Monday, September 29, 2014

Little Blue Plastic Chair

It is interesting in these early days of this new Thistle life how I waiver, both up and down, with the skepticism or enthusiasm of friends.   No one has  said, "What, are you daft?", when we tell them we'll be living the next several years in a van but we can feel their doubt.  Other times the enthusiasm pours forth with, "I want to do what you're doing!"

Because our adventure is untested, because we don't know for sure we will like this choosen path, we are vulnerable to opinions, whether stated or  sensed.  In another few months, when our travel roots are deeper, we'll know enough about our hopes being fulfilled or our doubts being correct that we  will be less sensitive to other's opinions, but right now we're vulnerable.

I sometimes get a little weary of the canned quotes that circulate on Facebook.   They overwhelm my News Feed and are shrug-my-shoulders-banal.  But just recently there was one that grabbed my attention.  Perhaps because we're about to head out in Thistle it suddenly didn't seem trite but completely germane.

Haven't we all felt held back when we were kids?    Something simple like, in the case of my dad, a wrinkled brow.  No word was spoken but I could sense his reluctance about what I was about to do and it held me back.   It held me back like this little blue plastic chair is holding back the horse.   My dad didn't say, "No, you can't."  Nevertheless, his hesitation and his expression said, "hold it",  and often I did.  He was my little blue plastic chair, something all kids need, but it does stick with us.

Just recently a dear friend gave me a gentle and encouraging  nudge out the door with two very wonderful gifts.  The first is a bird book for North America that I very much wanted.  It is time to learn the birds of our continent, and here is the perfect tool.

And a beautiful handmade-by-Anne Merino wool shawl for cool evenings in the Thistle as I sit and study birds, or blog or just hang out.

Bless Anne.  She did not tie me to a blue plastic chair but, with these gifts, told me I can fly, and I will.


"You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down."

~Toni Morrison,
Song of Solomon

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"…how far beyond zebra you go."

More on that special thing topic I discussed in my blog posting, Hundreds and Hundreds of Trees.  

When Brad was hiking the TeAraroa Trail in New Zealand I traveled with him, not physically, but by following his route on-line.  I researched the trail in detail and then blogged about his adventure.    Along the way I fell in love with New Zealand.    I learned about the environmental challenges, weather, surfing beaches, languages, and governmental structure.   From Cape Reinga, the north tip of the North Island, to Bluff, the south tip of the South Island, I was there.

Cape Reinga


From afar I met Brad's friends, enjoyed the views, crossed waterways, fell in love with the huts,  celebrated the victories and even shared the loneliness.  I had an inspiring trip.   I blogged Brad's adventure on Home on Whidbey, starting at his departure for NZ in 2011.  

What all of this tells me is RVing does not need to have the just-killing-time definition I've been struggling with but instead it can be an in-depth exploration.  Geography, flora, fauna, people, art, and political issues can continue to challenge and entertain and teach me.    I do not need to stop being an environmentalist, feminist, or political junky.  And (BIG AND!), on the road I will have time for sketching, exercising, observing, writing, thinking, reading, and more. With attentiveness, there need be no limits.

Perhaps this seems obvious, but it didn't seem obvious to me.  I have especially admired Brad's travels but also the travels of my friends and other family members.   Never did their pursuits seem trivial to me.  The challenge and struggle has been from within.   

We leave Friday for California.  This will not be a long trip, but the longest we've taken yet in Thistle.   Our fourth shake down, probably one of many before our home sells and we take off for months on end.   


"There's no limit to how much you'll know, depending how far beyond zebra you go.

~ Dr. Seuss

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Celebrations at Ft. Casey

An Anniversary and a birthday were all we needed for a visit to Fort Casey State Campground on Whidbey Island, for a close-at-hand getaway.    Ft. Casey is a small campground surrounded on one side by a big park and the other Puget Sound.   For exploration there are a number of interesting old 1900 batteries that once housed guns to offset an invasion by sea.   Add a beautiful  lighthouse, stunning views, and wind-battered old growth trees leaves one satiated with beauty and history.

The prairie nearby and the town of Coupeville are added bonuses for hiking, eating and exploring.  Because of fishing season, we barely got a camp site, but luck was with us.  The very last site was ours, but only after we observed a truck and boat trailer were parked in one.  We guessed they might not be staying, asked, and sure enough, they were about to leave.

 Hiking Ebey's Landing

Happy Birthday Mr. Ed

Happy Anniversary Joe and Nancy

Happy camping Benton

Beautiful Ebey's Landing

"The friends of our friends are our friends."

~African proverb

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Mr. Ed!

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Dear Ed, 
Happy Birthday to you!

´¨).•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨(¸.•´ (¸.•` ¤ ˚
/˚ • • ˚ ˚ ˛ ˚ ˛ .˛° ° ˚ •  ˚ .˛
/ \ ˚.  ˛ ˚ • ˚ ˚ ˛˚ • ˚ ˚ ˛ ˚ . • ˚

Ed with his training buddy, Benton
Ed is setting out this morning to walk a mile in less than 11 minutes to demonstrate national level fitness. Then we will pack up Thistle and head for Fort Casey State Park to meet Joe and Nancy Greene to celebrate Ed's birthday and Joe and Nancy's anniversary.  Happy anniversary Joe and Nancy.

The celebration plan is dinner in Thistle and breakfast at Front Street Grill, after dropping Thistle off at the body shop to finally get the last remaining repair item from Germany -- a new seat belt.

Fort Casey camping

Happy Birthday Mr. Ed!  And many, many more!  

Love from Brad, Yessi, Fran, and Benton

P.S.  Ed did his walk in 10 minutes and 48 seconds!  Congratulations Ed!


"Old age is for training."

~ Edwin R. Anderson

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hundreds and Hundreds of Trees

One of my favorite blogs, Off the Rails, really got me to thinking.  Dan writes about a person's special thing in life?  What fuels a passion and what keeps it fueled?  Why do some have it and why don't others?  Dan definitely has figured out his special thing. In fact, he has many special things that give substance and meaning to his life -- birds, gardening, photography, writing.  He appears to pursue them all with determination and focus and writes about his pursuits in interesting depth on his blog.  Read it.  You'll be glad you did.


Ed and I, as we set out in Thistle, don't want to just travel, we want to live our lives with focus, intention, and purpose.  We each want that special thing. The topic of the significance of life seems particularly pertinent to us retired folks as we've completed our other major tasks that gave us focus -- raising our families and having careers with paychecks.  When the children have moved on and the jobs  are gone, how do we remain vital both to others and to ourselves?  How do we avoid feeling idle and useless.  As Dan writes in Off the Rails, "Some friends seem to blossom in the second lap of their lives.  Others sink into depression."  How do some find that special thing that keeps them burning with enthusiasm?

I have a friend, Anne, who has deep meaning in her life despite events that would have overwhelmed others.    Anne stays totally and completely and enthusiastically focused on her work, on her life, on her special thing.  She has a passion that shines and inspires all those around her.   She doesn't waiver.   Anne is a weaver and although I do not weave, I follow Weavewright, because there's such optimism and such inspiration and because it is impossible not to love Anne and what she creates.  

My husband is another person with a passion.  He is a programmer, a philosopher, and a psychologist.  He sets goals and objectives and stays on track -- mostly.  He's a student of life and understands the dilemma of lost focus.  He is striving to address this issue in a way to help others find their special thing.  Mr. Ed, as I affectionally call him, is writing coaching software to assist people in getting to the core of who they are, who they want to be, at a cost they can afford.  His coaching site, Growth-Ring-Coaching, is focused on the question of a person's personal sense of value.  Growth-Ring-Coaching is designed for all ages but is especially useful for the retired who too often find themselves unemployed from life.

I am personally struggling with this question of my special thing.   Although I have planted hundreds and hundreds of trees, metaphorically I want to plant hundreds and hundreds more.     As we drive away in Thistle I leave much of what defines me behind.    Ed will bring his work on the road.  I will need to learn to pursue those wannabe passions that for years were shoved to the back shelf.   Part of my Thistle Adventure will be to turn those wannabes into passions-in-action.

My motivation is strong as I want to be an interesting and admired old lady rather than old lady cast aside.  In my mind that means I need to have passions, interests, and lots of new ideas.  I will need to study, practice and strive for creativity, involvement and talents beyond travel.  I have defined myself as a landscape designer, gardener, mom, home owner, and community volunteer for my entire adult life.   Now I need to recognize that was then, this is now, and find my new special thing.

Yessi, Fran & Brad and yes, I will always be a mom, but my kids are adults and certainly
 don't need me looking over their shoulders!

This topic is evolving as I write.  My question, "What fuels a passion and what keeps it fueled?" is a question of great depth.  It will demand a great deal of consideration.   I will have more to say about it, no doubt again and again, but this I know for sure:  I will pay close attention to the passions of my friends.   They'll teach me what it takes to be a "pit bull" in  tackling  their passions.   My head is now spinning with ideas.


"Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty -- they merely move it from their faces into their hearts.

~Martin Buxbaum

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ice Water Creek Camping

Thistle is working splendidly, especially now that we have the systems functioning.  Our first outing was without water because there was a problem with a sensor we didn't know about.  Thanks to Simon and Jim's help, Ed now has the water pump working.  Ed also figured out the heating system so we were cozy on the very cold mornings.  We are satisfied with our packing solutions and with a few nudges we'll feel ready to hit the road indefinitely.  Our first longer trip is planned for the end of September, but for only about three weeks because we need to squeeze it between dentist appointments.  Ug!


Camping at Ice Water Creek Campground, near Ellensburg, WA.

Benton, Flore, Yessi, Ed, Brad & Ludo - scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits.

Forest Service Road 33 was stunningly beautiful.

We knew we were in rattlesnake country but here's proof of the pudding.   Road kill.

Beautiful Ellensburg, WA...

Wind city outside Ellensburg.

A phone call from our realtor when we were away indicated we have an interested buyer for our home.      Tomorrow we will know more.


"If you're reading this…Congratulations, you're alive.  If that's not something to smile about, then I don't know what is."
~ Chad Sugg

International Flavor

How our lives have expanded from Brad's travels!   The international flavor of our visitors, our friends, our family has enriched us in more ways than we ever imagined possible. 

Brad met Yessi in New Zealand after hiking the TeAraroa Trail.  Yessi, from Xiamen, China, was touring NZ when they met.   Brad returned to the U.S. and Yessi to China, but their friendship continued.  They stayed connected and we now have a wonderful daughter-in-law.

Brad and Yessi, 4/20/14

Flore and Ludo, a delightful couple from France, became TeAraroa Trail hiking buddies with Brad.  Last week they visited Whidbey Island having just finished hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  

Flore and Ludo, Whidbey Island
Presently, the four of them are hiking on Mt. Rainier, following a camping outing at the Ice Water Creek Camp Ground.  Ed and I, on a second Thistle shakedown, joined them at Ice Water before they departed for Mt. Rainier hiking and climbing.

Brad, Yessi, Fran, Ed, Flore & Ludo

"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it as well." 
~ Diane Ackerman

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Magic Carpet

The blank wall on Thistle's backside now sports a map.  The map, hung only yesterday, has already been a success.  We've pointed out to friends where we are planning to go; directed others to our home towns; and showed new acquaintances Whidbey Island's location.  We know, with certainty, we will stand for hours at the back of Thistle, staring at the map talking options and plotting our travels.

As we traverse North America, little red dots will appear along our route.  Our story will unfold.  Our map will show us  roads traveled; towns, parks and mountains visited; trails hiked; roads biked; camp spots stayed at;  and lakes and rivers paddled.  It will provide reminders to us of the people we've met along the way.  We will accumulate experiences and friends.  We will have stories to tell.  

North America Map


"A good map is both a useful tool and a magic carpet to far away places."
~ author unknown

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"This land was made for you and me."

We returned, just today, from three nights out on our first trip in Thistle. 

We were in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest near Crystal Mountain/Mt. Rainier up highway 410, one of Washington's most glorious highways, where the trees bower over the road creating a magical dance of shadows and sun rays.  The understory full of treasurers enchanted me as always.  Naturally, Rainier stunned!  And, look at that blue, blue sky!

Majestic Mt. Rainier

Yessi the climber

Ed and I, with Benton's help, were the trail angels providing rides  for  Brad and Yessi high up into the mountains so they could hike down, recording trail miles and conditions for Green Trail Maps.  The views were superb, the gravel forest service roads full of switch backs, steep and rutted, were challenging.  We definitely tested Thistle's stuff.

As we drove Thistle into Dalles State Camp at 8:00 Tuesday night it was dark and raining, but there were Yessi and Brad, soaking wet, waving a welcome.  They had hiked all day in the rain and were more than anxious for dry and warm in Thistle, with the awning to stand under looking like heaven itself.  They'd waited dinner and were starving; wet from hanging out in the rain; cold from being soaked through and through; and gleeful to see us.

The next morning was a slow start. It was still raining and not only were Brad and Yessi  still trying to dry their gear they were killing time waiting for the sun, including walking the camp ground.  About noon here came the sun.  Benton, Brad and I did a short hike on trails around a landing strip while Ed and Yessi completed a much longer one along the White River.

A tree much too big to hug

White River hiking companions

The Second Day we delivered Brad, Yessi and Benton way up forest service road 72 dropping them in the middle of no where so they could descend 13 miles into the valley to our camp in Dalles. As they hiked, Ed and I explored more back roads in Thistle and then hiked a  trail of huge trees, moss, vine maples and lush understory at an Interpretive Center at Federation Park.

"Both light and shadow are the dance of Love."

Today, our last day before returning to Whidbey Island, we dropped Brad and Yessi up even higher, after traveling an even more rugged road, and drove away, leaving them to  hike a big loop that will take them three or four days, before returning to the motorbike which had been left at a  trail head, and returning home.      It is indeed a strange feeling to just drive away leaving behind Brad and Yessi up a little-used road in this remote forest.

Thistle had just delivered us to the top of the world over very rugged roads.

Ready to head out for a three or four day hike.
How Yessi and Brad travel

The bike waiting at the trail head for the return home.

On our way down off the mountain, after leaving off Yessi and Brad, we stopped a few times to let Thistle's brakes rest, although we saw no signs of overheating, nor did we smell  hot brakes.  On one of these rest stops we walked out onto a bluff and discovered, of all things, a large colony of Manzanita.

Manzanita in the foreground

Our camp at Dalles…

This log crossed the White River from our camp to an island in the river.

Benton tries a little cycling 

Who knows what these two are doing…Benton is certainly curious

The galley in Thistle served us well as we provided trail angel meals for Yessi and Brad.  We prepared and gobbled down stir fry;  pork chops with salad; spaghetti; and huge breakfasts, including biscuits from our new stove top oven.  We even put our Vitamix to work making smoothies.

Tossing the microwave and adding the Vitamix to Thistle's galley was brilliant!!

Ed and I shunpiked our way home to Whidbey Island.


"This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island.  From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters this land was made for you and me."
~ Woody Guthrie