Chapter’s End

We are coming to the end of a chapter. After careful consideration of finances and health issues, we’ve decided that our focus needs to shift away from travel to other matters.

There is no doubt that last year’s adventure helped improve my health, however; it was more a step up (or out of bed, in my case) and not a long-term solution. As this disease is wont to do, it fluctuates, and I can no longer deny that I am slipping backwards. I’ve spent most of the day in bed, and I know that the need to fight off depression is real.

“Let’s go for a drive and catch the sunset,” I suggest to Ric as we finish up our supper. Glancing out the window to ensure there is time, he agrees and we grab our cameras.

We pass several other motorists, pulled over at the side of the road, doing the same thing, but I urge Ric on, wanting to get back to Indian Point Park where the bridge spans the bay with Corpus Christi as a background.

He parks and I glance around, spotting the Black-Crowned Night-Heron in its usual perch. Its colour is so much more vivid in this light, and although it is hunkered in as if sleeping, I know it will be waking soon to prowl.

A loud, woodsy croak alerts me to a Great Blue Heron passing overhead, drawing my focus back to the water’s edge where it has landed. The sun is quickly slipping below the horizon and so I return to the intended task.

One last bird catches my attention as we exit the park – a late forager, like myself, hoping for the final catch of the day.

Next step: prepare the motor home for sale. Know anyone who wants to buy one, still warm with the memories of the past two years?

Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge

“What kind of camera is that?”

“A Nikon.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking pictures of the birds. Do you like birds?”

“Yes. Which ones?”

Our inquisitor is no more than five, a tiny boy in blue windbreaker, jeans and running shoes. He climbs atop a wooden bench to get a better look.

“Whoa, there are a lot of birds out there!”

We’ve come to Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge in Corpus Christi. We tried to visit on the weekend but the parking lots were full. Today is midweek, and still a fair number of people are mulling about. This little fellow is here with his mother, a younger sibling and grandparents.

“How old are you?” I ask.

“Three!” he answers proudly, jumping up and down.

“No way! You’re too smart for three.”

His mother asks if we are from the area and when we tell her we are from Ontario, she says she used to live in Michigan, not far from the border. A conversation ensues and she invites us to a concert on Saturday, where she’ll be performing. She also tells us about a local Farmers’ Market, held only on Wednesday nights.

It is late afternoon as we talk, and the sun already dipping low in the sky. It doesn’t make for many good pictures, but it isn’t the scenery that has warmed our hearts today anyway.

Reddish Egret

Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge is set along Oso Bay. There is 800 feet of boardwalk along the water, or a mile long walking trail. We have chosen to do the boardwalk, and know we will need to come back.

As we slowly make our way back to the car, the rapid bounding of little feet on planks alerts us that our inquisitor is back.

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” he calls out to us before running back to his family.

“Merry Christmas to you too!”

I stop to take another picture and he is back.

“Why are taking so many pictures?”

“Well, I like to take pictures of the birds and then when I go home, I like to draw and paint them.”

He tilts his head to the side, considering this information.

“No way!’

Seems we have surprised one another.

On the way home, we see the Farmers’ Market, and stop in. Too tired to linger Ric buys some fresh biscuits and I find some gluten-free brownies.

When we get home, we FaceTime with the grandchildren.

Re-evaluating Plans


Over lunch, we google places of interest nearby.  Aransas Pass is just north of Corpus Christie on the Gulf Coast.  Every major road takes us by waterways, and we have seen numerous shore birds, and even dolphins, just in our drives.  I am making mental notes of all the places I want to visit.

“I’m not averse to just spending our winter here,” I tell Ric.  Our original plan is to do a month in Texas then two weeks of travel, and the rest of the time in Arizona.  Four long days of travel has taken its toll on both of us.

“It will be hard to see everything in a month,” he agrees.  He calls the RV park office.  They are booked up.

“I did so much better in Arizona, though,” I argue.  “Maybe we should stick to the original plan.”

“We don’t have decide right away.  Let’s give it some time.”

Meanwhile, it is an overcast and chilly day, so we decide to drive to the nearby wildlife refuge and scout it out.  The park offers an auto route which is just perfect for a day like today.  

The bay is visible from the roadway, and many tall shorebirds wade and hunt. 

“Check it out,” Ric says, stopping the car so I can pop out for a picture.  

I think he is talking about the birds in the distance, but my movement prompts a response from something in the long grass next to the car – a pair of deer.  The two eye me, apparently more curious than scared.

There are more deer ahead, and a few small songbirds, and several trails that we will visit on another trip.  At the bottom of the trail is an observation tower which overlooks the Whooping Crane sanctuary, but on this day, there are only a few egrets dotting the large expanse of green and water.  

I get out at one point to check out the alligator viewing area, but it is just me, a couple of American Coots and a few ducks.  Something startles in the bush as I walk by and I hear a few distinct calls deep in the brush, but don’t spot anything else.  

On the outer loop, we encounter a Great Egret hunting in the marsh.  I get out to take some pictures, and the bird is nonplussed.  Ric inches the car up a bit, and the bird flies ahead a few feet and stops again, as if leading us out of the park.  

We stop for Mexican food on the way home, and then sated, hunker in for the night, our heads spinning with possibilities.

The next morning, Ric’s cell rings early.  Recognizing the caller i.d. I picked it up.

“We’ve had a cancellation if you want it,” the park manager says.





RV-Able: 600 Miles From Home

The cold is unrelenting, and sleep does not favour us this first night out, so at 4:00 a.m. we decide to take advantage of Walmart’s 24-hour service and get some groceries.  The sight of food stirs hunger and from there we find an all night Denny’s and order an early breakfast.

That Ric is overtired is apparent.  I suggest we try to at least get some sleep before heading on the road, and we do, pulling out of the parking lot just after 8:00 a.m.  

“We might not get very far today,” Ric confesses.  “I’ll be taking it slow.”

Okay by me; I am overtired too, and feeling a flare of ME.  

We drive a bit and then pull into a rest stop in Salem, Illinois.   Ric checks on the car – we’ve been having trouble with a dead battery – and I find a Boost-C smoothie, hoping it will help.   The trees still don their autumn regalia here, and there are lovely walking paths.

“What’s it like outside?”

“Warmer, but still cool.  I’m going to try and nap again.”

I grab my camera and slip outside.  It’s quite beautiful here, just beside the highway, and I am feeling a stir of something inexplicable.  The sun peeps out and casts eerie shadows on the trees.  My shadow is there too – exaggerated – as if I am part of the woods, or more like, they are a part of me.

Somewhere beyond my sight a bird calls – a hollow, trilling sound that bounces off the trees.  Oh, I wish I could see it.  Another bird, above me, answers back and I strain to find it but apart from quick darts from limb to limb, it remains anonymous.  I wander and snap photos.  

A grey squirrel, frozen at my approach, carefully covets found treasure; eyeing me to make sure I have no plans to encroach on his treasure.  I assure him that it’s only his photo I am interested in. The rich hues of the stump, the moss, and the surrounding leaves breathe new life into me.

I decide to let Ric sleep undisturbed and take up residence at a picnic table, where the shelter of cover hides me from the birds overhead.  I watch a hummingbird go in and out of a hole high up in a bare tree.  A woodpecker bobs about the branches of another tree, while a jay flits about. High above, a crow caws its arrival. These are familiars.  It is the sweet sound of a songbird that I don’t recognize that intrigues me, but I am too weary to try to capture its image.  

There will be plenty of opportunities ahead.  

Ric will nap for two hours and then we will eat a quick lunch and head further south. After much deliberation – find another Walmart, stop at a full service RV Park for the night, or go to a hotel – we’ll decide on the pricier option.  Hot showers and the chance to warm up take precedence.      

We stop in Forest City, Arkansas, adding a little irony to our day, as Forest City is the nickname given to the town we left behind.

Reflections on Tiny House Living

Four-hundred and fifty square feet has defined our living quarters for the past year.  Less space when we are on the road with the slides pulled in.  Front to back, the motor home is forty-one feet.  It is less than half of the size of our former home, which was a considerable downsize from the house before that.  The quest for simplicity has taken us through many stages, and in two more months we will be expanding again into a bricks and sticks home, and more square footage.

bargeonMississippiNow that we know we are moving out, the idea of more space again is growing on us, and we are excited.  Still, living small has taught me much about myself and about life.

Last summer, we sold off all our worldly possessions – with the exception of what we needed in the bus.  It felt wonderful.  Unloading “stuff” was very freeing, and in hindsight, we could have let go of more.  Surprisingly little is needed to function in day-to-day life.

“I want us to continue living simply,” Ric proclaimed after we bought the new house.

I am in agreement, but I also know that this will take a certain amount of restraint.  Buying on impulse is Ric’s norm.  We’ve got room for it, is the mindset we’ll have to conquer.

paradiseblue.jpgLiving small has helped me regain my autonomy.  Illness demanded that I needed help to run my last household.  I couldn’t manage laundry in the basement, nor the upkeep of the house, but I can do all of this in the bus.  I fear the new house will be overwhelming.  Ric has promised to help.  We’ll see.  He is the king of clutter, which is a problem when quarters are minimal. Thank goodness the laundry is on the main floor.

Privacy becomes an issue when living in close quarters, and we learned to counter that problem by using headphones to keep noise to a minimum, and closing doors.

“We won’t be able to find each other,” I joke about the new house.

RVsiteUtahFinding time for solitude is important, and maybe even more so, when space is limited.  On the bus, we have defined our separateness in terms of a desk for him at the front, with his favourite chair, and the bed for me (a product of my body’s need with ME/cfs).  Now that I am doing better, I am hoping that to be able to break out of the bedroom more – the new house presents many options.

Of course, the best part of our tiny house living has been the changing scenery.  I have fallen in love over and over again with each new view.  Such luxury!

I think back over all the houses I have lived in over the past sixty years, and one this is what I now know for certain:  I am adaptable; change is good; and a house does not define me.  In fact, with each move I’ve made, I can trace an emergence – change promotes growth.

I am so grateful for all that this past year has given me, and equally as thankful for the new chapter that awaits.

As for our tiny house – we’ll still be travelling.  In fact, Ric’s wheels are already turning – looks like we might be heading east.

(Featured image:  our rig in Effingham, Illinois.  1st photo:  Sunset on the Mississippi, West Memphis, Arkansas; 2nd:  blue skies every day in Arizona; 3rd: our site at the foot of Wasatch mountains in Ogden, Utah.)

 

Home, For Now

Along402.jpgThe familiar barren landscape of highway 402 confirms that we are home.  It is clear that winter has lingered well past her time, and spring is only beginning to stretch her wings.

We have just driven close to 1,000 miles to get here – partly to avoid the approaching storms, and partly pulled by the promise of reuniting with family.  It is 5:00 p.m. when we finally set up our camp, and we are too tired to worry about either.  The plan had been to surprise family, however; we decide to let them know we are safe and sound so they won’t worry.

Everyone is excited.

TroutpondHome, for the next six months, is an RV park in a small town just 45 minutes from the border, and 20 minutes from our hometown.  The park has a stream running through it, lots of mature trees, and a pond stocked with trout for fishing.

Night one, the priority is to set up and then crash, having had little sleep over the past forty-eight hours.

goosefamilyThis morning, I open the front shades to discover that we face the stream where a family of Canadian Geese and their newborns are swimming.  I am delighted that this is our view.

The neighbours to the right are permanent residents and to the left is a building used as community centre.  Our lot is generous, and Ric already has plans to lay a small patio.  I think we will be quite content here.

For now.

 

Home Is How Far?

“How would you sum up Nebraska?” Ric asks me as we’re pulling out of the West Omaha KOA site.

“Windy!”

“Exhaustion,” is his response.

We had committed to staying an extra night because of the winds.  Yesterday an alert went out to advise drivers to stay off the roads.  A multi-vehicle crash on I-80 was due to blowing dust, causing zero visibility on the highway.

An hour ago, the winds subsided, so we rushed to take advantage of the lull, and now here we are on the road again.

“Our scheduled stop is four hours from here,” Ric says, and then:  “But I think we’ll keep going.  We’re just under 1,000 miles from home.”

“You’re not thinking of driving all the way through?”

“Let’s see.”

Iowasky2We both slept well last night, and we have what we need on board.  I could imagine it if we were younger, and I was an alternate driver.

We leave Nebraska behind and enter Iowa.  The skies are grey and foreboding.  The winds are still a challenge.  The weather doesn’t show any let up in the wind for days.  Behind us there are threats of severe thunder storms with the possibility of tornadoes.

At Victor, Iowa we pull into a rest area and Ric naps.  After an hour and a half, I make us dinner.  We head out again.

Gusts of wind continue to challenge.  Ric has a collection of songs he has downloaded, and he cranks up the volume and we sing along.   In the mix are Christmas carols, and when they show up, we laugh and belt out the words.

Missouri,IAWe enter Illinois.  Just 120 miles outside of Chicago, we pull over and Ric sleeps again.  I try to nap, but it is hot and muggy and bug bites are itching.  It occurs to me that he could be down for the night, and I should be sleeping too, but he wakes up and we’re on the road again.  It is now 11:00 p.m.

Judging by the number of lanes passing through Chicago, the middle of the night is the best time to travel this way.

 

Indianapolis is a blur in the night and then we are in Michigan.

We find a spot at the Michigan Welcome Centre and pull over to sleep.  It is 3:30 a.m.  At 7:30 we are back on the road.

CanadasignWe stop for fuel at Lansing, and I can tell Ric is beyond tired.  He wants to keep going, but I push for another rest area stop, so we pull over just 45 minutes from the border and both sleep.

At 4:00 p.m. we cross back into Canada, and by 5:00 we are set up in our summer location.

We’re home.  Spent, but home.

Nebraska

Two goals are motivating us:  staying ahead of the worsening weather and getting home.

geodomeNE.jpgStrong gales announce our arrival in Nebraska.  Ric is visibly worn out from trying to keep the rig on the road.  We consider abandoning our plans and pull into a Cabela’s, thinking that we will wait out the storm, but the signs posted indicate that there is no water hookup and suggest precautions in the event of a tornado.

We decide to carry on down the road an hour or so to the next RV park.

On top of it all, I woke up this morning to discover an outbreak of raised, itchy bumps all along my hairline, neck and shoulders.  Likely an allergic reaction, although I cannot determine the cause.  My allergies have been bothering me for days.  My teeth are starting to hurt again, also, making it difficult to eat.  I am out of sorts.

The RV Park is no more than a farmer’s field, just off the highway, with a handful of hookups.  We pull into a site and wait for someone to show up at the office.  We are the only ones here.

“How would you feel about driving at night?”  Ric asks me, consulting his weather app.  “The winds are supposed to die down overnight and pick up again by morning.”

IMG_1443It sounds like a good plan, so we don’t bother to hook up or put the slides out.  He naps, and I do some painting and catch up with some computer work.  We have had sporadic wi-fi connections along the way, and ironically, it is good here in the middle of nowhere.

He sleeps for a couple of hours and then I make dinner, and after we try to nap again before getting back on the road, but neither of us can, so at 11:00 p.m. we are on our way.

The plan is to stop at a rest area after a couple of hours and sleep till morning.  There is less traffic at night, which is nice, but we hit work zones and Ric finds the nonstop orange cones to be tiring, so we look for a place to pull over.  He rests a bit and we start out again.  I note that the rest areas have a ten-hour limit – perfect for catching some z’s.

NebraskaruralExcept every rest and truck stop after this is full, and we have no choice but to push on.  Eventually, we decide to pull off the road at Yorke, Nebraska and find a Wal-Mart.  It is 3:30 a.m. and we don’t even bother to check in with the store.  We pull up behind another RV and crash.

At 7:15, the sound of rigs pulling out wakens us.  The winds have picked up.  There is an RV park nearby, but not much else.

“Should we drive another hour up the road to Lincoln, or stay here for two nights?”

Ric makes himself a coffee, and decides he wants to push on.  Better to be holed up in a bigger center.

So here we are at a KOA, thirty miles from Omaha.  The campground is comfortable, and after an overdue shower and nap, we unhook the truck and drive into town to pick up some essentials.

“Bad weather coming tomorrow, for sure,” our host at the RV park tells us.

We are snuggled in, safe and sound.

Only thing I can share about Nebraska so far, apart from the wind, is that we have lost the blossoms of spring that we loved in the west – the trees here have not yet stirred from the death of winter.

 

 

Impressions of Wyoming

dimpledgreenhillsThe sign at the first rest area we come to in Wyoming welcomes visitors and suggests that we might want to slow down and enjoy the views that lie ahead.  The landscape, it suggests, is much the same as it was in the time of early settlers – an untamed mecca for wildlife.

Having never been in this part of the world before, I have no idea what to expect.  I keep my eyes peeled for wildlife, and jot down notes as we go along.

deernantelopeplayHere are my observations:

  • dimpled rolling green hills
  • herds of antelope grazing next to horses in endless pastures
  • sage brush
  • wide-open spaces
  • prairiedogprairie dogs in the field beside a parking area
  • red rocks formations reminiscent of Sedona
  • ascending and descending roads
  • tall firs
  • remnants of snow
  • winds

We stop the first night in Rawlins at a Campground called the Red Desert Rose, where our hosts are so friendly and accommodating that they even have a loaner car to use if we don’t want to unhook our tow.

redrocksWYWe are too tired from the day’s travel and plan to stay in, get an early start tomorrow. Ric’s weather app is warning of coming storms.  We want to keep ahead of it.

As we set out the next day, the winds pick up and after only a couple of hours, Ric wonders if we should abandon our plans and wait out the passing front.  We stop for gas and a light lunch and decide to push on.