Thursday, January 29, 2015


We optimistically set the first week of February as our departure date for heading south, knowing circumstances might postpone our actual drive away. Today, that's exactly what happened. We're labeling the missed deadline, dawdling.  The lax nuance of dawdling is just right, plus the word, d a w d l i n g, rolls around on my tongue in a delightful way. 

Last week Ed had two teeth extracted.  Now, infection is nipping at his sinuses, so he's been advised to stick close and down massive doses of antibiotics and probiotics.   February 12 he will see the dentist again and, if cleared, we can leave.  

Our fingers are crossed that he heals soundly.  If not, we'll be here for Valentine's Day.  Not a bad turn of events.

Since we still have lists with unchecked tasks,  we'll look at this delay as a blessing.  Plus, if this beautiful weather holds, who needs to head south?    We do have a renter scheduled to move into our home this next week.  However, with Thistle and our barn for backup accommodations, that plan can unfold without interrpution.  In fact, perhaps we'll get that winter camp trip to Fort Casey State Park in after all. 

Back to  planning and scheming and making lists...


"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley."

~ Robert Burns

Monday, January 26, 2015


I apologize for a couple of older postings being posted a second time.  I was trying to figure out how to include a map with our travels so put two blog postings into a draft form while working on them.  Surprise!  Taking them out of draft form resulted in a second posting and another notification to you.  Plus the map didn't work out.  Sorry.  I'm not trying to pester you.


"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

~ Albert Einstein

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Heart Wrench

Hidden in the excitement of our adventure are our misgivings about being away from our much-loved kids.  Wrapped up in the desire to travel is the unburdening of our responsibilities.  No more cleaning gutters, mowing lawns, that kind of stuff.   But there's the emotional flip side of unburdening.  The heart wrench of seeing Brad and Yessi get smaller and smaller in our rearview mirror.  

Benton, Brad & Yessi, Saratoga Woods

On past cross-country road trips, I'd entertain myself by ruminating about covered wagon days.  As the speed-blurred road stretched out endlessly, I'd conjure up how it would feel to receive a letter once a month, or worse, once a year, or perhaps never, as was often the case. Pioneer lives unfolded -- births, diseases, marriages, deaths -- as the gruelingly difficult miles stretched out across the plains.  These families, the ones on the road, and the ones left behind, wondered and worried, sometimes never knowing the fate of their loved ones.

Benton, Brad & Yessi, Langley

As  modern travelers, we are rich with stay-in-touch-options -- frequent conversations,  sharing photographs, and even sending or receiving money.  We can connect with one another in ways our ancestors couldn't have imagined.   None of this is as good as a real hug, but it's darn good!   

Yessi & Brad hiking - Mt. Rainier

As departure draws near, I'm feeling a cluster of emotions gathering, ready to spill and overflow, from both the sadness of leaving and the eagerness of what's down the road.


"Love is a wonderful thing. You never have to take it away from one person to give it to another. There's always more than enough to go around."

~ Pamela de Roy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Devil's in the Details

The Devil's in the Details, or so it is said.  We have been buried in details these last few weeks, as we  prepare for our departure, so are hoping our attentiveness is ousting the demons.  One of those detail topics is setting up computer apps, joining camping groups, and learning all we can about travel opportunities.

On our last trip we were gone a month and simply paid, with little question, the nightly camping fees.  Now, as we prepare to depart for a longer period, on a trip closely resembling our actual full-time adventure, we desire a more frugal approach.  How can we travel without paying high camping costs each night, becomes a driving question?  The average campground is about $30 a night, which adds up quickly.  Yet, stealth camping, worrying about being rousted out, doesn't sound too appealing either.  So I've been trying to find out what other budget-minded RVers do to minimize camping fees.

This past week I spent the better part of a day tracking down other travelers, especially those traveling in Sprinter Westfalias.  My breakthrough was, Travels with HaRVy.  The writer of Travels with HaRVy is Leslie, and we're now engaged in a delightful e-mail exchange.
HaRVy loaded and on the road.   Photo by Leslie.

Leslie and her husband, Al, are full-time Springer Westfalia travelers.    We're pleased to have found them and look forward to deepening our cyber friendship to an on-the-road friendship. 

Leslie has been a wealth of information.  She told us about Boondockers Welcome, a service to facilitate free driveway camping.  A little like Airbnb, but instead of a couch, room or apartment, it's a driveway.  They have made wonderful acquaintances using this service, Leslie reports.  An adjunct to Boondockers Welcome are the Frugal Shunpiker's Guides, written by the woman who formed Boondockers Welcome.

Shunpiker's Guides

Leslie also provided me with two additional resource choices for overnight stays.  First is Harvest Hosts offering free stays at wineries, farms and agri-tourism sites.  Given our love of food, wine and back roads, this seems like a perfect resource for us. The second, RVGolfClub, as the name implies, offers free stays at golf courses.  Ed was not intending to pack his clubs, but using this overnight option might challenge his resolve.

Then there are apps galore.  Apps for maps, campgrounds, motels, foreign languages and restaurants.  One I've already downloaded is AllStays RV and Camp App  and is designed to help RV travelers locate dump stations, propane, campgrounds, Walmart parking lot camping, showers, and more.  I've also downloaded the Ultimate Camp Ground App which provides public campground information. 

As we travel we will accumulate or toss apps, memberships and lists, depending on usefulness, but for now, all information is seen as an asset.   Nevertheless, like the items in our galley, they must prove their usefulness to stay on-board. 


"The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail."

~ Charles R. Swindoll

Saturday, January 17, 2015

bon appétit

We love eating!  Not fast foods, but real food.  We love the feel, touch and taste of food.  We enjoy selecting it, preparing it and eating it.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, quality pots and pans, candle light, and a beautiful table.   It is with this in mind that we strike out to outfit Thistle's galley.  

Having lived small for a number of years, we know small is too often interpreted as shoddy, and lightweight is often of inferior quality as well.   The typical RV supply stores wouldn't work and they are expensive as well.   We head directly for our town's thrift store, Good Cheer, to see what we can find.  We score.  Lovely pottery, in great colors, is available for $1.50 a plate.  In our excitement we purchased a few too many, but we know there will be breakage from time-to-time.

small dinner plates

large dinner plates

Many of Thistle's fittings will come from our kitchen.  Knives, flat wear, mugs, gadgets, pots and pans.  Each item will need to receive our seal of approval before being allowed aboard. We do not want to create clutter or excessive weight.  Our pans will be reduced from many to a few, but they will be of quality.  Our sacrifice, if there is one, is quantity only. 

Pots and pans packed for travel

On our searches of kitchen stores, we came across collapsible bowls, both practical and attractive.  We purchased two, with the bonus being that one, with it's rubberized non-slip construction,  can ride on the counter full of fresh fruit.  We also found a sweet little collapsible colander.

bowls and colander

bowls and colander collapsed

Also, on our scouting expeditions we found a small teapot and a practical, but not very large, grater. 



Glasses seemed problematic to us.  They can be too fragile for the rattling around they get on the road.  Our solution, although plastic, is great.  We found heavy duty, plastic glasses at Crate&Barrel, in wonderful colors.

colorful plastic glasses

When we think of our life in Thistle, we don't think of living a life inferior to our present life,  just much, much smaller.  We are pleased with our galley's performance so far, both in terms of the design of the galley and in the items we've selected to outfit it.  Good food will travel with us.


"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

~ Virginia Woolf

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On the Road Exercise

With limited room onboard Thistle, the question has become, what exercise equipment can we carry with us that is light, takes up little space, yet serves our needs?  Aerobic conditioning, strength, flexibility, and balance training are the basic four, and as Ed's words, "old age is for training" ring in our ears, we design our plan.

First, is walking!  For Ed, to give him his 10,000 steps per day, as he's been doing for better than a decade now, walking is tops.  Plus, Benton needs his exercise, so Ed's walks are  double duty for  the dog too.

Ed & Benton

Walking is important, with a small "w", for me as well.  My steps must be limited as my fused ankle makes walking a problematic exercise.   A few years ago I was on a 5-mile a day routine until my knees began giving me problems.  In consulting my orthopedic surgeon I was told to bike, not walk,  if I didn't want knee and then hip replacements.   My pedometer was shelved and the bike was dusted off. 

Walking Shoes

Second, is biking.  Biking is an exercise that has been a part of our lives for several years now.  Our bicycle will definitely travel with us and is getting it's travel tuneup right now for our February departure.   Resolving our bike rack is still on our "to do" list.  

Our beloved tandem

Other questions have come up in regard to biking.  Do we carry our tandem only, singles for each of us, or all three?  For the time being it will be our tandem only, but our singles will be stored for changed minds on this issue.    

Weights were our first choice for strength building, but they turned out to be awkward, heavy and annoyingly in the way on our last trip.  In searching for another solution we came across the LifelineUSA  Jungle Gym XT Suspension Trainer.  This item is light weight and packs into a small, soft, flexible, easy to carry bag.  Carrying it on board, on the bike, or on our backs is easy and convenient.  We can quickly set it up on a tree or at any kid's playground, giving us the flexibility and portability necessary for our on-the-road exercise program.

Jungle Gym

Ed demonstrating Jungle Gym
No exercise program is complete, in our minds, without yoga.  Yoga is very portable and for maintaining a limber body critical.  It was added to our plan early on.  Two mats is all it takes, plus a book for reminding us of the proper postures and positions.  A Yoga book will now definitely be one of our Six Books.

Yoga mats in convenient travel bags

Ed demonstrating how portable the Jungle Gym
and Yoga mat are
(dog treat  pouch, an extra, yet much-desired item for Benton)

The fifth for-fun and for-exercise item we're considering adding to the mix is a boat.  Perhaps an inflatable kayak -- small, portable and easy to use.  Passing lakes, ponds and the like, without the ability to get on the water, could be torturous and floating on a sunny day is glorious.

Yes or No??

Weight, portability, size, and convenience drove our exercise program decisions.    We're well aware that much of the exercise equipment purchased simply collects dust.  Will ours?  The true test to how effective our exercise program is, is our resolve.

"Health and cheerfulness naturally beget each other."

~ Joseph Addison

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Mom

Moving forward is causing me to look back.  Downsizing does that.  Sorting through photographs to keep or toss, reading old letters.   

Up pops my mom in my musing.  Not easy.    It's that mother/daughter thing.  Love-hate, friend-competitor, playmate-parent.     Too many hats, too many dual roles, all threatening, or wonderful depending on the day or mood.  

When my mom was young she was beautiful and lively.  We lived in Ojai, California where she danced, I mean really danced.  She was a square dance caller, taught folk dance classes several time a week and performed from time-to-time.  Dance festivals and costumes consumed her, and our family.  

My mom, a playful, energetic woman

Wilma Abel,  mid 1940's

Wilma Abel, late 1940's

At the same time she danced, she  went back to school to get her teaching certificate.  If I wanted a real mom I didn't have one.  She was busy and involved and wanted so much more than parenting!  I think I could call my upbringing neglectful.    Yet, as I write the word neglectful, I recall her warm, soft hand on my sick-little-girl brow.  

My mom with my sister and I

 At a very young age I had a huge territory, probably about three square miles.  My girlfriend, Cara, and I traveled  by foot, bike or donkey all over that territory.  We explored, built forts and snacked from orchards.  No cell phones for checking in.  In fact,  no phone at all out in the country where we lived.  Despite the freedom I enjoyed, my mom was tough, designing the punishment to fit the crime.  Once, when I caused a fire by helping out, my punishment was to sit by the charred earth for several hours to make sure it didn't reignite.

My mom graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara when I was in 6th grade.   Boy, were we proud!  After her graduation we relocated to Auburn, California and she began her first teaching job at Placer Hills Elementary School.   Years later she retired from that same school.  

Wilma Abel, teacher
Placer Hills Elementary School

Moms bring out the "I'll never do that!" in their daughters.  I hit the "I'll never do that!" when my mom settled.  Settled into weight gain, an inactive life and sensible shoes.    She maintained an adventuresome spirit, but tampered way down.  Loving my mom was challenging for both of us, as I wanted her forever young.    That youthful mom of my early years, the dancing mom,  became my model.  I didn't let that model go easily.  

After my dad died, my mom settled even more.  Sedentary became the norm.  She remarried.  My stepdad was a nice man and took good care of my mom in her last illness but he was terribly dull.  I suspect my mother thought so too but by now she didn't want to be alone.  She settled deeper.

My mom died a horrible death, loosing her ability to walk or talk.  My feisty kick-up-her-heels mom  became completely helpless and dependent on others.   But, from time-to-time, she still liked to chase a sunset, so we did.    One of her caregivers giggled with her to the very end.  It was beautiful. 

I hope my dying breath will be a giggle.


"Gratitude is the heart's memory." 

  ~ French Proverb

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Zig Zag Saga

While others our age are settling in, we're looking for adventure.  Wanderlust is nipping at our heels.  Many of our friends, back in the 60's, were zig zagging down the roads of America in Volkswagen buses.  Others were hitchhiking through Europe.  We, on the otherhand, were raising babies, fulfilling military obligations and getting educations.  We didn't zig zag back then, much to our parents' relief.  

But, now, we want to jump into the abyss of adventure.  Our first retirement idea was to move to Ecuador.  Many of you were informed of these plans, and one year ago we set off to investigate.  With delight we explored!  We enjoyed the fine architecture and fun-filled public markets.  The people were warm and friendly and the countryside beautiful.  Miles of streets were explored, and, despite our language limitations, we settled in nicely for a month of engrossing Ecuadorian life.

Parade in Cuenca

Quito Street

Church in Loja

Riding in Vilcabamba

We met expats and learned of their joys and difficulties.    We made every effort to feel the country and how our lives would live if we relocated.  Our experiences were positive and encouraging, with the major exception being the smell of meat in the markets.  But the coming and going was horrible.  My digestive tract troubles did not help the flying experience, but even  trying to account for that difficulty, it was awful.  

Then we thought about our family and friends and changed our plans.  Way too many grueling hours between Ecuador and the people we love.  Instead, with an amazing switch, we moved from the Ecuador idea to becoming full-time van travelers.  Our Thistle Adventure was born


The details of life, like selling our home, are making for a slow transition, but we're ready.  We've taken "practice" trips, and are about to set off on another.  Our living-really-small solutions are working well and aside from some mishaps with the van (solely our fault) it is working very well.  

In early February, once we wrap up doctor and dentist appointments, we will head south.  Friends will be visited in Ojai, Anza Borrego, Santa Fe and Patagonia.  We will explore Joshua Tree, Death Valley  and the Mojave Desert.   We will bask in sunshine.

The zig zag saga will unfold.


"The path to your dreams is rarely linear.  You gotta zig zag your way to happiness."

~Karen Salmansohn