A Remembrance in the Rockies

My brother-in-law loved Colorado. He liked to hike and bike and enjoy the splendor of the majestic, Rocky Mountains. Sadly, the time allotted to him for indulgence in these passions was far too limited. He spent the last decade of his life battling various malignancies, to which he eventually succumbed. He endured multiple surgeries, tedious treatments and hospitalizations. He was a fighter. He loved life and grappled with death until the very end.

When it became clear that he would be leaving this world, he asked my sister to conduct his memorial celebration at Lower Cataract Lake in the White River National Forest. Upon entering the shoreline area, after a brief hike, it became abundantly clear why he chose this spot as his final resting place. It was pristine and peaceful, perhaps a piece of heaven on earth.

It’s always hard to say goodbye. This celebration, however, did not feel like a funereal farewell. Under a cerulean sky, his family and friends told tales, shed a few tears, chuckled a time or two and honored their loved one. When he was released into the clear, sparkling waters you could feel an air of emancipation, a spiritual awakening.

Family and friends are everything when faced with grief and sorrow. It was clear that we were all there to offer support and diversion. We laughed together, cried together and turned a solemn occasion into a celebration of life.

“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!”

Albert Einstein

Wildflowers were everywhere, reminding us of the “beautiful land of life”. We hiked together, dined together, and even managed to brave the Alpine Slide at the Peak 8 Fun Park together. Whatever the activity, we were surrounded by magnificence, but the real beauty was found in the genuine affection we have for one another.

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

Kahlil Gibran

Big Bertha behaved for the Breckenridge leg of the journey. Let’s see what type of trouble she can dream up for the slow trek back east.

Stay tuned…

Bertha Loves Byron ~ An RV Repair Romance

Our RV, Big Bertha has not been big at all, lately. In fact, she has been far too slender. If you have been following the saga, you know that her slide has been hopelessly stuck in the retracted position. Numerous attempts, and plenty of money, have gone in to troubleshooting the problem, but to no avail. The exceedingly cramped conditions were making us claustrophobic, and after 1,600 miles and six stops, we were also feeling defeated and a bit crotchety. We were beginning to think that the electrical issue was unsolvable.

Sadly, we are far too familiar with RV repairs, and the typical, slapdash service guys. I confess that I was prepared to spend the rest of the trip pinched-in, like a fat lady in Spanx.

Enter Byron. He had a truck full of tools and tricks-of-the-trade. This young man had loads of technical know-how, and a genuine desire to fix the unfixable.

Thanks to Byron, his amazing work ethic, can-do attitude, and lots of tinkering, we can now get down the hallway without sucking our guts in!

The culprit.

So, after replacing control panels, tracing and testing countless wires, and virtually ripping the whole motorhome apart, Byron found the culpable component.

It was a fuse. A small, elusive fuse for the battery isolator, that was cleverly concealed beneath the stairs, near the house batteries.

How could something so small have created such havoc?

Dear, tech-savvy, Saint Byron not only fixed the battery issue, which fixed the slides and the jacks; he also found a loose connection in a wire, which made five inoperable outlets usable again. I am very grateful about this because I can now plug the toaster oven into a kitchen socket. I was growing weary of making toast in the bathroom.

The slide cover, however, did not survive the debacle. It was wound way too tight on one end, and way too loose on the other. It could not be uniformly extended, and had to be removed in order to use our newly operational slide. If we replace this protective cover, it will be the third time in a little over a year. I’m no expert but I strongly suspect a serious design flaw.

Big Bertha’s design flaws are boundless.

I want to take a minute to give a shout out to my high school classmate, Colleen and her husband Joe. They are the proud owners of JMS motors (jmsmotors.com). They are well versed in repair, service and restoration, and were so willing to help with the troubleshooting. I owe them a debt of gratitude.

When the slide was opened, after weeks of being shut, the RV interior looked big enough to roller skate in. Just add a disco ball.

We can extend the bed and open the refrigerator. Life is good.

Funny, the living room is no longer a narrow, little hallway… but the campsite in Limon, Colorado is a tad too tight! You can’t have it all.

Despite the small sites, the stop in Limon has been a very positive one. The locals have been helpful and incredibly friendly. The town boasts a fascinating heritage museum, a charming railroad-themed recreation area, and a Gypsy-approved dog park.

Breckenridge Bound.

Stay tuned…

Resorting to Prayer for a Repair

The first thing you notice about Independence, Missouri is the tremendous numbers of steeples, pointed skyward. There are plenty of historic churches of all denominations scattered about the historic downtown. Joseph Smith led Mormon missionaries to Independence and declared this frontier town to be Zion, the City of God. it seemed like a good place to pray for an RV repair. Divine intervention was fast becoming our only recourse since we had been unsuccessful at finding a human solution to the RV’s electrical woes.

Although we we could not find a service tech in Western Missouri, we HAD to find a notary. Time was of the essence, as we were up against a deadline to close on our Lake Anna construction loan. The title company arranged for us to meet the signatory at a Pizza Hut. It turns out that the meeting spot was in a sketchy part of town, so the notary opted to come to the Campus RV Park. That’s right, all three of us squished into our broken motor home, and in that tiny space we began the next step towards happy home ownership.

Independence is undoubtedly, best known as the home of Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States. He was notorious for authorizing the use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. “Give ’em hell, Harry” became popular sentiment during Truman’s 1948 campaign for reelection. I wanted to find a meaningful quote from the former president for this blog but, instead, found this completely unrelated, but totally amusing citation:

Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day.

Harry S. Truman

Next stop, Sundown RV park in Salina, Kansas. It was a parking lot with water and electricity. The sounds of I-70 lulled us off to sleep and our nightlight was the Phillips 66 gas station across the street. It was only one night. Good thing. Even Gypsy was not sure how to react.

Salina, however, is a clean, beautiful city with a vibrant art scene. The sidewalks are wide and walkable. Shops and restaurants are plentiful. Each block boasts an amusing sculpture. The entertaining urban hike almost made up for the unusual lodging.

When we pulled into Lake Scott State Park in Western Kansas, I was excited about the picturesque lake and cowboy-like topography. I was smiling and eager to explore UNTIL I saw my husband’s face. I was pretty sure someone had died. He had a look of utter despair as he pointed to the slide-cover, which sometime during our very windy drive, had begun to unravel. He was not happy. I, on the other hand, was thinking, “Just cut it off. We don’t have an operational slide, so who needs a slide cover?” It would have been unwise to voice that opinion at the time, so, instead, we climbed on the roof and attempted to rewind the fabric. Nope. It was too complicated without dismantling the whole mess. We do not have the patience, the know-how, nor the tools. Instead, we did our best to secure it with Gorilla Tape. That’s right, our slide cover is being suspended by tape. What are the odds we will make it to Colorado without that thing billowing in the breeze like an RV parachute?

It’s over 100F, and because our luck just keeps getting worse, beautiful lake Scott cannot be used for recreational activities because of a toxic algae bloom. No cooling off for us. But, we are troopers. We arose at sun-up for an early morning hike around the lake. It was absolutely stunning.

We have no other option but to move forward. A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure….

Tomorrow we meet Byron the RV Repair Guy in Limon, CO. I hope he doesn’t run away screaming after he meets Big, Broken Bertha…

Stay tuned

Saddles, St. Louis and Sleeping Sideways

With slide out and jacks down, we thought we were hopelessly stuck in Woodbine, Maryland. We had enlisted the help of the RV manufacturer, and an onsite service tech. Neither were able to fix the power source problem that was plaguing Big, Bad Bertha. Through some divine intervention, my husband hit a reconfigure button on his app, and we had a 10-second window in which the battery showed a charge. We slammed the slide shut, lifted the jacks, and headed west, knowing that our headaches were hitching a ride with us. We were already seriously behind on our scheduled trip. We had to skip our stops at Ohiopyle in Western Pennsylvania, and John Bryan State Park near Columbus Ohio. We motored straight through to Mc Cormick’s Creek State Park near Bloomington, Indiana. It was a 10-hour, white-knuckle trek but we were back on schedule.

Without a functioning slide out, our motorhome has extremely narrow hallways, and a king-sized bed that cannot be extended. Being petite is finally a plus. If I were much bulkier, I would have to spray myself with Pam in order to slide down the hallway. You can barely open the refrigerator but I can squeeze my arms in enough to get most food items out. The fruit drawer, however, is impossible to open. I lie in bed at night, just imagining the stuff growing in there, most assuredly matter that should be on a petri dish.

My husband sleeps on the bunk over the cab. Gypsy and I slumber sideways on the jackknifed bed. It’s not ideal, but it works. Desperate people do curious things.

“When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.”

Theodore Roosevelt

We are determined to keep moving forward, so we are, literally, back in the saddle again! We were able to cast away our woes long enough to enjoy a trail ride. “My” lead horse, Moe, which has to be short for molasses, was seasoned and SLOW. My husband’s steed was an enormous draft horse that plodded along behind “Slow Moe”, never trying to take the lead in spite of the lethargic pace.

We also managed a hike to Wolf Cave. Gypsy found a few photo ops along the way before we returned to the reality of our dilemma.

We contacted the manufacturer of the defective RV computer. After multiple, troubleshooting phone calls, we were advised that in order to fix the issue, we would need a new control panel. They agreed to send one via overnight service to our next stop, at Babler State Park near St. Louis. The package was there when we arrived. With a renewed sense of optimism, my husband prepared to install the new component. I, wisely, put the leash on my favorite, four-legged friend and set out to take a LONG walk. It’s better that way. We have a way of getting underfoot, second guessing my husband’s approach to things, and making him crazy.

When we returned after a few hours I knew it wasn’t a successful endeavor. My spouse was sweating profusely, and had a glassy stare. The new (and quite expensive) control panel showed the same error message. The manufacturer sent an update that we downloaded to a thumb drive. We have the latest software, but we still have a broken RV with a drawer full of moldy blueberries.

Now what?

Life keeps giving us lemons.

Make lemonade, or go grab a beer at Busch stadium…

The Cardinal’s home stadium is a great place to catch a game. I am so grateful for the diversions. It’s helping to keep us semi-sane.

Now, believe it or not, we are off to Independence, MO, where we intend to close on our new home construction. Truth is stranger than fiction. We will be meeting a notary at a Pizza Hut so that we can get moving on the Lake Anna house.

Stay tuned…

Bad, Bad Bertha

Hood Up and Halted

So, here I sit in my IM-mobile home. A house on wheels should roll, right? Not today. Not tomorrow. Not for the foreseeable future. We need either a miracle or an operational motherboard, both of which seem to be in really short supply.

Saturday began with a quick trip to the grocery store in preparation for a long haul to Colorado. Provisions were packed away, the “stuff” inside the RV was secured for travel, the tanks were dumped, and the site was cleared. We were smiling, singing Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, and ready for take off. Until we cranked the engine. It started right up, but the RV computer was not receiving the signal. Therefore, we could not close the slide out. Nor could we lift the leveling jacks. We were not going anywhere.

“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.” ~ Steve Wozniak

We tried the obvious stuff. The volt meter showed a fully charged chassis battery. Frank, our amazingly thorough and amicable technician, crawled under the truck and traced the wire as far as he could, until it disappeared into the abyss. The cable snaked through to the computer board which was inconveniently located under the bed, which had to be dismantled. There were a plethora of wires that fed into the control panel, but without a schematic it was impossible to select the correct wire. Naturally, we couldn’t get the necessary part from the manufacturer. Their employees were eating hotdogs, drinking beer and watching fireworks.

The plot thickens. We are supposed to be in Indiana by now. We had meticulously mapped out a journey to Lower Cataract Lake, in the White River National Forest to attend a celebration of (a much too short) life for my brother-in-law. Now it appears we have to quickly come up with a plan B.

We are awaiting some return calls, but at present, it looks like we are stuck for another EIGHT weeks, while awaiting the part needed to fix this mess. While I may appear to be taking it all in stride, I can assure you that I am falling apart on the inside. This takes our homelessness to a whole new measure. No brick and mortar, no place to put our house on wheels while it awaits repair.

So now we must cancel reservations, find a place to keep Bertha while she awaits repair parts, find a dog-friendly home for the next few months, plan a whole new route to the Rockies, with pet-loving motels along the way. Retirement is so relaxing.

The only bright note is that if we must be left in the lurch, at least we are near friends, family (with a beautiful pool) and Frank the RV guy.

You can’t make this crap up.

Stay tuned.

Music, Milestones and Majesty

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

William Shakespeare

Who doesn’t love late Spring? It is a time for recitals, graduations, baseball tournaments, pool openings, long, warm days and outdoor entertainment. It is my favorite time of the year. Let’s face it, RV existence is a seriously claustrophobic experience, but our living space seems to expand exponentially as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise. My house may be small, but the size of my backyard is roughly 1.9 billion acres.

Music mesmerizes the soul. It is an international language that we can all understand and appreciate. It makes us want to dance, and to sing. Some are blessed with the ability to speak the prose of melody and the poetry of harmonics. Our grandchildren continue to delight and amaze us with their musical gifts. They are skilled and dedicated to their art. My heart swells with pride when I watch them perform.

We also recently enjoyed an evening at Black Ankle Vineyard, being entertained by a good friend and talented guitarist.

I have always been a bit of a baseball freak. In my youth, I memorized stats, standings and rosters. I can explain what constitutes a balk. I know the infield fly rule, and I can keep a score book with the best of them. I’ve been to countless games, including Spring Training games, and have been to several MLB fields. My boys were both little league all-stars, and my younger son pitched in college. My grandkids are both ball players. We have spent a good amount of time watching their games this Spring. My granddaughter, who is only 9-years-old, is holding her own against 13-year-old girls who are twice her size. (Note photo below. She is the little, pink, 3rd baseman and the player on 3rd is NOT a coach!) She has pitched a few shut-out innings and swings the bat with authority in spite of her size disadvantage. My grandson’s team just won their division championship. Athletic and Artistic; who could ask for more?

Fifth grade graduation was another major milestone. These kids faced so many obstacles during their elementary school years. Undeterred by Covid-19 and a masked-up education, these 5th graders excelled academically. I applaud their perseverance. These young people were the Beta-test, guinea pigs for virtual learning. They made the adjustment with aplomb, and are ready to make their mark in middle school. Should I mention that my grandson was at the top of his class, or have I done entirely too much boasting already?

I am glad that we have been stationary, in a close-to-the-kids campground so that we could participate in these monumental occasions. It has also given us the opportunity to explore the rural area around our site, to take a trip to DC to tour the National Cathedral, and to spend an amazing few days with friends at the Bedford Springs Resort. There is such majesty that surrounds us, be it natural or man made. Stop each day, with an attitude of gratitude, and reflect on the beauty of our world.

Time marches on and we will not be moored at this location for much longer. It is time to prepare for our next move. Westward, Ho!

Stay tuned.

A Fondness for the Familiar

Camden Yards. Home of the O’s

Our journey has taken us to campgrounds near our old hometown for an extended stay. Our house-on-wheels is not rolling around much, which, due to the price of diesel, is a fortunate coincidence. Strangely, idling in this environment, the RV feels almost like home. Almost is the operative word. I miss the comfort of real walls and a basement when springtime, severe storms fire up. I have determined that there are three thunderstorm categories while residing in a truck: 1.) find a friend or family member with a basement, 2.) run to the concrete bathhouse and cover your head, 3.) open a bottle of wine, take a sip, watch the leaves and branches blow by while praying a HAIL MARY or two.

In spite of a stormy spring, I am relishing every day as I open each corresponding door on my ADVENTure calendar. Time passes swiftly when family is nearby, friends are within reach, and familiar haunts are accessible.

A quick trip to my hometown filled me with feelings of nostalgia and gratitude. Much has changed and much remains as it was in my youth. There is such comfort in reliving the recognizable. I regret that there was insufficient time to see a few other lifelong friends. The brevity of my visit was the only downside, but I plan to get back there just as soon as I can line up a few visits with some cherished chums.

If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.

Bruce Lee

We are not wasting time! We have found time for color runs, water parks, Ga-Ga ball, tie-dye shirts, S’mores, and Yogi Bear abductions.

We have spent time at Camden Yards, watching the Orioles beat the Yankees on a warm, sunny afternoon. The win was wonderful but time spent with our son and daughter-in-law was the real prize.

We have cheered on our little leaguers, spent lots of time at the gym, and have taken the time to join good friends for a weekend of frivolity at the beach. No wasting time. Each day is a chance to embrace the unexpected.

And, Hallelujah, there has been progress made at the lakefront!

The location of the house has been staked, and the permitting process for well and septic has begun. We are awaiting a quote from a dock builder, and approval for the site plan from the county.

Eleven (or so) months to go. I’m patient. No, I’m not. I am, however, still committed to enjoying the journey.

Gypsy, at the ripe, old age of 15-months, is still filled with puppy silliness. Sometimes she is a white dog, sometimes she is a blue dog, but left to her own devices, she would prefer to be completely covered in mud. She is beginning to show show signs of maturity, which is sort of bittersweet. We will miss her baby-animal antics, but will enjoy the calm that comes with her advance into adulthood.

Hard to believe that summer is on the horizon. In a few short weeks this caravan will be rolling down the road again…

Welcome each day with a sense of wonder. Stay tuned….

Quordle, Covid and The Land of Lawn Ornaments

Author Joan Didion penned an award winning book entitled A Year of Magical Thinking that deals with grief, mourning, and attempts to avert abhorrent circumstances through hopeful thinking. My upcoming year is not as distressing and certainly not comparable to Ms. Didion’s year of heartbreak. Yet, I do intend to utilize her idea of magical thinking to aid in my trek through the next twelve months of vagrancy. It will be A Year of Embracing Everyday Eccentricities.

Have you played Wordle? Quordle? I am addicted to both. They are an opiate to me. I cannot start a day on the right track if I do not successfully complete both of these word games. I have a serious monkey on my back.

I thought that it would be a good idea to get a booster shot now that Covid numbers are, once again, on the rise. I knew that I would probably get achy and feverish but I bit the bullet and rolled up my sleeve for shot #4. Six hours later every muscle in my body throbbed. I was clammy and cold at the same time. It felt as if I had been pierced by a bayonet at the injection site. I wanted so desperately to just go to sleep, but my arm was pounding and my head was throbbing, and all I could think about was five-letter words that I could plug into Wordle and Quordle. I’m moaning and sweating and thinking: FEVER, AGONY, THROB, CRAMP, CHILL, COVID. You get the picture. I think I need a 12-step-program.

Riders Up!

May is all about running for the roses and making mint juleps. We were not invited to wear feathered, organza hats while sipping bourbon at Churchill Downs and watching the sun go down on our old Kentucky home. Instead, we joined friends at Laurel Park for a thoroughly enjoyable day of thoroughbreds and throwing money away.

It was a day for mudders. It’s been one of those Springs. Bring your boots and bumbershoots.

Meanwhile, back at Ramblin’Pines Campground, we have had a few sunny days and long walks with Gypsy. While meandering about the acreage, I happened to note the large numbers of towering hardwoods, and the near absence of pine trees. Just another comical anomaly. I am easily amused.

Speaking of which, does anyone else out there find lawn ornaments to be too campy (pun intended) for words?

And FINALLY, we have made a concrete step in our home building process. We have met with our site operations manager and now have an overview plan for the construction process…

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
― Aristotle

Stay tuned…

Looking for Light at the End of the Tunnel

With a contract in hand, we are finally moving forward with concrete plans to have a new home built. Site planning, lot clearing, well digging and construction are projected to take a year. A year? We’ve already been living like wayward wanderers for six months. What’s another year?

Another year is an additional 365 days, another 525,949 minutes. Long-suffering perseverance is not my long suit. I am itching to see the light, but we are entering a long, long, tunnel.

So, an RV will be our abode for another trip around the sun. Big Bertha has been good to us, but her floor is constantly dirty, she smells like a dog, and she can be a tad too cold for comfort unless the outdoor temperatures are summerlike. I can endure this. Positive thinking and layered clothing. Breathe in the good. Breathe out the bad. Ommmmmm….

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”
― George Eliot

So, I will breathe in the beauty and breathe out the cramped quarters. In fact, my goal is to turn the next twelve months into a gigantic Advent calendar. I will greet each sunrise by opening a door to see what curiosity will be behind it. It will be an ADVENT-ure calendar, a tool to count down the 365 days while reminding myself that life is an adventure, a trip of twists and turns, an expedition into the unexplored.

Advent is about waiting with expectation while preparing to celebrate. I can do this. I expect champagne at journey’s end.

I will be in my old stomping grounds for the next several weeks. I can shop at stores I am familiar with. I can go to my old gym. I can see friends and family, attend little league games, and engage in familiar activities.

A year feels less daunting when you can subtract the next 57 days. See, I can be optimistic. 308 days seems much more manageable.

It’s been a gray, chilly Spring but a few rays of sun have made it through, bringing promises of warmth. Today, however, is a dank, dreary day, replete with a penetrating rain. It is not a day for getting lost in the woods, or long walks with Gypsy, or sitting around a campfire. There will be no Little League. It is certainly a rain delay kind of day.

As I open the door to my ADVENT-ure calendar, I see the weather and am inclined to slam it shut. Instead, I see that I can go to the gym, run on the treadmill while listening to a podcast and can finish reading RULES OF CIVILITY while whirling my legs on the Elliptical.

Moving from darkness towards light. Positivity is my new superpower.

Stay tuned…

Wanderlust Woes & Wonders

Lake Anna

It is nearing a half year since we kissed domesticity goodbye and headed out on the open road. It would be a big, fat, fib to say that it has been a rose-strewn road of exciting exploits and continual contentment. We have days that are filled with dramatic discovery and days filled with untold tedium. This is not a vacation. It is life in a truck.

One of the downsides to a nomadic lifestyle is the incessant solitude. I’m basically an introvert. So, I relish the peace and quiet. I need time for reflection, but too much isolation is not conducive to a healthy psyche. I am also a social animal that needs to see a familiar face from time to time. My husband has a very nice face and I never tire of seeing it, but after six months I know every freckle, every laugh line and every wayward eyebrow hair. So, it is a VERY GOOD day when old friends, who happen to be fellow RV’ers, can join us for libations, laughter and a round of Scrabble.

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
― Dr. Seuss

I believe that Doctor Seuss had adequately summarized another downside to living in a truck. All is right with the world when it is warm enough and dry enough to make the outdoors your living room. But when the cold rain comes, especially when it lingers for a few days, the living quarters can create claustrophobia. Oh, and if you are blessed enough to have a lovely Labrador, who needs regular constitutionals, you are going to be forced to confront the elements.

Wet dogs have an interesting aroma that further enhances the cabin fever element brought about by inclement weather.

If I love warmth and sunshine, which I do, I should not be in the Mid-Atlantic in April.

There are also good days. In fact, there are GREAT days. I am able to feed my wanderlust during day-long hikes to new valleys and vistas. I can breathe in the scenery while allowing my spirit to soar.

There are campfires, and grilled meals, and owls hooting haunting lullabies.

There is minimalism and simplicity. There is something satisfying about learning to live with less.

There is only one bathroom to clean. When the sky is blue, the accommodations are not claustrophobic; they are cozy. Sure, I have to sweep the floor a dozen times per day, but it takes all of 30 seconds.

Due to close quarters, I am nearly always covered in dog hair. It is no longer bothersome. Learn to like what you cannot change. It is now a fashion statement.

A REALLY great day entails going to the local winery to celebrate signing a contract to have a home built on Lake Anna. Perseverance Pays.

Perhaps now, I can relax and enjoy the next 12 months in Big Bertha.

Light at the end of the tunnel will allow me to appreciate the adventure.

Now back to Maryland and opening day for little league. I cannot wait to see my little sluggers.

Stay tuned…