Friday, June 27, 2014

We're Not Leaving the Planet, Not Even the Continent!

In a recent reply to my comment on her blog, Linda Davey said "I'm acting as though we'll never have a chance to buy another thing after we hit the road. Gotta get over that!"

Me too! What's the deal with that thinking? I make lists of staples to "stock up on", and then worry about storage space and weight limits. I look at small appliances and gadgets that I haven't used in a long time with the "but you might need one of those in this new lifestyle..." lense.

I'm not talking about sentimental-heirloom-kid's-kindergarten-hand-print-things. That's a whole other issue.

My self-talk fills the (yet-to-be-purchased) coach from top to bottom. Perhaps we should take multiples of "those" in case one breaks. Keep even more pillows and blankets in case "they" come to visit. Take those dusty craft items for "rainy days".

Unfortunately I'm not the only one. Bill hasn't started purging the garage. Discussions on the subject include statements that start with "We'll need a full set of....." The MH and the Jeep very likely use all standard fittings.....but "it's always handy to have metric". Nothing seems capable of multi-tasking so we must include all the "right" tape, glue, wire, etc. I can't disagree. Even baling wire and duct tape come in different sizes and colors for a reason!

Where the hell do we think we're going? Mars? Moon? Serengeti? Outback?

We're not even going to Mexico!

We are going to see America. It's a fairly civilized place. I haven't seen 80% of it, but I hear there are retail establishments. Postal/UPS service. Internet and cell phone coverage. There seem to be no lack of other humans. In fact most full-timers complain about trying to get away from others, not the inability to find them.

We will have extended warranties and insurance and roadside assistance. 

This is not a backpacking trip that requires special gear, sleeping bags or kerosene stoves. Yes, we will be hiking. We will have campfires. We will spend much more time outdoors. And, we will have a full kitchen and sleep in our own bed.

So where do we get this mind-set that we have to take everything we could possibly need with us? Why am I still combining living and vacation and survival modes to create this ridiculous list?

Even while boondocking we won't be more than a Jeep's drive to a town with groceries, a small hardware/auto parts store, a post office with general delivery, and most likely a coffee shop or McDonalds with WiFi. On our "way to" more remote areas we will travel through towns with larger stores and repair shops and Amazon delivery depots. I will eventually venture inside a Walmart, because they will have what we need at the time :-(.

There is no need for us to anticipate every "thing" that may come up and be prepared with exactly the right "corresponding thing" to fix it or enhance it at exactly the moment it breaks or we decide to do it. Apparently I do know this important fact, I just struggle with remembering it when making decisions about what we need to take with us.

It doesn't mean I think we can pull out of the driveway with an empty rig, and just pick things up the first time we need them.  There's probably already a reality show on television about somebody doing that.....

Obviously some items are expensive to replace, and it's prudent to keep those if there is a more than 50% chance we'll need it. Just because we could easily find another one, doesn't mean we could afford it when we need it. We can always unload it later.

Some things like fuses and cords and hoses and zip lock bags we don't want to "have to go get" when they break or we need extra. We don't want to run out of ant and mosquito repellent. We don't want to need rain gear and have to go out in the weather to purchase it. Batteries of every size will have their own drawer :-).

There will always be safety and first aide items that we keep and hope to never need. Common sense things. Don't need to haul around a set of crutches, but an adjustable cane is smart. Snake bite kit, yes. Oxygen tank, no.

I'm confident we'll need something that we purged and wish we had in the rig. Probably a few things. Still, we are NOT leaving the planet. Between Google and Amazon I bet we can find an adequate replacement for just about everything.

Maybe not the juicer, I really like this one.......and these pillows...... Uggghhh. Linda's so right - I "Gotta get over that!"



Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Big Is Your Bucket?

Full-timers and bucket lists - can't have one without the other it seems. While other lifestyles come with bucket lists as well (some are called milestones to reach, others are a list of things to accomplish), the lists of travelers are generally of the "go there, see that" variety.

We are certainly no exception. We have three of these lists: his, hers, ours. Not unlike our lives to this point, we share interests (lots), and have interests that are unique to one of us (fewer).

Fortunately we have found it very easy to support those few separate interests without the need to participate (being dragged into an art gallery kicking and screaming just takes the fun out of it for everyone). Because we are both avid readers, enjoy watching people and nature, and take turns "with" Tessa, there is always something for the non-participant to "do". We also avoid the martyrdom of giving up something one of us wants to do just because the other isn't interested.

So we each have a personal bucket. 
His list
These are about the size of beach pails (mine is pink, with stars). Completely full, you can still carry it in one hand. A reasonable size that can easily be "emptied" over a few years during several slow-paced trips across the country. Some items can even be crossed-off simultaneously when they are located close to each other. We will go to those places and we will see those things.

The ours bucket started out as a one-gallon plastic vessel with a thin metal handle. The kind you use to wash your car. The list is what you would expect in the bucket of two 50ish-year-olds planning to travel the country: Oregon Coast, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, New England in the Fall, Key West, etc, etc. It includes four-wheeling in Utah and kayaking a swamp in the South, and other somewhat typical adventures along the way.

About a year ago this bucket started getting uncomfortable to carry, even with two hands. That metal handle cut into your hand from the weight of the list. Items "splashed" out even when being very careful.

There are only two choices when this happens: make the list smaller, or the bucket larger. We don't want to miss anything on the list. We have room for a bigger bucket. We can afford a bigger bucket. We should just get a bigger bucket.

So we got a bigger bucket.

When we made the transfer it was clear the bucket was way too big. The list barely filled a quarter of the large, five-gallon, bright orange utility bucket. No worries, the list has lots of room to spread out now, be comfortable.


Lists are created from our exposure to the experiences of others. Some (like most of our original list) come from history classes in school and trips that family and friends took over the years. Stand on Four Corners, see fireflies, walk down Bourbon Street. Some come from documentaries we watch and books we read. See pods of dolphins and tour the old south of Grisham novels. Normal exposure = normal list.

Additions come from interests we develop. Visit every NFL stadium and explore geological wonders like lava tubes and slot canyons. Special interests = special lists.

Then you join the blogosphere of those already living the dream. For every two items on the list there are now nine on the route in between. Off the beaten path. Places where most of your family and friends have not been. Most don't have post cards. Wonderful, amazing places and unique adventures. Blue earth and hidden waterfalls and zip-lines high in the trees. Gi-normous exposure = gi-normous list!

In less than a year that big orange bucket is nearly full. It definitely takes two people to carry it. The handle was clearly not designed for a list this heavy. It may need wheels.

We don't have a rig yet. We haven't pulled out of the driveway. 
We're gonna need a bigger bucket....

We aren't getting a bigger bucket. We don't have room. We can't afford it. We don't have time! Not if we want to really enjoy what we see and do. Not if we want to see it and do it before we're ninety. The latter is more of a physical reality than an emotional desire :-).

Comments on every post include "this is going on our bucket list", so I know we can't be alone with our over-flowing bucket. Full timers come in every age and income-bracket now, and all have different exposures and personal interests. Lists will have different items (thank goodness). 

Still, I envision special trailers and racks designed for bigger buckets.

So how big is your bucket? How did you fill it? Does it ever get smaller or do you just keep filling it up?

Never going to be on the list.  Ever.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

The House Knows

It's difficult to hide things from a house. Especially house things.

We knew we would sell within three years, but we didn't tell the house. Even before we moved in we made a few improvements, like removing the "popcorn" ceilings, installing pot lights, new oven, etc. After a year we put a roof on the patio and installed ceiling fans, and we removed the king palm and the blue spruce in the front yard (trust me, they needed to go). It "looked" like we planned to be here a long time.

So I can understand why the house might feel a bit "put out" by our recent purging and packing.

The standard "It's not you, it's us" works no better on a house than it does on your soon-to-be ex.......even though it is very true in this case.

It is a wonderful house, one of my favorites of the very many I have called home. The layout is smart with good flow and no wasted space. Lots of storage. Easy to maintain (except all the leaves that seem to fall year round). Good location. Low utilities. It has a good feeling that everyone notices.

Really "You'll make someone a wonderful home". Nope, that one sounds lame even to me.

We now talk about leaving all the time. Out loud. In the house. Even when new improvements are made we use words like "potential buyer" and "resale value". Holidays are now "last ones here". These are not references to a long term relationship.

Closets and cupboards are emptying out, not filling up. The yard is being maintained, not upgraded. New purchases are all RV-related, not house stuff. The library is on a Kindle and books go home with friends, never to be seen again. The house is nearly 40 years old. It recognizes the signs.

In all fairness, we did not intentionally mislead our house. We loved making it a home these last three years. We've taken good care of it, dressed it up on the holidays, showed it off to friends and family. It's a better house now than it was when we met. We just need to move on.

At 40+ years old the house could choose to be mature about this whole thing. It could wish us well. It could celebrate new beginnings. It could let us off easy, with maybe a hug.

But no. We will pay. Literally.

It started with a few passive-aggressive signs: a clogged washing machine drain that required a plumber with a long snake (don't, this is serious), a bathroom faucet to replace, a broken gate hinge. Spread out over months and quick to repair, we didn't take it personally.

When subtle isn't working.........go for the big ticket stuff! Start with a broken sprinkler pipe in the front yard. Put it deep in the roots of the biggest tree. When the homeowner turns off the front sprinklers and waters the small yard by hand, break the main line under the syphon valve. Do it quietly so the leak goes for days before it's noticed and the water bill sends a nice written message. Time it when the homeowner has to work every weekend and has to hire a plumber to make the $400+ temporary fix. Enlist the landscaping to locate the break between the large tree and the giant hedge, against the cinderblock wall. Do it when the humidty is high.

Now the backyard sprinklers are also shut off. The newly planted grass is suffering. We have to drag hoses to keep the planters green. Shovels and axes and chain saws are coming out for a fun weekend of nasty work. It's Fathers' Day.

It is so personal. We are 40+ (++) years old and we also know the signs. This is not going to be an easy separation. Even before the sprinkler attack is cleaned up, the washing machine is squeaking and the air conditioner makes an occasional thunk when starting up. Standing at the mailbox in the afternoon light I swear the house is smirking.

Yes, the house knows. We know it. And the house knows we know.

It should be an interesting few months.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Week at the Lake House

May 31 (evening) - June 7, 2014
Clearlake, CA
(three of three catching up)

Back at the hotel, Michelle and I load our bags into Marilynn's car for the drive to Clearlake. Girl-time at Marilynn's is the plan. Bill stayed in Santa Clara another night and then returned home with the boys on Sunday.

Renee made the trip with Marilynn, so there are four of us for the little road trip. Two days earlier, a waitress spilled hot water on Marilynn's lap, leaving her with horrible burns and blisters. She powered through the celebration but was pretty miserable on the ride home. For that reason we eat our dinner in the Arby's parking lot - which is really, really good :-) - and make one quick stop for gas.

I have driven I-5 more times than I can remember, in all seasons. I have driven through the Imperial Valley during white-fly season, and through the grasshoppers in the Mohave Desert. Never have I worried that the bugs would get so thick on the windshield that it would impair my vision. Until this night. After scraping off the "paste" in Williams the windshield is nearly covered within a few miles. We  see thousands of them in the headlights and hear the "tick, tick, tick" of them hitting the car. Yuk! Fortunately the swarms stay on the valley floor as we make the hill up Hwy 20 and I can see fine for the remainder of the drive.

Before the bugs got "really" bad
Sunday morning is bright and sunny, and perfect for coffee on the deck. Wayne and Marilynn moved permanently to the lakehouse a few years back and made it a lovely and loving home. The deck is right on the "keys", a series of small canals that extend off the lower end of Clearlake with houses on each side. The view is exceptional with the oak-studded hills in one direction and the volcano, Konocti, in the other. 

Deck at the Lake House

We have spent holiday weekends here with our two families and this more quiet and serene visit is bitter sweet. Nice to have the time that is women just relaxing and sharing, but sad in the reality of such a huge change. Marilynn has done a wonderful job of resetting the space and it feels light and calm. 

Michelle and I make a grocery run in the morning and late in the afternoon Renee and Pam join us for barbequed chicken, pasta salad and fruit salad. Delicious! A few beers and glasses of wine and we are having a fun time. Then it happens -

Pam, Renee and I are on the deck when we hear Michelle yell, and a commotion in the house. The last one in the house, I find Marilynn and Michelle laughing in the living room and the other two heading to the master bedroom. What is going on here? Marilynn describes how she called Michelle in to her room to check out a really large bug up high on her wall. She was nearly knocked over when Michelle turned and ran, yelling "It's a bat!"

Time for another beer. By now there is banging and other noise in the bedroom (the door is shut to contain the beast), and I'm convinced Dracula has returned to full form and is locked in battle with the two women, neither of whom are very big. Of course the three of us wait patiently in the other room, maintaining a strong second line of defense.

The door opens and Pam has caught the bat. In a dish towel. In one hand. It's like the size of a large moth........ Humans are once again safe. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the small terrorist who Pam accidently "broke" during the skirmish :-(.

Following a quick burial at sea (lake) we return to our visiting. We continue to find great humor in the incident, holding our sides, and laughing until there are tears. These are silly tears and so very cleansing. Laughter really is great medicine.

I read out loud about "bat medicine" from my Medicine Wheel book, and we all agree that the message of rebirth and new beginnings is spot-on for Marilynn. Cleansing laughter and good medicine - our little bat did great work in it's short life.

Bat Medicine
Monday we sleep in and Michelle works for a few hours. We take the pontoon boat out and enjoy the beauty of the water. Another good home-cooked meal, and we call it a day.

Tuesday is Michelle's last day so we take a drive around the whole lake to show her the area. Lunch in Lakeport at the same restaurant where the hot water burned Marilynn, because it's still the best food in town. She says she'll introduce us as her attorneys. Of course she doesn't, as she has forgiven what was an unfortunate and painful accident, but an accident just the same. We sit outside and enjoy the little town and our yummy meal.

Lakeport is the County Seat

The drive to the Sacramento airport seems quick, and soon Marilynn and I are headed back to the lake. We miss Michelle.  Still full from our lunch, we opt for leftovers at the house. We're both sleepy from all the driving and say goodnight early.

I know this is already a long post so thanks for hanging in here with me. I have another couple days with Marilynn.

Appointments on Wednesday take us to St Helena and Santa Rosa. There are very few services in Lake County so most medical appointments and shopping for anything other than groceries are a couple hours drive. Fortunately the drive west is beautiful and we enjoy the scenery of the countryside. 

Napa County
The little courtyard outside the office in St Helena is lovely and I play with the camera while I wait for Marilynn. 

Beautiful courtyard St Helena
Her next appointment gives us just enough time to make it over the mountain to Santa Rosa. More lovely scenery here with sections of the road deep in the forest. It is still a very warm day, but it "looks" cooler in the shade of all those trees :-). 

The waiting room has lots of magazines to keep me busy. I learn there is another Kardasian baby on the way and wonder again why this family is newsworthy in any format. Marilynn's visit is a short one and I am spared further exposure to the silliness of the current pop culture. Harmless, but silly.

It's after 2:00 and we are famished. The sushi restaurant we saw earlier is closed until 5 so we choose the sandwich shop next door. If you're in Santa Rosa give Mr Pickle a try for great sandwiches. It even smells like the great sandwich shops I remember from college. We both take half home and have them later for our dinner.

We return to the house and after a little television we are once again nodding off early.

One reason for my visit was to help Marilynn sort and move "stuff". She wanted to make the Lego Room into the Quilting Room. However, with her burns she didn't feel up to tackling the project until Thursday so I got off really light!

In just a few hours we get as far as she needs to get the sewing machine set up (Jessica and Melissa had already sorted and moved the majority of the Legos), with several items moved to her garage sale area. She has a lot to purge, and plenty of time to get it done. I'm sure I'll make at least one more trip to help her tackle it before we head out.

The BFF, Janis, lives in Sacramento so Friday we meet for an early lunch at Chevys on the river. It is wonderful to see her (she and Marilynn met last year at our house) but the visit is way too short. The three of us enjoy each other's company a lot, and we talk about getting together at the end of summer. I hope we can make that happen!

I loved this time with Marilynn. She is a strong woman and I know she will be just fine through this difficult transition. I wish she didn't live so far away though!!

This is the longest time Bill and I have spent apart and we are very happy to see each other at the airport. Yes, I missed Tessa too, and she is a crazy mass of jumps and wags and doggy kisses as soon as I walk in the door. Bill shows more restraint but he is just as excited :-).

It was an emotional week and a busy week. It was a good week. 


Monday, June 9, 2014

Celebrating the Life of Wayne Gravelle

May 31, 2014
Felton, CA
(two of three to get caught up)
Marilynn caught up with us at the elevator this morning and we all had a quick breakfast in the lobby. Her sister Pat joined us shortly after, then we were off for the tiny town of Felton, CA. 

The daughters chose this beautiful location for many reasons, and it just happens to be one of my very favorite places on the planet. Best known as the home of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton is just 25 miles south of Santa Clara off Hwy 17. Once you cross Scotts Valley you enter a world of old oaks, fluttering cottonwoods, and majestic redwoods.

Felton, CA

It is truly a heavenly place, and so fitting for our celebration. Wayne's love of trains was honored throughout the day with intermittent whistles in the background :-).

There are many ways to say good-bye. I believe that when family and friends gather at the end of one's life and the laughs outnumber the tears, the stories are silly as well as profound, the songs are sung with gusto, and the times together are remembered with love, then the good-bye is a true celebration that honors the passing. 

Today's celebration of Wayne was all that and more. Everything was perfect. In recent years Wayne developed a love of Legos and they made for a bright reminder of his creativity. Marilynn sang, family and friends shared stories, a lifetime of photos were enjoyed on video and at the memorial table, his favorite rock and roll played throughout the day, Marines did the flag presentation, grandchildren and cousins played under the trees - the weather could not have been better.

Perfect setting

Marilynn sings Amazing Grace

Marine Honor Guard

Marilynn and Michelle

Wayne's Lego-cy

MeMe came all the way from Colorado and took all of these amazing photos - plus 400 more!  (seen here with Jessica)

Wayne loved crows and they showed up to honor him as well, cawing loudly during the video and circling overhead for several minutes. Later they joined the feast, helping themselves to cake crumbs and a chicken bone :-). It was a special visit.
Crows paid their respect
(I did take this one pic)

People came from as far away as Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Messages were sent from those who could not be there in person. Multiple generations of family enjoyed the opportunity to remember Wayne in small, intimate groups, and to get caught up with those they hadn't seen in a while.

Yes, the reason was a sad one, and the occasion was touched with tears and sorrow, but the theme was joy and Wayne was truly celebrated. My family has been me and my two boys for quite a long time. To be a part of this gathering, of this family - for that I have no words.

Family and Friends Begin to Gather

May 30, 2014
Santa Clara, CA

(one of three to get caught up)

It was inevitable that
the call would come. Wayne passed away on the afternoon of May 1, 2014, peacefully in his sleep, with wife Marilynn reading him poetry. He had made the long trip in the ambulance and spent his last week at home where Gumby the cat could say goodbye. Daughter Jessica and two of his grandsons were there as well.

Hospice is a wonderful program, and they made final arrangements quickly and efficiently. Now it was time to plan the celebration of Wayne's life for all his family and friends to remember and honor him.

Unfortunately, Bill's company was relocating in May and it was mandatory for all employees to work the first three weekends. Bill presence was critical for moving and restocking a full warehouse. He was already going to miss seeing his dear friend Tommy and now there was a memorial to plan as well! Very stressful :-(.

No one wanted to wait weeks, but Uncle Bill had to be there so the celebration was scheduled for May 31. Although the warehouse move was completed early and we got to
see Tommy on the third weekend, the added time did give the daughters more time to make arrangements that otherwise would have been rushed.  We were forgiven for the delay :-).

So this morning we headed north to Santa Clara for tomorrow's celebration. Several schedules to juggle but the SoCal family were able to make it work with two vehicles about four hours apart. Travis and Richie rode with us. Picked Richie up from school and were on I-5 a little after noon.

We expected to hit traffic once we got to the bay area, but the only slow down was near Avenal in the Central Valley and lasted over an hour. Weird. A couple pit stops and we arrived about 4:30 to much cooler temps and lots of hugs.

Melissa (Wayne's youngest daughter) and her husband Joe had space outside to gather and eat and arrange the flowers for tomorrow's tables.  The second SoCal Jeep arrived, local family and friends joined us, and we got a head start on Wayne-stories.  It was a lovely evening with lots of smiles and intermittent tears.

Table bouquets
Uncle Bill
Lauren and her mom Melissa
Travis and Beau
All photos courtesy of friend MeMe

I picked Michelle up from the airport (our dear friend from San Clemente) and we visited for a couple more hours before making our way to the nearby hotel. The Holiday Inn Express in Santa Clara is newly remodeled and an exceptionally nice hotel. The "front" door is a bit confusing and I will have to hear about my choice of parking space for years.........