All posts by gruntled

Notes from the Road

Couldn’t figure out why the GPS was growling at me. Apparently someone had selected “Yeti” as the language.

Me: so I changed the vehicle on my GPS to a hawk.
DH: oh good, so you’re getting useful things done. For a second there I thought you were screwing around.

Youngest, holding up the two liter of Pepsi, which is almost gone, “Can I drink this, just like, with a straw?”
Me: You mean, drink it out of the bottle?
Y: Yeah, with a straw.
Me: No. As soon as you let go, the straw will fall inside.
Y: Dude, no, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. I mean, I know straws, man. Geez. Doubting your son.

What it’s like traveling across the US with an Englishman:
Me: Oh look, the birthplace of (famous American)!
DH: who?

Wang chung’s Dance Hall Days came on shuffle, and DH was doing an impression of the singer that had me in tears. Per DH, the guy would be the most awkward guy at any party if he talked like he sings. Blurty McBlurterson. Like the band told him not to sing at that part, but he just couldn’t help himself.

Road Kill Bingo

Road Kill Bingo started out as most silly car ride games start – we needed something to keep our minds occupied during the long stretches with nothing but highway scenery. I kept tally in a notebook for the first few months we were on the road. We’d all be sitting in silence and then suddenly one of us would yell, “Armadillo!” or perhaps, “Deer!” or way too often, “Raccoon!”

The original Road Kill Bingo rules started with only one:

  1. No hitting your own. You cannot make roadkill. It’s wrong, and it would make me cry.

But over time, we added addendums, statutes, and so on.

  • Roadkill bingo all encompassing policy 1.1: No fault road kill, only pre-existing road kill counts.
  • Granville roadkill bingo rule addendum 3.2: Raccoons don’t count after the 5th one.
  • Maryland roadkill bingo addendum 3.3: Cut Christmas trees only count if you can prove they were hit by a car.
  • Carolinas road kill bingo addendum 4.3: vultures are worth the same points as three raccoons.
  • Ohio roadkill bingo chapter addendum 6.1: roadkill within Ohio worth 0 points due to the unfair advantage rule of 2014. Too plentiful.

Animals found included:

  • Raccoons: 4 until I gave up and just made the infinity symbol.
  • Beaver: 2
  • Deer: 6
  • Hedgehog: 1
  • Possum: 2
  • Rabbit: 4
  • Unidentified furry messes: 4 until I gave up counting and made the infinity symbol.
  • Skunk: 3
  • Coyote: 2
  • Turtles and/or tortoises: 5
  • Vultures: 2
  • Armadillos: 8
  • Porcupine: 1
  • Lawn chairs: 4
  • Blankets and shoes: 24
  • Burnt out car: 1

Notable mentions:

Roadkill bingo first: wild boar. Yes, we’re in Texas now.

Live wild animals seen from the road have included:

  • Coyotes
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope
  • Regular Pronghorn Antelope
  • Wild Turkeys
  • Eagles, vultures, and hawks
  • Tortoises
  • Alligators
  • Prairie Dogs

Texas and more Texas

Sent on July 17, 2015

The last time I emailed was from Treetops RV park, near Arlington, Texas. It’s been too long! Too much has happened! I will try and take you all through it, though I won’t fault any of you for wandering off halfway through the story to make some tea.

Treetops RV resort was lovely, though the people were a bit aloof, which surprised me. Generally RV park folk are friendly. It was fine, though, Youngest and I walked to Target a few times for the occasional grocery need (milk, ice cream, cookies, you know – the important stuff), and just hung out inside to avoid the heat on the other side of the RV door. The park was crawling with grackles – like ravens, but with a purple sheen to their feathers and much larger tails. They strut around and bully the smaller birds by flapping their wings and making loud noises. They’re kind of jerks, to be honest. But pretty jerks.

After Arlington, we met up with D, a contact of DH’s, and went to the Cresson race track for a few days, where we plugged into power and overnighted next to workshops. I really enjoyed it, as did Milo, as the evenings meant everyone else cleared out and we had the place to ourselves. We ran Milo on the track (he thought he’d died and gone to heaven) and I took some photos of plovers – they were all over the place in the evening. D took us to a German restaurant in nearby Granbury one evening, and we all had schnitzel. Youngest was not overly impressed by the schnitzel, but we all enjoyed the strudel afterward. Granbury is a quaint little town – it has a proper town center, which is not common anymore, really, which surrounds the courthouse – a stately affair. We wandered around after eating, and people were setting up for the upcoming fourth of July holiday. Stands were being put up to sell everything from BBQ food to large tin sculptures (I desperately wanted the pig with wings, but DH, wisely, said no).

We left Cresson and moved on to “Sun Country RV Park,” near Lake Whitney, still in Texas, which was dirt cheap and almost empty. I got confused, for a bit, and told DH we only got in because there was a cancellation (which had been a different park, but honestly, who can blame me for mixing them all up). So as we wandered around the very (VERY) empty Sun Country park, he kept saying, “Boy, it’s a good thing there was a cancellation!” Sun Country’s office looked like it had come out on the wrong end of a storm, and there was a sign there that said, “Office is closed due to building condition.” The pool was lovely but we never ended up using it. Instead, DH and I played several rounds of pool in the empty clubhouse, and I borrowed a book – Lonesome Dove, by Larry Mcmurtry, which is supposed to be THE western novel everyone should read. I haven’t started it yet. But I will!

Then we headed off for Austin, Texas, and stayed along the way in one more lovely spot, in Georgetown, Texas, at the Berry Springs RV park, which was across the road from Berry Springs Reserve. We only stayed a night, but we walked through the preserve twice – once the evening we arrived, and again the next morning at sunrise, where we surprised a small group of deer on the walkway. The preserve has wide swaths of prairie land, with tall grass, as well as clusters of pecan and oak trees. Apparently a lot of wildlife can be seen there – foxes, deer, a multitude of birds – but the one wild thing we saw the most of was the yellow garden spider. It’s astonishing how giant they are. They make huge webs, always with a little zigzag of silk coming from the center. The lubber grasshoppers (which are also quite large) were no match for these spiders – we saw one large grasshopper partially wrapped in one spiders web. Though they were fascinating, and strangely lovely, they were also great deterrents (in my opinion) for keeping people on the trail. Who would want to tangle through one of those things’ domains? Bleah!

We got into Austin on July 5th, and we made our way to the Pecan Grove RV park – on what is called Austin’s Restaurant Row, about a mile from downtown. We had Zilker Park and Barton Springs within walking distance as well. Barton Springs Pool is a section of Barton Creek that has been fenced off and has a lifeguard on duty each day – an impromptu public pool made from the very clear Barton Spring water as it comes down the creek. A great idea, I think – and because the water is not impeded, it continues to flow and is crystal clear in the swimming area. If you don’t want to pay the 4 dollar admission, you can go right above or below the pool and swim straight in the creek. Many, many people were doing just that when we walked along it – with dogs as well. Our time in Austin was really lovely – DH did not leave for his event, so we got to spend the week all together. A few blocks down, on either side of the RV park, were food truck lots. I have never eaten from a food truck, and I had to try them – it seemed imperative. Especially since Austin is known for its food scene. It would take several dozen paragraphs to get through all the great food we had there, so I’ll try and stick to the highlights. We had Tex-Mex at a place called Chuy’s. Tex Mex, for those who don’t know, is the Texan take on Mexican food. It tends to have more cheese, is heavier on the meat, and is actually delicious, were I to judge from that place alone. I’m sure I’ve had Tex-mex before, just never called out as such. DH and I had lunch one day from a food truck called “The Mighty Cone,” where they fill cone shaped tortillas with all sorts of things. I had spicy breaded chicken and slaw in one, and DH had a “Monster Cone” with shrimp, avocado, chicken, and other assorted goodies. One morning we went to a spanish food truck and had breakfast tacos – bacon, egg, onions, some sort of red sauce, and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. They were very filling and cost 3 dollars each, so we were both fans.

One of the days we were there, we walked downtown to wander, and Youngest decided to leave us and go to the library. I think he only went because there was a new iPhone software out and the wireless at the RV park was terrible. But off he went on his own, and he hung out in the library reading while the software downloaded to his phone on the library wireless. So I can’t be terribly upset. He was reading! Yay! Small victories.

The RV park itself was great – pecan trees all around, a nice leash free park area a block or so away, and we managed to pick up some history. It was built in 1947, and hadn’t changed a heck of a lot. When we pulled into the slot, the guy working had to bring out a pole and raise the power lines for us to prevent us hitting them with the air conditioner on top of the RV. Each tree was tagged – all over the city, trees had small metal tags glinting on their trunks. A neighbor in the park pointed to the condos next to the park, and said, “That used to be an RV park too. A guy bought it and razed all the trees to build the condos, which is when the city started tagging and tracking all their trees. You’re not allowed to even cut a branch without getting permission from the city anymore.” What?! That’s awesome! No wonder Austin was so lovely.

After Austin we moved on to the Wagon Wheel Guest Ranch, in Snyder, Texas, which was a bit confusing, and made us nervous, as we couldn’t find any reviews online. But it was cheap – 15 dollars a night – and we thought, how bad can it be for one night? Such a strange place it was! It was nearly empty – there were two other RVs and we suspect they were permanent guests. But it had a handful of buildings, all with hand painted signs in front – “Bunkhouse,” “Headquarters,” “Office,” etc. The bathrooms were not useable, at least for me – they were in the back of a long unused clubhouse, had very little light, and had a sign asking people to please not flush toilet paper. The clubhouse floor was concrete, with large dead beetles scattered about, as though they came for a dance and managed to get poisoned instead. It was gloriously rustic – I will say that. The buildings were all wood beams and texas style. They had a pen of reindeer (who looked very hot), and there were cattle on the land behind the place. The birds were everywhere – I’ll need help identifying the birds in most of the photos I took while there. We also saw horned toads (actually lizards), but we didn’t touch any of them due to their ability to shoot blood from their eyes as a defense mechanism. Oh, and the lubber grasshoppers! My goodness! They were everywhere, and they are so big that they’re clumsy when trying to jump. It was not unusual to have one whack into the back of your leg. Often if we came near them, they would do one half hearted awkward leap and then start walking very quickly away. I took a lot of photos of them, as well, just because of how enormous they are.

Of the Wagon Wheel Guest Ranch, I told DH, “This is the kind of place that, in a book, someone would end up here during aimless travels, fall in love with the place, and decide to stay and help the owners restore it to its original glory.” It looked, as DH put it, like, “Someone spent an awful lot of money on it, once.” There were two small dogs running free – a little hairy terrier type and a dog that was part boston terrier and part chihuahua. You’d be out walking, and they’d run up to you, all friendly, and follow you on your walk. Such a strange lovely place it was.

Ok. I have to end this now and come back to give you the next leg of the update, maybe later today or tomorrow morning. Pie Town, New Mexico, will need its own email, practically, there is so much to tell. Also in the next update – Sonoran Pronghorn herd! A meteor crater! A rain storm that nearly flooded out the town of Winslow, Arizona! The Petrified Forest! And of course, miles and miles of traveling.

We’re shooting to be at my dads, in Lake Havasu, by Saturday.

We are all well – hope this finds all of you happy and well, too!

Florida to Texas

Sent on June 21, 2015

I just got your email a little while ago, and was kicking myself, when I went back to see what the last update you had was. How was your caravan? Lovely, I hope? Relaxing? Sunshiny?

Since the below email is a bit dated, now, I’ll tell you, it leaves off with Youngest and I in Pensacola, while DH flew off to work. We ordered pizza and took lots of bird photos and enjoyed some down time there, and when he returned, we swam in the site’s teeny tiny pool.

After Pensacola, we drove through Alabama and just as we arrived in Mississippi we ran into engine trouble. We were crossing a river over a not very steep bridge when the RV just…lost power and started spewing black smoke. We managed to just get across and into a rest stop on the other side, where we arranged for a tow to the nearest RV repair place in Moss Point, Mississippi. We didn’t expect to stay in Mississippi, but well, the universe had other plans, apparently!

We stayed there for two nights, plugged in to power but not enough – we use a 50 amp power plug, and they had us set up with adapters and into the wall socket in the garage, which was, I think, 20 amp. So we could only run one air conditioner and if you forgot and plugged something in or tried the microwave, the circuit would go, and DH would have to go in and flip the breaker. It was then that we started daydreaming about a hotel, but I do admire DH’s stubbornness, and well, it would have cost money, and we weren’t sure how much the repairs would be. Turned out we only had faulty O2 sensors, and they were fairly easy to replace, we just had to wait for the parts, which is why we spent two days in the lot of Mike’s Truck and Trailer repair shop.

The positives – we borrowed a truck from the owner (who was very accommodating – people in the south are just so darned nice), and went to a barbecue place called, “The Shed,” that had an outdoor seating area. Which meant Milo got to come, and beg for scraps under the table…much to DH’s chagrin. The food was amazing! Barbecue beef brisket that was so tender it almost melted in your mouth! At night, the small marshy ditches on either side of the road near us provided us with a cacophony of frogs. They were very amusing – they sound like little tiny bicycle horns. We looked them up and determined they were green tree frogs. You can hear them here:

http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recnum=AR0015

Now just imagine about 500 of those all at once. Milo was very nervous about going pee when we walked him due to the amount of noise going on out there.

After we got our parts and were back in ship shape condition, we headed off for Sam Houston Jones State Park, in Louisiana. We spent two nights there, and the first night, as we were setting up, I saw a weird cat jump across a small creek in the trees, and when I was trying to describe it to DH, he said, “Sarah. That was a bobcat. Did you get a photo?” No. No I didn’t, of course, because I was just staring at it trying to figure out what it was! So silly. It was a lovely state park, though it rained a lot while we were there. While in Louisiana we went to a pie shop called, “Anna’s Pies,” which was listed online as having the best pies in Louisiana. I called to see if they were open, and an older lady answered, and said, “This is Anna.” When we arrived, it looked like a little warehouse type building, and inside was a cross between a very large kitchen and a living room, with Anna sitting in a recliner with an apron on. Talk about your home cooking! The pies were excellent – we had lemon, blackberry and apple, but only tiny individual pies. I guess you need to call ahead and order the full size ones. We also stopped at a place for something called “Boudin Balls,” because their sign proclaimed they were “the best” cracklins and boudin balls (lots of that, as well as the “world famous” claim on billboards on this trip!). The cracklins were just fried up pork fat, which DH loved. Boudin is a pork sausage, and Boudin balls are pork sausage covered in a batter and deep fried. The crisp batter was quite spicy, so DH ended up eating most of those too. I suspect our continued food tourism will impact our waistlines if we go on at that pace. I suspect it already might be.

From Louisiana, we went to Texas and stayed at Huntsville State Park, where it rained almost every day. It was absolutely beautiful there, though, and I finally got some photos of cardinals as well as some of the many ravens wandering about and clustering on the grass in little raven gangs. I managed a photo of a red headed woodpecker and Youngest and I both took way too many photos of the little bunnies who seemed not to care about human presences at all. We could have stayed longer – there were so many trails – but the rain got old, and we were starting to track Tropical Storm Bill, which was flooding parts of Texas, including Huntsville. So we moved just a bit up the road to an RV park in a town called Bryan, Texas. It was another boring RV park – paved pads, all landscaped, another teeny pool, and the guy who ran it was the most stereotypical Texan ever – and quite possibly one of the nicest people we’ve met. He told us, “People say all Texans ride horses and own guns, and one of those things isn’t true. Not every one of us has a horse!” He recommended a steak house a short walk from the park, so DH and I went out and had a date night on our own at the place. DH ordered a small Tbone steak and was presented with a steak larger than his head. I had the meat loaf, and it lasted me through that dinner and two more meals, it was so big. And it was quite cheap, too!

From that RV park we went on to the I35 RV Park, which is right on the highway, but boasted large fields for the dog to run in and a free made to order breakfast. How could we resist? We’re there now. It’s pretty close to Waco, Texas. There are goats here, chickens, a lovely pool, and a couple of ponds. Milo went jumping towards one last night when we walked him and didn’t realize it was water – you’ve never seen a dog turn around and jump out of anything so fast! Then he rolled himself all over the grass in protest. So we had to take him to the “Dog Washing Station” and clean him up, as the ponds don’t smell very nice, with all the swampy stuff around them.

We seemed to miss the worst of the storm – we’ve been watching the weather, and we just skated right along the west edge of it. Whew! It’s been thundering a bit today, and we had a heavy but brief rainfall earlier.

After this we move on to Fort Worth, near Dallas, Texas, and DH will be flying out from there to New York for a race. Youngest and I will be staying at a park called “Treetops RV park.”

It’s all been going well. We got some books for Youngest – a Stephen Hawkings book to read, a study guide for his high school diploma, and books on psychology and philosophy, his favorite subjects. But the Stephen Hawkings book is the one he’s loving the most. He’s also turned into quite the shutterbug – he finally uploaded his photos to his computer, and there were 1500 pictures on the camera!! For DH’s birthday we picked him up a newer handheld Canon camera, and he’s been taking more photos as well.

Take care, and again – so sorry for not keeping you updated!!

xo

Florida and more Florida

Sent on June 4, 2015

Hi all!!

You ready for another big update? No? You wish I’d stop? Well, tough.

So let’s see. A lot has happened since my last email from Kissimmee, Florida. We went to Universal Studios with T, my nephew, who got us in for free. Milo went to the kennel there while Youngest and I were at the park. He was very much not happy about it. Then T wasn’t feeling well, so we ended up cutting the day short after four hours or so, which – honestly – was plenty for us. We rode some rides, we visited the Harry Potter area (though we didn’t get to take the Hogwarts Express train to the other Universal Park, because did I mention it was SO HOT?). We also took a ton of photos.

At the back of the RV park we were in, there was a fenced in marshy pond, and a cormorant, who sat every day overlooking the pond from a cement piling. The first time I saw it, I actually raced back to the RV for my zoom lens, and snuck up all quietly to take photos….and then the next morning it was there again. And that afternoon. And…pretty much every time I walked Milo. That is the perfect analogy for our photography on this entire trip. We start with the first lizard, then we get the good photos of the cool lizards, and then we strive for the perfect shot with the sun just right and the planets aligned just so…and yeah. You get the idea. The residents of the RV park absolutely loved Milo – everyone commented on him and they all wanted to pet him, so he enjoyed his time there. A woman told me, at one stage, that an alligator lived in the pond in the back, and I wondered if she was pulling my leg. But every time I went past it, I now looked for the gator, even as I suspected I was being made a fool of, because what if it was true? I’m a sucker, what can I say. On the last day, DH was home, and we walked past, and there, in all its glory, was an alligator tootling around on the edge of the pond. Cue the “ALLIGATOR! TAKE A PHOTO!” noise…. This, of course, would be the first alligator shot, and it didn’t turn out very well. But no worries, because we have seen more. Lots more.

After Kissimmee, which was the land of the first night geckos, the first alligator, and the first cormorant who stood still for photos…we went on to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Milo once again was kenneled while we went into the Space Center, and once again I felt terribly guilty, but I listened to DH, who said, “Come on, Sarah, he was once a street dog! He can sit in an air conditioned kennel for a few hours!” The Space Center was very (very) cool, which surprised me. I was expecting this to be DH’s thing, primarily – it’s all that engineering, and space exploration, and rockets and shuttles and so on. But when we watched the video about space exploration, and then the entire back wall lifted to reveal the Atlantis hanging behind it in a huge hallway, I will confess to getting goosebumps. We took a shuttle through the wildlife reserve on Cape Canaveral (where we saw a very large gator from the safety of the bus) to see the Saturn V, but I ended up ducking out of that and heading back to Milo on the very next shuttle, because I’m a wuss, and I couldn’t stop seeing the puppy eyes he gave us when we left him in the kennel. Youngest came with me – the heat was getting to him, and we picked up a VERY HAPPY DOG, and then sat at little picnic type tables out by the parking lot to wait for DH. The lot was full of buses, and there were a lot of tourists milling around, and one strange little man sat down near us and proceeded to pluck hairs out of his chin for a good half an hour, with the aid of some tweezers and a small compact mirror. It just goes to show – even after you leave the park, there is always something entertaining to watch!

We drove down the A1A to Vero Beach, and stayed two nights. The RV park had a lovely pool, and lizards EVERYWHERE. The wireless was only free in the clubhouse, so DH and I spent a lot of time sitting down there and catching up on our laptops – uploading photos, mapping the next leg of the trip, booking sites, etc. Outside of the clubhouse was a lovely area with trees, palms, etc, ringed by old logs, and it was literally teeming with lizards, so I took to calling it lizard city. I spent a good amount of time crouching around brown anole lizards, trying to get a good shot with my zoom lens. We swam a lot, there, as well, but we’ve learned to only swim in the late afternoons and evenings, when the Florida sun is not quite as murderous.

From Vero we moved on to Pompano Beach, to see DH’s friend C, who has a workshop there. He’d kindly offered to let us use power at his shop for the weekend, and then gave us his wife’s Audi to use, which made us feel like normal people for a few days. DH was loving driving an actual car again, after steering this 36 foot thing around for several weeks. Because it was a Friday when we turned up, DH had a few beers with the guys, and then C gave him the key to the shop and we had the place to ourselves all weekend. Which doesn’t sound like much, except that the shop was full of gorgeous cars – Ginetta race cars, Lotuses, a few Porsches, and a Ferrari right in the center that DH said was a $350k car. We also had Milo bathed and shaved at PetSmart, because he was getting way too hot and he was full of sand and such. While he was groomed, we took the opportunity to visit a Wetlands park nearby, where we saw our first baby alligator, who was posing on a rock for us (on the other side of a fence). I took so many photos of herons, egrets, and well…pretty much every bird I could find.

We’re getting smarter about this whole thing. Knowing where to stop and what sorts of places to avoid, setting up the RV in an organized manner each time we dock in, and knowing how to organize the cabinets so they don’t drive us mad with rattling noises all the way down the road. While we are living on a shoestring budget, every now and then we decide we need a nice sit down meal, and Florida has a lot of dog friendly restaurants with outdoor seating and beautiful views, so it works out well. Due to the size of the RV, we use satellite view a lot on the maps to ensure we can manage to park the beast at places, if we need to stop. I’m also really enjoying getting to know people along the way. I think I’ve also become a lot more social than I used to be.

Youngest’s grandma sent him a camera as a gift when we were in Kissimmee, so now my 17 year old son has a better camera than I do! She sent him a Canon Digital Rebel T5i, which came with a zoom lens (Costco deal!) and a camera bag, and he’s been progressing rapidly with photography. The kid who would never leave his Xbox is now taking breaks at least to run around outside on trails and even getting up at sunrise to capture it all.

While in Pompano, we discussed the Florida keys again. Should we go? Would it be worth it? Could we afford the sites, or would they all be too pricy? C advised DH to at least get to Key Largo, so we pencilled it into the evolving plan. May 25th we booked at Riptide RV Resort for a staggering 65 dollars a night, in Key Largo, and we stayed two nights. It was a gorgeous drive, and quite a run down resort, but the people were just lovely, and the sea was warm and inviting, and met an older couple who are still scuba diving in their 80’s. We learned about the jellyfish that look like anemones, and that we had “just missed” a few dolphins and some manatees, as well as a waffle party some others threw for the couple for their anniversary in the little pavilion down by the water. We saw nurse sharks, some breath taking sunsets, and a lot more lizards, but no manatees and no dolphins. We grabbed dinner one night at a restaurant on the water, where Milo was treated to a bowl of water and a shady spot under our table while we ate. DH had Mahi Mahi, Youngest had buffalo shrimp, and we all had key lime pie. While we were waiting for our dessert, the clouds rolled through, and a sudden rainstorm hit. The wait staff rushed to bring down tarps around the side of the patio area, and we grabbed our phones and moved to shelter. But for the most part, I think people just went, “Eh, this is normal.” As it likely is.

Leaving Key Largo took us through a Crocodile reserve, but we saw not a one from the road. We drove through the Everglades, which I was thrilled about, and we stopped at one spot and viewed Alligators from a raised walkway near a river full of them. We tried to stop at the Miccosuckee Indian Village, but no dogs allowed, so we just spent a little time in front, taking photos of a big alligator in a creek under a bridge. We put in one night at Lake San Marino RV park, near Naples, then up to the Little Manatee River State Park.

The Little Manatee River State Park was a proper outdoorsy place, and I found several cardinals, who refused to let me take their photos. Every time I tried, they would fly away. Little jerks. But if I left my camera in the RV and walked, say, to the restrooms, there would be half a dozen cardinals doing acrobatics in the air all around me. Seriously, it became a bit of an obsession. We used the showers there (with our flip flops for feet protection, because ew), and after I took my shower I heard DH from the men’s side yell out, “What the BLEEP!” Apparently a very large huntsman spider was sitting in his shower cubicle on an egg sac. It was so big, and the sac was so big, he thought someone had glued a fake spider up. Until it moved. We were outside the bathrooms talking about it when the ranger happened by, and DH took her in to show it to her. She was also surprised at its size. She brought back reinforcements, and when they killed the spider…the egg sac hatched, and the babies went *everywhere*. Needless to say, I did not use the camp showers again there. The RV one was just fine, thank you, even with my long hair.

From there it was off to Crystal River, where we intended, initially, to take a “Swim with Manatees” tour for 50 dollars a person. I knew we couldn’t afford it, but MANATEES! HELLO! We stayed at the Crystal Isles RV resort, which we swung through Coast to Coast for 20 bucks a night or so. We were warned that it isn’t really manatee season – the winter is better – but “there are a few stragglers out there!” The first night there we met a woman at the pool from Texas, who gave us instructions to kayak to the manatee areas, and I tentatively agreed we should just kayak out. I fell asleep worrying about how muscular that woman’s arms had been, and how her instructions had contained the words, “then just keep going for a really long time, it’ll feel like forever….” The next morning when we went to get the kayaks we discovered they also rented PONTOON BOATS! Milo was not kenneled this time, but he also did not go with us. He sat in the luxury of the air conditioned RV with a kong toy full of peanut butter and broken up dog treats. The pontoon was awesome (and cost much less than the planned swim tour!), and DH grudgingly agreed I’d been right to push for it. He drove while Youngest and I sat on the edge and hung our feet in the water…you know, once we got out of alligator infested side canals. We tooled around for a good couple of hours without seeing a one, and we were getting a bit discouraged. Then…we noticed a “Swim with Manatees” boat…and three people in the water with masks, clustered around something…and holy crap, it was a manatee! It was awesome. I’ve seen them at Sea World and other places, and you just don’t get how amazing they are until you see one in the wild. They’re glorious. I was half tempted to get in and swim closer, but the water was cold near the springs, and you need to stay still to avoid spooking them off (the people on the tour had wetsuits on and floaty noodles under them), so I figured it was best to just enjoy it from the boat. The manatee swam all around us, very curious, and so graceful. You could see a prop scar on its side from a boat – not everyone follows the speed limits in those waters, which pissed me off a bit.

How do I top the manatee story now? What else is there to say?

Well. As the pontoon boat went around the first turn in the first canal from the RV park, I pointed and said, “Hey look! An alligator!” It was such a perfect specimen, maybe 4-5 feet long, on the grassy bank, in a pose with his mouth open, that I was sure it was a statue. Youngest said, “WHERE!” And I said, “Nah, just kidding, its a statue.” Then DH said, “You dumb arse, that’s BREATHING! It’s real!” And Youngest and I scrambled for our cameras….

After bidding a regretful farewell to Crystal River, we moved to the Ochlockonee River State Park for just a night. We did not know that this is the home of the white squirrels. Google it! People have traveled to Ochlockonee just to see them, and we had no idea. The folklore around it is that the couple who ran the place, years ago, brought two white squirrels to the park with them as pets. But they bred, and the people let them out, and they continued to breed with eastern gray squirrels, and next thing you know…the recessive gene causing this rarest of rare coat colors in squirrels took over. They’re not albino – they have dark eyes and little gray marks on their heads, and they are the cutest damn things I’ve ever seen. Ochlockonee had a lot of trails, so we made the best of our time there, hiking to a “Reflection pond” where we spied a freaking WATER MOCCASIN on the shore in some reeds and mud. I held Milo by his leash back on the dirt road while DH finished photographing the snake with my zoom lens. We saw deer like mad, too – just chilling in groups, poking around off the trails in the high grass. Which we avoided, because no – we don’t want more ticks. Even with sticking to the paths we’ve done several tick checks on Milo just in case. The river was lovely, and right when we got to it, the clouds opened up and we had a sudden torrent of rain on our heads. We headed for the youth camp area, because we were hoping there would be shelter, but no such luck. We ended up crouching under some canoes while the worst of it passed, though I braved the rain a few times to photograph deer. After that it was a white squirrel, woodpeckers, a giant grasshopper (an eastern lubber), and a hurried walk back through the rain, which kept slowing down and then picking up again. Youngest and I had cocoa, DH had tea, and we were all soaked through so we all got in pajamas (except for Milo, who INSISTED on staying naked!). Our water resistant camera bags kept the electronics dry at least.

I hated leaving the Ochlockonee place, but leave we did, and now we’re in Avalon Landing RV Park, about 5 miles off of Pensacola. Looks like we’ll be getting some more “Welcome to…” State signs on our next drive, and we haven’t even booked the next park yet. DH has flown away to Virginia for an event, and it’s just Youngest and I at Avalon for the next six days. But don’t worry, folks, because I have already ordered Dominos pizza, and this RV park provides somewhat decent wifi and CABLE TV OMG. Plus, I’ve been getting up at sunrise too much lately – with DH gone we can all sleep in a little bit. Shhh, don’t tell him I said so. It’s a small RV park, with the smallest pool I have ever seen, but we have a view of a conservation easement, with birds galore, and I have my zoom lens at the ready. We’ll have fun here.

Whew. Now you are all up to speed. I should start blogging this. Please write back to me when you can, because I miss you all! Let me know how YOU are for a change! 🙂

Sending you all hugs and well wishes.

xo

Virginia to Florida

Sent on May 14, 2015

Hi all,

I am cheating this time, and emailing everyone at once. Some of this may be repeat info, so bear with me.

The last time I emailed, we were in Virginia Beach, at Indian Cove Resort, which was just lovely. While there, Mandy went off her food and stopped being perky, even on walks. A few times we had to carry her to the dog park just to see if being out and off her leash would help. She’s an old dog, and she’s been struggling for a few years off and on, and we thought she was just finally feeling her age. But we decided that, if it didn’t get better, we would look for a vet.

We left Virginia Beach on May 7th, having stayed two extra days to let DH unwind after his trip away. While there, I visited my friends J and H and their six (!!) kids, and fell in love with Caleb, who is 15 months old and about as adorable as any baby could be. I had a lot of fun hanging out when the whole family came to the campsite and grilled burgers one day, but when they all left, my entire body hurt, and I was exhausted. I was so happy I had kids when I was young enough to keep up with them!

From Virginia Beach we headed down through the Carolinas, stopping for the first night near Kitty Hawk, in a place called Kill Devil Hills. Kitty Hawk was about as pretty as a place could be, and we visited a monument to the Wright Brothers at a rest stop. We couldn’t get a campsite there, so we spent the night in a Kmart parking lot, where they gave us quasi permission to stay the night (a lot of these places say, “We can’t authorize it, but no one’s gonna stop you,” with a wink and a smile). Mandy seemed to be perking up a bit, and she was eating baby food, but DH had to hand feed her most nights.

The next morning we drove through the Alligator River National Wildlife refuge, on the coast of North Carolina, which is home to a bevy of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, frogs, and various other creatures. I saw an alligator swimming along in a creek/canal thing next to the road, but didn’t manage to get a photo – we were on the move. We did stop and let the dogs pee on a grassy spot while DH had a cup of tea, but the only exciting thing there was an old turtle shell and a few frogs Youngest spied.

We spent the night of May 8th in a Lowe’s parking lot in New Bern, North Carolina. We intended to sleep in the Walmart lot, but it didn’t have much shade or open spots, and it was getting warm by then, so we tried Lowe’s. We were happy we did – they had excellent wifi signal all the way out! That night I made chicken enchiladas in the oven of the RV, and it was a strange experience, cooking dinner in a parking lot, but they turned out really well, and we had some rice to go with them.

The next day we hit up a rest stop called, “South of the Border,” which sits on the border of North/South Carolina, in a tiny town called Hamer. It had tacky fibreglass statues of everything from elephants to giant men wearing sombreros. There was a “reptile house” and a big godzilla and inside one of the shops I found a cow statue with a slot machine set into its body. Weird, and fun, and so very very tacky. I convinced DH that I needed a pair of five dollar sunglasses with a moustache hanging below them, and when he said, “You’ll never wear them!” I wore them all day long just to spite him. And I had fun doing so, although the moustache makes it tough to drink, since it dangles right over my mouth.

The night of the 9th was spent in Santee State Park, near Lake Marion in South Carolina. When I say near, I mean *right next to* – we had a view of the lake from where our RV was parked. It was very pretty, and there were robins everywhere – and they didn’t seem too concerned about people. A few times they flew past so close to my head I could hear every flap of their wings. The water in the lake looked pretty mucky near the shore, and we didn’t go in. But if you didn’t look at the edges, and just looked out over the lake it was beautiful. That was also our first sighting of spanish moss, which we took a lot of photos of, not realizing what it was and just thinking it looked interesting. Mandy was perkier, and ate a bit, and seemed to be on the mend, and we were suspecting a virus by this stage. I’m not mentioning Milo much because, well, he’s always just thrilled to be with us – especially DH, who he sees as the alpha, and his best friend.

The next night we headed for Savannah, Georgia. Talk about your spanish moss!! It was gorgeous, and everywhere, and we looked it up because Youngest was worried it was hurting the trees. It’s a bromeliad, which I didn’t know, and it doesn’t even attach to the trees – it just hangs on their branches. When it came time to find a resting spot, we went to Skidaway Island State Park. DH was having some stomach issues and we stopped earlier than usual so he could lie down and we could all take a breather and try to decompress. We plugged into power and water at Skidaway, got the AC going, and he took a nap while Youngest and I walked the dogs and took photos of a hundred million squirrels and birds. OK. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. It was probably more like a few dozen. When DH and I took the dogs out for their last walk of the night, there were millipedes wandering all over the road, and I was amazed. I’d never seen one, and DH teased me when I said, “I thought they just lived in the jungle or something!” 🙂 If you didn’t know, Georgia is really wild. I mean, its practically a jungle. Skid away Island is home to deer, squirrels, millipedes, raccoons, and an assortment of other creatures, including deer ticks, which we didn’t realize at the time. We had dosed both dogs with a monthly dose of Advantix before we set out, which is supposed to protect them from ticks, fleas, mosquitos, and all those other little pests.

In the morning DH was feeling a bit better, and we headed off to Jacksonville, Florida. By this point, we’d discovered our under hood AC wasn’t working very well and the generator was no longer powering the main cabin if we started it, so DH found some repair places, and we were going to stay the night at Cummin’s Power, where they had offered us an overnight spot in their parking lot, with power and water hookups. Mandy was again on the downturn, so on the way to Jacksonville, I found a vet with a high rating on a review site, and we made an appointment for her, for that evening.

This is where it all got a bit sad. Mandy had a mass in her abdomen. The vet, Dr. Timberlake, told us his dog had the same thing, and it ended up being hemangiasarcoma, which is an aggressive cancer. He said the mass appeared to be attached to her spleen, so we could have that removed, and she might be OK for a while. The only other thing it could be, besides hemangiasarcoma, was a result of trauma – a car hitting her, or something drastic like that. Knowing she’s never been through that kind of trauma, it seemed entirely too likely it was cancer, and the vet said her prognosis was poor, even if we had it removed. He sent us on to a vet he knew at an animal ER place, and we had an ultrasound down, which confirmed it. We absorbed all of this, and took Mandy “home” to the RV, got take out from a burger place, and parked for the night at Cummin’s around midnight. We all talked, and we all cried, and we all petted Mandy, and thought about how she’s had 13 years and a really nice life, and how so many of the things she loves have been gone from her over the last year. She hardly ever ran anymore or played, she seemed so tired a lot of the time, and she’d lost interest in food. Leaving the tumour alone was not an option – it was bleeding, internally, off and on, and would only cause her pain. DH, Youngest and I all agreed that the best possible option was to have her put to sleep now, before it made her even more unhappy, before it could hurt her worse. So the next morning I called Dr. Timberlake and he made a time for her at 5pm. We spent the morning at the home of the guy who fixed our generator, and while he and DH poked at the generator, Youngest and I took Milo and Mandy to run in his backyard, around a pond, with his two dogs. Milo got absolutely filthy rolling in mud, and Mandy seemed tired, but enjoyed the sun and the grass. We had to bathe them both under the hose before they were allowed back in the RV.

Then we took Mandy to a park and fed her little sausages, some tunafish – neither of which she’d ever be allowed under normal circumstances. She trotted about in the sun, and sniffed the wind, and Milo got jealous because he was leashed and she wasn’t. Then we drove to the vets, and held her, and said goodbye.

I expected to feel guilty. I didn’t. She was just so tired, and she’d lost her spark a long time ago, and I think we were all in denial about it. When she went to sleep she just looked…relieved, somehow. It felt right. And while I don’t know if there is any kind of afterlife for dogs, I prefer to imagine there is, and that she’s with Pucho somewhere, or she’s running full speed through a field of grass. Silly, probably. But there it is. I really loved that dog. She’ll be cremated, and we’ll have to travel back to Jacksonville to pick her up. Youngest wants to scatter her ashes in the grand canyon, or the redwoods. We regretted not doing that with Pucho, so we made sure to do it this time. Even if it isn’t Mandy anymore, it will help us all find closure, I think.

That night we got chinese take out and ate in the same lot at Cummins. We had only been given one night’s permission, but none of us much cared if they got mad. They didn’t even notice us, I think, or if they did, we were fine there.

That night we found two engorged deer ticks on the carpet of the RV, where Milo had been lying. I can’t possible express how disgusting and alien they looked. Youngest thought they were bits of plastic – they were the size of large raisins, and you could only see the tips of their legs, they were so full. We checked him all over and found one small one in his ear, and the next day we took him to Dr. Timberlake, just in case. He found another deer tick and removed it in the office (with DH observing to “learn the technique”), prescribed antibiotics, and told us ticks in Florida were so scarce, they didn’t even test bloodwork unless there were symptoms (and it was too soon to have him tested anyway), but he understood we were traveling on, so the antibiotics would help with the bites themselves. We’d done a lot of online research, and it appears lyme disease is pretty rare around where we’ve been, so we’re all just hoping like mad that he’ll be OK. Research suggests deer ticks need to be attached for quite a while before transmitting lyme, as well. This was when I researched and felt like an idiot when I discovered Skidaway had a massive tick population. He hadn’t even been off the leash there! Milo wasn’t due for the next dose of Advantix for another week, but the vet told us to go ahead and dose him again, so we did. If I never see another deer tick for my entire life, I’ll be quite happy.

While at Cummins, Youngest found a moth on the tree right next to where we parked, and it had to be 5-6 inches across on its wingspan. We got quite a few photos of it, and though I generally don’t like moths much (they always end up divebombing my head for some reason), this one was beautiful.

IMG_1495

We were all happy to see the back of Jacksonville. Youngest had been messaging back and forth with his paternal grandma, and talking about the old camera I gave him, and how he wants to save his money and get the newer version. She texted me and asked if I would object to her buying him the new one, and I said no, I would be OK with it. After all this kid has seen in the last few days, and with the passion he has for photography, it didn’t seem right to say no to that. One is being shipped out to our campsite here in Kissimmee, Florida, and Youngest has been told, in no uncertain terms, that he must take very good care of the camera, and take A LOT OF PHOTOS.

So yes, from Jacksonville we headed through Orlando to Kissimmee. We’re staying in an RV resort called Mill Creek, and there are a lot of permanent residents here. It’s mind meltingly hot, the lizards are everywhere, and DH spied a dragonfly longer than his hand in the camp bathroom, beating against the screen and trying to get out.

My nephew (my step sister’s son) lives in Orlando, and he works at Universal Studios, and has offered to get us free tickets and discounts if we want to go, but with everything that’s been happening, and with DH away again this morning to another event, I quite like the idea of sitting still, in the AC, and catching up mentally with all of it. DH’s stomach is better, but he’s struggling with a sore rib, and he’s worried he’s recracked it from an old injury. He tells me there is nothing the doctors would tell him except to rest, so I’ve been trying to do as much of the heavy lifting as possible, and he said he’ll be taking it easy while away – just “sitting at a table” and using his laptop. He better take it easy – he carries entirely too much on his shoulders.

Milo was quite sad when DH got into the taxi this morning – he hates it when DH leaves. But I’m hoping he perks back up to normal by this afternoon. He took his antibiotic no problem last night and ate a full meal happily, so I am not too worried about him. DH returns on the 18th, and we drive to our next spot on the 19th. We’re aiming to see the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, and DH has a contact at Pompano Beach, down south, who has graciously offered to let us hook up to power there near his workshop, and borrow a car, if we want to drive around and see more of Florida. I don’t know if we’ll take him up on it, but its an option that sounds a bit appealing.

We’ll be checking out the pool here – it’s lovely – and wandering around hoping to get photos of lizards, and I’ll be updating my resume and getting the job search under way, now that we have found a site with fast internet. Expect another long update as we travel on. 🙂

I’ll keep you all posted. I hope you are all well and happy. Much love.

Xo

Ontario to Virginia

Sent April 30th, 2015.

Greetings from Virginia Beach, Virginia!

I was sitting here listening to the rain on the RV and realized DH might not have been keeping you all updated, what with him traveling all over the place (even more so than we are here in the RV).

And now – so much to tell, so bear with me, this will be long! I’ll start from the beginning of our exit, so skip over what you know. 🙂

About a week after we found out we would have to leave, I went to Youngest’s school and met, with him, with his guidance counselor there. She mentioned his lack of engagement in school lately, and said that honestly she thinks this is the absolute best thing we can do for him (take him on this travel adventure). She said, “I know you were bored with school, and I think you need a more dynamic learning experience anyway! Just remember, it will be the best adventure ever, if you choose to make it so!” He told her that she and the other faculty have been “amazing, really, just awesome,” and she told him that now that he has gained perspective on what he needs out of school to succeed, he can go to California and advocate for himself, and get what works for him. His teacher in philosophy gave him a reading list, and although I have let him be a little lax for the first few weeks, we’ll be picking up some study guides for high school and keeping his brain active once we hit our next stop.

The last few days before we left Canada were chaos. We had some friends come out and help us, but we ended up doing all the moving of our things into storage on our own, as everyone was working during the week. DH, Youngest and I got all of our workouts done carrying a king sized mattress down three flights of stairs, a couch, a recliner, and pretty much all of our furniture into a truck, off to our storage unit, and back out of the truck there. I keep reminding DH we can’t leave it there forever, we HAVE to retrieve it once we’re settled, because I am aware he left a lot of things in England to retrieve later and…it’s still there, I believe.

The dogs were not happy, running about, anxious, and Milo kept looking at us with the saddest face ever, like, “Guys, are you leaving me?” We had posted ads for the cats after I found out I was allergic (has he told you that?), which made us all sad, and I was networking out with everyone I know online to see if anyone could take them. We ended up finding a woman in Chicago, Illinois, who was looking for two older cats, and was extremely excited about perhaps taking them, but couldn’t get to us in time. After much discussion and both of us realizing it would be worth the added 20 hours to our trip to know they were safe with this person, we added it to our journey plan.

We left April 18th, with some tears and hugs to friends who had helped pack the RV. We drove from Oakville to Ann Arbor, Michigan that first day, where we slept in the RV parked in a truck stop, surrounded by big rigs inhabited by sleeping drivers. The dogs loved the travel, and seemed a little anxious but excited as well. The cats – not so much. Daisy peed on the couch the first day in what we think was terror as a truck was passing us on the road. Though it may have been disgust at what we were putting her through – I wouldn’t put it past her! Daisy was confined to the kennel after that every time we were traveling, and Pandora was left out – her biggest reaction was to MEOW very loudly and seriously as she paced.

After Ann Arbor, we slept one more night on the way in another Truck stop in Richmond, Indiana, and then hit Chicago around lunch time the next day, meeting up with the new cat mom, at a gas station a block from her apartment, where they had RV sized parking. She was lovely, and SO excited, and DH and Youngest walked the cats with all accoutrements to her place while I held down the fort. After seeing her place, DH and Youngest were quite pleased – they said she couldn’t have been more of a perfect fit for the cats. She has a vet who makes housecalls, and a lovely place, and was completely agreeable when we warned her Daisy pees when stressed. She said, “It’s ok – I know what I’m getting into!”

I can’t recall for the life of me where we stayed that night – I believe we stopped just after Indianapolis the first night and at a Walmart in Maryland the next, but we made it to our first RV campsite on April 21 – Capitol KOA Campgrounds in Millersville, Maryland. They were very nice and accommodating, and the place was run by an older couple, who showed me on the map where they lived in the campgrounds, in case I needed anything at all, “Day or night” while DH was gone. Youngest and I putted around there for 5 days while DH flew off to Vegas for a race event. We walked the dogs, had a campfire, roasted hot dogs, and generally lazed about. I set myself a list of things to do and didn’t feel guilty for only doing one or two a day. Organized the storage lockers under the RV, rearranged the stuff in the cabinets to be more sensible, etc. I kept the dogs on a schedule to try and calm them a bit – Milo was not happy when DH got into the cab and left us. 🙂

Maryland was gorgeous!! Cherry trees, hills, lovely green fields. It rained a few days we were there, and the sound on the RV is just so soothing. Neither of us was very good at fire starting (it’s been many years since I learned campfire building in Girl Scouts!), but we managed, and we had a lot of fun doing it, and goofing around together, and honestly – I have seen Youngest just…blossom (for lack of a better word) ever since we began this trip. He’s excited, and alive, and chattering away, and helping out, and just…it’s been so nice. I gave him my old Canon Digital SLR, with some lenses my dad passed on, so he’s started a notebook to record all of the things he’s learning about photography – ISO and shutter speed and everything.

On April 25th DH returned, looked at all I’d done, and said, “We have so much to do still!” Which made me want to goose him, but I held back. I think the mad driving schedule from Oakville to Maryland really took a toll on him – we were all just crazed trying to make it in time for his flight out to Vegas during those days, and Chicago was definitely a hard addition. He was the only driver – so I took on the role of navigator and anything else needed to try and help.

We headed to Assateague Island, on the coast of Maryland, on April 26th, around 11am, after checking out of the very nice but rather expensive Maryland campground (260 dollars for 5 nights!). Assateague is something I’d found online when searching for interesting and/or scenic way points for the trip. It’s a barrier island inhabited by wild ponies. There are various theories on where they came from – some say a Spanish galleon crashed there and the ponies were aboard, some say colonists and settlers allowed them to graze and roam free there, but the ponies have lived there since the 1600’s. It’s a state park, and they are protected (and from all signage, a bit aggressive if they smell food, much like bears or raccoons), but nothing holds them in. There is a bridge to get to the island, and then it’s all beach or marshland, depending on which way you look. Well, of course, wild ponies, how could I NOT want to see this place? We drove around for a while and then DH pointed out it was 6pm, and we should find a sleeping spot soon, so we ended up going to the ranger station and paying 30 dollars to camp at Assateague overnight. As pretty as the ponies were through the zoom lens, I was not eager to go out in the dark to the bathroom – DH was teasing me because I was convinced a pony would sneak up on us and bite us. The ranger hadn’t helped – when I asked where the best spots were to see the ponies, she said, “A lot of people say there are no ponies, then they set up camp, and turn around, and boom – ponies all around!”

We didn’t see any close enough to worry about, but we got some lovely shots with the zoom lens. DH and Youngest climbed the ladder to the roof of the RV and got some great shots! I will send some once my computer is fixed (the hard drive is failing! We had to order a new one). The best thing about Assateague was how lovely and quiet it was. We were a short walk from a beach (Milo was not happy about the ocean, and indeed barked for quite a long time at an old piling sticking out of the sand in the waves), so we all got to see the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast. The place was practically deserted, and I think DH finally got to relax a bit and enjoy the holiday aspect of this trip. We all slept so well that night.

After that our next stop was Virginia Beach – I have a friend near here, and DH had to go off to Monterey, California, for another event, so it seemed wise for Youngest and I to hole up in a campground here. While in Maryland I made some calls to places in Virginia Beach and discovered Indian Cove Resort, which is a 5 star RV park that charges 7 dollars a night. SEVEN! I thought I was hearing things. Turns out you first have to sign up for a club called Coast to Coast, which gets you discounted stays like that all over the states. I signed up, post haste, and we are now set for campgrounds all over for 7-10 dollar night stays. The map of available places has tons of them throughout our route, so I was kicking myself that we didn’t discover it sooner. From Maryland to Virginia we took the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel –  it bills itself as one of the modern wonders of the engineering world, which covers 23 miles with bridges, tunnels and small manmade islands. We stayed in a Walmart parking lot that night about an hour from the camp, as our checkin at Indian Cove wasn’t until the 28th of April. That was a fun night – we were under the flight path for a Naval Air station! It was super noisy until 10pm, when the jets finally stopped circling. The Walmart thing is really a lifesaver – the managers of Walmarts will let you park overnight in an RV for free as long as you let them know you are there.

Indian Cove Resort is absolutely beautiful. The weather was nice and sunny, with a light breeze, until today, when it started to rain. There is a nice big dog park, so I take the dogs there and let them run off leash, which makes them both ridiculously happy. It has three pools, tennis and shuffle board, and creeks all around it. We’re in a spot that backs up to the water here, and across the way is another creek. I saw some kind of big bird on a tree over there this morning, but didn’t manage to get much of a photo before it flew off. Sort of an egret thing, I think? Will send photos of that as well once my laptop is all better. 🙂

DH left the 28th for Vegas. Youngest and I have a list of todos, including doing laundry at the camp laundry facility before DH returns on May 4th. The RV is feeling quite like home at this stage. The dogs have found favourite sleeping spots, and when we’re hooked up at a campsite to electric we have all the comforts of home, practically. A microwave, fridge, freezer, little oven, hob, and a bathroom (toilet we only use when required, but the shower is lovely). We’re getting the hang of putting things in places where the bumps of the road are less likely to knock them about while driving. Yesterday the hose inlet started leaking (we use city water through the hook ups at the site) and the neighbouring RV dwellers came over and helped me get it fixed. Their names are Bob and Jane (I told Youngest maybe they’re spies, because those must be aliases!) and they’re older, and here in town visiting their son. When I thanked them for helping, they told me to just help someone else down the road, because that’s how it works in an RV – everyone helps each other. It really is like a community – it’s very sweet, and oddly, I feel more at home here in the RV than I did at times in Canada!

As for finances – we’ve managed to unlock some of my Canadian pension due to financial hardship, so between that and DH’s trips, we’re more than OK to get to California and get a place secured. But we’re trying to stay on a shoestring budget as much as possible, regardless. It’s been incredibly cheap – groceries are cheaper because we just don’t have room for much anyway, and we’re eating salads (how I missed the US produce! The lettuce is so much better here, I swear!) and sandwiches and one night even some little steaks. Crossing the border into the US was easier than we expected, although the border guard did confiscate some frozen chicken out of our freezer. We brought tons of our food with us, so in the storage lockers we have a couple boxes of canned food we’d had in the cold storage in the Canadian house, and we’ve got a long way to go before we go hungry.

It feels…so free. So open and exciting, and I have entirely too much time on my hands, so I am updating my resume, browsing jobs in Sacramento, reading, and writing in a journal, and once we figured out the antenna, Youngest and I have watched a little TV in the evenings. The walk from our campsite to the dog park seemed quite long the first time I went, and I realized how out of shape I am! So I am going there a few times a day with the dogs, and wandering with my camera, and everyone here waves and smiles as we pass each other. People are just so darn friendly at campsites. My dad keeps saying he’s so happy for us, because we got handed lemons and we made lemonade with this holiday/journey/adventure. It feels like a wonderful adventure to all of us – DH the least, probably, since he has to keep flying away and working, although Assateague was quite good for him.

I do miss having a car. I miss the cats – although my allergies are a hundred times better. I cried the day after we left them – I think with everything going on it took that long to hit me. I miss the people I worked with, though we keep in touch via Facebook, where I am posting copious updates  (are you on Facebook?).

I hope the both of you are well, and I apologize for such a rambling email, but I wanted to get all the updates to you first thing, so you wouldn’t worry if DH was being all quiet again (I can swat him for you, if you like, when he returns?). I will now hope the wireless at camp is working (its spotty) so I can hit send and get this to you.

Departure

In life there are lines you cross that, you only realize in hindsight, transform you. Where you were one thing, you’ve become another. Sometimes it is so gradual, you slip a little over the line at a time, that you don’t realize what’s happened until its too late. In our case, it was sudden and extreme.

Me, a successful IT executive, reporting to the CIO, creating presentations, dealing with the board members, managing a large group of talented IT professionals. My husband (DH) alternated between traveling for work and working from home in a niche engineering job. My youngest son, the only one left still at home, was struggling his way through high school. Not because it was too hard, but because of anxiety and other internal battles. He was also completely disillusioned with school, irritated at having to learn things that he would, “…never need to know in a million years.” It was tough for me to argue with that. Being a 17 year old is something I remember well.

We were living in a country not our own – Canada – in a nice three story townhouse with a finished basement and really, more living space than we needed. We were driving nice cars, bills were all paid, credit cards paid down, and really, well, in spite of the small struggles, life was good.

So then, this line…where did it come from? When you live in a country not your own, you have a few options. You can petition to be allowed to stay, or you can plan your departure at the end of your temporary time there. Did I mention life was good? We petitioned to stay. Unfortunately, the Canadian government had other plans for us, and in spite of an attorney who assured us, “No problem,” they declined our petition to stay. We had thirty days in which to plan for our next steps in life, and trust me, thirty days goes by in a flash.

Well, what do you do? Do you cut your losses (the cars! the job!) and run, tail between your legs back to family in your home country until you can get things upright again? In our case, no. We bought an RV. We left our cars to sell off in Canada, we packed everything into storage, and we pulled my son out of school. The guidance counselor working with him told me, well, with his poor attendance (he’d been skipping), with his intelligence and lack of interest in classes, a more “dynamic” method of learning would be fantastic for him. She gave us some options to “keep his brain busy” and encouraged him to make this an adventure. When we did settle down in the US again, after this adventure, we knew he could go for his high school equivalency and/or attend an independent learning or online school.

I’ll spare you the details on how we managed everything. Packing, selling off some furniture, sticking everything we kept in a storage unit, saying goodbyes (so many goodbyes, so many tears), and the final days, when friends helped us load everything we were taking with us into the RV.

One big complication was that we had two cats. Two cats I’d recently learned I was allergic to, and two dogs who would be fine traveling. In the last few weeks we looked everywhere for a new home for these two girls, knowing that if we couldn’t find one, we’d have to take them with us. Neither myself nor DH could stomach the thought of sending them to anywhere but another good home, so that was the only possibility. Through some magical twist, we located a woman in Chicago who had fallen for our cats due to our photos and descriptions, and, as she put it, she was ready to be their new cat aunt.

First destination, then? Chicago, Illinois. Our departure point? Oakville, Ontario, about 30 miles west of Toronto. My home state is California, and in spite of always wanting to travel, I’d not been to very many other states – except for when my son and I first drove to Canada. We loved that drive. This new trip looked promising. It looked shiny, exciting, and of course, like nothing other than a grand adventure.

We crossed the line, you see. It wasn’t easy to do. We put my career on hold, and embraced the traveling that DH’s job requires, and became nomads. Travelers. No longer do I drop dry cleaning off and race off each morning with a travel mug and an audio book cued up for my commute. No more monthly visits to the hair salon to hide my gray hair. Youngest Boy has no more trudges to school every morning. No more electric bills, water bills, no more cable TV. We went from a basement storage room with enough canned and non perishable food to see us through a winter to only buying enough groceries for the week, because that is all that will fit in the RV. It’s amazing, really, how quickly one adapts.