Category Archives: Guest Posts

Tips on Grooming Your Vandwelling Dog (Guest Post)

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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/.

How to Train Your Dog to Live The Vanlife (Guest Post)

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Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The dog days of summer are over, but at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog, we’re still sharing information about vandwelling with dogs.

I was absolutely pleased when the good folks at Gnomad Home reached out to me with an offer to write a guest post I could share with my readers. I jumped at the chance, as I love a good guest post. I was especially pleased to find out Jayme and John had lots of experience vandewlling with pups. Their expertise fits right in with the content I want to share with my readers. 

Today Jayme and John tell you how they trained their doggies to share their van life. Whether you’re transitioning a house dog into a road dog or bringing a brand new pup into your rig, these training tips can help keep your nomadic pooch safe and happy.

Once you make the jump from dreaming about vanlife to actually making it happen, all the big, scary steps you imagined seem to become easier and easier to manage. Selling your items stressed you out at first, but now you have no problem accepting $20 for that trinket your aunt gave you for your 13th birthday. Many of these transitions become more exciting than nerve-wracking, and mentally, you are more and more ready to just take off and hit the road. But of course, you can’t leave without your best furry friend! As it turns out, dogs need time to transition just as much as you do, and a well-trained dog makes for a very fun and easy life on the road.

We are currently traveling around with our two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7), but believe it or not, there was a time when the dogs in our van outnumbered the humans! We recently had to put down our girl Crow (#CrowtoriousDOG) who was just shy of 17. We gave her one hell of a final year out on the road, letting her stick her paws in all kinds of waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific!

Needless to say, we know quite a bit about packing your pups and hitting the road. Here’s all of the tips and tricks that helped us get our domesticated dogs ready to live out in the wild!

Re-establish Basic Training Skills

This is easily the most important step of them all. Maybe you can get your dog to sit and stay because they know you’re about to toss them a treat while you guys are comfortably hanging out in your living room.But do they know how to sit and stay in a large vehicle when there are other automobiles whizzing around and you are trying to unload the groceries from the shopping cart into your fridge without your dog taking off down the road after a squirrel that emerged from the bushes? That’s why honing these basic training skills is essential.

The main commands we drilled into our dogs’ heads before beginning our adventure were, “Stay,” “Come,” and “In the van.” We practiced these commands in multiple situations, not just in our backyard. We would go out to the woods to practice, we would begin training in the middle of dog parks…anytime we found ourselves in a situation that was new to them, we would find time for some training.

Living on the road is rarely equivalent to hanging out in someone’s living room or fenced-in backyard. There are always distractions, noises, movements, creatures, and more going on around you at all times – that’s why it was very important to us that our dogs were familiar with responding as we expected under any circumstances.

“Stay” is probably our most used command. This helps when the doors of the van are open, when they are about to get into something we want them to stay away from, if they see a creature we don’t want them getting involved with, and more.

“Come” is perfect for when we allow them to run around off leash (which we do a lot of the time). We are always responsible about when and how we allow them to galavant off leash, which means we certainly don’t allow it in Walmart parking lots or National Parks.

But there are some areas where we do trust them off leash: when we are on BLM (Bureau of Lang Management) land or we find ourselves in National Forests – and if the area and conditions seem acceptable to our standards – we let them free! They LOVE getting to explore all of the scents and different terrains we find ourselves in. It’s almost as if you can see heaven glowing in their eyes as they leap over fallen trees and jump at the sight of a bug they’ve never seen before.

Unfortunately they can’t be off leash 24/7, and we need them to return to us from time to time. That’s when “Come” truly comes in handy. If a hiker walks near our spot and seems uneasy about the dogs, calling for them to return (and knowing that they will) makes for an easy pass on a potentially confrontational situation. Or if we are ready to roll to the next location, we just have to give a little holler and they come running back to the van, ready for the next adventure.

“In the van” is just a great, simple command for them to know. Whether we want them to seek shelter from an incoming storm, get ready to hit the road, or whatever the case may be – if we tell them, “in the van,” they hop right on in!

Build Trust with Your Dog and Let Them Run Around Off Leash

This one is VERY important to us. Our dogs have a lot of energy, and a trail run on a leash is not enough exercise for them to burn all of their juice. However, you can’t just take the leash off of your dog and expect all to go well on the first try

This is a practice that took time for us. We started training Nymeria to behave off leash when she was a puppy. There was a wooded area not too far from our house that not too many people frequented, and we were able to practice with her there. We would have her on a leash for a little bit, then let her off. Anytime she would come back to us we would make a very big deal about it, with excessive praise and even a few treats (we don’t normally give our dogs treats, but we do when we want something to be a BIG deal).

When we took in Delilah, she was a Stage Five RUNNER! If a door was even slightly cracked, she would bust right on through it and be gone in a second. In the end, what it came down to was that she was just dying to explore and check out her surroundings. After we took her in, we let her off leash in the same area where we trained Nymeria as a puppy. Naturally, Deliliah took off, and it actually took about 15 minutes for her to return. Yes, it made us nervous,but this is part of the trust. Our dogs don’t want to be away from us forever – they just want to explore. When Delilah returned, we showered her with praise and treats!

The second time we let her off leash, she still ran off to explore, but when we called her name, she immediately sprinted back to us, tail wagging and excited for a treat and some praise (granted, she is a very food driven creature!).

Shortly after this second time of off-leash exploring, we were at John’s parents house. The front door opened, Delilah began to run out, and we called her to come back. She immediately stopped, turned around and sprinted back to us! Now, anytime we go into the woods and let her off leash, she tends to stay within ear shot. Delilah and Nymeria never adventure too far, we can typically see or hear them (they each have a bear bell on their collars, as well as lights that can be turned on to a solid or flashing light), and the second we call for them they happily trot on back to us.

Enjoy Exploring the World with Your Pup!

Establishing a strong and trusting relationship with your dog is essential for an easier life on the road with your furry bestie. Nothing about living a nomadic life is 100% easy, but these tips and tricks should help make the transition from domesticated life to living in the wild simpler for you and your four-legged buddies to handle!

Jayme and John from Gnomad Home live out of their 1996 Chevy Express van they built into a tiny home with their two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7). They now create free content for others wishing to pursue a lifestyle on the road whether it be full-time travel or part-time travel. They have been living nomadically since the Spring of 2017.

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

First two photos coutesy of the authors. Other imags courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-clouds-mountain-dog-65867/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-dog-248273/.

Traveling Van Cat? ( A Guest Post about Cats and Van Life)

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Basil, the author’s feline companion-in-van life. Photo provided by the author.

Have a cat and want to travel? No problem! With time and patience, most adult cats (and almost any kitten) will adjust to vanlife.

It will be harder to travel with a cat than it is to travel alone, and you will need to make accommodations for the cat’s needs and safety. There will be annoyances, inconveniences, and it will almost always require patience and a good sense of humor.  🙂  If you’re like me, it’s worth every challenge when you love your furbaby.

Know Thy Feline

Hi! My name is Devan Winters from the XsyntrikNomad blog. I am a vandweller and I have two cats. Freddie is a gregarious, hyper, and curious escape artist. He is 7 years old and kind of a doofus. (I say that with love). Basil is 8 years old and a bit of a scaredy-cat. He hisses at people who get near the van (even though they can’t see him through the tint).

Traveling with Freddie was great the first two days. He seemed relaxed and curious. On day three, an internal switch flipped, and he began to freak out. He suddenly wouldn’t leave me alone when I was driving. It was not safe.

After confining Freddie while I was behind the wheel, I quickly learned he was capable of howling for hours…nonstop. After a little more than a week, I knew he was going to struggle to adapt. Nothing I tried would calm him or keep him from desperately trying to get out of the van.  Lucky for me, my adult child is the proud parent of Freddie’s sister and was generous enough to take him in. Otherwise, he would be a very unhappy van cat.

Basil, on the other hand, freaked for the first three days, then settled in. He’s become a really awesome van cat.

After living and traveling with Basil in my van for a while, I’ve learned a few things. I hope they’ll help anyone else considering a feline companion in their van life travels.

LitterBox

Location:  I’ve found the best location is by a door-it allows easy access for cleaning. Basil’s litter box is in the front passenger floorboard. If I ever have a regular human passenger though, the box will move to a location near the side or rear doors.

Tip:  Placing the litter box as far away from where your head rests when you sleep at night is more convenient than you might think, especially if your feline is on a regular late night or early morning pooping schedule.  🙂

The Box:  Through the years I have preferred to use a plastic storage container, about the same length and width of a litterbox. You can grab a cheap one at Big Lots or WalMart. This is a particularly handy option when trying to find a size that fits in the space you have.

If you’re putting the box in the back (or think you ever will) hold on to the lid. You can create an awesome enclosed box by cutting a large opening on one end of the lid. In my experience, this eliminates kicked litter (when your cat covers his business) while minimizing tracking a bit too.

TIP:  If you do this instead of spending more money on a ‘normal’ litterbox, it’s important to make sure your container is big enough for your cat to turn around in comfortably. Pay extra attention to the height of the box if you plan to use the lid. Measure your cat’s height from the top of his head to the floor. Then add an inch or two to that measurement to determine the best height for the container you purchase. 

Litter and Tracking:  I currently use clumping clay litter, but a pellet is a good option to lessen tracking. (Basil was not a fan, unfortunately.) If you’re not using a pellet type litter, you can assume you’re going to have litter tracking issues. I have a mat by the litterbox that catches some of the litter, but I keep a hand broom right under the seat to sweep what’s tracked. Depending on your cat, you’ll find yourself doing this at least once a day.

Arm & Hammer RONEuY Double Duty Clumping Litter, 20 Pounds (Pack of 2)
Bonus:  If you use a 5-gallon bucket for your business, you and your feline friend can share the litter. I’ve switched to Arm & Hammer Double Duty Litter recently. The brand comes in many varieties, but this variety, in this brand, seems to clump better than my previous brand. I store it in a plastic container with a lid under my bed.   

Hairballs

Hairballs and puke happen. There is nothing worse than waking up to a puke covered blanket. Unless you wake up and step in warm puke. *gag* I have experienced the joy of both, and worse. I have nearly eliminated hairballs using SynergyLabs Richard’s Organics Flavored Hairball Remedy. It works great for Basil.

Food is a major factor in feline digestion. If your cat is throwing up more than a couple times a week, and you’re sure it isn’t a health issue, try experimenting with food. It can be costly, but I have found the premium brands are worth it for Basil. He actually eats less and his poop doesn’t smell quite as bad. I tried a few foods but found Natural Balance ( which can be purchased at most pet food stores) works for us. There are plenty of good quality brands you can buy between the cheap and expensive too.

TIP:  I keep two heavy flat twin sheets (purchased cheaply at Goodwill) in the van at all times . I can’t always wash my primary blanket right away if there is a puke situation. So whether I’m sleeping or out for the day, one of those sheets is always covering and protecting my primary blanket. (In the summer months, I use the sheet alone)  

Food and Water

This should be easy, but it wasn’t for me. Basil likes to tip his water. He’s done it for years. Depending on where you put the food and water bowls, a spill can cause quite a mess. I spoke to a vet and these are some things I learned:

Water Bowl Tipping:  In rare cases, some cats will be sensitive to taste and may not like the water you’re giving them. Try spring or filtered water instead.

The biggest cause of water tipping is this though:  If your cat puts his head in a water bowl and his whiskers touch the sides, he will often tip the bowl in an attempt to drink without scraping his sensitive whiskers.

Ethical Pet Products (Spot) DSO6932 Stoneware 4-Square Dog Dish, 5-Inch, Blue
TIP:  Buy a wide stone bowl like the one pictured.The 4-inch square shape is hard to tip, gives your cat a wide opening corner to corner, and the stone keeps the water cool.

Placement of Food and Water:  Put it where your cat can reach it easily, but not where you might step on it in the dark or when you’re in a rush. My vet also recommends keeping food and water away from the littler box.  (Who wants to eat where they go to the bathroom, right?)

TIP:  Cats actually don’t like their food and water together. By placing the bowls in separate locations, it fosters your cat’s natural foraging/hunting behavior. When you’re in a small space like a van, little things help keep your cat happy and content.

Food Storage:  As I will also be mentioning in the section on behaviors, most cats like to chew through bags. It would save space to keep a bag of cat food crammed in a corner somewhere, but I highly recommend a plastic container with a well-sealed lid (for freshness too). Trust me, it will save you a lot of frustration. Even if your cat doesn’t have this behavior now, the small space and potential feline boredom could create a bag-chewing monster.

Temperature Control

Location:  This is my first consideration, always. During summer months I stay in places like Flagstaff, AZ or San Diego, CA. My summer plans require quite a lot of research on weather in the desired area. I would do this anyway since I don’t like heat either, but it becomes way more important with a cat in tow. I look for places with low humidity and temps that stay below 90 degrees.

TIP:  Elevations of 7,000 feet or higher, the Northern CA coast, and the Pacific Northwest are also (usually) temperate options. US Climate Data and Accuweather are my go-to for historical weather data. 

Regulating the Temperature without Solar:  I have a passenger van so I have windows all around. I love my windows but the first thing I did was limo tint them. On most summer days in the mid to low 80’s (or below), if I open the back and side windows for a nice breeze, and put a sun shield on the front window, the van stays comfortable inside.

On hotter days, I put two sun shields in the front window and hang Reflectix from the top of the windows all the way around the van. I do not fasten it at the bottom so air can still flow. It keeps the van pretty comfortable. In fact, at floor level (specifically under the bed in the cubby hole Basil likes to hide in), it is noticeably cooler.  (Yes. I got on the floor and crawled under to see/feel)

Tip:  Spend several days in your van with your cat in different weather conditions and temperatures. Leave the windows and shades as you would if you weren’t there for the day.  Get a feel for what your cat is going to experience and watch them for signs of heat-related stress.   

Regulating the Temperature with Solar:  I have not installed solar or a roof vent yet so I can only speak from the experiences shared with me by others. According to those who have it, a working roof vent is great at regulating the temperature inside your van. If you can install two, one in the back and one in front, one drawing air out and one pulling air in, even better.

YI Dome Camera Pan/Tilt/Zoom Wireless IP Indoor Security Surveillance System 720p HD Night Vision, Motion Tracker, Auto-Cruise, Remote Monitor with iOS
Monitoring:  I installed a camera and the ThermoPro TP-50 Digital Temperature and Humidity Meter. Using wifi, the camera is accessible through an app installed on my phone. I can maneuver the camera in the van remotely, using the app, and keep an eye on the temperature (and Basil) inside the van. This is a new set-up and I LOVE it. I got the idea from this YouTube video if you want to check it out.

Behavior Issues & A Small Space

If your cat has issues in your current home, you might feel like they’re amplified in a van. In fact, you may discover issues you didn’t know your cat had. Practice patience with them while they adjust to their new normal.

Basil discovered he likes to chew bags. Doesn’t matter what’s in the bag, if it makes a cool crinkly sound, he’ll bite and chew on the corners. From wet wipes to potato chips, he is not particular. I accidentally discovered he will not do this to a baggie. So, as much as the tree hugger in me hates using them, I put everything I can in baggies of all sizes (and I re-use the heck out of them). Anything too big for a baggie goes in a Rubbermaid I use exclusively for this purpose.

Living in such a small space, I also find myself as a bouncing off (or on) point. To prevent lots of scratches, it’s more important than ever to keep those front claws trimmed. Otherwise, scratches happen a lot.

CLASSY KITTY Door Scratcher Hanging Carpet Post with Sisal (Colors may Vary)
It’s also a great idea to find a spot for a small scratching post or scratching board. Otherwise, your seats may fall prey to their natural desire to stretch those paws and dig in with those nails!

TIP:  I strongly recommend using a sisal rope scratcher. Your cat will enjoy the cardboard style scratchers, but they will make one heck of a mess in your van!

Modifying Behaviour:  If you’ve never had issues with your cat before or are new to feline parenthood, yelling at or smacking a cat is completely ineffective behavior control. You probably already know that, but it’s worth mentioning. Cats definitely require a unique approach to discipline.  Because, you know, cats.

TIP:  A Google search is a great place to get advice but make sure you’re taking advice from a reputable source such as a vet website, the ASPCA, an animal products website (like chewy.com), etc.  

Playtime

Don’t forget your cat still needs playtime to expend energy. This is necessary for both physical and mental health. In fact, in such a small confined space, they need it more than ever. Take time every day, multiple times a day if you can, to play with your cat. Throw a ball if they fetch, wiggle a string for them to stalk, roughhouse (if your cat enjoys it), treat them with catnip toys, etc.

Cat Fur and Dander

If you’ve lived with a cat in a regular house or apartment, you already know fur gets everywhere. It’s worse in a van. Keep sheets and blankets washed regularly and shake them out between washes when you can. Basil likes to lounge in the driver seat so hair tends to collect there. A good lint removal brush or roller is essential.

FRESHLAND Lint Roller, 90 Sheets, 5 Count, 450 Sheets Total and 100% Natural Air Purifying Bamboo Charcoal Bag (200G) for Lint Removal, Pet Hair Pickup, and for Keeping Air Clean & Fresh
TIP:  I recommend the Freshland Lint Roller. It’s economical, comes with a charcoal air purifier/deodorizer, and works great. I keep mine within reach from the driver seat.  When I get out of the van to go in somewhere, I can quickly spiff myself up.  

Cat Leash Training

I keep threatening to leash train Basil, but I haven’t really tried yet. I understand it takes time and a lot of patience, but there are awesome rewards. It is best to start training them as young as possible, but most adult cats are trainable. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature, your cat will love the opportunity to explore outside with you-safely!

Tip:  Microchip! You can get microchipping done for around $45 and it’s worth every penny. Even if your cat is leash trained or not prone to escape, there are still risks, such as an accident. If a window breaks out and there is a lot of commotion, your cat just might bolt at the first opportunity. Mine would. 

Confinement When Mobile

For safety reasons, most people strongly suggest confining your cat to a carrier when you’re mobile. In an accident, your cat is secure, safe, and less likely to get hurt or run off. You’re also less prone to distraction or to have your driving affected by your cat.

In reality, most of us do not participate in this practice. For me, there is no place to fit a carrier when not in use. Even if I found an easily storable/collapsible carrier, Basil has hiding spots I can’t get to, and he doesn’t come when called. Getting him in the carrier before I go anywhere would be a challenge in itself. That said, I still consider it a best practice if you can do it.

Health Care

Finding affordable medical care for your cat while on the road is a huge challenge. It’s best to do any preventative care before you leave. Once you’re on the road, if you decide to use a nationwide veterinary chain like Banfield (inside most PetSmart stores), you won’t have to keep records of everything with you. (You should always carry rabies vaccination paperwork.)

Banfield even offers pet insurance to cover some care, if you can afford (and want to pay) the monthly expense. There is also a line of credit called Care Credit you can take out specifically for veterinary costs.

Tip:  If you travel like me, often staying in one place for a couple months at a time, take time to research local vet options. Look at Yelp and Google reviews, call to inquire about general visit prices, etc. I always start my search with AAHA Accredited Vets. The standards and guidelines they have to meet for accreditation practically guarantee you’ll get a good vet.

Something I Forgot?

I’ve tried to think of everything I wanted to know when I started, while also including answers to questions I am often asked.  If I haven’t answered something you’d like to know about, or if you want more detail on anything, please reach out to me at xsyntriknomad.com.  I will be happy to help you find the answers you need.

**Please keep in mind these are my experiences and my opinions. I’m not always right, but I took extra care to make sure any information linked is true and accurate. I will always make an extra effort to steer you in the right direction when it comes to your animal companion.

Photos (other than the one of Basil) are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of those photos, you’ll be magically taken to Amazon.com. Anything you put in your cart and purchase after clicking one of those links will earn the Rubber Tramp Artist a small advertising fee at not cost to you.

(Guest Post) How I Traveled to the UK in My RV for 14 Days (Real Life Story)

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Have you always dreamed of traveling but did not where to start from? Have you ever thought about traveling in the so-called recreational vehicle? It is a trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home – thanks to the wheels that can take you anywhere in the world and the comfort of home, people can travel for a really long time without any problems. The big size of the trailer lets the traveler take several fellow-passengers. If you wish to get inspired, simply read this real-life story about how I traveled to the UK in my RV for 14 days.

 

“RV Europe” has always been the combination of words that made my knees tremble – I wanted it so much! Because I live in Berlin, the way had to be quite long – the Google Maps told me I had to drive approximately 12 hours non-stop to reach London. It was a quite responsible and serious trip, that is why I had to prepare for it properly. First of all, I had to decide on the people I was taking with me, the quantity of days I wanted this trip to be, and the things I would need in my adventure.

I decided to take my three friends who dreamed of traveling so far, too. I thought about how many days would be enough for our company to spend in the UK, and 14 days seemed the perfect period. As for the things to take with me, it was, in fact, not a big problem. The trailer had enough space for all the clothes I needed, the fridge was able to hold a lot of food, and there was enough space even for the laptop and video games. I needed to plan a trip across Europe – that was the most difficult part.

When I looked at the map with the biggest cities on my way, I decided I wanted to stop in Hannover, Dortmund, Antwerpen, Gent, Dunkerque, and, finally, London. I was not confident whether we would travel around the UK or stay in London throughout the whole time. I googled the places to see in those cities – listed buildings, cozy parks, and atmospheric pubs and cafes. And, of course, I did the same research for London – the latter took much more time because the city is huge and really diversified.

I have been thinking a lot how to plan a trip through UK and decided to visit Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool as well.  We would stop in the beautiful villages and towns on our way, too. When the plan was ready, we were ready to go. We decided to leave early in the morning to see the beauty of the road trip in the daytime.

The road was empty because our trip started on Saturday. Just riding on the highway was a pure pleasure – watching the beautiful forests and fields on the sides of the road was incredible. After riding for more than four hours, my friend replaced my position as the driver – this is another benefit of traveling with a big company because you are not obliged to sit at the steering wheel all the time.

Among the cities that we passed by, for some reason, it was Dunkerque that impressed me most. The reason might be the film of the same name shot by Christopher Nolan that I have seen recently. The place was breathing with history, and the fact that it is situated near the sea made it an amazing experience for us to stop and spend a couple of hours there.

 

Finally, we went inside the Eurotunnel, and it was a surreal experience to drive for one hour and a half in the closed space. The feeling that space was surrounded by water was absolutely amazing. When we finally came to London and saw Big Ben, I felt pure happiness. Berlin is a beautiful place to be but the architecture suffered a lot during the World War II, and the majority of the city is quite contemporary. However, the beauty of London cannot be expressed by words. The city combines both contemporary architecture and the old one.

We stayed in London for a week – during this time we saw all the listed buildings, visited all the beautiful parks, and drank beer in all the atmospheric pubs. We slept in our trailer at the roadside rest stops – in spite of a number of warnings of my parents about possible robberies, nothing bad happened to us, and we were happy we had such an amazing experience.

After London, we went to see Birmingham – I have not heard about this city much, but it turned out to be the second after London and a pretty beautiful one as well. We went to its famous Bullring to do some shopping, and we were amazed by the quantity of shops there. After that, we visited The Old Crown – the oldest building in the city where we drank amazing cider and ate some fish and chips. Finally, we dedicated a whole day to a tour of in  Cadbury World not far from Birmingham and saw how the chocolate is made.

In Manchester, we went to the museum about the city and were amazed how interactive and interesting it was. In Liverpool, we visited the museum dedicated to The Beatles and drank a couple of beers in The Cavern Club where they used to perform. When it was time to drive home, we were already a bit tired and looked forward to it.

When the trip was over, I felt like a could write a book on how to travel through UK, and I was really proud of that. I felt like now, I can make even the bigger trip – it seemed challenging and exciting simultaneously. I started thinking about exploring Russia, but this trip needed a really good plan and an awesome preparation.

 

Bryan Davis has been working for https://australianwritings.com.au/essay-writing-service for more than one year, and he has already become one of the best writers on the website. His hobbies are traveling and mobile photography, and he successfully combines those with his job.

 

(Guest Post) How I Picked Up Seasonal Jobs to Support My Campervan Lifestyle, and You Can Too

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Van life, while cheaper than traditional lifestyle, is still more expensive than I first thought it would be.

One very real and somewhat harsh reality that came to light early in my van journeys, is the need for cold, hard cash.

When I first set out, I had $500 saved as a cushion. I thought with the lack of a rent payment I would be able to go without a job for a couple of months. However, I was wrong.

I realized pretty quickly I needed to pick up a job to feed myself as well as to buy gas to get us back to our campsite after each day of adventure.

Finding a Job

Leverage your experience and plan carefully

My partner had some experience with the van lifestyle, and he suggested that table waiting was a valuable skill for landing short term work.

Since I had several months to prepare for life on the road, I took a job at Applebees to round out my food service experience and insure that I’d be able to find good gigs in the towns we planned to stay in.

This strategy paid off very nicely when I was hired at a swanky joint to wait tables. This job covered all my expenses while working just a few hours per week. Best of all it left my days free to play in the mountains.

My partner was also able to land a job in a restaurant as a host. Toward the end of our time in Colorado, when the seasonal work at the restaurant dried up, he picked up a short-term day job cutting down trees for fire mitigation.

Location, Location…

How easy it is to find a job depends on where you put down temporary roots. For example, it will be easier in a tourist town than in an unknown small town.

Additionally, the economy of the area should be taken into consideration. I spent time living in Estes Park, CO, and it was quite easy to find a job.

However, in Joshua Tree, California, a smaller, less traveled town, I could not find a job to save my life.

… and more about location

Before you hit the pavement to look for work, consider that it’s most convenient to work close to where you park and sleep. I mean, one major reason for this lifestyle is to avoid a nasty commute! When looking at jobs, pay close
attention to travel logistics.

But sometimes that is not possible, or that otherwise perfect job will require some daily travel. If you will be using some type of public transportation, try to get work near a bus or train stop.

Another option is to plan to camp and work in an area that’s bicycle friendly. Even if you don’t normally pack a bike in your van, a used one can be acquired easily in most areas and then sold, given away or carried along to your next destination.

To improve your options, raise your standards

If you hate working in a certain industry such as retail, fast food, ect. do not even give this type of business a second thought.

I reached that point with the restaurant industry long ago. It took some effort, but as I upped my standards for the type of work I was willing to do, I started getting better jobs.

Craig can help

Craigslist is a great place to find some temporary work. My partner used to find odd jobs on Craigslist regularly. He found jobs as a mover, a construction worker, and a maintenance man.

Sometimes, a small job on Craigslist leads to longtime work. Other times, you want to run the opposite direction. Either way, it’s often tax-free money, and a networking opportunity!

It’s not what, but who you know

Keep in mind that most business owners don’t fill positions via ads, but by networking with people they already know.

One of the absolute best ways to network for any job is to decide on the industry you want to work in and meet people who are already working there. This is not always easy to do on the road, but it can be done.

Here are a few quick and simple places to network for short or longterm jobs

  • Others you meet at the camp area. Find the folks who’re up early and heading to work and pick their brains.
  • On the trail or other outdoor activities. Strike up conversations and ask folks about how they’re supporting their travel passions.
  • Local coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Talk to the barista, bartender and waitstaff and strike up conversations with other patron.
  • Go to the types of businesses where you want to work, and meet people who already work there. For example if you want to pick up landscaping work, get to know the local nursery and plant supply. Into horses? Head to the tac shop. Willing to walk dogs? Go to local pet stores and veterinarians and introduce yourself. Comfortable with computer hardware? You get the idea.
  • Meetup.com groups related to your industry. Make friends in the industry you want work in.

Tips For Nailing The interview

in a what?

I’m not advocating for outright lying…however, it is best to avoid telling your potential employer you live in a van. If you must say something, do it after you are hired.

I personally did not tell my employer I lived in a van until I had to. This was something my boyfriend warned against, based on some bad experiences, so I listened.

If asked about your living situation, a good response is to say you are camping/staying at a friend’s place until you find a rental. If you know someone in the town, this conversation can be avoided by using their address on the application and for mail.

Clean living

Showering before your interview should be among the first things on your mind. You can find showers at local outfitters, gyms, and laundromats. At the very least the confidence boost will help with the interview.

Leave your crew behind

This one will be obvious to most of you, but… my younger self had to learn it the hard way, so I’ll share this misstep.

While it may be tempting to bring in your peeps for support, it will backfire. Even bringing your crew just to wait inside (or even within eye sight) is a bad move because it rings immature. Honestly, it is just as bad as bringing your parent along!

Dress to Impress

Always dress nicely for interviews. If you don’t have any business or business casual clothing with you, try to bum from friends or buy something from a thrift shop. I know living in a van does not always jibe with dressing to impress, primarily because storing nice clothing takes up space.

Obviously if the job requires decent clothes you’ll have to buy them anyway. If not, get something decent for interviews and then donate them once hired.

Point is, don’t have “I live in a van” written all over yourself when you show up for an interview.

Scheduling and freedom

The most important thing for most rubber tramps is finding a schedule that works with their lifestyle. Finding a place that allows for flexibility is important.

When I lived in Colorado, I found a place that would work around my climbing schedule. When you go in, feel out the management and try to work out the best possible schedule for you.

You may need to interview at more than one place, so don’t be afraid to tell a potential employer you will think about their offer. I have found businesses near National or State Parks to be more accommodating.

Get paid what you’re worth

Always try to negotiate pay, no matter what industry. It won’t always work, especially with seasonal jobs. However, playing a bit of hardball can be worth your while. Once I was hired onto a position making $3 more than they offered, just because I asked.

Of course this depends on your level of flexibility, expertise, the availability of other workers in the field you’re applying for and other factors.

Keep in mind that many employers will respect you more if you are reasonably assertive and show you can take care of yourself.Try this line: “I plan to give this job my all, and to help you be as successful as you can while I’m here. In light of that, (plus my experience, my education, my talent…) I feel I’m worth $x per hour.”

Breaking up: Leaving your short-term position

I would never suggest lying to an employer about how long you intend to stay in a position. I also feel there can be gray area here, such as with jobs that tend have a very high turnover rate, where an early exit can be easily justified and even expected.

During the interview the fast food manager is going to talk about career opportunities and long term benefits, but no one (not even that manager) is going to be surprised when you leave that job within 3 months.

Of course in any tourist town, how long you stay will resolve itself as much of the available work will be short term.

 Bridge burning

As for non-seasonal jobs where the expectation is that you stay long term, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to fib about your long-term intentions. Ask yourself how this will impact your future work in the particular industry.

Obviously, if you’re applying in a professional situation where your long-term reputation is at stake, consider your actions carefully. Will the stress of maintaining a lie be worth a few bucks? Did you land the interview through a relationship that will be damaged if you don’t stick around? Would it make more sense to be honest and risk not getting the gig, in hopes the employer will hire you anyway?

Pros have options

Consider my partner’s advice from the top of this article. Acquire a skill that pays well and is appropriate for short-term, seasonal, or gig work.

A girlfriend and fellow van lifer, upon arrival in any town, peppers local bulletin boards, power poles, and Craigslist with fliers for pet sitting and dog walking. She’s got a list of referrals as long as your arm and she gets repeat business whenever she visits those towns. No fibbing required.

Another friend is a computer hardware wizard. He can build you a gaming box that will blow your mind, assemble a network for a small business or repair your laptop, and his skills are applicable anywhere he lands.

Simple math for nomadic income

The formula here is to have a skill that pays well, is in reasonably high demand, plus your willingness and ability to promote yourself when you need work.

I’m not saying you should starve, or even miss out on road adventures to avoid lying to an employer here and there, but do some careful thinking and planning to set yourself up for the best possible work life while van traveling.

Share your campervan work life stories

We’d love to hear your thoughts on finding seasonal work as a campervan traveler, and we’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Please drop your comments or questions below and we’ll do our best to answer.

Thanks for reading.

When she’s not writing guest posts about van life, Veronica Cavanaugh from VanSage.com is camping, backpacking, or planning her next outdoor adventure. She also enjoys watching old movies and writing poetry.

Photos from Joshua Tree National Park courtesy of the author.

(Guest Post) How to Travel with Your Dog…

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Today’s guest post is from Jenny of Here Pup dog blog (https://www.herepup.com/).

Traveling with a dog is possible, but it can be a huge challenge. However, if you don’t want to leave your furry buddy behind, the best thing that you can do is be prepared for the trip. This is also true if you are planning to dwell in your van, whether it’s full time or part time, or if the situation calls for it, or you want to experience this kind of lifestyle.

One of the first things that you need to do is make sure that there’s enough room for you and your pet in the van. You want your pet to be as comfortable as possible for the long journey ahead. Create a checklist of everything it needs and make sure you get them all packed. Some of the most important items to never miss are your dog’s medications, foods, favorite toy and blanket, leash, and crate.

Don’t forget to bring your dog’s medical record too. Do a research and get the contact information of the vets around the area of the places you are going to so you’ll have someone to call in case of emergency. Plan your route ahead so you’ll known where you can bring your dog for an enjoyable break.

There are more things to consider to make travel with your pet more fun and less troublesome. We prepared this great looking infographics that lists more tips for van dwellers and regular travelers alike who are traveling with dogs.

Be prepared on your journey with your best fur buddy with the help of this guide:

How to Travel with Your Dog without Going Completely Insane

(Guest Post) RV Living: A New Reality

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Today I have the pleasure of sharing a post by Carolyn Rose, author of the blog Carolyn’s RV Life.

It was a cool autumn evening. The sun was lazily making its way down the western sky and the smell of wood-fires and home-cooking infused the air with familiarity and reflection. On my evening walk, I passed two children playing in a huge natural yard. I noted how different it was from the perfectly manicured postage-stamp size yards, hidden behind six-foot fences that I’m used to. In the San Francisco suburbs, children don’t just play out in the open like that.

I marveled at their carefree innocence from the other side of the street. They laughed and played and hung on a good-natured and patient Golden Retriever. Not a care in the world; they didn’t even notice me. I felt like I’d been transported back to simpler times.

Bronze Cowboy--Joseph, ORI’d parked my RV at the little league fields, a few blocks away, earlier in the day and spent the afternoon working and writing and enjoying peace and solitude. I was amazed that not a single kid came to the field to play nor nearby residents to walk their dogs. And I realized, it’s because here, in tiny-town USA (Enterprise, Oregon) everyone has a yard. Their little league field is for actual Little League, not a community yard where people who live in giant houses with tiny yards and neighbors within arms’ reach must drive to get some exercise and fresh air.

Spending the day in the tiny northern Oregon town took me back to my own Upstate New York roots – the ones I fled when I moved to San Francisco at twenty-one, and never looked back. Roots that I’ve spent my whole adult life running away from and denying. In my race to run from my past, I ran from myself. I ran from my predisposition toward a simpler way of life: where the streets aren’t always paved and the clerks in the grocery store know their customers by name.

As I hobbled over the cracked and crooked sidewalks, through old neighborhoods with normal-sized single-story houses (not super-sized McMansions), and inhaled the crisp home-town air, I realized how much living in a metropolitan area for nearly three decades had changed me. I’d forgotten how the rest of the country lives; how pure and simple life can be.

I was surprised at how comfortable it felt. Like I’d walked into a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and a world where kids are innocent and free and old-fashioned kindness and community rules the day. I wanted to wrap the town around me like grandma’s handmade quilt and fall asleep in its warmth. scenic-bridge-joseph-or

As the afternoon turned to night, I meandered through the tiny town wanting to see and experience it all. I saw, through the lighted windows of cozy homes, quaint shops and tiny wooden churches with stained glass windows, what had been missing in my city life. Family. Community. Simplicity.

It dawned on me that my big city experiences and values had isolated me from the reality of what most Americans experience daily. I pondered the contentious election, and for the first time, I understood. I understood the fear. I understood the challenges that small-town America faces and how they feel like their way of life is on the verge of falling off the cliff. I understood how they view a sensationalized version of the events in our country – and the world – through their TV screens and it terrifies them. I understood how their serene and quiet lives seem threatened. And like the crackle of a fresh log put on a dying fire, my brain awakened to a new concept of reality. And a new awareness of how relative reality really is.

What a gift I was given that day. My new life as a full time RVer put me in a place I’d never have experienced in my old life.  My new, slower RV Life allows me to get out from behind the windshield and immerse myself into new places and not just fly past at 70 miles per hour. A new town isn’t just another double almond-milk cappuccino served up by the local Starbucks barista at an anonymous interstate town, but a real, live breathing place with history and community.

Joseph CafeI spent three days in and around Enterprise, Oregon. I talked to chatty coffee drinkers in cafes, friendly grocery store clerks and helpful mechanics. I got to meet real people, with real wants, needs and concerns. Real people, with families, friends and happy Golden Retrievers. Not nameless, faceless political ideologues or Facebook trolls. But real people.

What a wonderful life I get to have by stepping away from my version of reality, hitting the road and forging my own path and a new reality. My RV Life opened my eyes – and my heart –  to a community, which, on the surface seemed so different from my old Bay Area community, but at the core, was very much the same.

Thank you, Enterprise, Oregon, for letting me temporarily live in your town and experience your reality.

About Carolyn Rose:

Early in 2016, at forty-eight years, old, I sold everything I owned, bought a 23-year-old RV and hit the road with my dog Capone. I’d spent decades building a career and a company and chasing the American Dream. After hiking 256 miles in 26 days alone in 2015, I came to accept that the life I’d been chasing wasn’t what I wanted. I was tired of living a lie; working to buy things I didn’t really need and feeling trapped in a tiny Bay Area apartment.  I wanted space. I wanted freedom.  And as a marketing consultant, I was free to work wherever I wanted. So, I took the leap and changed my life!

To read more about my journey, you can visit my website at http://CarolynsRVLife.com for more information.

Photos were provided by the author.

(Guest Post) Apple Tasting at Gopher Glen in See Canyon

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I feel fortunate today to share with my readers another guest post by my friend Laura-Marie. Her father died less than two weeks before my father died, so we’ve been supporting each other through dad grief. I really love this beautiful piece of poetic prose, especially the last paragraph. I hope you will like it too.

For the past 20 years or so, my family and I have been going apple tasting at Gopher Glen in See Canyon. This is in California near Avila Beach. (Avila Beach is near San Luis Obispo, and San Luis Obispo is about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.)

See Canyon is gorgeous. It’s filled with orchards on the right and oak trees on the left. Drive the winding road through the canyon. Go for a few miles until you get to the sign that says Gopher Glen. Park under oak trees.

fullsizerender-5Then enter the building. Right now tons of bright pumpkins are by the door.  Long ago, there was no building. There were tables out in the open. Whatever apples were in season were sitting on the tables, and a friendly worker would ask, “Do you like sweet or tart?”

“I want to try all of them,” you might say. The worker would slice a mini slice of each apple for everyone in your party who cared to try, apple by apple.

Nowadays there’s the building, which is good because it means fewer flies and bees. They sell touristy stuff in the shop: cookbooks, tea towels, tubs of caramel.  Jars of local jam. An apple peeler for $30.

Before, it was just apples and cider. The cider is so sweet and good, with sediment at the bottom of each jug. Now they have some jugs of cider frozen so it will stay good as you drive home, if your home is far away.

If you come at a good time, there’s not much of a wait. Still, ponder the blackboard that says what varieties are in season and the prices per pound. Just this year Gopher Glen became certified organic, so I think it costs more now.

Ignore the flavored honey sticks and caramels, impulse buys at the register. You’re there for apples.

Feel excited as you see there are several varieties for you today. The worker explains which are best for baking, which are best for eating out of hand. Mom only likes sweet, but you like everything.

It’s fun to try to decide which is best. There’s sweetness, flavor, texture, crispness, hardness…

When my dad died last month, my spouse Ming and I were in town as Mom grieved. Ming and I went to Gopher Glen on Halloween, which was a weekday.

No one else was parked in the lot. It was just us two and the worker, and she wore a crown of white flowers.  I wondered if she wore a flower crown every day, or if it was for the holiday. I wanted one too.

The worker kindly assisted us as we sampled all of the apples. Mom had told us she wanted five pounds of the sweetest. Ming and I favored Heaven Scent and Arkansas Black.

When we got back home to Las Vegas days later with our apples, I put one on my Day of the Dead altar as a symbol of the season and as a symbol of all the times we went to Gopher Glen with Mom and Dad. It was our tradition to go on my birthday every year, September 20th. A fall ritual for us.

Nowadays there are picnic tables outside where orchard visitors can picnic or sit chomping on their newly purchased apples.

Apple tasting is like wine tasting but more wholesome. And I think of wine tasting as for rich people. Apple tasting is for just about anyone, young and old, if you can get there.

The workers treat everyone with kindness, as if the workers were apple counselors–they are trying to help you find the apple that’s right for you.

Lug paper bags full of apples to your car. Carry heavy, cold cider jugs. Take an apple out of a bag and rub it on your shirt. Take a bite. There’s nothing better. This is life.

The photo was provided by the author.

(Guest Post) This Is the Story of a (Kind) Girl

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Today’s guest post is from Devan, an internet friend of mine. We haven’t yet met in person, but I hope we can someday soon. Devan kindly offered the following inspirational piece to me for use during this busy time.

I had been at work since before 9 AM and it was now after 8 PM. All I really wanted to do was settle in for the night. Unfortunately, toilet paper is an unforgiving need when you’ve run out. As I made my way through the drug store near my home, I could hear an unusually loud woman talking about the price of Oreos. Then, as she must have passed the liquor aisle, she spoke about a particularly raucous night involving a cheap bottle of vodka and a hat with a feather in it. No matter where I went in the store, her voice carried. I heard every word as if she were talking to me directly. I shook my head and rolled my eyes, marveling at the inappropriate public display.

With large 9 roll pack of toilet paper under my arm and medicine for a developing headache firmly in hand, I headed to the front of the store. As I rounded the corner to the registers, I saw the loud woman and her quieter female companion had beat me there.

They were a colorful pair. The loud one was very tall and curvy. Her leggings were black and white striped and she wore a short shirt that showed her bare belly. Her hair was shoulder-length, wild, messy and frizzy. She wore a huge welcoming smile to accompany her gregarious nature and carried herself with enviable confidence. In one arm she carried a large box of tacos from the restaurant next door (it was $1 taco Tuesday), a backpack in the other.

The quiet one was shorter, had a robust figure, and wore a generously sized t-shirt and yoga pants. She had long straight unkempt hair and was very pregnant. She too kept a smile on her face. It was a bashful awkward smile, but it radiated warmth. Her eyes looked down most of the time, glancing up shyly on occasion. She was rolling a small suitcase on wheels behind her.

The cashier was a cute young girl named Ashlee with unnaturally red hair, several tattoos, and facial piercings. Because of her alternative look she often got strange glances from customers. Yet she never seemed to get frustrated with anything or anyone.

As I stood in line, I found myself growing frustrated with the 2 women in line in front of me this particular evening. They had no sense of urgency at all and had questions about everything. Ashlee, as usual, began friendly small talk while checking out their purchases. During this small talk, it was determined that the women had gotten a ride there, but didn’t have a ride home. They laughed that they were short on bus fare as well, after getting food and milk, so they would be walking home.

To my complete dismay, Ashlee enthusiastically encouraged the women to allow her to pack their backpack and suitcase in the most optimal way, to prevent having to carry anything too heavy. As I stood there aggravated and just wanting to leave, Ashlee proceeded to work their items into their bags. She carefully placed the heaviest items in the rolling suitcase and the lighter ones in the accompanying backpack. It took much longer than if she had simply put everything in the store bags and left them to deal with it, but the women glowed with gratitude. Ashlee then asked for the awkward box of tacos they were carrying and slipped them into a bag for easier transport. The women left with big smiles on their faces and, I assume, began their journey home.

As the women left the store and I approached the register, Ashlee greeted me with that same kind smile and an enthusiastic “Hey! How are you today?” My grimace quickly melted into a broad smile. I forgot all about my aggravation as we chatted and she swiftly moved me through the checkout. As I was leaving the store, as I often do, I felt appreciated and valued. Not just as a customer, but as a human being. The same feeling the two women in front of me were likely feeling as they left the store.

When I got to my car and opened the door to get in, I glanced back over my shoulder to the store exit. The elderly lady who had been behind me in line was walking out of the store with a beaming smile, her small bag in hand. I knew the smile that brightened her face was because of Ashlee. In less than 10 minutes, Ashlee had touched the lives of 4 women with her positive, kind, and compassionate nature. She had definitely changed the mood of everyone’s evening. More importantly, she made me realize how frustrated and judgmental I had been toward the 2 women in front of me. I laughed at myself the entire drive home.

I often think of the two women in front of me that day. I wish I had been more patient and kind, perhaps offering them bus fare or a ride home. I am grateful for them. I am grateful for Ashlee. I am grateful for this experience, reminding me the importance of basic kindness and the impact it can have on each person we encounter. Now, when I interact with anyone in line at the store, waiting at the DMV, in the Dr.’s office, etc., I try to remember that no matter how crazy my day may have been, someone is having a struggle that is far worse. A kind smile or gesture just might lift their day a little, just like Ashlee did for me.

Devan is a 40-something single female blogging online as Xsyntrik Nomad (xsyntriknomad.com). Committed to the dream of a simple but adventurous life, she is rarely found in one place for long. Her preferred ‘home’ is a converted van in which she can freely explore every corner of the country, with her two feline companions in tow. Devan is a positive living enthusiast who strives above all else to live a happy, kind, and inspired life. She hopes to motivate others through her writing and by sharing her journey.

(Guest Post) Cows & Boy Scouts

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Thank you to Blaize for allowing me to guest blog for her today.  We met Blaize while camp hosting in Sequoia National Forest this summer.  We (Jeremy & I and our 2 dogs Dakota & Crosby) traveled from Ohio to California and now are staying in Taos New Mexico.  We live in a converted school bus and are enjoying our traveling adventures!  I do not currently have a blog but I do write and the following is something from our stay in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff AZ. We camped there almost 2 weeks and most days we had a huge area all to ourselves…but not this day.

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Tent pitched too close to the author’s bus, viewed through the windshield.

I woke early.  The first up actually.  Don’t gasp!  It happens, regularly even since being on the road. I think I am still operating on Ohio time, or perhaps I’m more in tune out here.  Getting up closer to sunrise, going to bed early…not too long after dark. That, however, is beside the point. As I said I woke early. Usually I have my coffee and sit on our front porch, aka driver seat of the bus, and enjoy my three-sided view of the forest, scanning for wildlife in the growing morning light.  Not this morning.  This morning I have woken to the multitudes of squealing children. “Boy Scouts, why’d it have to be Boy Scouts?” I mutter in the spirit of Indiana Jones. I roll over. It appears we have been invaded by a family troop excursion.  Dozens of tents and pick-up trucks now dot my view. One in particular has set up their tent not 50 ft from the front of our bus.  Seriously? There are acres and acres of open space here.  He has set up closer to our bus than to his own group.  Camping etiquette folks: Give a camper their space!

The group arrived yesterday while we were doing “town” stuff.  I almost wish we had been here when they arrived.  Surely the barking of my dogs would’ve encouraged a respectful distance.  Maybe Crosby will pee on their tent which has so obviously been placed within his territory.  Actually that prospect is pretty likely. The thought makes me smile and consider letting him out and maybe not watching him too close for a minute.  A wave of guilt passes over me and then quickly recedes as a pack of wildings run squealing through our camp.  Boy Scouts always conjure up images of Lord of the Flies for me.  It’s unsettling.  In the woods they are downright frightening.  I’d rather camp next to a pack of wild coyotes than in the midst of a group of Boy Scouts.

Suddenly an angry low of a cow cuts through my thoughts and the melee of the boys.  If you don’t think a cow can sound angry you’ve not spent time around wild forest cows.  Out west cows roam everywhere, especially on National Forest land.  Around any given corner you can encounter a cow standing in the middle of the road.  Many of which have large horns…and attitude.  This one sounded very angry.  Not the gentle moo of a cow contentedly chomping grass, but an almost roar.  Think bear growl crossed with a moo.  This cow was seriously pissed.

Rounds of squealing Boy Scout ruckus followed the bellow, and then more angry moos.  I can visualize the wild pack of boys harassing the cow.  I can hear the cow getting angrier and angrier.  Oh this is going to end badly.  More squealing, more angry moos.  Suddenly a whistle blows long and hard.  Still squealing and angry moos continue.  Another whistle blow and the squealing abates.  Another angry moo or two.  Evidently an adult has finally stepped up to control the situation.  The whistle serving as a sort of code to call in the wildings. A dark side of me is disappointed.  The karma of a cow trampling through their camp seems almost appropriate. There are a few moments of silence and then the ruckus begins again, without angry moos. The cow must have moved on, probably as perturbed by her unexpected visitors as I am.

I pour my coffee and remind myself that the forest belongs to us all. Wildings, cows and buslife hippies alike.

Later that afternoon I breathe a sigh of relief…they are packing up.  Just a one night trip.  We have our peaceful forest back, the cows are pleased.

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The author took the photos in this post.