Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Transition RV park culture

You've seen the photos and videos of the beautiful, pastoral mountain vista, with lush emerald grass fields and majestic pines, painting an idyllic setting for the family in the tricked out travel trailer. You watch scenes of the children happily playing on swings and slides and the family smiling and laughing, sitting around a camp fire cooking s'mores, while a large dog slumbers nearby. You know the one I mean.

Well that's not the one I live in.

First off no grass or trees, but weeds aplenty and they grow well. At one time gravel was probably put down in the spaces but it has long since been driven over, shoveled under and piled in corners. The road is dirt, not too bumpy and the spaces are roomy enough, but the trailers are a mixed bag of all different sizes, ages and styles. Almost all of them have skirting for cold weather insulation. This skirting ranges from the nice, custom, heavy duty vinyl that's color coordinated and firmly affixed to the trailer to pieces of plywood, OSB and insulating foam (blue or white) attached with screws and/or expanding spray on foam adhesive.

Nearly everyone has a satellite dish, and some have two with cables running everywhere. Heavy duty extension cords run from electric pedestals, under trailers and through the sides of the RV pop-outs, and used to power who knows what. Some folks have large buckets with tomato's and other vegetables growing. Some have work areas for car repairs and many have mud rooms built over the front door to catch the filthy, muddy boots and work clothes and to keep freezing air from blasting into the trailer.

When an RV pulls out the empty space is swarmed over by various tenants set on recovering left behind items like plywood, insulating foam board, water hoses and structures like mud rooms and sheds. The only item no one takes-generally-are left behind used sewer pipes. The manager hauls these off.

There isn't a sense of community here.

It's as though you really don't want to make friends since this isn't home and you really are transient. Everyone is from somewhere else. Sometimes a couple of people will work together on moving something, vehicle repairs or hauling something off but it really isn't that kind of community.  But, considering the options for RV living in Tioga, this place is as good as any and probably better. They are constantly working on various improvements, but a very short outdoor working season means the priorities are handled first and after that it's putting out fires. This isn't a place you want your children to live in for very long. People with families go back home. If the family comes they don't stay long.

I haven't minded too much. Tioga the town is a welcoming and pleasant place.

Our 5th wheel RV is a nice size (32ft) for extended living with room to spread out, lots of storage and everything works. If it were set up in one of those picture perfect sites it would fit easily, but it is going into winter storage. I must say I am looking forward to being back in Catalina just for the space alone. I will miss Tioga. Chuck will be pretty well set up in his townhouse in Dickinson since after this much time he has figured out what he really needs to be comfortable is a bathroom, refrigerator, washer/dryer, plenty of food and drinks, laptop, TV and movies.

Transition.

-N

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's next?

Chuck and  I have spent the last three days planning, laughing and getting jobs done. We have been making lists of things he is taking back to Dickinson when he goes back to work and what we will haul back to Tucson. We need to make the RV as light as possible for the trip to Bismarck. It will be easier on the truck.

Chuck will be taking the small refrigerator we put in the RV since he shares a townhouse with 3 guys their fridge is pretty full. He is taking a 15" flat screen TV so he can watch DVD's. This isn't the big one that came with the RV. He will be taking all his clothes and personal things that he had left here.

After he goes back I will have two weeks to get my stuff together. Since the RV won't be going back to Tucson I won't need my cold weather stuff so it will stay.

I am feeling a bit better about him being by himself since he learned from me how to organize his time for laundry, cooking and stuff while I took care of him. Also the good thing about where he is now is the work load is much easier on him physically and he likes his crew. It seems to be a good balance.

Skype is great. It was such a good thing when I was in Catalina and we have used it since he relocated. We don't feel so distant.

I can't believe how well I am sleeping since he got here.

I have bad insomnia, it's pretty chronic. Since he has been here I haven't had it at all. Of course we stay up much too late but I did that before and it didn't help. I get nervous sometimes at night, especially if I hear people walking around. It is close quarters in an RV park. I asked him to put some sort of security lock on the screen door. Cooper is not a dog to bark if someone is walking around or comes to the door so he is no help as a warning.

I will be ok.

I had a chat with my nephew and he said the Catalina place is a jungle of weeds. Since the first of July they have had seven inches of rain!! Of course I leave and we have the best monsoon in years. Was watching video of flooding north of Phoenix. Looks really bad. We are expecting three days of heavy rain here starting tonight. Highs will be in the low 60's and Sunday the low temps are forecasted in the 40's.

This is my kind of weather.

-N

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Plans in place

It looks like I will be leaving Tioga the middle of September to move back to Tucson until spring. Next week Chuck and I will be looking at a RV storage facility in Bismarck. The price looks good, definitely a money saver so, when the RV is moved and winterized Chuck and I will head to Catalina.

Chuck has stuff he wants to take care of, like getting things stored properly and securely and cleaning the back half of the acre and some work on the exterior of the house.  He will be making regular trips down when he has his off two weeks. We have decided not to sell it right now, but to make it as good as possible to keep as a winter home for the foreseeable future.

After Chuck was transferred to the Dickinson area I struggled occasionally with being in Tioga by myself. I am perfectly able to be on my own yet I found my self thinking "I moved out of Catalina to here to be able to take care of him in Tioga and now he is in Dickinson three hours away (much longer in the winter) and I am on my own again."  I might as well save the cost of rent and go home for the winter and work on the house. As it is I see him on his off days. We talk on the phone and Skype-I can do this in Catalina.

The confirmation about this decision happened when I applied for a job as a school secretary at the high school. I prayed that if God wanted me in Tioga getting the job would show me. I got a call two days after my interview to say they offered the position to someone else.

I got that message, thank you God.

When I told Chuck about this and an emotional dream I had about Catalina and my attachment to it our thoughts about future plans took a turn. Montana summers and Catalina winters. The Catalina place needs tidying and organizing and an irrigation system installed. It needs paint, the spa repaired and the front brick edifice of a porch finished. It needs to be ready and require minimal care when we are gone. If I need help when he is not there I have my nephews and my neighbors.

This will be the winter work.

We have been making some inquiries into Montana property in the Billings/Red Lodge areas and until we have the place we want I will live in the RV in the summer in an RV park in either Billings or Bismarck.  Both are on I-94 and from Dickinson it is a short drive to Billings for Chuck and a much better and safer one than driving from Dickinson to Tioga. Once we have our Montana land we will get it ready by setting the RV up to live in while we work on it. Chuck also has a large metal building he will set up as a barn/storage building. It is nice to have some plans.

I am finished with living in Arizona in the summer.

-N

p.s. Yard sales

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What a fun week!

We had a week that was so much fun, educational and interesting. Having Melissa with us was delightful and we visited so many new places and a few old places and I really feel she had a wonderful experience.

One destination which was new to all of us was a foray into Canada. We had reservations in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Crossing the border was easy-we had our passports. It was a drive on good roads and the traffic wasn't bad. Before going to Regina we took a short detour to Moose Jaw. Yep, there is a town in Canada called Moose Jaw.
 

We stopped at the visitor center, which has a huge moose in front of it. No surprise there and looked around. We didn't have too long to stay so we cruised through downtown and found a place to eat.

Back on the road to Regina, it only took an hour and we were there. The hotel was comfortable and instead of going to the casino right away we went down to the Chinese Buffet in the hotel. Food was not great and it was too expensive. Lesson learned. After that we wandered over to the casino which was a converted train station and it was so cool. Very 30's art deco, lots of marble and lots of slot machines. Chuck was more interested in the steam locomotive outside.

The next morning after checking out we headed to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and to Melissa's delight there was a T-Rex display.

 Melissa made friends with Scotty. She has an affinity with the poor short-armed t-rex. I certainly relate and tease Chuck that the reason I married him was because he could reach things on the top shelf!
This was taken because Chuck is cute.  Also the elk is in a beautiful setting.

 You can guess where this sign lead us. To MegaMunch the animated T-Rex. He roared and moved and made friends with Melissa.
The museum was very nice and the displays were informative and well done.  I like museums and art galleries-its just me. Outside was Wascana Lake which drew us into a walk around the lake toward the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. Just before we arrived we strolled through about 100 geese just hanging out by the water. Fortunately they were not aggressive since the people there know NOT to feed them.


Before the entrance to the building is an extensive and beautiful formal garden. It was just so colorful and appeared almost sculpted. After the garden and just before we crossed the street to the building we saw a statue of Queen Elizabeth II astride her favorite horse which came from Saskatchewan. It was a great likeness.

The trip back to Tioga was side tracked by Melissa's desire to see Avonlea, Saskatchewan. Since the summer reading for her students included "Anne of Green Gables" she thought it might be interesting. Well it was.  Our visit included the Heritage Museum and unlike other museums you could actually touch and feel the displays. All I kept saying was "I am transported." We were immersed in the life of this tiny village.

These side trips are always the hidden jewels.

The trip home was quick and we spent a day of chilling in Tioga. Sunday afternoon we headed out to Custer, South Dakota to make the circuit of Mt. Rushmore and surrounding sights. The one thing we hadn't planned on was that it was Sturgis Week!

I love motorcycles from my first ride on my dad's bike but after three days of every conceivable type of motorcycle I was sick of seeing them. Most of all because of the blatant disregard for safety. More than half of them had no helmets or leathers and the obvious trips between bars and outdoor beer gardens made me nervous for everyone on the roads.  I know this is a culture of its own but it was infiltrating the roads, highways and neighborhoods of the Rapid City area of South Dakota.

Ranting over, back to gorgeous Mt. Rushmore.


The mountains and forests are beautiful and the carved faces stun the first time they are seen.  We spent quite a bit of time walking the trail, seeing the artist's lodge and just looking in wonder.  On our trip back to Custer we stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is still under construction but you can get an idea of the immensity of it when completed. It has a wonderful museum and since it get's no federal funding I was more than happy to drop a few dollars there in support.

Now a few words about our wonderful lodgings in Custer. We stayed at "Gold Creek Cabins" in cabin number one and I must say it was fantastic. A true log cabin which lacked nothing but wifi. It is on our return to list. Chuck was up early one morning and walked down to the pond to see if there were fish and he looked into the forest past the pond to see several deer coming down. He saw several young ones as well.  The mornings were covered in coolness and dew. The breeze was comfortable and I would be happy to spend a week or two there exploring.


Our trip back to Tioga included a stop at the famous tourist stop Wall Drug in Wall, SD. Wow is that a cool place. Of course like everywhere else it was probably over full thanks to the bikers but it was a very fun stop. There was also a T-Rex there which made it all the more fun for Melissa.


The rest of the trip home Tuesday was uneventful and then on Wednesday Chuck went back to work in Dickinson and on Thursday Melissa went back to Los Angeles.

-N

Thursday, July 31, 2014

O Canada!

The exploration has begun and the first trip is into Canada with an overnight in Regina, Saskatchewan. We drove straight north out of Tioga and crossed the border without issue. Everyone had their passports.  There were lots of farms and fewer oil wells as we drove on.

The road was good and we aimed the car for Moose Jaw. Yes that is the name. I don't know how you put that into a school cheer and it looked really strange printed on buildings and signs.  It seemed fake to me whenever I saw it. We were ready for lunch so a drive down main street led us to the annoying discovery that all the streets, even side streets had parking meters.

Hello! No Canadian coins on any of us.

Chuck said he wanted to head back to a restaurant he saw called "Original Joe's" and so we found it, pulled in and parked. It was actually fairly warm, low 80's but we dined alfresco. The food was great and not too expensive. 

We decided to go to the Western Development Museum just down Main Street. We parked and walked up to the entrance and just as I was wondering out loud, "I wonder if they charge?" I saw a sign that said $10 a person! What?? Thirty dollars for the three of us to walk through a museum about the development of transportation! The Smithsonian in Washington DC is free!

No thanks.

So back in the car and on to Regina. After a short trip we arrived at our hotel. And here we sit. There is a casino next door so that sounds like a fun night out. Tomorrow we will do a bit of sightseeing in downtown and head back to Tioga. 

Oh and one more thing, cell phones. Costs $$ for roaming, data, etc., so no texting unless necessary. We had to use an old fashioned map to find out way here, but we did it!

-N

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A visitor!

Today Melissa arrives for a week long stay.

It will be the start of a very busy week. Today we take Cooper to the groomer in Minot and once he is finished we will take him to board while Melissa is here. We will be traveling so much that it would be better for him to be in one place for the duration. After we drop him off we will head back to Minot and wait for her plane.

Tomorrow morning we will head to Canada. Our destination is Regina, Saskatchewan to explore and stay over night. Side trips will include Moose Jaw and Estevan. I am looking forward to it.

Back to Tioga for two nights and then to South Dakota to visit the history of that state. Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Deadwood and so on. 

On our way back we will go by Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

It will be busy but fun. I just hope it doesn't go too fast.  More too come with photographs!

-N

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I get by with a little help from my friends

Chuck is working three hours away. I am home alone gleefully watching "Daddy Long Legs" on Netflix and happened to glance at the weather radar on my phone to see a long storm system reaching from South Dakota to Canada bearing down on Tioga. This big guy was showing hail, strong winds and super heavy rains with lightning. It was one long, solid band of nasty weather beast.  This was about 6:30pm. I started talking to God about it, a lot.

I went to get the weather radio to find it was left on and the batteries were dead. But I live with Chuck Vaughn and we always have batteries! I put them in and turned on the radio to hear the guy saying a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect in Williams County. I am in Williams County! As he spoke he was saying something about damaging winds in excess of 60mph and quarter sized hail and for people to take cover.

Ok God.

I live in an RV and have no covered parking for my brand new car.

I looked at the radar again and there were spots where the storm was breaking apart. This could be good if it broke up by the lake and went south of me, that happens. It was now after seven pm and the guy was still talking about taking cover and the hail would do major damage to cars and windows. I sat in a chair near by my big window facing west, the storm was still 40-50 miles away but you could see that is was getting darker. Remember the sun doesn't set until 9:30pm here. However there was, low on the horizon an area that looked a bit lighter. Will it pass me?

Then the guy on the radio says there is a tornado watch for Billings County, North Dakota. I looked at my phone radar and there it was.  A red lined area west of Dickenson were my husband is working! Turn out the lights the party's over. I grabbed the stuff that Chuck and I had planned to take for just such a situation and decided I was not going to sit in the RV and wait for hail to wreck my car and  strong winds blow over my trailer with me and Cooper sitting there.

I loaded the car, Cooper hopped in and I started to drive.

Nearby is a big truck stop with covered bays so that would be my destination when the hail came-but first I wanted to look at the storm myself. A quick radar glance showed the breaking up at the lake had happened but one large cell looked like it was headed for Tioga. I called my sister Mary while I drove around the town trying to get a vantage point for the storm. There was light on both sides of what looked like a really wide rain band. Mary was on her computer looking up the different radars to see if she could tell what it might be doing. Just her calm voice and information slowed my crazy heartbeat and cleared my scattered mind. She was doing just what I needed and I was getting myself under control. She was being my Chuck, the voice of reason and calm.

We talked non-stop for about twenty minutes. She told me it looked like it was breaking up and clearing some and would probably move just north of Tioga. By this time it was getting really dark, but there was lightning flashing brilliantly and rain starting fall so I told her I was going home and thanked her for her comfort. She had no idea how much I needed her. By the time I got back it was raining really good, no hail was falling, the winds were very light and Cooper and I settled down.

It is past us now, to the north. The air is cool and smells fresh. Thank you God for watching over it all.

-N