With the emerging of a new day or even a new season, there is a sense of hope and the embracing of dreams. I love spring. It’s my favorite time of year. Watching the dormant winter landscape awaken with the budding of emerging vegetation and colorful blooms lends itself to a feeling of new life.
I think we can all agree, it has been a challenging year. A year filled with uncertainty. A year filled with a roller coaster of emotions. And just like the tiny plant that has the strength to break through rock crevices and thrive, we too shall emerge from the past years’ challenges stronger and maybe even wiser.
Perhaps our socially distanced year has enlightened us in new ways. Perhaps, we have discovered new hobbies or developed a better understanding of ourselves. As we emerge from the stressful year, it’s time to think about our dreams. For me, that means I’m knee-deep in travel planning and excited to get our RV wheels rolling again soon.
I’m emerging from my cocoon with a new spring in my step and can’t wait to frolic in the beauty of nature!
I’m sitting in our climate-controlled truck on a cushioned leather seat watching the scenery unfold in front of me. The land is vast, harsh, barren, and the road free of traffic. I can’t fathom the life of Pioneers who first explored these lands via horseback and wagon. Complaining about the lack of cell or internet coverage seems so petty on my part. However, the thought of a flat tire or other breakdown has me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. No calling AAA out here. We’re on our own!
Our Route – February 22, 2012
We pulled out of our campsite in Lake Havasu City bright and early that morning. We traveled north on Highway 95 to Interstate 40 west. After studying the map the day before, I thought it would be interesting to drive through the Mojave National Preserve.
The Mojave Desert is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America. And just like I imagined, the views are miles upon miles of sparsely vegetated land … harsh land that deserves respect if one is to survive. After our turnoff from Interstate 40 onto Kelbaker Road, I think we saw less than a dozen other vehicles, if that. Fascinating terrain!
Once in the town of Baker, we top off with fuel. We realize, the further we get from civilization, the more expensive fuel costs will become. Our journey continues toward Death Valley National Park and Furnace Creek.
The Furnace Creek Campground was currently undergoing a renovation and therefore closed for the season (Feb. 2012). Signs directed us to the Sunset Campground where we quickly found a level gravel site to pull into. The Sunset Campground was pretty much an organized gravel parking lot with no services, but at $12 a night, we weren’t complaining. We made a quick note of the generator hours to assure we kept our batteries topped off.
Sunset Campground is aptly named. Every evening, we found ourselves sitting outside to watch the sunset. Once the sun had disappeared, the sky would turn into fantastic shades of colors ranging from pinks to reds and purples. Then the sky would slowly darken to the most incredible deep, deep midnight blue. The stars were bright and the crescent moon stunning. Al and I would just sit quietly in awe watching the show unfold.
Although we lived in a community with a dark sky policy (Pueblo West, CO), I think this was the first time we truly understood light pollution. There was none here to detract from the beauty of the sky, and we were appreciative observers. Each night was a little different but equally spectacular. There are some things in life that can’t be captured via a photograph and must be experienced first hand. Admiring the night sky in Death Valley National Park was definitely one of those special moments … a vision etched in my memories.
Exploring Death Valley
Established in 1994, Death Valley National Park is a beautiful but challenging landscape where unique wildlife have developed ingenious adaptations to the arid, harsh environment. Located in both California and Nevada, it’s the largest national park in the lower 48 states and has nearly 1,000 miles of roads that provide access to both popular and remote locations in the park.
After reviewing the Death Valley National Park map, Al and I discuss our plan for the day. National Parks are not usually pet friendly and Death Valley is no exception. So Al and I plan our day keeping our dog, Bear, in mind. Fortunately, the weather would be in the 60 degrees Faherenheit range allowing us to leave Bear in the RV alone for a few hours. Since he was over thirteen years old, Bear was showing his age and could use a little extra rest after a rather exciting, fun-filled five days in Lake Havasu. So, he didn’t mind being left behind to catch up on some much-needed rest.
Our first stops were Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View. Dante’s View is considered the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park. The overlook is more than 5,000 feet above the floor of Death Valley and overlooks Badwater Basin. We were extremely glad that we wore our sweatshirts considering the temperature was only around 52 degrees Fahrenheit that morning and extremely windy at this high overlook.
On our return to the RV, we took a side trip and ventured down a dirt road known as Twenty Mule Team Canyon. This is a one-way 2.7 mile drive through badlands. The history of this road dates back to the days of mining for Borax in the Valley. It was a fun little side trip even though there were points I wondered if our large truck would fit through some of the tight corridors in the canyon. If it weren’t for our growling stomachs beckoning for lunch, I would’ve loved stopping more frequently along the way. Yes, more photo-ops would’ve been nice, although Al might disagree.
Upon our return to the RV, we find Bear still fast asleep and needing to be coaxed for his walk. He is one tired little guy and doesn’t mind being left behind the rest of the day.
After lunch, Al and I head over to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Badwater Basin is a vast landscape of salt flats. From a distance it looks like snow.
We ventured out onto the salt flats taking in the fascinating landscape. Badwater Basin was once the site of a large inland lake. The lake had no outlet, leading to the accumulation of sediment and salt over time. When the lake eventually evaporated, concentrated salt deposits were left behind. Today, captivating geometric salt polygons form on the flats as groundwater rises up through these deposits and evaporates.
After more than thirty minutes of walking around the salt flats and marveling at the unique and surreal environment, we returned to the truck where we noticed the salt residue had stuck to our shoes and was now leaving a fine coating of salt residue on our truck floor mats.
A Golf Course that isn’t a Golf Course
Just north of Badwater Basin is a side road that took us down a bumpy dirt road to a parking lot. We found ourselves surrounded by craggy boulders which are really meteorite like sharp crystal formations of salt. Imagine an immense area of rock salt that has been eroded by wind and rain and turned into jagged spires and boulders. The sculpted salt formations form a rugged terrain that is simultaneously delicate yet dramatic. Rocks are so serrated that only the devil could play golf on such rough links. Hence, the name Devils Golf Course.
The terrain looks daunting and can be dangerous, thus best viewed from the parking lot. We had the place to ourselves and it was so quiet that we could actually hear the salt formations cracking. It was like tiny little pops and pings. The sound is literally billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart as they expand and contract in the heat.
The next stop on our tour was driving the scenic, one-way, nine-mile paved road known as Artist’s Drive. A photo-op stop at the Artists Palette is a must. Artists Palette consists of multi-hued volcanic hills, best photographed in the afternoon. Known for its variety of rock colors, it’s no wonder where the name came from. The various colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals. Iron compounds produce red, pink, and yellow. The decomposition of mica produces green, and manganese produces purple. Once again, we are left speechless and perplexed by the terrain.
After two full days of exploring this southern section of Death Valley, it was time to move north. Al and I never realized just how enormous this national park is; 3,373,063 acres.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
On day three, we move camp to the Stovepipe Wells Campground. Upon arrival, we realize its remoteness. With the exception of Furnace Creek, all of Death Valley is extremely remote and vast. We park the RV with the backend into the wind. The wind is blowing and dirt devils are twirling.
Once settled in our new location, we head on over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes nearby which is the whole reason we moved to this new location. Al and I hike the dunes being sure to keep our eyes on the ground for critters; snakes, scorpions, etc. We occasionally stop for photos or to marvel at the landscape. These dunes rise nearly 100 feet from the Mesquite Flat and are in a constant state of change due to the winds. It appears wind is the norm in this part of the park.
The winds continue to blow and Al and I are covered in a fine layer of dirt and sand. We return to the RV for dinner in hopes of enjoying another gorgeous sunset. We were sorely disappointed with the sunset in this location. However, the night sky and the crescent moon made up for any lack in sunset color. If we had it to do over, we probably would have stayed at the Sunset Campground and just driven to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for the day.
Although I feel we barely touched the surface of this awe-inspiring terrain, the constant extreme wind was irritating, and we decided to leave the next day with the promise of returning to Death Valley another time.
Throughout our entire Death Valley explorations, we were intrigued by the landscape and felt like we had stepped back in time … Jurassic time. With each bend in the road, it would not have surprised us to have encountered a dinosaur or perhaps see a pterodactyl fly overhead. Or perhaps it wasn’t another realm but rather another planet. Regardless, we were awed, mesmerized, and perplexed by the incredible landscape. We left with the realization that another visit to Death Valley National Park would be warranted. Four days and three nights were definitely not enough time to explore this expansive and special land.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table gazing out the window and beyond the deck. In the far distance Pikes Peak is covered in a low shroud of gray cloud cover. The chill in the air serves as another reminder that more snow is on the way. I’m feeling down! Even the dog seems depressed.
November 2011 – “Okay, time to snap out of it, Ingrid”, I mutter to myself. I allow my fingers to quickly move over the keyboard on my laptop. I Google everything I can think of with those two letters; R V. I come across some interesting articles and dive a little deeper. Blogs? Hmm, I think I heard that word once before on one of Paula Deen’s cooking shows on the Food Network. She had a guest on her show who wrote a very popular cooking blog called the Pioneer Woman. Prior to that, I’m not sure I’d ever heard the term before, and I still wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
For years I was so busy working, being a wife, mother, and business owner that I rarely had enough time for myself let alone have the ability to just linger on the internet. But that all changed with the Great Recession, a poor housing economy, and an empty nest. I now found myself with more time on my hands than ever before. Time to daydream about RV travels. I gobbled up as much information as I could find and began reading RVing blogs, blogs all about RV travel.
I was green with envy as I read travel tale after travel tale accompanied by beautiful photographs. I wanted in. I wanted to be a part of the RV lifestyle. My poor RV had been sitting on the side of our house neglected for almost a year. It’s as if I could feel my mom’s presence as she stood over me saying, “What are you waiting for? If that’s what you want, go for it”.
There were many times in my life where I wished I had listened to my mom more often, and now that she was no longer physically here, I thought it would be a great idea to at least listen to her spirit or those voices in my head. Before long, I was studying Google Maps. I had to keep winter weather and winter driving conditions in mind while planning a trip.
The makings of a plan
Where to go? I knew I wanted to go west and include a visit with our son in Phoenix. As I scour the map, two words jump out at me like a red beacon; Death Valley. Oh my gosh! I have wanted to visit Death Valley National Park for as long as I can remember. It sounds so foreboding, so mysterious, and fits my current gloomy mood.
I run the RV trip idea past Al. In September, just two months earlier, Al found himself flying back to Illinois to attend his mother’s funeral. He wasn’t in any better of a mood than I was and was rather indifferent to a getaway. Basically, his response was, “Go ahead and plan a trip and just let me know what direction I need to point the RV and when. AND don’t get us into a pickle, a situation that may damage the RV”.
Alrighty then! Let the planning commence. Oh, and I think I’ll start my own blog in the process. The blog will serve as my personal journal documenting this trip.
It was now January 2012. With holiday decorations packed away after enjoying a very low key Christmas holiday with both children joining us in our new house in Pueblo West, it was finally time to set a timeline for that RV getaway. We were in the thick of winter weather in Colorado, and we’d have to plan our drive strategically to avoid icy roads. The previous winter, we had spun out in my little red Toyota Tacoma on some black ice near Trinidad, Colorado, and we certainly didn’t want to experience anything similar with the RV in tow.
After a few false starts due to snowstorms, we finally had a big enough break in the weather and were on the road in mid-February 2012. Two days later we arrived in Phoenix, and once again, we stayed at the Desert’s Edge RV Park on the north side of the valley for a couple of nights so we could get in a quick visit with our son.
Next stop, Lake Havasu City
We were traveling in footloose and fancy-free fashion with no reservations, no real timeline, or a definite destination in mind other than Death Valley. We meandered along our route taking in the new sights and pulling over whenever we felt like it. Eventually, we arrived in Lake Havasu City and drove around looking for a camping option. The state park was full. The first private RV park we pulled into was also full. After a little more driving around, we pulled into the Crazy Horse Campground which was also booked up, but they had a large parcel of land outside of the RV Park where they allowed RVers to boondock for a fee which included the use of the restrooms/bath house located within the RV park.
We were fortunate the campground was booked. The RV spots in the campground were tight and RVs were packed in like sardines. There was hardly enough elbow room between units. This was not what this newbie RVer had in mind when we set out on this journey. It’s all about being in nature for me and having a view out my window.
I loved our view and distance away from other RVers on this dirt parcel of land. This overflow lot overlooks the lake and there’s plenty of room for everyone. We even had a fire ring for real campfires of which we took full advantage.
We loved staying at the overflow lot at the Crazy Horse Campground. It is located on an island, thus requiring us to cross the London Bridge for access. It is within walking distance of the bridge, shops, restaurants, and lakeshore. The shoreline offers a lovely park setting with walking trails, a dog park, a marina, beaches, playgrounds, and picnic areas. We took full advantage of this location and explored via foot every day.
Unbeknownst to us, we happened to pick the busiest and most popular weekend out of the year to visit Lake Havasu. The annual Winterfest is held every President’s Day Weekend in February. It’s a weekend filled with festivals, a car show, Rockabilly Concert, and Winter Blast. Winter Blast is a fireworks extravaganza. Spectacular fireworks are displayed by firework professionals who are testing the latest advances in the industry, culminating in a huge pyrotechnic show in the evenings.
Lake Havasu City was developed by Robert McCulloch in 1963 on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu. He later purchased the London Bridge, which was dismantled brick by brick and numbered and then shipped to Lake Havasu City from England. It was reassembled and completed in 1971 and connects the island to the mainland and serves as a popular tourist attraction.
Interesting tidbit: After Robert McCulloch developed Lake Havasu City, he went on to develop Fountain Hills (1970), just east of Phoenix, as well as Pueblo West, Colorado (1969) – our home town from 2000-2013. All three communities were designed in a similar fashion and share many of the same street names.
Lake Havasu City is a playground mecca for adults. The large lake offers visitors a host of water activities, and the land offers an endless amount of trails for off-roading and hiking. If you don’t have your own toys, there are dozens of places to rent the toy of choice; boats, wave runners, kayaks, ATVs, and more.
One unique and rather popular hobby around here is power gliding. At our campsite, we were buzzed regularly by what I liked to call flying lawnmowers. Al was totally infatuated by the sight and ready to return to the skies. My initial thoughts were I don’t think so! Although Al does not miss his commercial aviation days, he does occasionally miss those daring Naval aviation missions overseas. I left Al to his thoughts while he builds us another campfire and contemplates going up in a power glider.
Al and I did our best to explore as much as possible during our five-day stay in Lake Havasu City. We also befriended fellow campers/neighbors who had been visiting the area regularly over the years. These seasoned RVers were a wealth of information, and we gobbled up as much info as they were willing to share.
Funny campfire story!
One evening, our group of befriended neighbors were away attending the pyrotechnics show at Sara Park. They had invited us to join them, but we opted to avoid the big crowds by staying home and enjoying a quiet evening around the campfire. As we were doing just that, we noticed a man walking around in the dark, sometimes in circles. He seemed lost in his thoughts. We invited him over to our campfire.
We asked him if he was okay? “Not really”, he responded. As he continued to sip on his beer, he hesitantly began telling us his situation. His girlfriend was back at the RV having a heated phone conversation with his wife who was currently living with the girlfriend’s husband. Say what? I guess these two couples met years ago while boondocking at the magic circle in Quartzsite. The magic circle is just a small section of land in an otherwise massively large parcel of property managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM – Federal Government) located in Quartzsite, Arizona, and is a clothing-optional area.
Every winter, Quartzsite is inundated with thousands of RVers boondocking in this large sparsely vegetated desert. Many folks return year after year rendezvousing with friends and other like-minded RVers. Such was the case with these two couples, and as their friendship grew, they began swapping spouses. Once it was time to move on, each normally left with their legal spouses, but not after this most recent Quartzsite visit. The couples agreed to leave with the others’ spouses and reunite a few weeks later. But when a few weeks later rolled around, both women wanted to stay with the same guy, leaving our campfire friend feeling at a loss. He wanted his wife back, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to return. Thus, his conundrum.
The next day, our campfire acquaintance and his girlfriend packed up and pulled out of camp leaving Al and me wondering what the outcome would be. Would they return to the magic circle and reunite with their fellow nudists? Would any of them remain married? We are left to our own imaginations.
A couple of days later, it was our turn to leave. We had new territory to explore. We left Lake Havasu a little wiser and definitely more enlightened. There were a lot of facets to this new RV life that we never imagined.
Are you new to blogging or do you consider yourself a seasoned blogger? No doubt, I fall into the latter group. I started this little blog of mine nine years ago – January 2012. On one hand, it seems like just yesterday and on the other hand, it feels like a lifetime ago. Time can be strange!
We all have our own individual reasons for starting a blog. Mine started out strictly for personal reasons as a means of documenting our travels and keeping family and friends up to date on all our new happenings. What transpired was the building of a community and a group of new friends. Friendships were forged and physical meetups were arranged.
Many of my original blogging friends have since sold their RV’s and found new places to settle and call home. Most have stopped blogging altogether. Some connections were strong enough that our friendship continues to this day while others have moved on. Life continues as new chapters are started, and as I reflect on the past nine years, I cherish the friendships and memories created.
How to preserve those memories?
What will happen to all our blog posts … our tales … our stories when we decide to deactivate our accounts? Say it isn’t so! No, I don’t plan on shutting down my site anytime soon. I still plan on being around here for a while and I hope you will be as well. I truly appreciate you stopping by, reading, liking, and leaving comments, and for that, I thank you. I love this blogging community and every time I take a break, I miss it … I miss you.
I know there will come a time when I will deactivate this account, but not before I find a way to preserve some of these memories and tales documented here on my blog. This has been my online journal, and I’d sure like to preserve it in some structured way. Thus, the idea of a “blog to book”. What a great concept. The first time I heard about this possibility was several years ago, and since then, there are now numerous platforms to choose from to do just that … turn my blog posts into physical books … books that are intended for my purposes only.
Cringe worthy writing!
I love the idea of creating a hard copy of select blog posts that I’ve written. BUT have you ever gone back and reread some of your original posts? Eek! I don’t know about you, but mine make me cringe. I mean, I literally want to hang my head in my hands in an embarrassing kind of cringe. However, if I look on the bright side, over the years my writing and my photographs have improved… at least I hope. I guess that would be known as progress. I’ll take it!
As much as my early posts make me cringe, I’m still very glad I jumped in and just wrote. My original intent, which continues to this day, is to write as I speak … minus my Chicago accent.😆 I want my blog posts to sound as if you and I are having a cup of coffee, or happy hour cocktail, together. My goal has always been to sound casual and inviting but without grammatical mistakes. Thank goodness for Grammarly. Where were you when I started this blog?
With that said, I’m not comfortable archiving many of my posts into a book format. Ah, what’s a gal to do?
Since Al and I aren’t traveling like we used to and with this virus still hanging around, I find myself at a loss of blog material, a loss of inspiration, and at a loss of what to write about. Thus, I have decided to repurpose AND rewrite older blog posts, posts about our earlier travels with the RV. I also plan to add some new content to these tales … personal content and memories that I’d like to pass down to the next generation. After all, the whole point of turning my blog posts into a book is for the preservation of our travel memories … our life in an RV.
Hopefully, my images and writing will be somewhat less cringe-worthy and acceptable … acceptable to the level that I’ll feel comfortable turning those pages into a physical book; a book that will only be found on my shelf. Notice, I didn’t use the word professional. Yeah, I’m a realist and have no inclination to try and write professionally. Even my rewrites will still contain enough faux pas for an English teacher to have plenty to redline, and I’m ok with that.
So that’s my blog writing plan for the new year … to take you back in time and relive some of our travel tales and adventures. I hope you’ll stick around as I go down memory lane.
We all have a story to share, and as bloggers, we love sharing our stories. Some of us tend to lean toward visual inspiration and share our tales via photographs while others are gifted with words and the ability to write. But when photographs and words come together, it’s pure magic. Well, in my book anyway!
Think about it … many of us have a favorite children’s book that is filled with a combination of images and words. I still have a few of those books from my childhood tucked away in storage. And then there’s my collection of cookbooks. I love cookbooks but rarely buy one without a healthy dose of tantalizing food photos to accompany the recipes. But my favorite is a beautiful coffee table book filled with stunning photography taking me on a visual adventure.
Storytelling with photographs is all about the images with just enough words to enhance the story.
Visual storytelling with photographs
The photographs we share depend largely on how we want to tell the story. As someone who enjoys travel in an RV, the majority of my photographs, and thus my stories, are centered around the places we visit along with my personal experiences and thoughts. There’s an excitement to traveling, to seeing new sights, meeting new people, having new experiences, and capturing those moments and memories is important to me. The ability to share them with you is a bonus! 😁
When I think about my adventures and how I want to preserve a memory and how I might want to share a story, I keep a few thoughts in mind …
5 Elements to help tell a story.
Idea: what, where, when?
Plan: execution, how?
Memory: preservation, what do I want to remember most?
Emotion: feeling, sentiment, how does it make me feel?
Narration: words to complement the images and help deliver the story.
It doesn’t matter what kind of camera we use to capture our story. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite recent fall photographs was taken quickly with my iPhone. Al and I had gone on a scenic drive and stopped to explore a national forest campground on Lake Namekagon in northern Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I was easily distracted by the beautiful autumn colors. While Al strolled back to the truck, I ventured down a trail.
Knowing Al would be waiting for me (patiently) and realizing we still had several more places to visit, I was rushed, but I felt compelled to capture snippets of my experience. Without much thought, I pointed the iPhone … click to the left, click to the right, click up high, click down low, time to go! Regrettably, my Panasonic stayed slung across my body.
Trust your instincts when capturing the moment. Try not to overthink the composition … unless your goal is for professional reasons or a wall hanger, in which case you’ll want to pull out the good camera, tripod, and spend some time composing. But for storytelling, go with your gut and capture what makes you happy at that moment … it’s your story.
Memory / Emotion: The image above evokes a calming joy within me and that’s exactly how I felt strolling through those leaves, and for some reason, those leaves almost looked like rose petals guiding me further into the forest. Whenever I look at this photograph, I’m reminded of the wonderful autumn day that I shared with my husband. I realize the way the image impacts me is unique to me personally.
I’m curious though … how does the image make YOU feel? What does it say to you? Perhaps you don’t even care for the photo, and that’s ok, but the photograph is part of my visual story from that day.
Idea / Plan: The whole reason for us to remain in northern Wisconsin into October was so I could capture autumn foliage. So with that in mind, I set about planning where I wanted to go. For three weeks, starting in mid-September, whenever the weather was agreeable, I was off in search of color.
I was rewarded with stunning colors in all directions. Sometimes I was able to pull off to the side of the road and snap some photos and other times I wasn’t so lucky, in which case I would have to savor those views in my memory. I knew when I planned these photo outings that I’d want to share my tales here on the blog. Therefore, I made mental notes and had an idea of what kind of images I wanted to capture to help tell my story … visual storytelling.
“A picture is worth a thousand words“
Narration: Years ago, long before personal computers, the internet, and digital photography 😵, I was into scrapbooking. I have about three large storage containers filled with photo albums. I treasure those albums, but when I recently started flipping through one, I noticed the lack of narration. Writing has never come easy to me and that was more apparent than ever when reviewing that photo album.
Oh, how I wish I had shared more information about the photographs, about the events, about the places and people. Even though a picture may be worth a thousand words, adding additional information via words will enhance any story. Besides, there’s a little storytelling in all of us.
Fall is definitely in the air and the trees are popping with more color every day. I’m loving it and have been out exploring at every opportunity. No words are necessary to describe the beauty of autumn found here in northern Wisconsin.
These photos were taken this past week when colors were said to be 30-50%. Every day, more leaves are changing and peak color around here should be the first week in October. Hopefully the weather will cooperate in which case, I’ll be one happy photographer, and if the weather doesn’t agree, I’ll still be a happy camper surrounded by such a beautiful landscape.
Fall colors in northern Wisconsin.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle
“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time.” – Katrina Mayer
“Colors are the smiles of nature.” – Leigh Hunt
“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.” – Claude Monet
Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #116 – Symmetry
I haven’t engaged in a photo challenge in a very long time and I miss participating. So for this week’s challenge, Patti asks us to focus on images that represent symmetry. The above image has that feel of symmetry.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve never done before can be both scary and gratifying. For many of us, this summer has been chock-full of new experiences and that is certainly the case for Al and me. Aside from dealing with a pandemic, he and I have been working on RV repairs, and let me just say, that has been mentally and physically challenging.
RV Tanks – the good, the bad, and the ugly
One of the reasons this summer has been a record-breaker for new folks embracing the RV lifestyle is the ability to vacation while social distancing. Camping looks a whole lot different this summer due to some of the restroom closures at many campgrounds. Thus the banning of tent camping in certain states is just one of several reasons there’s been an increase in people using RVs.
RVs allow the user to stay remotely at a national/state park or in the backcountry totally self-contained. No room service here! Hmm, self-contained? For those of you unfamiliar with RVs, allow me to give you a quick overview regarding RV holding tanks and why the term “self-contained” is used.
Most RVs come equipped with a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower, and toilet. Anytime you use water, that wastewater has to go somewhere. The kitchen, bathroom, and shower wastewater drain into a “grey tank“. The toilet waste drains into a “black tank“. And depending on usage (lots of variables here), most tanks can hold up to a week’s worth of waste at which point a visit to a “dump” facility is necessary. Some RV parks have a sewer/waste connection right at the campsite while others offer a “dump station” that you’ll need to drive to.
The good thing about these RV waste holding tanks, along with an onboard fresh-water holding tank is the ability to be self-contained and vacation distanced away from other people. Therefore, this kind of travel is perfect for social distancing during a pandemic. You sleep in your own bed, use your own towels, and cook your own food. There’s very little interaction necessary with anyone else or anyone else’s germs.
The bad thing is the need to rid (dump) the RV of stinky waste. In reality, it’s not all that bad or difficult especially when you get used to doing this regularly. However, the really ugly thing is when something goes wrong with one of those holding tanks as did with our RV earlier this the summer. Pee-yew! Talk about a stinky mess that’ll stress even the most Zen of people.
The RV repair
Ok, I won’t gross you out with the smell of saturated insulation from a week’s worth of kitchen sink wastewater. Let’s just say, thank goodness a dumpster was nearby when Al and I removed the front half of the RV underbelly covering.
We were really scared and unsure of our abilities to fix the RV ourselves, but we had to figure it out because we were in a part of the country where the nearest RV dealer was a 45-minute drive away and their service department was booked at least two months out. 😕 We had to put our fears aside, pull out the tools, and dig in.
We fixed the leak a little over a month ago but left the belly exposed to make sure everything was in good working order with no potential for a future leak. We tested and retested, and once we were confident in our workmanship, it was time to cover up the exposed belly with new clean material. Easier said than done!
Imagine a large 6 foot by 12 foot area rug that needs to be installed with an exact reveal on all sides. Now imagine that rug to be somewhat ridged and installing it on the ceiling. How do you hold it in place while drilling in the screws? Sure clamps might work … to an extent. Therein lied part of our dilemma. Al struggled with the install. The plastic-like material would slip, sag, and cause the cumbersome sheet of material to repeatedly move which impacted the overall reveal on the metal framework which was totally unacceptable.
This was definitely a two-person job. Ingrid to the rescue! The photo above was taken near completion. I used my feet to smooth out the material while Al installed clamps further down. By me continuing to hold the material up, the clamps did their job and Al was able to do his. Try laying in that position for hours 🥴
Al’s brother-in-law happened to step out of the house when Al and I were in one of our many awkward positions and insisted on snapping some photos. He was duly entertained by our antics but also impressed by how well Al and I worked together.
The underbelly install took us two days to complete. And believe me, these 60 and 70 year old bodies were feeling it! We were hurting all over from all the unusual positions and movements that were required to get the job done. We feel so relieved to have this project behind us. Now if only the body aches would subside.
More RV projects!
Oh and as if my body didn’t hurt enough … I decided to tackle another project which required me to climb on top of the RV and give the old gal (referring to the RV) a good cleaning while Al worked on other honey-do items. My brother-in-law’s ladder wasn’t tall enough for me to reach beyond the name Laredo. So I needed to work from the top down scrubbing off all those wonderfully juicy Midwest bugs. Once she’s washed, she’ll need to be waxed. Are we having fun yet?
Next on our maintenance list is replacing some RV slide-out rubber seals. That Arizona sun can be brutal on our equipment and considering, we spend more than half our year in Arizona, this won’t be the first time that we’ve replaced the rubber seals and doubt it’ll be the last.
Near the end of the year, we’ll celebrate our RV’s tenth birthday. We bought her new and were such RV newbies at the time. Everything about the RV intimidated us and somehow seemed very complex. And here we are, almost ten years later, no longer newbies, considered seasoned RVers, performing all our own maintenance on the old gal. (It’s sad that ten in the RV world is considered old.)
There’s something very gratifying about doing the work ourselves and learning the ins and outs of how the RV operates. Even though we may still have doubts, we’re no longer intimidated or afraid to tackle RV repairs. The three of us (Al, me, and the RV) have grown and aged together, and although the RV will require a few more updates, Al and I feel confident in our abilities to tackle those projects … now if only our bodies would agree. Where’s that bottle of Advil?
“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
I’m deep in thought as I slowly move the paint roller across the wall. I do some of my best thinking while painting. As I tackle this little remodel project, I listen to music from Tom Petty and am put in a reflective mood.
Along with the wheels in my head turning, my body is being physically challenged. Doing anything in an RV tests one’s contortionist skills and I’m certainly testing mine in this 3 foot 4 inch by 2 foot water closet (toilet room). As I bend over the toilet (with the lid down, of course) to paint behind and around the toilet, I brush up against a freshly painted wall with my bare shoulder. Ah, time for a quick break!
I step over to the medicine cabinet mirror to wipe the paint off my shoulder and notice the round faded scar on my upper right arm … a scar from a smallpox vaccination that I received as a child. Hmm, smallpox? Another nasty virus!
A change in travel plans
A virus, a pandemic, a health concern, makes one think and reaccess priorities. Back in January while sitting in Arizona, I was thick in the research phase of our summer excursions. I had all these grandiose RV travel ideas that would begin from our summer home base in northern Wisconsin. These out and back trips would take us into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Minnesota’s Northshore. I love Lake Superior and never get enough time exploring her shoreline. So, I couldn’t wait for summer to roll around and dive back into this beautiful part of the country with camera in hand.
By the time May rolled around, it became obvious that this new Covid-19 virus wasn’t just a normal flu bug, and therefore, it definitely wouldn’t be travel as usual. We had already pushed back our Phoenix departure date a couple of times and eventually started rerouting our journey and timeline to Wisconsin with consideration for restrictions due to the pandemic.
It was time for us to simplify our RV travel plans for the summer. A problem with the RV grey tank while en route to Wisconsin made simplifying those plans easy as well as necessary. Long story short, we fixed our RV ourselves and avoided the need for hunting down an RV repair facility that could get us into the shop in a timely manner … a real problem these days, plus we saved ourselves some serious moola in the process.
The new RV travel plan
Our plan for the summer is not to travel, but to stay put on lakefront private property. Oh darn! Guess that means we’ll need to paddle the canoe more or give the pontoon boat a frequent workout. I believe Al and I are of an age where we don’t feel the necessity to be on the go exploring all the time, and we actually relish the quiet solitude found here in northern Wisconsin.
We’ve lived a blessed life filled with extensive travel and careers we loved. If we don’t make it back to the UP or Northshore this summer, we’re okay with that, and hopefully next summer, things will be back to travel as usual.
Ah, but we haven’t totally hibernated. We’ve taken little jaunts up to Duluth for shopping and hiking, but mostly shopping (Home Depot). Since we’re hanging with family this summer and not moving around, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to freshen up the RV with a little remodeling … hence the painting of the bathroom. I originally wanted to do a major remodel which would include replacing the flooring but nixed that idea once the Midwest summer heat and humidity set-in in full force. I think it might be wise doing most of the projects when we’re back in arid Phoenix. Too much humidity could play havoc on those projects.
In addition to the RV projects, I managed to repair some damage to the pontoon boat bimini. I brought my sewing machine with me to Wisconsin thinking I might crank out some new face masks, which I still might do, but the machine came in quite handy to accomplish repairing a few rips and replacing zippers on the pontoon canvas bimini. Once repaired, it was lake time. Thank goodness for my sewing skills … thanks mom.
Although all the repairs and projects have kept us pretty busy, we’ve still managed to get in plenty of fun-time with Al’s sister and her husband. After all, it’s their property that we’re camped on for the summer.
So what do four baby boomers do when they hang out together in the hinterland? Of course, there’s the boating and splashing in the lake like twelve-year-olds. Then there’s the eating and drinking accompanied by problem-solving conversations and more drinking. Have I told you how my culinary and bartending skills have improved significantly with all the practice I’m getting lately?
When the weather is bad, we’ll watch a movie or sit on the screened-in deck and watch the storm clouds pass … more drinking and world problem-solving ensue. Along with light-hearted jovial tales, we’ll discuss more serious topics which brings me full circle to the beginning of this post about that smallpox vaccine scar on my arm.
While the four of us discuss current affairs, we can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. History seems to be repeating itself in little ways. We come up with a list of events from our past that impacted our lives.
In the ’60s/’70s, the U.S. was involved in the Vietnam War. Today, it’s the Middle East and soldiers are thanked for their service. Back then, those serving in the military were spat on, had raw eggs thrown at them, and were verbally assaulted. Hanoi Jane and folks that protested the war or dodged the draft were forgiven, but Vietnam Vets have never forgotten.
Viruses; I personally had the chickenpox, mumps, and German measles (rubella). In the sixties, polio still existed in the U.S., although rare. I remember a young classmate who wore braces on her legs from having had polio. In the ’80s, we were introduced to HIV and Aids. This was a scary time as there were no meds or treatments for this perplexing virus. The diagnosis was a death sentence and many of us lost at least one friend due to Aids.
In the late ’70s, my high school was evacuated a couple of times due to racial riots. In 1991/92, riots broke out over the treatment of Rodney King.
During my high school years, the war on drugs was in full force. Random school locker searches by teams of law enforcement officers accompanied by drug-sniffing German Shepards took place monthly. And here we are in 2020 and the war on drugs continues.
In the ’70s and ’80s, the airline industry was in turmoil and furloughs were a part of their business model. I predict the airline industry is in for another rough patch and history is on the verge of repeating itself, unfortunately.
How much has really changed over the past sixty years? People are people and you can’t legislate morality or respect. During our happy hour conversations, we share our opinions and potential solutions for the problem … whatever the flavor problem of the evening might be… one of us can usually come up with a fix cause we’re a group of edumacated mature individuals.😆
Now implementing our fix may not be perceived in a favorable light, but hey, it’s only a thought and we’re usually under the influence of spirits while coming up with these ideas.
Since the four of us grew up just west of Chicago, one evening we came up with a solution for the soaring crime and violence in the city … all the southside Grandma’s need to embrace their inner Paul Kersey character and take their communities back from the gangs. Can we get the Hill Street Blues to go along with that plan? Okay, kidding … or am I? Did I mention, we may have watched a couple of Charles Bronson movies during last week’s tornado warning?
Okay maybe some of our solutions are questionable, but perhaps someone like Sigurd Olson was onto something with his profound and thought-provoking words.
Joys come from simple and natural things; mist over meadows, sunlight on leaves, the path of the moon over water. Even rain and wind and stormy clouds bring joy. We humans need wilderness. It is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium … only when one comes to listen, only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard – Sigurd F. Olson, Listening Point
So now ya know what life is like around my neck of the woods. How’s life treating you?
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Photography offers us the chance to be an artist and to witness the world through a lens – creating art through imagery, all while witnessing something unfold right before our eyes. This is why photography is such a worthwhile pursuit that you should seriously consider taking up. However, newbie photographers (me included) may find themselves frustrated at the beginning, as there are some growing pains to endure before getting that perfect shot. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get better relatively quickly:
Do use what you already have
As a beginner, any camera you currently have for photography will suffice, whether that’s your phone or a point and shoot camera, and then you can work up to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. For now, use what you already have to get a good understanding of the different camera settings and practice composing pictures until you can buy that upgraded camera. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, entry-level cameras listed by Tech Radar that you can begin with. The Nikon D3500 and the Canon EOS 90D are a good start, as both are packed with features and are reasonably priced, but there are certainly others to consider.
Don’t go crazy buying equipment
Some beginners make the mistake of going for the most expensive camera, mistakenly believing that the pricier, the better. While others, stock up on pricey equipment, thinking that all that gear will make them a great photographer. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s important to remember, it’s not the gear that makes a great photographer. Rather than focus on stockpiling equipment (some of which you might not even need), devote your energy and budget to learning about photography by attending seminars, taking courses, reading books, and learning from others.
While you don’t need to buy everything professionals have in their kit, accessorizing is still important to make the process much easier. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to begin with, depending on your needs. In fact, the range of photography equipment on Adorama such as tripods, battery packs, and lighting equipment is a testament to just how much equipment is out there to help make the job easier. Whether you’re looking for your camera to last longer by purchasing additional battery packs, or looking to get a steady shot using a tripod, there’s bound to be an accessory to assist you. For beginners, you should start with a lens cleaning kit, a couple of new lenses, spare batteries, a bag to keep your gear organized, and a basic tripod.
Don’t settle for Auto
Photo Pro Magazine state that it can be hard to steer clear of the automatic settings, as it makes capturing photos easy and convenient. However, you should break that habit if you want to become a better photographer as there is a lot to explore beyond the typical settings. At the end of the day, the more you explore your camera’s settings, the better you’ll be at photography and shooting in different scenarios. Not to mention, you may have already invested in a DSLR/Mirrorless, so make the most out of it by testing out new things.
You get better by taking photos of different subjects in diverse scenarios using a multitude of settings. As you practice, keep in mind some guidelines, like the rule of thirds, where you divide a frame into a 3×3 grid and place your subject on any of the four intersections. It’s a purposeful misdirection, as it goes against the eyes’ natural inclination to look directly at something. Nevertheless, it creates a dynamic balance and compels the viewer to look at the entirety of the image. Now, as you practice, it’s important to keep those creative juices flowing, and my ’10 Tips for Finding Inspiration’ post will hopefully help inspire you.
Even walking around with your camera on you at all times will help you to flex those creative muscles.
With the world turned upside down at the moment, many of us are conflicted with a range of emotions. I have friends who are dealing with anxiety and fear while others appear to feel slightly concerned or even indifferent to life’s new reality surrounding us.
We all deal with stresses differently and it doesn’t mean there’s a right way or a wrong way, it’s merely an individual process. I think we can all agree, regardless of how we’re dealing with this new world order created by a pandemic, life is anything but normal lately.
Stay Home, Stay Safe
The majority of people aren’t used to staying at home 24/7 with their partner, children, or by themselves. As social animals, being quarantined is not in our genetic makeup and when the days blend into weeks, many of us are getting a little cross-eyed.
Admittedly, my life isn’t vastly different, but it is different. It’s a little quieter in our RV and around the RV Park. Our days are also a little less hectic without places to visit and a list of things to do.
Although we are tackling a few RV maintenance projects which offer a sense of accomplishment, I actually feel calmer these days looking at a blank calendar, and with all this calm, Al and I have managed to start a new daily routine.
We’re finally exercising every morning … sometimes together and sometimes alone. We still continue to do some work every day on our computers. And we even started a new afternoon tradition … afternoon tea and crumpets.
Even though our tea is very English, I assure you, our crumpets are not, and may take on the look of a good old-fashioned American KitKat candy bar. Perfect crumpet for me! Yep, accepting our new reality hasn’t been all bad around our RV home.
So in short, Al and I are holding up rather well. We have a pantry full of food, a roof over our heads, and a beautiful spot to call ‘home’. Although I may not feel fearful for myself, I do have plenty of concerns and fear for others, but I try not to allow those emotions to rule my day.
Sitting in fear will make you more fearful. Taking small actionable steps can help you cope, overcome, and feel empowered. And when you feel empowered, you can tackle anything!
7 Actionable Tips to deal with fear and anxiety
Be creative. Now’s the time to tap into your creativity and tackle a project you’ve dreamed of doing. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint, write a book, knit, or refinish furniture. Take an online class or watch YouTube videos on “how-to” … whatever it is that interests you, let the creative juices flow. Personally, I’ve been binging on photography tutorials.
Focus on health. Think about proper nourishment and avoid stress eating. Start an at-home exercise regimen. Now more than ever, we need to think about taking control of our health and dealing with any underlying health issues. Perhaps losing weight will assist in improving those issues. Experiment in the kitchen with new recipes and learn to meal prep.
Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water, but when plain water gets boring, brew some tea or coffee. Play around with making your own latte or try replicating that tea you love at the local Chinese restaurant.
Did you know most Chinese restaurants serve a blended tea? Yep, it’s a combination of Oolong Tea and Jasmine Green Tea, and I’ve nailed it – yum! Now if only I could perfect that Orange Chicken entrée
Laugh. Laughter is the best medicine of all. Call a friend, watch a comedian, play with your dog or children, play with your partner and laugh. Laugh about life. Laugh about the craziness of it all. There are plenty of talented YouTubers putting their own humorous spin on this pandemic that can keep you laughing for hours.
Engage in a new activity. When was the last time you had a spare moment for a frivolous activity like doing a jigsaw puzzle? How about family night playing games? How about a virtual happy hour with friends? Now’s a great time to embrace a new form of fun.
Read. Read uplifting, inspirational stories, phrases and quotes. Be inspired to write your own story. Share your favorite story or your writings with others. We could all use a little uplifting inspiration these days.
Get into nature. Go for a stroll. If that’s not currently allowed in your area, then venture into the backyard or onto a deck and breath in some fresh air. Sit outside or near a window and listen to the birds, admire the spring flowers, and feel the breeze.
Slow your breath, calm your mind, and relax. Be okay with doing nothing. Embrace boredom. And when you have nothing left to do, go take a shower. I don’t know about you, but this whole pandemic has messed with my head. I have trouble keeping track of the days. One day blends into another kind of like that movie “Groundhog Day” or perhaps like a GIF … a repetitive reel. So remember to take a shower and change your clothes even if you are working from home.
Don’t allow fear to paralyze you. Take control of your life and have faith.
(Our version of tea and crumpets . This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support )