From wandering vagabond to esoteric hermit — Crossing things off my bucket list in 2018 and 2019 and now I’m not

My lifestyle really changed in the spring of 2020. Before March 23, I was a carefree soul who traveled full time. I had my dogs and my cat and my motorhome and no particular place to be. In 2018 and 2019, we had racked up 16 states, over 60 rv park reviews, and over 30 sightseeing spots reviewed and photographed for posterity. (If you are interested in all my reviews and photographs, you can start here: animalsaboard.com).

I joked that I was a professional sightseer and I really enjoyed that moniker. There weren’t too many places along our way that I couldn’t enjoy without the dogs and the few places I did want to explore without them, (such as museums and live shows), I found it easy enough to leave them tucked in to their special spots in the motor home with their favorite toys for a few hours.

What was great about 2019 was a difference in me from 2018. In 2018, I was new to cross-country motorhome travel and was still learning a lot. I was able to overcome some fears and take some chances but mostly I played it safe. In 2019, now that I was more comfortable, I took the dogs and explored places that were a little more off the beaten track or just places I wanted to see that I had bypassed the previous trek across the US.

I was able to cross off the following from my initial bucket list when I first set off in June 2018. I know that pride is one of the seven deadly sins but I was really proud of myself for doing these things that had been on my mind for years previous. I would have to say, and I speak for the dogs too, that we enjoyed every single minute and never had any regrets.

  • Route 66 and the requisite trading post stores along the route — we traveled either the original route or a nearby highway from Southern California to Oklahoma City. I got some great photos at really iconic places I had been wanting to see in person, including the Giganticus Headicus and the corner in Winslow. I also bought a kachina doll, a serape, some leather boots, and sent several gifts home to friends and the folks.
  • The Gulf — I remember the very first day the dogs walked down the boardwalk and saw the Gulf Ocean for the first time. We were in Galveston. I spent a glorious 2 weeks playing in the warm sand and taking long walks along pristine pocket beaches. I also made a good new friend there that I’m still in contact with on Facebook.
  • The Louisiana Bayou — Besides the food, one of my favorite authors sets all her books in this area in cute little made up towns like Sinful, Louisiana and Mudbug. My only regret is that I booked RV Resorts instead of state parks most of the time and who knows if I’ll ever be back down that way. But what we did do was pretty memorable. The huge historical plantation Rosedown gave me many exquisite photo ops and memories. Another memorable day was the boardwalk hike among the alligators at Percy Quinn State Park in Southern Mississippi.
  • Myrtle Beach — I had been telling people I would go to Myrtle Beach one day for probably ten years. And we finally made it. I booked a rather older historical rv park right on the beach in the north area and I’m glad I was here and not at one of the more pristine fancy parks. We spent three great weeks exploring on foot, walking on the beach every day, or in the rental car, driving to sites and I took in a few shows without the dogs. This was my first exposure to “snow birds.” I got to know my next door neighbors, who had a house in Massachusetts and spent October through April every year in this RV Park.

There were several things I did in 2019 that I’m so glad I didn’t pass up. It started off with spending my birthday in a place that had fond memories from my childhood and then I got to see my neighborhood in New Mexico from the 1960s.

  • Calico Ghost Town — I had been here just passing through with a relative in the 90s and had always wanted to come back. Being able to spend a week in this quaint, Knotts Berry Farm vibe place was a memory I’ll cherish for a long time. And in the 1960s, my family had lived just down the road in Apple Valley. The best thing about Calico Ghost Town? All the attractions are dog-friendly.
  • Petrified Forest — I believe I was only about 5 or 6 the last time I had been here. It seems that when traveling from Southern California through to Oklahoma, which I was doing to visit my son, and planning stops every 200 or 300 miles, I kept missing this stop. So this time, I deliberately planned a stop with 4 days at the nearby KOA (Kampgrounds of America). We took a driving tour of the whole park and I checked out both visitor’s centers and gift shops while the dogs waited for me.
  • Roswell International UFO Museum — I found out later that the museum is actually dog-friendly but it was probably better for my crew to wait for me in the motor home in the parking lot. I’d been wanting to stop here for a long time and I wasn’t disappointed.

Unfortunately, some of 2019 didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned. One place that is still on my bucket list is the Thumb of Michigan (again a place-setting for one of my favorite authors). I made travel arrangements from Oklahoma City all the way north and east, ending with 4 weeks at Lake Huron in two separate state parks. Then, disaster struck. I ended up staying in Oklahoma for tooth surgery and spent the rest of the summer recuperating. I had to cancel all travel plans for up north.

I did spend 2 months in Branson, Missouri, another bucket list place, that fall. Again, I wasn’t disappointed. We had some great adventures and memories while there. Then, it was time to start heading to my winter digs again. I was sad about not seeing Michigan but was headed to a restorative month back at the Gulf Coast through Thanksgiving and then on to my winter spot in Southeastern Texas.

By winter 2019, I already had plans and reservations through spring and summer 2020. And by April 2020, I was on the phone and email cancelling everything. My plan had been to spend two months visiting my elderly folks in Northern California, including getting to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday in April. Then, at the end of May, I had plans to attend my first ever large RV Rally in Wyoming, with over 1000 people expected. I was going to spend the rest of the summer of 2020 exploring the Rocky Mountain states, which would all be new to me.

Instead, I spent from December 2019 to July 2020 in the same place in Texas, about an hour northeast of Houston. I finally left at the end of July and spent a month back in Oklahoma City to visit my son. From there, I thought maybe it would be safe to start traveling back to California. I was getting worried that I wouldn’t see my dad at all before it was too late. His health was really frail throughout 2020.

Traveling is still not advised so again cancelled plans to see my dad. In the meantime, I ended up at the top of a waiting list for a co-op RV site in New Mexico so I decided to pack in the traveling lifestyle for awhile. I moved to New Mexico at the beginning of September 2020 and bought a larger travel trailer to live in. My motor home is still in storage waiting for the day I can take her out again and get back to seeing this great country of ours. But for now, I must entertain myself with internet adventures, some writing projects, and my arts and crafts.

Cat Truisms

What I’m saying is nothing new. Cat owners for millenniums have known the following. These truisms are so “true” that there are thousands of cat memes on any one of these three on the internet, all garnering a chuckle or at least a knowing smile from cat-owners the world over.

But as I was reflecting on the habits of my own nine year old smoosh the other day, I thought it would be fun to make a list. So here goes:

  1. “The cat bowl needs to be filled MeOW!”
    If the bowl of dry cat food is at the halfway mark or lower, you can be sure that your little fur ball will find a way to let you know that he’s currently starving to death over here.

    Sometimes I’ll try to fool him and just shake the half a bowl of crunchies and mix it up a bit. That usually doesn’t work.
  2. “May I present my butt for your pleasure”
    Nothing new here but with the recent advent of working from home, there are now circulating the funniest video clips of cats being absolutely sure that they are granting you the privilege of seeing that fuzzy butt-ness up close and personal.

    I seem to garner the majority of my opportunities to inspect said behind while I’m working on my laptop. Or while I’m laying on the couch reading. What’re you gonna do?
  3. “If it’s smaller than me, I can push it off and watch it land”
    There’s a YouTube video called Thug Cat Knocks Glass Off Table that I used to show in my classroom often because it’s just so darn funny.

    Whenever I can’t find something that I know I had recently on my dining room table (where I do most of my work), like a pen or paperclip or something, I start foraging around under the table in amongst the dog blanket paraphernalia. I usually find what I’m looking for. 

I know there are more that just the three I listed above. Cats might be the single most popular pet on the planet. Can you think of any more cat truisms?

I Live In An Abandoned Town

In the desert, structures and remnants of lives don’t ever go away completely. The skeletons of abodes, fences, abandoned recreational vehicles, old barns can be seen dotting the landscape amongst the tumbleweeds and creosote. I first noticed this when I spent two years driving back and forth across the country in my motor home. I traversed Interstate 40 and Interstate 10, sun-bright yellow land contrasted by blue, blue skies flashing by at sixty or sixty-five miles an hour. I travelled less used byways and county roads at a much more leisurely pace through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, slowing to gawk at derelict motels or restaurants abandoned alongside the road.

Several months ago, I decided to park the motorhome, buy a trailer and settle down in one spot, Lakewood, New Mexico. I was now in the middle of a couple hundred acres of grazing cattle and about two miles from the nearest highway. I can cross over a set of railroad tracks to get to the little post office set up in a trailer but there are no buildings or other businesses to speak of. At least I didn’t think there were. The reasons I picked the spot had nothing to do with the history or the landscape but when I learned about the thriving community that was this place a hundred years ago, I was hooked.

Now the freight trains just blare their horn and pass through during the night. But there was a passenger stop along the route at Lakewood, originally called McMillan, with a saloon, drug store, and post office, in the late 1890s (http://genealogytrails.com/newmex/eddy/dayton.html).  

In 1911, The Lakewood Canning Factory was built. The building is still standing although the business closed permanently in 1922. I’ve driven around trying to find the remains of other town buildings but it’s all private property now with secured gates.

If you do a current Google search on Lakewood, NM, you will learn that the population in Lakewood (zip 88254) is 31. There are 1 people per square mile aka population density. I don’t think that takes in to account the mobile home park I live at but otherwise, quite true. I believe there are more abandoned buildings and vehicles than residents in these parts. But it’s alive with history and, if you’re observant, the pieces left behind.