I’ve been full time for about eighteen months now and I’d have to say that the “love” part of the title is a new aspect of this life. I think its been happening a little at a time, but just in the last couple of days did it dawn on me that, yes, I love this life.
The BEST of ME! The people I meet and the friends and family that I visit see me at my best. Because I have my own house with me (bed, favorite foods, hobby supplies, etc.) I am so happy. I have my own bathroom (two actually, though I don’t really use the small half bath) so all my own shampoos and gels and mousse…its all there. For night time, I have my eye drops and saline nasal spray, breathe-rite strips, water…all I need in case I wake in the night. I don’t have to pack and unpack anything. It’s always there; just like at home. I’m always well rested, because if I’m not I can go into my little house and take a nap. I’m never bored. I have all my favorite things to do right there with me. I’m an introvert, so when I need me-time, I just go out to my place for as long as I want or need.
The BEST of EVERYONE ELSE! When I feel like meeting people, all I have to do is step outside my RV. I can take Einstein to the dog park or for a walk. I meet a lot of people that way. I meet them at the laundry room and the game night at the clubhouse. I get to at least say hi and how are you when I go to the grocery or pet store. I always get to know the people next to me in RV parks. For instance, right now, the folks beside me are very creative. She does amazing lettering on canvas. He does stained glass. When my windows are open, I can hear them laugh and talk about what they’re working on there at the table outside. Sometimes passers-by stop and talk with them. They’re full time in their RV and they love it. She’s a cancer survivor and he’s retired from UPS. They are so happy to be alive and to have the chance to travel and explore the country. I have friends in the area and we get together to go sightseeing, have dinner, do art. When I’m tired I can just head home and get some quiet time to myself. My life feels more in my control than it ever has before. Back at the cabin, it was much more difficult to encounter new people as the cabin is quite isolated. It was a bed and breakfast so it was also harder to get time to myself.
A NEW FRONT YARD as often as I like! When I lived in one place my front door always opened out to the same view. Now it WAS a nice view of forest and long winding driveway. During my life I have moved a lot. I get restless quickly. Now I can stay in one place for a while…be it a field, the desert, a driveway, or a campground. When I feel restless I can just move on. I can stay near a big city, a small town, or wilderness. If I want to do some boondocking, I stock up on food, water, and propane on the way and I can stay anywhere comfortably for two weeks. If I want comfort from cable TV, electric, water hook-up and septic hook-up, I go to a campground.
CAMPGROUND CULTURE! I’m at an RV resort on the south side of Las Vegas right now. I’ve been here for about five weeks. I have a little over a week left. I will miss it. I’ve met a lot of other full time RVers. Most live there at the resort so they all know each other. They all have interesting stories to tell. When I’m sitting at my dinette table, I face the road and I can see people walking their dogs (so many little white dogs!), stopping to talk together, stopping in front of an RV to ask the owner, who is also outside, questions about their “rig” or the stuff they’re towing or doing. With my windows open I can’t really hear the conversation, but I hear the murmur of the different people and its comforting. Everywhere else I have lived, people don’t come outside. They stay indoors. At the resort, people treat the outdoors like another room of their RV. Its an silent guideline that if their chair is facing away from the street, they are not really looking for conversation from passers-by. If their chair faces the street…come on over! Kids ride bikes. On warm evenings, RVers and friends gather outside around a contained fire, sharing conversation and sipping livations. There aren’t a LOT of children at this campground, but there are some. I enjoy hearing their laughter as they play together. Today at the dog park, there was a little boy and he wanted me to know all about his dog. He said Golden Retrivers are his FAVORITE dog. Mine is a Golden. His little mixed breed dog (Rusty) was just eight months old he told me. All of this awesome culture makes my life feel large and full. I love it.
THE FLAVOR OF AMERICA. In Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck wanted to travel the country to see if it was the same as the America he’d written about. It was 1960. He was quite famous. He wanted to travel anomimously without attention. He seemed disappointed with the America he met in that trip. It was becoming “vanilla”; becoming blended. No longer were its spaces unique from one another. People were changing. Culture was changing. By the end of his journey he may have been sad and was glad to, at last, be home. He began his travels with great gusto and preparation; great expectation. In the end he just wanted to be done. My travels have been quite different from Mr. Steinbecks. I knew already that America’s states and towns had become blended families. They lost their distinctiveness way back when interstate highways gathered them all together and peppered the exits with chains like MacDonalds and others, seen all across the country. You can travel anywhere and get the comfort food of your favorite restaurant or grocery store. You can gas up at your favorite stations. I was glad of that. In my childhood, family vacations were flavored by places to eat that were few and far betwee or unknown. My childish heart wanted to eat where I knew exactly what I was getting.
So my travels have introduced me to the very thing that John Steinbeck couldn’t find. I’ve discovered uniqueness across the country. In Ohio, when I got out of my quad cab dually and walked towards the Giant Eagle grocery store, a young man collecting shopping carts several aisles away called out, waving, “Welcome to Giant Eagle!” That made me happy. I wasn’t used to such cheerfulness and “I love my job!”ness. My waitress at the local Pizza Hut in that same area engaged me in conversation off and on throughout my buffet pizza meal. I was used to waiters and waitresses who only made conversation at the very end of my meal, perhaps to ensure a better tip.
In Indiana (Elkhart) I found every store I visited (whether I purchased something or not), every restaurant…all the folks were genuinely friendly. It did my heart good. In Montana, at a very tiny campground (like 8 spaces) the campground host with his long gray-gold “Wild Bill” curls made me feel welcome and safe. The man sitting at the picnic table with his little white dog (campsite next to mine) made me feel welcome as well.
I have encountered some who seemed to hate their jobs and hate strangers or tourists. I’ve met those who were simply courteous and professional. Overall, I’ve found warm welcomes. I’ve seen similarities between all the places, but also uniqueness. Quincy, California has a Subway restaurant, but no other chains and no department stores or car dealerships. On Halloween the whole town dressed up. Shop owners wore costumes and played the part. Bob Ross (costume) greeted everyone at the little children’s clothing and toy shop. Crossing guards wore tutu’s. The Chamber of Commerce had a table set up in the park to give out candy. The library had a plant sale going on. I loved it. Sweet Lorraine’s had the world’s best bread pudding.
The campground in Eugene, Oregon was owned by a landscape artists and boasted lush green lawns, cute round metal tables and chairs at each campsite, a vegetable garden, a dog grooming station set amongst the trees…a great and beautiful place.
Everywhere I went I found a nationally shared personality and a uniqueness. I thought maybe John Steinbeck would have loved it.
FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT! Wherever I go, I usually find a couple of favorite places to eat and shop. Right now I’m at Blaze Pizza. Its not far from the RV resort and its a favorite of a lot of people. There is a line to the door and almost every table is taken. There are families here and everyone is talking and laughing and consuming delicious stone-fired pizzas.
MEETING OTHER RVers…It warms my heart to meet others who live in their RVs. They are a whole different people than those who live in houses or even take vacations in RVs. It warms my heart to see RVs where the owners love it and have their routines and division of duties, their new life with the companionship of one another and shared enjoyment of the life. The couple in the 5th wheel next to me are friendly and comfortable with their new life. Enjoy sitting outside at a table working on their crafts. He does stained glass nightlights and she does canvases with beautifully painted quotes that inspire. Three spaces over, Sharon is a retired special ed school teacher who is, at this moment, out driving her RV for a driving lesson. She gave me two outdoor chairs so that I can sit outside in the fresh air on these blue-sky-warm afternoons. Back in Forest City, Iowa another solo woman RVer shared dinner with me one evening and we talked about our travels and how we overcame the problems that happened from time to time. She gave me an iron (I love cotton shirts and they are always so wrinkled after being washed) and a small caddy to hold my shampoo and body wash. In Alberta, Canada I gave my host Sue a purple storage container (she LOVES purple) and I gave Archie my Krispy Kreme Donuts mug. Just before I left they gave me a bottle of my favorite hand lotion. I do small pen and ink drawings and have given a few of those away. It feels right and good sometimes to give something away. In the desert near Quartzsite, Arizona I sat around a campfire each evening with other women RVers. We shared stories and laughed together. Debbie had a little tiny camp shovel and was in charge of stiring the coals and moving the sticks of wood around to keep them burning. There was something comforting in those shared evenings.
BONUS FEATURES of the campground I’m at NOW! They have a really nice booklet they give you at check-in. It has a map of the campground and of the city. It includes ads for services specific to RVers. In two days I’m having my RV washed and waxed by a company called Red Rock RV Washers. They have trucks right there at the campground. They bring their own water. They hand-wax the RV. I don’t normally splurge on such a luxury, but a wash and wax prolongs the life of the RV. I had the little Airstream I traveled with last year washed by them and it looked so fantastic afterwards that it just lifted my spirits and made the little trailer happy, too. The resort also has vendors that do all sorts of repairs, including engine repair. There is pretty much nothing that can’t be done. Not many resorts have that kind of service.
Until I came here, I had two dogs. We were together for the last eighteen months. Einstein and Emma. Emma has been a good companion while we were together in the RV, but if I left, she barked so much that once (in Eugene, Oregon) I got a call from the office about it. If someone walked by with a dog, she barked a lot. If I had to go anywhere, I couldn’t leave the windows open on a warm day because of her barking. She was extremely difficult to walk. Campgrounds have SO many dogs and Emma doesn’t like any of them. She would scream out her barks and twist and try to get out of her harness (she did once – scared me pretty badly). So about ten days ago I found out about a no-kill shelter and I took her there. I felt like a louse. I think you can imagine how I felt. I knew I had to do it though. It took me a few days to get over it. Each day I felt a bit better and knew that I’d done the right thing. Since she’s been gone, Einstein has been better behaved. He can be left in the RV with the windows open and doesn’t bark. He walks and doesn’t go crazy over other dogs. He can be taken to the dog park and gets along well with everyone. The RV is cleaner. Its not as crowded. The food (Einstein has to eat a special, expensive food) lasts longer. People aren’t afraid to come into the RV. I have to admit its been great and is probably a lot of the reason why I love RV life more now. I think Einstein is happier, too. Emma really tried to bully him into submission. When I leave here next week, I’ll truly be leaving Emma behind. She was going to be put into a foster home until she was adopted. I know she’ll be much happier in a real house. So there you have it.