Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sloth?

Standard

The cars in a caravan of about 15 parked in the overflow lot in front of the Mercantile. I don’t know if the people in the cars were a family or friends or what, but the folks from the group who visited the Mercantile ranged in age from babes-in-arms to senior citizens. Of course, the children who came inside ooohhed and ahhhhed over all the things they wanted but their parents weren’t going to buy.

A little boy who was maybe five walked right over to the wagon full of stuffed animals and pulled out a monkey.

Wait? What? A monkey? On a mountain in North America? Why in the world were we trying to sell a stuffed money? Those were the questions I wanted answered.

The plush toy in question is not visible in this photo.

I’d just pulled the monkey out of our plush toy back stock earlier in the day. Why are we selling a monkey? I’d asked the other store clerks. Neither of them had any idea. I tossed the monkey into the big wagon with the stuffed bears and raccoons and other woodland creatures. Maybe we’d sell it eventually.

The boy honed in on the monkey, picked it up, and carried it over to his older sister who seemed to be about nine. Look, a sloth! he said as he handed the plush toy to her.

The sister looked as confused as I felt. A sloth? Really? While selling a stuffed sloth in the middle of a North American forest on top of a mountain made about as much sense as selling a toy monkey in that location, I didn’t think what we had was a sloth. It didn’t look a bit like a sloth to me.

The sister was scrutinizing the tag attached to the toy’s ear, trying to find an indication of its species, I presume. I sidled up to her and said, I think it’s a monkey. She looked startled. Maybe she was surprised to find an adult getting involved.

My brother said it’s a sloth, she told me.

I know, I acknowledged, but I think it’s a monkey. I walked away from the girl then. I didn’t want to creep her out by hanging around.

A few minutes later, a man who turned out to be the dad of the two kids came into the Mercantile. He looked around at the goods for sale and found himself in front of the wagon full of stuffed animals. His daughter must have returned the monkey to the wagon because there it was, looking up at him. I’ll be damned if he didn’t exclaim, Look! A sloth!

The father had an accent that led me to believe English was not his first language. Had he somehow gotten confused in his study of animal names and thought the critters English speakers call “monkeys” are called “sloths”? Had he taught his son the names of animals, thus passing down the monkey/sloth confusion? Had the girl child learned the proper animal names in school, but the boy child hadn’t gotten to that lesson yet? Or could it simply be that what looked like a monkey to me looked like a sloth to others?

A few weeks later, a different little boy solved the mystery.

He was probably seven or eight and made a beeline to the big wagon filled with stuffed animals. A Sasquatch! he exclaimed as he plucked the monkey/sloth from away from its furry companions.

A Sasquatch?  I pondered. This kid might be on to something.

Is this a Sasquatch? the kid asked the adult who seemed to be his father.

I don’t know, the father said. Why don’t you ask? he said, gesturing to the other clerks standing behind the counter.

The boy marched up to the counter with the monkey/sloth/Sasquatch in tow. Is this a Sasquatch? he asked one of the other clerks.

I have no idea, she told him.

I took a good look at the plush toy. Yes. I could see how it was possibly, maybe, perhaps supposed to be a Sasquatch.

I want the Sasquatch, the boy told his father,

You only get one thing, the father told his son. He mentioned a half dozen other things the boy might want from the Mercantile, but the boy stood strong. He wanted the Sasquatch.

Just before the other clerk rang up the purchase, I ran over behind the counter. Let me see that! I demanded, grabbing the plush toy and finding the tag attached to its ear. Yep, there on the tag with the barcode and item number, in tiny letters it said, “Bigfoot.” Mystery solved. Why hadn’t I just looked there in the first place?

I took a photo of the stuffed animal in question and planned to share it here, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. It probably actidentally ended up in the wrong folder and I’d never renamed it, so itsname is just a bunch of random numbers. Sigh. Blogger fail.

I took the photo in this post.

Go See Do: Tips for Finding Fun Out On the Open Road (Guest Post)

Standard

License plate artwork discovered at a Denny’s restaurant, somewhere out on the open road.

Brenda Cordray was one of the first people I “met” through Instagram. I somehow stumbled upon her feed @twentyonefeathers and thoroughly enjoyed her photos, especially the ones of flowers and heart-shaped rocks and other little bits of nature. She and her man are nomads, so I introduced myself and my blog to her and offered her the chance to write a guest post. That guest post is now in front of you. Today Brenda will share her tips for finding fun things to do in the new places you visit whether you’re on vacation or living the life of a rubber tramp.

After 5 years of both solo and tandem road life, I am often asked about boredom. Don’t you ever get bored? I am not a person who experiences boredom. I have often said that I have a rich internal life. I find more than enough things to ponder and consider, especially when I am not stimulated by the hustle and bustle and endless noise of the outside world. I have a dozen projects in the works at any given moment, and many that are sprouting tiny green vines of possibility on a daily basis. The truly creative mind rarely rests.

I have been known to sit for weeks out on the desert in my van all alone. I was perfectly content and never needed the sound of anyone else’s voice for entertainment. Now that I am newly married, my nomadic experience has changed quite a bit. These days I wait patiently for my beloved husband, Dan, to wake up so we can enjoy a good conversation about what we would like to do with this one blessed day that is unfurling before us.

A quick peek out the window reveals our latest sittin’ spot. Sometimes that in itself is a surprise! The scenery outside our windows changes regularly. It takes no effort at all to find things to amuse ourselves out in nature at any given location. We truly are outdoors people, at our best and happiest when we are outside. The outdoors is always fertile ground for exploration, but often we long to venture out into parts unknown to store up precious shared memories.

We aren’t fans of touristy venues, although we have been known to brave the crowds (off-season or on weekdays) to see things that are of keen interest to either or both of us. I love to post pictures of unusual or off-the-beaten-path locales! It is my joy and pleasure to be the navigator, so it falls upon me to ferret out these treasures.

How do I find them, you may ask. Exploration of any area begins with maps.  I love old-fashioned paper folding maps, hefty road atlases, Google Maps, hand-drawn simple maps, or even highly detailed topographical maps that others would have no interest in exploring. All maps are valuable to me. Each has a precious bounty to offer if given the chance to tell its stories.

Stopping at rest area Welcome Centers as you cross state lines is a great way to pick up free and updated folding maps of any state. I replace my old ones often, although the ones that have handwritten notes along the edges and circles and arrows and plenty of Scotch tape holding them together are solid keepers. Racks and racks of glossy travel pamphlets, some with discount codes or coupons, are free for the taking. There are often helpful folks behind the counter who can give more details about local attractions, like whether or not dogs are allowed, or if the attraction you are considering would be suitable for a preschooler or stroller. They are happy that you bothered to ask and are often a wealth of information for the curious traveler.

Statues of American Folk hero, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, located in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Truck stops, restaurants, gas stations, and coffee shops often have racks of pamphlets, too, and local weekly circulars that include calendars full of events and happenings. Many include descriptions of nearby businesses and are a great resource for buy-one-get-one-free meals or discounts on attractions or services.

If I meet a new friend who insists that we go see their home state, or their favorite state, I shush their suggestions long enough to go grab my paper maps and a pencil to mine these priceless bits of information. I often write their names and phone numbers there as well, and where we met, too, since many tell me to call them when we are heading that way because they will have surely thought of more to share.

We are given directions and gate codes from perfect strangers in the event that we venture close to their summer cottage or homestead and would like to stay, even if they don’t happen to be there at the moment. If you are a person of integrity, many will entrust you with prime sittin’ spots. Quite a few will suggest that you stay forever, and it will take your very best efforts to politely disengage and ease on down the road. Those who get out of the house now and again will suggest places of interest for your enjoyment. We are very happy when they give reviews of all the best local restaurants, for days when van-made grub sounds less than appealing.

If you truly enjoy a certain place, stay awhile. Immerse yourself in the ambiance of the area. Strike up conversations with locals. Some of our best travel tips have come from people we may never see again, but will always remember. The places that we have stayed for extended periods of time are often the places we describe to others who are looking for something fun to do. It’s nice to feel that you truly “know” a place you have just left instead of just having a vague recollection of your visit.

Lucy the Elephant, built in 1881, and located at Margate City on the New Jersey Shore.

I am always astounded by driveway surfing hosts who have no idea where the nearest park is or how many truly fascinating things there are to see within a few moments of their home or the neighborhood they grew up in. What fun it is to explore their world and bring it back home to them! Not everyone would enjoy the idea of traveling as much as we do, but one should at least gather up the low hanging fruits of local events and attractions. Weekends aren’t just for chores, people. Recreation is good for the soul and makes the days in between the weekends more tolerable.

When tracing a path from point A to point B, Google Maps is also a great resource. Using two fingers to expand the map uncovers all sorts of fascinating places along your route, and entering a keyword like “museum” can add plenty of depth to the outcome of your search. Even if what you find is not something you plan to do right away, tagging that spot with a star or flag can jog your memory in the event that you venture that way again at a later date.

A Google search of any area being considered should include the top 15 things to do in a few local cities. TripAdvisor offers a detailed list of the most popular sites in any area.The list also includes reviews from those who have been there and have something to say about it. TripAdvisor is usually the first thing that pops up in a Google search. If you scroll down a bit, you may find blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, Facebook pages, and a variety of links that will flesh out the big picture and lots of smaller details about the area you plan to visit.

Atlas Obscura offers a website that gives you the opportunity to type in a specific location and come away with a list of unusual things to see, like a museum that holds a collection of life and death masks; or the Salt Palace, a museum in Grand Saline, Texas, made entirely of salt. Without this valuable resource, you might pass right by the 200-year-old The Horse You Came In On Saloon in Baltimore, Maryland, whose claim to fame is having served Edgar Allan Poe his final drink. The website includes stories and pictures detailing the history and current particulars about interesting places all around the globe. They also churn out printed books, for those who don’t have to worry about limited space or weight in their chosen road chariot. I carried their book in the van until a fellow nomadic friend who had moved back into sticks and bricks posted that she wanted it badly. I popped it in the mail so she could do a little armchair exploring. Being able to access the same information online is a better choice for me than hauling around a thick reference book.

West Quoddy Head lighthouse at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine, the easternmost point of the contiguous United States.

Sometimes I come across interesting places to see in areas we have just left, like the Montague Book Mill, in Montague, Massachusetts. It is said to hold books you don’t need in a place you can’t find. That sounds like a challenge to me, and I love a good challenge!  25,000 books crammed into a 175-year-old building, perched on the banks of the Sawmill River (which holds black river stones smoothed by cold, flowing water) sounds like pure Heaven to me. That one warrants a check mark for next time, and a sigh of disappointment for not discovering it when we were close enough to stop by. At the very least, Atlas Obscura will show you what you are missing right next door, and will give you something to do when you are “bored”, if you are so inclined.

Many of the coolest places we have visited have been the result of serendipitous drive-by discoveries. Once, after taking a wrong turn, we spied a hand-lettered sign that simply said “fort” with an arrow pointing down a backroad outside of Savannah, Georgia. Fort Jackson (the old one, not the modern one) is the oldest brick abutment in Georgia.  It was occupied during three wars, and it protected the city of Savannah during the Civil War. Dan wrote a blog post about our visit.

We spent an entire weekday in this nearly empty fort, enjoying a personal tour given by a newly hatched tour guide who was very excited to share his knowledge.  We were able to really feel the history of the fort without the input of dozens of chattering voices.

We easily took dozens of photos without having to wait for hordes of visitors to move out of the way of the shot. We sat in silence after reading the placards accompanying the displays and deeply considered the sacrifices made by our forebearers to secure this nation’s freedom. We mined the treasures of the museum at our own pace, and felt happy to leave a donation to support the upkeep of this privately funded property because we could clearly see its value. We have seen many historic places defaced by graffiti and feel that if people truly took the time to appreciate them, they could not possibly consider such a heinous crime.

Reading the blog posts of fellow travelers or following their Instagram or Facebook page posts can offer up interesting suggestions as well. We have been honored when our followers have added to their travel plans or bucket lists based on our adventures! You can find literally thousands of photographs of our travels on our Instagram pages, @twentyonefeathers and @fireman428. I love to find free or very cheap places to visit and camp, so be sure to explore the captions below the photos for a plethora of ideas.

Our pups at Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield near London, Kentucky, site of one of the Union’s first victories in the Civil War.

I offer these suggestions with the hope that you will find a few jewels through the resources mentioned here, and that you also share your OWN gettin’ spots for unique adventures below in the comment section for others to enjoy. Boredom out on the open road is a mindset that is easily remedied with a bit of creativity and a passion for unearthing hidden spots to explore, both near and far. If you are a weekend or summer holiday traveler and not living the nomadic life, you can squeeze more fun into the time you have available by utilizing a few of these resources. As Dan always says, get out, be safe, and go adventure!

Brenda Cordray is a vandweller who is currently writing a book about her personal journey towards her lifelong dream of nomadic life, and her experiences while living five-plus years out on the road. She is sending out a call to fellow freewheeling souls for interviews about their journey and quest for the nomadic life for possible inclusion in her book. She can be reached at twentyonefeathers@gmail.com. Brenda travels with her husband, Dan, and pups Liberty and Layla, in their repurposed community transport van, Erik van Home.

If you need more ideas of what to do with your free time, see the Rubber Tramp Artist post What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

Photos and their captions provided by the author.

 

Wad of Cash

Standard

It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-June and the Mercantile was busy. A group of tween Girl Scouts and their families were scooping up souvenirs throughout the store. I was working the floor, helping people find sizes and doing my best to watch out for shoplifting.

I asked two young adult women standing by the shelf of t-shirts for kids if they needed any help. One of the woman asked if I had anything in XXXL. I told her I had one design in that size and led her over to where those shirts were stacked on a shelf. I reached to the bottom of a pile and pulled out the XXXL shirt.

The woman had a handful of stuff, mostly brochures for tourist attractions from what I could tell. She set all the stuff she’d been holding on the shelf between two stacks of t-shirts so she could take the shirt I was holding. She held the shirt at arm’s length and cast a critical eye upon it. I think this will fit my husband, she said. I’ll take it.

Rolled 20 U.s Dollar BillShe draped the shirt over her arm, grabbed her stack of stuff from the shelf and turned away from me. I glanced at the shelf, and lying where her tourist attraction brochures had been was a wad of cash. It must have been on the bottom of her stack and was smaller than everything else, so when she picked up her stack, the money was left behind.

Sometimes we have time to deliberate over our moral dilemmas and sometimes we make our moral decisions in an instant.

I reached out and grabbed the wad of cash. It would have only taken me an instant to slip it into one of the pockets of my apron. When the woman realized it was gone, she probably wouldn’t remember setting it on the shelf. If she did remember where she’d last had it, well, there were a lot of people in the store and any of them could have picked up a wad of cash found sitting on a shelf.

Instead of putting the money in my pocket, I called out, Ma’am? Ma’am? Man Holds 10 U.s Dollar Banknote

The woman turned around, and I held up the wad of cash. You forgot this, I said to her.

She looked sheepish and said, I won’t be able to buy anything without that.

I reached out and returned her money.

It was the right thing to do.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/rolled-20-u-s-dollar-bill-164527/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holds-10-u-s-dollar-banknote-928201/.

Arches National Park

Standard

The Lady of the House and I got to Arches National Park early in the afternoon. Once again, I was impressed by the rock formations visible from the parking lot near the visitor center, and once again, The Lady gave me a knowing smile. She’d visited this park the previous summer, and she knew what magnificence I would see shortly.

We didn’t see this formation from the visitor center, but I think it was one of the nameless formations that impressed me.

During The Lady’s visit the previous July, she and her companions had hiked to Delicate Arch. She said it had taken them about three hours to hike to the Arch and back. The trail was in the direct sun, she reported, and they were quite tired by the time they returned to the car. While I would have liked to see the iconic landmark up close, I didn’t really want to use my one day in the Park getting there and back. The Lady said there was a viewpoint a short walk from a parking area where we could see Delicate Arch from a distance. I decided seeing it from a distance was good enough for me if that meant I could also see other fantastic natural beauty in the Park.

From the visitor center, I drove the van up up up on the narrow, winding road. I mostly kept my eyes in front of me, but my furtive glances to the side showed me the deep drop to the world below. Arches National Park really is above it all.

Balanced Rock

Our first stop was at the Courthouse Towers area. I felt so tiny surrounded by ever taller rock formations. I already felt like I was literally on top of the world, yet the world rose up taller around me. How was a person from the flatlands (even someone like me who’d been living among mountains for some years) supposed to make sense of this geology?

Our next stop was Balanced Rock. One day the top rock will fall, and I’ll feel grateful I was able to experience the formation when it was all in one piece. Will they rename the formation when the top rock falls? Will we call it “Formerly Balanced Rock” or “Fallen Rock” or “The Rock Formerly Known as Balanced”?

After walking the short trail around Balanced Rock, I drove us to the parking area with Double Arch on one side and The Windows Trail on the other. We decided not to walk the trail to Double Arch, but I was able to snap a decent photo of it.

The walk to the North and South Window Arches was not very strenuous, and the visual payoff was fantastic! Across from the Window Arches is the Turret Arch, so a visitor gets to see three thrilling formations for one expenditure of energy.

Double Arch

Back in the van, I drove to the Fiery Furnace lookout. The trail here is apparently quite challenging. A limited number of permits for self-guided hikes are issued each day, or folks can go on ranger-led tours of the area. The Lady and I had signed up for neither due to time constraints (and my probable inability to enjoy a quite strenuous hike). So we contented ourselves with stopping briefly and taking some photos.

Our final destination of the day was the Delicate Arch viewpoint.

Before we got on the trail to the viewpoint, we saw a rustic cabin that I wanted to take a closer look at. The National Park Service says it was built in 1906 by John Wesley Wolfe to please his daughter Flora. The Lady maintained Edward Abbey stayed in this cabin during his two seasons (1956 and 1957) as a park ranger at Arches, but I could find no official information confirming that assertion. (Once back home, The Man of the House, who was then reading Desert Solitaire, said Abbey spent a night or two in the cabin during his time in the park, but hadn’t lived there extensively as I had imagined when The Lady said he’d stayed there. I think there should be signage saying “Edward Abbey slept here” or something to that effect.)

Turnbow Cabin, part of the Wolfe Ranch. Edward Abbey slept here, maybe once or twice.

I looked at the cabin and thought, I could live here, although hauling water would probably be quite an endeavor, and I bet it’s dark out there at night. Of course, it’s probably hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but I could imagine myself living there. I wonder how many other visitors even consider the place as a possible dwelling for themselves.

We took a short walk to the viewing area, and there it was—Delicate Arch. It didn’t look so big from where we were standing, but The Lady assured me it’s huge when one is standing right under it. The informational sign says the Arch’s opening is 45 feet high and 33 feet wide. That’s pretty dang big! The Lady pointed out the people standing around the Arch; they looked like tiny colorful specks, as if someone had thrown confetti around the formation.

Delicate Arch, from a distance

We contemplated Delicate Arch for a few minutes. It’s “carved in Entrada Sandstone”, the sign says, and “is composed mostly of the Slick Rock Member. The top is a five-foot thick layer of Moab Tongue.” I zoomed my camera’s lens in for a few grainy photos. Maybe someday I’ll hike out and see Delicate Arch up close, but in the meantime, I’ll revisit it on nearly every Utah license plate I see.

I took all the photos in this post.

Grateful Vandweller (An Interview with Devan Winters)

Standard

I met Devan Winters of the XsyntrikNomad blog through Facebook, but for the life of me, I can’t remember exactly how that meeting came about. We’ve known each other for not quite two years, but now it’s difficult to remember a time when Devan wasn’t my friend.

What started as an internet friendship evolved into an in-person friendship when we found ourselves in the same metropolitan area. Over donuts we talked and laughed and comiserated. We camped together for a couple of nights right before Christmas 2017, and I was impressed by Devan’s kind and compassionate nature. It’s been a joy to see Devan spread her rubber tramp wings and fly into van life.

Devan’s a great writer too. I’ve been blessed with her contribution of two guest posts (“This Is the Story of a (Kind) Girl” and the comprehensive article “Traveling Van Cat?” about cats and van life) on this blog. Her writing ability shines through in this interview too, which was conducted via email. In it she shares her van dwelling experiences, including how she chose her rig, a recent accident that nearly resulted in her losing her van, and what it’s like to share her limited space with a cat companion.

How long have you been a full-time van dweller?

I moved into my van permanently on June 20, 2017. I ran some final errands for my adult child that morning and then drove 6 hours to southern California. I spent my first night as a Van Dweller in Del Mar, CA at a Denny’s.

How long did you want to be on the road before you got on the road?

The epiphany leading to this lifestyle happened very late in 2014. It took 2 ½ years to research, plan, and save.

What is the make and model of your rig?

I live in a 2013 Chevy Express 1500 Passenger van with a 5.3 Liter V8. (Her name is Zō)

Can you stand up in your van?

I cannot. It is one of the things I will probably change in the future if finances permit. It would be a delightful convenience, but it won’t be the end of the world if I can’t ever do it.

Why did you choose this rig out of all the available options?

So many reasons! First, I couldn’t afford a Class B. I am strangely put off by the cookie cutter uniformity of them anyway – the lines seem too perfect for my chaotic mind. 🙂 I like something with a bit of character, like the Airstream 190. However, I knew I wanted to finance and would need something newer to get a loan. I also hoped something newer would be more mechanically sound. I did a lot of research on engines, reliability, and repair trends. Once that was settled, I decided (for me) windows were a must. The end result was my Chevy Express Passenger Van!

What’s your favorite thing about living in a full-size van?

There are two sides to that question in my mind. As far as size, I can’t imagine anything smaller than full size working for me. This is the minimum space I need to be comfortable. My favorite thing though… is a feeling. When I crawl into bed at night, a sense of peace and contentment fills my soul. I feel strong, capable, and independent. And I love knowing I am not tied down to any location.

What’s most frustrating about living in a full-size van?

Right now it’s showering. I have a Planet Fitness membership so it usually isn’t a big issue. I decided to stay in Flagstaff, AZ to escape the heat this summer though and there is no Planet fitness here. The cheapest shower is $9 at the Aquaplex. My weed sprayer shower and wet wipes have become more important than ever!

Normally though, the biggest inconvenience for me is lack of power. Because I don’t have solar yet, I have to go to places like Starbucks to work (since my laptop holds a charge for 2 hours at best). I would also LOVE to be done buying ice for my cooler. Once I get solar, a 12-volt fridge isn’t far behind.

Do you travel with everything you own?

I do.  My entire life is in my van and I LOVE it.

I know you were recently in a bad accident and almost lost your van. What are the three most important things you learned from the experience?

#1 The value of emotional support in like-minded friends. I was on the scene of the accident for two hours. An officer suggested I contact someone to come pick me up. I sent a text to a long time friend I knew in the area. When he called me in response, I began sobbing about my “home.” He tried, but the conversation with him only made me feel worse. He couldn’t relate to my fears or provide the comfort I needed. In hindsight, I realize the incredible importance and value of my closest nomadic friends. No matter how much of a loner or introvert you may be, connections to others in the nomadic community are vital. When I talked to you Blaize, or my friends LaVonne and Patrick, it was completely different. I felt understood and supported in a way only a nomad or vandweller would be able to.

#2 Never underestimate the value of an emergency fund and a backup plan. I was not remotely prepared for what happened. You should begin creating an emergency fund now if you don’t have one. Calculate how much it would cost to re-establish your life if you lost everything. Keep in mind you may have to start over smaller, but make sure you save enough that you at least have a starting point in a worst case situation. Put a plan on paper with things like where you might stay, considerations for your pet, etc.

#3 Check your insurance coverage and Roadside Benefits. Look at medical, uninsured motorist, car rental, deductible, etc. My claims adjuster told me the state minimums in Arizona don’t always cover a serious accident, especially medical. Roadside assistance is also a must and you should check your plan for trip interruption benefits as well. I’ve just signed up with a new roadside assistance plan that includes reimbursement for out of pocket costs (in several situations, including an accident) for an interruption that happens at least 100 miles from ‘home’.

What should vandwellers know about insurance?

For auto/van insurance, what I mentioned above. Consult wih someone you trust to get honest answers on what the best coverage would be for you and your van. If you don’t know any insurance folks personally, check out the guy Bob Wells did a video with titled ‘Insurance For Nomads’. There is also someone who works with RVers and vandwellers on RVillage. Check the community forums there. As far as health insurance, your guess is as good as mine.  🙂 I’m hoping to find a remote job with health benefits. I know some working-age nomads use health sharing ministries and plans, but those aren’t for me.

A companion cat shares the van with you. How’s that working out?

It’s not without its challenges! It’s definitely more of a blessing than anything, but it does require special considerations. Like where I spend the summers!

Do you prefer to spend time in cities or on public land? Why?

Nature is healing for me, but I’m also a city girl. If I didn’t have to work and could do whatever I wanted, I would probably spend my time 50/50. This might sound strange, but when I vandwell in the city, I prefer to be alone.  When I spend time in nature, I often find it more enjoyable to camp with one or two other people.

What are three things you do to stay stealthy when you’re in cities?  

I keep my van very plain. No stickers or anything. The only thing identifiable on my van is the license plate. I even have 3 different styles and colors of windshield shades that I rotate to throw anyone off. I never stay 2 nights in the same place unless there is a situation out of my control. My windows are limo tinted, but when I press Reflectix into them you can kind of tell. I feel like that’s a pretty solid give away that I’m a vandweller, so don’t use it that way. If I’m on a street instead of a parking lot, I’ll roll Reflectix around the windows loosely and pin it at the top. I’d like to eventually make a curtain that goes around the van, using blackout material, with the option to roll it up or tie it to the side, when not in use. I’m not terribly crafty though so that idea will probably stay an idea.  lol

Is there anything else you would like to share?  

Just that living this lifestyle makes me happier than I can put into words. Probably why it was so devastating for me after the accident when it looked like I might have to start all over again. The idea of having to stay in one place for a couple of years to regroup was more depressing than anything else I can think of. This lifestyle suits me and I feel blessed to be able to live it!

All photos provided by Devan Winters.

Moab, UT and The Lazy Lizard

Standard

When The Lady of the House and I originally planned our trip, she wanted to stay in a hotel or motel for one night in Moab. We would have been on the road a couple of days by that time, camping at places with no showers. She figured when we got to Moab, we’d want showers and a real bed to sleep in. She called the hotel where her family had stayed during their visit to the area the previous summer, and the rate was around $250 per night. Yikes! That was way too much!

We planned to stay at a hostel in Santa Fe, which made me wonder if Moab had a hostel too. I did a Google Search and found the Lazy Lizard.

I knew The Lady was not going to want to stay in the dorm (although those beds are a bargain at just $12 a night). I also knew both the Santa Fe International Hostel in New Mexico’s capital city and the Snow Mansion in Taos offer private rooms. When we looked for private room options on the Lazy Lizard’s website, we found the hostel had cabins available for rent. Let’s get a cabin! The Lady said. I couldn’t argue with her suggestion. Staying in a cabin sounded really fun.

Our plans changed because the water pump on my van went out. We never made it to Santa Fe or anywhere else in New Mexico, but we rearranged our Utah itinerary so we could make our reservation at the Lazy Lizard.

We left The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park early in the afternoon and drove the couple hours to Moab. I was excited to see The Hole-N-the Rock tourist attraction outside of town; I’d read a little about it in a Sunset magazine article about the Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Dam, and it was fun to see it in real life.

The Lady and I were hungry, so we decided to eat dinner before we checked in at the hostel. They’ll probably want to show us around, tell us about the shared kitchen, go over the rules, I said about the Lazy Lizard staff. That might take half an hour. Let’s eat dinner first, then we won’t be in a rush to leave again.

We had dinner at a place called Pasta Jay’s at 4 S Main Street Moab.The Lady and her family had eaten there during their previous visit to Moab. They’d all enjoyed the food at Pasta Jay’s very much, so much that The Lady wanted to enjoy it again and wanted me to enjoy it too.

We arrived at Pasta Jay’s around 4:30, which was great for beating the lunch and dinner crowds. The Lady ordered spaghetti with a meatless red sauce, and I ordered the special artichoke and spinach ravioli in a meatless red sauce. The sauce was so delicious, I would have been content to make a meal by dipping the included garlic bread into the sauce and eating just that. However, the ravioli were tender pillows of perfection that I also enjoyed very much. The portion size was big and if the food had been any less delicious or I had been any less hungry, I would have had leftovers to enjoy later. Since this was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, there were no leftovers. The Lady ate with gusto what was put in front of her; she didn’t carry out any leftovers either.

I shouldn’t have worried about spending a lot of time on a tour of the Lazy Lizard. Check in took under five

Our cabin, #16

minutes. The Lady had prepaid with her credit card to hold the reservation, so we didn’t have to wait around to complete a transaction. The fellow who checked us in didn’t mention a single rule, didn’t show us the kitchen or tell us anything about its use, didn’t tell us where we could find the restroom. Thankfully, he did tell us which cabin we’d be staying in (#16) and that we could park next to it. We took our key and went on our way.

The cabin was more plain than rustic. There were no decorations of any kind, save for a (much appreciated) mirror. None of the lightbulbs (one in the middle of the ceiling and two in a lamp just inside the door) had a lampshade, which made the room seem harsh. I know we were in budget accommodations, but lampshades and some kind of decor would have helped the cabin seem a little more inviting.

In addition to a table and two chairs in the corner and another smaller table near the door, the furniture consisted of a bunk bed. The Lady took the bottom bunk and found the mattress was bigger than the frame. If she got too close to the edge, the side of the mattress drooped towards the floor and she ran the risk of rolling right out of the bed. I slept on the top bunk, which had a double mattress that fit the frame. I found my mattress adequately comfortable, but The Lady said the mattress in my van was more comfortable than the one she slept on in the cabin.

Before we started the trip, I’d sent an email to the Lazy Lizard to ask if linens were provided for the beds. I was told they were provided, which was technically true. Both mattresses were covered with a fitted sheet, and a flat sheet was folded on the foot of the bed. A bedspread was folded at the foot of each bed too. The bedspread was a joke. It looked as if it were purchased from a liquidation sale at a Howard Johnson motel that went out of business in the late 80s. It was too thin to do any good against the chill of an April night, so I brought in my comforter from the van. The pillows were flat; fluffing them didn’t help. I brought in my pillow too, as did The Lady.

Towels were provided too. There were six fairly fluffy towels for the two of us. However, The Lady found something crusty on the one she was going to use after her shower. She decided to forgo the towels provided and use the one she’d brought from home. The towel I used was free of crust and stains.

The shower stalls at the Lazy Lizard were narrow and utilitarian, but the water was HOT.

We knew when we made the reservation that the cabin didn’t have a private bath. I think everyone at the Lazy Lizard shares the restrooms. However, I guess in my imagination, our cabin was a little closer to the restrooms than it actually was. In reality, we weren’t terribly far, but it seemed a long walk to get to a toilet at 2am.

I think The Lady and I would agree that the highlight of our stay at the Lazy Lizard was the seemingly unlimited hot water in the showers. I was a little afraid the water was going to scald me, but once I got the temperature adjusted properly, I luxuriated in the hot water that never waned.

We should have figured out how to use the room’s electric heater before we went to bed. The room was warm enough early in the evening, but got cold in the night. When I came back from the restroom at two in the morning, The Lady told me she was really, really cold. Rather than turn on the light and try to get the heater going, I just went out to the van and got my big down comforter for her. She snuggled down, and we got a few more hours of sleep.

The next morning brought its own challenges.

The Lady went to check out the cleanliness of the kitchen, but found it was already full of people cooking their breakfasts. The little yard in front of our cabin had a picnic table, so I suggested we set up our camp stove and propane tank and cook there. The Lady was concerned someone would come along and tell us we couldn’t cook outside the cabin.

This is the picnic table where The Lady cooked our delicious breakfast.

If the man at the desk couldn’t be bothered to tell us how to find the restroom, I told her, I doubt he’s going to come out here and tell us we can’t cook.

I set up the tank and the stove, and The Lady cooked. I found out later that she kept catching the dude who had his tent pitched in the little yard next to ours looking at her through the missing board in the wooden fence between the two areas.

The Lazy Lizard isn’t a terrible place to stay if you go to Moab and don’t have a rig to sleep in. Just remember, it’s inexpensive housing, and you get what you pay for. If I went back to Moab alone and without my rig, I’d give the Lazy Lizard’s dormitory a try. If I had my van, I’d stay on nearby free BLM land like Willow Spring Road and pay to shower at the Lazy Lizard.

The Lady and I really didn’t spend much time In Moab. The day after our stay at the Lazy Lizard, we spent the afternoon at Arches National Park. That evening we went into Moab to eat dinner on the lovely patio at The Lady’s beloved Atomic Café (located at 1393 North Highway 191) where we had excellent veggie burgers. While we waited for the Atomic Café to open, we walked a bit downtown, pressing pennies at Desert Dreams at 71 N. Main and browsing in the (very expensive) Made in Moab store. However, I enjoyed the vibe of the town—busy but not too crowded, outdoorsy yet artsy too. Maybe there will be more trips to Moab in my future.

 

Cave Spring Trail

Standard

My first ladder

The Lady of the House had told me about the ladders.

On some of the trails she’d hiked during her family vacation in Utah, visitors had to climb up or down (or up and down) ladders to get to different levels of the trail. Today I would experience my first ladder.

We were in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. We’d just hiked Pothole Point Trail, and now we were on our way to Cave Spring Trail.

It was early afternoon and warm. I was glad it was early April and not full-on summer because despite the mild temperature, the sun was beating down. The last hike had mostly been in direct sun, and even with long cotton clothing covering m body and my big hat covering my head, I knew the sun would wear me down. Hiking in the sun and the heat—well, that’s not my idea of a good time. But as I said, the heat wasn’t so bad, and I was enjoying myself.

The Lady had read a description of Cave Spring at the visitor center or maybe in the informational newspaper about Canyonlands she’d picked up during her last visit to the park. She knew this was the hike with the ladder. I was calmly excited to climb a ladder on a hike because it’s not something everyone had done. Climbing a ladder on a hike would probably make me a little tougher, gave me a little extra trail cred. Lord knows I need all the trail cred I can get.

The first interesting stop on the trail was the cowboy camp. According to the sign at the trailhead, this first alcove served as an open-air bunkhouse. I’m not sure when this particular area was in use, but the sign says cowboys lived in isolated camps like this one from the 1890s until cattle ranching was discontinued in Canyonlands in 1975.

Cowboy artifacts. The photo on the sign shows them better than this photo of mine does.

I don’t know  if the items in the alcove are the actual items left in this particular spot by actual cowboys or if they were set up here to represent what a cowboy camp might have looked like. The sign alludes to the fact that this is the real deal, but doesn’t come right out and say so. When I believe real cowboys left these actual items in this particular place, I feel real lonely. Did the cowboys know they would never return and decided these items weren’t even worth taking out, or did they think they’d be back someday to pick up their things? Did anyone ever miss the blue bowl left on the table?

The actual spring in the cave on the eponymous Cave Spring Trail

The next point of interest was Cave Spring itself. Located in more of an alcove than an actual cave, the trailhead sign calls it “one of the area’s few year-round water sources.” No wonder the cowboys wanted to camp nearby! There wasn’t a lot of water there—barely a pool—but enough for people to live off of when other sources were dry. I love the vivid green of the plants growing by the spring, especially against the browns and tans of the rock and dirt.

We soon saw that cowboys weren’t the only people who utilized this place. The sign at the trailhead says the area “contains evidence of almost 1,000 years of human use.” Past the cowboy camp, near the spring, we saw cave paintings.

We saw the handprints first. They’re not actually paintings, but the outlines of hands held up against the wall of stone while some white pigment was thrown or blown around the fingers. Who was this person who centuries ago decided to lean an “I was here” mark on the stone? Were there two people leaving evidence of their lives on that wall? (Only while looking at my photo of these hand outlines months later did I realize the outline on the left is that of a right hand—well, unless the person had the back of the hand pressed against the rock and not the palm as I’d first supposed.) Why is the outline on the right not very good? Was the wall too bumpy there for a good outline? What is the white pigment and how has it lasted for centuries? Did the person who left this mark imagine someone so far in the future would see it and wonder about it? Some of these questions may be answerable (how I wish I’d been able to attend a ranger talk at this site!) but the thought process that went into these marks will forever remain a mystery.

We saw more prehistoric art by the spring, these pieces produced with a rusty orange pigment. Most of the figures appear to me to be humanoid—I could see what I thought were meant to be arms and legs—but I have no idea what the figures are supposed to represent. Gods? Shamans? Aliens from outer space? Mom and Dad? Were these figures religious representations or the equivalent of a child’s drawing of the family fastened to the refrigerator door? Again, I doubt we’ll ever know with certainty.

The last of the rock painting we saw depicted hands again. I’m not sure if these were actual hand prints or paintings of handprints. The bright orange one to the far right looks most like an actual handprint done by someone who wasn’t very good at making handprints. (The outline of the thumb is barely there.) The others that look more spirally in the palm—was that from slightly different positioning in repeated printings? I wish now I had paid attention to the size of the hands, perhaps taken a photo with my own hand close by for comparison. I also wish I had seen the trail guide the sign at the trailhead describes as offering “more information on the human history of the area.”

The first part of the hike had been mostly in the cool of the shade. Especially near the spring, the air was damp and almost chilly. Soon after we saw the last of the rock paintings, we moved out into the open and back into the sun. It wasn’t long before I was climbing my first ladder!

There were actually two ladders on the tail. The trailhead sign says, “Past the spring, two wooden ladders lead to views of the surrounding terrain.”

View of the surrounding terrain

The ladders weren’t as rickety as I had feared. I thought they’d be more rustic, but they were held together with modern metal bolts and washers. (Not to worry, I’d get my share of rustic and rickety ladders at Natural Bridges National Monument.)

Why ladders? I wondered. Did the native people of the area use ladders to get to different levels of the land? Were ladders less cost prohibitive than were metal or wooden stairways? Did wooden ladders blend into the landscape better than other options did? I have no answers to these questions.

Past the spring, this is not a trail for people with serious physical limitations. I made it down the ladder ok, but I went slowly and carefully. I gripped the rung in front of me before I moved to place my feet carefully on the rung below. I wouldn’t say I was scared, but I would say I was definitely cautious. I certainly felt tough once I had my feet back on the ground. Oh, yeah! I do hikes that involve climbing ladders! I’m a badass!

As someone who enjoyed studying anthropology, the human history aspect of Cave Spring Trail made it one of my favorite hikes. I was fascinated by what’s been left behind there by humans of the past. And did I mention I climbed down two ladders while hiking that trail? Did I mention I’m a badass?

Badass with a big ass, and I’m ok with that.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

Follow Me on Social Media!

Standard

If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you can follow me there!

You can see my handmade creations, like this collage, on my Blazin’ Sun Creations Facebook page.

I have three Facebook pages you can follow: Blaize Sun, Rubber Tramp Artist, and Blaizin’ Sun Creations. The Blaize Sun page is about me as an author and a person. Each of my blog posts pops up on the Rubber Tramp Artist page on the same day it appears here. I sometimes also post photos and updates on my life and travels there. The Blaizin’ Sun Creations page is where I share artwork I’ve created that is for sale. If you follow my pages, you can stay up-to-date on what I’m doing through your Facebook account. Of course, I would be so pleased if you like any or all of my pages. You can also leave a review of anything I’ve made that you now own, this blog, or my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods.

I’ve been having a lot of fun on Instagram since I joined almost two months ago. You can find me @rubbertrampartist. I love sharing photographs there. Sometimes I take a great shot, but the photo doesn’t necessarily have a place in one of my blog posts. Instagram lets me easily share the photos you might otherwise never see. I do mention my blog and my writing on Instagram, but the photos in my account show a broader portion of my life, everything from the bargains I find (hello 99 cent organic polenta and a huge jar of Southwestern 505 salsa with certified Hatch, NM green chiles for $2.47) to the trees I see on  my lunch break. If you already like my blog, and particularly if you enjoy my photos, follow me on Instagram!

Bargain salsa! Hatch green chiles and only $2.47 for that big jar!

I’m not on Twitter or Pinterest. Should I be? Let me know what you think by commenting below.

I took the photos in this post. They originally appeared in my Instagram account.

Tips on Grooming Your Vandwelling Dog (Guest Post)

Standard

Today’s guest post is by dog lover Adam Conrad of the Shih Tzu Expert website. Adam is going to tell you how to groom your dog on the road. Whether you typically boondock far from professional groomers or you want to save money by grooming your pup yourself, Adam’s tips will keep your pooch looking and feeling good wherever the road takes the two of you.

You and your furry dog are on-the-go living a life of adventure. Part of reaping the joys and benefits of that beautiful life means ensuring that your pet is healthy and safe at all times.

One of the easiest ways you can be a good pet owner is to ensure that your dog is healthy with some basic hygiene and grooming tips.  It’s easy to forget about some of these basicdaily routines, but doing these things habitually not only keeps your dog healthy and clean, but also makes grooming easier.

When you’re regularly brushing its hair and teeth, your dog won’t fight these behaviors because they become a part of its routine.  Here are some of the most effective and common ways that you can affordably and easily maintain your dog’s grooming needs.

adorable, animal, animal portraitBrush Before Bathing Your Dog

Your dog lives for life on the road and adventure. That means that he or she will require some extra hair care maintenance to undo tangles and knots. It’s recommended that dogs be bathed once every three months, but this number will increase if your pet spends time outdoors.

First, start with a good slick, metal pin brush that will really get through the strands of the hair, removing all dead hair and dirt. This is the key to keeping the dog’s hair clean. If your dog has tangles, you can use corn starch in the hair to help alleviate the knots quickly and affordably.

Try to keep your dog standing when you brush him, and do it as regularly as you can. Getting him used to this behavior will allow him to become conditioned to all other grooming habits.

Next, set your dog in a few inches of lukewarm water. If you don’t have a hose, you can use a pitcher to wet your dog. You’ll want to make sure that you’re using a high quality shampoo on your furry friend.

Take care not to spray the shampoo into your dog’s ears, nose, and eyes. You can protect your dog’s ears easily by gently placing cotton balls in the entrance of his ears, so that no excess water or shampoo gets inside. Gently massage the shampoo into the hair all over.

If you’re bathing your dog in you’re rig’s sink or shower, you won’t want to clog your drains. Make sure to use a adorable, animal, breedhair plug to protect your drain from clogging.

Minimize and Maintain Shedding

Shedding is a completely normal and healthy part of a dog’s life. Depending on the dog’s breed, the size of the animal, the time of year, and many other factors, shedding may be more prevalent. One of the easiest ways you can minimize shedding is by brushing your dog’s hair regularly. The more your brush, the more dead hair will be removed and caught in the brush and not spread all over your  living space.

Use a plastic bristle brush to break up the knots. You might also consider using a slicker brush to remove loose hairs.

One of the best indicators of a healthy coat is the kind of food your pet is eating. A high-quality food source with a good amount of protein will help your dog’s coat stay healthy and minimize shedding.

If your dog is larger and the shedding seems to be unruly at times, you might consider covering your furniture to protect your living space. Vacuuming often is another way to minimize dog hair in your living space. You might also consider picking up a special hair pick-up roller that is made for removing dog hair from furniture and fabric easily.

White and Grey Long Coat DogSafely Cut and Shave Your Dog

After you’ve freshly brushed and cleaned your dog, you might want to cut its hair. If so, please make sure that your dog is safely standing on a table so that you can easily access all areas of the fur. (For more ideas on where to place your dog for grooming, see the article on the Wag! website on How to Groom a Dog Without a Grooming Table.)

You might invest in grooming shears so that you can most effectively execute the cut.

It’s best to begin cutting your animal’s hair when it’s dry, unlike human hair. You’ll want to use the sharp tip of the scissors to trim your dog’s body, specifically the more delicate parts like the face and tail.

When trimming the ears, be very careful to have the hand not holding the scissors on the hair being trimmed to ensure that you’re never cutting your animal and inflicting pain. You wouldn’t want to hurt your best furry friend! Of course, it would be easier and safer to have a friend hold the dog while you’re working on the ears. Trimming the hair around the ears is tricky even for professional groomers, who usually use restraints.

If you’re looking to shave your dog, make sure to find a quiet and open space where your dog won’t get startled. Again, make sure the dog’s hair is clean and dry. Keep the blade flat against the skin, starting from the neck and move along the various parts of the dog’s body.

Be careful where the skin is thin on your animal, like its thighs and hips. Also, make sure to use a special blade for the dog’s face and to check that the blade is not getting too hot or burning your dog’s skin.

Trim Those Nails and Protect Those Paws

How can you even tell if your pet needs its nails trimmed? As a general rule, the dog’s nails will slightly rub the Two Person With Rings on Ring Fingersground when he or she moves. If your pet’s nails are making louder noises on hard floors or getting caught on carpet, it is time to trim your pet’s nails.

Before you even think of using dog clippers or grinding down dog’s nails, first try introducing the louder noise that the tool makes. This will help your dog not to get spooked when you’re actually cutting.

If your dog has white nails, it will be easier to cut its nails until you get closer to a light pinkish portion of the nail. Dogs with black nails don’t have an easily discernible quick, which makes it a bit more challenging to do. If your dog has black nails, try your best to cut slowly until you see a full portion of the nail that is black. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, you can use styptic powder or corn starch to stop any bleeding.

Make sure that you’re clipping the nails quickly and with force. If you use dull clippers and move slowly, the nail might not clip cleanly, leaving sharp edges, or it may actually chip and split.

Your dog’s paws will require different care in the summer and winter. In warm weather, your dog is probably active and spending a lot of time running on various terrain outdoors. In the winter, your dog might be running on pavement that has been treated with chemicals and salt after snow. You’ll want to make sure your dog’s paws are cleaned so that he isn’t ingesting any of those chemicals; also check to be sure his paws aren’t chafing or cracking from the cold weather. Apply coconut oil to dry paws or consider buying an affordable pair of winter booties for your pet. (To help you pick the right winter booties for your active pooch, the American Kennel Club website has an article on the Top 10 Dog Boots for Winter & Cold Weather.)

Since your dog is spending a great deal of time outside and then coming back into your rig’s small living space, you’ll want to take extra care to clean your dog’s paws. Cleaning wipes are critical. Try to make a habit of wiping down your dog’s paws after running around outside. Remember that purchasing dog-specific wipes is important, since almost everything you put on your dog will end up in its mouth. Doing this will ensure that your dog isn’t ingesting any harmful chemicals or ingredients, and will keep your pet safe, fresh, and clean. (The Top Dog Tips website lists the Top 10 Best Dog Wipes for Light Grooming to help you decide which ones to use on your canine companion.)

Natural Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Coat and Skin Healthy

There are a plethora of easy-to-find products that are healthy for your dog and help maintain grooming. One of the most important ways to maintain your dog’s grooming is by taking care of its coat. A healthy coat is a happy dog!

Fish oil and flaxseed oil are two products that are easy to find, safe for your dog, and help maintain a beautiful coat. These oils are rich in the essential fatty acids that help promote a healthy coat for your dog from the inside out. Another great oil for dogs is salmon oil. You can drizzle these oils on your dog’s kibble or on a chew toy for your pup to safely ingest.

Does your dog happen to have a dry, scaly nose or paw pads? Maybe they simply need more water. If your dog is Close-Up Photography of a Dog's Snoutproperly hydrated and this dry, scaly skin is still persistent, try picking up some coconut oil. A little dab rubbed into the scaly nose and paw pads should create moisture and alleviate the dryness.

We’ve only scratched the surface on some of the most important DIY grooming tips for your vandwelling dog. Remember that proper and regular grooming of your furry friend is one of the most effective ways to keep your animal clean, healthy, and safe. Maintenance is key! That means that the more you keep up with it, the easier it will be. Plus, your dog will get into the habit of regular grooming and not put up a fight to let you brush it, trim its nails, or any other critical grooming technique. Happy grooming!

Adam Conrad is a dad of 5 Shih Tzu pups and the creator of Shih Tzu Expert. His passion for helping people in all aspects of dog care flows through in the coverage he provides about dog health issues like Parvo, CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), pet containment systems, dog grooming tools and techniques, and best food for dogs with specific dietary requirements. In his spare time he is an avid scuba diver and a trail runner. 

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Adam Conrad are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

You can read about the real-life dog grooming experiences of part-time vandweller who travels with dogs at DIY Grooming Tips for the Vandwelling Dog.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-animal-portrait-blur-422212/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-breed-canine-356378/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-dog-pet-53564/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-person-with-rings-on-ring-fingers-792775/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-cold-cute-dog-434113/.

Saving Lives

Standard

One Saturday afternoon, I saved three lives. Well, ok, I don’t know I saved those lives. Maybe the people would have been fine without me, but they also could have died had I not been there.

It was the last Saturday I would work the parking lot before the start of the 2018 camping season. The box truck with new merchandise for the mercantile would arrive later that afternoon, and my coworkers and I would spend the next few days setting up the store for the opening later in the week. I’d be working retail, but that Saturday I was selling access passes and answering questions about the trail.

The first people I saved were a lady and her toddler. Judging by her accent, the woman was German, but I can’t be sure of her nationality. She arrived in a vehicle with a license plate that read “consul,” following a car with a license plate sporting the same label. The first car was driven by a woman who was alone in the vehicle. A man was driving the second car. The woman in the first car asked where they could have a picnic, then paid the access fee for both vehicles before they disappeared into the parking lot.

The next time I saw the group, it had expanded to include—in addition to the two drivers and one passenger I’d seen in the front seats of the cars—four little kids who all seemed to be under seven years old and who all belonged to the couple from the second vehicle.

The woman who’d been the passenger in the second car looked to be in her early 50s. She and the middle-age man who’d been driving the second car seemed to be the caregivers of the four little kids, but whether they were the biological parents, grandparents, foster parents or adoptive parents, I could not tell.

When I first saw the woman, she was carrying the littlest kid—a toddler new to walking—and strolling through the parking lot.

White Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup TruckA man in a giant pickup truck had just pulled through the parking lot and was preparing to park in one of the spaces on the asphalt in the front. I could tell by the way he pulled in front of the space that he was going to back into it. The woman holding the toddler must have thought he was going to drive the truck forward and out of the lot because she stepped behind the truck like it wasn’t even there.

I don’t know if the guy driving the giant truck saw the woman with the toddler behind him. I knew he was about to back up, and I knew the woman was directly in his path. If she was in a blind spot and the guy started moving his truck in reverse, there was going to be a catastrophe.

Ma’am! I shouted in her direction. Watch out! That truck is backing up!

Oh? She said, completely oblivious. It’s backing up?

She stepped out of the truck’s path and the disaster was averted.

Later that afternoon, a fellow arrived in the parking lot with two little kids under the age of five. He parked the sports car he was driving in the dirt of the first curve through the lot. I didn’t realize the car wasn’t completely off the road until it was too late; if I had noticed sooner how he had parked, I would have had him move the car completely off of the asphalt.

I saw the fellow and the kids as they walked toward the trail. The boy child was small enough to sit in one of those Man Walking on Top of Mountain Under Blue Skykid-carrying packs the guy had on his back. The girl child with them wasn’t much bigger than the boy, but since the guy had no more room on his back, she had to walk.

The little family wasn’t gone long. I noticed them again when they came back. I watched them idly as the fellow opened the back passenger door (which faced away from the road) and loaded the boy into the car. There must have been a car seat involved, because the adult had his head and upper body in the car for quite some time. While he was distracted by his efforts in the car, the little girl walked around to the driver’s side of the car and disappeared from my view. Her caretaker didn’t seem to notice that she was no longer by his side.

About that time, a new arrival pulled into the parking lot. The Man was working with me that day, and he approached the car that had just come in. I looked back to the fellow with the two tiny kids. He still had his head in the back seat, and the little girl was still standing on the asphalt on the driver’s side of the car. I imagined the newly-arrived car taking the curve a little too fast or the little girl stepping out into its path…I shuddered inwardly.

The Man had taken the driver’s money and handed her a day pass. The car was about to roll.

At the last moment, I stepped up to the car and said, Ma’am?

The driver looked at me attentively.

Please go around this curve slowly and carefully. There’s a very small person on the side of that car (I pointed to the car in question) who’s not being supervised very well. I wanted to let you know she’s there.

The driver, a middle-age mom type, thanked me for telling her about the kid standing next to the car. She maneuvered the car slowing and carefully around the curve. As the car went by, it seemed to remind the caregiver to pay attention to the little girl, or maybe he’d just finished strapping in the boy child. In any case, he walked to the other side of the car, took the girl by the hand, brought her to the passenger side, and put her in the car too. Another disaster was averted.

I’m often surprised by how little attention some parents pay their kids in the parking lot. They don’t see the dangerous situations I witness every day I work in the lot—people driving too fast, people driving the wrong way on the one-way loop, people who are oblivious and/or distracted—or they would hold their children close. Of all the danger I’ve seen, this day stood out as the worst. I was glad I was there to make the parking lot a little safer.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/4k-wallpaper-4×4-auto-automobile-1149058/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-top-of-mountain-under-blue-sky-1157386/.