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Art Journal – the Airstream Adventure

Art Journal – the Airstream Adventure

I had an opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true

Rocinante

My husband was the one who suggested I read the book called Travels with Charley – In Search of America by John Steinbeck. Mr. Steinbeck named his truck camper Rocinante. My husband thought that would be a great name for the Airstream.

According to Wikipedia, “Rocinante is Don Quixote’s horse in the two-part 1605/1615 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. In many ways, Rocinante is not only Don Quixote’s horse, but also his double: like Don Quixote, he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities.”

What name could be more appropriate for the “horse” that would carry me across the country on my very first adventure? Like John Steinbeck, my journey would make a big circle around America…across the top, out West, down to the bottom, and back East. Also like John Steinbeck’s search of America, my own search took three months. When I left on the trip, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I was terrified. I was excited. This might be, as for John Steinbeck, my only adventure like this and I wanted to savor every moment. I felt so alive! I was in my 60’s and thought the best part of my life was behind me. This trip made me feel like a girl again…like the girl who explored the woods and marveled at the campers and trailers and schoolies at Atwood State Park. I was in search of America, but also in search of ME.

Been Home For A Week

Been Home For A Week

I’ve been feeling a bit lost for the past week.  I’ve washed my clothes and carried in a few things from the trailer, but can’t seem to accomplish much.  I don’t know if its because I’m still low on energy from being sick, if I’m already restless for the adventuring life and it’s simple, uncomplicated routines, or if being back in this large cabin with all its “stuff” has overwhelmed me.  Maybe all three.  The cabin is cozy and pleasing to the eye, but I’ve come to a place in my life where all the “stuff” that I’ve turned a blind eye on or just gotten so used to that I don’t see it anymore.  Now, after being in a tiny little house like my Airstream, all this stuff looks so in-my-face.  It makes me want to flee.

As for Einstein and Emma.  They seem to love being back here and having lots of room inside to run and play.  They are different though.  They seldom leave my side; particularly Einstein.  I don’t know if he’s worried I’ll leave without him or if he just got so used to the three of us living in an itsy bitsy space that he just prefers to be within five feet of me (we’re a pack!).  I don’t know.  He’s very happy when we’re near one another.

I admit that my mind is already planning out the next adventures.  Wanderlust!

 

Two Days More

Two Days More

I’ve been thinking about John Steinbeck’s book – Travels With Charley.  It was never my intention to duplicate his trip or his goals.  His main goal was to discover America.  He had written about life in America and felt maybe he needed to get a fresh new look at America.  He’d written Grapes of Wrath.  Perhaps he had a new book in mind or maybe he just wanted to see if things had changed.  Even though we had completely different reasons for our adventures, I think we both discovered much about ourselves.

From what I read in his book, as John prepared for his trip he was full of hope and expectations.  He was excited and did his best to be prepared.  As he launched out, he was very happy and comfortable with things.  He stumbled upon opportunities to get to know America by getting to know it’s people.  He was surprised by its new temporary-ness, as “trailer parks” were popping up all over the country.  He shared a meal with such a family and learned how much it meant to them to have such things as a dishwasher and all the comforts of home, yet be able to take it with them should the husband need to relocate for his work.  Sometimes John came upon situations that bested him and other times he bested the situation.  I was with him.  I felt like I was on that adventure with him as I read his book.  I loved his enthusiasm as he traveled.  

During his journey he didn’t have to be concerned with laptops and internet or WiFi, cell phones or gps.  Though I had struggles with the trailer a little, my most frequent difficulties were with technology.  I’m curious what John Steinbeck struggled with?  He seemed to discover, by happy accident, how to wash his clothes.  What other things came up?  If its true that he did spend most of his time holed up in the camper rather than out and about, what prompted that?  Maybe we have something in common.  I had such great intentions when I hit the road.  I was going to talk with people more, getting a little out of my introverted comfort zone.  I did, too.  In fact, I think it was one of my greatest successes.  I tried new things.  Yes.  I did.  I’d have done the zip line at Fremont Street in Las Vegas if ANY of my companions had been willing.  I had Sushi twice.  I did many new things.  I always felt I wasn’t doing enough of what I’d intended to do.  I didn’t go for enough walks or bike rides.  I didn’t lose as much weight as I planned (from all those walks).  I was going to read books and do tons of art work.  I was going to finish the first Ren Girl book.  I was going to go to National Parks.  Didn’t hit a single one.  Perhaps I set my expectations a tad too high for this first trip.  I have to admit that I was a little worried that it would be my only trip.  I wanted to squeeze everything into it, just in case.  I did spend a large amount of time here in the trailer and I loved it.  It felt good in this little space.  It felt safe and secure.  It felt cozy most of the time.  Well, some times.  Evenings were the best.  All things done.  All things met.  Time to do whatever I wanted.  Did John Steinbeck have any such times?

As he began to head home, however, he had less to tell.  I couldn’t tell if he was just “done” with the thing or if he was in a hurry or what.  Now I find myself in the last days of my adventure.  I may take other trips, but none will be like this one; this first one.  As I approach the end of the journey, I am full of reflection.  Did I accomplish my goals?  Was it worth while?  Am I changed by it?  Has it changed my tomorrows?  What did I learn?  Did John Steinbeck think such thoughts as he found his trip nearing its end?  I experienced many of the same emotions of excitement and anticipation as I prepared.  I found many similar unexpected surprises along the way.  I went into some situations expecting one thing and found another thing entirely.  I had to figure my way out of some dilemmas just as John did.  Now, I wonder, if perhaps I’m not experiencing some of the same sadness that he may have felt.  Do I really want to go home now?  Am I ready to return to all the busy-ness and “stuff” that I have learned is so un-needed, so unnecessary?  Did I come to treasure my time on my own, with Einstein and Emma to the point that its overwhelming to fall back into the old world, the old life?  How will all this reflect on my future?

I will save all that and it’s answers for another day.  Today…just drive.

Maryland to California – 2017

Maryland to California – 2017

Leaving Maryland

When I pull out onto the highway with my trailer, I feel so amazing.  Airstreams are rare and draw a bit of attention.  At one gas station I parked and was walking in to get something to drink.  A group of people standing outside wanted to ask me all sorts of questions about the trailer.  After getting my drink and going back out to the truck, an SUV stopped beside me and rolled down their window to ask me questions.  The woman said, “I want to go with you!”

Indiana to Colorado and Points In Between

Since leaving Indiana, where I attended the RVing Women 2017 convention, I have travelled through several states, including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, and Oregon.  Except for California and Oregon, I merely passed through each state.  I was trying to get to Seattle, Washington, so pressed ahead as best I could, setting miles-traveled-per-day goals for myself.  At first I tried to be very spontaneous and would drive until I was tired and then would find a spot to stay overnight.  Rest areas are possibilities, but when I found one, it was usually full of trucks.  Truck stops are another possibility, but truckers prefer RVers stay away as overnight spots.  They have fewer choices and our taking up valuable parking spaces means some of them have to keep searching for a spot.  I respect that.  I found a Cabela’s one night, but was not able to find any other RVers and was uncomfortable with being the only one so I moved on.

Wyoming

As I headed west, the weather got colder and colder.  When I got to Wyoming I hit snow and by the time I pulled into a Walmart Supercenter in Laramie, there was ice.  The first thing I did was go into the Walmart and purchase an inexpensive winter coat and some gloves.  I also bought a dog bed.  The two dogs won’t always share the couch and the floor gets very cold.  I put the dog bed under the dinette and Emma took to it immediately.  Einstein became quite jealous and laid with his back to me.

Because it was so cold in Laramie, I decided to start using campgrounds in the colder climates.  That meant having to pick out a campground before leaving in the morning.  It also meant having to go a fixed amount of miles and arriving whenever I arrived.  No more stopping when I was tired.

California

When I made it to northern California, where I was to spend time with a friend, I was ready for a rest.  A few days of good conversation and good food refreshed my soul.

The Big Day

The Big Day

October 9th, 2017 was the day Einstein lead me off on our great adventure to discover our country.  After much planning and research about what to take, how to store it, good places to camp, and how to be safe, we hit the road.

We had planned to leave Saturday, October 7th and spend three nights in Ohio, visiting family.  Because the solar generator didn’t arrive until Monday, we had to alter the plan.  Once the generator arrived, we piled into the truck and off we went, leaving at about 8:00 in the evening.  It was dark and I don’t like driving the DC beltway after dark, but I felt we should be on the North side of DC the next morning, to avoid rush hour traffic.  We pulled into a Cracker Barrel and spent the night in their parking lot.  The next morning Einstein and Emma had breakfast, water, and a walk.  I went into the restaurant for breakfast.  Perfect.  (Thank you, Sue!)

The next day we arrived at Sherry Ziccardi’s.  She is a gracious and loving hostess and friend.  She had the bedroom all made up for me, but understood that I was trying to get used to sleeping in the trailer.  It was a good night.  The following morning she sent us on our way with bags of leftover stuffed peppers, corn on the cob, apples, and bottled water.

We arrived at a campground near Goshen, Indiana just after dark the next evening.  The “RVing Women” convention I was there to attend was being held at the Elkhardt 4H Fairgrounds, but the gates wouldn’t open until the next day.  There were several others from my chapter (Mid-Atlantic chapter) at the campground.  We talked a while, getting to know one another.  The following morning, we all caravaned to the Fairground.  Arriving together assured that we would get campsites together.  It amazed me that a fairground had over 250 full hook up campsites right there on the grounds.  There were maybe 350 campsites all together.  Impressive.  I was located with the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the RVing Women organization.  The women in the group were amazing.  From the very beginning; helping me, watching over me, teaching me a new card game, which we played and played and played.  Maureen (Reen) made me coffee every morning and often we had breakfast together.  During the day we all attended seminars on tire safety, RV maintenance, fire safety, how to take care of holding tanks, and so much more.  We participated in chair volleyball, which was a blast.

The Mid Atlantic chapter had a spaghetti dinner together outside on picnic tables.  In one of the buildings there were vendors selling all sorts of great stuff for the RVing life.  Two different evenings there were dances and I actually danced!  I stepped out of my comfort zone and just flat out enjoyed every moment.  A bunch of us went to the RV museum.  Some of us went on a tour of the Newmar Motorcoach factory.  Goshen is where most RVs are made.  There are an untold number of factories/assembly plants.  It was great to see exactly how they’re made.  I understand that its a great place to live and work, with plenty of jobs.  Newmar, in  particular, is a Mennonite company.

It was difficult to say good-bye to my new friends.  I am still amazed at how many women hit the road to explore and have adventures.  I was very encouraged and inspired.  Finally, on October 23rd, Einstein ushered us into the truck and we set off on the next leg of our adventure.  I felt warmed by friendship and equipped with knowledge about what to do and expect over the coming weeks and months.

…forgot.  I bought a hat in Goshen.  Einstein barked at it for five minutes.

Preparations for the American tour

Preparations for the American tour

If I could show photos here, they would all be of myself sitting at my computer, surfing the internet for YouTube videos about RVing in all flavors; solo, by Airstream, with dogs, as a woman, full time, and what to take.  I knew that I wanted to stay out as long as I could, making a circuit through Indiana to Seattle, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois, Ohio, back to Maryland.  I wanted to spend time dry camping at national parks and state parks.  I would need to be prepared for that.  I enjoy my computer and having internet.  I would have work to do on two weddings.  My small travel trailer would need to contain clothing for multiple weather conditions, art supplies, a computer and all the paraphernalia for editing the weddings and videos that I would be taking along the way.

I researched solar panels, generators, heaters, RV-friendly gadgets, how to store everything, how to stay warm in cold weather, what to do with dogs, etc.

The last few days before leaving for my trip were used to await deliveries and to plan at least the first couple of days of my journey.

One of the first things I ordered was a Weboost to boost the cell signal in the trailer so that I could use my Verizon JetPack to have WiFi internet on the trip.

I bought a Goal Zero Yeti 400.  It has 400 Watts, which should run a couple lights and my laptop.  It’s a solar generator and I also bought a suitcase solar panel kit to charge the generator, which can also be charged with a normal outlet.

Two other purchases were for heat.  I got a small cube of a heater from Broan.  I can use that one when I’m hooked to a power.  It does a great job.  I keep it up on the stove, with the cover down.  I like to turn it on at night.  It doesn’t use up my propane and I like the trailer cool during the night anyways.  When I’m in the trailer, working on a project or watching a movie, I like to feel cozy and comfy.  The propane furnace does a great job at that.  When I don’t have electric power, I can use a small propane heater that efficiently uses small one pound propane canisters.  If I keep the heat on low, one canister should last six hours.  I purchased eight canisters.  That pretty much covers my need for electricity and heat.

I watch videos made by a couple that have a video production company called LoLoHo (Long Long Honeymoon).  They have great advice about Airstream life, as they have a twenty-five foot Airstream.  I’ve learned a lot from them.  They recommended ways to make sure you get good sleep in the Airstream.  I did a lot of research on the top mattress toppers.  I have a lot of joint pain, lower back pain, and hip pain.  The joint pain started suddenly on August 8th.  Its pretty constant.  The other things are occasional.  I found a mattress topper that is four inches thick and specifically made for the issues that I have.  Its been very comfortable.  I got a great mattress pad and sheets for a short queen mattress.  I tried using some from home, but they were so much bigger than the mattress they slid all over and bunch up.

My Airstream is wired for panels on the roof, but that will have to wait until next year.  I’d also like to have an insulated water hose.  An electric blanket might be nice, too.  It doesn’t use as much electric as the furnace and I could turn it on a while before I go to bed.  No more getting in and having shivers from a cold mattress.

A small item I ordered that has been awesome is my little Moka Pot.  It’s an Italian espresso maker that would make six tiny cups of espresso.  I use it to make one nice sized cup of regular coffee.  It uses no electricity.

These are some of the things that I researched and ordered so they would be delivered before we left on our long, long adventure.  The solar generator and solar panels didn’t arrive until the last minute.

Labor Day weekend in Gettysburg

Labor Day weekend in Gettysburg

Meet Emma.  She joined us for our next camping trip.  I had concerns about bringing her along.  She doesn’t get along with other dogs.  The campground was very full and there were many dogs around that weekend.  She also is not good at going to the bathroom while on a leash.  She turned out to be a delight however.  She was good for Einstein.  They adjusted quickly to the trailer, even playing together.  Both dogs claimed the couch.  Einstein prefers it for comfort.  Emma prefers it for the view.

Maybe it’ll work out.

Einstein, Emma, and I all took a vote and it was unanimous – it was a great weekend.  We met up with friends at Round Lake campground.  I think every single space was occupied, but there was so much to do.  The camp store is awesome, too.  Between all of us, we had, I think, seven dogs.  Imagine all the scents Einstein and Emma tracked down.  As for my nose, the scents I enjoyed most were that of S’mores and pie iron pies cooked over campfires!  I think we went to Tommy’s Pizza twice and three times to the Springhouse Tavern.  Eighteen holes of miniature golf helped burn off a few of those calories.  In the middle of the weekend, I got to spend time with my dear, beloved friend, Laurie.  It was as if no time at all had passed.

Ok! Lets go!

Ok! Lets go!

Einstein is dreaming of our first adventure.

We’re heading to Ohio for two and a half weeks.  Gonna spend time with some very special people – Donald Ziccardi (Grandpa), Sherry Ziccardi (Aunt Sherry), and Ron and Kim Boyd.

The surprise is that we find a campground in Marlboro, Ohio – my childhood village.  The drive to Ohio usually takes about 8 1/2 hours, but this first trip hauling a travel trailer takes 11 hours.  We arrive at 11:00 pm.  I was told there would be an envelope for me at the security gate.  The envelope includes the phone number of the campground owner.  I’m tired.  Should I call him at this late hour?  YES!  I call him and he says he was waiting for my call.  He heads straight over and backs my trailer up into the campsite.  He hooks everything up and I’m all set.  The visit is wonderful.  Its great to have lots of time for many visits with family.

Right away I realize that I failed to bring along food, clothes for cool weather, jackets, and many other items.  I’m having to make trips to local stores and Camping World.  The weather in Ohio is wonderful, with lots of sunny, warm days.  I enjoy talking with the people that work at the little camp store.  I also enjoy daily swims in the round swimming pool.  The campground is a place that I visited often during my childhood.  The original swimming pool is still there, though its being renovated to become a fishing hole for catch and release.

A special treat was to fix my first real meal in the trailer and that it was for my dad, Don.

Our first trip with the travel trailer was a wonderful success.  I felt safe and supported by the campground and by family.  Einstein and I got to spend time at the dog park there at the campground and going for many walks.  It was a great experience.

How about this one, Einstein?

How about this one, Einstein?

Einstein is good at research.  He looked up “home on the road” (just kidding here – don’t look that up – LOL) and found Airstream travel trailers.  He gave me a wish-list of things to look for and sent me to the closest dealer to secure his dream-come-true-travel-the-country home.

  a place to measure out food for my travel companions

a place to rest

a lot of pillows

a place to sit and watch the world outside

Go get it!