walking tour of the cliffs with all its ladders and stairways and paths, telling me interesting stories from his family’s history there. There were about 1500 people living on this mesa for centuries, with ‘rooms’ carved out of the soft volcanic rock in the cliffs. On top of the mesa were storage and ceremonial buildings, now just remains – the Pueblo moved down to the river when a drought caused the waters to dry up in the late 1500’s – to imagine and enjoy.  We saw several falcons and ravens while on the cliffs, as we kept a watch-out for snakes, and a bear who had trashed the visitor center’s dump container that morning. (Seeing the heavy chain busted and the steel container mangled, I did not want to be anywhere near that bear!)  I left the cliffs after several hours on this sacred land, filled with an amazing serenity deep within my spirit.  I found I could not go anywhere else that day, as I just wanted to absorb the tranquility and rest from my time on the mesa. This was a beautiful spiritual renewal day!

Heading up to the Puye cliffs for a wonderful two hour walking tour with Elijah. So sorry (not!) that no one else was there at that time!
Room with a view!

I hope you enjoyed my little road trip album, and that it inspires you to a road trip of your own! There is just so much to see in our great country. I love the history here, and the wonderful people I meet.  Thanks for following the blog, and take care of yourself!

–Scout, out!

From the bookshelf…

The Dreaming – Walks Through Mist, by Kim Murphy, 2011

“Near the mist-covered river, the waves lapped against the bank. Lee gazed upon the water. No words were necessary. I knew he thought of how the land had once belonged to the Paspahegh. He held his hands out afore him, palms facing up.  My eyes filled with tears. At long last, he understood the sacrifice of the woman who had birthed him.”

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

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

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

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
  • visit HARRY POTTER WORLD!!
  • 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

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