Friday, February 5, 2016

New Horizons

Now that Lillie is no longer with me, I made the decision to park Shantilly and travel overseas for while.  I've now downsized from the camper to my backpack.

Since this blog was intended to tell the story of Lillie and my travels around north America, I've decided to create a new blog for my solo travels.  Please check it out at http://www.theuniversaltraveler.com/.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Beginnings


The best part of anything is the beginning.  There are a few exceptions but it's pretty well a basic truth.

Starting that new job that you were praying to get...woohoo!  That "woohoo" dies down quickly to a "is it 5 oclock yet?".  Commitment to lose that weight by a certain date pumps you up...til you start.  Marriage at first is so happy and sweet then it's all business (typically). 

Excitement at hitting the road again and knowing the reality of situations on that road are truly nothing to be excited about.  Yet still, the anticipation makes the heart beat faster.  Beginning a new adventure, even knowing the down sides but only concentrating on the fun of it all, the feeling it gives, the encompassing freedom & the knowledge that you'll learn...something!  That you'll experience life, new friendships, survive things you had never imagined, and find your best self through it all.

People comment often on how brave they think I am and how much they admire me for my lifestyle and how I inspire them to try to do the same.  I'm asked how I can do what I'm doing.  I have no tangible answer.  I thank them as it's truly an honor to inspire!  All I can offer is that I have no fear...I know God has my back...I trust people!  I'm doing what I feel I should be doing.  It's a happiness, a "call", a search, and hopefully a destination.

Yes, the best part of anything is the beginning.  How you come through the finale is a miracle, I'd say, and a signature strength that only you can earn.  I can't wait to begin again!

P.S.  The Exceptions are family, friends and pets!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Changes


I've been very emotional today for some reason!  Tired...yes..it definitely is playing a part but the people in my life are the catalyst.  I have amazingly good friends, caring, giving, sharing friends.  After another long week of night labor, I crashed while a friend took my Jeep to the shop then woke me up (after a good 6.5 hrs sleep) to go pick it up.  We then went out to the local small town bar for a couple of beers and to shoot some pool before I left; and I just soaked it all in!!  The people, the dive bar atmosphere, the patrons, the music on the jukebox, and the friends I was with.

I love my country!  It's beautiful in so many ways...the culture, the scenery, the people.  I'll be finished working the seasonal job I got at Amazon (Amazon Camperforce) very soon so will hit the road camping to visit friends and family for about a month before I branch off on the next leg of my adventurous journey through this life!

I'm leaving for a while...indefinitely.  Australia is my first destination.  I need to arrive down under before winter hits as I want to visit and explore then ferry down to New Zealand to hike a few glacier areas (Tongariro Alpine Crossing being one of them) before winter!  Then back to northern Oz and Asia and India...you see the trend? :)

I guess, since time seems to be flying, it hit me that I'm leaving my good friends and family and this wonderful place we call America (that I've spent the past 2 years traversing) very soon.  Deciding to go was no decision. No Lillie...time to travel overseas.  That was it.  While I still have meager savings to help me out, I'm healthy enough, in good enough shape, and can think of nothing better than seeing the world....I'm embracing my need!!

That doesn't mean I won't miss my friends, my family or my Shantilly life!!  My backpack..hmm..guess I should name it now as it will house my world!! 

The following are SOME pics of me with friends!  Too many others so if you're not included, I'm sorry.  It's late, I'm tired, but I love you all!!!



































Thursday, November 19, 2015

Morning, Noon, then Night

I've parked Shantilly in Boyd, Texas and am actually putting money INTO my checking account for a change!!  I'm working the night shift at the largest North American Amazon Fullfillment warehouse that happens to be located in Haslet, Texas.  This means not only income but I get to see my granddaughter and first born daughter throughout these 2 holiday months!!  Other than that, I have nothing really to report so thought I would share a "book/story/semi-autobiography" that I wrote years ago and never followed through with.  Where it brings in the "White Elephant"....I thought that was universally understood as a money pit...costly and troublesome...but have been informed it's not and people who read this were confused. LOL I hope you enjoy the telling!
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How many people go to jail each year for assaulting their early riser neighbor?
For that matter, many fine folks must lose their loyal but noisy companions in suspicious manners or openly, by shooting incidences. Having never been a morning person, it’s easy for me to imagine that the number could be quite high.

Being awakened early on a Saturday or Sunday morning from a dog’s lunatic discussion with another neighbor’s equally chatty canine is enough to at the very least bring forth a bestial roar of indignation from this late night lover. Glaring red-eyed out my window, casting imaginary lasers of destruction is the worst I’ve ever done to my weed-eating, lawn mower happy neighbor. Can someone please invent a silent mower? Call it the “Whisper Mower” and make it so!

No, I’ve never been a morning person. I set three alarms around the house in an attempt to get up and to get to work somewhere within an hour of my official start time each day. Of course, the first to go off (and the one that gets the most abuse) is the clock radio on my bedside. I can hit snooze on that baby every 10 minutes from 6AM to 8AM at which time it cuts itself off. The next is my cell phone, which I place in a new location daily. The theory is that I would have to get up and FIND it. It’s a good theory; however, I learned early that the alarm shuts itself off after just a few seconds and does not repeat itself. Next up is the stereo alarm. Of course, I set this one to a hard rock station and have the volume damagingly high. After several minutes of trying to ignore it, I drag myself out of bed to let my psychotic, barking dog in before someone shoots her.

Starting the day can only begin once I’ve had a first-degree burn shower (cold water tends to wake me up a little TOO fast). Give me a Sprite for sugar and a coffee, black, for caffeine and my eyelids will start to crack open. God help you if you are a perky morning person crossing my path to say, “Good morning”. My reply could negatively affect the rest of your previously glorious day.

Actually, I completely envy the morning person. My mother is one of them. She wakes up at 4AM (okay, that’s going a little TOO far) and hits the floor running. She will have a load of laundry done, breakfast cooked, the floor vacuumed, all of her hundreds of plants watered, the bed made, the cat brushed, and the litter-box cleaned out before I have hit my snooze button once. Personally, I think she’s got issues. I mean, why on earth would a normal person need to get all of that done so quickly and so early in the morning when you are retired? Where do you go from there? What occupies the remaining 14 hours? And yet, when I talk to her on the phone, she tells me that she almost didn’t get everything done! Someone really needs to teach that woman the benefits of down time!

All right, so I don’t envy my mother. I envy a “normal” morning person. One that can wake up and get out of bed the first time the alarm goes off. Or one that wakes up around 6AM every day without an annoying machine ululating at them. One that can see the color of the socks they are putting on and who can see that there IS a wall there before running into it. One that isn’t groggy until noon and even has the energy to take a healthy jog before showering. What kind of life would that be like? I will never know from my own experience, that’s for sure.

For some reason, society voted when I wasn’t looking and decided that the early bird gets the worm. Fine, take the worm. Just allow me to eat the crumbs as a late bird. I’m decidedly wormless and I’ve been in the workforce for a long time. I can live with that. I’d much rather nibble at my crumbs in order to get just ten minutes more sleep. It’s the policy makers, high on their worms because they are morning people that make my latecomer existence so stressful.

Get on the freeway to drive to work every morning and just look around you at the choreography of the traffic jam. It brings to mind that infamous dance by Elaine on the television sitcom, Seinfeld. What mad planner could orchestrate such a catastrophe? Can people just not drive well? Okay, I’ll admit there are some absolute morons out there that apparently bought their licenses on the black market. Besides that, though, you have all of us slow to risers racing to appease the early bird policy makers. It’s a scary thing, looking over at the car beside you to see that the person is matching your speed of 80 mph while blowing hot air at their long locks with the cordless hair dryer. I have to imagine that the cordless curling iron is next and I definitely don’t want to be beside her when she slips! Then there’s the guy on your other side. He’s also flying low but he’s on his cell phone, trying to explain why he will yet again be late this morning, as coffee slops over the edge of his cup into his lap, causing him to jump and jerk wildly, barely missing my galloping Mustang convertible. I simply drive one handed; the other hand has to hold one eye open.

Yes, that dance is a dangerous one and must be repeated every morning of the workweek. After screeching to a halt at my destination, the mad dash for the crumbs (in this case, coffee) is my only goal. Okay, that and avoiding my boss so maybe he won’t realize I missed that ever elusive worm. On every one of my annual reviews, in the section for “needs improvement”, is the statement “needs to improve on tardiness”. What are they talking about? I couldn’t be more perfect in my tardiness. I’m a repeat offender and should be commended for my continuity. They should really just tell me that I need to be at the office at 7AM and I would probably make it by 8AM. I would think they might realize this after 18 years of tardiness. Maybe that worm is gagging the common sense factor.

At any rate, I sometimes don’t manage to dodge the bullet that is my boss’s gaze. That’s when my excuse machine kicks into gear. My last excuse was that my electricity went off and I couldn’t leave my house because the garage door wouldn’t open. He actually laughed at that one! Then he so helpfully informed me about the emergency pull cord on electric garage doors. Why, I had no idea!

I want to point out that my excuses are usually based in truth. I just leave out the fact that it was already after 8AM when the electricity went off, or the neighbor’s car broke down in front of my driveway, or my psychotic, hyper canine jumped on me and I had to change out of those mud pawed clothes before heading to work, or the dog was a little too chatty that morning and was ruthlessly shot in the hind quarters by the neighbor’s bb gun. Okay, only the case of the imprisoning garage door was based in truth. Nobody is perfect.


I’ve found the family pet is a wonderful tool in the excuse department. Dog, cat, iguana, snake, parakeet, or whatever a person chooses to love, house and spend outrageous amounts of money to feed, medicate, or spoil will provide anyone with imagination some wonderfully twisted but believable excuses. I’m not condoning the occasional fib, but after so many “traffic” excuses or “alarm clock didn’t go off” excuses or “I almost called in sick” excuses, I believe any boss would enjoy a little creativity. After all, if you are like me, this tardiness is not unexpected so adding a bit of spice and seasoning for that early bird’s meal can only help his digestion.

After seeing to the dietary balance of my supervisor, I peck at my crumbs over the next 8 to 10 hours and remind myself that the day will end and I will be able to pay those ever hungry entities that came along with my “white elephant” house. I will go into the feeding rituals for that elephant a little later. Right now, I’d like to take a closer look at crawling out of bed in the morning.

Speaking for myself, it doesn’t matter if I’m alone or have a bed partner or have the kids to get moving in the morning. It’s never easy to slide out from the security, warmth, or comfort of my lovely queen size haven. Yes, I would have to admit that I love my bed. My entire room is painted a color that the professionals would say is a calming, muted green to which I’ve added whites and pinks. When I climb into my bed, I feel set adrift on a soft, fluffy flotation device in a large swimming pool (no seas for this chick! That would be terrifying, don’t you think? Set adrift in some huge body of water with no land in site and all you have is some plastic filled with air to keep you from drowning?!). Those alarm clocks going off in the morning are like someone coming up underneath my bed and pushing one side of it up to throw me off of it and into the cold water. Of course, I cling to the edge and flail about and splash water at the offender only to have it happen again a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, my bed partner, unaware of any undo struggling on my side of the bed, has taken wing and sequestered himself in the bathroom to take care of the first of many duties any well nourished, early morning worm-sucker will face. Now that I think about it, dining primarily on crumbs might play a role in my lack of colonic activity. Anyway, as he’s whistling in the shower, I’ve lost my grip on that oh so safe flotation device and have splashed face first into the water. Now I have to try to swim? These wings don’t work that way! After yelling at psycho dog to get in this house right now, I pass macho man coming out of the bathroom as I hit the wall where I could have sworn there was open space. What is there to whistle about? Please don’t say a word, just lead me to the door!

On the flip side of the mattress, if I awake next to a bed partner who is also a crumb nibbler, rising becomes a test of wills (at least in my mind). Who will voluntarily take the plunge from that cozy, plastic raft? Someone has to get up first. I figure it’s his obligation as the man to sacrifice a few minutes of sleep for this lady. Old-fashioned values of a twisted sort, I’ll admit, but very much valid to these unopened eyes. The longer he lays there, unmoving, the more of a bad mood I get in. How dare he do this to me? Throwing a leg out from the covers, I slide slowly into it that frigid pool, eyes closed, and begin to shuffle towards where I remembered the door to be. This time I don’t make it to the door or the wall that looked like a door. This time I simply trip over the dog that lay in a blissfully prone sleep at the foot of the bed, where she’d been since my comatose bedmate had let her in sometime during the night. As I lay splayed out on my shaggy, gray carpet, clutching the knee that had found my bed’s foot post and fighting off psycho dog’s giddy tongue, I decide that in future I must make sure to do my night flying with an early bird.

Maybe my mother feels she is a phoenix constantly rising from the ashes. That might explain her need to vacuum every morning promptly at 5AM. I could not imagine a more torturous manner of greeting the day than the windy sucking sound of a Kenmore or Hoover machine. Okay, maybe a dentist’s drill. Anyway, that was a special hell; to be in heavenly oblivion and suddenly find myself in a nightmare where an unseen monster with a mighty, nasal roar is bearing down on me. Then to wake myself in fear, legs still jerking as though in running mode (kind of like a dog; if you’ve ever watched one dream), to find mother’s face two inches from mine as she kneels to shove that vacuum cleaner into the void under my bed. Believe me, at those moments (me being the angel that I am at the crack of dawn), I would have happily told my mother where she could shove her machine for the best affect, had she thought to ask. Fortunately for me, she never did.

Any crumb connoisseur that has ever lived with a worm gourmet, like dear old mom, knows there are many horrible ways to be ripped from sweet sleep. Those ashes must haunt her giving her no choice but to haunt me and my room and my dreams. Can I please just not be IN the bed when you decide to change the sheets? Maybe that’s where I get the whole previously described image of being thrown off of my floating device! Face lying on my slobber soaked pillow one moment and then twirling, as though rolling down a hill of cotton, the next. The strength of that tiny woman is an absolute marvel! One good yank and I’m airborne, baby, only to land on a bare mattress. That takes talent I have to admit.

How about a curious, constant whispering noise to disturb your slumber? Why, that would be Phoenix taking care of the ashes that have accumulated on the baseboards. Crack an eye open just to test the atmosphere and put a name to the whispering, and find a tightly clad butt facing you from the wall directly across from your bed. Oh joyous day! How I longed to jump up and run to her aid! It is ever so evident in my own whisper against the cotton as I roll over to face the other wall and resume my previous activity.

Have you ever come to from the rustling of paper? That really thin tissue paper that is somehow required in all box packaging of lingerie or clothing and is the same type paper used in gift bags? You’re following me now, right? Okay, now add the mumbling of a confused person standing in your closet, thinking she’s being quiet as a tiny, church mouse. Now please tell me, what exotic worm could she desperately be seeking in MY closet? I silently watch her with an unbelieving frown upon my face as she grabs another box from the upper shelf, opens it, shifts her fingers around in it (thereby, creating that rustling paper sound), and emits a high toned, yet soft, noise from the back of her throat. Apparently, the item in that box perplexes her. And that’s enough unwanted entertainment for this girl, so I close my eyes and tell myself that I just don’t care anymore as I drift back to my simple darkness.

Phoenix and her ashes are much loved by me; don’t get me wrong. I just don’t understand her inability to leave me to my peace and attack those demons of hers until just a little later in the day. I think she may lie in bed at night and giggle to herself thinking about how she’s going to interrupt my slumber the next sunrise.

Now that we don’t live under the same roof, she supports her local long distance company in the wee hours of the morning to send love over the airwaves. Why? I can’t possibly respond or carry on a conversation when my brain didn’t get the early wake up memo! Do I remember a thing she said at that hour? Not a chance! For all I know, she got the cat’s tail caught in the Hoover and, due to tabby’s frantic attempts at escape, she sustained wounds that have left her blind in one eye, scratched bald, and sucking her meals through a straw.

Speaking of which, domesticated felines have an especially evil manner of trying to help you get that worm. Or maybe it’s that they just like viewing every prone, snoring human as an early bird that must not be allowed to escape. At least, not until physical damage, such as an opened artery or asphyxiation by fur, is achieved. They are not all bad but I’d much prefer Fido lapping at my face or conversing with the hound down the street to a mouth full of fur first thing in the morning.

Living under my own roof gives me the freedom to forego fluffy Felix, thank goodness. Of course, living under my own roof is a precarious thing. Yes, I am speaking of my hungry white elephant. I half expect the roof to relieve itself of its duty come the next hard rain. Considering that I replaced all of the shingles just four years ago, I really shouldn’t be losing much needed sleep over it. But there is always the possibility that some as yet undiscovered insect with teeth resembling cat’s claws has been dining on the meaty protective barrier.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that after all that I’ve fed this elephant. Its appetite is enormous; possibly even endless (unless I find a way to successfully destroy the beast without fear of detection!). Maybe I should be grateful it’s as small as it is because the feeding would be much more of a bloodletting were it a larger house. Just close your eyes and picture a fuzzy, white Dumbo (circus frill around his neck, even) riddled with crawling critters and pockmarked from rot, rising up onto his hind legs (that very closely resemble gray tree trunks) in preparation of smashing the forward trunks on petite little me, lying prone on the cracked, dry ground that is my yard. It’s amazing that I sleep at all! For those of you lost right now, the actual definition of “white elephant” is, a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of.

In reality, Dumbo is a small, two-bedroom house with a much too large back yard. The outer shell appears cute and cozy with its white siding and green trim, attached garage, hedges in front, with a white shed in the back. Under that shell is the skin. Bring that camera in close to note the chewed wood, the dust spit out from some lunatic termite worker, determined to be that early bird; seeking out new horizons for his lovely Queen-mite (possibly the worm of his existence). It’s not an easy trek through those walls, as he has to navigate between the mammoth (compared to him) carpenter ants. They are busy pulling varied size chisels from their tool belts to carve roads and byways for their colleagues to seek out new food sources, as well. Yes, under that skin is a universe most don’t know about, want to know about, or get to see. Aren’t I the lucky one?

Now let’s walk around to the backyard. Don’t mind that smell as you again bring your camera in close. Let’s x-ray the ground stretching from about 1 inch from the back center of the house to the meter at the back fence. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you (though they may be watering). That is indeed rotted, corroded copper gas line that you see. That pungent aroma is the gas that is leaking from it to a degree that has raised the gas bill to wallet breaking proportions. The gas man said the ground was saturated and promptly turned the gas off. Here’s a hint for you: never call the gas company if you suspect gas leakage. Call a plumber! At least he can then fix it (even just temporarily) so you will still have two very necessary things; heat and hot water!

I don’t know about you but I am absolutely sure that I was not born in the wrong era. I can’t possibly imagine outdoor plumbing or, worse, no plumbing! A world where the hot water heater is me putting a pot over the fire. Bathing and rinsing off in the same, now filmy, water (that turned cold in less than 2 minutes). Yes, I basicly lived that way in those days without the city’s gas. Only I heated my water up using a plastic bowl in the microwave. This of course took 45 minutes just to get a half-inch layer on the bottom of the tub. Just enough to spit bathe with a modicum of warmth. They were speed baths, to say the least. It’s amazing how cold water, or the threat of cold water, will get a body moving!

Anyway, these are just the tip of the elephant’s whiteness. I try not to touch a wall in case the paint chips off from a termite’s wallboard feast. I try not to look at the shed in the backyard whose outer cover is starting to curl from the bottom up because Terry Termite and the Incisors have an ongoing gig in the unprotected edifice. I definitely don’t lean on the large tree next to the deck in my backyard. The one that lost a large limb on a sunny, windless afternoon from Team Termite going for the gold!

Escaping the Dumbo stampede, is a nightly must for a single chick in the big
city and, though my crumb diet is slim, my dancing energy knows no bounds! Besides, it helps relieve the stress induced by Dumbo!

Being a regular club customer who gets the party started on the dance floor
(solo…who needs a partner?), tends to get you much love from that nights band and the other single groove shakers too afraid to start that party! It also gets you those birds who think you must surely want a taste of their worm, if you follow my drift. Shooting down those sparrows who think they are eagles is part of this crumb catchers nightly repertoire. It’s not because I enjoy it. It’s because, unlike some of the other groove shakers out there with me, I actually only want to dance!
Now, that’s not to say that if Mister Dreamy himself found his way to me I’d turn
him down; but I do tend to get aggravated if he wants to chat and there is a song playing that I just HAVE to dance to! I’ve lost a few jaw droppers that way. This body just has to move!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lillie In My Rearview

I left New Mexico and, instead of heading to Texas, I decided to see the aspens change their color in Colorado.  Spiritual renewal for nature and me, I'd hoped.  It was the day after choosing to give my friend peace.  "Objects are closer than they appear".  Lillie will, from now on, be in my rearview but forever enfolded in my heart and mind!


The mountain views off of the Million Dollar Hwy and in Durango and Silver City were amazing and therapeutic!  The weather was perfect and the casino I parked at was awesome!!  I was going to stay only 2 nights but loved it so much that I stayed 5.  If you're looking to go to the Durango area, visit Sky Ute Casino!!  The staff, pool/hot tub, casino, restaurants, RV park, showers/toilets, and I'm sure (though I didn't need them), the accommodations are amazing!!

I finally left there to return to Texas.  From upper 60's temps to mid-90's was not nice but I needed to park Shantilly and Jeep so I could fly to Hawaii to visit my daughter and son-in-law.  I cried a lot as living without Lillie was difficult and Shantilly felt extremely different without her.  I bought Shantilly FOR Lillie!

Hawaii did me a world of good!  I was out of Shantilly (where I pictured Lillie all of the time) and was having to interact with people!  I couldn't shut myself in.  My daughter kept me active and entertained and Hawaii itself did as well!!

Oahu offered a lot of distractions for me!  I hiked a lot, visited various beaches, visited Pearl Harbor, took a dance trip on a night pirate ship, ate amazing food, danced, played a weird beer pong kind of game (slap pong)..apparently invented by my son-in-law, and took a multitude of amazing pictures of the incredibly beautiful landscapes!!  I  met my daughter's good friends, I drank a lot, I relaxed, I got sunburned, I ate AMAZING pineapple ice cream at Dole Plantation (where my daughter works), I had a blast doing a sort of scavenger hunt in the  "world's largest maze" at Dole Plantation, I saw awesome
waterfalls, hula dances, Japanese tourists to the extreme, discovered a lot of "pill boxes" left behind by WWII, met fun travelers from all over (my favorite thing!), and got 2 weeks of precious time with my youngest baby girl. I also had the bonus of my nephew visiting the area with a friend for a week (some of the BEST of those fun times were spent with them!)!!

Now, I'm moving forward!  In 6 days, I go to work!  What???!!!  Yup.  I will park Shantilly in Boyd, TX and start work for Amazon Camperforce.  I'll be at the Amazon Haslet, TX warehouse (largest Amazon warehouse in the world, so I've
read)!  It is a fullfillment center and I'm hoping for the most physical job so that I can get back in shape! 
Other than just plain needing to make some money, the reason I chose this job is so that I can be near my new granddaughter for her first Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I also want to spend time with my first born and her husband before I leave.

Leave?  Where am I going?  Well, once work ends and after Christmas, I plan to head out for a last bout of Shantilly camping and friend/family visiting (south and east US) before I park Shantilly and Jeep indefinitely. My current plan is to fly to Australia in early February.  If I can get a house/pet sitting gig for 1 to 3 months, I'd be in heaven!  I'll let y'all know the score!!