Sunday, December 11, 2016

Thank You -- Day 411

Often I like to start a blog post with a quote, and I was thinking about using "I get by with a little help from my friends" ~ The Beatles, until I realized that it was about taking drugs and that was NOT the tone that I wanted to set for this particular post, where I'm trying to figure out how to express my gratitude to my community of loving friends and family that have supported us through this rough transitional time. And why are run-on sentences so funny?

But seriously, I owe a tremendous debt that could never be repaid. I reached out for help, and the overwhelming generosity of the people that I am privileged enough to call my friends has humbled me greatly. The outpouring of loving support through words, job offers, places to stay, and obviously cash donations brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

I asked for a miracle and the miracle was you. 

To briefly recap, we spent a month in Hemet, California, trying to find jobs to keep our adventure going. All signs had pointed to this location as being the most logical, in terms of proximity to civilization, affordability, weather, amenities. Everything about our stay was perfect, except for the fact that literally no one was hiring. I had heard things about the job market being tough for the last decade, but it had never affected me in Texas, because the economy of the Lone Star State was really strong, and I was in an industry with high turnover (which means getting hired is super easy.) California is a different animal entirely, and the higher wages for menial labor means that people are more selective in their hiring and turnover is relatively low. When you pay people a living wage, it's a job they'll want to keep for as long as they can. We reached a point where we had to choose between paying rent for a little while longer, hoping that one of the 32 jobs for which I had applied would call me back for an interview, or giving up on California and trying to make it back to Texas. Paying rent again would have meant no money for food, so that was one of those really interesting exercises in Faith. 

I'm reminded of a story that I heard once in church. There was a flood, and a good Christian man found his house filling with water. As the water made the road impassible for his vehicle, a neighbor came by in a big four-wheel drive truck. "Get in, the flood is getting worse," the neighbor shouted. The man replied, "God is going to save me!" And he retreated to the upstairs of the house. As the water rose to his second floor window, a rescue worker came by in a boat.  "Get in, the water is going to continue to rise," called the rescue worker. The man shouted back, "God is going to save me!" and climbed up to the roof. As the water encroached upon the edges of the roof, a helicopter came with a lowered rope. The rescue worker called to the man through a bullhorn, "Climb up! This is our last flight out!" The man yelled back, "God is going to save me!" With a shrug, the rescue worker in the helicopter departed, and the water still rose. The man o the roof drowned and went to Heaven. As he stood before the Throne of God, he asked, "Why hadn't I been saved? Why was I left to die?" God answered him, "I sent a truck, a boat, and a helicopter. What else did you want me to do?"

As I was in Hemet, stressing about what to do, the idea of asking for help kept coming up. I am loathe to request assistance in ANY circumstance, preferring to suffer along in silence, often feeling like whatever struggle I'm going through is deserved. Consequences are the result of actions that we take, decisions that we make, and choices that we select. Everything that happens is for a reason! I'm not suggesting that everything is predetermined; rather, things are post-determined, in the sense that the reason something happened is often due to the actions, decisions, or choices that we make. There are ripples that we see, and many that we don't, that influence our world and the world of those around us. Everything is interconnected, and the ripples of the choices of other folks influence me and my ripples too. When I came to this realization, I knew that the reason I kept thinking of asking for help was to learn that it is OK to ask, and that sometimes when you ask, you will get more than you need. I didn't realize how alone I had been feeling, fighting this fight with only my girls in tow. Our community rose up to support us, and now I know that I'm truly Never Alone, and we are all in this thing together. 

So I extend to you all my heartfelt thanks for giving me back my life, and showing me how deep my roots actually go. Some of you I speak with regularly, others I haven't interacted with individually in a long time. But know this: I love you, you are part of my community, and if you ever need me, I will be there for you.

I am You.
 You are Me.
 We are One.

Friday, November 25, 2016

End of the rope -- Day 394

This is the hardest post that I have ever had to write. I've actually been putting it off for a while, trying to convince myself that I wasn't going to need to write this post. Holding out for a miracle.

Miracles are around us every day, and it is often up to us to figure them out. Sometimes the miracles that occur are so common as to be mistaken as mundane, and only after careful consideration does the miraculous appear. This past year has been one miracle after another! This adventure in an alternative lifestyle has been liberating and educational. I am truly thankful for this experience, and the places that we've seen, the friends that we've met, and the memories that we've created that will stay with us forever.

Sometimes when you're following a path, it will take you in directions that you are not prepared to go. Sometimes you think you know where you're headed, only to come around a blind corner to see a cliff with a dizzying drop-off. Is this a dead end? Of sorts. The beautiful vista that opens before you is worth the hike in. Appreciate the beauty of the experience! Having to go backwards down the path at that point is just logical, and safe.

This is the point that we have reached in our journey. We are at the precipice, we have seen the beauty and the majesty, but now we have to backtrack a bit. We are going to be going back to Texas. We are not looking at this as a failure, merely another chapter in the adventure.

But we are going to need help! Having calculated our budget for the return trip, it turns out that we don't have quite enough cash. The jobs that we were counting on to get us through this winter have all dried up, along with our savings. We are coming to you, our community, to ask for your assistance in this great time of need. I know that Christmas is coming, and you all are going to be stretched a little thinner in celebration, so I'm not asking for much. Whatever you can contribute will be greatly appreciated, and we will be indebted to you forever.

If you have ever wanted to buy us a drink, or dinner, or take us to the movies; if you have ever wanted to buy us birthday gifts or Christmas presents; if you have ever appreciated any help or act of friendship on our behalf and wondered how you could ever repay us? Now is the time. I will accept any gifts or loans to our paypal account Send the Jacksons back to Texas (paypal.me/CheoJackson). We have already made arrangements for a place to stay once we get back, and I have several job prospects there, but all of that is irrelevant if we get stranded in Arizona on our way back. Please help, if you can.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Year One: Everything "IS" -- Day 365

We've done it!

When we embarked on this RV journey, I pledged to do it for a year as an evaluation period. We have reached the end of that commitment! This year has been a learning experience like no other, full of life lessons from the poignant to the peaceful. I have learned how to handle shit both literal and imagined. If I could make a list of the three biggest truths that I have gleaned from all of my experiences in the past year (and with no small contribution from personal experience prior to that) it would be this:

1. Perspective Matters
2. Perception is Reality
3. Everything "IS"

Now, if you read my previous post, I already talked a bit about the first two points, so I'm just going to focus on the last one today.

EVERYTHING "IS"

I do not claim to be a great thinker, or philosopher, and I know that my words, thoughts, and ideas are primarily for my own personal development. I do like to share them here so that you can get to know me better, and so that I can learn a little more about myself through some personal reflection. This blog has also been documenting our family journey in the RV for this past year that we have spent living on the road, and those life experiences shape my personal philosophy.

This has been an amazing year. From the original lesson of what to look for when shopping for an RV to what to do when the brakes go out, all the way to learning how to live more simply and being more flexible. Through all of this, I have come to the realization that nothing is ever just one thing. The confluence of events that lead to each situation are a myriad with a mind boggling level of complexity, and the perfection of the outcome is amazing. Even the situations that are the most terrifying, like the brakes going out during Christmas week, have their Christmas angel resolutions. Throughout our journey, there have been many different explanations offered to us for why things work out the way they do. Some people want to point to God's plan, or fate, or karma -- all of which may be true -- but rather than define, I seek to accept. I don't need to understand everything, or really anything, because that is not necessarily going to change what "is". 

I realize that this is a really simple concept, and perhaps I lack the language mastery needed to communicate this concept effectively. But that also doesn't change what "is" (ha!) I realize this lesson is mostly just for me, and probably won't be earth-shattering to anyone else.  If you stopped reading this already, I wouldn't blame you. Heck, I've halfway tuned myself out at this point. But I'm going to carry on, because I don't feel finished yet.

Ever since I was a little kid, I used to get really frustrated if someone ate my candy. Regardless of whether I purchased it myself, or it was given to me, I felt like I had earned that candy, and I wanted to enjoy it all to myself. As I've grown up, I have become much more understanding and generous, and I will usually share my candy with you (if you ask me nicely.) Sometimes, especially if you have children, your candy may mysteriously go missing. Children, I have learned, are notoriously impulsive and not always the most considerate. Empathy and consideration are things that are learned over time with more interpersonal life experiences. The point that I'm trying to get to is that the candy is now gone. It doesn't matter who, how, or why. None of the answers to that question will make the candy not gone. 

Acceptance. That is one of the greatest lessons that I have learned in this past year. I had to let go of a lot of things, ideas, and preconceived notions about how the universe operates. Once I can do that, and it's an ongoing process at this point, I can understand some of the more important things in life. Instead of focusing on why a particular life event has occurred, I can accept that it "is" and then move on from there. 

Understanding that EVERYTHING "IS" helps me to adjust my PERSPECTIVE, which changes my PERCEPTION and alters my REALITY.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Vacation! -- Day 353



I'm on vacation.

"Perception is reality" and "Perspective matters" are my two favorite things to say. I actually tried to track down the origins of these quotes, and they seem to have just grown out of the distillation of longer quotes and ideas from a bunch of different people. So pretend it was Abraham Lincoln or Ghandi, depending on your own philosophical leanings. It's not like it matters who said it, or whether you believe it. These are the words that I have discovered are the most true for me and my life.

When I say, "I'm on vacation" it creates a new perspective on the current situation in my life. I'm taking the time that I have right now to relax, think, write a little, and spend time with people that I care about. Resting is one of the most important things that a person can do for health and well-being, but we feel like we have to somehow earn the right to rest. This can be a dangerous opinion, because what if you never feel like you've earned it? What if you never feel good enough?

I'm on vacation.

I don't really have a job, right now. At least not in the strictest sense of the "earning income" definition. I have lots of "things that I have to do that I don't want to" and "things that are expected of me to contribute to the well-being of the family unit" but nothing that I'm going to be putting on a resume. These are just part of this grander project called Life.

People get hung up on the semantics of their own personal worldview. I understand where it comes from, because I lived that way for most of my life. The need to define terms becomes important to ensure proper communication, but sometimes we get so bogged down in the minutiae of definitions that we lose sight of the bigger picture, the IDEA that was trying to be communicated. When I say that I don't have a job, the understanding is that I don't have an employer that is paying me for my time and skills. I am not part of the the commerce of this project called Life.

The danger of this particular worldview for me is that everything becomes a transaction. I want to eat, so I need food. In order to get food, I need money. In order to get money, I need a job. Work = eat. I was raised to believe that a person that does not work, should not be allowed to eat because of 2 Thessalonians 3:10. This is a misquote as it actually says a person that is UNWILLING to work, should not be allowed to eat, but as with a lot of popular Bible verses, it has been twisted to punish behavior deemed undesirable by the church. From this we have created the "Puritan work ethic" which is beneficial to an employer, but can create an internal pressure that leads to stress and anxiety in some to make sure that they are always "working." The concept of Rest is lost, gobbled up in the dread of becoming a devil's workshop.

I submit to you that the idea of "working" means different things to different people. We are all doing things on a daily basis that affect our world. The interactions that you have with people, the words that you speak into their lives, the love that you share -- these are all important things that are produced by you, just by you being you. You matter, you're good enough, and the world is a better place with you in it.


How many times have you heard, "If you find something you love to do, you will never work a day in your life" or somesuch? This used to inspire me, because I used to love to do lots of things. I loved sports, and music, and art, and making friends. The older I got, the less likely it was for me to be able to make money doing any of those things, and it was frustrating. Some of the things that I loved to do stopped being fun when they became monetized. The pressure of doing this fun thing became a job, and that sucked the fun out of it.

This left me in a predicament: How am I going to be rich, if I can't make lots of money? How am I ever going to be able to go on a vacation?

The revelation for me was that it's all perspective. I discovered that I didn't really want to be "rich" in the sense of having a lot of money. What I wanted was to be "happy" and there is all the difference. Now, instead of making decisions based on what is going to make me the most money, I look for what is going to make me the most happy. The difference is amazing, and has provided me with more "wealth" than I thought I would ever have. One way that I've heard it put is, "The secret to having it all is realizing that you already do."

And now I'm on vacation.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Delaveaga -- Day 340

Many of you know that I like to disc golf. For me, it's a particularly special sport, because it can be enjoyed simultaneously by people of varying skill levels. It's a chance to walk around outside, talk with your friends, and throw stuff really hard.

One of the cool things that I like to do is find new courses to play. When we lived in Dallas, we used to drive all over the city looking for new disc golf adventures. Now that we're travelling more widely, the opportunities for disc golf are more widespread, but not always easy to make happen. Fezzik is not the best vehicle in which to explore cities, and disc golf courses seem to end up in some pretty interesting, and hard to get to places. Remember Taylor Mountain?

I have compiled a wishlist of courses that I would like to play one day. I haven't updated it much, since we were stationary all summer and I was limited to the practice basket that I bought from Amazon. Now that we're back on the road, I dusted off the bag and got to check off one of the great courses of the USA.

Delaveaga

It's hard to explain the excitement that I felt when I realized that we were going to be in the vicinity of this course. I have learned that often proximity doesn't equal opportunity, and that is just part of being an adult. But this time the stars were aligned, because all of my new friends also happened to like disc golf, and have vehicles that can navigate the treacherous highway 9 through Santa Cruz to get to the park. It's like the universe WANTED me to play Dela. (Dela is what all the cool kids call it.)

The tall trees, and elevation changes made it a truly challenging course. Having all of my friends with me made it a memorable experience, and I wish I had taken a bunch of pictures. I didn't throw as well as I would have liked, being rusty from not practicing enough. But it was still a great time, and one that I will remember forever.
My buddy bought this disc as a souvenir


The moral of the story for me is: sometimes expectations set you up for disappointment. But sometimes the reality, while different from the expectations, will be so much better! I would have loved to play the most amazing round of my life at Dela, but really just being there and sharing it with my friends was the best day of disc golf I've had in a long, long while.

Now I have to find the next course to add to my wishlist, since a spot has opened up.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm from America -- Day 337

We are back on the road, having completed our stay at Redwoods River Resort in Leggett, CA. We don't currently have jobs lined up for the rest of the year, so we've decided that we're on vacation! We met up with our friends that we made this summer in Ukiah to see the City of 10,000 Buddhas, one of the first Chinese Zen Buddhist monasteries in the United States, and one of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western Hemiphere (from Wikipedia).

When we left on Wednesday morning, the sense of adventure was back in full force. Anya had us all up and ready to go by 9:30, and we only stopped briefly for hugs and good byes at the office on our way out. The drive to Ukiah wasn't far, but Fezzik hadn't been on the road in a long while, and we wanted to give him plenty of time to warm up and get stretched out again. He complained a bit on some of the hills, but after the first hour, he was back in traveling form. Pulling into the Redwood Empire Campground (which we visited back in April on our way up) and seeing our friends' rigs already in the parking lot made it feel almost like home.

After getting parked and settled, the very first thing on my mind was: Jack in the Box. I hadn't had a #27 in five months and if you haven't treated yourself to this culinary delicacy, I encourage you to do so. #27 is life.

We weren't going to the City until Thursday, so we spent the afternoon playing golf on the Xbox and then had a pizza delivered. (Because delivery pizza is superior, and that is something else that I hadn't had in five months.) Can you tell that I like food?

I had mentioned that feeling at home is difficult while on the road, but having good friends makes it easier. These folks that I met over the summer are a new part of our extended family, and no matter where the road takes us, we know that we will have our friendship. As our extended family grows, it expands the areas where we can feel comfortable traveling, since we'll have connections all over the place.
Fezzik with our friends' rigs

I wanna be a citizen of the whole USA. When people ask me where I'm from, I don't wanna be labeled, or pigeonholed, or defined by whatever location I tell them. You want to make assumptions about me? I can't control that. You want to know me? You're gonna have to actually talk to me and find out who I am.  There is no box for me to check anymore.

There was a woman here in this campground that saw our Texas tags and asked if we were from Texas. Because I knew that this woman was not actually interested in getting to know me, and we weren't going to spend any more time together than the five minutes of this conversation while I'm hooking up my water line, I said that we were from the Dallas area. She then confessed that she had a niece in Texas, but she doesn't like it there. Thank you, random stranger, I will be sure to let Texas know that it didn't meet with your approval.

We have enjoyed the small town of Ukiah, population 15,871. Seems like a booming metropolis, after the seclusion of our summer retreat. They have a lot of recognizable chain stores, as well as some unique shops and eateries. And then of course there was the City of 10,000 Buddhas. I didn't take any pictures, partly because I was afraid my phone was going to die, and partly because it just didn't feel right. It was a very cool experience, and I love that a place like this exists. It's a whole small town of Buddhism. You could feel the peaceful energy, from the wandering peacocks to the laughing children. I would love to create a place like this one day, only not Buddhist. Just peaceful and friendly, welcoming to all people.

Wouldn't that be a wonderful world in which to live? I feel like it starts with us. Our rig is a peaceful place, and we try to spread that energy wherever we go. As we build our community, eventually we will have a peaceful gathering of folks, a village, a town, a city. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll have a whole peaceful world.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Soul Camp 2016 -- Day 334

BUMP BUMP BADUMP BUMP
BUMP BUMP BADUMP BUMP
BUMP BUMP BADUMP BUMP

I remember a time when electronic music used to drive me batty. Repetitive, and lyrically lacking, I just didn't get the appeal. Combined with the social stigma of the illicit activities and the illegal nature of the underground rave scene, I stayed a good distance away for most of my life. Now, I'm not here to discuss the culture, the community, or the history of electronica, because I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough on the subject, but what I am here to do is share my experience.

As I have grown older, and wiser (though some would like to debate that point) I have learned much about love and acceptance. Everyone has their own path to walk, and what might be right for me is not going to be right for you. One fun part of my life has been finding people that want me to be who I am while enjoying who they are. I like to meet people where they are. I do not want to change them, I want to understand them. I want to accept them, and love them. I believe that if we could all learn compassion, the world would be a much better place.

While we were here in the redwoods this summer, there have been six major weekend events. Three of them were holidays, with all of the family celebrations and camp-style activities included. Two of them were biker events, with deep-throated Harleys, and lots of bearded old guys. The last one was Soul Camp, with the promise of all night parties and very pervasive, thumping bass lines.

The holiday weekends reminded me of the summer camp movies that I enjoyed when I was a kid. This was a little different since whole families were here, but there were lots of campfires and s'mores, volleyball and pool games, and wholesome fun! The biker events were a bit rougher around the edges, with a LOT more beer drinking and very loud, fiddle-laced, deep-fried rock and roll. Walking through the campground at night felt much like being in the bad part of town, and you kinda got the feeling like you would not really want to upset anyone.

Soul Camp was very different. The whole feeling of the place was like a huge egalitarian society from the future. There were no strangers to be found, because every person that you saw greeted you with a smile, a wave, or even a hug. This was the first time that I have felt this accepted and welcomed in any large gathering, and it was amazing. I worked a lot of shifts in the Pub, and got to meet a bunch of the coolest people. After work, walking home in the dark didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable. The bumping of the bass was better than a compass, since the main stage was about twenty yards from my home.  Dancing lights, dancing people, and dancing music were EVERYWHERE.

And so, we danced. A lot. We got as close to the stage as we could, so that the pumping sounds could be felt in our bones, vibrating our hearts and minds. We danced with people that had glow sticks, fuzzy hats, men in broom skirts, people with backpacks, skinny jeans, silk scarves, sunglasses (at night), and no shame. There was something very special about being able to do this among the ancient trees with the stars looking down on us. I think the universe was smiling.

I know I was.

This was the perfect way to wrap up this summer. This was our first workamping experience, and I love that it was so amazing. The relationships that we have built here are so genuine and deep, it is amazing to realize how quickly they were formed. And while I'm by no means a Club Kid, I will forever remember my first Soul Camp.





Saturday, August 27, 2016

My life is AWESOME -- Day 304

"The rarest treasure in life is a true friend." ~ Sensei of Truth

When I was a dorky teenager trying to figure out how the world worked, I met another dorkier teenager that was equally lost. It was a strange time in both of our lives, being the sons of Bible school students, trying to learn about life and girls and sports and balance. Mostly sports and girls. Screw balance when you're fifteen, you know?

Over the years, my friend and I got into all kinds of situations, our parents would probably call "trouble" but when measured against other teenagers from the same era, I seriously question the comparison. (Like the time we VERY SNEAKILY watched "White Men Can't Jump" -- a rated "R" movie, sure to corrupt us to the core!) I won't even mention the fact that this was the summer after we graduated high school, because that would make us sound even less controversial.

Through the years, our friendship has grown and deepened. In the late 90's and early 2000's we worked together at a couple of different places. The most famous was probably Planet Hollywood in Dallas. The stories and adventures continued, even through marriages and kids. Spanning three decades and multiple cross-country moves, we always managed to keep in touch.

Now that we're living in the RV, the idea to visit friends that have moved away is always in the conversation, if the logistics would only cooperate. Sometimes the planets do align, and that happened last week! My friend lives a scant 12-hour drive north of where we're staying for the summer. The timing worked out and the reunion was nothing less than epic.

In celebration, and in line with our history of doing stupid things at the encouragement of one another, we decided to tackle the insurmountable Redwoods River Resort Giant Redwood Ice Cream Challenge.

I have personally built two of these ridiculous monstrosities, and watched 10 people fail at finishing during my time here. Whatever fantasies I may have entertained when first hearing about it were destroyed by watching other "more worthy" contestants get humbled by this mountain of sweets and dairy.

Until my friend came.

Let me be clear: I am an adult. I am a grown man. I have a wife and two children. I have a job and I use that money to pay bills.

"Dude," says my friend, "we should totally do this!"
"Dude," says adult me, "we TOTALLY SHOULD!"

Donning our server shirts from Planet Hollwood, circa 1999, we entered into the contest. We had plans and strategies that we had worked out over the course of the entire preceding day. We had read articles about food contests, and took notes. We weren't just going to beat the challenge, we were going to beat the challenge TOGETHER!

And then they built the sundae.
The distressed look on this child is for my health and safety

The judge (who also happened to be my boss) read us the rules, had us sign the disclaimers, and then set the clock for 45 minutes.
This is the last picture I took

The atmosphere of the gathering crowd was a mixture of excitement and disbelief. The tension was palpable as we prepared for this adventure of a lifetime. And then the the judge said, "Go!"

All strategies and plans flew out the window. I started shoveling this frozen mess into my mouth as quickly as possible. I was making a HUGE mess, with sundae all over my face, in my beard, on my shirt, dripping to the ground. I furiously scooped and swallowed until the warnings of a brain freeze started, and then I remembered the sage tip from Randy Santel at Foodchallenges.com: drink warm water. Refreshed, and saved from a pain worse than death, I plunged back into the morass.  I ate, and ate, and ate.

And ate...

and ATE.

I swear they used some magical portal bowl or somesuch, because I had steadily eaten more than I thought I could and barely made a noticeable dent in the damn lake of frozen dessert in front of me. I knew that I had to hurry because we only had a limited time. Glancing at the clock revealed: I had been eating for 7 minutes.

I thought I was going to die.

My friend was not doing much better. The frantic spoonfuls had been reduced to more thoughtful scooping, trying to dig out the frozen bricks that were once brownies, or candy bars. What once passed as ice cream now looked like a pool of Pepto Bismol past its prime. There was enough ice cream in my beard to make a nice sundae for a small child. And we still had more than 37 minutes left.

The mood of the crowd had shifted from morbid curiosity and excitement, to disappointment bordering on disgust. Parents were whispering explanations to their children: the cautionary tale of the overzealous old guys whose eyes were much bigger than their stomachs. Random strangers were taking pictures to immortalize this gross display of hubris and folly.

"Dude, this isn't going to work," my friend confessed.
"How much longer do you want to keep up the facade?" I asked.

We suffered through another 15 minutes of petulant toying with the spoons before finally declaring the challenge to be over. We rose from the table, the still-full bowls mocking my bleeding tongue. A collective groan from the crowd did nothing to boost our injured egos. Limping home, I swore I'd never want to eat ice cream ever again. Or at least not for a couple of days.

My friend and I now have another story to add to the growing library of Remember That One Time. And I love him deeply for it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

I am Home -- Day 296

Many people have written amazing things about the concept of home. I have discovered a deeper truth to that feeling that has nothing to do with a physical place. Often, we associate home with a location -- "going home" -- but for me, home is more of a feeling, a certain level of familiarity and comfort. Living in an RV, I thought, was going to be awesome, because I was going to be "home" wherever we were parked. But there is a deeper feeling that goes beyond being comfortable with the place where I'm going to sleep.

We've been on the road now for almost 10 months, and during that time, we have modified our space and our needs to make the situation "survivable" but I think we fell short of really "livable" in the terms of creature comforts. Finally staying in one place long enough to really get the feel of "living" in the RV has shown us that while we may still only have 250 sq ft of living space, it can really be fun and comfortable.

Here are some tips that I have gleaned over the last 10 months for making your space more comfortable:

  • An outdoor rug -- We have an 8' x 10' rug that really defines the space right outside our rig as our personal space. I love that I can walk barefoot on it, without worrying about rocks, or thorns. I would list this as a "must have" item for RVing.
  • French press coffee -- If you love coffee, or only like good coffee, I recommend getting a French press. Drip coffee is fine, if that's what you like, but when you really want to feel like someone loves you and that all is right with the world, you should get a French press. Plus, it takes up less counter space than an espresso machine.
  • Get a good mattress topper -- I recommend memory foam of at least four inches in thickness. You spend a lot of time asleep in your bed, you should make that as enjoyable as possible. RV beds are designed with the occasional user in mind. People are willing to put up with a poor sleeping experience when they know they get to go "home" to their bed after camping. This is your home bed, act accordingly. 
  • Put a TV outside -- Most people don't watch TV while they are camping for the weekend. Some people will go for a week-long vacation, and not turn on the TV. I actually don't even really watch much broadcast television, but I do love a movie now and then, and playing video games. Putting a TV outside allows you to enjoy the outdoors, as well as building something awesome in Minecraft.
  • Portable speaker (Bluetooth is a bonus) -- I have two different sizes of speakers that I use outside. One that I carry in my disc golf bag (because my life needs a soundtrack) and one that is larger that we plug the outside TV into. Nobody likes watching a movie with a crappy sound system!
  • Ice Maker -- This is the newest addition to the wellness program. An RV refrigerator is usually pretty small, ours is 6.3 cu ft. Which means I can put a jug of milk OR a jug of orange juice in it, but not BOTH. We've gotten really creative with reusable plastic bottles, repackaging things to get them to fit, but there is no room in the freezer for food AND ice. Most people that are camping for the weekend just buy a 10lb bag and put it in the cooler. You only need a couple of days worth, right? Well, we live here and need ice all day, every day. Enter the ice maker! Looks like a bread machine and produces 1lb of ice every hour. All I'm missing is the umbrellas for the drinks ...
  • Family -- This sounds like a no-brainer, like who goes off on a trip and forgets their family? But this week my very best friend in the whole world came to visit me. You forget how good it can feel to be around someone that loves you and accepts you and KNOWS you. Good times.
When we started this adventure, I was asked what the end goal was. Honestly, I didn't really have one. I was thinking that we would spend at least a year on the road and see where that takes us. Now that we are closing in on the end of the first year, I'm realizing that I haven't even scratched the surface of this whole thing. I feel like I'm actually doing a lot of growing up, and learning about myself. One of the things that I'm learning is that it is pretty nice to pamper yourself in some small but significant ways.

And now I feel more like I'm at home than ever.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I'm still learning -- Day 281

For those of you that look forward to these posts, I thank you and I'm sorry it's been a while. Sometimes writing helps to understand where I'm at and sometimes it helps to bring closure to certain situations as post-processing catharsis, once I understand the lesson. Sometimes I just update on our travel adventure, just as an open letter to everyone that knows me to keep you posted as to what's going on with the Traveling Jacksons. This past month has been so full of so many things that I haven't had the time, patience, wisdom, or opportunity to process them all and then put some words down. I'm still in the middle of something, but I wanted to clear some headspace, so here I am.

July was a super busy month here at the campground, the peak of the summer and lots of activities going on. We celebrated Zoe's birthday with a week-long celebration of daily gifts and a big movie night party in the clubhouse with all the workampers. Three of the other people in our group had birthdays that weekend (no joke, June 29, 30, and July 3rd!) so it was a nice celebration that everyone got to participate in and feel celebrated. Since it was also the 4th of July weekend, there were lots of interesting events and games to keep Zoe occupied, and it was really awesome. Her highlight was the "canoe races" in the resort pool, where they put kids in inflatable rafts without paddles and they raced the length of the pool. I don't think the boy she was up against was expecting the RAW POWER of Zoe in a pool. Y'all, she's a water-sign and fully embraces that.

We also have had more opportunities to make some repairs to Fezzik. He's old, but he's tough. Just needs someone with the knowledge to get the parts that are needed and then put them in correctly. I apparently have to become that guy! The nice thing about the RV community is that a lot of the folks are knowledgeable and helpful, so for a newbie like me, all it takes is the willingness to ask for help. And while I am stubborn, I can still recognize when I'm out of my depth. I have the DIY motivation, but lack the skills. Because Fezzik is an elder statesman in the community, we have suffered and made adjustments as things broke, finding workarounds and looking forward to the day when we have the funds, tools, parts, and expertise to repair what is needed. July was that time!

The first thing that we accomplished was the oven. Most RVers don't even use their oven (because most people camp in warm areas, or for short periods of time, and when is the last time you associated a cake with a campfire?) Ours was "working," but had no numbers on the knob; there was no way to determine the temperature of the oven, which I'm told is important for baking. (I imagine my sister, who is a professionally trained pastry chef, rolling her eyes SO HARD right now.) The fix was simple, just an after-market oven thermometer placed on the baking rack, and a sharpie to mark the points, once the oven reaches temperature. But, when you don't have income, the way you spend money is different -- what you have is all you have until there is more. So if you CAN live without an oven, you figure it out. This restoration added a little bit more of a feeling of home to our mobile lifestyle.

I celebrated with twice baked potatoes

I also baked Zoe's birthday cake, which turned out a bit ... lopsided. Pro tip: Make sure your RV is level if you plan on doing any cake baking.

Not sure if you can tell, but the left side is significantly lower

The next big project was trying to fix the leaky toilet. I wrote an entire post about that (mis)adventure! I did get most everything replaced, and stopped all of the leaking. The outside hose is now new, and there are ZERO leaks in our water system (cue the sound of the crowd cheering!) However, the rear flange bolt (that holds the toilet to the floor) has malfunctioned and I now have a rocking-horse style toilet. Not fun, if you don't know how to use it. Also, the rocking breaks the odor seal, so periodically you have to purge the inside of the rig from the poop air. But we have running water like the civilized folks!

The long list of other things that still need repairing include: the hot water heater, the furnace, the handle to the fridge, and one of the outside storage doors. I have the parts for the handle, so that might happen pretty soon (if I can remember where I put it.) The rest will have to wait until they become "necessary" because we are so adaptable that we just go without at times.  August will begin the "road readiness preparation" as we start thinking about our next stop.

July was an eventful month! There was some workplace drama that I'm not going to get into, mostly because I'm not proud of the way that I handled it. Suffice it to say that I forgot who I am, and allowed that to affect my workplace relationships. We have sorted it all out, and things are back to the status quo. I'm still awesome, and that's all that really matters. Now that we're on the backside of this visit, it's time to stop worrying about what has happened here, and start thinking about where we're going next.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This is not about that -- Day 274

When we first started RVing, we were told that everybody has their special "black tank" story. For those of you that don't know what that is (and I count you among the specially blessed) the "black tank" is where all the water from your toilet goes after you use it. I am not a fan of bathroom humor, so I've never wanted to hear ANYONE's black tank story, nor was I planning to ever share one. I will still be sparing you the less pleasant details, because I'm that kind of guy, but today is going to be about what I've been doing for the last month.

And it involves a toilet, water (clean), and frustration (lots).

The last time that I even mentioned our plumbing system was back during the Grey Water Flood, and things had been pretty pleasant after that lesson. Staying in one spot for as long as we have been makes our maintenance schedule a little different because we don't have to worry about not having the right hookups on the day that we might need it, since we're in a full-service site until October. However, since we have been living full-time in Fezzik for over 9 months (!) we are still putting wear-and-tear on him, and that means that certain things may need to be repaired and/or replaced. So when the carpet in the bathroom started getting wet, it set off all kinds of alarms.

Leaks are particularly dangerous in an RV because if you don't fix them quickly, you have a good chance of losing your flooring, which means that you have a hole in your house. To stop a leak, you must first find the leak. 
Ours looks like the one on the left

Our leak appeared to be coming from the the foot pedal area on the front right side of the unit. There is a nut inside the hole that tightens onto a flange bolt that secures the toilet to the floor. Because we had water near that area, it was a safe assumption that the nut was loose -- so we tightened it. That wasn't the problem, so we had to pull the toilet out, which involved reaching a nut that was located in the back left corner (much more difficult than I make it sound.)

Once out, we discovered that the flange seal was decrepit (probably the original one from 1993) so I replaced that and then put everything back together. Turning the water back on, we discovered that the water line connecting the hose to the toilet was leaking at the connection. 

What started as one problem is now two

Since I was really only working on this problem during my time off, and I had to wait on Amazon deliveries for parts, this one day project stretched into three weeks. Two hoses, three connectors, two rolls of teflon tape, and two cans of flex seal later .... I had decided to just buy a new toilet.

And then I found out that they don't have this model available anymore, but the entire pedal mechanism is replaceable (with included gaskets) so that is the direction we're going this time. I even paid extra for the next-day shipping, so we'll see if that fixes my original problem. The secondary problem, the water line leading to the toilet, has also been fixed today by my neighbors who are much more adept at finding and fixing problems. We reached that critical point where it was determined that new is better than repaired, so the water line is now new and no longer leaks.

During this process, we also created a THIRD water problem, and that was the outside hose that brings the park water to the rig had sprung a leak. This was something that actually was slowly building over time, and reached the point where no amount of tightening was going to fix the problem. I tried new gaskets, teflon tape, and sacrificing a goat, but it looks like that will need to be replaced as well.

One day, we'll have running water indoors like the civilized folks!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Perspective is everything -- Day 239

This past weekend was Father’s Day, and it got me to thinking about some of the more famous quotes that are attributed to my dad (in my world. I’m not saying that all of these are original, created by him, just that he repeated them often enough that I will always think of him as the originator.)

“Arrive alive” and its corollary “Look both ways, live more days.”

When I was in high school, my father was the principal of Christ For the Nations Academy, a tiny private, Christian school in the South Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. CFNA was on the campus of Christ For the Nations Institute, a 2-year evangelical Bible college, and offered Kindergarten through high school education to the children of the students, staff, and faculty of the Institute. Being nestled in between two major highways, with several residential roads going through the campus, there were plenty of opportunities to be hit by careless drivers. My father’s morning announcements almost always included the exhortations to pay attention while walking through the campus and crossing the busy streets.

And then you take a step back, and apply it to your whole life. I redefine “alive” as more than just “having a life” but being full of life! When you show up, bring the party! Or at least as much energy and life-force as you can, so that you can share with others and enhance their experience. Perception is reality, so if you can “look both ways” at your situation, you can realize that there is always another side to the story. I had a friend tell me about accidentally putting a $100 tip in the starbux jar, and she turned it around from “I’m so stupid for doing that” to “I hope that it really made someone’s day.” Dad’s life lessons are deep, y’all.

“You never know what kind of day someone has had” and “Give flowers to the living.”

Following on the change in perspective from looking both ways, my father once explained to me that just because you may have been treated badly by someone in that moment, doesn't mean that their actions had anything to do with you. The guy that cut you off on the freeway? He was trying to get to his daughter's dance recital and was running late. That cashier that wasn’t particularly friendly? Their child was home sick from school, and they are worried about them. Since there is no way for you to know anything about the history behind your chance encounters, it’s much easier to try to make their day brighter. Giving flowers to the living is about honoring people that you see in your daily life with some thoughtful kindness, or even just sincere well-wishing. We will often beautifully eulogize the recently deceased, sometimes when we didn’t even like the person while they were alive. They get a beautiful bouquet of flowers on their grave, but how much better would it be if they got to enjoy the flowers while they could actually smell them?

“Remember these three things: 1. Don’t step on Superman’s cape, 2. Don’t spit in the wind, 3. Don’t pay people to scare you.”

While these have obvious, face value relevance, I think there is still deeper and broader applications. Obviously, if you get the chance to meet Superman, you probably want to stay off his clothes. But you know what’s interesting about Superman? Even the people that interact with him on a daily basis don’t recognize him out of uniform. So you should be kind and respect the personal space of others, no matter who you might think they are. This also includes being kind to yourself, by not spitting in the wind. There are enough people out there that will mistreat you, whether intentionally or not, so be kind to yourself. And don’t reward behavior that is detrimental to your mental health, or pay people to scare you. There are better things that you can find to do with your money, or you can ask me and I’ll help you spend it. :)

“I don’t call you sun because you shine, I call you son because you’re mine.”

This is one of the corniest, and sweetest things that my dad used to say to me. It makes more sense when read aloud, and sounds best in my father’s gravelly voice. The sun is the brightest object in the sky, and to think that I could be confused with that heavenly body is nice. Coupled with the verbal statement of patrimonial claim, regardless of actions either past or future, is nice.

I love my dad, and he loves me, too. Happy Father’s Day, Papa.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How is it already JUNE? -- Day 217

It's June 1st, which means that we have officially been here a month. They say that time flies when you're having fun, so we must be having a LOT of fun. Either that or we're experiencing relative velocity time-dilation, but I think that we would have noticed that.

This job has afforded me lots of time to think, and there have been some really wonderful ideas that have come up while I'm working. Sadly, by the time I get to my computer, most of those ideas are gone. I need to have a stenographer follow me around, or maybe a guy like Kal Penn's character in Van Wilder. Plus, it would be Kal Penn, ya know? How cool that would be!
Kal Penn (from Biography.com)

The biggest lesson from the month of May was ADJUSTMENT. You would think that after so much time, and so many things happening not-exactly-according-to-plan that we would have the whole "roll with the punches" thing down to a science. Well, friends, I'm here to tell you that adjustment is not a science, but more like an art. A martial art. If you aren't learning to "flow like water" you are likely to get your ass kicked by life. It's not malicious; the pounding surf doesn't hate the rocks that it's turning into sand, but pulverize is the name of the game.

Life is really good right now, because we are learning to flow better. Each new challenge is no longer a crisis, just another opportunity to adjust and grow. Being here in the forest is a different kind of living than any we've ever done, and it is an amazing experience. Figuring out the grocery situation has shown us that there are some really wonderful people in the world that love to help out others. Our jobs, while maybe not the most mentally stimulating, are still filled with lots of opportunities to serve others with love.

As Anya and I clean rooms, we are trying to fill each space with love and blessings, both on the people that departed and the people that are coming in. It helps to dispel any negative feelings that may crop up from having to clean up after people that are not your own children, contrary to the evidence left behind. (And to those of you that may travel this summer and stay in a hotel/motel/cabin/resort: your housekeeper will be going through the room with a fine toothed comb. Be courteous with your trash, and leave them a tip. You never know what a huge difference a little appreciation can make in someone's day.)

My favorite part of this job is my co-workers. A group of people from all different backgrounds and ages getting to know each other by hanging out at campfires every night. There are six couples, two that are retirement-age, two that are are our age, and two that are younger than us. The dynamics of the conversations are super interesting to follow, if you can keep up, since there are usually at least three separate conversations going on simultaneously. This is going to be a really fun summer.

Zoe with Dell and Sophia at the campfire

Random fun fact: I met an amazing young lady at the pub on Monday night. She is bicycling down the Pacific coast (Anacortes, Washington to Los Angeles, California.) I was so inspired that I bought her a beer, and then she played Jenga with Zoe. If you get the chance, check out her blog: Bikewridings

Zoe with Michelle of Bikewridings

We're off today, so I will be enjoying some of the fruits of my labors. Since I cleaned and treated the pool yesterday, I figured it would be awesome to actually get in it today. It will be my first, and hopefully not last trip to the pool here, and I'm really looking forward to it. 
Lessons in flowing like water from the water itself?

Last thought: 
"The most profound statements,
 be they political, religious, or philosophical,
 are not spoken,
 but lived. "
~Sensei of Truth~

Monday, May 16, 2016

Snap. Smoooooth. Tuck. -- day 201

Snap. Smoooooth. Tuck.

They say most folk don't end up in the job they went to school for. I say, "What's the point of school, then?" I actually heard one professional teacher explain that school was to help kids learn how to learn.

Learn how to learn? Didn't you come out of the womb not really knowing anything, and have to learn how to eat, talk, walk, and use a toilet? How did you learn to do all of that without going to school? Is there a secret prebirth school that you attend that teaches you how to learn the preliminary skills to learning that a school can only help perfect?

I am not here to knock school. I went to some really great schools in my lifetime, and made some really great friends as a result. I have been exposed to public, private, parochial, homeschool, christian school, and charter school. I've worn uniforms and had dress codes. I've had free dress Fridays, and half day Fridays. I've had field trips to art museums, working farms, and once to night skiing on Mt Hood. My point is: I've seen a lot of different kinds of schools. In all that time, I think the two biggest lessons that school taught me is that people are jerks, and my parents are the best teachers that I've ever met.

Confucius and Marc Anthony are both credited with the idea that if you find something that you love to do, you'll never have to work a day in your life, or some such. And I have to disagree. Sometimes the pressure of doing something that you love for money ends up killing the dream that you had to begin with. I think the secret to being happy is not trying to get someone to pay you to do something you love, but to find something that you love to do and do it for free. Do it with friends, teach other people how to do it. Surround yourself in it, and let it define you. Be what you love, and the work that you have to do to pay for it won't really seem that bad.

Right now, I'm working at a job that some would say is a waste of my talents. But they are missing the point: I am not my job. I am all of the things that I do when I'm not working. The job just allows me to pursue the other things that I want to do in life. I also fold a mean hospital corner.

My parents are wonderful teachers, and one of the greatest lessons that they taught me was to be an awesome parent. So, that's what I'm doing. Teaching my little one to be authentic, and unapologetically herself. Hoping that she continues to love herself regardless of what other people say and do, or what they think of her. Show her that if she shines her light bright enough, she can change the world.

Meanwhile, I will snap, smooth, and tuck.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Adventure Awakens -- Day 189

Today is my third day working, and it's my day off. I mean, I'm not working today, but I'm officially back to work, as of this week.

We arrived Sunday afternoon and got settled into our site. We met a few people from the staff, as well as some long-term campers. Most of the staff has only been here a couple of weeks, and there is a small group of folks that have been here about a year. We really vibe with the crew, and I think we're going to have a marvelous time here for the summer.

All of our preparation, and learning how to RV over the past six months (which really has felt like a year), has brought us to this point. This was a goal line, of sorts. The finish line. Time to relax and enjoy our accomplishment!

Except that we are now working full-time, five days a week, off on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"Out of the flying van into the campfire." ~ Sensei of Truth

This place is truly gorgeous. The sheer enormity of these wooden giants is difficult to capture with pen or lens. Words like "vast" and "giant" get bandied about as to lose all significance. To stand beneath these gentle souls and tilt your head back until your spine protests is like a tiny child looking up at a parent. But the parent is actually 400 feet tall and 1200 years old. Zoe and Anya walked THROUGH the base of one of the trees. Not the commercially hollowed out desecrations, but a genuine giant that had survived many forest fires, one of which opened up a passage at the base of the trunk. I'm pretty sure if Gandalf had THESE Ents on his side, that battle would have gone a bit differently.



Another teacher of great wisdom nearby is the Eel River. Deep enough to enjoy a swim in, but cold enough to make you regret that decision immediately. Lord Eel has deposited a treasure trove of round river rocks, some of which defy classification.



To reach the river from the campground, one must descend the River Trail. A winding 350-yard path that ensures you will carefully consider a return visit, and you will also appreciate the resting benches that are strategically placed along the way.


The walk down persuades you to spend a bit of time with the river, if only because you're dreading the walk back up. Ascending the hill didn't quite take me 127 hours, and I do have all my limbs intact, but I'm pretty sure there is plenty of fodder for an Oscar-worthy film of the man-vs-nature variety. My single-minded plodding was motivated by the realization that there was no food down by the river, and I'll be damned if I'm going to die of starvation because I can't climb a planned hiking trail.



Found out from the staff the next day that there is actually a paved river access road a few feet farther down the river, and they usually drive the 4-wheeler down there. Lazy.


Now that I've survived that ordeal, I'm fairly certain that we can make it through anything, including this summer long hiatus from LTE service (thanks for the memories, Sprint) and the fact that the nearest shopping district is 80 miles away. And it's not that we're getting rid of our phones, we just can't use our unlimited Sprint internet because the nearest coverage is something like 200 miles away. And when I say shopping district, it's where CostCo, Walmart, Winco is. There are grocery stores closer, but they are significantly more expensive. Also worth noting, we have been encouraged to leave our rig here, parked, for the entirety of our stay. There will not be a weekly Fezzik trip to the grocery store. We're relying on our new-found friends and Amazon for our grocery needs. Having said that, if you want to send us a block of cheese, our address is:

Cheo Jackson
75000 Highway 101
Leggett, CA 95585-8910

"Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor." ~ Rumi

Facing these odds, we know that we are going to be ok. Every change requires adjustment, and flexibility is what allows you to bend and not break. Flexibility can be increased by stretching. Stretching is most effective on warm muscles, after exercise. Looks like we're going to be in really great shape!


Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Wrap Up -- Day 185

So here we are on the doorstep of another chapter of our adventure. We're making the transition from constantly moving, to being mostly stationary for the next five months.

And it's nerve wracking.

Before I get into the new adventure, let me first wrap up April.

Viking RV Park in Kingsburg was a welcome oasis of green after so much southern California desert. It's a tiny little park, filled with mostly permanent residents. I don't think we would have found the place, had it not been for Passport America (did I mention the awesome 50% discount? Because if you don't have PA, and you're in a motorhome, you're doing it wrong.) The funny thing about PA parks is that some of them seem to have doubled their rates to account for the discount, but the discounted rates fit our budget and are generally acceptable. This place was very no-frills, and even had pay showers (!) but being surrounded by old green trees put a smile on Anya's face, and that is priceless, my friends.

After Kingsburg, we had some bigger city needs, so we stopped in Fresno. The turtles, Luke and Leia, needed some companionship and exercise, so we picked up minnows and ghost shrimp. We added 20 new creatures to the turtlearium (that's the scientific word for their habitat. Don't bother looking it up, it's way too technical to be on the internet.) Out of the 20, almost half were consumed in the first day, because Nature is a violent place sometimes. Fresno is a rough town, if you're a ghost shrimp.


One of the things that you have to do from time to time is splurge to maintain sanity. I was craving Snuffer's (famous Dallas burger joint) and thought that Fresno might be able to offer something of a local equivalent. There was a Farmerboys® in the parking lot of the PetSmart in Clovis, and Yelp said that it was good. And while it was good, it was no Snuffer's.

The next day we drove to Arena RV Park in Chowchilla, because I really dug the name of the town. It was a quaint little place, and the site we were in was super narrow, I couldn't even get Fezzik's whole body in the lines. But they had wifi, and nice bathrooms, so it was worth the overnight.

This is from Fahrens Park in Merced

While I love to disc golf, the parks are not often designed to accommodate a vehicle as impressive in stature as our dear Fezzik. The fair citizens of Merced, being no different, had a very cool natural boulder barrier to set off the parking lot from the disc golf course. I noticed that there was plenty of room when we arrived, and didn't think that lots of people would be coming out to disc golf in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. When am I going to learn that disc golfers don't adhere to a typical 9 to 5 schedule? Trying to leave the full lot was not fun, and I wish I could say that I pulled it off without incident. Sadly, Fezzik now has a not-so-straight bumper and the roof access ladder is a little broken.

Undeterred, we ventured forth to Fisherman's Bend in Newman, CA. If you ever want to be off the beaten path, this is the place to go. It was a little run down (Anya didn't feel safe leaving the rig) and it totally seemed like the perfect place for a meth lab, so if you're looking for secluded and out of the way living with chickens and goats, I have found the place for you! I didn't take any pictures (for fear that at some point my phone may get taken into evidence), but trust me when I say the place was really green.

Ready to return to civilization, we hit up the Flag City RV park in Lodi. The sad thing about civilization is that it often resembles a parking lot. This place had ALL the amenities: nice bathrooms, laundry, swimming pool, clubhouse, flat paved sites with full hookups. But it was ugly, and the pool was freezing! Also, even with the Passport America discount, it was really expensive.

Would you like to know the remedy for a parking lot camping experience? Disc golf. For us, it was the beautiful and grueling Taylor Mountain course in Santa Rosa. 


"Before disc golfing, we spent the night at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. After getting our butts kicked by the Mountain, we headed off to Alexander Valley," Anya reminded me. It was a really physical course, with lots of elevation changes, and some spectacular vistas.

Alexander Valley RV park was right on the banks of the Russian River.


For me, being in the Alexander Valley was a dream come true. Back when I was first learning to appreciate wine, Alexander Valley Vineyards was my first favorite Cabernet. After three glorious days, we drove up to Ukiah to the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. 

This picture just doesn't do it justice

The energy up in Northern California is so awesome. It just really feels like we belong here. While I do miss the ocean, I am loving being up in the mountains amongst the trees.


Our final week of this stage of the journey was spent at the quaint little Sleepy Hollow RV park in Willits. It is a very cool, if tiny, place with not much by way of amenities. We also got to spend time with some of our new best RV friends that we had met back in December in south Texas. It's one thing to make friends when you stay in one place. It's a bit of a different experience making friends on the road because you never know when your paths will cross again. It was really great to get to spend time with friends that we met 4 months and 2000 miles ago. 

 Some of the local residents came to see us off

And now we're here at the Redwoods River Resort, just off Hwy 101 between Leggett and Piercy, CA. New jobs, new friends, and a new way of life.

Tomorrow starts the new adventure.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Desert is scary and Water is wet -- Day 165

We made it to California! After blazing through Arizona and New Mexico in two weeks, we now have a month to make our way up to Northern California where we'll be spending the summer. This period of constant, rapid change is going to be put on hold for a while, and a new chapter of the adventure will begin.

Our first stop in California was in Needles, just over the border. We wanted a couple of days to charge up our spirits before braving the Mojave, having seen way too many Bugs Bunny cartoons as children. Anya is descended from forest dwellers, and I am of tropical stock -- so the desert is a scary place. We stayed three days at Fender's River Road Resort, right on the Colorado river in Needles. It was the perfect, peaceful respite before undertaking the Fury Road across Tatooine.


"You could not step twice into the same river" ~ Heraclitus

Being so close to the Colorado, I had to go down to it. It was really interesting to me to go down and touch the water. Imagining that this is the same river that had come from the Grand Canyon, and would eventually make its way to the Pacific. Some of it will evaporate and become the rain that feeds the crops that will eventually make their way to my plate. It's weird to think of the interconnectedness of it all. So I had to touch it. It was wet.

Maybe some of the water that I touched will make its way to you. I hope that when it finds you that it's particularly edifying. We are all in this thing together, you know?

I have made a lot of friends on the internet, recently. It it a reminder to me that I am not a rolling island on the highway, but there are real people out there whose lives are affected by my actions. And in turn, they are affecting me. It has been said, "Your vibe will attract your tribe." I think that I have found some of mine, and it feels pretty good.

Refreshed and recharged, we were ready to tackle the desert. Fingers, still wet from the Colorado, firmly grasped the steering wheel. "Let's do this!"

And then it was really uneventful. The desert is not nearly as bleak as we had thought, there were plenty of opportunities to stop for supplies (not that we needed it, since we were prepared to be stranded for a week, you know, just in case.) There was a lot of traffic, and it didn't really even get very hot. I'm sure it was the blessing of the Colorado River that moistened our way.

Our first stop, on the western edge of the desert, was in Newberry Springs. I'm not going to link to the place, because it was honestly one of the worst places that we've ever spent the night. (And that list includes Walmart parking lots.) To add insult to injury, it was also one of the most expensive places that we've ever stayed, so my advice to all travelers crossing the Mojave would be to get as far past the desert as you can, because they know you're coming. Everything near the desert is more expensive, since they are preying on your fears. It definitely worked on us.



Today is also "National Sibling Day" and my brother coincidentally called me. It was pretty cool, since he had no idea. He just hadn't talked to me in a while, and we got to catch up. He had big news: he is getting married, again. I'm super happy for him, because he seems really happy. Lots of things have changed for both of us through the years, so this is an exciting direction in which to see his life go. It seems like the changes in my life have accelerated over the last few years, and moreso over the last few months. But getting a call from my Big Bro reminds me that even though everything is in a constant state of change, there are some things that still remain true.

Water is still wet.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Turns out Jamie O'Neal was wrong -- Day 152



For a long time, I used to tell people that I hated country music. I wore that label like I had earned it! The ability to malign and dismiss an entire genre of music, and by extension those who would listen to it, made me feel strong and smart. The truth is, anytime you “hate” something, you are putting up walls within yourself that prevent you from enjoying the fullness that is this life experience. The longer I’m on this planet, the more I want to open myself up to new experiences!

But back in 2006, I was still hard-headed, hard-hearted, and walking around with a Texas-sized chip on my shoulder. Doing what I could to make ends meet, and feed my newly minted family of three, I was waiting tables at a Texas-themed steakhouse. In Texas. Because Texas is that special. To Texans. And when I was still in training, my trainer told me that there are only two kinds of music in Texas: Country and Western. I grinned and nodded gamely, because I really needed this job.

As I worked there, I discovered a lot of things about myself.
  • I look really good in wranglers
  • There is no way to look cool while wearing a bolo tie
  • Not all of the Spanish that you hear colloquially is repeatable in polite society
  • There are some country music songs that don’t suck

When you’re stuck in a situation where there is piped in music, whether retail, restaurant, or asylum, there will come a time when you feel like you’ve heard every song a million times. You can probably identify every song by the opening three notes, and sing along to every word. (Assuming you have any sanity left.) In this modern age of digital music, the song libraries are often larger, leading to far fewer instances of nervous breakdowns by the wageslaves; however, there is still going to be a lot of repitition. A LOT. Over time, it burrows into your brain and becomes a part of you. Before you know it, you have become a fan.

Jamie O’Neal, I know you will probably never see this, and you will probably think that I totally missed the point of your song, but I wanted to assure you: There actually IS an Arizona. We drove through it, and it only took a week. We didn’t see the Painted Desert, Sedona, or the Grand Canyon, so I can’t personally vouch for those places; however, we did see signs for all of those places.  I can tell you that Flagstaff is beautiful.

After a lot of driving through the desert, Anya was ready to see some trees.



Kaibab National Forest
Posted by Anya Phenix on Wednesday, March 23, 2016



There was also a lot more desert than I was expecting. I don't know how much would have been reasonable to expect, but Arizona definitely exceeded that amount. It was so arid that some of the animals appear to have been turned to stone. Or metal? We did enjoy staying at this place in the Golden Valley.


But the family favorite stop was our last three days in Arizona, where we had a view of Lake Havasu.


We even managed to fit in a little disc golf!


 And so it goes. Arizona exists, I have photographic proof. We have all of April to get to our summer destination, but the finish line is in sight!