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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.

Visiting a Missile Silo!

Visiting a Missile Silo!

On my second day here, two friends and I went to visit the Titan II Missile Silo and museum. We were taken into a small theater where we watched a video about the missile silos. Afterwards, the people who were over six feet tall put on hard hats (to prevent injury from low conduits and doorways). We went outside and learned about all the outdoor stuff.

Down, down, down

That took us down stairs and more stairs.

It wound around a bit, taking us through very thick doors into a control room. Before all the silos were closed down, four people would work a 24 hour alert shift. There were three levels to their domain in the control room area. The bottom level was an equipment room. The middle area was the control room itself. The top area was the living quarters with a sleeping area, kitchen, and washroom.

A person was allowed to be in the living quarters alone, but everywhere else, no one was allowed to be alone.

Before the tour, we’d been instructed not to touch anything. This is the last missile silo. All others have been destroyed and/or emptied. The things in this one, although for historical purposes, are the last of their kind. There are no replacements. Oils from our hands can cause the metals to disintegrate over time.

Hi, Janet!

After our tour of the control room, we walked along a hallway to the silo itself. The original missile was no longer there, but an unarmed missile resides in the silo. The huge doors at the top of the silo are locked in semi-open position and they can never again be opened or closed. A missile can’t be fired unless the doors are completely opened. Having them partially open displays to satellites from other countries that the silo is non-functioning. Many of the de-commissioned missiles have been stripped of armaments and are used to launch satellites. Re-purposed! They were very expensive, so that’s great!

Meet my friend Debbie

The best photo I have of the missile silo is from afterwards. We went above ground. At the top of the silo, you can see through a thick glass panel down into the silo itself. You can lay your cell phone on the glass for the best photo.

It was a great tour. I had no idea how any of it worked or what had become to the silos. Now I know. I’m so glad my friends wanted to go and take the tour.

So what is a home?

So what is a home?

That word – home – seems to be very important to me. The significance is just out of sight. In the corner of my mind. If I turn to look at it, it moves further away, evading me. I feel like if I can catch it and hold it in front of me to study, like a beautiful stone, secret compartments will open up. Puzzles will unfold. Mysteries will be solved.

I have been searching for a sense of home my entire life. When I was a little girl I loved to play in the piles of leaves that my dad so carefully raked up. I discovered that I could pick up a handful and walk along and drop them as I went, making lines on the ground. Leaf lines. I drew 2-dimensional houses. Walls. Beds. I would lay on the flat leaf beds and imagine I was in my own house. In my mind it was a house that was comfortable and safe and a place where good memories were made by loving family members.

My first house design

Eventually Dad had to burn all the leaves…after raking them all up again. A thought occurred to me. I could draw houses on the sidewalk. There was a great big square of concrete in the corner of our yard. I think it covered something related to water or sewer. I never saw the slab slid aside, so I don’t know. It was the only piece of concrete that was not all broken up. It was begging to be drawn on…so big and smooth. I found out I could draw with pieces of stone…limestone.

I played with these houses like they were doll houses. I used small stones as family members. When it got too cold outside and snow covered the square of concrete, I had to stop drawing on it.

I don’t know where I got it or why I had it, but I had a sketch pad and some colored pencils. Maybe I asked for them at that time. I had never, as far as I can recall, drawn anything in a sketch pad before. I don’t remember ever getting it as a gift. It came into my possession though and I began drawing houses like there was no tomorrow. I got lost in my drawings. If I wanted a house to have stone floors, I drew every single stone. I drew bricks. Wood floors. I drew blankets on the beds, clothes in the closets. I drew canisters in the kitchen and soap dishes in the bathrooms. I drew throw blankets and pillows. Textures and prints on furniture. In essence, while I created my houses, I lived in them. Whatever one I was working on at the time was my favorite one. I would lay it by the bed and look at it in the moonlight. I imagined living in it, walking around, eating at the table, laying on the bed. I began to write stories about the houses and the lives lived within them.

When I had used the whole sketch book up my mom burned all my drawings. I don’t know why. She wouldn’t say. I stopped drawing them. Once I was grown up and on my own, I drew a few more. I still needed that sense of home I’d been searching for.

When I was maybe twelve or thirteen, my dad bought a used truck and it came with a homemade camper on it. It was made of plywood that was painted a dark green, almost black. The roof was canvas on top of thin plywood. The interior had a little dinette table similar to the one in my Winnebago. There was a bed over the cab area. My family used the truck and camper to go camping a few times. By choice, I slept outside in a lawn chair. My parents slept inside. I didn’t like the crowded feeling of such a small space with other people. I have great memories of those trips though. My favorite part was the fact that my parents let me go into the camper when it was off the truck, sitting on its stilts, in the side yard. I didn’t play in the camper. It was too dark to really do much in there. But it was a space I could be in and be by myself. It felt safe and quiet and my thoughts were ripe and flowing in that small space. I was content to just sit there and think. Daydream. It smelled musty, but I didn’t care. Here is a crude little drawing of how I remember it.

That same time in my life, there was a Christmas party for kids at my dad’s work. They had it every year. They always showed a movie up on a screen. Then Santa would come and give everyone candy canes. There were piles of wrapped presents on the stage. They were in piles according to age. I was thirteen, but the gift I got was a small doll called Betty. It was the year I had realized I was no longer a child who played with dolls. I was kind of disappointed to receive a doll. My sister (my parents had adopted a little girl) received a house. It came in a box and was the most unusual house I’d ever seen. It had a big board, like a board game surface, but on it were drawn carpeted rooms. There were small holes along the edges of the rooms. It came with a plastic bag filled with wall sections. Each wall was maybe three inches high and was just a wall. There were cutout windows. On the inside of each wall were printed-on curtains, paintings, wall paper. On the outside were printed-on bricks, siding, shutters. It came with furniture and little plastic people. The people had magnets on the bottom. You inserted the walls into the holes and you had a house. Three inches high. No roof. There was a wand with a magnet on the end and you could slide it around under the board and the people would move.

I was so in love with that house. Why hadn’t it been my gift? I was quietly, secretly, profoundly sad. My sister tossed the whole thing aside. What in the world would she want with such a gift. But she wouldn’t trade. So, secretly I kind of played with that house. I not only built the walls as they were supposed to be, but I put them together to make up rooms of my own design. I put the house on the side shelf of the desk next to my bed. When the moon was full, I’d lay in bed at night and look at the house; look through its windows to see the interior where wonderful things might happen and dreams came true. It felt so real to me that I could almost imagine myself inside there. I will never ever forget that house. And the longing I felt for my own space.

I’m sorry I don’t have lots more pictures to illustrate this post . I went onto the internet and tried to find pictures of 2-dimensional leaf houses. None (note: I finally just drew my own leaf house plan and placed it up in the section up above) .

I don’t even know what to search for to find the little magnetic house I just mentioned, but below is a black and white sketch of what I’m talking about. I’ve also spent a little time coloring it a bit. Its very crude and maybe one day I’ll make a much nicer version, but I don’t really know what it should look like. This is just a modified, small version of what I remember. It was very cozy and comfortable looking. I loved everything about it. If I looked at it, down at the window level, with my bedroom window on the other side, the moonlight would pour into the little house and I could see shadows and moonlight within it. I loved that. Its nothing like the real thing was. I wouldn’t mind, one day, making one out of wood. I’d love to have one.

Black and White Draft of the Magnetic House
Color Draft of the Magnetic House
Art Journal Entry for October 17th, 2019, Art Journaling for Beginners

I am an artist through and through. As I move about on the earth, my eyes and my very soul drink in all I see. Textures, colors, shapes, movement of leaves in the breeze. It goes straight to my heart and is tucked away there for when I get back to my home, wherever that may be, so I can render it and have it for all time. I’m also fond of painting people. Drawing people. Capturing who they are and what they love to do. It is not an easy thing to do, but I am compelled to do it.

I’m unable to turn off this “drinking in” of everything around me. It is delicious and exhausting at the same time. Eventually I have to return to my home and rest. I write about what I’ve seen. I draw it. I want to memorize it. If, one day, I can no longer draw or get out and experience life, I want to be able to look at my drawings and read my journals so I can bring it back to life and experience it all over again. I do it for me, but if there is anyone out there in the world who sees something that touches them from what I’ve drawn or written, then that is an amazing thing.

The Gift (watercolor)
A Good Read (oil)

Now I’m grown and still searching for home. I thought it was a place that I had to design…the perfect home. I got to do that. I got to live in it. Many good memories were made there. It is not home afterall. It is a building. It contained an over abundance of things and of responsibilities to care for those things. I longed for home still however. I went on a three month journey in a small travel trailer. It was the best three months I’d ever experienced. Partly because it was small and simple. Partly because it took me to places I’d never been. I had to overcome, figure out, learn how to do things and how to make my own decisions. I had to solve problems that seemed huge. The satisfaction I got from all of that has begun to create me. Time alone has been good for me.

It turns out that home isn’t a place I get to design and live in. It isn’t the perfect dwelling. Its me. I am my home.

How do I spend my time?

How do I spend my time?

I admit that I can have whole days where I don’t have any chores to do. However, living in a small space loses its appeal when it becomes cluttered up. I try not to buy things, but sometimes I do find things I can’t live without. When I see things I want, I have to ask myself if there’s anything in the RV I can live without so that I can replace it with this new thing. The answer is usually yes. The stuff I thought I couldn’t live without when I first started this have not all turned out to be a good fit for this life. This month is one of those times when I go through my stuff and see what can be given away or donated. There are things that I have bought and indeed used, but the need for it has passed.

My RV isn’t brimming over with stuff. I just don’t want to get carried away with buying things. I like it simple.

Because I have a dog and that dog likes routine, there is a bit of routine in my life. Einstein does let me sleep in. He tries whining a bit when he thinks I should get up, but I’m a pretty sound sleeper, so it doesn’t always work. He isn’t whimpering because he wants out desperately. He just wants me to get up. So. Eventually I acknowledge his request and we have a bonding time. He wiggles and wags and I pet and talk to him in my happiest voice. Mostly. I get dressed and he always has to come over and sniff what I pick out to wear, as if he needs to give it his approval.

I make my bed. I have to do this because the extra pillows (I need them for nap time!) are laying on the seat at the table. Once the bed is made, I put a mug full of water into my little Keurig machine and press the button so it makes a cup of coffee for me. Next I give Einstein his thyroid medicine and get out his leash for a walk. He loves this part.

Glen Ayr Resort and Campground, Washington

After a nice walk, its back inside. Einstein knows our RV and no matter where we are, when we get close to it, he goes right to the door and puts his front paws up on the bottom step. When I open the door, he has to duck his head. Every time. Back inside, he gets a drink. So I have to make sure I put fresh water in his bowl, because I KNOW he’s going to get a drink after his walk. Predictable!!!

The RV now smells like freshly brewed coffee…I love THAT part. My cup of coffee is ready for consumption. I make sure the table is cleaned up a bit. It may have the laptop on it or some art supplies. I put a scoop of food into Einstein’s dish and then I eat. He seems to be happiest if we eat at the same time. I don’t always accommodate his preferences, but life together is a give and take, right?

Since the table is also my art studio, just sitting there to eat a bowl of cereal gets my creative juices going and pretty soon I’m munching and sketching. I check my phone, because during the night I sometimes (often) wake up with ideas for drawings. I put them into the NOTES app on my phone. The drawing of the RV pulling the printer behind it was a wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night idea. However, the dog on top of the printer…that was actually a daytime idea.

I don’t do dishes after every meal. Sometimes I could. Sometimes I can’t. So I usually just go somewhere in the middle and just do them when the left side sink is full. If I’m dry-camping (no hookups, so no water, electric, or septic) I try not to make many dirty dishes. If I do have hookups and its an travel day, I wash things right away, because I leave after breakfast. If I am staying somewhere for a while, I let it go until the little basin is full.

Wow! I just noticed most of my washed dishes are COFFEE MUGS!

If I have any chores, it works best if I do them in the morning (or whenever I get up). I might have to sweep the floor. If I didn’t have Einstein, I probably would rarely have to sweep. He sheds year round. Once every other week, when I’m stationary somewhere, I have to empty my grey tank (water from the dishwater/shower/washing machine) and black tank (you know…the toilet! Yikes!). Right now I’m in Robert’s driveway and he has 50 amp electric, water, and septic for me. Its wonderful. I let my tanks get to 2/3 full and then empty them both. I empty the black tank first and then the grey. The water from the grey tank flows up into the black water tank and helps wash it out. Then I close them both up again.

From time to time I have to sharpen pencils. I use a lot of watercolor pencils, oil based colored pencils, and wax based colored pencils. I like them to be very sharp, so the point gets down into the pores of the paper. So I use my Homepod, telling it “Hey, Siri, play some pop music” so I can sharpen pencils to music. And sometimes I just like to dance around the RV. If I’m a little down, it lifts me up. If I’m happy, it makes me happier and I burn some calories.

Every once in a while I look through my belongings to see if I can give anything away or donate it. If I haven’t used something ever or in a long time…it goes to a new home somewhere.

I have no yard work. I keep my bathrooms clean and tidy, but that doesn’t take much time at all. I love to tuck little pieces of art, postcards, artistic business cards, or photos into the edges of my mirror. Surprisingly, they stay put when I’m bumping along on the highway.

I’d say that I spend most of my time doing what I want. I take naps, bake something, cook meals, go for walks, take Einstein to a dog park, go to a store where I can buy art supplies, and I spend a LOT of time doing art. I like to draw things on paper and then take them into my iPad and do more art with them in the Procreate app, using my Apple Pencil. I’ve written about that in an earlier post.

To earn money, I draw things and sell them. In the past, I owned a film company and made documentaries, commercials and videos for corporations. I also filmed and edited a plethora of weddings. I have been an artist for most of my life. Doing the film work seemed to be a great way to combine all the other types of creative things I enjoy doing. I call myself a Digital Nomad now. I do whatever I can do from this little table in my RV.

I have never ever been so happy and so productive. I have learned, at last to live in the moment.

The new printer…is a keeper!!!

The new printer…is a keeper!!!

Wow! I’m so very impressed. I printed a couple of things and had to tweak the settings from within Photoshop a bit. I am so excited. Yes, the printer is still way too big for RV life, but I must find a way to keep it. I’ve had lots of printers. Some did fantastic printing, but had limitations and didn’t last very long. Others lasted a LONG time, but did mediocre prints. This one is so awesome. I’m so relieved that it has managed to convince me to let it stay.

I took some art I did on paper and put that into my Procreate app on my iPad. With my Apple Pencil, I added some trees and some hints of people. I had painted some travel trailers on paper to put on my Christmas tree this year. I took photos of those and added them in to the app. The trees are ones I made on the iPad with the same app, but done separately. I love how you can bring in different elements and blend them all together. I read in the Art Journaling for Beginners where one person said she uses the same app and loves to create the black and white side of art and then print it out and color it by hand on paper. That’s awesome. I have been doing the opposite…taking my black and white designs done on paper and bringing them into Procreate to color them there. I hadn’t thought to try it the other way around. But then I didn’t have a printer before so couldn’t even try that. NOW I CAN!!!

Anyways, I feel great. RV life has lots of ups and downs. It takes both to keep life sweet. The printer is an UP.

Been on the road a lot

Been on the road a lot

Einstein and I traveled from Las Vegas to California to visit friends near San Fransisco. We stayed in an interesting KOA campground in Petaluma, CA. Einstein got sick. You saw that in an earlier post. By the time we reached Newport, Oregon, he was doing better. He thrived in Hoodsport, Washington, where we stayed at Glen Ayr Resort for nine weeks.

I had a Workamper job at Glen Ayr Resort. I didn’t finish the season. I saw the summer disappearing before my eyes. It seems like each summer something keeps me from doing the thing I love…exploring in my RV. I believe I was too keen on proving to myself that I still had it in me to work and be productive. I might try it again, but I needed this summer.

The folks at Glen Ayr made me feel welcome and like I was part of the family. I liked that. I mostly worked at the front desk. The resort has a two story hotel with fifteen rooms. There is a cottage that can be rented. There are three condominium type apartments. There are also about three dozen campsites. I worked fifteen hours a week for my campsite. Any hours above that I earned $12 an hour. I took calls for reservations, answered email requests for reservations, checked people in, Sold items in the small store, stripped beds in the rooms, cleaned rooms if there was no housekeeper for the day, washed bed linens and towells, and then folded everything and put it away. I’d say that doing laundry took up half to three quarters of my time. I also checked the chemicals in the spa, emptied trash inside and out, made sure the propane was turned off over at the gas grills, and patrolled the grounds to make sure that all was well. In the evenings when I made my round of the campground area, it was neat to see folks sitting outside together talking. Sometimes as I walked by they would call out to me and say hi. Some would ask for help with figuring out how to get their TV to see the cable channels.

The resort was pretty far from things. There was a small town about a mile away, but most things were at least about fifteen miles away. The best hair salon I’ve ever gone to was in Olympia. The owner did my hair. That was in March. It still looks nice (August). They use natural hair coloring. I enjoyed my time there. Afterwards I walked to a really good pizza place where the pizza is stone fired. To top off my time there, I walked to a jewelry store and bought a new silver chain.

I liked Washington. It was the first place I’ve been where I could leave the windows open for days at a time. I liked that. I could sit and write or draw and sounds of other RVers would drift in as they enjoyed their stay and visited with one another. I could live in Washington. It doesn’t rain as much as I thought. There were lots of very pleasant days.

From Washington I went to Canada. I explored British Columbia and Alberta. At the time of this writing, I’m still in Alberta. I’ve made many new friends here. As I sit here typing, I can hear the announcer at the rodeo next door. Its the big summer fair and rodeo. I hear the sounds of horse drawn carriages or wagons as they race around the track. Oh! They’re little conastoga wagons. Racing wagons! Looks like each wagon is pulled by four horses.

My time here ends soon. I’ll be leaving on the 27th, heading for Oklahoma. The plan is to spend a few weeks there with family, then begin to head East. I haven’t been East in a year now. I’m going to visit Sherry in Ohio, then go to Maryland for Christmas so I can visit with friends and family there. I’ll be house sitting for another friend in New Jersey for January, February, and March. I’m really looking forward to that. However, I’m leaving the RV in Oklahoma, so I’ll just have my little two door Jeep, the dog, and whatever else I can fit to get me through about five months.

That’s the plan. I will REALLY miss the RV. But I’ll use my time to make art and to write. So. Follow my art and there I’ll be.

Bye Bye Airstream?

Bye Bye Airstream?

My Airstream (Rocinante) was wonderful.  There were many, many things I loved about the guy.  As I pulled Rocinante down the road, I loved to glance in the side view mirror and see him back there, faithfully following along.  When parked, I loved to walk back toward him and the sight took my breath away.  Rocinante was compact and easy to manage.  Clean up was always minutes instead of hours.  I worried that Einstein and Emma would be cramped for space since they were used to a much longer domicile.  They seemed perfectly content with our little den.  I knew they were happy when they began to play and tumble about a little bit.  They settled into a routine that encompassed waiting for me to wake up, dress, make the bed, get their food ready, Einstein’s medicine in a small square of Velveta cheese, a walk, and finally a cool drink.  What happened the rest of the day was up for grabs.  It could be a day on the road or a day of relaxing somewhere.

You can see the size difference between my previous Montana 5th Wheel and my twenty-five foot Airstream Flying Cloud.  My Dodge Ram 3500 Quad Cab Dually (AR AR!) could easily ascend and descend any mountain, endure desert heat, and sigh contentedly in the shade of a tree at rest areas.  I don’t think the truck even knew it was pulling anything. 

My Airstream was simple.  He didn’t have a lot of storage, which forced me to rethink everything I took along as well as everything I wanted to add along the way.  It was easy to detach the two thirty pound propane tanks and take them to get filled.  The scissor jacks and entry steps were not hydraulic, which added to the simplicity.  They took only elbow grease to operate.  There were plenty of awnings for shade.  It didn’t take much to make Rocinante cozy and comfortable.

I thought about getting a bigger Airstream.  I did some online comparisons and a slightly larger Airstream was comparable in price to a motor home.  I had it in mind to compare a thirty or thirty-three foot Airstream to perhaps a Class A or Class C of similar size.

Whether it was wise or not to trade the Airstream in can NOT be dwelled on.  The deal is done.  There is just no point in analyzing the choices I’ve made at this point.  Rocinante is gone.  I cried the day I cleaned him all up, ready for the trade-in.  He looked as new as the day I bought him.  We made some wonderful memories together.  Indeed.  Farewell, Rocinante.  May those who share your future adventures love you, protect you, and keep you safe.


Speeding Across the US

Speeding Across the US

Today I traveled from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Shamrock, Texas.  The sunset took my breath away.  I hear Texas is famous for beautiful sunsets, but they were brand new to me.