Tuesday, November 29, 2016

RV Travel Life - The First Few Weeks

A travel update seems appropriate since we've been on the road a few weeks now.

Things that have happened while traveling thus far: 

1) Our windshield wipers stopped working while we were driving down the highway in the rain. (This had happened previously in the rain in the dark and we paid someone to fix them. But.)

2) The lower part of our passenger side mirror flew off on the highway. In a 40' RV you REALLY rely on the mirrors to drive.

3) We discovered our radiator hose was cracked and paid a guy to fix it. (Thank the goddess there are lots of traveling RV repair people, and the RV parks usually have a relationship with someone they can recommend. Also, our radiator needs replacing. So that's going to be fun to pay for. 

4) When pulling into the RV park a kiddo was asking us to blow the horn. We tried and discovered it didn't work. Something to do with the same issue as the wipers, perhaps? 

5) I-5 between Vacaville and Watsonville, CA is so jacked and raggedy that our curtain rod literally bounced out of its holder and fell onto the floor while we were driving. Several other things bounced out of place as well. We must have gotten spoiled by those smooth Oregon highways?

6) I had a strep flare-up while in our first park, which we liked so much it wasn't the worst place to be. I called upon my intuitive practitioner, Carolyn, who works with Anthony, the Medical Medium, and she had me up my sovereign silver, zinc, Vitamin C, lysine and drink copious amounts of honey lemon ginger tea, and it knocked it right out. 


Things that have been a delightful surprise thus far: 


Right now we've been driving through California during their off season for camping. This means it's been delightfully easy to find accommodations for us - well, as easy as researching on the internet (using rvparkreviews.com) where the decent places are, then booking, usually via the internet but sometimes via phone. 

The parks have also been accommodating about receiving packages and us changing our dates. In Weed, CA, we just got there too late to get any decent weather. It was cold, and we have not winterized our RV for cold. We were planning on staying a week, then maybe 4 days, and once we were there we left after a night - it was just way too cold for us to be comfortable, even with the extra space heater the office mamager lent us. We ended up paying for two nights, but because of their written policies it could have been for the whole week we'd have had to pay. Off season plus kind humans made that compromise, which we felt was fair and reasonable. 

We've gotten a Good Sam discount at every park we've stayed in thus far. Except the KOAs, which give a KOA discount. Both memberships pay for themselves after about 3 mights camping. Worth it. We do know about Thousand Trails, but we're  not sure we want to make that investment yet, and I haven't really seen TT parks in many of the locations we've been in. And when I have, the ratings on rvparkreviews.com are usually pretty low. 

The campground we're in now is a KOA and they have been most accommodating. Firstly, off season means we have everything to ourselves pretty much. For the first day or two there were a couple of other families here with us, but they've gone now and we own this place. There are long-term renters here somewhere, but they're nowhere close to us since we're in the playground area - and this park is huge. I'm sure we'll get more folks come the weekend, but right now it's ours.

They've been great at notifying us about everything. Off season also means maintenance, so they're doing something with the water that they told us about in advence so we wouldn't be showering or something when they had the water off and on. They are spraying for weeds (gah, don't get me started) and notified us of that. I'm highly allergic to most chemicals as you might know, so my husband called the ofice to see if maybe they could leave off spraying anywhere near us until after we leave. They spoke with the manager/owner and got back to us and said no problem, they won't spray near our site and the sites around it. While we can't ask them to not spray the park, we feel this is a reasonable compromise. And we'll be gone tomorrow when they do it, the RV will be locked up tight, and Muffins will go to her first doggie daycare. 


Speaking of Muffins, she is LOVING the life of a travel dog. She LOVES exploring each new stop, and it's gotten to the point where once she realizes we're stopping somewhere, even at a rest stop, during travel, she cannot WAIT to get out of the vehicle and go explore. She is in her element. She is loving all of the sand at this one - so many places to dig! And almost every park we've been in have had a dog run - a fenced area where she can go off leash and sniff all of the other dog scents that have been before her.

The kiddo has been loving almost having the park to ourselves. There might be one or two other kids at times, but that's a doable number for him - less intimidating and anxiety-producing. And right now staying someplace for a couple of weeks is nice for all of us. We can just relax a little bit, get some groceries, do some maintenance on the RV, get some things fixed, do some rearranging of the under storage areas, and get out the holiday decorations. And in between those things, we'll go see some really cool stuff, and I'll tell you about that another day. But right now we're feeling pretty good about this travel life, and are looking forward to more adventures to come!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon

I didn't take this photo, but the one I took of the entrance
was blurry, so I'm borrowing this one from the internet. 
One of the places I'd heard great things about and that we wanted to see for ourselves was right on our way down I5 in Winston, Oregon - Wildlife Safari. There are probably a million photos of it online that are better than ours, and more professional, but these are ours - proving we were actually there. So bear with me - haha - bear! The only animal we didn't see, because it was hibernation season.

When you drive into the Wildlife Safari, first you drive down a narrow and winding road - there is enough room for cars to go both ways, but we got there early enough that we didn't drive by anyone leaving as we drove in. You drive through a lovely forested area for about a mile maybe, down down down into the area where there is parking, a gift shop, smaller snimals in smaller enclosures, and a walk-through area. You drive up to the window where a super friendly employee of the park tells you all the rules: 


1) Drive slow, not more than 10 mph (we did more like 5, as did everyone else there)
2) It's fine to have your windows down as you drive through, but if an animal approaches the car, roll your window up
3) DON'T FEED THE ANIMALS
4) Stay at least 4 car lengths away from the Rhino
5) You can drive through twice as long as you reach this window again by 4 PM (it was like 11 AM at the time). 

That's what I remember. They also give you a sheet that tells you what animals are in what areas, so you understand who you're looking at. When you drive in, there are arrows that point the direction, but they're not always perfectly clear, and at slightly unclear points there are also rangers in towers who kindly point the way for you (and are probably also making sure that people do NOT get out of the car, because sadly, not everyone listens to the rules ("But the Lions are behind fences! How else am I going to get the best photo?)


The variety of wildlife throughout the park - it really was consistent with animals one might see on a safari in Africa - all of the animals except the one Asian elephant I think - were really from Africa. And they seemed to do a good job taking care of them and keeping them safe - everyone looked fed and happy, and with the exception of the overly curious ostrich, none of them seemed more than bemusedly disinterested in the cars driving through.

The Rhino, to our relief, was WAY at the top of the hill when we came through, so we were much more than 4 car lengths away from him. Apparently Rhinos like to climb. Who knew?



Wildlife Safari also has what I think I remember to be one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the country. Apparently it is SUPER difficult to get cheetahs to breed in captivity, but when we were there, we saw a proud (and slightly irritated/protective) cheetah Mama and she had FIVE adorable fluff ball cubs. I'd call that successful! I do NOT think she was enjoying her babies being on display so openly though, considering how far back into the woods they go to breed. Mama was pacing like she really wanted to take the cubs back to the protected area, not be so vulnerable here where the humans drive by.

Make no mistake, the cars get nowhere near where the cheetahs are - but it's still through a chain link fence rather than being hidden in the forest as it should be. But you know, I get it, considering it's a huge place to support, and I'm pretty sure baby cheetahs are a pretty big draw for the public - I mean there was so much cooing in our car that you'd have thought a cute bomb exploded in it. It did, in the form of our eyes taking in the sight of 5 baby cheetahs rolling all over each other playing and hunting each other. 

SO. CRAZY. ADORABLE. 

And all of the animals are ones one doesn't just see any old where in North America, that's for sure. Zoos, some of them. Others we'd never seen before in real life. The whole experience was amazing for us. When we first drove in, after the lions, we came upon the giraffes. I've never been that close to a giraffe - you can really see the evolution from the dinosaurs when you're that close. At one point I thought this guy was going to sit on our car, but he just walked  by the front - so close!

I was so blown away. 


At all of the animal areas they had little huts like ths one, full of hay and whatever else they ate. 

Sorry for all the spots - it was raining off and on and there were water droplets on the windows, which as you remember, we were instructed to leave up if the animals walked up - which the male giraffe had.

Some of the other animals we got to see:






The zebras - my people. They hold a special place in my heart. 



These. I think they're elk?



The smiling llama. He was just chillin' by the side of the road. 


The lovely emu.


The hippos. Again, you can see the dinosaur origins. So amazing. 


Two African elephants and an Asian elephant. I'm not sure about their space, like is it back behind this building? All of the other animals had ample space to roam, so it's difficult to imagine that the elephants remain in such a small area, but it was so far back and you cannot leave the car, so there was no way to tell from where we were. 


White deer that I am forgetting the name of. 



My favorites of the big cats.

There is also a smaller walking area after the drive-through one, and a gift shop and snack bar. We of course bought a plush from the gift shop, because the kiddo loves his plush. And my husband fell in mad love with these little floofers: 




Obviously it's an experience we highly recommend for anyone who likes animals at all. It's so cool to get that experience up close. If you're going through Oregon, definitely stop in Winston for this experience. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Good Bye Norma Jean

We're finally on the road! We closed on our house, the money from the sale is in our account, and we're officially full timers! When I went into the house to leave the keys, I looked around and said a final goodbye, and promptly burst into tears. That was the last time I'd ever walk through that beautiful house that served us so well. I said goodbye to the appliances I'd so thoroughly researched and lovingly chosen as the best ones for my family. I said goodbye to my sun room, to my son's playroom. I was surprised at how emotional it was for me, considering I thought I'd been processing this goodbye for months. I've never been good with goodbyes though. I tend to go to great lengths to avoid them.

That last day was so much work, too! So much final packing (of the RV), so many little things we needed to take care of. Final runs to donate the rest of the things we didn't sell or already donate, final grocery store run, final runs to the dump and recycling center. And then the packing of the RV, which also included disconnecting the water and power and hooking up the toad (our car, the towed vehicle). So many little fiddly things that happen for an RV on Moving Day.

Our goal was to leave by 10 am so we could avoid rush hour traffic (we left on a Friday) and get to the RV park in daylight with plenty of time to unpack and get dinner made. Instead, because life's what happens when you're busy making other plans, we rolled out around 5pm, hit rush hour traffic, and got to the RV park around 8:30 pm, exhausted.

I felt a head cold coming on, because that's how I roll with stressful situations like moving - I get sick at the critical moment. After hooking up the power, water and sewer and getting things a bit settled, we all perked up enough to get dinner made. While we ate, we relaxed together a bit before we decided we were SO ready for bed. The beautiful thing about traveling in an RV is everything familiar is there with you in the new location - your bed that smells like you and feels just right, your food, your comforts and familiar things that make a space home.

We gratefully climbed into our beds and all fell asleep promptly. Amazingly, I slept better than I had in weeks. 



Monday, November 21, 2016

The Portland Tram and Friends - the Best Way to Say Goodbye


As the most perfect way to say farewell to Portland that I can think of, we spent a day with great friends, starting with the SE Division Food Carts. We sampled fare from Hapa, Timber's Doghouse PDX, Earth Burger, and had dessert from our favorite, Back to Eden Bakery. That's what's so great about eating in Portland - so many gluten-free, organic, vegan, clean options. Boy, I'll miss that. Folks like us with very specific food needs and sensitivities have choices there.

After food, we just wanted the day to continue - such great company, can you blame us? And it wasn't raining, so we HAD to be outside, right? We decided to take a ride on the Tram. It's been a "Portland Bucketlist" item since we moved there almost 5 years ago, and our friends had never ridden it either! It was meant to be. 





High above the city - you can see it all!


Amazing!



The Cascades in the distance, and a beautiful sky. 



A view of the tram. It's kind of amazing how safe this thing is despite how precarious it looks and feels inside. 




Mount Hood in the distance. These photos do no justice to this awe-inspiring sight. It was just amazing to look out over the city AND be able to see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens' AND the tip of Mt. Rainier. I am so comforted by the sight of mountains. 




My crew. I love these humans!



We walked around and explored the lookout area, which also happens to be outside of OHSU (it's a hospital in a complex of six different hospitals that make up this campus). Portland is such an interesting city. My son conquered this turtle statue in the soft-floored play area. 




Looking up at the OHSU building. 


Back in the tram again!


One last time, this time with Mt. St. Helen's in the distance. 

If you're ever in Portland, I highly recommend the tram ride, especially on a day with any visibility whatsoever. This view is just amazing. And it's only a few bucks round trip to ride, too! I will definitely miss this weird wonderful city. 




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Achievement Unlocked! Grocery Store Victory Check!

I've been experimenting with leaving the house more - trying to go out and see what I can tolerate, how long I can stand for, testing what I can do outside of my home. It's been such a long time being only in my home and staying away from everything everywhere for fear of exposure (and the reactions that follow). I had so little energy I couldn't get off of the sofa, let alone run an errand.

But now I'm getting my strength back and I want to see what I can do. I've been going to run some errands when my husband goes - little things like going to the grocery store - I KNOW I'm not ready for places like the mall or most big box stores. But I can walk the Farmers' Market. And the grocery stores we shop at are all or mostly organic, so it's much safer there. I'll always go with my husband just in case something really doesn't work, he can take care of things and make sure I get home safely.

Well, today I was out of both lettuce AND frozen wild blueberries - two staples in our household, these are foods I eat every day. Anthony William, Medical Medium, has this to say about wild blueberries: 

All fruits have incredible healing and energizing properties, but wild blueberries are the most phenomenal of them all. 
Wild blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. These sweet and satisfying berries are excellent liver and blood cleansers, and are vital to the health of eyes and the digestive tract.
Wild blueberries also have the ability to repair tissues and cells and keep the immune system strong. They are a powerhouse food not to be missed!

Wild blueberries also help remove heavy metals from the body, in conjunction with cilantro, dulse, Hawaiian spirulina and barley grass juice powder.  And part of my healing is getting those heavy metals out - slowly and gently, so as not to cause detox reactions in my still very sensitive system. So every day after my celery juice and B12, I have a Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie. I always keep a supply of all of the ingredients on hand, since I have this every morning.

But today I had everything in the VitaMix ready to go and when I went to get the frozen wild blueberries to add, I discovered (gasp!) that we were out. Dun dun duuunnnn!!!

Usually my husband does the grocery shopping, at least since I got too sick to do it myself. I've gone with him a couple of times recently, but it's been over a year since I've even considered doing a trip to the grocery store without another adult along just in case. But....my smoothie. And I HAVE gone recently to the grocery store WITH him and that went all right. I thought, "Maybe I can do this."

So I got ready, got my son, and we went. To the grocery store. With ME as the only adult! AND I didn't use the scooter, although I probably should have - the store we went to was larger than I'm able to walk, and the floors are cement, which is NOT friendly to my back pain. But I DID do it, and I even picked up a few other things we needed, AND managed to bring in all the groceries as well.

I didn't put them all away yet, but I DID do the dishes and made food for myself and my son, so that's still a LOT that I did today. And a huge #victorycheck for me, because holy moly, I ran an errand as the only adult, and it was a BIG deal. Before today, my anxiety and PTSD wouldn't have allowed that, let alone my physical body. It was amazing.

I did learn not to be too ambitious and to let myself use the scooter - that particular store was pretty big, and in places like that, I really do need the scooter. I can do more later if I don't overdo it in the store by trying to walk all the way through. Baby steps. But I could walk through a smaller grocery store maybe. And that's okay. I'm healing and healing takes time. Reintegrating into the outside world takes time. I'll get there.

But now I know that sometimes I CAN go get groceries on my own if I need to (and my body says it's cool). And that's wonderful.