Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fire in the Sky!

I apologize for the unrefined post here, but I am posting from my phone.

For those of you in the Southwest I hope you caught the massive meteor that shot across the whole sky around 7:00 MST.  To say it was amazing would be a huge understatement. I was bummed to have missed the Geminids Meteor Shower last week due the extreme cold we had, but this more than made up for that & more.

If you missed it, there are pictures & videos on the internet & I'm sure news stations will show footage. Do check out a good video of it if you can. It was like fireworks as pieces broke off in other directions.

What a way to say farewell to the long nights & usher in longer days!  THAT is exactly why i chose to live this life; to experience the unforgettable wonders nature has to show us.

(NOTE: The authorities have said this "light show" was debris from a Russian rocket re-entering Earth's atmosphere and not a meteor. Either way, it was still quite breathtaking to watch!)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hello Again Light!

Wishing you Tranquility, Magic, and Inspiration 
on this Winter Solstice!




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hipahipa!!

Break out the Hula Skirts and Coconut Shells folks!  
We're havin' a heat wave!




We finally got out of the low / mid 30's for overnight temps!!  The next couple of days will bring us slightly warmer weather of 40's and 60's.  It will be short lived, but every degree in the upward direction helps!  


Friday, December 18, 2015

Water Conservation MacGyver Style!

Thirty years ago I participated in a semester long field study program in the desert southwest.  That was the first time I had ever been to a desert or even this part of the country.  Coming from the lush, green, moist mid-west I thought I would hate the desert, but I fell in love with it instead.  That experience changed my life in so many positive ways.  One big way was sparking a deeper passion for the environment and a career as an Environmental Educator.

One of the topics we studied during that semester was water issues.  Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, this was such an alien concept for me.  I basically thought, 'If you don't have water someplace then don't live there!'.  Simple.  But I was stunned by how many people lived in the desert and even more so by the amount of water that was wasted - huge fountains and lush, green lawns to name a few ways.  Today, I feel that even as a nomadic full-timer, I have to be conscientious of my water consumption.  I may think that since I have limited water storage that alone makes me a good water steward, and to some extent that is true, but I can still be wasteful if I'm not careful.


So, in the spirit of my first desert experience 30 years ago, I bring you my simple, cheap, and "MacGyvered" approach to water conservation.

Water Storage:  I don't have tanks on my trailer and have limited storage space in general.  I use & refill five, 1 gallon jugs for my drinking water.  I also have a big blue 5 gallon jug & two 1 gallon jugs for "other use" water, like dish-washing or hand-washing.  I have those two jugs marked so I don't mix them up with my drinking water jugs.  I also refill these two jugs with the ice water from my cooler.  That alone keeps these jugs full most of the time, so score one for the annoying cooler!

My 2 "Other-use" Water Jugs

Hand-washing:  I have gone through a couple of trial tests with this one while living on my friends' farm.  First I bought wet-wipes, but they are too wasteful, too expensive and the chemicals are really bad for your skin (though I do use baby wipes for my hands if I use the pee jug at night).  Then I had an idea - use an empty soap pump dispenser filled with water as a "faucet".  It worked, but took a long time to rinse all the soap off my hands with the little squirts of water that came out.  The concept was good, but I needed something that would squirt out a little more water.  I found it at an antique shop.  This little drink dispenser works great.  It is glass, but that weights it down and helps warm up the water in the sun.  It puts out enough water to rinse easily and fits perfectly on my wheel fender with a foaming dispenser of very diluted Dr. Bronner's soap.  Those plus a towel hung to my trailer MacGyver-style and I have a great little hand-washing station.  

My Hand-washing Station

Hair Washing:  This one took me a little longer to come up with a simple set-up that didn't waste so much water.  I had made a garden sprayer shower to use, but it was too big for my hair washing needs and took too much time setting up, drying out, and storage space, so I returned everything.  I only wash my hair 2x a week (weather permitting!) and didn't want to be bothered with the contraption.  Since my budget it so tight, I felt that the money could be better utilized right now.  I may change my mind down the road and make another one, but for now, what I have works great and only cost me $1.00 - my kind of set-up!  It consists of a reused a 2 liter plastic bottle, colored black with a permanent marker, set out in the sun to warm up the water; along with another reused plastic water bottle with a squirt top to wet and rinse my hair that I refill with warm water from the bigger bottle.  I basically hang upside-down over the blue dish pan and wash away.  Since I don't use shampoo or conditioner, it doesn't take much water to rinse my hair (I use a baking soda / soap solution and apple cider vinegar - which is an amazing long hair detangler by the way!).  I use about 1 liter of water to wash and condition my long hair.  Of course, sun & wind dry when done!  The hardest part is the bending over the dishpan - OUCH on the lower back!

Hair Washing Station

Dish Washing:  Since I haven't been able to do much cooking, I haven't had many dishes to wash.  Typically I try to use only about 2 cups of water or less to wash, unless I have a lot of dishes.  I use a small amount of environmentally safe dish soap for washing and a spray bottle of water with a little vinegar to rinse with.  I also strain out any food particles from cooking or the dirty dishwater with a coffee filter in a funnel before the water goes into my gray water jug.

Bathroom:  My family and friends are quite familiar with my "morning constitutional" routine and beautiful sunrise pictures when I lived on the farm; but for the rest of you, I will share.  (Com'on, you were dying to know! Fidgeting on the edge of your seats aren't you?).  I have re-purposed wide mouth jugs for my "pee jug" which I keep inside the trailer.  I wanted to build a urine diverting composting toilet, but the urine diverters were too expensive and came with a bunch of stuff I didn't want; plus adding one to my bucket made it too big to move in and out of the trailer daily.  So, after 2 years of designs and redesigns, I finally came up with a "composting" toilet that works for me and cost less than $20.00.  Using my pee jug, I keep at least 95% of my urine out of the bucket, and it has been working well so far with no smell from the bucket.  As for the bucket, I double line it with tall kitchen garbage bags and at the moment, use peat moss for the covering medium - I know, GASP!!  So horrible for the environment!, but all I could get at the time.  I want to try coconut coir since it is environmentally sustainable and comes in small, light weight, dried bricks.  When the inner bag is mostly full, I take it out, tie it up tight so nothing can fall out and put it in a plastic shopping bag which I tie up tightly and toss into the garbage.  I hate using the plastic bags, but I don't have anywhere to compost it.  Digging catholes in the desert is NOT easy with the hard, rocky ground and dumping that much waste in a couple of catholes is too much and not a good idea for established dispersed camping sites.  Packing it out has the least impact.  

My "Composting" Bucket Toilet
(Kitty litter bucket holds the medium to put on top of the waste)

Gray Water:  I collect all the gray water that I can't reuse in an old kitty litter jug (1 1/2 - 2 gallons), then find a place where I can dump it safely.  Everything I use (with the exception of toothpaste) is not harmful to the environment, especially with how diluted it gets, so I don't feel too bad about the waste water I produce.  I have only just filled my gray water bottle once in a month.  I could have used some of what I put in there for another purpose, but wasn't able to utilize it at the time.  I may re-purpose another bottle to hold that water for a time when I can reuse it.

My Gray Water Jug

"Wait, you forgot bathing!  Don't you bathe?"  Hey, I have to live with me, so heck yea I bathe!  Though I wish I could say it consisted of soaking in a hot spring this time of year, but sadly it doesn't.

Bathing:  I use 2 cups of water for bathing which lasts me about a month!  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, I do bathe daily.  I make homemade "bath wipes".  I prefer to make my own so I know what is going into them.  The store bought wipes have so many chemicals in them and I don't want to use them all over my body, plus they are much more expensive than mine.  I make mine with paper towels and only use 1/2 - 3/4 of a paper towel to bathe with.  They work great and are good for my skin as well.  The only downside is the storage area in my trailer gets really cold, so I try to warm them in the sun a little first before using them - otherwise they are better than a whole pot of espresso for getting one WIDE awake!

So there you have it, my water usage and conservation methods.  I still have areas where I can make some improvements, but for the most part, I am pleased with what I have in place.  It may seem rather primitive to most of you (maybe even horrific), but that's what I like about it.  Conservation doesn't stop at water but is about all resources.  I have so much fun trying to come up with "MacGyvered" solutions to the challenges that leap out at me.  Simple, inexpensive and re-purposed are my parameters and that combination is what makes it fun for me.  Living deliberately does take extra time and creates more "chores", but living that way also makes a difference.  For me, that is important.  Less impact on the earth lets me enjoy its beauty more.

Shores of Lake Erie



Monday, December 7, 2015

Simple Life, Simple Wisdom, Simply Lived

I was talking to a friend last Thursday when I realized it was December 3 – one month since I left Ohio and started on this adventure!  So, in hopes of maybe helping others who are considering embarking on a simple life on wheels (or providing entertainment to those of you all cozy in your warm, stand-up homes), I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned during this first month on the road in my tiny abode. 

  • The total cost in gas to get here was shocking, and not in a good way.  I didn’t have a clue how much it would cost and honestly, I didn’t even try to calculate a ball park amount, but the total was (maybe unrealistically) more than I had . . . hoped?  But when I sat down and figured out how much it was per mile, towing a trailer into the wind, I guess it really wasn’t all that bad.  However, when you are living on a tiny budget and you see almost 3/4 of that month’s budget gone so quickly, it’s a little scary.  But therein lies the benefit of this lifestyle, I can cut back on expenses this month to try and even things out – so that is good!
  • Things you thought would be simple tasks can actually be a little intimidating at first; like finding boondocks, water, and trash disposal places.  You can read what other full-timers do and think “Oh that will be easy”, but until you have to do it yourself in an unfamiliar town the first time or two, it isn’t always easy.  The best advice I can give on this is ASK!  Ask other boondockers, staff in stores, or people at the local BLM office or Visitor’s Center (if the town has them).  These people can be a great source of information for handling these tasks.
  • Keep your bags of trash small.  It’s much easier and less conspicuous to drop a shopping bag size bundle of trash into the small opening of a bin than trying to stuff a giant bag into it. 
  • Water.  I don't have holding tanks.  I refill my empty gallon jugs instead of buying new, so I’ve had to learn how and where to find places to do this.  Look out front of grocery stores, gas stations and other stores for water dispenser machines, they don't cost much per gallon.  This is also a good thing to ASK others about, there may be a public water source you can use for free. 
  • You never know what surprises will come your way – like having a small herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep walk past your campsite.
What a THRILL!!

  • Save your change.  Quarters, dimes and nickels.  You will need it for laundry and water dispenser machines.  You may not always be able to get change.
  • You will run into inconsiderate, “entitled” people no matter where you go (some heinously so).  Unfortunately fresh air, natural beauty and the possibility of seeing unique wildlife doesn’t change them.  I don’t have any advice for dealing with them (at least none that are appropriate to print!).  Just be prepared.
  • You will also meet wonderful people!  Lots more of them around – thank goodness!
  • Heat.  Heat would be nice!  I have discovered that, yes, a space CAN be too tiny to heat safely without electricity.  Go figure.  Just me livin’ in my tiny blue igloo.
  • No matter how many times you go through your stuff, you will inevitably bring too many things you don’t need and not enough things you do need.  (Chalk up another win for Murphy!).
  • Flannel sheets probably would have been a good investment.
  • All electronics need to be able to be charged via your car’s 12 volt outlet – including the charger for your camera’s batteries.  Oops!    (Thus my not so great photos)
  • Dog.  Probably should have been on my “To Get” list.  A big, warm, cuddly dog.  (Preferably one that doesn’t drool)
Teddy Bear Cholla - NOT warm or cuddly!  But at least it doesn't drool.

  • Even a cooler that you think is too big, and IS too big, still won’t be big enough to puzzle fit all the ice and odd shaped and sized grocery items you buy.
  • When choosing your full-timing home on wheels, insulation is a good thing – but don’t forget the floor!!  Cold feet are unhappy feet, and you don't want to deal with unhappy feet!
  • There is a lot to be said for an indoor bathroom when it’s 37 degrees outside; but the view usually isn’t one of them!  My rear may freeze to the seat, but my view is magnificent!
  • Electricity, though extremely wonderful, can make us complacent.  When you don’t have it, you really have to exercise your brain cells to think up creative solutions to problems.
  • When your bathroom is of the primitive outdoor variety, ALWAYS take full advantage of nice indoor ones when out and about, especially running hot water!
  • A comfortable place to sit is very important to both your rump and back.  Not having such a place makes one an unhappy camper.
  • A good pair of warm socks is crucial for a good night’s sleep when it’s cold.  (Come to think of it, thermal underwear probably should have gone on that “To Get” list too!).
  • If you plan to boondock in the desert, the best superfluous item to bring is a hummingbird feeder and something to hang it from.  Endless, nearly free entertainment will be yours.  (Just be prepared for Hummer Wars!)
  • When you can’t cook inside your home, a good thermos is a comforting friend on cold nights.
  • You can read about other full-timers experiences and suggestions, but your experience will be different not only from theirs, but even from what you imagined.  Not better or worse, just different.  Don’t be disappointed if it’s not like you imagined, just go with it and let it unfold into something wonderful.
  • The sun, moon and stars will become your dearest friends that you look forward to seeing every day.
Desert Sunset

  • Just because someone told you they took their 35ft. RV on that dirt road boondock and so you should be just fine, doesn’t mean you will.  One person’s insanity is another person’s “OH SHIT!!”
  • Your mind can go on and on believing you’re still 20 yrs. old, but your body will always prove it wrong!  (I knew this one before I left, but I’ve been reminded of it again recently)

Well, that is all the wisdom I have to impart for today.  Simple isn’t always easy, but it is fun in that it challenges one’s brain cells to think in new ways.  Plus you live life more intentionally, something we often don’t do.  Have there been nights when I’ve wished for that big 40 foot McMansion on wheels that I can stand up in with heat and electricity, comfy chairs and bed, indoor bathroom, and  indoor kitchen with all the appliances for cooking gourmet meals?  Sure!  I’m not going to lie.  But in the end, I think I would still choose my little tearbaby Zelda and Grania and a simple life full of purpose, creative problem solving, and adventure.  Maybe somewhere just a little warmer!  

  
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
- Steve Jobs


Monday, November 30, 2015

Post Holiday Wishes, Moon Rises & Daily Challenges

Sorry for the quiet this last week.  With traveling to find a new boondock and getting set up just before the holiday, I didn't get a chance to scope out the library in town to recharge my computer.  No  electric, no computer, no posts.  That's how it is folks, living the life of luxury in a teardrop on the road.

As a late well wishing to everyone, I hope you had a wonderfully fun & belly-filled
Save the Turkeys Day! 

And that you all did your part on behalf of turkeys everywhere and ate Tofu (They were very close to being our country's national symbol you know!) .

I did move north last week to Lake Havasu City, where there are a few more stores available to get some things I needed.  It is a nice city and beautiful area and has lots of places to explore.  Though I'm not a "city" gal, I do like to see new places and check out what cool things there are to see and do, and LHC is small enough to not overwhelm me.  It has been a nice place to plop down for a bit, while I work on some projects and work out kinks in my set-up.

Cactus windows - very cool idea!

Upon finding a spot with an amazing view, I was welcomed by a flying, tiny, sparkly green neighbor who liked to show off his brilliant neckpiece.  He has a couple of lady friends, but isn't very gentlemanly when it comes to sharing the feeder I put out for them.  I have chided him about this on several occasions, but he seems to be ignoring me.  I told him he would be sorry come mating season!  Maybe he is this way because he has been disgracefully named like the ladybug. . . he is an "Anna's" Hummingbird.

On the second day at my boondock, I met a fellow full-timer who has been on the road for a couple of years and is very well-versed in many aspects of the simple, full-time lifestyle.  She has been a great source of information and ideas and has been helping me come up with a plan to hopefully get my solar system set up sooner and less expensively than I originally thought; and has already become a good friend too.  It's nice to meet someone who shares similar perspectives on life and who is well-versed with this full-timing lifestyle to bounce ideas off of.  I have appreciated all her help & friendship more than I can say.

Morning Moon Set

One thing I like about what I'm doing with my life is that it challenges me almost every day.  Sometimes those challenges are small, like trying to drain the water out of my cooler without soaking the car or myself while trying to get it to flow into my water jugs; and sometimes the challenges are a bit larger and harder to find a solution to - like trying to stay warm in the tearbaby during the cold weather we have had here.  For most full-timers, they have bigger rigs with built in propane heaters or generators to power electric heaters, but for my little tearbaby, I don't have many options.  I don't want a generator.  Too loud; too costly; too big to store; have to haul and store fuel; not my thing.  I thought about a small propane heater, and my friend lent me her Mr. Heater "Little Buddy" to try out (I had been considering one of these), but it turns out it is too big to sit on the counter in my teardrop and I don't have enough clearance on the floor to run it safely.  So that leaves just me. (Yep, always have to do everything myself.).  One nice thing about a small teardrop is that your body heat does eventually heat up the interior space - EVENTUALLY!  Yes, it is a bit nippy on these cold nights at first, but by morning I am pretty much snug as a bug in a rug under all my blankets; that is until I have to take my morning constitutional - which is outside.  Brrrr! isn't quite explicit enough to describe the brisk experience some mornings.  To help keep warm in the evenings, I have been boiling water in the afternoon and storing it in my thermos for hot tea and I even got out my gloves to keep my hands warm - which are always cold.  So far I have managed to survive these cold nights, but am very much looking forward to nights warmer than the 30's.  Cold evenings and mornings make me a slug.

Evening Moon Rise

One thing I have been enjoying is the night sky and the moon!  The full moon rise just before Turkey Day was amazing.  Watching it come up over the jutting rocks in the evening and then set over the opposite cliffs in the morning has been one of my greatest joys.  The other night my friend and I even witnessed the biggest shooting star either of us has ever seen.  It was so bright and glowed green as it fell though our atmosphere.  Truly spectacular.  These are the things that we so often miss in our day to day lives, but I feel they are the things that can bring such joy and wonder and we need to make them more a part of our lives to help us keep focused on what is really important.  So, take some time to stop and smell the roses - figuratively and literally.  Give yourself a little joy in your life every day.  It does make a difference.


And for those of you who have been wondering what mutant eggs look like, here you go!

Mutant Eggs



Monday, November 23, 2015

Mutant Eggs and Subatomic Particles - YUM!

The past couple of days have been relatively productive.  I have been doing more reorganizing, purging and food prep.  After being held captive in town all day Friday and a windy day on Saturday, I never got to deal with all the groceries I bought.  Not to worry, nothing went bad, I did toss the perishables in the cooler with ice, but that's all I did.

First, on Saturday I did some reorganizing in the van and tearbaby between wind gusts and buzzing ATV'ers.  I know I was in a big ATV riding area and it was the weekend, so I did expect to see and hear them constantly, but what I would have appreciated is that they didn't ride through my camp area!  Where I was camped was a HUGE open area with plenty of places for them to ride and stay away from my space.  The area is for everyone, and a little common courtesy and respect to others using it too would go a long way.  Oh well, I'll chalk it up to boondocking lessons learned.  Onward and upwards!

The beginning of many I'm afraid!

Sunday was actually eerily quiet from the constant roar of motors and the wind was pretty gentle so I decided to work on food prep, cooler set-up and kitchen reorganization.  First order of business was to hard boil my eggs (the ones I bought at the store!).  Not many cooking tasks can be simpler than this - put eggs in pot, cover with water, boil.  Two ingredients, 1 pot . . . easy peasey!  But I can't do it!  For the life of me, I just don't understand why I always fail at this obviously simple cooking task.  Out of 12 eggs, 3 peeled perfectly, 3 peeled almost perfectly, and I was left with 6 strange looking 'alienesk', roundish, white, mutilated blobs ready for the next zombie apocalypse.  Probably close to 1/4 of each of those blobs are still stuck to the shells in the garbage.  It also took me like 30 minutes to peel all 12 eggs!  I have tried various cooking times, let sit times, peeling methods, and nope, none seem to give me 12 perfectly peeled eggs.  My sister says it's the eggs' fault, not mine, and since she is younger and smarter than me, I'm going with her wisdom.   

My cooler.  If any of you looked back through my early posts you would have seen my dilemma about which cooler to buy and my addiction to plastic food storage containers.  As for my cooler, I ended up going with the Coleman Extreme 5 day 52 Qt.cooler.  I chose that size because I knew I'd need a lot of ice to keep my food cool and would still have space for the food, but I had been worried lately that it was going to be too big.  It does take up a LOT of room in my car.  I also ended up bringing a file box of plastic food storage containers as well, cuz you never know what size, shape or color you'll need for the job at hand.  Well, after buying two 10 lbs bags of ice for the cooler and some "need to keep cool" food (including my mutant eggs!), I realized yesterday as I attempted to organize it that it isn't too big (inside) for my needs at this time.  I also discovered that my plastic food containers may not be the best for use in the cooler after all, they take up space and are never quite the right size.  I found that zip-lock type baggies might be the way to go for items on top of a few plastic containers.  I also have a tray that sits along the inside top groove to hold veggies and stuff I don't want right down on the ice.  It seems to be working so far though I do foresee some challenges in my future with it however.  Time will tell as we get better acquainted.

My cooler in it's Alien Suit

Today is moving day.  I hitched up and left my first boondock this morning.  Sad to say good-bye but exciting to be off to explore new places.  First stop however was the library and their free electricity and wi-fi!  I am still sitting here, writing this and waiting for my slow computer to finish it's meal of delectable subatomic particles.  The wi-fi is nice too - saves my data - but it also allows me to try to figure out the Kindle Fire my dear friend gave me as a going away gift.  I have never used one before and I thought it would be pretty simple and self-explanatory, but I'm just not getting it.  I did manage to download some free ebooks today, but I thought I could download free movies to watch as well, but from what I can tell it will only allow me to stream those, unless I actually purchase the movie.  Can anyone out there shed some light on that for me?  

Ooo!  We are at 100%!!  FINALLY!  And it only took 4 hours.  We certainly give those lightning chargers a run for their money!  

Time to head out to find a new boondock!  



Friday, November 20, 2015

And the Game is Called on Account of . . . A Bomb Threat!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I just can't make this kind of stuff up!  I was considering moving from my campsite due to the increased ATV traffic, but how can I possibly leave now?  Things are just starting to get exciting!

Saguaro at the Parker Public Library
Let me back up.  

Yesterday I headed into town to take care of some chores; laundry, post office, grocery shopping and find a place to recharge my computer.  Well, I started at the post office and got set up for receiving mail while I'm in the area, then headed over to do my laundry.  Here's something I don't get, I'm in the desert where water is supposed to be scarce and it only cost $1.50 to do a load of wash.  I was paying $2.50 for the same size load in Ohio, and I was basically on Lake Erie!  What gives?  Not that I'm complaining - I'll gladly pay the $1.50.  After laundry I found the local library and they kindly allowed me to hang out there and use their wi-fi and electric to charge up my computer so I could continue to bring you these exciting posts.  AND they have covered parking made out of solar panels too!  Parker Public Library, you ROCK!!  Unfortunately it takes a long time to recharge my old computer and I only got it to 80% before I needed to book it back to my campsite before dark.  I didn't want to get lost trying to get back to my spot.  So, grocery shopping had to wait.

Prickly Pear

This morning I decided I might look for a spot farther down the road in an area less desirable to the ATV'ers after I returned from my trip to Wally World.  I figured I'd be back by early afternoon at the latest so that would give me plenty of time to scout out a new boondock and move.  Little did I know that my game plan was going to go kablooey!  As I headed for home loaded with groceries, there was a fire personnel truck blocking the road.  The nice young man got out and told me the road was closed due to a hazard up ahead.  He wouldn't tell me what kind of hazard, but that it would be 2, 3, maybe more hours before the road would be open.  You gotta be joking!  So I went back into town, got something to eat, and tried to kill a couple of hours (thus the cactus pictures here that I took around town for my little nephew who loves cacti right now).  I would have hung at the library again & got some work done, but sadly they are closed Fri - Sun.  

After a couple of hours, I headed back, hoping I could get through.  Nope!  This time a police officer was blocking the road and told me the road would be closed for 2, 3, maybe more hours due to a bomb threat!  I know I've only been in this area for a couple of days, but for the life of me I can't figure out what anyone would want to blow up out here!  Maybe an old mine in hopes of finding gold or the big white P on the mountain side (though a bit audacious, it doesn't seem to be hurting anyone).  Don't get me wrong, with all the craziness happening in the world right now, I greatly appreciate the time and effort the police, fire department and bomb squad went through to make sure it was safe for us here.  I am humbled by their courage and willingness to put their lives on the line daily.  Thank you!

Momma cactus and baby

Anyway, after a little over 5 hours of waiting, the road was reopened.  It was dark.  I did find my way home and to Zelda (she is hard to find in the dark desert).  I think she thought Grania and I abandoned her; she seemed relieved when we returned.  Not much of what I had planned was accomplished today, though I did see a roadrunner run across the actual road this morning!  Oh well, gotta roll with the punches.  So this evening, as I type this, I am sitting outside under the stars and moonlit sky, the wind is kicking up, but has a warmth to it.  A lovely end to a bizarre day.

Sunset from parking lot waiting for the road to open

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!  WOO HOO!  What a ride!



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I Think I OD'ed on Vitamin D Today

Well, I believe we left off with me freezing my buttkus off!  Monday morning was damn cold and I of course was given the campsite farthest away from the bathrooms!  It was not a pleasant jaunt.  When I got back to the tearbaby I decided to crawl back into bed with my heating pad and get warm before making the trek back for a hot shower.  And let me tell you, it was one of the HOTTEST hot showers I've ever taken.  After my body was sufficiently warmed up we were off to find warmth in places south - Parker was my destination, with an extended sunny forecast in the upper 60's - 70's. . .  PERFECT!

I arrived at my very first official boondock about 2:30 Monday afternoon.  I was following recommendations from a website for free camping spots I had been using as I traveled out here, and after a few minutes of apprehension wondering if I would be able to actually identify a legit boondock, I came across a couple of other trailers already parked in the area.  I decided to make this my home for now, but as far away from the others as possible.  After trying out a couple of spots I found one that gave me a gorgeous view in all directions.

View to the north from my campsite

I was finally back in the desert.  It has been 30 years since I last camped in the desert, but back then I was living out of a backpack & sleeping on the ground under the stars with a group of students on a college field study program that ended up changing my life.  Being back here is like running into a  dear childhood friend, familiar yet you have to get reacquainted.  After "setting up camp" on Monday (really only doing the very basics), I just sat and tried to absorb that I was really here.  I don't think I have fully absorbed it all yet, even after 2 days.  That's O.K., I want to go slowly, to savor the moments and the changes in myself.

Last night there was a most beautiful sunset.  The blue in the sky was one of the most gorgeous shades of blue I have seen, I'd call it close to cerulean.  The clouds were pink / purple then changed to pink/orange against that blue and WOW!  The show was just amazing.  My picture doesn't do the colors justice.  One other thing I had forgotten from my last time in the desert is the way even a little moonlight illuminates the landscape.  The light color of the desert floor helps reflect the moonlight like snow covered ground and makes the desert glow.    

Sunset Magic

The one thing I HAD to do was to try to get organized.  Dealing with all my stuff (yes, I still have too much) on the drive out here was making me crazy.  I never really got to organize everything before I left.  When I arrived on Monday it was still quite windy, which continued into Tuesday making it difficult to work on things.  Today when I woke up, the wind was gone so I deemed today to be "Operation Organization Day"!  I started by setting up both of my small tables and laying out a tarp, then I proceeded to barf out all my stuff from the car and trailer.  I don't know about you, but I love being organized, though don't always like getting there.  Depends on what it is I'm trying to organize.  I do well with the big stuff, but when I get down to the nitty-gritty little things and paper-stuff I lose it - not the stuff, my mind and patience!  Add to the mix that I still am not sure what I do and don't need yet, and you have one crazed camper!  Needless to say, it took most of the day to clear off the tables and tarp and I'm really not sure that I'm any more organized from when I started, but I sure did move a lot of stuff around!  Oh well, I found a couple of things I had lost, so I guess that was something.

But the best part of today was the temperature - it was up in the mid 70's (almost hot in the full sun actually) with a gentle breeze.  The most perfect weather for me.  Yes, I did OD on vitamin D today and enjoyed every minute of it!  THANK YOU Weather Goddess!!




Monday, November 16, 2015

And we're driving, and we're driving and we're driving, and we're stopping.

Well the last three days have been a whirlwind to say the least!  I had so wanted to just take my time and explore as I made my way to SW Arizona.  But NO, the Weather Goddess, though very gracious and giving of lovely weather for the first 2 weeks of November, decided that she had held back winter long enough.  So I had to hightail it across Kansas, the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, across New Mexico and Arizona in 3 days!  We are all exhausted - Grania especially!

On Friday, November 13, I cut diagonally across Kansas - driving directly into the wind the whole way.  I stopped for a break at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center and Cheyenne Bottoms Refuge just north of Great Bend, KS.  If you are in that area be sure to stop by - especially in the spring and fall.  It is one of the main stopping places for migrating birds - shore birds, song birds, waterfowl, you name it, they probably stop there.  Give yourself most of the day if you want to go out and explore the areas of the refuge - you will need a car to do it or I believe they do offer tours.

View of the refuge from the Education Center
After stopping to explore, I made my way to another free campsite in Meade, KS at their city park.  It was a very nice park with playground, pavilions, open green space and an area for RV's.  No hook-ups, but it did have a bathroom with heat and running water.  Unfortunately, someone came and locked them in the evening, so when I got up in the morning I was met with the dreadful surprise.  But, not to worry, I used my secret agent skill I learned in college and got in.  No, I didn't pick the lock or crawl through a window.  I never actually unlocked the door at all, but I did open it.  Potential unpleasantness averted.  Phew!

Evening Sky at my campsite in Meade, KS
On Saturday, I continued through the last little bit of Kansas into the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles "Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain" and right smack into me.  I checked my gas mileage for this leg of the trip and it was about 14 miles per gallon!  Ouch!  There were Kamikaze Tumbleweeds shooting out across the road.  I admit, I did hit a couple of them, but not to worry, they all miraculously survived and continued tumbling onward.  I have been having lots of laughs along the way with the names people give their businesses.  There was the "Kum & Go" gas station chain in Iowa, the "Toot 'n Totem" gas station chain in Texas, and then the best one so far, the "Hooker Inn" in Hooker, Oklahoma.  Maybe it's a Hollywood thing, like stars giving their kids names like Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen, Jermajesty and Zuma Nesta Rock.  Com'on people, think before you name, don't drink before you name.  

I had scouted out another free campsite just west of Albuquerque in the parking lot of a casino.  Hey, it was free and ya gotta try things sometimes.  It was a COLD night in Zelda.  I even sprang for a cup of hot chocolate this morning to warm up - not something I ever do.  From Albuquerque I was going to only go to Winslow, AZ, cuz hey, there's a song about it so that's a good reason to stop in my book; but the weather forecast for Flagstaff called for snow tonight.  I didn't want to take the chance of having to drive through that tomorrow so I changed my mind and decided to push through to Kingman, AZ.  I did however get to drive through snow showers around Flagstaff.  I guess since I'll be in SW Arizona for the winter, that was my winter snow for this year.  I can handle that, especially after the past 2 horrible winters in Ohio.

A dear friend of mine, who happens to be from Arizona, recommended The Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, AZ, about 30 miles west of Flagstaff, so I thought I'd treat myself to something hot to eat for a change.  The food was delicious and the pies are amazing!  


 



Williams is a lovely, quaint mountain town and is the gateway to the Grand Canyon.  I wish I had had more time to spend there and explore.  Definitely a place I will have to go back to when the weather is nicer.  It is right on Historic Route 66 and was the last section that was decommissioned in I believe 1984 it said.

Williams, AZ

As I headed to Kingsman, I hadn't found any good free campsites that met my needs.  The weather was supposed to get icky so I decided to splurge ($30!) and get a site in an RV park with electric and . . . SHOWERS!!   As I got out of the car to check in I was just about blown away!  I thought the wind in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas was bad, but this was hurricane force wind!  I am NOT exaggerating.  It pushed me along faster than I wanted to walk.  The storm was upon me and I did get set up before the thunder, rain and sleet started, but the wind was rockin 'n' rollin Zelda with me in it.  Within a little over an hour after I could feel the drop in temperature.  It is cold again.  I can still hear the wind, though it has settled down to blustery and I am wondering if I will wake up to the snow they forecasted for here as well.  I hope not.  My hot shower will be for naught as soon as I start walking back to my site.

Tomorrow I will head south to the Lake Havasu area and start looking for a good boondock.  The  forecast says once I get down that way the weather will be warm and stay that way for the next couple of weeks.  YIPPIE!  I so want to find a warm place where I can stay for a little while, get myself organized and just savor the realization that this adventure has finally begun.  Is that too much to ask Weather Goddess??

Thursday, November 12, 2015

O.K. I Lied

Well, not intentionally, but I didn't get on the road at the end of October as I had hoped.  My brake lights weren't working as I thought.  I want to know who's 'brilliant' idea it was at Dodge to not have separate wires for turn signal lights, brake lights, and tail lights???  Really, how hard can that be?  But NO, I have to get a car who's brake light wires are just a few filaments of wire INSIDE the turn signal wires!  Would that little bit of extra wire for brake lights have put the manufacturer over their wire quota or something equally absurd?  Such cockamamie designs these car companies come up with (my Ford Focus had an air filter that was $400 to replace!  And that was a low-end model car!) Well, after several more days of waiting and fixing, I finally got the brake light problem solved and can now tow Zelda legally.  On the bright side I did learn some interesting new things (in addition to the obvious wire shortage Dodge had in 2007), like there is such a mechanism that converts separate turn signal and brake light wires on a car to a combined circuit for a trailer's single lamp type lights.  That seems to be pretty common.  Of course I can't have anything common, so what I needed was a mechanism that UN-combined these two circuits going to the trailer.  Yes, I have to be difficult.  Makes life so much more interesting.

After a couple more days of madly purging and packing and repacking I was on my way - or so I thought.  [Insert minor anxiety attack on the amount of stuff I was still trying to take].  I thought I was doing so well, but when I finally got the car & trailer all packed - I freaked.  So, I made a trip to my friend's house, where the last of my belongings are stored, to purge & repack once more and I was (FINALLY) on my way to Minnesota the morning of November 3!

Grania and Zelda packed and ready to hit the road!

Two days to get to Minnesota to visit with my aunt and cousins for 5 days then I headed to Nebraska for a visit with the master craftsman who built my tearbaby.  He helped me take care of a few projects I wanted to do to the trailer and now Zelda is all tricked out!

So patient readers, today, November 12 is the first day of my new life adventure!!  It marks the first day I don't have to be any place by a certain time or particular day.  I am totally free!  It is a great feeling, but I will admit a bit discombobulating.  I am still living out of my car and trailer instead of living "in" them.  Everything is a mess.  I am making my way southwest to (I hope) warmer weather so I can set up camp for a week or two and try to get organized.

Tonight I am in northern Kansas camping at a "free"/fee-by-donation city park in Concordia which happens to have electricity (a very good thing since it's supposed to get down to about 29 degrees tonight and I wanted to be able to plug in my heating pad to stay warm in bed).  The coolest thing about this camp is how I found out about it.  I stopped at the local Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries for the next few days on the road and as I was walking to my rig a man who had just parked next to me commented on how he liked my trailer and asked if I was camping.  I responded that my set-up was my home and he went on to tell me about this city park right across the street!  I feel like I have been inducted into the full-times club now!  Locals are telling me about campsites!  Way cool.  And Kansas seems to have a LOT of free / very inexpensive camping parks - way to go Kansas!!

My "free" campsite in Kansas - right next to a National Guard Armory and a small municipal airport.  I'm not sure who gets to play in the awesome tower in the background but I sure want to! 

So the next leg of my journey will take me diagonally across Kansas to its southwest corner then through the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas and down into New Mexico - where PLEASE Weather Goddess, let me find warm days and pleasantly cool nights!


(And are you hating these ludicrously short days as much as I am?)


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Could it be TRUE? Hitting the road - FINALLY!

T minus 2 (maybe 3) days!!  IF and that's a BIG IF things will stop happening to delay me longer.  I am feeling rushed because I have to head to Minnesota first to visit relatives, then to Nebraska to visit Egon, the builder of my teardrop.  After that I can finally head south then west.  Just hoping I can keep away from the fluffy white stuff!

For the most part, in the last week a lot of things have come together.  I have made good progress on the packing of the car.  I continue to purge more things and I think it is working out.  I still have a huge list of things to get done in the next day and everything takes me 3x longer to do than I expect. I so wish my brother were still here to help.  I think he would have enjoyed helping with the projects I've been working on and he would have been a HUGE help in getting things organized and set up - especially all my new tech stuff.  I am now the proud owner of a new smart phone (which I'm still trying to finish setting up) and mobile hotspot -Verizon Jetpack (which I haven't even gotten out of it's box yet!).

Oh, the car.  I'm sad to say that Tawanda will NOT be joining me on the road.  She suffered from transmission issues and I knew she just couldn't make the journey with me.  She did her darnedest to hang in there but I had to let her go - for her sake.  She is and always will be missed - she was an awesome car!  I now have a much more fitting vehicle for my adventures.  Meet Grania.  She and Zelda and I are gonna have a great time!

Meet Grania - A 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan

I wanted a minivan for 2 reasons.  1) They have a greater tow capacity than most mid-size SUV's and 2) I needed some more indoor space to work.  With the middle seats stowed and the addition of a small table, I now have a very comfortable indoor work space if the outside weather isn't cooperating.  An SUV doesn't give me that.  I just have to figure out how to pack her!  I know I am still taking too much, but I just don't know what I will and won't need out there so I'm taking some extras just in case.  I will be like the early pioneers heading west on the wagon trains, leaving a trail of belongings behind me that are extraneous - only I will donate mine and not leave them on the side of the road or in someone's front yard.

Well, I found out this past Wednesday that Zelda is dyslexic.  Turns out the wiring on the car and the wiring on the trailer for the brake lights and turn signals don't match up.  So I am doing some rewiring to make them work.  So far I have the turn signals working.  Those were easy.  I still can't get the brake lights to work on their own without the car's headlights on.  Hmmm, perplexing. . . but I'm not giving up.  Gonna try again tomorrow when I have daylight.  If I can't figure it out, at least Zelda is towable now as long as I keep my headlights on.  When I stop to see Egon hopefully we can figure things out if I haven't by then.

I want to get this update posted so you know that I am on my way finally!  I have a lot more projects and happenings to share with everyone, but I have to get some sleep tonight so I can complete my "to-do" list tomorrow.  Once I get on the road I'll have more time to post updates.  If you live where it is already cold and possibly snowy, I would be most appreciative if you would keep it to yourself until I get well south of you.  Thank You!




Monday, August 31, 2015

Musings from Life in a Teardrop

You know those itty-bitty, teeny tiny flying bugs that bounce around lights at night?

Well, apparently if you put a fan up against a window screen blowing inward on high speed those itty-bitty bugs will get sucked right through the screen holes & their carcasses strewn all over your bed sheets, looking kinda like what I imagine fly poo might look like.

Who Knew?



Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Plastic Platinum Panacea

I am getting ready to FINALLY head out for my life on the road - neither rain nor sleet nor flying monkeys will stop me this time - I am GOING!  Don't get me wrong, minus the challenges thrown at me the past year and a half, I have enjoyed the time I've gotten to spend with my family and friends here in Ohio, but it's not where I belong.  I plan to leave Ohio towards the end of September to visit some friends and family, none of which are in the southwesterly direction I plan to head of course (some are actually north or east).  After saying good-bye to everyone till next spring I'll finally be heading west to visit Egon, the designer and builder of my tearbaby, and his wife before turning southward to winter in warm, sunny Arizona.  After the past 2 abominable winters in northern Ohio I can't wait!

In the meantime, I am working on resolving some basic living issues.  One of which is my cold food storage.  I ended up getting the 52 Qt. Coleman Extreme cooler - I have a feeling I should have gone with something smaller.  Either way, this will be a big learning curve for me.  I haven't really used a cooler often.  Those few times I was only gone a couple of days and had use of a freezer beforehand and all the accouterments for food packing.  I thought I'd see if I could find any tips on how to pack a cooler for extended trips on the internet - didn't find much useful information that I didn't already know except . . . there seems to be a big debate on whether to drain or not to drain the water out of a cooler.  It was quite interesting.  Views on the subject ranged from 'that's how I've always done it' to "scientific proof" explanations for both sides of the debate.  I guess I'll just have to test the water for myself (pun intended).

I've also discovered something about myself.  (Well, actually I've known it for a while, but shh, don't tell anyone!).  I have a serious problem - I'm addicted to plastic food storage containers.  I can't NOT save them nor can I seem let myself get rid of them.  I have no sentimental attachment to them.  I am simply a food storage container hoarder!  It's truly pathetic.



This is my collection (many of the containers are stacked inside each other - there are probably at least 65 in this picture).  Pretty impressive I know!  Unfortunately I don't have room to keep them all.  I feel a purging coming on - Oh my giddy aunt; give me strength!  

"Hi, my name is Jordan and I am a plastic food container hoarder."  

Anyone know of a 12-step program out there for me? (I've already completed step 1!)

I'm still working on my composting toilet design.  I think I've decided what I want but still have a few more details to flush out to make it work (yes, I did go there).  There are some great composting toilets on the market that are well designed and work great for a mobile lifestyle, but for me personally, they pretty much have 2 flaws: 1) most of them are way too high for me to use comfortably, and 2) I just can't afford or justify spending upwards of $1000 for a toilet.  Even if I had that kind of money, I'm still not sure if I could justify it - at least not with my current car/trailer set-up.  That's just me.  I don't have any problem with anyone choosing to get one.  I say go for it!  Some are really awesome - if they didn't have the 2 personal "flaws" I'd get one.  I also understand that these come from small businesses and without a large pool of customers their costs are much higher to make a profit.  As a soon to be small business myself, I admire them and the products they are putting out.  I really wish I could afford to support them.  Maybe someday (if they would design a toilet for shorties!).

I still have a lot to do before I go.  I have to make a decision on my internet set-up, and if I should get a signal booster or internet antenna or both.  I have to figure out how best to set up my online business. (Even after a lot of research, I feel like I have a long way to go to get my head around all the tech gear and language I need to understand to earn a living on the road).  I still have too much stuff, so more purging is in order - Ouch!  My car needs a check-up and serviced for traveling, but I'm not sure how much that will cost or if I can afford to have everything done right now.  Brakes, brakes would be good!  My list seems to get longer instead of shorter as I think of more things I need to do or get; so I am prioritizing what is necessary now and what can wait till later so I can spread out the expenses.

If only plastic food storage containers sold for the same price as platinum I'd be all set.


Monday, June 8, 2015

STILL in Ohio!

Well, to say it has been a while since my last update is the understatement of the year!  I am still in Ohio, spending this past year enjoying my time with my family and friends and getting some things in my life settled.  With the loss of my brother last spring, it has been a year of adjustments and change.  Also a year without easy internet access!  Thus one of the reasons for my lack of posts.  However, I have been working on getting ready for life on the road.

Last summer I attempted to repaint my teardrop's trailer frame and give it more protection from rust.  I first tried to remove some of the rust that was on it with a "facial mask" of baking soda and vinegar and a wire brush.  It kind of worked.

The underbelly of Zelda

Then I painted it with several coats of Rust-oleum primer and finished it off with 2 coats of their rubberized undercoating.  I'm hoping that will keep the rust away!

Zelda's tongue box - covered for painting
My dad helped me make an alienesque outfit for my cooler.  This should help keep it well insulated.  I got this great idea from a fellow teardropper at one of the TearJerker gatherings.  I did decide on purchasing the Coleman Extreme 52 Qt cooler.  I'm not overly experienced with using coolers so there will definitely be a learning curve during the first couple of months of use!

A cool cooler!

Last August, I moved back to my friends' farm but this time living in my tearbaby!   They had a lovely spot for me to park Zelda.  The white statue was Zelda's bovine security guard - fierce killer cow!  No one dared bother her.


My "outhouse" (without the house) was behind the white fence to the left of my trailer in the above picture.  Every day I had a gorgeous view of the cornfield and sunrise during my morning constitutional.  What a lovely way to start the day.  Of course, the weather didn't always cooperate.  Some mornings I sat on my bucket trying to keep dry under my little, compact umbrella.  After one particularly rainy morning with cold dribbles from my umbrella running down my back, a dear friend sent me a BIG golf umbrella.  The gesture of a true friend!

My morning view
Speaking of rain. . .  One night we had major storms with non-stop lightning and lots of rain.  I had opened my pop-up top when the rain let up to see if I could keep it opened partially and I think that led to some water getting in around the opening.  I eventually got tired of blotting the drips so I employed another strategy.  Sometimes being a girl comes in handy.

YEP!!

Last fall I lost another of my cats, Squirmey (a.k.a. Evil Devil Spawn Cat).  He was having seizures and they were getting worse and more frequent.  I couldn't let him suffer any longer - even if he was a pain in the butt.  I swear he had ADHD, Bipolar and Tourette Syndrome. We had kind of a love/hate relationship - he was a funny cat, and the best bed buddy, but he was constantly terrorizing all my other cats.  I always figured we were married in a previous life, and it wasn't a good marriage.  Gotta love Karma!

Squirmey

After losing Squirmey, I moved my last cat, Phoebe, to the trailer with me.  We both enjoyed our time together in the tearbaby - she loved having the windows at bed level to look out all the time.

Phoebe
Only problem was her litterbox.  My floor space is only about 3ft x 4ft empty.  I do keep some things there permanently, so adding a litterbox really made it challenging to function in the already limited floor space.  I did put the box inside Phoebe's cat carrier with the door removed (green box in picture below) so I wouldn't accidentally step in it or drop something in it and to keep the litter confined somewhat.  As much as I love my furbabies, I do NOT recommend a litterbox in such a small, enclosed space if you plan to live in said space too!  Sometimes there just aren't enough windows.

All the floor space I had with the litterbox
 I have since lost Phoebe this past April.  She was 16 + years old and the momma of Yoda, whom I lost just before leaving Chattanooga.  After 18 years, I am at a loss without any furbabies in my life.  


While living in Zelda for several months I found that I needed to come up with a better plan for my bedding.  My teardrop is designed for a full size mattress, but to fit it lengthwise I have to use the bench in the raised position, thus reducing my open floor space width to about 2 feet.  Without the bench I gain an extra foot in floor space width which I prefer to have.  So, when I ordered my bed foam I had them cut it a foot short of the full size mattress length and I sleep diagonally.  One of the few times in my life being short has paid off.  This works pretty well, except that bed sheets are designed to be much longer than the bed so you can tuck them in.  Add to that my bed being a foot short and you get a LOT of excess sheet hanging over.  This got annoying after a while so I asked a friend who has a sewing machine and is an amazing quilt maker if she could make a very simple bedspread / top sheet for my short bed.  I sent her an old sheet and a piece of material I found along with the dimensions I needed it to be and she sent back something that was beyond my wildest expectations.  She added more material around the edges and made the most beautiful bedspread for Zelda.  My gratitude cup runneth over.

No, those are not alien eyes, they are my "over the bed" lights!

The other day I gave Zelda and Tawanda much needed baths.  As I was washing Zelda a neighbor's friend came over and exclaimed "It's a PREEMIE!!".  I never thought of teardrops in that way, but in the world of camping trailers and RV's they definitely are!  I love it.  Cracks me up every time I think about it.

Zelda all shiny and clean!

This spring has brought more changes and challenges to my life, but I look at them as settling old business so that I can start my new life fresh and unencumbered.  "Things fall apart so that other things can fall together" - so true.  It has been a year and a half full of things both falling apart and falling together.  I am grateful that I took this time to spend with my family and friends.  It has given me the time to examine my life from a new perspective which has confirmed that I am indeed on the right path and that the timing for everything has been as it should be - hard as it is to accept sometimes.

People keep asking me when I plan to leave and I find myself replying that I don't make plans anymore, because as soon as I do they blow up in my face.  I am HOPING that things will fall together soon so that I can head out by the end of July. . . but I'm not making any plans!!