Elsie Steals the Computer

Whew it is hard to get this computer to myself. Janet puts it away or takes it with her and I have been wondering how to let my fans know about my adventurous life.

I know not many cats get to do what I am doing. I understand the owners and their own hesitancy. Here is what I want to tell all you cat people out there “Cats are Adapatable”!! I know, I am the world’s worst scaredy cat, yet I like to explore new places and see new things, as long as I have a home to return to when I want security, comfort and a good nap.

I have been to many places since I last posted here. Janet, me and the Roadtrek spent the winter in Arizona, I guess that makes us official snowbirds. I like the idea of Snowcats better. We returned to San Diego in the early spring. Janet says she needed more dental stuff done. I know dental means teeth. I keep trying to tell her that if she ate dry crunchies her teeth would be OK. I don’t know why she doesn’t listen.

Dharma the Dog

Finally in mid-April we left. Since then I have stayed in many interesting places. First stop was to visit a long time friend of Janet’s, Sharon. She lives in a place with “biggggggg…..” rocks everywhere. I had to get used to Dharma the dog. Whew it was hard. Dharma is big and I am small. I am not so sure about dogs but there she was. We stayed inside in a secluded bedroom. Every time I wanted to go somewhere Janet had to carry me. Who would be sniffing right behind? You guessed it Dharma the dog. During the day I would go to the RV so I could look outside and be curious. Who would be outside looking in, you guessed it? Dharma the dog. If we had stayed long enough Dharma may have worn me down and I would have become friends, of sorts, with her. Well maybe.

Since then I have been to the desert, the mountains, the ocean and more. We have camped, rallied (Roadtrek Rally, Monterey) and stayed in people’s homes. I like going back to homes I have been in before. For a while we stayed with Mary, a friend of Janet’s and mine in Medford, Oregon. I remember this house. I have been there before. I love the stairs. I haven’t seen many houses with stairs. They are so much fun to run up and down, over and over again. Janet calls it the rip and tears. I may be older but I love a good run as much as the next cat.

Me groveling with Andrew

For about three weeks we stayed with Linda and Steve and their son Andrew. First Janet was there, then she left, then she came back again. Where does she go? I am not sure. All these other people took good care of me, making sure that I got fed and skritched and loved. I really like Andrew. I am not much of a “guy” cat. Andrew is an exception to that rule. He would come in the room they had set up for me and visit. I admit I kind of ended up groveling a bit when he was around. A cat has to make the best of every situation, right?

These people had other animals. Poncho the dog, kind of ignored me. He didn’t seem to care about me at all. What is wrong with that dog? I am all nervous around him and he pretends I don’t exist. Dogs, go figure. Janet says, Poncho is such a dog. I am not sure what that means but I agree with it. The other animal was Misty the Cat. We didn’t see eye to eye. Whenever we met there was growling and hissing. Setting up territory is hard work.

When Janet returned we arrived at this lovely home that we have been in for about 3 weeks. I like it because, once again, I am the solo pet. I like it when I have Janet to myself. this place has birds and other animals to entertain me when she is out and about. It is nice that she brought my own personal sheepskin inside. I love “making bread” on it and resting in the window where I can watch the world go by. I dream of humming birds. Those swallows make me weary. The just seem to never stop, flitting here and there. I am not sure what birds are about but I like to watch their quickness. It keeps me entertained. Wouldn’t it be interesting to catch one?

Exploring

Janet says we are here to regroup. We have been traveling a lot for the past year. I like stopping for a while. I like the big house. This one has stairs too. I like being able to stretch. I love to rip and tear through this house. All my toys are here, so I can look at them with disdain when someone is looking. Late at night when no one is up I play with them and carry them around the house. They are fun. I pretend they are birds and mice and lizards. I love lizards.

I am not sure how long we are here. I will enjoy all the time I get wherever I am. Life is too short. When things get stressful I will retreat to a time out under the blankets. And when I want to explore the big wide world I will come out from under them and go off and check things out. It helps to have Janet here. She is my rock. I know she will always take care of my base needs. Once in a while when I want her to she will always be there to scratch, love and feed me. We are a team.

Being Sick, Getting Better, Ready to Adventure On.

being sick

At the end of my pet and house sitting gig in Boise, earlier this month, I headed north to McCall, ID hoping to spend the major part of my summer hiking, biking and kayaking and practicing photography.  The same people I house sat for have very generously offered me their second home in the mountains.  Linda accompanied me with plans to spend a week, before returning to her family in Boise. We both got sick. We were both sick for the full time she was there. Arrgh!! This is not how I wanted to spend our time together. I was hoping for hikes and ample time to take photos. Instead we were sick.

I don’t spend much time around large groups of people. I should go out and expose myself more, so that I don’t catch the latest thing that is “going around”. When I worked as a nurse and a tour manager the “bug” exposure was always there and usually one illness  a year would do it. After I started to annually receive the flu shot, even that went away.

Since Jim’s death I have been healthy. With that stressor, I would not have been surprised if I had gotten sick. Stress can do that to a person. It just did not happen. I did have other physical events like a broken ankle but that is not getting sick. That is one of those oops moments that the Arnold girls are prone to. 🙄

Although I love my tiny home, I was very glad to be in a real sticks & bricks house. There was a great deal of comfort, being able to curl up in a firm, double bed with Elsie, my sidekick, curled up next to me. During the day I sat in a comfy chair and watched the weather play out it’s agenda. When I wore out, back to bed I would go. I wonder what I would do if I became sick while traveling in my cute little Roadtrek. One time a few years back I developed a really bad headache and I retreated to a hotel. If I got really sick while on-the-road I think I would retreat to a hotel until I felt better. Maybe I wouldn’t, yet I think my inclination would be to nestle in somewhere.

Except for the cough, I am better. And why is it, that the cough is the last thing to go? I don’t know. Usually for the better part of the day I am fine but when I get weary the cough shows up. Sigh.

After the REI Garage Sale on Saturday, early the next morning I began driving north. Since I still feel in recovery mode I find that if I travel four to five hours in a day, that is enough. I have found wonderful national forest campgrounds each night with nice short or long walks right at the edge of the campground. Tonight I have upgraded to a State Park Campground on the edge of Flathead Lake.

Thursday, I am meeting up with friends in Columbia Falls, MT. We are doing a six day river raft trip on the Flathead River starting near the border of Canada. I am excited to be out and doing.

 

The country I have been exploring has been amazingly beautiful. In the high country it is spring and there are fields of flowers in bloom. Mosquitos abound. A good snowy winter means a lot of standing water this spring. Water=Mosquitos. At one point, I pulled off the road to get a photo from the RT, rolled down the window and within a matter of moments there were mosquitos everywhere. I spent the next twenty minutes chasing the little buggers and, despite bad karma, killed every single one. I have no regrets. After that little fiasco, I had to clean the interior of the front windows. Sigh. I am not a fan of mosquitos. 

Spending the majority outside means that bugs are part of my life. I just like the ones that do not bite or sting. Why can’t we have a mutual agreement to not bother each other? Life is not like that and I have to accept that there will be the infrequent close encounters.

Hmm, I wonder if this could be applied to the rest of my life as well. It is the end of my day and I cannot go to that deep thought place right now.

Montanna

I am looking forward to being on the river. We will be floating near Glacier National Park. It will be stunning country. This type of adventure is one Jim would have enjoyed. This time I will have to enjoy it for both of us. Ready to adventure on.

 

Lessons of the Desert

The desert in bloom

A woman I know told me a few months ago I had not spent enough time alone, since Jim’s death. She is someone I respect. She has experienced the loss of her partner as well.

I wasn’t sure what she meant so I let it sit until I could figure it out. Then I went to the desert. I left at the end of January and returned to San Diego today, Sunday.

I know a little more now about spending time alone. The desert is not for everyone. For me it is a place of healing and beauty and more. If you ever want to be alone, not just physically but in all dimensions,  there is no better place to go than the desert southwest.

Every time I travel to the deserted places, I know a little more about myself when I return to civilization. What do I know? I am not sure. I do know that there is a stronger presence of peace within me. At the same time confusion is also present.

I believe that people go through periods of identity crisis in their life. The first major one for many, appears around our 27th year. This is often times of big change, a move, a career change, people get married, others get divorced and whatever else can be imagined. I know that when I turned 28 my life changed a lot. I was off and on the move, exploring myself spiritually, emotionally, physically and more.

Another year of great change for me was when I turned 50. I think 60 might have been a marker year for me. I did not expect it to be because of Jim’s death. It is amazing how strong one can be when one has to be. When I didn’t feel strong, my friends and family were there to support me and hold me steady. They still are. I never did celebrate my 60th birthday until my 62nd year.

With the sale of our home, last July, I finally gave myself permission to wander and be lost if I needed to be. Elsie and I moved into the Roadtrek (the little house on wheels) and began to wander. The first few months were with purpose. I was the sag wagon for my friend Cat, as she bicycled the Pacific Coast.

In November when I returned to San Diego, Pat, a friend,  kindly took Miss Elsie and myself in. Little did I know it would be for almost three months. Teeth are tricky and I became close friends with the dentist while I was there. I finally asked for some time off and with some sound advice from my dentist, I left for the desert.

After the first few weeks, I have spent most of the time alone. And, I have been wandering. My feet have definitely been wandering. Hiking and walking every day has been a good adventure. I feel as if I have gotten back to my younger roots, and have begun to wander the desert freely and without reserve. I do use my hiking poles. As a good friend, Mary would say, NBA. No Broken Ankles.

I have pondered death and what it must have been like for my parents to see their friends and acquaintances die. I am reaching an age now where I too am beginning to know of loss of health and life. I always thought that someone would miss me when I was gone but the reality of it is, is that life goes on. We may carry the memories of those who have left, yet all of our lives continue to move forward. This is hard to acknowledge when it comes to Jim. There is so much I have learned from our time together. He was a gift in my life. I know he cannot be here physically yet I can carry the memories with me as I continue to grow in my own life.

it is hard to explore some of the more fragile parts of my existence. Life is not always positive. Yet even when things are looking dim I believe I can make my life positive by acknowledging the hard things of life. We all experience those hard moments. For some moments last for years. Not for me.

One of the questions I have asked myself out in the desert is “what do I have to live for?”. Existentially, I believe we all ask this question at some point in our existence. This is a hard question to ask and expect to receive a total answer. Some days I am not sure what the answer is. Other days I have a better grasp on it. When I get low I have amazing friends who know just when to call. This happened with me a few nights ago. Thank you Mary for calling. It was just what I needed.

Here are a few ideas of what I have to live for.

  • Friends-near and far, known and unknown.
  • Miss Elsie the Cat.

    Miss Elsie the Cat

  • The basic fact is that I am not ready to leave yet. I have given this some thought since Jim’s death. There is no easy way out.
  • Friends
  • My family. I have two sisters that care about me and nieces as well. I now have a great niece and great nephew. I don’t see my family  often yet I know they are out there for me.
  • Jim’s family.
  • I still have a lot of books to read and things to understand. I am not done growing yet.
  • Photography and painting.
  • Friends
  • I am still working on how to help others. I did this for most of my work life. I feel like I needed a break. With everything happening in the world it is time for me to address this again.

I believe the list is much longer and changes from day to day, moment to moment. It is not always defined. Little “ah-ha” moments are sometimes all we have.

I made my way to the outskirts of San Diego. I am staying at a beautiful county park. My view is incredible. I have one day off tomorrow and then I become busy.

A view from my home for the next two weeks

My tax and dental appointment loom on the horizon. Yes, the realities of life.

 

Leaving the Sonoran-Arriving the California Desert

Today I move. In about two weeks I need to be back in San Diego. One more dental surgery to go and taxes need to be done. Sigh.

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Ah, Sunset

Last evening was the warmest evening I have spent in southern AZ. I could actually sit outside till long after the sun had dipped below the horizon. It was a perfect Sonoran desert evening. No wind, owls hooting, and the traffic had dwindled to a minimum. Elsie was busy watching things, out there in the world. Definitely a perfect evening.

I spent the last two days meandering the desert. There are no trails here except the ones the wild burros have made as they trek to the tinaja (water tank). I had to sign in to be on this land. The docent where I signed in said just follow the burrows. FTB. I did just that. I walked through the mountainous terrain to the valley that lies beyond. I walked into the wide dry wash and stood listening to birds. Those pesky birds are hard to find amongst the willows, palo verde and creosote.

What I thought was a dry wash revealed itself as I looked down. The burro tracks revealed a different story. I could see water at the bottom of their prints. The wash was not as dry as I first thought. Water, the life blood of the desert, the mountains and all humans. In this dry, harsh climate I have gained a new respect for water. The tracks at the tinaja were numerous and varied. Even the bees were there drinking from the green rank water. If I was really thirsty, I know I would be joining the others for a drink.

Those Pesky Chollas

Those Pesky Chollas

img_8671You have to be careful when walking in this country. Even though the cholla really do not jump sometimes it feels like they do. Most things are thorny and prickly and demand respect. There are many holes dug in the ground, big and small. They are critters homes. If you don’t observe where you walk you could stumble into one of these. It could lead to disaster. The first hike I did alone I returned to where I thought my RT was only to find I was quite a distance to the south. A strong sense of direction is a must. A map is even a better idea (I didn’t have one). I always carry a compass and in this case looked west. I knew there was a road out there somewhere.

I have seen desert Big Horn Sheep, climbing up and over the top of a rocky mountain. Two javelina surprised me as much as I did them one morning. They started up the mountain. One stumbled and slid down a rock but quickly regained his footing and the last I saw of it, it was running over the summit.img_8570

 

Desert Lily

Desert Lily

Wild flower season is beginning to happen here. With just the right amount of water the desert blooms with the tiniest of flowers. All are showy. It is hard to step around the white daisies that carpet the floor in these washes. The desert is a happy place when there has been rain. Ah, water. I could mention most of the flowers I have seen but that would take too long. The desert Lily is always one of my favorites.

Today El and I pack up and leave. I am not done with the desert yet. I am moving towards Anza Borrego State Park in the California desert. I am having a hard time saying goodby to southern AZ. I have seen so much, found some peace for my sometimes weary soul, and met some lovely people along the way. I know I will meet up with most of them again. We are all part of a group-the wandering, adventurous souls. We love to travel. It is a strong bond and one I want to explore more in depth.

17021834_10153749903052537_7288542039359449127_nI had the opportunity to visit for three glorious days with Missy and Dan. Missy and I have been friends for many years. They live on the east coast, splitting their time between Florida and Maine. It makes it hard to get together, yet every so many years we manage. It was a delight traveling, camping and hiking with them. I loved the access we had with their jeep. I love them.

I have no doubt that I will return to this country. The desert draws me back again and again. Who knew that this east coast woman would fall in love with the wide open space. Now it is time to pack and get ready to move.

I plan to carry my time in this country forward with me. It has changed me as each new experience does. I feel a little less alone and more at peace. These are good things and even if I forget these moments and feelings, I know my body and mind will hold them for me. That way I can tune into this anytime I want.

Getting ready to pack.

Into the Desert

img_7051Last Wednesday, Miss Elsie the Cat, the Roadtrek and I left San Diego for points southeast. The desert was calling my name. The dentist gave me a reprieve and so we departed into the vast Sonoran Desert.

It is winter here. It is chilly at night, if not down right cold. It is wonderful hiking weather during the day and after the rains the desert is alive and the color green is showing up everywhere. The Octotillo are already blooming here at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Why the desert? The desert is the place I go to seek solitude, solace, to think and sort and grow. There is something about the wind and the animals and the vastness of the desert that is wonderfully healing for me. I slow down and really observe my surroundings.

Roadtreking Together

Roadtreking Together

I am not alone. I met up with Mary, a friend of mine. She has a Roadtrek too. We are exploring the desert together. We get along well. One of the nice things about having our own vehicles is that when we need time to ourselves we can retreat to our tiny home on wheels. I appreciate the fact that we both are respectful of our need for our own space.

I enjoy sharing my life with others. Mary asked me if I felt that things were getting easier for me, regarding Jim’s death. This is a very interesting question to ponder. I don’t always take the time to gauge where I have been, what I have achieved, and where I am going regarding Jim. Now the question has been asked I will take some time to bring this into my awareness.

Before I left my friend Nancy mentioned she was having a hard time remembering what I was like before Jim. And there it is. I will never return to who I was before Jim. Who I was before him, during our relationship and who I am now is a cumulative effect of all that has preceded this day, this moment in time.

Years ago Jim and I rafted the Grand Canyon. It was a life altering event. After the trip was over, we often would mention before Grand Canyon and after Grand Canyon. I notice there are times where I regard my life as “before Jim’s death and after Jim’s death”. How have the past four plus years affected who I am today? Well that could be a loaded question. I mean over six years ago I was entangled in the the whole breast cancer issue, that led right into Jim’s diagnosis and his death a year and a half later.

Most of the time I see those times as a hard exercise in growing. I had always heard of others who went through periods of trauma (all kinds-you pick it) and then life smoothed out again. I am hoping that my time of trauma is smoothing out. There are issues still to address but for the most part I would like the smoothing to start.

I miss Jim. It is not often that I feel that overwhelming raw grief that carried me through the first few years. I am thankful for that. I was reminded of it, once again, after the National election results this year, and although the grief was strong I knew to step beyond it quickly. Raw grief is not somewhere I want to stay. I find I like to carry him with me, in the stories I tell and the photos I look at. I guess I feel he is here and I can still advance forward in my life.

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Most days I feel I am doing much better and am working towards sorting out my own life. Grief has no timeline. I am not even sure it ever truly goes away, it softens over time. I would like to consider the possibility that grief is softening for me. I am doing better at meeting people I don’t know well and enjoying their company. I have needed to re-teach myself how to reach out to others and know I will be accepted. Being alone most of the time is not good for me. I am enjoying the moments of meeting others and feeling valued as a person. One positive experience leads to the next.

While this all goes on within, I find I am enjoying each day, sometimes a little and sometimes much more. I am enjoying the desert. It was time to leave San Diego. I did not know that when I left and yet it only took one look at the Anza Borrego Desert, as I was coming down the mountain, that I knew I was where I needed to be.

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Even in an organized campground, with people around the quietness of the desert is everywhere. I wake each morning to a Gila Woodpecker on the cactus next to my campsite. It is good to get up early to greet the dawn and enjoy the wildlife before they disappear in the warmer part of the day.

Elsie is slowly adapting to life on the road again. Thanks to the calming flower essences my friend Beth gave me, she is quietly and shyly coming out to explore. I appreciate my steady little companion on this journey of mine. At night she curls up on the bed with me. Like I said, a good companion.

I will be returning to San Diego, late in March-one more dental surgery to go. I know some of you have been waiting for an update. It is because of all of you out there in the world, known and unknown to me, that I can continue forward with the adventure of life.

Each day, I am getting ready to hike and explore this marvelous country.

Separating Ways-Almost

Cat solo

Cat solo

 

Saturday, Cat (cycling the coast with her pups) and I, chose separate paths for the rest of her trip down the 1 and the 101. She is strong and has been cycling on her own for several days in a row for over a month now. Saturday I decided, since I was not needed any more, I would like to venture off in my own direction. I want to explore some of the area around central California on my own time and schedule.

I am still carrying the gear she does not need. She loaded up the rest of the dog food and other essentials and now is totally independent as she finishes her ride down to the Mexico border. I am still there in case of emergency but that is it. We will meet up in San Diego after her ride is complete and sort out the gear.

I hope Cat can appreciate what we have done for each other. At the beginning of this trip we had several long conversations about the “what ifs” of this journey. I asked her if she would have pursued this trip without me and she said, she did not think so. I am honored to have been a part of this adventure. I am glad I could more than, get her on her way and help out when I was needed. I imagine that many of the through bikers would have appreciated the support that I was able to give to her. It is a hard journey, physically, emotionally and more. Now it is time for Cat to fly solo and for me to figure out what is next.

This has been an interesting two plus months on the road. I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned what I can tolerate and not tolerate. Whoa, I am only 64 years old and I am just now figuring this out. Mostly what I have learned is that I want to be appreciated, not more than necessary yet appreciated none the less. I guess I really want to appreciate myself and I am getting there. I didn’t always feel this appreciation on this journey of two. Because of the long days, Cat did not always have any more to give at the end of her day. This trip truly tested us both in many different ways.

I was the one who instigated our separation. I felt like a mother who was seeing her sidekick fly the coop. I am glad to know she is strong and continuing her journey down the coast. I am proud of what she has accomplished and what she will accomplish still. It will be good to meet at the end of her trip.

img_6158 img_6167Meanwhile I am in the town of Atascadero this morning in a sweet little coffee house, typing like crazy. I spent last night at a Harvest Host site near Paso Robles. The Rio Seco Winery is a small family operation with an interesting history. It was used as a film set for the 1987 movie “The Junkman.” The barn, where the tasting room is today was also part of a major drug bust. It was used as a growing house for marijuana. Today it is a lovely small winery specializing in red wines. The sunset was gorgeous from my small house on wheels.

Today I am not sure where I am wandering off to. Wander I shall. I think I am going off to look for those twisty little back roads that I love so much.

Please continue to follow Cat’s trip. After more than two thirds of her trip was over, her bike is now in good shape. She is riding strong.

Elsie, the Roadtrek and Me are riding strong, too.

RT in the Redwoods

RT in the Redwoods

Janet in the Redwoods

Janet in the Redwoods

Elsie the rave

Elsie the Brave

Friends & Wine Anyone?

img_3431Last Monday I took a break from the coast and route 101.

Have you ever had one of those forever friends? You know the ones I mean, you may not be in touch for years, but suddenly, one day you are back in touch. Not too long after that an opportunity arrises to be able to get together and catch up. It is like yesterday. I have one of those friends in Corvallis, Oregon.

Last Monday after I made sure Cat was good to go, I departed the coast, drove one hour inland (east) and met up with Kat and her husband Charlie. We figured 2003 was probably the last time the two of us physically saw each other. It has been almost that long since we have spoken. Thanks to Facebook and her daughter (we are FB friends) Kat and I got in touch. The first phone call was hours long.

I spent this past week in their home. Elsie and I had the downstairs apartment. I think Elsie was glad for a bit more room and so was I. Initially I was suppose to leave and head back to the coast, today. By the second day of our visit, we both realized we needed more time. I extended my stay until a week from today.

Kat, Charlie & Kat

Kat, Charlie & Janet

I am having so much fun. Kat is a spinner and loves to explore genealogy. With hikes mixed in we have been catching up. One day we spent immersed in my family’s genealogy. She has promised to help me dye some wool and go home with my own yarn. It is so much fun. I am also enjoying Charlie, her husband. We all get along very well and I am so glad to be back in her company. It is truly a delight. I am getting to see a part of Oregon that was not on my itinerary.

There was one glitch in the plans, in regards to spending a second week. This Sunday they have family coming into town to spend the night. I have my sweet little Roadtrek the RV. This afternoon I took off to go camp for the next two nights.

12249836_925564227523865_4050253941871400085_nI am a member of Harvest Hosts. They are an organization that works with different attractions all over the United States. For my $49/year I can call ahead to different attractions (vineyards, farms) and spend the night. Tonight I am at Emerson Vineyards in Monmouth, Oregon. I am camped behind the barn for the night with Miss Elsie the Cat. It is so nice here. I am out in the country. It is quiet.  While it is raining outside I am sitting inside writing this blog. 1614519_10152171414074326_1764785442_o

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Tom, owner of Emerson Vineyards

Emerson Vineyards is a small family run business. I have met Tom the owner and investor. He is very laid back and nice. Not only is he knowledgable about the wines he also was a wealth of information on the local area. I went to a wine tasting this afternoon and now have 3 bottles of wine and a bottle of yummy port sitting on my countertop. I like this type of camping.

I am so glad to know I have friends, similar to Kat all over the United States and Canada. Often my visits coincide with my need to be social and be in other’s company. My visit with Kat is very well timed. We have known each other for so long, there is an ease between the two of us. We share a history and it makes it easy to be in her company. Right now I am enjoying that ease.

Today I am thankful for organizations such as Harvest Hosts that add adventure to my life.

Today I am very thankful for my forever friends. They bring such joy to my life. Today I am thankful.