Images, Minimalism

Keep life simple

Ambassador PLQ, Minimalism, Old Diary, Travel

And it Hinges on…

It seems one of our cabinet hinges has broken a spring

It seems one of our cabinet hinges has broken a spring

This morning I woke up to a wonky door.  The hinge on one of our overhead cabinets seems to have had a malfunction.  And we need a replacement — from what I can tell there’s no way to replace the spring.

It was a good excuse for a drive.  We’re 10 miles from Granada.  Which means we’re also 38 miles from Greenwood which is the first town of any size and we decided to make that our destination for the morning (after checking out the local hardware store and the nearest Walmart – at the far side of Grenada.)  (P.S.:  Turns out these Euro hinges aren’t part of the stock for this little town, or Greenwood, so we’ll wait till we get someplace larger to worry about the repair.)

cotton-fieldsWe are in the heart of Cotton Country here.  In fact, Greenwood MS claims to be the Cotton Capital of the World.  All I know is there’s a lot of cotton sitting in a lot of cotton fields waiting to be harvested.   It’s hard to believe — in the 21st Century how important cotton was to the US  not long ago.

cotton_ginHumans have been cultivating cotton since 500 A.D. but it wasn’t until 1793 that Eli Whitney invented the cotton Gin and miraculously made it possible for the cotton industry as we know it today to become an entity.  The ‘process’ of processing cotton had been time consuming and Whitney changed that forever.


From Harpers’ Bazaar circa 1869

It’s troubling — as a Northerner — to travel the roads down here and see how little has changed in cotton country.  I’m saddened by the deep poverty we see as we drive down the road, and as we make our way through the local communities.  “Ramshackle” and “House” are still inseparable  here;  neighborhoods are still clearly defined as black and white — though far more black neighborhoods than white. And even here in the Corps campground there is a lot that speaks to the continuing issue of race in america.   The hosts here were sure to make it clear that their little Halloween party to be held next week was “just” for the campers, not for townies to come and “see what they can steal.”  There’s still a lot of bigotry to be found in the South.  There are a good number of RV’s with both their US flag and their Confederate flag on display.

I don’t know.  I clearly do not understand feelings of regional pride, or disgust.  Intellectually I know it’s hard to live in a place that is associated with a singular event.  To live in Dachau — home of that infamous Nazi concentration camp — is to live in a place that people don’t want to be FROM.  Mothers travel to nearby Munich to give birth there so that the child’s birth certificate will not say Dachau.  I have no idea what it must be like to be a descendant of slave cotton workers; to understand the degree to which being in this place affects their psyche.  All I know is that even as an outsider I was aware of the bits and pieces of cotton balls that escaped from trucks delivering the new harvest to factories and storage facilities.  All those little bits of fluff that perhaps say more to the local residents about their own history, and the history of their people than I can ever guess.

I’m running out of unread books in my library.  I usually go to Goodwill to replenish my reading ammunition.  I noticed that there are no Goodwill stores here;  I don’t think as much gets thrown away when it’s still usable as is the case in Milwaukee.

Downsizing:  perpetual vigilance

Downsizing does not end with selling your house and moving into your RV.  Even as I have been talking about finally getting around to sorting out our basement storage bays, the question comes:  what do you keep and what do you throw away?  Some RV’ers I know have a saying, “One in, one out,” but I don’t think that living in an RV is quite as simple as trying to keep a steady state in possessions.

3744 Ramsey

This is what we downsized out of. From 6500 sq ft to 230 sq ft. A literal 95% reduction in size.

You’ve seen them, haven’t you?  Those RV’s in the next campsite that, when the storage bay doors are opened, are crammed, jammed, and bulging with belongings.  Peg and I felt that way when we left Milwaukee just after having sold our old house.  The thing is, I don’t want my coach to look that way — or to BE that FULL.   I find myself embarrassed for them.  And one of the first things I did when we got 30 miles away from Milwaukee on that first trip was to get rid of some of the things we had thought we were going to want, but realized (perhaps before we even put them on board in the first place) that we didn’t need them.  When we stopped in Milwaukee a month ago we unloaded a variety of items that we’d been carrying along for a year, a food processor, a toaster, some clothing items including one of my Australian Cowboy hats, and a slug of other nondescript items.

On Saturday we bought a tiny document shredder.  We used to have one, and we sold it (or maybe we gave it to our daughter — I can’t honestly remember). In post-downsized life there is this annoyance every time I purchase something that I had and erred in selling off, and now realize I should have kept.  But, even if we still had that shredder with us it would be too large for the space we have.  We wanted and needed something much smaller.  And for me, realizing that our needs have changed is a huge lesson that has been (and still is) hard to accept.  Smaller works too!  I don’t always need the large economy size.

Buying something new can mean finding something to get rid of, perhaps two somethings.  But buying new can also mean learning about smaller sized packaging, learning to use the old one up before buying a replacement.  scott tpFor example,  we used to buy toilet paper 12 rolls at a time.  Yeah — it was cheaper in bulk, but not all that much.  It was a pain to store (even in the old school!) and in the coach we simply don’t have room for all that toilet paper — I mean no one needs that much TP at any one time.

Bounty-Select-A-Size-Paper-TowelsSimilarly, we have started looking at other items differently.  Take paper towels for example.  For one thing we have cut our use of everything that results in solid waste.  We wash where possible, we recycle even in places that don’t offer recycling bins — some things we carry along with us until we find a recyle bin.  But we also find ways to cut down on how much solid waste we make. Peggy started looking for paper towels like Bounty where you can choose 1/2 of a sheet, instead of an entire sheet of towel.  Every little bit helps.  Now we buy just two or three rolls where we used to buy 6 or 12 rolls.  If you don’t USE it you don’t have to store it.

I don’t open the storage bays, or bring something into the coach without wondering to myself “what do we really need to carry along with us?”  On Thursday while organizing the basement I got to the storage tubs that contain “fluids” — oil, cleaning supplies, windshield washer fluid, etc.  — I didn’t take time to trim the quantities and items I have down there — but I know that next time I’m puttering around down there I will reduce those items in quantity.  I don’t need all of those items.  Some of them I’ve carried 12 months and haven’t used yet.  I think my mantra will become “If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you don’t need it.”

But the real lesson here is perpetual vigilance.  It’s easy to put my latest package of mail on the counter and not get right on it.  It’s easy to say, “I might need it,” instead of tossing something.  But now, as an RV’er, every pound I carry costs something to transport: it costs fuel, the added weight adds to the stresses and strains on the coach, it costs money to buy in the first place, and I don’t  need the same things I formerly did.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

Journey DL, Minimalism, Old Diary
journey dl

You remember what Journey looks like — with it’s 14′ awning on the side.

This morning the wind woke us at 4:30, blowing our awning around like nobody’s business. At 4:35 we were both up and getting dressed so as to go outside, release the braces, and roll the awning back up into it’s holder.

We now know that our secluded little compound in the forest is NOT all that sheltered from the winds.  🙂 🙂 🙂

But at least we discovered this when the winds weren’t strong enough to damage the awning.   This, I say, because we have seen enough RV’s with torn off awnings!

Awake In The Middle

Minimalism, Old Diary

Trip Planning Library

20130914-194133.jpgWith all the attention to where we’re going I’ve been remiss about telling you about little changes/improvements in Journey.

Our route planning library has been strewn helter-skelter around Journey  until now.  It dawned on me the other day that the two cabinets above my cockpit are just about the right size to house all our route planning info with a little room left over for bird and plant books.  So, between other projects I took some time to make the move and perhaps be able to find what I’m looking for when I’m looking for it.

Job well done, Peter (he says, patting himself on the back) 🙂

Family, Minimalism

About It’s Approved…


I’ve had some inquiries about the nature of the building that Michael and Kathryn have purchased.  To I decided to provide a little history (as little as I know)

The building is pre-1900 and for quite a few years it has been nothing more than storage for machine tools.  The former owner of the building has been  a seller of machine tools (lathes, presses, etc.) for many years.

In it’s early life the building housed a magnet factory.

This image Michael found and here’s his caption:

Just found this online – 1942 Popular Mechanics article . Publicity shot of a woman in iron-soled shoes suspended by a Dings Magnetic Separator roller . She’s hanging from the back crane , pretty much where it is parked now . Great piece of 2424 So. Graham history !

The interior is really three long bays.  The ‘kids’ residence will be the 1/3 to the right in the photo, the reamining 2/3 will be used for Mike’s auto and furniture shop.

Minimalism, Old Diary

Giving In To The Centuries Old Camping Tradition


Our new steering wheel table at night

There is no longer practiced tradition among campers – even in the days before they were called ‘campers’ – than people watching.  We’ve been doing a lot of people watching since we arrived.

It’s amazing how many people walk past your campsite when there are only 38 campsites in the campgrounds!  If they are like us, we take at least two all-around-the-campground walks a day — sometimes more.  We’re putting on at this campground at least 1 1/2 miles for each walk.  That’s not a lot of mileage but you have to bear in mind that it’s also UP and DOWN walking — Highland Ridge is thus called for a very good reason — it’s up on a ridge and there’s enough vertical diversity to keep life interesting.

There’s an unspoken rule of sorts about sitting outside your RV.  Face your chairs toward the road and it’s a signal you’re willing to communicate.  Face your chairs away from the road and you’re telling others you don’t want to be bothered.



I thought I’d show you our new steering wheel table.  The shot at the left shows the table as it sits on the steering wheel.  The shot above shows it as we use it — a place to keep our table lamp and once we start our job as Camp Hosts we’ll keep our printer on the table with the lamp on top of that.

Tomorrow we shadow the departing Camp Hosts even though they don’t leave until Wednesday morning.  Sunday is the busiest day of the week and we’ll be learning what we do, and what we don’t do.  After all, we are hosts — not enforcers.  That’s what the Park Rangers are for.  Monday I get checked out on the Golf Cart.  The Corps is big in safety and safety training is a big part of their ‘thing.’  Which is good.  I’m all for safety training.

I don’t know how you are about planned changes.  We’ve been known to cruise past the house we were going to buy; or cruise past the new company we were going to work for — and we’re going it again here.  WE make sure we walk past our new campsite — noting little details like where the sewer hookup is, and where the Internet hookup is, or whether there’s room enough for our screen room (which by the way we have not set up since we’ve been here).  It’s fun looking forward to things — like where we’re going to be living for the next 6 weeks.  Even if it’s only 1/2 mile down the road.  For those of you paying attention this is not our shortest move… We once moved only about 200 yards (At Thomson Causeway when we moved from site 125 to 65 out on the point.)

I’ve been thinking about the difference between staying in a place for two weeks and staying for 8 weeks.

I have said this before but we don’t view our life as fulltime RV’ers as a vacation.  There are many things you tend to do on ‘vacation’ that we don’t do.  Ever.  We aren’t big on places or events where there are hordes of people — so we rarely do the ‘touristy’ places.  We are sort of looking for a possible future permanent location so we treat each new location from the standpoint of what would it be like to actually LIVE here.  We snoop around a little bit on our two weeks stays but to be truthful we are less interested in all the cute little places than what the weather, humidity, social climate is like.

Being in a place for as long as 8 weeks means our prime directive can be viewed differently.  we aren’t in as much of a hurry to see what the area is like.  The first week here — before we heard about the Camp Host position we were going every day.  Since then we’ve slowed down.  We have a while and we can think about other things.  I don’t know what the next 6 weeks will be like but we still have places to go and people to see.


I spent most of the morning and into the afternoon working on my reorganizing.  UGH!  I thought I did a good job last year but I’m realizing I scarcely touched the subject.  Today the ugly truth was realizing how many of the same things I brought along even though we had downsized a couple times now.  Just by way of example I have two fishing tackle boxes that I use as parts storage — including such things as COMPUTER CORDS.  I’m finding that I bought along multiple copies of many different cords and I have stored them in various different places in the coach. Much of the day was spend coming across a cord, then realizing I have the same thing in another place, and then going to find those other cords in other places — putting them with like items and then figuring out whether I had an appropriately sized container to put all the like items for longterm storage.  It’s a slow go.  I threw away a bunch of duplicates; I have more to go.  But I feel good about each step forward.  This is going to take longer than I thought.  In the end I hope I’ll know where things are, and where they belong.

So, that’s it for today.

I’ll talk with you tomorrow.





Minimalism, Old Diary, RV Living

Isolation or vulnerability?

Pictures through rain drop covered windows are supposed to be blurry!

Pictures through rain drop covered windows are supposed to be blurry!

The day after.  Weekends are hectic; but starting early Sunday morning a mass exodus begins that continues all day long until by the end of the day the recently full to the gills campgrounds are nearly empty.  That’s when my favorite time starts!

It’s Monday morning and by golly it’s quiet — sort of.

I say sort of because the huge difference between living in a 6500 sq ft school and living in a 230 sq ft RV is that there is no isolation from Momma Nature! This can be a wonderful thing — using wonderful simultaneously in several of it’s meanings — or it could  be a fearful thing.  Fortunately for us, it’s not about fear.

What I’m getting at is simple.  In a big house you don’t hear many of the noises that Momma Nature makes.  In Journey you hear pretty much all of them. For example, it’s raining outside right now.

In the school house we could only hear the rain on the roof in two out of 20+ rooms, and then only in a muffled manner.  In Journey you not only hear the rain distinctly, you can also trace the breezes as they move droplets of rain from one portion of the roof to another.  Kind of like listening to the sound of squirrels claws clicking their way across the roof — which you can also hear in Journey.  

Fortunately for us this is not a bad thing. I grew up as a Boy Scout — and my parents did a lot of camping — so the sound of water on a roof is comforting, and a lot more secure than the sound of water on a canvas tent!  Then there were my years driving truck — and I had plenty of nights with rain on the roof while I snored soundly in my sleeper.  One of these days I’ll have to root around in my archives and find a couple shots of my old truck.  But for now I’ll just say that rain drops on roofs are kind of comforting.

I can see, however, that for some people this could be very disconcerting.  Now, from my own experience I have to admit that I’ve never lived through a tornado or a hurricane — so had I done so I might have a very different take on “nature.” At this point in life nature is still my friend; I hope she stays such for the rest of my time on this great big ball called Earth, but we’ll see how that plays out.

To live in an RV is to be vulnerable. To know that in advance is important — but merely knowing it doesn’t mean that one is prepared to deal with it’s reality.  Knowing that all those drops on the roof are rain, and all the noise outside is wind may just be a mere matter of knowledge — but for fearful people with good imaginations that knowledge can be paralyzing!  It all depends on your state of mind.

Be Careful in that RV

Be Careful in that RV

I know RV’ers who will not stay in campgrounds, or settle down into individual campsites if there are tall trees — they would say there’s too much danger of limbs falling on the roof of their RV.  To be honest — when I back into a site I’m worried that I don’t clip a low hanging branch, but most of those trees that a person can worry about have been around a lot longer than I have been alive — sure, there is some chance that something can fall from the sky and smash my roof — but there’s a greater chance that someone in an oncoming lane of traffic will have a heart attack as they approach, that they’ll lose consciousness, cross the median strip and plow into the front of our RV killing us instantly.  I’m just not given to worrying about what could happen.  I’d rather do my best to drive and park defensively and leave it at that.

So, if you’re one of those who dreams that you’d like to spend your retirement years wandering around the countryside in an RV — take some time to consider your fear factor.  If you’re like us and you LIKE being right out there with the elements — then keep thinking about it.  But if you’re one of those who goes catatonic over lighting, or ape over wind, if you get the willies when confronted by sheets and buckets of rain, or you get the wobblies over inconveniently placed trees — think maybe about a condo on South Padre Island or a Time Share in Door County.  This life isn’t for you.

In the meantime — I’ll be drawing mental pictures of the shapes the raindrops are making on the roof and listening to the birds and bullfrogs.  I’ll be out there howling with the coyotes at the Moon El Magnifico — if only there aren’t clouds to hide it from my view.

I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Family, Minimalism, Old Diary

Second Sunday

Sunset At Thomson Causeway

Sunset At Thomson Causeway

This is the second Sunday since our closing, and Father’s Day. Both are good reasons for a little reflection and appreciation.  And I have a lot to appreciate!

In so many ways we have been in a holding pattern since Peg retired in September 2011.  Now the retirement that we had been hoping for can begin.  I’m thankful for the wonderful family I have;  each in their own right has been a strength for me when I have been down, or frustrated, or impatient.  Peg especially, but each and every one.

I’ve said this before, but there’s no right way to retire, or to RV, or to live. Our circumstances are individual and no matter how much one might want someone else to live their life as they are, that just can’t happen; no more than you can live our life because we are getting a chance to do something that perhaps you think you’d like to do.  Truth be told — if you had it to do our way — you’d do it differently.

I’ve been blogging off and on since 2003.  Hard to believe.  I’ve blogged on all sorts of different sites and I wish now I had some of those old blogs to remind me of some of the things that have happened.

I renamed this blog:  Life Unscripted — because when I transferred old blog entries over here I thought our mobile life would be starting much sooner.  The result has been 18 months of blogging about real estate, and frustrations — with intermittent entries about actually RV’ing.  Finally that ratio can change so that our stories are more about  living our retirement than dealing with real estate.

It’s Spring, going on Summer.  Spring is a time we think of mating and babies and eggs hatching and new life.  Thomson Causeway Recreation Area is home of an ongoing University of Iowa professor’s study of Painted Turtles.  This prof is world renown for his knowledge and research of this species; each year at this time the university sends about a dozen students to live here (in tents) and track the movments and mating habits of painted turtles.  Some of the eggs they return to the University to hatch — others are allowed to hatch in situ.   It’s a lot of to-do about not a lot.  But it’s science.

Painted Turtles are not the only wildlife here. Today a snapper crossing the campground road drew the attention of about a dozen adults as they attempted to get it to snap onto a stick so they could get it put  back in water and away from marauding automobiles who might not see him (or her). Someone eventually went for a long fire tongs to pick it up without getting bitten and return it to the water.

Families of Canadian geese are abundant — though I wonder why they are called Canadian Geese if they live and raise their young in Illinois!  Which brings me to my point….

Spring isn’t Just Spring

Spring isn’t a single thing.  It’s a series of things.  Those geese I was talking about have had their families over a period of almost two months. Some of them have real feathers already, some of them are still bathed in down; some are grown to half the size of their parents, and others aren’t much bigger than the egg they hatched out of.

So much of life is just the same. The seasons of our life come but the beginning isn’t the same as the middle or the end.  We have concluded one part of the season of our “retirement”  and we segued into a slightly different portion of it.  We must learn — I must learn — to accept each transition with grace and appreciation.

Today, we sort of “marked” our arrival here by taking two kitchen cabinets completely down to bare shelves and re-arranging the lot for greater convenience and efficiency.  We did not want to begin “organizing” while we were at Bong — no reason other than just not wanting to.  But we both feel a page has turned.  We are still in “Spring” but it’s a different “part” of Spring.  We’re still settling in to our new life but we’ve been at it long enough to start putting down roots — to start making Journey completely our own all over again.   It will all be fun.  It has been fun.  We are both doing some “nesting” if you want an animal comparison;  feathering our nest for the future.

Nothing exciting — but all necessary.   A lot like life; which isn’t exciting every day but it’s still life and not everyone gets to our point in life with health and a sound body.  We have a lot of which to be appreciative.

And we are.

I’ll talk with you tomorrow.