Saturday, September 24, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy!!

Current Location: Cortez, CO

We've been so busy I haven't had time to blog! Yes, I know that's not much of an excuse so I'll also blame it on poor internet connections at several of our stops. I probably could have posted without pictures, but there is so much to share that I just decided to wait until I had time and better connections. We've done so much in the past couple of weeks it's hard to know where to begin, but I'll try to cover it all briefly.

As I've shared with you already, we spent our first week and a half after leaving Portland traveling around the state of Oregon. After some serious decompressing and waiting out the Labor Day crowds in Valley of the Rogue, we headed to the coast. While there, we had the pleasure of meeting Sue and Mo of The MoHo and Other Traveling Tales. I know I talked about this in my last post, but I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures. I feel like this is a great summary of our visit. Even though we had met less than an hour prior, it was like hooking up with old friends, full of chatter and lots of laughter. The 4 hours we spent together felt more like 4 minutes. We look forward to crossing paths again soon.
Abby (behind Sue), Sue, Mo, Tracy, Connie, Hunter on Harris Beach
From the coast, we headed back inland to visit Crater Lake. This was the one place that I wanted to visit before leaving the state so it was a must-stop, regardless of how much back-tracking it required. The lake is more awesome than I could imagine. It is so blue, it's hard to capture it in a photo. Tracy was still nursing a sprained ankle so we weren't able to hike down to the lakeshore (the only way to reach it is a 700 ft elevation drop/gain hike), but we were able to do several shorter hikes to get a little off the beaten path. We only had a couple of days there and since we didn't get to do everything that we wanted to, I guess we'll just have to go back! It is definitely worth a return visit.
Crater Lake - it is the most amazing color of blue
Connie & Tracy enjoying the moment

 Upon leaving Crater Lake, we headed south to meet up with some friends in the Mount Shasta area of northern California. We met Ron and Chris last summer. They were regular guests of North Shore Campground, where we worked. It's funny how you just have an instant connection with some people; Ron and Chris are two of those people. We didn't have the opportunity to spend a whole lot of time with them last summer as we were always working when they were there, but they were so easy to share a conversation with that we felt an instant bond. We kept in touch over the winter and were hoping to meet again someday. Fate stepped in and due to a change in plans, we were able to join them for a weekend camping trip. It was non-stop and before we realized it the weekend was over, but we knew as we parted ways that we had solidified a life-long friendship.
Ron & Chris at Middle McCloud (?) Falls
By now, it was really time for us to head eastward. We still had a couple of weeks left in our schedule before reaching Denver, but we had a lot we wanted to do along the way. From California we headed southeast for a quick overnight in Fernley, NV. The next day we started down the Loneliest Road in America, Highway 50. It is a long, fairly boring stretch of road, but there's something about the solitude that makes it very peaceful. Our next stop was a 2-night stay in Ely, NV. We had noticed that we would be driving right by Great Basin National Park and since one of our goals was to visit every National Park, we knew we had to stop.

Great Basin NP would not be a destination in and of itself, but if you're in the vicinity, it is well worth the stop. It is truly an oasis in the middle of the desert. The scenic drive takes you up to over 10,000 feet, more than 4000 feet above the valley floor. Once at the top, Tracy decided her ankle was feeling well enough for a longer hike, so we ventured down the alpine lake loop trail. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful break from driving.
Stella Lake with Wheeler Mountain and its glaciers in the background
Our next major stop was planned for Durango, CO, but Ron & Chris pointed out to us that our route would take us right by Capitol Reef National Park in Utah and they insisted it was worth the stop. So we adjusted our schedule slightly (after all, isn't that the beauty of this lifestyle?) and headed to Torrey, UT for another 2-night stay and a visit to another national park.

And they were right...it was well worth the stop. With only a day to explore, we were up and at it early. We settled on a fairly strenuous hike, our favorite way to explore the parks. There were several hikes that piqued our interest, but we selected the one to the top of Cassidy Arch. Once again, we made a great choice. 
Tracy on top of Cassidy Arch
Just a note about the above picture. Tracy is not fond of bridges and doesn't like having nothing but air beneath her. So the fact that she is the one who wanted to walk out on top of the arch, a bridge of sorts, is truly amazing. I'm proud of her!

And for perspective...view from the trail down to the parking lot on the valley floor!
Tonight, we are sitting in Cortez, CO, just outside of Mesa Verde National Park. We have 2 days planned for exploring, not near enough time but it will have to do for now. We are packing a lot in in a short amount of time. We would much prefer a slower pace, spending several days at each stop, but we do have to get to Denver eventually.

The last 3 weeks have done wonders for our psyches. It has reawakened our souls. We have been reminded of the wonders of the road and the beauty of this lifestyle. THIS is the life we dreamed about. And we know now that we need to find a way to keep the dream alive.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Slow Internet and Comments Issues

Current Location: Joseph Stewart State Park, west of Crater Lake, OR

Just a quick update since it's been over a week. We've not had very good internet connection so I've delayed posting in hopes that I could include some pictures. There are lots to share. But that doesn't seem too likely so this'll have to do.

When last I wrote, we had just gotten to the coast. We spent several enjoyable days out there, although it was quite chilly. I think we picked the windiest point on the coast, Cape Blanco, which also happens to be the western most point in Oregon. Although we made a couple of trips to the beach, it wasn't all that pleasant and therefore didn't spend as much time as we would have liked walking on the sand.

We did, however, have a great beach day on the day we drove down to Brookings to visit Sue and Mo of The MoHo and Other Traveling Tales. They apparently know where to go, because it was sunny and warm, with virtually no wind. Sue wrote a wonderful post, along with some great pictures, on her blog, so since my access is limited, please check out her review. I couldn't have said it better!

On Monday, we left the coast and headed back inland towards Crater Lake. We've had a great time exploring the park and the area. As always seems the case, there is so much more we'd like to do, but just haven't had the time. Unfortunately, our hiking has been somewhat limited due to Tracy's recovery from a sprained ankle a couple of weeks ago. Each day is an improvement but it's still weak and we didn't want to push it. So we took it easy, tackled some of the easier trails, and did some sightseeing.

Tomorrow, we are heading to California for a couple of days to visit some friends we met last summer. Then it's time to head eastward. Hopefully, I'll have better access from here on out.

Also, I understand that my last post had some type of issue that resulted in the inability to leave comments. I'm not sure what happened or why, nor do I know how to resolve the problem. I'm hoping that by simply publishing a new post, the problem will be fixed. But if anyone has any ideas of what might have happened, please share.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Freezer

Current Location: Cape Blanco State Park, southern Oregon coast

This morning we packed up and headed out to the coast. Perhaps we're used to settling for longer periods of time, but it didn't seem possible that it was already time to go. Our hitch hadn't even had time to start itchin.

We thoroughly enjoyed Valley of the Rogue SP and would stay there again in a heartbeat. It's easily accessible with big, well-spaced sites. They do have some full hook up sites, but most are just water and electric. But with a dump station on-site, that's no problem. They even have laundry facilities which I found surprising for a state park. If I had to state one negative, it is that it is very close to the interstate and you can't really get away from the road noise. But after having spent 5 months in a park that was right next to a very active train track and in the flight path of PDX, the sounds of traffic just seemed like steady white noise to us.

And although we could have easily enjoyed several more days there, we were ready to escape the heat. The temps in the valley had been hovering in the mid to upper 90's and the evening cooldown didn't seem to begin until well after 9:00 (as I write this at 8:45 pm it is still 85 degrees at the park). The coast usually promises cooler weather, so we were looking forward to that.

Be careful of what you wish for, right? OK, maybe we had just become accustomed to the warm weather, but when we stepped out of the truck...BRRR. With the wind blowing and the fog rolling in, t-shirt, shorts and sandals were not going to cut it. Time to dig out the jeans and sweatshirts. I don't think I've had long pants on since...June? And they sure feel weird. But it's a nice change of pace. The forecast for the week is low 60's, which is a little cooler than we'd prefer but certainly pleasant enough. And on the bright side, the cool temperatures will entice us to have more campfires!

We, or maybe it was more me, were a little nervous about our arrival. This campground is a first-come, first serve and it's rather small (about 50 sites). Most of the sites are decent size with probably over half being 45' or longer. We were hoping that by coming in mid-week after Labor Day there would be lots of availability, but knowing the coast is a popular destination, we really did know. It's a little more crowded than I would have thought, but we did find a vacancy in one of the longer sites. Phew! So now I can sit back and relax again. I guess I just do better when we have reservations.

This park seems very nice, just what we've come to expect from the Oregon State Park system. It has a very secluded feel, but it is easy to get to and has everything we need. We have 50 amp electric and water hookups. Unfortunately, the dump station is temporarily closed, but our next stop after this has a dump station so it's not a problem. The brochure promises several miles of hiking trails to ocean overlooks and beach access and we look forward to exploring those and the surrounding area in the coming days. The southern coast is the one section of the Oregon coast that we had yet to visit so it we're excited to venture into new territory.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Campfires n S'mores

Current Location: Valley of the Rogue State Park, OR

Campfires n Smore's...two of our favorite things. OK, maybe only one favorite. The other we appreciate on rare occasion.

Last night we had our first campfire in what seems like eons. And how we enjoyed it. We love relaxing around a campfire. Why is it so mesmerizing to watch those flames dance? Even though it was quite warm (still hovering around 90 well after 7pm), how could we camp without having a campfire?

And how could we have a campfire without making s'mores? S'mores always sound good, but in truth, they are really too sweet for us to indulge on very often. It is typical that we buy a bag of marshmallows, make one s'more each, and usually watch the rest of the bag go stale before we're ready for another one. But alas, we may have discovered a secret! Somehow we got talking about spreading a little peanut butter on the graham cracker...our justification is that the protein would make it a little healthier! :) And how could it not be good? Peanut butter and chocolate are a great combination. Peanut butter and graham crackers aren't too bad either. And as a kid, I sure enjoyed my fluff-a-nutter sandwiches. So why not put it all together? As expected, it was good. But what was an even better surprise, the peanut butter cuts the sweetness so we each had 2!

As a matter of fact, that was our dinner. Yes, seriously. Hey, we're adults here and we can eat what we want! We did have a healthy snack of hummus and veggies a little earlier along with our cocktails of moscow mules. We got turned on to moscow mules through Oprah, who shared them on her camping trip to Yosemite. If you're looking for a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon, give one of these a try. Although we've made them following her recipe, we've found that our simplified version tastes just as good: combine half a can of ginger ale, juice of 1 lime, and a shot (or 2) of vodka and serve over ice. Delish!

I know I said it before, but I'll say it again...we really miss camping. This is one of many conundrums we have with full-timing. While RV Parks have their time and place and we do enjoy the convenience of full hookups, getting away from civilization is the way of life we really prefer. Unfortunately, having a large rig significantly limits the type of camping we can do. Don't get me wrong, we love our rig. It is very comfortable to live in full-time, but it comes with limitations. There were many reasons that we ended up with something this large, some of which are justified and some of which I attribute to beginner's pitfalls. I recall when comparing rigs, saying several times 'a few feet longer won't really make any difference'. Well, we learned quickly that a few feet can make a huge difference, not only in the floorplans and storage, but also when it comes to parking. We also overestimated the space we would need. We have yet to fully fill every storage compartment. It's a nice luxury not to have it all crammed full, but there are times that I would gladly give up the space. We frequently talk about significantly downsizing, but most likely that won't happen until we're animal-free, which unfortunately is probably not that far away. So until then, we continue to learn what works and doesn't work for us. I think it is a continual adjustment process, but then again, so is life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Long Overdue Update

Current Location: Valley of the Rogue State Park, OR

Hello! Is anyone still out there?? I know it's been a long time...too long. I won't be at all surprised if all my faithful followers have gone elsewhere, but in the event that at least one of you is still lurking, I thought I'd post an update.

So just a quick recap of the last several months. As planned, we did spend the summer in Portland. Tracy was able to extend her accounting contract until mid-August. Pretty good, considering it started out as a 6 week contract! They even asked her to stay permanently, and she went as far to inquire about it even though we agreed that it would have to be a pretty amazing offer to entice her to stay. It wasn't amazing enough, although she still stayed on several weeks after that to train her replacement.

My job at the RV park ended on Wednesday, August 31. Although I had originally planned to work through Labor Day, it turned out that a completion at the end of a pay period was preferable, so we agreed on the end of the month, which suited me just fine. I was more than ready, having hit that wall about mid-month. My role changed throughout the summer. I was originally hired for the front office, but it was clear from day 1 that they were overstaffed. I hoped that as summer arrived, it would be busy enough to keep us all entertained, but that was not to be. And I am not one that likes to be bored so I asked if there was any grounds work that I could help with. I started working one day a week outside, as weather permitted, helping with minor landscaping chores. That quickly grew to the point where I was asked if I wanted to move to grounds permanently and that's what I ended up doing most of the summer, with the occasional day in the office to fill an absence. Overall, I preferred the physical activity and fresh air. Most of my time was spent pushing a mower...4-5 days a week, 8 hours a day got pretty monotonous by the end of the season. Add to that some difficult attitudes and an ex-Marine boss ('nuf said) and I was glad to see the end.

We did finally experience the good weather of the Northwest. We had a great summer, with lots of sun and only a few days topping 90 degrees. We certainly had it better than a lot of the country, so no complaints here.

We stayed very busy through the summer, experiencing as much of Portland and the surroundings as we could fit in. Although we didn't do everything we wanted to (do you ever?), we were ready to leave. Ultimately, we still believe we made the right decision staying in Portland. We had some great experiences and we learned a lot. Will we return? Probably not, and that's ok. We still like the culture of Portland and for a city, it would be near the top of our list. And there's so much we like about Oregon, but we would certainly pick our dates differently!

Our hitch itch was getting strong, so we left Portland yesterday, September 1. Yep, less than 24 hours after my last shift, but with Tracy not working, she was able to prepare everything. Because we hadn't planned to leave this early until just a couple of weeks ago, our options for Labor Day weekend were somewhat limited. We were adamant that we wanted to camp (after spending so much time in RV parks) and pretty much focused on the Oregon State Parks, which we have come to love. We really wanted to head to the coast but getting reservations out there was not to be. So we headed south to a beautiful state park just south of Grants Pass, Valley of the Rogue. It sits right along the Rogue River and we have a beautiful, large site overlooking a huge meadow. The sites are spacious and although there are RVs nearby, we are on a corner lot so all we see from our front door is the meadow. We are back in our element...again! :)

We will stay here until mid next week, waiting until the holiday crowds are well gone. And then we're not sure where we'll go. Since we really wanted to spend some time on the beach, we may back track a little bit and head that direction. Or we may continue eastward toward Crater Lake, another must-stop destination on our list. Ultimately, we are making a slow trek back to Colorado for a while, planning to take about a month to get there.

So that's a quick, or maybe not so quick, update of the last several months. But I also wanted to share a little about why I quit writing and more or less dropped out of the blogging world for awhile. As many of you know, we were dealing with some emotional turmoil when I last wrote. To some extent that continued throughout the summer. I felt that my last several posts were all on the depressing side, and although I always want to write true to my heart, I didn't want to continue to be a downer. Sometimes, there comes a point where you just have to regress and work things out on your own and I think I was reaching that point. In addition, it was difficult to find inspiration to write so I just walked away. For those who were loyal followers, I'm sorry if it seemed abrupt. I appreciate the several of you who reached out to me directly to make sure I was ok. And for all of you I followed, I apologize for lapsing in my support. I hope to get back in the swing of blogging now that we are RVing once again!

Our long term plans are unknown at this time. We have questioned whether we will continue full-timing. We love it when we can live the lifestyle we dreamed of. But we continue to struggle with finding the balance of where we want to be with where we feel that we need to be in order support ourselves financially. We don't want to simply live in an RV in order to claim that we're full-timing. I think that you would all agree that there are certain sacrifices we make when living in an RV and most of those are well-worth what you get in return, namely the ability to travel. If we're not able to get the return we're seeking, then is the investment worth it? We do not yet have that answer, but we continue to seek it daily. We accept that our pace will be slower than most, but then again we're younger than most so perhaps that's ok. If we can only travel a couple months out of the year, like we are doing now, then is that enough? I don't know.

Upon returning to Colorado, we plan to settle for awhile and regroup. I have some dental issues which need to be attended to and could result in some lengthy recovery, so we want to stay nearby. We also feel that Denver offers us one of the better possibilities for jobs since we have a strong network there. We don't know how long we'll stay, but it will mostly depend on our employment situation. At this point, we're considering all our options and will make the necessary decisions as the times come. Although we're not seeking to settle back down permanently, if circumstances are such that that appears to be our best option, then we are willing to consider that. We realize that we don't have to make any long-term decisions today and we are just trying to let fate run its course. I do believe that if we're meant to stay, we'll know it; and likewise, we'll also know if we're meant to continue on.

But for now, we're just going to enjoy being back in our element and take full advantage of the next several weeks. Whether it is the end of our full-time journey, or just the start of our next phase, we'll find out soon enough! Until then, thanks for listening to me ramble once again! It feels good to be back! :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thank You

Current Location: Fairview, OR

Thank you, once again, for your kind words, support and suggestions. We have taken them all to heart and are working on our attitudes. And ultimately, we know we have nothing to complain about. We have our health, we have our home, and most importantly we have each other. With all the recent devestation and loss of life in the southeast, it seems so petty to find issue with any aspect of our life. We are extremely grateful for everything we have.

We are doing much better. We are still working to find peace in our current situation, but have also started planning what comes next. We are eager to continue on with the journey we started. We have agreed that it is too soon to give it up, nor do we want to give up. We haven't even given ourselves a chance to succeed, or fail for that matter.

Speaking of failure, that is one of the things that I found myself fearing. As we were talking through our feelings, I mentioned that I felt we had something to prove. Like so many of you, we had our share of naysayers. We also had a lot of people who were living vicariously through us and cheering us on. I guess I felt pressure to be successful for all of these people. And with the pressure to succeed, frequently the fear of failure joins in. But the only people we have anything to prove to is ourselves.

The other day I heard this quote by Samuel Beckett:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

And it hit me. There's really nothing to fear. When we started out, we really had no agenda other than to experience life. There's no right or wrong. The only failure we could have had is if we didn't try in the first place. From here on out, as long as we're true to ourselves, it can only be successful. If we try something and it doesn't feel right, then it's ok to admit that and try something different. One of the best things about this lifestyle is its flexibility. Sometimes it's hard to remember that a seasonal job is not a career. Renting an RV site is not a long-term investment.

I find it kind of funny now, but one of the things that freaked me out is that this park is about 70% long-term residents. And by long-term I mean years, some upwards of 20 years. Although a small section of the park is reserved for short-term guests, overall the park has more of a mobile home park vibe (although the managers are very strict about the appearance so it doesn't look like a trailer park). I felt sucked in, as if I were never going to be able to leave. Over the last few weeks, I've heard multiple times "I thought I was going to travel too, but I stopped here and never left.". All of a sudden, I feared that would be us. Was this our new life? This definitely wasn't what I signed up for!

It now seems somewhat ridiculous admitting to this. Of course this isn't our life. It's difficult to extricate ourselves from the illusion because we're not surrounded by other RVers. Our neighbors are all stationary who just happen to live in RVs. Most of them don't choose to be mobile though. Our coworkers are all in long-term jobs/careers (I will have one other workamper who will be joining the office staff in late May so maybe that will help). We seem to be the anomoly, even in a so-called RV park.

The feelings we've had lately are ones that we never would have ever imagined. This life is full of surprises. But we'll continue to learn, as we do from each and every experience. Although we don't always understand, we know that these are all necessary lessons that we must work through.

So we will continue at our snail's pace for now, but will be eagerly awaiting the day that we can put the pedal to the metal, or at least shift out of first gear!

In closing, I would like to remember all those who were impacted by the recent storms. Hopefully, the wild weather is done with for awhile, but it is yet another reminder that nothing in this life can be taken for granted. Live your life today, for there may be no tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

LTD (Live The Dream)

Current Location: Fairview, OR

Yesterday, we drove out to Hood River during a warm and sunny afternoon. We didn't really have any agenda in mind, but just wanted to check out a new town. We knew that there were several micro breweries located here and had planned to have lunch at one of them. We chose Full Sail Brewery for no particular reason. They have a couple of limited edition beers on the menu, aptly named 'LTD', which are subtitled Live The Dream. Of course that immediately caught our eyes.

So what does 'living the dream' really mean? That has been a question on the forefront of our mind lately. As many of you have noticed, I've been absent for the last few weeks. Thank you to those who have worried about us. We are safe and healthy.

But I've been in a bit of a funk and guess I just haven't been motivated to write. I would like to blame it on the weather. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is an actual affliction and I have no doubt that it occurs frequently out here. So maybe that is partly to blame. But I think it is a combination of things.

It started with our California gig falling through. I think that affected us more than we care to admit. I know things happen, many times for reasons unknown, and you just have to accept them and move on. We've done that (or are still trying to) but it doesn't mean we can't still be disappointed. From there, we made the decision to stay in Portland through the summer. We had many reasons for this decision and all are still viable, but we find ourselves doubting that we made the right choice.

Our feelings about the area haven't changed, but we feel like we've fallen off course. This wasn't the life we envisioned when we dreamed of fulltiming. We're living in a park that we don't really care for. We're working jobs that are providing financially but are not all that fulfilling. Isn't that what we wanted to get away from when we started fulltiming?

Don't get me wrong. The park is ok. It's clean and safe. It's rated a 5W in Woodalls rating (not that that means that much). Our jobs are ok. We both like the people we work with. But it's all just ok. We don't want ok anymore. If we're really living the dream, then shouldn't we be achieving more?

One of our biggest challenges, as I see it, is that we need to find the balance between making a living and living our dream. I know there's a reason that there's not many pre-retirees fulltiming. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But I have to believe it is possible. I also know that it will require sacrifices, such as the sacrifices we feel we are making this summer. What I find myself questioning is how many sacrifices will need to be made to make it successful and will it be worth it?

I guess what we're really struggling with is figuring out what our dream really looks like. We have the idealistic view, but what about the realistic view? I don't want to be someone who simply lives in an RV. I want to be an RVer. And believe me, I've seen firsthand that there is a difference!

We are unsure what our goal is or even if we need to have one. Are we looking to have as many different experiences as possible? Yes. Are we wanting to explore different areas of the country to find a new place to settle down? Possibly. Are we looking to become rich? No, but we need to be able to sustain ourselves and prepare ourselves for the future. Do we want to continue careers in our current professional careers? Not really, but we know that those jobs are lucrative and for that we feel like we shouldn't dismiss them.

I find it ironic that so many of the doubts I had fought off while making the decision to fulltime are resurfacing. Things like 'you need to work high paying jobs to save as much money for that elusive retirement period', 'you are a college educated person, why would you want to work a minimally-paying, non-challenging job when you have the skills to get a real job', 'if you're out of the workplace for too long, you won't be marketable any longer and it will be much harder to get a job', 'you're just going through a phase, snap out of it and come back to the mainstream!'. Why are these thoughts all coming back? Is this all telling me something?

Do all of you have continuous doubts? Do you find yourselves reevaluating your decisions constantly? I wish I were the type of person that could just relax and go with the flow, but I fear the planner and analyzer in me won't allow that. Does that mean that I'm not cut out for this lifestyle? Am I fooling myself in believing that we can live this lifestyle and be financially stable at the same time?

Thanks for allowing me to blabber, gripe and think out loud. I know our current situation is short-term. One of these days, the rain will stop and the sun will stay out for more than a day at a time. In 5 months, our work will be done here and we'll really be rolling down the road this time, hopefully with some extra money in our pocket. I realize that no one can give us all the answers and none of us has a crystal ball. I just appreciate you listening and am grateful for any advice, life experiences, suggestions, comments or rants you want to offer.

And I want to assure you that we will work ourselves out of this. Often when I find myself confused and wandering aimlessly, I tend to 'disappear'. I stop writing because I feel like I just talk in circles. Sometimes I stop reading because I'm jealous that you're all finding ways to make it work while I seemingly can't. But I will return. So again, thank you for your concern and thank you for your support.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moving Day...And Our New Plan

Current Location: Fairview, OR

The last couple of weeks have felt like a little bit of a ticking time bomb. Once the bottom fell out of our summer plans, we felt under pressure to come up with a new plan and quick. The end of our reservations at our current park was coming up quickly and we had already extended twice, once when we thought our California start date was being delayed and once after we found out that we didn't have a California start date. We basically had two options - to extend a third time or move on.

At the same time our California gig was disintegrating, there was an ad in Workamper News for a seasonal position at another RV park in Portland. We half heartedly joked that we should apply, but really didn't think about it too seriously. Over the next several days, we did a lot of soul searching amidst all the pain and disappointment we were feeling. We partly just wanted to hit the road and run away, but we knew that really wouldn't solve anything. So we conjured up our rational sides.

About this same time, Tracy mentioned the Portland workamping job again and asked what I thought about staying in Portland. She had left her contract position on very good terms and thought there might be an opportunity to return. And even if that didn't work out, her recruiter had told her to contact him anytime she returned to Portland because she would be easy to place.

Hmmm, that was an interesting thought. We have fallen in love with Portland and had mentioned multiple times that if we were ever ready to settle down, this would be high on our list, rain and all. And we had been told by multiple people that we were leaving just as the weather was getting good. We survived the worst, why would we want to miss the best? But on the flip side, we had spent the last 6 months in the Northwest. Would we really want to spend another 6? Wasn't this life all about travel and experiencing new places? Were we just taking the easy way out or is this something we really wanted?

Even though we were still torn, I decided to contact the park to get more information about their opening. I mentioned that I was in Portland and would be willing to come in and talk in person. I received an immediate response and we set up an appointment a couple of days later. It's rare in workamping positions that the employer and employee get to meet before hand or that the employee gets a chance to check out the park. In the meantime, Tracy contacted her recruiter to explore her options.

I walked out of my appointment with a job offer, pending a successful background check, which I knew wouldn't be an issue. Tracy had gotten a positive response from her recruiter and a potential plan was starting to take shape. Now we just had to decide if we really wanted it.

Financially, it made sense. Tracy was earning pretty good money and my position would include our site plus a wage for all hours worked. In addition, we wouldn't have any travel expense to speak of and with current gas prices, this was certainly a factor. But it isn't all about the money. If money was our primary motivating factor, then we wouldn't be living this lifestyle. There had to be more reasons to stay.

The winter weather had prevented us from seeing and doing a lot of things. Even on the reasonably nice days, we were pretty limited. Staying the summer would provide the opportunity to accomplish a lot of those things. And if we were really serious about settling down someday, it would be beneficial to get a feel for all 4 seasons.

If I sound like I'm trying to talk us into it, that's probably because it's true. I wouldn't be truthful if I said that we knew without a doubt that this was the best thing for us. We have a few doubts and we've gone back and forth many times. But in the end, the yes's outweighted the no's. And what's the worst that could happen? We come to the conclusion that we made a mistake? It certainly wouldn't be the first time. And it's only for 6 months. I'm sure the time will fly by.

So here we are...still in Portland to stay for a bit longer. It's not exactly how we envisioned this summer to be. I wish I could say that I am as excited about this job as I was about our management position. It will be different and it will provide a view into a different type of park operations. It will certainly be a lot less stress. Unfortunately, our site doesn't even come close to comparing to our site last year. This is definitely city living in a typical RV park. But as much as we wanted to return to California this summer, we just have to face facts that it isn't a possibility. So we will try to focus on the good...and there is a lot of good.

Today was moving day and it was our shortest move yet. A whopping 30 miles! OK, 29.6 to be exact. Once we were hitched up and started rolling, we so wanted to keep going. It felt good to be on the move again. But we will have lots of opportuntities in the future and for now we are meant to be here. We still don't understand it all, but we will trust that we are being guided in the right direction.

Monday, March 28, 2011

525,600 Minutes - take 2

Note: This post was supposed to be published on March 26, on which we celebrated our one-year fulliming anniversary, but due to technical difficulties I was unable. I'm still having problems with formatting, but hopefully I can get it to a state that it's at least readable. Otherwise, this may be my last post ever!!



Current Location: Tualatin, OR


Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure, measure a year?


In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee

In inches, in miles, in laughter and strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year in the life?

- "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent



It's hard to believe we've been official fulltimers for a full year. How could that be possible? It seems like it was just yesterday that we were fantasizing, but not really believing, that we could really do this. And now we've been at it for a full year.


And what a year it has been! We've had many highs...and a few lows. We anticipated that this would be a year of learning and we were not disappointed. Embarking on this journey, we knew we really didn't have a clue as to what to expect. We had RVed for years, so we weren't overly concerned with that aspect, although driving a big truck with an even bigger rig behind has taken some getting used to and is still a bit intimidating. We had done lots of reading about others' experiences, but we knew ours would have its own unique twists, so we couldn't count on following in any one set of tire tracks. At some point, you realize that there's only so much preparation you can do and if you really want to know whether you're going to sink or swim, you just have to jump in with both feet and say a little prayer.

As March 26 was approaching, we found ourselves reflecting often about the past year. Was it everything we thought it would be? What did we really expect anyway? Was it a successful year? What, if anything, would we have done differently? Do we feel any better prepared now than we did then?

We had a lot of dreams, but few goals, when we began last spring. We knew we wanted to experience some places we had never been before. And not just visit as we used to do on vacation, but spend ample amount of time in an area to get to know the community. In order to do this, we knew we had to find a way to support ourselves. Otherwise, it would be a very short trip. We wanted to gain some workamping experience to determine if this was something we would be interested in doing in the future and whether it would be a viable source of income. Beyond those thoughts, we had no plans.

A year later, I would rate us as reasonably successful. We visited several new areas. We started off in southeastern Texas, while setting up our residency. From there we worked our way slowly west to northern California. We spent 4 1/2 months there while working our first workamping gig. In September, we continued north through Oregon to Washington and then back to Oregon where we are today. All of these places were new to us, so even though it sometimes feel like we didn't travel extensively, we did accomplish what we said we wanted to.

We were also able to earn some money throughout the year. Although we had prepared a budget based on our previous expenses and several other fulltimer's budgets, we really didn't know how accurate this was and just hoped we were somewhere in the ballpark. Workamping proved to work out well. Not only were we earning money, but we were also lessening our expenses by staying put. It's certainly not a high paying gig and I'm still not convinced we could support ourselves solely on those wages, but we enjoyed it and reassured ourselves that it is something worth seeking out in the future.

But I think we also reinforced what we already suspected in that it is prudent to balance workamping with more lucrative employment in the form of professional contracts. That is what we sought out this winter and it was somewhat of a hit and miss. Admittedly, we didn't try as hard as we should have because we thought we had a guaranteed source of income this summer. We learned a hard lesson in that there are no guarantees in life. Not a lesson that anyone wants to be reminded of, but apparently it's necessary from time to time. So we were a little complacent and our results showed. Tracy was successful; I was not. But we took some other lessons away from our experience and will apply those in the next round.

Looking back, I do think we learned a lot, but are nowhere near done. If we could replay the past year over, would we do anything differently? In hindsight, yes; but given the information we had at the time, I think we would have made many of the same decisions. We certainly don't have any regrets, but there are some areas where we feel we could improve.

Number one, I need to work on relaxing a bit more. That may sound ironic since I haven't worked for several months, but that's not the kind of relaxing I'm referring to. One of the allures of this lifestyle is the adventure. LiveWorkDream recently commented on one of my posts and included the following quote: "At its core, adventure is the willingness to commit to an uncertain outcome with an open heart and an open mind" (author unknown). This quote resonated with me on several levels. I have come to realize that I am more structured than I care to admit and the idea of an uncertain outcome is very difficult for me. I do take risks, but they are usually very calculated through lots of research and analysis. I do like to have a plan and prefer to have at least a glimpse around the next corner. Does that make me unadventurous? I don't think so, but it does cause a little extra worry since this lifestyle comes with a fair number of uncertainties. I know that I need to ease up and I'm working on some of those barriers, but it takes time. I do know that things have a way of working out as they are meant to, regardless of how much worry is mixed into the pot, so I will keep reminding myself of that as I progress.

Ideally, we would like to travel more. It's difficult sometimes to follow other bloggers who are crisscrossing the country as we sit. But we realize that we are in a different position that most fulltimers. We made the choice to begin our journey before retirement. We recognize that our path will be largely dictated by work opportunities. We could seek out shorter and more frequent jobs which would allow us to be on the move more often and that might be something we investigate in the future. But for now, we are comfortable with 4-6 month gigs. In the grand scheme of life, 6 months is a very short period of time. We hope to be doing this for many years so we don't need to be in a hurry. If we can continue on the pace of 3-4 new places each year, that's a huge improvement from where we started. It's sometimes hard not to measure our adventure against others, but ultimately, we know we need to define what's right for us.

So overall, do we think we made the right decision? Absolutely! It's not always perfect and it may not always be easy, but I feel that we are finally in control of our destiny. Even though we may not change our scenery as often as we'd like, I love having the freedom to know that we can. We may have to make certain sacrafices to adhere to our frugal budget, but I do believe that we gain so much more than we've had to give up. It's difficult to put ourselves back in the mindset we had when pondering this lifestyle, but I know without a doubt that we desperately needed a change. It's possible that we could have achieved what we needed to through less drastic measures, but I think we were at a point where we needed a huge shake up. Part of me was seeking the challenge and part of me just wanted something new and different. Regardless of the motivation, we both agree that this lifestyle suits us. Someday, we may find the desire or the necessity to settle down again, but until then, we will continue to cruise along at our own pace.
Bring on year #2!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

525,600 Minutes

For those of you looking for my latest post, I'm experiencing problems. I've been trying to publish a post for the last 24 hours but to no avail. I'm so frustrated at this point, that I'm walking away and will try again in a day or two. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Silver Falls State Park

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

Yesterday's forecast was for sun and mostly dry. What did we wake up to? SUN! And believe me, we haven't seen much of that this month. As a matter of fact, Portland is on track to break a record which has been standing since the 50's - the most days of measurable rain (at least .01 inch a day) in the month of March. The record is 27 days and the forecasters are pretty certain it will be broken. We knew it was wet here, but it's even the locals are saying so!


North Falls, 136 feet

So when we saw blue sky we knew we needed to take advantage of it. A visit to Silver Falls State Park has been on our list since we arrived. We've been waiting for the perfect day, but finally came to the conclusion that this might be as good as we get.

Lower North Falls, 30 feet

This state park is known for it's waterfalls, and they weren't overselling themselves! The Trail of Ten Falls winds through the park in an 8 mile loop, but there are several cutoffs available to allow for shorter hikes. We weren't convinced the rain would hold off long enough, nor were we sure our fitness level was up to par, but we were able do a pleasant 5 1/2 mile loop which took us by 7 of the 10 falls. I guess we'll have to make it a point to go back and see the rest.


Middle North Falls, 106 feet


The trail winds through the forests and canyons, right along the river. Most of the time, the trail takes you right to the base of the falls and on a couple of occassions, it takes you behind the falls. I imagine this is a very popular place in the heat of the summer. The first two falls were fairly close to the main parking lot and there were more people than we expected on a weekday (spring break), but once we got about 1/2 mile down the trail, it was very peaceful. I don't think we probably passed more than a total of 10 people the rest of the day.

Winter Falls, 134 feet




Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the main trail, so Hunter had to stay home for this one. He never likes being left behind, but it's even harder when he sees the pack come out and the water bottles being filled. He's a really good pouter, but he's getting old enough now where we think he's just as happy to stay home and nap. But he still does his best to make us feel guilty!

Double Falls, 178 feet
As you've probably figured out by now, I'm kind of partial to waterfalls. I love being around water anyway, but there's just something in the way a droplet of water becomes so powerful as it succumbs to gravity. And with all the rain we've been getting, you can believe there was a lot force this time of year.
Lower South Falls, 93 feet (noticed the sunny hillside above the falls!)
This is a spectacular park and one that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. Even if you are not a hiker, there are a couple of falls you can reach with very short walks and some nice overlooks. The drive to the park is through a beautiful countryside full of Christmas tree farms and vineyards. Even without the park as a destination, it would make a nice day's drive.

South Falls, 177 feet

This day was just what we needed. It was great to be able to get out and enjoy some fresh air and warm sun while doing a little physical exercise. And it was nice to give our minds a break from the craziness of the last few weeks, if even just for a few hours. The rain drops started just as we could see glimpses of the parking lot and by the time we reached the truck, it was coming down pretty hard, but all in all, it was a perfect day!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life Is A Rollercoaster

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

Remember when I asked how boring life would be if it always went as expected? Well, we could use a little boring about now!

We should have recognized that the high we were on was simply the ride up to the top of the rollercoaster; little did we know that the top was so near and the only way left to go was down.

Last week was a bit of a tough week for us. In a nutshell, the owners of the campground in California did a 180 degree turn and decided to manage the campground themselves, essentially putting us out of a job. Unfortunately, in order to reach that decision, it took several days of discussions with frequent changes. In the end, they did offer us the opportunity to return in a much reduced role, but we ultimately made the decision that it was no longer a good fit for us and we walked away.

I think we experienced just about every emotion in the book over the course of only a few days, but what felt like eons. Shock, disbelief, hurt, anger, insulted, confused, sadness, dejected, betrayed, overwhelmed, grief and finally some level of relief that we could start to put it all behind us. We still don't entirely understand what happened, nor how it could have deteriorated so quickly, but we walk away with our heads held high knowing that we did everything in our power to try and make it work.

It's just another reminder that we can't control other people's actions; we only have control over our own reactions. We know that this whole ordeal will only make us stronger. We will learn from it. We still whole heartedly believe that everything happens for a reason and that this just wasn't meant to be. None of these rationalizations make it any less painful, but with each minute that passes, we are feeling better and have begun to find some positives in the situation.

We don't know where we are going from here, but we recognize that there are oodles of options. We remind ourselves frequently that that is yet another beauty of this lifestyle - we are not limited geographically or weighted down by possessions. We already have some strong prospects and will hopefully have some good news to report soon. In the meantime, we have extended our stay in Portland for a little while until we can figure things out. With the current price of gas, it didn't seem to make sense to aimlessly drive around. We need to focus on finding a job and that's much easier to do while stationary, even though it pains us not to take advantage of our free time. We have our whole lives; we don't need to be in a hurry.

For those of you who thought about visiting the campground this summer, we would still encourage you to do so as it is a beautiful place; unfortunately, we just won't be there to greet you.

The road of life is full of curves and speedbumps. Some may slow us down, but none will ever stop us from moving forward!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Current Location: Tualatin, OR


How boring would life be if things went always as expected?

Tracy found out yesterday that her job would be coming to an end on Friday. This was not totally unexpected. Over the last few weeks, her workload had diminished to the point that she was struggling to keep busy. But we were still disappointed. We were hoping to have an income for a couple of more weeks, but once we got past our initial reaction, we realize that it's actually working out just the way we need it to.

The bigger piece of news we received came late last week from the owners of the campground that we will be returning to this summer. We were informed that the year-round caretaker/maintenance manager would be leaving before the beginning of the season. Uh oh, what does this mean??

Just a quick recap on how things left off last Fall. We had agreed to return this summer as assistant managers, primarily in charge of running the store/office, managing the seasonal workampers, and handling guest relation issues. It was not expected that we'd be too involved in the maintenance side of the operations except to help out when needed. This position was well within our comfort zone because while we would be taking on additonal responsibilities, we felt it would allow us to learn the aspects of campground management at a more relaxed pace.

Well, Randy's sudden and unexpected departure put a huge gap in the staffing structure. I think it was quickly apparent to the owners, as well as us, that having assistant managers wasn't going to be enough to fill that gap. We were asked whether we were interested in taking on a more elevated role as full-fledged managers over the entire campground.

My initial reaction was there's no way. We weren't that involved with the maintenance work last year and we certainly don't have the technical expertise. Randy's departure doesn't just mean that we're losing a body, but the multiple years of knowledge he has is going with him. The thought of taking all of this on was very daunting. And I questioned whether we were really the right people for this role. We've never managed a campground before.

So we did what we do best. We analyzed. We listed the pros and cons. We did a little soul searching on what it was we were really looking for, both in the short and long term. And we discussed whether we thought we were really qualified. If we didn't truly believe we could be successful, then it wouldn't be the right position for us, no matter how much we wanted it.

I think in the back of our minds, we both knew what our answer would be. One of the reasons that we originally decided to return this summer is because we believed that our skills and experiences could help make a difference in the campground experience for the owners, our fellow workers, and the guests alike. That motivation and passion still exists. Throughout the winter, we've frequently talked about the campground and our excitement about what lies ahead.

So although it is a lot more responsibility than we had originally planned to take on, we also realize what an amazing opportunity this is. And it's not like we haven't jumped in with both feet without really knowing what we were doing before. After all, look at our lifestyle change. Quitting our jobs, selling our house and hitting the road with no idea what was ahead of us or how we were going to make a living. If that doesn't qualify as daunting, I don't know what does!

Although the initial feeling about Randy's departure was "oh no, what are we going to do?", as time has passed we've started to see the silver lining. We realize this is a chance to start with a clean slate. Although we liked and worked well with Randy, he was challenging at times and definitely worked at his own pace. We had some minor concerns about how well he would accept us as managers, especially when our responsibilities overlapped. We now feel like we can move forward without worrying about bruising someone's ego.

The other factor that really helped make our decision was the faith of the owners. If they didn't feel that we were qualified, they wouldn't have asked. They have addressed our concerns about lack of technical knowledge by ensuring us that they plan on hiring people with those skills. They have told us that they want us to have the freedom to do things our way. That type of empowerment is huge and knowing that they have that level of trust in us gives us the confidence to believe in ourselves.

That's not to say that we aren't scared sh#*less. We are. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, tons to learn and no doubt, we will make some mistakes. But we also know that you have to take risks to grow and if you don't allow yourself to fall down occassionally, then you're not trying hard enough. From the start of our journey, I've had a feeling that there's something wonderful out there waiting for us but that the only way to reach it was to trust our hearts. I don't know that this is it, but perhaps this is the next leg which will ultimately lead us to where we're supposed to be. I am a believer in fate and destiny and I do think everything happens for a reason.

This new role means that we will need to be at the campground sooner than expected. Originally, we were due to arrive at the end of April, but now we will be reporting at the beginning of April, possibly sooner. So Tracy would have been wrapping up her contract within a week or so anyway. And with the extra free time, hopefully we'll be able to do a little traveling before settling down for the summer. Now the only question is, where to?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Columbia River Gorge

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

Just before Tracy landed her job (the day before to be exact!), we took a drive through the Columbia River Gorge. We woke up to a relatively clear and sunny day which we thought would make for a beautiful backdrop. We've learned that you need to take advantage when you see the sun because you never know when you'll see it again! The forecast was for cooler temperaturates and a little wind, but we figured the sun would counter balance that.


The gorge from the historic highway

So off we went. Little did we know that when the weatherman predicts wind, the gorge is not the place to go! Apparently, there are atamostopheric wind differentials on the east and west sides of the Cascades, which effectively make the gorge a wind tunnel. It's a very popular place for windsurfing and we now understand why. In other words, if you go to the gorge, expect wind!


Latourell Falls, 249 ft drop

The Columbia River separates Oregon from Washington so we decided we'd drive the Oregon side on the way out and the Washington side on the way back. There are only a few places where you can cross the river, so we had to keep that in mind as we meandered along.


Wahkeena Falls, 242 ft drop

We drove along the historic Columbia River Highway (historic route 30). It's the oldest scenic highway in the U.S. The highway was completed in 1922 and was an engineering achievement in its time. It was a main thoroughfare back then, but was eventually replaced with I-84. The highway has been restored to resemble what it looked like back in the 20's and 30's.


Bridal Veil Falls, upper falls 100 ft drop, lower falls 60 foot drop

It's a beautiful drive through the forests and along the cliff sides, with several overlooks and numerous waterfalls along the way. We stopped at most of the pull offs and walked a few short trails. Unfortunately, the wind was brutal, even among the trees, so we found ourselves staying outside just long enough to snap a few pictures. Like many of our adventures this winter, we'd like to return in the warmer weather to do some more serious hiking.


Multnomah Falls, upper falls 542 ft drop, lower falls 69 foot drop
This is the tallest falls in Oregon and the 3rd tallest year-round falls in the U.S.

After taking in so many awesome waterfalls, we headed out of the forest and to the gorge to visit the Bonneville Dam. The Dam was built in the early 1930's as part of the New Deal program. It's main functions are river navigation and generating hydroelectric power.


Bonneville Dam

By the time we reached the town of Cascade Locks, about 30 miles down the highway, we pretty much felt beaten down by the wind. The next river crossing was another 15 or 20 miles further east and it was getting late enough that we decided to start heading back towards home. The drive on the Washington side wasn't nearly as scenic and was a bit of a disappointment compared to the historic route. There weren't many stopping points and it quickly veered away from the gorge so there wasn't much to see. But our alternative would have been to return via I-84 which we didn't want to do, so we still enjoyed our drive.

Bonneville Dam from the Washington shore

The Columbia Gorge was high on our list of places to visit while we were here and even though it was a chilly day, we had a great time. Another check on our list!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day!

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

We've managed to evade the snow all winter...until today. Seattle did have a major snow event over Thanksgiving, but we were in Alaska. And it did snow while we were in Anchorage, but we were just visiting so that didn't count in my mind. We were counting our blessings when the snow was dumping on the southeast and the deep freeze was cooling down the southwest. Although we've experienced enough rain to last us the rest of the year, the silver lining is that rain means that it's warm enough to not have to worry about snow!

But our day has arrived. The weather forecasters have been talking about this storm for days. And late last night, our big snow arrived. All one inch of it! Almost all of the schools in the region were closed, which make me chuckle, considering that the snow was completely gone by 10 am.

Now I know that other places in the Portland-metro area received more snow and I fully understand that the closures were made early in the morning when the snow was still falling and I know that they're not used to getting much snow here, but still it was such a non-event! Having grown up in the Northeast and having spent more than 20 years in Colorado, I guess I'm used to snowfall measured in feet.

The widespread school closures also meant that many businesses decided not to open also. And that included Tracy's office, so she got an unexpected day off! Unfortunately, she's battling a bug that's been going around so she spent most of her free day in bed. And I spent most of the day trying to be quiet so she could sleep. I guess that's one of the downfalls of living in such a small space.

And unfortunately, this storm brought along a cold front. For the first time since we've been here, they are predicting overnight temperatures in the teens and low 20's. Brrr. I guess it's our time though, so no complaining here. We've had a pretty mild winter all things considered. It's so tolerable that we've both said that we would consider spending another winter here! If you had asked me earlier in the winter I might have had a different answer, but both the weather and our attitudes improved once we moved to Portland. It may not be your typical snowbird locale, but it's really not a bad place to winter down!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Housewifery

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

For the past couple of weeks, I have been working a very important job. It wasn't the job I envisioned for myself this winter, but we all have to play the hand that's dealt to us. For the first time in my life, I am an official, full-time housewife!

As I've mentioned before, one of our primary intentions for wintering in an urban locale was to land temporary jobs. I will be the first to admit that we didn't set ourselves up very well for success. We spent too much of the Fall away and while those visits were wonderful and I wouldn't trade them, that took almost 2 months out of our job search time. It was about this time that we were leaning heavily to relocating to Portland and wanted to focus our job search there. But we had committed ourselves to staying in Washington through the holidays. We thought we could still search for jobs 180 miles away and figured that if one of us landed a job, we would come up with some temporary living quarters until we could get relocated. While doing the preliminary work remotely was not a problem, we found that the recruiters really didn't want to do much until we were local. Understandable. Then the tree incident happened and that set us back another 3 weeks.

We were still hopeful that something would materialize. We would be in Portland for almost 3 months and the feedback we were receiving was positive. Just about the time that we were getting a little dejected, Tracy received an offer and it was right up her alley. She is currently providing some accounting assistance to a local non-profit. We're not sure how long it's going to last, but they are very pleased with her so we're hoping they'll keep her through March. I, on the other hand, have not been so lucky. Unfortunately, I have found that most of the technical jobs are desiring a longer commitment. Although I was willing to do work that I was overqualified for, I'm not sure my recruiter was as invested in me as Tracy's was in her. I think it would have been much different if we would have been in town longer.

So now that Tracy is doing the 9-5 thing again, she has hired me as her official housewife. I've never been a housewife before and I don't think she's ever had one. It's a new fronteir for both of us! :) And I, for one, am enjoying it, knowing that it is only temporary. I don't think I could do this for the long term.

So what do my days look like? Well, the morning starts out with me getting up with Tracy and fixing her breakfast (ok, I admit she let me stay snuggled in yesterday when it was cold and pouring rain). I pack her lunch and get her out the door on time. I have to say that it sure does make mornings a whole lot less stressful knowing that only one of us is on a time schedule. My next important task of the day is to get Hunter out for his business. We usually try to do a 2-3 mile walk, weather permitting. Then the fun keeps going with laundry, grocery shopping, house cleaning, or whatever other mundane chore is on task for the day. About then, it is time to get dinner started so that Tracy has a hot meal waiting for her when she walks in the door.

In the midst of all of that, I am busy planning activities for the weekend. One of the downsides to Tracy being employed is that our play time is drastically hampered. So I do my best freeing up the weekends so that we can continue with our exploring. We still have a long list to conquer. Hopefully, I won't run Tracy ragged!

It is amazing how quickly my days fly by. It seems like I don't do much, but before I know it, Tracy is walking in the door. It is pretty sad that a trip to the grocery store is the highlight to my week. Yesterday, Tracy suggested that we do the grocery shopping in the evening and I immediately said NO! I told her she can't take away my only excuse for leaving the house. Of course, I was only kidding, kind of. I don't want to do much exploring without her, but there are still some state and city parks that I would like to check out as soon as the weather improves. There are also some museums and such which offer free or deeply discounted admission during the week, so I will try to hit those as well.

Although I miss spending the days with my best friend, we know that it will only be for a short time. We have taken away a lot of positives from this experience. The first being that temporary professional contracts are a viable source of income. Since these tend to be significantly more lucrative than workamping, we will probably continue to seek out these types of opportunities from time to time to rebuild/increase our savings. And that might mean, that occassionally one of us may have to play housewife. Next time it may be Tracy's turn, but I'm hoping to do such a good job this time that I'll get rehired for the next opportunity! :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

PTSD

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

WOW! Once again, I am flabbergasted by this blogging community. First, let me thank all of you who left comments. Your support and kind words touch me more than I can say. And also thank you to those who mentioned me in their blogs. I am truly honored by the recognition. I had no idea I could cause such a stir! ;)

Oftentimes, my writing is just a form of thinking out loud and I think this was one of those times. When I started the post, I think I had a slightly different direction in mind, but I wrote what was flowing through my brain and that's what came out. My inclination is to write and rewrite until I get it just right, but sometimes I think it's better to just put it out there and let it be.

As I was writing, I think I was answering my own self doubts. For me, personally, I need to write from the heart. Ultimately, my motivation comes from within. I do go through periods where I struggle with my self esteem and it is during those times I question why anyone would find interest in my thoughts. But then I have to remind myself that I write because I enjoy it and it helps me formulate and organize my thoughts. Have you ever found that you think better while walking? When I was working and I was struggling with an issue, I would often take a break to walk around the block and would frequently return with a much clearer mind. Writing, for me, serves a lot of the same purpose.

So would I keep writing without comments? Probably, but your comments really do encourage me and I truly, truly appreciate all of them. So again, thank you!!

And now on to tonight's subject...PTSD. Yes, I'm talking about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I don't think I realized how affected we really were by the tree coming through our roof. Certainly, at the moment it happened it was a big deal and it directly affected our lives for several weeks afterwards. But once we got the RV fixed and settled back in our home, I thought it was all behind us.

Not so, appearantly. The wind makes us all cringe. We have a storm front moving through and this afternoon, the wind really picked up. We do have one tree that is near the back of the rig and as soon as things started falling, the animals were basket cases. Hunter paced and whined and wanted to crawl in the smallest space he could find. Jazzy wasn't a whole lot better; his eyes wide open with every bang. And you all know how loud an RV can be in a storm. We tried to turn on the radio to drown out the scary sounds, but I don't think it was possible to turn it up loud enough (and we wouldn't have been able to stand it!).

But it's not just the animals. We both find ourselves cringing with every noise and neither of us particularly like being under trees, whether it's in an RV or on foot. This morning, we went hiking, trying to get in a little exercise and fresh air before the storm arrived. About half way through the wind started picking up. We were deep in the forest and couldn't help but watching the top of the trees swaying. It was just a wee bit unsettling and I think it was about that time that we picked up our pace.

I wonder if our "wounds" are still too fresh and if over time, our fears will calm. Or will we always have a wind anxiety? I know it's somewhat irrational. After all, what are the chances that a tree would fall on our RV for a second time? Especially so soon after the first. But I think we are all experiencing some level of flashbacks. With each bang, I know I visualize a branch falling and causing damage. Hopefully, time will erase, or at least dull, those memories.

Thankfully, the rains arrived and the winds died down. I doubt that any of us would have gotten much sleep tonight otherwise. I never thought I'd be so happy to see the rain! :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Is The Purpose Of This Blog?

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

Once again, I find myself in a blogging block. And I think all of you are to blame! When I first decided to write a blog, it was primarily to keep our closest friends and relatives apprised of our location and excursions. I also wanted to keep some type of journal for historical purposes, so that when I lost my memory in old age (uh oh, I think I'm well on my way), I'll have something to remind me of these days. I wasn't particularly self conscious because I wasn't sure anyone would be reading. I just wrote what was on my mind. As a matter of fact I published my first several posts before I even shared the link with anyone! I wasn't even sure I was going to share it, but I must have let it slip in a moment of weakness.

And a funny thing happened. I gained followers. At first it was just a few, but the number kept growing. Now I'm up to 81 publicized followers and I know there are many more lurking in the shadows. A few of these folks I know personally, several others are fellow bloggers whom I follow, but many are people whom I don't know. I don't know how they found my blog. They've never left a comment or initiated contact. I don't know if they read regularly or just occassionally or if they still follow at all.

I am flattered by it all. It still amazes me that anyone would choose to read my ramblings, when there is so much more entertaining stuff out there. There are far better writers than me. And there are certainly those who are more diligent about writing. So why me?

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. Suffice it to say, I am humbled by it. But that humbling has also led to a problem. Pressure! I feel like I need to write for you. I feel like I need to publish regularly to hold on to my audience. And I feel like I need to write interesting, informative pieces to keep you coming back. Although I've always told myself that I'm writing this primarily for me and it doesn't matter if anyone reads it, I know that's not really true. Having an audience is kind of addictive. Although I don't measure my success by the number of followers, it is certainly flattering to watch that number grow. And I have to wonder that if I stopped receiving comments, would I eventually stop writing?

So while it is motiviational to have followers, it also causes a challenge for me. You see, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and if I'm going to write knowing that it will be read by others, I want to write something good. And if I don't think I can do that, then I will procrastinate and not write anything at all. It's a bad habit and I've thought more than once about giving up this blogging business altogether; but I like writing and I like being part of the blogging community, so I'm not ready to stop just yet.

From the beginning, I've struggled with what I want the focus of this blog to be about. Do I want it to be a travelogue? Do I want to focus more heavily on the full-timing lifestyle and what it's like to live in a small box on wheels? Do I want it to be educational for those interested in RVing, either part or full-time? Do I want to keep it more introspective and talk about things like why I don't blog more often? I don't know, but I've always felt that I needed a direction. The one thing I do know is that I don't want it to be mundane. I don't want to talk about what I had for dinner or how many loads of laundry I did today. I realize that that's all part of the lifestyle too, but I think that's boring, both to write about and to read. But just in case you're wondering, I've done 4 loads of laundry over the last couple of days, made a trip to Super Walmart to stock up on groceries, and made a quiche for dinner tonight. :)

As I write this, I think the answer to my question is becoming clearer. I think this blog is probably a little bit of everything. I am introspective by nature and although I am a fairly private person, oddly I find it pretty easy to write about my feelings (much easier than talking about them!), so I will no doubtedly continue with my reflections. And although we tend to stay stationary for longer periods of time, we are still busy exploring and I would like to share our experiences. I definitely want to share more pictures. I'm getting better about remembering to take my camera, but I'm slow to get the pictures uploaded and if I wait for the pictures, I may never publish a post. I hope that some of my babbling will be educational and I will try to share tidbits of what I learn everyday. But mostly, I think I just need to write whatever's on my mind.

Maybe my blog doesn't need a singular direction. Maybe by just sharing whatever topic surfaces will be educational and interesting. And hopefully my writing will be good enough...

Do any of you fellow bloggers struggle with what to write about and how often to write? Or am I just crazy??

Monday, January 31, 2011

Exploring Portland and Beyond

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

The days seem to be flying by. It's hard to believe that today is the last day of January. We have been keeping busy finding out Portland is all about. Shortly after arriving, we made a list of all the things we wanted to do while we're here. If we don't write it down, we'll forget and we'll find ourselves pulling out of town with a lot of "wish we had done that"! Our original list contained more than 15 items and as quickly as we're marking old ones off, we're adding new ones. While that means we'll probably never complete the list, we're certainly trying to make the most of our time here.

We figured one of the best ways to learn about a city is to take a guided tour. On Saturday we took a walking tour of Portland (http://www.portlandwalkingtours.com/). It was a little pricey ($19/person), but for 2 1/2 hours of entertainment and education, I think it was well worth it and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city.
A few little fun facts about the city:

  • How did Portland get it's name? There were 2 primary landholders who each wanted to name the city after their home city. One was from Boston and the other was from Portland, ME. They argued for quite some time and could never come to an agreement. Finally, the townspeople had had enough and forced a decision. A penny was flipped and the winner would get to choose the name. So Portland was literally named by a flip of a coin.
  • Portland is home to the smallest park in the world (designated by Guiness Book of World Records). Originally, there was supposed to be a light post here, but the city never completed the project and instead the median remained dirt and weeds. A local newspaper editor, whose office window overlooked the median, was notorious for griping about the city for years and stating that he had the worst view in the city. One day, he planted a bush there and from that day on, his outlook changed and he praised the city in his columns. (yes, that little tree in the round median is the park!)
  • Portland is becoming well-known for it's sustainability, social consciousness and eco-friendliness. There are many miles of bike lanes (I don't remember how many, but several hundred) and one stat that our guide gave us is that there are over 17,000 bike commuters daily. That's a lot! They are trying to become the most eco-friendly city in the world. But biking is not the only way to get around. Apparently, skateboarding is also a common means of transportation, as noted by the skateboarding lanes!

After our tour, we moved on to another "must visit" in Portland - Voodoo Donut. Now, let me say that we're not donut connoisseurs. I never fell for the Krispy Kreme craze and I can't remember the last time I even ate a donut. But this place was consistently listed on all the 'visit Portland' sites and it is supposedly "world famous", so while we were downtown, we decided to check it out. Well, it certainly does have its following. As we approached the building we could see a long line of people outside. I figured it was for something else, but as we got closer, it was evident that they were all waiting for donuts! The line was a mixture of young and old, local and tourist. How could we not join the ranks and stand in line? And stand we did, for probably a good 30-45 minutes! If we had known it would take that long, we probably wouldn't have waited. But once we were in line and watched as the line continued to grow and grow, we couldn't give up our spot. After all, all these people must know something, right? We finally got inside the very small little, non-descript storefront. There was not really a menu to speak of, just a huge variety of donuts. Some were pretty basic looking, but others were topped with everything imaginable (froot loops, cheetos, bacon, oreos, and so much more). So was the wait worth it? Probably not. The donuts were good, but they're donuts. Personally, I would have preferred a freshly baked cookie or even a fresh piece of warm bread. (I guess that's my age speaking!) Although I'm sure they were just recently made, they weren't "fresh out of the oven" hot, nor was there even any scent wafting around to torture us while we waited. But we're glad we experienced a piece of Portland culture and it's not like we had to be anywhere else!

The line (notice the small, handpainted sign before the marquee. That's the door. We probably would have walked right past if not for the line!):

With our sugar buzz in high gear, we buzzed around the city checking out a few more sites, until the sugar wore off and we crashed and were both ready for a nap. It was a full day, but thoroughly enjoyed learning about and experiencing the city. Although we are not really city people, we really like the vibe of Portland and look forward to venturing downtown again soon.

Almost every day we try to get out and see something new. That is one advantage of not working - there's ample time to explore - and we're taking full advantage of it. Of course with no income, we need to be frugal and many of our outings cost nothing, other than some gas. Oregon has a vast state park system, several of which are close by. We try to get out and hike as often as we can, when the weather cooperates.

Tyron State Park, a rainforest in the middle of the city!

We actually have had pretty decent weather. Granted, we've not seen much of the sun, but the area has been experiencing an unusual "dry" pattern the last couple of weeks. Of course, dry is relative. Coming from the arid Colorado climate, I would not exactly call this dry. Most mornings there is fog and the grass is damp. But I guess because there is no rain falling from the sky, they consider it dry. OK, I'll take it!

One morning last week, when the valley was particularly shrouded in fog, the weatherman said the coast was clear and sunny, so we decided to take a drive out there. We didn't really have a specific destination in mind, but knew that Hunter would appreciate a good run on the beach. These days, he only has about 5 minutes of good running energy, but it's still amazing to see him let loose and go! One of the many nice things about Oregon is that dogs don't have to be on leash on the beaches, just under control. Not that we probably had to worry this time of year since the beaches weren't very crowded, but we do like to adhere to the rules. Unfortunately, the weatherman wasn't exactly correct. Once again, I think their weather terms are relative. We did experience some sun on the drive out, but it was pretty overcast and a little foggy in places. But it was still pleasant and we had a great time.

Cannon Beach:

We still have a long list of things we want to do while we're here. We have reservations here at the park until mid-March so that will hopefully allow us to check off many of the items. Despite the weather, we are enamored with the state of Oregon. I don't know exactly why, but it just has the right feel to us. If we ever decide to settle down, this would be high on our list of places. And until then, we hope to return often. Of course, the "problem" with this lifestyle is that there are so many places to go and we want to see them all! It's difficult to think about returning to places we've already been, no matter how much we like them, when there are so many unexplored areas. It's a tough life, but someone has to live it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nothing Beats Sleeping In Your Own Bed

Current Location: Tualatin, OR

After several delays and a lot of frustration, we finally took possession of our home on Monday afternoon. Our primary frustration centered around the lack of and mis communication by the RV dealership.

All week long, we were led to believe that the repairs would be completed by Friday afternoon at the latest. When we talked to the dealership on Thursday afternoon we were given the same timeline. On Friday morning, however, we were given a new twist to the story. Long story short, we wouldn't be able to pick up the rig until Monday, but were told that it would be ready first thing Monday morning. I don't know why we believed them because when Monday morning arrived, we were told it wouldn't be ready for a couple of hours. Those couple of hours spanned into most of the day.

We finally were able to do a walkthrough around 1pm and found several issues. Although we made sure that they fixed everything to our satisfaction (mostly), we were extremely frustrated because most of the issues implied (to us at least) a lack of care to our home, which equates in my mind to a lack of quality. The good news is that the tech who was doing the majority of the roof work seemed to know what he was doing and was very conscientous. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the staff. Needless to say, our nerves were frayed by the time we finally pulled out of the dealership at 3:15. So much for getting an early start to the day!

This was certainly not ideal because we still had a 3 hour drive ahead of us. We were headed to Portland and we needed to be there so that Tracy could start a job on Tuesday morning (which didn't work out, by the way). We really didn't want to set up in the dark, but ultimately didn't feel like we had much choice.

We had a couple of things on our side, however. It was MLK day so the traffic was pretty light and it wasn't raining. Luckily, we had toured the RV park awhile back, so we kind of knew what to expect. The roads within the park are fairly narrow which made manuevering a little difficult, but we finally got parked with a huge sigh of relief.

We did the minimal setup for the night, had a quick dinner and fell into a wonderful night's sleep in our own bed. After sleeping in a hard, creaky hotel bed and cooking in a less than ideal kitchen, being back in our own home is heaven! Sometimes, it's hard to appreciate what you have until you are without. I sincerely hope that we are never without our home again.

The one bright spot in this whole ordeal has been our insurance company. I have been very impressed with them. Our adjuster has been responsive, pleasant and exceedingly quick in processing our claim. I mentioned in an earlier post that it all seemed way too easy, but they really seem to have their act together. For anyone looking for insurance, our policy is through Victoria, the RV specialty branch of Nationwide. We bought our policy through Miller Insurance. I would highly recommend both companies.

I wish I could say the same about the RV dealership, Fife RV. We had some warranty work done by them in October and were pleased, but I think that in part that might be because we gave them 3 weeks to do a 2 day job. Now that we asked them to handle a much larger job, many of the problems became obvious. It seems like it's a poorly managed shop. I'd like to believe that the techs are skilled (we saw nothing to the contrary), but they definitely seem to work at their own pace. And the endless runarounds and poor communication certainly did not exude much confidence. We will not do business with them again.

But we hope that it is all behind us now. We are slowly getting settled in Portland and are eager to explore this city that we've heard so much about. The weather is even improving. They are predicting 5 days of dry, partly sunny weather. That's about as good as you can ask for around here in the winter!