Friday, August 29, 2014

Six Books

How many books are too many for the Thistle?  More than twelve, I'm thinking.  That's six for me and six for Ed.

So here we are narrowing down two floor-to-ceiling walls of books to twelve books.  Thank goodness for computers providing us with endless reading material in the absence of our library, but still, carrying only twelve books seems like an impossibly difficult book reduction task.

Our Library
My first two books will be writing books.  I am not a good enough writer, nor do I have a big enough ego (really!) to think my blogging will have the popularity to attract hundreds of readers.  It is, after all, simply a blog to keep our family and friends up to date on our travel activities and a diary for us to remember the adventure.  Nevertheless, I don't want my postings to bore my followers.  Improving my writing, mostly for my own personal satisfaction, but also for you, my family and friends, even if there are only a dozen or so of you, is high on my list of desires.

So here are some choices.  Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott and Stephen King A Memoir of the Craft on Writing.  I've read both books and I intend to read both again and again so they will travel with me.  I'm also reading Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck.  How did he pull off such a fabulous travel log about traveling across the United States in a van with his dog, Charley?  Aside, that is, from being John Steinbeck.  Scholars are now criticizing the book, claiming John Steinbeck didn't have the conversations or experiences he claimed he had, but I still found the book a good read many years ago and so far I'm finding it a good read this time around as well.   Besides, fiction or not, Steinbeck's style is a pretty hot model  for writing well.  But I digress.  Travels with Charley will not travel with me, except on my I-Pad.

I also have my heart set on learning to sketch, having been interested in sketching for years but not sticking with it long enough to progress satisfactorily.  Two of my books will be sketch books, The Sketch by Robert S. Oliver and Drawing Workbook, a Complete Course in Ten Lessons, by Jill Bays.  With practice perhaps you will see  sketches from time-to-time posted on the blog. 

That leaves me with two more books.  Should I learn more about photography and pack a book on how to take better photographs?  Do I want a book to pursue my Indian flute playing, another activity that is stale and neglected right now?  But what about a bird book and a wild flower book?  If I did a photography book, Indian flute book, bird book and plant book, that would make eight books.  Could I sneak my book collection up to eight?  

When I shared my six or eight book thinking with Mr. Ed, he grinned and laughed and said, "Eight!!"


"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."
 ~ Charles William Eliot

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Another Birthday

Yep, today is my birthday.  I have had so many, being in my 70's, that they roll around each year with alarming speed, coming much too  quickly, and more rapidly, each year.  The thrill of a party, or great event, is past, but the delight of another year of life is intense.  I love the way I can now drop what I don't want to do, and focus on what I want,  on my day.  I also love going out for a nice meal with my family, and perhaps a few friends.  I love the Facebook greetings that pour in in great numbers.  My birth day is a splendid day of reflection, rest, personal selfishness, adventure, surprise  and the wonderful feeling of being special to the people I love and who love me.

I had hoped the body shop would call and tell us we could pick up Thistle today, for my birthday gift, but that will be another day, and so I still have that to look forward to -- this week I hope!  So, with no Thistle, the tandem calls.

With five surgeries under by belt this past year and a half, bike riding has been out of the question.  But, just this week, we're riding again.  Although our rides are short, we've been on four, with each one a bit longer, and with each one making me feel younger, healthier, and happier.

Before our ride today we walked to town where we enjoyed coffee at our local and favorite coffee shop.  Following our ride we went out for lunch.   Dinner was with Yessi and Brad and Ed at Oyster Catcher in Coupeville.

Roast rabbit, beautifully served and yummy!
Mad dessert man digs in.

How could any birthday be better?    Color me all smiles.


"Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
 - Dr. Seuss

Postscript:    In designing my day to accommodate bike riding, I did not go to my book group gathering.  But, look at what I missed.

Oh the loss of zigging rather than zagging.    Seeing this birthday cake, and feeling the love behind it, I felt pangs of sorrow that I missed celebrating my birthday with my dear book group friends.  Yet, I felt no regrets spending the day as I did.


"The hardest thing about the road not taken is that you never know where it might have led."
 ~ Lisa Wingate, A Month of Summer

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Green Trail Mapping

Brad and Yessi head off to hike and map for Green Trails -- without us! We had hoped to be their  support vehicle but, alas, Thistle is still in the shop.  Our fingers are crossed for tagging along on the next trip later this month.  We have trail angeling we want to do for Brad and Yessi but also for the PCT hikers coming through right now.


"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."

~ Edward Abbey

Friday, August 22, 2014

We Wander and We Ponder

A few days ago, Ed and I celebrated our 30th anniversary.  We poked here and there as we chattered about where we've been and where we're going.  No great insights, but lots of hot conversation action...

The day began walking with Benton and our new neighbor, Meg, in Putney Woods, with a quick Yessi visit on our way home.  Then, heading north, we visited Brad at his job site at Useless Bay to see the hot new cabinets he is making out of big chunky live-edged cedar.  Ooohlala!   Affable neighbor/family visits to anchor us in our lives, our community and our family, without which we would be completely bereft.

Main Street Body Shop was the next stop.  We needed to visit Thistle.  Bad news!  Thistle is still awaiting parts from Germany.  Yikes.  We need our beautiful van back together so we can hit the road.  The price for carelessness is high.  We're sorry.  No more rear-end accidents.  We promise!  NO MORE REAR-END ACCIDENTS!

We then stuffed ourselves with big three-scoop ice-cream cones in Coupeville, whether to celebrate an almost back-together-van or to drown our sorrows of still no van is up for grabs.  Our next wander, without much ponder, was Jan McGregor's fabulous Japanese import store where we purchased silk quilting squares to make prayer flags.  The flags will hang from Thistle's awning letting our prayers for health and peace and good food disperse in the wind as we bump along the back roads of North America.  

Prayer Flags for Thistle

Office Depot (oh how I miss the independent private stationery stores) in Oak Harbor was  another stop to pick up a couple document storage items for Thistle.  Continuing north we bought sketch books at Hobby Lobby, a first time there for us.  Once we sorted through the warehouse of amazingly tacky junk, we found a smidgeon of real merchandise, way back in back, including our desired sketch books.   Now that I've seen Hobby Lobby it will be put into the same rubbish heap as WalMart.  Next we scouted out chairs for Thistle at a RV place in Burlington but found them lacking.   Hard to be polite about this persistence of shoddy.  We pondered this at length, with no resolution surfacing.

Our last stop was in Anacortes for our anniversary dinner at Rock Fish Grill.  Lovely!  We toasted our good fortune, our happiness, and our ability to keep on keeping on, no matter what.  There are always those no matter what events, but our 30 years puts to rest their seriousness or is it our resoluteness?

Then we wander on home to Langley after a fine day.  Benton, poor car-bored Benton, did get a few wanderings too, whew!


"There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate."
~Robert Brault

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thirty Years!

The sun was shining brightly on our wedding day, august 19, thirty years ago, as it is today.

We were married and celebrated in a beautiful First Street garden in Langley on Whidbey Island where gaiety flowed right beside anxiety.  We were no longer kids, in fact I had a teenage kid, Brad, so the significance of our actions was accute, scary, exciting and wonderful.  We stepped boldly forward into this new life together with friends and family at our sides.

Thirty years later, with touches of the rough-edges-of-life to soften us along the way, a diamond was created.   This year is our diamond wedding anniversary.  We're a good team and we're happy.  Plus, we have our Thistle Adventure ahead of us so the thrill-of-the-adventure goes on!

Fran & Ed, Seattle to Portland ride

Happy Anniversary Mr. Ed!  Love you!


"A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time." 
~ Anne Taylor Fleming

Sunday, August 17, 2014

And so it goes...

Waiting for our van repairs has been excruciating.   It's summer and the road beckons.  Our accident happened in early July, and now it is mid August, with no end in sight for when our van will be ready to roll.  Repair parts needed to be sent from Germany and when they arrived there were items missing.  Whether that was because the shipper failed to ship something, or the body works place missed ordering something, we'll never know.  It doesn't matter.  The bottom line is we are still waiting.  And so it goes...

The damage to our van from a slow moving accident in heavy traffic was pretty extensive.  I hate to think about a fast moving accident.  I won't!  We incurred no engine damage, but the radiator and air conditioning were done in.  The airbags ejected.  The body crunched.  The seat belts sprung.  All in all, the bill will be about $12,000.   And so it goes…

Need I mention how grateful we are for insurance. 

Our beautiful, but seriously damaged van

Thistle off to the automobile hospital

Soon after the accident I couldn't even look at these photographs they were so disturbing.  The pain is fading as perspective sets in.  We were not hurt.  The person hit by us was not hurt.  No ambulances.  No flashing-light trip to the hospital.  No deaths.  No funerals.  The van wasn't totaled.

Where our thinking is these days is, what if we'd crashed in Timbucktoo?  Ratty motel, no body shop, unknown mechanic and, if injuries, unknown doctors and a questionable hospital.  Perhaps even a hostile disposition to foreign cars or RVers. Two months later we'd still be wandering the lonely streets wondering when we'd get out of this place of bad food.

Having our first accident sucked but at least we were close to home.  Close to a body shop highly recommended by our mechanic.  Close to a mechanic we trust and who is familiar with our Sprinter.  Close to family and friends.   And, hey, that first awful scratch is out of the way.

And so it goes...


"Shit happens, and it's awful, but it's also okay.  We deal with it because we have to."
  Kurt Vonnegut 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Trail Angeling

Driving around the country aimlessly looking at the sights, although pleasant,  just isn't going to do it for us.  Our  discussions, time and time again, but especially now without the daily work schedule to keep us occupied, narrow themselves down to the question, "How do we live our lives?"   Where is the meaning and direction?   As a perennial volunteer, that's the first direction I look.

I have been finding opportunities galore for RV fulltimers to volunteer.   Habitat for Humanity provides a camp spot and hookups for volunteering, as do some lighthouses.  Almost all the parks -- private, national, state and county -- provide volunteer opportunities like camp host, working at an interpretive center or leading hikes -- often with complimentary camping.  Rails to Trails offers trail patrol, animal shelters offer dog walking, and wild mustang rescue offers ranch work.  

Staying busy definitely won't be a problem.  But then there's the question of meaning.  The particulars of meaning are pondered by us in agonizing detail.  We chew and chew, but I must confess, I have Ed beat on this one.  I can belabor a topic until I've strangled it into an early grave.

We do know we will be trail angels once we hit the road full time.  We also know we will be doing some trail angel work along the PCT in Washington this summer if the parts for our van ever arrive from Germany.  Right now, with our house unsold, and our van still in the shop, we're in an agonizing hold pattern.  Chomping at the bit comes to mind.

Angel stash on PCT, CA, 2012

The stash pictured above was one of ours.  We discovered the delight of being trail angels in 2012 when we were supporting our son on his PCT adventure.   Not only did we leave stashes, we gave hikers rides, despite our overloaded vacation-packed car, hauled away their trash so they didn't need to carry it one more step,  delivered food boxes to remote locations, and offered smiles and hugs at every opportunity.  Yep, trail angeling is definite.


If you think you are too small to make a difference you have never spent
 the night with a mosquito. 
 The Dalai Lama

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ed Says…

"I'm married to a bumfuzzle shunpiper."

"To keep the fire burning brightly there's one easy rule:  Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart - about a finger's breadth - for breathing room.  Good fire, good marriage, same rule."
~Marnie Reed Crowell

Hot Bisquits with Melted Butter and Honey

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream." 
~ Julia Child

I got to thinking about our Thistle not having an oven.  Then I began to think about hot biscuits with melted butter and honey.

Then I knew I had to have an oven, so I bought one.  It is called the Omnia Stove Top Oven and is made in Sweden.   And, best yet, it comes highly recommended.  Recipes like brownies, cornbread, berry crisp, and roast veggies, to name just a few items Ed and I crave from time-to-time, will not need to be some far off impossible fantasy. 

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”
 – Luciano Pavarotti

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Bumfuzzle means to confuse or fluster, but it's also the name of a blog.   Surprisingly, a blog that I started reading and read from beginning to end.  Curious because I usually read a sentence or two of someone's blog and then move on. is well written but not full of phrases that made me sit straight up in my chair and insist Ed must read too, nor did it have the drama or suspense of a good adventure story, although it was about a family's adventures.   I was captivated by Pat's writing and by the lives being lived by Pat, his wife, Ali, and their two children Ouest and Lowe, but I'm still trying to figure out why I'm fascinated.

This is us. I’m Pat and I do all the writing around here. And that’s Ali, she started dating me when she was sixteen and just couldn’t get enough; so eventually she married me, sailed around the world with me, raced across America with me, drove from Alaska to Argentina and all over Europe in a ’58 VW Bus with me, finally allowed me to impregnate her, drove to Mexico in a ’65 Porsche 356 with me, gave birth to our Mexican baby girl Ouest (pronounced West), moved onto another sailboat, got frisky with me, had a Mexican baby boy this time, named him Lowe (pronounced Low), sailed all over Mexico with me, sold that boat, and now drives all over the States with me in a ’66 Dodge Travco. We’ve got a pretty good life.

Little things pleased me, like Pat and his family have roots in the northwest.  But even more fun is they were enjoying the Whidbey Island Fair, a stone's throw from our home in Langley, as I was reading their blog.  Plus, they're traveling the States in a bus, as Ed and I are about to do too.  But those coincidences don't exactly explain my obsession.   Perhaps because they are a family of smiles and appeal and look at their darling bus.   Nope, that doesn't explain it either.  There are lots of appealing people writing blogs about interesting things that bore me in the first five minutes.

Lowe, Ali, Ouest and Pat with their cuter-than-imaginable RV.

Of additional amazement to me is that I not only read the blog Bumfuzzle but the book, Bumfuzzle.  The book is about Pat and Ali, before children, sailing around the world, and I don't even sail. Same  writer, same curiosity, same addiction -- I'm hooked and puzzled at the same time.   Did the appeal stop there?  No, indeed not.  I've now purchased Live on the Margin, co-authored by Pat, about both living on the margin and investing on the margin.   Investing?  This might be my first investing book ever.

What I'm going to do is reread the blog to see what Pat's writing techniques are.  Perhaps I can figure this out, although I must say, the paragraph above, written by Pat, is darn good.   Bumfuzzle is definitely true to its definition for me.  I am both confused and flustered by my obsession.


"Well, I'll be liter'ly bumfuzzled!" he exclaimed.  "Ef it ain't John Ericson!  I knowed yore company was in the fight last night, an' I thought o' you when I heerd the grape-shot-a- plinkin' out thar.   But hang me, ef you don't look sick ur half starved!  Sally, give 'im some'n't' eat.  They don't feed the rebs much.  Johnny, she's been a-pinin' fer you ever sence you enlisted, an 'last night durin' the fight she mighty nigh went distracted."
 ~ Will Nathaniel Harben, Northern Georgia Sketches

Monday, August 11, 2014

Running Away From Home

"Adventure must start with running away from home."  ~ William Bolitho

So what is compelling us to run away from home?  We know RV fulltiming can be meaningless wanderings or productive seeking, so what turns one's travels into a quest rather than escapism?  
"We have turned travel into something ordinary, deprived it of allegorical grandeur … whatever impels us to travel, it is no longer the oracle, the pilgrimage or the gods.  It is the compulsion to be elsewhere, anywhere but here." ~ Ilan Stavans, professor of literature, Amherst College
Because we don't want to just "be elsewhere, anywhere but here", Ed and I are examining our travel motives to determine what is driving us to sell everything and take off in a van for months and months on end, aside from our ongoing desire to downsize, simplify and live inexpensively.  We will be following the words of Larry Pardey, "Go small, go simple, go now".

In our going we do not believe we are escaping but searching, although there is always a bit of escape involved in any change, I suspect.   And, we know we want to fall in love with North America again with all its grandeur, grandeur that can become blasé without the attention it needs.  We definitely do not want to be blasé, there is too much beauty and excitement in our world for that.

Our vacations have always spun our heads around, showing us again and again the splendor of our world, along with the values and issues we had lost sight of in our comfortable lives at home.  But a real adventure, like the one we are now planning, will it transform us?  That's what we're hoping.    We want to turn ourselves over to life's mysteries, to becoming disoriented, perhaps afraid, lonely and homesick.  

I can remember our dear friend, John Braun, saying, "It's good to put yourself in a position to be afraid.  Experience the dark and cold.  Lose yourself.  Scare yourself.  Seekers look to be on edge."

Beautiful-in-the-day, but scary-in-the-night garden of John Braun. 

This is my first crack at putting in words our philosophy of travel and I'm certain it will be modified along the road, but for now I'll say we're seekers.  We want to know ourselves better and our world better and our world's people better.  We want our retirement years to be stimulating rather than too comfortable or too predictable.  Yes, we want to be a bit on the edge.  John Braun was a great teacher.  

John with our son, Brad, many years ago.

Our other great teacher is our son, Brad.  In 2012 Brad hiked 5,000 miles.  First he thru-hiked the Te Aurora Trail in New Zealand, then the Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S., and then the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.  He traveled light and he traveled far, all under unfamiliar circumstances.  He put himself on the edge, time and time again.   He was a seeker.  His trail name was Freestyle as he was always willing to step into a side adventure.  We closely followed Brad's adventures on his blog, and physically on part of the PCT in California where we supported him and other PCT hikers by being trail angels.  We perhaps got our travel bug from Brad, the travel bug that includes seeking and adventure and stepping out on the edge.  

Brad, PCT 2012

"Leaving what feels secure behind and following the beckoning of our hearts doesn't always end as we expect or hope.  We may even fail.  But here's the payoff:  it can also be amazing and wonderful and immensely satisfying." ~ Steve Goodier

Monday, August 4, 2014

Where are My Socks?

The Thistle is very small.   Well designed, but small and the contents need to be carefully designed as well.   If we don't keep it organized and efficient we will end up hating it and quite possibly hating one another.  That would be a very bad thing.

We will reduce, reduce, reduce what we wear, but still, we need a variety of clothes for a variety of climate conditions and activities.  The wardrobe is pretty much the only spot for our clothing but at the most will hang only about a dozen items.  For fulltiming that simply is not going to work.  Hard boxes or shelves will not work instead of hanging because the side of the wardrobe has 4 storage slots for things like socks and underwear.  These slots appear to be very handy and shelves or storage boxes would block access.  

In searching on line I came across Eagle Creek, a company that offers Pack-It Cubes, compression sacs, shoe bags, and more.  I've always loved boxes and bags, so this is getting fun!!   Besides, some of these items look perfect for our van needs.  The Pack-It Cubes could stack in the wardrobe and hold much more clothing than the closet bar.   I'm guessing the wardrobe would hold at least 12 cubes, or six for each of us. They come in different colors so Ed and I would not grab one another's cubes, and they are made out of very light weight tent material so they weigh almost nothing yet are strong.  There are different sized cubes, but the one that seems right for the wardrobe is the 14x10x3.  

Here is one with  a clear top for seeing inside.  

 Green for Fran

 Orange for Ed

There are also other bags that attracted my attention.   Bags for shoes to keep them tidy and well organized as well as easily within reach.

Fran's color

Ed's Color
 Compression bags for items we need, like coats, but won't use often.

Compression Bags

We have already ordered toiletry bags from L.L. Bean, allowing us easy access to our toiletries both in the van and when we shower at a public shower.

Fran's bag in  green

Ed's bag in red

It will be impossible to get the same colors from different companies so we decided to use cool colors for Fran and hot colors for Ed so we can always easily select the right bags even if the colors are not identical.

We're also thinking of small bags for glovebox organization.  One for grooming including chap stick, sunscreen, nail clippers and lotion.  Another  category for small first aid items like bandaids, tape, tissue, aspirin, bug repellent, and first aid spray.  Another for note pads, pens, pencils, and tape.  Yet another containing a sewing kit.   With a quick grab we should be able to put our hands on the items one needs close at hand while driving, without digging deeper in the van.

This is our thinking so far.  It will be interesting to see if these design solutions continue to look good or if we are onto a totally different plan next week.  The whole packing design issue is a wonderful jigsaw puzzle that is fun to try to solve.

Design is a funny word.  Some people think design means how it looks.  But of course if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.  ~  Steve Jobs

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why in the World Would We do This?

Munching on a granola bar, as Ed and I were taking a riding break, I said to him, "You know, if you ever hear me going bump, bump, bump on the back of the tandem, just know I died happy."  The funny image I had was of me, with my shoes clipped in so I can't fall off, bumping along on the back of the bike.

That's my attitude when someone says, "You're doing what?" in response to hearing Ed and I are moving into a van to become vagabonds.  That first question is usually followed by other questions like, "At your age?"  "What about health insurance?"  "What if you get sick?"  "You're really selling your home?"  "How about your garden?"  "You're getting rid of all your things?"  

The answer in my head is, bump, bump, bump!  Bumps in life happen so whether we're safe or not, we're going for it.   And, yes, there will be bumps but we want to live this final part of our lives on an adventure rather than being too comfortable and perhaps too bored with too safe a life.  

We've never lived and traveled in a van before, although many of our friends report they did years and years ago.  But, we're ready now.  Hey, why not?   We'll part with our stuff.  We'll take a risk.  And, with our sweet and wonderful Yessi and Brad living on Whidbey, we'll be back often!

Adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you.
 ~ Shahir Zag