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New Direction – Adventure Illustrated!

New Direction – Adventure Illustrated!

Page One

Einstein is gone. The RV is gone. But the adventure and its story are still here…in this little art journal. When I was traveling to visit friends and family, I used the nickname Ren. I made many new friends along the way and I didn’t give my real name. So I’m called Ren or Renny by the many awesome people who crossed my path. I like it.

So Glad I Came to Tucson!

So Glad I Came to Tucson!

The last twenty-three days have been unforgettable. I had not intended to come down for the convention in Tucson, but I was beginning to very much need time with my own kind. I have wonderful visits with friends and family. Those visits fill in so many empty spaces in my heart, giving me great memories, like a fountain I can dip into whenever I want and be refreshed.

Sometimes, though, I need to spend time with other RVing Women. I need to sit outside under the stars or around a campfire and talk RV. We talk about little difficulties we overcome. A bad water heater. A leak. A broken vent cover. We share how we fix things and we go and help one another with fixes. Debbie was able to get the locks on my engine cover to unlock. I was able to help someone with a generator problem. We tell stories that make us laugh until our sides hurt. Sometimes we just sit quietly, enjoying the star-studded night sky, the crackle of a campfire, and thinking about how great it is to just be there together for a time.

I want to write a bit more about my time here in Tucson, but today is a travel day. I’m sad to be leaving. There’s so much I want to tell you and I think you’ll find yourself laughing until YOUR sides hurt at one of my stories.

But for now, I’ve just finished my bowl of cereal and cup of coffee. Einstein is laying on the rug next to me. Its time to start stowing loose items and unplugging from the electric pedestal outside. Time to get behind the wheel and see how far I can get today. Aiming for Deming, New Mexico.

my desert

my desert

Yesterday I drove away from my desert. I don’t really OWN it, but it felt like it was my very own desert. It was hard to leave. Even though I’d only been there from January 15th to the 27th (not counting the days I had to dash over to Phoenix to get my generator fixed), it seemed I’d been there always. It was my first time to actually dwell in the desert.

Eighteen months ago when I started full time RV living, I talked and thought about boondocking. I was going to do lots of it. As I traveled around, I found myself wanting amenities the way I sometimes want comfort-food. I was still trying to figure out just what I was doing living in an RV; what I wanted to get out of it. I was always looking up places to stay off-grid and it was an awesome goal, but at that early point of being on the road by myself, I found that staying in the parking lot of a Walmart or a Cracker Barrel was as much of a boondock as I cared for. Going into the desert and meeting up with women from RVing Women was a great way to introduce myself to the idea of really doing some off-grid boondocking. I watched what others did and asked questions. I’m an introvert so I didn’t ask as many questions as I wanted to. But I did better than I had expected. I came prepared, too. I had empty grey and black tanks, a full fresh water tank, bottled water, full propane tanks, food that I would cook and some that I wouldn’t need to cook.

I just wasn’t sure how to handle being out there and taking care not to drain my batteries, get so cold at night that I couldn’t sleep, how to keep myself entertained, or making myself get out there and socialize. I’m an on-line gamer. I play Guildwars 2, Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft, and Heroes of the Storm. I have friends that I play with and we switch from game to game. I don’t play all the time. I have days when there’s not much else to do and I might play for several hours, but that’s rare. Many of my gaming friends are kind of like me…they’re artists or writers. I haven’t met any that are Nomads yet.

While in the desert I found out that you can stay on BLM land in that area from October till April 1st. I seriously considered paying the money and staying until April 1st. I wondered what I would do with my time out there in the profoundly silent desert. I had good cell signal, much to my surprise. I’m a Digital Nomad, meaning that I spend a lot of time doing things on my computer to earn money or just for the fun of it. Would I be able to still do that out there? With my generator I could probably do some of that, but I would not want to run my generator all the time. It uses gas and, even though its inside the basement of my RV, its still quite noisy. I turned on my generator when the sun went down and it gave me a couple hours to spend using my computer and running my electric fireplace. Without the generator I could use lights and I was able to charge my phone. I didn’t use my heated blanket or run the electric fireplace without the generator. The in-house batteries kept my refrigerator going. I learned a lot about conserving energy. I learned that at first its hard to be still and not be using my phone or computer. I felt edgy and restless. As the days passed, I developed a routine appropriate for that life and I got used to doing different things – reading, sitting outside, going for walks, taking a trip into the small town of Quartzsite, cooking, and sometimes just plain taking a nap.

There were Saguaro cacti all over the place. I enjoyed walking around and looking at them up close

The United States has lots of deserts. Some are sand…and evidently some are just not. I never knew there would be so many stones. There was no sand anywhere…only stones, rocks, and fine dust. As I drove to and from my RV, my Jeep bathed everyone I passed with a cloud of dust. “Sorry! Sorry! Oops! Sorry about that!”

During the day, it was in the 60’s (in January!!!) so I got to open all the windows. How wonderful! However, I was never able to wear shorts or flip flops. The sky was almost always the deepest blue I’ve ever seen. I’d call it “Shelley Blue” – LOL. At night, it dropped down to the 40’s. I didn’t turn on my furnace, but I had lots of blankets on my bed. In the morning the temperature in the RV was usually hovering around fifty degrees. If it was colder than that, I turned on the propane furnace to warm things up enough so that I could do my morning chores. I had a full tank of propane and I have two small 20 lb tanks that I can hook up and they were both full. I could have been toasty warm all night long. I didn’t do that. I’m still learning and wasn’t sure how much of a drain it would be on my batteries to be running the propane furnace, as it uses electricity to blow out the heat.

There were days when the view out my window was just desert. Other days it was a plethora of RVs and women strolling along with their little dogs, stopping to talk with other women with little dogs. Occasionally there were big dogs, but mostly it seemed like little white dogs. Its an easy way to meet people…take your dog for a walk.

First Night

From the first evening to the last, the sunsets were spectacular. I think I took more photos of sunsets than anything else. They made me think of paintings. High five, God!!! Each one was as amazing as a painting in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. I couldn’t stop looking at them as they deepened and then faded.

I think the things I’ll take with me about my experience in the desert were the quiet and the beautiful night skies. So many stars!!! One evening my friends and I were sitting around a campfire and someone nearby was sending up something into the air that defies explanation. Each one looked like a floating paper bag with a candle suspended beneath. There were quite a few, one at a time. It was so cool!

We sat there around the fire, talking about RV life, about things we like, things we have to figure out and overcome, and about the sense of accomplishment it gives us to fix things ourselves. We talked about nothing of consequence, too, and it was a fine thing…sitting there with the crackling fire and absolutely no other sound. Debbie wielded the little shovel, pushing embers around, positioning a log from time to time. We roasted hotdogs and it was fun. Really fun. The companionship for us, who are usually each alone most of the time, content with our solitude, was indeed sweet.

Meet Rocinante II

Meet Rocinante II

I chose the name Rocinante because of two reasons.  For one, John Steinbeck chose that name for his truck top camper in 1960.  His main reason for chosing the name and my second reason is that Don Quixote’s horse was named Rocinante and this horse, in many ways, was not only his horse, but his double.  Like Don Quixote, his horse was awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities (taken from Wikipedia).

My Airstream was Rocinante, but the name fits my life as it did Don Quixote’s, so I want to keep the name.  Even though, officially, the new RV is Rocinante II, I will refer to him as just Rocinante. 

I feel like I have enough skills that I can earn an income from the inside of an RV as well as from an office.

Buying the Airstream was a leap of faith.  I was hungry for travel and adventure.  My eyes longed to see new vistas and long missed friends (and to have my own bed with me at all times AND a place to charge my personal batteries – I’m an introvert).  I chose the Airstream because it seemed a good size for myself and two dogs (Einstein and Emma).  By myself, I was able to hitch, unhitch, set up and take down camp, search for diesel gas amidst the vastness of the desert lands of the Southwest, with their great distances between exits, and to be content with the simple life I encountered within the cozy curved space of Rocinante I.  None of those tasks came easy.  I had to do lots of research, watch many videos, and prepare myself mentally for the upcoming challenges.  When my adventure concluded, I felt stronger and a whole lot happier than ever before.  I felt knowledgeable, capable, and full of joy at all the opportunities I’d embraced.  Sure, I made some mistakes.  I figured out, on my own, how to overcome them.  It was good for me.

In January I bought a Winnebago Vista LX 35F.  Its ten feet longer than the Airstream, but I got to thinking about it.  The Airstream plus the truck were actually fifty feet long…so now I’m in a smaller rig really.  Right?

I know many full time RVers tend to downsize.  At this point in my life, that’s probably not going to happen for me.  I have lived full time in the new Winnebago since the second day after purchasing it.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t come to love it as much as I had the Airstream.   Two months have passed and I find that I love it even more.  Even though the weather has been very cold, the RV has stayed quite comfortable using the electric fireplace and, on especially cold nights, the small Broan heater I  bought while traveling in the Airstream.

I use my Verizon JetPack for internet.  I have 15 GB of 4G speed.  With the work that I do, that lasts me anywhere from three to five days out of each month.  The rest of the month I have 3G.  I’m able to do most of the things I need to, but sometimes must go to a friend’s house to do some of the more intense tasks, such as patches for software and downloads of large items.  I get by okay though. 

Even though I do filming and editing, I’m not accustomed to being on the front side of a camera.  The videos I watch on YouTube, made by other Full Timers, have inspired and taught me.  Some of the folks who make them seem like long time friends now, even though we have never met.  I don’t know why, but I love the videos that are tours of their rig.  I love seeing how they store things, what gadgets they use, the layout, and changes they make to accommodate their lives better.  My favorite part is seeing them so excited about it all.  I’ve watched many HGTV house hunter shows where the people searching for a new home want closets bigger than my whole RV.  In the YouTube videos I love that the people are so very excited about having a closet at all.  Having a cover for the kitchen sink to give them more space for food prep makes them giddy with joy.  I have covers for my sinks, but I seldom use them.  I’m happy with the space I have for making meals.  Knee room in the bathroom is a thing to be coveted.  My particular RV has two slide outs – one for the bed and one where the dinette and couch are.  I’ve seen humongous RVs with slideouts the length of the entire rig.  It makes the interior look like an apartment.  I’d love to have something that awesome one day.  Until then, I’m finding that the one slide out makes the living area very cozy and comfortable.  I have just the right amount of space and closets and storage.  Some of the features I’m especially fond of are the extra bathroom (half bath), the washer/dryer combo, and the residential refrigerator.  I like having space under the RV for a few things, like tools and lawn chairs and such.  What I’m trying to get to is that I would like to make some videos about my life as a full timer in a motor home.  My rig is a little different than many others, so perhaps there would be a use for videos about life in this Rocinante.

I am very excited that the couch and my favorite side of the dinette face the TV and electric fireplace.  I’m glad that I have a gas oven.  The Airstream had a convection/microwave oven and it was very difficult to figure out.  Every time I used it to actually bake something, it seemed to work differently.  I found no manual with operating instructions.  Trying the same things twice in a row didn’t usually work.  It was also down where an oven would be, so I had to sit on the floor to read the words on the buttons.  I’ve gotten quite good at lighting my little gas oven.  I’ve made many delicious meals in it already. 

When I had the Airstream (which had a wonderful memory foam mattress, although it was a short queen), I bought a very nice mattress topper that is 4 inches and made of Gel/Memory Foam.  It’s especially made for people with joint problems, arthritis, or painful hips.  I have periodic joint pain.  I had to cut off the bottom of it and round the corners.  When we bought the Winnebago, I feared my topper would be no use anymore.  It turns out that it works better than it would have it I’d have left it full length.  When the slide out is in, the bed slides up under the cabinets on the opposite wall.  If the topper was full length, the bed would not fit up under the cabinets and I would have to manually roll the topper up so the bed would slide under.  However!  With the end cut off, the bed slides under the cabinets to exactly the right place.  Having the topper shorter doesn’t cause any problems for sleeping either.  I’m glad for such a happy coincidence.

I used the comforter that came with the RV to make a room darkening curtain to hang down behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats.  If I’m driving at night and I have a passenger who is back sitting at the dinette table with a light on, the glare from the light makes glare on the windshield.  The curtain eliminates that issue altogether.  It also insulates the living area from a few degrees of colder air from the cab area.  When not in use, I lower the bed that is over the cab area, flip the curtain up over it, raise the bed back up, and the curtain looks like trim work.

So what adventures do I have planned?  For the near future I have a weekend trip planned to a local area, a trip to Japan (without RV), a trip to Ohio, and another trip to Florida (just returned from there recently – great first trip with the new RV).    I haven’t thought past that yet.  I apologize for the length of this post.  As soon as I make a video tour, I’ll replace the written post with the video.  Until, happy trails!

 

Reen!!!

Reen!!!

My friend Maureen, known to most as Reen, had open heart surgery a few days ago.  She has been taken good care of at the hospital and many friends are constantly reaching out to her in a group text.  I can tell that she is well loved by many.  I can understand why.  She is a kind hearted, giving woman.  She knows what she wants from her life and she has the courage to go get it.  She, too, is an RVing Woman.  After caring for her mother for thirty years, she is taking this time to explore in her RV.  I so admire her courage and the way she stands firm in her dream.  

We met at the RVing Women’s Convention in Goshen, Indiana in October.  That was the very beginning of my trip.  Since then she has been the shoulder I cry on when something goes wrong, the one I share my successes with in texts and sometimes in a phone call.  She has good advice and she is an encourager.

I’m trying so hard to be patient while she’s a “patient” at the hospital.  I want to tell her all about everything.  I want to plan a trip to see her.  I want to see, with my own eyes, that she is okay.

Please heal quickly, Reen.  Get well.  Put on that baseball cap and get out those wooden racks for the card game (can’t remember the name of it!!!).  But!  Mostly…heal.  Be well.  We need you in our lives.  You are our Reen!

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.