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.
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.
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!
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.
The life that has stumbled upon me over these past twenty-six months is different than anything I could have imagined…and I have tried to imagine and to dream of what I would like to do in my life. I’ve met many people who are on similar adventures and sharing time with them has been sweet indeed. Time visiting family and friends has been sweet and memorable…worth experiencing.
Before now, however, my wanderlust and the yearning for this nomadic life have always been a part of me.
When I was maybe eleven or twelve my dad bought a funny little truck. It was like a car, but instead of a trunk, it had an open bed. It was rather ugly and it had this wooden camper top on it that someone had made. Inside was a bench seat dinette, a little bitty plywood counter, and a bed that went over the cab of the truck. When the four of us actually went camping in it, My parents slept on the dinette, with the table pressed down. My sister and I slept in the bed. I did not like that…sleeping up there in the stifling heat. Eventually I was allowed to sleep in a lawn chair outside. My parents bought a screened dinette tent and I put my lawn chair in there to keep from getting eaten by mosquitoes.
When I was thirteen my parents said that I could go out to the little camper. When not in use, which was most of the time, it sat on four stilts. I would go inside and be by myself. With its very small windows, it was darkish inside. I wasn’t able to write or draw and I was finished with pretending and playing with dolls. Mostly, then, I just sat out there and thought about things. Often I listened to rain on the wooden roof. Why did I go out there? I went out there because no one else wanted to be out there. It was the only place I could go and actually close the door and truly be alone…a young teenager’s dream come true. Teenagers have a lot of thoughts.
Now when I am in this RV I both appreciate the fact that it is not a tiny little thing on the back of a truck (because Einstein would insist on using up the entire floor and I would be left to hop from bed to table to door) and also that I have lights, running water, and a toilet. Back when I sat in the quiet of that camper, I never dreamed of a time like this.
This RV is the place where I can truly be alone with my thoughts. I suppose I am going through a second set of teen years…where I’m wondering who I am, what I want…before its too late. I am creating myself here.
I read on Facebook about the special moments my children are experiencing with their children…memories they are living right now and that they will cherish always. As I read I remember my own times like that. There were achievements, performances, events where I witnessed them coming into their own, shaping themselves, living in the moment. I guess I long to have that all back…but it is gone and done. If I had lived just a generation earlier, I would be retired from a job, collecting a small pension, and sitting on the front porch waiting for something…I don’t know what. Life would belong to the young.
But I made pudding today. Yesterday I made some really good brownies.
Do not go gentle into that good night
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
By Dylan Thomas
I’ve asked no one to take this journey with me. In fact, I’ve intentionally needed to take it alone. I have needed quiet time to sit and reflect on what came before and what might come after. I want to think about how all the things I’ve done and experienced fit into what’s left of my time on the earth. When I drive along in the RV, miles of road before me, I want to see that road with my own eyes and feelings and impressions.
Whether I am able to muster up the courage to speak to a stranger, ask questions, ask advise, find out how their own path has gone out here on the road or behind the cash register or that counter…I want it to be because I wanted it. I don’t want, right now, to consider anyone else’s opinion. I want to fit it all together by myself right now. When I come to an intersection, even if I had a plan at the start of the day, I want the freedom to change my mind and go left instead of right.
I’m ever mindful of the lessening of days in my life. Little aches and pains niggle at my mind and body, never letting me forget. This is my time and I’m letting it fall upon me quietly or loudly.
So today, on this Tuesday, I made pudding…because I wanted to.
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.