Category Archives: My True Life

Movie People

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Movie people are staying at the hotel where I work.

I’d seen an article in the weekly county newspaper announcing some folks were in town shooting scenes for an upcoming midbudget movie. I thought maybe I’d see them and their equipment around town, but I didn’t imagine I would see them in the breakfast room.

When I got to work on Tuesday, I noticed a lighting truck in the parking lot, but I didn’t encounter the movie people until Wednesday.

I noticed the man and woman because they were younger (mid 30s, I would guess) than the hotel’s average guest. Also, they were having a heated but quiet discussion. It wasn’t quite a whisper fight, but it could have quickly gone in that direction.

The woman was trying to tell the man something, and he was telling her no and stop. He obviously didn’t want to hear anything she had to say. She persisted.

Isn’t that his job? she asked the guy in a whisper I could hear clearly.

He said he’d already told her he didn’t want to talk about it.

I found their exchange very interesting. This was the first argument I’d encountered in the breakfast room. My ears perked up, but however else the argument may have been resolved, it was resolved quietly.

At some point the woman left the breakfast room, but the guy lingered. He was on his phone later, telling the person on the other end that they’d be shooting later. He named the one bar in town that’s not associated with a restaurant or a group like the VFW or the Moose Lodge.

Oh, I thought. These must be the movie people.

On Thursday the man and woman were back in the breakfast room. Along with them was another woman, the same woman who’d come into the breakfast room the day before after 9am asking for coffee. Luckily for her, there was still some available. I always leave at least one of the big pump dispensers out on the counter even after the rest of breakfast is shut down and put away. She’d asked me if the coffee was good while she made her cup. I lied and told her I didn’t know because I don’t drink coffee. What was I supposed to tell her? I couldn’t very well tell her the truth, which is that I think the hotel’s coffee is weak, more like dirty dishwater than something robust and delicious with which to start the day. I did tell her other people have said they liked it, which is true. She tried a sip and said it was good. I told her I was glad she liked it, which was 100% true.

On Thursday the original man and woman were telling the third woman all about the shoot the day before.

They’d arrived at the bar at 10am. The bar was full of regulars. These weren’t people who showed up to be in a movie, they said. These were people who would have showed up even if there had been no filming involved. The movie people had brought lasagna, but the regulars at the bar didn’t even want to eat. They passed up the lasagna in order to drink.

The women marveled at the thought of preferring to drink alcohol to eating lasagna at 10am on a weekday. I have to admit, I agree with the movie ladies. I’ll take lasagna over alcohol any time of the day (or night).

They were so great, the first woman gushed. Everyone signed release forms.

I guess to movie people, signing a release form is a high degree of cooperation.

We got some great shots, the guy said. Some really great shots.

It was authentic, he said. So authentic. Really authentic.

Well sure. Any small-town Joe or Jill who shows up at a bar at 10am on a Wednesday to drink whether or not there’s a camera crew present is living an authentic life. It might not be the same life I or the movie people have chosen for ourselves, but it’s an authentic life nonetheless.

The movie man went on to tell a story about busting a prop bottle over another actor’s head. It broke as planned, but instead of being filled with water as expected, the prop guy had used actual beer.

It looked great, the man told the women. It was foaming all over the place! He was pleased with the shots they had gotten but had been concerned about the other actor driving later while reeking of beer.

After work I spent the rest of the afternoon referring to things as “authentic.” That rock over there? Authentic. The rickety wooden footbridge I crossed over on a hike? So, so authentic. The water tower against the clouds and blue sky? Absolutely authentic.

This foot bridge? Absolutely authentic!

Maybe when you spend your days creating fantasy, you forget that most people are living every day right smack dab in the middle of the real world.

I took the photo in this post.

An Update on My Job

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My job as a breakfast room attendant in a mid-range hotel is going well. I don’t deal with too many clueless or entitled people, so I don’t have many interesting stories from my job to share. When I worked as a camp host and parking lot attendant and later as a clerk in the campground store, the can-you-believe-it stories rolled in faster than I could write the down. Honestly, I’m glad to have traded blog post fodder for a workplace with sparse drama.

Of course, there are little events to break the monotony of my workdays. People look frantically for the coffee, somehow missing the large pump containers marked “regular” and “decaf” on the counter right in front of them. Guests try to open the wrong side of the handleless refrigerator door. Folks ask for orange juice when we only have apple. I try to help them solve their breakfast problems without embarrassing them or making them feel bad. That door tricks someone every day, I joke to lighten the mood after telling a guest they need to pull on the other side of the aforementioned refrigerator door. I figure it’s early, and we’re probably all struggling.

The most puzzling situation I run into are the people who don’t push in their chairs when they leave the table. This doesn’t happen once a day; it happens several times a day. Is this a new phenomenon due to COVID? Folks must touch the chairs to pull them out. Why would they hesitate to push them back in after they’ve eaten? If the reason is laziness, these people have taken laziness to a whole new level. There doesn’t seem to be a particular age demographic refusing to push in the chairs. Young people, old people, middle age people, they all fail to push in their chairs. Pushing in the chairs is not a hardship for me, but having to do so leaves me asking why.

The most annoying guest are those who come in after the breakfast room is closed but still want to enjoy all the amenities. Breakfast is over at nine o’clock sharp. The moment the “The Drew Barrymore Show” pops up on the television, breakfast is OVER, and I’m hustling to put everything away and get everything cleaned up as quickly as possible so I can go home. Guests can linger in the breakfast room as long as they like, but they should get in by 8:59 if they want to find the toaster plugged in, the waffle iron on, eggs and sausages in the steam table, and cereal on the counter.

One morning a guest came into the breakfast room at 8:58. She puttered around making herself a plate. At 9am I started putting away things she wasn’t using. She must have seen me removing salt and pepper shakers from tables and turning off the waffle iron. Maybe she just didn’t notice. In any case, she finished making her plate and left the breakfast room.

A few minutes later (so probably at 9:05 or 9:07) she returned. In the time she was gone, I had dumped the uneaten eggs and sausages. When the guest came into the breakfast room, she made a beeline for the steam table. She lifted the lid and found the pan empty.

Ma’am, I’ve already gotten rid of the eggs and sausages, I told her.

She seemed perplexed. I bet she wondered how the eggs and sausages disappeared so quickly. What she didn’t know is that at clean up time, I’m quick!

(The next morning the same woman was in the breakfast room making her plate by 8:30.)

Latecomers throw off my cleaning schedule, but they make my life especially difficult if they want a last-minute waffle. If I turn off the waffle iron at 9am on the dot, it’s cooled enough for me to clean it after I’ve done all my other tasks. Twice I’ve burnt my arm while cleaning the waffle iron while it was still hot from after-9am waffle making.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

People sometimes want to use the toaster after breakfast is officially over. This desire causes problems for me because as soon after 9am as possible I unplug the toaster and steam table. If a latecomer wants to use the toaster, I have to stop whatever I’m doing to plug in the toaster. (The toaster plug and electrical outlet are inside a cabinet, so I would have to stop my work to explain to guests where to find the plug and the outlet even if I didn’t feel responsible for plugging it in for them. Also, I have to stoop way down to get to the outlet, and we can’t ask the guests to get down on their hands and knees to plug in a toaster.)

(On a toaster tangent: Why, when cleaning the crumb trays, do I occasionally find globs of melted then resolidified butter stuck to them? Who butter their bread before toasting it? Is this a thing?  Are toaster novices staying at the hotel? Are toasters made to handle buttered bread? I think not! I’m afraid butter in the toaster will someday start a grease fire.)

One day I’d cleaned the breakfast room and put everything away, pushed my cart to the storage area/dish room, washed all the pots and pans and utensils and serving trays I’d used to prepare and serve breakfast, and headed back to the breakfast room to sweep, mop, vacuum, and take out the trash. It was after 10am.

As I was pulling the broom out of the storage closet across from the breakfast room, I saw two guests walking down the hall. They were a young (mid 20s) couple, (ostensibly) a man and a woman. The woman had been in the breakfast room earlier; she’d made a plate and left. As the couple got closer, I saw the man was holding an everything bagel in his hand. One bite had been taken from it.

Photo by Vicky Ng on Unsplash

The two young people stopped at the door of the breakfast room and looked in. They then looked toward the reception desk and must have made eye contact with the manager standing there. As I was coming out of the storage room to ask if I could help them, the guy asked something about our toaster.

How can I help you?  I asked. (At least I hope that’s what I asked. I hope my question didn’t come out more like What do you need?)

Is your toaster still out? he asked, gesturing to me with his bitten bagel.

I realized that from where he was standing and the way the toaster was positioned on the counter on the far side for the steam table, he couldn’t see it.

Breakfast ended at 9 o’clock, I told him. Everything is put away. (I figured the toaster being unplugged was as good as being put away.)

The young man looked disappointed, but I held firm. It wouldn’t have been bad if I’d only had to plug in the toaster, but I doubted it would have been as simple as that. He’d need to cut the bagel in half, so I’d have to get him a knife. He’d probably get crumbs all over the counter I’d already cleaned, and I’d have to clean it all over again. I wouldn’t be able to sweep until the entire operation was over because he would probably get crumbs and sesame seeds all over the floor. The whole situation would have really slowed me down.

Also? He wanted to put a bagel he (or someone) had chewed on into a community toaster! Gross! Germy! Yuck! At home? Sure, put your own germs into your own toaster. But in a community setting? Let’s keep our germs to ourselves.

So, no, I did not invite him into the breakfast room to toast his bitten bagel.

Honestly, the hardest part of my work day is getting myself out of bed at 4am. Also difficult? Going to bed at 8pm on the evenings when I’m not totally exhausted and ready to sleep the afternoon and evening and night away. But overall, I don’t mind the job too much. Somebody’s got to feed the people.

In related news, I took the 60 minutes food handlers course for my state and passed the test with a 97%. Apparently, I’m still good at taking tests.

Power Move

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There are nine tables in the breakfast room where I work. Six tables seat four, and three tables seat two.

One of the two-tops is “my” table. When my coworker trained me, he showed me which table he sits at when he isn’t bustling around the breakfast room. He puts a box of disposable gloves on that table to mark it as his. In addition to the box of gloves, when I’m working I leave my spray bottle of cleaner and the rag I use to wipe the tables there as well. Usually, I drape my jacket over the chair too. Since there are only eight sets of salt and pepper shakers for the breakfast room, my table does without. I don’t need salt and pepper while I’m working anyway.

Once during my training, an older couple came into the breakfast room. The man used a wheelchair. While my back was turned, the man and woman occupied the table my coworker and I had been using. When I turned around, I saw they had moved the box of gloves and whatever else had been on the table to a nearby highchair that was not in use. One of the chairs had been moved away from the table, and the man had maneuvered his wheelchair into its place. I wondered why the couple had chosen to move things in order to use that particular table when several others were unoccupied, but decided it was probably the easiest one for the man to use with his wheelchair.

Fast forward several weeks, and I was working on my own. No one had usurped my table territory since my training. I hadn’t considered it might happen again.

I’d been in the dish room/storage area, so my jacket was on my body instead of hanging on the back of the chair at the table I used as my home base. However, the box of gloves, the spray bottle, and the wiping rag were all on the table. To me it seemed obvious that the table was claimed.

I walked into the breakfast room, but before I could make my way to “my” table to deposit my jacket, I saw an older woman moving my work accessories to another table. She moved the box of gloves and the spray bottle and the rag I used to wipe down tables to the empty two-top next to where I normally sit.

I was shocked! First, I would never move items that didn’t belong to me from one table to another if there were plenty of other places to choose from to sit. Second, in the time of COVID, I touch as little as possible when out in public. (Note: the woman did NOT wash her hands after moving the things from one table to another.)

I looked around to see if perhaps this woman, like the woman during training, was breakfasting with a companion who used a wheelchair. She was not. The gentleman who joined her was not using a mobility aid of any kind.

I stood in the doorway, perplexed. I wondered what was so special about the table in question. Nothing made it more attractive, as far as I could tell. In fact, I think it was less attractive, missing as it was the salt and pepper shakers. (In fact, the woman had to snag the salt and pepper from another table so she and her companion could season their meals.)

I felt very territorial about that table! It was mine! How dare she move my things! How dare they sit in my spot! I wanted to march over there and give them what for!

In the end, I did not march over and tell the couple anything. I knew I’d seem ridiculous if I did, and besides, I didn’t want to add strife to my day. I knew I had no real reason to pick a fight with the customers. Of course, as The Man pointed out, the guests can sit at any table they want because, well, they’re the guests. It’s not really “my” table. I don’t own it. I have no real claim to it.

I’m still puzzled by the situation. Why was that particular table so alluring to the woman? Why did she want to sit in a place that required her to move items obviously left there by someone else? What did she find so appealing about that particular location? These are questions I will never be able to answer.

Even more puzzling are my own thoughts in response to the woman’s behavior. Why did I feel so territorial about that table? Why did I want to fight a total stranger (and a paying customer) over a piece of furniture that’s not really mine? I don’t own that table. I don’t even rent it. I sit there probably less than an hour a day, three days a week. Why should I care if a stranger sits there for ten or fifteen minutes? I could have sat at any other table in the room while “mine” was occupied. (In fact, I didn’t sit anywhere while the couple occupied “my” table. Instead, I stood in silly, silent protest while they ate, thinking I would show them. I’m sure they didn’t even notice.)

I’m the kind of person who can easily get caught up with wanting people to do what’s right. I think everyone should do what’s right, and, obviously, sitting at someone else’s table is not the right thing to do! Also (obviously), I should pick my battles and not get so caught up in other people’s actions when they’re not hurting anyone. I promise you, those people sitting where they did hurt no one. If I was distressed, it was because of my own brain activity.

Human behavior is so weird and interesting. That woman pulled a power move on me, and I admit, she got to me. I may never understand her motivation, but I appreciate that she gave me the chance to explore my own thinking.

Why I Like the Winter Holidays Time of the Year

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As a kid, I loved Christmas.

What’s not to love? Festivities included presents (from Santa, Mom and Dad, and both sides of the family); lots of delicious food (fudge and pies, ham and turkey, potato salad and rice dressing); and running wild with my cousins.

As I got older, my Christmas enjoyment expanded as I learned that giving can be just as fun as receiving. I remember saving the meager amounts of money that came into my life to buy little low-priced Christmas items from the Sears catalog. I gave my godmother a tiny Christmas tree meant to hold toothpicks and a select few of my elementary school friends received erasers shaped and colored like Christmas tree lights.

Christmas of 7th grade stands out because my parents allowed me to host a party. My four best friends were invited. We pulled names to decide who would buy gifts for whom and set a $10 spending limit. I pulled Kim’s name and bought her treasures to fuel her Duran Duran obsession. Tiffany pulled my name and went over the spending limit when she got me both Bruce Springstein’s Born in the USA album AND Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry. I ate too many Pillsbury slice and bake cookies and drank too much Cherry Coke and puked (not on purpose) after my friends went home.

The last year I remember celebrating Christmas in a traditional way was 1995. I hosted a tree trimming party. I put up an artificial tree and made ornaments with the names of the guests outlined in glitter. I prepared snacks, got everything ready…and was disappointed when only one or two friends showed up. I’d imagined us rockin’ around the Christmas tree, but it turned out to be more of a blue Christmas.

By the next year I was an anarchist. My friends were anarchists too. Instead of celebrating Christmas, we critiqued consumerism and capitalism and Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of problems with consumerism, capitalism, and Christianity, and I still believe critique can be a healthy way to learn and teach. But is it possible to critique Christmas and still enjoy some aspects of it?

Personally, it’s the entire holiday season I like, everything from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, the entire month of December plus a little more. But I know that for the majority of people in America, Christmas is the main event, with Hanukkah perhaps a distance second. Yes, some people celebrate Yule and/or Solstice, but in most places those people are few and far between. And while I know there are people who celebrateKwanzaa, I’ve never met any of them. (That’s on me. I’m not suggesting Kwanzaa celebrators are in any way responsible for seeking me out.)

For me, the winter holidays are not about a baby born in a barn in the distance past and laid to sleep in a manager. I was brought up Catholic, but I don’t even consider myself Christian anymore. Christian holidays are not my holidays. To be honest, I don’t particularly celebrate Pagan holidays either. Christmas and Yule and Solstice and Boxing Day are usually just regular days for me, perhaps with some additional stuffing. (Oh, hey, I just looked it up and found out that Yule is 12 days long…I had not idea until right now.)

So I’ll tell you what I like about Christmas time, the holiday season, whatever you want to call it. I like that people are nicer to each other during this time of year.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

People give each other presents, but I don’t mean just friends and family. People give presents to folks who are practically strangers. When people give a little gift to their mail carrier or garbage collector or teacher, they’re expressing appreciation to virtual strangers. When folks give to Toys for Tots or pluck a tag from a tree at Walmart or Denny’s then get a gift for the person listed on the tag, they’re giving to an actual stranger. During the holidays people donate to food banks and other charitable organizations and maybe even give a little extra cash to the person flying a sign on the corner.

Christmas time isn’t just about gifts though. People think about each other more. They send cards to one another or maybe a text to catch up. People say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “Happy New Year” (which I like to use well into February). People acknowledge each other more throughout the entire month of December. People simply seem kinder during that part of the year.

I like the additional kindness. I like to receive it. I like to give it out. I like to see other folks giving it and receiving it too. But I think there’s something else at play during the winter holidays. I think during this part of the year, people have more hope.

Photo by Bob Canning on Unsplash

Now here’s the question: Does the hopefulness make people kinder or does the kindness make people more hopeful? I suppose it doesn’t matter. My wish is that we can all be more hopeful and kinder to each other all year long.

I wish this for all of us and specifically to you. I wish you more hope and more kindness today and in the coming year. I wish for you to receive more kindness and to show more kindness too. I wish these things for myself and for each individual, which then means I’m wishing it for us collectively too.

I’m also wishing you a very happy whatever-holiday-you celebrate-this-time-of-year. If you celebrated Hanukkah a few weeks ago, I hope it was wonderful. If you welcomed winter on the Solstice, I hope it was meaningful for you. If you’re a Festivus person, I hope you aired all your grievances and ate a lot of carbs. If you’re celebrating Christmas today, I hope it’s merry and bright. If Boxing Day is your tradition, I hope tomorrow is a great day for you. If you begin celebrating Kwanzaa tomorrow, I wish you a joyous Kwanzaa. If you begin celebrating Yule tomorrow, I hope the next twelve days are fabulous. If I didn’t name your holiday, I still hope it’s a good one (and I’d love you to tell us all about it in the comments).

And of course, Happy New Year. I’m hoping 2022 is a good one for all of us.

Photo by Peng Wei on Unsplash

He Was a Good Boy

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Content Warning: Death of an animal friend

Jerico, The Man’s doggie companion for over a decade and my friend since January of 2017, passed away on October 25, 2021. He was a good boy. He is loved and he is missed.

I don’t want to go into all the details of Jerico’s illness and death. It’s just too much. But I will say he had a difficult year, almost exactly a year of pain and decline. At the end, I knew he was suffering. His death was a sort of horrible blessing because I knew it meant an end to that suffering.

The Man and I had parted ways in Taos in June. He took off in search of cooler temperatures. Of course, Jerico went with him.

Jerico on my bed in the van with collage materials in 2017 or 2018.

The Man called after a couple of weeks. Jerico wasn’t doing well. He was in a lot of pain, wasn’t leaving his bed but maybe once a day, wasn’t eating well. I thought maybe this was the end.

I didn’t hear anything, not a peep, from The Man for two months. He didn’t have a phone, and payphones are few and far between out in the world. I thought maybe I’d never hear from him again. I wondered how he and Jerico were doing.

I texted The Man’s sister and asked if she had heard from him, if she knew how Jerico was. She said Jerico was doing great. That seemed like a miracle to me.

On Wednesday, October 20, The Man showed up at my door. I was happy to see him. Jerico was with him, of course. The Man lifted Jerico from the passenger side of the minivan and set him gently on the ground. He walked around, barked, came over to me for pets. When The Man and I talked to each other, Jerico barked for our attention. He seemed like his same bossy self. When it was time to go inside, Jerico hopped up the step into the trailer

On Thursday The Man and Jerico came back to my trailer. The Man said he and Jerico had gone for a little walk that morning and had a nice time. He used my phone to call about a job, then left Jerico with me while he went to an interview. Jerico mostly stayed on the couch, but stood up to bark when the FedEx driver made a delivery. Later, the lady who owns the RV park where I live came over to give me something. I let Jerico out when I went outside to talk to her. He and the landlady had met before and liked each other. He went to her to get some pets, and she obliged. When she stopped petting him, he barked his bossy bark to demand more. When she left, he and I went back into the trailer. He hopped right in with no help from me.

All in the bed together while I worked on blog posts, 2019 or 2020.

On Friday, The Man and Jerico came over again so The Man could use my phone. The whole time they were over, Jerico stayed on the couch, lying down. We didn’t realize it at the time, but Jerico wasn’t going to bounce back again.

On Saturday morning, The Man showed up at my door. He asked if he and Jerico could stay in the trailer with me until Jerico passed away. They had been camping on public land and it was dusty and other campers were letting dogs run loose. He didn’t think it was a good environment for Jerico. I said yes. I wanted Jerico to be as comfortable as possible in his last days. The Man warned me it could be two months before Jerico passed. I said they could stay as long as they needed to.

Jerico spent all of Saturday lying down, either on the couch or in his bed that The Man had brought in. He didn’t want to eat and barely drank. The Man and I took turns sitting with him. We made sure someone was always with him. We petted him and sang to him and gave him all the love we could.

We decided we would take him to the vet’s office first thing Monday morning and have her assess Jerico’s situation.

On Sunday, it was obvious that Jerico was not doing well. He didn’t want to go outside. He didn’t want to move from his bed. He didn’t want to eat. The Man and I continued to pet him and love on him and sing to him.

I posted this photo to Instagram on National Dog Day 2019. The Man took the photo; I cropped and enhanced it.

In the morning there was a problem with my solar setup, and The Man had to install a fuse. In the ensuing hubbub, Jerico left the living room and went into the bedroom where he lay down between the bed and the wall. When The Man called him, he wouldn’t come. I got very nervous thinking maybe he had gone there to die. I think The Man feared the same thing, although neither of us spoke the thought aloud. The Man went to the refrigerator and pulled out the block of cheese. Cheese had always been Jerico’s favorite food, so The Man thought he could entice him out with a nice chunk. It didn’t work. When The Man held out the entire block of cheese to Jerico, the pup just turned his head. He didn’t even lick it. That’s when I knew Jerico must feel very, very bad, and the end was near.

The Man did finally get Jerico out of the bedroom and back into his bed on the couch.

Everything that happened after that is too difficult to rehash. All I want to say is that Jerico’s beautiful doggie soul passed from this earth on the morning of October 25, 2021.

The lady who owns the RV park where I live let us bury Jerico at the back of the property, in a brushy area where there are cacti and mesquite trees, where people don’t typically go. The Man dug the grave. We took precautions to discourage animals from disturbing the resting place, including covering the gravesite with big rocks we gathered in the area.

I’m so grateful to have been with Jerico in his last days. It was a privilege and a blessing to be with him, to pet him and love on him and sing to him before he passed. I am so grateful that The Man brought Jerico to my home so I could spend just a little more time with him. I’m so thankful I could offer him a home in his time of suffering so he didn’t have to spend it in the dust or cramped up in the minivan in a parking lot somewhere. I so appreciate the landlady giving us a place to bury Jerico.

Me and Jerico on a snow-dusted bridge in Taos County in 2017. He was my friend, and I miss him.

Jerico was a good boy, a good dog. He barked a lot and was bossy, but he was also a wonderful friend. He liked to cuddle and was the best doggie heater in the winter. He was a loyal companion and wanted to always be where The Man was, to follow him wherever he went. He loved to play ball more than anything else in the world and was a natural athlete. Everyone who watched him chase and retrieve a blue racquetball was impressed by his speed, dedication, and determination. He would never give up on finding a ball that had been thrown.

He was a special boy, a special friend. I miss him, and I know without asking that The Man does too.

Rest in Peace, Jerico. You are loved. You are missed.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise note.

How to (and How Not to) Approach a Camper

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This is one of my favorite places to camp in Northern New Mexico.

I pulled into one of my favorite boondocking areas in the Carson National Forest in Northern New Mexico. As I drove down the dirt road and approached the spots with picnic tables and fire pits, I saw a couple of tents already pitched in my favorite place to camp. Since I couldn’t go there, I chose the place where in the past I’d had the most luck getting internet access on my phone.

I parked in a flat place, hauled out my table, unfolded my chair, and called myself all set up.

I hadn’t been there long when two vans and several passenger vehicles came into the area, parked near the tents, and disgorged about two dozen people, most of them substantially younger than I am. I tried to look at them without looking like I was looking at them. Where they high school kids? College students? A church group? I was unsure.

Everyone in the group scrambled to unload the vans and vehicles and pitch their tents.

I heard a young man shout, I’m going to take off my underwear now! I sincerely hoped this was a church group.

Dylan, I heard a woman say, that person’s not with us. Let’s give them a little more space, ok?

Was she referring to me? Had Dylan been encroaching upon my territory?

After the group had adequate time to set up camp, they assembled near the two tents I’d seen when I first rolled in. The owners of those tents must have been the vanguard who had come early to stake their claim.

Was the group going to eat a meal together? Would there be a prayer before the meal? If there was a prayer, I’d feel confident they were a church group.

There was no prayer, at least nothing loud enough for me to hear.

The whole group started walking on the dirt road behind where they were camped, heading east.

I wondered who they were and where they were going, but didn’t give them too much more thought. I was hungry and needed to prepare my supper.

I’d cooked some food and eaten it and cleaned the dishes and was in the process of putting my leftovers in the cooler in the back of the minivan. Some months ago, the hatch door stopped staying open when I lifted it, so I had to use my walking stick to prop it up while doing anything in the back. With the stick holding up the door, I had just enough room to get between the door and the body of the van. That’s where I was when the car pulled up on me.

Maybe it was a Prius because I don’t recall hearing the car. I came out from between the van and the hatchback door, and there it was, about half a car length behind my minivan. I though maybe it was a forest ranger. Was I parked in a place I wasn’t supposed to be? Had the people in the tents reserved the whole area and a ranger dispatched to give me the news?

I scanned the door of the car for Forest Service insignia. There was nothing.

I looked at the driver of the car.He was a dude probably older than I am . He had longish white hair and wore a fancy straw hat and a black tank top. He certainly wasn’t dressed like any Forest Service employee I’ve ever met.

When I still thought he might be with the Forest Service (because who else would have the nerve to come into my camp and park so close behind me?) I’d called out a hearty Hello! By the time I realized he was just some civilian dude definitely encroaching on my territory, his mouth was off and running.

Have you met the campers? he asked, gesturing to the temporarily unoccupied tents.

They’re a bunch of kids, I said, not even wanting to talk to him. I was becoming more outraged at his nerve. He’d come into my campsite just to shoot the shit? What if I didn’t want to shoot the shit with him? He hadn’t even asked. He’d just barged in. In fact, I did not want to shoot the shit with him. I didn’t want to talk to him at all.

Damn my Southern woman upbringing! Why couldn’t I just tell him I wanted to be alone? Why couldn’t I just say the words, I want to be alone now?

I know they’re kids, he said impatiently. They’re college kids. The vans are from a college. But are they geologists or rock climbers?

They took off walking that way, I told him, pointing, then shrugging. Then I walked off to continue my after-meal cleanup.

Moonlight over Carson National Forest

Did the fellow in the car get the hint? Did he realize I didn’t want to talk with him or listen to him anymore? Hell no! He just kept talking. He talked about the name of the place where we were. He talked about why it had this name. He talked about having a cabin nearby where he stayed in the summer. He said he left in the winter though, because winters there were too cold. He asked me if I was going south for the winter. He asked me if I was going to Faywood and if I ever went to some other place whose name I’ve forgotten.

I told him I wasn’t going to Faywood and I’d never heard of the other place. hHsaid it was near Deming. He said he had been there in the past and picked up some turquoise. I asked him whose land it was, and he said, It’s public land! It’s our land. They he said some weird stuff about how Joe Biden owned everything now and how we didn’t own anything.

He told me he could sell showers at his place to the young people camping. I said, Yeah. Maybe. and allowed for how most people shower every day and get uncomfortable if they can’t. He said he had hot water showers at this place, then qualified that they were solar showers. I’m not exactly sure what he meant and didn’t request clarification. If he had one of those five gallon shower bags, he’d probably only be able to sell one shower to one college student (maybe two if they were conservative shower takers) before he ran out of hot shower water. I didn’t tell him all that though. I didn’t want my attempt to burst his entrepreneurial bubble to encourage him to talk more.

He started backing up his car, and I thought the intrusion was finally over. No. It wasn’t over. There was more.

He stopped the car and leaned out of his window. I’m going to get my camper so I can camp out here. Not right next to you…he trailed off.

No. Of course not, I said dryly. At least he had enough sense not to try to park his camper right next to me.

He back up then, pulled out onto the dirt road leading to the highway, and was gone. If he returned with his camper, he didn’t park it next to me, and I never saw him again.

Once he was out of my sight, my first thought was Fucking extrovert ! Thinking people want to talk to him, but now I wonder if there might have been some drug use involved in his boldness and bravado.

It wasn’t long after the talkative fellow left that the tent campers came back. I was sitting outside my van, trying to solve a puzzle from a Dollar Tree crossword book when I saw a woman with short grey hair walking in my direction.

Here we go again, I thought, but in fact we weren’t going there again.

Can I enter your camp? the woman asked.

What? Now that’s the way you do it!

I said yes, and she continued over.

I thought you might be wondering what’s going on here, she said and gestured to the tents.

The group was composed mostly of grad students from a conservation class. She was their professor. They would be camping here for a couple of nights. She thought everything would be mellow since grad students are older, but if anything they did disturbed me she said I should let her know. She pointed to her tent, and we chatted a few more minutes about where I’d been and where I was going, about the university they were from and where it was located, their itinerary, and how Aldo Leopold was connected to this place where we were staying. It was a conversation, not a monologue, and it was quite pleasant.

The two situations left me thinking of Goofus and Gallant. Do you Remember them? I encountered the boys in the issues of Highlights magazine I’d read as a child at the dentist’s office and occasionally at school. Poor old Goofus didn’t know how to take turns or speak softly or pet the cat gently while Gallant knew how to help old ladies cross the the street, share his toys, and let other people take a cookie before grabbing one for himself. I always thought Goofus would grow up and learn to do better, but I wonder if he just grew up and grew old without changing much at all.

I took all of the photos in this post. These photos were taken where this story took place.

Basura

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I had come down from the mountain for supplies. It was hot and dry in the valley, and I was dog dead tired. I had one more stop to make before I could head back to higher elevation, cooler temperatures, and the last few hours of my day off from my work camper job.

I went into the 99 Cents Only Store, where some prices were a lot less than 99 cents and some prices were substantially more. I perused the bargain baskets in the front of the store, cruised down the aisles of beans and other canned goods, and grabbed the best looking produce at the best prices. When I got up to the cash register, I told the worker that I wanted two sacks of ice, and I even remembered to extract them from the freezer in the front before I hit the exit door.

I pushed my cart over to my van, which I had parked at the edge of the parking lot. My 1994 Chevy G20 conversion van was a hulking beast and easier to park in places where there were no other vehicles around. I preferred to park easily and have farther to walk to a store’s entrance rather than fight to maneuver into a tight parking space.

This time, there was no car parked on the van’s passenger side. I threw open the side doors, as much to gain access to the interior as to let the parched air escape. I climbed into my van and lifted the lid of the ice chest. Yuck. I’d forgotten to empty it before I left camp. The ice had melted completely and left the cooler half full of water. In the water floated some small broccoli florets that had turned limp and yellow before I could eat them and stray bits of cabbage that had been jostled from the most recent head. At the bottom of the cooler lay the waterlogged plastic ice bag left behind when the ice became liquid. I had to get all of this out of the cooler before I could put the new ice and groceries in.

I pulled the plastic bag from the bottom of the cooler. The water it sat in was tepid and smelled a bit sour. I let the water drain from the bag and into the cooler. When most of the water was out of the bag, I threw it onto the floor of the van. The drops of water clinging to it weren’t going to hurt anything and in the heat of midday would probably dry before I was ready to throw it away.

Next I had to dump the water from the ice chest. I figured since any vegetable matter floating in the water was natural, it was ok to let it fall onto the asphalt. If some bird didn’t eat it right away, it would decompose soon enough. I lifted the cooler and wrangled it to the open doors. I lowered it to the floor of the van, then slowly tilted the container so the water drained onto the ground.

The Man likes to joke that you can always tell when hippies have been in a parking lot because there’s at least one wet spot on the ground. On this day, the big wet spot I left had plant matter in it too.

Once I got the cooler back in place, I wiped it out with a couple of paper towels, then loaded in the two slippery and deliciously cold sacks of ice. After that, I carefully placed the eggs and milk and orange juice and produce and whatever other cold groceries I had that day into the chest.

Some time after I had the cooler and the ice in, but before I’d packed in the groceries, a car pulled in next to my van. Why the driver decided to park next to me instead of elsewhere in the vast parking lot will always remain a mystery. I glanced out and saw an older Latina lady getting out of here car.

When I looked out, I also saw the plastic ice bag I’d left on the floor of the van had made an escape. I suppose the desert wind had kicked up while I was busy packing the cooler and sucked the bag right out of the open doors. I’d have to pick it up from where it had landed on the ground before I pulled out of my parking spot.

I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the bag on the ground. My parking neighbor took a look around and saw the plastic bag as well as the huge wet-but-rapidly-drying spot dotted with limp, yellow broccoli and waterlogged bits of cabbage. I saw her shake her head and say under her breath (but loudly enough for me to understand her completely), Basura.

I don’t know if she saw I was white and thought I wouldn’t understand what she’s said, if she didn’t care if I understood, or if she wanted me to know how she felt. In any case, I’d studied enough Spanish to know that basura means trash and that she wasn’t happy with the mess I’d made.

Gratitude Saturday

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I think “Thankful Thursday” has a better ring than “Gratitude Saturday,” but I’ve been too busy to write a post expressing my appreciation. There’s not another Thursday in June, so if I want to give thanks this month (which I do!) I had to do it on a day that doesn’t lend itself to a catchy title.

I typed the above list the other day, but I’ve found more things for which to be grateful since then. The typed list is an incomplete one but I’m certainly thankful for everything on it. Want more details about everything I’m grateful for in June of 2021? Keep reading!

My Royal Safari Model 2. I’m so grateful for this gift!

I’m so in love with this typewriter that my sibling gave me. It was found in a thrift store and got a complete makeover at a typewriter repair shop. Did you even know there were typewriter repair shops in existence? (For a state-by-state list of typewriter repair shops in the U.S.A, see Old Bob’s Old Typewriters website.) This refurbished typewriter is such a great gift!

I’ve wanted a manual typewriter for a long time. This one is great for a traveler, as it’s a lightweight portable model. It’s a Royal Safari Model 2 and was made in Portugal, probably in the 1980s. I don’t see myself typing anything extensive on my new machine because I’m really sold on the easy editing of word-processing life, but I do love using my Safari to type bits and pieces for art projects. Maybe I’ll even eventually type letters or postcard messages on it.

If you want to learn even more about the Royal Safari II watch Alton Gansky‘s YouTube video “1980 Royal Safari II: A Peek Under the Hood.” This video offers so much information about my typewriter.

I was given a bicycle too! It was actually given to The Man while we were in the same town for a moment. He showed up at my door one evening with a bicycle. He said he had been hanging out in the park when a truck towing an travel trailer pulled in. The couple in the truck got out and went into the travel trailer. They weren’t inside long before they came back out with a bicycle. I don’t know if the people noticed The Man looking at them or if he was the closest person, but for whatever the reason, they called out to him and asked if he wanted the bike. The people said they were tired of traveling with it and were going to find a thrift store and drop it off if he didn’t want it. He said yes, even though it’s a woman’s bike and too short for his 6 foot frame. He brought it over to me and asked if I wanted it. I said yes too.

I haven’t ridden it yet. The tires are holding air pretty well, but the back brake doesn’t work at all. Have I ridden a bike without proper brakes before? Yes. Do I think that’s a good idea, especially at my advanced age? No. I’m not going to ride it until I can get it fixed. I was supposed to take it in to the bike shop last week, but I was too busy working. I’m going to try to get it in this coming week. I would like to give it a spin even though I don’t think the narrow roads in this town are the best for biking. I’m going to need a helmet…

This bike was given to The Man, and he gave it to me.

I’ll be particularly pleased to have this bicycle in the fall when I’m back at my home base in a town with wider roads and less traffic. I’ll be able to zip to the grocery store and the post office on my bike.

In other great news, I have not one but TWO new patrons on Patreon. Thanks a bunch to Muriel and Laura-Marie for pledging to support me financially each month. I appreciate you two and all of my Patreon supporters SO MUCH! I can’t even express how much my Patreon supporters mean to me.

On a similar note, my friend Brent made a monetary donation through PayPal, and as always, Shannan supported me this month too. Every dollar really helps me keep on doing what I do, and I appreciate the help more than I know how to say.

I’m so grateful that the dog I’m hanging out is a real sweetie. She is a really good girl. She doesn’t get in the bed with me, but she would like to. She lets me clean her paws after she walks in the mud, and she patiently lets me brush her, which I try to do several times a weeks. (She’s got long hair, and she sheds. I can either clean her fur out of the brush or sweep it off the floor.) She doesn’t bark much, although last week when it was really hot, I tried sleeping with the bedroom window open. I don’t know what she heard outside, but I sure heard her barking! Being jerked out of a deep sleep by a barking dog is no fun to me, especially when the dog is quite close. To solve the problem, I bought a fan so I can sleep with the window closed. Both the dog and I have been sleeping more soundly.

Doggie friend on our daily walk.

The dog has got me going on two (sometimes three) walks a day. While I don’t exactly think taking several walks a day is fun (What can I say? I’m an inside kid.) I know that walking is good for me. I’m glad to have a doggie pal who gives me a reason to get out of the house and move around, even if that’s not my #1 idea of fun. I certainly sleep better when I’m getting regular physical exercise.

It’s Smoothie Summer, and I’m loving it! When I rolled into town, one of the first things I did was hit my favorite thrift store. I found a blender for $7, and I scooped it right up. Soon after I started working for her, the woman I’m helping prepare for her move to another country gave me her extra Yeti 20 ounce tumbler. Heck yes, I was glad to accept the gift! I’ve heard about Yeti brand, but I hadn’t tried one. My friend has a Yeti cup her parents gave her, so I’d heard what she thought of it, but I had not had first hand experience. Let me tell you. I can make a smoothie at 8 in the morning and put it in that Yeti tumbler, and by 1 in the afternoon, it’s still absolutely cold. I’m not talking a cool beverage. I’m saying the smoothie is still frosty cold and thick. I love that cup!

Are you wondering what I put in my smoothies? Really, I use whatever fruit I can get for free or at a good price. Lately I’m using frozen bananas, frozen strawberries, ice, and orange juice. If I have yogurt, I throw some of that in too. Recently I’ve used half a can of pineapple and the juice it was packed in, and yesterday I threw in some fresh mango and a couple slices of cantaloupe. Everything I’ve used has turned out really good, although I was less than thrilled with the texture when I added shredded coconut. Live and learn.

My $7 blender and gifted Yeti 20 ounce tumbler.

My friend whose parents gave her a Yeti cup told me what she likes to do, and I’m dying to try it. She goes to Wendy’s and gets a Frosty and puts it in her Yeti. The cup keeps the Frosty so cold that she can eat it at her leisure without having it turn into a lukewarm liquid. I’m going on a short road trip next week, and I might stop at Wendy’s on the way out of town so I can have a treat all the way to my destination.

I feel so lucky that the apartment I’m staying in is quite spacious and comfortable. I’ve got room to spread out, and spread out I have. I have stuff everywhere! It’s nice to be able to do that here because the travel trailer is too small to comfortably leave a mess when I’m at home. I am enjoying having full size appliances here as well as lots of space in the kitchen.

The other thing about this apartment I’m enjoying a lot is plenty of hot water whenever I want to take a bath or shower. The bathtub is big too, so there’s plenty of room to stretch out when I take a bath or to move around when I shower. Staying clean is luxurious here.

I’ve been doing a lot of sticker exchanges lately and that’s been so much fun. I’m grateful for everyone who’s swapped stickers with me, and as always, I’m thankful for each person who has sent me a postcard or a letter or any bit of mail.

So, those are the people and things I appreciate this month. What are you grateful for right now? Please share your gratitude in the comments.

Thanks for reading about this month’s gratitude! I wouldn’t be here without my readers.If you want to offer some financial support, I would be grateful for that too. To make a one-time donation, click on the “donate” button at the top of the column on the right. To become my patron on Patreon, click on the “Become a patron” button just under the search bar at the top of the column on the right. Folks who follow me on Patreon get extra content that I don’t share anywhere else. Depending on at what level you chose to support me, you can receive email updates, letters and postcards in the mail from me, stickers, buttons, a custom made hemp bracelet and/or a collage I created.

Thankful Thursday May 2021

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Photo by Caleb Chen on Unsplash

Thankful Thursday posts can be challenging. They can quickly become boring when I mention gratitude for the same things month after month. Don’t get me wrong. I AM always thankful for my health, plenty of food, friends, and people who support me and my writing, but I don’t know if folks want to read about the same things every month. So please know that while I’m going to mention new things for which I am thankful, I still appreciate all the people and things I told you about last month too.

Without further ado, the people and things I am thankful for this Thursday in May 2021.

I appreciate Dave who made a monetary donation last month, as well as Shannan who has set up an automatic monthly donation for me through PayPal.

Thanks to Rena, Ben, and Samantha who bought hats from me in April and to Enid, Laurie, Kat, Maggie, Laura-Marie, and Barbara who bought some of my “With Love from the Desert” postcards. Every time someone buys an item I’ve created, my spirits are lifted, and I’m a little closer to making ends meet.

Thanks so much to my Patreon patrons too. I appreciate their monthly monetary support. I hope they enjoy the extra content (only available on Patreon) that they receive from me.

I’m so grateful to my friend Richard of @cajunvantravelers, a graphic artist who is totally revamping my logo to include my minivan. I’ve really enjoyed my current logo which was drawn by the lovely, sweet, talented Samantha Adelle who sadly passed away at the end of 2019. However that logo harks back to my conversion van days, and I really want to feature my Sienna in the design that represents me. I’ll be very excited to unveil my new logo soon. I can’t wait to get stickers featuring the new design and do more sticker trades.

My friend Brent visited me (outside in a park, masked, safely distanced) right before I left home for the summer. I was really pleased he took time out of his travels to spend a couple of hours chatting with me.

I’m very grateful for the summer house and dog sitting gig that has already begun. I’m living in an apartment in a small mountain town where summer temperatures will be bearable. The dog behaves well and is very sweet. I’m enjoying a lot of space in the apartment, as well as the full-size refrigerator, stove, oven, and shower. I’m glad to spend the next several months here.

Before I began house sitting, I visited friends in Phoenix. I’m extremely thankful for the hospitality they showed me while I was there. I appreciate the meals, the games, the laughs, the use of the laundry facilities, and the drive-in puppet show. It was a good time for me.

My sibling bought me an old school manual typewriter and had it spiffed up with a new ribbon and typewriter tune-up. It is grand, and I love it so much. It won’t replace my laptop, but it will be fun to write letters on it and use it to type up bits for collages. I am so grateful for this fine gift.

I’m doing well. My life is good. As always, I have so much to be thankful for.

Thank you for reading! I’m always grateful for my readers. If you want to offer some financial support, I would be grateful for that too. To make a one-time donation, click on the “donate” button at the top of the column on the right. To become my patron on Patreon, click on the “Become a patron” button just under the search bar at the top of the column on the right. Folks who follow me on Patreon get extra content that I don’t share anywhere else. Depending on at what level you chose to support me, you can receive email updates, letters and postcards in the mail from me, stickers, buttons, a custom made hemp bracelet and/or a collage I created.

Why the Rubber Tramp Artist is Driving a Minivan

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A silver Toyota Sienna is parked in a parking lot.
My new minivan. I call it the Silver Streak.

I’ve always been a conversion van sort of gal. I’ve owned five conversion vans (4 Chevy G20s and 1 Dodge Ram) since 2010. When I decided to sell my truck and buy a van, I was pretty sure I’d buy another conversion van. Then I started seeing what used vans were actually available in the state of New Mexico.

On Craigslist I found newer traditional conversion vans and Sprinter vans on the used vehicle market, but those rigs were wildly out of my price range. If I’d had $10,000 or more in my pocket, one of those big van could have been mine. Since I only had around $7,000 in my pocket, none of those vans were to be mine.

My last conversion van was a 1992. Did I really want something that old again?

The vans in my price range were older. I saw vans from the 90s, 80s, and even 70s advertised on Craigslist. I was unsure how wise it would be to invest in a vehicle that was more than 20 years old. My friend Brent strongly suggested that I get somethings manufactured in the 21st century. Besides just being old, the majority of full-size vans I saw that I could afford were high mileage. I saw vans for sale with 180,000; 200,000; 250,000 miles on them. How long could something with so many miles on it last before I encountered a major problem? I was really worried about buying myself a big ol’ problem (or a bunch of smaller problems) in the form of an older van.

After looking at all of the Craigslist ads for full-size vans in New Mexico and finding nothing suitable, I started looking at ads from Arizona. There were more large vans available in the Copper State, and I thought maybe I’d have to go Arizona and stay with friends while I shopped for a van there.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated everything. (What hasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic complicated?) I had received both of my vaccine shots, but none of my friends had received theirs. The last thing I wanted to do was infect anyone, especially people I care about. How could I keep everyone safe during my visit? Where would I sleep while staying with friends in order to not risk anyone’s health? Should I use public transportation to go van shopping? Would it be safe to have a friend drive me to see vehicles? How dangerous would it be for me to meet with a variety of strangers and test drive their vehicles? How would I get to Arizona anyway? My truck was sold, and there’s no Greyhound service from the town I live in. I probably didn’t want to be on a bus with strangers and their breath for 6 or 8 hours anyway.

On the second day of my ad search, I realized I was seeing a lot of New Mexico ads for minivans in my price range. I’ve always been a conversion van gal, but I started thinking maybe driving a minivan would be ok.

The biggest factor I considered when I thought about buying a minivan is that I’m no longer a full-time rubber tramp. I’m keeping my little trailer parked in the little RV park, and I’ll live in it 7 or 8 months out of the year. Because I won’t have to shove everything I own (and believe me, I am not a minimalist) into a minivan, I was able to imagine living and traveling in one for 4 or 5 months at a time.

Of course, gas mileage is the siren song of the minivan. When I interviewed The Man about why he chose to live and travel in a minivan, the main reason he gave for his decision was the minivan’s good gas mileage. After years of driving my vans and truck and getting 15 miles per gallon at best, I was ready to spend less on gas. Not only will the minivan give me good gas mileage during the 4 or 5 months when I’m traveling, I’ll save money when driving around town running errands when I’m living stationery in my travel trailer during the winters. If I want to take road trips during the spring, fall, and winter, I can do so without worrying that stops at the gas station will break my bank.

Reliability was another important minivan attribute. When The Man was in the market for a minivan, he spent hours researching the best on the market. He found the two most reliable minivans available were the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. I figured if I got one of those van models and maintained it properly, I could probably drive it for a long, long time.

As I looked through minivan ads on Craigslist and Facebook, one in Albuquerque caught my attention. It was a 2005 Toyota Sienna with under 100,000 miles on it. It was being sold by the original owner. I sent the owner lots of questions throughout the day and he answered each one promptly. By the end of the day, I had an appointment to see the van the next afternoon.

My mechanically inclined friend drove me out to look at the van, crawled under the van to look for leaks, checked the fluids, rode with me while I drove the car, and took it out for a spin himself.

On the plus side, the vehicle seemed to be in good mechanical condition. There were no leaks. No “check engine” lights were on. The owner said the van had passed the emissions test the last time it had been inspected, about eight months prior and had never been in an accident.. The owner also said the minivan had never been his family’s primary vehicle. His family had always had another vehicle, so the minivan mostly sat in the garage except for the few times they drove it to Vegas on family trips. On the minus side, the van needed new tires, a new battery, and new windshield wiper blades. All things considered, I decided to buy the vehicle.

I had the van’s oil changed right away. I bought a new battery for it, new windshield wiper blades, and four new tires. The nice man who helped me at AutoZone confirmed what my friend had said: he neither saw nor smelled any evidence of leaks. He said the engine compartment looked very clean. The young man who put on new tires at Discount Tire said the can’s alignment seemed fine; the tires weren’t worn unevenly. I’ve driven the minivan over 600 miles in the weeks since I purchased it, and all seems well.

The minivan drives smoothly and quietly and practically parks itself. Its got more get up and go than any conversion van I ever drove. I am so relieved that I no longer practically need a ladder to get in and out of my vehicle. The air conditioner blows cold. The stereo sounds good.

I named it the Silver Streak.

I’ve pulled most of the seats out, and I’m getting it ready so I can sleep in it and live in it. I’m about to take it out on the road for the start of my summer travels. Hopefully it will hold up as well as I think it will. Stay tuned for more posts about getting the seats out and how I set everything up.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted.