Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring in the NM Mountains

During the nearly 4 weeks I’ve been volunteering at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, the weather has been fairly consistent – upper 20s over night, full sunshine during the day with a few horribly windy days but comfortably warm. However, last week had a glitch – I woke up to snow, & a few flurries of huge snowflakes occurred during the morning. By 1pm tho, it had all evaporated (or melted away).

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My job here is basically as a Girl Friday, helping out several other volunteers doing the grunt work they don’t have time to get to. I’ve updated email & mailing addresses, written numerous Thank You cards for our visitors, & most recently, started scanning & digitizing a humungous amount of photos of past rescue wolves. That project is going to take weeks (or months).

I’ve made one 62 mile one-way trip to Walmart at Gallup once. Thankfully, I got everything on my list so I’m set for 3-4 weeks. The Trading Post across the road from the Sanctuary has a deli, laundromat, & small selection of supplies & groceries. I’ve eaten there several times but have actually had to prepare food for myself. Sometimes I think I should be a dog since I can eat the same thing day after day. So I’ve been on an oriental slaw kick for months since it keeps well, is easy to make, & has all good things in it. I’ve also started making refrigerator oak muffins for breakfast munching (no baking required). I got an Oster smoothie maker at Walmart months ago & really enjoy the blueberry, yogurt, protein powder, & V8 smoothie juice for fast, easy nourishment. I generally try to make things that are easy while boondocking so a microwave baked potato or frozen dinner is a treat. And there’s the mixed nuts to munch on at night watching TV. Since I only work 4 hours a day (5 days a weeks), I have the afternoons to take care of housekeeping, food preparation, & essential chores, plus reading & walking Kira. Initially she didn’t seem to notice all the wolves howling numerous times a day, but she’s started barking now when they howl. Plus, one wolf, Zoerro, was raised as a puppy by Rory then given to the Sanctuary, so the Sanctuary provides a Wolf Walk for strolling around the area accompanied by a wolf on a harness. Totally awesome to watch. Kira gets very excited when they walk by.

Shortly after getting here, I got an Amazon order (it’s SO nice having a mailing address finally). I got a little stainless steel manual espresso maker that makes fantastic coffee. And I got a connection to hook up & read the hard drive out of Jeff’s old laptop that refuses to turn on anymore. Oh, got a replacement top for my propane tank cover that blew off on the way to Yuma when I didn’t have it latched down. Lastly, I got a portable USB CD player/recorder to connect to my little laptop/tablet. I’m digitizing (ripping) all the CDs I found hiding in the pickup console so I can put my favorite music on a thumb drive to listen to in the truck when driving. I’ve been sleeping better here, probably because I can leave the TV on all night if needed. One night tho I kept waking up every time the timer turned off the TV so I know it helps somehow having it on. Although I’m not crazy about having a work schedule, I have a lot of free time for reading & other projects (or just being lazy).

Four years ago during Christmas & New Year’s, Jeff & I became friends with Aubrey & Sally parked next to us in Zion National Park. We all had a great Christmas Eve diner at the Zion Lodge, a Christmas Day pot luck picnic, & New Year’s Day viewing of the Hobbit at the I-Max theater outside the Park gate in Springdale UT. Aubrey’s comment after letting them know Jeff had died was that it was a “magical Christmas” that year. I agree in so many ways. I believe Jeff was feeling his best & happiest ever while there with them. Well, they came to the Sanctuary to visit me & the wolves last week. They were here for my birthday too – the first in 21 years without Jeff, so having good friends close by was so comforting. Although it was gloomy & spit sleet several times during the day, we had a great wolf tour on my birthday too.

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It’s been decades since I’ve been excited about having a birthday, but remembering my brother & Jeff especially, I remind myself to be ever so grateful just for having another birthday (as painful as they are). However, birthdays mess with my mind (or ego or heart or attitude), so I decided I was finally going to color my gray hair. I’d talked about it for several years, but Jeff didn’t want me to mess with it. This birthday seemed like my chance. Unfortunately, my desire for something different – going sort of dark red – didn’t work out like I wanted. I’m not a redhead, so I’ll be going a medium brown without red the first chance I get. And no, no pictures just yet. I want to update my Google & Facebook picture since it’s more than 4 years old & I have changed some (as in aged, seems like about 5 years in the past 6 months).

I not only enjoyed the visit from Aubrey & Sally so much, but they’re totally in love with the Sanctuary, weather, & landscape too, & are working on becoming part-time volunteers here now, mainly Aubrey helping with maintenance. He loves every opportunity he can get to “pound a nail”. It’ll be great having friends camped nearby, & I look forward to their return soon.

IMG_20160311_153440My campsite only has electricity (furnished by a big wire run across the ground from the power pole between the other two longtime RVs parked in the campground) but no water or sewer. I’ve had to fill my fresh water tank from the 45 gal water bladder residing on the pickup cab several times without any problems. Amazingly, by using bathrooms & shower at the office & campground, I went IMG_20160311_1535293½ weeks before getting close to needing to dump my tanks. I used my blue boy tank (like in Quartzsite) & then dumped that into the porta potty. I realized the cap on the blue boy even had a connection to attach a garden hose so I could safely run it into the porta potty. Unfortunately, it empties 4-5 times slower than using a regular sewer hose so that too IMG_20160311_153619FOREVER. At least I didn’t make any messes. While in Quartzsite this winter, I learned to put toilet paper in the trash instead of in the toilet & to not flush with every use (If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down) so it REALLY extends the black tank capacity. This regime seems to work extremely well for one person.

I’ve had a few bad days of missing Jeff while here, but overall am feeling that I’m healing fairly well. After almost six months, I’m really getting tired & worn down with this grieving process. Mostly I miss having Jeff to talk to, sharing feelings & experiences. He really was my best friend & I could tell him anything without fear of criticism or complaints. In fact, I still talk to him. Sometimes I feel him with me (with the sunshine on my face, the wind in my hair, & the memories in my heart), but no “hearing him talk”. It may be my imagination (or not) but it’s comforting anyway. I know the stabbing pain will ease as time passes & I become more comfortable & confident being alone. I have family & good friends to call, email, & text who have kept me sane. Oh & all the Facebook birthday wishes were fantastic. I really have so much to be grateful for. I just want to continue this adventure Jeff started us on. However, I haven’t been too excited about the kind of sightseeing we used to do. I need a traveling partner for those excursions to unfamiliar places & awesome sights. That will happen when it’s time.

So, that’s it – not much excitement & almost no traveling. But, this remote, peaceful setting is precisely what I felt I needed. I’m still uneasy thinking about returning to Branson. but I’m hoping I’ll have had enough distraction & desensitizing by July to keep it together when I go there. Ironically, Jeff & I have never enjoyed returning to the Kansas City area either after leaving – just too many bad, intense memories. As much as we loved the Branson area & the feeling of home being there, I’m afraid it’ll never feel comfortable there again.

I appreciate everyone who follows my blog & I’m sorry there’s not much exciting travel or sights to blog about. I also don’t know that anyone else really wants to hear about how I’m adjusting to Jeff’s death but. . .this blog has always been my way of documenting our adventures, & now my (emotional & physical) solo journey. So THANK YOU for following along.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Getting Comfortable in New Mexico

Well, the night before leaving McHood Park south of Winslow AZ, of course I didn’t sleep well. Never do before a travel day. Woke up seriously early, had coffee & read email/blogs etc. Had to make myself NOT go outside for the final packup before it actually got daylight. Nevertheless, I was on the road shortly after 7am. Stopped at the Flying J for gas & dump my tanks. That took at least 8 tries backing up, pulling forward, & trying again to get close enough to the dump for my sewer hose to reach. OK – got that accomplished finally & I was on the road again.

I pulled out on I-40 heading east to Gallup right behind a semi truck. He was driving between 60 & 65 mph – perfect for me, so I just followed him all the way to near Gallup where he had to present himself to the Weight Station. That stretch of I-40 is a dream. So smooth, only one construction area, not a lot of traffic, no big hills (up or down), & very little breeze (from the west at that). I just plodded along, listening to the music recorded on my thumb drive thru the truck’s radio. I had started feeling pretty lonely at McHood Park, probably because Jeff & I had never been in the area. Returning to the Wolf Sanctuary where we visited last year was just another reason to want to hurry up & get there.

I topped off my gas tank in Gallup & headed south on Hwy 602 for the hour’s drive to the Sanctuary. A little hilly, but smooth & wide, eventually following a valley south. It ended at Hwy 53, & I turned east. Still a pretty good road without too many curves or hills, & very little traffic. Five miles or so east of Ramah (the closest big town to the Sanctuary), I turned south onto Indian Service Road 125, still blacktopped, drove the 15 mph (strictly enforced) speed limit thru Mountain View & finally arrived at the 4-mile badly wash boarded gravel road of Indian Service Road 120 that goes by the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Whew – I was ready for a final destination!

I arrived right at noon & was lead to the campsite I’ll have for the next 3-4 months. It took some time to figure out how I wanted to situate the trailer amongst the trees, but it’s a huge area that can accommodate more than one RV. After meeting with Sanctuary staff & having an orientation, I finally got set up.

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Looking northeast

IMG_20160311_153529  Looking south

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I love hearing the breeze blow thru the pine trees (Ponderosa & possibly Pinon). And then there’s the wolf howls numerous times a day, especially dawn & dusk. Kira has finally started noticing & barking when they howl. Although most of the country is having an early Spring – it’s not necessarily here at 7,500’ elevation. We’ve already had a storm blow thru that brought rain, sleet, snow flurries, below freezing temps, & lots of wind. I had to dig out my actual winter coat finally, after all these winter months around Quartzsite.

I worked a couple of hours the first few days to get familiar with some of my new duties, first correcting or deleting newsletter addresses no one’s had time to do for months. Everyone is super friendly & helpful -- although most are in their 20s & make me feel slightly grandmotherly. The whole group really does function as a pack or tribe. Besides me, there are two other RVs in the campground area, both long-term volunteers. The Sanctuary has grown a lot in the past few years & is working diligently to get better organized & more efficient. Nearly everyone here is a volunteer, but they need more since there are always more projects to work on & not enough time or energy. For the volunteer RVers, they only ask for a 12-week commitment in exchange for an electric only RV site, relaxing amongst the trees. There’s a comfortable shower house & water spigot. There’s not an official dump station, but I’m going to truck my filled-up blue boy over to the porta-potty to empty it every few weeks. There is a company who comes by weekly to empty the other RV tanks & porta-potties, but I’m trying not to spend much money (since I’m not making any). My only issue is the slow, sometimes non-existent Verizon cell fon signal. It takes forever to read email & blogs on 1X or 3G, & since the signal is so weak, my phone usually doesn’t even ring. If you call me – leave a message & I’ll call back asap. And I actually have a mailing address to use. The top flew off my new propane tank cover months ago (didn’t secure it, duh) & a few other things I want to order. There’s a lot more activities around here than I’ve discovered yet, so stand by for more info. If anyone would like a slow, comfortable, useful way to spend part of their summer in an RV in the NM mountains, let me know or contact nicole@wildspiritwolfsantuary.org.

It’s been five months now since Jeff died, & for the most part, I’m doing OK, emotionally, physically, & financially. I still have some teary moments (usually when I least expect it) but I’ve accepted (& am even excited) that I’ve moved to another chapter of my life. (Gee, what do I want in life now?) I’m still uneasy tho about returning to Branson where we spent so much time. Not sure how those ghosts are going to feel. Since I believe that I’ve already had the love of my life, I’m not wanting another male partner again. Jeff was my playmate. It was easy being with him. We laughed, loved, played, & worked hard together. I don’t have that kind of stamina nor energy anymore. Nor tolerance! I like being alone in my little trailer & making my own decisions about food, travel, sightseeing, entertainment, & shopping. The memories that make me saddest tho are at least 2-3 years ago before Jeff started having more serious physical problems. I wouldn’t have ever left or abandoned him (I’m so loyal, I should be a dog), but I’m so relieved to not be a witness nor caregiver anymore. I’m learning to ask questions & determine for myself if what I hear is useful or makes sense for me. Mainly, I just don’t ever, EVER, EVER want to watch someone I love so much & depend on for everything to fail, suffer, & die again. I’ve got to get comfortable depending on myself.

The irony is I keep meeting – befriending – men who seem to have amorous ideas. What part of ‘I’m not interested’ am I not getting across? I like to talk to people – men & women – & just cause I’m single doesn’t mean I’m needy. Teach me how to take care of the technical stuff with my rig, but GEEZ, don’t be putting any moves on me! First off, I’m not ready now, but lastly, I probably won’t ever want to walk that road again. And I’ve talked to several men already in a relationship who talk about how they don’t want to be alone. Seems like most of the women I’ve met are totally content being solo (or wish they were). I guess there’s a lot more to this aging thing than I ever realized. I always wondered how widows could continue on with their lives happily for 20 years or more after their husbands died. I understand now.

OK, so rant is over. Tomorrow I start my normal Tues-Sat, 4 hour, 5 days a week volunteer job (on Mountain timezone daylight savings time) of helping out several overworked & overwhelmed volunteers. I like the idea of diversity too since I get bored quickly. And I’m looking forward to visiting & photographing the wolves again.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Amazing Friends

I have loved living small full time since the beginning, nearly 5 years ago. Jeff & I have traveled & parked in unpleasant settings & weather, but overall, sharing the adventures with Jeff was the best time of my whole life. And we made lots of friends, learned lots of things, made plenty of mistakes, & have been blown away by the helpfulness of strangers & new friends. Overall, it’s almost been one of those “had to be there” kinds of journey. The RVing saying is “We’re all friends – who haven’t met yet.” Until after his death.

I’m not sure I have enough words to describe just how many TOTALLY AMAZING people I’ve met since becoming a widow – or maybe I’ve just noticed & appreciated all those special people more. Helpful, funny, protective, gentle & patient. Almost as surprising, sometimes I’m actually the one helping & teaching someone else. All creating fulfilling emtoions of gratitude & humility.

In all frankness though, grieving hurts like hell. The random memories assault my brain when I least expect (trying to go to sleep, playing solitaire, driving, even listening to someone else talk), reducing me to a sniffling, paralized baby. The ironies & contradictions make me crazy with ?guilt? or ?fear? or ?I’m a horrible person? I’ve learned it’s normal & actually OK to breathlessly, intensely miss someone -- but not actually want them back again in your life. Geez, that just hurts to type the words. I’ve practiced A LOT of distraction in the months since Jeff died – usually (& totally not like me) cleaning & straightening but also reading a lot of ebooks. I seem to have boundless energy (where has THAT been hiding for the past 20 years? Saved for a rainy day [like now?]) to the point of not going to sleep easily & waking up full of spit & vinegar in the wee hours of the morning, plus no need or desire for an afternoon nap. I’ve quite smoking without ripping anyone’s head off (OK, so now I’m addicted [maybe] to my coffee & cream e-cigarette juice) & still managed to actually loose excess fat. The weight loss is probably due more to lack of eating (or interest). Geez, I’d just rather go hungry than have to even open a cup of yogurt. But I have contributed to Quartzsite’s resturants quite nicely this winter. Why does food almost always taste better when someone else prepares it?

I’ve learned so much about mechanical & electrical stuff this winter – & I’m remembering it all (I think). I enjoy my alone time in the trailer, sitting outside, or driving somewhere. I LIKE making my own decisions & not waiting for a concensous or compromise. I’m not scared or fearful because I’m never hesitant to ask someone, anyone, for help. I’ve come close to crying in frustation a few times (like when the pickup won’t start cause the battery cables have collected too much dust, or when the sewer hose didn’t attach tighter & created a mess) – but those times when no one else is around to help, you just do your best, even when it’s wrong again. Mistakes can be a really great thing – as long as you LEARN from them & never repeat them (make new ones).

While in Quartzsite, & specificially after the record-breaking-attendance Fiberglass Rally, I have met (yes, I sought them out) & become good friends with at least 10 solo female Casita gals, of which several are widows & most are full time. I’m not totally out of my mind or some kind of a freak to be continuing this full timing lifestyle ALONE. Different circumstances have lead these women to embark on thieir piece of freedom, but the I CAN DO THIS BY MYSELF gumption is in all of us. We’re all within 10 years or so of the same age, & grew up during the feminist movement of the 60s. One of my few hot buttons is telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do something simply based on being female. (A male commenter said on a forum, I can do this BECAUSE I’m a female. LOVE that.) I know my liminitations based on physical size & strength, but for intelligence & determination, I have no doubts I can manage this lifestyle! And the relief is HUGE finding out I’m just a drop in the barrel of women with the same desires & confidence. AND, I’m way closer to conventionality than I’ve ever been.

IMG_20160211_121516This is Wendy removing the old silicone from her trailer, prepping for the installation of the new awning brackets to remount her awning.

I imagine this widowhood is somehow similar to being an adult orphan (when your elderly parents are gone), & grief is grief, whether for a spouse, sibling, parent, pet, or a long-time friend. Several of my new awesome friends have lost a parent in the recent past & express almost more sadness from that than lose of a spouse. Maybe that’s because you’ve known your parents all your life, (usually) only have one set, & spouses come & go & can be replaced to some degree. And then there’s the age – wait, maturity. Observing the world over decades gives a much better perspective of reality & life.

I still miss Jeff’s smile & laughter most, but this group of fantastic, gutsy women is helping me SOOOOO much to learn how to keep putting one foot in front of the other to redesign my life. And I’m OK with venturing out on the road with the trailer all by myself finally. I’ve learned that I can trust other people’s advise as much as I ever did Jeff’s & that I can share feelings, concerns, & experiences with other multiple people instead of bascially just with Jeff. I’m not replacing him exactly, but at least filling needs with various people instead one person being everything. And I’ve realized too that I want to DO something more than just hang out being retired (I think), so I’m going to be a volunteer at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in northwest New Mexico, starting in early March. I’ll be there – working in the office (no cleaning toilets, changing beds, waiting tables, or standing for hour on painful hour) – until returning to my class reunion in Missouri in late July. I’m happy to miss the worst of tornado season, violent Spring storms, & as much of the heat, humidity, & bugs as possible in Missouri. I feel sad & guilty for not returning to my elderly parents sooner, but those daily phone calls let me know how they’re doing (OK so far) & assure them I’m thinking of them & that I’m safe. Between my breast cancer, my brother’s death 4 years ago, & Jeff’s decline, suffering, & death, I just can’t not follow my heart & dreams for anyone else’s sake. And I like to think it was Jeff who popped the idea of working at the wolf sanctuary into my mind suddeny (as I was playing solitairre not really thinking about much). We visited the Sanctuary last Spring on our way back to Missouri, so at least I know what it looks like. And I’m expecting to make a whole bunch of new friends there.

My new friend Wendy over the past month went with me to a campground near Yuma so we could both visit a Mexican dentist in Los Algodones. She got fillings & I got a crown. Unfortunatey, she headed east for Florida & returned to Quartzsite to pick up mail before heading north & up. The early warm weather is bringing out the snakes, so that’s my que to head out. The first night after Wendy left, it felt pretty lonelly. I realized I’d only spent 7 nights since Jeff’s death without having a known friend nearby -- but I’m not feeling scared or alone. After three months of dry camping, plugging in for endless television & air conditioning in Yuma was fabulous tho. Guess I’m just getting antsy to follow the weather.

Working my way to northwestern NM to the Wolf Sanctuary took me north of Phoenix to a small, quiet campground near Page Springs AZ (between Sedona & Cottonwood). My campsite backed up to a gorgeous little river (or big creek) but I had very little cell fon service. A trip to Walmart in Cottonwood provided 4G service at least. I met 3 other solo ladies at the campground too. And I survived my first wedding anniversary without Jeff without too much discomfort.

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After a week of intense book reading & endless television, I headed up (& I mean seriously UP) I-15 to Flagstaff, then east on I-40 to Winslow AZ. That’s the last Walmart in AZ until Gallup NM so I need to shop carefully before finally getting to the Wolf Sanctuary (an hour south of Gallup). I managed to find the statue of the girl on the corner in Winslow AZ too.

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I stayed at McHood City Park, south of Winslow, free boondocking. Super fast cell service too. I met several neighboring RVers, walked Kira, watched the coots on the lake, & marveled at the eroded sandstrone formations around.

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Sandstone Formations

Not sure if I’ll stop another night before arriving at the Wolf Sanctuary or not – depends on the where the approaching cold front is worse. Even out here in the alone space, I feel SO connected to family & friends (new & old) via phone calls, Facebook, email, & blogs. It’s an amazing world out here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crowded Quartzsite

Build it, and they will come. Guess maybe that’s how the big Quartzsite AZ RV Show might have started. And indeed, the RVs did arrive. My little patch of dirt at the La Posa West long-term area acquired RVs on all four sides quickly. Also the days are staying pretty full of sunshine (finally) although the nights are still pretty nippy.

I finally undertand WHY the current propane tank for my furnace ALWAYS runs out over night – cause the furnace doesn’t run during the days? But still, four times now in 2 months!!! Once I woke up cold & achy, & it was 41° outside & only 49° inside. That’s just not right. At least I’m keeping track of when propane runs out, gets refilled, tanks emptied, & more water needed so I can be a little more pro-active with this stuff instead of waiting to be surprised. I don’t like surprises – even good ones.

I’ve refilled both the trailer & generator propane tanks several times & have finally gotten efficient at getting water into the water bladder on the truck to totally fill my on-board fresh water tank. Also dug around & found a little plastic gizmo with threads on both ends so I can also run the water out of the bladder into my tank thru the water filter. My major malfunction now is when the gray tank in full & the sink backs up. (I REALLY wish I had a way to determine how full my gray tank is BEFORE it backs up.) I managed to confuse the macerator pump last time somehow & blew a fuse, so had to empty part of the tanks carefully into a cat litter bucket to dump into the grayboy. At least there was enough room to wash & do dishes. Once I trucked over to the dump area & had trouble standing the gray boy up to drain since it was so full. The hose wasn’t seated good in the dump hole & made a mess in the area until I could corral the end of the hose in the appropriate hole. The pickup battery has failed twice, requiring a jump start, & both times, the cables needed cleaning. Desert dust maybe? Yessiree – I’m finally learning how to do all this stuff easier, faster, & correctly.

With all the sunshine, I’m only running the generator during evenings after a cloudy day or every other night for a few hours (gotta watch some TV at night). And I’m also turning off the inverter frequently (that runs the TV, DVR, & sat controller) overnight & seem to be having more battery power (TV) whenever & for however long I want. But this going to sleep without a TV going just isn’t working out so well. Actually, my life-long ‘go to sleep quickly & stay comotose for 8 hours’ habit has totally left the building since Jeff’s death. It’s not that I’m worried or scared or sad – just not tired. In fact, I’m shocked (& possibly slightly worried) at how much energy I’ve had since his death. (Can’t be the not smoking thing since it started when he went into the hospital??) Don’t remember the last time I wanted or had an afternoon nap. I was awake until 4:30am one morning, finishing up reading a book, just cause I couldn’t go to sleep.  Good thing Kira & the cats don’t care when I’m awake or asleep.

I’ve met a few more neighbors recently, & a four single Casita ladies. Rose lives in Parker & lost her husband suddenly a month before Jeff died. We had quite a discussion. I drove out to Dome Rock to meet up with Wendy, another solo woman full timing in her Casita. We’d chatted on the Facebook Casita group previously. Have a lot of things in common & look forward to sharing some adventures together. She’s been parked next to me a few nights. And Mickey returned to Quartzsite from her Tucson holiday only to spend a week battling a bad cold. I also made it to the 2016 BloggerFest this year. Saw 5 bloggers I’d already met, & met 8 authors of blogs I already follow. And I have an invitation to come to LaQuinta CA to visit a photography group friend next month after the fiberglass rally.

Otherwise, not much to photograph & I’m just enjoying being lazy. Reading a lot of ebooks. I guess winter has finally arrived in the Plains states & I’m happier than ever to be in western AZ than most anywhere east of here. Went thru the big tent RV show once, & only bought a gizmo to put my phone in while driving. Jeff’s birthday was this month, & although I was sad, it didn’t immobilize me. Made a run to Walmart at both Parker & Yuma so I’ve actually been cooking a little & eating out less. I even got a little personal blender for making smoothies so I don’t really have to cook much. I checked out the one Mexican restaurant in town, but chips & salsa weren’t free while waiting for your meal (I didn’t buy any) & they didn’t have the shrimp enchiladas I was hoping for. Not going there again. The Hawaiian pizza at Silly Al’s tho is almost addicting. Gas is down below $2/gallon finally during the tent show, & propane is still at $1.99/#.  My cousin & his wife rolled into town during the show to camp near his wife’s niece. I’m looking forward to the Fiberglass Rally in a couple of weeks held out at Dome Rock. It’ll be my 4th time, but being single will be totally different this year. I sure am a lot more social being alone tho.

I had an epiphany last week (love that word). Of all the bad or traumatic events in my life (some of my own making), something really, really good has always came out of those experiences – something I would have never planned. A bad divorce sent me to the Navy – & the GI Bill to get my BS degree later & medical VA benefits that later treated my breast cancer without any expenses & is currently my only health coverage (can’t afford Medicare). Unemployment for both of us gave me time for the cancer treatments & almost max number of weeks of benefits. Plus Jeff was available to be with me during that whole experience. Jeff’s death forced me to learn new things & trust my own decisions.  Sometimes I feel like I’m a totally different person than 10 or 20 (possible just 1 or 5) years ago, & I’m thankful to have acquired better horse sense in that time. Overall, I guess I just needed to put painful memories into the perspective of ultimate outcomes. Life is never all good or all bad – it’s an always-moving pendulum.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Desert Holiday Season

OK, so it’s still cold(ish) in Quartzite. The nights are low 30s, frost warnings most mornings. At least nothing frozen & white has fallen from the sky nor accumulated. My furnace keeps us toasty all night tho. I’ve been starting the generator in the morning (as suggested by several guys) to top off the batteries so the solar panels can keep them charged during the day. In all honesty tho, I don’t quite understand straining the generator to fully charge the batteries early when I’m not using much power during the day. And if the solar panels get the batteries pretty well charged up, then finishing up (or super charging) the batteries in late afternoon/early evening should need less generator time & have the batteries ready for hours of TV time. Dunno, I just can’t wrap my mind around some things.

Four-legged Word

Christmas Eve day was BAD. There were no invitations to go out to eat or visit, so it was just me & the critters. My family always did the present-opening thing on Christmas Eve so it’s always been an emotional time for me. When my family moved from Wichita KS back to my home town, my dad & grandpa spent all summer building two bedrooms on to the old 4-room farm house, & my brother & I slept in our NEW rooms for the first time on Christmas Eve. Until I was 29 years old, stationed in Guam, I never missed sleeping in MY room on Christmas Eve. That left Christmas Day to go visit inlaws. It worked great.

I’ve heard the first holiday season after loosing someone is the hardest. This one definitely hit that mark. But it wasn’t just about being without Jeff, it was A LOT of memories from past Christmases. Dinners at my parents with grandparents, aunts & uncles, & cousins. Spending that first Christmas Eve in Guam working, then having a few too many rum & cokes (Not my choice, but that’s all that was left after everyone in the barracks had been partying for hours before I got off work), & shuffling between my bunk & the bathroom most of Christmas Day. I hiked into the protected water shed forest behind my base on Oahu one Christmas Day. I cried a lot Christmas Eve, on & off all day, from all the memories – good & bad. Just had a big pity party. Christmas Day was a relief actually. . .except for that raging headache left over from all the crying. Sheesh!! I really hope I’m over the hump of this grieving thing. I’ve tried to stay occupied with day to day survival, included some fun activities, meeting new people, & basically just sucked it up. Jeff’s gone – & can’t ever come back. I’m thankful he was in my life, but now he’s not. And life goes on to different things. I don’t ever want to forget my decades with Jeff – but I can’t spend my present wallowing in the past. It won’t change a thing. And for the most part, I’m enjoying being single. I love the freedom to make choices without consulting anyone else (except maybe Kira). And when I have questions or problems, there always seems to be someone around in person or available by fon to ask for help. I have plenty of friends & acquaintenances to talk to (by fon or in person) & places to go when I get restless. Jeff showed me how life should be an adventure, so I feel like I’m honoring him by continuing that journey.

The day after Christmas was also BAD. . .in another way tho. THE WIND!! OMG, it was bad enough to blow freckles off your nose. Although it was predicted, it was still a hard day. Somehow staying inside due to uncomfortable weather outside is much different than just choosing to hang out inside. The blowing sand was so bad I couldn’t see any of the mountains ringing Quartzsite by afternoon. And since the trailer nose is pointed west, that north gale pounded on the door side of the trailer. Kira didn’t get her walk that day.

The Monday after Christmas was a good time to make a Wally World run . . . AND . . . AND . . . AND . . . (finally) to treat myself to the new Star Wars movie. It was the happiest most enjoyable day I’ve since. . .can’t remember when. Since I’d already been up to Parker & that Walmart is a little on the small side, I decided to check out Yuma. It has been two years since being there, so off I went at 8am with 34° temp. Had to fill up with gasoline first & I was half way to Yuma before my hands finally thawed out. (Now where did I put my gloves?) The navigator lady on Google maps on my phone lead me right to the movie theater. Lots of parking room close by the entrance to the theater that early, so that was easy. Walked in, bought my senior ticket for $8, & had plenty of seats to choose from. Only 5 other people attended that 10:00 am showing with me. This was the first 3D movie I’ve ever seen, & those glasses gave me a touch of vertigo the first few minutes.

OMG! OMG! OMG! I nearly cried a couple of times when the original actors (much older versions now) appeared cause it was like seeing good friends after a very long time. I love sci-fi, & the whole “force” thing has always resonated with me. I do believe everyone & everything vibrates at an energy frequency, & that whole positive thinking thing is about not only expecting good things to happen but vibrating at the same frequency to attrack those positive things. I know it sounds strange, but I believe it works – at least for me (most of the time). Anyway, I had an absolutely perfect day taking myself to the movies. Couldn’t have been more perfect since everything happened just as I’d planned & wanted.

I got an email from a fellow fiberglass owner (Don, who owns a Scamp & fulltimes) who heard about my blog from another Scamper we met three years ago at the Fiberglass Rally here in Quartzsite – Kamper Bob (of Recreation Engineer). We talked on the phone & agreed to meet in Quartzsite for lunch on Tuesday. Super nice guy with a sweetheart dog (who doesn’t take well to other dogs tho). After lunch, he followed me back to my trailer & talked a lot with my neighbor Jon about his Escape trailer. Don is camped out near Bouse on BLM but didn’t realize the $180 for a long-term permit was for up to 7 months, not monthly. Since it includes free water, dump, & trash bins, it works out to barely over $1/day, depending on how many weeks/months you stay here. I really love not having to move every 14 days.

In fact, I haven’t moved the trailer since arriving 12/2/15. Why is it a propane tank ALWAYS runs out after dark? At least I remembered the other tongue propane tank was full, so switching the lever was easy, even in the dark. After refilling 2 propane tanks, I dumped my black & gray water tanks again into the grayboy using the macerator pump. However, I had a serious brain fart & couldn’t get the pickup hood to open. Dah – I was pushing the release lever the wrong direction. I hooked the pump to the trailer battery but it wasn’t as strong as from the pickup battery. Anyway, got the grayboy dumped & washed out, & put water in the bladder riding on the pickup cab. I still can’t judge how much water I’m putting in the bladder, so I got a little less than ¾ of a tank of fresh water this time. Apparently it was one of those days tho when my brain short circuits because seemed like every connection I needed to make (attaching this, screwing that in or off) was a struggle. So I KNOW you turn right to tighten & left to loosen (except propane which is opposite) – but those directions only work when you’re looking at the connection from the correct side. See what I mean? I know, I know – it’s all a learning curve. It’ll get easier.

My cousin (Larry) & his wife (Sherry) from Phoenix drove over Wednesday to check it out. They’re bringing their motorhome to Quartzsite in a few weeks to visit with Sherry’s family & just wanted to get a feel for the area. Larry is not what you’d call a happy camper trying to herd that big thing around. I’m looking forward to visiting with them when they come back.

My neighbor Jon & I have another neighbor – Rudy in a big 5th wheel parked near. He’s Canadian, but grew up in Brazille with Dutch parents. He has quite the accent. He invited Jon & I over for a little New Year’s Eve get-together. We had a few drinks & talked for several hours, but I was soundly asleep long before midnight got close. Boy, I love knowing that event has an auto-pilot.

WIN_20160102_13_07_56_ProSo 2016 is here . . . with some major changes from last year for me. But spending the winter in AZ in my Casita with Kira & the cats is what & where I want. I have to remind myself that when times are BAD, it means they can ONLY get better. And I feel they are.

Oh, I mosied around the vendor area last week, not looking for anything in particular, just looking. I ended up getting this sign. Didn’t NEED it, just seemed like a fun idea.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

WELL – it sure feels like winter around here, unlike most states east of AZ.  However, I actually expected, or at least wasn’t going to be surprised by, the cooler than average temps this year because of El Nino. I’ve also been told that December is always the coldest month around here, so I’m totally glad to have the little generator to supplement that solar power. And regardless, I’d still rather be in the Sonoran Desert of western AZ this month (in fact, all winter) than anywhere else in the US.

I made the 45 minute drive north to Walmart in Parker a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure not going to Wal-Mart as often as WE used to. I rather enjoyed the drive too, wouldn’t have enjoyed just riding tho. Not too much new or exciting in Parker this year. Since I don’t cook much, I didn’t have a lot of items to get. But I have been on a binge of eating the oriental slaw that’s pretty easy to fix, keep, & eat while boondocking.

I’ve learned some more new things this past week too. A month or so ago, a fellow camper suggested opening both propane tanks sitting on the trailer tongue so it would automatically switch tanks if needed in the middle of a cold night instead of getting up, dressed, & going outside to do it by flashlight. I also discovered & have learned to see how much propane is in the current tank by the little black knobby thing located above the pointer showing which tank is currently being used. Who knew? Until it shows red, there’s still propane in the tank. Instead of leaving that 2nd tank open tho, I’d rather just check it more often & open the 2nd tank when the 1st tank is getting near empty so I know to refill the 1st tank the next day. The only problem tho is YOU NEED TO CHECK THE TANK REGULARLY (I’m still developing that habit.)

So Sunday morning before last, about 6:30am, I woke up to 52° inside the trailer rather than the normal low 60’s. It was not just cold (I have more layers of clothes to put on), but, but, I COULDN’T HEAT WATER TO MAKE COFFEE! OMG, the world as I know it is about to end. My 3rd propane tank running the little Westinghouse 2000 generator for a few hours expired the night before, so at least that wasn’t a surprise. And at 7am on a Sunday morning, not many propane distributors are open so all I could do was drive over to Love’s Truck Stop in the dark. Quartzsite supposedly is having a propane price war, but apparently Love’s didn’t get that memo. $2.49/gal. At least I got some coffee there too.

Unfortunately, even with 180W of solar panels & two 12v AGM batteries, I can’t seem to have enough power to run the TV, DirecTv DVR, & satellite controller for as many hours as I want on any given night (plus charging cell fon & e-cigarette batteries). Yeah, I know. I’m addicted, but I’ve read nearly a dozen books in the past two weeks also. So, I’ve been running the generator at night to keep the batteries up while watching TV, but something’s still just not right cause the 140W inverter running the TV setup wakes me up squealing in the middle of the night from low batteries sometimes (the furnace fan uses some of that battery juice).

I’ve talked with several fellow campers about my problems & finally visited one of the solar businesses in town to get their suggestions also. Everyone said the same thing – I’m just using more power from those batteries than I’m putting in. Poop! However, assuming the batteries are still good (they’re supposed to be) & that the AZ sun is shining full during the day, it’s just a slow haul to get the batteries fully charged during the day if they weren’t full from the night before. (Did you hear that ah-ha moment?) So I’ve started running the generator for a few hours in the morning now to get those batteries fully charged (that’s at least 12.6v, I think.) so that the solar (think trickle charge) then KEEPS them fully charged during the day even if I watch a little TV (for news & weather) during daylight. After five mornings of this new procedure, it’s really made a big difference. However, cold nights compress propane to a near-non-flowing state & the first morning, after at least 12 attempts to get the generator hand-cranked, I finally heated some water on the stove & poured over the tank. That worked finally. Then I moved the tank so it can warm up in the first rays of sunlight each morning, so the 2nd morning’s generator start only took a few pulls & continued running from the first start. That night wasn’t nearly as cold either tho. Anyway, hopefully changing MY habits is all this system needs instead of more equipment & $$.

Remember my goals of quitting smoking & getting more muscle tone? The non-smoking is doing fine & I must be ‘toning’ something cause all this lifting of propane tanks, moving solar panels, & pulling on the generator isn’t making me sore the next morning. And I think my little effort to do some regular exercises is also helping with the ability to stand up from a squat without hanging onto something. Since I heat one mug’s worth of water at a time in the tea kettle on the propane stove & then pour it thru the coffee grounds of this little 1-cup strainer contraption sitting on my mug, I’ve been using that waiting time to do some modified squats, either alone or using elastic bands. It’s still hard to be happy about getting old & creaky even when remembering the ones who didn’t get their next birthday.

I visited the local library & applied for their 1-year non-resident library card, then accessed their free wifi to upgrade a gazillion apps on my fon. I treated myself to a Hawaiian pizza at Silly Al’s, possibly the only pizza place in town, & the only one I knew of. It was pretty good.

While driving home one day, I noticed another Casita parked in one of the many RV parks around town. Whipped my truck into the driveway & pulled up in front of Micky of Wandering Spirit blog, a fellow female solo Casita owner. Had a great but short visit & agreed to meet for lunch in a couple of days.  Unfortunately, she has to be in Tucson for Christmas, & she isn’t coming back to Quartzsite until after the first of the year. Oh wait, how’d that happen? 2016 was in TWO weeks from our lunch! Anyway, we had a long, chatty lunch before she left the next day.

I decided to visit Blythe CA for a few groceries last week since it’s much closer than Parker. I wasn’t impressed by Albertson’s so I’ll try a different store if/when I return. And the I-10 traffic was just CA crazy. While in the neighborhood, I also decided to stop in to visit Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living blog camped south on Blythe on AZ BLM land. He lives in a van & boondocks most of the time. I’ve learned some good things from reading his blog over the years. Had a good visit, & I may try to visit his Rubber Tramp Rendezvous held east of Quartzsite in January.

So it doesn’t rain often around here (at least not in the winter), but there are horribly windy days that blow dust everywhere. I tried to run the windshield washer to clean off the dust – & no water came out. Found out the little hose jumped out of it’s plastic holder & got cut in two when the hood closed on it. Picked up a replacement hose in Blythe & finally got Bruce (a nearby camper) to help install it. The worst part was getting the bolts out of the fluid container down in a small space. Now I can clean the windshield again.

Last weekend was an experiment of sorts. I’m not anxious to hook up the trailer to dump the tanks & fill up with water (it’s 3 miles away), so I dug out the macerator pump & drained the tanks into the gray boy sitting in the back of the pickup. After some difficult & wrong connections, it DID work. After dumping the gray boy, I put water in the 45 gal bladder that lives on the pickup cab. I didn’t want to overfill it & have extra water sloshing around when driving, so I only ended up with 3/4 of a tank of fresh water. That worked too. . .but it all took me a couple of hours to complete. Next time will go quicker tho since I hope I learned how to do it all, plus I like to make new mistakes all the time.

I’ve been parked here at the La Posa West long-term visitor’s area since 12/2 & am amazed at how contented I feel here. I just don’t seem to have quite the itchy feet I did when Jeff was alive. I’ve had fun investigating the town & the growing number of vendors in the RV tent area. Plus I’m close enough to just walk to the big RV show next month from camp instead of trying to herd the pickup into a tight parking spot & still walking a distance just to get to the show. There’s not anything in particular I’m looking for at the show, but seems there’s always something to buy that I didn’t know I wanted/needed.

I do want to visit with the Harvest Hosts folks tho at the Show since I’m thinking I might find a farm, winery, or agri-business location in CO or northern NM where I could volunteer (or even work for pay) enough to have a long-term campsite for most of the summer. Having worked at four different campgrounds during the first two years of full-timing, I loved talking to all the campers but definitely don’t like standing for hours at the front desk of a camp office nor dealing with even one cranky camper. My working years revolved around a chair at a desk with a computer & a phone. But, I grew up on a farm & might find a temporary home somewhere by at least asking questions.

I’m not sure how I feel about this first Christmas without Jeff. We’ve never done much of anything special to celebrate, but sometimes I hear a Christmas song that reminds me of a particular time. Those long-gone days of past family get-togethers with parents & brother, grandparents, aunts & uncles, & cousins, memorable Christmas days (like hiking in the rain forests of Oahu while stationed on a base right at the edge of it), & getting stuck in bad weather have the ability to make me sad even if Jeff was still with me, so it will probably just end up as an ignore it day, reading a book. I’ve been invited to my cousin’s house in Phoenix for the day but don’t think I want to make the drive to & from in a day, a day with lots of traffic too, & definitely not pulling the trailer there for one night. And no, I don’t want to sleep in a strange bed for even one night. Besides, there’s cell fons & email to stay connected thru now. Don’t know what the few camper friends nearby will be doing either.

Had to get propane again, but at least it’s down to $1.99/gal now. Wish gas prices would come down too, but I’m not doing much driving really. Between watching TV & reading, I keep thinking I need to find a hobby of some sort. But then what would I do with whatever I make, & where would I store the supplies for that hobby? Plus, I’ve never wanted to turn a ‘hobby’ into a ‘money making’ experience because it takes the FUN out of it. My two natural talents (those activities you do because you enjoy them & they’re not difficult, or maybe they’re easy because you enjoy them??) are English & computers/smart fons. I’ve debated on turning my reading enjoyment into a proofreading endeavor for a little extra spending money since I spot typos without ever trying. I know the people who write & self-publish books don’t usually have a lot of money to spend on proofing, so I’d almost do it for free just to have the books to read. But then I worry about deadlines & schedules. This retirement thing is all about low stress, ya know? Maybe I’m just not motivated. Oh well. . .

Although we’ve had some cloudy days, the sunsets usually develop lots of color. They usually look like this.


I’m wanting to go see the new Star Wars movie somewhere. Yes, I saw the first one in 1979 while stationed in Guam. We even have the full 6-CD set of Star Wars! Havasu City is the closest & I don’t even remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater. A new adventure!!

Hope EVERYONE reading this has a pleasant, peaceful Christmas. And I can never thank my family & friends enough for their support in the past few months. I’m not sure if I’m over the hump of grieving, but I’ve tried to stay optimistic & open to new adventures. Life continues to be a learning experience.
~~ Forever GRATEFUL ~~

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Test of Open Live Writer

I’ve been posting to this blog on Google’s Blogger since 2008 using Windows Live Writer. However, as many of you probably know, new technologies & versions have made it impossible for the 2012 Live Writer to ever interface again with Blogger’s latest technology. For the past few posts, I’ve used Live Writer off-line to create my posts, then copy & paste it directly into Blogger while on-line. I insert photos directly on-line also. It worked. . .but wasn’t nearly as convenient as just hitting Publish from inside Live Writer.

Enter the guys on white horses. The new & updated version is called Open Live Writer & is working as well or better than the old Live Writer. You can download the free program & read on this page about the open source concept that created this program.

I started working with computers in 1988 & was always a fan & supporter of Miscrosoft Office programs. However, since being retired (with less disposable income & no office), I became a fan of Open Office. It’s also open source & free with all the bells & whistles I ever needed with MS Office. It will read & write to all the same types of files. These open source programers are like the white hat hackers because they enjoy the challenge of making a good program without all the profit-driven drama.

So, anyway, this is a great start to another c-o-l-d morning in Quartzsite AZ (26° outside my cozy abode).