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Countdown to Drive-Off

If you buy a brand new RV, its a miniature version of moving into a newly built house.  It’ll have everything you need to just start living there, but it will not have things like bushes and trees, curtains, furniture, bedding, dishes, etc.  My new Airstream has curtains and furniture, so I’m one-up on that account.  I don’t really care to have bushes and trees.  I do, however, need bedding, dishes, and all those types of amenities.  I grabbed excess items from the house and have had to purchase a few items.

Its been kind of fun going online and watching videos about the things that other Airstream owners recommend having on hand.  I’m amazed and pleased that people think to even make videos about kitchen storage, sleeping comfortably, how to make coffee – all that stuff.  It’s neat.  I have taken a lot of notes and there are little notes all over my desk.  I have bookmarked websites about hitching, unhitching, setting up camp, taking it down, storage, off grid camping (called dry camping), where to get water, propane, free camping, and on and on.  I feel like I know these people who are out there living in Airstreams and making videos, taking photos, exploring, raising families, riding bikes, hiking, kayaking, and helping people like me start down the same path without the heartache of learning the hard way.

There will always be more things to research, but I feel a lot better about striking out on my own travels now.

I’ve spent the past few days going over my notes and making purchases.  I plan to spend a lot of time in national and state parks, bureau of land management land, army corp of engineer land, military campgrounds, and a lot of friends’ driveways.  When necessary I’ll stay in regular campgrounds.  The initial costs of getting ready should make things easier and will be lasting.  For nights when I’m on the road, I’ll likely stop at a Walmart Super Center parking lot, Cabella’s parking lot, Cracker Barrel, or a rest area.

I’ve learned that everything you take with you should serve at least two purposes.  I just ordered a truck topper yesterday, for instance.  It was more expensive than I expected, but it should last quite a long time.  This particular topper is aerodynamic.  The person who made the first Airstream travel trailer in 1931 did so with the aerodynamics of an aircraft in mind.  It would be a shame to own one and then use a tow vehicle that undoes that benefit.  Having the truck topper will enable me to take along a bike, lawn chairs, a small folding table, a solar generator, and other things that are better out of the Airstream itself.  I have extra water hoses (white hoses), septic drain hoses of various lengths to fit a variety of campsites, regular hoses, electric hookup cable, wifi cable, television cable, tools, gloves, and more.  It seems overwhelming to consider, but these are things I’ve discovered I need over my first travels.  They are not things that I always need, but I would rather have them with me than to buy them each time.  They can be stored in the bed of the truck, dry and safe.  I have an inexpensive bike for exercise and for running short errands.  Its not easy to put a bike rack on an Airstream. I hear it can be done with the newer ones, but I’m not worried about such a luxury yet.  So even the truck topper serves more than one purpose.  It keeps things secure.  It keeps them dry.  It keeps things out of the Airstream.  In a pinch, it could also serve as a place to sleep.

Its really been fun to discover things that are useful in a travel trailer.  My aunt gave me a little Mr. Coffee maker.  It works great, but takes up a lot of my limited counter space.  I also have to find a safe place to store the glass pot while in transit.  I have discovered that many people use a little thing called a Moka pot.  The one I purchased is made by Bialetti.  It’s for Espresso, but I’ll use it for regular coffee.  Water goes into the bottom chamber.  The top chamber has a mesh filter area for the coffee.  A small tube goes up through the center and, as the water boils, it rises, spilling into the coffee area and making the liquid coffee filter down into the middle of the Moka pot.  Wa-la!  A delicious cup of coffee made quickly and without electricity.

I’ve also ordered a thermal cooker.  It looks like a crockpot, but it is not electric.  It has an inner stainless steel pot that you put your meal into.  You cook it on your gas burner until it is the appropriate temperature (perhaps 170 degrees for a roast).  When it reaches the desired temperature, you put the stainless steel pot, with its accompanying lid, into the thermal cooker.  You seal it (vacuum seal) and set it aside for maybe 5 or 6 hours.  You can sit it outside if its hot out.  The cooker will keep the food cooking at 170 degrees (or whatever temperature you had it when it was on the stove) the entire time and your meal will be delicious.  No electricity.

There are solutions like those for many tasks.

My Airstream came with a really nice mattress.  It’s called a “short queen” and is perhaps four inches shorter than a normal queen mattress.  Quality-wise and comfort-wise, it’s the top of the line.  However, for me, it’s not quite right.  I have joint pain, medium arthritis pain, periodic back pain, and hip discomfort at night (I’m a side sleeper, too).  I did hours of research about mattress toppers and found a 4 inch LuxurestLLC topper which alleviates all of those aches and pains.  It was a little pricey, but I’m quite hopeful that it will help.  It was in the top three rated toppers multiple years in a row.  It’s also ideal for heavier sleepers, which I’m afraid I am.  Yes indeed.  Not proud of it, but I am heavy.  When it arrives, if I like it, I’ll get one for the cabin.  I’ll take a photo of it to show you as well.  A good night’s sleep is critical, even when you’re out on the road.  One of my reasons for having a travel trailer is to know exactly what bed I’ll be sleeping on every night.  Hotel beds run the gamut of comfort.  Plus I know my mattress doesn’t have bed bugs.  Hotel rooms also vary in temperature during the night.  Some heaters/air conditioners can be very noisy.  My travel trailer is in my own control and is very quiet.

Tomorrow I’m taking the Airstream back to the dealer.  I’ll park there overnight and sleep in the trailer.  Early Monday morning I have an appointment with the Airstream maintenance folks to adjust a couple of things that are loose.  I want to make sure everything is snug and secure before heading out.  Its not uncommon for a brand new RV (just like with a brand new home) to need some tweaks.  While I’m there, I’ll stop over at the store (Camper World) and buy some sheets and a mattress pad that will fit the short queen.  I have regular queen sheets and mattress pad on there now and they slide around because they don’t fit properly.

Another fun part of all this has been the excitement of UPS, FEDEX, and USPS deliveries to the cabin.  Today the suction cup arrived that will be used in mounting the weBoost cell antenna I ordered, so that I will have maximum cell signal wherever I am.  It will also give me full cell signal while driving, which will be helpful for my GPS.

The coming days are full of preparations.  Ordered items will arrive.  Dogs will get check-ups.  I’ll photograph a wedding for two very special friends, Sierra and Adam.  Cell booster will get installed.  Truck topper will get installed.  I’ll be deciding what I want to take along.  I want to be wise about it, but yet have what I need to do photo editing, film editing (for a wedding I filmed last weekend), artwork for the Ren Girl book, maybe some yarn for knitting.  Of course, I need a few books with me.

Once out on the road, I’ll be taking photos and making videos to use in my blog.  I hope you’ll stay tuned.

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Why Some Women Would Rather RV Solo

The article below was so inspiring for me.  It gives me courage, because I am at that very same place in my life.


I have been stuck in “analysis paralysis” because I am wanting to do this (go and travel by myself), but I keep measuring the reasons why I should and why I shouldn’t go.  I feel compelled to go on such an adventure, but haven’t had the words to describe the reasons why; even to myself, much less anyone else.  This article gave me the words.

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Gettysburg with Rocinante

Hey!  Did I mention that I named the new Airstream Rocinante?  It was the name of Don Quixote’s horse and, like his horse, my Rocinante is taking me on great adventures.

This camping trip takes me to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a four day Labor Day weekend.  I joined a long time friend and film peer, Steve Fox and his daughter Ashleigh and her fiancé Henry.  Also joining me here are Emma and Einstein.  It has rained most of the weekend.  Today is Sunday and it has finally stopped raining.  Its cloudy and humid, but the sun promises to make an appearance by 4:00.  What a welcome sight that will be.

I’m at Round Top campground.  It’s a typical campground, but very different from the one in Ohio.  This one is much older, very large, with the camping spots closer together.  There’s more to do here and the campground has a lot of planned activities; all of which I have missed this time.  The camp store is huge and has a wonderful variety of camping accessories, snacks, groceries, ice cream cones, Slush Puppy drinks, tourist brochures…lots of great stuff.  It’s a busy place as well.  There is a lounging area (I think there is even a fireplace) and stairs going up to what may be an activity area for kids.  This whole place is very alive.  The campground is lovely with lots of mature trees.  There are a lot of permanent sites mixed in with the transient sites.  My site is a bit of weedy grass and a lot of bluestone gravel.  Permanent sites are manicured (by the owners) and have little flower gardens, decks, and all sorts of homey paraphernalia.

A couple of nights ago, we were all together and had a campfire.  We made s’mores and sat telling stories.  It was so much fun.  Last night we sat in Steve’s trailer and all played a board game and ate ice cream.  We laughed and laughed. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.  I spent the day with my friend Laurie.  On Sunday night we went to the Springhouse Tavern in town.  They have the best French Onion Soup I’ve ever eaten.  I could eat it every single day.  I got a loaf of Sweetbread to take with me.  Delicious.  Afterwards we built another campfire back at the campground.  Steve got out the pie iron and cans of pie filling.  We burned the first seven pies.  We tried a lot of butter, a little butter, no butter, spray-on oil (put directly on the bread, then directly on the iron), and eventually hit upon the right combination – a TON of butter.  I think the butter was a quarter inch thick.  It turned out so good though.  We did lots of laughing as we tried to eat the first seven burnt-black pies.  Steve said, “YUM!” and “I think I’ll have another!”

Monday was so beautiful that I extended an extra day.  Everyone else in the group left so it was a super relaxing, hang-out-at-the-trailer kind of day.  I took the dogs for lots of walks.  In the afternoon I went to town and got some Chinese food from a take-out place.  It had a 4 1/2 star rating and sure did turn out to deserve it.  I ended the evening with watching videos on YouTube about RVing.

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On Tuesday I went through my checklist (I actually have it memorized now!) to take down camp and hitch up the trailer.  I was pretty proud of myself that I even remembered to secure the vent for the stove hood.  If you don’t move the little clip over, the vent flaps open all along your journey.  I was so hot when I finished and finally had the dogs in the car to head out that I couldn’t stand the smell of myself.  NO wonder the dogs stayed far away.  I stopped by the campground store to get a soda.  I was so hot a cold soda sounded wonderful.  The sign at the register said you have to spend a $10 minimum to use a credit card.  DOH!  So I bought a bag of chips and a t-shirt.  I knew I wouldn’t stop anywhere along the way, so this was it.  My trip home was great.  When I’m pulling the trailer, I feel so alive and I let my mind daydream about all the future adventures I might go on.

Ok.  That’s it.  Gettysburg adventure.  Signing off.


Simple Living

As I reflect back over my life, I find some of my happiest times were when life was uncomplicated.  These past few years it has been difficult to keep it that way.  I don’t know if its living in the same area for twenty years and the accumulated “stuff” that creeps into life with a long stay or if its laziness on my part.  Perhaps I’ve gotten too lazy to do the constant maintenance required to keep the homestead thinned out.

This past week has brought me back to where I started.  When I was a child, my family was complicated and I endured it by keeping my eyes on writing and art.  I wrote story after story and must have designed my dream house a thousand times.  I felt at peace while doing these things.

Also as a child, a few favorite memories were trips to the local pool in the summer.  It was a large pool with a sand bottom and a beach shoreline.  Eventually a new pool was built, the sand pool closed, and camping was added.  I saw the campers and wished I could experience that.  It seemed like a perfect life – campfire at night, roasting marshmallows, making “Pies” over the fire, swimming, exploring.

Over five decades later, I still long for that experience.  I do find peace in writing and art, but I tend to let the overwhelming things in my life push that always into the future.  I search for ways to get back to simple living.  Two weeks ago today I took a drive to Virginia, to an Airstream dealership.  I wanted to see an Airstream for myself.  I’d only seen one in my entire life and only from the outside.  I saw the interior of one in a movie however and it appealed greatly to me.  Simple.  Comfortable.  Now in this time when I need simple, it is very appealing.  My two goals for the trip to Virginia were to see one for myself and find out if it would be do-able.  Would it fit into the budget?

I intended to stick to a 23 foot Airstream because I wanted something that I could manage on my own.  The first one I looked at was 23 foot and I didn’t like it.  Perhaps it was just that particular layout, but it seemed very cramped.  I looked next at three 25 foot trailers.  All seemed a good size.  One was more luxurious than the other two, with corian counters and table, dark wood floor, and a nice layout.  It was expensive, nearly $100,000.  The other two I looked at were the same size, but no corian.  One twin beds and textured flooring and seats.  The other one had a queen size bed, light wood floor, and smooth, ultra-leather seating.  I ended up asking for a monthly payment quote on the latter.  It was very acceptable.  I made a downpayment.  I had expected an Airstream to run $800 or $900 a month, so was very pleased that the payments were about half that.  Airstreams are more expensive than normal campers, trailers, and RV’s.  They are incredibly well-made and durable.

One week later found that same 25 foot Airstream Flying Cloud was parked in my driveway.  I was so excited over those days that I could hardly sleep at night.

The next day I drove the Airstream to Ohio.  I arrived at the very same campground I had visited as a child.  I’ve been here a week.  I find there is more time, though I know that can’t be possible.  I have more time to sit quietly in my lawn chair and observe the kids riding bikes, families and friends sitting around campfires, golf carts passing by and waving. I enjoy visiting the little country store here at the campground.  The woman who works there uses the income to pay for her campsite all summer long.  There are band concerts, car shows, bingo, and so much more.

Yesterday I discovered that the old sand bottom pool is still here.  I walked over to take a picture of it.

I couldn’t get closer, to show the immenseness of it, because it is currently a construction zone with a fence around it.  The grassy area used to be the beach that we laid our blankets and towels on.  The sides and rear of the pool were concrete walls.  There was a wooden, floating platform in the middle for us to jump off of.  A regular and high dive were off on the left.  I asked an employee what would become of the old pool.  She said they’re getting ready to turn it into a catch and release fishing hole.  It’ll look exactly like it did when it was a swimming hole, except it won’t have the diving boards or the floating pier in the middle.  That’s nice, I thought.

I brought Einstein along and he has adjusted well.  He likes looking out the windows at all that is going on.  His favorite passtime, however, is to lay in the grass and watch.  I brought one toy for him and he brings it to me several times a day so we can play a bit.  I have a tennis ball that I take to the dog park at the front corner of the campground and he fetches it for me.  I’m getting exercise with all the walking and swimming.  The weather has been nice.  On the couple of days that it rained, I took naps and ran errands.

My little Airstream is the only one here.  In fact, I doubt that there have been many here over the decades.  I am nestled in between huge 5th wheels, long travel trailers, and motor coaches, all equipped with multiple slide-outs and many surrounded by permanent decks and porches, sheds, swings, gas grills, golf carts, American flags, and “welcome” signs.

Yesterday I spent time with my step-dad.  We went to an Italian restaurant that used to be a movie theater in by-gone days.  I had spaghetti and meatballs – delicious!

I have strawberries in the refrigerator and have enjoyed strawberry shortcake the past two evenings.  My aunt Sherry gave me a coffee maker, but I have not been able to get filters for it yet.  I may have to settle for the only ones I saw – a pack of 500.  I need 12.  The trailer has two televisions, but I can’t seem to get interested in that.  It has a great stereo system and sometimes I use Bluetooth to connect my iPhone and play my playlists.  I got a Verizon jetpack so I have internet wherever I go.  That has been a great investment.

My awnings are all out and I enjoy sitting at the picnic table writing in my journal and watching life around me.

Time for some lunch.

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Sunny Flower

I love to plant surprises throughout my home, my life, my work.  I like to look at things more than once and find those surprises; things I missed before.  Look closely when you’re in my life.

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A Good Read

A Good ReadI have shared my progress on this painting with you.  The painting is done.  I am still inspired when I look at it.  What will become of it – that is the question on my mind now.  Will it hang in my studio for the duration of my life?  Is it meant for someone?  Will they find it?  Will it inspire anyone else?  Will anyone find what they’re looking for when they see it?

What do you see in it?

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New Day, New Way

This was the best Christmas ever.

I got a brand new iPad Pro for Christmas. Got the iPad, an Apple pencil, a keyboard, and an awesome set of headphones.  Tonight I downloaded a new software called Astropad.  It lets me see the screen of my iMac right there on my iPad.  I can bring up any app and use it from the iPad, but I can use all of my Adobe products that way.  So I brought up Photoshop and used the iPad and Apple pencil to do this first (very rough and crude) drawing.  I see a LOT of potential with this.  I love the way the pencil works.  No more trying to draw my lines with a mouse.  I can work as if I’m using a pencil or paintbrush on paper.

Even though this first painting is indeed crude, I want to share it with you so that we can both see my progress as the days march forward.  I’ve got BIG ideas swimming around in my creative brain.  Lets see where it goes from here.

Man Bear with Stubble

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Fifteen Minutes a Day – day one and a half

Day One and a HalfDid more than 15 minutes yesterday (day one).  In fact I worked on this for more than an hour.  I was teaching a class last evening and we worked on a drawing of a small book.  Then we got out colored pencils and that made it a lot of fun, so I worked longer than 15 minutes.  Here is is that project, at this moment.  Still needs much more work, but shows promise.  The project is being done with Rembrandt oil based colored pencils.  Just like with watercolor, you start light and work to dark.  Also like watercolor, you begin by coloring lightly in the darker areas of the image and with each layer the colors build upon one another.

In this case. I started with a yellow pencil and covered the entire object.  I felt that even under the red of the book cover, there is a golden color.  So I started with that.  I did tiny, light circles of yellow over the whole thing.  After that first layer, I began with some red, doing the same thing – small light pressure circles.  My goal was that I not see any “lines” in the drawing.  I wanted a smooth look.  Funny thing, that.  When I was a little girl, my dad taught me to draw and he used the little circular motion on the paper as well.

Right now I’m working on the right end of the book.  The golden gilded edges of the paper are very dark after all these decades.  To get my drawing that dark will take many layers.  I have to work with a light pressure or else the paper take on a shine that won’t take any further layers.  Paper has a grain that you might only see with a microscope or perhaps a magnifying glass.  If you draw with the colored pencil in strokes across the paper, the pigment will not go down into the tiny little dips of texture.  I have to hold the pencil more upright and keep the tip very sharp – almost needle sharp – with an electric pencil sharpener.  By working in tiny circles and keeping the pencil upright, I can get the pigment even down into those little tiny holes in the surface of the paper.

So we’ll see how it goes.


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Charcoal (black and white) on Mi Tientes paper

I’m launching a new 15 minutes a day for artwork.  Hold me accountable for it, will you?

This (below) is not a 15 minute a day item, but I came across it and still like it.  It’s black charcoal pencil and white charcoal pencil (highlights) on gray Mi Tiente paper.  I want to do more.  PLLLLLLEEEEAAAAASSSSEEEE


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Book Cover

Quiet Place to Work

A Time to Write

Dan and I met twice in recent days and reviewed our past progress on the new book series.  We laid out the storyboard for the first book and handed out assignments.  My part is to design the book cover and to buy the domain name for the new website.  We’ll reconvene the end of May to see what we came up with and plan out the next step and individual assignments.  This is the year.