Sisters

Traveling solo in my RV can, at times, be a lonely existence. There are days that I grow weary of my own company. I miss companionship. I have discovered over the past few years how fun it is to travel with others. There is more laughter and definitely more talking. I have enjoyed the times when I have traveled with others.

I am on my way to northern New Jersey, to my sister’s home. Miss Elsie the Cat and the rig are going to spend the summer there, while I travel to South Africa. Miss El and I know how fortunate we are to have a place that is safe and secure and loving to go to. 

A week ago I texted my New Jersey sister, Ginny, and suggested that she fly to Ohio, where my other sister, Ruth and my niece and her family live. She could then ride back to New Jersey with me. I totally expected her to say no. And, I would have understood. It was a last minute kind of thing. 

You know what she said? “I am already packed!” Woo Hoo! I was immediately surprised, excited and happy. We are going on a road trip. Ginny and I have done road trips together before. There was that time in Maine when we got so mad at each other, we had to pull off the road so we could yell at each other. By dinner we were friends again. 

We have explored the West Coast, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce together. One of our last trips was to western Massachusetts and New York State. I was doing a “Fam” trip (familiarization trip). I was exploring the area before I took a tour group into the area. We have discovered interesting places together. Near St Johnsbury, VT we were guided by a local retailer to seek out the Dog Chapel at Dog Mountain.

Dog Mountain is set on 150 acres on a private mountaintop spot. The grounds are always open to people and their dogs. Stephen Huneck and his wife, Gwen, bought the property in 1995. They turned the barn into studio space. Stephen was a hand wood carver. During a serious illness Stephen had a vision to create a space for dogs including The Dog Chapel. What an interesting find. the whole area on the top of a mountain is dedicated to dogs. Inside the chapel the walls were covered with photos of dogs who have passed over, others that were sick. We added a picture of one of our favorite kitties, Wally. It is important to encourage diversity. Stephen and his wife, Gwen, have both died. A foundation continues to run and manage Dog Mountain.  There are hiking trails and a dog agility park. All dogs and their humans are welcome. Yes I would encourage you to explore this unique find when you are in the are

Tomorrow, all three of us sisters will be reunited, however briefly near Columbus Ohio. I look forward to seeing both of my sisters and my great nephew, Ward. My niece and her husband are out of town. After a good visit, Ginny and I will get in EmmyLou the RV with Miss Elsie the Cat and we will venture the backroads to northern NJ. I am looking forward to the company. I am looking forward to what we might discover.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of others, and you know who you are, joining me for long or short trips in my RV. I will treasure the company. My world appears to be expanding.

 

 

 

 

Slowly, Very Slowly Moving East

Zion National Park

Mojave Desert

After a beautiful drive across the Mojave Desert, last Monday, I arrived in southern Utah. I planned on a few days outside Zion National Park (ZNP) and then would be on my way east. I am here a bit longer than I expected.

A good and very long time friend, Sharon, is in need of some assistance so I am going to be here through the end of the holiday weekend and depart next Tuesday. She was in an accident and is bruised and banged up with a few fractured ribs and sternum tossed into the mix. This is what friends do for each other. They help each other out. It is my honor.

This is not a hardship. I have known the whole Hatfield family since I was a girl and I love this woman dearly. We have ample time to talk and relax in each other’s company. And when she is off to take a snooze, ZNP and surrounding areas are there for me to explore. It is amazing country out here and I never tire of walking off down a wash to see what I can find.

Sharon has a lovely yard. It is big and currently needs grooming. Since she cannot tackle it, in her current state, I am gardening for her. There is nothing I love better than getting some gardening gloves on and digging, prune the trees, pull up weeds, and get things organized. It is probably the one thing I miss, living my current lifestyle. I love the smell of dirt and loam. Earlier in the week it was raining, which brings all the smells forward. There is no other smell like it.

Elsie and I are camped in the driveway. I chose to live in my small space this time, rather than finding a bedroom to sleep in. I have gotten quite comfortable in my cozy tiny home on wheels. Miss Elsie the Cat has too. I spend my day letting Elsie out and into the rig. She has discovered the catmint in the driveway and is a happy camper lying in the midst of it. When Elsie is out, Dharma the dog is in. When Dharma wants to go outside, Elsie goes back into the rig. I am the animal monitor. Who is in and who is out. I definitely need to stay on top of this. Dharma would like to meet Elsie but Elsie is not so fond of this idea. So I remain the door monitor.

Having been to this park many times before (it is good to have friends that live so close), I have not felt a great urge to hike every trail. Instead I have wandered from Sharon’s home and explored what I can find on foot. The Virgin River is at the end of the drive. It is an easy walk. Currently there is a lot of water in the river which adds so much drama to a river visit. When not there I have wandered the town of Rockville. I have visited the cemetery and meandered the side roads. This is a delightful and quaint little town. And, how convenient that it is so near the entrance to ZNP. On Monday I may decide to explore it by bicycle. That would be a new experience for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so my adventure unfolds a bit at a time. I have rather enjoyed the slow pace yet I know that I need to move east. Africa awaits. Next stop southern Colorado.

Friends

I wasn’t planning to post again until after my Wednesday visit but….this will be short.

I have all kinds of friends in my life. Long term ones, short term ones, ones who are occasionally there and ones I can rely on through thick and thin. I love them all. Sometimes I mistake what one friend can or cannot do. This is often my assessment of a situation that turns out incorrect. Mistakes can also come as lessons I need to learn.

This morning I am sitting at this lovely campsite and trying to figure out where to stay in San Diego. Yvonne is a friend who has surfaced since Jim’s death. She worked for him at the college. She is a fellow tour guide. When I asked her to accompany me to my appointment on Wednesday, she said yes. She is going to get off work early so she can be my second set of ears, a very important role.

Today, Yvonne offered me her driveway to camp in. Oh my goodness this is exactly what I needed. I don’t need to ponder and think alone in a campground for the next few days. She and her home, at the moment, are a gift to me. I am feeling blessed and overwhelmed and oh so grateful. It will be fun to catch up with her and Elsie will enjoy her backyard.

Today I am feeling grateful for all my friends in whatever form they take.

Today I am feeling so grateful for Yvonne.

A Different Winter in the Desert.

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With daylight savings time arriving this weekend, I have been reflecting on my winter and the arrival of spring. This winter has been a very different winter than the previous two.

The first two winters after I went full time,  I went solo into the desert, in my RV. I saw a few friends along the way, and even traveled with a few for a short time. Those first two winters were solo winters for me. I withdrew from too much “people” interaction and contemplated life, my existence, what had happened with Jim and more. I call these two winters my existential winters.

It is not easy to delve into the depths of myself and work my way out the other side of some dark and truthful moments. Since then I have discovered that it is not unusual for people in their mid-sixty’s to go through this self evaluation and reflective time. It was very reassuring to discover that I was not alone and that it is a process that others might be going through as well.

And I thought I should be done growing by the time I arrived at this age. Ha!!!

This winter was very different. I chose to stay close to San Diego as I was truly hoping that my thyroid surgery would be behind me, by now, and I would be in the recovery stage. Well, guess what?, I am still waiting. The surgeons must be very busy.

I went to the desert about two hours east of San Diego and spent the winter. The Anza Borrego desert is an amazing place. It is alive and usually dry. It is a good place to be solo, yet my time there, over the past few months has been delightfully active with other people. I camped near a good friend of mine, Peggy, for almost two months. I enjoyed meeting her new beau and spending time hiking and exploring the area with them.

Friends in the Desert

Sandy and Pat arrived. They are fellow Roadtrekers and delightful people. I am happy to be friends with them. More hiking ensued, including a climb to the top of Coyote Mountain. The three of us met two winters back at the White Water Draw Wildlife Refuge (AZ) and we are friends. I cherish them.

More friends arrived, Karen, Larry and Joni. I had the opportunity to hike and camp with them in a different part of the park. Karen and Larry arrange private river raft trips. I met them when I became a swamper for Zee on the North Fork of the Flathead River, over a year ago. They are fellow desert hounds, hikers and explorers. 

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I took time to meet new friends on the east side of the Salton Sea. Rhonda and Jim are more fellow Roadtrekers. They spend part of their winter running away from Michigan, seeking the warmer weather of Southern California. I spent two nights at The Fountain of Youth RV Resort. For two days I enjoyed the hot springs and getting to know this delightful couple. They took me on a tour of Slab City, East Jesus, and Salvation Mountain. I might suggest a visit to this unique spot.

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A few days later Mary, (Zee) arrived after she traveled for two months in Mexico. After spending time on the east side of the Salton Sea and getting some serious bird watching in, oh those cute burrowing owls, we met up with Karen and Larry in Joshua Tree National Park. We arrived in time to witness a Superbloom on the south side of the park.

Being stationary near Borrego Springs gave me the opportunity to become involved in the town, meet the locals and check out small town life. It was a seven mile ride to town from my campsite. This is a small town in the desert and a hub of activity. I attended the theater, an Independent Film Festival, saw the San Diego Ballet Company perform, went to yoga, and enjoyed playing bingo. Their new library is also an amazing place to sit and work, read or ponder. Oh, and the best place in town for goodies is the Fudge Store. Yummy. (try their Maple Fudge-trust me it is to die for.)

fullsizeoutput_2921The desert has always been magic to me. This year was a very different experience. It was wild and rainy and flash floods became common. I have never seen the desert so green or so wet. On the intense rainy days, my favorite activity was to go see the flash floods. It was a very cool thing to watch. I hiked into waterfalls that usually are dry. Not this year. I love seeing nature at its wildest. This winter was the desert’s turn.

My winter was different. I felt ready to be more social. It was fun interacting with everyone and yet, I could still find time alone to contemplate and breath and just be. It was a good winter in the desert.

I have returned to San Diego. Currently I am staying with my friend Phyllis. We are intensively planning our trip to Africa this summer. There is work to be done, reservations to be made and much to discuss. We are doing well. We have not gotten into arguments yet. It bodes well for a two month trip to somewhere very different.

I enjoy San Diego. I am more of a tourist now in this city. I take the time to go see things that I would have put off, while I was still living here. Though I am enjoying my time here, my mind often wanders to those wide open vistas and a bit of longing fills my soul. I know that I will return to those wild open spaces as often as I can.

The world awaits— Out there awaits. 

I am on my way.

 

 

Friendship & Social Media

This is me at Graduation

I was a new graduate out of nursing school in 1973. I worked for a year in a big city hospital in Philadelphia to gain experience. Boy did I ever gain experience, charge nurse on a 40 bed sub-surgical specialty floor with 2 nurses aids, on the night shift. What????

After a year I decided it was time to spread my wings and leave home. I had always wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. When the application came and I realized how far I would be from my family, I was not ready to commit.

I was too young. 

I decided that I would stay state side and become a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) Volunteer. After a week of training in Chicago, I traveled north to my assignment for the year, in a little town-Glenwood City, Wisconsin. I worked in a West CAP program (Western Wisconsin Community Action Program). Although I really never had a job description, I worked for the all the programs the office housed. 

There was a young woman who worked in the office, Melissa. We soon became fast friends. We did so many things together and it was fun. Through out the 1970’s we stayed in touch but gradually we went in different directions and lost touch. 

Enter facebook. Melissa and I reconnected about a year ago. It was such a delight to connect with her again. We have followed each other on Facebook. It has been almost forty years since we have seen each other. How could that be? I am not that old.🤔

Melissa & Me 

Last Tuesday Melissa and I met. Elsie the Cat and I have been camping in her and her husband, Will’s driveway since last Tuesday. It has been so nice to re-meet her. She and I have a lot of years to catch up on. We have been busy talking, a lot. It is interesting to see what she remembers and what I remember from our past.

Here are few things we have quickly found in common.

  • Yoga, today it is more mainstream than when we first took classes.
  • Contradance-we love to dance and we both met our husbands dancing.
  • Our political beliefs are similar.
  • Embracing our joy for life is similar as well.

This has been a wonderful meet-up with Melissa. I had no idea that we would actually visit with each other and still have so much in common. We even think we still look the same. I feel blessed. 

On Monday I will be driving south into Oregon. I am planning to meet friends there as well. I feel so grateful today for all the unique menagerie of friends that are such an important part of my life. 

I am feeling thankful.

Glacier National Park, Personality, Adventure, Beauty, Exploring Inside and Out, Grief

I continue to remain in Montana near Glacier National Park. The Roadtrek Rally was a success. I managed all the people by remaining scarce, thanks to my friends Linda and Steve. Each day we hiked in Glacier National Park and returned to the rally site around six or seven in the evening.

In the evenings or mornings, people would stop by and visit. If I got peopled out I would disappear into my rig. It worked out, yet, to be honest I don’t think I gave this rally a fair try. I was overwhelmed by the numbers of people that were there. I was overwhelmed before I even arrived. If I choose to attend another one I might stay around for more of the group activities. I believe that if I pick and choose what I want to attend then I will have a little more control over the people time. I know I can be a bit more social than what I ended up doing on this trip.

Glacier National Park was amazing. It has been many years since I traveled in this part of the USA. My first introduction to this park was a backpacking trip with a good friend of mine, Diane, back in the early 80’s. I loved the remoteness and majesty of it then and I find that has not changed one bit. I saw a lot of animals and amazing sites. It was awe inspiring at the least.

On the way north from Boise I lost a part on the outside of my Roadtrek. I have remained in the area while waiting for the part to arrive. I had it put on this afternoon and now EmmyLou the Roadtrek is once again whole, well almost. I still need to find another missing part. That one is not visible to the eye.

As I came out of the drive across Logan Pass (Going to the Sun Road) I received news from friends back east. Once again I am struggling with the basics of life. Many years back, 2013, I posted regarding my friend Zoe. We met on a breast cancer support web site. She and I quickly became friends. Her support was so instrumental in my struggle with breast cancer and it’s treatment. She has helped many people while going through her own struggle with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Her support around Jim’s death was that of a good friend who was always there, no matter what time of the day or night.

Zoe & Kay

Zoe is now approaching the end of her life. I struggle to write this here as I am not really sure what to say. For the last few days I have sat in a forest and dove deep into grief. Grief for the struggle that her and her partner Kay are going through. Grief knowing I won’t be able to see my friend again. Grief for my own suffering and broken heart, no matter how selfish that sounds. Grief for the sake of grief. I have only done this adventure into this area of my life since Jim’s death. I am beginning to recognize when it comes. I tell myself, OK go feel it, you have forty eight hours and then get out of there. Deep grief is not somewhere I want to stay long.

the view from my campsite on the river.

Forty eight hours is now up. I moved out of the forest and am now nested along the Flathead River. Moving out of the forest may be a symbolic move, yet it helps to look out and see the whole world, not just trees. I ventured out tonight and talked with others in the campground. Moving out of grief means moving out of my small and tight world and stretching myself to get back to ” normal” once again. I am not sure what normal is.

I need to ask myself how is it that I can best support my friends during this end of life process? Zoe is not dead, she is dying and no one, including her knows the length of this process. It could be days, weeks or months. She is lovingly supported in hospice and surrounded by friends, her church and mostly her wife, Kay. I don’t know if there is a term for this observing and supporting the dying process, yet that is what we are all doing, for whatever length of time it requires of all of us.

I love Zoe. We have not always seen eye to eye but that is what sisters do. She is my sister and my friend and I am heart broken at the impending loss of her on this planet.

I share this with you all because that is all I can do. “Thoughts and Prayers” seem to lose their intense meaning today and yet that is all any of us can do, think of those we love and pray. That is what I am doing. I carry Zoe and Kay close to me and when I see amazing natural places I hope they know that I see them there too. Nature is a wonderful healer.

In a few days time I will be moving slowly west. I am looking forward to seeing beautiful mountains and seeing friends along the way. I will choose for this moment in time not to spend too much time alone. I can easily sit in a campground and enjoy those around me, even at a distance. I don’t necessarily need to talk to anyone. It is good to have them near by, just in case I feel a social call coming on.

I am back to the present moment. I am remembering to breath. I know that many of you are there if I need to reach out and talk to someone. I am grateful for this knowledge, love and caring support.

Sunset on the Flathead

Now I will be off to enjoy the rest of the evening by the river before the doors shut and I head for bed.

Returning to the Outside

Wow, two weeks later I am returning to Boise, Idaho from southeast Alaska. It feels like I have been gone forever, the sign, I believe, of a good trip. It has been a great trip and a wonderful adventure. I am so glad I said yes, when Leslie asked me to join her on this small ship cruise. 

I am also glad I tagged on a day at the beginning and one at the end of the cruise. Yesterday, June 13 we spent the day with a friend of mine and her partner. Jane was an amazing tour guide in Juneau. We toured, we talked, we caught up and even saw a bear. 

Here are some of my highlights from the past two weeks.

  • Glaciers-all sizes, all kinds, calving, not calving, icy cold.
  • Icebergs floating by. 
  • Eagles-lots and lots of eagles.
  • One orca.
  • Humpbacks, lunge feeding in Taku Harbor. This was an amazing event to observe.
  • Our Glacier Bay National Park experience was made even more amazing by having Janine, our ranger guide on board. Her enthusiasm and warmth and kindness made everything in and around the bay come alive. She even did the official swearing in ceremony for those of us who completed our Junior Ranger Badge booklet.
  • Bears up close and from afar.
  • Flowers-spring is happening in the Tongass National Forest.
  • The Light House Keeper’s talk as we entered Frederick Sound.
  • Reuniting with Leslie and spending time with her. We had years to catch up.
  • Catching up with Jane in Juneau. We toured, saw a bear, walked the labyrinth at St Therese Shrine, visited the botanical gardens and saw the new humpback whale sculpture on the waterfront. 
  • Hiking, small hikes, large hikes, beach combing and more.
  • Learning about the Tlingit culture in the village of Kake.
  • Learning about the Norwegian culture in Petersburg, AK.
  • Birds-so many shore birds. Kittiwakes, Pigeon Guillemots, Murrelets, Gulls, Oyster Catchers and more. Lots of activities on the icebergs.
  • Sea otters lazily floating by on their backs.
  • Stunning sunsets late into the evening. The sun did not set until close to 10 pm each night and sunrise came early (4ish). 
  • Food amazing, delicious, yummy food. 
  • The crew on the ship was accommodating and kind. They were fun to be with. I spent a few evenings playing Bananagram with the bar-tender and the naturalists. 
  • Finding quiet places on board the ship to read and ponder while protected from the wind.
  • Lastly my fellow passengers. I enjoyed them all. There were close to 45 of us on board. With two weeks and a small group it was easy to meet all of my fellow explorers. It was a delightful crowd, not one fussy one in the bunch. It made for an easy family for the ten days we were on board. It would be fun to meet up with them again, although the chances of our crossing paths again is slim.

Now my summer is ahead of me. I am not sure exactly what I am doing. Yes that is true. When I return to Boise, I will catch up with my friends there, meet my sweet little El Cat after a rare separation, and return to my small home on wheels. Shortly after my return I will be off to a Roadtrek Rally east of Glacier National Park, Montana. This will be my second rally with the Roadtreking group and I am curious to see what this one will be like. A rally is a gathering of RV’s and their owners. This one will be mostly Roadtreks. 

And here is my truth-I am a bit anxious about this gathering. There will be at least double the number of people, than on the ship. I have not been a big group person since Jim died. The number of people is a bit overwhelming. I am a guest reporter for Roadtreking: Celebrating the RV Lifestyle.  People who follow this blog know who I am. I am feeling somewhat at a disadvantage because I know very few of them. It may be hard to believe but I do have introvert tendencies and I am nervous about this situation. 

How did I get here? When I started this blog, Journeys of Thankfulness, I also joined the Roadtrek Facebook page. With my first post I heard from Mike who is the owner of the Roadtreking blog and he invited me to join his group of guest reporters and post blogs from the road. I decided to be brave and do this and have intermittently been posting on his blog over the ensuing years. And now I have arrived at this place and time and this is the result. 

I have mostly traveled alone or in small groups and avoided any gatherings. I have gone out of my way to not meet other Roadtrekers and RV’ers, on-the-road. I guess I wanted to be an invisible presence. Now that may change a little bit or a lot. Who knows. It is anybody’s guess. I am just nervous about it. Like the rest of my life, I am going to push forward and know if all the people get to be too much I can get in my RV and leave or go on a hike or just close the door to my RV and pretend I am not home. 

I am getting ready for summer and can’t wait to see how it unfolds. There are adventures big and small waiting around the bend. I plan to reach out and embrace them as much as I can.

As I say a longing farewell to Alaska and return outside (that’s what Alaska calls the lower 48), I will stand as strong as I can from day to day and greet adventure with open arms.