Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In Review

Current Location: Fife, WA in an extended stay hotel

It's hard to believe that there are only a couple of hours left in 2010. Over the last few days, I've been trying to find one word that would sum up the year, but I can't seem to find just one. So much happened this year that it almost blows my mind.

2010 started off with us putting our stix n brix on the market. We had high hopes, but realistic expectations. We were wishing for an offer by March, but knew that we may not see an acceptable one until summer.

Before January ended, we also found our dream home on wheels. We hadn't planned on buying anything so soon, but we were offered a deal we couldn't refuse.

If the first 30 days were any indication, we were in for quite a ride in 2010.

The pace picked up ten-fold in February when we accepted an offer on our house. We had 30 days to get really serious about downsizing and packing up our few remaining belongings. The excitement and anticipation kept our adrenaline flowing and somehow we managed to get it all done.

March arrived before we knew it and the real changes were about to begin. We both left our jobs and turned over our house to the new owners in mid-March. We were officially unemployed and homeless. There was no turning back now! We took possession of our new home the last week of March. It still amazes me that all of the pieces fell into place so perfectly.

We spent the first part of April settling into our new home. Even though we downsized a lot, we quickly found out that we still had a ways to go. At the time, it was a bit frustrating and disheartening, but I don't think we've missed one thing that we chose to leave behind. Quite the opposite actually. We continue to find things that we have yet to use and wonder if we still have too much stuff.

April included yet another milestone in this year of transitions. We changed our state of residency and became "paper" Texans. We refer to ourselves as paper Texans because after years of being Colorado residents, neither of us can quite swallow the idea of being a Texan. And since we've spent less than 2 weeks in the state, I'm not sure we really count as real Texans anyway.

From Texas, we headed to California and our first stint as workampers. Once again, our expectations were widly exceeded. We spent the summer loving living in the mountains and working at the campground. It was a nice departure from our years of sitting behind desks.

We hated to see the summer come to an end, not only because we were having so much fun but also because we were undecided about our winter plans. Although we had accepted an offer to spend the early part of the winter in Washington with Tracy's aunt and uncle, we had our concerns about adjusting to the wet climate the Northwest is known for.

The last few months of 2010 have been filled with mixed emotions. We've spent a lot of time reuniting with family and friends. We haven't hit the job hunt as hard as we probably should have, but that will come in January. And then our year ended with a bang, literally!

Wow, what a year it has been! It has been a year of huge changes and tons of personal growth. We've learned so much that that can only be gained through experiences. We've had lots of ups and a few downs, but we wouldn't change a thing. Well, almost nothing (we could have done without the tree through the roof!).

We are quietly ringing in 2011 here in our hotel room, but are really looking forward to the new year and all that is awaiting us. I have no doubt that it will be another year full of education and adventures. Hopefully most will be good, but a few low points are probably to be expected too (but that's what makes the high points so high, right?). We're ready for whatever comes our way!

We wish you all a very happy, healthy, peaceful and fun 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Homeless Again

Current location: Fife, WA at an extended stay hotel

Yesterday morning, we packed up the RV and towed it into the dealer. Although we weren't looking forward to being without our home, it was kind of a relief to drop it off. At least we don't have to worry about any more tree limbs falling! Over the last few days, we cringed everytime there was a breeze. I guess we're a bit paranoid now.

After making all the arrangements with the dealership, we left in search of a hotel. I had scoped several online, but we wanted to check them out in person before reserving anything. We weren't looking for anything fancy, and basic is pretty much what we got. But it is clean, located in a decent part of town and convenient. It is your typical studio efficiency. It has a little kitchen with a full size refrigerator, a stove top, a toaster and a microwave. We won't be cooking any gourmet meals, but it will allow us to eat at "home". The supplies are sparse. They give you just enough for one meal - 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 glasses, 2 sets of cutlery. I guess we'll be washing dishes a lot.

But the one thing we did comment on was how spacious it feels. It's funny how your perspective changes when you're used to living in less than 400 square feet. There is plenty of room for Hunter and his bed. We have more than enough cupboard and closet space. And there is a bathtub. You can bet we'll be taking advantage of that while we're here!

The repairs on the RV should begin today and will take about 2 weeks. That is, of course, based on the preliminary estimate. If they find structural damage once they remove the roof then our stay here will be extended, but we're crossing our fingers that it will all go as expected.

They will be fully replacing the main roof, as well as the slide roof. They offered us the option of replacing only half of the main roof, which would require a seam in the middle. This would be a cheaper and quicker alternative. They were confident that this would be just as good as replacing the full roof, but admitted that anywhere there is a seam there is always a chance for leakage. They also admitted that the "right" way to fix it would be to replace the full roof. Since the insurance company also estimated for a full roof replacement, that is what we agreed to. Now is not the time to take shortcuts, even if it would mean getting back into our home sooner.

So here we sit, homeless again. It dawned on me the other day, that in the approximately 12 weeks since we left our workamping gig, between our trip to Colorado, our trip to Alaska, and now this, we'll have lived outside our home almost as much as we have lived in it. This is definitely not what we expected when we dreamed of fulltiming. I thought the whole point of having a house on wheels was so that you can take it with you! I didn't think we'd ever have to pack a suitcase again.

But life is full of unexpected adventures and I think we've learned pretty well to just go with the flow. In many respects, the timing is as good as it could be. We don't have any firm commitments right now, so we haven't had to rearrange any plans. It's a relatively quiet time at the dealership, so they are able to get the work done quickly. And being in a hotel with unlimited heat is not so bad when the weather forecast is for freezing temperatures and snow! As I've said before, it could be so much worse.

I sure hope 2011 brings us a few less adventures, though. Or at least less of these types of adventures. The way I figure it, we're getting all this stuff out of the way during our first year of fulltiming so that we have nothing but smooth roads ahead!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all
And Happy New Year too
As we all say farewell
To this year almost through

I wish you good health
Happiness and cheer
And all the best things
In the coming new year

I wish peace for the world
And true freedom for all
For the Devil and hate
A final downfall...

I hope those filled with greed
Will find they have enough
That love and friendship
Will replace all that "stuff"

I hope the homeless and hungry
Find relief from their plight
(And we know they would
if we'd all do what's right)

I wish a life for the Children
That will be worth living
Each with loving parents
Who know the art of giving

Colorblind would be fine
And respect for our Brother
An end to those Religions
That believe there is no other

I wish Mankind united
In one common cause
To root out all evil
To make it what was

I hope all who have passed
Find peace in their New World
And that the Stars & Stripes
Will fly proudly, unfurled

I hope we'll care for our Earth
Quit polluting this place
Before it's too late
For the Human Race

So Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night
And during this Season
Let's vow to do right.

~ Del "Abe" Jones

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Well, We Hadn't Planned On A Christmas Tree INSIDE The RV...

Current Location: Auburn, WA

...but apparently some greater power felt that we needed one!

We've been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. I think it's safe to say that we've never been real big on the holidays to begin with and this year, our hearts just aren't in it. But we were trying and on Friday we woke up to blue sky and bright sunshine. What is this? An early Christmas present? We spent the day exploring and elevating our moods. By the time we returned home, we were even talking about doing some decorating. Boy were we fooled. It turns out that it wasn't an early present at was simply the calm before the storm.

Friday evening the winds starting picking up and there were some significant gusts. We found out after the fact that gusts were reported as high as the mid-60's in the region. We're fairly tucked in where we are so while we could hear the wind, we weren't really feeling it. So we weren't overly concerned. I guess we should have been.

We headed to bed around 11pm and were first woken up around midnight with small pine cones pelting the roof. For all you RVers, you know how loud that can be. These are fairly small cones so we didn't think they would be damaging, but boy was it loud. We slept fitfully for the next couple of hours, until we heard a BANG. We both thought, uh oh, and sprang from the bed. Of course, it was 2 am so you couldn't see much outside. I thought that maybe a plastic vent cover or light cover might have been broken, but knew there wasn't much we could do about it in the middle of the night, so we climbed back in bed.

Neither of us really slept and about a half an hour later, we heard a much bigger BANG and we both knew that it wasn't good. Again, we jumped out of bed, while both the animals were running for safety toward the bedroom. I can't publish what came out of our mouths, but I can share a picture of what we saw:

Yep, what you're seeing is a tree branch in our living room!

There was no going back to bed this time. We threw on some clothes and went outside to find a huge tree branch leaning against the side and on top of the RV. Although we knew what we'd find, we climbed up on the roof and sure enough, one of the limbs had broken off and punctured through the roof.
The sound was so loud that it woke Tracy's aunt and uncle up. Once we saw the lights come on, we went over and shared what happened. They graciously agreed to take in two very freaked out animals until we could get a handle on the damage and figure out what we needed to do.

Thankfully, Uncle Jack had some tarps in his garage which we used to patch up the hole. It wasn't raining, but who knew how long that would last and the last thing we needed was to have water damage on top of everything else. Even more thankfully, the wind had died down some, allowing us to be up on the roof without fear for our lives.

Once we finished the patch job, we thought we would lay back down and catch a couple of more hours of sleep. Yeah, right! Not only were we unnerved, but when we entered the RV again, we noticed some additional damage on the living room slide. I guess all of our focus was on the ceiling fan and neither of us had noticed the hole in the slide.

Yep, another limb had come down on the far slide (opposite side from where the other branch fell) and punctured through the roof there. We did remove a large limb from that slide, but neither of us had noticed the hole in the roof!

More expletives. Then it was back up on the roof to survey the additional damage. Sure enough, there's a big hole in the center of the slide roof. By this time, I'm sure you can image that our moods were quite foul. Instead of trying to tarp this one, we decided just to pull in the slide for the night and would deal with it in the daylight.

I'm sure we both felt like just laying down and crying but neither of us did. After getting over the initial shock, I actually think we kept our emotions in check pretty well.

While we were laying in bed waiting for daylight to arrive, I found myself counting my blessings. What could we be thankful for after a night like this? First of all, no one got hurt. It could have been so much worse. Second, our home is still livable, at least for the short-term. We are warm and dry and all of the systems are functioning normally. Third, we have insurance. Although this is our home and one that we love, it ultimately is just a thing and it can be fixed. And lastly (but not least), if this had to happen, we couldn't have hoped for a better place. Although we questioned whether we were at fault for parking under trees and not pulling in our slides during a windstorm, we realize that this could have happened anywhere. And at least here we have a lot of help, moral support and love.

The several days that have passed have been busy with phone calls and sharing of information. So far the insurance company has been very easy to work with and very expedient. For those of you looking for an insurance agent, we used Miller Insurance and received a policy through a subsidiary of Nationwide. Although Miller isn't involved in the claim process, I would hope that they would step up to the plate if we ran into problems with the adjuster. After an initial hiccup in getting assigned to the wrong adjuster, Nationwide has been very responsive and seem to move quickly. Even though we are in the midst of the holiday season, we already have an estimate from the adjuster and an appointment on Monday with the RV dealership. It is the same dealership we used back in October to have some warranty work done, so they are familiar with the rig. They understand that we will be homeless during this time and have promised to expedite the repairs as best they can. So far, it all seems way too easy and I'm a bit leary. But I hope to be able to report back in a couple of weeks that all went smoothly.

So while this disaster did nothing to improve our Christmas spirits, we are extremely thankful for all that we have. And although we gave up on the idea of decorating, I guess we did end up with a Christmas tree in the house after all!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rain Is A Good Thing

Current Location: Auburn, WA

Or so I'm trying to tell myself!

Yep, this is winter in the Northwest. Here's a glimpse of the 5-day forecast. It's not a whole lot different than the past week and the 5 days after this look frighteningly similar.

So instead of feeling glum and frustrated, I'm trying to embrace it. I'm constantly working on being more positive (yeah, I still need a lot of practice!). So in looking at the glass half full, here are a handful of reasons why I love this weather:

1. Rain is necessary...without it there would be no life
2. You can't have a rainbow without the rain
3. Nothing smells fresher than the earth after a rainstorm
4. It provides a good excuse for an afternoon nap
5. It is forcing us to use the gym on a daily basis
6. Comfort food - what better time to enjoy comfort food than when it's cold and wet (another reason the daily gym visits are a must!)
7. It certainly makes the surroundings green and lush
8. We're saving lots of money on sunscreen!
9. I (still) love the sound of raindrops pattering on the roof of the RV
10. We have lots of time to do all of those indoor projects (now we just have to find the motivation!)
11. All of this rain will make us really appreciate the California sunshine this summer
12. If the precipitation is in the form of rain, then it means that it's above freezing.
13. Sooner or later, it has to stop!

Got others to add to the list? Pass them on!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Staying Active

Current Location: Auburn, WA

First off, a big thank you for all of the support and understanding. We are working on figuring things out and already have a couple of prospects. Your response is the main reason that I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts. It helps immensely just to write them out, but it's never easy opening up to the world. So again, thanks for the wonderful responses!

We've actually had a few reasonably nice days. Not bright sunshine, mind you, but we've seen patches of sunshine and blue sky, in between the clouds and drizzle. But hey, I'll take it. Unfortunately, the forecast for the next several days is not so promising. Oh well, gotta enjoy it while we can.

One of our priorities this winter, besides finding jobs, has been staying active. We so enjoyed our summer where we were outside and moving every day. The weather here has made that difficult. We get out for hikes whenever possible, but we know that won't be enough. Hunter still makes us get out, rain or shine, but those walks tend to be rather short. We are really adamant that we aren't going to gain back the weight that we lost this summer. Nor do we want to lose our fitness.

So we decided a gym membership would be a worthwhile investment. It's not in the budget and while we can't really afford to stray from the budget much, we both decided this was a necessity. Not only for our physical well-being, but for our mental state as well. One of the best remedies for depression is activity. And if that means that we need to cut back somewhere else, then that's what we'll do.

We decided that a national chain would be the best choice since we aren't sure where we'll ultimately end up. We really debated on whether we should wait until we get settled, but who knows when, or if, that will be. So we decided we should just bite bullet. I found that 24-hour fitness offered a free 7-day pass, so we started out with that during the week between returning from Colorado and going to Alaska. We went 6 of the 7 days. A good start. And we found that we kind of missed the routine when we were in Alaska.

So upon returning from Alaska, we took the plunge and joined. We've been pretty good about going almost every day. Right now, it's easy since we're not working. It feels really good to move about and get a good sweat rolling down your back (I know, that's not very girl-like). We're not doing any strenuous weight-lifting or body-building, mostly just cardio and some circuit training.

It's nice to have at least one purpose for getting out of bed in the morning. With not having any place to be by any certain time, it's really easy to become lazy. We're trying to force ourselves to get up and be out of the house by 9, but we've not been very successful at that yet. We'll continue to work on that one.

One added advantage to the gym - a hot shower every day that we can stand in as long as we want! Yes, we can take hot showers in our rig, but since we're not hooked up to water, have limited power, and are trying to conserve our propane, we try to be mindful of our water usage, especially hot water. And there have been some days where the promise of a hot shower is our only motivator for going to the gym. Hey whatever it takes, right?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

Current Location: Auburn, WA

Wow! I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted. I took a break from the blogging world, both reading and writing. I didn't really intend to, it just kind of happened. I apologize to all of those who were loyal followers and those that I follow. I can really appreciate those who find things to write on a daily basis. I don't think I'll ever be there. I don't even always boot up the computer every day! In this techno-centric world, I find it nice to be off-line occassionally.

We've been busy traveling, but not RVing. First was our extended visit to Colorado, where we spent over 3 weeks. We returned to Washington for about a week and then were off to Alaska for the Thanksgiving week. That was an unexpected trip which solidified when we were in Colorado. Both trips were joyous, but we really missed our own home and our own routine.

I've been trying to figure out why I haven't been inspired to write. In part, I'm sure, was probably because we weren't living in our RV and we weren't in our own routine. I suspect there's more, but I'm not sure what. The one thing I promised myself when I start blogging was that I wouldn't let it become a chore or an obligation. I would write when I felt like writing. That's easier said than done. I started this blog for myself as a way to capture the feelings I was struggling with. I decided to make it public so that I could share it with close friends and family. I never expected to have so many followers and I certainly never expected to find such a tight-knit blogging community. Now I find myself feeling that I owe it to all of you to keep writing. And I feel a little guilty for not following all of your adventures and tribulations over the past several weeks.

One of my other primary purposes of starting this blog was for a historical reference of our new lifestyle. I don't want to write about what we had for dinner or how much laundry we did. I prefer to write about more introspective stuff, like feelings and emotions. I also tend not to write when I'm down. And although I can't say that I've necessarily been depressed, the last couple of months have been a little unsettling. I guess I'm feeling a little lost with my life at the moment.

I think I've come to realize that planning is essential in my life. I've always been a planner. I like to-do lists. I like to have a road map and to have at least some idea of what's around the next corner. I've found that I prefer to know that we have reservations rather than just roll in someplace and wing it. I'm sure we miss out on some great adventures by not being as spontaneous as we could be, but planning provides a certain comfort for me.

So with that said, I think that's part of where my struggle is coming from. We have a very loose plan for this winter. We knew that when our gig in California ended we would head to the Northwest and spend some time at Tracy's aunt and uncle's in the Seattle-Tacoma area. We also knew that we would have to find work and figured that a large metropolitan area would increase our chances of landing something.

So what's the problem, you may be wondering? Well, I'm not exactly sure. We've been so busy with our recent travels that we haven't had a chance to start our job search. And now that it's time to hunker down and start that exercise in earnest, we're questioning whether we want to stay in the area. The Seattle-Tacoma area is definitely a metropolitan area in all senses - sprawling, tons of people and lots of traffic. Didn't we leave Denver because we wanted out of the city? What are we doing in another large city? Although we haven't done too much exploring, it just doesn't have the "it" factor. I would much prefer a smaller community.

The Northwest climate is also a huge challenge, especially for someone who is used to sun and semi-arid climates. I like to think that we're adaptable and able to handle most anything, but I'm not sure this is the place for me, especially since this is a La Nina year which means that it will be wetter and colder than usual. To make it even more difficult, we're parked in a fairly dense grove of trees so even if there is sun, we won't have any streaming in our windows. In addition, we have limited power and water resources. Our limited power means that we can't run many of our electrical appliances simultaneously without tripping the breaker, which requires us to turn off one to run another. We're adjusting, but it's a pain. We're also unable to stay hooked up to water, which I guess is not that big of a deal since we'd have to unhook when temperatures go below freezing anyway, but it's kind of a hassle to unwind and rewind the hoses every week.

Tracy's aunt and uncle have been very generous and we are extremely grateful for all they have done for us and feel fortunate to be able to spend so much time with them, but I'm just not sure this is what I envisioned when I dreamed of this life. Part of me says to suck it up and just deal with it. It's only for a few months. And without a current income stream, the smart financial decision would be to stay put. But another part of me feels like we should move on and find a better fit. After all, isn't that the beauty of having a house on wheels? We have a few potential areas we'd like to explore more and hopefully the income will follow.

There's another part of me that's struggling with the feeling that we're not taking full advantage of this lifestyle. So many of the blogs I follow talk about all of the travels so many are doing and frankly I'm jealous. It was one thing to be jealous when we were still in a stix n brix, but it's another to actually be living in an RV and still not taking advantage of it. We were stationary all summer and here we are staying put this winter and we'll be stationary again next summer. When does the traveling part come in? I know our traveling will be limited because of work, but if we're not working, why are we sitting still?

So the question is, do we hunker down and try to find jobs here and make the best of it? Or do we postpone looking for jobs until we find somewhere else to live? Or do we look for jobs elsewhere and hope to find a place to live nearby? There are still some workamper opportunities available for the winter, most just working for site. Should we take one of those and hope we can struggle through without an income?

This is what I mean by not having a good plan. Too many decisions and no clue of which way to go!

I'm sure there are some of you wondering if we are having second thoughts about this lifestyle. Wasn't life easier when we had a steady income? In some respects, yes it was, but we have no desire to go back. I believe that this is all part of the learning experience. We know now that we need to have a more difinitive plan and we definitely will in future years. And as far as this year, we'll continue to work on defining and revising our current plan.

No life is without its speed bumps and this is just one of many in ours. We continue pushing through and figure it out somehow, someway. And in the meantime, I'll work on blogging more often.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Current location: visiting Boulder, CO

I haven't felt very inspired to write lately. I don't exactly know why, but in part I think it's because we feel unsettled. I've thought many times about writing, and even started a few, but the right words just weren't coming. And I'm not sure they're here now either, but I feel like I need to post an update. We've accomplished a lot, but yet there's not much exciting going on all at the same time.

Since ending our summer job and leaving North Shore Campground, we had a nice relaxing break in Oregon. From there, we headed up to Tracy's aunt and uncle's in the Seattle-Tacoma area, where we plan to spend the winter, or at least part of it. We spent our first week there getting to know the lay of the land and preparing for our multi-week trip back "home" to Colorado.

That's one word we stumble on a lot...."home". We find ourselves, and most of our friends and family, referring to Colorado as home. But it's not really home anymore. Our rig is our home and the entire country is our home. Yet when people ask us where we're from, we both tend to say Colorado. Our license plates and drivers licenses say Texas, we came to feel that northern California was partly our home, but the fallback is always Colorado. Will it always be or is it just that we're too recently departed from Colorado to completely detach?

Before we could leave for Colorado, however, we had arranged to take our home in for some warranty work. We had compiled a pretty long list of issues over the summer. None are major, most are just minor annoyances, but we wanted to get them fixed before getting parked for the winter. After talking with the dealer, we decided that leaving the rig with them while we're in Colorado would work the best for all parties. But dropping off our home and then driving away felt really weird. We both felt it. That's our whole life that we're leaving behind. Now we truly do feel homeless.

We were excited to get back to Colorado and reunite with friends and family. We did the drive in 2 very long days. We questioned ourselves multiple times about what we were doing. I thought our new lifestyle meant that we didn't have to do these types of marathon drives any more. Really, what was our hurry? It's not like we had to rush back to work or cram in a vacation into a short span of time. I guess, ultimately, it came down to frugality. Since we weren't towing our home, it meant that we had to sleep in hotels. We knew our gas expenses would be high, so I guess we figured we could save a few bucks by limiting ourselves to one overnight stay. I'm not sure it was worth it and we may slow down on our way back.

We've been in Colorado for about a week now. It's been nice reuniting with friends and family. We've been able to spend some quality time with each of our moms and have met up with a few friends. We have many more people to see and are trying to fit as many in as possible. We also squeezed in a quick trip to Nebraska to visit Tracy's son, some of her other relatives, and some close friends. We've crammed in a lot in a week.

Although we're having fun, we've also been feeling a bit discombobulated. We're missing our home. We miss our bed and our pillows. We're missing Jasper (he stayed behind in Washington). I think this trip has taught us yet another lesson - one of the greatest benefits of having a home on wheels is that you can take it with you. Next time, we won't leave ours behind. It's not that we aren't comfortable where we are. We have everything we could ask for. And we are very grateful for it. There's just something comforting about having your own belongings around you and living in your own space.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make. Maybe I'm just rambling. We've expreienced a wide range of emotions over the last few weeks and I suppose we're just trying to find our way. I guess that's just normal life, regardless of what lifestyle you're living.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shocked, Dumbfounded and Speechless

Current location: Boulder, CO

I've been a bit behind on posting, partially because not much was going on. I was going to post an update tonight...but I decided to catch up on the blogs I follow first. One of the first ones I read was Margie's, which was written by their daughter about their unexpected and untimely deaths. I had to read it several times to convince myself that I was really reading the words correctly.

Margie's was one of the first blogs I started following. She was a frequent commenter on my blog. We corresponded a couple of times via private email and although we hadn't met in person, I considered her a friend. We had made tentative plans to meet this winter when she returned to Tumwater, WA, which is not too terribly far from where we will be.

It's moments like these that reinforce our decision to live our life now. None of us know how many more tomorrows we have.

I don't know what else to say...the words are not coming to me right now. Rest in peace, Margie and Bruce.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Got A Little Too Much Color At The Beach

Current Location: South Beach, OR

We've had pretty good weather since we arrived. It takes until about 10am for the fog to burn off and then the sun is out until about 4pm when the fog starts rolling back in. The temperatures have been a little on the cool side, but with the sun it's not too bad.

Our campground, South Beach State Park, is just about perfectly situated. We're nestled in trees so we're not right on the beach, which means that we're protected from the wind and the brunt of the salt. There are several walkways leading to the beach, the longest of which is about 1/2 mile. Once at the beach we can walk quite a ways. On the one end is the jetty which leads into Newport harbor. I'm not sure how far it is to the other end because we have yet to reach the other end, but I would guess it's at least a 2 or 3 mile stretch of beach.

Hunter, we have discovered, is a beach dog. He gets that wet sand between his toes and he turns into a puppy. Full of excitement and energy. He loves being chased by the surf and I think he's finally figured out that he doesn't want to drink the water (although he has to try it at least once a day!). We let him off leash and he just runs laps around us, spraying sand and splashing water. He runs himself so hard that I sometimes worry that he won't be able to make the walk home.

One of his favorite games, we've discovered, is blocking us from running out of the surf. As we walk along and the surf starts rolling in, he intentionally stands right in front of us so that we can't get out of the way. As we scream and giggle, he thinks it funny and splashes around to get us even wetter. This has become a daily occurrence.

But it's all fun...until someone gets hurt. Can you guess who that might be?

Yep, you're right!

In all of the excitement, Hunter somehow head butted Tracy. It's amazing Hunter didn't knock himself out too. 24 hours later, the black eye surfaced.

I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to think that this lifestyle might be a little too dangerous for some. Remember this picture from back in April?

Matching black eyes. What's next??!? I'm not sure I want to know :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reverse Migration

Current Location: on the road, central coast of Oregon

On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
Goin places I've never been
Seein things I may never see again
~Willie Nelson

Yes, we are on the road again! I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to change my 'current location' tagline! It was getting to feel a little silly having it at the top of all of my posts when we never moved!

On Wednesday morning we finally hitched up and pulled out of North Shore Campground. And where are we going? Why North, of course! WHAT?? North? Aren't we supposed to be going South this time of year?

We decided to follow a little known practice called Reverse Migration! When others go south, we go north. And today we find ourselves on the beautiful Oregon coast.

Around early June we started trying to figure out where we would spend the winter. The only thing we knew for certain was that we decided against workamping for the winter and instead wanted to find jobs using our professional skills. We didn't have a lot of criteria other than that (1) we didn't want to go to a typical snowbird locale, (2) we wanted to target a somewhat populous area where there would be good employment potential and (3) we wanted to stay out West (we thought we were going to Alaska next summer until we decided to return to North Shore).

It was around this same time that we had our first visitors of the summer, Tracy's uncle Jack and aunt PJ. She had not seen her uncle in over 30 years and didn't remember her aunt at all (although they had met when she was a baby). We all hit it off great. Shortly afterwards, they extended an offer that we ultimately couldn't refuse.

Jack and PJ live in the Seattle-Tacoma area and have an RV pad on their lot with full hookups. They invited us to spend the winter. We didn't immediately accept, although it was always in the back of our minds. It certainly met all 3 of our criteria, but we were concerned about feeling like intruders and wanted to make sure we wouldn't be taking advantage of what was already a generous offer. After several more discussions, we came to the realization that it was just too good to pass up. So we're headed Washington!

For someone who has lived in sunny Colorado for most of the past 25 years and spent the summer in sunny California, going to the northwest during the wet season is a little concerning. As a matter of fact, that is probably my biggest concern about the entire decision. Will I be able to make it through the winter? I've been in dry climates for so long I don't even own a raincoat! What will it be like not to see the sun for days on end? Will I become depressed?

I'm hoping the climate won't be as bad as I think. And we're pretty resilient, so I think (hope) we can deal with most anything. But if it turns out to be unbearable, we always have the option of moving elsewhere. After all, that is the beauty of this lifestyle.

I am excited to explore this area of the country. As Willie says, "goin places I've never been" and I've never been to the Northwest. We will spend a few days on the Oregon coast before continuing north and from what I've seen so far, I'm going to like it. We are staying in an Oregon State Park, right along the ocean. The drive along Highway 101 was beautiful, although it's hard to stop too many places when you're so big. So we're planning to do some day trips to the surrounding area as well as fit in some beach time. I think we're ready for some downtime!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our Last Workday...Top Memories Of The Summer

Current location: Chester, CA

We've officially reached the end of our season. Today is our last day of work. It's bittersweet. Even though we'll be returning next year, we're sad to be leaving. It seemed like just yesterday we were pulling in in a blizzard. We were excited to get here, anxious to get working, and maybe a little nervous about what lay ahead. Now, here we are four and a half months later, anxious to move on to our next adventure, excited to reunite with friends and family, but also a little blue to be leaving the comfort of the place which has come to feel like home.

As we've started to pack up, we've done a lot of reminiscing about our experiences this summer. Here are a few of the top memories, ...the good, the bad and the ugly!
  • 10pm security rounds - quiet hours, which begin at 10pm, are strictly enforced. We receive many compliments on this policy, but there are the select few who think we're just trying to ruin their fun. We try to be pleasant when asking people to quiet down and for the most part, people are understanding and apologetic. But we have also been called some nasty names and had a few profanities spouted at us, mostly by those who have had one (or more) too many. Thankfully, other members of their party usually reign them in and we've never had to get the Sheriff involved. We don't take that kind of stuff personally, but it sure does make a bad end to the day.

  • The stars and the moon - one of the perks to the 10pm rounds is that we get to enjoy the beautiful nighttime sky unaltered by city lights. I realize that all we need to do is step outside on any night, but we're usually in bed or too tired to make the effort. I think I have seen more shooting stars this summer than I have in my entire life. And to see the lake lit up by the full moon is a sight to be seen. We have just a short walk from the shop where we put the golf cart away at the end of the night, but I don't think we've ever walked that stretch without having our necks craned looking at the millions of stars.

  • Visitor policy - this is another one of those strictly enforced policies and one that has caused its share of grief, both amongst the staff and the guests. In one of my first posts after starting work, I mentioned the number of rules to be learned. There are a lot and it's a bit overwhelming. It takes awhile to figure out what information to ask for and what reminders to offer guests. It wasn't until just before the 4th of July rush that it was suggested that we ask arrivals if they are expecting visitors and remind them of the policy (# of visitors are limited and must be pre-registered and pre-paid). It all seems perfectly logical now, but at the time, it was yet another thing to remember at a very hectic time. By that time in the season, we had already gotten our routines down and for me, it was just one of those things that I had a mental block on. Not to make excuses, but it sure would have helped me if we had started doing that from the beginning. As a result, I was strongly reminded multiple times to ask about visitors and even questioned as to whether I had issue with the policy. I suspect that if Dez and Katrina were asked to reflect on our individual experiences, this would be close to the top of my list. :)

  • MB - speaking of the visitor policy, we had one guest in particular which we had extreme problems with in regards to visitors. I don't think it is ethical to share her name, so I'll just refer to her by her initials. MB was reminded of our policy prior to her arrival and even purchased an extra site so that she could have additional visitors. When she arrived at check-in, she provided us with a list of names of who would be visiting on which days and which ones were overnight versus day visitors. We all thought everything was in order until the first visitor arrived. He was on the list as a day visitor but stated he was staying overnight. That was the beginning of a mess. Visitors on the list didn't show, but other visitors were showing up who weren't on the list. As a result, we were turning people away. Later that day, it was discovered she had a number of unregistered visitors who walked in over the causeway. When questioned about it, she admitted to it claiming that there wasn't enough parking space so they walked in. Exactly what did she not understand about the policy?? Things got a bit nastier from there and she was ultimately asked to leave. It is the only eviction that happened this year. And as a result of this incident, a fence was erected near the path to the causeway.

  • Accidents and injuries - a season really couldn't go by with no injuries, could it? And for those of you who have followed this blog for awhile, you are familiar with Tracy's reputation (remember the black eye and the multiple bangs of her head?). The most memorable accident happened on a rare rainy afternoon. An storm blew in with high winds, thunder and lightening and driving rain. I was working in the store at the time and there was all this commotion going on outside. Katrina on the radio looking for Randy; Tracy zooming by on the quad. I had no idea what was going on until it was over and Tracy was sitting on the porch, covered in mud and in a state of shock. The wind and waves had broken a cable on one of the boat docks and it was seemingly floating away with boats still tied in its slips. Long story short, Randy was in the water trying to control the dock and Tracy was helping from shore. The side of the road is aligned with logs, preventing people from driving on the beach. Tracy was running this way and that to get Randy the necessary supplies and you guessed it, she tripped over the log. Well, I guess she didn't really trip, but she stepped on it and it was slippery and she fell. She landed on her hands, which bent both her wrists back. But her adrenaline was pumping and she didn't realize she was hurt until she was sitting on the porch. Then the shock wore off, and the pain began. She was sore for awhile and had some good bruises, but nothing was broken and she was back to normal within a few days. But Tracy had yet again enforced her reputation! :)

  • Hunter's accident - speaking of injuries and reputations...there's no doubt that Hunter and Tracy are related! I knew we couldn't get through a summer without Hunter injuring himself too. I had just gotten to work and I got a call over the radio - "Connie, are you busy?". "Not yet, why?" "Hunter fell down the RV stairs and cut his leg. I think I have to take him to the vet." Luckily, Katrina was in the store and I was able to run home to get a better assessment. By the time I got there, Tracy had gotten the bleeding to mostly stop, so we bandaged up his leg and decided that we'd wait until the next day to determine if we needed to find a vet. Let it be known, that Hunter's first aid kit is a large as ours. We have accumulated a lot of supplies over the years and are used to wrapping his leg. The injury happened on the same leg that he's had surgery and numerous other injuries so there is very little skin left. It's mostly scar tissue, but we did get it to eventually heal and he's back to normal too.

  • Chipmunks and mice - one of the problems with staying put for so long is that critters tend to find their way in, especially when you live in the woods. Early on, I wrote about invasion of the chipmunk. Jazzy alerted us to it, but luckily he never caught it. We were able to shoo that one back outside. But we never knew he was such a fierce hunter, nor that he could move so quickly. We let him outside from time to time (on a leash) and he has a great deal of fun chasing all of the chipmunks. They're not very afraid of him and he's been able to catch a few, but usually drops them before he kills them. Not too long after the chipmunk incident, we started hearing and seeing evidence of mice. And then Tracy came home to one, dead on the doormat, inside. We quickly realized that we needed to fill all entry points that we could find. They were still finding ways in, but I think - hope - we finally got rid of them. Just another tribulation of RV living!

  • Eagles - I have written about them and posted pictures, so theres not much more that I can say, other than that I am still awed by them and I will miss them.

  • Making life-long friends - again, I have already written on this subject. We have gotten to know so many people this summer and there are a few special ones who we believe will be friends for life. If you're reading this now, you know who you are! :)

This summer has been a great one and it's hard to see it come to an end. But the next one will be here before you know it and I'll have a whole slew of new memories to share!

For those of you who are wondering where we're headed next, I'll share that in my next post. This one's grown kind of long. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Working For A Living

Current Location: Chester, CA

As has happened so many times in the past year, we have had another amazing opportunity drop in our laps. But before I go there, I want to talk a little about that nasty four-letter word: w-o-r-k!

Most of us have been there, and many of us still are. When we decided to set out on this magical journey, we knew we would have to continue working. As we were ending our 9-5 jobs, we frequently heard the comment "I sure wish I could retire so early". We were always quick to make the correction - we aren't retired, we're simply adjusting our lifestyle. We expect to be active in the workforce for many years to come; it's just not the same workforce that we used to be a part of.

Because of the need to support ourselves, we know that our full-timing experience will look a lot different from that of many other full-timers. Our destinations, to a large part, will be determined by job prospects. Of course, we'll also seek opportunities in locations that we want to visit. And these jobs will most likely require us to be sedentary for longer periods of time, which equates to less traveling.

But that's ok - we recognize that those are the "sacrafices" we have to make. And it's hard to even call it a sacrafice, as I sit here in one of the most beautiful locations I could imagine. After all, what is the alternative? Returning back to a 9-5 job, with a measly 4 weeks of vacation a year, if we're lucky? No thanks! I'll make the sacrafices.

So back to our most recent opportunity. We've been asked to return to North Shore Campground next assistant managers! Before the offer was even made, we had pondered the idea of returning for a second year. But like most RVers, we have a long list of places we want to go and we weren't sure if we wanted to spend another summer in the same location, no matter how beautiful it is.

So when the offer was presented to us, we had to make our usual pros and cons list. And when the pros outweighed the cons, we expressed our interest and began more serious discussions on what the position would entail.

Like most of our decisions, this was not one that was made lightly. Admittedly, there were several times this summer when I thought to myself (or even expressed out loud) how glad I was that we were just the worker-bees and could walk away from it all at the end of our shift. Although we helped as we could, the bigger issues were escalated to someone other than us and I was more than happy to hand them off. Well, that will certainly change next year. Now we'll be the ones to whom the issues are escalated. And our days won't be done until we reach our official days off because we'll be on call 24 hours a day during our workdays. Are we sure we really want to take on those headaches? After all, weren't we striving for a low stress life??

And coming back here means putting some of our travel plans on hold. Although we plan to full-time for many years to come, we also made the leap into it now because we know there are no guarantees in life. What if something should happen in the next few years which causes us to end our travels? Will we regret "wasting" multiple years in the same location?

So by now, you're probably wondering why we accepted. As with most situations, there are trade-offs. We ultimately came to the determination that we would be gaining far more than we would be giving up.

First, there are the financial gains. We will be making significantly more next year than we did this year, which will put us in a much better financial position. And knowing that we have a job lined up for next year relieves a lot of the pressure for this winter. Although I would never make a decision solely based on money, it is a necessary evil and it, unfortunately, it is a major factor in our decisions.

Second, we still have a lot to learn and this is a great opportunity for more education. For years, we had talked about owning a B&B, a set of cabins, or a campground. I'm not sure that we'll ever want to be that tied down again, but you never know what the future holds. Taking on managerial duties will give us a little more taste of what it would be like, if we ever do go down that road. And even if we don't, having the experience on our resume can only help us in future jobs.

Third, we believe we can make a difference. Not only will we help the owners and current staff by providing stability, but we have many ideas for improvements of the operations too. If only one or two of those ideas is successful, then we'll have made a difference.

Fourth, although this is not the perfect place (is anyplace?), we're already aware of a lot of the challenges that we'll be faced with. That's not to say that we won't be surprised or that some things may not work out like we expected, but we have a pretty good idea of what we're signing on for.

Lastly, and possibly most important, we like it here. As we're preparing for our departure in a couple of weeks, we find ourselves sad about the prospect of leaving. As I mentioned in a previous post, we really like the people - from the campground owners, to our co-workers, to many of the regular campers whom we've come to know. They have embraced us and they are all happy that we are returning. And of course, there's our site which I've gushed about numerous times. I'm sure we could probably buy one just as nice for $50 or more a night, but I couldn't imagine a nicer one as a workamper. And on top of all of that, we didn't accomplish nearly everything we wanted to this summer. We still have many mountains to climb and endless places to explore. We also have friends and family who didn't have a chance to visit this year, so we're hoping they'll have a chance next year.

I could probably go on with the pros and cons, but suffice it to say, life is full of difficult decisions. But when we really sat down and weighed all of our options, this one wasn't really all that difficult to make. It just made sense on so many levels. And ever since we accepted the offer, we've been really excited about the prospects for next year. And that's why we know we made the right decision.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Funny thing about these laundromats out here

Current location: Chester, CA

I discovered something that I didn't think was possible, or at least not prevelant. The laundromats in this part of the country actually expand clothes instead of shrinking them!

Before we left our stix n brix, our clothes continually shrank. C'mon, I know you all know what I'm talking about. You buy a new pair of pants and they fit first. But before you know it they're a little snug and eventually you reach a point where they're either no longer comfortable or they look terrible on you. Then you have to go buy a new pair, but you go up in size thinking that that will account for the magical shrinking problem. But sooner or later, the same thing begins happening. The only conclusion that I could reach was that it was all due to the washers and dryers. It certainly couldn't be me gaining weight!

This summer we've experienced an amazing phenomenon. ALL of our pants and shorts have become loose and some are downright uncomfortable to wear because they are too big! Isn't that ironic??

About mid-summer I had another suprise. I can now fit into a pair of shorts which were once my favorites. I haven't been able to wear them for probably 3 or 4 years. Tracy is about a size smaller than me so when I outgrew a pair of shorts (my pants were too long for her), I would hand them down to her. Her wardrobe grew quickly as mine shrunk. Now, much to her dismay, I am starting to steal them back!

We haven't weighed ourselves - I try not to get too hung up on numbers. I prefer to go by feel - so we don't know how much we've lost, but it feels good. The downside is that we don't have a very large budget for clothes, but we're going to have to replenish a few pair of jeans. At least we don't need much.

Success in such a short amount of time is astonishing, especially since we didn't even try. We didn't go on any diets, nor did we really watch what we ate. But I think we can attribute the difference to 2 things: a more active lifestyle. and a lack of convenience foods.

On the first point, we are most definitely more active. Although we haven't worked as much grounds work as we thought we would, we're also not sitting behind a desk all day. Throughout the summer we averaged about 10 hours a week on grounds; the rest of our shifts were in the store. But even when we're in the store, we're on our feet all day and moving about. I don't know of any formal statistics, but I'm sure you burn a lot more calories simply by standing instead of sitting. Add to this that Hunter no longer has a fenced yard where we can just let him out. So he requires walks, at least 2 a day if he has his way. Each of those walks is generally at least a mile, sometimes upwards of 3 or 4 miles.

Although the exercise is great and we feel better because of it, I really believe that our weight loss is as much due to my second point, lack of convenience foods. In our prior life, we ate out a lot. And I mean a lot. I would go out for lunch at least 2 or 3 times a week. I used the excuse that I needed an escape from the office, but I also know that I am an emotional eater. I was unhappy at work, so I would sell myself that a delicous lunch prepared by someone else would make me feel better. It rarely did, but I continued the trend anyway. After working all day and coming home emotionally drained, neither of us felt like cooking. Living in the suburbs of a large city, there were a lot of (too many) restaurants nearby, many of which we passed on the way home. The sight of a sign, or a billboard, implanted the idea of eating out into your brain. You're hungry and you're tired and what better idea than eating out. So we did, at least a few nights a week. The problem with eating out, as I'm sure you all know, is portion control. One restaurant serving is frequently 2, 3 or more times the recommended portion size. But we've been accustomed to big servings and we have a habit of eating what's in front of us. Although we frequently shared meals or took leftovers home, I have no doubt that I was ingesting more calories than I could burn.

Nowadays, we rarely leave the campground on our working days. We do venture out on our days off, which usually includes one meal out. The restaurants in and around Chester are not all that tempting, and a bit on the expensive side, but we have found a few favorites. Where we used to average 3 or 4 days out a week, we now average 1, and that is either for lunch OR dinner, not both. Needless to say, this helps our budget as much as it does our waistlines. And you know, I really don't miss eating out. More often than not, we appreciate our own cooking much more than someone else's.

One of my original goals of this new lifestyle was to be more fit. I still couldn't run a marathon (nor do I want to) or bike a mountain pass (not sure I really want to do that either), but we're definitely headed in the right direction. Now if we can just manage not to backtrack during the winter!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Winding Down

Current Location: Chester, CA

We survived the last crazy weekend of the season. It really wasn't all that bad; maybe we've just become accustomed to it. The arrivals on Friday night straggled in, starting around 2pm and lasting until sometime after 10pm. We were in the store until about 9:30pm, at which time we left Dez to handle the rest. When we drove by for security rounds at 10:00, she was still there, but thankfully was gone by 11:00 when we returned.

Today, most everyone departed and we are now back to the peace and solitude. I know it's not good for business, but I sure do prefer the campground like this. However, I also realize that if it was always like this, we wouldn't be here since they wouldn't be able to afford us. So I guess we should be thankful that it was a busy summer.

We still have 3 weeks of work left. Holy cow, only 3 more weeks?? Could that really be true? There's a lot of work still to be done to prepare the campground for closure (it closes Oct 10). In addition, the other workamper couple with whom we worked this summer departed this afternoon. So we will also be picking up some of their slack. The store will become very quiet and the shifts will probably drag by; but the grounds will be busy and those days will no doubt fly by. As we have done throughout the summer, we will split our time between the two. And I'm sure before we realize, our 3 weeks will be up and it will be time to hitch up and hit the road.

I find myself with very mixed feelings about that. I'll be sad to leave, but excited for the next adventure. Once again, I find myself feeling anxious about the unknown. Excited, but also a little scared. We've come to know this as home and soon we will have to say good-bye. A lot of the same feelings we had in April are resurfacing. I wonder, will it always be like this after an extended stay?

All in all, it's been a great first summer. We worked hard, but also found a lot of time for playing. There were moments of frustration and we hit a period in mid-summer when we were feeling weary. But I think that is normal. We managed to find a second wind and it felt like our attitudes were adjusted overnight. I don't know exactly what caused our perspective to change; perhaps we just realized how lucky we are to live our dream! How many people in this world can really say that?

From our perspective, this season was a huge success. Not only did we get along well with the owners and our coworkers, but we bonded with quite a few of the campers as well. There are many regulars who come here every year. Some rent a site for the season, others just make it up for a few weekends a year. But we made friends with many of them and will depart with a handful of email addresses and phone numbers so that we can stay in touch over the winter. It really warmed our hearts to be embraced so quickly and strongly.

Before our arrival, I frequently said that what will make or break this experience will be the people. We had a good idea of what type of work we would be doing and were pretty certain we could handle that aspect of it. But as with most situations, if you surround yourself with good people, then even the worst situations are bearable. We get along pretty well with most people and can tolerate almost anyone, so we were pretty certain that we would be able to last the 4 months we committed to. But we didn't want to just get through it. We didn't want an experience where we were counting down the days and longed for the end. Been there, done that. We wanted a happy and memorable experience. We got all that we wished for and much, much more. And it's mostly because of the people (ok, the location and the bald eagles weren't so bad either!). It's hard for me to believe that future workamping gigs will be as special.

As our season winds down, I find myself reflecting frequently on the last 4 months. We have learned so much, both about running a campground and about ourselves. We are starting to get a better sense about what our full-timing life might look like, at least for the next couple of years. I will be sharing a lot of this over the next few weeks. I haven't blogged as much as I had hoped to this summer, but I have a feeling that I might make up for some of that in the near future. So stay tuned!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Last Hurrah

Current Location: Chester, CA

Today, we embark on the last busy weekend of the season...and a busy one it will be! We are expecting almost 80 arrivals today, which is more than we've had on any other day of the season. For comparison, on the Friday before Fourth of July we had about 50 arrivals.

Throughout the summer, people were more likely to straggle in earlier in the week, with many arriving on Wednesday and Thursday. Thus, keeping Fridays busy but not hectic. But now that school is back in session, almost everyone is coming in today. And I have no doubt that it will be crazy, possibly with cars and trailers backed up to the road (which is probably a quarter of a mile from the store).

To make the day even longer, we have our last security rounds tonight (hooray!). We will stay open in the store until 9:00, an hour later than usual and then we have to be out on rounds at 10:00. We're expecting a busy night with security too knowing that people will be excited to start their long weekend. Many won't even be arriving until 9 or 10, which will keep the activity and noise level a little higher than desired.

But we know that we just need to get through the next 3 days and then the great calm will arrive. That seems like a long way off right now, but we've made it this far, we can manage a few more.

Oh boy, wish us luck!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Held Hostage

Current Location: Chester, CA

This morning I woke up at 6 am and decided to get up instead of laying there and drifting back to sleep. We're trying to retrain our bodies back to the schedule we had before this summer, when staying in bed until 7 am was considered sleeping in. Nowadays, we're lucky to be awake by 7!
But I digress. I thought I would get up and take my book outside. But when I looked out the window, there was a doe in our front yard having breakfast. (forgive the picture was still somewhat dark and was taken through a dirty window)

After munching for a bit, she decided to lay down for a siesta. She layed right next to our deck for over an hour. I'm surprised she didn't climb up on the deck and settle down the dog blanket we have out there for Hunter. :)

She must have finally decided that she was hungry again because she started nibbling on Tracy's artwork! There were several branches with moss that must have looked tasty. So much for that sculpture!

Finally, after a couple of hours, I was able to exit. But I didn't really mind. What a great way to start the day. I never tire of observing nature.
Have I mentioned lately that I love this life?!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Catching Up

Current Location: Chester, CA

I owe you a bit of catching up. I can't believe my last post was 2 weeks ago. Where does the time go??

Let me start by thanking you all for the many birthday wishes. It was a good, and uneventful, birthday. We both had to work so that was the excitement for the day. I was granted a reprieve of my security rounds that night. The owners graciously offered to do it for me so that we could at least enjoy a glass of wine before falling into bed. It was a nice gesture and greatly appreciated. Thanks D & K!

I had decided that what I wanted for my birthday was a short get away. We had both been feeling the need to explore the area a little bit and it seemed like a travesty to spend the summer in California and never make it to the ocean. So we headed to the coast early Monday morning. We had no particular destination in mind, although we decided we'd head toward the Mendecino area. We most certainly did not take the direct route, which would have involved an interstate. We took all back roads which probably about doubled our driving time, but we enjoyed it. We saw the variety of the landscape - the windy mountain roads, several beautiful lakes, the grasslands and valleys, the orchard areas, the redwood forests, and the coastline.

We arrived in Fort Bragg around 3:00 to fog and cold. Yep, we must be on the coast! After finding a room for the night, we headed to the beach. This area is very dog friendly and most beaches allow dogs. Hunter has only been to the ocean a couple of times and doesn't really know what do make of it. He provides lots of entertainment for us. He doesn't know what to make of the surf and most definitely doesn't like the taste of the water. He is used to lakes that he can wade in and drink from. After doing a short jaunt on the beach we headed for dinner, at the North Coast Brewery. A good meal was one thing we were really looking forward to. We haven't found many good restaurants around Chester, so now we really appreciate good food.

Here's Tracy and Hunter chillin' on the beach...literally. It was quite chilly. We didn't think very clearly when we packed and didn't even bring a pair of pants with us. Good thing we at least had sweatshirts.

The next morning we woke up to more fog. We hoped that it would burn off as the sun came out, but it never really did. We did have a few moments where the fog was out far enough that we could see the coastline, but just as quickly as it rolled out, it came back in. Here's the fog bank we contended with most of the day. Before heading north toward home, we took a short detour south to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. There was a nice half mile walking trail to the lighthouse and dogs were allowed. We probably spent close to 2 hours walking and wandering around. We were practically the only ones out there and it was really peaceful.
From there we headed north up Highway 1 along the coast. We knew we had a long drive back but we didn't really care, so we just took our time.

Hwy 1 eventually turned inland and joined up with Hwy 101. We continued to head north, taking another detour on the Avenue of the Giants. This is the old 101 which goes through a large grove of redwoods. It's about 30 miles long and slow, but far more scenic.

Those are some tall trees! At this point we knew we better start heading for home. We still had a long ways eastward. One of the problems with getting to the coast from Chester is that there are no direct routes. There are only a few east-west roads to the coast and they're all full of curves, narrow and slow. But it is all beautiful. In total we drove about 650 miles in 2 days. It was a lot of driving but we really enjoyed our time away.

Just like most vacations, it was quickly forgotten as we fell right back into work. We had another busy week which was made busier by trying to squeeze in the chores we normally do on the weekends. But we needed to get it all done during the week because we were expecting visitors again.

Our friends, Jolie and Renee, from Colorado drove out to spend a few days with us. We are honored that they, and all of our previous visitors, made the effort to come here specifically to see us. We are especially honored that Renee, who does not particularly like camping, was willing to spend 3 nights sleeping in a tent. And she handled it like a pro. Maybe camping isn't so bad after all?
They arrived Sunday afternoon just as we were winding down our work week. Perfect timing! They got their tent set up while I wrapped up my final hour and we spent the rest of the evening catching up. Monday, we headed out to explore the New Clairvaux winery, which is located on the grounds of a monastery. Selling wine is one of the ways they support themselves. We did a little wine tasting and explored the grounds a bit and then headed a few miles down the road to Chico for lunch and beer tastings at the Sierra Nevada brewery. Hmm, are you seeing a theme here? We wrapped up the afternoon with a brief shopping trip at Target and then headed back to the cool of the mountains. Chico is at a much lower elevation and was in the upper 90s. We ended the day sitting around a campfire and making smores. A very enjoyable evening with good friends.
I think we were all ready for a more relaxing day on Tuesday so that's exactly what we did. We just hung around, played cards, talked, drank, and the hours passed quickly. Before we knew it, the day was coming to an end. We had a farewell breakfast on Wednesday and then they were off and we were back to work. How those days off fly by! J & R - I hope you enjoyed your visit as much as we enjoyed having you here!
The last few days have been back to the same old grind. And now you're caught up with our lives! I am behind in reading blogs from the last couple of weeks too. We seem to go through periods where we don't even turn on the computer, except for maybe a quick peek at email. It's nice to be disconnected once in a while.
It's hard to believe that we're already in mid-August and our time here is winding down. There are so many things that we said we wanted to do while we were here and now we only a few more weeks left. I suppose that's the way it will always be though. So I'm sure we'll keep busy over the next month or so. But for now, I better get this posted. It's just about time for security rounds. Hey, only a few more weeks of those too!

Friday, July 30, 2010


Current location: Chester, CA

45 rpm....remember those little records?

I-45...the shortest primary interstate highway

45 half of a soccer match

+45...the international dialing code for Denmark

45...the number of years since I was born in this lifetime

Yes, today is my 45th birthday!! And I am utterly amazed at where I am at this stage in my life. It is still unbelievable to me that I am living my dream at such a relatively young age. When we first began dreaming this dream, it was discussed in terms of retirement. What age exactly that was, I don't know, but I'm sure it was sometime after 65. Then we started talking about how to achieve this dream early and figure out a way to retire early at 55. I'm not sure if that was Tracy's 55 or mine, but it just seemed like a good milestone.

But, ultimately, we couldn't find a good reason to wait and so here we are. When I stop to think about it, it is really mind boggling that we actually went through with it. I am proud that we had the courage to 'just do it'. I am honored by the support we have received, both by those who know us personally and those who only know us through this blog. I feel a certain amount of responsibility to succeed at this lifestyle for all those who are living vicariously through us and for those who will eventually follow us down the road.

I still think we are just a little bit crazy. How could we not be? I admit that I kind of like the idea of bucking the norm of society and finding our own way through life. We have no agenda other than to be happy. We still have to find ways to support ourselves and that brings it's own set of anxieties, but that's just part of the big puzzle of life and I am confident that we'll find all the right pieces.

But mostly, on the first day of my 46th year, I am just amazed at my good fortune. I am sharing my life with my soulmate and we've found a way to live life on our own terms. How could I be any happier? I can hardly wait to see what the next year has in store for me. Yes, this is a good life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A New Perspective...And A Refreshing Get Away

Current Location: Chester, CA

Last week I wrote about how the summer was beginning to wear on me. What a difference a week can make! Several things have happened in the past week which have encouraged me to rethink and appreciate my own situation.

First of all, our neighbors left and the cabin has not been rented for the last 4 days. Our serenity has returned, although just for a short while. But we decided to take advantage of the peacefulness while we had it and spent one of our recent days off at home. Admittedly we felt a little invaded upon. But I have to remind myself that for the majority of our time here, we have this area to ourselves. No doubt, we are spoiled.

Secondly, I shifted my mindset a little. I reminded myselft that most of the campground guests are on a brief vacation from the stresses of their lives. This is their brief opportunity to let loose and relax. Because this may be their one chance in a long while for vacation, they want everything perfect. And in some cases, they don't know how to let go and end up sharing their stress with everyone who steps in their way. Whether it's a weekend or weeklong vacation, they eventually have to return to their overburdened lives, the hustle and bustle of the city, the heat of the valley, or whatever it may be. Me...I am lucky because once their vacation is up, I still get to stay here.

The third thing that happened which gave me pause was that I talked to one of my former coworkers. This was a person I worked with very closely; she was actually my client of sorts. Talking with her brought back so many familiar emotions. Things haven't changed much since I left. The same frustrations which caused me to want to leave still exist. The pressures and the anxieties have not gone away. It was a very strong reminder of why I am where I am now and how happy I am to be here!

The fourth thing was that one of our blogger friends, Ken and Nanette, abruptly and without warning, lost their workamper job for the summer. This was completely unexpected and left them in a bit of a financial pinch, but they were able to maintain a positive outlook and have already landed another opportunity for the remainder of the summer. Their whole experience reminded me to focus on the positives. Although I'm sure they had their moments of anger and feeling victimized, they did not express one negative word towards their former employers in their blog. If they can handle what could have been a crippling situation with such an attitude, certainly I can deal a little better with the occassional grouch. And if nothing else, it reminded me to be thankful for what I have because I really do like where we are and what we're doing.

Lastly, was a personal message from our friends and mentors, Howard and Linda Payne . They were working here last summer and Linda felt much the same way about the same time of year. She shared their blog entry written on July 22 last year, in which they were feeling the need to escape. I found it ironic that my post last week was written on July 19, almost exactly a year apart. Reading their entry helped validate my feelings - that it was ok to feel the need for a break. No matter how good something is, it eventually can become tiring.

Their escape was to Juniper Lake, a beautiful lake on the outskirts of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Because it is several miles up a sometimes rough gravel road and it is not accessible from the main road in the park, the lake does not tend to attract as many visitors. This has been on our list of places to go, so yesterday we decided that it was time. We took Linda's suggestion, packed a picnic and headed out for the day. We took our beach chairs and our books and enjoyed several hours of peace and quiet. There are several trailheads that take off from the lake, but because we had Hunter with us (dogs aren't allowed on National Park trails) we couldn't explore much. We did walk, or rather waded, along the lake shore, but mostly we just sat and read and marveled at the beauty. It was a really nice day and helped to refresh us for the coming week.

imagine some pictures here...I tried to upload a few but was experiencing technical difficulties. I will post them another time.

We are planning a longer get away for next "weekend". We don't have a specific destination in mind, but we're going to pack up the car and head for the coast, with plans to stay overnight somewhere. Once again, we'll have Hunter with us, so that limits us somewhat, but we're hoping to find some beaches and/or trails where dogs are allowed. This is the kind of road trip that we love to do. We just set off in a general direction and wander. I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Short is all relative

Current location: Chester, CA

No, I'm not talking about Tracy! :) (hee, hee...sorry, honey)

One of the things we give up as fulltimers is a visit to a known and trusted hairstylist, along with doctors, dentists, etc. Others have written about shedding tears upon leaving their longtime providers. Back in Colorado I had my hair cut by the same lady for over 20 years. I would drive an hour after a long day of work just to go to her. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I was forced to switch to someone new about 6 months before we left Colorado. So you would think that finding someone to cut my hair wouldn't be all that traumatizing.

And it isn't really traumatizing...I just dread doing it so I procrastinate until I can't stand it any longer. So I finally got up the nerve in May to get my hair cut here in Chester. I was very conservative, just asking for a trim. I fully blame myself because I didn't want her to cut it too short. And she didn't. It was great for a couple of weeks, but it quickly became longer than I like. My hair is very thick and straight, so when it gets to a certain length, it becomes very heavy and I need to blow dry it in order for it to look good. I prefer the ease of wash and wear and would rather not have to deal with blow drying. But because I procrastinate, I've been blow drying my hair for the last 4 weeks or so.

Once again, I reached the point of needing a haircut NOW, so I made an appointment for this morning. I had returned to the same lady...she seemed to do an ok job last time. And I had made up my mind that I wanted it shorter this time. For those of you who know me personally, I keep my hair pretty short anyway, so going short is not usually a big deal. When I went in this morning, I told her I wanted it shorter than last time, kind of spiky all over. I told her I wanted a wash and wear cut. So she asked if "finger length" was about right. I looked at my finger and thought, a couple of inches, yeah that sounds good. Then she asked if I wanted my bangs longer and I said no, about the same length as the rest (I can't stand it when my hair falls in my eyes). So she started cutting and I had my eyes closed due to all the hair falling.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my eyes. Her fingers must be really short! Maybe she said "finger TIP length". My hair is maybe an inch long. I basically have a long crew cut and she left me no bangs to speak of. Yikes!

Well, it is short and it is wash and wear! No blow dryer for me for a long time!! Be careful of what you ask for!! It's a good thing that I'm not all that attached to my hair. And now I'm really thankful that it grows fast. I guess next time I need to be a little clearer with my directions...and maybe a picture wouldn't be such a bad idea either!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot and Tired

Current Location: Chester, CA

Another of our work weeks has drawn to a close. It was the hottest week yet, with temperatures in the high 90's. I don't like heat and I don't function well in it. Anything above 90 is too hot for me. Today we saw a little relief...I think it's only the high 80s. And it's supposed to continue to drop over the next couple of days. Let's hope!

I have been tired the entire week. Perhaps it was the heat. Or possibly we're still recovering from the shake up of our routine last week. Or it could be that we have lost our private oasis.

As I've mentioned previously, our site is away from the campground...which is wonderful...but it is right next to one of 3 rental cabins. This is the largest and most expensive cabin so it has only been rented a couple of times since we've been here. Well that all changed last week and is continuing into this week.

We've had 2 family reunions in succession and we've found that they all like to congregate at this cabin. I can certainly understand why. The cabin has a large deck and a private "beach" (shoreline) that is separate from the rest. Last week the group that was here was mostly adults and one 5 week old baby which cried a lot. They also brought jet skis and set up quite a party area down on the beach. Our sounds of nature were overtaken with the constant grind of the jetski and smells of gas. In hindsight we'd like to have them back.

This week we have a family reunion with LOTS of teenagers. Once again, they all congregate out here. Everyone seems to feel the need to drive to this cabin (even though it's an easy 5 minute walk from the campground) so they pretty much block us in. And the majority of kids are screaming girls. Last night we had to listen to what sounded like hundreds of them in the water for a post-dinner swim. Because it was dark, they were screaming at every little thing that touched them underwater. And you know how that goes. One screams, then another, and then another until they're all making as much noise as possible. We were counting down the minutes until 10:00 quiet hour so that we could go down and tell them to shut up. Thankfully, the adults of the group finally went down and to get them all out of the water. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. I think they are here all week, and most of the group hasn't even arrived yet.

I'm not sure who comes in after these folks but I sure hope it's a quiet ederly couple! We would still pick this spot over any other, but we sure do miss our privacy.

I fear that the summer is beginning to wear on us. We are working in the store more than on grounds because that is where we're needed right now. I miss the break from the customers that grounds work provides. We both still have one full day of grounds each week. Mine is Sunday and I really need it after 4 long days of customer service. People wear me out! I am pretty much an introvert...I guess that explains why I chose a profession of working with computers. Although I dealt a lot with clients, I also had a lot of time where it was just me and the computer. And I have to admit that I am starting to catch myself looking forward to the winter when I can hopefully return back to that kind of work for awhile.

That's not to say that I regret taking this job. Quite the contrary. We both needed a break from our old routine and this has certainly provided it. And there are many things we like here. 90% of the people are great. They're happy to be here and very appreciative of the service we provide. But it's the other 10% that wear you down. Maybe if we were only working 20 hours a week, it wouldn't seem so bad.

But an opportunity to experience and learn is what this is all about. We are learning that it is all about balance. Ideally, we will find a way to bounce back and forth between the traditional workforce and workamping; hopefully allowing ourselves a month or two off between gigs. If we could get away with limiting our work weeks to 20 or 30 hours, that would be perfect, but I don't know if our bank account will allow that.

It feels like we've been living this lifestyle for years, but we have to remember that we've only been doing it a few months. We are still figuring it out and don't ever expect to have all of the answers. But, isn't that part of the beauty? There is some anxiety in not knowing what the immediate future holds, but then again, that's what makes it an adventure. We may be feeling weary today, but we are extremely thankful that we have the opportunity to experience this life as we choose for as long as we can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yes, We Are Still Alive And Doing Well

Current Location: Chester, CA

I know we're way past due on posting an update. I can't believe my last post was before 4th of July! That seems like so long ago now!!

So just a quick update to let you all know we're doing well. We survived the 4th of July. As far as arrivals and check ins, everything went amazingly well. People just kind of trickled in starting on Wednesday through Saturday. We never really had a big rush of people. In that respect, it was a lot smoother than most other weekends.

The challenges of the holiday came after everyone was in. We had quite a problem with visitors, even though we asked everyone at check-in if they were expecting visitors and reminding them of our policy. But this is where we expected to have issues, so we were as ready as we could be. All in all, it was a pretty smooth weekend, although still busy and still tiring.

We went immediately from ending the holiday weekend to entertaining company. My dad and his wife stopped by on their cross-country trip. As a result, we've been busy and have barely turned on the computer in the past week. It's been great having them here but it really throws us off of our routine.

They left this morning so we have one day to readjust and relax before starting our next week of work. I'll write more later when I have time, but just wanted to calm any concerns since we've been offline and out of touch.

Hope all is going well with everyone out there and I look forward to catching up with all of you soon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ready Or Not, Here IT Comes

Current location: Chester, CA

What is IT you might wonder? The dreaded 4th of July holiday weekend! Yes, what a difference a year makes. Last year, we couldn't wait for the long holiday weekends. And now we can't wait for them to be over with!

It's going to be a crazy weekend. When many of the monthly and seasonal clients specifically leave the campground during this time, you know it must be bad. Many campers already started rolling in this week, but the big rush will come on Thursday and Friday.

Chester has a 4th of July parade and fireworks that are pretty well known in the area so that attracts a lot of people. One of our biggest challenges of the weekend will be unauthorized guests. This campground has a pretty strict visitor policy. Every visitor must be pre-registered and paid for in advance. And the number of visitors must still fall within the maximum number of people allowed on a site, even if the visitors are not staying overnight. I'm sure you can imagine how confusing this is for us to track when we get busy. Well, because of the fireworks show, we are expecting a lot of visitors...and probably a lot of disgruntled campers who didn't understand the policy in the first place. Yeah, I'm dreading the weekend.

But on the flip side, we'll be so busy that the weekend will fly by and be over before we realize it!

So happy early 4th to all of you. For those of you still working 9-5, I hope that it is a nice, long relaxing weekend. For those of you who are living the RV dream, I hope that it is a quick and peaceful weekend. And for those of you who are working this weekend, my sympathies are with you, but I'll be right along with you!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Winter Wonderland...And More Eagles

Current Location: Chester, CA

Another week has flown by and we can't figure out where the time is going! We had a short 'weekend' this past week. One of our coworkers was off for a couple of days on a pre-scheduled vacation so we helped fill her shift on Monday. Even though we each only worked 3 1/2 hours, the day was pretty much shot. That left only one free day to play.

We had a slow start to the morning but finally got out the door about the crack of 11:00 for a hike. We had chosen a trail just outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The trail guide was written from the perspective of a snow-shoe/ x-country ski trail, but it did mention that it could also be hiked. It was supposed to go to a lake and have a nice view of both the Sierras and the Cascade mountain ranges. Well, we found neither. The trail followed a forest road and it kept going down hill. Hmm, whatever we go down, we must come back up eventually. We walked for about 2 1/2 miles and never did find a lake. There were several offshooting paths, but none looked especially suitable for hiking. We eventually turned around and started our long trek uphill. Although the trail was nothing special, it was a nice walk and very peaceful. We had it to ourselves.

Upon returning to the car, we decided to take a drive into Lassen Park. The road through the park is still not completely opened (the latest target date is early July), but we thought we'd drive in to see how much progress they made.

Boy, what a difference a few miles can make! This is the road through the park. Notice the car on the road and how much taller the snow is!

This is close to the end of the road, about 6 miles in from the entrance station. It may be hard to tell but there are several feet of snow, probably at least 4 feet.
In the background is Mt Lassen. One of our goals this summer is to climb it, but it looks like it won't be happening anytime soon! We didn't bring our snowshoes with us. :) I guess we'll have plenty of time to get into shape for it.

It's pretty apparent that we won't be doing any hiking within the park for awhile, which Hunter is not too upset about. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the trails within the Park and he can't understand why we would ever go hiking without him! So for now, we'll focus on the numerous National Forest trails, on which dogs are allowed!
In my last post, I had mentioned that one of my dislikes was the late shifts. Well, most bads also have a good side and one of the blessings of a late shift is a late start. Often, I don't start my shift until 1 or 2, which frees up all morning. I frequently take Hunter on a long walk along a neighboring forest road, where he can be off leash to run and sniff to his heart's delight. But it's not all for him. This is an area where we've frequently seen eagles. The further we get into summer the more we're seeing of them. First it was just one on occassion. Then there were a couple flying overhead from time to time. Now we see them almost everyday and there are often 3 or 4.
I hadn't been lucky enough to see them stationery very often...until yesterday. To get to the forest road, we have to stumble across the rocks on the shoreline for a short ways. As soon as I reached the point and looked towards our destination, I immediately saw 2 white heads:

We were still pretty far away (all pictures are cropped to provide better views), but I kept my eye on the tree, hoping that they would stay put.

As we drew nearer, the top one flew off. I couldn't spot the other one but hadn't seen him fly off either. So we kept walking and I turned around to look behind me, and there he was! How beautiful!
I stood there quite awhile admiring and taking lots of pictures. After awhile I guess he figured I'd been there long enough and he gave me the stare!
Shortly thereafter, he flew off. If you haven't figured it out yet, I have quite a fascination with eagles, especially bald eagles. And it is always a thrill for me to see them in the wild. So I'm sure you can imagine how excited I am to have them living in my 'backyard'.
We're now back in the thick of our workweek. The summer season is finally upon us. Warm weather and a busy campground. We have close to a full house again this weekend. Between the 2 of us, Tracy and I are doing security rounds 3 nights a week. Those 10:00 drives make for some long days, but we're learning how to sleep in...we're still working on Jasper however!
And speaking of Jasper, I am proud to report that he is continuing to earn his keep. The other day when Tracy returned from walking Hunter, Jasper had left a present just inside the front door. A dead mouse (uh oh, do we have mice in the house now??). It was not mutilated, just dead in a nice obvious place where it would be seen and easily taken to the trash. He earned a special treat for that! :)