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 close to 6,000 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 face them in the flesh.  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.)

Dawny Has a Say


Sheesh!  Hard to get a word in edgewise with this one.  Well, she does do all the driving.  And shopping.  And cooking.  And planning.  I suppose she gets first-dibs on blog posts.

I’m just happy to report we are back on that rolling ribbon known more mundanely as “the road.”  We spent about a week on a farm in southern South Dakota so Mom could visit with her good friend.  I had to sit around in our house an awful lot while Mom was off doing her thing.  I had to remind her that, hey!, I’m still here… we’re in this thing together, right?

I am almost ashamed to say (“almost” being the key word) that I resorted to naughty behavior to try to help light a fire under her and get us moving again.  I am not allowed on her bed until and unless she invites me, usually just for naps and right before we get up in the morning.  Well, I decided that was my new spot and she was forever having to shoo me offa that thing!  Heck, she’d come back to the house and I’d wait til she opened the door and come in before I’d jump down from there with a big, tail-waggin’ grin!  I tried to stick out my tongue but it didn’t translate somehow… she just offered me water.

NOW I’m being good.  We had a short road-day today, but made it to a pretty campground and we are sitting on a pretty hill looking at a pretty lake.  Had a couple of great walks already, and there is a path that goes alllll the way around the lake.  I’m trying to talk Mom into doing the whole loop.  Maybe tomorrow after she gets a good night’s sleep.

All righty folks, dinner is done, dishes are done (now that is somewhere I am a BIG help… my middle name is Prewash), and it is walkaroo time!  Talk to you somewhere down that road again, I hope.  Meanwhile, you be good and I will try to, as well… when it suits me!

Two Suns

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Science fiction tales sometimes have worlds where there are multiple suns or moons.  Very cool.  Imagine my surprise when I looked at this picture I took at sunset in Utah and saw two suns.  Wow!

Now that I have returned from the Wild West (crossing the Missouri River into Central South Dakota), I look back at my time in that other world and am amazed at the contrasts.  Yesterday my house on wheels got a lovely washing as we drove through constant rain, and today I look out my window upon shockingly lush, deep green.  Until then, I don’t think I saw a raindrop since leaving Texas over six weeks ago.

It was so dry near Reno, NV that the “lake” I camped at was a puddle surrounded by parched earth lined with deep, gasping cracks.  Entering Utah via the Great Salt Lake Desert would have been surreal had I not already been acclimated to a drought-starved moonscape–er, landscape.  I must say that I was thankful for the constant signs Utah installed along that glaringly white desert straightaway to remind me that it was best to stay awake if I wanted to arrive alive.  I entertained myself by counting the number of tire tracks that wandered off one side or another–the drivers perhaps seeking a ghostly mirage deep in the salty flats.

Southern Wyoming was a land of pastels and gentle surprise.  Just when I thought I had it figured out, I would round a curve or crest a rise to find the terrain changing from wide and open to rolling hills or sharp peaks.  The one constant was a beautiful, soft, chalk green in everything from the long, blowing grassland to the lichen on rocky outcrops.  Oh, and the signs constantly warning you that when the lights were flashing, the road ahead would be closed.  How does anyone travel through that state from October to May?

Next up–and I do mean UP–the Black Hills of Southwestern South Dakota.  The park office that took my camping fee had a deceased mountain lion perched high on a shelf behind the check-in desk.  He was huge, and fierce, and beautiful.  Apparently, he was also stalking campers in his former life.  Hence, his afterlife was doomed to be spent spooking new campers from his position on the wall.  Despite the beautiful campground, lake, and dog-walks, we only stayed one night at that park.  My nerves couldn’t take any more… always looking up in the trees and over my shoulder!

We crossed through Native American Reservation land on our way to the Missouri River.  The sky began its weeping about half-way through.  Terrain softened, clouds rolled.  Greens and grays soothed the frayed edges of my traveler’s soul as pow-wow music played on the radio.  Beating drums and undulating voices, punctuated by occasional cries, startling shouts, rolling back into the sweet, proud rhythm of a peoples’ soul.  It was beautiful.  Alternately fierce and gentle.  One song was kindly translated, as follows:

I remember all of them times we shared together

We laughed and cried all night long

And I know that I will never forget you

You are a sweet angel to me

(Trying to find name of artist.  Will give credit and provide link, if possible, when she is found.)

(Photo taken at Rockport State Park, Utah.  The second sun–the small one to the left–appears because of the first sun’s reflection on smoke rising from a local landfill.)

You Know You’re in the Wild West . . .

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You know you are in the wild West when you see a sign that says:

Report Shooting From Vehicles

Yup, Dawny and I are back on the road!  We encountered that particular sign in Northern Nevada.  Made both of us chuckle.

Just wanted to do a quick post to give an update on what happened with the RV, in case anyone reading encounters a similar problem.

The electrical gremlins that made the dash indicator lights go on and off like crazy and did all sorts of other stuff turned out to be caused by a faulty Smart Junction Box.  This is apparently a smart new name for a vehicle’s fuse box.

The RV shop that we were towed to at first pulled some of the fuse box wires out but could not figure it out.  Plus they were super busy because the Burning Man Festival was starting soon (crazy annual festival in a Northwestern Nevada desert that draws over 50,000 people, many in RVs).  Apparently everybody’s RV was in this shop for a tune-up or something.  So they passed the baton to Ford.

Problem is the local Ford dealer refuses to work on RV’s, so my poor little house had to be towed 20 miles to a more friendly dealership.  None of the Ford diagnostics showed what was wrong, so they ordered this junction box in the hopes that it would fix the problem, which it did.  Thankfully, all the work was under warranty.

Everyone is likely aware of this tip, but just in case it is helpful to anyone, be sure to check your RV and all it’s systems out as thoroughly as possible before pulling off of a lot where it has been repaired.  Even though my issue turned out to be solely with the Ford fuse box, some of the components from the house side of the RV are connected up there, as well.

Before pulling out of the Ford lot I discovered that the back-up camera was not working.  Traveling alone, this camera is critical when I am trying to back into camping spaces (Dawny is a very unreliable spotter).  A couple of techs messed with the wires and could not figure out what was wrong.  I pointed out a video connection wire that was not connected to anything, but they could not find anywhere to plug it in.  They blamed the problem on the RV shop, saying that they must have pulled that wire out, and sent me back there.

Fortunately, Burning Man was in progress so the RV shop had plenty of time to help me out this time.  The tech there said he did not pull that wire out but he was able to fix it (Ford had connected the wrong video feed).  He had to tape it up, though, to make the connection more solid, since things got messed up a bit with all the fiddling around with the wires.

Another lesson I learned was that with a vehicle like this, which has a separate warranty for the chassis (Ford) and another warranty for the “house,” and yet more warranties for each of the systems in that house (refrigerator, generator, water pump, macerator, water heater, furnace, air conditioner, etc.), you need to be as proactive and knowledgable as possible in making sure the work is being done by the right party.  When I am bored enough, I have been reading through all the documentation on the components and systems that came with the RV.  I sure don’t understand a lot of it, but at least it is starting to give me some familiarity and some of it is gradually sinking in.

I also found it helpful to research similar problems on the web, as that is a rich source of information.  It armed me with proper questions and terminology when talking to repair people.  When having these discussions, it is wise to take notes on who is saying what and when, unless you have a mind like a steel trap–unlike mine, a steel sieve–and understand all this stuff inside-out.

Okay, enough of all that!  Bottom line, we had a nice, long stay at our last stop–two weeks longer than planned–and enjoyed every minute of it.  We are slightly smarter about our little house on wheels than we were a few weeks ago.  And we had a wonderful, long, uneventful drive today through the wild, wild West.

Phoenix Rising


I don’t claim to understand forgiveness.  All I know about it consists of glimmers around the edges of something which, I suspect, is one of the most powerful forces available to our puny little human forms.

If forgiveness took on a physical form that we could see, I imagine the mythological Phoenix, reborn and rising from the ashes of its predecessor would serve quite well.

White-hot anger, scalding pain, burning resentment: these are emotions and feelings most of us have felt to one degree or another just by slogging through our daily lives, dealing with everyone from strangers to family members, year after year.

photo 3Way too often we aim these powerful daggers directly at our own heart, piercing it with self-loathing, insecurity, and gloom.

Whether the root source is self-inflicted or gifted from another, these negative forces can feel like they are burning us up from the inside-out, clawing our heart to shreds.  Indeed, the stress caused by holding onto such anger and resentment can make one quite ill.

So what to do?

Let it burn.

Let it burn itself up.

Self-destruct in its own raging fire.

Until nothing remains but ashes.

photo-39How does one do that?  Perhaps a good start is to simply …

… let…

… it…

… go…

Rise above it.  Let it go.

For the burning flame cannot exist in a vacuum.

It draws its life, its fuel from your very soul.

So let it go.

Rise above the ashes, breathe.

Don’t even glance down.

Look up, look forward.


photo-40Feel a youthful strength return to your wings as you release the burdens of the past.

Delight in the cool, clean air that gives life and lift to your powerful, graceful flight.

Celebrate your freedom, your liberation…  your humanity in its most beautiful form.

(Dedicated to Art, one of my bestest friends and a forgiving ex-husband.)

Happy Birthday…


When I conceptualized and designed this blog earlier this year, I figured it would center largely around reflections on aging in America while toodling around the country in my RV.  Well, I am toodling around the country in my RV (once it is fixed, I will be, at any rate).  I am in America.  And I sure am aging!

I suppose today deserves a little more reflection on aging than I have previously given, since I am now a whole year older than I was yesterday.  At least for me, and I think for many others, the older I get, the more I prefer to just let the whole birthday-thing slide.  I often have to do the math to remember what age I actually am.

The big birthdays are harder to ignore and are usually approached with a measure of dread.  Personally, I have found that the degree of “happy” or “dread” totally depends on how contented I am with my life at the moment.

I remember turning 30 ages ago.  That’s supposed to be a hard birthday.  It was a good one for me, though.  I had recently graduated from college–late bloomer–and was promoted to a professional position in the government agency that had employed me for the previous few years.  I was more or less happily married.  The birthday was easy.  No regrets and a lot to look forward to.

Turning 40 was a breeze.  I was a newish mom–another late bloom–to a wonderful little boy.  I was happily married (different husband than at 30), and we lived in a nice little house of our own.  No regrets and a lot to look forward to.

Hmmm, 50 was a bit difficult, so I won’t talk about that one.  Aw, sheesh, I’m supposed to  be honest here so all right. Recently divorced (oh well, bummer).  Navigating motherhood and a more challenging financial situation.  Watching my Daddy sink further into the quagmire that is Alzheimer’s.  Definite regrets.  Uncertain future.  That was not an easy birthday.

This birthday is not one of those big-O ones, but I am getting close, and I have been feeling my age more with every passing year.  Working with a client a year ago, I stood up from sitting on the floor (I was organizing a bookcase) and my knee popped.  It hurt like the dickens and made walking painful.  An X-ray showed the beginnings of arthritis.  Arthritis!  Eeeeek!  My doctor talked to me about my weight and gave me some simple exercises, which I did faithfully for all of three weeks.  Then I stopped.  Oh, and I had to deal with skin cancer too this past year.  Sort of a scary thing that reminds you of your mortality.

Since my humongous life change–selling my house and becoming a full-time RV’er–things have really started to improve.  All the fresh air and dog walks are melting away the fat that had attached itself to my poor body during those difficult years.  My knee feels great.  The challenge of doing something so new for me, while pursuing a childhood dream reopens my horizons and  I feel like I have a tremendous amount to look forward to again.  I don’t know what it is.  But I am happily looking forward.

My biggest blessing is that I have family and friends to care for and who care for me.  I am watching my son grow into a magnificent young man, doing a better job than I ever did of navigating the complexities of life, love, and assorted relationships.  His father and I have worked past our troubles and pain to become wonderful friends.  My big brother–I love you!–actually takes the time to read my blog.  And so many friends, old and new, gathered over years and over miles, each enriching the tapestry that is my world.

So, yes, it is a good year.  A good birthday.  A sincerely felt “happy” birthday.  And to each visitor to today’s post, here is a piece of triple layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and red hot candies sprinkled on top… and two scoops of chocolate-fudge ice cream!  As for my traveling companion, Dawny–the greatest doggie in the world–she gets a bowl full of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cheese, hamburger, and bacon bits.  :)

A Rough Patch


Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, but I think it would have been nice to have happened when my lovely house-on-wheels wasn’t so brand-spankin’ new.  Less than 4,000 miles on it and the electrical system went haywire this week.  Dashboard indicator lights flashing on and off and the engine would not start.  Headlights and turn signals were on, even though they were turned off.  In fact, if you turned the headlight switch to “on,” they would go off.  Gremlins have invaded my house!

Had a tow truck take it to a local RV repair shop, and the tow truck broke down on the way.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Once we finally got it to the repair shop, they took a look at it and then decided they couldn’t get me out of there fast enough.  Said they were not equipped to deal with the problem.  They actually got it started, but only by disconnecting half of the fuse panel, which meant driving without lights or turn signals.  Tried to talk me into driving it to a Ford dealership to have Ford deal with the problem.  Without turn signals, lights, and who knows what else that had been disconnected.  Hardly legal, and even less wise.

Today my sweet little house is being towed to a Ford dealership about 20 miles south of where I am, who cannot even look at it for a week.  I sure hope the tow-truck doesn’t break down again and that it makes the trip safely.  If I didn’t know that it would do no good, I would worry about it terribly.

So, what are Dawny and I doing without our house?  Well, thankfully this all took place while we were visiting a good friend (actually an ex-husband hahaha).  And thankfully he lives on his own and actually welcomes having company for a stretch of time, even if it’s me!  So I unloaded all of the most critical items from my little house before sending it on its way, entrusting it to Ford’s care.  May that trust be well warranted… and may the work be totally warrantied!

Meanwhile, Dawny is enjoying chasing lizards in a fenced-in back yard.  She still gets lovely morning and evening walks, and she now has an extra person to beg food scraps from.

As for me, I am enjoying showering without striving to do so with under 2.5 gallons of water, having unlimited internet access, and watching lots of movies and sharing much laughter with an old, dear friend.

I suppose for a patch of bad luck, we sure are lucky!

Mountain Dance

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Soft white kisses from above

flirt with the mountain below

sending love letter shadows

to dance down its slopes



But when blue sky is banished

and electric air excites

only then is the mountain tempted

to take up the dance


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For it requires a heavy hand

to stir strong stone

enfolding sharp edges

in shimmering dark skirts



While rumbles from above

awaken a deep ache

the mountain smiles

as clouds swirl


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And when twilight endears

the lovers depart

under the sterling gaze

of a setting star

White Knuckles, Yellow Lines, and Hummingbirds

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As you drive on Alt 89 in Northern Arizona and enter the Kaibab National Forest from the east, you encounter several spots in your steep climb where you are required to make a hairpin turn to the left, while on the right there is… nothing.  No nice, polite shoulder.  No guardrail, neither rickety nor strong.  No slope that can be seen… should you even dare to look.  For all you know, the ground beneath the road under your front right tire was washed away in the last rainstorm and that ancient asphalt just can’t handle it any more.  The nervous weight shooting from you straight out to that wheel is the final straw, and the road crumbles under all that pressure…

These are the kinds of thoughts that careened wildly through my mind as I drove that stretch of road on my way to the campground I would be staying at before venturing onward to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It took every ounce of effort to gulp down frantic bubblings from my stomach and concentrate with everything I had on the double yellow lines in the center of the roadway.  All the while, my peripheral vision kept screaming at me to please close my eyes, as that was the only way to turn it off!

While learning to drive my house on wheels–remember, the house part is wider than the front cab, with four wheels on the rear axle…  if the front wheel didn’t hit that weak spot in the road, my rear one might!  Pardon that interruption.  As I was saying, when learning to drive my house, I picked a spot on my dashboard that lined up perfectly with the yellow lines in the middle of the road to keep me basically centered in my lane.  Over the past month of driving (yay! one month anniversary today!), this technique has served me well.  I suppose the fact that I survived the trip to the campground and then the next day to the Grand Canyon itself (although that road was much better, complete with civilized shoulders and cheerful guardrails) means I must be making progress of some kind.  Both with my driving and my tendency towards irrational fears.

photo 1Ah, yes, the Grand Canyon.  If you ever have a chance to make the trip to see it, please try to do so.  Most people go to the Southern Rim, as it is much closer to Flagstaff and probably an easier trip from Las Vegas, as well (more of the driving is on major roads).  I did not go there this time, so cannot comment… yet!

The North Rim is wonderful.  Leading up to the actual canyon, you drive about 40 miles on a mostly gentle rise through meadowland and stately pine forests sprinkled with elegant birch.  Buffalos graze there.  We only saw cows, but they were cool, too.  Dawny must be really hungry for hamburger after all this time because she practically clawed her way through the window glass when we had to slow for a herd crossing the road.

The North Rim is about 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim, and on a clear day you can see the tallest mountain in Arizona, Humphreys Peak (12,633 feet) far to the south, painting a purplish-blue rise as a gentle backdrop for the sight in front of your eyes, the very bones of Mother Earth.  All shades of red and brown, whites, greens, and grays.  Formation lines traverse the landscape vertically, horizontally, at all sorts of angles, or in places are tamed to rounded, smooth forms.  Sprinkles of green signal that life still clings to those bones, in some places thick enough to provide a warm blanket.  Indeed, the variety of lines, shapes, and colors hint at dynamic movement and life.  It is a place to pause, to wonder, and to give thanks.

photo 5When I returned to the campground, someone had placed a pretty sticker of a hummingbird under the watering can that I had left on my picnic table.  I had met two really nice couples the previous evening.  Perhaps it was one of them, leaving a small kindness behind just for me.  I put that lovely hummingbird on the lower left corner of my windshield, lined up perfectly with the place where the yellow lines meet that sweet-spot on my dashboard as I roll down the road.

Did you know that, as beautiful and magical as the hummingbird is, no state claims it for its state bird?  I like that.  Seems somehow appropriate as I continue my journey, state to state.  Park to park.  Friend to friend.



Every state has some kind of slogan.  I suppose they are a matter of great pride, as well as a source of potential tourist dollars.

  • Virginia is for Lovers, shortened from Virginia is for History Lovers.  That is an excellent edit, probably increasing the target audience at least twenty-fold.
  • Georgia on My Mind, state slogan and the state song.  Brilliant, simply brilliant.
  • Missouri:  Where the Rivers Run.  Now that is romantic.  Paints pictures in the mind of Tom and Becky, Huck and Jim, of riverboats and rafts and slow moving, powerful brown waters.
  • Montana:  Big Sky Country; and Wyoming:  Like No Place on Earth.  Looking forward to those visits!
  • South Dakota:  Great Faces, Great Places.  An appropriate slogan for the home of Mt. Rushmore, as well as one of my very best friends in this whole wide world.
  • New Mexico:  Land of Enchantment.  Ahhh, yes…

Having recently spent almost a week in New Mexico, I’d have to agree.  It is also a land of stark contrast.  The terrain changes as you drive from the East to the West from plains and hills–their golden, green, and reddish hues kissing the blue of the sky and promising a gentle, eternal love–to one with huge, dry, jagged rocks battling the horizon for your attention.  The mountains win, at least for a time, and much of the land turns deep red, spotted with patches of green tenacious enough to persist.

I did not know that New Mexico has a monsoon season.  It does.  And this July was the second highest rainfall in Albuquerque’s history.  Red dirt becomes viscous mud, swallowing everything in its path.  As the earth washes away the skin of the mountains, boulders become increasingly exposed.  In spots, houses and trailers cling to steep mountainsides, under the welcome shade of an outcropping that spitefully awaits the moment it will crush them to oblivion in it’s swan-song plummet to a softer earth.

It is as if the mountains are old men, shrinking and spreading with age, becoming alternately grumpy and benevolent, but ever inching towards death.  Towards the prairie.  Towards that fleeting enchantment of a long-lost, gentle love.

(Photo taken at Bluewater Lake State Park, New Mexico.)