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Back in Business … With a New Copilot!

It’s time!

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Sunset, Kingman Wash, Lake Mead Recreational Area

Actually, it’s long past time for another blog post. But I have to admit that I’ve been struggling over it. It’s taken a few months of trying to figure out how to move forward with the blog in order to get to today.

It’s not so much dealing with grief. Frank comes to mind all the time. And I’ve gotten to the point now that whenever I do think of him, it’s more with a sense of gratitude where the time he and I shared than it is about sadness. Still, there are the occasional little things that happen which hit me like a brick. Like today.

I’m staying for a couple of days at the Thousand Trails campground in Las Vegas, where we stayed just 3 weeks before Frank passed. One of the maintenance workers stopped by and said, “Weren’t you here just a little while back? You were camped over by the grassy area. I remember you and your little trailer. But weren’t you traveling with a different dog?”

Instant tears!

There’s something inherently wrong about seeing a 6’, 350lb, old, long haired hippie with tears streaming down his face. There are times when I just can’t help it, though. Fortunately it’s happening less and less over time.

But getting back to that worker’s comment … yes, I have a new companion. Let me hold off just a bit before I talk about him, though.

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Along the way, I’ve discovered That the New Mexico Roads Department has gone a bit existential!

Other things have contributed to my lack of blog posts, which really began months before Frank passed. Other than the “In Memoriam” post announcing Frank’s death, I hadn’t done a post since we went to see the eclipse back in August.

It’s funny, but I think it started when the blog received recognition with that award back in the summer. On the one hand, it was very much appreciated. But given my past bouts with low self-esteem, it gave me something to deal with. Quite honestly, I was shocked and overwhelmed by so many people appreciating our story. It was sort of like, “How the hell do I top this?”

I’m still stunned by the outpouring of love and support I received in the wake of Frank’s sudden loss. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s not really about topping anything. It’s just continuing on and telling a story. A story about forward movement. And experiences. And growth.

A few weeks after Frank’s passing, I woke up with a start in the middle of the night. It was a voice coming out of a dream that kept repeating, “Your journey. YOUR JOURNEY”, over and over. I thought about that for quite a while before coming to a conclusion about what the message meant. At least what I think it means.

Call it my guardian angel, spirit guide, inner self, whatever. I think the voice was telling me that this Vagabond Journey has been mine from the get-go. Frank was an important part in it, but ultimately, this journey is mine alone. Various people … including all of you readers … have been included and in some cases have played a major part in it. But when it comes down to it, the journeys we each take are ours alone. Frank’s journey on Earth ended. Mine continues. And hopefully I’ll still have plenty of experiences you will enjoy hearing about.

The other part of the struggle has been more about logistics. After all, the blog’s title isn’t relevant anymore. Hence the title change. And as the new subtitle indicates, future posts will involve a bit more discussion about the role this lifestyle has played on my healing of the depression and anxiety I had to deal with for most of my life.

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This photo says it all. Manny is the “manster”!

Now, about my new traveling companion. Let me introduce you to the “manster”, a nickname he was given by one of my dear high school friends, Margaret. I don’t think I could have come up with a more appropriate nickname! : o)

Manny is an Australian Cattle Dog. He and I met at a rescue place in Prescott, AZ. They gave him his name and he responded to it, so I didn’t see any need to change it. Besides, it has a special meaning to me, given that I am a longtime Boston Red Sox fan. It’s help me laugh off some of his bad habits as simply, “Manny being Manny!”

Their information said that Manny had been picked up on reservation land. He weighed less than 25 lbs, about half what he weighs now. He had been covered in burrs and pieces of cactus, one of his ears have been partially torn off in a fight and he had sustained hip damage. As an aside, I’m about to find out the extent of the hip damage tomorrow, when he has his first Banfield veterinary visit. I’m putting him on the same Wellness Plan that Frank was on, which includes his shots, a couple of x-rays a year, one teeth cleaning a year, and various other benefits. Knock on wood.

Manny is nothing like Frank! As sweet and calm and happy as Frank was, well how do I put it? To say that Manny is exactly the opposite would be the understatement of the year! He is one talkative, ornery, and scared little son of a bitch LOL

The first two weeks we were together, Manny reacted negatively to almost everything I did with him. If I called him? He’d growl and snarl. Same reaction when I would pet him, or if he had to move at night when I climbed into the Nutshell, for example. Even when I went to give him a treat … more snarling and more growling.

A friend introduced me to a woman that had been a dog trainer before she retired. She billed herself as a dog whisperer. After spending about 20 minutes with Manny, she said that he had been trained using some very harsh techniques designed to break him. “That won’t work with this breed!” she exclaimed. “Any dog can herd sheep. Hell, a dachshund could herd sheep. But it takes a certain amount of swagger for a dog to herd cattle.”

She went on to say that all of his posturing was out of fear and gave me a few techniques to use to help him adapt to his new living situation. And that if I was patient and kept up with kindness … and more patience, that it would hopefully pay off.

It has! Manny has bonded quite well with me. He still has a lot of socialization work that needs to be done. But we’re making progress everyday. He’s even gotten to the point where he’s allowed a few other people to get close and pet him, although they’ve been few and far between. Still, it’s progress.

Now, on to other things.

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One thing I’ll say – Manny sure enjoys traveling!

A lot’s changed in the journey besides traveling with a new companion. A lot! For one thing, we’ve not been staying in organized campgrounds like we were last year.

During the first three months of 2017, I stayed almost exclusively in Thousand Trails campgrounds. In fact, with the exception of a weekend get together with other members of a teardrop trailer owners group I belong to, I hadn’t camp anywhere but a Thousand Trails campground. This year, that’s almost been reversed!

One of the biggest blessings that came in the aftermath of Frank’s passing, besides the realization as to how many people were touched by our story, was the opportunity to spend some time with Pat, a fellow who administers one of the full-time camping groups I joined on Facebook. I mentioned in the last post that Pat had invited me to stay with him over the holidays and I’m so grateful to have taken him up on his offer!

There are two people that were instrumental in giving me the confidence and ability to do what’s called boondocking, or dispersed camping … where you camp off-grid, without relying on any organized campground to provide electricity and water hookups. Michael, a friend that I made early last year and who I stayed with over the 4th of July holiday, gave me the confidence that I needed to say, “I can do this!” Pat is the one who taught me how to do it!

Over the two and a half weeks I spent camped next to him, Pat showed me everything from how to switch from a reliance on electricity for cooking to propane; what I needed to store and carry my own water; and what supplies and equipment I needed to make the switch … and so much more! It was like going to boondocking school and having a private tutor! I’m grateful to call him … and Michael … my friends and will forever be indebted to them!

The result? Since January 1st, I’ve only spent 11 days in Thousand Trails campgrounds. The rest of the time has been spent camping entirely off-grid. And what a difference! It’s one thing to use a campground is a home base from which you go out and see the sights. It’s another thing to be camping amongst this sites. LOL

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Our setup at Kingman Wash, Lake Mead Recreation Area

Since leaving Pat, Manny and I have camped in Quartzite, AZ while attending the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of vandwellers, nomads and vagabonds that brought in almost 4,000 people this year; Tonto National Forest, first with Pat and then with a small group of other folks who belong to his Facebook group; in New Mexico, where I finally had a chance to visit Silver City, a place I’ve decided we will ultimately land if and when Manny and I leave the vagabond lifestyle; extreme Southeastern Arizona, where I had a chance to meet other full-timers with whom I had only recently made friends on Facebook; and finally in Tucson, where I got the chance to spend time with a 23 year old niece that I had never met!

The other big news is that we’re now outfitted with solar capability! Manny and I are now proud owners of a 100 watt solar panel, an 80 amp-hour solar battery, and a high-tech controller that interfaces between the two, automatically turning the power feed off from the solar panel when the battery is fully charged and turning off the power feed from the battery when too much of its capacity has been used.

Thanks again to Pat, who gave a huge amount of help in getting everything set up and to a different Michael – my niece Emma’s significant other, who helped quite a bit with configuring what I needed.

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Our first set up using solar – Tonto National Forest, an hour east of Phoenix, AZ

At the moment, the only thing I really need power for is to charge my phone and Wi-Fi device, but I have so much additional capacity that I’m actually struggling with trying to figure out what else I might need! In the near future, I’ll be adding some low voltage, LED lighting inside the Nutshell and possibly some similar lighting for outside. I’m also thinking about adding a 12-volt Crock-Pot or rice cooker, something that will augment using the propane stove. It’s just nice to know that I have additional capacity for down the road. Pun intended. LOL

So Manny and I are all set up for new adventures. It’s interesting how things work out. Especially when you let go a little bit and allow room for God, Creator, the Universe, whatever you want to call it, to step in and provide a clear view of the path you are walking.

I’ll stop now. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll catch you all up a bit. I’ll go back and talk about the adventures that Frank and I had traveling from Kentucky to Arizona. I’ll also fill out the details about what’s gone on so far this year … what I glossed over a few paragraphs back. It’s been such an incredible time, what with all the beautiful places we’ve stayed and all the wonderful people that we’ve spent time with.

Stay tuned.

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Manny and me. By the way, a 105lb LIGHTER version of the “me” who started out nearly three years ago!

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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Itinerary

 

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Franklin Phideaux Cox – In Memoriam, 12/16/2017

This is the post I never wanted to make. And it was the last thing on my mind when waking up a week ago last Saturday. But my little buddy Frank unexpectedly passed away last Saturday afternoon.

It’s taken over a week to maintain enough composure to post about it. But I wanted the focus to be on honoring Frank, not on my own sense of loss and heartache. He deserves that!


For what it’s worth, Frank didn’t show any suffering for long. Although, it’s hard for me to think back and wonder if I didn’t misinterpret some of his slowing down.  Without going into any more details than are necessary, Frank woke up that Saturday morning and seemed the same as on Friday, when he was rolling around in dirt and as playful as he ever.  I even took a photo of the beautiful sunrise we had and made a post or two about baseball, of all things!


Frank spent a little time in my arms as he always did after my first cup of coffee. I don’t remember everything we talked about. Nothing of any import. I told him about Bob Costas getting into the Hall of Fame before Barry Bonds and Frank grinned about that. He wasn’t too fond of Bonds. Felt he gave a bad connotation to the phrase “dogging it”. But we talked a little bit about this and that and then started about our day.


It wasn’t too long before I noticed Frank was in obvious discomfort. He had diarrhea and was having a hard time walking. I picked him up and put him in the cabin for a minute to think about what I was going to do. I had an appointment for him already set up in San Diego the following week. Frank suddenly appeared in the doorway then, asking to be held again. So I did for a few minutes more while talking to him about what we needed to do here. But it was obvious that something was wrong.


I found an emergency vet and got the terrible news. Frank had a very large mass in his stomach and it had evidently started bleeding. And there was nothing we could do except ease his pain.

So I did what had to be done. In less than an hour and a half from when Frank first let on that something serious was wrong, he was gone. Out of pain and discomfort. I’ll just say that Frank knew to the end that he was loved. And leave it at that.


I could try to put together words that sum up the time Frank and I shared together. But I don’t think I could come up with anything better than what long-time friend Dale wrote and shared on my Facebook page. It not only captures what Frank and I shared but also what Frank meant to so many people that crossed his path:


“My friend Jeff lost his faithful companion and best friend, yesterday. It was sudden and unexpected   I believe the Divine power of the Creator/ God or whichever name you call it; gives us angels to help us through the tough parts of life. And they come in many disguises. Frank was there to help Jeff when the world looked dark and unpleasant and he led him to see light and hope and find compassion and love from friends and love of self.


Frank shared himself with the world around Jeff and those of us who are included in that world found Frank to be an amazing little angel, indeed. It’s not goodbye. It is until we meet again  I know he will be there at the rainbow bridge when it’s Jeff’s time to make the journey whenever that is. So long for now, Frank I know you will check in on your buddy now and then. Thank you for being Jeff’s healing angel!


Frank was definitely my angel. He wasn’t just a four-legged companion. He was my compadre. My confidant. And he was definitely the smarter of the two vagabonds that left Charleston, SC over two and a half years ago.


Frank was also the Chief Navigator of this journey, although I think he’d agree that he was more than happy to let the GPS do the bulk of his work. But maybe that’s because he was taking a much deserved break. After all, it’s easy to see in retrospect that Frank’s navigation duties began from the time we met in early summer 2014, when almost from day one he took it upon himself to steer me through that pretty rough time in my life Dale mentioned. Initially, he worked to bring me out of it. And even when that failed, he kept me alive simply by having agreed to stay in my care. You can read more about that on the About Us pages. But in simple terms, I would not be here today if it weren’t for Frank.


One of the things he and I used to do at the end of a day on the road was to count our blessings. Even on tough days, we’d take a few minutes to do that. What blessings might come out of this, you ask? Well,  If you look, it’s not hard to find them.


  • The timing of it. A day later, and all of this would have been happening after packing up and while in transit to San Diego. Two months earlier, we were out in the middle of nowhere, boondocking. In either of those situations, Frank could have passed in pain while lying on the passenger seat as I was trying to get him somewhere.

  • The closest Banfield vets were both closed. On a Saturday in Palm Springs!?!? By happenstance, I found another vet who couldn’t have shown more kindness and compassionate care to an old dog … and to the old man who was about to lose his closest friend. They even waived all fees, including Frank’s cremation. Without my asking, they offered to write off the fees against an angel fund to help those in need.

  • A friend and fellow full-time camper, John, reached out and invited me to spend the holidays with him at his camp just south of Prescott, AZ. That’s where I’ve been for the last week. John’s roommate and confidant, Jake, a big black lab, has sensed that something has happened, I think. He’s spent a lot of time sitting next to me and making sure I’ve gotten my quota of dog kisses. But more than that, John has offered to help get me better squared away to go off grid, something that I’ve been itching to do for quite a while now, but have been a bit afraid to do, given how little I know. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity right now if it weren’t for the circumstances.

  • More than anything, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the outpouring of love and support that has come to us since December 16th. More about that…


I posted about Frank’s passing that Saturday afternoon and shared it with 4 Facebook groups to which I belong. The last I looked a few days ago, more than 2,000 people have acknowledged Frank’s passing. Those posts were shared more than an additional three dozen or so times by others. And between comments, personal messages, emails, texts, and phone calls, more than a thousand people have expressed their own thoughts about Frank’s passing. I had no idea that he had touched that many people. 


I heard from people that said they met us here and there along our way. I heard from others whose names I didn’t even recognize, who said they were “following the story of Frank and Jeff”! I had no idea! If only Frank had an Inkling of how many people he touched. But then, he really didn’t care about that! All he really seemed to care about was protecting me. Taking care of me, And the two of us being happy together. And food.


That sort of leads into the other way I’m going to honor Frank.  I need to continue the journey he and I started. And to do that, I need to face reality And acknowledge that I can’t do that on my own. So I  need to make room for another companion. He won’t replace Frank. Actually, he can’t. In actuality, Frank did his job completely. He bridged the gap between where I was back then and where I’m at now. He brought me to a place of mental and emotional well-being … with a willingness to engage with the world again.


The next companion will have another task – to help me get back to physical health. More walking, more off leash hikes, and less sitting. I pray that I’m led to meet and recognize this dog the way it happened with Frank.


So vaya con Dios, my little compadre. You will always be in my heart. And Frank,while you may be gone, you will never be forgotten. I love you, buddy … and I pray that you are at peace and happy.


 
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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Travels

 

Again with a Photo Dump …

dHere are most of the photos I’ve taken during the last month or so of our Vagabond Journey. Most are photos of our setups at various spots, but I’ve thrown a few others in there as well.

As an aside, we’re in Kentucky right now. Saw the eclipse yesterday. I’ll touch on that in the next couple of days. We’re leaving tomorrow for a short stay in Saulsbury, TN and will update once we get there.

Rochester, MA

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Want to see my Princess Leia impersonation? Huh? Do ya??

We didn’t really take any photos of our setup here. You’re not missing much! We were smack dab in the middle of a bunch of bungalows. There wasn’t another RV in sight! It worked out okay, though. The site was pretty nice sizedand we still had a decent amount of trees all around us.

As you can see from the photo, there wasn’t much grass around. Friend didn’t like that very much. So aside from when the kids next door came over to say hello, he had some extra free time. I mean, grass and shrubs always smell more inviting than dirt.

One morning, I happened to glance up at him sitting right in front of me. I thought he was wanting to get up on my lap, but he was evidently just looking for an opinion on a new look he was trying out. I think you have to give him credit for originality … going with a Wookie look would have been the more obvious route. But Frank’s never been one to follow the crowd.

Lisbon, CT

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The Ross Hill Campground … a magnificent place!

Frank was happy, because we were finally back on grass again, after being on nothing more than dirt for the previous month! Plus, he was ecstatic with all the attention he received. It wasn’t just a chance to be scratched and rubbed by so many people. He got a chance to visit with quite a few canine buddies, too. Frank is definitely not someone who shies away From attention!

Frank was also pretty happy about having another chance to take a swim. I’ve included a short video  below that shows him testing the water.

As I mentioned in the last post, there were all different varieties of teardrops and other small campers attending the tearjerker gathering. Here are a few of them…

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A Casita … No back galley hatch on this one. The kitchen is inside.

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This is a wonderful example of a home built trailer. Towed by a classic Model T Ford, no less!

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Here’s a classic pop up camper. Owned by another Beagle lover, I might add!

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You CAN teach an old dog new tricks! (Lighten up Frank. I’m not talking about you. It’s a saying!

Oh yeah, something I don’t think I’ve mentioned before. I figured out a way to protect our camp table during rain. When we were in Maine, I picked up a lightweight drop cloth and cut it so that it covers the gaps between the bottom of the canopy and the top of the insert. It’s worked out pretty well, except for my chosen method of attaching it to the canopy – clothespins! Someone mentioned that I should get some heavy duty binder clips and I will do that the next chance I get.  By the way, the white strips on the plastic are Velcro. The velcro helped a little bit but I’ve since replace the canopy and  still need to add velcro to it, too.

This is really coming in handy! It’s worked more than “okay” …  except for wind. it’s raining as I put this post together in Kentucky, and the canopy is set up into the wind, so the clothes pins aren’t holding that well. Hopefully those binder clips do a better job.

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The New England chapter of Tearjerkers, 8/11-8/13

One of the traditions at the Tearjerker Gatherings is to snap a group photo. I have to say, this was a truly wonderful bunch of people. Frank and I were extremely grateful that they included us in as if we were lifelong members.

20170822_182655Frank was at my feet in this photo, by the way. He did not want to be seen. He muttered something about a collie in Hilton Head looking for him and then, “Don’t ask …”

Here’s our award for traveling the longest distance to attend, too. I still say we only drove about 90 miles from Rochester, MA, but we sincerely appreciate the recognition, regardless.

Manheim, PA

20170813_182616We arrived at the PA Dutch Country RV campground late on Sunday. We didn’t even set up camp like we normally do. I just pulled everything out of the Nutshell  and set it outside next to the wheels. Frank still had plenty of time to claim another picnic table in the name of beagledom … although he was infatuated by something up in the trees. I never did figure out what it was.

Of course, Mother Nature had other ideas the next afternoon, when it started raining. So we quickly set up the canopy and stayed underneath it for the rest of the afternoon and into evening. The rain actually lasted all night.

One thing I will say, it was definitely quiet! We had that entire section of the campground  almost entirely to ourselves. And after that long drive, the peace and solitude were definitely appreciated.

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We managed a quick setup of the canopy in the rain.

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Now that’s what I call solitude!

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Even Frank was exhausted after that long day of driving!

Park City, KY

If Frank thought it was a long day of driving getting to Amish Country, he hadn’t seen anything yet!

We left Manheim  about 8:30 in the morning on Wednesday, after spending an extra day there for some additional recuperation. The original plan called for us to stop somewhere in eastern Ohio on Tuesday night and arrive in Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon. Truth be told though, I was totally fried! I think that’s the first time I drive had really gotten to me since we came back from picking up the Nutshell early last year.

I called ahead to the Diamond Caverns RV campground, our next stop, to see if it would be alright if we didn’t make it there until Thursday. they said it wouldn’t be a problem … just call ahead mid-afternoon to let them know that we wouldn’t make it. But I decided to plow on through. We arrived just as the sun was going down and had just enough light to set up the canopy. Once again, I just pulled everything out of the Nutshell and set it next to the back wheel. After a sound sleep, we got everything set up the next morning. Granted, it took another couple of days of additional recuperation time before Frank and I felt okay. Fortunately, this Is a great place to do it in!

20170818_080958This is going to be another of my favorite Thousand Trails campgrounds. We have a great site here – it looks out onto a huge open area, dotted by a few trees and shrubs. The Campground filled up where is Eclipse viewers. Evidently everyone had the same idea I did. But even with that, our you stayed pretty much the same all week. There were just a few tent campers that came in and set up underneath the trees for a couple of days.

We’re also set up at the end of a row, so we only had neighbors On our port side, while we set up on starboard.

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Our setup at Diamond Caverns RV campground, Park City, KY

Once again, we have been blessed with some wonderful neighbors, though! Phil and Judy are also full-time RVers out of Texas. Seal came out and introduced himself as I was sitting at the picnic table, getting my bearings after the 12-hour Drive and preparing to set up the canopy. He offered to help, but setting up a canopy it’s just one of those things that I figured out how to do easily. And sometimes it’s more work to get someone else involved in those type of things. Nevertheless, we’ve spent part of each day visiting and I really enjoyed their company.

I’m going to leave things here for now. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we’ll save the eclipse viewing for it’s own blog post.  Compared to the last two trips, we’ve got a relatively easy 3.5 hour drive ahead of us tomorrow. That’ll be a snap, right Frank?

I will leave you with one final picture of the two Vagabonds testing out there ISO approved eclipse glasses. Anyone up for a 3D movie?

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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Travels

 

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Go West, (Not-So) Young Man!

Westward Ho!

Tonight, Frank and I are enjoying a quiet campsite at the PA Dutch Country RV Campground outside of Manheim, PA. That wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to be sitting in a Walmart parking lot somewhere in Ohio about now. But we both woke up this morning a bit groggy. Frank gave me a look that said, “Do we have to spend the entire day in the car again?” We’ve gotten to the point where we can read each other’s minds now, by the way. His sense of humor isn’t quite as dry as I first thought it was. He’s more of a practical joker. But that’s a story for another post.

Anyhow, we are still recovering from a weekend of revelry followed by 10 hours in the car on Sunday. So we decided to spend one more night here. Tomorrow morning, we’ll head out pretty early. I don’t know that will make it all the way to our campground in Kentucky, but I called ahead and they were okay with us coming in a day later … just so long as we let them know in the early afternoon whether we’re going to make it tomorrow or not.

I’m really kind of embarrassed about feeling exhausted. I mean, we’re really not doing anything to feel exhausted about! I guess the only defense I can put up as it we’ve been moving around a lot more frequently of late. In a fit of self-justification, I looked back at our itinerary this afternoon and sure enough -From January 1st until mid-June, we moved 13 times. But over the last two months, we’ve moved 10! That’s a lot of driving, setups and teardowns compared to what we had been used to. So I’ll take that excuse, even if it’s only a pretty weak one. : o)

Unfortunately though, Frank is going to have to suck it up because those frequent moves aren’t going to stop anytime soon. In actuality, we’ve got at least 9-10 more moves will have to go through between now and October 15th! It won’t be until then that we finally reach a place with a month-long stay to look forward to.

Not only that, we’ll be driving halfway across the country, with a couple of north/south zigzags thrown in to boot! Who came up with this itinerary, anyhow? That’s rhetorical, by the way … and don’t let on to my Chief Navigator who it was, please. He’s already asleep in the Nutshell and I’m not sure what he would do with the information.

But anyhow, back to this past weekend …

Frank and I left Massachusetts about 10:30 Friday morning. But not before some sad goodbyes. We’ve been camping next to a cabin where a family had been staying for the last week. We had a little girl that for whatever reason was just infatuated by Frank and me.

Most mornings, she would come out and say hello to us before breakfast; one morning, she hollered down from her upstairs bedroom window and offered to read me her story book. She was absolutely precious! But she had a hard time saying goodbye.

She and her brother came over with their father as we were leaving and it was obvious she didn’t want Frank to leave!  As soon as Frank saw her come up to the driver’s window, he jumped on top of me and was straining to get out to give her one final goodbye. They were at equal eye level, and as soon as Frank noticed the tears in her eyes, he just started licking away!

After that, she broke the news – “In 5 more days, I’m going to be 6 years old, and I told my mommy and daddy that I want a dog just like Frank!”  I took her father’s rolling eyes as a good signal that it was time to leave, so I just wished her a happy birthday, told her it was time for us to get on the road and mouthed, “Sorry,” to her dad. He just grinned and said that she had been asking for a dog for a while. I’m grateful he let us off the hook a little bit.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Ross Hill Park, near Lisbon, CT. I have to say, this was a magnificent campground! Compared to the last couple of campgrounds we were at, our space was ginormous! We had a beautiful view of a river about 75 yards away and could see a number of other teardrops that had already arrived for the annual get-together of the Tearjerkers’ New England chapter.

We were sitting at the picnic table, getting our bearings when Barry and Nancy, the chapter chairpersons, stopped by to say hello. Talk about being made to feel welcome! They knew who we were just by way of Frank’s smile. But then, pretty much everyone knows Frank by now. We were greeted with warm hugs and handshakes and spent about 15 minutes with them talking about our journey.

We finished setting up and relaxed for a little while before dinner. We had been invited over to have dinner with Theresa, another of the chapter’s organizers. I have to say, I don’t go all out on my cooking. I do what I need to do. And the chicken fajitas that Theresa prepared were beyond delicious! I’m going to have to step up my game a little bit.

After dinner, we all gathered around the community campfire. As stories were being swapped, I joined in a little guitar picking session with Darrell and Rory. Meanwhile, I noticed Frank, whose lead was connected to my chair, going from person to person. He would sit directly in front of them and give them a look that was akin to Oliver begging for more food. He was trying to convince anyone who would look at him that it had been eons since he’d received any attention! Fortunately for him, everyone was more than happy to oblige. He was pretty funny –  as they would reach down to pet him, he would lower his head so that they could scratch the back of his neck. And I would catch him grinning as he was getting stroked. “Heh, heh, heh, bagged another one!”  What a conniver he can be at times!

The next day, we all got together for breakfast, with Frank following up his with a brief dip in the river. And after that came the famous Tearjerker crawl, where everyone went from campsite to campsite to learn about everyone else’s rides. There were some very cool trailers in camp, I have to say. A pretty good combination of manufactured, home-built, antique restorations and the like.

Later on, we all got back together for a pot-luck dinner and more time around the campfire. There was a group photo and an awards ceremony, too. People were recognized for things like “best home-built teardrop,” “best galley,” “best decorated campsite,” and the like.

Frank and I received an award for coming the furthest distance to attend the gathering. I tried to convince them that we’d only just come from Massachusetts, but they wouldn’t hear it. So as a result, I have a beautiful plaque that will be displayed prominently in all my future campsites.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the campfire a bit early. There was rain in the air and Frank had one of his uncontrollable shaking sessions. So we hurried back to our campsite so that Frank could get under his magic blanket in the Nutshell and feel some relief.

Our Sunday was spent entirely in the car. We started out fairly early, but I wanted to stop somewhere in New Jersey to pick up some corn and tomatoes. Now those of you who aren’t familiar with Jersey corn or Jersey tomatoes might think that’s crazy, but if you haven’t tasted them, you have no idea what you’re missing!  they are incredibly sweet, almost like eating candy!

I found a farm stand off I-87 but didn’t have any place to park, except to pull off on the side of a narrow road. I was able to catch the eye of a high school kid that was working there and he came over to the car and was more than happy to pick out some produce for us. A really nice kid – he even protested when I told him to keep the change from the $15 I had given him. But he laughed and relented when I told him that I’d sic my vicious dog on him if he said anything else. Of course, Frank was just looking at him with a big grin on his face.  : o)

We wound up with four ears of corn, three tomatoes, and a pint of blueberries. I wish I could have figured out how to bring back 4 dozen ears! Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.

After that, I made a quick phone call to make sure he was home and then stopped to see an old friend, Eric, with whom I had worked for a few years while living in New Jersey. Eric had tried to come up to our campground in the Poconos in late May, but just couldn’t work it into his schedule. So we stopped by for a quick visit so he could meet Frank … then we were on our way.

We arrived at our Campground just before 6 p.m. and it was all I could do to empty the trailer so that we could get inside to sleep. And this is where we’ve been for the last couple of days.

This blog post was started kind of late and it needs to get it posted before heading to bed. There won’t be any photos in this one, but I have a number of them to share from the weekend and our short stay here. But we’ve got a long day of driving ahead of us tomorrow, so I want to hit the sack as soon as I can. I’ll post those in the next couple of days.

Good night everyone!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Travels

 

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A Little Late …

I’ve never been good at accepting accolades. They’ve come at times in the past … at work, at church, as a volunteer with a few charitable organizations, etc.  

A good portion of my uneasiness his had to do with unrealistic expectations I put on myself. After all, how can you accept kudos for doing what you are supposed to be doing in the first place? Whatever you do, you are supposed to excel. It’s expected!

The other part of my reluctance has had to do with guilt, and what someone sees when they look at themselves in the mirror. If you’re of a mind that none of the good you do will make up for all your shortcomings and mistakes, then you’re always fighting the urge to say, “Yeah, but …,” when someone acknowledges something good you’ve done.

Quite honestly, I thought I had come to terms with all that stuff. After all, I’m finally happy and at peace. I’m enjoying the time Frank and I have spent on the road way more than I ever expected to. And I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to touch other people’s lives.

So I was pretty surprised by the anxiety that came to the surface a couple of months ago by a comment that was left on our blog … something that came completely out of the blue!

In the time since, I’ve struggled to make a few blog posts. I guess it’s sort of like what happens when a batter, who has been in a groove, suddenly starts thinking too much. He starts second-guessing pitches, or worrying about whether he’s dropping his shoulder, or bringing his hips out too early. And all of a sudden, the hits aren’t coming anymore.

In any event, I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks in meditation. I’ve even brought the old workbooks out and have spent time back doing some writing therapy. Funny thing though … I was working on the wrong thing! Instead of focusing on getting back in the groove, I should have been working on my manners!

In the middle of this morning’s meditation, a sudden realization interrupted the silence. An epiphany! “Dude! How rude!”

Yes … I’ve been rude to someone who went out of their way to acknowledge our blog. Irrespective of groove, or blog updates, or whatever, that needs to be addressed.  NOW!!! So …

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Back in June, “Frank and Jeff – Two Old Vagabonds” was nominated for a Blogger Recognition Award. My manners to the contrary, I’m shocked and humbled by this recognition. Quite frankly, I’m just happy people have decided to follow along on our little journey! I never really expected anyone to actually like our story!

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

Here are the rules;

  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Write a post to show your award
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started
  • Give some pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select other bloggers you want to give this award to
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

The Thanks

Our nomination came by way of vagabonds-to-be Kelley and Michael. They made the decision a while ago to follow their dream of traveling around North America in an RV. In between shake-out trips here and there, they’ve been working on renovating and selling their home; downsizing their stuff; and planning their Adventure. So far so good – they are on target for lift off at the end of this month.

They’ve been chronicling all of their preparations at 2heartsand2wheels.wordpress.com.  I encourage you to visit their blog and sign on to follow them as they hit the open road!

Kelley and Michael, I’m sorry that it took so long to thank you. I’m touched that you have enjoyed reading about Frank and my travels and look forward to the chance of meeting somewhere on the open road! Thank you for our nomination, from the bottom of my heart!

Brief Story

The vast majority of you know our story. If you don’t, you can learn about where we started, and how far we’ve traveled … in terms of both geography and psyche … by visiting our “About Us” page.

I used to think that I was the brains of this outfit and Frank had the good looks. I’ve since come to realize that he only lets me think I’m the brains. I had help with that from an unexpected source.

A little boy, whose family camped next to us at Myrtle Beach State Park this past spring, probably did the best job explaining my role as it stands today. He had been talking excitedly back at his campsite about playing with Frank that afternoon. His mother noted that he knew Frank’s name, but wanted to know, “ who does Frank live with?”

Oh, he’s just the man that takes care of Frank!”

Yep. That’s me.

New Blogger Advice

If you’ve already decided on a format, great! Stick with it! People aren’t visiting you because of bells and whistles or fancy widgets on your page (unless, of course, your blog is all about bells and whistles and fancy widgets!) Put your energy into telling your story.

Second, work on consistency. Try not to go for long periods of time between posts. For what it’s worth, I’m telling this to myself as much as you. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Don’t let that happen!

Lastly, write from your heart! That doesn’t mean you open up your editor and just start writing free flow. Rambling is never good. Write from your heart … whatever your topic, let the passion you feel for it come through the story. The rest will follow.

My Nominations

https://storyshucker.wordpress.com

I’ve been following Stuart Perkins for. about 3 years now.  In all honesty,  his blog is the standard by which I measure my own storytelling. From tales about his grandmother; to life lessons learned through encounters with everyday people; to stories about his friends and children, Stuart offers a wonderful perspective on finding the extra ordinary in daily life.

Stuart’s blog is one of my “must-reads”! Just seeing a notification that he’s made another post brings a smile to my face and I usually stop what I’m doing to go read whatever wisdom he is imparting.

https://travellingtheworldsolo.com

Ellen is a young Australian midwife who also happens to be a world Traveler. Her goal for 2017 is to report from all seven continents! Her blog includes some great travel stories and the most amazing photography.

https://theblondecoyote.com

As she notes on her “About Me” page, “The Blonde Coyote is my trail name, which I use to sign trail logs and summit registers. Like most good trail names, mine was given to me by a fellow hiker after many long, hard miles. The Blonde Coyote also pays tribute to one of my favorite non-human traveling companions: a deaf coyote-cattledog hybrid named Freckles who was a great ally in my desert wanderings around rural New Mexico.”

Mary has been living the nomadic lifestyle as a correspondent for Earth magazine for over 10 years and has the stories to prove it. Simply put, Mary is doing what I would do if I have the stones and the stamina! LOL

https://rvchickadee.com

Kelly has been on the road for about the same amount of time as Frank and me. She is one of the growing number of young people who have decided not to wait until retirement to see the country … while embracing a lifestyle that’s become known as “minimalism”. If only I would have understood, as she has, what things are important in life when I was her age!

Kelly works in the digital world and is accompanied by her four-legged companions, Trixie and Gizmo. You have any questions about the boondocking lifestyle? Well, odds are Kelly and crew will have an answer for you.


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Our new campsite flag

Frank and I haven’t really done that much since our last post. We’ve hung around the campsite for most of the last couple of weeks.

We’ve taken a couple of trips out to see the ocean. The last one was a little disappointing – a couple of days ago, we drove out to what was advertised on the web as a dog friendly beach. But on arriving after a 1+ hour drive, we discovered that wasn’t the case! So we had to be satisfied with smelling the salt air while sitting in the car for a while.

What we have been doing is getting ready for our trek westward.  On Sunday, we’ll be leaving the East Coast and won’t be back for quite a while. We’ve spent our days taking care of chores.

The Nutshell’s cabin is cleaner than when we arrived. We’ve done some preliminary testing on the power pack for our WiFi device and phone in preparation of a little bit of boondocking this fall. That’s gone pretty well. We’ve replaced the car battery, that was showing signs of dying.

We also had to replace our canopy. As it turns out, we can get about 7 – 8 months use out of one before the constant exposure to the sun weakens the material to the point that it becomes unusable. In setting up at our last campground in Sturbridge, the canopy split wide open along one of the sheaths holding a leg in place. Fortunately, we had a temporary solution until our new canopy was delivered to  our present location.

While we were staying in Maine at the end of June, I picked up a big sheet of thin drop cloth … something like 20’×12’.  With Frank’s supervision, I cut it so that we now have sheeting that covers the opening between the bottom of the canopy and the canopy insert. We no longer have to worry about rain seeping through and on to our camp table.

The leftover portion of drop cloth sure came in handy after that big tear in the overhead. We had enough remaining to simply drape it over the hole and then fasten it down with some clothes pins. It came in handy – we did have rain. What else is new, right?  : o)

Since arriving here, I cut another piece out of the remnantd to cover the opening between the canopy and the top of the Nutshell, where it angles over the door. So Frank and I are now more fully protected from the elements. If only I would have remembered to save the extra insert from the old canopy before tossing it in Sturbridge! That wasn’t very smart. Not one of my better moves!  : o)

This weekend, we will have a short stay in Connecticut with the New England Tearjerker chapter, after which we will immediately depart for Pennsylvania. Our plan is to arrive in Park City, KY on Wednesday, August 16th.

That’s it for now. Look for another post on Monday, our next down day. Over the month-and-a-half, I had two occasions to gain some closure on past chapters in my life, one of which happened last week. They’re worth talking about. Until then …

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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New England Discoveries

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…

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As you can see, things were tight in Wells

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).

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Highway humor … “Uh, no. You can’t!”

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.

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Our pond in Stockbridge

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.

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Michael and me,

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.

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Michael’s campsite labyrinth

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.

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Boondocking in New Hampshire

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.

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Who needs electricity? We ate like kings!

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!

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Travels

 

Meet Pollyanna’s Brother

Sometimes your best Facebook post is the one you don’t make.

I just deleted a lengthy tome – a response to something a friend posted on Facebook. In thinking about it, I thought it was more appropriate to post here on the blog instead.

On starting this blog, I made a conscious decision that I was going to refrain from any political statements. There have been a few posts  … a very few … where I alluded to things there were going on in the country while being very careful not to point fingers or take an outright political stand on things. I’m going to follow that rule to some degree today, but given the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise a couple of days ago, there’s something I need to get off my chest. And it has to do with the political climate we are all living in.

Like Will McAvoy of “The Newsroom”, I remember a time when we didn’t identify ourselves “by who we voted for in the last election.” When disagreements with other people’s viewpoints didn’t escalate to estrangement from one another. And when we didn’t think that those we disagreed with were evil!

I have good friends … dear friends, with political viewpoints that range pretty much all the way up and down the “conservative – liberal” spectrum. So I’m deeply troubled and saddened when those friends post things on Facebook like, “Guns don’t kill people. Leftists kill people,” or “It’s okay that 26 kids get killed at Sandy Hook, but let one Republican Congressman get shot and all hell breaks loose.”

Given how vilification is the norm these days, is it any wonder that someone has taken a pot shot at elected officials? Quite frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before now. And it doesn’t really matter that this time it turned out to be a guy with a liberal bent who shot a conservative congressman. It could just have easily been the other way around. Next time, If there is a next time, it could be. Hatred isn’t confined to one side or the other. Neither is violence. There are people on both sides who are extreme enough to listen to all the hate being expressed in politics today and decide to act on it.

I don’t care what your political beliefs are. From my perspective, we all have valid concerns about the problems in this country. And for the most part, they are all legitimate concerns, whether you personally share specific ones or not.

But also for the most part, when you get down to the basics, we all want the same thing – a decent place to live where you don’t have to worry about stepping outside your door; meaningful work, whether it’s in a job or as a stay-at-home parent; the ability to put food on our tables; and a chance at a better life … ideally, for ourselves, but most definitely for our kids. I’m pretty sure those are universal wants and desires and it doesn’t matter who you are or who you voted for!

After that, I’m pretty sure most of us would like to see some ongoing problems in our country addressed, too – a reduction in child poverty and suffering; adequate and affordable health care; a reduction in violence; the right to practice one’s faith, or to live without having someone else’s belief system forced on them. There are others, but that’s not the focus here.

Unfortunately, none of those things are going to happen … basic or otherwise …  if we continue to vilify those we disagree with. Or see them as incapable of rational thought. Or think of them as evil!

We have to establish a give and take. A middle ground, a place where we can agree. And be willing to compromise. Even on things for which we feel there is no room for compromise.

Some people are saying that the divisiveness in our country is the fault of “the media”, or the current makeup of Congress. In reality though, we really can’t do anything about “the media” … CNN and Fox News aren’t going to change, and we’re always going to have the New York Times and the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.  The odds that most of Congress will be re-elected are greater than the odds that the New England Patriots will make the playoffs each year, too. So it doesn’t seem like we can do much about them, either. We’re not going to see an end to money influencing our lawmakers (or the election process itself), nor are we going to see term limits. At least for the foreseeable future. We can only take full responsibility for ourselves.

We can take responsibility for how we see each other. How we talk to each other. And how we act towards each other. Even if “they” live an entirely different way of life than we do! Even if “they” have an entirely  different political perspective than we do.

I work very hard to do that myself. That wasn’t always the case – I’ve been guilty of my share of vitriol (and I’m ashamed to say that I had lapses this past November). But a few years ago, something happened.

I made a generalized statement one day that attached all sorts of vile reasons to why someone would vote opposite of how I believed. And a good friend “Joe” (not his real name) pointed out to me that if I felt that way, then I must feel that about him, because he was going to vote differently than I was in the election.

That was a moment of epiphany. I knew that none of those vile reasons applied to him. And yet he was making a political choice different from mine. And I was embarrassed about it! I owned up to it, told him that was wrong of me, and aplogized. But it still weighed on me. If I could be wrong about him, what did it mean about others. Could I be wrong about them as well? And the simple answer was “yes”.

That was tough to acknowledge. It was a negative reflection on me. It caused even more turmoil as I continued to be caught up in political chat threads and Facebook posts by people who were as adamant in their opposing beliefs as I was in mine. Other friends posted nasty generalizations about people who held different political beliefs than they did … and whether they knew it or not, they were indirectly aiming those accusations at me! And I felt the same sting that Joe did. I still feel those stings when I see them posted nowadays.

I continued to struggle because I was still embroiled in those political discussions. I hated those people that were posting stuff I disagreed with. Hate! And at the same time, my experience with Joe was causing all sorts of conflict.

When you add all of that to the ongoing depression and anxiety I was feeling, it put me into a horrible downward spiral. I got to the point where I had basically lost faith in mankind. And I lost faith in myself and my ability to deal with people. In retrospect, it was probably a major factor in why I became reclusive. Why my hands would shake as I reached for the door knob. I’ve mentioned that before in earlier posts, how difficult it was to leave my apartment, even to let Frank out to do his business. I could barely make it to the grocery store and started having take out food more and more.

I won’t recite all the stuff you can read on the “About” page. I made the decision to leave my consultancy practice, get rid of my apartment, and go on the road. And those of you that have followed the blog for awhile now know the transformative impact that had on my life.

Those of you who have followed Frank and me for a while have also read the stories about how my faith in mankind has been restored. You might remember Len, the guy who was managing the campground down in La Feria, TX, who let the young veteran and his family stay in a no kids, 55+ RV park because “it was the right thing to do.” Or the guy who simply said, “Pay It Forward,” as he put $20 of gas in my car early one morning when my debit card wasn’t working because, unbeknownst to me, I had to make special arrangements to have it accepted in Texas. Or the women who insisted that they were going to bring me dinner a few nights around Christmas, just wanting to show kindness to an old guy who was traveling alone with his dog.

Nobody asked what anybody’s political persuasions were. Or what religion they were. Or if they were gay or straight. Or why they were in their particular situation.  They were just doing good! And those were just a very, very few examples of all I’ve seen and experienced on the road.

So why can’t that goodness and respect for one another extend to politics? Why can’t we see other people as human first and put aside whatever other differences there might be. And. Just. Talk. Civilly. To. One. Another.

Are you a staunch conservative? Are you a staunch liberal? I’ve got news for both of you. You are not 100% right on everything and you don’t have all the answers that are needed to solve this country’s problems. And the people you oppose? They’re not 100% wrong … and they are not the source of all those problems!

The simple fact is that we need each other to move forward. We need to get back to a point where we used to be, when the majority of us could be civil, and compromise, and be satisfied that we got some of what we wanted in a negotiation, but not everything. Instead of getting the best of what each side has to offer, we’re getting nothing of benefit. All we’re getting is further apart.

Liberals are not going to destroy this country. Conservatives are not going to destroy this country. They won’t, you know. Rush and Rachel be damned.

You know what will? Hatred, divisiveness, and incalcitrance will. It’s happening. Now!

If you can’t accept that, then you’ve wasted whatever time you’ve taken to read this post. You will continue to be a part of the problem, in my opinion. And we will all suffer as a result. Go back to the news source that tells you what you want to hear. And I wish you well.

If you accept it though, and you also see in yourself what I recognized in myself back when Joe called me out from my hatred, divisiveness, and incalcitrance, then I pray that you use this post as your epiphany. And that you simply stop before you think of the “other guy” the way you have been. And see them as just another person who wants what you do … but has different ideas how to get there. Someone who is worthy of respect. Someone who is worthy of being listened to. Someone who is human.

Quixotic?  Yeah, sure. Pollyannaish? Most definitely! But at this point, it’s all I got.

Who knows? If I can do it, then you can do it. And if the few hundred of you that follow this blog will tell somebody else, then maybe they can do it. And sooner than later, our representatives can do it … after all, we elect them. And if they figure out they’re not going to get reelected by dividing us, maybe they’ll start focusing on governing instead of what we have now. And what will the media have to say about that?

Regular programming on this blog will resume tomorrow. I promise. Thank you for indulging me. And for those of you wandered over because of the title, neither Hayley Mills nor Kevin Corcoran will be making a guest appearance today.   : o)

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Musings

 

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