Sunday, August 12, 2018

The unseen costs of tiny living

Since losing our travel trailer, to the winds of change, we have noticed some quick impacts to our budget. For starters, renting homes for us is way more expensive on the front end, than in our old RV way of life. If you recall, in a recent post, I mentioned how the rural area job markets are booming. Well, this has a direct impact on short-term rentals, like the ones we need. Finding a place that can accommodate a family, with pets, and that are willing to take us in, is an expensive endeavor. For example, if we decide to stay here for two months, while attempting to buy a business, the cost could be northwards of $6,000 in rent alone. Compare that to renting an RV site for $500 a month and the answer becomes clear for those on a tight budget.

Our temporary home which was recently declared total loss in New Mexico.

   One of the greatest things I loved about traveling the country and looking for a new community, to call home, was the average personal encounter in a RV park. I mean where else can you meet a retired CEO with a $400,000 RV while towing a Mercedes SUV parked only 5 meters away from a $10,000, older looking RV, which houses the working poor and everything just clicks? As we walked our dog through the many RV parks, we often noticed a "community spirit" among strangers. People were outside grilling and chatting, having a couple beers and kicking the proverbial tires, as it were. I realize that people were outside because the RVs are small inside. I get it. But the beauty about being outside is that it allows for chance interactions with your neighbors and with it, neighborly goodwill.

Camping with retirees was a great experience.

   Before I go any further I need to admit that I am writing this from the comforts of a suburban home, that we are renting, which is in a nice middle class neighborhood. My ears happen to be ringing from the deafening silence all around me. I am amazed, on this last weekend of summer, how quiet suburbia can be at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and it has been quiet for nearly a week. I truly feel for all of the children who should be outside playing, but aren't. Everyone needs to experience the outdoors, from the openness of the sky, the brightness of the flowers, to the thousand shades of green, in a tree's canopy. We need to nurture our souls with natural beauty, whether we like to admit it or not.

Natural beauty is something we all need.

   Okay, back on the subject, living in a small home has some advantages but not when it comes to shopping. Buying in bulk is a great way to save but only possible if you have a place to store the overages. RVs and other small accommodations are tight so you can only buy what you need, when you need it. Elise, is not only a wonderful wife, but also a great family accountant. Together, we have estimated that not buying in bulk costed our family anywhere between 60% to 80% or more depending on type of groceries and which state we were in. Laundry was another expense that we were surprised by. Most homeowners normally throw clothes into their washer and dryer, then fold the finished loads and forget about it. For many people, however, laundromats are the norm and for us, while traveling in our RV, it was the norm, too. Elise estimated our monthly laundromat bill was about $100. Multiple that by 12, for the months in the year, (for the long term RVers) and these expenses can really add up.

We were fortunate to camp on our own terms while traveling the countryside. 

   My wife and I are fortunate to not be effected by the higher expenses of RV life, and we now appreciate the plight of the working poor even more. Anyone can fall on hard times and many do so, all the time. Drugs play a big part of that, but so does divorce, medical bills and so on. While in western Colorado, we met a good looking couple with an adorable 2 year old daughter, at the RV park where we were staying. They were as sweet as could be and he was happy to talk about how busy he was at work. After a while, his wife had to run and grab a snack for their hungry and whiny toddler. She headed straight for a tent. Her wonderful and clean cut husband saw the sadness in my eyes and said, "That's okay, we'll get back on our feet soon enough." He went on to explain how they got to where they were, and truly it could have happened to any renter and drugs were not involved. They loved the RV park because they could camp for cheap and use the bathroom to prep for work in the morning. They were thankful and counted their blessings to have access to the RV park, when most would have been miserable. I deeply admired that family for supporting each other rather than castigating blame. They lived their lives filled with true love and forgiveness for each other.

A typical example of a family struggling to make a better life for themselves.

   Since being back in the U.S. we have been caught off guard by the magnitude of the homeless issue. I would imagine, based on our own observations, that for each homeless person one sees, there are many times more working poor, that aren't seen. I would think helping those who are trying to stay afloat, have a job, and retain much of their dignity would be the easiest place for a government to start helping and improve their communities. Remember the day-to-day living expense of those living on the fringe are significantly higher than those with more a stable and larger accommodations. Thus any help, I am sure, would be greatly appreciated.
   So, tomorrow, when the first day of school starts, there will be many millions of children across the U.S. turn around and kiss their moms good bye, and run out the door to catch a bus. Some of those children will jump over fun hurdles in their front yard while others jump over hurdles in their lives. Each of those beautiful little people will board buses and with it, go to a place where merit matters, that is, until they return home.

Living on the edge but still giving it a go.

   Our journey of discovery started when we decided to embarked on our drive to South America, nearly four years ago. We have lived a splendid dream and saw many amazing sanctuaries, ruins and natural wonders without filters. We continue to benefit from witnessing penetratingly real and unfiltered reality to this day. We cannot predict what tomorrow brings nor what wonderful people the full spectrum of living will reveal. However, if we open ourselves to others, we might be able to turn perfect strangers into perfect friends. In our minds, neighborhoods should be teaming with life, packed with youngsters, living their "golden years" on bicycles or lost in their chalk art mosaics. We miss the endless energy, noises and clashing colors of Latin America and have decided that if we cannot be there, then we should at least encourage that energy, noise, and those colors wherever we land. Building a better tomorrow, starts with us accepting today; not wishing for what we had yesterday.

Colorful Granada, the former home that we love.

   We would like to dedicated this blog entry to the many hard working poor, living quietly among us and trying so hard to survive even though it is more difficult, then most realize. Here is to the people waking up before the sun, to shave, shower, blow dry their hair and work the jobs that many of us require but don't appreciate. Here is to the men and women that look like a million bucks at the office but quietly return to their temporary homes, their double-wides, RVs and tents. I am so thankful that my daughters saw, with their own eyes, that the working poor are not rejects, just people who fell, and are having trouble getting up. We loved the time spent talking and laughing with people who want a better life and who have every reason to give up, but don't. Their strength and determination motivate us, as we re-assimilate back into the U.S. We are happy to share their plight and inspirational messages with you.   


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Siesta time in la Mesilla

La Mesilla is beautiful anytime of day, but viewing the historic neighborhood during siesta, is both peaceful and charming. This adobe village hosted wild west icons like Poncho Villa and Billy the kid, in it's heyday. La Mesilla formed as a result of shifting borders between the U.S. and Mexico. This little village was, for a period, the capital of Confederate Arizona and after the Civil War it became the capital of the military district of Arizona. This town has serious history packed in the few blocks, each side of the town square.
   "If walls could talk" is an old saying, but imagine if these 2 and 3 foot think adobe walls could talk? I am sure the stories would be amazing, for the loves, tensions, happiness and fears these walls contain, would be breathtaking tales, if ever revealed. Strolling these historic streets, essentially alone, during an afternoon siesta reminded me of Argentina. There is something admirable when a town shutters it's doors to enjoy peace, where rest and recharge are taken seriously.
   As a tourist town, I find la Mesilla more authentic then Santa Fe and definitely much smaller and cheaper. Both places have their charm and as we have discovered throughout New Mexico; the southwest of legends exists in the cuisine, traditions, buildings, and timeless pueblos of this land.

Siestas hide behind inviting doors
Similar feeling to Santa Fe but more quaint.

Pottery and wine a great combination.

Residences with so much charm.

Most of the original town center was constructed around 1850.

Adobe homes have so much character.

Chile Ristras hang in many New Mexican windows. They are said to bring luck and good health. They can be either decorative and covered in lacquer or edible and left alone to dry in the heat. 

Catholic church of San Albino.

Romantic buildings and redbrick sidewalks surround the town square.

The town gazebo.

Some of the characters of town history painted on the doors.

Archways welcome strangers to homes and businesses.

Remnants from an older home which has since collapsed but the walls were salvaged and restored.

A bumper crop of cactus pears.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dinner at La Posta Mexican restaurant

I don't usually like posting about restaurants in this blog because I don't want to become judge and jury on someone's livelihood. Business is hard enough, and for those who succeed, I congratulate them by being their patron.
   However, it is not too often one can eat at a top 10 Mexican restaurant in the United States and it still be in a small town. We did, at La Posta restaurant, in New Mexico and it was awesome! This restaurant is located in the historic town of la Mesilla which is an authentic adobe village turned into a quaint tourist center. Best of all, the food was outstanding and had the ambiance to match. If you are in the area of Las Cruces, I recommend visiting la Mesilla and the many wonderful restaurants in town. 

Historic front door.

Elegant hallway to the restaurant entrance.

Southwestern architecture throughout. 

Art work kept a watchful eye on the people.

The bar was well stocked and colorful. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Landing on our feet or something like that

Life without our travel trailer has proven difficult and more expensive than we initially realized. We have seen, for ourselves, why RVs are so popular for retirees and other long term travelers. Our cats find traveling with our dog, in the backseat of our truck, a taxing experience at best. Our cats prefer more quality, one on one time with my daughters and being squeezed into a living breathing blob of kids and pets in the backseat of our truck, is not our cats idea of having fun. As for our wonderful dog, Paco, he is as chill as any dog could be considering all the commotion and constant meowing from our cats.
   Though traveling is more complicated than before our accommodations are proving to be quite nice and having the additional space is appreciated. We are using on-line house rental companies to find these places and to date we have had two spacious and clean homes that we stayed at. One of the best things about these home rentals is having our own washer and dryer again. The ease of washing clothes when you are ready to wash them is a simple joy that we missed while using public laundromats over the last 3 months. While RVing we could only do the laundry when the machines were available, but not anymore as the house is ours.
   Once we get over the initial stress of traveling between rental homes our animals actually find the new house smells, and experiences to be a new playground. We have also agreed to staying at homes for a minimum of a week to further minimize the stresses of packing and moving on each of us. Coincidentally, we are all waking up now, not sure where we are. We haven't had this disorienting sensation since driving in South America, 3 years ago. Elise and I laugh at our complete confusion of "place" when we wake up thoroughly discombobulated. Hopefully, we can find a community and new place to call home shortly, as we are hot on the trail now. Until then, we have to make lite of waking up and not knowing where the heck we are, until we stumble upon clues that jolt our memories. We have not yet woken up in heaven, with all the puffy clouds; or in hell with all the brimstone and fire. At least we can count our blessings that we are still alive, no matter where that is in our minds.

Our first home outside of the trailer. Not bad, right?
We do enjoy the added space of a home.
Elise was amazed how big this place was compared to the travel trailer.
Nice large yard for us to enjoy.
We stayed in a historic neighborhood with original adobe homes, some of which are falling down.
Nice sunset to welcome us to our first rental house.
I loved the art work hanging on the wall of the rental.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Getting caught up

This entry's original timeline was moved forward due to losing our travel trailer in the high winds on interstate 10, in New Mexico (see link immediately below for details on that post if you haven't read it).

Since first reporting on the travel trailer incident, our insurance adjuster has determined that our trailer is a total loss. We will miss the ease of traveling in our movable home and have since readjusted our plans to include renting short-term housing.

With this entry our blog is, once again, in chronological order.

Our travel trailer will most likely be auctioned next week for parts.

Old school route 66, in Seligman, AZ.

We arrived in Seligman, AZ. after two days of detours and hard driving through California. We were happy to finally arrive in the cooler northern Arizona mountains after such a difficult journey. Seligman is "Old school" route 66 and as we discovered a famous location for Europeans to visit while in the southwest. Seligman is a recommended "must see" in many European travel books and oddly we have never heard of this town, until recently.
   The town was small and eclectic, a hodge-podge of decaying buildings, and thriving tourists businesses, and somehow it worked. Seeing Seligman is a one day affair, and maybe an hour affair at that. The food was good and well priced here. So if you want good ole Americana cuisine, at affordable prices, this beats the neighboring town of Williams, Arizona, hands down. The quirky buildings and unique wild west charm make this town a worthy visit while in the area.

I love silly things like this.

The slow moving town and monsoon skies in the background.

A town that refuses to die and in the process has found a second lease on life with tourism.

Not too often one can see a real wild west prison.

Outhouse for two. I love it! I could talk with my wife and she couldn't leave.

As route 66 towns go, this place is affordable and authentic.

A bi-gone era.

Artistic, quirky? You tell me.
The town does a great job of making fun of itself which I thought was great.

The kids liked this ole wagon best. 

Navigating our way out of California's infernos

After leaving the redwoods with a better idea of what part of the country we'd like to focus on, we decided to drive hard, to the southwest. At the time we were leaving northern California, there were terrible and out of control wildfires stretching for more than 500 miles; from central Oregon deep into northern California. This posed a real problem for us leaving the coast and driving inland. Our rig length is so long that we could easily be trapped in the mountain passes if the winds suddenly changed direction. With the guidance of a local we were able to find a passage that had multiple escape routes, just in case.
   Fires were everywhere and the smoke was often as thick as fog. We drove with our windows closed and with our recirculating air conditioning on, for the entire ride. Then, out of nowhere I felt tremendous heat blaring through the driver's side window. Since Sierra was sitting just behind me I shouted, "Sierra do you feel the heat?" She blurted, "Yes!" The fires on the hillside were within 70 feet of our vehicle and the heat was so intense that we were uncomfortably hot inside of our air conditioned truck. Thankfully, we were driving at 50 mph so we were able to avoid catastrophe.
   The fires were so intense that windstorms were created, sucking debris into the flames from miles away. The inferno also created many huge fire tornadoes which lifted embers and other small accelerants high in the atmosphere, spreading the fire's fury, even further. We made it out of the mountains many hours later, thanks to the assistance of the many police and firefighters aiding the public along the way. Sadly, many people lost everything in the hardest hit communities and their tolls have yet to be tallied.

Smoke from the fires blocked out the sun.

Horizons were grayed out. We never even stopped to photograph the flames because it was way too dangerous.

In the areas away from the fires visibility was about a mile; in the worst effected areas, visibility was measured in the hundreds of feet. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Wanting to live in a world where a 9 year old girl can go to the park

Coastal northern California is a beautiful place where nature abounds. We loved watching the sea life and hearing the sea birds squawk and screech. The coastline is relatively unspoiled and largely underpopulated. We loved the flora and fauna of the area.
   What caught us off guard, in northern California, was the the magnitude of the homeless problem. Starting in southern Oregon to Eureka, Cailfornia, and probably further down the coastline; homeless camps and the squalor ruined the ambiance in many places. I do not wish to cast aspersions as to why they are there or blame those who fall on hard times. Rather, how can we as a society claim to be rich, or first world, and neglect so many of our citizens at the same time. I realize that a large percentage of the homeless people are on drugs and may choose this life style but many are not. Whether they ended up on the street by their own design or not, they are human beings and we should do better in caring for them.
   For the first time in our 3.5 year journey of driving to Argentina and even to Canada, I felt that my daughter was threatened by a grown man. It occurred in Crescent City, California. My 9 year old, Zoe, urgently wanted to go to the playground and work off some energy. She was excited and decided to run ahead of Sierra and I, who chose to hold hands and chat on our way to the park. A scruffy and filthy middle aged man sprung out of the bushes about 15 feet ahead of Zoe and sized her up with his eyes, all the while while he was giggling and murmuring, "Ugh, uh, psst, ooo, hee hee." (You get the picture) Zoe immediately turned around and ran back to me in a panic. He continued to giggle uncontrollably in his intoxication, as we walked by. Problem is, he had three other very high and intoxicated male friends just behind him, on the grass. I bent over and whispered into the girls ears, "If anything should happen, run straight back to the RV and have mommy call 911. Okay?" They both nodded with crystal clarity.
   Thankfully nothing happened. But would that still have been the case if Zoe was by herself? The event frightened Zoe and Sierra to their cores. They felt guttural fear on a public beach, on a sunlit afternoon, and near a playground. That should never have happened, but it did, and the lawlessness of these public spaces went from the abstract to the very real, instantly. I wish not to harp on one state or another but truth be told we never even felt such predatory aggression in all of our travels through the Americas, until a beautiful seaside community, in northern California.
   I know we should teach our kids to be watchful, but how does that help a child when someone 3 times their size surprises them from the bushes? Shouldn't we punish the predators instead of the prey? Why is such open vagrancy allowed when signs are posted everywhere clearly saying that it is prohibited? Why aren't the homeless better taken care of? We struggle with so many questions? The richest country in the world can do better than we are doing. We have millions of people in need and too many of those are women and children.
   We spoke with many locals and most agreed that poverty and vagrancy are big issues. However, most are okay with the status quo because they know where the problem areas are and they avoid them. That's great for them, but what about us, unsuspecting, and innocent tourists? I have seen tremendous things on our journeys and as societies start to fall, they first do so by not caring about their neighbors. Eventually the "haves" wall themselves in from the "have nots" protecting themselves from the ugly world outside.
   The world is not ugly out there, our neglect is. We need to take our homeless problem seriously in the U.S. Those that should be incarcerated, should be. Those that need mental health care, should receive it. Those that need a helping hand, should receive it, and then some. We should all remember an old saying, "There too, but for the grace of God, go I."
   I know helping the homeless won't remove every predator, but we should all want to live in a world where a 9 years girl can go to the park and play, in peace and innocence.   

Sea otter tracks in the sand.

The view from our RV park.

My beach girl of a daughter collecting driftwood. 

Zoe walking to the ocean in low tide.

Walking Paco is a good way to wake up in the morning.

Low tide in Crescent City, California. 

The famous northern California coastline.

California sea lions basking in the sun.

The natural beauty of Coastal N. Cal. in stunning.