Confessions of the Ridiculous

There is a thread on one of my favorite RV sites (www.rvnetwork.com).  The thread’s title is, “What made you take the leap?”  People shared loads of terrific stories about what motivated them to move into full-time RV life.  If anyone is interested, you can go to the forum and type the thread’s title into the search box to find it.

I was a little too embarrassed to post my answer on that forum, so instead, to celebrate my 2nd anniversary on the road, I am coming clean and posting my answer here.  Ready?

What made me take the leap?  A television commercial!

You may well ask (with a hint of justified judgment in your voice), “You made a humongous, life-changing decision based on a TV commercial???  That’s ridiculous!!!”

Just a little bit.  Of course it was more complicated than that.

Back in the fall and winter of 2013-2014, Consumer Cellular ran a commercial with a retired couple, Connie and Jack, traveling the country in their RV.  Connie and Jack were really annoying.  The RV, on the other hand, was totally appealing.

At that point in my life, I had reached a major crossroad.  That commercial arrived at just the right moment to awaken an old childhood dream, a dream of traveling the country while living in an RV.

Funny thing is, I had spent years and years growing deep roots and settling solidly into my house.  I had every intention of living there until I died.  Heck, I didn’t even like to travel any more.  If I had to drive a fair distance, I found it boring and it was all I could do to stay awake at the wheel.

But my house was falling into disrepair, I could not keep up with the kind of maintenance it needed, and my job/career prospects had eroded to the point where I was having a hard time even getting interviews for the types of jobs I did way back in my early 20’s.  Rejections from the few interviews I got hurt even worse.

My family situation had altered drastically from 20 years previously, when my house had been purchased in far happier times.  There was a tremendous amount of negativity weighing me down, along with many pounds of excess body weight.

Weighed down, worn down…  Something had to change.

What better time for a youthful, hopeful dream to make an appearance, even if it was ushered in by Connie and Jack?

(The photo at the start of this post was taken at the I-68 rest stop in western Maryland when I set out from Virginia two years ago to pick up my RV in Indiana.  It is of a man-made roadcut through Sideling Hill, a geological marvel of exposed strata dating back to when this stretch of the Appalachian Mountains was beachfront property 340 million years ago, lofty mountain heights 240 million years ago, and on along to today’s slowly eroding story.  I hope I’m not eroding too quickly, but I sure can relate to those rocks…  They used to be taller than the Alps!)

I Have a Friend

I have a friend who has a wonderful dream.  He is a sailor from way back, including time as a Seabee.  But a sailor with no boat for many, many years.  Until now.

It’s a beautiful thing when you see someone making their dream come true.  It’s way too easy to slog through each day doing the minimum needed to keep moving forward, or at least to not slip backward.  Even to have a dream in the first place takes a small dose of courage.  To speak of it to others means steeling your heart to potential discouragement and naysayers.  To follow through and put your time and money where your mouth is takes true commitment!

So, my dear friend–who has offered me much encouragement while I have been pursuing my dream–please accept my hearty congratulations.  And some elbow grease when I arrive in Florida this winter.  I can’t promise to sail with you (way too many fears of drowning and/or being attacked by alligators and snakes on the way down!) but I’ll be happy to lend a hand in making her sea worthy, comfy, and clean.

Cheers, Capitan!

Addendum:  In el Capitan’s own words,  “The dreamer is 75 years old, so dreams (and their accomplishments) are ageless.”

So Brave!

I used to be so brave.  Or stupid.  Or young.  Or perhaps all of those things rolled up together, each egging the other on like a group of boisterous teens drag racing at 2:00 a.m. on a school night, oblivious to–or perhaps dismissive of–all potential consequences, near and far.

On our (leisurely) drive to our current campground in Tennessee, I was lucky to get good radio reception for NPR. I love NPR. It makes me so much smarter, at least for awhile, until I forget most of what I’ve heard. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist-researcher-author-mother, was being interviewed about her book on the developing brain (The Teenage Brain).  She was inspired to delve into the subject when her children were teenagers and she desperately wanted some clue as to why they behaved so incredibly, well, stupid sometimes.  It turns out that until you are in your mid-20’s, the brain is simply not all there. Especially the prefrontal cortex, which is the part capable of taming the wild side.

I sure did recognize myself when she talked about teenagers’ high risk-taking and impetuous decision-making tendencies.  In my wild years, I went camping in this general area of Tennessee.  On one hike I climbed to the top of a beautiful waterfall, seeking the promise of an even more beautiful view from on high.  Before the climb, I passed a sign reading “Danger! Do Not Climb Past This Point!”  It went on to say how many people had died so far that year by not heeding its sage advice.  It gave me pause–hmmm, I wonder who the people were behind those numbers–but only a pause.  Upon reaching the summit, I promptly slipped on the mossy rocks and nearly slid off the edge of the falls, straight through that beautiful horizon.  Brave?  Dumb?  Oblivious?  All of the above.

Nearly forty years later, I find myself at this lovely state park a ways east of that waterfall.  Dawny and I are enjoying our walks through the campground and surrounding area, including a gentle stretch of riverfront.  But, as usual, I avoid paths that go through wooded areas.  Dawny tugs at her leash when we come across tempting openings into the woods–I wonder what her prefrontal cortex looks like–but I generally pull her back towards civilization and try to ignore the way she looks at me over her shoulder with distinct disappointment.  I’m just too afraid of bears and snakes and wild pigs and who knows what else coming at us while we are far from any possible help.

The other day, though, our luck and our pace shifted.  We came across a park ranger who was heading into one of the wooded paths to pick up litter and check on things back there, and he let us accompany him.  We walked along a lively creek and came upon a bunch of wild turkeys.  In another part of the park, we followed a ridge trail that wound along high above the river.  In spots, if you were to slip and fall, you would be smashed on the rocks below.  Then drowned.  Then probably eaten by a bear.  I had to be careful not to look too closely over the edge, as it set my stomach churning and my imagination shooting off into dark, illogical corners.

Finding a spot not too close to the edge with a nice break in the trees, I was treated to a breathtaking picture.  Blue-gray mountains in the distance, framed by pouffy white clouds in a crystal blue sky, forest all around, and the churning river below.  What a treat!

Maybe what I used to think of as brave was no more courageous than what I’m doing now, even though I was able to do so much more then.  Now, I practically have to have an escort to stray very far off the same path that, as a youth, I would charge up without a second thought.  Now, I’m much more aware of my own, personal horizon and its steady approach, regardless of which path I happen to be dithering along.

Well, at least I’m out here, following my dream.  It’s a pretty tame dream, and pretty safe.  But its mine, and I love it.  That might be what bravery is now, at this point of life.  My brain is reverting back to some semblance of that teenage condition as my prefrontal cortex surrenders in exhaustion from everything I’ve put it through over the years. It’s throwing up its little brain hands and squeaking in a grand-motherly voice, “Fine!  Take me where you will!  Just don’t speed, eat your vegetables, wear practical shoes . . . .  And please, do enjoy that view.”