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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Out in the Boonies

As we were driving down the rutted dirt road, dodging mud puddles and big dirt clods that might have hit our newly-replaced oil pan, I turned to Frank and said, “If this goes bad for us, you may be forced to start hunting rabbits. Sorry about that!”

To backtrack a bit …

We had planned to stay at the Escapees RV park in Livingston, TX. I mean, it made perfect sense. After all, I’m a member and they manage my mail for me. They’re a short drive from the office where I am to register the Nutshell, having driven it all the way back from southern California. I had even spoken to them about staying there during the last visit in July (when they told me, “Sure you can camp here in a tent and have access to electricity … no problem!”) So when I called to make a reservation last Monday morning as we were headed towards Houston, I wasn’t expecting the woman on the other end of the phone to hesitate after I answered her question about what type of rig I was driving.

Me (quite proudly, after spending the last 9 months in a tent): “I have a teardrop trailer.”

Dorothy: “A teardrop? What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a small camper, about 8 feet long. I just bought it and have to register it in Polk County.”

Dorothy: “Oh … a teardrop. So it’s not self-contained?”

I ran into that question before when I called about another park. This is not going to end well …

Me: “If you’re asking if it has running water or a bathroom, no. It doesn’t. Is that a problem?”

Dorothy: “Well, um …. no, not really. It’s just that I can’t reserve a spot for you with the other RV’s, where you have electricity. We’ll have to put you in the dry camp area with the tents.”

Me: “That’s not going to work for me. I sleep with a C-pap and don’t have battery power for it. Last year when I asked, I was told I could camp with electricity, even if I was in a tent. Why should it matter if I don’t have a bathroom. Don’t you have restroom facilities there?”

Dorothy: “Well of course we have facilities. But we had an … ummm … incident … a couple of months ago, and we changed our policy. You’ll have to stay in the dry camp area.”

First off, I did not want to get the details about the “incident”, given it involved someone who was camping without their own bathroom. That can be left to the imagination as far as I’m concerned. I asked to talk to the manager and discovered, unfortunately, that that was Dorothy. And nothing I said over the next five minutes of the phone call would change her mind.

Had this phone call happened when we first started out last May, I would have been totally rip-shit. Think Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”. But rather than strike down upon Dorothy with great vengeance and furious anger … and noticing that a State Trooper was sitting alongside the road up a ways and I wasn’t on Bluetooth … I glanced at the “It’s all worked out before” sign on the dashboard and just hung up the phone. Frank gave me a, “What’s going on?” look and I waved to the Trooper as we drove by.

That screwed things up. I hadn’t planned on NOT staying at Escapees and didn’t have a fallback position. We pulled into the next rest area and I started looking up RV parks, but didn’t see anything that was particularly interesting. They either were way more than I wanted to spend or, if reasonably priced, had pretty lousy writeups on RVParkReviews.com.

The only place that looked interesting was a listing on Passport America: Triple Creek Music and RV Park. Interesting writeup – the park hosts “music weekends”, alternating between gospel, country, open jam and bluegrass. The only problem was that they were well east of Livingston and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it that night.

I gave them a call and spoke with a woman named Karen. She said, “Well, we’ve just had a pretty good rain, so the road is awful muddy. Just watch yourself coming in!” I asked, “I’m not gonna get stuck, am I????”, to which she replied, “Well, just give us a call if you do and we’ll send someone down to get you out!”

Okay. Got it. Alrightee, then.

I told her that if we were going to make it there, I’d give her another call when I got close and left it at that. As it turned out, Houston traffic and Gertrude, the woman who lives in my Garmin GPS, had other plans.

We hit Houston a little before rush hour. Before I could realize what was happening, Gertrude had dropped me onto a tollroad heading north out of town. Now I travel with my debit card and never carry cash. I might have stopped at an ATM four times since leaving Charleston, usually so I could buy quarters for laundry.  But I had nothing on me as we drove towards the toll booths. I pulled over on the side of the road and scrounged up the $3.75 toll by rummaging through the ashtray, under the seats, and lying on the floorboard of the Hyundai … just enough to get us onto a nearby surface street.

You now how when you veer off the course set by your GPS and it adjusts its route? Well, Gertrude’s idea of adjusting was to tell me at each intersection that I needed to turn around and get back on the tollway! I have to say, I hate that bitch! I don’t think she knows anything about selecting the best route or anything like that. It’s become personal between us: there have been times when I’ve cancelled a route and said, “Voice” a few minutes later to try something else out. And you know what? She won’t answer! It’s embarrassing to be screaming “VOICE, GODDAMMITT” at your Garmin and realize people in the next lane are looking at you.  More than that, it’s infuriating!

What I need is a Scotsman GPS. A guy who understands me and what kind of help I want from him. Someone that will say, “A tollroad??? FOOK the tools, mon! I’ll get ye wherrre yerrr be wantin to go. And we won’t need to FOOKIN toll road. Don’t you be worrrrrrryin’ now, laddie!” Okay, digression. Big time. Anyhow ….

I called an old friend who now lives in Houston. Not sure of his heritage, but Mike figured out where I was, helped get us around the toll road and headed back north towards Livingston. By this time though, it was past 6 o’clock and there was no way I was going to risk getting stuck on some dirt road out in the middle of nowhere in the dark. I started looking up Motel 6’s near Livingston, where we could stay the night and regroup. After having driven almost non-stop for 8 days and then dealing first with Dorothy and now Gertrude, all I wanted was a nice bed and a shower.

I found one in Cleveland, about 20 minutes south of Livingston. Coincidentally, my PCP was there and I was going to have to make an appointment for them to look at my finger anyhow, so that’s where we stopped. We actually wound up staying there two nights because the earliest available appointment was Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday was uneventful. On Wednesday, Frank and I drove over to the doctor’s office and sat in the car for a couple of hours. Once I got in to see him, everything went fine. He said the stitches look good but that my blood pressure was too high. I knew that from the readings they had taken at the ER in California and told him I was willing to get on blood pressure medication. He said he also wanted to do some blood work, just to check on other things like my blood sugar and cholesterol levels. (As an aside, I got the results of the tests a couple of days ago. Everything was fine. No diabetes. Cholesterol and everything else was “normal”. As it turns out, the only thing I am is fat!)

We left the doctor’s office and headed north. And that brings us back to the start of this post – headed down this old dirt road out in the middle of the east Texas nowhere. My thoughts were all over the place. I din’t know if we were going to end up in a scene from “Deliverance”, or if we were headed into a white supremist compound or something else. Hence, my warning to Frank that he might have to take up hunting if they buried me and decided he might prove useful.

newlogsign

Home for the next month.  Our campsite is behind the big tree and to the right.

The road took a turn and finally emptied into a big open area with live oak and pine sprinkled throughout. There were three buildings up ahead, past a few RV’s that looked like they had been there forever. I got out of the car and noticed a young man sitting in a golf cart. After asking me if I was, “fixin’ ta check in,” he directed me to one of the buildings and said I should ask for Rick.

I walked in to find about 25 people sitting around a few long tables, having dinner, cafeteria-style, while chattering and laughing away. As soon as the door shut behind me with a little bang, the room went silent and everyone looked straight at me. Some stranger stumbling in on a secret society meeting. At least that was how I felt.

I sort of let out a weak chuckle and said, “A young man out there said I should ask for Rick?” A small guy stood up with a smile, wiped off his mouth with a napkin and ran over. “I’m Rick. You looking to stay for a while?”

I knew from the accent that Rick wasn’t a native. As it turns out, he was from Boston. My anxiety lessened right then. “You’re talking to probably the biggest … literally, the biggest … Red Sox fan in east Texas,” I laughed. Rick took me around the camp on the golf cart, showing me everything while talking about Mookie Betts, David Price and the “mother effing Yankees!” Yep, this place was going to turn out okay.

Looks can be deceiving, and I’m grateful I didn’t let my anxiety keep me away. Sure the two flags on top of the open air music pavilion are for Texas and the Confederacy. But the people here couldn’t be more friendly! (I just know that I’m not going to get into any political discussions while I’m here.)

They have potluck dinner Thursday through Saturday evenings and a “contribute what you want” breakfast on Saturday morning. Bob, a retired engineer from Tulsa, stopped by on Friday evening with his dog Rufus and wanted to know how come I hadn’t come for dinner. When I told him that I was concerned about Frank’s howling when I was away, he replied, “Sheeee-it, that sound is probably music to the ears of most folks in the park. Brings back good memories of squirrel hunting! You best be coming for breakfast, otherwise you’re gonna be hurtin’ people’s feelings!”

I wasn’t about to make any enemies this far off the beaten path, so I showed up for breakfast (having driven into town first to pull $20 out of the ATM). I have to say, it was the best breakfast I’ve had since leaving Charleston, complete with biscuits and gravy that brought me back to mornings at my grandparents’ farm in Tennessee! Bob introduced me around and we had some great conversation, matched only by how great the food was!

Sure enough, I could hear Frank howling as I left the meeting / music / dining hall and apologized to the folks sitting on the porch about it. They all laughed and said how much they enjoyed hearing him. I think half of them had beagles when they were younger, and said so! All Saturday afternoon, people stopped by to talk. Actually, I think the talk was just a guise for wanting to come over and pet Frank! He’s made quite an impression on everyone here.

Saturday afternoon brought mixed emotions. Sitting at the picnic table, I could hear folks inside playing Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson songs … and here I was, with a guitar sitting on my back seat and unable to play! It was a special kind of torture.  We’ll see how things go after those stitches come out tomorrow afternoon.

So yes … looks can be deceiving. I think Frank and I have found a place where we’re going to enjoy ourselves over the next month. I might even make it out alive! Of course, that’ll depend on how well the blood pressure meds do their job. :o)

It’s Bingo night … I’m off to join the neighbors.

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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Travels

 

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The Grand Tour

Okay folks!  Here’s what you all helped Frank and I acquire for our new home. (I’ll speak for Frank and say, “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the generosity you showed in helping us!”)

trailer1The Hiker-Trailer is different from the standard teardrop design, as you’ll see from this first photo of the port side.  While the teardrop arcs down towards the back, the Hiker is “boxy”. There’s no tapering of the roof.  From my perspective, this is one of the biggest selling points for this camper … especially for big guys like me.  The cabin has a lot of head room from front to back.  Granted, I still can’t kneel without bending my head to one side, but it’s a lot easier to move from front to back than what I’d imagine was the case in the classic teardrop.  I can lie with my head at the galley side as easily as if it was near the front of the cabin.  The only “cramped” feel I have is when I’m trying to change positions from front to back. Or if I’m sitting in the door (which is a perfect height off the ground for my feet to be flat on the ground) and want to pull my legs into the cabin.  In those cases, the extra foot of width provided by the 5′ x 8′ model would have been ideal.  But that’s a luxury at his point.  Besides, I can address that issue simply by losing weight – something I seriously need to move forward with now.

From this angle, you can see the electrical port at the back of the trailer.  It’s nothing fancy – you connect the exterior power source and it feeds a 5-outlet power strip that’s affixed to the interior wall.  It’s primarily situated so that you can power a few appliances in the galley as well as things like a your laptop and phone that might be inside the cabin.  The only minor issue I had was powering my C-pap machine at the front of the cabin … something that was easily taken care of with an extension cord.

trailer2This one has two doors – the standard model comes with only one.  So far, I’ve pretty much used only one door, but it’s nice to have both of them. That way, you’re not worried about clearance issues when you park.  No clearance on the right?  Use the port door.  Nosy neighbors on the left?  Use the starboard one.   I took these photos at the campsite in Hemet, CA, where the starboard door opened to a lake view.  I’m using the port door at our current location because of clearance issues.  I would have never bought a new one with two doors, so we have yet another reason to be grateful that it worked out so that this one is our new home!

While the door height is perfect for sitting, it’s proven to be a little tall for Frank to easily jump in.  I’ve converted one of the now-empty storage boxes into a step for him. Works like a charm! As you can see from his smile, Frank’s digging our new abode.  :o)

As an aside, I’m not yet sure what we’re going to name the trailer.  At the suggestion of one of my Facebook friends, I’ve taken to calling it the “Nutshell” … quite appropriate given who’s living in it.  I’m certainly open to suggestions from any of you.  Feel free to spit out names as you come to them.  (My idea of the “Coffin” was already  rejected out of hand by everyone.)

trailer frontThe front interior has a couple of shelves at the top.  Shelley, the former owner, was gracious enough to leave the IKEA storage units behind.  They’re affixed to the wall with velcro and accordion out to provide some nice storage space.  I’ve actually removed one of the top units and am using the bottom unit as a shelf for the C-pap, which has worked great!  The other three units currently house towels, toiletries and small eletronic gear.  I discovered the hard way that the top shelves need to have a brace running in front of them … otherwise, the contents empty onto the floor when you’re moving.  Another friend, Cheryl, suggested a spring-loaded rod, similar to a shower curtain.  Great idea … and I’ll be picking a few of those up before we head out to our next destination.

By the way, I took this shot from behind the trailer, looking through the “pass-thru” from the galley to the cabin. I just bought a coffeemaker … if I can figure out how to program it, it’d be pretty cool to be able to open up the pass-thru door and pour myself a cup without having to go outside, don’t you think?  :o)

Shelley also left behind a thick, foam mattress for us. It’s perfect! Definitely better than some of the other mattresses I’ve tried out.  For additional padding, I’ve laid down the two comforters underneath the sleeping bag. I actually have enough room to lie flat without having to scrunch up my knees to fit!

interior rear lowThe mattress folds up into a little sofa … you can see the headrest bent upwards in this next photo.  When the mattress is fully laid out, it acts as a buffer that keeps things anchored in the lower storage area under the galley.  Right now, it’s holding a storage box with assorted tools on the left, while the Nikon camera and the SiriusXM box sit on the right.  I’ve stretched out the antenna and have it running through the back hatch right now to get better reception.  I’m probably going to have to change this around a bit to maximize access to stuff.  I’ve figured out that I don’t need to have those tools stored so handily since I don’t have to use them all that often.  It’d be much better to simply store them under the camper and then bring them back into the cabin when we up and move.  Hopefully I’ll figure all that out before we leave on March 24th.

The two side windows are really nice!  They both have screens.  Actually, we have to leave them open at night, otherwise condensation forms on the frames of the windows and the doors.  I’ve always slept with a window open anyhow, so it’s really not that big of a deal … especially with our -0- degree sleeping bag.  Frank and I have both slept incredibly well since the Nutshell has become our home.

interior rear highThe shelves at the top of the back wall open into the galley.  Again, I made the mistake of putting a bunch of supplies up there, only to discover them all lying on the sleeping bag at the end of our first day on the road!  I have a feeling those things will wind up being stored where the tools now are.  Most of that stuff is either excess (like extra storage bags, for example) or cleaning supplies anyhow.  No need to have them right there when you first open the galley, right?   (The only other “would have been nice to have” thing … besides another foot of width … would have been a taller galley opening so that the bottom storage would have been more easily accessed through the galley. But again, that’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Please don’t take that as a complaint – I love our new home!)

I love the galley! Right now, it’s a mess … even messier than in this photo.  Like I mentioned earlier, the first thing I did after settling in at our current campsite was to go out and buy a coffeemaker along with a crockpot. They don’t leave much room for all the dishes and stuff on the right.  They’re probably going to be moved to the top shelf where the supplies are.  That way, I can also buy a small electric griddle.  The idea is to minimize when I have to use the propane stove (which also sits on the top shelf right now).

galleyIdeally, I’m thinking about getting a small fold-up table that can be used for the stove.  That would require some additional protection from the rain, of course … but once again, my friends have come through with some great suggestions.  Shelley shared a photo of a guy using a 12′ x 12′ canopy to cover almost all of his teardrop!  In thinking about that, I could situate a canopy like that at the front corner of the Nutshell and it would provide about 5 1/2 feet of cover on one side of the camper and about 3 foot of cover in the back.  That’d be plenty of room for a table.  The one I’m looking at allows for optional side panels, which would offer protection from the rain … certainly enough room to take off my shoes and clean Frank’s feet before entering the cabin.  I could even use the tent carpet as a floor!  Knock on wood that this approach works out.

So that’s it – the grand tour.  I’ll do another post tomorrow about our current location. This post turned out to be a little long (what else is new, right?)   :o)

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Travels

 

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We’re In Our New Home …

but not without some interesting “events”.

It’s been a crazy and eventful two weeks. Well, nearly two weeks since the last post, when we were getting ready to pull up stakes at Lake Texana and head out west to pick up our new “used” Hiker Trailer. Over that time, we’ve encountered a few issues, to say the least. But in the midst of them, I feel like we had a guardian angel looking over us, stepping in to minimize the impact those issues might have had on our trip.

As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been better. Our tent’s main center beam snapped as it was being taken down. Much as I feared, the tent was on its last legs. It had been sagging badly over the previous week. Every time I unzipped the side door, it was putting that much more pressure on the beam. Had we tried to get another break down and set up instead of going ahead with the move to the teardrop trailer, we would have been shelterless! Instead of being packed on top of the car, the tent wound up on the ground next to the dumpster as we drove away.

We made it to Fort Stockton the first day. It wasn’t until day two that things began happening. We started out that day pretty early, with Arizona City as our goal. We didn’t even make it to El Paso! A couple of hours into the drive, we stopped at a picnic area to stretch our legs and give Frank a chance to leave some “pee mail” on another garbage can or two. The picnic area was comprised of a few tepee structures and was totally deserted – we were the only ones in there. The exit took us down below the main highway. The only thing you could see of the passing cars were their roofs. Anyhow, as we were baking out of the parking space to leave, the car made a horrible scrrnnnch sound. I immediately took it out of reverse to pull back into the spot and it made the same noise, so I just turned the wheel. I mean, at that point it was pretty obvious that we were going to need a tow. I pulled out the phone. No signal. I turned on the Verizon hotspot that I bought (that’s a story for another post), thinking it would pick up a signal better than the phone. Nothing. Here we were, out in the middle of nowhere, not all that visible from the road, and I’m thinking, “this is NOT good”! Here’s where that angel stepped in.

No sooner did I get out of the car … with no idea as to what to do next … than I saw an SUV pull off the road and come into the lot. It turned out to be a State Trooper! I waved an arm over my head and started walking towards her as she pulled up behind us. “My car just now broke down,” I told her. “I’m so grateful you came by when you did! My guardian angel must have showed up at the right time,” I said with a little laugh.

The trooper replied, “You know, I NEVER stop at this picnic area. But something said, ‘You need to pull in here,’ as I approached the exit. So yeah, your angel did a nice job.” I have to say that a chill traveled up my spine as she said that. I don’t know that I’ve ever put much stock into things like guardian angels and the like. Regardless, I definitely felt Frank and I were somewhat protected. Sure, the car broke down … but it could have happened while driving, causing us to have an accident! We could have been stranded in that picnic area for hours before anyone else came by. But none of that happened. Even better, those are the thoughts I had rather than being upset about our situation. That’s a big change for me and I have to acknowledge it!

It took a while for the tow truck to show up. He was a really nice guy. Ralph had us get into the cab while he hooked the car up. Then it was off to El Paso, 120 miles away. Once we were within wifi range, he lent me his phone where we found a AAA-approved repair facility. They couldn’t look at the car until the next morning. One of their people drove Frank and me over to a nearby Motel 6. At that point, I was less concerned about the delay than I was about what it was going to cost to fix the Hyundai. From what happened, I was pretty sure the transmission crapped out. All I could do at that point was wait until I heard back from the repair shop in the morning and take it from there.

We got good news the following morning, though. It wasn’t the transmission – the CVS axle on the passenger side had broken. It was only going to cost $310 to fix it! (As an aside, that was about $110 less than what the tow cost!) They found something else, too – the oil pan was leaking badly and would cost another $200 to fix. The good news was that they could have the car back running by the end of the day. Once again, I felt a sense of gratitude. And protection. Granted, it meant taking another $1,000 out of my rapidly dwindling savings, but it could have been a lot worse. Again, the thought came, “If this hadn’t happened, you might not have discovered the leaking oil pan, which could have resulted in a lot worse problem if we kept driving while losing oil!” The other thing – I had both CVS axles replaced at a AAA auto repair center back in Charleston, before we left. We’re still working that issue, but I’ve called AAA and there’s a strong chance I’ll be able to recoup some of the repair and tow cost under their warranty. We’ll hopefully have some more info on that next week.

Wednesday morning, we left El Paso pretty early. Not quite sure what time – the night before, I noticed the phone said it was 6pm while the clock on the laptop said it was only 5pm. I had called the front desk to ask what time it was, explaining what was going on with the phone and laptop clocks. The desk clerk just laughed and said, “Tell me about it!” before saying it was 6pm, that technically we were on Central time. Regardless, it was still dark when we left the hotel room and headed down the road.

We made Arizona City well before 1pm, so we just kept going. I have to say, Frank has been a real trooper on this trip. I felt bad because I had promised him when we left Charleston that I was going to keep our road trips to no more than 6 hours a day, and here we were driving a helluva lot more than that. He did fuss a bit, but every time he did, it turned out to be for good reason – he typically had to go! We made a few stops along the way and finally made it all the way to Costa Mesa, CA … 14-plus hours on the road! Frank was asleep on the bed less than 5 minutes after we opened the door to our room at the Motel 6. I followed him shortly thereafter.

Thursday morning, things went off without a hitch (pun intended). We made arrangements to meet Shelley, the woman from whom we were buying the trailer, at the storage facility in Laguna Hills where it was being kept. Everything went great at the credit union that belonged to the same coop as mine back in Charleston – I was out of there with a cashier’s check in less than 10 minutes!

Shelley was already there when we arrived late morning. She was gracious enough to leave behind the mattress and some IKEA storage units. She helped me hitch the trailer and gave me a few other pointers. And off we were. I can’t say it wasn’t without a certain amount of anxiety … the hitch was awful low to the ground and I was pretty concerned about bottoming out. Shelley, if you’re reading this, I hope you didn’t think me rude. I was just trying to get out of there before letting you see me in a full blown anxiety attack!

Getting out of the Los Angeles metropolitan area was a bitch! I can’t think of a place where I enjoy driving less – and I’ve driving in places with some pretty bad reps: New York City, northern Jersey, Dallas, the San Francisco Bay area, just to name a few … NONE of them come close to rivaling Los Angeles, in my opinion! We wound up driving to Hemet, about 2 hours west of LA, off Interstate 10, where we found a little RV park.  We stayed there an extra day so we could reorganize our gear and get it integrated into the teardrop.

We got up early on Saturday with the idea of driving to Phoenix. I had made plans to visit an old friend from high school back in New Jersey. Mark had a winter home just outside of Mesa. We’d not only be able to catch up … I’d be able to make a quick visit to the San Francisco Giants’ spring training camp in Scottsdale. Unfortunately, it was another occurence of “the best laid plans …” Instead of getting out of town early, I wound up spending the next several hours at the emergency room!

I backed the Hyundai up to hook up the trailer, but wound up short by a few feet. Stupid me, figuring that I’d be able to simply pick up the hitch and pull the trailer to the car, must’ve skipped physics class the day they discussed “momentum”. I pulled the trailer over, but it decided to keep going when I meant for it to stop. The end result was the hitch ramming the license plate on the back of my car … with my left middle finger smashed in between. Lots of pain. Lots of blood. Lots of embarrassment!

A fellow at the campsite helped me finish hitching the trailer to the car and gave me directions to the ER. The end result was what they called a “crush” injury: 12 stitches running laterally across the inside of the finger, right below the last joint, along with a hairline fracture of the finger bone. Not how I expected to spend my Saturday morning.

We finally got back underway a little after noon after a quick stop at the pharmacy to pick up antibiotics and Motrin, which was the strongest pain med they said I could have given that I needed to be driving for the next few days. It is what it is. In retrospect, I really feel that guardian angel was looking out for me to some degree once again. Granted, he might have been at Flannigan’s Bar having a drink when I smashed the finger, but the doctor said I was extremely lucky. He had seen similar injuries where other folks had lost the tip of their finger. There are few things quite as useless as a guitarist with a missing finger on his chording hand!

Anyhow, it took us three days to make it back to east Texas. We stayed the first night in Willcox, AZ … night #2 in Fort Stockton, TX … and night #3 in Cleveland, TX, about 30 miles from Livingston (i.e. “home base”, where I will register the trailer and pick up the plates).

I’ve already been back to see a doc in Cleveland. He says the finger is healing nicely. No infection, stitches look good, etc. I’m due to go back on Tuesday to have them removed. We’ll see how it goes after that. Hopefully my guitar playing is back to normal in a couple of months.

I’m going to leave off here. I’ll post photos tomorrow and let you all know about our current place of residence – The Triple Creek Music and RV camp out in the middle of the east Texas barrens.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2016 in Travels

 

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Short and Sweet Redux

The last few days have seemed like a whirlwind!  Laptop arrived and I got that set up to the point of usability. I have to remove all the crap they loaded onto it and then move stuff over from my old laptop.  That can all come later.

The hitch arrived and it was installed on the car yesterday.  I can see that I’m going to have to adjust how I drive a bit. It’s pretty low to the ground and scrapes when I come and go from parking lots if they’re on too much of an incline.  That’ll be interesting.

I planned on packing up the car yesterday afternoon (Saturday).  The best laid plans, though … we got back from the hitch installation and I sat down in the camp chair at about 1:45 pm.  Next thing I knew, it was almost 5:30 pm!  I totally zoned out!  Frank was no help, whatsoever!  I woke up before he did. He was asleep under the chair and snoring away.  Frank’s never met a nap that he didn’t like.  :o)

So here we are – it’s a little after 8 am and I’ve been cleaning out the tent for the past hour.  Got to the point of packing up the laptop and figured I’d do a quick blog post before putting it away in the briefcase.

We’re headed out. Out west to be precise. Out to southern California, to be even more precise, to pick up our new home on wheels.  It’s going to be a long 3 days on the road, possibly four if I decide not to push it.  In my youth, I’d have made this trip in two days, max. But that’s not me anymore, especially with my little buddy riding shotgun. With the way the car’s been packed, he’s not had a lot of room to stretch what with the sleeping bag on the floor in front of him and the guitar draped over the top of the passenger seat above him.  We’ll stop a few times each day to stretch our legs.

I’m hoping to break camp and be on the road by noon.  Hopefully the tent cooperates when I take it down. It’s been sagging more every day and it looks like the main support beam has bent a little more in the month we’ve been here. It could very well snap.

The goal is to hit Fort Stockton, TX tonight. It’ll probably be about 7 hours total on the road, plus stops.  That’ll be one of the longest drives we’ve had since we started out … until tomorrow, that is.  If we’re not too tired, I’m planning on driving past Tucson on Monday. Knock on wood.

Thank you to everyone who’s made this next part of the trip possible. Without your help, we wouldn’t be going on this drive to pick up trailer!  God bless each and every one of you for your help.

That’s it for now. Wish us luck on the next leg of our journey.  :o)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Travels

 

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Short and Sweet

Laptop crashed this morning. It’s been going for the last few days.  Screen going multicolor.  Was hoping to avoid having to pay for replacement right now, but it is what it is.  At least I had the sense to pull all my desktop stuff up into my OneDrive cloud last night before it went out completely. Now it won’t even boot.  Biggest loss at this point will be my favorites on my browser … I had a whole setup named “Vagabond” that had all my trip-related stuff in a folder.  Maybe I’ll be able to recover that later.

 

I’m not good at updating on the phone. Lousy interface.  Just want to say “Thank you” a million times over for all the help that people provided through youcaring.com.  Frank and I will break camp on Sunday and head west to pick up the used teardrop trailer we wrote about the other day.  Will fill in more once my new laptop arrives tomorrow.  I was pulling money out of savings for the trailer … another $250 isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, I  suppose.  “It’s all worked out before. Trust that it will work out again.”

I’ll fix typos and spacing stuff 3hen the new laptop arrives tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Musings

 

Death’s Knocking

No, this isn’t going to be as morbid as the title might make it out to be. At least I hope not.

I don’t know if it’s a function of getting older or if it’s someting else, but “Death” seems to be trying to get me to notice him a bit more. Funny, because I used to think about him all the time when I was younger. But let me backtrack a bit.

As it’s starting out, 2016 doesn’t appear to be a great year to be a rock star. So far, in just the first month and a couple of days, we’ve lost musical icons like David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner and Maurice White, to recognize the big names. If you’re of my generation, they’ve probably had some personal impact on you – after all, their music formed the tapestry that became our individual “life soundtracks”, so to speak.

Some of their songs are associated with specific memories of mine.  Of places and people. I can’t hear Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” without thinking about my former brother-in-law, who went through a “Miami Vice” period when his wardrobe was based on whatever Don Johnson wore the previous Friday night. I can’t hear “Under Pressure” without thinking about John Cusack’s epiphany in “Grosse Pointe Blank”, and from there thinking about my first date with my last significant other.

Sometimes their music takes me to places I don’t really want to go. The last memory I mentioned used to be a very tough one to deal with, but nowadays the sting of an important relationship ending has toned down a bit … enough where I can watch that movie for the 845th time and enjoy it once again (or mention it in a blog post without feeling overwhelmed with sadness).

But those musicians are just one of the ways that Death has recently knocked on the door and said, “Hello!”

I’m on Facebook a lot. It’s a way to keep in touch with friends and has become a bit more important to me now that I’m so detached from everyone. every now and then, I’ll see people post about losing a parent. There have been a few of those recently. For me, my parents’ deaths meant virtually nothing.

My father died two days after I got a letter in the mail from him. I guess he knew he was going and wanted to get one more dig in beore he left – he told me what an incredible disappointment I had been to him all his life and how it pissed him off that I hadn’t turned out the way he had hoped.

Now here his son had become a CFO of a publicly-held company at one point, followed by a pretty successful 10-year consulting career. He was even aware that I had just landed a job with WebMD a couple of weeks earlier after making a career transition. But because I was fighting depression, had two failed marriages and was trying to figure out where I was going with my life, that’s the way he chose to end things with me. I guess he really wasn’t to blame, though … I felt pretty much the same way about me, too! But it left me angry as hell, to read that letter and then get a call less than 48 hours later that he was gone.  I didn’t even get a chance to tell him to screw off!

When I didn’t fly from San Jose to Boston to attend the funeral, it caused a big rift between my sister and me. That rift resulted in further estrangement from her and my mother and ultimately led to us not talking for the last five years of my mother’s life … I found out she died when I happened to enter her name on the social security death index page (I can’t remember why I was there in the first place) and discovered that she had died about 8 months earlier. I said something out loud like, “Wow, my mother’s dead. Go figure.” A co-worker came running over with concern and I told her, “Don’t sweat it. It’s just not a big deal.” And it wasn’t. In reality, I think I grieved the loss of my parents thirty years or so before their physical deaths. Some of us experience “loss” in different ways, I guess.

(I still haven’t spoken to my sister after nearly 14 years. Sent her an email shortly after that, telling her that I was sorry for my role in our estrangement. That I wasn’t looking for anything … I just wanted her to know that. I received a two word reply, the second word being “you”. I won’t try to contact her again.)

Anyhow, getting back to Facebook: on a couple of occasions I’ve seen people post about losing a parent, or remembrances of their parents who passed years earlier. Depending on who they are and the situation, I’ve told some that they’re lucky to have had such a wonderful relationship, where they actually “miss” them. It means they have a boatload of good memories that they can focus on to help assuage their grief.

I don’t say any of this to get pity. I’ve reconciled that part of me to a large degree. I think I bring it up so that readers might appreciate their own situation a bit more, and so that those of you who still have your folks (and had a good relationship with them) can take heed and perhaps better appreciate the time you have left with them.  But I have to say  my “grieving” process hasn’t completely finished out because I feel somewhat jealous of people who miss their fathers and mothers.

So there’s rock stars and there’s family. Then there are deaths like the one today … when I got on Facebook this morning, the first post I saw was about someone I had met online that had passed the day before. At one point, one of us “friended” the other after communicating through a common friend, Patrick. We’d comment on each other’s posts, but that was pretty much the extent of it. Now I knew Wendy had been sick, but I really didn’t know too much about it. Certainly not that she had stage 4 cancer … you sure couldn’t tell it from the posts she made!  She’d mention treatments every once in a while, but nothing much.  So I was genuinely surprised when I read of her passing.

Wendy was an incredible photographer. I envied her skills. She had an incredible sense of vision; she could see beauty in the most mundane things and was exceptional at capturing that vision in photographs. Her shots of the moon were breathtaking … I think it became something of a focus for her (pun intended), given the number of times she’d post photos of it. There’d be ones she had taken at various places she had visited or at different times of the year and I’m here to tell you that each one was special! I was somewhat in awe of her, given that I have such a hard time taking night shots.

I left a post on her wall, acknowledging that while I didn’t know her in the “real” world, I’d never be able to look at the moon in quite the same way again because of her. What’s odd is that the overwhelming emotion I felt was gratitude that I had been blessed for the short time we knew each other … and that whatever pain she had suffered due to advanced cancer was now behind her. That’s sort of strange for me and I need to think about that a bit more.

So Mr. Death has been showing up quite a bit lately, in subtle ways. As I’ve been writing, I’m wondering if it’s because he’s jealous of the fact that he hasn’t occupied my thought all that much when it comes to my own end!

I’m not thinking “suicide” anymore. The thought hasn’t entered my mind since I drove out of Charleston … except one time when I acknowledged the one year anniversary of when I last planned to end things in November 2014. I didn’t, and this journey that Frank and I are on is pretty much the result of, “If not suicide, then what?”

I can honestly say that I’m glad I didn’t go forward with Plan A.  That’s a big step for me. I have seen a lot of good things on this journey so far, some of it even directed towards me. Hell, a lot of it directed my way!

I’ve had opportunities to do good for others, too, from a guy stranded on the side of a road in Georgia who needed a ride to get gas … to someone in Louisiana who just happened to mention that he couldn’t figure out some Microsoft Excel issue … to a budding guitarist in Colorado that I taught how to play “Blackbird”. I’m doing better with greeting people with a smile and a friendly “hello” instead of being standoffish. Still can’t do big crowds, but maybe someday.

Yep. I’m not thinking about meeting Death myself too much anymore. I think I’ve got quite a bit more to learn about this “life” thing that’s been going on for almost 63 years now. I’ve not been very good at it, but I think I’ll stick around a little while longer and see what happens next!  Besides, Frank’s got me pretty well trained … I don’t want him to have to go through that process again!

By the way – congratulations to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos! I am thrilled he got a second ring. I hope he decides to go out on top and announces his retirement.

Now on to baseball, the best game ever created. New Year’s Day, which for me is the day when Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training, is only 10 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes away. But who’s counting, right?


Trailer update:  your kindness has gotten Frank and me almost to the point of being in new digs.  I’ve also found a used teardrop almost exactly the same as I was wanting to purchase … from the same manufacturer and only one year older.  We’re about $1,200 short, even having saved about $750 by going with the used model.

The timeframe has accelerated, too – I’ll have to make up whatever amount hasn’t been donated by the 10th of February and I accept that.  I’m just exceedingly grateful  … and quite overwhelmed … by the generosity that has been shown to us over the past couple of weeks.  Thank you so very much.  I’ve included a few photos of the used trailer at the bottom of the page, along with a photo of the tent I’d like to get to integrate with the trailer.

Here’s a link to follow if you’re still interested in helping us out – http://youcaring.com/FrankandJeff

td1

td2

td3

trailer tent

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Musings

 

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