Images, Old Diary

Every Sunrise is Different and isn’t that Great!

I guess I’m in a particularly thankful mood of late.

One could say that I ought to be upset about our wonky slide topper — seemed we had gotten everything ‘fixed’ and we finally had the prospect of smooth sailing for a while and now that happens.  But the reality is that maintenance is an ongoing reality and buying a 10 year old coach means that some things are going to need replacing.  Maintenance is nothing to get upset about.

And, we are finally heading South.  For the Winter.

Hooray!

We are much more the ‘Early Birds’ than the ‘Night Owls.’  I love sunrises and it seems as if (when we stay in this campground and in this particular site) that I want to photograph the sunrise every single morning.  Maybe that’s because every single sunrise is different. 

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A few years ago some old geezer said to me that

Any day you wake up
on the right side
of the grass is a good day.

It seems that since hearing that I have embraced that idea even more than I had in my youth.  I’ve never been one to stay sad or depressed for very long.  Well, aside from one major even in my life.  I’m pretty much happy all the time; or most of the time anyway…

I appreciate what we have, and the life we live.  I never, in all my imagination, dreamt that retirement would be this much fun.  When we were working I gave away a lot of years of productive labor to causes; at the time I pretty much thought (as unreasonable as it might have been — who says I have to be sensible all the time) that I would work until I couldn’t work anymore.  Circumstances changed, Peggy needed to leave her job — for her sanity’s sake — and so we retired.  When we ran the numbers and realized we could be comfortable and even take a few chances with our retirement life we were both surprised as heck.  And maybe because we are living better dreams than we ever dreamt, we both wake up in the morning eagerly, looking forward to what most days have to offer us!

It doesn’t hurt that, now for example, we are in a nearly deserted park with beauty around us. We’re feeling healthy (regardless of what the reality may be).  We’re happy to be together; and to spend time together.  And we’re happy to meet new people and have new experiences every day.

That point about being together is one that’s particularly important for RV’ers to consider.  There’s not a lot of places to hide in an RV.  If you barely get along with your Significant Other then taking off in a rolling home is not going to make your co-existence any easier.  It really helps if you have a good relationship, enjoy each other’s company, and take pleasure in similar kinds of activities/things.  If one of you has something happen to them, the other is going to be right there to chime in and like it as well, or dislike it.  In my case we just seem to fit each other really nicely.2015121608270113

After writing yesterday’s blog I thought to myself, “I hope Kathryn doesn’t feel that we think Milwaukee isn’t home any more.”  The fact that this visit  — with it’s doctor induced stress and it’s NeverCold induced stress was a sort of one-off experience.  Oh, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel as if the climate of Milwaukee is welcoming again.  But that’s just my little bugaboo, my phantasm,  my little obsession.  The fact is that being near her is always the most comfortable place to be.  And Michael too.

What I am coming to appreciate more over time is how much Peg and I are changing, and have changed, through this experience.  I guess I look out at some people and they seem to hold tighter and tighter to this world as they age.  And I guess I feel, increasingly, as if I’m letting go of more and more things.  I have my likes and dislikes, but I’m willing to tolerate more than I have been in the past.  Which seems contradictory because as I age I also notice the foolishness and stupidity around me more than I once did.  Or things and people are just getting more foolish and stupid.  (Not sure about that perspective!)

man-looking-through-binocularsWe started out looking for a place.  Now, the place is less important.  Being who we are is and always has been our thing.  But perhaps we never thought about it.  Living life on our own terms — as much as possible — is what we’ve always wanted, and pretty much what we’ve always done.  Perhaps me more than Peggy.  She was the stable one in our life together.  She was the one who stuck with a single employer for 33 years, and I was the one who kept finding new adventures.  But still and all it was about being who we were and not pretending to be something else.

go-back-to-being-meRV’ing is the best place to be who you are.  On some levels there’s less pressure to conform.  (Although if you really believe that you’re buying into RV myths that the reality of RV’ing will knock out of you in a big hurry!)  RV’ing give you the impression of freedom!  But we still have our budgets, our physical limitations, our lifelong habits.

For a week, or maybe a few weeks, I’m quite happy to have nothing much going on.  Every morning Peg asks what I have on my agenda for the day, because I usually have an agenda for the day.  But lately my answer has been bupkiss, zip, nothing!  Which I’m quite happy with. It’s nice that there are ups and downs in life.  Flurries of activity, downtimes, times to coast and times to trudge up the hill: variety is a cliche but that “spice of life” thing has some weight to it, and I’m enjoying every spicy bit.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ambassador PLQ, Old Diary

A Day Above Days

Every once in a while a day comes along that’s just perfect.  Friday was one of those days!2014101706262825

From the whispy clouds at sunrise all the way through the day it was just perfect.  We got a whole lot done — as well as having time to get a whole lot of nothing done.

We started the day off at the Visitor’s Center; it’s time to get some mail from home so we checked with the receptionist to see whether they would accept a package for us; once we had approval we passed the info on to our daughter and voila — we can get caught up with the world.

This location also has a really nice (though 10 years old and a little outdated) video about the Great Flood of 1927.  This area — at Grenada MS — is at the heart of the legislation that resulted in the Corps of Engineers entire flood protection campaign and it was interesting to hear some of the details.  Some day when I have more inclination to write a LONG post I’ll see about sharing some of that with you.  But for the time we achieved our purpose at the visitors’ center and returned to our site.

Then the long process of sorting and resorting the basement storage bays.  I know that’s not exciting, but I’ve been putting it off for so long and struggling to get everything INTO the bays even though we have more storage in Serendipity  than we ever had in the Journey.

We began, looking like this:

and when we were done,

After finishing up with that I had time to sit out under our awning and just chill.  To enjoy the view, listen to the birds, watch the grasshoppers; to chill.  To be honest, we have been so busy since leaving Springfield that I haven’t really spent time sitting outside enjoying life like this.  It felt wonderful.  And I’m looking forward to a lot more of this.  Even if the temps aren’t this warm (79º as I write this late on Friday afternoon)  it’s a great place to chill.

I think I’ll even get at some of the indoor organization projects we have in mind.

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

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Old Diary

We’re not in Milwaukee anymore, Toto…

First full day at a new location is usually devoted, at least partially, to reconnoitering.  Our first day in Grenada was no different.

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Frozen Frogs Legs (From China no less) Don’t we have enough local frogs?

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I’ve never seen large economy sized packages of Catfish filets in a Milwaukee store — this single store had three different varieties of bulk packages.

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Ok — everyone likes smoked meats. Right? I’ll have you know that here you can buy not only smoked MEAT — but also smoked SKIN — just for flavoring purposes. 🙂

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And then…. there were the Turkey Tails. Nicely smoked, packaged 5 to a tray for all your smoked turkey tail needs…

I have this  “thing” about going to grocery stores  in new locations.  I don’t mean to buy provisions — at the moment our larder is pretty well supplied.  I mean just to snoop.  What do people here eat?  How do they season?  What’s to be found on the shelves in a strange grocery store that  we can’t find on the shelves in our old, familiar groceries?

We found a lot of interesting things on Thursday — but I only bothered to shoot four meat items.  If you knew how many different foodstuffs I get excited about you might think me really weird.

It’s an interesting town, we found.  I was surprised that we didn’t find a large Kroger, or Food Lion, or Safeway, or some such store.  We did find a Sav-a-Lot store,  and a Grocery Basket Spain’s grocery. All were quite small stores for a city of 12,900.

And then we found out about the Walmart store in town.  Yup — that old Killer-of-local-businesses is here too in their usual SuperCenter type store with bright lights and low prices.

We took a look around town, and like a lot of small-town-america Grenada is having a hard time.  Most of their business district is empty or abandoned — there’s lots going on out on the highway, but the historic district looks pretty woebegone.

My experience of Mississippi is quite limited.  30 years ago I found myself traversing the highways here quite a bit — I spent a few years as an over-the-road driver and I saw a lot of this state.  SAW being the operative word.  I passed by.  I never had much time to sit and attend to what might be around me.  I loaded and unloaded and traversed the state; I slept overnight in truckstops and I ate meals in any restaurant that had a parking lot big enough to park my truck near.  My overwhelming impression of the state at that time was one of poverty, and inequality, and of depression.

I have to say that 30 years later things look a lot different.  Mind you, we haven’t been in this state for even 24 hours — so I’m not qualified to say much more, nor would I dream of doing so.  But I have to say that life from a 23 hour window looks a lot better here now than then.  On the scale of which states are the most dependent on the federal government for spending there’s huge difference between Wisconsin and Mississippi.  Wisconsin taxpayers get $1.84 back from Uncle Sam for every tax dollar they contribute to the Federal coffers (ranking 20th on the scale of feeding at the federal trough).  Mississippi on the other hand pulls in a whopping $3.02 (ranking as top dog – ahead of all other states).  Federal funding is almost 46% of their state revenue.

The Corps of Engineeers project here is a good example of how the money is spent.  This is the cleanest, nicest, facility we have visited of all the Corps campgrounds we have stayed at.  It’s mild enough that the Corps keeps camp hosts here year round — as with the Forest Service at the Oregon Dunes, it’s cheaper to let a camp host stay here through the winter, servicing the few campers that come through than to repair the vandalism that would have been done in an empty facility.  Good use of MY tax dollars I think! 🙂

I’ll admit I have mixed feelings about being here.  I have been looking forward to four weeks in LA — just kicking-back-time.  But there’s this thing about going someplace you don’t know when you’re already in a place you really like.  So, we have until Sunday (our original stay-till registration date) to decide whether or not to re-up for a few more days.  Bayou Segnette is just across the river from New Orleans, while Grand Isle is located at a veritable Land’s End location.  I do want to visit both — but whether it will be 2 weeks at each within the next month or not is up for grabs right now.

2014101615491101Where we are — this physical site — is an ideal place for me to tear into the basement storage bays and make some sense out of them.  But we’ll see how many other projects I get into, or whether I’m just happy putting my feet up and working on another good book.  Only time will tell.

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

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This morning's pre-sunrise (thank you Peggy)

This morning’s pre-sunrise (thank you Peggy)

Images

Finally, a campground where we can see the sunrise

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Old Diary, Travel

Oops…

I wonder if we should name our Ambassador Serendipity?  Or maybe Indecision?

When we started off yesterday morning from Rend Lake we had really good intentions of sticking with our program for the day.  But the weather was crummy — still more rain and drizzle with the skies overcast all the way round.  Frankly, I wasn’t in a mood to drive in the rain and then set up in the rain.

We looked at the forecast (Wednesday’s and the next few days following) and the weather where we were going next looked a lot better than the weather where we were heading Wednesday.  So….

keepontrucking-smallWe passed our exit and kept on truckin’!

We’re tired of the rain and the cool.  And that’s one of the best parts about this lifestyle — if things aren’t going the way you want them to — change your plans.  And we did.

We’d planned 5 days / 4 nights between Rend Lake and Bayou Segrette S.P. outside New Orleans.  We have been all over the place about how long we would take covering that 600+ mile distance.  We started out a few months ago thinking we might take almost a month, then we had it down to 2 days; but as we motored on down the road it looks like it’s going to be 2 days driving, but whether it’s 4 days here, or a couple weeks — has yet to be determined.

It was a long day.  By the time we were ready to go Wednesday morning it was 9:50 a.m., and we pulled into North Abutment Campground at the US COE Grenada Dam about 5 p.m.  We had no reservation, so we were relying on the season and the availability of First-come-First Served sites, and did we ever luck out.

How about a pull through with water and electric right on the shore of the lake?

THE VIEW OUT OUR LOUNGE WINDOW

THE VIEW OUT OUR LOUNGE WINDOW

This is such an amazing site.  The lake is huge, we met all the volunteers already — they were all gathered together in our little loop putting Halloween decorations out and had a wonderful chat with them all.  Gotta luv volunteers!

Here are a couple shots of our surroundings — looking back towards the coach.

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In this panorama shot the coach is there — dead center, right on the shore.

2014101517571818 2014101517572419We have already found out where there’s a killer seafood buffet on Fridays (so say the volunteers).  We’ll have to see about that!

This time of year you can stay at this location for 14 days and then if you ask for an exception (from the Park Ranger) you can stay an additional 14 days.  And, we’re told that once you get into November its possible to get a second exception and stay for an additional 14 days… do a total of 42 days!

We’re eager to check the place out over the next few days.  Perhaps we’ll extend beyond our initial 4 day payment!  And who can fault such a gorgeous location.  I’ve been wanting to be in this position — not HAVING to move on, not HAVING to so anywhere, without hindering reservations — just free to be us.

So, there you have it  — Life Unscripted.   Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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