Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Space Between

I have not updated in months, because it was just too difficult to follow the timeline that I was trying to maintain, but I am overflowing with thought and I need to share!!! So here's my latest (totally random) blog:

I am sitting at a picnic table in front of my RV, less than ten feet from a roaring campfire, in an insanely popular and lovely state park- and I’m pensive.
We have new neighbors this evening- from Pennsylvania- and they've commented, as have many others, how young we are compared to other hosts they've encountered. A common conversation thread includes:
·         You must love it- no responsibilities, fun all the time, just playing.
·         You must travel all over. I’ll bet you’re never in the same place for any length of time.
And most commonly (and obviously),
·         How?
We've been full-timing for a year-and-a-half, and traveling for about 7 of those months, and as I ‘settle’ into the ‘reality’ of living this way, I have begun to develop an awareness of the uniqueness of our particular circumstance.

Most of our friends and family are ‘stick and brickers’- that is, the majority of their lives are lived in a perma-structure of stick and brick creation. Some of them may be weekend campers or RVers, but their modular existence is in the nature of recreation, so when they are in their RV’s or tents, they are usually pursuing other entertainments or activities and are using the modular structure as a ‘hotel room’ to further enjoy their outdoor activities.
Some of our family and friends (Katrina’s parents and our camp hosting friends from Croft) are ‘full-timer lites’- when they RV, it’s often for months or seasons at a time, but they still have S&B homes and in the cases of all of our Croft friends, at least one spouse still works at a job that he/she must physically show up for most weekdays. These folks understand our hopes and dreams, because many of them share a similar vision, but they still have the ties that anchor them to ‘respectable’ society. In other words, most people don’t view them as fringe-ists or as completely unhinged- just slightly eccentric.
Lastly, there are the other full-timers that we know- The first group of folks are our friends from Salt Lake in the “RV Pit”, who are mostly just young families and folks our age struggling to live in an economically challenging situation and trying valiantly to get back into ‘respectable’ living.
The second group of full-timers are the retired camp hosts that we meet at the parks where we volunteer. Almost without exception (a widow, widower and single older lady not yet retired) all of the hosts are retired couples with big rigs and guaranteed income just looking to travel and stretch their accommodations dollar as far as it will go.  They are the appropriate age and demographic  to make vagabonding socially acceptable.
Enter the Brolts (my amusing haplology of our last names- kind of like Brangelina, but classier). We don’t smoothly fit into the niches of polite society- we aren't retired in our big rig, we don’t have a ‘settled’ place to return to (an ideal that my mother frets herself into foaming fits over- repeat five times fast)  and we’re not transitioning between the two.
We’re a bit of a conundrum. This entire issue really lies with me- someone from one side (an S&Ber, for example) will make a comment- perhaps about how lucky we are to be on a lark and just enjoying no responsibility- and it will irk me no end.
Do you really think that I have no responsibilities whatsoever?
How do you think I support myself and my wife, pay my bills and put food on the table?
Feed my cats?
Buy gas?
Repair Justin the Behemoth Beaver?
Buy awesome shit that I can’t live without?

So I sit in front of a campfire and ponder my life. I think about an internet meme that I once saw that depicted a vignette about Lesbians. I’ll include it below because it succinctly illustrates my next point (please don’t be offended at the slightly risqué- ness of it- I didn't create it)

So, off-color though it may be, the above is a good generalization of my current challenge. S&Bers think that we’re just hanging around the campfire all of the time, doing nothing; and the retired folk/Lites, wonder why we’re always inside on the computer working instead of out by the campfire like them.

It’s like we’re in RV purgatory…

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Year 2014!

Well, I swore that I would be more diligent in keeping up with this blog, but that resolution has yet to  be fulfilled. Perhaps the blush of a new year filled with hope and new opportunities will hold me to some of my literary promises.

As for this story, let's pick up where we left off several months ago.
Polk County Courthouse

I am married... I am in Des Moines in September with my new wife, which sounds lovely, and is for the most part, except for the weather. My God, it's hot! And muggy- let's certainly not forget the muggy. And I am in jeans and a button-down and suede (good choice, Jenn) shoes.
We are trudging back to Justin Beaver after filing our papers and we are now coming down from our adrenal overload of the past two hours and are starting to feel the effects of a 'three hours of sleep in the jungle' kind of night.  The sky is threatening and there is nowhere to sleep or have a (much needed) shower in Des Moines, so we are heading out in hopes of a breeze or a truck stop, anything but the oppressive monotonous stillness of the weather in the city.
Wedding Ring
We drive towards Missouri, trying to eat up some miles en route to our first destination of Asheville, NC. Initially, we had hoped to honeymoon in Memphis or Nashville, or someplace romantic- and not boondocking in front of my mom's house- but with all that has happened on this trip, we feel that a 'bat out of hell' approach is best in this instance.  We travel a few hours, through torrential rains that are not cooling or refreshing, at all, and I am tired and hot and sticky and grumpy and hungry... We stop in a small town in Missouri that we later find out is named Holt (kismet!!!), and we stop at the first place that we find open that isn't fast food. The New China Buffet with over 100 items turns out to be the nastiest Chinese restaurant in the free world. We eat and laugh because, of course our wedding meal would be awful! It's just the universe's way... But we're happy despite the food and fatigue and we decide to see if Holt, MO has a place for the Holt's for tonight. Twenty years notwithstanding, a hot shower and air conditioning would make an excellent wedding night gift. We find a motel that is only slightly questionable and back the Beaver into the spot right in front of our room. We feed kitties, grab what we need and tun the AC on high and the shower on hot... and then bathed and cleaned and fed, we sleep.  Blissful dreamless sleep until the crack of thunder (apparently under the bed) makes us both jump to our feet. It is pouring  down rain outside and the RV windows are open for the cats. I put on my shorts and run barefoot to the RV to close all of the windows while thunder and lightening and the heavens erupt. I am soaked through when I return to the room and collapse back into bed after a quick wardrobe change. Our hotel is built into the side of a hill and our room is right at the juncture, so once the thunder stops it's pealing, we sleep through the rest of the night. We find out the next morning that we have slept through an F2 tornado. All is fine with Justin Beaver but the cats are pissed! We pack up under sunny skies but watch the ominous blackness to the East (of course,  the direction that we are heading). We hit plenty of rain  but no significant weather or issues until we reach Cape Girardeau, MO, where I discover while fueling, a gasket seal is blown on my rear tandem wheel hub. Not taking chances, I locate a diesel repair shop and $135 later, I have a silicone repair that took about thirty minutes and will hopefully hold for awhile.
We make it to just East of St. Louis before nightfall and spend a noisy night in a Hampton Inn parking lot right next to the freeway. Up and early the next morning, we finish the rest of the trip without incident. Two days later, we pull into my mom's drive, where we will spend the next ten days working until it's time to leave for (finally) Myrtle Beach.
Finally legal!
While in Asheville, I have dinner with my aunts and cousins, who share with us wonderful wedding presents and we also drive to Spartanburg, SC to see my cousin, Jimmy and his wife, Patricia, and to see Croft State Park, which is our next assignment after MBSP. Patricia also made us an unexpected surprise of a wedding cake, which was so kind and thoughtful (and not to mention delicious!). What a wonderful gift to celebrate with our family on so many occasions.

We weren't originally thrilled about our scheduled time at Croft State Park because it isn't a well represented park. I chose it mainly because of it's proximity to my mother, it's lack of snow, and a YouTube video on trail biking that I found. Once we arrived, however, my attitude completely changed. Ranger Dave took us all on a hike down to the river and the mountain bike bridge, and he also took us to the lake and up a closed pass in the park. We had a great time and were really looking forward to our next assignment after MB. as a fotnote, I am actually writing this update from Croft, having been here for a little over a months now. 
After ten days spent with family and friends, we were ready to hit the beach!!!

Stay tuned for our further adventures in Myrtle Beach!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sunny and 75... Happy Honeymoon!

Yes, it is November and I have not posted a word since August and most of you know why, but I am finally ready to write again and I think I can tell our story to date, albeit without as much detail as some may like. The past 3 1/2 months have been a study in every possible human emotion: Excitement, anticipation, utter fear, loss, hopelessness, dread, sadness, joy, comfort, hope, release, rebirth, wonderment.
In every life a little rain must fall and sometimes the rain falls too heavily on parched ground and triggers a flash flood.
Our story is one of loss, but loss is a broadly defined concept. I once thought that losing all of my possessions would be an awful tragedy from which I would never recover, but I would gladly give away everything that I ever have or ever will own to be where I am at this very moment.

K and I left Salt Lake City on Friday, August 13th, 2013, to start our new adventure. After spending the night with a longtime friend in Rock Springs, we set off to make it to Sidney,NE that day. The winds were very strong in Wyoming and we felt a bit of sway, even though everything had been meticulously re-packed and our equalizer hitch was secure. We made it through rain and wind to Laramie and started up the last big mountain before exiting Wyoming and heading out to the plains of Nebraska. At the top of the pass, an 18 wheeler flew past us as we crested the hill, and a 45+ mile an hour wind gust hit us on the trailer tail and set the trailer rocking. Although we were still cresting the hill at around 50 mph, I applied the trailer brakes to eliminate the rocking and nothing happened, except that the rocking now started pulling the van around the road. K said that all would be ok and I told her that it wasn't; we were going to roll and to hold on... I aimed for the wide median and prayed that no one was behind us. K kept repeating that we would be okay. I braced my arms on the steering wheel and did the best I could while the wheels were touching the earth. Once we started rolling, I looked over at the center of my whole world, in case it was my last moment on this earth. She was holding the panic bar with her right hand and reaching for me with her left. Her eyes were closed tightly against the inevitable... I prayed to God to please keep us safe and in that moment, I knew that I would survive. I don't know how, but I knew that I would be okay. I concentrated on watching K and praying for her safety.
We rolled two and a half times and slid  deeply into the soft earth about 25 feet on the passenger side, before finally coming to a rest in a shower of dirt, glass and assorted debris.
I shrieked K's name and swallowed my heart when she answered, I'm okay... but you have to get out first since you're on top."
In a panic to get us out of there quickly (too many car chase movies with dripping gasoline and explosions running through my mind), I release my seat belt and am reminded of the inconvenient laws of gravity as I land solidly on top of my beloved K. "Ouch". Ever the calm one in crisis. I am trying to stand up on the broken glass of the side window without stepping on her or jostling her too much, in case she's injured. I am missing my right shoe and glass is cutting into my bare foot. I have also lost my glasses. K tells me to calm down and relax, we are going to be fine- nothing is going to blow up. I manage to maneuver to the backseat and stand up where the rear driver side window used to be. The two people who are running towards us start screaming at me and asking if I am alone. I tell them that my partner is also in the car and to please help get her out. Two people lift me down to the ground after I climb up on the rear seat.
As they start to extricate K, I look around and see a pile of rubble where my home and life used to be.
Everything I own is rubble and in my mind, my cats are all dead, but I turn and see K being helped to the ground and it it the happiest moment of my life and, despite the fear and shock and sadness of what just happened, I will never, ever forget the feeling of that moment as long as I live.  She touches the ground and we run to each other and hold on for dear life.
More people stop and the police arrive. Somebody has found Scooby and caught him while he was running away. Someone else saw Neighbor run off. We piece together a crate and put Scooby inside. Digging in the rubble, we find Kit and Norm holed up together next to a trailer wheel covered in a pile a debris.  Miraculously, everyone survived this devastating crash, I still don't know how it's possible. Sadly though, after three days of searching in our rented U-haul filled less than a third full of our remaining belongings, we left Wyoming without finding our precious friend. My only condolence is that he is the most likely of all of our cats to survive on his own until rescued. We called both the Laramie and Cheyenne shelters almost daily for five weeks and emailed them both photos and descriptions of Neighbor, in case he was found. In the end, at least we all survived for a chance at another day.
So, bruised and beaten, we drive back to Salt Lake two days before our 20th anniversary, which also happens to be our scheduled wedding day.  Three kitties strapped into two rickety crates between us, we drive our rented u haul to K's parent's house, where we spend the next month licking our wounds and reclaiming our lives.
We were able to find another RV, this time a Class C motorhome, that we liked and was within our modest price range and we made all of the selfsame preparations from before and then we hit the road before either of us could lose our nerve and chicken out.
To say that the trip went smoothly would be a bold faced LIE... As before, the fates seemed to conspire against us:  another accident in the same pass (sadly- this one was fatal) closed the road that we were so dreading to drive for several hours, putting J's frazzled nerves on sizzle.. The fateful pass was traversed without incident but J noticed a 'sponginess' to the tires on the downhill pass. Since the flooding in Colorado closed the southern freeway from Cheyenne, the rains had started flooding the river banks as we crossed them so we stopped at a discount tire center that graciously consented to stay open until we arrived. In the pouring rain, we were informed that all 6 of the drive tires that had been inspected three times before we left from SLC (once by K's dad and the other two times by various shops) were from 1990 and 1999 and must be changed before we drove another mile, because they were starting to separate. The guy didn't even care if we went to Sears instead, we MUST get new tires immediately. Since it was also 6:15 on Saturday, no one could even order tires until Monday morning. We were allowed to park in their lot and they even left us the water hose to await Monday's tire truck.
We settle in for an uneventful weekend without power, so we entertain ourselves with candles and glow sticks until it is time for bed. The rains have been pretty steady and we fall asleep with the pitter patter of raindrops on the metal roof- one of my favorite sounds acquired over the last year. Around three am, I awake to a torrential downpour, and not just on the roof.
Every window and skylight vent is pouring rainwater into the RV- it is running down the walls, the bed is soaked, as is the couch and large puddles are starting to form in the center of the carpet under each vent. We grab beach towels, pot and large bowls in an attempt to staunch the flow. The storm continues to rage  outside and I sit down one one of the two relatively dry chairs and start to weep. I am overwhelmed and it's just too much to bear anymore...
We gave up everything tangible for this trip- our home of sixteen years, all of our major possessions, our car, scooter,etc. We nearly died and lost what little possessions remained, including a beloved companion; we missed our wedding day and we've experienced nothing but trouble with this new RV, despite having it meticulously checked out prior to departure. Now we are stuck in Cheyenne with no friends, family or even a dry place to sleep.  It seems that the fates would rather I die than marry or see my family ever again. I feel like a failure for being unable to provide K with with even the tiniest bit of warmth, safety and comfort and I say as much to her. Bleakness pulls me down into a pit of despair from which I fear I will never again emerge, and I sob helplessly. K sits beside me quietly, stroking my hair and face but saying nothing for ten minutes, as my breakdown runs its course.
Spent and exhausted, I finally calm, but inside my head a thousand questions are spinning, unanswered. K finally speaks, "Even if we are homeless and sleeping in a box, it's okay with me as long as we're together. We'll get through this even though it sucks. It simply can't stay this bad for much longer. Things have to start going better at some point. Nobody on earth makes it to our age with this kind of bad luck. Regardless of how bad it feels right now, we aren't doomed! Besides, I would rather be soaking wet and cold WITH you then warm and dry WITHOUT you."
She then suggests that we look for a bank building with one of those portcullis type drive thrus. Maybe we can find one tall enough to park under. I am looking out the window towards the strip mall behind us and I see the Lowe's back there- Don't they have a huge lumber loading area with that kind of awning? We pull up the steps and I hop behind the wheel and we take off like a shot. Sure enough, there's a huge, covered pass through. It's now six am and we pull up, shut down and crawl into our few dry blankets for a couple of winks.
Someone knocks on the door at 830 and I get up to meet the sweetest, young lesbian that they sent to check on us. I explain our situation and that my wife  and I just need a few more hours of sleep before we come inside and spends loads of money to fix our problems. She laughs and assures me that there should be no problems with us staying where we are since it's Sunday and raining and unlikely to be busy. I catch another two hours and get up to assess the situation. We pull out the bedroom window first, figuring if we only get one done, it should be the one that will keep us dry while we sleep. My casual "loads of money" remark proved to be prophetic- elastomeric caulk is $11 per tube and we used eight tubes for the windows alone. For the roof vents, we ended up buying a similar polymer waterproof expanding spray and used that in conjunction with the caulk.
Each window had to be removed and all of the original putty sealant scraped off before being cleaned, caulked and reset. Each window took approximately one hour and the entire roof took about ninety minutes. Although the caulk is waterproof and can be applied wet, the instructions said to give it as long as possible to cure before subjecting the project to the elements- at least three hours was recommended. Since rain was still falling steadily, we milked the portcullis until the last possible minute. our friendly lesbian had gone home a few hours before and her replacement was less than thrilled to have us parked under his awning, despite the $250 we spent in his store. He finally chased us off despite our please to allow us to stay long enough for the caulk to cure. Luckily though, the repair held in the rain.We drove to a nearby truck stop for  a meal (not having eaten anything in more than thirteen hours), a hot shower (blessed be!) and a laundromat for our soaking bedding, towels and clothes.
Fed, clean and dry but exhausted, we headed back to the tire center  around 9pm to await Monday morning.

The tire truck won't arrive from Denver until sometime Monday afternoon, so we ask to plug in so that I can work uninterrupted while we await the tire truck. The truck arrives early afternoon and they begin installing the tires while we work inside. $1200 later, the new tires are installed by four pm and we get on the road but the rig still doesn't feel right. The slightest breeze makes it sway precariously , even though we are crawling along the interstate at fifty miles per hour,  are not pulling anything and no longer have any possessions to cause excessive weight on the vehicle. We creep slowly across Eastern Wyoming and Nebraska until we get almost to Lincoln two days later and I decide that I can't go any further until I figure out if something else is wrong (Please note that we spent $2000 between two different repair shops in SL to make sure this beast was road worthy- shocks, battery, alignment, carb, ball joints, everything). We found a local tire shop that checked our steering (very tight, especially for the age of the vehicle - 33 years) and then informed us that the valve stem on the interior tire has been ripped off and there has been no air in that tire since we pulled out of Cheyenne two days ago, hence the swaying from one tire carrying too much weight on one side. Fortunately, the tire is sound after being pressure tested -the valve stem is replaced and we are once again on our way.
Now, everything feels just as it should, although I still drive no more than fifty-five at any given point, still overly sensitized by fear and superstition.
We begin to feel that fate is somehow keeping us from getting married, as we still planned to do at the halfway point of this trip. We missed our appointment for our wedding and had been calling the judge for the last month and had never been able to leave him a message since his voicemail was always full. We knew that our marriage license was waiting, but we didn't know if there would be anyone in Iowa available to marry us once we arrived. With the way the trip was going, we didn't even know if we would ever actually make it to Iowa, much less to our ultimate destination. We slowly and fearfully crept our way across the plains in the ever present high winds that had plagued us since we left Utah.  The winds died as we entered the Des Moines city limits and not a single gust was felt or the next two days  in the city. Not taking any chances, we found what we thought was the courthouse and prepared to spend the night in the parking lot. Not a breeze fluttered as we opened every window in the 87 degree balmy evening. a steamy (and not in the good, naughty way), fitful evening followed and we awoke early; sandy-eyed and grumpy from the heat and lack of sleep.  Today was Thursday, September 19th, 2013- exactly one month after our 20th anniversary, and also the last day of the week that weddings are performed. If we did not find a judge or minister today, we would either make the decision to continue on- unmarried, or arrange to stay somewhere until Monday. I needed to plug in soon, as my laptop battery was running low for work. Additionally, the judges would only perform ceremonies from 8am-930am and from 3-4pm, so we had a very small window of actual time to make this happen. We washed and dressed and went into the courthouse at five after eight, only to find out that we were not at the courthouse, but three blocks away at the same address South instead of North.
Into the RV we go, sweaty palms and nerves frayed. "Where the hell is it? I hate this stupid GPS, this bitch is trying to kill us, I swear she is!"
We find the hall of records and (miraculously) a parking spot for our 26 foot beast (side note- our RV is a 1980 Dodge Beaver that we wittily named Justin- get it? Justin Beaver...), run up to the third floor, pick up our license, get directions to the actual courthouse another five blocks away, and run back out to Justin. K tries the judge one last time,  and (Kismet!) he answers!!!!!! Yes, he got our message about the accident and ,yes, he remembers us and ,yes, he is currently in his chambers and ,yes, he will be happy to marry us if we hurry over there right now!!!!
You know those high-speed chases where the awesome car jumps over some ridiculous hill in San Francisco somewhere, making the jump with flying sparks? Yeah, those guys don't know shit about stunt driving. Try that crap in a 26 foot, three ton, 33 year old  RV sometime. K is in the back with our wedding clothes and accessories while I Evil Knievel the crap out the speed bumps. Again with the miracle spot, we run to the courthouse, up the (non-air-conditioned) stairs and into the blessedly cool sanctum of Judge Baxter's courtroom like two sweaty, pudgy dervishes. We sit down breathlessly and wait... and wait... aaaand wait....
We can hear him in his chambers on the phone (not surprising since he hasn't cleared his Voice Mail for the last month) and we take the time to arrange our wedding attire and cool off. We both still entertain nightmares of him coming out and telling us that he doesn't have time or we are somehow otherwise out of luck, but he doesn't; we stand before him and two (randomly selected from the hallway) witnesses and we get married... 
Married. Actual, real- life grown up, not pretend, make-believe married. Not domestic partnered. Not civil unioned. MARRIED. MARRIED. MARRIED....
I am hot and tired, I have a scratch on my forehead from the damn cat jumping on the bed last night. I am hungry and kind of homeless and I really need a shower. But I just married K. She is my wife and I am hers. I am humming, "Sadie, Sadie... married lady.." from Funny Girl.
I am legally married to the only person that I've ever actually wanted to be married to. I am in awe. I am at peace. I don't really know how to explain it, but I want everyone in the world to feel the way I feel at the moment, at least once in their lifetime.
I'm no longer hot or tired or hungry. I am floating on wings back to the hall of records to file our legal  forms and get our marriage certificate, which is pretty, in pink and blue.

Of course the story isn't over, but this seems like a good stopping place for now. We will bring you all up to speed in small bites over the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience  and blessings and well-wishes!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

K is "thrilled"

Hi there.  I feel I need to expand upon a couple of things that were posted by J earlier.  I am not dragged unwilling into the great beyond whenever the whim strikes--I actually think about the proposed adventure for a full 30 seconds or so before agreeing to a brand new reality.  J's enthusiasm is contagious and it appears that I am not immunized against its insidious charm.  If left to my own devices I would do just about nothing, so I am fortunate that my partner of 20 years is so very, very eager to experience every single thing life and this world has to offer.  In her words "You can sleep when you're dead!"  

For clarity in the future (if I happen to talk about anyone besides myself that is) I have 3 younger brothers.  I will call them Young, Younger, and Youngest.  So Young brother just moved out of state and is living in the same city as Younger leaving Youngest to stay in state with the parents-and for the next 19 days myself and J. 

Thrilled does not begin to describe how I feel about the Country Song Museum, but J does accompany me to places she has no enthusiasm for so I am only too happy to return the favor. 

The second thing that I am apparently "thrilled" about is visiting with J's mom for 10 days. Her mom is a lovely lady and in my opinion a very good person who loves her child fiercely and without reservation.  If you read the About Me section you will discover that I am in recovery from alcohol addiction.  This is all well and good-but I also have a shit ton of things that people are still mad at me for.  J's mom is having a hard time letting go of her feelings of...well let's say rage and fury towards me and how I behaved while actively engaged in destroying my life.  So I am not unhappy about the visit but I have a little trepidation in my heart.  Hoping for the best!

New Blog Title Launched!!!

July is over???? Holy crapballs!!!!

I cannot believe that our adventure officially begins in NINETEEN days!!!

I just started reading a book about how to write a blog (Born to Blog) and I can tell you already, I am not an acceptable blog writer. In skimming the book, the first concept discussed is brevity...
Although I know the definition of the word, the entire concept completely eludes me... You may or may not have noticed, but I like to talk...
The book's point (a legitimate one), is that blog readers don't have time to read doctoral dissertations on the social ramifications of the perceived homelessness and fringe-ist behaviors of RV dwellers (a concept that I will address again later, so pay attention, class...).
With that being said, this is my blog and is currently a free-for-all into the inner working of my consciousness,  so anyone foolish enough to wander in deserves the full force of my eruditions. Also, since I haven't updated the blog since April, there is quite a bit to update.

J spent the first ten days of May in Austin for a healthcare/telemedicine convention and  had a fantastic time. She was able to see her dad and S-mom in the few days prior to the convention and a lot of great things for the company came out of the trip (sadly, they must currently be kept private due to legal ramifications but maybe one day I will write a tell-all book on the sordid details of the licensing industry). 

We spend most of May and part of June fighting a viral infection that was widespread throughout the valley. Recovery was slow but, thankfully, complete by the end of June with no lingering ill effects.

Also in May, poor old Fritzie Boy said goodbye to us, as his tired, old body was worn out. We still miss him and are sort of wandering numb- J hasn't been without a dog in 30 years and feels a little lost at present. We are immensely grateful for all of the time spent with our little guy and are glad that he is no longer in pain.

July saw many preparations and gatherings of friends and family. K's younger brother and his family moved to Phoenix to be near another brother, but selfishly took our nephews with them!!! Greedy parents!!!
We also spent several weekends at the cabins with K's folks at the camp where they are currently serving the first official  year of their Mormon mission (they had to renege last year when P got pancreatic cancer that was miraculously cured by the miracle workers at Huntsman Cancer Institute).
Thanks to the generosity of K's youngest brother and his family, we got to take the boys (K nannies in the summer for a friend) on their first speedboat adventure, which was very well-received!

Now that July is almost over, we have been scrambling to prepare for D-day-

1. Van repairs- complete (thanks to our good buddy and neighbor, Andy!)
2. New RV tires- complete (at massive savings due to a misquote by Discount Tires- Yay!)
3. Van tires rotated- complete
4. RV bearings Packed- PENDING (found the most awesome, affordable solution- Bearing Buddies
5. Jeep washed, waxed and fuel stabilized- PENDING
6. RV packed- complete- packed to the brim and a third or fourth round of weeding out is underway! Anyone in the market for a 26 pound cat? Kidding... you couldn't afford to feed him...

Our official travel route is as follows:

1. Rock Springs to visit our Luckey friend (obviously a play on words- Luckey is her last name).
2.  Bosselman's Truck Stop in Grand Island, NE- Best funeral potatoes ever!
3. Des Moines, IA for  a little Weddin'!
4. St. Louis, MO for a Silver Arch action (not to be confused for the nasty yellow ones)
5. Mansfield, MO- Home of Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum- Don't be hatin' Little House
6. Memphis, TN- Official Honeymoon Destination! K wants to see the famous Peabody Ducks
7. Nashville, TN- Country Music Hall of Fame (K is thrilled)
8. Asheville, NC- Ten Days with J's mom (K is thrilled)
9. Myrtle Beach or Bust!!!!

Hope you enjoy the new look of the blog. Please feel free to make any suggestions to make it better and more fun to read!

Monday, April 29, 2013

April Update: Final Hosting Assignments for 2013-2014 Season

I am barely making it under the wire for "April's" update, but since I promised to blog every month, I am going to count this entry for April, thus forcing me to make another entry before the end of May.

As I stated in the previous post, the hosting gigs have just been rolling in (ad continuum), so Katrina and I sat down and discussed what we each want most out of our hosting time.

Since most of the grunt work falls on sweet Kat's capable shoulders, her main request was a position with minimal KP (i.e. doody duty) as well as a location that allows her to pursue her important meetings and hobbies.

My concerns were more pedestrian in nature, since I have to balance a successful workday while living in paradise: Whether the park has cell reception, can I get a signal on my air card, etc..

Despite all of the amazing opportunities and locations to choose from, our final decisions (they're laminated!) are as follows:

1. September 1st to November 30th- Myrtle Beach State Park, South Carolina

 Yes, we are really suffering through the autumn on the Grand Strand! Oh, the ignominy! How on earth are we ever going to survive the sun and fun of Murrells inlet? We are certainly roughing it at this undesirable location. Feel bad for us; Our lives are hard!

2. December 1st to February 28th- Croft State Park in Spartanburg, SC

This location was chosen because of it's excellent proximity to my family, yet it's amazing lack of that nasty white stuff that I hate so much... what's it called? Oh yeah, snow!

My mom and extended family are only about 45 minutes away and my cousin and his family live a scant 16 miles from the park. Plus, we shouldn't see any of those pesky albino brain chiggers at this elevation, unlike the poor folks of Asheville, with their winter and cold... Blech!!! Even if there is a minuscule chance of the S-word, it's like snow in Texas or Alabama- sort of a novelty that disappears the next day. 

3. March 1st- May 30th- Edisto Beach State Park, SC

As rural and remote as this location is, and the small detail of having to use a  black water trolley (i.e. a poop pulley) to dump our , um, ahem... excrement (eeeeewwwwwww)... neither of us were really willing to give up this amazing site.  So we, instead, decided to push this gig to the end of our trip, to give us both a better chance to acclimate to full-time hosting before taking on such a challenging assignment. 

The real challenge (besides dragging a wagonful of sloshing shit to the dump station) at Edisto is it's remote location. There is not one hotel, motel or inn on the island, and the nearest laundromat is in Charleston, forty-five miles away- as is the nearest Costco, Evil Empire and even hospital. 

There are several notable restaurants on the island; the most famous being The Sea Cow (mmmm...sea cow...), several fresh produce markets (King's Market makes tomato pies that are supposed to make you wanna find Jesus- in case he's lost) and even a Piggly Wiggly that doesn't close until (gasp) 7pm. 

It's definitely a laid-back atmosphere more preferred by the post-forty crowd than the whipper snappers up at Murrells Inlet, but since we both now (sigh) belong to the aforementioned bracket, we like the idea of us and a bunch of similarly-minded fogeys hanging out on the beach until the sun sets and then all turning in by nine with a nice frosty mug of Ensure.

So, there you are- our official, dyed-in-the-wool, etched-in-stone, never-gonna-change schedule (these schedules are subject to change any time. Hoster reserves the right to cancel and/or change schedule at their discretion). 

In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on our wedding day in the beautiful, historic destination city of Des Moines, Iowa this August! It will be a lavish affair complete with a pair of converse and a justice of the peace. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

When it Rains, it Pours....Campground Hosting Gigs Galore!!!

When I  first started submitting my applications to the states that Katrina and I had agreed on for our first hosting attempts (FL,GA, NC, SC, VA), I really thought that we would be lucky to fill our schedule- especially since we were first time hosts and younger than I think most parks are looking for (age=maturity & quiet camping). 

I must write one helluva cover letter, because not only did we fill our nine months in about two weeks, the offers are still pouring in. We could work four seasons over if we wanted to. 
The parks are all really interesting in their own unique ways and I decided to list all of them (so far) here for your enjoyment: 

1.Devils Fork State Park
 is in northwestern South Carolina on the eastern edge of the Sumter National Forest at the edge of 7,500-acre (3,035 ha) Lake Jocassee. It is located three miles (5 km) off of SC 11, the Cherokee Scenic Highway, near tiny Salem, South Carolina.
The park offers hikingcamping (including several paddle-in primitive sites), canoeing and kayaking. The park is well known for rainbowand brown trout, as well as largemouthsmallmouth, and white basscrappiebream and catfish. The park has accommodations forscuba divers, including a walk-in ramp; thirty foot visibility is common, and due to the lake's recent creation, roads, houses, signs and other marks of human habitation can be seen on the lake bottom.
The 622-acre (2.5 km2) park was created in 1990. The park has many small waterfalls that feed lake Jocassee, and is home to theOconee Bell, a wildflower indigenous to North and South Carolina that grows throughout the park; more than 90 percent of the world population of these delicate white and pink flowers are found in the park.

2. Tallulah Gorge is a gorge that is formed by the Tallulah River cutting through the Tallulah Dome rock formation. The gorge is approximately 2 miles (3 km) long and features rocky cliffs up to 1,000 feet (300 m) high. Through it, a series of falls known as Tallulah Fallsdrop a total of 150 metres (490 ft) in one mile (1.6 km). Tallulah Falls is actually composed of six separate falls: l'Eau d'Or 46 ft (14 m),Tempesta 76 ft (23 m), Hurricane the tallest at 96 feet (29 m), Oceana 50 ft (15 m), the smooth "sliding rock" at Bridal Veil 17 ft (5.2 m) andLovers Leap 16 ft (4.9 m). The Tallulah Gorge is located next to the town of Tallulah Falls, GeorgiaTallulah Gorge State Park protects much of the gorge and its waterfalls. The gorge is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.
Just above the falls is Tallulah Falls Lake, created in 1913 by a hydroelectric dam built by Georgia Railway and Power (now Georgia Power) in order to run Atlanta's streetcars. The dam still collects and redirects most of the water via a 6,666-foot (2,032 m) tunnel sluice or penstock (pipe) around the falls to an electricity generation station downstream that is 608 feet (185 m) lower than the lake, except for a few days each year. The days when water is released are very popular for recreation, such as kayaking and whitewater rafting.
3. Edisto Beach State Park is located on the coast of South Carolina, 50 miles south of Charleston, near the town of Edisto Beach in Colleton County.
The park offers South Carolina's longest system of handicapped accessible hiking and biking trails. The trails wind through Edisto Island's maritime forest, leading to sites such as a Native American shell midden dated to 2000 BC, and a survey monument placed by Alexander Bache in 1850.
Activities possible at the park include surf fishing for flounderspot tail and whiting, as well as boating, birding and picnicking.
The park's education center, the Edisto Interpretive Center, hosts a number of programs and research services. The center includes an exhibit teaching visitors about the ACE Basin estuarine reserve through interactive displays.The park was one of the first South Carolina state parks, developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was created on land donated in 1935 by the Edisto Company. Many of the original buildings built by the CCC still stand and are in use currently.
4Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens is a 1,176-acre (4.76 km2Florida State Parkbotanical garden and historic site, located inTallahassee, in northwestern Florida. The address is 3540 Thomasville Road.
The gardens are also a U.S. historic district known as the Killearn Plantation Archeological and Historic District. It received that designation on August 16, 2002. According to the National Register of Historic Places, it contains 18 historic buildings, 4 structures and 4 objects.
The gardens began in 1923 when Alfred Barmore Maclay (1871–1944) and his wife, Louise Fleischman, bought the site. Maclay named his gardens Killearn, after the birth place of his great-grandfather in Scotland, and developed them continuously until his death. His wife continued their development, opened them to the public in 1946, and in 1953 donated some 307 acres (1.24 km2) of their estate, including the gardens, to the Florida Board of Park Service. In 1965 the gardens were renamed in Maclay's honor.
The backbone of the garden plantings are azaleas and camellias. Trees include bald cypressblack gumcyrilladogwoodhickoryholly,Japanese mapleoakplumredbudLiquidambar, and Torreya taxifolia. Other plantings include ArdisiaAucubaZamia integrifolia,Rhododendron chapmaniiGardeniagingerjasmine, Oriental magnolia, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Nandinapalmettosago palm,[disambiguation needed] SelaginellaWisteria, and Yucca filamentosa.
The park has such amenities as bicyclingbirdingboatingcanoeingfishinghikinghorse trailskayakingpicnicking areas and swimming. It also has a museum with interpretive exhibits.

5.Dudley Farm, also known as Dudley Farm Historic State Park, is a U.S. historic district and museum park located inNewberryFlorida. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on October 4, 2002. The address is 18730 WestNewberry Road.
The park encompasses approximately 325 acres (1.32 km2), and contains 21 historic buildings and 13 structures, including the family farmhouse with original furnishings, an 1880s kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a functional cane syrup complex.
The site is a working farm, showing agricultural development in Florida from the 1850s through the mid-1940s, and park staff perform chores while dressed in period clothes.
Other features include a visitor center, a picnic area and nature trails.

6.Croft State Park, Spartanburg, SC- once and army training base, the park covers more than 7,000 acres of rolling, wooded terrain just a few miles from downtown Spartanburg. The park offers 12 miles of biking & hiking trails, picnic facilities, an equestrian park, a playground and camping facilities. There is also fishing and boating on the lake. 
7. Kerr Lake (officially John H. Kerr Reservoir, also known as Bugg's Island Lake[1]) is a reservoir along the border of the U.S. states ofNorth Carolina and Virginia created by the John H. Kerr Dam. The dam construction started in 1947 and took 2,100+ workers in three shifts, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, more than four years to complete, and was finished in 1952 to produce electricity and to provide flood control. It is the largest reservoir in Virginia. It is owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It is located in parts of VanceGranville, andWarren counties in North Carolina, and MecklenburgCharlotte, and Halifax counties in Virginia. At its maximum capacity, it's one of the largest reservoirs in the Southeastern United States. The lake has over 850 miles of shoreline and covers approximately 50,000 acres (200 km²). The lake is named for Congressman John H. Kerr of North Carolina, who supported the original creation of the lake.

The lake is actually an impoundment of the Roanoke River (also called the Staunton River in Virginia). The Dan River and several smaller creeks also feed the lake. The lake is upstream of Lake Gaston. Just downstream from the current John H. Kerr Dam, and still visible from the viewing platform below the dam at Tailrace park, lies Buggs Island, named for Samuel Bugg, an early settler. North Carolinians know this body of water as Kerr Lake. Virginians know it as Buggs Island Lake or Buggs Island Reservoir.
The large lake is wildly popular with both North Carolinians and Virginians for fishing and recreational purposes. For fishing, the lake has an abundance of large-mouth bass, striped bass (the only certified lake in Virginia to have a naturally reproducing population), crappiecatfishand bream. Camping is also a popular activity, with many campsites (run by the Army Corps of Engineers, North Carolina State Parks and Virginia State Parks) lining the shore including Kimball Point, North Bend Park, County Line, Hibernia, and others. Campsites for both tents and RVs are available. Jet-skiing and water-tubing occur often on the lake. Recreational motor boating and sailing also occur on the lake, with three privately operated marinas available: Steele Creek and Satterwhite Point (in North Carolina) and Clarksville (in Virginia). These marinas have rental slips for sail and motor boats, with additional amenities including fuel docks, marina stores, and some organized yacht clubs. The Carolina Sailing Club stages monthly regattas for several one-design sailing classes from April through October.
8. Table Rock State Park is a 3,083-acre (12.48 km2) park at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Pickens County, South Carolina. The park includes Pinnacle Mountain, the tallest mountain totally within the state. 
The park features a lodge restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that includes a kitchen and a 72-seat dining room.[5] There are two park lakes with seasonal swimming permitted and hiking trails that lead to the Pinnacle Mountain Summit (two routes), Mill Creek Falls, and the summit of Table Rock. A nature center offers educational programs, and there are picnic shelters and a playground
The 1.9-mile (3.1 km) Carrick Creek Nature Trail loops around two creeks with small cascades and waterfalls and displays wildflowers in season.
The 3.5-mile (5.6 km) Table Rock Summit Trail is moderately strenuous rising, 2,000 feet (610 m) above the trailhead and includes a shelter built by the CCC. At approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 km), the trail forks, the left fork following a ridge trail to Pinnacle Mountain and the right fork to the summit at 3,124 feet (952 m). The trail ends at an overlook with a view of Table Rock Reservoir and Caesars Head[7]
The park is the eastern trailhead of the 80-mile (130 km) Foothills Trail through the Blue Ridge Escarpment.
Prior to the signing of the Hopewell Treaty of 1785, the land now encompassed by Table Rock State Park was part of the Lower CherokeeNation. The Cherokee called the area, "Sah-ka-na-ga," the Great Blue Hills of God, and they established many hunting camps in the area.[8]
Europeans moved into the Oolenoy River Valley soon after the signing of the Hopewell Treaty, settling at Pumpkintown (named for the unusually large pumpkins grown there). William Sutherland and James Keith operated a wayside lodge for visitors and about 1840, they built a hotel, which prospered until the Civil War. Visitors increased again after Reconstruction, and in 1899, E. Foster Keith built a new hotel, which was later destroyed. By the beginning of the 20th century several farm families lived in the Table Rock area
In 1935 approximately 2,860 acres (11.6 km2) of land was donated by Pickens County and the city of Greenville.[10][11] The park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC).[12] The CCC built a dam for Pinnacle Lake, several fish-rearing pools, the superintendent's residence, a lodge, shelters, and miles of roads and hiking trails. The CCC also landscaped the park using natural vegetation from the Pinnacle Lake bed. Much of this work remains visible in the 21st century.[8]
The Table Rock State Park Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.[9] It is also a South Carolina Heritage Trust Site.

As ya'll can see, there are plenty of opportunities for hosting. The process is really easy- each state has either an online, emailed or mailed in application that you fill out and return. I also included a copy of my resume and a cover letter in the hopes of impressing the coordinators with my 'credentials'. For Georgia, there is a $15 application fee that pays for your background check and I balked a bit at paying the fee but our first offer came from GA, so I think it was worth it. All of the other states eat the cost of the CBC if you commit to them- my checks for NC and SC are also both completed and are good for one year. 
I have included the copy of my cover letter below for those of you who are thinking about hosting yourselves. Please change it a bit and don't use it verbatim so the parks don't think that we are all using a stock template. Please note that most parks want to know the size, make and model of your trailer and tow vehicle, as they need to make sure that your rig will fit and they don't want hosts whose rigs aren't kept in decent repair.
 Some sites will even ask for photos before extending an offer to host- this varies by location. They will also want to know who is traveling with you (and may ask for a CBC in some cases- none for us yet, so far) and whether you have pets and what kind. 
I did fudge a bit on the number of cats, since they never ever go outside. Since no one else will ever see them, I didn't want to lose out on a gig because someone thought I was the crazy cat lady! 
Some parks won't allow pets and you want to know about that ahead of time. I have talked with some rangers who waffle on the pet policy and I figure that if they don't really want to accommodate a pet, then anything that your pet does will assuredly annoy them, further reinforcing the no pets policy of that park. I would rather guarantee a return invite since this is very much like a seasonal job that I hope to be invited back to. 

To Whom It May Concern:                                                                                           February 18, 2013

                I am interested in volunteering for the position of Campground Host or other needed volunteer position at your state parks anytime between September 2013 and March 2014.
                I am a full time RV dweller traveling the country to learn more about our history and geography. I live in a nineteen foot trailer pulled by a Chevy van.  Both of my vehicles are in good repair and are well maintained.  My trailer is fully enclosed with no slide outs and it is a vintage trailer that has been remodeled inside and maintained outside.
                I am very neat and clean; I do not smoke, drink or engage in any illegal or illicit activity. I am forty years old, in excellent health and active. I am employed full time as a remote Executive Director for Sales and Marketing with a licensing company. I work from home and I have a great work ethic.  
                I live simply and do not have any children traveling with me. I travel with a spouse, a small elderly terrier, and two indoor cats.  Each of my animals is vaccinated and sterilized.
                My hobbies include outdoor photography, gardening, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, classical music, reading, swimming, history and travel.
                I have excellent references and I am hardworking and dependable. I think that I would be an excellent volunteer. I have been camping my entire life and I have twenty years of volunteering experience.  
                I would love to hear back from you regarding any open positions that you have available. Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope you have a wonderful day. 

I included the classical music quote (which is true) simply so that I appeared more mature than some yung'un' rockin' out to Lady Gaga and Pitbull all day (which is also true except they are both now enjoyed at post-forty-year-old decibels- stupid old age). 
I also referenced my hobbies that I felt represented interests that the park would feel a good fit. For example, I also love cooking and sewing but they don't fit into the persona (marketing term- not alias) that I am trying to create. 
I hope this post is interesting- I know some of my followers are fellow full-timers and I am hoping to fill a void that other bloggers are missing out on. I think that most full-timers guard their contacts jealously, thinking that someone else will steal their gig. I figure if I do the best job I can, then I don't stand to lose a repeat gig to another full timer, especially since the needs are so plentiful. 

Please contact me if you have further questions or want to share resources.