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.)

Autumnal Ball

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Greens on blue

so fresh so bright

nature’s artful palliate

of false forever promises

while Celestial Queen

reigns on high

warming Mother Earth

with radiant

capricious

smile

 

But She tires with time

(as do we all!)

and

sighing deeply

draping back of graceful hand

photo 2gently on cool forehead

she reclines

ever so slowly

towards the distant promise

of the southern horizon

 

photo 3And the trees

awake

to the task at hand:

weave a plush blanket

for beloved Mother

from their most precious attire

 

photo 4But first!

A celebration!

A bole dance!

 

 

 

 

FullSizeRender-8Perennial pines

work their magic

with ever-busy needles

knitting mossy slippers

for the dancers’

knobby toes

 

Some

come early

standing bright sentinel

photo 4as chill sets in

(Damn you, Celeste!)

and still green sisters

bicker

over wardrobe and jewels

 

 

Others

too tired

to put on the fancy

photo 3go straight to brown

barely mindful of their fall

dreaming private dreams

in breathless silence

too aleuf to care

 

 

All soon joined

by skinny old ladies

scantily clad

in elegant vinery

waltzing in the breeze

photo 1til long gnarled fingers

grasp unadorned

for rings upon rings

they insist

are mislaid

 

 

Finally

subtle

shifts

signal the party’s height

photo 4wild yellows

orange

reds

fairly scream silent farewell

 

 

 

Barely batting a twig

they stretch lithe limbs

lace long fingers

and shed bright gleaves

photo 1spinning slowly

to the soft

forest

floor

 

 

Many bold displays

of slightly wilted

self-made corsages

loosened

by tenuous fingerholds

photo 4with a gentle rustling

dampened to plush silence

as Mother

pulls up

her blanket

 

 

Though bark naked they now stand

proud

tall

weary, too

their hearts remain warm

FullSizeRender-15memories aglow

as embers within

awaiting

their Queen’s

return

The Art of Standing Still

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Well, we’re not exactly standing still, but after zooming through 7,500 miles in three months, it’s pretty close to it!  It has been lovely to slow down and enjoy our old home turf in Virginia.

Tonight my son came to the campground with Dawny and me.  He really likes our little house on wheels, and amazingly, it doesn’t feel cramped with someone else rambling around inside.  He is all set up with his computer, Kindle, and phone on the corner bed in the rear of the house and I am in my usual spot at the dinette.  The TV is on up front, above and between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, providing easy viewing for both of us.

I’ve had a chance to convert the dinette into a bed and try it out, now that we have a guest.  It sleeps quite comfortably.  I am really happy that I got a floor plan that has a permanent bed in it, since I would not enjoy breaking down and setting up a bed on a daily basis.  For the occasional guest, this works great and offers some very handy flexibility.

Dawny is relaxing in her comfy bed behind the passenger seat and across from the dinette, after having announced some critter was apparently rummaging around outside.  She sure takes her job seriously, much to the distress of my ears.  Everyone who knew her before we left has commented on how great she looks.  Not an ounce of fat on her and as strong as steel.  Not bad for a 10+ year old doggie.  Today we had a wonderful walk with an old friend and her sweet, little poodle.  This is actually great progress for Dawny and our goal of socializing her more easily with her fellow canines.  Next time we get together, my friend is upping the ante to two poodles!

The campground is located conveniently close to my son’s neighborhood.  Many nights we just stay parked in front of his house (I checked with the neighbors first), saving some money in campground fees.  I have been welcome to use the shower there, too, which conserves my fresh water supply so I can be lazy and not fill up as often.  I really like being back in the campground tonight, though.  It is lovely, quiet, heavily treed, and has great space for terrific walks.  And it’s extra special tonight since we have special company.

I am learning to drive my house more like a car, putting a lot of local, stop-and-go, heavy-traffic miles on it.  I had been wary of navigating tight-fitting lane changes, as this area (not unlike many others) is notorious for people speeding up to cut you off if you put your blinker on for a lane change.  Amazingly, most people slow down and give me the space to move over.  I suppose they don’t realize I am a weeny, so they are cautious about my girth and heft.  Please don’t laugh, but I had been very nervous about night driving, and in all of those 7,500 miles I had only driven at twilight once.  Now I am (almost) comfortable driving at night!

I will take advantage of the extra time we are here to take care of paperwork, banking, and medical appointments, including taking Dawny back to her old vet.  I am also looking forward to learning how to use the crock pot I bought while visiting my friend in South Dakota (it is bright red!).  I have become way too reliant upon cans, so real food will be a treat.

“Standing still” grants space to ponder, appreciate, absorb, reflect.  Time to dote on loved ones and friends.  Energy to stretch, and to take care of necessary tasks.  Here’s hoping Father Winter takes his sweet time getting here and we can enjoy a long, colorful autumn!

Above All Else

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Wow!  Dawny and I arrived back in the old neighborhood yesterday.  My son still lives in the area, and he is doing great.  He is a caring, responsible, strong, highly creative young man, perfectly able to survive without my daily interfere–errrr… presence!  He’s been awesome about keeping in touch but I can’t describe how wonderful it is to actually see him again and to hug him as he towers over me!

Dawny was thrilled when she saw “her boy” and insisted on full-mouth kisses.  She has enjoyed taking walks in the old neighborhood, and I think it is fascinating that she doesn’t give our old house a glance.  She knows where her boy lives now, and heads right up the correct driveway when we are done with the walk.  I had thought that maybe she missed the old place and would be confused being so close to it but not going there, that she would be hauling me up the old driveway to get to that beautiful back yard.  Turns out she has her priorities perfectly straight:  loved ones above all else.

Dawny’s behavior brought back memories of how hard it was to leave that old home of ours, for me at any rate.  I can look back at some of my woe-is-me blog posts from June, and I feel at peace.  Yes, it was a very real challenge to downsize to such an extent and to make such a drastic change.  To leave my son, surrounded by a support system, but  otherwise on his own as he navigates life as a young adult.  To leave my own support system and pursue a dream, with all of its attendant unknowns.  Yes, Dawny, loved ones above all else.  No matter where we are, those are the ties that remain strong–invisible, intangible, steely strong.

We will be enjoying ourselves amongst family and friends until the cold weather chases us South.  I am hoping we get to stay through Thanksgiving, but we shall see.  At this point, I will be grateful for every day we get, every moment with my son, and every visit with dear friends.  And when we eventually hit the road again, all of that love will travel with us, enriching every mile.

We are blessed.

(Photo of Dawny sharing a grassy snack with some local horses at our last stop up in Pennsylvania.  She sure has chilled out!)

Home Sweet Home

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Dawny and I have been visiting my big brother and his family in Pennsylvania.  It’s been fun showing off our little house to them and relaxing over good meals and lovely visits.  Dawny has been treated to some terrific doggie walks and has fallen in love with my brother and his cooking–she got grilled salmon skin one night!

My brother escorted us to Gettysburg one day and we spent hours strolling around the battlefields and perusing monuments.  Long an avid Civil War buff, he provided vivid descriptions of the history, the people, the battles.  We encountered a gentleman on Cemetery Ridge where Pickett’s charge took place who had a small display, including photographs of a reunion on the 50th anniversary of the battle.  In 1913, 60,000 veterans from Gettysburg returned.  Blue and Gray.  Old antagonisms and griefs were buried by their most basic, common bond:  soldiers, brothers, Americans all.

While being welcomed, entertained, and spoiled, I’ve been able to quietly observe and celebrate my brother and sister-in-law’s post-retirement lifestyle.  They are great examples of staying connected, active, and productive.  They travel to interesting places when the mood strikes.  They have two wonderful children, both married, who live close by.  And they are blessed with a grandson that they get to see and enjoy often.  This sweet little charmer even graced me with a little kiss–a special gift that I will be able to pull out of my memory-pocket anytime I need to lift my spirits.

Both my brother and his wife volunteer at a variety of places, using their expertise from their working years, as well as their interests and passions, to make their corner of the world a better place.  Between the two of them, they are helping with pet adoptions, working at a historical library, assisting ill people with paperwork, and serving as a volunteer ombudsman at a group home.  All of this is in addition to taking care of their grandson two days a week.  My sister-in-law has Fridays open, but does she sit back and kick her feet up?  Noooo… she is trying to find another volunteer opportunity to fill that day.

This is a wonderful time for my brother and sister-in-law, and I hope it lasts for many, many years.  That their health stays strong, their family loving and safe, and their home warm and secure.  I hope their children and grandchildren appreciate the solid foundation passed along to them, enriching their own years and families, and that they pass the love along with generosity and grace.

When I first arrived, I was asked a couple of times what my favorite place has been that I have visited so far.  I was at an unexpected loss for an answer.  Don’t get me wrong–I love what I am doing and do not regret my choice of vagabond lifestyle for a moment.  But now, near the end of my visit, I can easily say this has been my favorite spot, where my little house on wheels met my brother’s sticks and bricks.

Home is where the heart is, and as I continue down the road, my home and my heart are warm and full.

(Photo of the fields at Pickett’s charge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.)

Full Circle

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Camping in Ohio today, I feel like I’ve come full circle.  Not a closed circle.  More of a gently spiraling motion.  Let’s just hope the spiral is moving up!

I’ve traveled nearly 7,000 miles since picking up my little house on wheels in Indiana in early July.  Yesterday I looped through Indiana once again, after having wandered through a dozen states in the Midwest, Southwest and far West–Go West, old girl, go West!  And what a difference all those miles of roads, all those curves, mountains, and valleys made in my confidence level!  I now feel secure enough to drive through a major city like Indianapolis, rather than sticking to secondary roads and giving wide berth to major cities like I did when I set out.

The circle touched Ohio today.  This was my first time camping in Ohio since I was in my early 20s, living in Cleveland with my folks.  I remember camping in the Fall one year, and there was only one other group of people in the campground, which was very remote.  I gathered small twigs and scattered them around my tent so that if anyone–human, bear, some other ornery critter–approached in the night I could hear them as the twigs snapped.  My pocket knife was within easy reach as I slept an uneasy sleep–for cutting my way out the other side, not for cutting anyone!  Now I have a locked door between me and the outside, and all the comforts of home inside (including the greatest doggie in the world).

Speaking of my sweet doggie, Dawny, and speaking more specifically of my circle of fears, the first post to this site mentions my fear of dog attacks while we are out walking (“On Bears and Muffins,” June 10, 2014).  One of our greatest challenges has indeed been encountering dogs off-leash around campgrounds.  Often I can spot them, and we change our path to avoid them.  Sometimes they come running towards us and the owners have to call them back.

Last week, however, we were three miles into a lovely walk around a small lake and encountered a HUGE dog coming down a hill towards us, with no owner in site.  I yelled at him and he backed off.  We turned around to retrace our steps and when I looked back, he was coming towards us again.  I yelled.  He left.  When I looked back again, he was practically on top of Dawny.  I already had my hand on my pepper spray canister and I got him right in the face.  He gave me a surprised look and went running back up the hill.  I gave myself a surprised look… sweetened by a feeling of empowerment… ah, the circle is inching up!

Finally the dog’s owners appeared, totally oblivious, including to the stream of pepper gel on their dog’s snout.  When I told them their dog was coming after my dog, the man just laughed it off and said he wouldn’t hurt us.  How would HE know?  HE wasn’t even in earshot.  He reluctantly leashed the dog so we could continue our walk in that direction after they passed.  I did not tell him about the pepper spray figuring that could trigger a case of human aggression.

So, yes, I am still dealing with the same old fears.  I suspect it will take quite a few more loops before I can master any of them…  Dogs, ignorant dog-owners, snakes, spiders, bears…  Heck, today’s news reported a young man died when a black bear mauled him in New Jersey!  A black bear!  New Jersey!!!  It’s one thing to face your fears.  It’s another to have them face you.  Time to upgrade from pepper spray to bear spray!

(Photo dedicated to my dear friend Debra, a gifted florist.  I was blessed to be able to watch her at work during my recent visit.  Now, whenever I see wildflowers and flower gardens on our walks, I think of her, and smile.)