Shelly’s Grandma’s Perfect Turkey and Carol’s Awesome Gravy!

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Once I started hosting some of our family’s Thanksgivings and cooking for each Christmas, I was super lucky to get an awesome recipe for the perfect turkey.  Moist, tasty, and fast-cooking.  It came by way of my sister (thanks!), who got it from her good friend, Shelly, who grew up enjoying her Grandma’s special turkeys.

Although the microwave in my little house also has a convection oven feature, I only know how to hit the “minute plus” button.  Great for leftovers and heating water for tea.  Pretty useless for cooking a holiday bird.

So I may step out of my comfort zone and eat alligator or some other odd thing this year.  Maybe rattlesnake!  (But no, don’t worry, not crane.)  Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to put Shelly’s Grandma’s Perfect Turkey recipe–also known as “a nuked bird”–on record here for posterity’s sake.  A couple of the details I have tweaked over the years, hopefully making it even better.

And what is the perfect turkey without awesome gravy?  Less than perfect, that’s what!  Thus, my gravy tips follow the bird, as any good gravy should.

Shelly’s Grandma’s Perfect Turkey

Mix a cup or so of your favorite flour (I used whole wheat spelt flour) with water until it is about mudslide consistency.  You can simply use a fork to whip it around until there are no lumps and the mixture is smooth and fairly thick (not gloppy, you want it to flow).  Set this aside.

Preheat oven to 475.  The original recipe calls for you to nuke Mr. Bird at 500 degrees, but I was afraid of burning my house down.

While preheating, rinse our fowl friend and remove all those bird-pieces they stick in the poor thing’s cavity.  Rinse them also, so that they can go in the bottom of the pan with the bird.  Even if no one in your household likes to suck on the neck bone or fight over the heart and liver, they will add their goodness to the juices you will later use for the gravy.

Place the dear bird’s body into a large roasting pan–breast side up–and bathe it liberally in oil.  I used olive oil because that’s all that was ever around, but I’m sure your favorite oil will be really good, too.  It’s really nice to have a helper at this point so that you don’t get your raw turkey-laced fingers all over your oil bottle, sink faucets, etc.

Cut a couple of oranges and apples into halves or thirds–no need to peel them, but do remove any seeds you find–and put them into the bird’s cavity.  You want them just small enough to fit in there snugly, but not too small because you want to be able to easily remove them once the bird is done.

Sprinkle some salt over the top of the body and legs, put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan–just enough to cover the bottom of the pan about a half an inch deep–and pop Mr. Bird into the oven once it is fully preheated.  Do not cover him yet.  Set timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove Mr. Bird and liberally smear some butter on that nice hot skin.  Then pour some really good orange juice onto him, spilling a little into the cavity with the fruit.  Sprinkle a little more salt on, as well.  Add a touch more water to the bottom of the pan, to bring the level up to about an inch.

Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to 450 and pop the good fellow back in for another 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, baste with a little more orange juice and add some more water to the bottom of the pan, if needed, so that it remains about an inch deep.

Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to 425 and toss that handsome bird in for another 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, baste our de-feathered fellow with hot juices from the bottom of the pan, then add more water to bring the fluid level up to an inch and a half or so.

Put the cover onto the pan at this point.

Reduce the oven heat to 400 and put the covered bird back in.

The general rule of thumb is to cook him for 10 minutes for each pound of his weight (so, for example, two hours for a 12 pound bird; three hours for an 18 pounder).  This will vary, though, if your oven tends to cook hotter or cooler than expected, so you will need to check up on him now and then.  My oven was on the small side and my birds usually were around 20 pounds so they cooked really fast in there!

After an hour, take Mr. Bird out.  Carefully remove the cover.  Use a turkey baster or ladle and pull the juices from the bottom of the pan and give him a nice hot, soaking bath in them.

And here’s the best part:  Dribble some honey back and forth over the breast and legs–Yum!

Add some more water to the bottom of the pan if it looks like it needs it.  You want the juices down there to be at least a couple of inches deep at this point.

Recover and continue to cook.

Check every 30 to 45 minutes or so.  More frequently when the time nears for His Highness to become His Doneness.  Each time you check him, give him another gentle, hot shower with his pan juices.

Use a meat thermometer and when he is done, remove the cover and put him aside for a few minutes.  Once he is cool enough to safely handle, remove him from the pan and put him into a nice carving dish.

Scoop out those apples and oranges; they have done their job, so you can toss them now.

His Magnificence should rest awhile before being carved, so it’s time to get to work on that gravy!

Carol’s Awesome Gravy

Remember the flour/water mixture you put together before you started messing with that bird?  See if you can find it, and mix in a little more water if you need to, so that it is nice and thick, but thin enough to flow.

Once the bird and bird pieces are out of the pan, carefully (helper, come help here please!) pour some of those sumptuous juices through a large strainer or colander and into a medium sized pot.  You will have way more juices than you will need for the gravy, so once you have the amount you decide you want, put the rest of the juices aside.  You can store them in a container in the back of the refrigerator and in a few days, once you are left with nothing but a smoldering turkey carcass, you can add them to the water you use to boil that carcass down into an incredible turkey soup!  Ah, but I digress.

Bring the strained juices to a boil and slowly add the flour/water mixture, constantly and vigorously stirring as you do so.  Once it reaches the desired consistency, don’t add any more of the mixture.  Just turn down the burner, add salt to taste (maybe even a little pepper), and slowly cook while someone is hopefully carving that bird (and mashing the potatoes!).  Don’t forget to stir frequently.  Just two or three minutes will do the trick, then remove from burner.

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(um… ^ snowflakes)

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace & Love to All

Carol and Dawny

You Go, Girl!

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I am always talking about trying to tame Dawny’s vigorous propensity to bark unnecessarily and inappropriately.  I take all that back (and that’s a mouthful).  Last night her vocal talents really paid off.

It wasn’t a big deal, really, but to me it felt huge.  We were taking our last walk of the evening and it was pitch dark out.  There were a half a dozen or so other campers near our site.  On our way back, someone came towards us, flashlight whipping around, including in our faces.  He followed us to our little house.

Dawny was all right until that point, whereupon she went into 33-pound-black-doggie-imitating-330-pound-black-bear mode.  Barking fiercely and straining at her leash, she put herself between the man and me.  I kept asking him what he wanted and he rambled on about looking for my husband (good luck, there) to help him roll his awning up.  It was disconcerting that he wasn’t backing down from my dog.  I told him to go ask another camper because we could not help him, and bid him good night.  We went inside quickly once he finally started to walk away.

The man seemed either confused or drunk, maybe both.  I don’t think anyone with their wits fully present would continue to come close to a woman alone, in the dark, with her dog straining at the leash and frothing at the mouth.

Dawny got extra cookies last night.  And extra hugs.  I would have let her sleep in my bed with me all night long (instead of just the last hour or two before rising) but I am allergic to dogs, so that’s pushing things a little too far.  I am eternally grateful for my travel buddy, though, and today I am buying her singing lessons.  Loud singing lessons.  You go, girl!

(Picture for this post is of Dawny flying after a tennis ball in our old back yard.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of her.  And, yes, she caught it!)

Capturing Emptiness

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Ichabod Fog and Cotton Puffs

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Driving the back roads to our campground in North Carolina, I was distressed to see white tissue along the side of the road.  Further along, there was more.  How odd that the trash didn’t include cans, or bottles, or newspaper.  It was all white tissue, clumped up as if it had been recently used.  Ick!  Then I opened my eyes wider than their normal, narrow focus (that only sees what it thinks is there before it can even hope to see beyond), and I saw small fields of cotton plants, usually just a patch behind or beside someone’s house.  What cheerful little things they are in early December.  Twisting brown sticks bearing fluffy, white puffs, row upon row, marching to nowhere in particular, until they lose their grip and blow away from home.

FullSizeRender-74Intent upon reaching Florida before the weather got feisty again, we continued on to Santee State Park in South Carolina.  I love it when you pull into a new park and the view knocks your socks off.  The campground is full of trees draped in Spanish moss and overlooks a huge lake.  A line of cyprus trees marches down the middle of the lake, their feet covered by shallow water.

 

FullSizeRender-78The next morning, thick fog blanketed the lake and the campground, creating an eerie silence:  Ichabod fog.  I kept expecting to hear the muffled clomp, clomp, clomp of horse hooves behind us as we wandered down the path.  Finally the fog lifted.  It was late afternoon by then, leaving us just a little more time to explore.

While snapping pictures of a small stand of cyprus–their knobby knees poking up out of the moist soil nearby–it struck me that it sure would be a great spot for an alligator hang-out… maybe over there near that dead turtle….  Hmmm….  I didn’t think alligators lived this far north, though.  On the way back to the campsite, I asked the camp host about that.  Not only are they this far north, they get up to 12 feet long!FullSizeRender-76

The next day, we moseyed on down to Georgia, to Crooked River State Park near the Atlantic coast.  Now this was certainly alligator country!  And snakes… and loads of spiders… and sharks!  What a horrific combination!  I asked about the local wildlife at the ranger station and it turns out that aside from an occasional snake, our biggest worry is armadillo.  And lo and behold, we saw our first armored little critter since setting out last July (not counting all the smushed ones along Texas highways and byways).  Dawny was so excited, and I so relieved.

As we join the growing flock of snowbirds heading to Florida, I vow to try to keep my eyes and my mind open.  To only see, hear, and feel what is truly there.  To try to control my fears a little better than I have been.  To work with facts, and to let that overactive imagination relax, just a tad.  Wish me luck!

(All photos for this post were taken at Santee State Park in South Carolina.)

And We’re Off!

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Yup!  We have had two wonderful months back home with my splendid son and so many beautiful friends, but today we are hitting the road.  Albeit, with mixed feelings.

On our morning walk, the rising sun was exceptionally big and bright and warm.  It whispered promises of Florida sunshine, 60 and 70 degree Winter days, and long beaches beckoning us for our daily walks.  Hmmmm…  nice on the surface, but that means Christmas with no snow… and no family.  Ah, well, tis a challenge to be merry sometimes, but we will cross that rickety old bridge when we get there.

Dawny and I have had a delightful time at this campground for two months (Pohick Bay Regional Park).  I rate our campgrounds on the quality of dog walks, and this one scored a 10, with everything from a network of winding, wooded trails to easy walks on paved roads down to lovely river views.  I’ve tightened my belt one more notch on now-baggy pants that I packed five months ago in the hopes of fitting into them again someday.

We learned that we can easily survive nights in the teens and twenties with our little house’s plumbing system intact.  I cannot risk being caught here in snow and ice for long, though.  Our house could easily transform into an out-of-control boulder on wheels should we be caught driving in those conditions, which would put a real damper on our Winter adventure (I suppose I have grown older and wiser since the times referred to in my last post).

So, the memory of those seven snowflakes I saw falling last week will have to suffice to bring a Christmas smile this year.  Knowledge that my son is growing in so many ways, beyond his six-plus feet, will warm my heart as I forge ahead with my own, new holiday tradition (I hear they sell alligator meat where I am going!).  And we shall hit the road with an eye to new adventures, new vistas, and new friends.

Now, excuse me as I don my rose-colored sunglasses, put Dawny’s comfy new bed into long-road-day position (on the floor between the driver and passenger’s seats), and set off into the wild, sunny yonder.

(Picture of Dawny delighting in a romp on Pohick Bay Regional Park’s beach.  That is ice on the fringe of the water behind her and she is telling me that she don’t need no stupid sweater!–her words exactly.)

The Fundamentals

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Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who either knowingly or accidentally stumbles across today’s post!  I hope your list of things and people (perhaps that should be reversed) for which you are thankful is as long as a Summer day spent floating down a gentle river in a canoe, fingers draped over the side, making lazy swirls, as little fishies tickle your fingertips, and you sip your favorite brew, while your beloved gives you a foot massage and … well… I hope it is at least as long as this silly sentence!

One of my most memorable Thanksgivings had one item on my thankful list.  Just one.  I was thankful to be alive.

Time gets muddled with distance, so I’d have to think hard to figure out what year it was.  Suffice it to say that I was young, adventurous, and looking at a wide open horizon of future promise, oblivious to the capriciousness of those wild siblings, Fate, Chance, and Luck.

I had traveled from Florida to Washington, DC, where I met a former boyfriend for a reconciliatory camping trip.  He picked me up in the van he had outfitted for camping–bed in back, small refrigerator and storage along one side opposite the sliding side door.  It was November, and cold, but being good Floridians, we were ignorant of the dicey weather in the higher elevations.  So we merrily headed West towards the Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

Smoke Hole Canyon in West Virginia was one of my favorite spots.  Camping along a lovely river, we had the place practically to ourselves.  We hiked up the mountainside one day to one of the smoke holes scattered through the area, named because of their use by Indians to smoke meats and fish (also reputedly used by moonshiners during the era of Prohibition).  I was amazed to find a rock outside the entrance to the cave that had sea fossils in it, a reminder that hundreds of millions of years ago, this part of the world was ocean floor.

We had enough of ocean floors, though, my friend and I.  The balmy South lay far behind us, and we were eager to climb to great heights and enjoy new vistas.  By Thanksgiving Day, we were camping in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest.  And it was snowing.  A beautiful, gentle, pristine snow that beckoned us to come out and play!

That morning we had the bright idea to drive the van up a nearby mountain, tie a saucer sled to the rear bumper, and take turns towing each other over the snow-covered road.  I suppose those three siblings I mentioned earlier have another, aptly named Sheer Stupidity.

It was my turn to drive.  As I was navigating a downhill curve, I lost control of the van and it slid off the side of the road.  The only thing stopping it from tumbling down a crevice were a few well-placed trees (thank you Master Luck) and the force of my suppressed screams acting as an invisible brake.  My friend rolled off the sled, thankful it hadn’t served as a slingshot, and we got to work trying to back the van onto the road, spinning the wheels until they made the snow nice and icy.

As night began to fall, we set up our small tent, too nervous about sleeping inside the precariously positioned van.  And guess what was on the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner!  Honest to goodness, we just so happened to have a nice can of Chunky Turkey Soup on hand.

We were rescued the next day by the driver of a pickup truck that chanced to be passing our way, probably a hunter diverted from his fun by a couple of crazy, careless, quirky kids.  We had no further adventures to match the likes of that Thanksgiving as we slowly and safely made our way back down to Florida.  The relationship continued along its rocky course, eventually ending in heartbreak.  Again.  Oh, young love.

I think I shall focus on that shortlist this Thanksgiving.  While I am eternally grateful for so much–people and things–it all boils down to a thankfulness for life.  Life granted to us in mysterious measure.  Life hopefully full of love, but always brimming with opportunities to learn, to stretch our limits, and to grow–hopefully wiser!

(Dedicated to the memory of Robert Rice, who passed away a week ago, and his wife Betty.  Bob lived a life full of love, humor, and courage, all of which helped to sustain him through a long illness.  I am glad to have known him and am blessed to continue to have Betty as a friend.  Rest in peace, Bob.)

Balancing on Ice

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Well… no ice yet, but it sure has been cold.  And the forecast is for at least another week of temperatures dipping below freezing at night.  I suppose I should be grateful I haven’t headed south yet because it snowed in Georgia and the Carolinas earlier this month and is snowing in the Texas Panhandle as we speak!

I’ve researched how best to help my little house on wheels and its plumbing system survive the cold, and have learned a lot.  Most of what you find online about RVs and cold involves winterizing the unit, including transfusing antifreeze into its pipes in place of the water I am so fond of using for keeping dishes clean and the toilet flushed.  So I dug a little deeper, including asking questions on RV forums and calling my house’s manufacturer for tips specific to living in a Class C mobile home with its plumbing intact, safe, and usable (as opposed to a towed trailer, which is a different animal entirely, or a large bus-style Class A, which usually is blessed with heated storage bays for all tanks).

I have a nicely built rig with its plumbing lines running above the floor.  If I leave the kitchen and bathroom sink cabinets cracked when the temp drops below freezing, that helps keep those lines safe.  My propane furnace resides under my bed, along with my fresh water tank, so I use the furnace once the thermostat hits the mid-30s.  The furnace has three ducts running along the baseboard from the bed about half-way up the coach on the kitchen side.  An obvious but critical note on using the furnace is to make sure you get your tank filled before it gets too low.  Obsessive as I am, I don’t let it go much below a third.

I could survive just using the propane furnace, but I have more options when I have access to electricity, too, so I am staying at a campground and am hooked up to 30 amp service.  This way I can conserve propane and use the A/C’s heat strip during the warmer part of the day (upper 30s on up).  Why not use the heat strip all of the time?  Because they aren’t very effective once the temp approaches freezing and the heat is blown down from the unit in the ceiling and will not do as good a job as the furnace in reaching all those pipes running along the floor, beneath cabinets, and under the bed.  Plus it is loud and annoying, blowing on my head.

My third heating option is a small oil-filled radiator that I can easily move around.  At this moment, it is next to the dinette, warming my footsies and legs.  At night, I put it towards the front of the cab, warming the air that comes in through the drafty front which, unlike my house portion, does not have double-paned windows or insulation (remember to turn off the cab vent feature once parked, as outside air will leak in through that).  It also helps warm Dawny through the night until I let her join me an hour or two before we rise and shine.  I love the total silence and gentle warmth of the radiator, and it is far enough away from the furnace’s thermostat that it doesn’t prevent that from switching on when needed.

Each unit will have points that are more vulnerable than others to freeze damage.  Here are some of mine:

  • I have been advised to leave my water heater on anytime the temp drops below freezing, as it is very expensive to replace and it’s location is vulnerable to the cold.
  • My outside shower connections are also vulnerable, as they sit behind a flimsy access door with no insulation.  I removed the shower head, shook all the water droplets out of the tube, and stuffed washrags all around the faucets and on the access panel side.  Fortunately, there is a cut-out under the bathroom sink for those pipes that feed the outside shower, so the house heat will reach those pipes if I keep the cabinet door open.
  • My waste tanks are below the floor and vulnerable to the cold, but they have manufacturer-installed heating pads between the tank wall and insulating material.  When it drops below freezing, I just turn on the heat pads.  I understand these may not be real effective in prolonged periods of sub-freezing temps, though, so I also make sure there is some antifreeze in the black and gray tanks.  As they fill during camping, I add more antifreeze.
  • I use a macerator to dump my waste tanks, and any water left in there after dumping can freeze.  When I have finished dumping both tanks, I pour about a quart of antifreeze down the toilet, open the valve for the black tank dump, and run the macerator very briefly to get the antifreeze into its connections.

The balancing act for all of this tiptoes along the power cord.  As I mentioned earlier, I like being hooked up to electricity because of the flexibility it offers.  Without either electrical hookup or running my generator, I cannot even use my A/C heat strip (or the microwave).  Even with electrical hookup, I only have 30 amps to play with.  Running the A/C heat strip or my portable radiator on high each takes 12-14 amps (more when switching on or off).  The water heater takes another 12 amps.  Simple math and the lack of desire to run around in the dark and cold looking for blown fuses dictates that I must be careful to not turn all three on at the same time.

The beauty of the propane furnace is that it only draws 1 to 2 amps to power the blower when it is running, making it ideal to run at night and still be able to have the water heater and tank heating pads on, and even be able to heat a bowl of soup in the microwave (although I would turn the water heater off while using the M/W).

Simply put, when on 30-amp service, never use three high-draw items at the same time, and be very careful when using two.  These include the A/C heat strip, portable heater (when on high), water heater, and microwave.  If I am going to microwave something, I turn off any of the other three items that may be on during that brief time.  If I am using the propane furnace as opposed to the A/C heat strip, I can also use my portable radiator.  At night, though, I turn the radiator to low or medium so that I can also turn on the water heater.

More simply put, dress like an onion, keep your head warm, wear heavy socks and fluffy slippers, and don’t forget to keep your four-legged companions comfy as Father Winter teases us with his not-so winsome ways.

(Dawny feels silly in her sweater, but without it she can’t stay out for nice long walks.  She has decided to bite the biscuit and make the best of it.)

I ROCK!!!

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Dawny’s Journal Entry:

Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh!  I now have two new best friends.  And get this!  They’re poodles!

Mom thinks that I spin the world on my tail now.  Not sure why she was so worried about me and other doggies… except maybe it’s because I was so rough on Buster before he died…  and after.  Disciplining him for peeing on the floor and stuff like that.  I thought I was being helpful.  Honest.

Ah well, that’s behind us now.  Today Mom and her buddy and me and my  two new buddies took a real friendly walk.  No raised hackles on my part.  No nipping at ankles on their parts.  Just enjoying the sights and the smells and the fresh air.  (Don’t tell, but I think I am in love with Xolani.)

After our walk, we all piled into our little house on wheels.  Sixteen feet and not a toe was stepped on.  Cookies all ’round and nothing but a polite “how do ye do?” and “after you, please.”  I’d say that’s mighty civilized, wouldn’t you?

After they left, poor Mom was a bit discouraged as I tried to claw my way out of the window to let a new neighbor’s pit bull know where his property left off and ours started.  Hey, I’m a good girl.  I’m civilized.  And I’m still a dog.  Never forget, I’m still a dog… and proud of it!

(Arabia, Xolani, and Dawny enjoying a beautiful Autumn walk.  Thanks Beverley!)

That’s What Rugs are For

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It’s so easy to sweep things under a rug.  Don’t get me wrong.  I firmly believe in the value of sweeping things out of sight, out of mind.  I am as big a coward as the next guy, avoiding conflict and unpleasant tasks like the plague.  That must explain, at least in part, my propensity for big, pink Pollyanna-style sunglasses.  Just put them on, sweep the nastiness out of sight, and march on.

I could have ignored that water that was slowly dripping into my outside storage bin.  Chalk it up to… whatever.  Put things in there that rarely require me to open it up to retrieve anything.  Ignore the water pump cycling on even when not in use.  Maybe google the issue and look for answers that support my inclination towards inaction.  Unfortunately all I found were dictates to pursue any possible leaks doggedly until plugged!  No rugs allowed!  (They would only get wet and stinky anyhow.)

Life and relationships are full of rugs.  And lots of stuff that needs constant attention.  And some sweeping.

Sometimes things are too overwhelming to face head-on, and covering a problem area with a corner of the rug, at least for a time, is a good idea.  Let the dust settle.  When we have the energy and strength to deal, then yes, grab a mop, a broom, a dustpan and clean up that corner.  Invite a trusted friend over to help, and the task will be greatly eased.

But some things can be too painful to uncover.  Doing so would cloud the air with such toxicity that you might as well roll yourself up in that rug and throw yourself out after breathing that stuff in.  Professional help can be a wonderful thing in these cases.  And, of course, good, trusted friends.

For there is a price to pay for such untidiness.  Leaks, no matter how slow, do not simply resolve themselves and go away.  Water droplets innocently wandering through dark corners can do tremendous damage.  Dirt and grime attracts more of the same.  Fragments waft through our dreams, wander across the barrier into our daily lives, and taint our homes with stink and mold.

It is important not to beat ourselves up for such sloppy shortcomings.  After all, it is part and parcel of that agonizingly beautiful thing called human nature.  We are messy creatures.

Now, please excuse me as I don my rose-colored glasses and call my little house’s manufacturer about my water pump.

(Above post dedicated to precious friends and family who help me keep my rugs kind of clean.)

Don’t Forget to Look Up!

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Figured I’d take a few minutes to add my two cents to the wealth of information, opinions, perspectives, and recommendations out there on traveling solo while living in an RV.  Hopefully it provides a little bit of help to anyone considering this or a similar lifestyle change.

First, solo RV living is one of those situations where being an introvert is an exceptional benefit.  Having time, peace, and quiet to linger around in your own company and knock around in your own head–assuming you like yourself at all–is energizing.  Introverts unite!  Or maybe just form a loose-knit group that occasionally keeps in contact over thousands of miles and many weeks or months.

That said (I really don’t like that phrase, but couldn’t think of anything better to start this sentence), it is AWEsome if you have some kind of four-legged buddy willing to come along for the ride.  I don’t know what I would do without my Dawny.  As much as she challenges me with her inappropriate barking, vigorous shedding, and other such doggie behaviors, her unconditional love and loyalty is irreplaceable.  Plus, she provides excellent cover when I start talking to myself a little too animatedly.  I can quickly look down at her and pretend that was all for her ears.

If you are the opposite of claustrophobic, this may be the life for you.  Do you feel drawn to the tiny-house trend that is valiantly shaking its little sword at the McMansions that continue to creep all over this country?  Then take up that sword and move on in!  It is amazing how much we can do without, and how much we appreciate and use what we have when our pile of stuff is reduced to bare necessities (plus a few pretty keepsakes, knickknacks, and photos to make your cozy abode into home-sweet-home).

To keep your home-sweet-home a pleasant place, it helps to be neat and organized, perhaps to a fault.  I am so organized that I drive people close to me crazy (and sometimes away–thank heavens for introversion).  Everything in its place… now!… otherwise my stress levels start to boil.  Nice thing about my 25 foot long house-on-wheels is I can reach everything in just a few steps so it is easy and fast to keep neat and clean.

Here’s one where I fail miserably:  troubleshooting and dealing with mechanical and maintenance issues.  Handy people (proficient with such mysteries as engines, plumbing, electricity, solar, auto body work, etc.) will enjoy the inevitable challenges that arise from driving their house around, up to 75 miles or more per hour, often over rough roads, for thousands upon thousands of miles…  each one of those miles outside…  through rain, hail, wind, burning sun.  Takes quite a toll!  But even if you are mechanically-challenged, like me, you can still do this.  Persist.  Try not to let fear get in the way.  Make Google your best friend for the day, and tap into some of the RV forums and other resources out there for some terrific insight and great advice.  Discover and delight in the fact that it’s not just old dogs that can learn new tricks!

Most importantly, don’t forget to look up.  We are so programmed to look ahead, scan side-to-side, watch our feet, and check over our shoulders.  Stop.  Take a break, take a breath, and look up.  Often.  I found the stately eagle in the picture for this post by doing just that.  After basking in his magnificence for a good ten minutes, I felt inspired and energized enough to go back to my little house and investigate an annoying little leak.  Even though I haven’t figured it out yet, I will persist!

(Speaking of introverts, I bet you’ve never seen a flock of eagles.)