A Traveling Settler

What is a traveling settler?  Me!  I see it as someone who travels from one location to another, stops in one spot for a few weeks or months–maybe longer–then travels to the next destination, settles for a spell, and moves on again.  If I lived in America a couple of hundred years ago, I would have had a horse, a teepee, and a feather in my hat.

But this is the 21st century, so my home has an engine and six wheels.  My four legged companion is the best doggie in the world, Dawny Virgil Prewash Sassy Generous . . . (like all good Native Americans, her names carry great significance).  And we are at home whether traveling or settled.

We have logged 30 thousand miles in our two and a half years on the road.  That’s not really all that much, if you think about it.  The first 10 thousand miles were clocked during our first six months, traveling from Indiana to Texas to Nevada, then all the way east to Virginia by way of South Dakota, Ohio, and other northern states, finally swinging down to Florida where we stayed at our winter campground for a three-month stretch.

That is when I realized that, at the rate we were going, we could wear out our sweet little house-on-wheels in under ten years.  It was time to slow down.  And it was past time to make a budget and stick to it.  (If interested, you can see more on budgeting in my November 16, 2015 post, “Budgeting for Fun.”)

The greatest assist to both the budget and the slower pace has been workamping.  That is where you get a free campsite in exchange for hours worked at the campground.  In 2015 I workamped three jobs over five months.  Last year, it was three jobs over seven months.  The savings while workamping has been terrific.  Not only is there no camping fee, I save money on gas since I am only taking the house/wheels out once or twice a week to do errands or for local sightseeing trips (I don’t tow a horse so the whole house goes with us).

The beauty of staying in one place for a while is the opportunity it grants to connect with other travelers, to get acquainted with local neighbors and local culture, and to grow some lasting friendships.  Heck, one of my jobs is close to where I lived for 30 years and I get to see many old friends and family.  That is a sweet, sweet time.

Dawny likes our settled-in times very much, especially at our winter camping grounds in Florida and Texas.  She is a master of making friends-for-cookies.  Fellow campers and workers at both of these campgrounds are perfectly willing to spoil her.  As we speak, she is totally smitten with Mr. Mike and Uncle Joe.  Both express their adoration of her by showering her with cookies and love.  Perhaps that has contributed to her being less apt to go on the warpath when we come upon other doggies lately.  The girl is mellowing.

Traveling between jobs or on the way to where we will sit for the winter is our “vacation” time.  That is when I get to map out different routes (yay! maps!), explore fresh countryside, and visit new campgrounds, usually staying just a night or two at each one. If we aren’t pressed for time, we may spend quite a few days at one that is especially nice.  This is also a great way to scope out places for future workamping jobs.

Every traveler has their own rhythm.  This is simply the pace and style that suits me and my girl, our situation and our needs.  Many wanderers retain a home base with a solid house on it, venturing out when the season becomes harsh and returning when the weather welcomes (picture the classic snowbird).  The most hardy souls aim for wide open lands out west where they can boon-dock for days or weeks at a time, their nearest neighbors nowhere in sight.

When I lived in my home that was unequivocally planted in one spot, I loved it.  I loved being so firmly settled.  It felt safe.  Secure.  To an extent, it was also isolating, but that was by my own choice.  It sometimes surprises me that I feel so secure in this nomadic, freewheeling lifestyle.  Sure, our home moves around an awful lot but, with our workamping jobs and winter campgrounds, we also spend plenty of time settled.

I think what I love the most is that our world, our home, our level of comfort (and confidence) has expanded.  Dawny and I are both more relaxed.  Leaving our insular, brick-walled bubble behind, we struck out into the wilds.  Along the way, we have been gathering blessings like precious, smooth-faced stones, with the face of a new friend etched upon each one.  Our tribe has grown.

Wicked

Texas weather sure can be wicked.  Dawny and I awoke to near constant thunder and lightning coming our way early this morning.  My iPhone sounded a warning about an approaching line of severe storms, complete with loads of lightning, heavy rains, and possible heavy winds and hail.  Opening up the Storm app, I felt somewhat reassured as the tornado watch was to the east of us.

Before the sky started to toss giant buckets of rain on our heads, I disconnected our shore power at the box and threw a couple of towels on the windshield to maybe-possibly-hopefully help against hail.  I didn’t even need my flashlight as the nearly constant lightning strikes provided more than enough light, thank you very much.  I have a built-in surge protector that protects my rig’s electronics in case of a power surge coming through the electric box, but I prefer to disconnect when there is lightning.  Gotta protect my surge protector, ya know.

I fed Dawny and settled down with a bowl of cereal in front of local TV news to catch up on their take on the weather.  It looked like we would have just enough time for a good dog walk after the first line of storms swept through and another, angrier line marched in.

* * *

It’s times like this that I really appreciate the self-sufficiency offered by RV living.  After disconnecting from the campground’s electrical system, I still have power.  Two “house” batteries power my lights and ceiling vent fans.  An inverter converts that 12-volt battery power into 110-volts so that I can also use the TV and a couple of electrical outlets connected to the inverter.  My stovetop is propane and the refrigerator and water heater can be switched to operate on propane (although it is prudent to turn the propane tank off in cases of severe weather).

If there is a power outage and I have to rely on the house batteries for a while, then when they get low, I can fire up my onboard generator to recharge them.  The microwave draws too much power for the house batteries, but I can use it when the generator is on (same with the air conditioning and A/C heat strip).  The generator operates off of gas from the gas tank as long as it is at least 1/4 full.  This is one reason why I like to fill up before I drop much below half a tank of gas and I try never to let the propane get too low, either.

Excuse me while I take Dawny on her morning constitutional before the next batch of storms rolls through.

* * *

Back from our dog walk and listening to distant thunder from the next line of storms, I check my Storm app.  It shows a cell with a “tornadic signature” heading in our direction.  In case of tornado, the laundry rooms are the storm shelters for this campground.  Given Dawny’s disdain (to put it mildly) of other dogs, I would not be able to bring her with me in case there was another dog in there.  So I have made plans to “shelter in place” in the RV.  I would put our pillows and blankets under the dinette table then plop the mattress on top of the table and benches.  Hopefully we never need that, but it’s good to have a plan.  After all, this is Texas.

* * *

The storms are passing.  The TV newscasters babble on about sports, shopping, and movies . . . weight loss, local murders, and promises of a sunny afternoon. As usual, I find them annoying.  But comforting, too.  Life goes on.  Or not.  As for me and my doggy, I think it is time to snuggle up for a nap in the comfort of our little home.

One Insomniac’s Good Fortune

Boy, am I lucky!  It was a bad night for sleep last night.  I finally surrendered to the insomnia, made a cup of tea, and started channel surfing.  First came a Christmas episode of The Love Boat, which was charming enough when viewed through the early morning groggy haze.

That was followed by the most touching Christmas story I have seen in a very long time.

Twilight Zone’s December 23, 1960 episode, “The Night of the Meek,” is magical.  Beyond magical.  Art Carney does a magnificent job playing Henry Corwin, a down-and-out drunk who gets fired from a seasonal job as a department store Santa when he arrives late and drunk on Christmas Eve.

Henry agonizes over the poverty in his neighborhood.  His heart is pained by children who are likely to get little to nothing on Christmas.  By neighbors just trying to survive.  There are some great lines and great moments.  My favorite is Henry talking to his boss, Mr. Dundee, after getting fired:  “I can either drink or I can weep and drinking is so much more subtle . . .  Just on one Christmas, I’d like to see the meek inherit the earth.  And that’s why I drink, Mr. Dundee, and that’s why I weep.”

I don’t want to spoil the story for any who would like to see it, so I won’t describe much more, except to say that watching Henry made me feel like the Grinch (my first reaction was Sheesh, this is cheesy) . . .  My heart grew three sizes by the end of the story.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find a free video of this on YouTube.  I found the 1985 remake of it on YouTube (starring Richard Mulligan), which I watched to compare the two.  It’s OK, but it does not possess the magic of the original.  If you have Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix you can likely find it.  Just be sure to get the 1960 original and don’t settle for the remake.  It will be worth the effort.

I will take the liberty of closing with words from the immortal Rod Serling:  “There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas, and there’s a special power reserved for little people.  In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.  And a Merry Christmas to each and all.”