Marysville, Kansas
Black Squirrel City

Scurrius sniffed the warm evening air, his nose twitching in the breeze. The squirrels had spent the long Sun sitting in their cells again, but at least the Carnival Master had set them in the shade this time. 

Most of the Elders were already asleep for the long Moon. The Young Ones were rambunctious as they chittered away at each other.  Scurrius chuckled softly as he thought of the old saying, “Young Ones and boredom lead to…more Young Ones.” 

Scurrius had stopped dreaming of escape years ago. The Carnival Master did feed them well. Humans loved fat squirrels, so at least there was that. He paused to remember the good ol’ days when some Native Americans believed that the Black Squirrel was responsible for the eclipse of the Sun. “…believed we ate it!” Scurrius laughed to himself. 

Scurrius continued to listen to the Young Ones chatter softly, and decided to close his eyes for a minute. Just a minute. 

Twitch. Sniff. Girl. Human. Girl Child. 

Scurrius’s eyes popped open and he looked directly into the huge face of a young girl child. “Shh.” she whispered. Her warm breath smelled of sweet popcorn and peanuts. “I’m here to save you!” 

Scurrius looked over to the cell of the Young Ones. The door was open. Wide open. They all looked at him, their eyes wide and black. “Go!” he yelled. He saw the Elders farther down the row. “Go! Go! Go, now!” he screeched. 

The girl child was reaching through the open door of his cell. “I just want to help…” she laid her hand gently down on the floor. “Come on.” He stepped onto her hand slowly, and sucked in his belly full of nuts and fluff so he could squeeze out the cell door. She set him gently on the ground, looking mighty proud of herself. “Go! Be free!”

He knelt at her feet, bowing before her grace and kindness. He could hear her giggling as he hurried after his scurry. 

Humans can be slow, so it took longer than it should have, but the Black Squirrel became the gods they were destined to be. The human village erected statues in their honor. There is a yearly celebration of their very existence. Humans come from far away lands to feed and worship them. The scurry scurries freely across the lands of Marysville, Kansas…there is no place like home. 

They take their squirrels very seriously around here.

The Legend:

Local legend has it that in Marysville, Kansas in 1912 a child released black squirrels from their cages during a carnival show. The squirrels scattered and their population grew, as it does with squirrels. On August 28, 1972 Marysville adopted the black squirrel as their town mascot, with an accompanying ordinance for the safety of all black squirrels. Today, about 1/5 of the city’s squirrel population is black, with most of them residing in the city park

Oh! ‘ello! Please follow our Black Squirrel rules and regulations! 
The black squirrel has the right-of-way on all streets, alleys and railroad crossings in Marysville, KS.
If you harm a black squirrel you will be fined a minimum of $25.
It’s nuts!
If you could also avoid running me over, that would be greatly appreciated as well!

The City Park: 

Marysville City Park is beautifully shaded with their famous black squirrels maintaining ownership of all the shade trees. This large park includes free camping, a themed playground, a swimming pool with colorful slides, tennis courts and various historical buildings.

Camping spaces are available on a first come, first serve basis. 30 amp/50 amp and 110 is available.  Tent camping is welcome as well. The city does request that you limit your stay to five days. There is potable water, a dump station, and restroom facilities on site. Donation information is located at the restrooms.

Marysville City Park
Squirrel!
Free RV and tent camping at the city park!
Squirrel!

Black Squirrels on Parade:

34 five-foot fiberglass black squirrels are displayed all throughout Marysville. Each one designed and painted by local and regional artists. You can find squirrel maps at the Visitors Center or at area gas stations for a driving tour of the squirrel statues. 

What do you call a fight between squirrels? A squarrel.
I got kicked out of the park after arranging all the squirrels by height. They didn’t like me critter sizing.

Pony Express Museum:

Marysville features the Home Station No. 1 on the Pony Express route. The home station is a stone barn that was built in 1859, and is the oldest building in Marshall County, Kansas. The building now houses the Home Station Pony Express Museum. 

A Help Wanted advertisement allegedly read, “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”
Squirrel!

Abandoned Kansas:

Kansas is full of ghost towns and abandoned homesteads and farms. While staying in Marysville we explored the area to find the beauty of the forgotten.  

An old abandoned power plant along the Blue River near Marysville.
A deserted Herkimer Grain plant.
Squirrel!
Decaying homestead off of some old county road.
Historical choo-choos in nearby Waterville, Kansas
The Weaver Hotel in Waterville.
Squirrel!
Abandoned barn on an old homestead. 
While we explored a local man stopped by and told us that this place was last occupied in the early 1990’s. We were surprised by how fast the neglect had deteriorated this beautiful property. If these walls could talk…
Rusty and Frankie exploring with us…until they found the piles of deer shit to roll in. #rvingwithdogs

For More Information

 

Visit Marysville

Black Squirrels on Parade

Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and Promoting Native Languages

10 Things You May Not Know About the Pony Express

City of Waterville

The Weaver Hotel

Squirrel!

 

Prehistoric Decay – Michigan

 

Our journey has taken us into the past before. We have seen the graves of famous gunslingers. We have walked in the forests of the ancient Redwoods. We’ve slept just outside of buildings so old that they had collapsed under the weight of history.

So, where to now?

Hold on to your butts. 

“Just one drop of your blood contains billions of strands of DNA, the building blocks of life. A DNA strands like me is a blueprint for building a living thing.” – Mr. DNA, Jurassic Park

So, where does one find ancient mosquitoes that have been trained in the old ways as bloodthirsty assassins and DNA traps?

Michigan…apparently.

No, really. Have you seen the amount of mosquitoes that Michigan has? It’s like a mini-vampire breeding ground. There could be all kinds of things being transmitted by their mutant mosquitoes…DNA, malaria, the ridiculous stupidity it takes to come up with plans to abduct and murder their governor.  Sorry Michiganders, but if the mitten fits…

I digress. 

Welcome to Jurassic P… er. Prehistoric Forest Amusement Park. Abandoned. 

Located about 25 miles from Ann Arbor, the Prehistoric Forest was first opened back in 1963, and was quite the attraction for its time. Life-sized fiberglass dinosaurs where just the tip of the tail for this amusement park. There were cavemen, waterfalls, an active man-made volcano, a Safari train, and fossil digging pits. 

Welcome Center – with a small Beware of Dog sign in the window.
Fiberglass trees in the middle of a prehistoric forest is just so weirdly…American.

As with so many old roadside attractions, Prehistoric Forest fell victim to the interstate that routed traffic away from memory making roadtrips and into the fast lane. Attendance dwindled in the ‘80’s, but Prehistoric Forest managed to limp along until 2002, when it closed it’s gates for good. 

“Uh uh uh! You didn’t say the magic word!” 

 

The park is private property, and there are plenty of signs letting you know that. Immediately upon our arrival, a police officer arrived to give us the stink eye and let us know that we can take pictures, but not to trespass. There is one large dinosaur visible from the parking lot, and a few fake trees and cacti scattered around. 

Prehistoric fake cactus.
Long neck. 
She is an old, tired one. It’s been hard work holding up that long neck since the dinosaur age.
Check out her camouflage. Clever girl. 

Taking a sneaky peak into the forest, you can find the king of dinosaurs, Mr. T-Rex. In a sick twist of fate, time has only made short-arm jokes more painful for him. 

If you’re hungry and you know it, clap…. 

Rumor is that the owner of the Prehistoric Forest still has big dreams of re-opening the amusement park. I think that ship has probably sailed, but perhaps…if they spared no expense. 

As it sits, the property is just going the way of the dinosaur. I do hope the prehistoric decay is left to be enjoyed by those that are eager to hear stories of the past whispering through the trees and flimsy fences. 

“Anybody hear that? It’s a, um… It’s an impact tremor, that’s what it is… I’m fairly alarmed here.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

 

Just a reminder for those that want to visit abandoned places…take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but…nothing!

 

 

 

THE SPRING ROAD AWAITS

Matilda (motorhome), the Mothership (car), and a jug of sun tea. Life is good, when it’s good.

We waited. We hid. We isolated ourselves. We wore masks and we social distanced (at least 10 miles from anyone every chance we got). Then we got our vaccines, and so did most of the family. So, how about a spring drive to see the ones on the east coast to start our summer? We could take a month, drive slow, enjoy the sights. Easy. Simple. No rush, no fuss, no hassle…

What was that saying about the best laid plans?

We started off in Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed along side the river and watched the windsurfers, played games… and spent a small fortune saving the lives of both dogs. Rusty, and Frankie, being explorers like us, both managed to get into something that made them deathly ill. They each spent 2 days in the animal hospital on IV antibiotics and fluids, and were sent home with lots of fun drugs. 

*** We pause this blog to give a special shout out to everyone at The Columbia Veterinary Hospital for the amazing care and compassion they showed our fur-kids. There may have been tears of gratitude as we drove away with them.***

These windsurfers were amazing!
It looks like a ton of fun. And like I would probably break my body as I was drowning.
Some serious Jesus moves going on here.

After all that fun we thought, hey, the worst part is behind us, smooth sailing from here (Pro tip: Don’t ever assume it will be smooth sailing). Farewell Bend, the Oregon State park along the Oregon/Idaho state border was our next stop. This time, we simply took some pictures, played with our reinvigorated doggos and relaxed along the Snake River.

Farewell Bend, an Oregon State Park.
The Farewell Bend of the Snake River along the Oregon/Idaho border.

Next Stop: Milner Recreation Site in Idaho. Without discussion, we apparently decided to follow the Oregon Trail in reverse as we slowly tootled along the Snake River. Just a few feet away from where the greatest ol’ motorhome, Matilda, sat, were the very ruts carved by wagon after wagon during the westward expansion (and the sad land theft from indigenous peoples) of the United States. Being so close to hundreds of year old history that you can see and touch is quite a feeling. 

Wagon wheel ruts from along the Oregon Trail. Maybe the doggos had preemptively tried to die of dysentery. 
The Snake River in the Milner Recreation area near Burley, Idaho.
Frankie (Doodle Dandy), the Great Tree-bone hunter.
Rusty, making a sport out of watching Frankie work her ass off swimming for tree-bones.

Remember that pro-tip earlier? Well just enough time had passed that we felt like we were truly on the road again. Then we stopped somewhere and a squeal like the banshees of legends greeted our ears. Matilda began losing power and we were forced to pull off the road. We breathed in a sigh of relief at realizing it was just a thrown belt and we could get it fixed and back on the road ourselves (this part of the story doesn’t end here).

Our next mini-adventure found us under the bridge, like trolls. GPS said we should be somewhere else, but it was occupied. So we explored, and we found a hidden, off-grid gem. A gem that turned into an extra couple days stay because our dear Frankie had to return to the vet. The minor infection in her ears that we thought would clear up with the drugs from the previous trip had gotten worse, and was now a full-blown double ear infection. Fortunately they have vets in Utah. The Wasatch Hollow Animal Hospital took care of our little lady (Thank you so much!).

Think bridge trolls are cool? You should see him troll on the Internet.
Rusty meandering through his retirement age like a good boy.
She is always tracking down the tree-bones with ease.

Okay, is that enough headaches now? Should be good to go now, right? Right? We had plans for two stops, one in Wyoming, and one in Nebraska, before making the final jump to our family on the east coast. And yet, nothing went according to plan. 

Just before the town of Rawlins, Wyoming, Matilda broke down again. The banshees had returned and it sounded as if our very souls were in danger. It turned out that the previous belt failure was not due to an old belt, but rather a smog pump that had seized up. After 2 days on the side of the road as we tried to track down a part, we were able to make our way to the Dugway recreation site about 20 miles away. 

Memorial Weekend brought us a patriotic visitor, flying over the North Platte River in Wyoming.
A neighboring camper brought his half Bernese Mountain Dog, half really big bear to peacefully enjoy the river.
Where the antelope roam, indeed.

Think this part of the adventure is a simple buy a new part and replace the old one? Oh no, that would not make for a juicy story. Nope, we had to discover that the shop that had installed the previous pump had duct-taped the back of the pump together. Not only did they duct-tape the main air line to the pump, but they also skipped installing the check valve or even the right high pressure air lines. In all, we learned that we had previously paid an $800 bill for a shoddy installation of the wrong parts.

But wait, there’s more… 

We were forced to wait for 4 days to find out if we could even order the part, only to find out that it was available for 2 day delivery the whole time. At least we now had a nice quiet spot with a decent view. The only advantage to living our life when Murphy comes to visit. 

Dammit, Murphy.

Is there any good news to talk about for the last 2 months? Sure there is.

The wildlife that visited us was amazing. We spent the majority of the 2 months alongside a couple of rivers, and the seclusion was wonderful for both of us, our writing, and our dogs to run and play. 

Mourning Dove looking for it’s love.
American White Pelican
Beetley Buddy
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Bison
American Bison
Bald Eagle
Pronghorn Antelope. Dat booty, tho’

So now what? Well, we cross our fingers, leave offerings and say prayers under seventeen different religions and spiritualities, check the dogs’ temperatures, triple check every belt, fluid level, electrical connection, and then hold our breath as we turn the key and get moving on. The Traveling Writing desk will not be held back (at least not for long). 

The road awaits.

 

 

Wreck of the Peter Iredale
and the
Graveyard of the Pacific

The skeleton of the Peter Iredale

The Columbia River Bar is where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River meet. Rough waters, thick fog, strong winds, and deadly rocks have sunk approximately 2,000 ships since 1792. Over 700 people have lost their lives in the shipwrecks, which is why it’s become known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

A lot of work was done to make the Columbia River Bar safer for mariners. The United States added the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse in 1856, and later added more lights to Cape Flattery and Shoalwater Bay on the Washington side of the Bar. While this gave seamen points of reference, ships were still running afoul.

In the early 1880’s businessmen from Portland petitioned Congress to do more to help the situation. Congress approved funds for a jetty to be built out from the Clatsop Spit on the south side of the mouth of the Columbia, near Fort Stevens. By 1894 the jetty was five miles long, helping keep the sand from building up in the channel. A north jetty, on the Washington side of the mouth, was completed in 1925 and helped even more to stabilize the bar. However, even to this day the channel has to be dredged to accommodate larger ships.

The most famous victim of the Graveyard of the Pacific was the Peter Iredale.

Photo: Columbia River Maritime Museum

The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel sailing ship that was built in England in 1890. In September of 1906, the Iredale left Salina Cruz, Mexico for Portland, Oregon. They reached the mouth of the Columbia River safely, despite heavy fog. But early in the morning of October 25, 1906, heavy winds hit, followed by strong currents causing the ship to be caught in the large breaking waves. The Iredale ran aground on Clatsop Beach, hitting the shore so hard that three of her four masts snapped.

She was abandoned on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens, about four miles south of the Columbia River channel.

History remains

The Peter Iredale has rested on Clatsop Beach for 114 years.

A haunting beach

For More Information 

Columbia River Maritime Museum

HistoryLink.org

Hammond, Oregon Tide Tables

 

 

Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma, Arizona

Welcome to the Hellhole

In the second half of the 1800’s people rushed west to claim land for themselves, to pan for gold, and to build their own prison cells. The latter wasn’t actually a plan, but it is what happened to the first of the criminals to be imprisoned in Yuma Territorial Prison. The first inmates were required to build their own cells. The prison officially opened in July of 1876. 

I think the backyard party lights really enhance the prison atmosphere.

Yuma Territorial was named Hellhole by the inmates that were incarcerated there. The average summer daytime temperature in Yuma was 110 degrees. Hellhole, indeed. Cells were open-air, with no air conditioning or heaters for the winter nights in the desert. 

 All the amenities.
Cozy 6 bedroom
The 2 bedroom model.

In it’s 33 years of operation the prison housed an assortment of criminals. 3,069 prisoners were in and out of the Hellhole population, including 29 women, and for a few years, even one child that was born at the prison by his incarcerated mother. 

Unlawful plural marriage.
A woman after his own heart… <3
“Became a media sensation…” she was very popular on Insta.
Prisoner Statistics

The prison was under constant construction during its years of operation, with most of the work being done by the inmates. I would think that building your own cage is an especially fudged up kind of prison. 

 

Prison air conditioning
Bunks built by prisoners in 1901. There were wooden bunks before, but they had to be removed due to bed bugs.

While the inmates claimed the conditions were hell, they also took advantage of various clubs, sports teams, and live music. The prison band was apparently quite good. 

Hellhole Country Club
Infirmary

Besides the dreadful heat of an Arizona summer, the Hellhole was also named with their solitary confinement in mind. The Dark Cell. The dark cell was used as solitary for prisoners misbehaving. The cell was a 10×10 dug out of the rock. Aptly named, the dark cell had no open windows, only a small vent in the ceiling that guards would drop the prisoners’ daily meal of bread and water through. At night, there was not a speck of light available to the inmate shackled in the solitary cell, wearing only his skivvies. Prisoners with an extended stay in the dark cell were often sent to the state run insane asylum in Phoenix upon their release from solitary. The dark cell is said to be haunted…and with the trauma of being left in pitch black with only the bats for company, I can see why it might be…although if I was a ghostly presence hanging out in prison in the after life, I would probably haunt the kitchen, not the dark cell. 

Hello darkness, my old friend. We’ve come to shit on you again….
The floor of the dark cell
Dark cell shackles

Due to overcrowding, Yuma Territorial Prison was shut down in 1909. The prisoners were sent to a larger prison in Florence, Arizona. After the closure of the prison, the local schools used the facility for a few years. By 1920 the empty prison was being used as shelter by the homeless, and during the depression it was transformed into temporary housing for unsheltered families. 

Yuma Territorial Prison is now a state historical park. You can attend scheduled tours by volunteers, or follow a self-guided tour through the prison campus. There are many artifacts and photographs of the years as a prison, as well as historical documents and history of individual inmates and guards. 

Ghostly apparition of a prison guard long lost to the years of Yuma Territorial Prison…or a volunteer tour guide. 

 

 

 

Trona Pinnacles
near
Ridgecrest, CA

Imagine, if you will, an alien terrain. Towers piercing the endless blue sky. Sharp ridges cutting into the horizon, and stubby tombstones erupting from the soil. 

 

What world is this? A world where Captain Kirk finds god. A planet where those damn dirty apes rule the land. A place where kids can jump over holes as they run away from the villains and find some sploosh for dinner. A place where Wil Robinson is alerted of danger while lost in space. 

These are the Trona Pinnacles, and they are a pretty popular location for Hollywood. The pinnacles have been seen in Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Holes, Lost in Space and more. 

These otherworldly pinnacles are located just a stone’s throw from Death Valley National Park. The pinnacles are made up of over 500 spires; some as tall as 140 feet. The pinnacles rise from the dried bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. They vary in size and shape from short and wide to tall and thin. The spires are made primarily of calcium carbonate, and they were formed in Searles lake back when it was an actual lake – between 10,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Searles Lake Dry basin contains samples of at least half of all natural elements known to man….which creates a lovely smell to experience. If you visit, it is probably not your dogs or your spouse pulling their own finger.  

The Trona Pinnacles are located on Bureau of Land Management land, and you are able to camp right up against them. There is no charge to visit or camp at the pinnacles, just don’t forget to bring your Febreze. 


For More Information

Bureau of Land Management

California Through My Lens

 

Golden, Oregon

Golden, Oregon – State Heritage Site

Golden, Oregon is an abandoned mining town in southern Oregon near Grants Pass. 

In contrast to other old west mining towns there was no saloon in Golden, but they did have competing churches. The first church in the community was built around 1840 by Reverend Samuel Ruble, who was a preacher for a group known as Campbellites.” Campbellites were a large religious movement in the 1800’s that were dedicated to restoring religion to “Primitive Christianity.” “Primitive Christianity” was basically a stick-in-the-mud sect of Christianity that wouldn’t even allow musical instruments to be used in churches during worship. 

Reverend Ruble’s House of Fun
These pews were so uncomfortable…hard, cold, and squeaky to make sure you didn’t nap during worship.
The empty church…Reverend Ruble’s worst nightmare.
Ruble’s Party Podium

However, another group led by Reverend Mark Davis moved into the area. Reverend Davis used the schoolhouse to lead his worship services – I would like to think that ol’ Rev. Davis allowed some pretty rockin’ music during his sermons, which was of course the inspiration behind School of Rock. This is absolutely not true, though, 

Rev. Davis’ School of Rock

Despite the bible thumping between the dueling reverends, more people moved to the area to work in the mines. By 1892 the population of Golden was just under 200. In 1896 a general store was built, which housed a post office as well. 

Golden General Store and Post Office
Stock boy needs to start hustling.
General Store and Schoolhouse
Plumbing updates?

By 1920, Golden went the way of most mining towns…devoid of gold and people. 

View out the church window…

 

Schoolhouse
Inside the Golden Schoolhouse.

Around 1950 some locals rebuilt the church. The general store, schoolhouse, carriage house, and an outhouse still stand. The State of Oregon took over Golden in 2002 and added the town to the National Register of Historic Places. 

In 2017 paranormal investigators from the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures conducted an investigation in the town of Golden. They, of course, claimed it to be haunted…by the Reverend Ruble himself. I don’t know for sure if Golden is haunted, but if it is, it makes sense that it would be by the grumpy reverend with no appreciation for music.

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it all up and see all the…haunted reverends. 
Golden, Oregon

 


For more information

Oregon State Parks

Travel Channel

Drift Creek Landing RV Park

We stayed at Drift Creek Landing RV Park near Waldport, Oregon in the spring of 2020. We were already a few months into the real 2020, which started sometime back in 1987 I think. I don’t know. Time doesn’t seem to flow correctly this year. It’s all timey wimey, but not fun at all. 

Wiggly-wobbly, timey-wimey

Anyway…we stayed there during May. It was more than reasonably priced at $450 for the month for full hookups. They don’t have any age restrictions on RV’s and since we drive a 1991 TropiCal,  we really do appreciate that. 

Views from the RV Park

There are a lot of long-term residents, but there are many short-term spots too. We stayed right on the banks of the Alsea River, with beautiful river views out our bedroom window. 

Alsea River

This is not an RV Resort by any standards, but it is great for those of us that like to spend as little as possible on space rent, so that we can spend more on local experiences, exploration, and restaurants. 

Rusty and Milo loved the RV park for the setting of their new album cover for ‘Good Boys are Bad Asses.’
Lily pads on the river bank
Duck, duck…duck!

When we find ourselves back on the central Oregon Coast area, we will definitely stay at Drift Creek Landing RV Park again. 


For more information 

Drift Creek Landing RV Park & Marina

3851 Alsea Hwy

Waldport, Oregon 97394

541-563-3610   

 

 

 

Here we are; four months have been completed as we begin level 5 of the year 2020. What has the glorious year brought us so far?

Happy New Year 2020!!  *write on the road is not responsible for any of the signs of the apocalypse

The whole world has been collectively kicked in the shin. We started off with the 3rd state of emergency being declared for the Australian brush fires (remember them?), then the United States killed the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and we all worried about a war coming. 

In January we first started hearing widespread talk of the novel corona-virus, COVID-19, but we aren’t really there yet…

The royals split up, with Prince Harry and Megan giving the middle finger to the rest of the family. For many (not us) this was big news. Iran retaliated for the killing of its military leader and the White House lied about casualties in Iraq until it couldn’t lie anymore. The world shrugged as it all got lost in the news feeds. Then a plane crashes, turns out Iran accidentally shot it down. Suddenly, Iran dropped some of its war rhetoric.

As China recorded its first Corona-virus death, we began the Impeachment trial for Donald Trump. Of course that ended with his own people saying he did it, but that they don’t care, let him stay in office. Famous people died, mass shootings at a brewery and fast food restaurants happened, and earthquakes hit. Did you even know that Puerto Rico got hit with another earthquake this year?

‘Merica

And then the rest of the world got the epic level smack down from COVID-19. Lockdown after lockdown in countries around the globe. The US joined late, but we had to; had to make sure we would take over the number one slot in all COVID stats as our primary election season was torn to shambles and our stock market nosedived. Then, just as armed dime-store cosplaytriots got all dressed up to storm the castle (capitol buildings) 2020 hit another snag…

“Bye, bye, Boys!”

MURDER HORNETS

Yes, you read that right, just when we thought it couldn’t get more bizarre, we’ve now been alerted to the oncoming assault of hornets that destroy honey bees and can sting and kill you even if you aren’t allergic. Oh, and they’re bigger than normal too. 

Seriously? WTF, 2020? Who even made this?

What does all this mean for RVers? A lot actually. First came the hoarding. We experienced two problems as the toilet-paper-apocalypse set in: 1) We couldn’t understand why toilet paper was the first thing people wanted to hoard and 2) We live in a motorhome! How do you stockpile in a home this size? 

Go, go, go! Operation Asswipe is a GO!

Answer, you don’t. You’re stuck going to 5 different stores in one day just to find a can of tuna, a single package of Kleenex, and a dollar store coloring book.

We didn’t panic until dog food started getting hit by the hoarders. By then, the next nightmare began. Closures. We were in northern Washington when it all began, 40-50 miles from the epicenter. We began to worry as we lost our state park reservation for March, and had to scramble around to find a place. We couldn’t go off-grid, had to stay in contact with family members still working through the first lockdowns just north of Seattle. Around we bounced. We looked like toddlers chasing a superball from the coin machines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We quickly came to realize that pandemics and full-time RVing are not necessarily a good mix. On one hand, you could take your RV and disappear from society only to reemerge after it is over,

WHAT YEAR IS IT? *&%$ this.

or as we did, you find a long term park that can squeeze you in for a couple of months. 

Social distancing, you’d think is easy, but we learned something else that makes it difficult: pantry and fridge space. While we’d love nothing more than to pack a freezer full of stuff and make monuments in homage of the old gods out of our can food pile,  we can’t. Only so much can be stored in an RV-size fridge. Thank goodness our motorhome fridge is bigger than our old Serenity travel trailer, but it still leaves us with store trips 1-2 times per week. And 1 per week is stretching it when it comes to snack foods when you have to binge Tiger King. 

Goddammit!

Don’t mistake this little story for something it is not… are we complaining about our lifestyle? Not at all. Although we are currently stuck, we know that we’ll be back on the road soon enough. In the meantime, we can do some upgrades and redecorating (cue the crafting video binges). We are, however, wondering if we can speak to 2020’s manager, because this is not what we’d call good service, 1 out of 5 stars – would not recommend!

Fembots!!

We ARE complaining about those that fail to understand social distancing and other preventative measures, like wearing a mask. We are in this together, and we need to lean on our humanity first. Think about being kind before we get all dressed up in our second hand tacti-cool gear and threaten scientists and spit on, or even shoot, store staff who risk their lives to serve us. 

2020 is trying hard to kick our global ass. Let’s fight back, by standing tall (6-feet apart) as the human race, and not as some tribalistic, my way or no way, entitled little shits. 

The Earth has spoken, and she wants us to grow up, care about each other, and her.  

Mother Knows Best.

Vampire Slaying, Stephen King, and a Grand Forking Idea

It all began on a cool, windy, spring day in Bandon, Oregon. Bandon is a beautiful beach town along the Southern Oregon Coast. At the time we lived just a short twenty-five mile jaunt away. We were treating ourselves to a day-date in the “old-town” district.

Coquille River Lighthouse – Bandon, Oregon. 

We went to the Face Rock Creamery, and after sampling enough cheddar variations that we were in danger of being asked to leave, we thought it best to purchase ourselves a couple of blocks to take home.

Face Rock Creamery – Bandon, OR.

We walked along the edge of the harbor and darted in and out of the gift shops. We browsed the bookstore (of course), and we left with two books that explain more than I care to admit about our personalities – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King and the Star Wars Bounty Hunter’s Code.

We dropped our purchases off in our vehicle and decided it was time to feed the beasts that were growling inside us (the more you feed them, the less likely they are to burst from your chest and face-hug all of your friends and family – if only John Hurt could have eaten faster…). Remember, this was an all-day date, so we went to a nice  restaurant instead of the seafood stand on the waterfront. I mean, come on, we even got dressed in real pants for the day!  

The Wheelhouse Restaurant – Bandon, OR. 

We laughed. We held hands. We ordered an appetizer that was an experiment for both of us. Our food arrived. It was amazing. This is where we would recommend the meal choices, yet, the food is the fuzziest part of the memory. You see, we had always talked about how we wanted to go and visit new things. We shared pictures of places we wanted to go. Someday, we said; someday. 

“You know, we could get a travel trailer and strip it out, and just make a library. Yeah, it’d be a library on wheels with nothing but a bed, books… oh, and a toilet,” he said.

She laid her fork down gently as he stuffed another bite in, proud of himself for the lame addition of the toilet joke. Finally a pause in his babbling. She looked directly at him. 

“What’s stopping us?” she asked.

“Um…” he said as he tried to swallow down the over-sized bite.

“Seriously, what’s stopping us?”

His lips twisted in thought as his brow furrowed. He looked down at the table and his eyebrows began to raise. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes.

“Uh… I dunno,” he said.

From that point on the rest of the day was spent dropping back into that conversation. The children were out, or old enough to be out of the house. They had their own jobs. But could we? Was this really a possibility or was the mixing odors of new books and seafood causing misfires in the synapses of our brains? Had someone drugged the vampire-slaying cheese? 

That night we broke out pen and paper and began a three-day research project. We spoke of it to no one. This was serious deep spy stuff. Satellite images were passed through secret drop spots and we spoke through encryption devices when anyone was around that might hear. (We texted each other from the same room and sent pictures to each other through our social media accounts. Yes, we know, the NSA could have been looking in on our super-secret spy game.)The fate of the world was resting on our shoulders, and the pressure was on to find an answer.

We read blogs of full-time RVers. We did lots of math (well, he did the math, as she has come to believe that math is just a foul language that should not be used in mixed company).

Actual photo of her when faced with simple addition.

How much will our income drop? Can we afford to live that way? We considered the emotional states of the children, and us. We considered the health of our aging parents. We talked through scenario after scenario. What if we do and something happens back home? What if we do and there’s a major breakdown or one of us gets really sick? What if we get out there and I can’t stand you? (The answer to this one involved a shovel and the use of one of our kids as an alibi.)

We walked around the house and looked in every room and cried out: “What in the world will we do with all this stuff?”

Those questions were answered, and then we tried to break those answers with as many what-ifs as we could. By day three, we realized the truth. 

What was the truth you ask? 

We were nervous, because we could, we could really do it. Nervousness became excitement which became… 

“Oh crap, we have to tell the family.”

Before we get into the trauma (and drama) of the next few days, let us discuss the how-to part of what we did. Believe us when we say we are not the ultimate authorities on how to transform your life into a full-time RVing adventure. In fact, we are regularly learning something new, or getting frustrated at what we don’t know, all the time. (This is a nice way of saying we really don’t have a clue about what we’re doing, but we hope you’ll continue reading anyway.)

The beginning of the “how-to” part boils down to coming up with your recreational vehicle size and type. Everyone has different desires, different needs, and different wants. 

That’s a broad statement, how do we translate that into an RV type, you ask. Well, what we did was make a list. 

Actually, make three lists.

First, what do you NEED to take with you to survive, we’ll call it the essentials list. We strongly recommend taking clothes, a jacket or two, and maybe even splurge for some soap and a toothbrush. Then a second list of the things that you want – things you think you need. This second list is the almost essential list. Like a regular can opener instead of an old Army P-38 can opener  – or a camera instead of the stone tablets and chisels to create a visual record of your adventures. The third list is the I don’t think we need this but wouldn’t it be nice to have list. You know things like the espresso machine, or the Roomba™. 

These lists are not the final packing lists for your new life. Nope, not a bit. Those “final” lists will change several times and will not be finalized until you are twenty miles down the road in your new rolling forever home on wheels. (Even then, it will change as you discover new things and go more places. Basically, you can throw the lists out.) No, these lists are to give you an idea of what kind of space you need. Do you want something tiny, the size of a Scamp™ or a conversation van? Or do you need a 40-foot 5th wheel behemoth? We’re not judging you either way. This is entirely up to your preference, and because it is, we’ll just walk through the wonderful way we found our first little towed home…

To start with we had a Dodge SUV. It had the bigger V-8, and it’s tow capacity wasn’t horrible so we thought we were halfway there. It meant that 5th wheels were out, and we weren’t fond of towing it behind a motorhome due to its own weight. SUVs tend to be heavy, as heavy, if not more so, than their pick-up truck cousins. So that discussion was fairly short; Travel trailers it is! 

New? Used? How old? Fixer-upper? What do we want? Well, with the drastic change (also known as a drop) in income, let’s try to avoid adding a new debt. Let’s go for used, maybe even a fixer-upper, I mean we are crafty people right? Yes dear; and so that part of the discussion was a bit longer, but still relatively short. It’s all settled now, we want a used travel trailer, no leaks, appliances work, other conditions are open to negotiation.

Two days later. Mike is at home performing his house-husband duties (watching cat videos and posting food pictures to social media all while claiming to be writing an important section of his barely started novel manuscript.) when MeLisa contacts him from work. She found something while browsing the internet on her break. 

“What’s that?” he asked.

An RV to go check out. Okay, I can do this, he thinks, but wait… did you say it was a motorhome? Yes. We had come to a decision – Travel Trailer it was, and now Mike was off to take a look at a 24-foot Winnebago Class-c motorhome. 

It was the first official look either of us had taken at a used RV. It was spacious for its size. Good sized bed. Functioning kitchen area… lots of carpet. It even had carpet up between the front seats and around the console housing. Between the dogs, and an inability to decide what to do with the SUV, we walked away from it. It was on the high end of our price range anyway, we said to ourselves. Secretly both of us had wanted it, and were afraid to admit it until many months later, but we walked away all the same. 

That was a Thursday.

Friday we were back to looking at travel trailers and calling on a few. Mike even stopped to look at one that was being sold with a truck. Interesting idea, but alas, still not quite right.

Then came Saturday.

We had been up late Friday. Had a big family dinner, a few drinks, all with music played at one-half notch below the piss-off-the-neighbors level. We both woke early – too early for the tequila and beer from the previous evening. We took care of a few things around the house and decided an early afternoon nap would be just the thing…

Then MeLisa found it. Someone was selling a travel trailer on Facebook. 

“Oh, there’s a number. You should call,” she said.

“Wait, how big?”

“It’s only a thousand. Like one-thousand dollars,” she said.

“And it says it all works?”

“yeah.”

“And how big?”

“And no leaks, “ she said.

And so he called. No set time, just come down. It’s right here and we’re having a yard sale too, they said. They also said lots of people were calling and that the first one there with the cash takes it. 

And so we went. While we were looking it over – at only sixteen feet that takes a LONG time – two other people showed up inquiring about it. Standing alone inside we quickly discussed it…

“It is small,” she said. (Yes, that’s what she said.)

“Might be too small,” he said. (And then she giggled.)

“The cushions are ugly. What is that, Pepto-pink puke color?” she asked.

“Nah. It’s more purple and puke,” he said.

“Do you really think the dogs and us can even fit in here?” she asked herself more than him.

“Look at it this way, I could give it a once over and sell it for more. There’s a line waiting. Let’s take it home, and decide later. If we don’t want it, we can sell it,” he said.

Afraid that someone would get there first we had skipped stopping by the bank on the way, so MeLisa waited there to have awkward introverted conversations with the seller, while Mike ran to the ATM and pulled the cash we were short. We skipped our nap that afternoon as we towed an old tiny trailer to our driveway.

There it sat for a week, while we debated back and forth if it was big enough to handle our needs, while we also kicked the idea back and forth about what we were going to use to tow it. Our inexperience reigned supreme as we learned what tow ratings versus actual weight meant. Our new acquisition was heavy for its size (though we thought it was all normal – remember, inexperience supreme). At a dry weight of 2900 lbs. the math worried us. The tow rating of our SUV was only 4900 lbs. Our assumption was with the stuff we’d pack we’d be at 3600-4000 lbs. if we kept the trailer we had. That was just too close to the rating to make us feel all warm-n-fuzzy when we thought about the Rocky Mountains or the long haul across the high deserts. And what if we get a bigger one? So while we considered whether the tiny trailer taking up all the space in the driveway would work, we set off on selling our Dodge and finding a more capable tow rig. 

Again, MeLisa came through. 

Eugene, Oregon is just a couple hour drive from our home on the coast and we setup a day trip to look at both privately sold vehicles and a dealer’s lot in Eugene. The long story short; we said no to two different private vehicles and no to the 3 lots we looked at while waiting on our creditors to approve or deny us on the truck that had both of us salivating. An older F-150 with dual shock systems, shift assist, overdrive kill switch, tow package, no rust, all OEM equipment. Shiny! We had to have it. 

That same week we decided. The Serenity was christened (geek alert!). The tiny travel trailer was named and a full remodel/refit began. So, because it would be towing the Serenity the truck was named Hoban. (Most people give their vehicles female names, but Hoban just felt male. He even gets a little hot under the collar, but more on that when we get to Nevada.) Yes, as in Hoban Washburne. The Browncoats were going to take to the open roads because “you can’t take the sky…” er… road “from me.”

“Hang on, travelers.” – Hoban Washburne

We had it all set now, we were sure:

We had our tiny (ultra-miniscule is likely the more correct term) home. We had a tow vehicle that we loved and was nice enough that we frequently got compliments on. We had informed the two children still living with us, and the family members who mattered. We had survived the guilt trips from the daughter who had spent years trying to convince us that she was never moving out of the house. We handled all the interpersonal drama from our family that supported and was going to miss us, and those who thought we had lost our collective minds. The latter were certain we must be the first victims of a soon-to-be pandemic level brain devouring disease.

We felt like giants.

What was left? Just the little details right? You know, things like finishing the remodel of the interior (piece of cake) and then downsizing into our tiny home.

We’d be ready and capable of leaving within a week we were sure. (There was 23 days in that “week” before Serenity was ready. And another month of donations, giveaways, and yard sales to downsize and choose what was truly important to us.) We walked around the house several times and looked at all these things that we seemed to hardly use; yes, downsizing would be as easy as conquering northern Siberia in the dead of winter. 

Serenity served us well over the next 10 months. We learned a lot; saw a lot. We followed the trail of Billy The Kid.

“Pals”

We taught a couple of college kids how to play poker (by taking their money at the table). 

and we discovered what happens when you leave a window open in a sand storm. We should’ve brought the Roomba™.

“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere…” – Darth Vader, but whiny.

We fell in love with this RVing life, and it was time to plan for the long haul. Serenity found her way into the needy arms of a young couple and we found ourselves a new vessel on the roads of adventure. A magical home with wheels that came to be known as Matilda.

“I was flying past the stars on silver wings,” Matilda said. “It was wonderful.” ― Roald Dahl, Matilda

But that is a story for another day.