6 years in: RV there yet?

Still no.

By my very rough calculations, we’ve tallied more than 77,000 RV miles since we left housebound life behind and hit the road in August of 2015.

And this year, I’m abandoning my prior annual update format, and instead telling you what we did to celebrate our 6th “nomadversary.”

Hint 1: We visited one of the most remote towns in WA.
Hint 2: It was part of an action-packed week, and we were far from alone.

But you can still click to go back in time to the “Amusing Tally of Miscellaneous Statistics” from 5 years in and 4 years in, and the “Questions We Hear All The Time” from 3 years in and 2 years in. Oddly, I did not blog about our 1st nomadversary, but I did make wee mention on Facebook.

Wait.

Okay, I will bring forward one item from previous annual updates: our map of RVisited states.

We’ve only got CT, DE, RI and NJ left to go in the lower 48.

Alaska is still way the hell up there, unrolled upon by our wheels, and I really don’t know how to count Hawaii. We flew there in 2019, in Year 4 of full-time RVing, and it took some skillful planning on Tim’s part to find a place to park the RV without arousing my suspicions and spoiling my 50th birthday surprise, and we certainly wouldn’t ever go through the hassle and expense of shipping our own RV there, if that’s even possible, so… uh… where was I going with that?

Doesn’t matter. Here’s the map.

My criteria for counting a state as visited are a bit fluid, which I know will drive some people a little nuts. Did we stay overnight? Long enough to do the weekly laundry? Go on a hike or visit a national park? All of those are valid to me. Just driving through on the way to elsewhere, with a potty break at a gas station? Not so much — otherwise, we’d have completed this map a lot sooner.
(Map created at amcharts.com)

And now, onward to our celebration: the Escapees Cascade Mountains Hangout!

As I mentioned in our 2nd quarter update, we’re attending two Escapees Hangouts this summer, and the first one happened to coincide with our 6th nomadversary. We love Hangouts because they are as simple as this: register & pay, show up, make friends and have fun. Excursions and activities are planned and organized by someone who is not us (see packed calendar shot above), which makes it feel like a total vacation.

Some of the photos in the following slide shows (1 for each day of the Hangout) are a bit irreverent. It’s how we roll. And let me just say that it is very tempting to post these pics without benefit of explanation and leave it all up to your imagination, but uhhh, my parents read this, and I don’t want to get grounded.

We took the express boat back — barely.
It’s rare for the two of us responsible-and-reliable-to-a-fault people to arrive late for anything, ever, but someone didn’t believe me when I told him that our return boat left from a different dock than the one where we’d arrived.
So we waited at the wrong dock until Tim wondered out loud why nobody else from our group was there, and that was when the stoned hiker — with whom we’d been having an amusingly rambling conversation — served an even higher purpose (ha ha) by pointing us in the correct direction.
Which I had pointed out before.
But Tim likes to say that god came to us in the form of a stoner dude that day, and saved us from literally being left up the creek without a paddle.
Came skidding in sideways to meet our boat just in time. Whee!
(True story: this is the second time we’ve been “rescued” by a stoner. Here’s the first.)

What’s next?

We’ll close out August with the Escapees Glacier Country Hangout in Montana, and then we’ll head back to Port Townsend for a second visit with our older son, and a weekend at the annual Wooden Boat Festival. Tim’s going to attend the seminars and tour the boats for three days, and I’m going to pull a few volunteer shifts because 1) I like helping, and 2) I honestly lose interest in the boats after about an hour, and that’s not worth the price of admission. Volunteers get in free, so it’s a win for everybody!

Farewell from the Cascades, and happy nomadversary to us!
This Hangout was our 4th. I wrote about the other three too. Check out:
Downeast Maine (Aug 2019)
Carlsbad Caverns Clean-Up (Jan 2020)
Baja Mexico (Feb 2020)

Despite the rah-rah tone, this is an unsolicited and uncompensated testimonial, and we don’t work for Escapees. It’s just that holy crap, we love those Hangouts!

Help, humor, and hope: giving back to our own

On April 28, an over-55 RV park west of San Antonio was shattered to bits during devastating wind, rain, and hail storms, including an EF1 tornado that touched down nearby.

Miraculously, there were no fatalities, and only one injury that required an ER visit,
but most personal vehicles and RVs were total losses.

Although we’ve never stayed at this park, it is affiliated with the Escapees RV Club, and as Escapees members, we felt called to lend a hand to this branch of our RVing family. (Coincidentally, it was this time last year that we spent a month in service at the Escapees Care Center in Livingston, TX.)

This announcement on Facebook was our first alert, and the news video at this link added jarring visual evidence of the loss.

We happened to arrive in the area (our home base) the week after the storm, and were able to spend a couple of days working on site. Many volunteers had preceded us, so by the time we arrived on Day 9, much of the large debris had been placed in dumpsters already.

There was still more to clear, and we did a lot of that, but we found that one of the most valuable services we could provide was listening. The residents needed to tell their stories from that terrifying night; needed to tell us how much they’d been helped by volunteers; how they appreciated losing only things, not lives.

The hailstones were softball size and larger.
One was measured at 6.4″ in diameter — a record setter.
We saw tow trucks and insurance adjusters coming and going all day long, both days we were on the property.

Almost all the residents we spoke with said they were thankful they didn’t have it as bad as some of the others. We saw what they were dealing with. Just who were these others who had it worse?

Maybe it was because we weren’t on the scene until several days had passed, but we were surprised by the community members’ senses of resiliency, positivity — and even humor. They were in it together, holding each other up, cracking jokes about taking margarita breaks (at 10:30 in the morning), and making light of getting the job done, just slowly, due to age and associated infirmities.

“We can’t thank you enough for coming out here and doing this.”

“It’s… We just wanted… You’re welcome. This time, it wasn’t us. Someday, it could be.”

a typical exchange with residents as we worked
We borrowed the park’s trailer and began picking up piles of debris that had not yet been collected. There was a lot of metal roofing, sodden carpeting, plastic shards, and even ruined personal belongings like books, puzzles, and home decor.
Heartbreaking.
One of the two dumpsters brought in for storm debris was full when we got there.
Three trailer loads later, we’d topped off the second.
He wins at Garbage Can Jenga here at home, because I always cave way before he does.
He wasn’t going to be the one to dump that dumpster either.
(If the video doesn’t load, try refreshing the page. I have the same issue with my browser, and no earthly idea how to fix it. Sorry.)
Some owners were offsite for the season when the storm hit.
We covered a few shed windows and vents with plastic, and hoped for the best.
Those are the crumbs of an RV window on this couple’s wheelchair ramp. The floors inside were peppered with them as well.
Most lots are covered with gravel, not grass, and picking out all the shattered glass will take… well… maybe scraping it all off with a bulldozer and spreading fresh is the way to go.
We saw lots of places where hail had punctured exterior walls.
We also saw one instance of hailstones having fallen with such force that they came through an RV bathroom skylight and punctured an interior wall.
Damage at every turn
A few residents asked for our help clearing yard waste.
Those who were still physically able to stoop, bend, reach, lift, and climb prior to the storms had reached their limit by the time we showed up a week later.
So we raked (and stooped, and bent, and reached, lifted and climbed).
And I got a good reminder that I should have worn boots on that first day.
See those slashes across both shoe tops?
I must have dragged a piece of metal roofing across my feet.
Dummy. And a lucky one at that!
Next trip out, I wore my boots.
Community Support
A nearby business, the Graff 7A Ranch, has served multiple meals to their RV park neighbors since the storm struck, setting up a cafeteria-style line in the park’s clubhouse so that the residents don’t have to travel.
They are charging nothing.
And these business owners were hit by the same storms, and are dealing with clean-up and repair issues of their own.
I can’t even.

The level and amount of destruction we saw certainly filled our minds with our own what-ifs.

What if we lost our home tomorrow? With our full physical capabilities and financial stability, we’d start over, and eventually recover, with ample time ahead of us to appreciate the lessons learned and the blessings of a new beginning. 

But what if it happened when we were closer to our 80’s, when neither physical nor financial strength are assured? When it might be only one of us left able or alive to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster? How would we begin again? How could we?

No answer. I have no answer to that. These folks probably didn’t either, and I’m sure they handle their “one step at a time” better during some hours than others.

One gentleman needed our help moving some furniture out of his ruined RV and into the outbuilding on his lot. He was unwell. He was living alone.

And yet, he offered to compensate us for our assistance.

We declined.

He insisted, and as the hand holding his wallet began to tremble, we realized that turning him down would likely add to his grief rather than alleviate it, so we told him we’d be stopping at a Dairy Queen for treats on the way home, and that if he’d like to pay for those, we would gratefully accept a few dollars. That earned us a smile.

I don’t think he knew that it was Mother’s Day. 

I also don’t think he knew how he was going to get through the next day. 

But rewarding his helpers was something he could do, while facing so many things he couldn’t.

Blizzards.
After helping people clean up from a tornado.
Um. Way to adhere to a theme?

Surviving such devastation takes more strength and patience than I can imagine, and so does enduring the lengthy and confusing insurance claims process, not to mention the hassle of finding new cars and RVs in which to start over — to start over at age 70 or even older.

I’d also argue that it takes strength to accept assistance. Our hope is that we helped the people of the Alamo Area SKP Co-Op/Lone Star Corral feel just a little stronger this week.