Monthly Archives: September 2013

Do I wake up grumpy? No, I let him sleep.

One thing to consider in the small space we called home is that endearing personality quirks turn into monsters. Yes, mine too. Some days I couldn’t even stand myself. As well as turning from amiable to irritable at the drop of a pile of tee shirts, the inconsistency of our day-to-day lives made me lazy.

What’s the point of starting something – like making that necklace I’d bought a clasp for weeks previously – that not only had to be put down when we travelled but put away and stuffed in the dark recesses of a locker where it’s very existence quickly faded from my tiny mind. When I cleaned out the overflowing locker weeks later I came across the unfinished string of beads as well as other treasures.

“Ooo. Look what I found.”

“What’s that?” himself asked with an edge of disgust in his voice.

Damn. I didn’t mean for him to see that. I’d hidden it from him in there. “It’s my Key West Coke bottle,” I replied a little deflated.

“You’re kidding aren’t you?”

“No. Look. It’s got Key West in raised letters on the bottom. I’m sure it’s collectible.”

“In your world. It’s just junk. Throw it away.”

With my back to him, I rewrapped it in a plastic bag and hid it again with my coveted collection of unremarkable stones from all over the States.

Our haphazard and disrupted schedule depended on the weather, how well we slept (trains, rain, cold, diesel engines, motorcycles, jets, flies, drunks – all making an impact) therefore what time we managed to fall out of bed, who was ready to go first, who was more desperate to get going, how far the next campsite was, whether we loved it or hated it when we get there and how much or little we were speaking to each other when we got there, but it mostly depended on doing everything together and agreeing on everything we did. The only absolute constant in our day was a glass of wine at 6:00 and even that was dragged forward to 5:30. We managed to agree on that.

Our little trailer that seemed so perfect when we bought it is cramped and wherever we stand or sit we’re in each other’s way.

Our styles of accomplishment are different. Jimmy completes one task in one place, focuses, moves on to the next. Methodical. Male. I flit from one thing to the next, juggling several activities – cooking, while running back and forth to the laundromat, while keeping an eye on the TV, while checking emails and ignoring the acrid smell coming from the oven and putting the laundry away. Multi-tasking. Female.

All the while, wherever Jimmy settles to complete whatever task he is concentrating on is just where I need to be – the locker under his bum, the drawer behind his knee, the fridge he’s leaning on in a vain effort to stay out of reach of my flailing arms as I kick a cupboard shut, stir a saucepan with my left hand and reach for the fridge with my right.

Then there is the bathroom. As teeny as it is and as much as I complain about it, I would like to lay claim to it exclusively.

“Are you ever coming out of there?” himself pleads.

“I’ve only just got in here.”

“Rubbish. You’ve been in there for half an hour.”

“No I haven’t. I’ve just come back from the washing machine. You could have got in there then.”

“I wasn’t ready to go in there then.”

“Well, tough. You’ve missed your slot.”

“I need to get in there! NOW!”

“OK. OK. OK.  I’ll just get my make-up box together and come out. You could have just asked me nicely in the first place instead of picking a fight.”

“I didn’t pick a fight. You did.”

“No I didn’t. You did.”

“No I didn’t.”

Petty. Petty. Petty. A nonsensical argument that wouldn’t have happened in a bigger living space.

The only time we are in complete harmony is when we are asleep and insomnia wrecks that a lot of the time.

You can't tell me that nice little green vintage Coke bottle doesn't just MAKE my flower-herb garden/beach/Christmas/bird bath display.
You can’t tell me that nice little green vintage Coke bottle doesn’t just MAKE my flower-herb garden/beach/Christmas/bird bath display.

BTW: I’m the morning grump.

Shall We Stay or Shall We Go On?

After completing 5/8 of a life on the edge of each other’s nerves – we had towed the trailer 11,654 miles and put 20,122 miles on the odometer in the car. In a country that is 3,000 miles wide by 2,000 miles top to bottom that’s pretty good going. We’d drawn a very drunken diagonal line down across the U.S. map from Washington State to Florida and back along the southern border and west coast. A two-year-old with a crayon could have scrawled a tidier route. But in the process we perused 26 of the 48 states on our agenda of looking for the perfect place to live in the continental U.S.A.

We decided this was definitely a plastic 'gator put out for the tourists in the Everglades when her real brothers and sisters were in hiding.
We decided this was definitely a plastic ‘gator put out for the tourists in the Everglades when her live brothers and sisters were in hiding.

Some states only merited a quick drive straight through to the next state. I won’t tell you which ones as all us patriotic Americans are proud of and proprietorial about our own states and I am sure we didn’t do them justice by not stopping to poke around. Other states kept us fascinated for days, sometimes weeks. But we were just tourists. Visiting The Everglades, Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore or San Francisco for the first time is a real kick but they are not areas we would consider living due to weather, remoteness or cost of living. And we were just so enthralled with the sight-seeing sights in this diverse and stunning country, we often didn’t bother to do our homework on towns as potential homesteaders.

One our favorite campgrounds: Monument Valley UT
One our favorite campgrounds: Monument Valley UT

The next stage of the route would take us east across the top of the country, up into New England and down the east coast with a bit of the inevitable to-ing and fro-ing. Getting in the way of the search was a spacious apartment in sunny and probably-too-expensive California that was calling us.

I was longing to get our furniture out of storage and put my underwear in a drawer instead of having it stuffed in a shoe box and to hang up my clothes instead of playing lucky dip in a jam packed locker. Jewelry was tangled up in a box and fine chains and long necklaces formed a monkey’s fist of silver and gold, beads and crystals. I doubted I would ever wear them again. I wore the same jeans and hoody for days out of sheer inertia.

The same rotation of clean clothes came off the top of the stack day after day rather than create an avalanche of tee shirts to put together a new look. We dressed, hobo unchic, in cotton clothes that were washer/dryer-ready-to-wear. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Unmentionable articles of underclothing aside, we sometimes scrutinized and sniffed our outerwear for an extra day’s service before consigning it to the laundry bag. My prissy nature came out when faced with dirty laundramat machines that may have seen dog blankets, greasy overalls, muddy trousers and almost certainly much worse.

Books and files were hidden deep within a hell hole under the bed instead of being to hand on a bookshelf. Wrenching my right shoulder to lift the mattress and locker lid and hold it up, I then wrenched my left shoulder to haul out the printer, two sleeping bags and a bag of wrapping paper and ribbon (yes, of course ribbon is essential on an RV) to gaze at a cardboard box of books through a gap just big enough for my head. As I grunted and strained with the weight of the mattress and locker lid on my shoulders himself would ask, “Can I help you with that?”

“NO!” I would bellow in frustration and risked decapitating myself with the trap door of the dungeon. A feeble flashlight that doubled as the oven light barely glowed much less illuminated the book titles so reading choices were often made by feel. Sometimes I thought oh stuff it and lay on the bed listening to my iPod until whatever inkling of motivation to do something creative or productive or even vaguely educational passed.

Should we stop somewhere to live in an apartment and try to regain our sanity or continue to play happy trails?

Let’s Get Political!

HooverDam&NVrt95 107

Amongst other things, Will Rogers said:

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

“A fool and his money are soon elected.”

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

This sign in Tonopah NV puzzled me so I took a photo and emailed my brother. He informed me that Will Rogers famously said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I emailed back, “Shouldn’t that say Will Rogers never met John Boehner ? What say you?

If you don’t know who Harry Reid and John Boehner are then you probably don’t give a d***. Look up Will Rogers. He was much more interesting.

Are You Sure About That?

“Oh, no!”

“What?” I asked in the alarm voice that blurts out whenever himself takes a certain tone.

“The weather in Oregon! 30° tonight.”

“Well that’s nothin’ for us,” I replied, relieved. “We’re veterans of 5° nights.” Not that I’d ever want to do that again.

“High of 35° tomorrow with snow showers, 20° tomorrow night, then more snow and it won’t get above freezing the next day,” Jimmy read off the computer screen, as a gnawing dread crept back into my stomach. Three hundred miles of Oregon lay between us and Washington State.

“Maybe we should leave California right now.”

We’d had a good run of pretending it was summer right through the winter with October in Tennessee,

The Smoky Mountains living up to their name.
The Smoky Mountains living up to their name.

November in Myrtle Beach,

Not bathing suit weather but look at that blue sky. The shadows are on purpose, by the way, not photographer ineptitude.
Not bathing suit weather but look at that blue sky. The shadows are on purpose, by the way, not photographer ineptitude.

December in Florida,

January in Texas,

Casa Rio Restaurant on the San Antonio River Walk (Paseo del Río)
Casa Rio Restaurant on the San Antonio River Walk (Paseo del Río)

February in New Mexico and southern Arizona

and only coming a little unstuck at the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona with killer colds nights and ankle deep snow.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon in February and just a little colder than southern Arizona
South Rim of the Grand Canyon in February and just a little colder than southern Arizona

As we’d traveled east and then west, south and then north, sea level to high altitudes and back, we’d vacillated between using the furnace and the air conditioning, wearing swimsuits and shorts and then hauling out our thickest fleeces. But there were always blue skies.

We were prevaricating in California, unwilling to head back to Seattle for booked flights to England. Out of a sense of puerile self-satisfaction, we frequently checked the weather back in Olympia where we lived for one and a half years. As we (mostly) basked in sun and warmth, Jimmy would look it up and say, “Guess what the weather is in Olympia? Showers today, showers tomorrow, rain on Thursday and cloudy with rain later on Friday.” We took pleasure in our good fortune.

Our plan to hang out in the good weather for as long as possible and then tow the trailer 600 miles in two days needed revising. Roller-coaster-ride roads frosted with snow and ice were ahead of us. Jimmy is the wagon master so showing great camaraderie under duress, I locked myself in the bathroom with a cup of tea and my makeup box to let him figure it out.

“We dmff hv wo!!”

“What?”

“We dun ho wor!! Hahaha!!” and he giggled. Jimmy never giggles. Odd.

The fan heater and radio were both on and I couldn’t make out what he was saying through the closed door. “I can’t hear you!” I bellowed, too idle to turn and open the door as I was in the middle of the delicate process of matching one eye to the other with a rainbow assortment of eye shadow.

The whole trailer then wobbled as Jimmy trotted from the dinette to the bathroom door (all of three steps) to shout through the door, “We don’t have to worry! I thought I looked up the weather in Salem, Oregon, but I looked up Salem, Sweden.” Then we both giggled.  “There’s no snow or freezing weather in Oregon.”

He’s usually quite precise but sometimes I feel like a mum who should be checking Jimmy’s homework.

Calling all bloggers: The Results Show

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to comment on last Friday’s post Calling all bloggers and bloggees. Funnily enough I had second thoughts about posting it as it wasn’t exactly within the remit of Which Way Now 101 with sights and adventures along the way. However the response was very interesting and the post had many views from nine different countries! I frequently read blogger stuff but wondered what my readers thought.

This is what you came up with:

  • No one likes to read white on black. The web page can look stunning but it hurts our poor old eyes (speaking only for myself, of course, not all you lovely young things). A color on a color is tricky too.
  • A 500 word count is good, 800 is okay and 1,000+ is a bit much but content is key. We (almost) all keep reading if the blog is well written and interesting.
  • Titles are important. They need to be attention grabbing.
  • We like photos. They don’t need to be of a professional standard (thank goodness) but relevant to the post. (So apologies for the irrelevant photos on that post. I thought they kind of tied it to my travel theme. Okay, I just made that up) Photos are also useful for breaking up the text.
  • Large blocks of text are hard to read, especially on a computer screen. Paragraph breaks make the post easier to read.
  • Busy sidebars, especially with flashing graphics are distracting.
  • Poor grammar, punctuation and spelling will not be tolerated! (Oops. I apologize in advance and blame any of my mistakes on my in-house editor.) That’s a bit strongly worded. We all make the occasional blunder but none of us want to read carelessly written blogs.
  • One blogger always likes the post to end with a question to invite comments. Do you?
Bryce Thompson Arboretum. Another irrelevant photograph. So shoot me.
Bryce Thompson Arboretum. Another irrelevant photograph. So shoot me.

One more question. Well two for those of you who are counting. I find it difficult to keep up with bloggers who post every day. The sheer amount of reading defeats me and I have to skip some posts. Which ones? I fear I’ll miss that brilliant post that would inspire, humor, enlighten me. Do you feel under pressure to read, write, edit, post, snap, post, like, comment and read and write some more to not offend or ignore those you follow or who follow you?

No! I Can’t Stop here!

I15 South AZ
I15 South AZ – quick stop for the camera resulting in happy photographer, unhappy driver

Dummy here left the camera in the trailer when we set off for the Grand Canyon Skywalk so when spectacular scenery exploded into view I started to hyperventilate at each missed photo op. We were towing the trailer so the camera was about 12 feet behind me – not quite within reach. There was nowhere to pull over safely, but when himself could stand the puffing and sighing no longer he shot off the roadway onto a narrow shoulder then onto gravel kicking up stones in every direction.

I15 South AZ
Winding down through the canyon.

“There’s a big truck behind us,” I observed helpfully.

“I know there’s a bl***dy great truck right up my a**,” he rephrased for my benefit.

“Thanks!” I called over my shoulder, door open, one foot out, ready to leap before he saw how difficult it would be to get back on the Interstate. Cars shot as though out of a cannon from the bend behind us.

I15 South AZ
. . . and down . . .

You won’t see the best of it because I missed the most stunning scenery through amnesia forgetfulness so if you are an Interstate avoider, as we usually are, and are out this way, try I15 southbound through the top left corner of Arizona. The Utah scenery along I15 is superb and then just into Arizona – KERPOW! – one is transported into magical canyons.

I15 South AZ
One last disappointing photo.

Where is the Silly Sign for Wednesday I hear you ask?

Well I missed it. It said ROCKS . . . just . . ROCKS!

I Thought My Chest Would Explode

Vegas after dark.
Vegas after dark.

Two U.S. Air Force jets caught my attention as they shot past the car window. My driver’s attention was at least initially focused on the road. Two more jets, laden with armaments, seemed to leap up from the center of Las Vegas in the distance and rush past. Then two more and two more.

As we neared the city more jets roared overhead and we craned our necks to watch them through the sun roof. “F-15’s!” himself told me excitedly and the trailer danced behind us. “There must be an air base around here.”

I consulted the road atlas. “Nellis. There go eleven and twelve.”

We continued to our campsite and busied ourselves with the process of unhitching when six more pairs of jets flew over. We stopped what we were doing each time to watch.

Suddenly alarmed as twelve jets screamed right overhead I clasped an empty plastic bottle I’d been carrying to my chest like a comfort blanket. I could feel the reverberations building up in my chest cavity. I could even feel them in the empty bottle. We were parked right under the flight path of the air force base and the noise was explosive as the jets banked directly over us in order to avoid flying over central Las Vegas.

The succession of six pairs of jets taking off continued with Jimmy and I looking at each other like startled rabbits each time. Our initial fascination had worn off. The physical discomfort of the noise and vibration was deeply unsettling especially as we’d paid in advance for three days. Having looked forward to seeing The Strip we wondered if we could last the night, each jet drowning out the TV, our voices, even our thoughts.

The skies finally quietened at about eight o’clock.

At ten p.m. a diesel pickup truck towing a large trailer pulled up next door and proceeded to unhitch, pump up tires with an electric pump while idling the bag-of-nails engine and then unloaded a Harley motorcycle.

A Harley starting up sounds like a bomb going off when you’re not expecting it and the shock of it sent my head back against a door. The new arrivals popped out for a late supper on the Harley and returned about midnight. Perhaps a good night’s sleep was at last in order.

The neighbor behind us on the campsite also had a Harley. He went to work at five a.m. And then the F-15’s began terrorizing us again at eight. There was no way to avoid the noise except to physically get away. The din even penetrated underwater when I went for a swim.

The prospect of staying right on Las Vegas Boulevard near The Strip had been so exciting. The town plan showed an easy drive of about three inches so we hopped into the car to get away from the noise.

The glitz on my anticipation dimmed slightly as we saw dozens of homeless people queuing on the sidewalks of the boulevard waiting for the Salvation Army to open. Litter gusted and twirled and dust from endless construction sites hazed the view as we sat in gridlocked traffic.

It "only" took us an hour to drive six miles.
It “only” took us an hour to drive six miles.

An hour later we had driven the six miles to the beginning of The Strip. We saw the giddy carnival rides on the top of the Stratosphere Tower, the big top of Circus Circus, the oh-so-famous Caesars Palace, the fountains of Bellagio, the skyline of New York-New York and hundreds of people – hundreds and hundreds of ordinary people just like us – no film stars dressed in bling, no Ferraris, not even a Rolls Royce. The town did seem to abound with testosterone-fueled young men in rental cars who zig-zagged through traffic creating a new terror for us.

After stopping at a supermarket for some tranquilizing wine we made it back to the RV park long after dark, soused ourselves with the wine and cowered until ten o’clock when the pilots went to bed.

The next day we had a pleasant evening with an Italian dinner followed by a performance of Cirque du Soleil, got lost halfway “home”, got directions in a casino and traveled back up Las Vegas Boulevard in a bus with the late night cleaning shift, managing to stay away from the flight path until after the Air Force’s bedtime.

Las Vegas NV
Las Vegas glitz.

The sparkle of Las Vegas has dulled a little in our eyes, but having seen several different sides of life we do feel privileged.

Our blood pressure has yet to come down. It may take a few days for the vibrations to settle.