RV Lessons

Today we said goodbye to Shadow Cruiser, our beloved RV.  We needed money to pay for the book that Adam has been writing (a book that had many pages written while Adam journeyed solo in that big RV) and the sale of our RV was just enough to cover our costs.  In the past 2.5 years, Shadow Cruiser has carried us safely across the country.  Twice.  He has housed us at beaches on the WA and OR coasts, taken us to Crater Lake, Journaling Workshops, given Adam alone time to write his book, and this past summer housed us for 10 days in Glacier National Park while we began the process of reuniting and healing as a family.  We all grieved Shadow Cruiser leaving today.  Many of us with tears of sadness and gratitude because Shadow Cruiser was more than an RV to us.  He was our lifeline for a bit.  Our safe haven.  Our key to adventure.  A reminder that when all things material are lost (jobs, houses, cars, reputations) we are still abundantly rich as long as we have each other.  So in memory of our beloved Ford Jamboree, I am reposting this blog from our first adventures.
Give me an RV and I’ll learn a thing or two (or maybe 10 or 20).
Day one we drove an entire two hours to Phoenix!  In the rain I might add. We decided two hours was a great introduction to the life of RVing and opted to barge in on Uncle Aaron where we all crashed for the night and indulged in the most glorious, long, hot showers.  Yep, just two hours in to the trip and those showers felt like the gods raining down pure bliss upon our bodies.  We awoke in the middle of the night to a true desert monsoon complete with a barrage of lightening, thunder and rain.  A monsoon felt like the perfect sendoff from AZ.  A personal farewell.  One last beauty of a storm to remember our home state by.
On the road again.  For real this time.  And it took practically no time at all for the RV to start giving us rapid life lessons.
On this trip we quickly learned that one person doing his “duty” in the bathroom was enough to make every fly envious of our party on wheels.  One deposit in the mobile toilet led to multiple miles of nose-plugging, fart jokes, and sometimes gagging.  But either we have adjusted to the smell (I am so hoping this is not the case!) or the “stuff” has now settled in to a better position in which it is not privy to tease us with its intoxication any longer.  We quickly adjusted to make sure we could find public toilets for those urgent and necessary bodily functions.  So far so good.

The RV also quickly initiated us in all things mechanical and broken.   Even though our $5500 dollar oldie- but- goodie was checked off as in fantastic shape by our local RV repair shop, much to our dismay we were making large lists of things that must be fixed.  For example our AC in the cab was not working so whenever Adam or myself was driving we had to have the windows down.  Sitting in a sweltering 95+ degree cab would be great for those boxers looking to lose poundage in sweat.  As much as we would’ve liked to down an ice cold beverage our RV took another hefty dump on our privilege to luxury.  The gas would not work which meant all of our food in the fridge/freezer was quickly becoming as warm and soggy as the midwest summer.  It also meant that our stovetop would not work and we were unable to get any hot water.  Being unemployed and having zero income meant sucking it up and finding pain in the ass alternatives to eating out so a quick trip to the gas station and two styrofoam coolers full of ice later we made a desperate attempt to save that necessity we refer to as food.  By day 7 I was near tears dealing with soggy packaging, cooking everything on a campfire or eating it cold, and just completely frustrated with the inability to eat anything other than the few things that sat before me.  In that moment I started realizing just how much my life has changed and how I was simply spoiled prior to this change of course.  By the way, recognizing that I am food spoiled does not mean I WANT to change.  This girl hates to cook, gets cravings, indulges in cravings and enjoys being served yummy perfectness by someone in a uniform who has magical cooks and dishwashing elves somewhere behind closed doors.  Yep, that is one indulgence I’d like to never lose but I guess I’m out to learn something new about myself even if it means sacrificing my favorite luxury.  I’m learning that I’m thankful that I have any food at all.  I have enough calories and energy to sustain all 6 of us and that’s good enough for me.  And besides, those special nights when we do eat in those wonderful establishments called restaurants I find that every bite is mind-numbingly delicious!

As we traveled for the next week I was also to learn that showers are hard to come by (I didn’t shower for 6 whole days!) but when they do come every drop is magical.  So magical that you don’t mind that you are paying a quarter a minute for that magic.  I learned that I could shower head to toe and shave in 5 minutes or if you prefer,  $1.25 worth of water.  I learned that you quickly stop noticing body odor and feet smells and that hairy legs are nothing to fret about.  I started learning that my beauty is far deeper than my surface and mirror image.  I am (we are) beautiful because we have fun in the face of adversity and we see life as one giant adventure and we become masters of our destiny.  We spend our moments seeing, being, laughing, crying, and most of all accepting one another.

Unexpected blip # one million and ten was discovering that everything breaks in an RV of 6 people and a  dog.  Water pipes started leaking, roofs dripped when it rained, fans whirred loudly, metal blinds started falling down, cupboards stopped closing, doors stopped opening, handles didn’t want to turn, panel doors popped open and stayed open, automatic steps decided they were never going back in place, radios flashed blue lights at you all night, , and even though everything once had a place,  a few dirt roads later and bump bump bump they’ve all collided into a chaotic mess.
We also learned that gas is expensive, it’s easy to hit a parked car, and hugging the shoulder gets you pulled over in Kansas.
We quickly got the hang of things making up their own rules of engagement and adjusted accordingly.  We found that it was all laughable and that we were having fun in spite of malfunctions and breakdowns.
The boys named our RV Shadow Cruiser in memory of their beloved wiener dog that died last year.  And cruise we did.
We spent two nights in the Grand Canyon and were absolutely delighted at how easy it was to pull up and find a great camping spot.  We had perfect days, nice cool evenings, clean facilities, and even a shuttle stop right outside the campground that took us up and down the south rim of the Canyon.  On this trip we took our first stab at homeschooling and were happy to find that as we had suspected nature provides the perfect classroom for four eager and rambunctious boys.  Besides taking in all they could about the canyon, geological formations, and wildlife they also spent time earning their ranger badges and drawing artistic impressions of the canyon.  We were definitely off to a near perfect beginning.  There wasn’t a single RV dysfunction that could steal these moments from us.

Adam had this wish of riding all of the rides listed in Bicycling Magazine’s 50 best rides.  One ride in each state.  If you haven’t figured it out yet Adam often dreams bigger than reality.  So his request was to head to Moab, Utah after the Grand Canyon.  As we were driving to Moab I kept looking at pictures of Moab and I repeatedly had this nagging thought, “Geez, it looks really hot in that part of Utah.”  I finally decided it would be wise to look up the weather report and found that it was to be 100 degrees in Moab and kindly requested that we change destinations.  Although bummed Adam agreed that we had had enough of 100 degree temps so we immediately changed direction and headed to Colorado.  With a quick stop at the four corners, the nation’s lamest tourist trap, and with me at the wheel of the RV for the first time we safely arrived somewhere near Durango, CO.  Having arrived really late at night we didn’t have any idea what beauty we would wake up to.  Upon sunrise we were pleasantly surprised to see that we were parked up against a pristine Colorado lake with a nice, cool, breezy morning.  The boys spent the morning hiking around the lake and some of them took advantage of a rare opportunity to skinny dip.  I could look all the way across that lake and see little pale nudies gleaming in that glorious morning sun.  Our goal was to be in Ouray, CO in time for a children’s symphony being put on by the local opera house.  Adam drove the million dollar highway in to Ouray and I held my breath the entire way as it seemed the edge of the mountain was just a small nudge away.  The RV quickly taught us both that we are indeed grown ups and even grown up enough to handle a very large vehicle on crazy tight curves and high speeds.

Colorado was so absolutely perfect that I am without a doubt unable to complain about anything.  We loved our experience so much that we stayed 4 nights enjoying bike rides, hikes, throwing rocks in rivers and lakes, seeing teepees and yurtas, listening to the sounds of an orchestra, sitting in hot springs, and really experiencing a life that is unscheduled and free.
From Colorado we drove and drove and drove some more.  That meant we roasted, we stressed, we ate shitty food, we spent 100s of dollars on gas and learned a few more things about life in an RV.  One important life lesson for me was that I can indeed enjoy living a life that is not planned out.  Every night we drove without a destination in mind.  We let our bodies tell us when it was time to quit driving and then we picked a place to park and sleep.  One night we found ourselves in the middle of Kansas driving the dirt back roads of a wildlife preserve.  We found a spot, pulled over and slept.  And you know what?  It was fun.  It was liberating.  It served its purpose and we all survived!  Phew, I am learning to breathe and stress much less.
Another day or two of RV travels and we arrived at my mom’s house in IL.  Oh, a house, and hot food, and a shower, and a real toilet, and my own bed, and a glorious glorious washing machine.  We landed in a cornucopia of pleasurable things.  All simple.  All expected.  But no longer taken for granted.
Six or seven weeks pass and we decide it is time to hit the road again.  Find an adventure.  Yes, an adventure.  A northwest adventure with stops in Yellowstone, Glacier,Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and even Alaska.  We are so excited.  And then reason whispers in my ear…”gas, Amy.  Gas is so expensive.  This trip is going to be wearing, cold, and costly.  Do more research.”  I had enough sense to listen to reason and started pricing out airline tickets, vacation houses, etc, and sure enough reality knows of what it speaks.  Highs of 35 in Yellowstone.  Yuck.  Glacier mostly closed.  Shame.  Alaska unwise to drive.  Boo/Hiss.  And airline tickets with hotels 200 dollars more than driving for weeks.  Hmmmmmm.
Yes, being a family of reason we abandoned Shadow Cruiser for the easier alternatives of pilot flown jumbo jets and rental houses with maids and fridges.  And, yes, we felt horribly guilty leaving Shadow Cruiser clean and ready to go sitting in a Uhaul storage area.  Oh the shame (and by shame I mean relief).
That was the best decision we have made in awhile.  Thank you, Reason.  Our trip to the Pacific NW landed a job, a house, a school, and a new chapter in life.
2 weeks later Shadow Cruiser trekked us back across the country.  And this time he did it like a pro and so did we.  We have found a peace with one another.  An understanding.  Shadow Cruiser has taught us how to be better in this life.  He has shown us our true colors and has been a vital part of our journey both physically and emotionally.  In turn we have cared for him, fixed him, nurtured him and bargained with him.  He joins us now in Portland, sitting out front of our short term rental driving all the neighbors crazy with his large size and ugly looks but I don’t see the unsightly RV that they do.  I see a vehicle that houses our fears, has heard our tears, our laughter, has propelled us forward, helped us create memories, taught us life lessons, shares our dreams and is itching for another adventure.

Saying Goodbye to everyone and everything we loved in Tucson


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