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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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