So much for regularly scheduled programming resuming the next day. Sorry about that! I realized this afternoon that this is the last day of July and I couldn’t let the month go by without filling everyone in on what’s been going on. It’s been a month-and-a-half of discovery that has open my eyes to some new possibilities. More on that towards the end of the post.
Unfortunately, my mantra of late has become, “I can’t believe how fast this year is going!” I mentioned something on Facebook the other day about how it seems impossible to believe that it’s n eight months since Frank and I arrived in Florida the day before New Year’s Eve. And now, we’re less than two weeks away from ending our time on the East Coast and beginning our trip westward to Southern California for the winter. Oh, well…
Since that last post, we have visited five campgrounds, with our time split mostly between Maine and Massachusetts after a little bit of time winding things up in New York. We also had a short … but very meaningful … stay in New Hampshire.
Four of the places we’ve stayed at have been Thousand Trails campgrounds: two in Maine, in Bar Harbor and Wells; with the other two located in Massachusetts, in Sturbridge and Rochester (very close to where Cape Cod begins to curl out into the Atlantic).
Real quick, I’ll say that the two campgrounds in Maine were so-so in my opinion. Both campsites were incredibly small. Frank and I felt a little bit like sardines pressed together in a can. The saving grace was that we were close to the ocean! Frank and I took a few visits down to the beach to stare into the Atlantic. If only the weather would have cooperated more! We were back in long periods of rain and cool weather.
The other saving grace relative to our time in the state were our friends, both new and old. We got to visit twice with old friends from Pompton Lakes, Jon and Susan. They each moved up to Maine with their spouses about 30 years ago and have loved the area. They came out to the campsite in Wells just before the 4th of July for our first visit and we had a marvelous time reminiscing about many of our other friends and what it was like to grow up in Pompton.
Our second visit with Jon and Susan came on our way out of the state and back in the Massachusetts – Jon and his wife Christy invited us to stay in their home in Lee, NH, just north of the Massachusetts state line. It was the perfect stopping over point, cutting the long drive we would have had from Bar Harbor to Sturbridge in half! They also invited Sue, her husband Jerry, and another couple over for an evening of great conversation and fun times.
Frank got a special treat, too. Jon has three big dogs and Frank had an absolute blast playing with them. In all honesty, I have never seen Frank play like he had that night. Whenever he’s been around big dogs at dog parks, he always stays on the perimeter of the action. It’s almost like he wants to join in, but it’s just a little bit too worried about getting hurt or something. Well, it certainly wasn’t the case that night. Frank was right in the middle of everything, giving as well as taking when it came to the wrestling and roughhousing.
Later on, I was actually able to sleep in a real bed. And let me tell you – it was fantastic! The last time I was in a real bed was last September, when I stayed in a motel after my heart procedure. In all honesty, that wasn’t all that memorable. The last time I had had a really comfortable sleep in a real bed was over a year ago, when Keith, another old friend from Pompton, opened his home up to us in Pagosa Springs, CO. That’s a pretty long time between!
Our Maine visit with new friends came courtesy of Dianne and her significant other, Don. Dianne and I both belong to a Facebook group – full-time living in an RV. But they’ve been relatively stationary for a while, planning to go on the road sometime next year. Dianne had asked if they might be able to spend some time with me asking questions about my experiences on the road and I was more than happy to oblige. We spent a wonderful afternoon sitting outside at their campsite about 45 minutes west of Wells.
Dianne prepared a fantastic dinner of spaghetti with bolognese sauce that was overflowing with Italian sausage and ground beef, sending me home with a huge amount of leftovers. They even gifted a coffee maker they weren’t using after I said something about the heating element on mine not keeping the coffee very warm. I certainly hope our paths cross again once they go out on the road full time.
I don’t know if it’s a function of land prices or what, but both the Massachusetts campsites have been tiny, too. I didn’t mind it as much in Sturbridge though, because we were right on a wonderful pond and away from most of the activity across the water.
Right now, we’re still at the campground in Rochester – the Gateway to Cape Cod RV campground. We’re surrounded by wonderful trees … which offset to some degree the fact that we’re nestled in amongst a couple of cabins. I wouldn’t mind it as much but there’s a couple staying full time in a cabin across the way and they spend most evenings arguing in voices that make it seem like they’re sitting right next to us under the canopy!
I will say this: it’s caused me to recognize the growth I’ve had over the last couple of years. With these two, I’m able to just shake my head and think, “this too shall pass.” I remember some loud, obnoxious folks that camped next to us at our first campsite on leaving Charleston, Georgia Veterans State Park. They weren’t anywhere near as intrusive as these two now … and yet back then, I let them bother me so much that I didn’t gain my composure until probably three days after they had left! So that’s some progress for which I’ll give myself some credit. : o)
We’ve been able to make some new friends in Massachusetts, too. In Sturbridge, we met Daryl and his wife Marian, who work in a boarding school for troubled youth in Hershey, PA. We had a couple of very nice visits with them. And here in Rochester, we met Doug, his wife Amy, and their son John. They own one of the nearby cabins. Doug stop by our first weekend here to take a look at our setup and we will end up visiting for nearly an hour. We spend another couple of hours visiting yesterday, when they were back in Camp after returning home for the work week. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again on Friday.
I just wish the weather was being more cooperative! Like I said, we’ve been back in with a fair amount of rain and cooler temps. It’s supposed to be warmer this week. Knock on wood. Please, knock on wood!
That pretty much sums up where all we’ve been since leaving Lake George, with one exception … our stay in east-central New Hampshire with fellow vagabond Michael.
If you’ve been following the blog since early this year, you know I’ve mentioned Michael numerous times. How we met Etta Campground in Florida and how our paths have continued to cross at various other Thousand Trails campgrounds up the East Coast. You know that Michael invited Frank and me to spend sometime around the 4th of July camped alongside him next to his aunt and uncle’s Farm in East Conway, NH. Well, let me say that the five days we spent there were one of the most memorable (and enjoyable) campground experiences we’ve had over the last two-plus years!
First off, Michael was an incredible host! He took us all around his little area of the world. We visited Mountain tops where we look down on the Saco river valley; we swim in a nearby lake where his uncle on some other property, and then drove all through the backwoods around Conway.
We also had a chance to accompany him down to a small fair a couple of hours away, to watch him at work. I’ve mentioned how during the winter months, Michael goes on the road down to Florida. He sets up a huge labyrinth at fairs and festivals, using it as a teaching tool for meditation and centering work.
I have to say it was really cool to see people respond when he would explain how to hold an “intention” – an idea in your mind as you entered the labyrinth. It might be a problem you’re dealing with. Or it might be an impending choice you have to make, where you’re looking for guidance. He would then direct them to open their minds as they proceeded down the path, being receptive to whatever thoughts might come to them relative to that intention. And how, when they reached the center, it was then time to Express gratitude for the opportunity to be totally in the present with their intention.
I think it’s a wonderful meditation technique! Back at camp, I had set up the Nutshell right next to a labyrinth Michael had made out of rocks he had pulled from the field. I walked that Labyrinth a couple of times while there, and it helped me focus on some of the discoveries made in that short time spent camping next to him.
In between our car tours, we spent most afternoons sitting in our camp chairs looking out over the Saco River, about a hundred yards down an old road from the campsite. We would spend the time shooting the breeze, talking about everything from the insignificant to the important; sharing memories from our respective pasts; and laughing. Lots of laughing! From my perspective, Michael and I are kindred souls. We share similar outlooks on life, politics, spirituality, and relationships.
While there, we ate like kings! A couple of his sons are chefs and it’s easy to see that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree! And everything was cooked over an open fire in a pit Michael guilt for when he is backup in the area every summer to look after his aunt and uncle.
I mentioned at the beginning of the post about discoveries. One of them came about as a direct result of OurTime Camp next to Michael. The other one developed over the previous month but was solidified while walking the Labyrinth.
Discovery #1: I have what it takes to boondock! For those of you not familiar with the term, boondocking is essentially free range camping, where you are not staying in an organized Campground as Frank and I have done since the beginning of our vagabond journey.
It’s an important realization, especially as we head West. We’re going to be spending at least a couple of months in a part of the country where Thousand Trails has no campgrounds! And because of my purchase arrangement, I am on the hook for a monthly payment whether I stay in their campgrounds or not. A certain level of anxiety was building up about how I could afford to pay for both my Thousand Trails membership and additional campground fees during those two months when I would have to find other places to stay. Well, with boondocking, those additional Campground fees go away!
During the period where we will be away from Thousand Trails campgrounds, we will be spending our time mostly in Utah and New Mexico. Both states have plenty of public land where one can Boondock for up to two weeks at a time before having to relocate.
I was dealing with a different anxiety at the same time, though. Sort of a double-edged sword. Yes, there was the anxiety about how to afford additional campsite fees. But I was also anxious about the whole idea of boondocking. I’ve been totally reliant on electrical power the whole time we’ve been on the road – every place we’ve stayed has offered electrical hookups. And I was worried about how we manage otherwise.
That’s been put the bed now. The time we spend boondocking with Michael made me realize that I had most of what I needed already. I’ve been carrying a propane stove with us since the beginning, but if never had to use it. I also have a small charcoal grill. Both of those will easily replace the hot plate and crockpot we’ve been using to prepare meals up to now. At some point over the next month or so, I’ll pick up a French press for making coffee. I have never seen one used and from the explanation, it seemed somewhat messy. All I could picture was the time we spent camping before getting the coffee maker, where I was trying to meet single cups of coffee with a drip system. But when I saw … and tasted … the coffee Michael made with his French press, I knew that was going to be the perfect solution.
When it comes down to it, the only power issue I had was how to keep my wifi device and cell phone charged. It wasn’t going to be practical to rely on my car because a car charger won’t work in my Hyundai unless it’s running. And while people had suggested different configurations of solar panels and Deep Cell marine batteries, that was going to run into more than several hundred dollars of investment.
The solution came by way of a suggestion from a former coworker who is still a Facebook friend. Pen had read one of my post talking about solar power Investments and she sent me a website link to a small portable phone charger. That led me down a path to the solution I ultimately bought … for only slightly over $100! It’s a larger portable powerpack and separate 21W solar panel that integrate with each other. The powerpack will probably provide three days of wifi/phone charges, and with the solar panel, I can recharge the powerpack with about 8-10 hours of sunlight.
Worst-case, once we actually get to the point of having to rely on it, I might need to buy a second powerpack and alternate between the two, keeping one charging via the solar panel while using the other one too keep as charged up. That would only require another $60 investment! A far cry from the $500 I was looking at having to spend free capacity that, as it turns out, I really don’t need!
So, all that anxiety has been addressed. I feel ready to Boondock and am really looking forward to the experience.
Discovery #2: Actually, it’s more of a realization. And it has to do with being open to possibilities.
I’ve mentioned before how part of the long-term game plan for our vagabond journey was to ultimately find a place where Frank and I can light when it becomes obvious that we can’t maintain our life on the road. Up to now, I’ve pretty much ruled out any place in the country where we would cross paths with my old nemesis. It’s a four-letter word: S-N-O-W!!!
You folks have been following us since the beginning of the blog already know that while I fell in love with La Veta, CO, I wrote it off because it’s in the middle of snow country. But as we’ve seen more of the country, I’ve realized that the places that have really “spoken” to me are all in snow country!
Driving from Lake George to Wells, I again fell in love with New England! The quaint little towns we passed through in Vermont and New Hampshire all looked so inviting. The Maine coastline that I remembered from visits I made when I was younger once again said, “Hey! Couldn’t you see yourself living here?” like I mentioned in a couple of other posts over the last months, I love the woods in the Northeast. But I had completely written them off as a possible place to settle down. Until now.
A friend of Michael’s joined us one afternoon while we sat looking over the river. We were talking about how beautiful that part of the country was. And the whole time we were talking the question kept getting louder in my head. So I finally asked him … “But how do you deal with the snow???”
He looked at me like I had suddenly grown a second head. “What do you mean? What’s to deal with? It snows!”
“But what do you do?” I continued. “Do you just stay aware of the weather and stock up groceries and stuff? I mean, how do you get around? Do you just stay indoors?”
Again, he gave me a weird look. “You realize that we have snow plows up here, right? I mean, we had a light winter this past year, but the year before that it snowed quite a bit. And for the most part, the roads were clear the next day. I don’t know what you’re trying to ask me. It’s not that big a deal!”
I know some of you, especially my northeastern friends, are chuckling as you read this. But seriously, this was something that I really hadn’t considered. Was it possible that I was creating a problem where one didn’t necessarily exist?
I’ve not made any decisions on that, obviously. But I’ve realized that I’ve been eliminating potential landing sites out of hand … places that, with the exception of the snow aspect, seem to have spoken to my soul.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m opening myself up to possibilities. Instead of holding onto a rigid mindset, I’m letting the process run its course, wherever that may take us.
And that’s a good thing. Especially given that only a couple of years ago, the only possibility I saw was driving off a cliff at Big Sur! : o)
That’s it for now. It’s only slightly more than an hour until midnight and I promised myself we’d have a July post. Time’s a-wasting!