In Which I Admit Ways a Travel Trailer Is Better Than a Van

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Chevy G20 high top van in the forest
I lived in this Chevy G20 for almost five years.

I was a vandweller for nearly a decade before a travel trailer came into my life after the death of my father. I enjoyed being a vandweller. I enjoyed taking my home with me wherever I went. I enjoyed a life without rent payments. I enjoyed being a renegade and a nomad.

To be honest, if I were single, I’d probably still live in my van. I was resistant to the whole idea of living in a travel trailer. My van had always been enough for me.

However, living in a van with my sweetheart was not easy for either of us. I especially need a lot of alone time, a lot of quiet. My guy likes to talk a lot and play guitar and move around. Also, he is six feet tall and simply needs room for his body. He bought a minivan in order to spend less money on gas, but can’t sit comfortably in it to carve or make jewelry.

Life was a little easier when we each had our own rig to hang out in and sleep in, but we did still suffer lots of discomforts. I was tired of cooking outside in the wind and the dust and the cold. I was so tired of constantly buying ice for the cooler and dealing with the water that always managed to accumulate in the bottom of it. Sure, I could deal with those annoyances (I think I’m a little bit tough), but I didn’t really want to.

Drawing of blue canned ham style travel trailer with yellow sun and the words Home Is Where You Park It.

If I weren’t with The Man, I would not be pulling a travel trailer. I think it’s more work than I want to do alone. However, in less than a month living in the travel trailer (when I wrote the rough draft of this post), I was already spoiled by the amenities it offered.

The number one luxury of life in the travel trailer is probably the head room. I don’t know how many times I hit my head while living in my van, and I’m not even tall! The Man hit his head even more. Ouch! It sure is nice to stand up to cook, put on pants, or simply move from one spot to another. Even with cupboards above our bed, we can both sit up comfortably. I’m sure both our brains are glad to no longer get bumped around so much.

Another perk of  travel trailer life is more storage space for our stuff. We have lots of cupboards, cabinets, and drawers. The kitchen boasts four drawers and six cabinets. There is storage under the dinette’s bench seats. The living area has four overhead cupboards. Between the sofa and the bedroom is an armoire with four shelves behind two doors and four large drawers down below. There are two short cabinets over the bed and two tall ones on each side. There is even a storage compartment under the bed! Finally, we have room for the things we own.

In addition to space for stuff, we have space for people! Coyote Sue was our first visitor. She stopped by to see our place when we were all at Elephant Butte Lake State Park using our New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass. It was nice for each of us to sit in a comfortable spot while we chatted.

We could even have overnight guests if we wanted. The legs come off the table and the tabletop sits between the two bench seats to make a platform that becomes a bed when the cushions from the seats are arranged on it. The couch folds down into a (lumpy but functional) bed. Guests here might not have the best sleep of their lives, but at least we can offer places to lie down for the night.

My favorite part of having more space is having a separate bedroom. The bedroom is at the front of the trailer and has an accordion door to hide it from the rest of the living space. (I wish the bedroom had a solid door like the bathroom does, but a folding door is better than nothing.) While The Man (and Jerico the dog too) do sleep in the bed with me (thankfully the RV queen size mattress provides room for all), the bedroom is my domain. When The Man wakes up before me in the morning (which is usually the way it happens), he can leave the room, close the door, and go about his life in the other part of the trailer. When I wake up, I can sit in the bed and write with few distractions.

I’m quite relieved to have sturdy screens over all the windows. We even have screen doors on both entrances! I know how miserable it is to live in a van and have to choose between being hot with the windows closed to keep bugs out or opening the windows to let in a breeze and fresh air and also letting in a squadron of mosquitoes or flies or no see ‘ems. I fashioned some window screens during my days as a vandweller, but my DIY efforts always fell short (and often fell down). I’m glad to have properly fitted, professionally installed screens with no holes on all the windows and doors so we can have airflow while keeping bugs out.

Blue sky with full of white puffy clouds. Tree in foreground. Lake in background.
Tree at Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

Having electricity in our home is really awesome. During a week and a half stay at Rockhound State Park, , we only had to splurge on an extra $4 per night for a campsite with electricity since we had the annual camping pass. We were quickly spoiled by being able to flip a switch and have light. It was also convenient to be able to charge our electronics by plugging into an electrical outlet in our home. We missed these luxuries when we moved to Elephant Butte Lake State Park and opted for a campsite with no hookups. When we finally got the travel trailer out on our own property, we charged our house batteries each night by running our generator for about an hour. Now we have a complete solar power system, and we get our power from the sun. The Man got our solar electric system up and running as soon as possible because once we got a taste of having electricity in our home, we didn’t want to give it up.

Most of the other advantages of living in the travel trailer have to do with the kitchen. I’m not a gourmet cook, but I do feed myself and The Man a couple of times each day, so I like to be comfortable when I prepare meals.

Cooking out of the elements is a huge perk. Cooking outside is not entirely unpleasant if the weather is nice. However, cooking outside when it’s raining or snowing or sleeting or hailing or just plain cold is a real pain in the neck.  It’s also difficult (sometimes impossible) to cook in a strong Southwestern wind. Working outside in a steady wind of 20 to 30 mph (with stronger gusts) is difficult enough, but add in the dust that is always part of a windy situation, and I just want to grab some food from Little Caesar’s or Taco Bell. Being in the trailer and out of inclement weather has been a game changer when it comes to cooking meals.

Sure I could have cooked in my van during bad weather, and at times I did boil water or heat up some leftovers. Since I’ve read the warnings on my camp stove about the dangers of using it in enclosed spaces, I always worried about using it in the van. The stove and oven in the travel trailer were professionally installed at the factory and are (ostensibly) vented properly and pose fewer risks.

Having an oven is a huge perk. I missed baking for all the years I lived in my van. When The Man and I moved into the fifth wheel and found it had a working oven, I was overjoyed. I baked pizza, cakes, brownies, treats for the dog, and cornbread from my father’s recipe. When we sold the fifth wheel, leaving the oven behind was a sad moment for me. Now that I have an oven again, I’ve enjoyed baking yummies for the whole family.

I haven’t had a working refrigerator in my home in years, since the one in the fifth wheel didn’t work and was used as a pantry. Having refrigeration in the travel trailer is a huge convenience. I no longer have to buy ice. I no longer have to deal with melted ice water. I no longer have to deal with the water that always ends up at the bottom of the cooler no matter what I do to avoid it. Can I live without refrigeration? Yes. Is life a lot easier with a working refrigerator in the house? Also yes.

Colorful drawings of travel trailers and camper vans surround the words Home Is Where We Park It.
My dear friend sent this to me. I love it! I hung it over the kitchen sink.

While some aspects of living in a travel trailer are challenging (I’m looking at you, hitching!) the advantages currently outshine those challenges. I feel so fortunate that my dad’s death has brought this travel trailer into my life.

I took the photos in this post.

Update: Late Spring 2019

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Grey clouds are lit from behind over a vast expanse of New Mexico sage
Clouds to the west of our land on a Saturday afternoon in May of 2019.

It’s been a while since I shared an update on what’s happening in my life. It feels like a lot has happened, but not much has changed. Perhaps the problem is that all the things that have happened don’t seem exciting enough for a blog post.

We’ve been living on our land for nearly two months now. We look at mountains and sky every day. The view is amazing. I particularly like to watch the clouds.

Blue sky and puffy white clouds above a camper surrounded by New Mexico sage
This is not our land, but this is what our land looked like before The Man cleared it.

When The Man cleared our property, he removed all the sage plants so rattlesnakes would have fewer places to hide. We were mostly worried for Jerico the dog. A snake bite would be a big ordeal for someone weighing only 35 pounds. Now we wish we had left some vegetation on our property. The Man is trying to grow some grass. We bought a drought-resistant blend from the local hardware store, but so far we’re not having much luck with it. The Man is experimenting with different planting and watering techniques. I recently noticed little green plants volunteering all over our property, so maybe with the sage gone, native plants will make a comeback.

After weeks of struggle, The Man got our solar power system up and running. After watching numerous YouTube videos, he ended up consulting with a representative of a local company that sells and installs solar power setups. He finally got it all figured out, and from the moment everything was connected, it’s all be running fine. The sun rises before 6am these days, and our batteries begin charging immediately. We have enough energy to ignite the refrigerator pilot light (the fridge runs primarily on propane but has an electric starter—ditto the heater), run lights and television (!) at night, charge our electronics, and power The Man’s electric guitar and amplifier. All our needs are met, and I’m proud to get our power from the sun.

We joined the local water association, so we can haul our water from a location closer to our place and pay less for it than we’d been paying in town. We got a 55 gallon, BPA free barrel for hauling the water as well as a 195 gallon reservoir in which to store the water. I’ll be glad to have to haul water less frequently. Going to town every four or five days to buy water was getting to be a real drag.

We put up a prefab metal shed. We completed the project in about four days. First The Man (with a bit of help from me) built the floor from tongue and groove plywood and 4x4s. By the time the floor was complete, the wind had picked up, and we didn’t want to deal with sharp-edged metal panels. We called it a day.

The next day we (mostly he) got the side, back, and front walls built before the wind started. Our first step in wall building was sorting the components. There were probably 100 parts to the shed (mostly sheets of thin metal), and they were boxed together in no particular order. As we sorted according to five-digit numbers stamped on the components, we found many of the pieces had been bent during shipping and had to be finessed back into shape. Once we started the actual building of the walls, we discovered the instructions (mostly drawings with few words) were difficult to decipher. We were pretty sure the person who’d written (drawn) the directions had never actually constructed the shed in question.

Two small green plants growing in the dirt
Some of the plants volunteering on our land.,

On the third day, we put the walls up and attached them to each other and the floor. The process was not nearly as simple as the preceding sentence makes it sound. When The Man started putting up the second side wall, he realized the directions had told him to put a corner in the wrong place. He had to correct the mistake while I held the other two walls in place. When The Man started putting in screws to hold the walls together, he found the manufacturer of the shed had put holes for screws in one panel but not the other. He had to push hard to get the screws through the second piece of metal.

Once the walls were up, we had to construct the roof. Before we were done, we’d run out of the plastic washers that went with the screws to help keep water out of the shed. The kit had come with at least fifty extra screws but not a single extra washer. We had no idea why the manufacturer didn’t throw in a few extra of the kit’s cheapest part. Luckily we found a few washers to do the job in our stash of fasteners.

After about four hours of work, all that was missing was the door. The Man and I were both tired and hungry, and we needed to run some errands in town. We’ll finish this later, The Man grumbled.

The wind had come up strong by then, but the shed didn’t move, even without the door. We were away from home for at least four hours; when we returned, the shed was still standing. We were certainly grateful for this demonstration of the shed’s sturdiness.

While I cooked diner, The Man assembled the shed’s door.

Oh no! I messed it up! I heard him say. He’d used his intuition instead of the instructions, and things hadn’t turned out the way he’d hoped. So he took the door apart and followed the directions exactly. The door was still wrong! Following the directions hadn’t helped one bit!

White metal shed against an overcast sky
Our shed, complete.

Somehow he got the components of the door assembled, and I helped him hang it. Finally—success! After dinner, he dragged the shed where he wanted it on our property. (We built it close to the trailer and not where we actually wanted it to sit because we wanted the trailer to serve as a windbreak during construction.) While I washed the dishes, he loaded the shed with tools and plastic totes and water jugs. Later, I found a padlock and key in the junk drawer and brought it outside to lock the shed’s door. We stood in front of the shed for a few moments and admired our work.

I’m convinced that if our relationship survived us building that shed together, it can survive anything.

I took all the photos in this post.

Off the Cliff

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The Man and I and Jerico the dog took my New Mexico State Parks Pass and went camping at Bluewater Lake State Park between Gallup and Grants, New Mexico. We were staying in the Canyonside Campground near the trailhead for the Canyonside Trail.

Tall, tree-covered canyon walls in the distance. Shallow creek in the foreground.
Bluewater Creek down below

As you may have guessed from the name of the campground and the trail, we were camped on the side of a canyon. Specifically, we were camped above the canyon, but trees and vegetation blocked the view of Bluewater Creek down below. It was easy to forget the land dropped dropped dropped right across from where the van was parked.

It was late September, late in the camping season, so we had the campground loop mostly to ourselves. Some folks in a popup camper were in the area when we arrived on Saturday, but they left late the next day. An elderly couple camped catacorner and across the road from the site we had chosen, but they moved to a spot with a shade cover in a different part of the park after a couple of days when the weather forecast called for rain.

Because the area was underpopulated, The Man felt comfortable throwing the ball for Jerico. He threw the ball away from other campers and kept it pretty close to home.

As I’ve written before, Jerico loves to play ball. He loves for us to pet him, he loves Rachael Ray dog food and any sort of yummy treat, but most of all, he loves to play ball. In the last year, it has become possible to throw the ball enough to wear Jerico out. After fifteen to twenty minutes of chasing and retrieving the ball (depending on the temperature outside) he has to lie down and rest, but in another fifteen or twenty minutes, he’s raring to chase and retrieve the ball again.

A man and dog stand on a rock overhang. Both look down into a green canyon.
Jerico and The Man look down into the canyon.

The Man has thrown the ball for Jerico for countless hours in the last seven or so years. He’s usually very careful to never throw the ball anywhere dangerous because Jerico doesn’t have the sense to stay away from danger. All Jerico cares about is the ball. Jerico focuses entirely on the ball. He doesn’t think about where the ball is going or the relative safety or danger of going after it. Once the ball is thrown, he simply takes off after it.

The Man is usually very careful about where he throws the ball, but this day something went wrong. Whether he was distracted and didn’t think about where he was aiming the ball or if the ball bounced and went off in the wrong direction, I don’t know. Suddenly I heard The Man yelling No! and Stay!

I’m sure you’ve guessed what happened. The ball went toward the canyon and Jerico was not going to hesitate to follow it. Luckily, The Man intervened in time and kept Jerico from blindly giving chase.

The Man put Jerico in the van and searched the area around the drop off in hopes of finding the ball stopped by a large rock or fallen tree branch. No such luck. The ball was gone. No doubt it had rolled and bounced its way down to the canyon floor.

Jerico was not happy about the loss of his ball. He looked at The Man expectantly and barked.

In the past, when the Man was done playing, he sometimes took the ball away from Jerico and put it out of his reach. I think that’s what Jerico thought had happened. He settled down after about ten minutes of barking and expectant looks. However, later in the day, he got more insistent inhis looks and barks. We knew the signs. He was ready to chase the ball again.

A dog plays with a popped soccer ball that's bigger than his head.
Oliver will chase and retrieve any ball, even if he’s popped it, even if it’s bigger than his head.

The Man usually travels with a supply of the blue racquetballs Jerico likes to chase. (Of course, Jerico will chase and retrieve any ball, but the racquetballs are light enough for him to bounce off his nose and catch in midair.) The Man looked all over the van and couldn’t find a single blue racquetball. He realized he’d left the extras in his van which we’d stored in a friend’s backyard over 300 miles away.

Jerico grew more insistent. He really wanted to play ball.

Look dude, The Man said to him, we’re not going 30 miles to Wal-Mart just to get balls.

Jerico obviously didn’t understand.

We had to keep a close eye on the dog. He kept trying to go near the drop off to sniff around. He’s part beagle, so I have no doubt he could have picked up its scent. We were still concerned he would jump off the cliff fof the ball with no concern for his safety.

A dog in an orange harness stands among rocks and tree.

By the next morning, Jerico was being a huge pain in the neck. He would look at us and bark, toss his head, and prance around. We knew what he wanted, but had not way of giving it to him. The barking just went on and on.

I guess we’re going to have to go to Wal-Mart, The Man grumbled.

We had some things to do at the public library in Grants, then The man and I had a lunch date at the local Pizza Hut. It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived at Wal-Mart. We made a beeline to the sporting goods department, only to find there wasn’t a single racquetball to be found. There wasn’t even an empty space on the shelf where racquetballs should have been.

The Man said we’d have to get tennis ball, but we couldn’t find any of those either.

The Man went to the nearby toy department and asked for help, but the associate he brought back to sporting goods with him couldn’t find racquet or tennis balls either. She shrugged, said she was new, and wandered back to the boxes of toys she’d been unpacking.

Another worker we cornered said to look for tennis balls in the pet department. We found some there, which we purchased, but we wondered where the tennis and racquetball players of Grants get their balls.

Once back at our camp at the state park, The man pulled out one of the new especially-for-dog tennis balls out of the package and played a game of fetch with Jerico. You can bet he was super careful to throw the ball well away from the canyon.

10 Blogs by Vandwellers, Nomads, Vagabonds, RVers, Travelers, and Drifters

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Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate your support! Maybe you’re wondering what other blogs you can read that are written by vandwellers, nomads, vagabonds, RVers, travelers, and drifters. Today I’ll share with you what I know about blogs written by folks who live on the road at least part of time.

White van in the distance at sunset.
Photo provided by Devan

Xsyntrik Nomad is written by my sweet and positive friend Devan Winters, a vandweller. She writes about choosing and building a van, earning a living on the road, and sharing her vanlife with a cat. She’s a very talented writer and her posts are quirky and engaging.

Yvette Angela Assata writes Rated Rosa, and says of herself,


I am a radical Black feminist, birth worker, activist, anti-racist, a lesbian, and I do a whole lot of community organizing…


…I decided I would convert a school bus to live in, and while I was at it, travel North America. The choice to move onto a vehicle was an easy decision for me because it fits my lifestyle. Besides living in the Pacific Northwest for the past near-13 years, seeing the increases in rent and gentrified neighborhoods, watch people not able to find housing (myself included) and literally pushed out of cities and into the margins, I’m anti-establishment and a wanderer to my core.

Brenton MacAloney has been writing Brent’s Travels since 2013. He’s traveled in a camper van, a Toyota Prius, and a pickup truck with a camper that slides into the van. He says,


I like travel, meeting people, and writing about my experiences.

Meeting people is a goal of mine. In fact I will try to meet someone new everyday. I want to write about them. Who [they] are and what makes them unique.

 

Undercover Hippy Bus is about a family living in “big white ex-courier van.” The adults were tired of all the time their jobs stole away from being with their kids, so they sold off most of their stuff and now live simply and happily. They write about parenting, food, and travels.


Make Like an Apeman is about Duwan and Greg, nomads since 2011. They say,

…we sold everything, quit our jobs, rented our house (and eventually sold it), bought a sailboat, and set sail on a traveling adventure and a story that has been writing itself as we go along.

Their Instagram account (@makelikeanapeman) says they now live in a van three seasons a year and house sit in the summers.

Burly Nomads is the blog of

Miah and George, a gay couple [who recently started their] adventure into full-time RV living. We are tired of being tied down to a house that we do not like, nor want to be in. Tired of not being able to travel to places we want to see, visit with friends and family we want to visit, so we are choosing to have a life of ‘Freedom over Stability’

A cat walks on a narrow ledge below the large back window of an RV.
Sonja Begonia in Brownie’s big back window. Photo used with Sue’s permission.

The RV Artsy Life of Sue Soaring Sun is written by my friend and Sun sister. She writes about the art she creates and the places she visits with her cat Sonja Begonia while living in Brownie, her 20-ft 1984 Lazy Daze mini-motor home. Sue doesn’t update her blog often, but when she does, I really enjoy her stories from the road.

Gnomad Home is the place to go to read about the adventures of John and Jayme and their two dogs. It’s also an outstanding place to get tons of tips to make your van life easier and more enjoyable. There is an excellent section called Build Your Van with so much helpful information

all about helping you…choose your van, plan your design, install creature comforts like electricity and plumbing, and actually build out the interior of your DIY campervan conversion. [Y]ou’ll find awesome infographics, detailed information, step-by-step guides, links to helpful resources, and more.

Kaya Lindsay’s blog can be found at One Chick Travels. Kaya says of herself,

I am a writer, I am a photographer, I am a filmmaker, I am a climber, I play the ukulele and I drive long distances as a form of self-care…

I have been living in my 2006 Dodge Sprinter Van and creating content for about 2 years. I drive around, rock climb, play the ukulele 🎶 and interview badass lady travelers who are also living in vans.

Interstellar Orchard is the blog of Becky Schade who started living on the road full-time in 2012, at the age of 28. Becky says,


Here at Interstellar Orchard (IO), you’ll find:
Informational articles on how to go RVing full-time
Travelogues of my adventures to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike
Philosophical posts on how to live a happier, more fulfilling life

You Are Here

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We sold maps at the Mercantile where I worked, but most people wanted to look at them without actually purchasing them. One of the maps we sold was produced by the Forest Service and between Memorial Day weekend when the Mercantile opened and the middle of July, the price went up from $12.99 to $20. The other map we sold was better, easier to read, and only cost $12.95. When we ran out of those and the store’s buyer couldn’t contact the publishing company, The Big Boss man ordered some form Amazon, and the price jumped to $20. Just like the law of supply and demand I’d learned about in my high school free enterprise class predicted, we were suddenly selling significantly fewer maps.

One Friday morning, a large extended family came into the Mercantile. A boy of about 14 asked to see a map. The other clerk pulled one out of the display case where we’d started keeping them to prevent theft (our computerized inventory said we had two more maps than were actually in the store, so we knew some had been stolen) and manhandling by people who had no intention of buying. The boy said he was looking for waterfalls, but I don’t know if he was able to locate any on the map.

Model Figure Standing on MapDoes this map say “You are here”? he asked and he unfolded it.

Well, no, I said. If it did, the words would have to keep moving around as you moved through the forest.

The kid looked at me blankly.

I tried again. Only a stationary map will say “You are here,” I told him, but he continued to look at me blankly. I wondered if he knew what “stationary” meant.

Only a map that doesn’t move can say “You are here,” I said, and not a glimmer of understanding flickered across the kid’s face.

I gave up. I was too busy trying to watch out for shoplifters  and helping people find sizes to explain that a paper map moving through time and space with a person has no way to update “You are here” to reflect where a person is at any given moment. With paper maps, explorers must figure out “You are here” on their own.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-cartography-close-up-concept-408503/.

Robo Call

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Seven Assorted Colored Rotary Telephones

My phone number has somehow made its way onto the call lists of an untold number of telemarketers. I’ve been getting solicitations for years, often 3 to 6 in a single day. On many occasions, the caller thinks I’m Mrs. Sanchez. Sometimes the caller attempts to conduct business in Spanish. I’ve had the same phone number since 2012. I’ve never used Sanchez as a pseudonym. My command of Spanish is minimal at best. I have no idea how my number ended up on these particular call lists.

My phone has a California area code, so many of these telemarketing calls are targeted at a California home owner. I get the same recording offering to steam clean my carpets every couple of weeks. I simply hang up on this recording and others. Real people say they represent contractors and are offering California home owners free estimates on home improvements. Sometimes the free estimates (and/or government subsidies) are related to solar panels. I usually tell these people I don’t have a home or I live in my van, and they can’t get off the phone with me quickly enough. Sometimes I get a wish of good luck! before they disconnect.

When I can get a word in, I ask the telemarketers to remove me from their call list. They say they will, but I doubt they do. Really, why should they bother? How will I know if they do or they don’t? What are the chances I’ll take some sort of legal action if representatives of the company continues to call me after I ask them to stop?

I do block the numbers of known telemarketers, but that barely helps. For every number blocked, two new ones seem to spring up in its place. The same companies seem to have a multitude of outgoing numbers at their disposal.

Usually I end these calls as quickly as possible. I don’t have a need for the legitimate services offered, and I fear most of these calls only lead to scams. However, sometimes I’m bored and decide to see if I can have a little fun before the call ends. My fun usually takes the form of pretending I think I’ve already won a prize when the caller tells me I may (probably not) have won a prize.

Oh! That’s so great! I gush. How soon can I go on that cruise to Antigua/pick up my new car/spend my $6 trillion dollars? I’m amused for a few minutes while the caller frantically tries to convince me I haven’t won yet, and I act

White Cruise Ship on Blue Body of Water during Daytime

as if my prize is already on its way.

I’ll probably go to Hell for these games I play, as it’s not kind to mess with people who are simply trying to make a living. Then I remember these people are making a living by taking advantage of people who aren’t so savvy to the wicked ways of the world. Who’s going to Hell now?

One day I was at the library, working on this blog. I had my phone’s sound turned off, but I saw I had a call coming in. I answered and was greeted by the least human robot voice imaginable. The robot told me its name was Gail, and there was a problem with my social security number. Gail the robot asked me to call back the number it was calling from so we could discuss the very urgent problem with my social security number. Apparently Gail was not just a robot, but a robot programmed by a non-native speaker of English. Her syntax was off, and her word choice was strange. Surely the legitimate Social Security Administration would do better than this recording.

I don’t know exactly why I decided to return the call. I think it was because the recording was so outlandish. I was wildly curious to find out what an actual person on the other end of the line would say. Besides, I had nothing to lose. These people already had my phone number, and there was no way I was going to give up any other personal information.

I dialed the number and was surprised when a live human being immediately answered my call. The voice seemed to belong to a male, and from the accent, I judged the person to be a non-native speaker of English. Of course, I have no way of knowing if my assumptions were correct.

I could hear a lot of noise in the background. The call center I had reached must have been huge because I could hear the frenzied buzz of many voices and the tapping of fingers on multiple keyboards.

I told the person who’d answered the phone that I’d received a call from the number I’d just dialed and was now returning the call as instructed. The telemarketer (or scam artist or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) asked me when I’d received the call, and I replied, Just moments ago. He asked if I’d received a voice mail, and I said it hadn’t been a voicemail, it had been a call from a fake human.

At this point I grabbed my purse and walked out of the library and stood on the sidewalk so my exchange with the telemarketer wouldn’t disturb the other patrons. I thought this call might last a while.

The telemarketer asked my name. I asked him what name he had on file for me. When he insisted that he needed me to give him my name, I said, You called me.

The telemarketer immediately dropped all pretense of professionalism. Fuk U, beetch! he said to me.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d barely provoked him. He’d gone from zero to cursing because I didn’t immediately state my name. He must have been having a really bad day.

I was stunned into silence, and he screeched again, Fuk U, beetch!

What are you saying? Are you even speaking English? I asked. It was not the finest comeback, I admit. I knew very well what he was saying and in what language he was saying it.

He threw one more Fuk U, beetch! at me for good measure, then disconnected the call.

Wow. I was shocked, but not really offended. We hadn’t been on the phone long enough for me to take his anger or even his cursing personally. Someone should tell the guy that immediate cursing and early termination of a call is not the way to swindle a person’s social security number out of them. He needed to use a little finesse, perhaps some sweet talk and flattery. He needed to earn the caller’s trust, build up the caller’s confidence in him. He was never going to scam anyone with that negative attitude of his.

I doubt a supervisor would ever guide him to an outstanding career as a scam artist telemarketer. After all, the call was probably not being monitored for quality assurance or training purposes. His supervisor would probably never know he was going off script to hurl Fuk U, beetch! at non-cooperative callers.

I added my number to the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. We’ll see if doing so puts a dent in the number of telemarketing calls I receive.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/seven-assorted-colored-rotary-telephones-774448/ and https://www.pexels.com/search/cruise/.

What to Eat When You Can’t (or Don’t Want to) Cook

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Landscape Photography of Snow Pathway Between Trees during Winter

Last week I wrote about activities to engage in when the weather is too bad to be outside. But what are van or car dwellers to do when they can’t cook outside like normal due to inclement weather? What are van or car dwellers to do if they just don’t feel like cooking? Sure, if you’re in the city, you could rely on restaurants for your meals, but doing so could get quite expensive. Of course, if you’re off boondocking in the wilderness, you probably won’t find a restaurant for miles in any direction, and you’ll have to figure out some way to feed yourself. Today I’ll give you some ideas of what to eat when bad weather (or anything else) keeps you away from your stove.

Be prepared for those times you can’t get outdoors to cook or you just want to have a quick and easy meal by keeping nonperishables on hand. When I lived in my van, I tried to always have crackers, rice cakes, nuts and/or nut butter, Nutella, corn chips, dry cereal, corn or flour tortillas, canned fish, raisins or other dried fruit, canned fruit, and shelf-stable milk in my pantry so I’d be able to eat if I was stuck in a place where I couldn’t cook. Usually with these staples and what I had in my cooler, I could feed myself for a couple of days. Nonperishable foods also came in handy if I got hungry while I was stealth parking.

If you know bad weather is coming or you will be too busy to cook for a few

Three Brown Eggs

days and you have eggs on hand, boil enough to get your through until you can cook again. It’s easy to get enough carbs when you can’t cook, but you’ll be glad for the protein and fat you can get from eggs. Store the boiled eggs in their shell in your cooler until you are ready to eat them.

Another food you can cook in advance of bad weather is pancakes. I’ve found pancakes stay good for several days without refrigeration, and I find them as tasty at room temperature as just off the griddle. If you don’t have any sliced bread on hand, you can substitute pancakes when making nut butter sandwiches. You can also munch on pancakes plain or with a touch of honey or maple syrup.

Green Ceramic Bowl

I can eat happily for several days on dry cereal and milk. If you don’t have milk in your cooler, use shelf-stable milk from your pantry. Fancy up your meal with fresh, dried, or canned fruit. If you don’t do dairy, plant-based milks are typically easy to find in most large supermarkets.

Yogurt with fruit and granola makes a quick, tasty meal or snack. For a slightly different riff on the cereal and dairy theme, sprinkle dry cereal other than granola over your yogurt.

When you can’t cook, nut butters (peanut, almond, and cashew butter, as well as sunflower seed butter and tahini) can be your best friends. Like boiled eggs, nut butters will give you the protein and fat your body will probably be craving. Also, nut butters don’t spoil as quickly as animal products like eggs and milk or yogurt from cows and goats. Some ways to eat nut butters: on bread with bananas, with crackers, spread on apple or pear slices, plopped into the hollow of a stalk of celery and dotted with raisins, spread on pancakes or rice cakes. For a little extra yum, add some hazelnut/coco spread (Nutella or a store brand version) to your nut butter concoctions. Of course, if you have jam or jelly in your cooler, you can have an old-fashioned PB&J or a more modern AB&J (almond butter) or CB&J (cashew butter).

If you eat fish, canned fish on crackers or with chips will give you a protein boost too. In a pinch, I’ve been known to eat canned tuna, oysters, salmon, or sardines on crackers with a squirt of hot sauce. A little cheese (especially, I think, cream cheese) if you have it in your cooler added to any of these combos makes the meal extra tasty.

Of course, any canned, fully cooked food you have on hand can be eaten at room temperature if you can stomach it. The thought of room temperature beans eaten straight out of the can does not appeal to me, but I’ve seen The Man eat them that way with no ill effects on several occasions. Folks who already eat beans, Vienna sausage, potted meat, or other canned goods without the benefit of heat can continue to eat this way when the weather is awful or there’s no time to cook.

If you have cheese in your cooler, slice some up, lay it down on crackers,

Biscuits, Cheese, and Cherries on White Surface

and pretend you’re at a fancy party eating cheese and cracker hors d’oeuvres If you’re a wine drinker, having some now will add to your fancy party fantasy.

Chips, rice cakes, or crackers with dip may not be the height of nutrition, but such fare can get you through when the weather is so bad you can’t even think of leaving your rig. Salsa is probably your most nutritious option, but bean dip is probably relatively healthy too. Ranch dip, French onion dip, and queso may not be exceptionally healthy, but they may offer morale boosting comfort when you’re stuck inside. You may want to keep at least one jar of shelf stable comfort dip in your pantry for hard times. 

Selective Focus Photography Of Sliced Avocado

Another great dip is guacamole. If you know ahead of time that bad weather is going to banish you to the rig, grab a premade tub from the produce section of most supermarkets. Guacamole requires no cooking, so you can certainly mix up a batch while sheltering in your rig. Cut open an avocado or two, remove the seed(s), and scoop the soft green middle into a bowl. Mash the avocado and squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into the bowl. Mince some garlic (one or two cloves, depending on your preference and the size of the cloves), and throw that in. Sprinkle on some salt and chili powder, then mash it all up to your desired consistency. Yippee: guacamole! You can eat it with chips or crackers or spread it on a flour or corn tortilla. If you have any leftover, store it in your cooler for later.

Hummus is also a delicious dip you can buy premade ahead of time or easily make in your rig. Open and drain a can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), then dump them into a bowl. (If you can save some of the water the garbanzos are packed in, you may use it later to thin the mashed bean paste.) Mince some garlic and throw that in on top of the garbanzos, then add tahini, olive oil, and salt to taste. Mash it all up as smooth as you can, and add some of the juice from the can if you need to thin the paste. Be warned that this dip will probably be thick and chunky since you probably only have your own arm muscles and (at best) a potato masher to do a job usually done by a food processor. Once your hummus is prepared, you can eat it on chips; crackers; pretzels; veggies (carrot slices, celery, bell pepper chunks); rice cakes; or bread.

If you have cheese, cold cuts (traditional or vegetarian), veggies, and bread,

Close-Up Photo of Vegetable Sandwich on Plate

you can always slap together a sandwich. Add a piece of fruit or some chips and call it a meal.

If you can stand to be outside long enough to boil water, there a few quick and easy warm meals you can prepare.

Add boiling water to instant refried beans, stir, then let them sit (covered) for five minutes or so. Add chips and cheese (and salsa and/or chopped avocado or guacamole if you’ve got them) to the warm beans for an easy meal. You can also add warm beans and any of the fixin’s mentioned above to a flour or corn tortilla and fold or roll.

Boiling water can also be added to packaged ramen noodle soups. After sitting (covered) for 5-10 minutes, the boiling water should have made the noodles plump and tender. I never use the flavor packets that come with the noodles, but you can (of course!) if you want to. I just add some soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and nutritional yeast. If you have a boiled egg or canned fish on hand, either would be a good addition to ramen.

You can also add boiling water to oatmeal—instant, quick cooking, even old-fashioned. (This is not a technique I recommend for cooking steel cut oats.) Add enough boiling water to cover the oats, stir, cover the bowl, and let sit for 5-10 minutes (less time if you’re preparing instant oats). When the cover is removed, the water should be absorbed. Old-fashioned oats may be a bit chewy, but should not be crunchy. You can fancy up oatmeal with fresh or dried chopped fruit (added before the boiling water), nut butter, hazelnut spread, raisins or craisins, honey, maple syrup, or nuts.

If you have extra boiling water, you can have a cup of hot tea, cocoa, or instant coffee now, or store the hot water in a thermos to use later.

If you’re able to stay outside long enough to boil water, you may be outside long enough to scramble an egg, heat a can of beans, warm a couple of tortillas, or make some toast. Even a brief break in rain or sleet or snow may give you the opportunity to prepare warm food. Eat warm food when you can get it, and save cold or room-temperature food for later when you might not be able to get outside at all.

You’ve got to eat, no matter what the weather or even if you’re too busy to cook. A little planning and a stocked pantry can get you through when you’re stuck in your van or can’t get to your stove for whatever reason.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-photography-of-snow-pathway-between-trees-during-winter-688660/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-eggs-8439/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-healthy-meal-cereals-135525/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-biscuits-snack-sliced-37922/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-sliced-avocado-1759055/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-vegetable-sandwich-on-plate-1647163/.

This Campground?

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It was Sunday, and I was on my mid-shift break from my duties at the Mercantile. I was hanging out in my van which was parked in the overflow parking lot at the front of the campground where the Mercantile was located. Javier the camp host was sitting in the shade right outside my van, jumping up to collect access fees whenever a new vehicle pulled into the lot. When people stood next to his chair to converse, I heard every word through my van’s open windows.

While Javier was sitting there, a young tourist couple approached him to ask how to get to a nearby waterfall.

This is the waterfall the young tourist couple wanted to see.

We got asked about this waterfall a lot, and I hated giving directions to it. No sign marks the spot, and the directions involve noticing an unmarked road that should not be turned down but simply used as a landmark. At some distance past the road is an unmarked dirt turnout where waterfall seekers must park before going off into the forest on their quest. Usually the eyes of the person who’d asked for directions to this place glazed over before I finished giving all the necessary information, and I had a strong suspicion the person would never even find the right place to park, much less the actual natural attraction.

When I heard the young man ask about the waterfall, I groaned inwardly. I was glad it was Javier giving the directions and not me.

Javier started in. Take a left out of the campground, Javier told tourists.

This campground? the young man interrupted.

Yes, this campground, Javier said like the professional he is, then continued with the directions. I sat in the van shaking my head, thinking of all the things I would have liked to have said to the tourist in response of his question of This campground?

Oh no! Not this campground? Why would I refer to the campground we’re currently in? Just go into any campground, then make a left out of it.

Or course this campground! Why would I be talking about any other campground? Yes! This campground!

My patience grew thinner every day.

I took the photo in this post.

 

How to Help a Sad Person

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The portions of this post in italics were written by me, Blaize Sun, the Rubber Tramp Artist. The other portions of this post were written by Laura-Marie River Victor Peace and first appeared on her blog.

When I read my friend Laura-Marie’s blog post about helping a sad person, I immediately wanted to share it. The post is so important, not just because it suggests ways we can help each other, but also because it acknowledges that sadness exists. Too often we try to pretend life is all happiness all the time. Laura-Marie shatters that myth with her beautiful words.

Laure-Marie recently got really sick while she and her spouse were visiting me and The Man. She and her partner left early and went directly to the hospital where Laura-Marie stayed for several days. The first part of her post is about her time in the hospital and the immediate aftermath.

The second part of her post is a wonderful list of 70 things to do to help a sad person. So many of us don’t know what to do in the face of a friend or loved one’s sadness. This list gives ideas for concrete steps we can take to show a sad person that we really do love them and care about their well-being.

People ask Ming how I am.  They know I was in the hospital.  They wanna know if I’m better.  They care, for his sake and for mine.

I’m doing much better physically.  When I first came home from the hospital, I was so bad.  I could barely function.  I was at one percent.

There are the reasons you were in the hospital.  Well, you were not looking too living for a minute there.

Then there are the problems the hospital causes.  I had a terrible cough.  From lying down too much, maybe, in a hospital bed?  I was super weak.  Maybe from the same?

Or it could have been other reasons–the anemia, the sadness, how I wasn’t eating food for four days, losing weight really fast?

Weird stuff happened to me, in the hospital.  It’s not normal to get four bags of other people’s blood pumped into you, for example.  That’s not part of everyday life.  Or the strong drugs, the thing they put down my throat, what they did to my stomach, etc.

I had to get strength back, to become again capable of walking from a parking lot to a building, of walking through a store.  I took those things for granted, before.

And I thought it would take weeks, for my blood to be good again.  I didn’t understand it would take months!  I wish a doctor had told me that.  I wish I’d had a more realistic timeline.

Anyway, my friend asked Ming how I was.  I’m really up and down, emotionally.  Ming said no one knows what to say about that.

I told Ming they could help.  My blood, what could they do?  Buy me a bottle of iron pills?  For my emotional health, there are a hundred things they could do.

Ming was thinking the opposite.  He asked, “What could they do?”

“How do you help someone who’s sad?  Have you lived to be 52 years old and never helped a sad person before?”  I didn’t ask something so snarky, then, but I’ve said similar things in the past.  Sorry, honey.

I remember, talking about mental health struggles at Justice for our Desert.  Some people looked away.  Like I was talking about sex or money.  I think they were hurt, about it.

Maybe, well, you never know.  Something happened a long time ago?  Or for whatever reason, they’re not ready to go there.   So they wish I’d shut up.

Well,  I make a lot of lists–brainstorming self-care, what is comfort in this world, things I want or need, things a volunteer could do to help with Nevada Desert Experience, different to do lists, questions for doctors, foods I want to eat more of, people I like writing letters to.

Here is a list called how to help a sad person.

1.  listen
2.  offer hugs
3.  offer to hold hands
4.  don’t get defensive
5.  ask what you can do for them
6.  write them a love letter
7.  bring them a present that doesn’t require anything additional
8.  be very patient with them
9.  hand them tissues if they’re crying
10.  help with something on their comfort list
11.  like make them tea
12.  tell them something you like about them
13.  tell them a funny memory of something you did together
14.  say something unrelated really briefly to see if they want to be distracted
15.  take some pressure off them, like see if you can do one of their chores
16.  flowers in vase with water
17.  card with a pretty picture on it
18.  support their main support person
19.  give them a food they like, if they can eat
20.  check up on them often
21.  check up on them after everyone else stops
22.  grocery run, gift card, money, housecleaning
23.  offer rides
24.  offer to bring something needed
25.  offer to go with them to an appt
26.  pray with them, if they like that
27.  offer to sing them a healing song
28.  invite them to something
29.  offer to tell them a story of a predetermined length
30.  cry with them
31.  validate them
32.  give them a cheering zine or book
33.  tell them they can call you day or night
34.  research a local warmline number
35.  give them a small colorful art
36.  say “I love you”
37.  assume they’re understating their pain
38.  offer to take them to nature or just a park
39.  offer to braid their hair, paint their nails, hand massage
40.  draw them a picture
41.  write them a poem
42.  bring them a quote about how things change
43.  offer to play a game with them that they like
44.  be realistic about what you can offer
45.  don’t over-exert yourself
46.  offer to look together at their postcard collection, stamp collection, scrapbook
47.  ask them to dance with you
48.  offer to make something together: cookies, paper airplanes, jello
49.  offer to collaborate on a project like a zine or garden
50.  offer to play with playdough together or some other toy
51.  offer to blow bubbles
52.  offer to make art together
53.  offer to do a simple healing ritual together
54.  offer to meditate together, if they like that
55.  offer to walk, swim, or exercise together, if they can
56.  get consent, respect boundaries
57.  use your intuition as well as your everyday thinking
58.  get creative
59.  don’t blame
60.  offer to gratitude journal together
61.  research signs that someone wants to kill themself and watch for them
62.  offer something you have too much of or don’t need anymore
63.  invite them to visit a community you belong to
64.  invite them to volunteer with you
65.  ask them a question you’ve always wondered about
66.  brainstorm a list of ideas they might like
67.  offer to tell a joke
68.  ask them to help you with something possible and finite
69.  offer to bring over your pet, kid, Mom, or other liked being
70.  offer to read them something they’ve been wanting to read

Laura-Marie told her spouse there must be 100 ways to help a sad person and gave us 70 examples. Because I like a challenge (and a list) and I’ve been a sad person myself, I thought of an additional 30 ways to help.

#71 offer to clean their glasses (if they wear glasses)

#72 bring them bubble bath

#73 give space to be sad

#74 walk their dog for them

#75 put food in the freezer for later

#76 invite them to watch a funny, upbeat movie with you

#77 offer choices

#78 orchestrate the petting of puppies or kittens

#79 provide childcare if needed

#80 take them to an art museum with an upbeat exhibit

#81 take them to float in the water

#82 wrap a cold sad person in blankets

#83 give cheerful socks

#84 offer water to drink

#85 hug trees together

#86 mail postcards with pretty pictures to them

#87 give them lotion that smells really good

#88 tuck them into bed at night

#89 make the bed for them in the morning

#90 don’t be afraid to sit together in silence

#91 don’t try to fix things

#92 remember, a sad person is not broken

#93 give them a new journal and fun pens

#94 make them a song playlist with upbeat tunes

#95 play your musical instrument for them

#96 give a bright, handmade hat

#97 look at the stars together

#98 go to an ice cream shop together and try all the flavors

#99 offer to sleep over so they don’t have to be alone at night

#100 don’t be overwhelming

If you are a sad person, I hope this list gives you some ideas for self-care, as well as things to ask for when someone wants to know what they can do to support you. If you want to support someone who is struggling with sadness, I hope these suggestions assist you in your desire to do so. Please know that different people need different kinds of help at different times. Don’t expect every one of these suggestions to work for every sad person during every bout of sadness.

If you are feeling suicidal or you know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273- 8255 or check out the agency’s website for more information or to chat with a counselor. According to the website,

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Laura-Marie River Victor Peace is a radical mental health activist, peace activist, and writer. See her main blog at dangerouscompassions.blogspot.com See her zines at facebook.com/functionallyill.

Generator Justice

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The people camped next to us ran their generator all night.

The Man and I were camped at Bluewater Lake State Park between Grants and Gallup, New Mexico. We’d used my New Mexico State Parks Pass to get a developed campsite, which in this instance meant a picnic table and a fire ring. We’d taken a site next to people in a popup camper. Usually we wouldn’t take a spot right next to other campers, especially when there were many empty campsites throughout the park, but the site we chose was flat and had a tree providing afternoon shade. It was the best unoccupied site in all the camping areas.

A tree stands above a body of water. In front of the tree is a wooden cross surrounded by stones.
Tree and cross, Bluewater Lake State Park

I pulled the van onto the asphalt parking spur nose in. The side doors opened toward our picnic tables and away from our next door neighbors, giving us all a bit of privacy.

The Man and I spent the afternoon relaxing. In the evening we cooked dinner, cleaned up after ourselves, then got into the van for bed.

We were awake later than usual. At some point we realized we were hearing the motorized hum of a generator. The noise was coming from the site next door.

The Man asked me what time it was, and after consulting my watch, I told him it was a little after ten o’clock.

Quiet hours start at ten, he grumbled.

The park brochure clearly stated that generator use is prohibited during quiet hours. The generator was not supposed to be running, but continued to hum in the night. Despite the noise, I went to sleep with no real problem.

The Man and I both woke up early, and nearly the first thing we noticed was that the generator next door was still humming.

That thing’s been on all night! The Man grumbled.

Maybe they have a medical need, I suggested generously. Maybe one of them uses a CPAP.

The Man countered by saying the people should have stayed at a site with electrical hookups if they needed to use electricity all night.

Well, yes. There seemed to be empty electrical sites when we drove through the park. Maybe the couple didn’t want to pay the extra $4 for a site with electricity, although I think doing so would have been less expensive than buying the gasoline it took to run the generator all night. Maybe the people thought because they took a campsite in a side loop away from other people, there would be no problem if they ran the generator all night. However, if they wanted to be sure they didn’t bother anyone, they could have gone to the sparsely populated primitive camping area by the lake and parked far away from everyone else.

It’s not like we had pulled up on remote booondockers and camped next to them; we were both in designated developed campsites.

Usually I’m the complainer and The Man is the voice of reason, but on that Sunday morning our roles were reversed. The Man couldn’t let his problem with the generator next door go.

They ran it all night…It’s againt the rules…I’m going to report them to the camp host…or the ranger…I’m going to knock on their door…

I reminded him that it was Sunday. I told him the people next door were probably leaving that afternoon. The thought of them leaving comforted him a little, but he was still irritated.

People like that…They think they can do whatever they want…It’s not right…I’m going to report them…

He asked me if I thought he should report them.

I considered the question, then asked him if the generator had kept him awake the night before. He thought a moment, then admitted it hadn’t .

I told him it hadn’t kept me awake either. In fact, I had slept just fine. I told him if the generator had kept us awake and the people next door were staying another night, I would consider reporting them. But if the noise hadn’t kept us awake and they wouldn’t be there another night, what was the point in reporting them?

The Man thought about what I’d said, then nodded. He agreed.

Usually I’m the person complaining (in my head, even if not aloud) because something just isn’t right or that’s not fair.I have a strong sense of justice, of fairness, of wanting people to do what’s right for the greater good. However, I’m trying to learn to stay out of other people’s business, to stay away from drama, to embrace the attitude of live and let live. Maybe it’s not my place to be a crusader for generator justice when the generator didn’t really bother me in the first place.