Living Tiny vs. Trailer Trash

*Photo taken in Moab, Utah when we were traveling out to Nevada with our newly-purchased Airstream. Here we were just getting our feet wet with Airstream life, and Michael and I both miss it dearly. 

An Instagram post I saw over the weekend got me thinking about the difference between living tiny and living in a trailer park. Is there a difference? I mean, aside from the fact that the minimalist movement is huge right now, is there really a difference between choosing to build your own tiny home and having to live in a trailer? The Instagram post I read suggests that yes, there is a difference. As a baby, I lived in a trailer. My mother has pictures of my first year of life in our trailer, which in my mind was just one of the many houses or apartments we called home over the years of my childhood. We moved a lot, and in my younger years I never had issues with how my house looked. Usually my issues were around the jealousy of the toys other kids had, or the food their parents bought. Houses were not a thing I worried about much. I knew a lot of people, including both sets of grandparents, who lived in trailers by choice because they wanted to scale down from taking care of a whole house. So, my experience with trailers is vastly different than maybe some people who lived in a trailer park their whole lives, or who felt a need to escape the trailer park lifestyle for their own sense of happiness. Maybe I need to consider how hoighty it seems for me to blab about living tiny; after all, some people probably hate being trapped in their city apartments the size of postage stamps, or their run-down trailers on the wrong side of the tracks. Let’s get into this.

The biggest difference I can see between the two camps is money. Well, maybe. On the surface, if you go digging around on YouTube for videos about living tiny, you can find a vast array of fancy homes built for style, function, and the choice to live minimally. Lots of people choose living tiny for reasons like wasting less energy, wasting less time on housework and general maintenance, and wasting fewer resources by reusing products in the build. Many tiny homes are built to be eco-friendly in many ways, and it does take a good deal of cash to build some tiny homes that can be totally tricked out with electronics, solar panels, fancy lighting, and expensive finishes. People with the cash to pay for fancy stuff are certainly out there building tiny homes. On the other hand, I have seen lots of people building their own tiny homes because they can’t afford mortgage debt, need to share space with parents and would rather have their own home in the yard, or bought a house they can’t afford and need to get out from under it. I have watched a lot of videos shared by individual families or couples whose sole motivation for building tiny was to save money, not resources. Some of these people are building with a very small amount of capital, and are salvaging a lot of the materials they use in the build. Their reasons are financial…so what’s the difference between living tiny and getting a trailer? In this instance, very little.

When I think about the amount of space available in a mobile home as compared with the space in a tiny house, I actually think a trailer usually has more room. Some tiny houses are built bigger to accommodate the individual’s needs, but a trailer generally has more square footage than the typical tiny house you see built on a trailer. True tiny houses are meant to be moved, though some people do build them on foundations. A mobile home can be moved, but usually isn’t moved once you find a lot to rent at a trailer park (and I mean mobile homes, not RVs). One set of my grandparents who lived in a trailer had two full baths, two bedrooms, a space for laundry, a bumped-out living area, a screened porch, a shed out back, and more cupboards in the kitchen than I have in my current house. The other set of grandparents had a double-wide that felt more like a regular house than a trailer, especially since there were two porches on either side of the trailer, one of which was more like a family room because it had windows and was air-conditioned in the Arizona heat. That trailer was also equipped with two full baths, three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and breakfast nook/foyer. Lots of closets, plenty of space. Trailer trash? Not either of my grandparents’ homes. My grandparents were more privileged than many people who live in trailers in the US, if for no other reason than they were white, but I know a lot of people who live comfortably in trailers.

When Michael and I were living in our Airstream, which was effectively a tiny house on wheels, we had no laundry, a living area which incorporated the kitchen and dining in one space, one closet for our clothes, a small bathroom which had floor space barely large enough for your feet, and a bedroom that only accommodated our mattress with no floor space at all. We had storage over our heads and a dresser built into the wall. That’s more what I think about when I think living tiny. In a trailer, you have room to move around people in the living areas without having to scoot past or move aside—unless you have too much stuff, which is only the fault of the homeowner—but when you live tiny you usually don’t have that luxury. Everything is scaled down to be as minimal as possible in tiny homes, from square footage to storage to what items you choose to have for specific reasons. Most things in a tiny house serve double duty, and must be cleverly designed. A trailer has more space and usually still feels more like a house than an RV or tiny house.

In general, I think there are two different types of people who buy mobile homes, just like there are people who build tiny. You have those who must live in trailer parks because they can’t afford a traditional home, and you have people who are tired of maintaining a traditional home and prefer the life of a nice trailer park where life is simpler. It’s the same with tiny homes. There are people who choose to live tiny because they want to make less impact on the planet or they prefer a minimal lifestyle, and then there are those who see it as a cheaper option to owning a home in an economy unfriendly to homeowners. Some people retire and buy expensive RVs the size of buses, sell their homes, and live the travel life. Other people work remote jobs, save up for an RV, sell their home or escape their city apartment, and live the travel life. I think if people want to see living tiny as a thing of privilege, a choice only made by fancy white people with money to burn, then they are allowed to believe that notion. I am not a fancy person with a lot of money, but I did work hard to plan the life I wanted to live, and I chose carefully with my husband to purchase a used model of a good RV. Airstreams last a long, long time, and we knew it would be easier to revamp an old interior than to build from scratch. It also gave us options to stay at RV parks, when many tiny homes are not allowed due to insurance limits.

My impression of the tiny house movement is that there are just as many reasons and types of people choosing to live tiny as there are reasons and people who live in trailers. Those of us living in the US love our stereotypes, we love to point fingers, lay blame, and stir up trouble. If you live in a trailer, the only reason you have to allow anyone the power to call you trash is if you believe it about yourself. I don’t think anyone is trash, and many of my favorite people lived in trailers. It’s not trashy to live in a trailer, unless you decide to make it so. Whatever other people want to think is up to them, but what really matters is what you believe about yourself. No one can do anything about that except for you. Whether you want to save money to live tiny, you want mobility, you want less work, or you want to use fewer resources, are any of those reasons too hoighty? Should we have to make rich people feel bad about living tiny because they want to be kinder to the earth, or just have freedom to live where they want without a big impact on the planet? If the discussion of living tiny as a thing of privilege is the concern, I believe that’s an impression some people are entitled to have if they wish. Maybe this is more deeply concerning because we see this as a white people thing, and not welcoming to people of color, though I generally think of white people when I picture “white trash,” not people of color. Is that just me? Maybe.

Considering the fact that it does seem to be more of a movement by white people (myself included), I have no doubt that class comes into the equation. If we’re talking about middle class people, then we are certainly talking about a group of people making the choice to live tiny. They may still have to make sacrifices to build a tiny home, but they are certainly more privileged than poor people who feel forced to live in trailers due to a lack of money. Rich people living tiny can live anywhere and buy anything, so of course their tiny homes are going to be far more fancy and upscale than one you build with your own two hands using repurposed supplies. This is the kind of debate that can be unending. We can go round and round about who gets to live tiny and why, but I still maintain that even if you feel you’re living tiny because you don’t have a choice, you still get to choose how you feel about it. We all do. I could allow people to make me feel bad about my choice to live in a shared home so we can save money to build our Airstream interior or purchase land for our tiny home. But what purpose does that serve? Why should I feel bad about saving money to make myself happy, and to live in the woods where I can be quiet? A trailer is a home. That is all. If someone else wants to cut down a person for where they live, it can happen even to a person who lives in a mansion—think about some of the most ridiculous mansions you’ve seen on TV, and imagine how much ridicule people get for building them. There are some wackadoodle houses out there, but if they make people happy, why do we care?

If governments don’t get in the way, and if Wall Street doesn’t obstruct the finances, tiny homes could be the answer to a lot of problems created by the foolhardy greed of the housing market. Living tiny makes less impact on the planet, which is very, very important right now. If we allow agencies with the resources to build tiny homes for the homeless, we could change lives. A lot of lives. For all the people who still live with their parents because their school debt or inability to get work prevents them from having their own home, tiny homes are a possible answer. I looked at a few articles about the “privilege” of living tiny, and how it seems like a mostly white thing, a mostly middle-class thing. That may be true now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If enough white people make enough noise about the stupidity of the regulations hampering the growth of tiny house communities, then people of color will have less concern about getting in trouble if they want to build. Sometimes those of us with privilege can make way for those who have less. That’s my goal, at least. I see it as a chance for freedom in many ways, and I think that’s for anyone who wants it, not just white middle class people. Most of my life I’ve lived on the edge of poverty, but I still know how to be smart about saving and repurposing. If I can do it, anyone can. Maybe I’m opening myself up to arguments with this idea, but my thinking falls into the camp of making one’s own way in the world. Ignore the haters, the stereotypers, the naysayers. Let them gripe about who deserves what. If you’re a person of color who wants to live tiny, go for it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Make yourself happy, live free. If you’re a rich mofo with a ton of cash, go build a tiny house on a desert island and be happy living free there. Whatever floats your boat. And if you’re a person who can build tiny houses for the homeless and you have property where they can be parked…go for that, too. This is supposedly still a free country, so live how you like, trailer or foundation, tiny or big. Be yourself, and fulfill your own destiny. Own it. And if you want to call me either trailer trash or privileged, you’re welcome to your opinion. What I know is I’ve worked hard for what I have and I am happy to be where I am now. Get out there and live a beautiful life, friends. You only live once. Define yourself.

Comments are welcome, especially from those who feel I am being unfair in the content of my post here. Do send me your love letters, friends. I enjoy hearing your genuine concerns and am interested in keeping an open mind. All I ask is that we all take good care of each other, even if we disagree. I will love you no matter what your opinion. 

 

Cutting across Yards: Flitting through the South, and a Quick Tour through Mammoth Caves

*Photo taken at the mouth of the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Caves

Hello, friend. I hope you are doing something lovely like curling up in your favorite spot to read, or enjoying a delicious cup of tea, or perhaps lying on a hammock in the sun somewhere gorgeous. If you are sitting on a train ride to work and passing the time, waiting for a bus, or anxiously awaiting your plane, maybe your travel time can be made more interesting while we commiserate about our mild misfortunes. I write to you now from the comfort of the home we left behind in Olean, New York, and it feels strange to be here again. The expanse of the home almost overwhelms me with the amount of work to be done to prep it for sale: stuff to be sold, walls to be painted, surfaces to be cleaned, items to be repaired. Also, unloading the Falcon of all our belongings (you would be amazed at how much we fit into a 34 foot trailer!) before we begin tearing out all the guts to remodel it. Truly, I am exhausted. But let me go back a little to explain better how we arrived here….

Our drive back to New York State from Nevada could have been more harrowing, but our travel was not easy. The Aluminum Falcon seems to have responded to our discussion about remodeling by deciding to start falling apart in earnest. With almost every stop we made along the route home it seemed as if we discovered another broken part on the trailer. Coupled with the breaking parts, we also found ourselves troubled by the weather the entire trip. The weather across the country seemed conspired against us, beginning with the high winds in Nevada, then snow in Northern Arizona, ice storms in New Mexico and Texas, flooding in Mississippi (and soooo much mud!) and Tennessee, then finally severe thunderstorms in Kentucky.

Let me pick up where I left off last week. My last post related the ice storms in Texas, which ground our travel to a halt for a couple of days and forced us to go without water and sewer. This was not the end of the world, but it’s an added annoyance when things like stressful weather conditions slow down the drive time, you miss out on fun parts of the trip because you have to stop too often, and stuff keeps breaking. Compared to problems other people are having in the world right now, I thank my lucky stars that my problems are only annoying. Nevertheless, the Falcon is our home and we didn’t want our home to fall apart. Once the yucky ice and snow stopped falling from the sky, we got ourselves back on the road. Our plans had to be altered due to the time we wasted with weather, so we once again changed our route, and instead of going to visit Michael’s family in North Carolina we took the more direct route through Tennessee and Kentucky going north. Leaving Texas, we finally saw some nicer weather in Louisiana.

As we drove through Louisiana, I began to feel my entire body respond to the sight of sunlight after days of dreary weather, and the green grass and trees cheered me up, too. Leaving the cold, ice, and snow behind us made me almost buoyant with hope that perhaps we might finally catch a break in the insane inclement weather plague. And we did catch a break for the day as we drove through the green, tree-filled regions of Louisiana and then into Mississippi. Little did we know that when we decided to stop for the night at an RV park in Mississippi (a spot called Frog Hollow, very conveniently located right off route 55—the owner was delightfully friendly) we would encounter seriously saturated mud pits. The midsection of the country has been getting hammered with a lot more rain than usual this time of year, a fact which became more prevalent as we drove through Tennessee, too. Water stretched across incredibly wide swaths of countryside. When we spoke with someone at the RV park in Kentucky where we planned to stay for the night, we were told that severe weather would be sweeping through the region yet again, but that we would be close to the bathroom in case of an emergency need to take shelter. Yikes.

Our drive through Tennessee showed signs of spring, which should be a happy thing. Yet it’s not time for cherry and crab apple blossoms to come into full bloom. It’s too early. Too early for the bushes to be green with leaves and the trees to be budding already, even in the warmer Southern climate. This early spring growth is bad for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how it affects migrating animals which depend on the plant life developing at this time of year, but which have yet to arrive. The cycles of migrating animals and plants which pollinate or blossom at certain times of year are often delicately balanced, and now the cycles are disrupted year after year. Hard freezes in the North are becoming less frequent or shorter in time, causing other types of disruption. Warmer ocean water feeds the heavier rain and storm systems which dump more water on already saturated areas, and hotter summers are then drying out already dry areas to create record-breaking droughts. Anyone who says climate change isn’t real isn’t paying attention. The signs are everywhere. Ask Louisville, KY how they feel about rafting down streets instead of driving, or how Miami likes high tide these days.

While I watched the water from my front seat, I looked up a place for dinner in the Nashville area. As much as I wanted to stop for music there, we had time only for a meal. Thankfully, I found a special spot to refresh ourselves. If you ever find yourself in the Nashville, TN area, do yourself a favor and go to the Loveless Café. You will be treated to one of the best Southern meals you’ve ever had (except for maybe your grandmother’s cooking, of course). Every single bite of my meal was melt-in-your-mouth delectable. I had the fabulous fried catfish with turnip greens and fried green tomatoes—a meal fit for a king. Michael had the smoked turkey with cranberry sauce and hoecakes, and both of us were stuffed to the gills after eating the whole plate of biscuits they brought warm and which we slathered with their yummy fruit preserves. The food at Loveless is all scratch cooking, and the café is a gingham-draped cottage style dining room which is clean as a whistle. All the staff were delightful and friendly, and the food came fast, a surprise in a full dining room. A wedding was taking place in the event center behind the restaurant complex, and as we left Michael and I laughed over the flower girls romping in the yard attached to the barn-like structure. If you have a meal here, you may as well prepare to go shopping, too. This place is a rabbit warren of fun little shops, including a gift shop and country market. Of course, you could just stay in the motel on the property and really go crazy. I imagine it would be a lovely romantic getaway weekend if you like quaint country spots. Either way, stop for the food. It’s divine.

Our last night in the broken-down Falcon was spent at Jellystone RV Park in Kentucky, near Mammoth Caves National Park. After all our difficulties over the week, we decided to make at least one stop at a National Park, since we missed our chance to see the petrified forest in New Mexico. We pulled into the nearly empty park after dark, but not terribly late. Still, the office was closed so we grabbed the info packet left for us by the park personnel and proceeded to get lost on the winding roads. Once we found the space and got settled, rain began to gently fall. We pulled up our hoods and happily hooked up the water (yay, water!), though the trailer wasn’t level and we found ourselves goofed up from the slight tilt once inside. Funny how even just an inch or two will make the inside of an RV seem like a fun house, and it will throw off your body’s muscle memory of where things are supposed to be. We could have fixed it, but we both felt too tired to care. Instead, it offered us moments of comedic laughter when crashing into things or falling over in response to the off-kilter floors and walls.

We got settled in for the night and finally had a moment to relax, but then as the rain fell more heavily I checked the weather. Tornado warnings had been issued for most of the state of Kentucky, and the storm heading our way had already dropped at least one tornado, possibly two or three. As I scanned the news stories, Twitter feeds lit up like a Christmas tree with urgent messages to seek shelter or find higher ground due to the severe and dangerous flooding. News in the Louisville area during the storm was of water rescues for people trapped in cars and homes with flash flooding. We knew flooding would not be an issue where we were parked, but I worried that we would see the destructive wind. Fortunately, the worst part of the storm passed over us without too much more than a bit of leaking (that stupid AC unit is definitely getting replaced). Winds howled, but it wasn’t any worse than what we dealt with in Nevada, where mountain weather gets downright ornery at times. Despite how light Airstreams are for towing, I am consistently amazed with how well they endure stormy weather. We barely felt the wind as it whooshed through the park, and I suspect the aerodynamic shape of the Airstream is part of the reason. Either way, we got lucky again. Nothing more severe than heavy rain pelting the trailer.

In the morning Michael made sure he emptied all the tanks completely before heading north and home, since we expected to drive straight to Olean after our quick tour of Mammoth Caves. I reserved a tour time of 11 am, which gave us plenty of time to get packed and ready to go, and Jellystone is only about 15 minutes from the park’s visitor center. We liked this RV park, though it was pricier than the typical $30-35 per night you find in most Southern parks; we spent almost $50 for the convenience of being close to the National Park. Other than the steep price, the park was nice and clean, and very kid- and dog-friendly.

The drive through the national park pleasantly surprised me, as the wooded area held onto several shades of neutral tones from dried leaves still clinging to trees and scattering the ground, but also glimmered with a soft glow of green moss popping up occasionally in the woods. Once checked into the tour at the visitor’s center, we took the time to walk through the exhibit there, one of my favorite things to do at the national parks. I have said before that if you go to a national park it may behoove you to take the time to walk through the typically attractive and informative exhibits in the visitor’s center of any park. They usually run through the most common animal and plant life you may see in the park, often give insightful info about geology of the region (and why the park was designated), and usually break down the history of the park and its surrounding area. Even if you only skim the info, I find I enjoy the park much more due to knowledge of what I may see during my visit.

We decided to take the “Domes and Dripstones” tour at Mammoth Caves, which is two hours long. Our snarky ranger guide amused the tour group with quips about safety, reasons for being conscious of what we touch in the caves, and told us stories about one of the first explorers of the portion of the cave we visited. I found the first portion of the cave to be one of the most interesting. On this tour, you descend about 280 steps built specifically to wind through the often close passages of the cave, sometimes being able to look down dozens of feet below. As you travel downward, water drips from above and the music of its falling echoes through the limestone cavern. It’s difficult to take the time to truly appreciate this wonder, as the steps allow for only single file descent. This makes it hard to stop and take in the fascinating structures of the domes overhead, but do try. While on the stairwell you will see some of the most interesting rock formations of the entire tour. One kindness of this particular tour was the choice to put the slowest members at the front of the group, which kept the pace somewhat slower and did allow for occasional stops. It was thoughtful of the ranger to do this, since this meant our elders would not be left far behind, but instead held a place of honor at the front, as it should be.

Once at the base of the stairwell, we were corralled onto benches for a short history lesson and another story, but I suspect it also offered those who were tired from the stairs a chance to rest before continuing. The entire tour is about two miles of walking, including the stairs. What I did not realize about Mammoth Caves is that the system of caves is the largest of its type in the world, but is encapsulated in a small geographic area. Think of intestines winding through your abdominal cavity—approximately 25 feet fit into your belly—and that’s what the Mammoth Cave system is like, with miles and miles of caves all sitting on top of each other.

We stopped a few times during the tour to listen to stories or explanations of certain aspects of the caves, and I found much of this information engaging. Honestly, much of the cave tour did not strike me as terribly exciting or interesting in terms of its beauty or rock formations. As I said, the stairwell portion was the more enthralling part of the cave to me, and then at the end of the tour the group is given the option of descending a set of stairs to view the “Frozen Niagara” formation of limestone, named for its resemblance to that massive waterfall. I will admit this formation does impress, and on this tour the group gets the pleasure of walking beneath the formation to see it from many angles. Because of all the recent rainfall in Kentucky, we saw a lot more water falling from above than is typical, and our tour guide divulged this fact with good cheer. Though much of the cave tour is dry, even in rainy weather you may want a rain-proof jacket for the beginning and end of the tour where it tends to be more drippy. Also, wear good shoes for climbing, as the ground is often either steep for short periods or is quite uneven.

After the tour, Michael and I took a few minutes to view the historic cave entrance, where yet another waterfall adorned the opening on one side. We also walked down to the river, which was of course swollen beyond its usual banks. I imagine this walk would be a delight in spring and summer beneath the trees in full bloom, but even in winter without leaves the forest still held a bare beauty to be appreciated. If you have the time, there are plenty of trails to explore from the visitor’s center, some of which appear to traverse miles. Perhaps if anyone has taken another tour of the caves, that information can be shared in the comments below. I would love to know if another of the cave tours might have slightly more interesting sights.

The remainder of our trip home went without much excitement, which is good. We arrived in our home town of Olean, NY with little fanfare at the early hour of two in the morning, and faced the task of needing to unload quite a few of our belongings right away. Since the night time temperature had dropped below freezing, we could not leave anything that might freeze, but we also needed to get clothes and food for morning. The monumental task of unloading the entirety of our belongings remained for the next day or two, followed by the beginnings of tearing out the cabinetry and flooring yesterday. Currently, the state of affairs of our home is an absolute mess, but this is a good beginning. Michael and I are both excited and concerned about what we will find when all the interior is out and we can begin the process of building it back up with new materials and a slightly more suitable design for our lifestyle. We will take occasional photos to document and share our upgrade, and look forward to sharing the remodel when it’s finished. I am also prepping some email courses I am excited to share, so keep an eye out for those when I get them up on the website. I will create a page for them for anyone interested.

A storm is headed for Western New York this evening, so I need to get back to work. We have a lot to do before the storm hits, not the least of which is to move the trailer to another location before the winter weather arrives, since the trailer can’t sit in the street in the way of the plows. More to come as we work, but if we go on any interesting hikes while home I will share those. I may also write up a guide to local trails of the WNY region, since I know there are lots of hikers out there who enjoy those posts. Until next week, friends, I am off to work. I do hope you get outside and enjoy the world.

Greetings from Limbo, and the Heaven and Hell of a Transient Lifestyle

*Photo taken outside of Ely, NV on Success Loop. See the deer hiding?

Hello, darlings. Greetings from limbo. Michael and I are still waiting for news about his next contract, and in the meantime we twiddle our thumbs nervously hoping we can secure something soon. This is the nature of contract work, and it can be both frustrating and stressful, even while it can be incredibly invigorating and liberating. For the moment, we will endeavor to enjoy the remaining time we have here in Nevada, despite waking to snow on the ground yesterday morning, snow which is still stubbornly sticking in places around the RV park for the first time since we’ve been in the Carson Valley. Apparently we have another storm on the way tomorrow. While we wait for news and weather, I thought I would invite you into a more intimate space about our travel lifestyle. Grab your afghan and a hot cup of your favorite beverage.

Perhaps our existence appears romantic and filled with delight, carefree fun, and magical experiences. Well, at times our lives are all of those things. And then sometimes it’s miserable, difficult, and anxious. Regardless of the negatives, both Michael and I have gained immeasurable benefits from living on the road for the last year and a half. We both learned to appreciate what we truly value, the people we love and miss, and discovered more clearly what we really want out of life. We have both been pleasantly surprised by living on the road, but I feel compelled to expose the pale unsightly underbelly, right along with the joys, of a travel lifestyle. At the end of this post, I will also share a list of fun things to try in your own life so you can dabble in more travel, even if you believe it’s out of reach because of time or money constraints.

Let me begin with how we arrived at owning and living in our Airstream. Michael and I have only been married for five years, and when we first started dating he was still in school working on his nursing degree while I was teaching in public school and college. One day Michael mentioned he had been entertaining the idea of travel nursing, and as he shared his idea I felt the tingle of what Elizabeth Gilbert likes to call “Big Magic,” that inkling stirring in your gut when your very soul responds with a resounding YES. Ever have one of those moments? Goosebumps! From there, the idea of traveling cycled through a limping treadmill between my heart and my head, rattling through countless possibilities about how we could actually make this dream a reality.

We talked about this lifestyle for years before making it happen; meanwhile Michael finished his degree, started working full time at a hospital an hour away from home (one way), and his schedule was five days a week, 3-11pm. Grueling. He had only one week of vacation that first year of work, earned only through the hours he logged, as if vacation time is some sort of piñata-type reward instead of a sanity-preserving benefit all workers in demanding fields deserve. I kept slogging at my teaching jobs and continually getting the short end of the employment stick, even though I worked hard, maintained a great rapport with my students, installed the hinge in the back of my neck to nod my head to all my bosses, and dedicated my entire adult life to the field. Our work lives were exhausting and soul-sucking.

At some point we both committed ourselves to attaining the freedom we sought in the dream of traveling, and we started to plan in earnest. For a year or so we schemed like thieves about how we could live on the road. We needed to wait for my kids to graduate high school and both be settled in college or jobs to support themselves. We needed to accommodate our two dogs. We needed to figure out what to do with our home in Olean. So many pieces of this puzzle had to be orchestrated, not to mention Michael needing to choose a company for his employment. Lots of horror stories were shared with us from people experienced in travel nursing, stories about how some companies didn’t support their nurses, and researching agencies became its own kettle of fish. Eventually, we settled on testing the waters with a company Michael liked, traveling to a place not too far from home in case the experiment failed, and renting a temporary space before purchasing anything permanent.

Our general consensus before starting really was that both of us would prefer to build a tiny house, but we chose to compromise by deciding to search for a used Airstream we could remodel to make our own. This decision came about after lots of research about tiny living, and learning that finding a place to park a tiny home is often difficult or impossible due to zoning laws and insurance companies. Our thinking then turned to the possibilities of having what we wanted in a tiny house, but built into the sleek frame of an Airstream travel trailer, a brand of RV which never goes out of style and has quality in its build to last. Of course, we have yet to actually remodel after living in the Falcon for almost a year, but that’s another story. Also important, we are still waffling about whether or not the Falcon can be a sustainable way to live due to the fact that its aluminum frame is difficult to heat in temps that drop into teens and single digits, an unavoidable aspect of weather pretty much everywhere in the country, even in the warmest states. We are also facing the reality of problems with condensation when it gets really cold, a difficulty we didn’t even consider before purchase. Thus we gamble our intentions with reality, and attempt to sift out the wheat from the chaff.

Our first six months of living on the road were spent in a pair of rooms connected by a bathroom in a lodge outside of Keene, New Hampshire. Living in the woods, even for that short stint, convinced us we definitely wanted to commit to traveling, so we began looking for used Airstreams to buy.  You may be wondering at this point why we went the route of used trailers. In all honesty, new Airstreams are wildly expensive, well out of our range of affordability, particularly when we also needed to purchase a truck capable of hauling the heavy load in any terrain. We eventually found a used Avion, a sister to Airstream (and competitor until the company was bought out and became Fleetwood) in Louisiana. After Michael confirmed with the man selling his RV that he would hold it for us, we took one of Michael’s rare six-day stretches off from work and drove two days straight to see what we hoped would be our new home. Oddly, the man selling the RV never showed.

We sat in the driveway of this guy’s house for at least an hour in the cloying damp night, crickets singing from the fields around the house accompanied by the sounds of a dog sniffing at the privacy fence surrounding the back yard. Eventually we sought out a room to rent for the night. Michael sent several messages to the man, none of which were answered, even though on the morning of our arrival his last message stated he expected to finish his work out of town in time to meet us. The overnight turned into a long breakfast in the morning, but we finally had to make the decision to leave without the Avion, despairing that we spent so much money on the long trip with nothing to show for it. We never did find out what happened to that man, and we hope it wasn’t an accident of some kind, though we may never know.

Our time in New Hampshire came close to wrapping. We had no prospects for where we would live at our next assignment, a contract in Ely, Nevada. Then we got lucky. Michael happened upon an Airstream for sale in Illinois, and he happened to be the first to inquire about it. A couple of weeks later we pulled into the parking lot of the dealership in Casey, Il to pick up the Aluminum Falcon, purchased before we ever laid eyes on it. It was chancy, but we followed our guts and lucked out. Our luck might have gone another way; we could have ended up buying the Avion and being forced to tear it apart before ever living in it, something we didn’t have time to do before leaving for Nevada. That Avion was not in good condition, and it needed a lot of work to be livable. Though the Falcon is 30 years old, the interior had been maintained and was immediately livable after cleaning it thoroughly.

During this year, we have given ourselves a crash course in RV living. We have learned about holding tanks, how to juggle appliances to avoid tripping circuits, the need for heat tape on the water intake hose, how to strategically utilize awnings to moderate temperature in the desert (and to never leave the awnings down when away—NOT EVER), and to accustom ourselves to “military” showers with a tiny six-gallon water heater. We also learned how to dance around each other in the small galley space down the center of most of the trailer; had to gain muscle memory of the interior areas to avoid hitting our hands, knees, shins, and elbows on virtually everything; and to manage to share this small living area with two dogs and different sleep schedules. None of it was easy. Sometimes we got cranky and argued. There were moments when both of us blew our stacks. And yet, even with all the troubles, we both now fully appreciate and love living tiny. Neither of us wants to go back to living in a full-sized house again.

My point with this story is to relate to readers that making a choice to travel or live tiny may take a lot of dedication to research and a willingness to take risks, but before we started this adventure we were not terribly comfortable with our income, nor did we have lots of resources. We started out armed mostly with the grit to try this life to see how we felt about it, knowing we could always go back to our home in Olean anytime. A lot of things about traveling did not work out the way we planned or expected. Originally, our plan was to stay relatively close to home. But then the available jobs through Michael’s travel company didn’t pay well enough close to home, not enough for us to cover the costs of living on one income. We ended up in Nevada chasing higher-paying work, and that has left me completely disconnected from my kids for the first time in their lives. After being away so long, I am hearing the siren calling me home to make sure my ducklings are surviving. I also miss the woods.

I think Michael has come to love it here in Nevada for a lot of reasons, and he is finding it difficult to leave. He does, however, agree that New Hampshire was beautiful and admits he could live there one day, as could I. We hope to get back there soon, and maybe we’ll even settle there eventually. Who knows? For now, I just want to get closer to home so I can see my kids more often. Something else that bothers me is the unexpected difficulties I have faced with finding any work as a writer online, and also with securing any workshops to teach here for extra money. I consider myself fairly good at selling people on my workshops after so many years of teaching, and normally I can at least get libraries to throw me a bone, but I’ve had little luck here with any of my usual tactics for extra income. As a result, Michael has been carrying the load of supporting us entirely on his own, and I hate it. One good thing that has come out of my time free of paying work is all the writing I can do, and I have spent a lot of time learning how to manage myself as an indie author. I might not have done that if I were busy working, so that’s a plus. But my writing isn’t paying any bills yet. More like filling a change jar over time.

Trials aside, we have seen monumental shifts in our lifestyle. We spend more time hiking and have had the unbelievably thrilling experience of visiting several National and State Parks while traveling out West. In every place we’ve lived we’ve been blessed with meeting wonderful people. The more we travel, the more I realize we are all the same, everywhere in the country. We all want love, need to pay bills, struggle with fear and anxiety, and have to deal with the mundane aspects of life, like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and taking showers. Everywhere we live, we find that people are just people, whether rich or poor, black or white, religious or not. We all have dreams and desires and wants and needs, every single one of us. Michael and I feel fortunate to have made friends and acquaintances in all the towns where we parked, and each person has been a little light of happiness. All of you are special and spectacular in your own way, and our lives are richer for knowing you.

While we wait for news, we gently detach from the womb of kind souls who gave us a warm place to call home in the lee of the windstorm of hate and division across the globe. What’s sad is that if you look on social media as a cue of the state of our mindsets, I believe we do ourselves a disservice. When we hide behind our avatars online, many of us feel free to blast our worst selves into the electronic static of phish and bots and trolls, regardless of fallout, as if the act of vomiting our own darkest of hearts online may flush the line of fear from our veins. Really, we hurt ourselves the most when we spread our hate like lard over the online community, forgetting those people have feelings just like us. When we spread acts of hate like sharing gossip, tearing someone down for a differing opinion, or spreading outright lies, it only poisons our own hearts and distances the options for having a real relationship with another person. Regardless of the politics or beliefs of any of the people I have met on the road, I have found everyone to be genuinely friendly, kind, and thoughtful. All I have done is listen to their opinions, acknowledged them, and shared my own with what I hope was thoughtfulness in return. In doing so, I have befriended climate change deniers, Trump followers, white supremacists, extreme liberals, religious fanatics, LGTBQ activists, ex-cons, moderate feminists, apathetic homebodies, and everything in between. None of them yelled at me for who I am, and I didn’t do that to them, either.

Instead, as I met more and more people, what I find as a common thread amongst everyone is that none of us can be pigeon-holed. Though a person may support Trump’s policies on one hand, on another he may also be a wonderful math teacher who lovingly donates time at a food pantry every week. Another person may be a staunch Bernie supporter who also serves as a city cop and attends a conservative Christian church every Sunday. We are all full of a rich and varied set of beliefs which cross over the spectrum of pigeon holes, and traveling is teaching me on an exponential scale that humanity is fragile but enduring and incredibly creative. And love is definitely more powerful than hate. And living tiny is a gift of joy. And dreams do come true, even in tumultuous times. And, and, and. Put that word in your day, then see what happens. The bills need to be paid, AND….My kids have a game later, AND….I have to fix the toilet, AND….Where will that word take you?

If you feel envious of our travel life, may I make a suggestion? You can try a few tricks I used to use (and still do on occasion) to give yourself a taste of travel. Give yourself a fun, happy, memorable experience to get yourself out of the daily doldrums of habitual life. I have been accustomed to a tight budget since I was a kid, but I have always been a gypsy at heart. Travel makes me happy, but it can be expensive. Here are a few options for travel to get away for an afternoon, a night, or even a couple of weeks on a budget:

  • Set a change jar somewhere close to where you keep your wallet, then every day empty your change into it. Use the change to fund a trip out of town when it adds up to enough.
  • Find a place you really want to see (near or far) and wait until it’s a good time to go camping. Car camping saves a lot of money for lodging. Also, Airbnb can make trips much more affordable if you haven’t tried that route yet.
  • Want to dine at a fancy restaurant while traveling? Eat there for lunch and save up to one half or a third of the price you pay for dinner, then go shopping for sandwich makings or eat at a food cart for dinner.
  • Stay in a quaint B and B overnight in an expensive area, but wait for the off season to keep costs lower and avoid crowds.
  • Look for free and low-cost opportunities for fun by exploring city or town calendars for festivals, parades, concerts in village squares, self-guided tours of historic places, donation-only museums, or events around holidays.
  • Google your own city or town to look for attractions you may not have considered or even known existed. Find an adventure in your own backyard, and see your home from the viewpoint of a tourist!
  • Pack a picnic and jump in the car. Stop at the first place with a free view you’ve never stopped to enjoy and throw down the blanket.
  • Go backpacking. The view you earn carrying all that weight on your back will be that much more memorable and special, and all the food will taste more delicious. Really.

Now you are armed with ideas to give yourself an escape or well-deserved break. Take it. Americans work too hard and don’t play enough. It’s part of what’s dividing us and draining our compassion collectively. For that matter, you could always call a friend and get together for coffee or a drink and just catch up over a few laughs. If the world is weighing you down these days, find the light. If you envy what someone else has, start planning how you can have it, too. Don’t let time or money stop you. We only live once. Make the most of it, and remember that joy is often on the other side of struggle and pain. Make the most of that, too.

As always, please feel welcome to share links or stories of your own travel interests, post photos, or comment on the content I offer. Do remember to think about your intention before you post, and be kind to everyone here. I look forward to hearing from you!

Arches National Park and Moab, Utah

When Michael and I started traveling the country with our Airstream, which we lovingly dubbed the Aluminum Falcon, I started keeping a journal of sorts. At first, I documented our daily experiences while we drove across the country following along Route 66 from Casey, Illinois, and on our fifth day of owning the Falcon we stopped in Moab to visit Arches National Park. I thought I would share this for those who are interested in reading about National Parks. We have also visited others since we began traveling, and I may share those trips later, too. For now, come to Arches with us….

Thus far, this is my favorite day of our trip. Waking to perhaps one of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen, I could not have been more pleased to see morning. When I stepped out of the trailer, the first thing to greet me was the red bowl of rock which cradles Moab, Utah, utterly astonishing, a natural wonder of geology. One cannot possibly capture it in words, nor will a photo do it justice. Much like the Grand Canyon, one must simply go see it to appreciate its full grandeur. Also fabulous: the tail end of the Rocky Mountains which stand behind the red rock shelves of Moab, a powerful and stark contrast of environments. The beauty of the two heights against each other beneath the clear blue sky is nothing short of striking. Add to that gorgeous view a pleasant softness of blooming pink trees and lime green shoots of leaves opening for spring. I felt utter joy. Who could ask for anything more? Throughout our two days in Moab I could not stop commenting on its beauty, as the awe of it never left me.

Once we both got showered, fed, and dressed, Michael unhitched the truck for the first time since we hooked up the trailer in Illinois, and we headed out to Arches National Park. Again, to put this into words will not do it justice. I mean, how do you describe the unbelievable stretches of red, green, and sand-colored rock, some striated in stacked layers, some swirled by the markings of its own layering in the same color, some just red and standing balanced in precarious glory against the sky. I sat in the front seat flabbergasted by the immense heights of red rock heaved upward, at times forming canyons, but mostly standing in tall fins or fingers of stone which occasionally were punctuated with a window in the shelf.

We went to the famous site of Balanced Rock, where we got out with the dogs, and I happily bounced along in the crumbly red rock between the shocks of green desert grass. Sasha joyfully bounced along next to me, thrilled to be free of the car. For the first time since we left home four days ago we were about to get a good long day of exercise, and all of us were ecstatic. I snapped photos as I walked through the rock formations and climbed up onto the tops of those I felt comfortable reaching with the dog in tow (she can sometimes be quite excitable and occasionally foolish about dragging me, making such situations unsafe). I proudly pushed myself to scramble up on a rock formation which made me uncomfortable with its height (I have a terrible phobia of heights, especially in wide open spaces), and Michael snapped the photo of my brave moment before I crawled off the edge, glad to be back on solid ground.

After Balanced Rock, we drove down to the Garden of Eden, the Double Arch, and the North and South Windows. Seeing the arches and the windows (which are basically holes in the rock fins worn through by water and wind erosion) was fun, since we stopped there and wandered along the paths, even climbing right onto the base of one of the “windows.” My favorite part of the park came last, though, when we drove to Devil’s Garden. Through a canyon of impossibly large fins of red rocks, we followed the network of paths to each site of arches amongst the tall structures. A welcome break from the hot sun was offered from the shade of the rock at times, and we were surprisingly grateful, since we had only days ago come from freezing Western NY, which had just suffered a massive blizzard. Olean, our home town, missed the worst of it, but much of the Northeast was in shut-down mode for a couple of days in order to dig out. It felt almost wrong to be enjoying such gorgeous weather, but not wrong enough to be sorry for it. In any case, the lovely walk through Devil’s Garden proved to be the most scenic of all the spots, in my opinion, as one could get a stunning view of the white-capped mountains in the distance, right through corridors of red fins and windows and arches in the rock. Once we finished that tour of the garden we felt wiped out, and without even needing to discuss it we both were ready to get dinner.

Off we went along the winding road through the park, which was often edged by drop-offs without guardrails, back to the hip town of Moab to find food. After wasting time looking online for decent eateries, we eventually gave up and just found ourselves a parking spot, taking the chance that some of the restaurants we passed on the inviting main drag would be good. Both of us needed protein after all the hiking and climbing. Fortune blessed us with The Spoke, a restaurant right on the first corner out of the parking lot, a fun contemporary place with a décor which tastefully focused on bike spokes. (For those not in the know, Moab is a very outdoorsy place, and known for its many places to recreate in the region, thus The Spoke is a cool nod to this culture.) The food tasted like heaven.

We ordered a full rack of smoked ribs and a plate of fish tacos for dinner, along with an appetizer of fried mozzarella and tomatoes. Though the dinner arrived without the appetizer being delivered, when this was mentioned to our server, she immediately said the appetizer would be removed from the bill, and she said she would wrap it up so we could take it along with us. I give this place an A+ for service. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had such a delicious meal. The meat had the perfect amount of smokiness with the smear of sauce atop, and the perfect tenderness to pull away from the bone. And the flavor in the fish tacos with a slight citrus note along with the crunch of cabbage slaw—yum. Doubly fun was the fact that it was also St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday we associate with a sort of anniversary of when we first started dating five years ago. What a fantastic day to celebrate!

We topped off our scrumptious meal with cups of ice cream and went back to the poor dogs in the car. Luna seemed wilted from all the heat; as a husky mix, she tends to do that in warm weather. Back to the RV park we went, fed the dogs dinner, and we reluctantly got to work attaching the pressure regulator so we could hook up the water for the first time. Though it was dark we felt it would be a good choice, since we didn’t really know what sort of supplies we would have available in Ely, a small town in the middle of nowhere in Nevada, and the location where Michael was scheduled to work for a three-month contract. Michael also had me assist him in doing some work on the level jacks, since those have pins which were not attached to anything, and he wanted to make sure they stayed put. Once the regulator was attached, we turned on the water for the first time, and behold! It worked! We flushed out the winterizing fluid from the taps and checked for leaks. All clear. I moved on to a little cleaning while Michael himself wilted from the day of sun. While I worked, Michael laid down and soon fell asleep on top of the covers on the bed. We could not have asked for a more perfect day to celebrate our relationship, however, since we are such deeply devoted outdoor people, and we both love seriously good food. I went to bed tired in the best kind of way.

 

Pros and Cons of Living in a Used Airstream

Right now, in the darkest time of the year, it feels like years have passed since we purchased our Airstream. Last March between Michael’s contracts, we drove from New Hampshire, back to our hometown of Olean, NY, and then to Casey, Illinois to pick up our newly-purchased Airstream, sight unseen. On that cold, crisp day in the sparse edge of winter we pulled into the parking lot of the dealership and signed the papers for an RV we had never seen other than in pictures online. Crazy? Yep. And yet, neither of us has ever felt the choice was a bad one. In fact, we truly love living this way. Our lives are streamlined in a way that makes us both feel freer, and we look forward to selling our home in Olean to streamline our lives even further. For us, living tiny does not feel like a sacrifice, but a delightful and surprisingly rewarding experience. There is, however, going to be a price to pay for purchasing used, and it’s adding up already.

What we love most is the freedom to travel anywhere in the country…well, sort of. Reality is that we can travel anywhere warm enough to allow us to live there without our pipes and tanks freezing. You see, the Airstream is a fabulous design for travel because it mimics the aerodynamics and weight construction of an airplane, so it tows like a dream. Unfortunately, the aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat, meaning that any heat we make for the interior of the RV will readily be conducted to the outdoors. We do have insulation sandwiched between the outer shell and interior, but it’s thin. Michael also purchased some grey waterproof vinyl to make a skirt for the base of the RV, which keeps the base of the RV warmer. Don’t get me wrong—we are warm enough here in the Carson Valley of Nevada, where it can get rather bitter at night, but when it got down into single digits I was grateful to have a really warm comforter to pull over my head while I was sleeping. The down side of having a used RV: broken furnaces. The Aluminum Falcon (our geeky name for the Airstream) is outfitted with two furnaces, one for the front end, one for the back, and neither works. Fortunately we discovered that between a small space heater and an oil-filled electric radiator, we can stay warm enough. Cha-ching!

On the other end of the spectrum, when it gets hot, the aluminum readily conducts the heat inside the RV, especially when the sun is beating down directly on us. We were here in Nevada for 100+ degree heat, and our AC unit (being 30 years old) did not cut the mustard. At some point before next summer, we are hoping to find the cash to purchase a new AC unit, but those babies can be expensive to replace. The darn things are heavy, and really require professional installation due to the fact that it has to be fitted into the roof of the RV. So even though Michael is great at fixing things, this will be a job for a pro, which costs a lot extra, and will eat into the budget for fixing other things, like our stove and refrigerator. Oh, yes, those are 30 years old, too. Our fridge will need replacing soon, I believe, as the temp controls are VERY sensitive, and it won’t operate on propane like it should (a convenience for keeping things cold when on the road or boondocking). Anytime we touch the temp control, the fridge either melts everything in the freezer, or freezes everything in the fridge portion, and the interior of the fridge fills with ice over time no matter what.

The stove top, fortunately, works well still, but the oven temp is off by a mile. If I turn the temp to anything above 300 degrees, the oven interprets that as, “Oh, so you wanted me to broil that?” and proceeds to burn my food to a crisp exterior, while maintaining a raw interior. I am making do, but I really look forward to having a working oven again. I cook and bake a lot, and not having an oven is difficult. For the price tag of a new RV oven, we decided it would be best to pursue the option of ordering an apartment-sized range and retro-fitting it for propane. Michael can install it himself, so that will also be the option we pursue for the fridge. It will save us more than half the price if we were to go with the RV fridge and stove. The only concern with this choice is that we have to remove the furnace which currently resides beneath the range (but it’s broken, so who cares), and we will never have the option of using propane for an apartment fridge (but we don’t have it now, so, again, whatever). Meh.

Thankfully, we have managed to be able to keep using the hot water heater (whew!), though lots of other things in the RV are starting to break, or were already broken when we bought it. The cabinets all over the RV are falling apart, for instance. I believe every single cabinet door has either the face falling out of the casing, or the hinges make it hard to close the cupboard properly. The bottom step of the folding step assembly for the only door in and out is loose and hangs at a precarious angle. Michael built new wooden steps to take care of it, but for a long time I was using those steps and crossing myself, even though I’m not Catholic. The fan in the shower broke the first time I used it, burning itself out in spectacular style. Once again, my husband saves the day by ordering a new one and replacing it. The vent over the stove was gummed up badly and would often shut itself off, which was bad, since even the slightest bit of smoke from cooking would readily fill the entire trailer. Again, Michael fixed it—for now. Our shower seems to be leaking somewhere, which is letting water run down through the base of the RV around one of the wheel wells, and the ceiling around the AC unit leaks when it rains or snows. Good thing we don’t have too much precipitation here, but it does warrant a rather more insistent need to repair the AC unit.

When we bought the Aluminum Falcon, we knew we were going to rip out the guts and build it back to make it our own, a sort of compromise for the tiny house we really preferred. Why didn’t we do the tiny house? Regulations, plain and simple. A lot of RV parks won’t rent to tiny homes because of insurance regulations or even city or state legislation against tiny homes. When we finally decide where we want to plant ourselves more permanently again, that may help us in making the choice, since we like living tiny now. If we build, we would prefer to keep it small and portable. In any case, Michael knew Airstream makes a great trailer that lasts, so we realized if we purchased an older Airstream we could remodel the interior to a contemporary style all our own. That’s the eventual goal, but we first have to nickel and dime ourselves on appliances and machinery to keep things running. For now, we’re living with the 1980s interior with a few minor alterations to make it livable until we can take the time and money to gut our home.

In the meantime, we are living in the Falcon with its original interior to learn what we like, what we don’t, and to dream about the possibilities. The fun part is the planning for the day we tear out all the old, broken parts. Right now, we have schemes and dreams to fuel our imaginations until the time comes to put our stamp on this home. It’s exciting to imagine how it will look when we remodel: a new cozy couch built into the living area, where the scenic windows wrap all the way around the curved front end; a new bed built into a slick and stylish bunk of usable storage space; a new booth in the kitchen in a quarter moon shape to capitalize the living space, while still allowing for extra seating with guests; extra counter space regained from the microwave nook, and a better space for the countertop appliances; better kitchen organization in the overhead compartments, which will also allow for more head room over the sink so Michael doesn’t have to hit his head anymore; new floors which will be properly installed (as opposed to the flooring installed by the previous owner—and poorly); new walls on the interior to remove the unfortunate 80s wallpaper and sponge paint; a bathroom completely redone with all new everything, because we hate the spray-painted plastic that the previous owner tried to update (the yucky gold color of the shower and sink is showing through where the paint peeled away); and new storage built for the living area to accommodate our office supplies, books, and movies. All this, and more. It’s going to be a labor of love and hate, I can tell you.

All in all, regardless of the stuff that doesn’t work, we still love living in the Falcon. It’s home now, period. I really do love having more time back because I do less house work, and having so little space means I can’t go shopping at flea markets and garage sales to bring home stuff I don’t really need. There is a freedom in not being able to fill a void with unnecessary material stuff. It means you have to fill the void with what is meant to be there: life purpose. Since we started traveling, I have spent a lot more time doing things I truly love, like hiking more, writing more, and playing music. There are some things I miss, like having space for my art, but I am finding other ways to fill that void for now. Eventually we will find the funds to remodel, and hopefully then we can also figure out how to make room for my art and Michael’s tools. We both miss making things, I think, but exploring the country can hopefully make up for that for a while. Though we are planted in the Carson Valley until February, we do have at least one more fun trip planned while we’re here, and I’ll write about it after we come home. I am interested to see what kind of weather January will bring to us, since we haven’t seen much in the way of storms here yet. No matter what the weather does, we’re here. Until then, we have the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains across the street, capped in white for the season, and lots of Christmas lights blinking in the RV park to add a little more sparkle to the dark.

P.S. The above photo was taken on the road in New Mexico at a rest stop. We actually took the famous Route 66 from Casey, Il to Gallup, NM…I have a journal entry I wrote about that trip, so in the future I’ll post an article about it, maybe on our one-year anniversary for owning the Falcon. Michael is on the back bumper looking at something, and you can see one of our dogs, Luna, behind him.

Enjoying the Experience, Camera-free

Flying with the Falcon, Dec. 13, 2017

It’s been a while since I felt like writing about anything travel- or hiking-related, but today I went out with my dogs for a hike at one of my favorite places here in the Carson Valley of Nevada: Jack’s Valley Conservancy. Lately I have taken to hiking in the afternoons because the weather here has been colder since the autumnal equinox, and the afternoon is usually the best time to get a hike in slightly more comfortable conditions because it’s a little warmer. The night time cold has been especially bitter in the last couple of weeks, getting down into the teens and single digits. The Falcon has been surprisingly warm enough, however, since Michael insisted on buying us an oil-filled radiator to get us through the winter without a working furnace. Thus far, the radiator is working well and keeping us toasty, sometimes to the point of sweating at night and having to turn down the heat—a double surprise. Michael also put up skirting around the base of the Falcon to keep the underbelly of the RV warmer, which also seems to help. Anyway, despite the night being so cold, the sun has come out every day and brought about a comfortable afternoon, even if still rather chilly.

 

For a couple of months I have gone to the conservancy in an effort to relocate a trail we took over the summer when we hiked with a mountaineer friend who lives in the area. She brought us up a trail to the top of the moraine in the conservancy, a rock-studded hill which could be mistaken for a foothill of the larger Sierra Nevada Mountains to the West, which lie just beyond the conservancy. When we hiked this moraine in August, I thought I would easily remember the trail, as I didn’t really recall all the extra off-shoots from the trail when we climbed it the first time, and I didn’t get back to hiking up that moraine again right away. By the time I went back in hopes of climbing up it again, I lost my way and ended up hiking up the wrong trail most of the way up the incline. I felt like a fool when the trail just petered out on the hillside, and even when I went back down the trail to try to find the turn I missed, I couldn’t tell where it branched to go up the correct path.

 

Needless to say, I’ve hiked up several times lately to see if I can figure out the correct path. After at least a half dozen attempts, I think I may have finally found the right path. Tomorrow I hope Michael and I will have the energy to go up the entire peak, as I have been chomping at the bit to get up there and see the view of the valley again. Even partway up the hillside, the view is rather spectacular. We will have to leave early enough to have time for the whole hike, though, as the sun is setting earlier every day. The last two days I’ve gone there, I find the sun starts setting as I am making my way back to the truck. It’s lovely to be there at sunset, when the sky turns pink and pale blue and orange, a dusty sort of sunset which paints the whole sky some nights as the sun gently drops behind the Sierra Nevadas. Today I was fortunate enough to see the snow-capped peaks lit just at the tips of their majestic height, the very last direct sun of the day shining golden and gorgeous on Job’s Peak, Job’s Sister, and Freel Peak.

 

I suppose I could have taken a photo of that last moment of sun, but I think I would have missed seeing it if I had spent the time digging my phone out for a photo. By the time I got the camera ready, the sun would have dipped below the farther peaks and the effect would have been gone. We can’t live just for the moments we capture on camera, even though I think we all try these days. Instead, I prefer to enjoy the moment, watch the sunset instead of snapping photos of it, watch the snake slither into the brush, watch the moon rise over the mountains, watch the bird flit from branch to branch, watch the clouds scud across the horizon and let them pass unscathed by my clumsy camera moment. Even if we capture the most beautiful photos from an experience, too often we lose the enjoyment. I am still guilty of snapping photos like a fiend at times, but I do my best to not let it rule my daily life. Some experiences are best being memories we revisit only in our mind’s eye.

Writing Freely

Write Freely is the name of my writing business, and it’s what I use as an imprint for my publishing. If you are a writer interested in collaborating, please use the “contact” page to send me a message. I am open to partnerships if the time and individual is right. If you need an editor, or need content for your website, please visit my freelancing page.

If you’re looking for Flying with the Falcon, I have taken a break from publishing for a time. I may take it up again if I get back to traveling, but while planted in one place I don’t feel like I’m serving my audience. All my old posts will stay up for now, as I know people may still wish to read them.