Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie
Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tent Rocks, Pueblo Ruins and Cliff Dwellings - October 2006

One of the side trips that a group of us did during the Balloon Fiesta was to Tent Rocks. Eight of us piled into Calicia's motorhome and we made the hour drive from Albuquerque, part of which was on a teeth-rattling, washboard road. It was a great hike, winding our way through the narrow canyon and climbing to the top. The incredible view spread for many miles and the snow-topped Rocky Mountains could be seen in the distance. Some of the crevices we climbed through were pretty narrow, and the rock shapes were so unusual and interesting. I loved this hike.

Tent Rocks Hiking Gang

Tent Rocks

Crevice at Tent Rocks

When the balloon festivities were over, some of the gals decided to caravan to Navajo Lake State Park, where we would camp and take side trips in my car to some of the ruins and cliff dwellings nearby. We set off in our motorhomes, four women, three dogs and one cat, and stayed in touch with our CB radios along the way. We got some interesting looks and thumbs up from truckers who passed us on the highway. I think they were surprised to see all women driving those motorhomes.

Since I'm single, I'm often asked if there are any single men out there fulltiming. From my experience so far, I would have to say very few. Most fulltimers seem to be couples of retirement age, but there are also many women who fulltime on their own. Some are divorced, some are widowed, and some prefer other women, but I've met very few men fulltiming by themselves. That was a surprise to me, since I assumed it was something that men would like to do. Does this mean that women are more adventurous than men? I'm beginning to think so, although I'm sure many men would like to argue this with me. But I didn't decide to do this to meet single men -- I'm just enjoying all of the nice people I've been meeting, whatever their age, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. But I will say one thing: I've met a lot of fun, smart, independent and awesome women. So with three of these awesome women; Tami, Suzanne and Lisa, I made my way to Navajo Lake State Park. This is a very pretty place to camp, with numerous sites overlooking the lake. New Mexico has a great state park system and a great camping deal on their annual pass. From Navajo Lake State Park we took my car to see the pueblo ruins in Aztec and Chaco Canyon, both in New Mexico, and the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, Colorado. These places are excellent examples of the ancient architecture in our country. In America we don't have all of the really old architecture that Europe has, but we do have Native American ruins, and it's interesting to learn about the Native American cultures. No one seems to know why these pueblos and cliff dwellings were abandoned so long ago, which adds to the

The one thing I did not like about New Mexico is all of the stickers -- I'm told they are called goatheads -- that are all over the place. Rylie kept getting them stuck in his paws and I would have to pull them out. Sometimes they got stuck in my fingers in the process. They hurt! Sometimes Rylie would get four or five of them in one paw. I think I should get him some doggie booties. If I could find them in cowboy boot style, I would!

Aztec Ruins

Doorways at Aztec

Chaco Canyon Kiva

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, Colorado

Rylie's Notes:

The "stickers" as The Staff calls them, are actually called puncturevine. Tribulus terrestris L. to you border collies. They are quite uncomfortable, and did cast a shadow on the joy of my daily walks. As for wearing dog booties, I would rather be stuck in a cage with cats all day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fulltiming Officially Begins with Balloon Fiesta - October 2006

Two days after returning from Italy it was time to hit the road again. I had planned to attend the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a group of other Lazy Daze owners. I took five days to drive down there so that I wouldn't have to drive more than three hundred miles per day. After driving to Minnesota in such a hurry, I knew I didn't want to be driving more than that. It was just too tiring and left no time to enjoy the scenery. This trip would be a little more leisurely.

As it turned out, it was a little more leisurely than I planned. Somehow I ended up going the wrong direction on a toll road, and there was no way to get off. When I realized the error and finally came to an exit so that I could turn around, I had traveled twenty miles in the wrong direction. Not only that, but I had to pay for it. I had not been planning on taking the toll road, so did not have the required change on hand. I dumped every coin I could find into the slot and traveled twenty miles back the other way. There I was faced with another request for coins. I noticed someone else sailing through without paying, so I did a Thelma and Louise -- I stepped on the gas and hoped I wouldn't be arrested. I watched the rearview mirror for awhile, but saw no flashing lights, so I guess I escaped the law that time.

Unless you've driven an RV, you might not realize that many of the gas stations out there can't accommodate a rig the size of mine. Sure I can pull into them, but the problem comes when I try to leave. Once I had to wait until another car left the gas station so that I could maneuver my way out, and another time I had to ask someone if they would mind moving their vehicle, since I couldn't back up without unhooking the car. Thank God for The Next Exit. That's the book that tells you every business that is located at each exit on the interstate highways, and they also indicate which ones are RV friendly. That book is my new bible. I can plan my fill-ups at the exits that have RV friendly gas stations.

After five days of driving I pulled into the balloon fiesta parking lot and found my new Lazy Daze friends. I would spend the next nine days there and get to know some of my fellow Lazy Dazers. Tami I had met at Life on Wheels, and she had been a huge help in getting me started. I had called her several times with questions, and she was always willing to advise and was very patient. Thanks Tami!

We had many, many potlucks with the group, and did side trips here and there when there weren't any balloon fiesta events happening. This is a fantastic event! They have a lot of different balloon events going on besides the mass ascensions every morning. They have target games for the balloons; a glowdeo, where they light up the balloons in the evening; special shapes balloon ascensions; plus music, food, and lots of other stuff to look at, buy and do. Many mornings we just stepped outside of our motorhomes and saw hundreds of hot air balloons floating overhead. Sometimes I just laid in bed, opened my shades and watched the balloons from bed. It's hard not to take a million pictures of balloons, but at some point you realize enough is enough.

I think Rylie was upset at the balloon fiesta. He did something he has never done before -- he peed on my shoe. I was going to take him for a walk but stopped to talk to some of the folks in the group who were standing around, some of them with dogs. I don't know what made him do such a thing -- I was appalled.

Rylie's Notes:

I don't see what all of the fuss is over these balloons. The propane burners are noisy, and the balloons can't be sniffed, chased or herded. Everyone just wants to stand around looking at them. To top it off, I've got three great danes on one side of me, three big poodles on the other, and a nine-month-old puppy that wants to jump in my face. I don't like puppies jumping in my face, especially when they are bigger than me. The only bright spot is Mona
, the cute little beagle mix. So what if she's fifteen years old, I like older dames.

Balloons Over RVs

Balloon Target Game

Balloon Bees

Train and Witch Balloons

Balloon Glowdeo

Me in Balloon

Italy - September 2006

Nancy at the Colosseum

There is so much that I could write about Italy. It was an amazing trip, and I had such a wonderful time. I went on a fourteen day tour with Globus that started and ended in Rome. We also stayed in Florence, Venice, Assisi, Sorrento, and in the Italian Lakes area on Lake Maggiore (not in that order). We also saw Pompeii, Milan, Verona, Pisa, Capri, Montecassini, and Lugano, Switzerland. It was a pretty fast pace and not a restful trip, but who wants to sleep when you're in Italy??? Renata, our Globus tour guide, was very good, extremely helpful, and strict about being on time for the bus. (Yes, Nancy and I got in trouble right off the bat on that one.) Everyone in the group was so nice. We didn't have one stinker in the bunch, and that's unusual for a group of forty people. There was a bit of a hitch for my friend Nancy in the beginning because her luggage was lost for four days, but she recovered quickly and we had a great time anyway. Each place we visited seemed better than the last, and I wanted more time everywhere we went.

People have asked which place was my favorite, and I guess I would have to say Florence, although each place had something wonderful to offer. The art and architecture in Florence was just mind-boggling, and it's such a beautiful city. I would definitely go to Italy again, although next time I probably won't do a tour, so that I can spend more time in the places that I choose to explore more. I'm glad that I did a tour for my first trip to Italy, though. It made things so much easier. Next time I would like to see the Amalfi coast, spend more time in Florence and maybe Rome, and see Sicily. I felt really comfortable in Italy, and thought that the people were more friendly than the people in France. I liked the food better too!

Bridge in Florence


The Grand Canal in Venice

Gondola Ride in Venice

Lugano, Switzerland


St. Francis Basilica in Assisi

The View from Capri

Finally, Minnesota! - August/September 2006

After what seemed like weeks of freeway driving but was in reality only a handful of days, we arrived in Minnesota. First we had to make a brief stop in South Dakota to get my driver's license and register my vehicles. (Many fulltimers make South Dakota their state of domicile because it is financially advantageous. It saved me a bundle in sales tax on the motorhome!) We had to make another brief stop at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Cammie's only request, other than visiting with family. We screamed through the latest roller coaster in the amusement park (Timberland Twister - it was fun!) and bought Cammie some much-needed clothes. Then we hurried up to Duluth and parked the Green Monster in my parents' driveway. We made it!

Cammie only had a few days of vacation left before she had to fly back to San Francisco to return to work and school, so we packed in as much family time as we could, and fun was had by all. Duluth is such a pretty area with hills of green surrounding the huge expanse of Lake Superior, and summer is a great time to visit. I had not been back to Minnesota for five or six years, and it had changed a lot since I had last visited.

Cammie with her Grandparents

All too soon we were saying goodbye to Cammie at the airport, but I comforted myself somewhat with the knowledge that I would be visiting her in the Bay Area at Christmas time. It was still tough saying goodbye, though. I was not ready to let her go. After she left I spent a couple of weeks visiting with more family and friends until it was time for me to go to Italy. Not only was I so fortunate to buy my motorhome and travel the country, but I had long ago planned a trip to Italy with my friend Nancy. There was no way I would allow my motorhome travel plans to change that. My parents are so great, they agreed to take care of Rylie and the motorhome while I was gone. Thanks Mom and Dad! I kept my fingers crossed that Rylie -- His Royal Highness, as my Mom called him -- would behave himself while I was gone. As it turned out he was very good, and he and my Mom became good pals while I was gone. He even made sure she got to bed on time.

Rylie's Notes:

When The Staff told me that I would need to take care of The Temporary Staff while she was gone, I knew I had it made. The Temporary Staff was looking for loopholes in my feeding instructions, because she wanted to feed me more treats almost as much as I wanted to eat them. I got the royal treatment, and all I had to do was let The Temporary Staff know when it was bedtime. Every evening at around 11:00 p.m. I would leave my warm spot on the bed to go fetch The Temporary Staff from the chair where she was watching TV or had fallen asleep. Then she would come to bed and my duties were done for the day. Quite an easy gig! Once The Temporary Staff was asleep, I slipped out to visit the yellow lab down the street. I like dames with long legs.

Dumping Tanks, Filling Tires - August 2006

Sleeping Beauties (Cammie and Rylie)

Sooner or later, those holding tanks had to be emptied. I was hoping for later rather than sooner, but with two of us taking showers and using that tiny bathroom, it came sooner. I approached this task like someone who had to diffuse a bomb. My greatest fear was that I would do something wrong and have an explosion of dreadfulness. I read and re-read the instructions in the manual on how to empty the blackwater tank, the one the toilet empties into. I had never done this before, nor had I ever observed anyone else doing it. If there was one area of motorhome maintenance where I did NOT want to have a mistake, this was it. I donned my rubber gloves, wishing I had a rubber suit and face mask, just in case. Maybe a respirator too.

But my fears turned out to be unfounded. Together, Cammie and I managed to get the sewer hose hooked up, the blackwater tank emptied, filled with water, and emptied again. Then we emptied the gray water tank, the one the shower and sinks empty into, rinsed everything off and stowed away the hose. The bomb had been diffused and I had not needed a rubber suit after all. Another big sigh of relief. It did take us three times as long to do it as it would take a seasoned RVer, but hopefully I'll get faster. It will be a long time before I'm comfortable with that task and can do it without being on hyper alert, though.

I knew from my research how important it was to check my tire pressure regularly, and always make sure they have the proper amount of air. This seemed like it would be simple. Put on the tire pressure gauge, note the pressure, and fill with air as needed. Well, it's not quite that simple. Sometimes the tire pressure gauge doesn't want to go on the tire stem without letting out a whole bunch of air first. It is especially difficult with those rear dual tires, in spite of the fact that the Lazy Daze factory had installed metal tire stem extensions. They still aren't really long enough, in my opinion. I've had other people try to check the tire pressure on those duals and they have had a difficult time too -- even someone at the Lazy Daze factory. Anyway, all of that checking of tire pressures was letting air out, and soon the tires needed to have some air added. Thank God for Cammie. Not only is she an excellent navigator, but she was able to somehow get the air hose underneath the motorhome to the other side and get air in the tires. I was so glad that she was with me on that initial journey. She was such a help to me, and provided moral support too. Thanks Cammie!

Rylie's Notes:

If they would just go in the bushes like I do, they wouldn't have to worry about emptying tanks. But then, The Staff is always following around behind me with a plastic bag. She must enjoy cleaning up that stuff.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tow Bars and Climbing the Rocky Mountains - August 2006

The Rig

The morning after taking possession of the Green Monster I drove to the Las Vegas airport (in the car, thank God) and picked up my 21-year-old daughter, Cammie. We returned to the RV park to install the tow bar, hook up the car and drive to Minnesota. It sounded easy enough. The tow bar base plate (Blue Ox) and supplemental braking system (SMI) had been installed on the car about a week previously, but the Roadmaster tow bar couldn't be installed until I got the motorhome. That meant the installer couldn't do it, it was up to me and Cammie.

Cammie and I managed to get the tow bar installed on the motorhome with only one attempt by the tow bar to eat Cammie's finger. Then we went to attach the safety cables and encountered a real problem. They wouldn't reach the motorhome. Had we done everything correctly? We re-read the instructions and checked our work. We had done everything correctly. No one had mentioned the possibility that the safety cables might not be long enough. The nearest Camping World was nearly a half hour away, but after calling to determine what to do and finding that they had cable extensions in stock, we made the trip and bought the extensions. According to the guy at Camping World, this is a pretty common problem. That would have been handy to know when I purchased the tow bar package!

By the time we installed the extensions and hooked up the car, it was around 2:00 p.m. I was faced with getting onto the freeway with this gi-normous rig. I think I gave new meaning to the term "defensive driving." Every time a semi truck passed or the wind pushed me back and forth I clenched my teeth, gripped the wheel and clung for dear life. After about two hundred miles I was so exhausted from the stress of handling that monster that we stopped for the night. I decided only campgrounds with pull through campsites were happening on this trip. After running the freeway gauntlet every day, I was not about to worry about unhooking the car and backing into a parking spot every evening. This turned out to be a smart decision, since it turned out that we always got to our campgrounds after dark, and sometimes not until 10:30 p.m. There would not be any sightseeing on this trip, because we needed to get Cammie to see her grandparents in Minnesota before her vacation time ran out. I gazed longingly at the signs for the national parks in Utah and Colorado as we blazed past, and comforted myself with the knowledge that I would be coming back to see the sights soon.

Each day, in spite of our good intentions, we got a late start. It seemed to take a long time to prepare for blast-off, since I was still getting used to operating this complicated contraption. Not only was I learning how to drive the monster, but I was learning how to fill and dump tanks, check monitors, check tire pressures -- and there are a lot of tires! --and everything else that needed to be done. With a motorhome there is always something that needs to be filled, emptied, monitored, or maintained.

By the time we got to Colorado I was starting to feel a little more comfortable behind the wheel. Then we hit the Rocky Mountains. Climbing nearly 11,000 feet to Vail Pass was a sloooow process. Even with the tow/haul feature on and the gas pedal to the floor, I couldn't get more than 40 mph at times. I got to know my flashers quite well. But as I would soon find out, going up the mountain was the easy part. What goes up must come down, and bringing approximately 17,000 pounds down a steep, winding road gave me all of the amusement park ride I would need. I breathed a sigh of relief when the rocky mountains were behind us.

Rylie's Notes:

If my legs were long enough to reach the pedals, I could drive this rig, no problem. I wouldn't keep hitting those noisy strips along the sides of the road like SOME people kept doing. Heck, if my kind can round up a flock of sheep with just a look, just imagine what we could do on a freeway.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Maiden Voyage - August 2006

There was a mad scramble to dispose of all of my possessions and get moved out of the house in time. I had planned to leave at around 11:00 a.m. on a day in late August to drive down to the Los Angeles area, where I would have the walk through on my motorhome and then meet the ICC (interstate common carrier) driver who would transport my motorhome over the state line, where I would take possession of it in Nevada. From there I would pick up my daughter at the Las Vegas airport and we would drive to Minnesota to spend some time with my parents and other family members. On the way we would stop in South Dakota to register the motorhome and car, get my driver's license, and meet the folks at Alternative Resources, my mail forwarding service.

I ran into a few wrinkles in the plan. First of all, the closing date of my home sale was delayed a couple of days due to the buyer's mortgage company, so I had to reschedule my motorhome walk through and ICC driver. That actually turned out to be a blessing, since there was no way I would have been able to move out two days earlier. I had way too much to do!

I didn't leave for LA until 7:30 p.m., and didn't arrive at the hotel until around 3:00 a.m. It didn't help that I missed the I-10 turnoff. What can I say? It was late, and I was tired. Too bad Rylie can't navigate. The poor guy was crossing his legs and doing the potty dance by the time we could make a pit stop in a safe area.

The motorhome walk through and trip to Nevada came off without a hitch. There I was left with an enormous motorhome to drive, and we're not even talking about the car I would be towing behind it. Perhaps this is where I should mention that I had never camped in a motorhome, nor driven one, with the exception of two short test drives. I also had never driven a large truck, van or towed a trailer. All of my camping had been tent camping or in a tent trailer many years ago as a child. Although I had attended Life on Wheels in Tucson and taken the motorhome driving class, it was not a behind-the-wheel class. So I was about as green as you can get when it comes to motorhomes. Sure I had read lots of books and done lots of research, but it still doesn't prepare you for getting behind the wheel of that gigantic vehicle. I had tried to schedule a behind-the-wheel lesson with Dick Reed's RV Driving School, but the instructor had to cancel due to a medical appointment and there was no one else available. So there was no tiptoeing into the water for me, I had to dive right in.

My first trip was about 100 feet, from the registration parking lot where the ICC driver had parked, to my campsite at the RV park. I managed to do that without crashing into anything, and breathed a sigh of relief. Okay, so it was a pull-through site, but it was still a bit nerve-wracking for me. After unpacking some boxes and getting settled into the motorhome a bit, I realized that I had to go to the gas station. The tank was screaming empty. Those ICC drivers know how to put just enough gas in the tank to get to the drop off spot, and not a dollar more. I inquired where the closest gas station was, took a deep breath, and hit the road. To anyone who was following behind me that day, I apologize. I might have been going five miles per hour.

I managed to maneuver that monster next to a gas pump without my super dooper tail swing knocking anything over. After what seemed like an eternity, the gas pump stopped and my eyes nearly popped at the $75.00 price tag. I had never come anywhere close to putting $75.00 worth of gas into a gas tank before! "Welcome to life on the road," I thought. What was even more distressing, when I started the engine, I saw that I didn't even have a full tank of gas! The pump apparently had a $75.00 maximum. Being new to the world of big bucks gas pumping, I figured I had to go to another gas station to fill the tank. So I lumbered down the road at the terrifying rate of about twenty miles per hour to the next gas station. There I was able to fill up the tank and carefully make my way back to the RV campground. Once I got that baby parked once again I flopped onto my sofa to recover from this exhausting venture. I had no idea what was in store for me! After awhile I was able to resume unpacking the boxes and stowing things away in all of those tiny cupboards. It would be a long time before I would be able to find anything without at least a half hour search. I still haven't found Rylie's dog bed. I guess I'll have to get a new one.

Rylie's Notes:

The Staff thinks I can't navigate? Not only can I read maps, but I could navigate a sailboat by the stars. She's just too dense to get the information when I communicate it. Oh, and I lost the dog bed in a poker game at the hotel with a rottweiler, a dachshund and a poodle. No worries, I'll be sleeping on the Staff's bed before the week's end. All I have to do is give her the puppy dog face and she'll cave.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How I Got Here

People say that life begins at forty. For me, life began at 45. That's when I really started to feel alive, because I left the ratrace and followed my dreams. People often ask me what made me decide to change my lifestyle so drastically. I was tired of commuting almost 2-1/2 hours a day for a job that really held no challenge or meaning for me, and offered virtually no chance for advancement. I did this to support a house that I had very little time to enjoy. I had been fortunate enough to buy a home in the San Francisco Bay Area that had risen in value quite a bit, but I found that I was spending what little free time I had caring for my house and yard, with little time to pursue the things that I loved, like travel, writing, meeting people and having FUN.

For years I had dreamed of traveling the country in an RV so that I could really see and experience all of the amazing things this beautiful country has to offer. I also wanted lots of time to write, something I had enjoyed since I was in high school. One day it dawned on me that if I sold my house, I could pursue both of these dreams, at least for awhile. So I sold my house and most of my possessions, quite my job, bought a 30 foot Lazy Daze motorhome, hooked up my car to the tow bar, tossed Rylie in the passenger's seat, and hit the road. Yeeeeeehaw!!!

Rylie's Notes:

The Staff is going to need a lot of help to manage that big rig on the road. I'm bored with chasing squirrels in the back yard anyway. They're so predictable, always using the same routine. Orange tree, roof, fence. Orange tree, roof, fence. I need a new challenge.

Welcome To My Adventure

This blog was created so that my family and friends could follow along with my travels, but anyone who is curious about the travels of a single woman and her smartie pants border collie mix can read along. My name is Heidi (the Staff), and my sidekick is Rylie. We have been officially fulltiming (living fulltime) in my 30 foot motorhome since October 1, 2006. I discovered that many people have the same dream that I had, and would like to be traveling the country in their own RV, so maybe reading about my experiences will be of some help. Since Rylie is half of this team, I thought it was only fair to give him his own section on this blog to post his impressions.

Rylie's Notes:

What's with this photo? Half of my face is cut off! We need a new photographer.