NOMANDLAND

Last night I watched Nomadland starring Frances McDormand, based on the book by Jessica Bruder.

It is a depressing view of houseless seniors living in their vans and following the wisdom of Bob Wells author of CheapRVLiving.com.  Bob has become a YouTube and blog success with a significant following that he has been able to monetize.  Unlike the tragic characters profiled in the book and movie.

I found both the book and the movie unsettling, because Bob is a former Alaskan and the story begins in Nevada, two places I have lived.  Now I am also a nomad.  However, my lifestyle is very different from those featured in Nomadland.  I am grateful each and every day for my union pension and Social Security, especially annual cost of living increases.  I have not had to resort to working in an Amazon full-fillment center, harvesting sugar beets, or other hard work.   Campground hosts use to involve daily cleaning of the bath houses, but the only advantage of the virus is cleaning crews have been hired to clean the bathrooms 3-4 times per day.  The other characters play themselves and are the real houseless living out their on the road.

The irony of the book cover featuring a very sad Airstream trailer, is also not lost on me.

When I began my journey four years ago, I often joked I wanted Meryl Streep to play me in my movie.  But, I have come to discover my story is not that unusual, there are thousands of woman out here on the road2reinvention.  Just Google RV living or search Facebook: Solo Streaming Sisters, Progressive RVers, Single RVers, Single RVers Trying to Change That, Airstream Addicts, RV Chick Chat, Wally Byam Airstream Group – WBCCI, etc.

There are thousands of blogs, too.

Nomadland chronicles seniors living on the fringe, boondocking on public lands so not to pay nightly rental costs and working odd jobs to survive.   Their lives are better than homeless living under bridges, but they are one big repair bill away.

My neighbors are mostly retirees, and some work campers.  Traveling nurses, and construction workers going from job to job.  They live in BIG 5th wheelers or camping buses with all the conveniences of home, washer & dryer, satellite TV, fireplaces, you name it.

State parks can cost between $15 – $70 per night depending on amenities like full hook-ups (water, elective and sewer).  Private RV Resorts (parking lots with swimming pools) start at $50 and go up to over $100 per night.  There are discounts for weekly, monthly or longer-term stays.

The variety of campers intrigues me as well.  From customized vans to new varieties of tear drop trailers.  I saw this Alto at Kiptopeke State Park.  The Alto is made in Canada and can be customized to the buyer’s specifications.  It has a back-up remote control!  Unhook and use the joystick to back it into your campsite.  The entire roof lifts up to allow standing inside.  Very cute, and very compact.

Another very neat trailer comes in a kit the owner can build in their garage.  It is designed by a boat builder and has a really sweet kitchen on the back end.  These of course are for weekend campers, but you have to admire the ingenuity.

I recommend Nomadland, both the book and the movie.  Who doesn’t like Frances McDormand?  She is also welcome to play me in my movie.

I AM MISSING MY CANADIAN AND OTHER FRIENDS.

This winter Canadians are enjoying a real cold and snowy winter.   I have met and remained friends with several Canadian RVers during my winters in Stuart, Florida; Tucson, Arizona and Palm Springs, California.  But this year, the border is closed.

A few years ago, in Palm Springs walking on for a round of golf I met three wonderful Canadian women about to tee off.  Their husbands were ahead of us, and we had a fun round.  We played that day and played several rounds together.  Not in 2021.

Last year in Florida, I met two nice Canadian couples, not golfers but enjoyed playing cards.  When Liz went home for knee surgery, I got to sit in as the fourth for Pinocle.  I enjoyed the company, but not necessarily the game.  No Pinocle, card games of any kind in 2021.  Hard to play cards six feet apart, not to mention passing the cards.

Last year I also met my newest golf gal friend Diane.  Diane is almost a Canadian because she lives in Maine.  We are bothnpassionate for golf and play well together.  Unfortunately, for safety Diane isn’t in Florida for this winter.  I miss you Diane everytime I walk on alone.

I met Phyllis and Chris at the Cactus Country RV resort in Tucson, AZ, and we became golf and dog walking pals.   They are from Michigan, and have good politics.

Sometimes it is difficult to find like minded campers or golfers.  My best hint is check the license plates or nationality.  Canadians are socialists, and you have better odds with blue or northeast states.

The joy of being a full-time RVer is meeting new people and hopefully in the future meeting again along the road.  I tend to return to places where I have friends, thus Tucson and Palm Springs are on my mind for 2022.

I am already signed up for campground hosting this summer for return engagements:  Westmoreland, First Landing and Kiptopeke Virginia state parks.  I am very excited to have a new park on my calendar for June, the North Carolina Kerr Lake Recreation Area, J.C. Cooper Campground.

Hey, friends trapped in your homes, think about camping this summer!  All these parks have cabins and yurts, or you can rent a camper!   Hopefully by summer we’ll be vaccinated, but we will still need to be careful socially distancing and wearing masks.  Here are my assignments for summer 2021:

May — Shanendoah River VA State Park, Bentonville, VA

June — J.C. Cooper Kerr Lake Recreation Area, Henderson, NC (site 91)

July & August — First Landing VA State Park, Virginia Beach, VA (Kendall Loop)

September — Kiptopeke VA State Park, Cape Charles, VA (C-10)

I am looking forward to summer.  The possibility to hug my Mom, visiting in person friends in Washington D.C.

Until then Maggie is enjoying her new haircut, daily walks on the beach, and my golf game is scoring in the 90s and I am hoping to break 89.  Stay tuned.

Before:

 

 

 

After:

2020 WHAT A LONG STRANGE YEAR IT WAS, IT’S GOT TO GET BETTER.

Photo by Kim Elton

Sorry for not writing sooner, the last few months of 2020 were tough for all of us, and I just couldn’t bring myself to write.

There are no words for the U.S. Capitol being mobbed and ransacked by crazy people 1/6/21.  As you know, I lived in Washington D.C. from 1999 to 2016 and loved the city, and mostly walking my favorite borrow-a-dog Lilly on the National Mall.  I always marveled at the people from all over the world taking their picture in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol dome.  The world’s symbol of democracy.  

Lilly was a great dog.

As an Advocate, aka Lobbyist, I went in and out of the Capitol almost every week for 17 years.  Just when I learned the way through the underground tunnels, 9/11 happened and security tightened restricting public access.  A few years ago, those restrictions began to lift, and we could again walk underground (with an authorized pass), but I am certain the tunnels will again be off-limits to the public conducting business in the Halls of Congress after the horror of 1/6/21.

What are we to do?  It is hard to sit by and watch this craziness.   Our country, flawed as it is, is still the very best place to live.  Especially my life visiting beautiful places, we are so very fortunate to have state and national parks to enjoy.  We need to continue to work for equity and shared prosperity.  But, that is for another blog.

So where have I been these past few months?

My summer of campground hosting was a great experience.  Starting at Westmoreland State park Virginia and finishing at Myrtle Beach State park South Carolina.  November and December at Myrtle Beach was great, horses on the beach, golf nearby and Becky and Chuck even came for a socially distanced visit.

Like all of us, I am desperate to hug my family and friends, eat inside at restaurants, go to a movie theater on a rainy day, hear live music and go to concerts, farmers markets and art festivals, etc. Thankfully, I am around people outside in campgrounds, six feet or farther away.

These campers were the exception, they had a bondfire!

Myrtle Beach was the first hosting position where 20-30 hours was required, which meant working indoors at the camp store.  I prefer the outside work of cleaning fire pits and checking campground sites.  Campers have been incredibly and unexpectedly responsible.  I really anticipated lots of trash and clean up, but that is not what I have experienced.   Campers love their state parks, good for them!

Heading south I made a quick stop at Hilton Head to visit Alaska pal Deb Bloom at her new Palmetto Dunes Resort art studio, three golf courses and pickle ball.  We were able to play 9 holes, see the ocean in the background.

Again, I am wintering in sunny Florida at the Port Saint Lucie RV Resort.  RV Resort means parking lot with a swimming pool.  Deb’s resort is a real “resort”, golf courses, swimming pools.

Maggie at Cliff Dr. cove, Laguna, CA. 2018

I am surrounded by Trumpers at the Port St. Lucie RV Resort.  Thankfully, there are some sane people, mostly Canadians and people from the northeast.  I met a very nice couple the first week I arrived from Laguna Beach, CA, Jeff and Val.  I love Laguna!  My family went to Laguna several summers before we moved the Anchorage, Alaska.  I made the mistake of asking if they supported Trump, they did and I distanced myself more than 6 feet.  They were only at the resort for a week, so I was able to avoid them.   It might have been different if they were here for the winter.  I felt bad after, but oh well.

Thank goodness for the Canadians, and of course Michelle and Duane.   Michelle is my very best friend from Alaska, we have known each other since working together at the Alaska State Ombudsman, Michelle was in Juneau and I lived in Anchorage.  We communicated by email in 1985!  Think about that? Email in 1985.  The Ombudsman was in the legislative branch of government and Alaska was awash in oil money.  Michelle and Duane are being very careful, so we visit around their pool.

Life is good here until April, and then I will head north for more campground hosting!  I promise to write more, and really appreciate those of you still reading.

As Mary Chapin Carpenter says, “stay strong, stay healthy, and stay mighty”.

Please subscribe to my blog on the webpage below Maggie’s picture on the right side of the page.

 

Stuff!

The other night I was working in the Myrtle Beach camp store and a Grandmother was treating her grandson to shopping.  They brought a few things up to the register, one of which was a Davy Crockett fake fur hat. The Grandmother said to the boy, will you wear this?  I spoke up and said, you aren’t going to wear that silly hat.  The boy acknowledged he wouldn’t.  They left with some candy and stickers.  After they left the staffer said we were to encourage sales.  I replied that was not a consumer philosophy I could support.  We buy stuff we don’t need and it is suppose to make us happy?

In 2016 when I sold my three story Washington D.C. row house, and got rid of most of my worldly possessions I thought I was done visiting donation bins.  Naught.  In 2016 I wrote about getting rid of my stuff, click link. 

I can’t believe after living in a 20 foot Airstream I still have too much stuff.  I always have a plastic sack under the dinette for stuff to drop in a Goodwill bin.  But this month as the temperatures drop, I pulled all the plastic tubs from under my bed and did another purge.

How many pairs of black pants do I need?  Two, one to wear and one in the dirty close hamper.  Same goes for leggings and tops.  I really don’t need all these clothes.  I hate to admit it, but when you live in an travel trailer in campgrounds wardrobe is not your primarily consideration.  I can wear the same clothes for several days, especially when I am doing fire pit duty.   In the category of TMI, I can go several days without showering, when not on fire pit duty.  Sad but true.

This month I have reduced stuff and eliminated several plastic storage bins.  Progress to having nothing, and ‘poof I will disappear’.

I realize retail workers are suffering, not to mention the stores they worked in.  Our economy is based on consumerism, but with the virus and so many stores closed, maybe we can learn to do with less.  

I know I can.

Kiptopeke to Myrtle Beach

Kiptopeke is yet another beautiful VA state park at the tip of the peninsula that separates the Chessepeak Bay and Atlantic Ocean. The campground features full hookup RV spaces, (unusual in public campgrounds) and tent camping, yurts and cabins.  The RV spaces are crowded into a central area,  the tent sites are more secluded and wooded.  Kiptopeke has lovely well marked walking trails and a great big beach.

Possibly the strangest breakwater is the impressive 100-meter long sunken concrete ships, that served in WWII.

Kiptopeke State Park's famous concrete fleet. Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

“The ships were ordered by the US Maritime Commision in 1942 during a steel shortage brought on by the second world war. Steel was scarce, but concrete was inexpensive and readily avaialble. The contract was awarded to McCloskey and Co. and construction began in July of 1943 in Tampa, FL. All in all, two dozen concrete ships were built and served throughout WWII. Two of the ships even saw combat missions. “

October is a beautiful month for camping on the Eastern Shore, no humidity and cool evenings perfect for campfires.   As a campground host one of the fun duties was selling fire wood to campers, they loved it when we brought wood directly to them at their campsites.  I loved it when they had exact change.  The hosting duties were easy the usual cleaning of fire pits, and checking site tags.  

Maggie and I enjoyed a beautiful October with several 80 degree days.  Biding farewell at end of October to head sound for the winter I was happy to make a weekend stop back in Cary, NC with sister Becky and brother-in-law Chuck.  We all did some election poll greeting for the Democrats and watched the evening poll results together.  Tuesday night was very disappointing, but aren’t we all happy the election turned our way later in the week.  Becky’s pumpkin pie mate election night delicious if not celebratory.

But our collective bad dream is finally coming to an end.  And, thank goodness for vote by mail and early voting.

In the fall of 1998, I lead the AFL-CIO program to re-elect Senator Harry Reid, and elect Democrats to the state legislature. Ten full-time walkers and bus loads of Californian’s coming every weekend in late September through the election.  Our ground game was to get voters to early vote or vote by mail.  I have been an advocate for both ever since.  

After weeks of 12 hour days, all I wanted to do was go to bed the minute the polls closed.  My cell phone rang early Wednesday morning to report we were going into a statewide hand recount of ballots.  It was another couple of weeks before the election was finally called for Senator Reid by a landslide of 428 votes statewide.  The majority of those votes came out of Washoe County so our work paid-off, but I would live to regret getting Harry re-elected.   

The very next year I would move to Washington D.C. and become a Legislative Advocate for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  Over the next 17 years I would attend many meetings with Majority Leader Reid.  He would tell the very same story at every meeting, and ring his hands as to why he couldn’t do anything because he didn’t have 60 votes.  Rather than fight a good fight, he would just move on to the next bill.  Rather than,  “GO TO THE MATTRESSES!”  Not good old Harry.  

Remember Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jimmy Stewart standing on the Senate floor?  That movie depicted when Senators would really filibuster,  giving speeches, reading nursery rhymes and recipes for hours in an effort to wear the other side down.  Not Harry, he’ll go down in history as one of the worst majority leaders, giving up the 60 vote rule.

Oh well, the U.S. Senate is badly broken for many reasons, and I only hope President Biden can work with his old colleague McConnell and get real stuff done for the American people.  Compromise isn’t a dirty word, but the newbies think it is.    The real news is Trump’s recounts won’t amount to anything,  Biden will be POSTUS and Harris will be VP.  Yippee!

We can only hope for a return to civility, respect and good public policy.   Let’s hope.

I am now enjoying Myrtle Beach State Park.  Here the hosting is a bit more serious, working 8 hour shifts in the camp store, ranger station or cleaning fire pits.  There are over 300 campsites, in addition to public use picnic areas.

There were horses on the beach Veteran’s Day weekend, and this week we are experiencing some rain. I plan to play at least one round of golf each week.  I am going to stay at Myrtle Beach until February 2021 and head south to Florida for the winter.  I am looking forward to 2021, saying goodbye to Trump and 2020.