Saturday, November 21, 2015

Getting to Arizona

I had a relatively good meal at Applebee’s in Albuquerque on Veteran’s Day – but it was painful seeing all the other vets there & Jeff not sharing the experience with me. Maybe next year won’t hurt as bad.

I gassed up the pickup, picked up my mail from the campground, & parked the pickup that last evening so it was ready to hook up to the trailer the next morning. Of course I woke up WAY TOO EARLY (which is normal for a travel day), but by 7:30am (at a frosty 21° outside), I unhooked electric, stowed the satellite inside, & hooked the pickup to the trailer. Only took one extra try to get lined up correctly. I pulled out of the campground at 8:08am & zoomed down I-40 thru Albuquerque with a surprising amount of bare highway showing. Traveling south on I-25 was even uneventful since I actually had a tail wind.

I arrived at Cabillo Lake State Park, south of Truth or Consequences, shortly after noon, found an electric/water site & got settled in for two nights. The NM State Park pass expired last March, but $14/night for electric/water is very reasonable. Plus, Jeff & I had never camped at that campground before. My only problem was trying to change a setting on the TV satellite in Albuquerque & unknowingly telling it to look for another TV provider satellite. After two hours & two calls to the satellite company, I finally acquired the right satellite signal. One happy camper.

Emily, of Emily's Adventures in Retirement, picked me up at the campground the next day so we could have lunch at the Hillsboro General Store Café. I had a fantastic mushroom swiss cheese burger, & the old general-store-turned-café was very interesting & attractive, as well as the efforts of the old mining town to spruce up & attract tourists. Last year, Jeff & I traveled west thru Hillsboro, up & over the mountains to Silver City, so this day’s ride was bittersweet. As always tho, it was so easy & comforting talking with Emily who has her own challenges this year.

Since I didn’t unhook from the trailer, it didn’t take me long to pack it up & get moving early Saturday morning. It was sunny & calm & no cities to get thru so the drive was almost relaxing. I’m surprised at how interesting being the driver is instead of the passenger (bor-ing). I actually SEE more landscape, traffic, & signs. Wow, Jeff & I had a running joke about my inability to notice signs. I’m surprised how much better my memory & focus has been without him & how I’m paying much more attention to everything. Wow, did he ever spoil me. Time seems to pass much quicker as an active driver vs a bored passenger. Of course, the Casita is so aerodynamic, my Tundra hardly knows it’s there. And I’m comfortable driving (slowly) on interstates instead of wiggling around on local highways. Unfortunately, I don’t imagine I’ll be able to do much photography while driving unless I can find places to pull off the road.

After a stop for gas & a few things at Wal-mart tho, I finally drove into Arizona at 10:35am. Yee haw!! I remember having the same excitement last Jan from the same highway sign when Jeff & I crossed the state border. Another bittersweet memory tho, but at least it’s no longer like a mule kick in the gut.

I spent 6 days visiting a friend in AZ to perfect my boondocking skills & learn to use the little generator I got. The two 12v Interstate AGM batteries we got almost two years ago in Yuma weren’t charged up tho even from being hooked up to the truck while traveling nor from electrical hookups. They weren’t even taking a charge from a generator either. Bad words & dirty names!!! Thankfully (very, very thankfully), the Interstate dealer in Tucson was very helpful suggesting somewhere closer to take the batteries to have them checked. Both batteries were still good but needed a long reprogramming slow charge so they would get to full capacity. However, the little 2000 generator was showing overloaded when the trailer was plugged in, so apparently there is some sort of electrical drain or short in the trailer which might have been the reason we’ve had battery problems for the past 3 winters. Sheesh! At least I learned how to get the generator started by myself (think ANGRY thoughts). Talk about a back/abdomen workout! Just one more indicator of getting old & out of shape.

I totally LOVE seeing the mountain ranges’ pointy peaks in the distance, even with a dusting of snow. Well, except for that one night I ran out of propane for the furnace. At 41° the next morning, I was up & out at barely daybreak changing propane tanks. Another bit of learning curve. I may get a couple of propane gauges since I really don’t like surprises!

Finally picked up my 2nd recharged battery & headed to a Coast to Coast campground in Benson to plug in, regroup, be lazy, watch endless TV, de-dust, & try to track down my electrical/battery problem. I’ve had L-O-N-G fon conversations with friends working thru my feelings about Jeff’s death. Having projects, plans, & new experiences has kept me going but I want close neighbors while I “wait” for the full gravity of this loss to hit me. A part of me wonders if I just didn’t love Jeff enough since I haven’t fallen apart too often. Instead I think he simply trained me well & has given me his strength to manage without him. The most painful memories are of our first 18 years together (the last 2 full-timing) but I’ve had miles to relive the past 2 years & realize how badly & fast is health was failing. I still end up feeling grateful (while sad) for our 20 years of adventures & that his suffering has ended. And that I feel him with me.

Monday, November 9, 2015

On the Road Again

I started this blog back in 2008 to document mine & Jeff’s travels & experiences, & possibly help others learn what & what not to do & where or where not to visit. Now, it’s documenting how I’m surviving his sudden death & possibly help others get motivated to follow their dream, regardless of relationships. So if the following is TMI (too much information), I understand if you skip it.

During the 3 weeks after Jeff’s death, I had the pickup serviced & new brakes put on, got new tires & a little generator, handled the legalities with Social Security & Veterans Administration, & cleaned/reorganized the trailer, pickup, & storage unit. I sold a few items from the storage unit & have a girlfriend selling a few items for me on Craigslist. I spent multiple days & hours (& lots of sweat) getting the storage unit cleaned out enough to have an isle again. I have more to clear out next summer & hopefully move to a smaller unit. There’s just some sentimental items I don’t want to get rid of. I gave clothes & such to a thrift store. I placed various old & used items next to the dumpsters at the campground for anyone who wanted to have them. Everything found new homes. Best of all tho, I gave specific items of Jeff’s to friends who were particularly interested in those items: fishing gear to a fisherman, cookbooks to a cook, beard trimmer to a friend with a beard, etc. I kept Jeff’s Air Force Vietnam cap, Green Bay Packers shirts, jewelry, & a couple of warm jackets. His ashes are on the floor next to my bed – & provide comfort. I’ve filled up the closet with all my clothes & emptied the frig of anything I don’t eat or drink. I gave away a dozen plastic bags full of food I didn’t want. I practiced hooking up & backing up the trailer. I got better. . .but even tho I’m going very slowly, I still don’t have either maneuver perfected YET.

I finally pulled out of Compton Ridge Campground in Branson on Friday before Halloween to travel to my parents’ apartment, a nearly 3 hour journey since I was only driving about 60 mph. It took several tries backing into their driveway, with the trailer only a little crocked. Whew! That was stressful. Sunday – with a tummy full of butterflies, I returned to my girlfriend’s driveway in Springfield. She has a double driveway off a 4-lane road with a turning lane in the middle – thankfully. It took me at least six tries to finally turn the back of the trailer straight into her driveway instead of going onto the grass on the far side. And then there were another six or so tries of pulling straight into the road to get the pickup to line up straight with the trailer. The front of the pickup was still a twitch toward the center but at least she could get her car out of the driveway. Wow, I was exhausted after that experience. But – I did make it.

Tuesday, Nov 3 was launch day. An RVer on RVillage offered to let me tag along with him & his girlfriend in a Class A pulling a toad, going to Phoenix mostly on I-40. The first night’s stop was in Carthage MO, so I drove there by myself to meet up with them. I nearly choked the steering wheel from all the Springfield traffic, but the I barely knew the trailer was behind. Amazing. The next day we drove over horribly rough highway thru Tulsa & survived busy traffic on multiple lanes thru Oklahoma City. After I got gas at a Pilot, I tried to drive around back but it was a food window circle instead. I had to back up to exit. Seems like my first attempt at backing the trailer is ALWAYS to turn the wrong way! Sheesh. Anyway, we stopped for the night at a KOA west of Ok City. The next morning a line of thunderstorms were passing over, but we were on the far edge of it. We had about 20 minutes of three bands of extremely heavy rain (as in wipers on high). Soon there was nothing but clear blue skies ahead of us. Whoopee!

We stopped at a Wal-Mart in Amarillo as the wind was getting stronger & stronger by then. We parked at a campground west of town & apparently they have lots of strong SW winds there since ALL the campsites are angled to the NE. My phone said 20 mph winds with 31 mph gusts. Thankfully it died down by dark cause it was rocking the trailer so bad it would have been difficult to sleep, or just not get sick overnight. It was 33 degrees when we left the next morning!

Everyone complains about how long it takes to get across Texas, but I think it was only about 4 hours all together getting across the panhandle part. Nice. I was surprised how quickly we got to the New Mexico state line. Wow – felt like coming home!! Unfortunately, the wind started raging again, so Ron (the other RVer) asked me to pass him since he was slowing way down. I didn’t catch near as much wind so could comfortably drive a little faster than him. Plus the road had lots more long hills too slowing him. Still driving under 60 mph, I ended up losing them somewhere “back there” but felt comfortable knowing someone knew I was on the road ahead of them.

I turned off I-40 near Tijeras (east of Albuquerque, in the mountains) for Hidden Valley Campground, the only Coast to Coast campground in NM. We camped there during Christmas last year & again this Spring heading back to MO. I’m glad I was put in a site we’d not stayed in before – but still, Jeff was with me last time I was here. I’m staying until Thursday, Nov 12 to receive some mail & go to Applebee’s for my free lunch on Veterans Day. Last year, Jeff & I were in Little Rock for our free meal. This will be yet another solo experience.

My first full day of nothing to do since Jeff’s death was cloudy, gloomy, & cold – all day. I don’t know if it was just the weather, or the familiar campground, or the relief of finally making it this far, or maybe it was just time; maybe a combination of everything at once, but I had several intense meltdowns yesterday from so many great memories from the past kicking me in the gut. I wasn’t scared or feeling lonely – I was just sad that Jeff wasn’t with me. I just miss him so horribly much sometimes. I tried pretending he was sitting outside – but that didn’t help either. I miss laughing together. Sometimes, I think of the good things about being solo to feel better about this situation. That didn’t work, so I watched a couple of recorded movies – but they didn’t always help either. I’ve had a plethora of things to accomplish & concentrate on. . .until yesterday & I couldn’t even play Spider Solitaire without crying. Thankfully, I had a couple of old friends to call when I felt like I’d never stop crying. They helped me laugh again.

I’ve realized that our tendency to camp away from other people was OK for me because I didn’t want others judging Jeff based on his getting stupid (drunk) most every evening. He really did try to control his drinking, but he never learned how to cope with the hardships of life nor the stress from little things. I believe he tried to negate his sense of worthlessness by being as generous & helpful as possible to others. Since I’ve only talked with a few campers near me here, I definitely feel like I don’t need anymore alone time than absolutely necessary. So I want (need) to be much more & involved socially now. The possibilities & opportunities are exciting – & that’s a good thing.

I know this is a whole new chapter in my life & I’m trying not to make any drastic changes. I have at least definitely stopped smoking. I got nicotine patches from the VA & charged up my e-cigarette, so from the morning I left Springfield, I’m now an ex-smoker. As stressful as driving, traffic, roads & weather was, thankfully I didn’t ever feel like I wanted a cigarette. Yeah!!! My other goal is to establish a regular morning exercise routine. This needing to hang onto the counters to get up from kneeling down in front of the frig really sucks. I still walk Kira once or twice a day – but that’s not helping as much as I want.

As sad & bleak as Saturday was, Sunday was just the opposite. It was gloriously sunny with a calm wind & an energetic nip in the air. Kira & walked twice, I could focus enough to write this post, & had several phone calls. I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel again.

Future plans are still fairly fluid. I’m spending a couple of nights visiting with Emily in Truth or Consequences, & then visiting another friend who actually bought a little piece of property near Tombstone so I can practice my boondocking skills & finally fire up the little generator I got before leaving Branson. Then I was invited for a Thanksgiving campout at Roosevelt Lake with a dog camping group. Not sure where I’ll go during most of December, but want to visit friends hosting again at KOFA & want to spend the holidays at Anza-Borrego & see all those big, rusty sculptures. January will be Quartzsite’s RV show & (hopefully) a small gathering of fiberglass trailers at Dome Rock again. Then the official BIG fiberglass rally is the first part of February. After that – I don’t have a clue. Visit my cousin again in Phoenix, maybe check out Prescott. Hoping to come up with places in Colorado for the spring/summer. My little egg trailer can handle earthquakes & hail well, get out of the way of floods & fires, but I really don’t want to encounter a tornado. Spring in MO is beautiful – but has the most severe tornado-prone storms then. Unfortunately, July is a class reunion back in MO – the absolute hottest, most humid part of the year (yuk, yuk), but if I skip Spring in MO, I really need to visit my parents again by then for sure. My daily phone calls to them is fantastic – but parents are funny wanting to see their children frequently. And all these “plans” only exist as long as I don’t get a phone call to make an emergency trip back to them. I’ll probably return to Branson in September, enjoy the cooling temperatures to work on the storage unit again & get my annual VA checkups done. Next November will be snowbird time again to head west.

Jeff always said life with him was an adventure, so I’m trying to continue the lifestyle. Hopefully, by the time I have to park it permanently, I’ll discover somewhere that I’ll be happy to watch the seasons change instead of wanting the scenery to change with the seasons. I can’t thank my friends, family, & even strangers enough for the support I’ve received thru this nightmare. Surprisingly tho, Jeff’s death has not been as traumatic as my last divorce. Times, technology, & I have changed enough for me to get past this.

No photos since both hands have been strangling on the steering wheel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Summer 2015 Sadness

If I have your email address or phone number, you already know that my sweet, funny, generous husband, Jeff, died rather suddenly Oct 13, 2015. I’m adjusting, & am learning all the things I need to know (like hitching up & backing up of the trailer especially) so that I can continue my full-timing lifestyle & spend my winter again in Arizona.

Last winter, Jeff lost 20# or so, had numerous digestive malfunctions, & basically was just wasting away. I couldn’t get him to go to a doctor or ER! Officially he developed diverticulitis which ate a hole in his colon & produced sepsis. He had emergency surgery but was kept sedated & I never really got to say goodbye to him. BUT – I know he knew I loved him & that he loved me. He treated me like a queen (or a spoiled child some might say) for 20 years. I’m glad he never woke up enough to know how much pain he’d have been in or how bad of shape he was in. Ultimately, I was told he had cirrhosis of the liver due to alcoholism. When they told me his liver was totally shot & would not “sustain life”, I knew we had to let him go. His daughter & her husband came from Kansas City to Springfield MO & we eventually stopped all life support. He died within 5-6 minutes, never regaining consciousness. I’m relieved he didn’t suffer, but I can’t help but wish he’d had the strength to stop drinking years ago. I’ve come to believe he probably knew the last year or two even, or at least by this past winter, that his liver was failing & that it was only a matter of time. He never told me. As bad as that might sound, I’ve imagined that had I’d known what was happening, I’d have been moving whatever mountains were necessary to try to keep him alive longer. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want a long, lingering illness.

In all honesty tho, it has been a long, hot, humid, buggy, boring summer. We just hung around Branson all summer, mostly because Jeff felt so bad. He tried to hide it, but knowing now that he was literally dying, I understand why he was grumpy, critical, & unpleasant to be around. I can’t really remember the last time we laughed about anything. Although I miss talking to him terribly, I wasn’t too happy with him much of the summer - an odd way of being weaned, I guess. After we both had previous bad relationships & divorces, some of my friends think it’s so sad that he died from something that could have been prevented after we finally found each other. But I simply feel grateful for at least having 20 years with my best friend & soul mate. It was close to the perfect relationship for us two very imperfect people. Many people never find that kind of companion.

The few good things about the summer was attending a live telecast of the Weather Channel in Branson, along Taneycomo Lake. It was so much fun (& free) since I spend a lot of time watching the Weather Channel (well, more listening to as I read email & such at the same time). I’ve watched Jim Cantore since back when he had hair – & I actually got a photo with him.


Another high point of the summer was going to Kansas City to spend the day at Jeff’s grandson’s actual 7th year birthday party. We don’t usually make it on the exact day. We also finally got a new pickup shell that we’ve wanted for a long time. Jeff got to enjoy it for a few weeks.


Although we shuttled back & forth between Compton Ridge Campground, Castle View Campground, & Holiday Hills Campground all summer (all Coast to Coast campgrounds), we made one little trip east near West Plains MO to spend a week at Cloud 9 Ranch Campground. It’s a beautiful, large, wooded “ranch” with six campgrounds – but it’s all for ATVs. It was like being swarmed by a plethora of rabid bees frequently. Just not our kind of communing with nature campground.

Since Jeff’s death, I’ve visited Social Security & the Veterans Administration Benefits offices. I’ve had the pickup serviced & got new tires – all planned by Jeff before leaving for AZ. A campground staffer has been teaching me how to hook up & back up the trailer. I’m getting a backup camera too. I’ve cleaned & reorganized the trailer & pickup, & continue working on cleaning out our local storage unit. It has felt so good & right giving some of Jeff’s items to friends who will particularly enjoy those items (fishing gear, cook books, beard trimmer, etc). Besides them needing/wanting an item, they will forever remember Jeff when using them too.

The support, encouragement, & suggestions I’ve received by phone, by internet, & by person has just been amazing! Absolutely couldn’t ask for an easier way to regroup. By comparison, my last divorce 20 some years ago was dangerously devastating - without much support. Family, old friends, new friends, & even strangers have kept me going. There really has been no other viable option than to continue this rambling lifestyle tho. I haven’t discovered the place (or places) that I’d want to watch the changing seasons throughout a whole year. Besides, the inside of the Casita seems twice as big now that I can use all the closet & storage space, carry less “stuff”, & actually have room for several guests inside at the same time with the twin bed set-up & more floor space.

I will be leaving in a few days to visit my parents & then next week tag along with an RVer heading to Phoenix. I’ve received some exciting invitations for winter camping/visiting & am slowly developing an itinerary. I’m hoping to spend Christmas at Anza-Borego & then make it to Quartzsite for the RV show & the fiberglass rally. I also want to investigate more of CO this summer but have to go to a class reunion in July in my hometown. I’d like to stay away from Spring tornado threats & summer humidity in MO as much as possible. However, with my elderly parents still alive (& doing well so far), I’m always just a phone call away from an emergency trip home.

Because I’ve always been a bit of a loner & introvert (strange since I seldom meet a stranger I don’t enjoy talking to), I loved having my best friend as my traveling/living companion & wasn’t comfortable for long around large groups of people. Well, I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone now & spend a lot more time around people. I know I need the help of my friends. So please let me know if there’s any opportunity to cross paths down the road. And thank you for your friendship & compassion.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

4 years full-timing with 7 years of lessons, mods, & changes

Amazing to us (as well as most other people), Jeff, Kira, Boots, TK, & I have lived fulltime VERY comfortably in our 17’ molded fiberglass egg for over four years constant now. If we’ve met, you’ve heard me say that our bed has wheels so that we can follow the weather that fits our clothes. That way, it’s easy to live outside where there’s a lot more space for each of us. Unfortunately, we have occasionally been stuck in uncomfortable weather due to family or working situations. We’ve survived -3° overnight temps during an ice storm before Christmas in MO, four days of rain in Poudre Canyon CO when the Thompson River south of us flooded horribly, 100+° days in Missouri when the humidity was just about as high as the temp, 5” of snow with -1° overnight during Christmas camped east of Albuquerque, & numerous days of wailing wind out west. In over seven years of Casita ownership, we’ve rarely been disappointed with it’s quality, weather-worthiness, versatility, & agility. Since molded fiberglass mean no seams, all those bad weather situations (rain, hail, freezing, wind, snow, ice, heat, & humidity) just don’t have that much affect on us inside. In addition, we could probably manage an earthquake well also -- not much different than some dirt trails we’ve traveled down. If there’s a fire or a flood, we hook up & boogey. However, tornados are the one bit of weather that scares the dickens out of me, so at some point, we hope to stay out of the Plains states during the worst of tornado season. . .unless we find an Ozark cave to park in.

Over 7 years of Casita ownership, we’ve made a plethora of mods (modifications) that enhance our day-to-day existence. Here is a summary of how we manage & how configurations evolved:

Front door – First we put a house-type peep hole above the door window & put a 3-way switch on the porch light. We also added plexi-glass over the top & bottom screens on the screen door so it’s more of a storm door (plus keeps pets from scratching thru the scree).  We got the double step installed that is almost always needed since we not only got the original high axle option, but have additionally installed 15” tires/wheels, plus an additional 2” lift. All this lifting is due in part to fatally bending out of shape the original double step.

Bathroom – Our 2008 Liberty came with a wire rack above the galley sink as well as one next to the toilet. I moved the kitchen rack to two large Command hooks on the wall above the one by the toilet. I store cough medicine, antiseptic spray, etc on the top rack for quick access, & my cosmetics/toiletries in the original rack. I strung a small bungee cord thru a roll of toilet paper & hung it at the bottom of each wire rack. Has worked perfectly all theses years. We have a semi dry bath (or semi-wet?) because I replaced the original flimsy shower curtain with a regular, clear shower curtain (trimming only a few inched off the bottom) & hang it next to the closet wall (instead of the other side of the door). I use velcro to attach the shower curtain in front of the toilet so that everything behind the toilet (including the toilet paper) stays dry during a shower. This also has worked great for years. Since our 4-day old original awning got demolished in an Orlando FL July thunderstorm, I used part of the awning to velcro a little skirt under the bathroom sink lip – it hides the drain pipe. I have a walmart sack hidden against the wall to hold spare paper towels. And recently, I realized the gap between the black tank vent up the side of the wall & the bathroom window was a perfect spot to wedge in spare rolls of toilet paper. They don’t move & I can easily see when we need to buy more. Also, from the start, I have two (of the three) bars with suction cups on the wall next to the closet to hang wash cloths. I finally had Jeff move the bathroom light switch from the light at the back of the bathroom to the vent hood over the burners because I really hated reaching around in the dark to find that light switch. If I could just get the bathroom window turned upside-down, I wouldn’t be concerned with anyone looking in the open window when I sit down on the toilet (it’s a girl thing). I have yet to come up with a good occasional curtain idea tho.

Galley – The other bar with suction cup ends is in front of the sink to hang a towel on. Early on, I ordered little clips that stick to the wall behind the sink to hold spice bottles. They’ve functioned well thru the years. We also quickly moved the paper towel hanger from inside the cabinet door above the sink to the side of the range hood – close but not in the way. We also installed a coffee filter dispenser under the top cabinet that still works well there. For years, I used a cake-cooling rack over the sink, but this past winter got a small section of white wire rack to sit over the sink. Love having additional counter space while still being able to use the faucet. Someday, somehow, I’d like a wider counter top, preferably with some sort of bullnose or edge on it so eggs & such don’t roll off. Because of the serious lack of counter space, we first had a sliding shelf over the sink that has been removed, & now just have one of the little plastic patio tables I’ve used for various things now sitting at the end of the counter for the coffee maker & cat food dispenser. Works well, is easily moved, & also has storage underneath. We don’t use ice cubes much, but I like ice in a soda. Finding room in the little Casita freezer for a full ice cube tray continued to be a problem. Then I saw a sealed ice cube tray on Amazon but could never find it locally. Didn’t want to order one at the time since we were traveling too much. Then I realized using the small “portion” cups provided by many cafes & restaurants could be filled with water & individually stuck in whatever small spaces are available in the freezer. It fits perfectly in my favorite mug, plus being sealed, it doesn’t water down my drink as it melts. For a waste basket, I re-purposed a narrow, rectangular plastic container by hooking a bungee cord on the sides & hook it onto two cup hooks screwed in at the bottom of the bathroom door mirror. A Walmart plastic bag fits perfectly in that container & makes collecting/removing trash easy. I bought a $1 dish towel & sewed the long sides together & one end, put a safety pin in the open end & hung it on a curtain hook next to the top of the bathroom door to stash plastic bags. I put a couple of suction cups on the frig door to hook safety pins on dish towels. A couple of years ago, I got tired of the clutter on my precious little counter, so I crocheted some fishnet-style sacks to hang on the wall to hold coffee creamer, & a larger one for coffee & a plastic glass for flatware. I made a much bigger sack then to hang on the microwave swing-down door to store fruit. It swings down in front of the frig door when the shelf is down. Can you tell I hate to waste any vertical real estate?

Closet – We hung up most of our clothes initially, but it didn’t hold enough. I am convinced rolling clothes takes up less space & prevents winkles better than hanging (can’t explain why), but we didn’t want the extra weight or considerable hassle of making shelves for the closet. What to do? Finally I decided to macramé two shelves that would adjust to the compound corners of the closet & hang conveniently on a plethora of curtain hooks stuck around in the carpet. Shoes & a few other assorted things just live on the floor. This arrangement has also worked amazingly well thru the years. We have two heavy-duty coat hooks on the outside of the closet door (& a couple more beside the mirror on the bathroom door) for hanging the assortment of jackets thru the seasons. And I finally got some very inexpensive push-to-turn-on LED lights hanging on curtain hooks beside each shelf for additional light.

Floor – The one original option I wish we’d ordered but didn’t is vinyl flooring. The first few years of weekend camping required throw rugs over the carpet. Once going full time tho, these rugs created tons of annoying work keeping them clean. Finally, we got a clear plastic hall runner with teeth on the bottom from Lowe’s to help shield the carpet from spills & rain – with rugs on top. Then we used some stick-on tiles we never used in our house on top of the plastic. That did pretty well for several years until the tiles started breaking due to the flex in the underlying plastic runner. A couple of years ago, we bite the bullet & just got a solid sheet of vinyl that we both liked & laid it loosely over the carpet. Since the wood plank flooring many people install can be affected by moisture between the planks, we wanted a solid vinyl sheet (due to spills & tracked in rain). However, that vinyl tended to walk forward as we traveled around, so I got just 18” of that same clear plastic runner with teeth & taped it to the far back underneath of the vinyl to grip the carpet at the far back wall. It’s held pretty darn good for over two years now. Last winter in Quartzsite, we got one of the new microfiber rugs for the entry that has worked out excellent. Oh, in case anyone really wants to know – the cats’ litter box is on the floor partially pushed under the bed so 20# Boots (a Maine Coon cat) has enough room to use the box. For years, the box lived under the closet door, but I got tired of sharing that small space with it. It sort of “hides” now.

Storage – When we first got the Casita, I folded two strips of denim in half & sewed “pockets” & button holes in to hang on curtain hooks on the soffit (that thin piece of real estate between the upper cabinets & the ceiling) to store medications, supplements, & vitamins (plus hang Jeff’s multiple pairs of cheater glasses). We hang a calendar above the microwave cabinet from hooks on the soffit. We use the soffit over the galley for a pair of scissors, can opener, & long-handled lighter, with the back cabinet soffits for a red glitter snowflake Christmas ornament, & a couple of dream catchers. I have a magazine display from Staples attached next to the upper cabinet over the sink to hold an assortment of stuff that otherwise just laid around. I have a plethora of clear or white plastic containers in cabinets, next to the toilet, & under the bed to corral lots more stuff. Since we have cats & end up with numerous cat little buckets, we’ve used them hold hoses/cords, canned food, & out-of-season clothing. We have three narrow stacking drawers next to the galley (under the patio table) for extra juice & soda (handy to place in the frig when one cold drink is removed). Before going full time, we traveled to Virginia to attend a wedding, so to keep our dress clothes from getting wrinkled hanging in the closet, I put an expanding curtain rod from side to side over the bed to hang them on. It was so handy, the rod has stayed all these years. It’s a good place to hang a wet bath towel to dry in the breeze thru the windows, or park my t-shirt & socks overnight. Early on, we also hung a wire rack above the back window from the upper cabinet to park laptops, coffee cup, cell phone, glasses, etc that I wouldn’t ever want to do without.

Art work – The first years of weekend camping, I taped enlargements of some of my  favorite photos on the upper cabinet doors, but that didn’t last too long. Now I’ve simply used a brown Sharpy to simulate Craftsman-style grooves on the doors. Cheap, easy, & better than plain. Decades ago, I learned to make stained glass projects, & would love to have something in our door. But not finding something I wanted to live with indefinitely, I played with using colored Sharpies on the inside of the glass. I created a design from a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass windows that I continue to enjoy. Unfortunately, the ink fades & I have to fill in the colors periodically.

Windows – It didn’t take too many camping weekends to become dis-enchanted with the original blinds. I wanted full nighttime coverage of the windows, so I customized some Wal-mart curtains that worked well for years. After getting locked out of the trailer (thankfully in our own driveway after a 2-week trip), we had to cut a screen to get in an unlocked window. We replaced screens after first installing window tinting. One of the best things we’ve done. It really helps keep out heat build up & provides quite a bit of privacy. We also installed the louvers at the back of both side windows that has been a lifesaver during hot, muggy rain storms. Then three years ago tho while strolling thru Home Depot, we noticed a sale on vertical shades. Hmmm, pretty expensive, so we checked at Lowe’s which gives a 10% discount to veterans. Same sale on the same shades. . .so we got an early Christmas present. Cherry colored double cellular vertical shades which are excellent at shutting out any outside light & insulating against cold & wind overnight (next best thing to double-pane windows). During our first winter visit to Quartzsite three years ago, we checked out having awnings installed on our windows. Because of the curve of the back of the Casita tho, awning brackets will not fit. While strolling around the RV tent later, we noticed large sun screens with suction cups meant for the front inside windows of Class A motorhomes. Ah-hah, with a little trimming to fit, those suction cups work perfect on the outside of the driver’s side & back windows. I even had enough left over to cover the bathroom window (remember that issue with the windows opening from the bottom right behind the toilet)! Between the tinting & screens, we keep out a lot of sunlight & heat plus doubles the privacy.

Walls – I know some people don’t like the Casita’s carpeted walls (affectionately called rat fur), but they really do a lot of insulating against sound & cold. Unfortunately, seems that once it gets warm in the trailer, it’s more difficult to cool it down than warming it up. Anyway, I put a roll of Reflectix along the walls from the windows to the top of the seats from the frig, all around the back, & to the end of the galley. I had enough left over then to put in both corners. I covered it with the best portions of previous favorite sheets – pinned into the carpeting with “T” pins. This extra layer of insulation probably contributes to our being cozy during freezing temperatures. Plus, we like the colors!

Bed – Ah, nearly half of our little 14’ studio cabin is taken up with the bed because the Liberty layout can be made up with either a King bed in the whole back half, a regular full bed side to side with room for two seats (& a table set up in the aisle) next to the galley & frig, or as twin bunks on either side with combination aisle & table between at the back. First, we slept side to side on a queen-sized air mattress (to replicate our house Sleep Number mattress) but the “seats” soon accumulated stuff. We also tried the other side to side, but it didn’t make any different. Finally we settled on the back to front on cushions & added foam padding for many years, putting our little plastic patio tables along one side to hide things under & give the cats a “shelf” to lay on. The problem with back to front tho was lack of even more floor space. So, it was back to using Queen space, driver’s side to passenger side finally. Although climbing over Jeff to get out of bed was good strength & flexibility exercise for me & more floor space than back to front sleeping, it was a major nuisance for him & his back problems. So I finally set up twin beds for each of us to sleep, nap, recline, or set whenever we wanted without disturbing the over person. I use an air mattress (& foam pad) while Jeff prefers the firmness of the original cushions. We have the original big table top still between the beds with pillows for Kira to sleep on at night & the cats to use during the day. When I’m under the covers, I’m in bed. If above the covers, I’m reclining – and a happy camper.

I don’t miss a table in this small space (just one large area for me to park more stuff so we couldn’t eat there anyway), & if I had more storage, I’d just FILL IT UP. This small space keeps me disciplined.

Television – Until we went full time in the Casita, we didn’t carry a TV. However, since we live in the trailer now & are not just getting away from life, we (mainly me) want a television available all the time. Our house in the country north of Kansas City MO did not have access to either cable TV nor DSL internet, so we had a satellite dish on the roof for each service for years. We replaced DISH with DirecTV within a few years & when the Hughes Internet modem finally died, we got a Verizon mi-fi. We’ve been outrageously happy with DirecTV & Verizon services for years now. Since we originally slept with our heads against the back wall for years,we couldn’t see the TV hanging in the back corner so we set up a single shelf (on three legs) against the frig to hold the DVR & then hung the TV from an articulating arm attached to the side of the frig cabinet. We extended the cables thru the upper cabinets from the back corner above the bed to next to the frig to hook up everything. This arrangement has worked perfectly for four years now, with no needs to change anything.

So this is how we manage in our “small space”. I’m afraid some people would call it cluttered though since there is very little unused wall space. But, it’s terribly efficient, easy to clean, cozy but open with the three big windows, & has a space for everything we need & use. We won’t have any overnight guests, & only “entertain” outside. I don’t think we could stay for long in a house if someone gave us one. We love escaping the worst of seasons, meeting new neighbors, & seeing jaw-dropping landscapes. Plus this full time RV lifestyle has no lawn maintenance, property taxes, or permanent annoying neighbors. 

We’ve mostly stayed at Compton Ridge Campground in Branson all summer & haven’t done any sightseeing nor even much visiting since returning to Missouri. in April I’m SO loving my new little Acer Aspire Switch 10 2-in-1 computer although I don’t turn it on too much. It’s like our Casita – little, cute, lightweight, & versatile. I’ll post a summary of our unexciting summer when we head back to Arizona for the winter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Making it back to Missouri

We finally officially left the Southwest by going east in New Mexico all of 16 miles to Texas & Central TimIMG_5425e, ending up at Roaring Springs Camping Club (a private golf & camping club in the Coast to Coast network), somewhere east of Plainview TX. There were six or seven different camping areas, some up on a butte, some along a stream, some in a canyon, & some next to the golf course clubhouse (which is where we parked). I could pick up a screaming fast wifi from the clubhouse, but had to walk up near it to make a phone call (standing in one spot, facing a specific direction). There was lots & lots of green grass (Kira loved that) & lots of mesquite trees & blooming redbud trees, while still allowing for a satellite signal. Really nice campground . . .except for that no cell phone signal.











While hanging out in the golf course, we drove north an hour or so to visit Caprock State Park, the southern end of the same geologic feature that created Palo Duro Canyon to the north (which we stopped to visit last spring on our eastern migration). It has some spectacular red cliffs & rocks for Texas, but once you’ve seen southern UT, it takes a lot to beat those big red rocks. The park also has a huge herd of bison.

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We got a phone call on the day we left from a chiropractor’s office which the VA in Branson referred Jeff to. Great, fantastic — except they wanted to see him Monday. . .4 days before we were planning on getting back to Branson. So, we stirred the jello & traveled for three days straight (something we’ve learned gets real uncomfortable) instead of hanging out for several days of recuperation.

We stopped for the night at the campground in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton OK & Ft Sill. And there really were mountains there in the OK plains. It must be really pretty when all the trees get leafed out. The refuge has a large herd of bison, plus wild turkeys & longhorn cattle.



The next we morning, we hustled off to another Coast to Coast campground near Eufaula Lake OK, also a private campground connected to C2C. A huge storm area was heading toward us, so we actually pulled out of camp at 5:37am the next morning so we could stay ahead of the rain. Every time we stopped that morning, sprinkles caught up to us. Once we got to Ft Smith AR tho, the rain continued east & we headed north. We pulled into Compton Ridge Campground in Branson at 11am — nicely ahead of the rain that arrived early evening. Yeah — we’re home!!

That was 3 weeks ago & since then Jeff’s had several chiropractic treatments that are helpful & Kira had surgery to remove the worry wart from her side (a fatty cyst diagnosed last summer). That place annoyed her all winter & she was continually chewing it raw. Turns out it had become cancerous, & since dogs can smell cancer, she knew it didn’t belong on her side. She handled the surgery, stitches, huge area shaved on her side, & the cone around her neck extremely well for two weeks. I continue to be so in awe of how well animals cope with unexpected events — mainly since they don’t have the kind of expectations that we humans have. However, that first evening, she was definitely working on giving us poor puppy-dog eyes.

The only significant thing to happen besides Jeff’s chiropractic treatments & Kira’s surgery since returning to Branson is that I finally decided to replace my Windows 7 heavy, hot, bulky laptop that has a new keyboard that has once again developed keys that don’t work. Makes for very difficult typing. And as much as I LOVE my Samsung Galaxy S5 smart phone, typing, viewing, & editing photos on it just doesn’t work well for me. After much research & sleeping on it, I finally selected an Asus Aspire Switch 10, a 10” screen 2-&-1 Windows 8.1 computer that has a decent enough keyboard with a detachable screen making it a handy little tablet. Besides the learning curve getting used to Win8.1, I’m really happy with this inexpensive, not terribly fast or powerful but lightweight, versatile, & runs cool computer. I can once again create blog posts using Windows Live & view/edit photos using Picasa (the main things I want a Windows computer for). Haven’t gotten back to spreadsheets yet, but they are my original passion on computers. I still prefer reading email & playing solitaire & Sudoku on my phone, but using an external USB 500G hard drive attached to the keyboard, I can back up every & anything & keep the zip-drive-style 64G hard drive in my computer’s screen from filling up. And I really, really like the touch screen even when the keyboard is attached.

Seems April has been cooler, cloudier, & windier than usual, but that’s what jackets are for. I’m just hoping we can escape the hot, humid muggies of summer in the Ozarks by going somewhere cool & dry (north and/or up in elevation).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary & Pie Town NM

We had wanted to visit Pie Town NM back in January on our way to AZ, but after the frigid, snowy experience near Albuquerque over Christmas, we didn't make it until March - a much nicer time for northern NM & AZ.

There are now THREE pie bakeries in Pie Town. The original Pie-O-Neer is only open Friday thru Sunday. The 2nd bakery is open Sunday thru Wednesday. And we arrived on a Thursday. Thankfully, the latest bakery - Danc-Syn Windmills - on the north side of the highway, at the east end of "town", had just opened for business the day before. An old, 2-room log cabin is the pie & curio shop. Six to eight old windmills, some intact, some wooden, are in the front area along Hwy 60.

And the little pot-pie sized pies were FABULOUS. I got a pecan & a berry supreme (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, & strawberries), & Jeff got apple & another berry supreme. OH MY - so worth the wait!

The other NM stop on my bucket list was a visit to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, north of Pie Town a couple of hours. I know some people think wild wolves should all be exterminated (mainly big-money ranchers & hunters with political clout), but wolves (& hawks) touch my soul. Plus I distrust anyone who is so ignorant, arrogant, damaged, and/or greedy to think they have a right to kill or torture any animal, wild or domestic. It’s the worst of human nature if they can't feel compassion, respect, & kindness towards all animals.

So I had an hour & a half walking tour of the huge wolf pens, each containing a male & a female - all neutered. The sanctuary also had coyotes, singing dogs, hybrid wolf-dogs, dingos, a red fox, & a few regular dogs (up for adoption).

The best part was hearing the entire hillside of wolves HOWLING. Even the coyotes tried to howl (they can only yip.) The whole valley vibrated with the howls.

We spent the night dry camping, & left early the next morning for the 2 hr drive back to Hidden Valley RV Campground, east of Albuquerque where we experienced our week of winter weather during Christmas.

We passed right by El Morro National Monument on Hwy 53. Mighty big chunk of white rocks.

When we got to Hidden Valley, I just HAD to mention the half dozen issues we had previously, & since I had my arguments & logic all planned, the office staff was as nice as could be. He returned the money the washing machine ate that I couldn't get because we left before the office opened, & didn't charge us the $3/day extra since we left 3 days early before which we had paid for. We even got to pick the site we wanted, & chose one of the few back in sites so we didn't have traffic driving past us all around. And the weather was definitely much nicer this time. It’s the only Coast to Coast campground in all of New Mexico, so chances are good we'll return.

From Albuquerque, we returned to Oasis State Park near Clovis NM (16 miles from the TX border) to use our NM Park Pass one last time. It expired the end of March 2015. Last year when we got it March 1st, we spent all month in NM, & again all of December 2015, so it definitely paid for itself. There's nothing hard about  $4/night for electric & water hookups. And nearly every site at every park has shelters over picnic tables.

After 3 months of Mountain Time in NM & AZ, (with a week in CA on Pacific time), then 3 weeks of Pacific Time in AZ when Daylight Saving Time started (AZ changes time zones, not time), then four nights in Mountain Time back in NM, we finally returned to Central Time in TX. It’s SO nice having my cell phone keep track of the local time (& time zones), but Kira's "feed me" time doesn't adjust as easily when changing time zones tho. Hard to explain it to a dog!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Congress AZ BLM

Well, catch-up time again. We left Quartzsite for a 4 - night stay in another Coast to Coast campground near Salome AZ. We really are trying hard to get as much benefit from this rather expensive camping club. And since cloudy days & rain have dogged us & our solar panels all winter, we keep needing to plug in.

The KOA campground was nice enough - for a gravel parking lot, but all the winter residents drove ATVs or UTVs around daily. Not a lot of peaceful time.

We're waiting for winter to finally end in MO, so decided to check out the BLM camping north of Congress AZ instead of heading to NM yet. We also stopped in to say "Hi" to AL & Kelly of The Bayfield Bunch blog on our way up Ghost Town Road. They came out to visit with us a few days later. And that Phoebe dog is so precious.

We made a couple of trips into Wickenburg, & although we've been thru it before, we're really feeling comfortable in the area. Phoenix  (Walmart, Lowes, Trader Joe's, PetSmart, & a few other toy stores) is just an hour away, & yet Wickenburg has a comfortable, western town feel. There are realistic statues around town depicting its history. And learning about the mainly mining history of the area is becoming more interesting to me than anywhere else. Yet it's a real western town with lots of cowboys & girls & horses.

Overall, we were very happy & content with this camping area, & especially our spot next to a couple of palo verde trees. And the young but big saguaro right in front of our door was always a pleasant view. Mountains ring the canyon around us, & all the campers are spread out. A live rattlesnake was spotted in front of another RV the other afternoon tho, so these higher than normal temps this month have the snakes stirring earlier than usual.

There are two cemeteries nearby: a modern one & an old pioneer cemetery. The old one was intense.

We took a drive up to Yarnell where the Hotshots were killed. Didn't see too much evidence of the fire, but lots of new houses. Huge boulders litter the area west of town with houses backed right up to them. Amazing.

The divided road up/down the side of the mountain is fantastic - & the views of the valley are awesome.

Also trekked down a dirt road to another BLM area near Stanton, but not as big, flat, or easy to get in & out of. Lots of big, mature saguaros I couldn't resist photographing.

Oh, & there's the big rock along Hwy 89 painted green because it resembles a giant frog.

Of couse, the AZ sunsets continued to be awe inspiring!!

Unfortunately, Jeff's back was hurting extremely during a rainy weekend, & he finally decided to try chiropractic treatments. After four adjustments from a Wickenburg chiropractor, he was feeling much better. Seems last year's bulging disc is caused by both vertebrae above & below it twisting & squishing the disc out to touch his sciatic nerve. Made a lot of sense (finally) since he's had a history of this causing one leg to be shorter & backaches.

Because of his back, I got (was forced) to learn how to handle dumping our tanks (with our macerator pump & a hose down a gopher hole in the sand, filling our fresh water tank from the water bladder on top of the pickup cab, charging our batteries with the pickup during rainy/cloudy days (we're looking at maybe getting a small, quiet, lightweight generator for those cloudy spells), switching propane tanks, & moving/stowing our solar panels. What a way to get exercise (& needed experience)!! We hope the VA will authorize chiropractic treatments for Jeff when we get back to Branson in April.

Since the SW heated up earlier than normal, we decided it was time to head north, & eventually east. After 5 weeks at this lush, quiet, unattended BLM spot, we reluctantly moseied off to Phoenix for a couple of nights parked on the street in front of my cousin's house. The cacti are bursting with blooms in Phoenix.

Finally we headed north on I-17 to spend a couple on nights boondocking on Crown King Rd before getting into Camp Verde RV Campground  (another Coast to Coast campground) for a few days to refresh our tanks, water, & batteries.

Before reluctantly leaving AZ, we spent a few days parked next to my cousin's cabin near Heber, way up on top of the Mogollon Rim. It’s usually 25-30° cooler up there than in Phoenix. Gorgeous country!!! but the elevation over 7,000' is slightly uncomfortable.

So finally we headed east to NM, nearly a month later than previous years. We've really fallen in love with AZ this winter & are not looking forward to Spring in MO with the humidity, bugs, & tornado risks.