The driving is killing me, but looking forward to arrival

After a wonderful Thanksgiving fest with family, and pies!  Thank you Becky and Chuck.

I began my long-haul east-to-west trek across country on 11/29 from Jordon Lake, NC to Tucson, AZ and Palm Springs, CA.  I can drive about 200 miles per day, give or take.  I now understand why West Coast residents rarely go to Florida, and easterners stay along the Atlantic.

My plan is to arrive in Tucson, AZ on 12/25 when D.C. friends Sylvia and Cheryl arrive for their holiday spa vacations.  Liz and Tim arrive after the new year for a family event and will stay with Tim’s Mom (a Tucson resident).  Pals Madeleine and Norman have purchased a Tucson winter home, so they are already there.  Campground friends Phyllis and Chris are also there; and, golf pal and snow birds Bruce and wife (Juneau, AK) live in Green Valley, south of Tucson.   Looking forward to visiting with friends, and NOT driving for a month.

In 10 days I have driven over 1,200.  Thank you, Audible, Podcasts, Pandora and NPR. Only 900+ miles to go. Thank goodness for $1.99 per gallon gas.  BUT!  Our highways are atrocious: uneven pavement, potholes, no shoulder, YIKES!  Scout and I are bouncing along, and when I open the door after a long day of driving, I hate to see what has flown — stuff has shifted, rattled and rolled.  Gas prices are so low, why can’t we add .05 cents per gallon to the federal highway fund to improve our roads and bridges?  Watch the newly elected House Democrats argue this is the time to pay for infrastructure by raising gas taxes, which are historically low.  GOP=NAUGHT.  But, I digress into politics and not travel.

Maggie continues to be the very best travel companion, but she is tired of sitting in the back seat and looking out the window.  We checked-in tonight at Whispering Springs RV Park, Texas along HWY 10.  I was so conflicted not to stop at the George H.W. Bush library in Houston?  I do have an interest in visiting all the Presidential Libraries.  But, I would rather see my living friends Ruth, who lives in Austin; and, Beth who lives on her ranch with my favorite horse Hope.  Maybe I will come back to Texas in April, after my winter visit to Palm Springs and working on my golf game.   It is cold and wet here.  I want to be in sunshine and warm weather.

The beauty of retirement and dragging your house along, is the road is long and there is no timetable.

PLASTIC, OR REUSABLE

Remember the grocery store clerk asking, “paper or plastic?”   I routinely forget my reusable sacks at the check-out and buy yet another reusable bag.  Thus, I have so many bags in the front seat of my truck.  All the more to forget before entering the grocery store.   However, there are many uses for reusable sacks when you live in a 20′ Airstream.  Here are my tips for using reusable bags:

  1. Recycle container.  When I lived in bricks and mortar, I had a very large recycle bin outside my back door.  I now a bag as a recycle container.   Great when campgrounds recycle.
  2. Wood and tinder gatherer.  Campfires are a real plus when camping.  On our daily walks I carry a reusable bag and pick-up pine cones, sticks and twigs for kindling as a fire starter.
  3. Hiking or walking around the campground, trail or dog park with a bag to pick-up trash.
  4. Goodwill.  I am always looking to get rid of something.  When you buy something new, something old has got to GO!  A reusable bag is great for sorting donations the next time I drive by a Goodwill store or bin I chuck it in.  Goodwill appreciates reusable bags, rather than a plastic garbage bag.

Other useful tips for RVing:

  1. Always fill-up the gas tank the night before you are leaving a site. Why not get a head start with a full tank of gas, and avoid towing into a gas station.
  2. Check tire pressure.
  3. Always do a walk around the trailer before pulling out.  I have left stabilizer pads behind, the black tank cap off and dangling, and just the other day I left the hitching foot down.  No matter how often you tow, the memory is failing.  A checklist for hooking and un-hooking is useful.  I can’t believe the stuff I forget, after a couple of years on the road.  I pulled yesterday, and had forgotten to lift the tow foot.  Thankfully, it made a terrible noise, and I knew something was wrong.  No damage, so stopped and raised the foot.

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH, A very nice man.

I was going to write about driving 2,199 miles cross-country in a month, but the death of President George H.W. Bush this week has made me very nostalgic.  I will post about driving later, but this week we need to be thankful to selfless Americans, and bid President George Herbert Walker Bush farewell, with gratitude.

One of my first memories of being a “lobbyist” in Washington, D.C. is sitting next to Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat from Iowa) at a Washington D.C. fundraising dinner.  The setting was beautiful, the east hall of Union Station (my favorite building in D.C.).  What the hell am I doing sitting next to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin at a catered dinner in Washington, D.C.?  What the F+CK?  I was attending a National Democratic Senate Committee fundraiser, because I represented the 2 million members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  SEIU was the largest and fastest growing labor union, with a huge political action committee (PAC), which meant LOTS of campaign money $$$.  I was very proud to represent workers and union members who were contributing $3-$5 a month, multiplied by 2 million.  As opposed to the Koch Brothers (2) or Sheldon Adelson (1) giving millions (3 times millions), maybe even billions to the GOP.  In 1998, I gathered signatures of Nevada voters in the Carson City Wal-Mart parking lot opposing Adelson’s effort to put a ballot intiative to bust unions. Let’s just say workers are out spent and out gunned when it comes to politics.  But, that is for another post on another day.

Today, I want to talk about President George Herbert Walker Bush.   Tonight, I watched former Senator Tom Harkin on the PBS NewsHour (please listen to this post) talk about working with President Bush (41) to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and it reminded me of sitting next to Senator Harkin. 

Every time Senator Harkin tried to take a small bite of food, someone interrupted his bite.  The poor man needed to eat.  But every time he tried, he was interrupted, mid-bite.  When the speeches began, as they most certainly would, I had my chance.  I asked Senator Harkin, “Why do you do this?”  He didn’t miss a beat, speaking with his mouth full.  He said the greatest accomplishment and thing he took the most pride in was passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Senator Harkin’s brother was disabled, and he was fighting to ensure his brother and millions of other disabled Americans (so many of them veterans) would not have artificial barriers to living a normal life.  I had to thank him, too.  As a union representative the ADA had helped me represent workers ensuring they could do their jobs regardless of their disability.

We take our access for granted.  We expect to step over a sidewalk curb; or enter a restaurant; or board a bus, train, or airplane; or walk-up a flight of stairs.  We take it for granted, and never give it a second thought.  Even campgrounds are handicap accessible!

Because of Republican President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Senator Tom Harkin  worked together (and others) for a greater good, disabled Americans are better off, and we are all better for their decency. These men/politicians worked together, across party lines giving hope, access and public accommodations to millions of disabled Americans.

Thank you, President George H.W. Bush and Senator Tom Harkin, for being kind, decent patriotic politicians who cared more about average Americans, and not party ideology.   President Bush believed in public service as an honorable calling.  “Let the shameful walls of disability come tumbling down”, President George H.W. Bush at the signing of the ADA. 

Thank you.

DOG’S BEST FRIEND

Dogs are great ambassadors in campgrounds, especially Maggie.  Maggie takes her job of greeting people very seriously and takes offense when someone walks by and doesn’t stop to say hello.  Walking a dog is a great way to meet neighbors and new friends.

Take Phyllis and Chris in Tucson, we met when Phyllis was walking Molly and I was walking Maggie.  We struck up a conversation and learned we also loved to play golf.  If not for Maggie and Molly, we may never have met.  I look forward to seeing them again this winter in Tucson.

I met Liz because she was walking her dog Roxanne on Capitol Hill.  Roxy reminded me of my Mother’s dog Aussie.  Both Australian Cattle dogs. 

Each time Liz and I met on the street I would stop her and pet Roxanne.  It wasn’t until the third or fourth crossing when Liz and I actually engaged in conversation other than admiring Roxanne.  I was dog less at that time.  Liz told me she had recently moved to the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  “Where did you come from”, I asked?  “Anchorage”, she said.  “Who are you?” I asked.   How ironic, we lived within a block of each other and both of us were from Anchorage, Alaska.   Liz was reporting for the Anchorage Daily News, and we had many Alaska friends in common, but hadn’t known each other there.  We became great friends, and I became Roxanne’s dog sitter when Liz traveled.  Liz met and married Tim a few years later and moved to England, Japan and Colorado Springs before returning to Washington, D.C. in 2013 to become the Alaska Public Radio Network reporter.  Roxanne died shortly after their return, I was so glad to share Roxanne’s final days with Liz.  She was a good girl.

Roxanne’s Memorial Brick at Congressional Cemetery.

It took me over 15 years to get another dog, after putting my dog Hanna down in 1998.   I decided after all these years it was time for another dog.  “If you want a friend in Washington, D.C. get a dog”.  Four months of searching on PetFinder.com for a non-shedding 50 lb dog, I found Maggie in Ashland, VA.  The Bark Dog Rescue a community group found Maggie and two puppies running along a rural road, no tags, collars or microchips.   

Dog rescue groups can be a bit  neurotic.  It is bad enough to be rejected by men on Match.com, but to be rejected as unsuitable to rescue a dog!  No back yard, out of state, no kids, needs the companionship of other dogs.  Some groups require home visits, and references.  Thankfully, the Bark group was sensible and anxious to find homes for abandoned dogs.  I was so lucky to find Maggie, and she rescued me.

Maggie & Lola

Liz got Lola shortly after I rescued Maggie and they bonded living together, waiting for Tim to arrive after finishing his Air Force Service in Colorado.  Maggie misses Lola during our travels but enjoys meeting new people in campgrounds.  She doesn’t care for other dogs like she loves Lola.  They are BFFs.  

I have been so very lucky adopting rescue dogs.  Hanna came to me from the Anchorage Pound.  Like Maggie, Hanna loved to travel and was great riding in cars.   As an Alaskan dog Hanna also was great riding in float planes to the King Bear Lodge on the Yentna River for summer salmon season.  Maggie has swum in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

As a single woman traveling alone in an Airstream people often ask if I am afraid.  Really?  First, if was afraid, would I be doing this?  Two, Maggie is by no means a guard dog.  I consider campgrounds safe places and always introduce myself and Maggie to the neighbors.  Walking Maggie two or three times a day offers the opportunity to meet fellow campers, and they get to meet Maggie which makes her very happy.  

A couple of years ago friends spent many months traveling in an RV.  When I asked them if they met nice people in campgrounds, they both responded NO.  It was because they didn’t have a dog, I am certain.  They didn’t experience loneliness because they were traveling as a couple.  Maggie is a great traveling companion, but not a great conversationalist.  She does help me meet people, in her role as dog ambassador.

 

WAS THERE VOMITING?

YES, I am afraid there was.  My years in Alaska gave me many opportunities to fly in small private airplanes.  Tim’s Mooney is a sports car of private small planes, it is fast and high-tech.  Did I mention small?

November 1, in Washington D.C. was 70 degrees and sunny, but there were also 25 per mile wind gusts.  That means the ride up to 5500 altitude and down was bumpy.  Once we were above the clouds it was smooth flying.  We flew to Richmond Executive Airport in Virginia for lunch. 

But the climb up in the Mooney reminded me of my flying in Mark Rowland’s Piper Cub in Alaska.  Cubs are made of fabric so you feel like you are flying in a kite getting tossed around.  I  vomited onto the control cables that run between your feet, because there was no bag.   We needed to clean the cables with Q-tips.  More than you want to know I am sure.

I was very gratified when Tim’s wife Liz called from Alaska while we were on our seconds at the King’s Korner ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT barbecue buffet.  “Was there vomiting?” Liz asked.  Tim laughed and assured Liz there was.  Thank goodness Tim’s plane is equipped with barf bags.

Funny how after you toss your cookies you feel so much better and ready for lunch. 

In Alaska, where I lived from 1968 – 1995, I was very fortunate to have friends and family with planes.  A popular Alaska bumper sticker reads, My 2nd Car is a Cessna.

To really experience Alaska, flying is a necessity.  Around the dinner table my sisters and I like to regale friends with our tales of piling into Erv’s 172 Cessna and flying off for a couple of hours of fishing.  It was the Alaska version of TV show Gilligan Island, where the theme song goes “this is the tale of castaways…on a three-hour cruise”.

One bright and sunny July Saturday sister Kerry and I climbed into Erv’s 172 to go fishing for the day at Johnstone Bay, a beautiful cove on Resurrection Bay across from Seward, Alaska.   Erv was a master of landing on beaches, especially on tricycle gear!  We landed just fine, but needed to push the plane higher on the beach, because the tide was coming in.  The sand got soft, so Erv climbed in and started the engine to help move the plane through the soft sand.  Opps!  The nose of the plane tipped into the sand and about 3 inches of one end of the propeller flew off.  Just then it began to rain.  Kerry and I were dressed appropriately for a sunny July day in shorts and tank tops.  “No worries” Erv said, “we have survival gear”. 

This was our first adventure with Erv, who had recently moved in with Mom.  The survival gear consisted of freeze-dried packages that all were very old and punctured, a 2-man pup tent and two sleeping bags.  Great, except there were 3 of us.  Also, there were no utensils, with the exception of Erv’s hunting knife.  Laying together in the tent, we all laughed that none of us had the foresight to bring a book!  We had nothing to read while waiting for our rescue.

Luckily there were salmon to be caught in the nearby river, which is what we came for.  We caught lots of beautiful delicious Sockeye Salmon while waiting to be rescued.  Sockeye Salmon spawn in lakes.  Johnstone Bay is a picturesque, covered with purple Lupin and wild Sweet Peas.  The lake was a short walk from the beach.

We were rescued, and a mechanic and new airplane propeller were flown in to save the plane.  I always say the salmon we caught ourselves on average ended up costing about $500 a pound.  This trip made it very easy to buy Erv Christmas presents for years to come, freeze-dried food, utensils and books.

We survived and have great stories to tell, thanks to living in Anchorage, Alaska for 27 years, and Mom marrying Erv.

Thanks Tim for a great day and supplying the barf bag.  It will be a while before I climb into another small plane. Airstream travel suits me best.

This post was edited (11/20/18) because my memory of names is failing.  Erv pointed out that the correct name is Johnstone Bay, not Half Moon Bay, which is in California.  The rest of the story is correct as far as my failing memory remembers.

NOT ALL CAMPGROUNDS ARE EQUAL

You aren’t listening.  My friend was trying to convince me about the wonders of boondocking.  He was mansplaning, and not listening.  Boondocking is camping on open public lands far from other campers and conveniences.  I have no interest in boondocking.  NONE! 

I camped in Alaska, flown into remote wilderness, my favorite place Montague Island in Prince William Sound.  So I have done boondocking, and don’t have any interest in camping without running water or electricity.  I now enjoy full hook-ups: water, electric and sewer.  It isn’t as cheap as boondocking, but it is far more enjoyable and very comfortable.

My return to my Road2Reinvention travels began in early October.  I have stayed in four campgrounds; two public and two KOAs.  

Turkey Swamp Campground in Freehold, New Jersey was my first night back in Scout after her repairs at Colonial Airstream, at Lakewood, NJ.  It is great to be back in my comfy bed with Maggie on her blanket, she keeps my feet warm.  Turkey Swamp is a very nice county park with water and sewer and a convenient dumping station.  The bath house facilities are large and clean and there was a great deep sink for washing out pots and pans for tent campers.  From there I drove to Green Lane, PA for a Bus Depot event.  I planned to meet DC friends Liz and Tim in their VW pop-up.  Liz wasn’t able to attend due to late breaking Alaska politics, so it was just Tim and I.  The Bus Depot is a VW pop-up camper event and about 20 VWs showed up.  Don’t visit Green Lane Park, the facilities are TERRIBLE!  Campsites are nice size and wooded, but not level, and the bath facilities were gross.  I was happy to move along, and visit my friend Carol at her home in Coopersburg, PA.  We walked door-to-door for Susan Wild running for election to the U.S. House.   I was very heartened to speak with a woman who said as a lifelong Republican, she would be voting Democrat for the first time in her life.

Next stop Cape May KOA, and happily Liz and Tim both joined me there, with Maggie’s BFF Lola.  We celebrated dinner around the campfire complete with S’mores.  Cape May is a lovely little village and seaside resort at the tip of southern New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula. The village is full of grand Victorian and gingerbread houses.  We toured the Emlen Physick Estate, a museum with restored interior from the era.   

An hour ferry ride from Cape May to Lewes, DE and on to Chincoteague Island, VA, were the ponies live in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (passport stamped).  I was lucky to see two ponies in the distance, too far away for an iPhone photo.  I gave my card to a photographer and asked if he got a good picture would he send it to me. The two ponies looked remarkably like the horse described in Misty of Chincoteague, a favorite childhood book.  Misty was described as a brown pony with a white spot on her back that resembled a map of the continental U.S.

Both Cape May and Chincoteague KOAs are nice camping facilities.  Especially Chincoteague with Glamping tents to rent, for those who want to camp, but sleep between clean sheets. 

I appreciate  the large clean bath houses with lots of hot running water.  The weather has turned cool and leaves are falling.  

I am returning to Washington D.C. tomorrow for two more weeks.  Scout’s hot water heater isn’t working so another visit to Airstream in Virginia.  Then on to North Carolina for Thanksgiving with family.

I am looking forward to southern travels and finding warm weather.  I really dislike the cold, and it feels like winter is coming on, too soon.