Tuesday, November 17, 2009

BLM and Boondocking for a Season

When at first I decided I would avoid RV parks and discover sites as I‘d go along, I ended up at Slab City near Niland in California, thinking I’d spend the winter there. But I’ll keep Slab City for a later post.

I eventually ended up at the Imperial Dam Long-Term Visitor Area, or LTVA, some 24 miles north of Yuma, on the California side of the Colorado River. It is one of 7 sites that include Hot Springs in California, Quartzsite in Arizona, and Imperial Dam among others. Not exactly free but almost! For 7 months starting September 15 until April 15, one can camp at any of the seven sites for $180. either for the season, or alternating between any of them; the pass is valid in all. In my book, the best deal is at the Imperial Dam LTVA. Water, a lake for swimming or boating (yep, there’s a boat ramp) outside showers, toilets, dumping facilities, garbage disposal, and some 24 miles south, Yuma or the Foothills where shopping and RV shops abound. I delighted in Yuma where for $15.- for a 6 month period, I had a library card and could borrow books at will. At home, even away from home.

But what is quite remarkable about Imperial Dam is the vastness of the site where, if you need solitude, you can have it yet at the same time, you can participate in a number of activities. By the end of my first stay, I had realized that many who went there were not aware of all that they could enjoy or partake of. That’s when I decided to write up a Calendar of Activities to make others aware of what facilities there were to enjoy. To name a few: a library on site, music at the Gravel Pit every Sunday, potluck dinners, Dog Burns (roasting hot dogs, not canines) at the full moon, excursions either by AWD or motorbikes, handicrafts, just too many to mention here. Plus, at the nearby Yuma Proving Ground military base a bowling alley, free movies every night, a diner and a dining room. There are even Emergency Procedures in place with help from the military base and a group of volunteers to lend a hand.

A generous soul picked up where I had left off and made my original Calendar of Activities even better by publishing a monthly newsletter with photos. A good way to get to know one’s neighbours.  The beauty of it all is that if one wants to be reclusive, nobody will ever question it or turn up bothersome. The Christian Service Center provides mail services and offers storage facilities for those who want to leave their RV or trailer in a secure area right there until the next season! I miss it and the friends I made there very much.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Change of Name Vetoed – Posting Dereliction

I had been wondering whether the name is correct since I am now in a stationary home. But for the sake of continuity, and since I have many other adventures to narrate, I’ll keep it simple. The blog’s name remains, even though I’m no longer boondocking, just blogging.

I have been derelict in posting—my apologies. Besides learning Spanish at an accelerated rate, I had a wee accident. My bum arm will remain forever deficient. So, as I was attempting to change a light bulb in the bathroom from a stepladder and stretched my arm farther than it could, I fell backwards and hit the back of my head HARD on the ceramic floor. After a few moments of blackout, I opened my eyes to Queenie nudging me, her expression one of worry. No blood, just a myriad of stars dancing with each step I took.

I went to my next door neighbour and asked him to drive me to the hospital, just a few blocks down the road. A young man, very solicitous, he offered me his arm to steady me along. Once there, I was checked for a skull fracture, but fortunately it was only a concussion. After a couple of injections and a few hours of observation, the excellent Dr. Rubio sent me home with meds and asked his nurse to drive me home. How’s that for CARE? All it cost me was $600 pesos, or about $50.!!!

Every day that I live in Tequisquiapan, I come to adore my new place. The small private hospital down the road, run very efficiently by Dr. Rubio with the help of other medical staff, is within walking distance (except after a blackout...) There’s even a dentist and a small pharmacy, as well as surgery facilities. Besides, where in the world would a lady be welcomed by her doctor with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My “Casita” – The Outside

It has been a few weeks that I have promised to take photos of my new residence, the reason being that I was hoping to show a completed project. It is still a work in progress. So, without more ado, here is what I have so far.

The exterior driveway is very long, bordered on both sides by “llamarada”, a quick-growing vine with bright orange flowers that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

Stone wall and long driveway

When I moved in, the wall was covered with flowers. The gardener, who is more of a painter than a gardener, ruthlessly cut off most of them with a machete. Fortunately, the plant will not die, just hold off growing as many flowers until the spring.

The entrance is fronted by a brick patio with, on the left, an old mesquite tree and bougainvillea that I hope to see blooming in the spring, provided that a winter frost doesn’t kill them. For now, they only show foliage. Hmmm, Queenie ENJOYS the place so much that in retrospect, I realize how hard it has been for her to adapt to the desert. Hot and dry during the day, it turned quite cold at night once the sun was down.

Front patio and entrance door

Here’s a quickie about the climate in Tequisquiapan. The town of about 50,000 people is at 5,600 feet of elevation. It is surrounded by green mountains, a delightful sight, but an impediment to the early rays of the sun. The days are for the most part sunny and warm but can be chilly by the early hours of the morning. I will have to get a gas heater for the winter.

To the right of the front patio is a grassy area of which Queenie is quite fond. She alternately roasts her hide, then goes for the shade of the covered utility-laundry room.

More photos to come on a later post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Keeping in Touch

I have to make an aside from my little adventures here to thank all those who have remained faithful to my blog despite my prolonged absence following my surgery and during my readying to trek across the continent to reach my new home, Mexico!

It is always comforting to hear that one’s adventures and the recounting of them may be of interest or help to others. All that I can say is, thank you! It means the world to me, whoever you are and wherever you may be. Your comments will always be appreciated. Writing is a passion that can be fulfilled only in solitude. Yet the words may as well be spoken alone in the wind unless they reach another human being.

Now that I am reasonably settled in, you can count on regular posts that will include pictures of the sites, and of my not yet fully furnished casita.

Tequisquiapan, Mexico --- A Reality Check

Please get ready for a bumpy ride and a long post. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, which is why there was no post for quite a while. My apologies.

Now that I have lived in my little “casita” for more than a month and been around Tequisquiapan, even ventured out to San Juan del Rio and Querétaro, I feel that I should add a word of warning to the unsuspecting who, like me, took at their word the descriptions and assurances of some who publish claims about Tequis, many of which need further investigation and questioning.

There is NO sizeable chunk of English-speaking residents in Tequis, unlike Chappalah, Ajijic, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende and other cities that count a number of expats but are pricier. There are NO books in languages other than Spanish. Learning a new language is both challenging and time-consuming. Make no mistake about this. SPANISH MUST BE LEARNED if one wants to socialize and is without a Spanish-speaking partner. Entertainment, unless one counts walking around the plaza, going to one of the “tianguis” or outdoor markets, little bodegas, is practically non-existent, except for the numerous raucous fiestas. Movies (or shows, as is sometimes written) are all in Spanish.

Now, there is a world of difference between trekking on this lovely continent in a fully equipped motor home and living in a stationary home in a country and climate so different from one’s own. Ask questions? Sure, but which ones? Like, Are there kitchen cupboards? WHAT! A drug cabinet in the bathroom? WHY IN THE WORLD NOT! How big is the fridge? YOU MUST BE KIDDING, NO FRIDGE! . . .NO STOVE EITHER! Now, Tequis can be quite cold at night and early morning throughout winter. THERE IS NO SOURCE OF HEATING OTHER THAN THE SUN! Electric blankets are a must.

So, here goes. . . Unless one comes here with VERY comfortable savings, one should count on getting broke real fast. Houses for rent (I was in no position to buy any, I already had one on wheels, which cannot be sold as yet) come with a roof, walls, doors, and windows. Oh, and a bathroom or two. NO fridge, NO cupboards, NO stove, NO mosquito screens most of the time, NO appliance of any sort. And this house is no exception. Almost all that are destined for Mexicans (or expats. . .) come bare of all except a roof, walls, doors and windows, some like mine with huge closets, fortunately. No second-hand bargains in Tequis either. Furniture is lovingly passed from one generation to the other.

Therefore, besides furniture, the initial outlay of cash is beyond a surprise. It is a RUDE AWAKENING. If the place needs painting, it is often at the renter’s expense. PLUS the absolutely gorgeous ceilings made of bricks and in the shape of an arc up towards the center need to be occasionally scrubbed with a wire brush, after which, a sealant needs to be applied, both inside and out. In my case, the landlady ABSOLUTELY REFUSED to cover the cost ($300.00) of inside sealing, which added to painting the place, the purchase of appliances and furniture, is breaking the bank. All of these I found out at my own expense. And, it was costly! Still is. But despite all, I am settling in and not considering moving back to the uncertainties of life as a vagabond. Perhaps a wise move at age 70.

Another rather unpleasant and painful surprise for a pet person like me was the number of roaming dogs, some mangy, many very tiny and in obvious need of anything to eat. It will most likely be from garbage left early on the street (not advisable). I witnessed a seriously hurt tiny poodle dragging its paralyzed rear end on the cobblestone sidewalk. For a few minutes, it took refuge under my motor home then dragged itself down the road. I doubt that it is still alive. The sight of most will just break your heart.

There are definite pluses to be had in Tequis. So now that I have vented out, let me state how delightful the qualities that Tequis delivers can be. Just as venting came with the house, so does merit. For a similar accommodation up North, the price would be at least triple, most likely quadruple, or more.

Also, Tequis is not a bustling city with hardly any elbow room to tackle a sidewalk. Its colonial charm is undeniable. Flowers abound. The COURTEOUSNESS of the people here is reminiscent of old-world manners. Every person one walks across will salute you with a “Buenos dias”, or a Buenas tardes”. The children are well-dressed, superbly clean and wonder of wonders, POLITE!

If a visit to a doctor is required, the doctor will invite you into his office, sit down and another wonder of wonders, engage you in a dialogue querying you about your complaint then issuing his diagnostic or sending you for further tests, with explanations. Time is not an issue. Many drugs do not require a prescription and are reasonably priced.

And yes, your garbage bags will be picked on a daily or on every second day basis. But the garbage thrown by the wayside and in vacant lots WILL NOT. Let it be a word of caution to the unprepared or NOT warned, as I was. Taxis are cheap, 20 pesos (a little under $2.00) to take you anywhere in the city, no tips required. TaxiVans are 5 pesos, or about 50 cents. Help is very affordable.

There are all kinds of little “tienditas”, or convenience stores that are very reasonable and store many items, from Raid to fresh tortillas of the day to detergent and receipt booklets. All that I have seen so far are impeccably clean. Tiny hardware stores stock an incredible number of items considering their sizes. And one can find them within a stone’s throw in any district. The people one meets on the street are all impeccably clean. Boys and girls all wear their school uniforms and all appear clean and freshly pressed. 

But more than anything, what impresses me the most of the Mexican people I’ve met in Tequis is their amiability, their willingness to help any stranger in their midst, the old-world politeness and charming manners that have disappeared from our frazzled and equality-obsessed Northern cultures. So, is there a culture shock arriving in Mexico as other than a tourist? Undeniably. In my case, it hovered between pleasure and pain, often yoyo’ing from one to the other in the same day. Are there hardships based on misinformation, lack or incompleteness of it? Certainly. Could these have been investigated prior to coming here? That, I’m not so sure about. Coming from either the U.S. or Canada where there are certain standards and amenities expected in any rental other than fully furnished, one would not think of asking whether a fridge or a stove or even mosquito screens come with the rental. In Tequis, unless one is WELL acquainted with a local resident who speaks English, this kind of information would be difficult, if not impossible, to find before arriving. I didn’t find out until I was here. I agree that it may not be everyone’s reality check. It was mine.

In short, this is a post destined to anyone who comes here charmed out of their socks and is excusably ignorant of what questions to ask. A tourist has few objectives other than to enjoy the place. But anyone wanting to settle down will be hard put to find out all that is necessary to do so unless fluent in Spanish or having the (constant at first) help of a friend or acquaintance with true Tequis experience. It would be most unfortunate to find all this out at a point of no return. Which is my case.  Which is the reason for my long and detailed post. Knowledge is power. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Settling down in Tequis. . . a start with a Bang!

Getting to know another country, with different customs, traditions, language especially, need not be an arduous or daunting task. It is a task, however. And it is not learned overnight.

My arrival in Tequis started with a bang. Literally. In actualidad!  (Oh, my! I’m either getting better in Spanish or it’s actually beginning to reside in my brain. Who knows?) I was unsure of where to go. The people who had made Tequis known to me were not immediately available to guide me on arrival. Their address was on a street that started out ok but soon became impassable for my RV, it was so narrow. I had to go in reverse, didn’t know how to ask for guidance in Spanish, so began to S L O W L Y back up to look for a parking space elsewhere on my own. This after driving all day and being stopped by the Policia for driving on the elevated where TRUCKS (RV’s count as such) were not allowed. Tired doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Just then I heard a screeching sound. . . That’s when my heart did a flip flop in an unknown language and almost got lost. The small rack hooked onto my hitch, and holding empty propane bottles and a hose, had made contact with a vehicular yacht of impressive proportions, in a spectacularly bright yellow colour. The scratch was highly visible on that colour and measured about 4 inches.

One agitated Senor emerged from a house with a devastated look on his face repeating that it was his car, “…mi carro, mi carro!” I got increasingly devastated myself. What a start in a new country! From his house, after attempting to contact the insurance people (I had just paid for a one year insurance policy a couple of days before) and getting nowhere after half an hour, we unanimously decided to hang up. He then made me the offer to look after the damage himself for a measly 1,000 pesos (a bit under $100), to my mind, an offer that I couldn’t refuse! An exchange of pesos and good will took place, I thanked them for their civility, then proceeded to park my RV just around the corner from their house on a street wide enough to allow for traffic in either direction. I stayed there for about a week until I found my new “casita” and moved right in front of it. Now that I know better, it appears clear that I was had, or so I’ve been told! The scratch, according to Mexican “experts”, could have been fixed for a maximum of $300 pesos. Live and learn.

Once settled in, I had expected to hear from his family, as we had left with such good feelings. I’d given them my new Tequis phone number. I’d met his wife, a charming vivacious lady who plied me with her jelly confections, and his son who introduced himself and added “….a sus ordenes”. Of course, I’d been immediately charmed. When does a self-respecting woman hear a man say “at your orders” and stays absolutely silent with a gaping mouth unsure of being connected with proper hearing and a brain?

Thus began my love affair with Mexico and its charming customs. Surprisingly however, I never heard from either the matron of the house or any of her family. I’ll have to stop by later, preferably in a vehicle other than my RV.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Getting to a New Country and Oopsies. . .

I know that I’m already here in Mexico, but I’d like to comment on the travel coming here. Also about the answers I found out about Mexico insurance, the roads, parking… oh, the parking! and other concerns about getting into Mexico in an RV. It may be of help to someone.

I was ready for anything, or so I thought. I had read some writing about Tequis and decided that it was my final destination. So I went right ahead and planned my move through the North American continent after serious preparation, and it worked. I had the tools.

The travel was actually ideal. I had an atlas published for or by Wal-Mart and planned my daily travel with a view to using every free overnight place at a Super Center Wal-Mart, yet avoiding the larger cities traffic. Also, I had seen the sights in earlier travels. As an aside, I’d like to state how I appreciate the gigantic store chain for its amiability in accepting RV’ing overnighters. Not only does it provide a one-stop shop and a quick bite for tired drivers, it is also safe with a security guard on wheels keeping an eye on the well-lit parking lot all night. A definite plus for a woman traveling alone. There are many other overnight options, but I chose Wal-Mart Super Centers and never regretted a single night spent there (I had many). Most are close to interstate highways. A definite PLUS.

Now, since I had absolutely no experience driving through Mexico, I took care of all mechanical concerns in the US. Isn’t the unknown always a bit scary? I found most of I was looking for right there in Del Rio,TX, (except for a place to stay overnight unless I was ready to dish out $28. a night for using space only) and headed out for the Eagle Pass Wal-Mart for the night. Incidentally, although there were few services there, I found (cheap) Mexican insurance there. In retrospect though, I should have signed up for insurance in Del Rio where there were more choices, then headed out to Eagle Pass. At the insurance office a kindly soul gave me a map of Mexico. No matter that I needed a serious magnifying glass to read it, nevertheless it was a nice gesture and I appreciated it. A traveler welcomes any kindness with gratitude so far away from any homey feeling or familiar surroundings.

I had read that route 57 going from the border to Mexico City was for seasoned drivers only, at least in the earlier part from the border. So I’d like to comment on that. As an aside, I’d like to say that most people head down to the Pacific Coast tourist areas from either Matamoros or Tijuana. My goal was a bit different, heading down the colonial central part of Mexico. Unsure as to whether the toll road would lead me back to 57 that I was heading for, I simply took 57 from the border. What surprised me was that at every border that I had ever crossed, all kinds of papers had to be produced and checked. But here, there were a few friendly “officials” and even fewer questions, but no papers other than a passport check, no stamp. As, always, the main point of interest was Queenie! I sometimes wonder whether her attracting that much attention may be a handicap, making people forget other things, such as stamping a passport! Oh well. . . I went on somewhat puzzled, without any indications as to what to expect or  warned as to what to produce further on.

Onward I went until a number of miles later, I noticed a military station right by the wayside, soldiers so easily identifiable by uniform and armed to the yin/yang. I had not been flagged and there had been no indications about the Banjercito building. So, I stopped and asked when and where would I be asked to produce “papers” and was told that I had passed the place right by!!! OMG, I could have had the police chasing me! Not an auspicious beginning, to say the least. Quickly and with the guidance of a military man, I made a U-turn and headed right back to where I SHOULD have noticed some kind of official building but had not, and without a single soul on the road to STOP me. May this be a warning to the unwary. One has to LOOK FOR the Banjercito. From Piedras Negras, it is a number of miles farther South.

Back at the Banjercito, all my papers were checked, a “holograma” granted me a 6 month stay and with relief that no one was eager to fine me, or worse to arrest me, I was about to stick the holograma onto my windshield when I saw the lady from the Customs Office waving frantically at me and telling me “No, no, no, holograma no good, different papers!” With my gut doing a somersault, back inside we went where she said that in the case of RV’s, the length of stay was different: 10 years!   Eventually, a new holograma was issued and I was finally ready to legally trek onto Mexican soil. Yet the paper still states 180 days to this day. Length of stay remains a mystery that I’ll elucidate later on. (Sorry. Right now, I’m busy with the casita.)

Route 57 from the border to a bit before Saltillo is narrow, used mainly by trucks going in both directions. If I’d had no experience in  driving within inches of trucks and keeping up with their speed, I guess I would have been terminally frazzled. It is not for the faint of heart, is all that I can say. Now, let’s talk about the shoulders. Why? For the simple reason that, for the most part, there aren’t any! But it doesn’t last for miles and miles. It just feels like it. . .The road is best used for truckers or RV’ers who have had experience with narrow roads and LOTS of truck traffic. So in the end, 57 was rather ok. There were a few sheltered picnic tables along the way and I used one. Not a soul other than moi (and Queenie, of course!) A rest was required at that point. And used.

I’m going to stop here. I made it to Saltillo and spent the night in the RV camping grounds behind the Hotel Imperial right downtown. Again, as an aside, when in doubt in Mexico, flag a taxicab and ask him to drive ahead of you to where you’re supposed to end up at. It is cheap and very secure. At the very least, you’ll reach your destination for a few pesos.

At the Imperial, I found  a level lot, few services other than dump, but I did welcome a warm shower and quiet under leafy trees. Queenie just loved the place! I guess this should qualify as ok. I honestly cannot state what is right for any woman traveling alone since I didn’t chance it and used recommended places only. I know that a number of men just stop by and rest for the night, but as a woman alone, I was unsure as to where to park, so I used recommended camping spots, even though all that I needed was a level parking lot. I felt safer that way. Men have it easier. . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Temis to Tequis

I was born in Temiscouata, hence Temis. The news is. . . that I have elected to establish myself in Tequisquiapan, known as Tequis, in the central part of colonial Mexico.  Actually, elected might be a misnomer—life simply happened, as plans to recover full use of my right arm were a tad presumptuous. Further surgery might be necessary. . . if I can stand more pain. . . that’s life!

As much as I would like to comment on the full-timer life, it will have to wait for a full disclosure, a chapter in itself. I will endeavour to keep it concise and as brief as possible. And realistic. Later. 

Not that I will abandon rv’ing. Just not full-time because of the handicap. Right now though, I want to rant and rave about Tequisquiapan. George, of vagabonders_supreme, loved Tequis enough to spend a full month here. The climate is the kind one dreams of after a lifetime spent in the snowbound Great White North. Flowers abound everywhere. I swear that if you stuck a bare stick in the soil, within a couple of weeks you’d have growth.

While my motor home is temporarily secured in my neighbour’s back yard, I am busy settling in my little “casita”.  Cleaning, painting, picking furniture, decorating, I’m having a one-armed ball! Once my project is completed, I’ll have lots of photos of Tequis and my delicious abode to publish, for a start. For the impatient ones, I’d suggest you Google Tequisquiapan to get an idea of the place. 

On the back burner for a couple of months is rv’ing. The choice of destinations makes me almost delirious. From the Yucatan and warm waters of the Caribbean, to a plethora of archaeological sites, silent witnesses of life thousands of years past, to the rain forest, to villages where a craft has been passed on through generations for 500 years or more, to the awesome beaches on the Pacific, I will be rv’ing for YEARS! And I will publish photos and commentaries of every place, it’s a promise. Vagabonding is in one’s blood. As a descendant of sea-faring invading Vikings, so it is in mine. So I will keep it up with the difference that I will have a home to come back to. In a sense, I’ll be getting the best of both worlds.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I’m baaack. . .

And so is Queenie. What a trek it has been! I had surgery on June 18th to remove bone particles left from a previous injury to my right elbow. The surgery was only half successful, but it had to be tried. I did allow myself some pampering, yet decision time was soon at hand as reality had to be faced. I would not recover full use of my right arm. I would need help for a number of chores. Pain was a faithful companion. Driving full-time would present an insurmountable challenge. As already did maintenance, shopping, cooking, cleaning, various chores that I so wanted to accomplish as before but clearly could not.

After taking all summer to order my body to respond to my liking, I had to give in. It wasn’t working. While a return to the desert with my many full-timer friends and the numerous activities at Imperial Dam was pulling hard on my heart strings, it wasn’t likely to happen. Friends or not, I remained the sole driver, sole doer of chores, and that presented definite logistical problems. Hardest to contemplate was giving up my autonomy, my independence, my freedom. All that I had planned for my retirement years.

I had tried to settle down in the Great White North—a dismal failure. Full-time rv’ing was too risky, a near impossibility. But where to go? What to do with my rig? Where would my Queenie be accepted? All questions to which no easy answers were readily coming to mind.

Then a suggestion from full-timer George of vagabonders_supreme made me check a site put up by a retiree who had settled in Tequisquiapan, in the heart of colonial Mexico. An idea was soon germinating while ultrasound and electrotherapy were buzzing me into a new realm of thinking. A door had closed, but perhaps a window was opening. . .

Monday, June 1, 2009

Requiem for my Internet Connection

Last Friday my Verizon air card stopped functioning. I had been very happy with Verizon giving me access to broadband in Arizona (yes, even in the desert), and equally so in Alberta. I called them immediately and was told that a new one could be shipped, but it had to be to a US address only. To make a long story short, I could not get a new air card and a service activation unless I was in the US.

This means that I'll have to use the public library to post to my blog--the only access to the internet I can have for the moment. I'll try to figure something out, but in the meantime, I'll be posting only a couple of times a week, and cannot post photos.

My sincere apologies to my readers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Bird Story (relax, it’s the last one. . . I think)

The official bird of Alberta is the Great Horned Owl. This is a photo of a mother who had made her nest in the hollow of a large dead cottonwood. Year after year, she’d return to her nest to raise her chicks, usually one. I’m told that one year though, she hatched three and kept all alive until they could fly from the nest. The following year however, there was only one owlet, a fluff ball with eyes. Fascinated, I kept an eye on the little one as it kept traveling along the top branch, back and forth, apparently careful not to venture too far while mom kept watch over her offspring.

One day I did not see the owlet and thought that it had fled the nest until no less than 5 adult owls gathered on nearby trees kept hooting in alarm. I carefully approached the dead tree and peered over the bush. There it was! It had fallen and could not be helped as the surrounding rose bushes were too dense for an adult owl to land and too thorny for a human to attempt rescuing it. The owlet looked helpless and I decided that I would call the Wild Bird Rescue organization if, in an hour or so, the owlet was still on the ground.

But this little chick was a survivor. It remained motionless for some very tense minutes while the adults kept hooting. The trunk of the dead tree was impossible to climb and obviously the owlet could not fly as yet. However, next to the dead tree was a more accessible and slimmer one. The smart owlet picked that one to painstakingly make its way up, mom standing guard over its progress. Using its talons on the smoother bark, it moved up toward the next branch, resting for a while as it reached it, until hours later, it had successfully made it to the top branch and to mom. And there it remained, the nest now unreachable yet just a couple of feet away. This photo of mom on the tree next to the nest was taken under very overcast skies.

A few weeks later, both were gone. The following year, the dead tree fell to the ground.

I haven’t heard any owl hooting this year.

More about Birds

With spring warmth and sunshine, suddenly the air is filled with bird calls and songs. Yesterday, it seemed as if a piece of the sky had just landed in front of my RV; a gorgeous Mountain Bluebird. You can see it and hear its call, not exactly melodious I must add, at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mountain_Bluebird/sounds

I had noticed a pair last year so I suppose they return to old nests. Red-Tail Hawks glide ever so graceful on warm air drafts, not a single feather fluttering. In the nearby field Northern Harriers watch over their nest and swoop down on any interloper. Hmm, that would be Queenie. She remains unflappable under these threats, too intent on diving head first into gopher holes.

I spent a few days at a wilderness park determined to identify birds and their sounds. It’s neither easy nor obvious. One was particularly intriguing; a bubbling sound like that of someone softly blowing into a liquid with a straw. Thanks to Google, I found a site that identified various bird calls and songs, and learned that the Brown-headed Cowbird was the culprit. Neither pretty nor very nice, this bird leaves its eggs in other birds’ nest to have them foster parent its young. But it does make a lovely sound. Check it out at http://www.learnbirdsongs.com/birdsong.php?id=22

Another sound was that of the Gray Catbird. Very elusive, it favours dense foliage and is but a blur when it flies into even denser foliage. A couple of years ago, I kept searching for what I thought was an abandoned kitten when I heard a mew in the bush. I had already rescued a couple of cats dropped by their owners so my reaction was natural. Finally, I realized there was no cat when immediately after the mew, I saw a gray bird swiftly emerging from the foliage and flying away. You can see it and hear it at: http://allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray_Catbird/sounds .

At the site, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to hear the mew sound posted just below the song. I’m afraid that this will conclude my attempts at identifying birds by their call. It proved to be too confusing, except for catbirds, mourning doves, owls, and brown-headed cowbirds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Aside about Posts

This is just an aside about publishing. My source of electricity consists of solar panels and an inverter. I also have a generator but I find it noisy, which deters me from reflecting and writing. Moreover, I do not frequent RV parks. So, whenever the days are seriously overcast, as they have been for way too long, my batteries do not get completely charged. Since I have a PC, not a laptop, it must be plugged into a source of electrical power; it is a load my batteries cannot take for too long. Hence my inability to publish.

I do love to stay in contact and apologize for being so long away from my blog. Here's to hoping that spring is finally here! And sunshine! And warmth!

Memories of Oregon. . . Revisited

The weather has been awful with rain, freezing temperatures, and hail. No choice but to stay inside warm and toasty. So, in preparation of posts about Travels with Shermie, I’ve been reading my travel journals and got a shock, not a surprise but a shock! Do we have selective memory and recall only the good times? It seems as if we shrug away sombre memories relegating them to a foggy zone over which only bright images are superimposed and spring to mind as we recall days gone by.

The travels that I recall with fondness are not reflected in my diaries! For instance, that day in Oregon when the most amazing double rainbow graced the sky; that memory is indelibly etched in my mind. The rain droplets shone like so many diamonds on the tree leaves, on the grass, even on the picnic table. And I took it as a good omen. Yet my journals report only the rain pelting down, the gray, almost black skies, the cold seeping through every pore of my body. And the mud.

In my mind’s eye appear my two dogs, Buddy the tall red Doberman, and Mandi the small dirty blonde Lhasapoo, playing ecstatically on the tall dunes of the beach, having the time of their life. Yet my journal notes are about the German tourists who exclaimed, “Tiere?” (animals?) as they watched the dogs exit Shermie, then queried me about traveling alone, astonishment slowly giving way to clear disapproval as they shook their head, silently walking away from the van.

I have to ask myself, was I naively oblivious to the realities of traveling alone given the uncertainties of the road and the definite restrictions of a shoestring budget? My answer to this is “Hope springs eternal…”, as declared in Alexander Pope’s poem. It’s been so often repeated that it’s risking a cliché. But there has to be a bit of truth to all those truisms, otherwise they wouldn’t be used again and again to immediately conjure up an image in everyone’s mind.

I may have recorded the mishaps, yet my memories are of fellow travelers’ generosity of spirit and help in dire circumstances. And creativity, ingenuousness in my making do without the big bucks. So, yes, I do revisit memories. Just as I’m sure everyone does or else we would never dare embark on adventures that in the end, will have fostered personal growth and made life worth living. The tragedy is not in the dying, but in the dying without having truly lived.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Introducing Shermie

When I was young, I had a dream of retiring at age 55 and begin traveling along the Atlantic Coast from the Canadian Maritimes down through the US to Mexico, Central America, and all the way south to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of Argentina. I would then return northward along the Pacific Coast all the way up to Alaska and end up wherever I’d decide once the journey was over. The dream did not materialize but a 1974 VW Westfalia did (Yosemite Yellow, as I recall, which isn’t too hard). It had a popup top over a king size mattress. It was equipped with a mini-closet, a mini-sink, a mini-stove, a mini-fridge, and a mini-table top. My first home on wheels!

Delighted with the possibilities, I thought that I could morph the old dream into a more attainable goal, taking into account my finances, or lack thereof. But first I had to fix the van, both mechanically and aesthetically. The running bottom on the sides had deteriorated and was pitted from rust and other assaults on the body. A friend offered to cover it all with sheet metal affixed to the still solid sides of the body with pop rivets. It sounded like a splendid idea. I bought the material and he got to work as soon as the van was out of the shop.

The project completed, he drove the van back to my place and proudly showed off his handy work, suggesting that I spray paint it whatever color I wanted (black) after a coat of primer. My first reaction was, “...my goodness, it looks like a Sherman tank!” The name was so fitting that it remained, abbreviated to Shermie. Ready at last, I began planning my first long road trek, delighted to finally put to rest my wandering soul.

Or so I thought. . .

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wild Rose Country

This caption appears on all Alberta license plates. It is a well-deserved one. For my part, I have yet to understand the proliferation of these blooms in a climate that is both harsh and cold in the winter, hot and dry in the summer, and too often lacking in precipitation.

I am watching with fascination the return to life of the wild roses, almost as if they were doomed never to green up and bloom again. Right now, the wind is fierce and cold, despite valiant efforts from the sun to create a more spring-like environment. The trees are raising bare skeletal branches to the sky, probably in supplication as I am for a Real Spring. One must approach really close to them to detect tiny buds that look as if they were shivering, attempting to hide from the arctic wind.

How such a climate can foster the profusion of wild roses is a mystery to me. However, once the blooms appear, they appear everywhere. I took a photo of the most improbable rose bush at a disaffected road end. It had made a home for itself in a hole that used to hold a guard post, right in the middle of the pavement!

Which proves my contention that, despite all that we humans do to deface our beautiful planet, this Earth Mother’s dedication to life rushes in to restore beauty every little chance she gets.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Praise of the Kindness of Strangers

There have been more instances than I’m comfortable speaking about when, save for the kindness of strangers, I would have been in deep trouble, of whatever nature it might have been. At times, I have been overwhelmed by how kind and helpful most people are.

Right now, I am benefiting from such acts of kindness. In Southern Alberta, most RV parks open around the third weekend of May only, as snow and cold can occur any month of the year. Besides, I know for a fact that most ranchers and farmers start very early in the year praying for moisture. The area is very dry with often no more than 22% humidity. So many ardent prayers do not go unanswered and April is sometimes the month with the most precipitation. Which brings me to my predicament. . .

For the past 8 to 10 days we have been experiencing night temperatures falling below freezing. I needed a shoreline electric connection since the batteries power diminishes in direct proportion to the lack of degrees at night. A friend graciously offered to have me stay by her sister and brother-in-law’s and connect to their house current. I gratefully accepted after I’d been refused by a campground that was to remain closed in response to my request for power that I would pay for, even with the gate wide open in the middle of a snow storm. It became an almost life-saving gesture as I suffered a serious attack of asthma triggered by the cold, which necessitated medical intervention.

So here’s to expressing my deeply felt gratitude to Goldina, Gerrylee, and Jason for their kindness. May they and their families be blessed in all ways.

Perhaps it is true that A Stranger is a Friend you haven’t met yet.

Donkey Doings in the Desert

We are warned by BLM against feeding wild animals in the desert, but there seemed to be nothing advising against bird feeders. So, I put a hummingbird feeder a distance away from my RV. My first choice had been next to a window to observe them more closely but it proved to be so attractive to dozens of hairy bees that I had to move it. I was far from expecting that donkeys would discover it until I noticed a pair slowly making their way towards my site.

One was a female (she might have been pregnant judging by her rounded belly) the other a male, perhaps her baby’s daddy? In two steps she was next to the hummingbird feeder that she started licking right away. It eventually ran dry but she was smart and not to be deterred. She finally figured out that by swinging the feeder from side to side, the sweet water would come out. She kept at it until it eventually attracted the male’s attention. He got closer to investigate but she was not about to give up the juice or the trick. Her posture changed, ears drawn backward, a fierceness in her countenance that left no doubt as to her intentions, “Butt out Bucko, this one is mine.” He got the message ok but, as any self-respecting male would do, he had to save face and began nibbling on the seeds left on the ground for birds.

Well, this is the story, these are the pictures taken on a hazy day.

Donkey -Feeder PICT0007 (2) PICT0008 (2)

I think there is no need for captions, body language is enough!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Learning the Hard Way

When I reached retirement age, I was suddenly faced with the loss of my house and a sizeable reduction of income. Fortunately, I had built enough equity to buy a used Winnebago Minnie Winnie that had been parked for two years. The dealer through whom I dealt assured me that all was working fine and since he knew the owner personally, I took his word for it.

After reading the service manual from cover to cover, I went ahead and filled one tank with water, the other with propane, and went shopping for doodads that I had been told were essential to the RV'ing lifestyle. When I stepped back into the RV, I found the floor thoroughly soaked. Some 30 gallons of water had seeped through the improperly winterized plumbing system. A wet vac took care of the immediate problem but in time, I had to replace the now warped rotten sub-floor and the carpet. Sadly, that proved to be only the beginning. . .

Next, the fridge failed to work properly. Three electronic boards were replaced for $$$ and still the fridge would not remain lit unless I'd jiggle the button repeatedly. A thorough investigation by a new "specialist" eventually revealed a ground screw that failed to connect thoroughly because of some coating that was removed by sandpaper, period. I learned later that the eyebrow board seldom has to be replaced. Now I have two.

To my great sorrow and shame, I admit to having a deplorable trait of character. I tend to trust people who come equipped with the proper title or accreditation and present with enough aplomb to make me feel either dumb, inadequate, or as a know-nothing-at-all female too advanced in years to be given so much information. Particularly with things RV or mechanical. But I'm learning. . .

Learning that full timing RV'ers have a wealth of information and experience. I don't have to make all the mistakes by myself. So now, I consult two or more full timers. If the information sounds contradictory, I check with others until I have a solid grasp of the solution to my problem. I got to know many in my travels but more so in the desert where many spend the winter, as do I. Sadly, the road to acquire experience was at first rocky. And costly. Now I know better.


This is all about my sweet giant of a dog, Queenie. She's an Old English Mastiff who served the first 4 to 5 years of her life as a breeding machine, producing 7 litters. She was spayed, passed on to a new family where she was welcome for less than a year, then on to another for a couple of months. I had seen her photo posted in Kijiji under "Pets to Give or Donate", but since I still had another two months to remain in a downtown apartment where no pets were allowed, I refrained from calling even though my heart was yearning to have her as my dog. Then, a week or so before I left to return living in my RV full time, I checked on Kijiji and there she was! I picked her up on April 23 of 2008, a week after her 6th birthday. We celebrated her first anniversary of companionship with a big meaty bone for her and a cool drink for me.

She is characterized more by what she isn't or doesn't do. She's not a barker except to express her indignation at coyotes. She's not a drooler, although many Mastiffs can be. She's protective, but not aggressive. She's super friendly and loves most people on a first meet. She stays near on a walk without a leash where she's allowed by law. She is definitely laid back. The only problematic behaviour is her lack of tolerance for any other dog. But I understant that having had to protect her puppies for years on end, that behaviour is hard-wired in her brain. She has a definite sense of humour and most people are immediately entertained by her grin and affectionate display.

Her full pedigreed name is Venus Queen of Blue Grass, but we did away with Venus and adopted her middle name as Queenie. This name suits her disposition perfectly. After all, she has documents attesting to her nobility. She occasionally usurps my chair, as befits one watching the created world with a regal countenance.

I consider myself lucky to have her with me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Snowbirding Anyone?

It's hard to believe that it's been only 9 days since I left the Southwest where the temperatures were in the high 80's during the day followed by cool nights that made sleep so comfortable. Then the Utah elevations inevitably happened. Three snowfalls, one fully qualifying as a snowstorm, followed me almost halfway through the state. All on the same day. Montana was brrrr cold and the Monida Pass was icily white. Finally I got to Lethbridge, Alberta where the thermometer was a glorious 77 degrees (that would be 25 Celsius but I like 77 better). I was doubly relieved when a friend from Utah told me that I had escaped a serious snowfall of some 8 inches in Provo. Was I happy to be out of the white stuff.

Then last night, a torrential rain was followed by wind and, yes, you've guessed it, SNOW! By morning, icicles more than a foot long (it's even worse in metric...30 cm) were hanging in front of my windshield and my RV was covered with ice. In some places as thick as three inches, please don't ask me to go metric here! As I write this, I'm huddling in my RV with a measly 23 degrees temperature knocking at my door (that would be minus 5 degrees Celsius). I'm told that we're to lose some of those degrees. How can we lose degrees we don't even have? Another snowfall is predicted through the weekend. What now, am I a magnet for the white stuff?

Guess this adds a new meaning to the term snowbird! Perhaps it should read the other way around, bird followed by snow, no matter where the bird ends up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reflections on the Road from Salmon to Leadore, ID

On my previous trekking through the Northwest, I had been struck by a curious element and I recall it today as I am going through Idaho. Each place, regardless of its size or relative importance, has a unique claim to fame. I have never been too fond of history and, except for reading biographies of famous people in history, I hated to memorize so many dates, battles, feats of conquest or destruction. Yet, as I trudged along I was constantly assailed by signs recounting history in snippets, even along the most remote and difficult shortcut, namely the one that exacted two hubcaps as a right of passage. The signs informed me that I had been following the Lewis and Clark trail at times and that of Chief Joseph and his Nez Perces at others. In Tendoy, named after a famous Lemhi Chief, a sign sporting the name Fort Lemhi related how a group of Mormon pioneers settled there, painstakingly irrigating the area to plant gardens, building houses and eventually, an adobe fort, only to be chased away by some natives turned hostile. I learned about Sacajawea and her brother Chief Cameahwait and the Shoshone tribes of the area and how they had virtually saved Lewis and Clark's expedition (...and lives?) by lending them horses and advising them (Lewis and Clark, not the horses) about edible plants.

It is difficult to imagine the extent of the pioneers' courage and fortitude going through uncharted territories, facing untold climate hardships, having to survive picking either food or poison among unknown plants. I believe that we, the nomads of today's paved roads (well. . . some are), of rest areas with facilities, fast food joints, instant locomotion, and a warm bed wherever we stop, are seriously riding on our ancestors' shirttails, whether we realize it or not.

Monday, April 13, 2009

On the Road Again

Hmm. . . I did read a great many travel adventures, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Travels with Charlie, by John Steinbeck, and many by Paul Theroux who is not only a seasoned traveler but a splendid writer, in my humble opinion. Lately Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I read while living in a downtown apartment, rekindled my yearning for what I call the GO factor and sent me back to live in my rig year-round. A book that I hold dear to my heart was given to me by a fellow traveler years ago while I spent a winter on Padre Island in Texas. Its title is The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin. I particularly cherish this last one because its author suggests that we truly experience our humanity as nomads. The Buddha, the prophet Mohammed, Jesus and his apostles, all were nomads, and these are only a few who left their mark on humankind. To quote an Indian proverb, Life is a bridge. Cross over it, but build no house on it.

But the very first book relating extraordinary adventures by a woman early in the last century was written (and lived) by Alexandra David-Néel, a French woman who traveled all the way to Llasa and throughout Tibet and eventually became a full-fledged lama. She recounts her travels in My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City. Enthralled, I read it while in my teens. It initiated my thirst for travel and left me with a yearning that will die probably only when I do.

And so, today I'm on the road again.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Migrating Birds Rest Area

I have always been fascinated by all kinds of animals from the time I was a little girl. For me the need to have one or more animal companions is almost visceral it is so overwhelming (and by the way, I know that I'm not the only one feeling this way...) that I have too many fingers to account for the number of years that I was without one. One day my last husband remarked how I was totally enthralled at the sight of birds, a reaction of which I had been unaware till then. How hard it is to truly know oneself. . . Eventually I grew to realize how I envied them the ability to travel over land and sea, to escape gravity for just a while and soar high up, to just GO. And yes, I was totally enchanted by Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Come to think of it, this would explain why I opted to live in a house on wheels, my rather lacking in the wings department. For the GO factor. And why I am so enamored of the Desert Southwest and its deep canyons, washes, and countless mesas, its wide horizons and clear skies. And its wild life, permanent or passing by. The area where I stay in the winter months is a rest area for migrating birds. I started feeding them and their numbers grew so much it led me to suspect that there must a gossip line where to find the good grub.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Smokey Cubs - Leadore, Idaho

Later that day, the sky suddenly filled with dark clouds, presaging a storm, perhaps. They quickly disappeared but not before the sun had slipped below the cloudy mass, igniting the hills a bright coral with the sky slowly turning to a deep magenta. The colours were beyond description, the photos failing do justice to the overwhelming beauty surrounding me.

Montana to Idaho

While I was in Hamilton, I asked Len, who had driven a semi for years, how I could manage the steep descents without constantly applying the brakes. He suggested I go downhill in second gear. I had done just that in the VW Westphalia I'd had before but was afraid of popping something or overheating. Guess I was intimidated by the size of the motor-home, a far cry from a VW van. But I followed his advice and managed serious downhill grades like a pro. Thanks Len.

Made it almost to Leadore, Idaho. A scant few yards before I reached the place though, my rig stopped and would go no further. Had to get a new fuel pump. The work was impeccable and way less expensive than in the city. The people were so friendly that I decided to stay and settle down at the Smokey Cubs camp for a while before heading south. The official population posted on a sign read 90; but on another one a mile away from "town center" the number 90 had been crossed out and now boasted 663! A recent search on Google gave it as 50. So who knows? Smokey Cubs turned out to be another delightful surprise. Aside from meeting most of the human population, the only obvious life forms I encountered were herds of antelopes darting up and down the hills and a young bull who paid us a visit.

There was a cool creek gurgling gently below the trees, Canyon Creek. My dogs, Teddie and Keesha, played and splashed with abandon once they had noticed how shallow the creek was. Eventually Keesha noticed tiny fish, a glimmer in her eyes leaving no doubt as to her intentions. In her valiant attempts to gobble up the slippery prey, she ended up swallowing a few quarts of water while Teddie viewed all the excitement with an air of lordly superiority. Never a dull moment with those two. . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wisdom in a Poem that I Took to Heart

A great many years ago, after several traumatic losses (I do not want to get into this, it's not the point), I came across a poem that managed to bring a new awareness to my mind. I began the process of realizing to what extent the obstacle to happiness was self-made. Reading it with this new awareness put a soothing balm on my raw pain. I made a point of keeping it. I have often re-read it, as the need arose.

After seven decades, I think that I achieved a calmness about the fact that all that lives is subject to change and eventually to loss or death. And that includes me. All fear and sadness about this inevitability are gone. This yellow flower is considered a weed but in the prime of its life, with its head turned towards the sun, I thought it was truly beautiful. Its life in full glory was short, however. Now in the final stages, head to the sun, it's still beautiful, don't you think?

Here is the poem

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn
That kisses aren't contracts, and presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.

And you learnto build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn
That you really can endure; that you are really strong
And you really do have worth;
And you learn and you learn; with every goodbye you learn.

I wish I knew its author to thank her for her words

Barretts Park - South of Dillon, MT

This little park was totally unexpected. I needed water and was told by Doug that it was available at a truck stop/convenience store combo. As I was exiting this short road, I noticed the park right across and decided on the spur of the moment to check it out. It was truly delightful and I stayed a couple of days. I'm so happy that I took some pictures. I would hesitate to call it a destination for an extended stay, although the limit is 14 days. But it did turn out to be a pleasant surprise. The park is next to the Beaverhead River. Actually, lots of people dive right from this red bridge. Oh... and it's free.

Overlooking the river is a beautiful rock formation. I was a tad lazy and never looked for its name. It might be the Beaverhead? When I visit next, I'll make a point to find out what it's called.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From Clark Canyon Reservoir to Hamilton The Hard Way

I had accepted Len and Verna's invitation to visit them in Hamilton, on the other side of the Continental Divide in Montana. Len had mentioned a shortcut from the Reservoir and I assumed it was from the camping area. I was to travel northward, then west to get to Hamilton. The map showed a shortcut from Grant to Bannack but just to be sure, I asked a local man if it was safe. He said that only after a rain was it "slick" and likely to be unsafe. He assured me that there had been no rain for a while so it was probably ok. In restrospect, I should have been alerted to the twin hints of likelihood and probability.

On the map, it showed as a significant shortcut in miles. It proved to be only in miles. It took me over two hours to cover the worst 10 to 12 miles of "shortcut" ever. A dirt road of the washboard type, with deep ruts and not a soul, not a house, not even a shack. Once on the narrow road (road a definite misnomer, if you want my opinion) it was impossible to turn around and go back. The only way back was in reverse. So, valiantly onward I drove at a snail's pace. No ranch anywhere, so no cattle, but plenty of wild life. A herd of antelopes swiftly darted up the steep slope at the sight of this unknown creature invading their territory. At one point, I saw a dark form, quite large, by the side of the "road" and wondered if it might be a bear. As I got closer, it unfurled itself and stood up. It was a moose. Rather scrawny but very long-legged. We exchanged a stare, then opted each to go our separate way, away from each other, to my great relief.

Finally I made it to Bannack and a blacktop road. I noticed a few signs posted as I exited the "road", one reading "...road not suitable for trailers, rv’s, or motorhomes". I unwittingly left two hubcaps as a souvenir, which considering how non-existent the traffic is on the "road", are probably still there. In Hamilton, Len told me that to get to HIS shortcut, I should have backtracked northeasternly first. . . Oh, well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Canal


Within the grey barrenness
Of man-made concrete walls
Confined and solitary, I flow.
At times, a vague stirring
Or dimly felt memories
Well up from some secret source.
Undefined visceral longings
Rise up, reach for, almost touch
The very edge of my consciousness.

Perhaps it is that a mellow rain
Has just begun to fall
A soothing intrusion of tiny droplets,
Minuscule evocations of sunny skies,
Fluffy clouds and feathered friends . . .

Or is it that the gentle breeze
Rippling over me pushes into my depth
Invading yet welcome waters
Risen from distant lakes and ponds?

Filled to the rim but not sated
At times tranquil, but never serene
I bless, I curse the walls, the gates
Which at once contain and secure me
Yet confine and limit me.

I have visions of mighty rivers
that roar from the highest peaks
And rush through verdant meadows
Renting the parched earth to bless it with life
Before reaching some distant ocean.

I have dreams, but are they dreams
Of being one with the liquid immensity
That stretches beyond the last horizon
Dreams that I could be
Or perhaps already am
That immensity.

Would that the powers that be
One day, soon, lift the gates
Let me gaze into the unfathomable . . .
Although reason whispers
That once I have ventured beyond
I may never be able to return
To the grey security of concrete walls.

Yet, the promptings are becoming insistent
To meld with the mighty rivers, the endless oceans
Venture forth on the ultimate journey
That will take me into infinity
To the totality of Me.

Dedicated to Brent and Kathy with Thanks

I doubt that I would have made it, boondocking this late in my life, had it not been for the help of many people. My son and daughter-in-law encouraged me and helped with the move out of my apartment by truck. A car wrongfully parked in the lane prevented me from leaving for close to two hours. Putting my belongings in storage became another ordeal after the long delay.
Exhausted and close to tears, finally, I was able to move into my rig, only to discover one problem after another. It was really hard. The weather was worse than awful with freezing temperatures and cold rain for days on end. Things that had been working before I put the rig in storage failed to work properly or were broken. Had it not been for Brent and Kathy letting me use their driveway and lending me both a heater and electricity while I was getting the rig up to traveling, I'm not sure that I would have kept my courage to go on. Weeks and hundreds of dollars later, the rig finally was road-worthy.

So, I want to acknowledge with gratitude all the gracious help that they gave me. On a separate post, I am putting a poem that I wish to dedicate to them. It is titled, "The Canal". Feel free to peruse it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Early Travel Experiences - Clark Canyon Reservoir, MT

When I started boondocking, I remained mostly in the Inland Northwest. Trekking southward through Montana, I crossed over the Misssouri River frequently amid spectacular rock formations, often with improbable trees precariously holding on atop tiny ledges. I ended up at Clark Canyon Reservoir south of Dillon where I remained for a while. The reservoir has been created by the Bureau of Reclamation and is renowned for trout fishing. There are 6 or 7 campgrounds and I chose the Horse Prairie one where there were already three men campers-fishermen. Doug was one of them, a tall lanky man whose buddy was the luckiest (or most skilled?) fisherman. Doug had retired from his profession as a biologist for the State and had been rv'ing full-time for the past 10 years. Quite a character with long white hair and beard to match, he had a big cat as a traveling companion. I shamelessly picked his brain for pointers, which he generously shared, on boondocking places he'd enjoyed and some others to avoid.

Doug and his two life-long friends, whose names I should have noted but did not, offered me freshly caught trout after a potluck supper at which I was introduced to Armadillo Eggs (cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon and barbecued, truly delicious). After the guys left, an older couple, Len and Verna, arrived and again, an invitation for supper followed. I ended up savoring another new dish, absolutely scrumptious moose burgers, courtesy of Len who was a hunter. Everything was better uniquely delectable and I eventually learned that Verna had been a restaurateur for years! We became fast friends and they invited to visit them in Hamilton, Montana. I gladly accepted.

Posted By Stargazer to Boondocking Blogger at 3/28/2009 10:32:00

Painted Lady Butterflies

Millions of butterflies are flitting about on their way north. I had mistaken them for monarch butterflies until a Californian friend told me that they were Painted Lady butterflies. She would know. The desert never stops to amaze me. The scorpions and rattlers are still hibernating so I have not seen any, for which I'm very grateful. But I have noticed a few lizards darting
away from Queenie, quick as lightning. She doesn't have a hope in hell ever catching one...From the beginning of February, there had been a continued and varied population of migratory critters. The ring-billed seagulls have dwindled to about a tenth of their previous number during the winter months. The yellow-head blackbirds and cohorts, the red-wing blackbirds, have deserted the feeders. Only an occasional hummingbird checks out the red sticker on my coach window.For all the desert's seeming immutability, there is constant change nonetheless. It fascinates me. It is said that there no half-measures when it comes to the desert--one either LOVES it or HATES it. From the very first moment I laid eyes on it in my earlier travels, it amazed me and I virtually fell in love with its ever changing hues and moods. And at night, the stars shine the brightest I have ever seen.

--Posted By Stargazer to Boondocking Blogger at 3/28/2009 02:00:00 PM

A New Way of Life with Much to Learn

Up to now, I had been blissfully ignorant of how little I knew about the web beyond clicking on a link and searching via a number of search engines. As to the mechanics of it all, my knowledge amounted to zero. Since I had decided long ago that I would put up my little adventures on a blog, I signed up on Blogger. Then I knew NOT what to do, even less how.Realizing how abysmally ignorant I was. I had to find tutorials and teachers, instructions (all easy to follow, hopefully). Somehow, somewhere, I would find a "how to" since I was so bogged down with blog issues.Then, I found the site "Geeks on Tour" who offered free of charge some very instructive videos. One was about Picasa 3, another Photo Story 3, both downloadable FREE from Google. That's how I was able to share my photos of desert blooms in video form.The result is that I am painfully aware of how rudimentary my blog is. So here I am, trying a few things as I go along. So, I beg my gentle reader to be patient; it is a work in progress . . .

--Posted By Stargazer to Boondocking Blogger at 3/28/2009 10:49:00 AM

Friday, March 27, 2009

Books in the Boondocks

I am a voracious reader. When I have nothing to read, I find myself seriously deprived. Since I stay at Imperial Dam, north of Yuma, AZ for the winter months, my problem is easily solved. I get a card from the Yuma Library for $15.00 valid for 6 months.Sometimes, I want books to keep as reference or for any other reason I get those from Amazon. Delivery when I am at the LTVA (Long-Term Visitor Area) is a cinch. The Christian Service Center graciously provides mail service. All that needs to be done is to register at season start, in the fall or winter. I also try to find second-hand bookstores, either on my way to a place or when I get there.Most cities and towns, no matter how small, have a public library. Books no longer wanted are up for sale at dirt-cheap prices. Sometimes, you might even able to borrow if you plan to stay for a while! --

Posted By Stargazer to Boondocking Blogger at 3/27/2009 02:11:00 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One of my Favorite Excerpts

This is an excerpt that describes so well the kind of malaise living in the city produced in me for longer than I can recall. It propelled me into the free nomadic lifestyle for which I have opted.

Excerpt from "Summer of the Red Wolf"by Morris L. West

"In the crowded lands, in the ant-heap cities of our time, men are made and unmade by men. They are ground and frayed and polished and shaped, or misshaped, by contact with each other, like stones in a turbulent river. The past does not dominate them because they are whirled along in the torrent of now. The land does not dominate them because it is buried under asphalt and concrete and the feet never touch it. The sea does not rule them because they neither smell nor hear it, as they tread their corridors of bricks and mortar like mice in a maze.But in primitive places, in islands and uplands, man must adapt himself to the elements, to earth and water and changing air, else he will surely die. His past is always present to him, because the sap of knowledge and endurance must be drawn from it every day. His community life is less abrasive because it is more distended. It is more fraternal, more tribal, because it is closer to the mother earth, unified too, by the sense of common risk. Even the place names tell the same story. They celebrate no ancient tyrants, no fustian politicians, no irrelevant idols; they celebrate the earth and the sea and the fruits thereof." --

Posted By Stargazer to Boondocking Blogger at 3/25/2009 12:06:00 PM

Monday, March 23, 2009

Learning, learning... learning!

I haven't posted anything for a while. I was so involved in learning new software that is absolutely F A N T A S T I C, but also is FREE from Google. I'm new to Picasa 3, and to Photo Story from Google. I just love Google. So here's the result of going down the wash, traipsing around the desert with Queenie and my camera, taking pictures to put together in this little video.

Big Ooops. . . I accidentally deleted my first 10 posts but my son (who, by the way, happens to be quite a smart dude) had kept his notifications and copies and sent me the 8 that he kept.

Thanks so much!

Posted 3/23/2009 01:38:00 PM
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