Rambling again

So. Much. To. Do.

Have you ever closed your house up for a long time? Like 4-6 months? It’s tough. What to take. What to toss. What to save.

We are getting to snow-bird it again. The joy I felt returning home last spring, so much room, my wonderful backyard, my fabulous bathroom ( I know that sounds weird but you gotta see it) is replaced by the adventure ahead.

We’ve never spent Christmas somewhere other than home. This year, it will be in the 5th wheel, Helen as we call her. It will be different. I expect warmer and drier (if it’s not, I’ll keep moving south). But although our children and grandchildren won’t be there, it IS our home right now, for this season, for this time. Maybe we won’t like it, being away, just the 2 of us and our family of RV friends, but I can’t tolerate the cold any longer so I’m willing to try. Trying this involves being open to new experiences. And that’s what RVing is all about.

And we ramble on.

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Thankfulness

Wow. It’s been 3 months since I’ve posted a blog. I’ve had a bit of writer’s block I guess. Putting one foot in front of the other, just living a mundane, regular life hasn’t inspired me to share any grand thoughts.

BUT, here it is. Regular life is something we often take for granted. To get up and have a “boring”, regular day stretch ahead of you is something so many long for.

This year has made me aware of many tragic stories. One might argue at my age, *ahem*, it’s simply age related. And some are. Friends aging means their parents are aging as well. There has been loss in my circle. Having gone through this in my 20s, I feel their pain acutely. And I know this pain eases over time, but never goes away.

A young woman, a friend’s daughter, at age 32, fights breast cancer. At 32, she should be living it up, starting to save for a wedding, buying a house, even saving for retirement. But with a beauty that transcends the chemo hair loss, she fights.

A young man, mid 30s, friends of our family, fights leukemia. With a wife and 3 young boys, this man is a literal warrior. As a member of the military, he is used to fighting. And fight on he does, undergoing round after round of chemo, taking any setbacks in stride, doubling down on a positive attitude, leaning on God throughout.

A friend son and his family, lost their home in Hurricane Michael. Thankfully they are all safe physically, but they now have nothing.

I know that the end of October signals Halloween for most people. But don’t wait till November to think about being thankful. Life is so fragile. Don’t wait to live.

The Big 6-0

It’s my birthday month. There was a long standing joke where I worked that the month you were born was your birthday month and you got to milk it for all it was worth. ” I’m going out to lunch, it’s my birthday month”, “I ate dessert, again, it’s my birthday month”, “I bought this new designer something, it’s my birthday month”. You see where I’m going?

Well, this birthday is different. It’s a milestone, 60. I no longer want or need to justify lunch, dessert or designer anything. Basically, if I want it, I go get it. But I just don’t care about that stuff much. I have less years ahead of me than behind me (way less) so stuff is just stuff.

The stuff that matters is how people treat you from a stranger to your “loved ones” to your close friends to your acquaintances.

This year I want respect. I want unconditional love. Would I like to weigh 20 lbs less? You bet. But that’s kind of falling into the “stuff” category now. Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe I want more out of people.

I have tried to take care of people, tried to be kind, treat others at least as well as I’ve been treated. But you know what? It’s taken me 60 years to realize it, but people AREN’T going to treat you like you want to be treated.

Now don’t worry. Negative Nancy isn’t back. But as I start my next 60 years, lol, my patience is shorter, my heart hurts quicker and more intensely, my forgiveness comes slower. Some might say I’m more bitter but I think I’m just more cautious with my heart and feelings. I call it filtering out things or filtering stuff.

So here I go, into a new decade, full of different things. More aches, gray hair and focus on non-stuff but less balance, hearing and patience. My goal is to get into the next decade, intact, keeping those in my life that love and respect me, not chasing those that don’t.

Banjo: A Tribute To My Dog

13 years ago I brought home a puff ball of fuzz in the form of an Australian Shepherd. I named him Banjo and he stole my heart.

Very quickly, I realized he was going to be on the larger size for an Aussie. With that size came lots of fur. For the last 13 years, our carpets, furniture, yard and clothes have seen balls of hair scooting by, sticking, clinging. I definitely wear my badge of dog mom proudly.

The cowboy and I each have an Aussie. His is definitely his dog and mine is definitely mine. I walk to the bathroom. He sits outside and waits, unless of course I didn’t latch the door, then he noses on in to join me.

He is smart. Smart like I’ve never seen in a dog. He taps at the glass patio door. Not scratches or paws at it, he actually taps to come in.

Once he jumped in the back seat of our old truck when I had the door open and I didn’t see him. I closed the door with him inside. As I’m outside working in the yard, I hear the truck horn. Here is Banjo, in the front seat, honking the horn to get out.

When he was only a year old, Banjo proved his loyalty to me. The cowboy, fully decked out in painting gear, from goggles and mask to hooded coveralls, came up behind me like he was a monster. My sweet, even tempered, loving dog just about took the monster apart, as the cowboy is frantically ripping hood, mask and goggles off ,”it’s me Banjo, it’s me!” I knew then I had a protector for life.

Banjo is a “talker”. He barks, he “woo woos”. He lets us know someone is driving in, when he’s excited to go bye-bye, when he sees you put your coat on indicating a walk. It’s probably irritating to everyone else but not to us. Well, sometimes us too.

My Banjo, “woo-wooing” at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

My Banjo, he loves the water. He loves a stick. Put the 2 together and you have his heaven. As he got the older, he couldn’t bound out after a stick but he would walk out to his belly depth and just sit down.

Banjo has seen a lot of places that some humans haven’t. He’s been to the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and even to Mexico. Below he is in the Sea of Cortez, at Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

Between the 2 dogs, not a rabbit, deer or coyote dared to set foot within their perimeter. An unsuspecting animal was met with yips of glee and a full out run down. They were great chasers, not such good catchers.

The McDogs on a special outing for cheeseburgers

But the last couple years have seen a slowdown of activity. The ears and eyes don’t work so well anymore and it takes all he has to get to his feet, sometimes only with people help. And in the last 2 weeks, as I write this, coughing and struggling to breathe have started. I know his time is coming to an end and I’m dying a little everyday with him.

He’s not much for selfies.

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Post script to this blog post:

Banjo has crossed the rainbow bridge and runs pain free, chasing bunnies, sticks, and swimming all day. My heart is heavy with loss but light in knowing he’s breathing easy and not hurting any longer. Rest easy my friend.

You know, all dogs go to heaven 🐾💔

Sorting it out

There are 2 big things on our agenda this upcoming summer. First, a garage sale. After years of collecting, I’m now ready to, um, uncollect? Not sure if that’s a word. Maybe purging or cleaning out is better. When you have a 2400 square foot house, and it’s been only 2 of you for 5 to 8 years, there’s just too much space to shove things into closets and spare rooms. Our kids have been permanently gone for 5 yrs. Somehow they never seem to take all their stuff with them. Because we’ve had the space, I haven’t worried about it too much. But (there’s that word!), now we’re looking to possibly sell out in the next few yrs with a thought of downsizing and even maybe relocating to a new community.

As I’m going through boxes, bins and bags, it’s funny how it’s sooo clear when something needs to go. I opened a box that among other things, had 2 large rocks in it, about the size of my palm. They weren’t pretty. Why were they in there? Did of my kids give them to me because they were “special”? Or did I pick them up somewhere once and there was something special about the place? Who knows? I didn’t chuck them afar, just placed them outside. Can’t mess with the rock god’s, just in case ….

Letting Go

We’ve been home about a month. My perspective on our trip of 3 months is now fully in the rear view mirror.

One of the first things I did was toss my old flip flops. They served me well but were so worn, large sharp rocks went fully noticed. That was very freeing.

I have gotten to see all 8 grandchildren since we got home. While it’s a bit crazy sometimes, they are all such good kids. They have loving, kind hearts. I missed them and that’s one of the hardest things about being gone. But obviously my children are doing a good job and they are in good hands.

Since I retired almost a year ago, I’ve been conflicted about renewing my R.D.H. license. Registered Dental Hygienist. This was who I was since I graduated from dental hygiene school at age 22. Dental hygiene programs are brutal. Hard to get into, hard to pass. Many long nights studying. Hard nosed instructors who seemed more like drill sergeants. 3 days of state and national boards. I persevered. I passed it all with blood, sweat and tears. The payoff was a 38 year career that helped us prosper but helped me, personally become a confident leader in the office I spent 28 years in. Fast forward to no office. No team to help oversee. Pass off your team, your responsibilities to someone else.

Anyway, I digress as I tend to do. I haven’t “filled in” once. And now, 10+ months out, I can’t imagine jumping back into the fray. In order to do that, “jump into the fray” thing, I would need to bust out some continuing education before July 10. But I wonder why? I guess my point is it’s time to let go. And it’s almost harder than leaving my position of 28 yrs because it means I’m really leaving it all behind. That means I’m no longer who I was for my whole adult life. And that’s damn scary.

I’m letting go. Moving on. I may no longer be a hygienist, I may not know exactly who I am but to figure it out, I’m letting go and stepping out in faith.

Post travelling weirdness

I step in the door to our home of 30 years after being on the road for 3 months. My first impression is, “Wow, it’s so clean!” Yay, go us, we were smart to leave it tidied up. Because it soon looked like a bomb had gone off in the unpacking process.

Second impression, part A: “It’s so big!” Our home is 2400 sq ft. Our 30 ft 5th wheel at 8 ft wide gives us 240 sq ft. 10%. We lived for 3 months in 10% of the space. Smh.

Second impression, part B: my master bath is probably bigger than our downstairs living area in the 5th wheel. I love my bathroom. We remodeled a few years ago and it’s my favorite room in the house. Heated tile, walk in shower. Heavenly.

When we left on our epic journey, we were expecting to come back with answers to our many questions. We definitely got some answers but many more still go unanswered.

One big question was should we sell out and go full time. The answer for us, at least at this time is no. We loved our travels and while I could probably go for up to another 3 months, I missed the grandkids, my house and just the familiarity of our lives with a bit of extra elbow room. We know we don’t need this big house, we knew that when we left, that we might want to downsize. One question I had was would we find that perfect location to relocate to? As I’ve said in previous blogs about Yuma, I really like it there. Probably not ready to sell here and buy there but I might be ready to spend a few months there in the 5th wheel, giving it a try. Easing into it. I liked all of southern Arizona too.

I do know that my joints, which had a wonderful 3 month break, are starting to scream at me again. There’s nothing like that dry, warm climate. I will do my best to never spend a whole winter in Washington again

Travelling with our 2 13 year old dogs was challenging. We have to use a ramp to get them in and out of the trailer and even with that, they slip occasionally so the in and out is stressful for all of us. Then there’s doggie poop bags. At home they do their business alone in the brush or in the woods. Always taking them on a leash got to be a drag. That’s a good thing about being home.

Sooo back to that bomb that went off. I know whenever you come back from a week or 2, there’s a lot to do. I can’t even explain how tired I was for 3 days unloading, then putting away stuff, then cleaning Helen the 5th wheel. She’s still a mess outside but it’s rainy (What? Raining in the NW?) I did remind the cowboy I do the inside, he does the outside. I don’t think he really meant washing or waxing alone but hey, he set the rules, hee hee.

I took a few clothes I didn’t use. I knew that would be the case. We as women always need this to go with that, and oh this is small, lightweight, won’t take up much room. Times 10. I actually would take a few more heavier clothes since the elevation and wind in New Mexico was colder than I anticipated. It WAS February and up to 8000 feet elevation. So next time….. See I’m already planning again!

Homeward bound

We left Williams, heading west, then north to Las Vegas, or Henderson. We found an Elks Lodge to dry camp in for the night. This was our view of the strip in the distance from Helen’s back window.

It was pretty spectacular in person.

The next day we drove through the desolation of western Nevada. I have tried to embrace the beauty in all the different terrains we’ve encountered. I have to admit, this terrain was a challenge. Kind of a lot of nothing. Miles and miles, hours and hours. Spent the night in a casino parking lot in Hawthorne, NV. The cowboy won a little money to pay for dinner. Me, I wasn’t so lucky….

That next day our plan was to drive up to Tulelake, CA at the California/Oregon border. But as we closed in on Sparks, NV, it was time for a break. To the Nugget!

The cowboy’s dad used to come to the Nugget annually so it was fate, to stop. We grabbed some breakfast and spun a few reels on the slots. Luck was not on our side though 😒

We made our way to Tulelake fairgrounds for the night. It was cold and there was snow in the forecast. Luckily we had planned for that with hookups. This was what met us in the morning. Brrr!

Snow had fallen throughout the area we had planned to travel and the temps weren’t looking good. We adjusted our route to a longer but lower elevation.

We had decided to head out to the Oregon coast for our last night. In hindsight, it was a bit more out of the way than we thought. But it was a pretty nice late afternoon once we parked.

The end of the journey. Correction: the end of the FIRST journey……

Williams, Az, gateway to the Grand Canyon!

I was going to the Grand Canyon! I wanted to see this, long before we ever bought a 5th wheel or planned this journey.

Well it turns out, from Parker, you gotta go uphill. Have a mentioned the cowboy hates pulling Helen up hills? So up we go. Hmm, there’s a light on on the dash. And the truck is making a knocking noise. There’s some loss of power. We limp into Williams and because it’s such a high elevation, there’s this white stuff on the side of the road…..leftover snow. While it’s not snowing currently, it’s also not melting. Time to find a park with hookups.

We stumble upon the Grand Canyon Railway park. With our Passport America, it’s a doable $25 a night. It was 2 blocks from Route 66 and downtown Williams, full of touristy shops. Which gave me a little to do because….

One day researching diesel mechanics, getting quotes. Next more research. Third day, taking truck in to chosen locale. The cowboy had to wait of course, with the promise it’d be done that day. Buuuttt of course it wasn’t so he got a loaner, naturally late in the day. On day 4, around noon it was done! $1100 later.

Off to the Grand Canyon! When we got parked, and made our way to the south rim, all I can say is, that first look is the epitome of the word breathtaking.

It’s a verticle mile down. There was a peek a boo view at the Colorado River waayyy down there. I’m not going to try to wow you with any crazy facts and figures. My words just can’t describe this wonder of the world. My pictures don’t do it justice. You have to see it. Its an experience, it is an emotional thing. Hard to explain.Put it on your bucket list.

Massive amounts of people flow into this park. Thanks to our senior pass, our entrance fee was 0. Yay for being old. I would guess that this was a slower season, a bit cold but sunny. Still, plenty of people. Not like the amount of crowds they get in later spring and summer. It was manageable but it would be so cool to have it all to yourself. Not happening….

All is good in the world. Right? Truck is fixed, I check a bucket list item off. But no.

We get back to the 5th wheel, I’m putting some groceries away and Colt is outside with the cowboy and Banjo. Somehow, he wanders off. Ok he does this and always wanders back. (He’s private about doing his business) We both walk the length and width of the park half a dozen times. No Colt. Of course he only has his license on, no tag. I make one more trip by the bathrooms and put up a sign, lost dog, etc. A couple of young gals walk by me and say “are you the one missing the dog, is this him?” They show me a picture. Yup there he is, in her phone. Apparently he went to the hotel across the street. He probably would have come back but they held him there thinking they were helping. Which they were and all was well. So now the running joke is watch out for hotels cuz Colt likes to go visiting.

I thought we might never leave Williams because we’d have had to stay, contacting shelters, etc. That was an awful 2 hours. Scary. We love our boys 🐾🐾. We had decided to start for home the next day and with everyone together, and that’s what we did. Rambling home.

Parker or rather, Earp

After leaving Yuma, we headed north along the Colorado River to Parker. Actually the campground, Crossroads Campground, we stayed in was Earp, CA across the river from Parker. This is a BLM campground so with the Senior pass, for us, it was $2.50/ night dry camping. There are several sites that are right along the river but high bank so we avoided those. No sense in tempting Banjo to break a leg getting to the river. There was an access close so he was happy to dunk and swim.

Here I must interject a plea to the boondocking community. Please don’t run your generator for 6 hours a day. Please buy an inverter type, not a cheap contractors generator that sounds like a freight train. I get that batteries need recharging. Ours did too. But starting at 7 am till noon kinda ruins that peaceful morning, sitting with a cup of coffee, gazing at the river. You know who you are! Be considerate.

Earp is home to many wild burros. In the evening mostly they would come wandering through the camp. Sometimes 6 together, sometimes just a guy by himself. We did see a mama and a real young baby. She was pretty protective, staying clear of the other burros. They were all pretty docile but they are wild and you are discouraged from feeding them.

Everyone says if you’re in Parker, you have to go see the desert bar. Ok, I say. We’ll go. Well the roads a little rough. Ok, we have a truck. Oh Nellie!

It’s called the Nellie E Saloon. It was built at the site of an old mining camp. And it’s remote. Really remote. Bone jarring road. But we made it. Along with hundreds of others, which was one of the amazing things. People ride razrs out there all over the place and they get thirtsy. It’s all solar powered. They’re only open Saturdays and Sundays noon to 6. You better bring cash too or you’re out of luck. We were there on St. Patrick’s Day and the “chapel”, a 3 ft deep “building” was decked out for a wedding. They were making sure everyone not setting up stayed clear.

It was really cool and as usual my pictures don’t capture it. There was a live band and it was just a lot fun. Beer was fairly cheap and of the canned variety. The food prices ranged from very spendy ($17 for a pretzel, must’ve been gold-plated) to moderate, $13 for a pulled pork sandwich. Probably wouldn’t go again without an ATV or something of the sort. But it’s definitely a must see once. People drove passenger cars out but I don’t think I would…..

While in the Parker area, one of my friends from home was in the area. We got together a couple times with them, once at our “house” and once at their condo and pool, and that was fun.

I liked being by the river but there were a lot of jetskis and loud boats starting to rip up and down the river. I can imagine as spring break season hits, it probably is a zoo. I think I’m turning into an old lady. I only like my peace and quiet!

In hindsight, this was my last bit of warm weather. Next we head east a bit to a bucket list item……