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).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Two Sides to Every Coin

Since Jeff’s death, living & traveling alone (well, even before actually), I’ve had lots of time for me, myself, & I to think about (& discuss) lots of different things. Regrets – gotta few. Should have noticed that – some of those too. Oh how I miss Jeff – sometimes. And then there are those isn’t this fun making all the decisions by myself without a conversation first times – enough to feel slightly guilty. I cycle from MAD (why didn’t you change, how could you leave me, etc) to GLAD (the space & freedom, less stress, worry, & expenses, etc) to SAD (no best friend, trusted traveling companion, laughter or snuggles) to settle at FORGIVENESS (Jeff did the best he could, like everyone else does) & THANKFULNESS (for all Jeff taught me, his near unconditional love for me, & living with my best friend for 20 years). But the bottom line is that the number of seemingly opposite things, ideas, or choices, turn out to simply be two sides of the exact same coin.

For instance, full timing in a small travel trailer. On one hand, not having a permanent, sticks & bricks home is a horrifying idea to some people (well, most people probably) – but the reality of having LOTS less stress, worry, & expense is fantastic. The adventure & excitement too see new & exciting places & meet new, fantastic people. And there’s the ease of taking our little egg (so lightweight it follows effortlessly on even the roughest trail) to smaller campsites (often amongst trees) where bigger rigs can’t (or shouldn’t) go. And the living alone thing – the trailer seems twice as big with just me, everything in the frig is mine, room for all my clothes in the closet. But that mess & that dirt – it’s all mine too. See what I mean about the two sides?

Then there’s the small living area – too crowded for most people to wrap their minds around. But. . .there’s that other side. We’ve tried to follow the weather that was most comfortable to enjoy outside. We’ve had some very BIG backyards. And I actually enjoy being a minimalist. I can’t make a new mess until I’ve cleaned up the previous one (keeps me disciplined). And it’s totally altered my shopping habits forever – no room for more clothes or that cute little dust catcher or multi items cause they’re on sale – small, lightweight, digital & multi-functional when possible.

I have been called lazy occasionally, but that flip side is that I’m also VERY efficient. I don’t waste time, money, or effort (mine or anyone else’s) if I have a choice. See: small space – easy house cleaning. I don’t really enjoy cooking – makes it much easier to eat light or skip a meal. Less clean-up too.
So basically, the world seems to be divided up into these two-sided coins everywhere I look, all just waiting for each person to view them according to their own perspective. And that, to me, is simply what life is all about. Each person sees their reality according to their past experiences or present circumstances.

My underlying perspective on my life shifted suddenly in 2009 with a diagnosis of breast cancer. That was my epiphany moment. Anything can happen in a nanosecond that turns your world inside out (like death of a spouse), & no amount of controlling can alter it. I had to accept what is & adjust my perspective of a new reality in order to not just survive it but to figure out a way to actually thrive because of it.

Have you ever noticed how some people with very little material or expensive possessions really seem to be the happiest? Or how someone who has endured years of various losses (physical or emotional) seems to be the most willing to help others? And if you’ve ever had or known of a cat or dog with a disability (diabetes, amputation, blindness, deafness, heart problems), they NEVER feel sorry for themselves because they don’t have expectations for their lives. Oh, there are those two-sided coins again.

No one lives forever (who would really want to?) but some people just seem to lead a charmed life – nothing bad ever happens to them. I fear those are the ones tho who won’t have the knowledge, strength, or perspective to go on when their cozy, comfortable rug is suddenly & unceremoniously pulled out from under them. Somehow I have always seemed to land on my feet during decades past when bad things happened (some a result of my own bad choices), & it’s more important than ever to feel ever so grateful (on a daily basis) that I’ve managed to find ways of continuing to enjoy living. Yeah, stubbornness or hardheadedness isn’t always a bad thing – flip side is determination or rising to a challenge. (Coins!!)

In fact, I’ve occasionally been called that bad word starting with a B (think female dog) to which I usually say ‘thank you’ because. . .it took me many years to learn how to stick up for myself. And now just because someone doesn’t appreciate that. . .well, assertiveness, that’s just their problem more than mine. {two sides again}

After a couple of weeks hanging out in the desert around Quartzsite AZ, I’m sort of (well, not too realistically) thinking I should be spending the winter in some warmer state east of AZ since it was 27° outside my trailer this morning just before dawn. Oh but wait . . .that other side means it’s WAY too cold for any snakes to be out! Yeah.

So the next time you feel like you don’t have any choices left & your world is crumbling down around your shoulders (or maybe just turning various shades of green mold), consider just which side of that particular coin you want to look at. PERSPECTIVE. Since change is the only constant in life & the only things you can really count on NOT changing are death & taxes, get your priorities in order & go chase your dreams NOW (while you can).

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Thankful Thanksgiving

While parked at the RV park in Benson, I finally gave up & called a mobile RV tech to unravel my battery, converter, & generator issues. I’ve always loved the self-sufficiency aspect of boondocking (dry camping – without services) & we’ve worked hard at getting various systems in order to do that comfortably. Ultimately, the replacement converter Jeff installed a year & a half ago was toast. I’d suspected this since it’d blown two fuses while we’ve had it & our batteries NEVER seemed to be topped off. The new (& much more expensive) converter is a 3-stage with float capability also. My cheap portable battery tester showed them fully charged while I was plugged into electricity at the park. Time will tell.

I’ve been getting an error from the King Flex satellite dish each time I restart it after being turned off even tho it hasn’t moved. It’s as simple as unscrewing & reconnecting the cable or just picking up the dish & setting it back down to clear the error – but guess I need to call the company to see what’s going on with that. Anyway, I have disliked having to get out the step stool to reach up to connect the cable to the upper back corner of the trailer – SO, I took a new cable (thinking that would help the error – it didn’t) & ran it thru the grill of the battery box (no longer housing a battery there), up thru the seat, around the bottom of the bed, & connected it directly to the satellite controller. The fewer connections, the less chance of disruptions. NOW it’s extremely convenient.

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day, I was up, packed, & hooked up to roll out at 7:30am. Gassed up the pickup & stopped in Wilcox to top off all three propane tanks. I traveled east on I-10 a bit, then headed north on Hwy 191 to Safford AZ to come in from the east thru Globe to get to Roosevelt Lake. I didn’t want to go thru Tucson.

It was a calm but cloudy day for the trip. I plugged in a zip drive with recorded music & had some teary miles as the songs reminded me of happier times with Jeff. But they also caused some epiphanies. I imagined a conversation God had with Jeff, telling him it was time to come home, that his struggles were over, & Jeff saying he needed to stay to take care of me. God’s answer was that HE was doing that. Ironically, I FEEL Jeff’s presence with me when I’m driving & pulling the trailer, not so much when I’m parked. I’ve remembered how much I always liked driving & how boring being a passenger could be. The best part was being able to take photos as we traveled which I can’t do now. Jeff had a pretty good photographic eye & was great about slowing down for scenes he knew I’d want pictures of. The weird thing (to me) tho is that I’m seeing familiar places in a totally different way. I’m reading road & speed limit signs even. It’s like I have a young brain again that can multi-task & remember more than one thing at a time. It even feels like Jeff is looking thru my eyes - showing me the world HE saw as we traveled. (I know – I’m starting to sound even stranger than before.) But later in the day, I caught myself actually smiling when I remembered places & experiences we shared. Does that mean I’m actually healing? It’s been six weeks since Jeff’s death.

The Google maps navigator woman lead me right to Goose Campground Group Site at Roosevelt Lake. I felt like I was in a John Denver song about feeling good to be back home again when I saw the first saguaro on a hillside. I felt Jeff smile also. My friends from Mesa, Ray & Ellen (who invited me to this campout), pulled up right behind me so we got first pick of the campsites. It’s beautiful with big campsites, covered concrete patio with picnic tables on a finger of land overlooking the Lake. And all the campers in this group have dogs.

My batteries weren’t topped off tho from the drive (ach, another glitch to work on) & it was too cloudy for the solar panels to help any, so I pulled out the generator, hooked up the propane tank, pulled & pulled, & finally got it running – all by myself. Between cranking on the BAL leveler I put under the low tire to both stabilize & level the trailer & starting the generator, I may actually improve some core muscles this winter. (Besides quitting smoking, my other goal is to tone up some weak muscles.) See how much Jeff spoiled me? I got to watch a little television, run the furnace, & charge my phone, e-cigarette, & laptop – & the 140 watt inverter never screamed all night long that the batteries were too low to continue. What more could a girl want??

Thanksgiving Day was still cloudy but apparently the solar panels got just enough sun to keep the batteries up all night without running the generator at all. Yay!!. I walked Kira around a lot, meeting most of the dozen or so other dogs camped here. I talked, & talked, & talked some more. Met all the 15 other campers & about as many doggies here & shared a great dinner, with all the expected fixings. I sat around the group campfire for both warmth & companionship afterward, but had to turn in early since I was yawning so much. Think my body is still on Central time.

The sun finally came out to stay for a few days – but the solar panels didn’t seem to be doing much for my batteries. One of the campers checked them for me & found a blown fuse in one of the two 90W panels. More bad words & dirty names under my breath. He also found the special 40A fuse in the Tundra that charges the trailer batteries while traveling. It was blown also. I got REAL good at starting the generator!

I was going to stay at Roosevelt Lake until Monday morning, but everyone else was leaving Sunday & I sure didn’t want to stay there all by myself. So I hooked up & left Sunday also, going north on Hwy 188 this time to end up on Beeline – a very mountainous & somewhat curvy 4-lane highway. Thankfully I could travel along at my comfortable 62 mph without holding up traffic (too much).

I stopped in Scottsdale at AutoZone to get new 40A fuses for the Tundra – but the old one tested good. OK, I got two extras just in case. Then I finally made it thru all the traffic of the Phoenix area to my cousin’s house in Sun City West on the northwest edge of town for a couple of nights – plugged into electricity. It’s always so nice hanging out with my cousin who’s more like an older brother to me. He lost his wife some years ago & his mother (my mother’s sister) had dementia much like my mom. We had some great talks while there. The morning I left, I checked that my batteries were fully charged, plugged the special 40A fuse into the Tundra, started it up, & checked the battery charge again. It was charging – so at least it was working now.

I traveled without incident to Quartzsite AZ, & promptly stopped at Solar Bill’s to have my bad solar panel checked out. Long story short, a nice RVer at Benson hooked up the newly charged battery I picked up in Wilcox that I didn’t have hooked up there ‘cause they were super busy & I wanted to get on down the road, but he reversed the wires connected to the batteries coming from the solar panels. It blew out both controllers – so that was an expensive lesson. I now know exactly which one goes where & why. (Any lead with a fuse attached should be connected to the positive battery post – not the negative post.)

I’d been thinking for a few months about getting the $180 long-term visitors pass at Quartzsite since there isn’t much on my agenda for the winter. Even tho there’s tons of free boondocking places, I didn’t want to HAVE to move if I didn’t want. Plus fresh water, dumpsters, & dump stations are free with the pass. So that’s where I’ve landed – for months if I want, or if the cool weather continues, I may head to Imperial Dam LTVA north of Yuma to check that out. I parked near John of Jon's Journeys because I’d meet him a couple of years ago at the fiberglass rally here. Another Casita is nearby also, so I feel like I’m amongst friends. Hearing the I-10 traffic at night tho reminds me of Jeff’s trucking days & the times I spent with him at truck stops. I’ve reorganized the back of the pickup shell by hanging things on the inside of the utility boxes so I have more floor space & can more easily access stuff. Kira & I have taken numerous walks around the area & I’ve managed to read several e-books. B U T – I can finally charge my two AGM-31 12v batteries (that were each reprogrammed with a long, slow charge to remove the cap they develop over time) from solar panels on a sunny day, propane generator at night & cloudy days, or hooked to the pickup either being towed or (as a last resort) simply battery cables from the pickup battery directly to the trailer batteries. AND – I actually know how to do all this correctly myself. Considering the nights have mostly been in the low 40’s with a few in the 30’s, keeping up with propane will likely be a constant task (I can handle that by myself also.)

I’ve had numerous conversations with other men & women who’ve lost a spouse so I know I still have months (or years) of healing to do. I think it’s odd tho that my memories of Jeff during the last year as he got weaker, sicker, & quieter aren’t the ones that kick so hard. Mostly I’m just glad he’s not in pain anymore. But those older memories of the things we did & places we went kick up even more memories of other loved ones who are gone & of just being younger & more active with another set of priorities. It’s a whole blizzard of sadness that usually causes me to get up & do something constructive or go somewhere. Am I really moving on or just ignoring the pain? Just when you think you have your life figured out & stable – everything turns upside down!

I’m somewhat surprised at how totally at home & comfortable I feel at Quartzsite although I spent all summer wanting to be back here in the winter, so at least I know there is where I want to be for now. Although I’m not camped at Dome Rock where we always parked, I’ll be OK there in February in a little different location there with a plethora of other eggs around me. In the meantime, I’m just exploring the town & being open to new experiences & people. I’m trying to continue the adventure that Jeff taught me to love.

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.