County Parks & California Fires

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So one question I get a lot of is where do you stay? Where do you park? One way to stay somewhere is through the County Parks system. Of course there are State Parks, where you typically need a state park pass, and National Parks which the same would apply. There are also a lot of gems in local County Parks.  Especially in California, a state that is not super RV friendly. Most parks in California only allow you to stay for fourteen days at a time and also have a limited number of days you can stay in a year which means if you want to stay in California you need to know how to dance about to different parks mixing it up.

On my way to my winter parking location, once I used up my allotted time in Bonelli, I travelled a few miles away to Riverside County’s Prado Regional Park Campground. I was happy about a more reasonable price. I loved the spaciousness around my site. I literally sat by my fire pit in pj’s enjoying down time with myself and I had tons of privacy. I loved that I’m still not far from surrounding cities and my friends could all come visit when I wanted company. There was lots of space to hike around and enjoy the lake views. At night time there was a nice view of the city lights, and, I felt safe from all of the fires popping up in all of the surrounding neighborhoods. Plus the camphost gifted me free firewood, and let me know in spite of the surrounding fires we were in a safe area to have campfires.

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Eventually I knew I would have to get on the road. Once again, I was keeping an eye on my routes, the wind, and weather reports as well as the locations of the fires. Getting caught up in that was definitely not a goal.

In my last days at the park, the only thing interesting was this faint sound of an announcer on a megaphone every once in awhile in the distance. I thought what is that? Is there some event going on somewhere close? Hmmmm….When I finally listened carefully to it and made out what they were saying….. “Prisoner number 65411….. bla bla…. bla bla… bla bla”…. I broke out cracking up. Will I go back there? Um….. yah…. time will tell. We’ll see what else might be available if I find myself in fire filled Southern California again. I’m still laughing.

Back on the Bluffs of Bonelli & Learning the Importance of Cholks

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Ummmm… yah… here I would learn a lesson I should have gotten day one. I looked back through my videos of my introduction to my trailer life and felt a little less stupid since this lesson was not underscored. But still…. it became so obvious after I almost killed myself and all of my RV friends down on the lower hill. By the way, I never told them, so until they follow my blog, they will never know their lives flashed before me one night.

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If you have been following me you know I started fulltiming at East Shore RV which since then has been taken over by Bonelli Bluffs. Its the same park, just not as full timer friendly. I put aside my ethics on the takeover and the changes for a flash in order to enjoy the privilege of parking in the most sought after sites in the park. These are the kind of spots with views that make your friends who think you have lost your mind, take a pause and say wow. They get it. They in a second understand why someone would fulltime in an RV. The views are amazing and you never have to hire someone to mow the lawn or work insane hours at a job to keep up the lifestyle. Anyhow, I decided I wanted to enjoy the views of the privileged parking spots in Bonelli. I have to say I had mixed emotions. I was glad to commune with my old neighbors and friends who still full time there…. although most have left. I loved the serene, meditative views. But I did feel a tiny piece of loneliness as the full timers’ community has taken a hit and no longer really exists in the physical space of the park, although it will always live on via cell phones and social media.

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Anyhow… one real lesson learned here came about when I was hitching up to leave. By now I have learned that my style is to pack up the evening before so all I need to do in the morning is get up and drive off. When attempting to hitch I realized I was on a slight slant towards the cliff. This is the same cliff that I had enjoyed the prime view for the last few weeks. Now this cliff had become a source of terror as I kept failing to hitch and watched the sun slowly setting and turning into darkness. There was no way, now that I figured out what was going on that I was going to sleep before hitching and ensuring my safety. You see, I was on a slight slant towards this cliff, which made it difficult to line up my hitch. Each time I tried to lower the trailer onto the hitch I realized it was not in allignment and I had to raise it up again. It would oh so slightly, while shaking the ground a bit with its sense of 8,000 lbs of power, slip an eight of an inch or quarter of an inch closer to the cliff. F—-! Well….. silly me did not realize, you are not suppose to remove the chocks before hitching up again. As a matter of fact, I thought the chocks were just a nice addition to keep the trailer from bouncing about on its four wheels when walking around inside and not really needed. Little did I know before this, that the chocks are something you must put down before you unhitch and you must not take up until after you are hitched back up again. The chocks keep your trailer from rolling and crashing down a beautiful bluff like Bonelli and crushing your friends camped below and totalling your trailer and killing you, if you happen to be in it that is.

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Since then, now that I live on the river where the sand can give way to mini grand canyons, I always throw down my chocks. Lesson learned… thankfully with only a small bit of movement.

BTW…. before my hitch and chock lesson I did manage to knock out one more painting. Sorry the original sold before I even finished it, and I’m happy to say I got my best price ever. I mention that because those who have a dream of doing something I have found if you believe in yourself others will too!  I do have replicas available for anyone who wants to support my love of the arts and travel. Love you guys!

“The Dance” – Acrylic on Museum Canvas, 36 x 36 SOLD!

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Listen to those Vacation Package Deals!

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When I last left you I was just pulling in to Emerald Cove, a part of the Colorado River Adventures, a vacation package membership for RV folk. I spent two hours listening to a vacation package deal and in return got twenty days free parking at one of their campgrounds. I chose Emerald Cove, right down the river from where I would end up wintering this year. Besides hitting the back end of  Monsoon season, an ongoing theme of my most recent travels, it was perfect. I mean I have been running from weather since Pismo Beach so I guess there is no surprise there.  I watched as the rushing water slowly rose higher and higher in the parking lot behind me, wondering at what point I would need to hitch up and get out of there. On occasion I would check my “ghetto wooden window” but I have to say, those guys at the RV shop in Minnesota, did me a solid as not even a hint of leaking through my broken window.

There were more fun neighbors to meet, learn from and hang out with, two large pools and hot tubs surrounding the bar and grill and TVs. I got to liking the hot dog and fries and little too much. And in the mornings and mid week when all of the party people were either asleep or headed back to their day jobs, the river was all mine. Mine and Dudley’s that is. We began falling in love with the gorgeous scenery here.

I successfully drove my trailer up on to levelers for the first time, and I learned about a lot of cool gadgets for my wish list from my new neighbors. I learned about the importance of nailing down everything outside as I lost a rug to the river and created yet one more dent in my trailer from my flying wooden patio chairs. When I saw the dent I was like “who would do this and how?!” My neighbor said, remember that wind storm last night when your chairs went flying. All I could do was laugh at myself. I also learned in the night, when the winds were 50 mph… that I am not the one to sleep in my trailer when its rocking and rolling. I spent the night walking around the campground with one of my new found friends who also wasn’t about to sleep through the crazy winds. Also with no internet or TV I had lots of time on my hands so I got to work  on painting some more pieces for my collection of work to sell. It’s really the little accomplishments along the way that give me a sense of satisfaction.

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By this time, I was seriously looking forward to my upcoming gig where I’d get to sit still for five months. I had zero regrets on the fun sitting still and listening to a two hour sales pitch gave me. As a matter of fact, I have five more free days to use up at the park, and the deal they were selling was actually a good deal if I had, had the extra money to blow and knew I might eventually want to make this area a home base. So I say, listen to the sales pitch! 🙂

BTW… if you have an interest in purchasing any of my work… original or replicas, send me a message and we will talk. Thanks for supporting my art and travels.

Where Are You From?… Right Now? Here.

Another joy of being able to move with your home on wheels is getting to decide what you would like to be involved with and simply going to live there for a week, a month, a half a year.

I had friends crash my campground with their tents, some stop in for a meal, and other come scoop me up to show me a night on their town. Checking out Meow Wolf in Santa Fe with another friend was a real treat.

Speaking of Santa Fe, how nice was it that I could come in early and leave late from The Gathering of the Creatives, a now annual gathering of creative types supporting each other through workshops and networking. It was an extra special year this year as a . couple friends joined me in Santa Fe. A writer friend came to the workshops and another girlfriend who just needed to get away for the weekend, came for a visit. People often wonder about traveling solo. Well, most places I have at least one friend stop by. The coach is big enough and divided by rooms for privacy so that a couple of days hanging with friends is actually fun. They get the back end and I stay in the front.

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The Gathering of the Creatives is a conference that brings together people from around the country and beyond who love to engage in creative endeavors. The belief is that everyone has the capacity to be creative, creativity comes in a variety of forms and creativity is what we need more of to make our world a better healthier happier place to live. I first attended last year, skeptical due to the cost but drawn in because it was my chance to meet Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way live. This year it was exciting to participate in Portland’s Intuitive Artist Flora Bowley’s workshop, as well as hear first hand from Randy Davilla President of Hierophant Publishing as well as Insights Events, the publisher’s perspective on what sells and all of the nuts and bolts that go along with it. I’ll have to say, at The Gathering of The Creatives I learned so many new things, plus, the networking was as such a higher level then I imagined it would be in that, I continue to connect and deepen relationships with the fellow creatives that I met at the conference.  I’ve started on a business plan for my art and have asked a fellow artist to mentor me. The experience was the jump start I needed to dive into my second act in life, embracing myself as an artist, and making and selling my art. Making The Gathering of the Creatives a stop along my travels was well worth it, beyond the gorgeous backdrop of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It is so awesome to have been able to move about the country in my Airstream and show up where the opportunities are. Who knows, maybe in 2020 I’ll get my wheels rolling to a state I believe I can make a difference in by volunteering for political organizing work. Or you might find me back in another part of the country selling my artwork and a particular art fair. I’m a member of a couple of clubs so I’m heading to Colorado for my first Airstream Rally this summer, as well as my first rally for women who tow. Right now, I’m loving the idea of heading towards home for a bit. Home meaning, where family is. My J.O.B. has taken me as far from home as you can possibly get without leaving the country. I’m looking into and looking forward to being close enough to family to get to hang out on the weekend. The crazy thing is I keep making more family everywhere I go and my travel plans keep expanding.

Will I be back for a third Gathering of the Creatives? Who knows. The more I relax into this lifestyle I learn that life throws you fun surprises. You can plan all you want but there might just be a totally different plan out there waiting for you. I’m getting more and more comfortable with the Gypsy Life each day. Did I mention I picked up a job bartending here on the river? Yep . I get to add to my savings (allowing for more cross country travel) while doing something way different than I have ever done and having a blast doing it. All along the road are more opportunities than one can imagine if you leave yourself open to the universe. Always look forward but stay in the moment and enjoy the ride. See you down the road somewhere soon.

Tornado Hopscotch

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I’m a visual person and not very detailed, so for me the idea of a checklist, well… I just knew that wouldn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a list of things I need to do for setup and tear down. But I found, as long as nobody is interrupting my thought process, if I circle my rig and keep circling it, everything I still need to do pops out at me. When I think I’m done, I circle it five more times.

Well, I did check my window latches. I just missed checking one of the window latches. As I drove down the road out of Minneapolis I saw something funny sticking out on the side of the trailer so I stopped to check it out. The window was gone. I had not even heard it break. I hope it did not land on anyone behind me. Apparently I checked all of my windows but one. Luckily I was right next to an RV shop when I discovered it since I still had weeks of travel before I’d be back to LA Airstream where I could get it fixed.

The RV folks kindly cut a piece of plywood and Minnesota style duct taped it into place. Yes, one more use for duct tape. I know it was not good for my finish but driving with an open window would have been worse. I had a couple of options including going to an RV store in Denver that is known to have a lot of Airstream Parts, waiting at the shop I was at for two more weeks and hoping the right parts were sent and getting it fixed, detouring through Las Vegas or hoping my plywood would last me all the way back to LA.

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I was on my way to Porter Sculpture Garden outside of Sioux Falls South Dakota where I was looking forward to boondocking for the night. After experiencing a lightening storm and power outage in Minneapolis I knew to ask the owner of the Sculpture Garden about storm shelters or safety. His response was a bit unnerving. He proceeded to recollect all of the past small towns he used to escape to when tornados were headed his way. They were all no longer in existence. I decided I’d give him a polite call just before arriving if I chose to go a different way.

Seeing a storm would cross my path to the Badlands just after staying at the sculpture garden, something inside me said reach out for help. I called a friend and asked him to look online for all of the weather reports and help me decide whether or not to stay in Sioux Falls, while I continued driving down the road. Well, turns out the storm was bigger than I thought. I took his advice. He said if I stayed in Sioux Falls I would be there a long time and I may instead want to veer south to Omaha. I let two non-refundable camp reservations go and headed to Omaha not even sure if Nebraska roads were back open since the floods from the summer before. I made it after dark (thankfully) to a dingy little KOA where someone was charging their mower on my power outlet. A tornado plowed into Sioux Falls that evening.

After setting up camp I checked my weather app again. Apparently the storms had turned and were now still headed my way, and the road I had just driven south on was now shut down due to flash floods. So, I got up while it was dark (and thankfully could not see my surroundings) and crept out of my dingy little KOA spot, returning the mower chord to my power outlet before I left.

The night before I had reached out to my facebook groups for suggestions on camping as not much was showing up along the 80. I try not to drive more than 300 to 400 miles in a day, prefering the 300 end. So to travel all of the way to Denver woud have been much more than that following a day where I had been driving under stress for over 15 hours. Well, the best suggestion I could get was in Sterling Colorado. Partly it was the best because it took me clear out of storms way. At least I thought it did.

I set my GPS in Omaha and fought falling asleep on the road where all of the rest stops were packed full with no room to rest with a 27 foot trailer. I found reception was bad on most of my trip but if I put GPS in when I had reception, it would stay in. I just could not reset it. Well, sometimes GPS likes to take you what I call the direct route, not the safe feeling freeway route. This was one of those times. I was twenty five farms back in off of the freeway, wondering why I was not seeing a brown park sign, wondering had I been tricked into going somewhere that my trailer would get jacked and I’d find myself in a cage. Yah, my mind can get pretty creative when I’m nervous and in the middle of nowhere with no way to figure out where I am.

Eventually I discovered what in any other circumstance would have been a lovely park surrounding a scenic lake. The only thing is I was the only one there. The camp host was gone and there were no other campers. Even though I had no phone reception I did get one incoming text message from my friend. It said “storms coming, take cover.” Well…. I knew I had to figure out how this weather radio I had purchased worked. It was the only night I have been able to make it work. The radio crackled “Tornado Warnings for the town of Sterling.”  Some people chase storms. I had the storms chasing me.

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The picture above gives you an idea of the beautiful eary and empty park I was in.

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And these two pictures, if you look close and follow the road in, you will finds my lone trailer sitting there vulnerable to what was to come.

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Sometimes the free flowing, go where you want, do what you want, gypsy lifestyle is not so free, even when you have planned ahead. Two reservations cancelled and a route through a completely different part of the country to honor the storm apps warnings and I still ended up in the middle of storms.

Well, I had done the best I could to watch for, avoid, and outrun storms. I was exauhsted and there was no time to pack up and find a new location. Plus, any direction I turned I would still go through the storm. So the best thing I could do bunker down and get ready for the storm right where I was. I left all dignity behind. I wanted to be comfortable when waiting for hours inside of a campground bathroom. So, I brought my pillow to lay on, snacks to eat, my books on Audible, my weather radio and my best little four legged fur baby to the campground bathroom floor. Dudley didn’t need a radio to know what was up. He was already finding things to crawl under and curl up and hide. And in reality, the bathroom was an illusion of safety. I knew what a tornado would do to that structure, but this was one time living in fantasy land was ok by me. At least I felt safe.

I peaked out a few times to capture the storm on camera. I could tell the power of the sky was not unleashing on us. Although we did get the seventy mile an hour winds and the pea sized hail. I proudly show you my little hail dent. I can’t believe I only had one. And I am also grateful that my plywood kept my home dry through the storm.

Later in the night the camp host and her husband showed up with apologies. She said normally they would come warn campers when there was a storm but the storm had hit the town of Sterling so hard their own home had been demolished. She said they had grapefruit sized hail. In town the next day everyone was walking about with their cell phones out sharing photos of the various hail that came down on their homes.

Traveling on from Sterling I think I suffered a little storm app PTSD. Luckily it was fairly uneventful as far as weather is concerned, minus two more tornados in Arizona where they are not used to getting tornados, and a monsoon when I first got to the river, where I watched the waters rise unsure of at what point I should hitch up and leave, but everything worked out and calmed down until I got to back to California where I had to watch the app for fire warnings and freeway closings.

By the way, Airstream LA did a snap up job getting me in and out in one day to fix my window. And I use a physical checklist now, look ahead at the GPS route, and have alternate route plans. I’ve also let go of booking too far ahead in hopes I won’t lose out on any more booked money. And I plan to head back through it again back to Colorado and then down south to huricane land this summer. Hopefully my next trip through tornado alley will be uneventful in terms of storms.

Oh the Places I’ve Gone & the Time Spent With Loved Ones

I last left you on a farm field at a concert in the middle of Canada. The concert was great and since then I have had so many adventures I need to catch you up on. I’ll breeze through a few of the highlights.

People often wonder where they might stay when living tiny on wheels. I’m sure you have gotten some ideas from me already, but here are a few more.

In Winnipeg, I boondocked (sort of) on my cousin;s farm on the outskirts of the city. I say sort of because I plugged in the smallest of power chords which was just enough not to have to pull out the generators. This is where I learned there is no room for ego in the business of tiny travel on wheels. You see my cousins actually live in the city and their farm is on the outskirts of the city. Yep, they specifically told me… “Drive in to the road and then wait for us to get there. Wait. Don’t try to drive on the grass as it may be too muddy.” I pulled up and saw a flat, level, dry lawn that had me thinking it would be oh so easy for me to pull onto and turn around and be all set up. After all, my cousin had been working all day, and they would be so impressed with me that I had handled things and they didn’t have to. So, I started out onto the lawn and quickly my vehicle slowed to a stop as it sunk into the not as dry as I thought lawn. How embarassing! But when they got there, I found no time like the present to figure out if I could four wheel drive myself out of my predictament. And once again I could feel good about solving my problems that I created. With a little help from my Dodge Girl Cassidy and You tube I had all of the directions I needed to figure out how to use my four wheel drive to get out of the muck!

From the mud experience things got better. We had a lovely meal on the farm complimented by some delicious bottles of wine and caught up on life. With just a day, left we chose to spend it in Winnipeg’s Human Rights Museum. If you have never been there,  I highly recommed it. It was incredible seeing from a Canadian perspective all of the happenings around the world and connected activisim to make the world a better place.

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From there I crossed the border back into Minnesota where I spent time hopping from one friend’s back yard to the next. It was awesome to break bread with my sisterhood of union friends who sent me off on the career path that took me to California in the first place. This entire trip the biggest pleasant surprise was all of the quality time I got to spend with friends, and family who I do not always see. I go to meet my new adorable grand nephew and my nieces’ love and new husband live! All of this because I could pick up and go and then pick up and go again on to the next. There’s some pretty awesome Mexican food in Long Prarie, Minnesota. Go figure?! I also met a fellow past Californian who settled down there opening a cool little coffee hang out. Coming from California I was a little surprised at the presence of California there. I have forgotten what I ate at the restaurant but it was something I have never had in California so I had to ask the woman who cooked it what part of Mexico she was from and it turns out she was from an area further east along the border.

What a treat to enjoy good food and good company. And of course connecting with good friends who shared a great loss with me and are like family to me. If you have ever lost a loved one you will get how strong the connection can be for those they left behind on this earth. These folks will forever be very special people in my life and I am super grateful that I got to include a visit with them on my stops. Its funny, there seems to be a theme of loss for me on this trip as I transition into a new life. Whenever I needed to shed some tears I waited until I was driving down the road, as to not spoil any of my precious time with folks, or stuff myself up before sleeping, which always makes breathing difficult.

I was also reminded how generous friends are. Friends were truly excited to have me come stay on their land and I got several invites to come back in future years. Playing along the Mississipi was one of the many fun things I highly recommend finding a way to do. Dudley and I experienced our first journey through lock and dam #3…. well through any lock and dam for that matter. We had some great bar food along the way, (yes we) we learned a bit about chickens and country bee keeping, and had some bingo fun at a local establishment. Dudley also enjoyed new friends along the way. Plus we had a great time hiking about to all of our old stomping grounds and connecting with friends of more than 30 years. It was great to be back in another part of the country I add to my list of places I call home and to have so many opportunities to downsize my 50 Amp power chord to a regular 15 amp and plug in for a more comfortable boondock, and sometimes stay inside for a refreshing break from trailer life, a regular sized shower or hot bath and a real bed. Although my space in my trailer is quite comfy too, I’m not going to lie, I loved laundry that wasn’t done in a laundromat and some of the other comforts of a sticks and bricks homes like some shared meals at a real table. It was nice. So, a big shout out to all of you. I am forever grateful!

I was excited to finally get to see the Minnesota Airstream Park and especially loved the hospitality. Owning a share there is definitely on my mind. The park is beautiful and I visited during their summer barbecue when folks invite all of their friends. They welcomed us Airstream Style with open arms and lots of delicious food and fun drinks! More new friends were made. Likely in the near future I’ll try renting someone’s spot to see what it’s like to stay a spell. The best part being, it is so conveniently located near friends and family.

I didn’t get photos of everyone and everything because I really was having fun, living in the moment. The priceless treat for me was getting to spend some time with my mom and dad who I rarely have seen these last ten years do to work taking me clear across the country, and also the time I spent with all of my Aunts and Uncles. At the time it felt somewhat like a lot of driving because I ussually like to just go to a place and park, but I don’t regret any of the visits I made. These were the folks that made my life magical growing up, my god parents, my aunties who were fun, stylish, talented artists, some great at networking in the political world, others incredible cooks, smart, and all in all they taught me how to have fun and live a good life. And of course all of my uncles who like my father were pastors and helped teach me about having a life of faith to guide you as well as made me realize its the little things in life that bring you joy. They shared their sense of humor and laughter at some of the simple day to day things one deals with when getting older, their love, compassion and care as they cared for some of my more fragile  aunts and uncles who no longer recognized any of us in their surroundings. My autnies and uncles all shared their attitudes of gratitude, regardless of what health struggles they were deling with. They all were fully living life. The life I have, my successes I owe to all of these folks. Being pulled from the foster care system and showed what love is, being showed my own worth. What a treat to get to come back around full circle and spend time with the folks who helped me become the successful person I have become. We just never know how much time with have with folks and each visit was so special and something I would not normally get to do living so far away. I especially want to mention my dear Uncle Joe, as he has recently, since that visit passed on. I am so, so grateful I got to spend just a bit more time with him and the family. Uncle Joe, you will be missed. When I think of you I will think of you playing your saw, making ice cream from scratch, pony rides, beautiful countryside, sailing on the lake, and your pure love of life and family.

All and all I feel a stronger connection with all of my cousins, as keeping the family connected is now up to all of us. I look forward to many more visits home. Leaving Minneapolis has been a great journey that has changed how I look at life and made me forever grateful that in this Airstream Life I get to come back through and still call it home, along with all of the other places I keep adding to my list that I call home. On my way out, I had one little snag. Yep, I broke a window!