Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31 - Change in Plans

We've been busier than a three-legged squirrel getting ready for winter. Without getting into all the details, here's a brief list... install new solar system on little camper, trouble-shoot and fix battery problem on little camper, change bushouse oil and filter, wash/wax bushouse so it at least starts the winter gleaming like a new one, various suspension enhancements on the truck so it handles little camper better, moving stuff from bushouse... some of it to little camper and some to our apartment here at the farm... and then moving some of it back again. Then there's the long list of smaller jobs that seems to grow longer as things are completed and checked off... not unlike the parable of the loaves and fishes. It might be a miracle.

I've had a little more trouble sleeping these recent days... something I've rarely had trouble with before. Falling asleep usually isn't the problem. But if I awake during the night (a common occurrence, I'm told, with older folks) my mind starts grinding away at this or that... problems grow to monstrous and demonic proportions... and sleep becomes a destination that remains unattainable, over there, un-reachable. My suspicion is that our lifestyle change may be at the root of this. Bushouse... little truck camper... apartments here and there... moving stuff from here to there... planning to drive from Wisconsin to Washington through wintry weather... there's a lot going on. And a lot that still needs to work itself out.

Of course, when morning rolls around and a cup of coffee is poured into the hopper all these things fade into a proper reality. Those demons shrink back to gnat-size, and are barely remembered. Maybe I've been parked in one place too long.

And now our plans are changing again. Instead of leaving the bushouse here in Wisconsin and spending the winter bouncing between our kids guest rooms and the truck camper, we're now planning to move the bushouse out to Oregon... probably starting the trip next week. Once the motorhome is parked and secured, we'll fly back to Wisconsin and do the trip a second time with the truck camper... perhaps taking a different, more southerly (warmer) route. It's a repositioning of our resources to the Northwest.

In the long-run we know we'll settle in the Northwest. First, we really like that part of the country and all the recreational opportunities that exist. Second, it's where our kids (and grandkids) are. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, we lived in the Portland area for 8 years... which is why the kids both settled there. We found we liked the climate and considered the wetter and cloudier winter a fair tradeoff compared to the much colder and nearly as dreary winters of the Midwest. And speaking of tradeoffs... the long dry summers of the Northwest are among the best we've experienced anywhere. Location-wise, the NW is nicely positioned between the desert Southwest (which we love to explore during winter) and Alaska and the Canadian Rockies, an area we plan explore much closer in the future. There is no perfect place, but for us, the Pacific Northwest comes close.

What spurred this idea of moving the bushouse now? I discovered the other day that we're now number 7 on the waiting list at the SKP Coop Park in Sutherlin Oregon and it looks like we'll be able to grab a membership (and our own RV lot) sometime in the next few months. Because we're near the top of the list we can also rent on a monthly basis until that time. Having our own RV community home base provides options both now and in the future. While that future evolves... while we see if the truck camper is going to work for us... while we see if we like the RV coop thing... we can use the bushouse as our home. If it looks like something that will work we may trade the travel-ready bushouse for a more sedate trailer or fifth wheel... something we can leave more or less permanently in Sutherlin... and continue our explorations with the little camper. And while all this works itself out we're much closer to our kids and grandkids.

So next week will be a big deal for us. After almost 6 months we'll hit the road, head west, and into our future.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21 - Does Warmth Equate to Happiness?

The annual migration of snowbirds, winter Texans, and other ice-o-phobes is well underway, with the most senior of our RVing elders leading the way south. I'm not sure why, but it does seem that the more mature of the lot has an innate need to head south earlier every year. At first they were fine with leaving in November, maybe even after Thanksgiving. But as the years tick off, they're soon leaving in early October. They're a co-dependent pack who look for support in their peer-group... a mutual revulsion society that shuns anything less than 80f degree temps and bright sunshine... and any mention of words like freeze, snow, sleet... well, they go into shock and may need a respirator to survive. Added to all that, there's also the side-effect of a lingering residual competitiveness that drives them to be the first at whatever they do... first to arrive, first to leave, first to bed... you get the idea. You gotta love old folks... they're so predictable.

Easy travel to warmer latitudes helps knock environmental extremes off the human experience. But at what cost? Are folks who live in the tropics happier than those in northern latitudes? Maybe because I'm from the northern latitudes I've come to appreciate the seasons... full seasons, complete with some "nasty" weather and extremes in temperature. I can't think of a pleasure more extreme than thawing out frozen toes in front of a roaring fireplace, mug of hot chocolate in hand. It's a pleasure unlike any other... and one that won't be experienced by most escapees to the south.

We're still in Wisconsin, and it's almost November. As the law of averages dictates, our recent warm fall weather is giving way this week to a blast of near winter-like conditions... low 40s for highs and 20s for lows. And I'm looking forward to it. Can you imagine how good the next sunny and mild 50f degree day will seem?.. how happy I'll be?

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 18 - The Truck Camper Story

The other half of our not-so-secret lifestyle change is our new truck camper. During the last year or so as we were deliberating the evolution of our traveling life, much of the discussion revolved around a new rig. We had done six years in the 40' class A motorhome which we found very comfortable... so comfortable in fact that it would easy to continue as we have, for maybe another 6 years.

But life marches on... we're not getting any younger... and the long-term prognosis for continued good health and relatively robust physical condition is NOT good. If one in our position harbors any inkling or desire to do something unconventional (even more unconventional than living in a bushouse for 6 years full time)... something that pushes the boundaries of good sense and the extremes of what gentile folk consider reasonable... well, you'd best be getting on with it before you can't. To hell with what others think.

What we desire in this evolved lifestyle is simplicity, freedom, and spontaneity. We want to spend less mental energy on the tools of our lifestyle and more on the experiences. We feel a need to be more organic with our travels... to live in the moment, the present, and meld the process of exploration with our location... where we happen to be.

I don't know if I'm making my thought clear. But in contrast I felt that in the last 6 years there was too much time spent on the past and the future... and not as much on the now. "Yesterday we moved the bushouse and parked it at the RV park. Today we're exploring. Tomorrow we plan to move again." That sort of thing. Too much planning and not enough living in the moment.

Well anyway, after a long process we settled on a TC, with a converted Sprinter class B high-top van in close second. We want something small and nimble. And we don't want to tow anything... no car, no trailer. I'll admit that this is still a work in process, and success is certainly not assured. But unless we try how will we know?

About a month ago we took deliver of our Northstar Arrow [ R.C. Willett Co. of Cedar Falls, Iowa.] It's a hard-side truck camper with a "wet bath" (shower and toilet in one space). It has an abundance of headroom (I'm over 6 feet), a full queen-sized bed (spend 8 hrs a day here... should be comfortable), a cook top, fresh water system including water heater, more storage space than we need, and relatively simple and accessible systems.

As with all things RV, there are compromises all around. In my idealistic dreams I craved a light-weight pop-top camper that would weigh a thousand pounds... one that could be loaded onto a half-ton pickup that can get reasonable fuel efficiency. But perhaps that would be too far out there. Would the flexible vinyl soft-sides of a pop-top camper be able to meet our need for warmth as we skirted the higher latitudes we think we'd like to explore during Winter? Would a pop-top feel too much like a tent? Could we manage living in it for a month or two at a time? Hmmm.

Thus we settled on a hard-side unit and a larger truck than the dream. And we'll all see together where this will go. Stay tuned.

That's my truck camper story and I'm sticking with it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16 - The Bushouse Story

It hasn't been a secret that we're in the middle of a lifestyle change. After 6 years of living and exploring with our Newmar motorhome (dubbed the "bushouse" by grandson Ryan) we're both ready for a change. This has been one of my quirks (or maybe "faults" is a better word) throughout life... every few years I feel a need to change things up, to move someplace new, take on a new or additional job, or do something in a different manner. Now it's happening again.

I've written about our thoughts on this matter before and won't bore the reader with a re-hash here... except to offer links to a few of those previous posts [here] and [here] and [here].

We still intend to travel and explore North America (we've really just scratched the surface of things to see and do) but we desire to do it differently... to find a way to more easily get off the beaten path, to be more spontaneous, and to maximize the time we spend in more rustic camping venues. After a lot of thought and consideration we decided to try a truck camper. I'll get into that in my next post... The Truck Camper Story.

Because our lifestyle for the past 6 years has been one of periods of travel alternating with periods of extended stays near family in either Wisconsin or Washington (for months at a crack), we felt it might make more sense to transition to a smaller travel rig and take advantage of the mini-apartments we have available to us when staying with family. And that might mean the bushouse becomes surplus... redundant... an unnecessary and expensive complication.

But hold on there pard'ner... not so fast.

The bushouse is our home. It has been for the past 6 years. And it still is today. It might be prudent to slow down just a tad.

We've toyed with selling it, timidly tried last month, but timing (few buyers of motorhomes in October in Wisconsin??), and our hearts (maybe we're being to hasty... maybe we still need some kind of home base??) combined to convince us that, at this point, we're going to back off on the selling idea, winterize it (for the first time ever) for a long Wisconsin winter, and re-visit the issue in the spring. If we find the smaller rig idea isn't going to work for us, having the bushouse still gives us options.

So what does all this mean for the ol' bushouse? Well, for the next few months, this Winter, while we're trying on our new camper for size, not much. It will sit here in Wisconsin for a few months of well-deserved rest. It'll be on ice... in mothballs... on it's own "sabbatical".

In the meantime, we'll be off traveling and exploring until next Summer with the truck camper.

That's the bushouse story and I'm stickin' with it. At least for now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15 - Changes to Blog

You may have noticed recent changes to the layout of this blog. Here's the quick story.

The RV Sabbatical Journal blog is now presented in a simple single column format. The focus is on the most recent post, which is where I'd like it... with little else to clutter the page. In my effort to define the blog's purpose and to feed my desire to keep it all clean and simple, I've removed that smaller right-hand column which included a bunch of things I thought I could do without or, at least, handle differently. Did anyone really care what were the most viewed posts from the previous month? Our story is best found on a separate page under the "About" tab, so the small sections called "What's This All About?" and "Synopsis" were deemed redundant and done away with. The Google search widget didn't seem to work most of the time so it too was deep-sixed.

The two elements that I felt still had some value were the previous post "Archive" function and the "Follow Us by Email" widget, which are both now in the footer at the bottom of each page... if a reader wants them, they can still find them. I've also turned "comments" back on and will simply deal with things as they come in that department.

A side benefit of moving to a simple uncluttered layout is that it's now much easier to read this blog on tablets and smaller screens. I never had success in getting the mobile version of the blog to work the way I thought it should (and the way Blogger implies it will work), and now I don't need a mobile version. Ahh, the benefits of simplicity.

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Rain fell most of the day here. But we really shouldn't complain about the weather this month... it's been spectacular for the most part. The kind of October we've been hoping for. However, as we head into the last half of the month, sinking historical average temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight will slap us in the face... and we'll wake from this seasonal dream... and bask in the Winter which provides the balance that defines enjoyment. How does one appreciate the mean unless you've experienced the extremes?

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Ran down to Madison this afternoon to pick up Dar at the airport. She flew to Phoenix last Thursday to join her favorite sister for a long weekend of exploring the Phoenix area as a possible retirement spot... for her sister, not Dar. While there are parts of Arizona that would be of interest to Dar and I as a home base, Phoenix ain't one of 'em. Just too many people and too much hubbub.

And we stopped in at Ale Asylum on the way home... to bolster our energy and replace essential electrolytes (lost during long periods of travel at high altitudes) with craft beer that's "Fermented in Sanity". Oh, and we had dinner there too. It's good to have my partner back.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14 - I'm Back

Rather than one long post (and, I fear, it would be very long) in which I try to cover this blog's recent dry spell, how about I break it down into a series of shorter posts as I attempt to bring the record up-to-date over the next few days. Maybe by then we'll be close enough to getting our Fall travels underway and there'll be more time to write... and more to write about.

Regular readers of this blog know that I've had periods in the past when writing has been a struggle. Without exception, those spells are associated with periods of time when we're sitting in one spot for a while. Probably because I don't have a clear purpose for the blog (is it a travelogue?.. a diary??... who really is the audience???) the words won't flow. I want to keep it interesting and fresh, but unlike some others in bloggerville who have no problem writing the same tiresome daily drivel... day after day after boring day, I just can't do it. I'm not a small talk kind of person. Think I'd rather give it up and close it down altogether if that's all I had to write about.

Anyway, here's our setting and current status: We're still in Beaver Dam Wisconsin, and probably will be until early November. We still have the bushouse and have decided to keep it here until next Spring/Summer. I'll go into that subject with a later post. Alongside the bushouse is our new Northstar truck camper, which is another story I'll cover in a post or two in the next few days. Our energies now are going into getting the bushouse prepared for a lonely cold Winter and getting the new camper ready for 5 or 6 months of travel. Most know how projects and tasks "bunch up" as deadlines near... and that's part of the urgency we're feeling right now as we scramble during the next two or three weeks to wrap everything up.

So bear with me as I get my writing muscle and fingers back to strength. Thank you for checking in.