Friends in the Desert

A majority of the time I travel alone in my Roadtrek. I hike alone. I bike alone. I have gotten used to my own company, quirks and all.

On January 6, I left San Diego for the desert, Borrego Springs and the Salton Sea (all part of the California Desert). I love to visit the desert to breathe the air, hear the quiet and contemplate. The gentlest of breezes catch my attention. It is my time to renew, refresh and think things through.

The past two years have been different. I meet friends, travel with them, hike with them and more. Most of them I only see once a year, in the desert, in the winter. They arrive from Washington, Oregon, California and further. They come for a few days, a week, or the season.

I feel like I have been a social butterfly.

Peggy and Roger greeted me as I arrived. Peggy and I met traveling in our small B class RVs. Peggy has moved up to a larger rig since she met Roger. Usually, they are here for the winter season. This year they changed it up as they are heading east to take a cruise out of Miami in February.  I had about a week and a half with them before they started the meander east. It’s always fun to meet up with Peggy, she likes to play Bananagram.😁We talk and chat our way through hikes, catching up on everything.

Upon my arrival, Cori was here for a night in her Roadtrek Zion. Cori, like me full times in her little rig. Although our visit was brief we were able to get an evening hike in before dinner and a visit. The following day she pulled out for Quartzite, AZ.

Hiking with Sandy & Pat

On Jan 21 I had to leave for San Diego for a few days. Dr appointments waited. Three days later I arrived back at my free campground to meet up with Sandy and Pat. They own an older Roadtrek and travel each winter. I love these people. Last winter when we met up I had a hard time keeping up with them on the trail. They used to be ultra-marathoners. This year it was much easier. I am in better shape and have been hiking or biking most days since I arrived here.

I never know where I will meet up with Sandy & Pat. One July they were traveling from Britsh Columbia back to the United States and they found me in northern Montana camped next to a lake. We celebrated the Fourth of July together, got some kayaking in, hiked, and had a good steak dinner, then we were on our way in different directions once again. I have met them in Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and California.

Forster’s Tern

Salton Sea

 

Sora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After they left I headed for the Salton Sea. I love birds, all kinds of birds. At this time of year, the Sea is full of migratory and stationary birds. This winter, I have been there three times. It has yet to disappoint. I went for a day with Peggy & Roger (see paragraph 3), once on my own and this time to visit Rhonda and Jim at the Fountain of Youth RV Resort & Spa. Michigan is harsh in the winter so these folks head south in their Roadtrek for a few months every winter. A benefit of the Fountain of Youth are the mineral hot springs that are available when one lodge’s there. They are delightful people and I am glad to have met and become friends with them. I also like that they are up for any adventure. While we visited and caught up, we hiked to palm groves with thousands of palm trees, known as the Dos Palmas and Adreas Grove.

Jim, Janet, Rhonda & Cricket

We also had time to explore the eclectic and funky town of Bombay Beach, and have dinner at the American Legion (the lowest one in altitude in the United States).

I also had serious conversations on this visit with them. I miss Jim, my husband who died from cancer seven years ago, I miss having someone to hash things out with. I am glad my friends are willing to come forward and fill that role when I need someone to talk to. They asked the right questions and hopefully, I found the right answers.

Another day we bird watched along the marshes of the Salton Sea always ending with a visit to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge to see the resident burrowing owls. Beyond cute! While I was visiting there Gary, another full-time RV’er came in the night before I left to say hi and visit for a couple days. Gary gave me his knee scooter when I broke my ankle five years ago. He and Penny have been on my radar ever since.

Karen & Larry

I left The Fountain of Youth and drove up the street about twenty miles to meet up with Karen and Larry. I met them through my friend, Zee, who is in Mexico for the winter. I first met them on a river trip in Northern Montana on the North Fork of the Flathead River. This is my second year of meeting them in the desert. They are from Oregon and travel in the winter months. The added attraction of my meet-up this year is they have two kitties that travel with them. I needed a kitty fix.

Solei

They followed me back to Borrego Springs and we have been hiking and four-wheeling and of course, talking. There are marvelous things to explore everywhere I go. It is often much more fun to share it with someone else.

The flow of people in and out of my life is something I miss when I am traveling solo. This winter has more than made up for the social side of myself. On days I when I want some solo time I am able to say “I am going biking today” and I get that alone time I need in the desert. It is also nice to retreat to my Roadtrek and close the door when I need to. We all seem very respectful of the time we spend alone and together. Friends do that for each other.

Friday I am returning to San Diego. I am camping posh at an RV resort in Chula Vista for a few nights and then will be camping in another friend’s driveway for several days as I finish with the treatment for thyroid cancer.

I have family that I love and care for and hopefully, they feel the same for me. Yet, I have a true family of friends all over the country and Canada. I am grateful that they include me in their adventures, great and small. I am thankful they open their arms in greeting. I am thankful that they accept me in whatever shape I am at the moment.

Today I am thankful for true and good friends. Today I am thankful.

On a Roll

Miss Elsie the Cat and I decided it was time for an adventure. This morning we packed up and headed north and west. The coolest thing is that for once, I timed the traffic right in Los Angeles and rolled through that major traffic jam without a hitch. Whew, thank goodness.

My goal is Pismo Beach, on the west coast of this nation. There is going to be an informal Rally of Roadtreks for four days. We are gathering at an RV Campground and doing something. I am not sure what, but I am going. It is time to walk away from stress and decision making for a few days and have some fun.

The funny thing with a diagnosis of cancer, I immediately am sure that I am not going to live to see tomorrow. I wonder  if it is a bit of let down to see the sun rise the next day. I just don’t think so. A brief update before I move on to brighter and better subjects. I am putting a puzzle together. As each piece fits into place, my decision gets closer to being complete. I have all the pieces but one. May 15th, I have a second opinion at the Moores Cancer Center in San Diego. Hopefully, the visit to the Moores Cancer Center will give me the last piece of the puzzle, for now. The decision I need to make is: Am I comfortable with delaying surgery and the radioactive iodine treatment until fall, or do I have it done now? What confuses this decision, a good friend of mine and I have a two month trip to Africa coming up in July. Although everyone has told me to go and have the surgery in the fall, I am still needed a bit more confirmation. I have had a lot of indecision around this and finally saw a therapist to help me sort it all out. So stay tuned.

Steve, Debbie, Lynn, John

Meanwhile, back at the beach…..I have decided that I do not want to drive long distances any more. I want to have enough energy at the end of my day to enjoy a walk or a bike ride or a hike. I don’t condone exhaustion anymore. Once I was through LA, I thought I would head into the hills, ah the beach was calling and the hills will have to wait. There are these funky campgrounds between the railroad and the ocean as you drive from Ventura to Santa Barbara. I have always wanted to stay at one. Tonight is the night. Our view is the ocean. Yup right out the back door of the RV. I am not sure Elsie is as happy with this situation as I am. She takes a few looks and then heads to the front of the RV. Silly cat.

 

Tonight I met Debbie, Steve, Lynn and John, newly retired and testing out the RV lifestyle for two years. They are jovial and fun and have offered me dinner. Well yum. I enjoy meeting other people. I did the whole camping experience this evening. I had a burger with all the fixings and S’mores for dessert around a campfire by the ocean. I am still needing to give myself encouragement to interact with those I don’t know. I have struggled with this since Jim, my husband, died. It is fun when others make the first move. I am then more comfortable chatting it up and enjoying dinner and companionship.

Currently Elsie and I are bundled up inside our warm and cozy home. The ocean is our backdrop this evening. Hopefully the waves crashing just below me will lull me to sleep. If not, I will enjoy lying here listening to them.

Tomorrow will bring another day of wonder.

I am thankful today for good and kind people.

I am thankful today that I woke up.

 

Ward Revisited

Flight 93 National Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am on my way west. I have been traveling west, though Pennsylvania and Ohio for a week. It has been wonderful to meander west without too much hurry. I pushed east last March to arrive in the Columbus area to help my niece, Brittany and her husband, Trip with their son, my great nephew-Ward. On this westward journey, I have the pleasure of stopping and seeing all kinds of interesting places, including my niece and her family, once again.

Ward is still in active treatment for childhood cancer. The good news is, he has one more chemotherapy treatment, next Friday. At the end of that visit he gets to ring the bell at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, marking the end of this phase of his treatment. Whew, I believe we will be happy to see this phase of treatment end.

Dad & Ward

Throughout treatment Ward has remained a rambunctious and active toddler. He will celebrate his second birthday in early June. Since I saw him in March he has grown and his hair has become fairer. He is putting his words together a little more. He remains an absolutely charming young boy.

It has been interesting to revisit with this part of my family again. Brittany and Trip continue to support each other and Ward. I appreciate their honesty in dealing with a most difficult situation.

Next month Ward has surgery to remove his port. Quarterly CT scans will continue to be apart of their life for many years. Now this might sound routine yet I know how much this will create stress, with each scan for years to come. they will hold their breath until the results come back. Ward on the other hand will continue to grow as a strong, young boy should. He will not hold his breath, we will all do that for him.

He has a most loving and supportive family around him. My sister, Ruth and her husband, Joe now live in two states. During the warmer months they will be in Ohio. They have bought a condo in a town near this young family. They are here to babysit and help in whatever way they can. Ward will return to day care and pre-school, part time, in the fall and will return to full time in the New Year. Ruth and Joe will remain in Ohio until he returns to full time. They also have a home in northern Florida and will probably be glad to see it when the snow arrives in their Ohio home.

I am glad this family has welcomed me with such grace and loving, open arms. I know it will be quite a while until I see all my family again. The west is calling and I must go. It helps me to travel and explore knowing I am loved and supported by all of my families. Who are these families that I speak of?

Tomorrow I will leave here and begin first to travel north to the south shore of Lake Erie, visit with a long time friend of mine in northern Indianna, mid-week and then head west.

Today I am feeling especially thankful and grateful for my family and the time I have had to visit with them. Now it is time to continue my adventure-Life.

Getting ready to move on, Miss Elsie and me.

The End of Daylight Savings Time

Does anyone else dislike the shortening days of fall? I have found that for several years now, I am not as tolerant of the shortening days and the less brightness and warmth of the sun. Maybe I don’t like introspection. Maybe I just like more day light. I am certainly not looking forward to the end of daylight savings time. Whose idea is DST any how?

In many of the traditional cultures fall is the time to come inwards. It is a time of harvest and reap the rewards of hard labor. Preparation is on for winter. Without storing enough grains and foods you might not have enough to help your people make it through the coming long winter months. It was time to make sure that their homes were secure, there were enough blankets and bedding. It was a community affair. It was a busy time.

Many animals are also preparing for winter. They are gathering food stuffs for their nests. Bears are eating their fill, in preparation of sudo-hibernation in the lower 48. Birds and rodents are busy gathering nuts and seeds. Ants are doing the same.

Although my culture does not follow the traditional cultures, in many ways we do the same thing. My sister and her husband make sure they have enough wood for the winter, so they can stay toasty warm in their northern NJ home.

I grew up in a family where we put by food for the winter. August and September were spent canning our garden harvest. Although we could go to the grocery store, that old tradition of putting up food for the winter continued. We had a cold cellar to store all the canned goods and potatoes.

Spiritually, fall is also a time to come inwards. It is a time to reap what we have accrued over the past half year. It is a time to begin to come inward and begin to reflect on what we have sowed.

There are times I find it hard to come inward. It is then that I realize I still have a ways to go regarding grief and loss. I find I am more lonely now. Reflection is not always easy and yet necessary as long as it doesn’t drag me too far down. It is good to look at my progress. It is good to take time to be quiet. I just wish that the sun was not dimmer and the days were not shorter.

I am chasing the sun. I am now in southern New Mexico. I have spent the last week in Silver City, NM. The past two days I have been at the Gila Cliff Dwelling in Ruins. It is in the most amazing valley. Yesterday I saw the ruins and a spotted owl. It is interesting, the story of these native peoples. It is even more amazing to see where they lived.

Today I am hiking along the West Fork of the Gila River. It is definitely fall here. I am camped along the river at a natural hot springs. I go soak before I go to bed at night and when I get up in the morning. Not a bad way to contemplate life.

The Gila Cliff Dwelling Ruins

click on the images to enlarge

From here I will continue to head south. My goal is Big Bend National Park. And when I am done there I will be heading for San Diego for at least a few months. My relationship with my dentist continues. And, it is doctor time. I have all my annual visits coming up. It is another way of coming in after a year of basically feeling healthy, on-the-road.

I wait hopefully for the return of the longer days. I celebrate the winter solstice every year, even if it is in a quiet way. I look forward to the warming sun and the longer days. Knowing that is coming helps me make it through the fall and shortening days. Chasing the sun helps too.

I guess I should be more like Miss Elsie and find a sunny spot, curl up and take a nap. Not a bad idea.

Another Year-Reflections

Tomorrow is my birthday.

The day after tomorrow will mark the sixth anniversary of Jim’s death. Time stands still. Time flies. It is amazing that it is six years since I last saw him. It is amazing that it has been six years since I last heard his voice. Well this whole process is pretty amazing and not always much fun.

I grieved when my mom died. I grieved when my dad died. I have grieved over the loss of friends and over the loss of others in tragedy, which we have seen so much of this year. The loss of Jim was different. I lost my life partner, my friend and my companion in mischief and dance. I describe the three and a half years leading to his departure, like a deck of cards thrown in the air. Just as they started to come down and I was picking them up, something else happened and the cards were thrown back up in the air again.

I am still picking up cards from six years ago. I didn’t know there were so many cards. Yet I have accomplished a bit along the way and each day I attempt to live life to its fullest. Some days it is a wee, tiny bit and other days are big a luscious and overflowing with awe and beauty.

I am beginning to realize that I may never have an answer to the question “What’s Next?” At my best I look for the large and small around me and find some marvel in it all. At my worst, I still find I can treasure my current surroundings and who I am.

  • I am not homeless.
  • I have this lovely little Roadtrek to call home.
  • My home is heated, which feels good on these chilly fall nights.
  • Elsie is always my faithful companion, in adventure and silence.
  • I know, oh how I know, I have many out there that support me daily, mostly in thought and prayer. Yet I know you are out there.
  • There are many books to read. On days where I don’t have much energy, I sit and read.
  • When I was younger I went through a short, period where everything was gray. I appreciate that I have never gone back to that place. I still can see and marvel at the loveliness of the places I visit and the people I meet. Color is a wonderful medium.
  • I have a family, sisters and nieces, that though not often heard from love me and support me.
  • And there is always my camera-I love taking pics even at my lowest.

There is always hope. In this coming year I am going to attempt to not be so hard on myself. I really don’t need to make far reaching decisions about anything. I want to focus on what is best for me at this moment in time, in this day and in this year. I want to experience a little more joy, wherever I can find it. And, although I am not sure I may want to settle down. I shall see on that statement.

I now understand a bit more of the statement from others that “you can move forward, while treasuring the moments Jim and you had”. I know that I can do both. And, ever since Jim’s passing he has been very good at helping me find my car keys. I have called on him more than once. This is one of the important reasons to keep him nearby as I adventure forth into life.

If you look on this site you will see a Go Fund Me tag. I have been raising money for the Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship for 6 years. I am close to my goal of $25,ooo to make this a perpetual scholarship. I have about $8,000 more to go. I have been constant and steady in trying to raise this amount. If you would like to donate, small or large, some student out there at Grossmont Community College will thank you for your efforts.  I treasure each donation because I know about the thought and caring behind it. If you would prefer to donate directly to the college, here is their information.

Mail your donation to:

Scholarship Specialist
Financial Aid Office
8800 Grossmont College Dr
El Cajon, CA 92020-1799
Contributions are tax deductible

On to another year of discovery. Who knows what it will bring. I will continue to follow my own path, carrying the memories of my time with Jim forward. This year I pray that it will be just a wee bit easier. Each year seems to be getting that way. I am thankful for this.

I am thankful for 21 years of love, caring and relationship. I am thankful for being able to have those memories to help me move forward with my life, no matter what direction it takes.

Today I am thankful.

 

 

 

Totality


fullsizeoutput_8201My extended summer vacation is drawing to a close. I have had an adventurous and good time in Idaho and Montana. I can’t thank my friends, Linda (for her “cabin”) and Mary (including me in her adventures) enough. It has been a fun.

The finale to my time in Idaho and Montana, and a little bit of Oregon was watching the Eclipse in totality, with new friends. We were in Unity, Oregon. The eclipse was every cliche or phrase or word you have ever formulated for amazing. I had told myself that I would not take photos. I was just going to watch it. Well the best laid plans can go awry. I did get one good shot of totality. It was fun to take pictures of the people and the shadow, and the sunset. Yep it was downright awesome.

And to think, I almost missed it. What?, you may wonder. She was planning to do this since last spring. How could she almost miss it?

I have been out in the back country for most of the summer. I have hiked and biked and kayaked and more. I have spent a lot of time alone. When the news started coming in that they were expecting close to a million people in Oregon for the eclipse, I hesitated. McCall Idaho was expecting up to 100,000 people. People were worried about traffic. There was concern that gas stations would run out of gas. The more the reports came in, the more unsure I became. I was not sure I wanted to be around all these people. I have seen one other eclipse. I could easily head south and avoid the masses.

Mary & Janet waiting for Totality

What drew me to Unity to see the eclipse was my friend, Mary. I had made a commitment to her to share an RV site. I had made a commitment to be there. I like my friends and I really don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t break commitments very easily. So with some hesitation on my part, I drove to Unity, Oregon.

And the result? 

I had a great 4 days. The group I was with were delightful and easy going. The day before the eclipse we went to Unity Reservoir and mucked about on the water. Everyone got along. The town and the townspeople were welcoming and helpful. We had a great big grassy area to sit in, the morning of the eclipse. Other people outside of our group joined us. Everyone was having fun getting to know each other. There were no hoards of people. We left on the August 22. There was no traffic. We had no difficulty driving or getting gas. The trip to Medford Oregon was long yet easy.

 

I am glad I stretched myself. I am glad I pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone and mesh into a fine group of people. I believe that it is important for me to be a bit uncomfortable from time to time. The emotionally scary experiences help me to become more-more human, more whole, more of everything. I know several posts back, I spoke of fear. Fear has been pretty much a part of my day to day existence since Jim died. I can let it drown me or I can make it my ally. The trip to Unity is a good example of asking fear to be my ally. When I support this part of myself and push forward to a new experience I grow and fear becomes a tiny bit more distant.

Sunset in Totality

I am driving south. I am going to be in San Diego for two weeks, starting this Sunday. I have to visit the person I have an ongoing relationship with for another six months or so, my dentist.😁 I have to sign up for Medicare. Good heavens, I am 65 this October, how did that happen? The rig is getting checked out and serviced. It is time to get my eye exam and order new glasses. It will be a busy two weeks.

I am hoping to see all my San Diego friends. I have missed my major support group, since Jim’s death. You all know who you are. I hope to see each and every one of you in my two weeks in town before I adventure out again.

Tonight I am at the beach. I have missed the ocean and have felt a draw to the west to say hello to the Pacific, and Jim (he was buried at sea). It is time to get my shoes on and take a walk. It is time to say hello to the wide open ocean.

 

 

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.