Monday, May 30, 2016

What We've Learned So Far

The first phase of our new way of life is about to close. Our tenure at Bennett Spring State park ends this week, and we'll pull up stakes and make our way across the Great Plains to our next project. More on that later, but for now, our teachable moments, in no particular order:
  • Home is a concept, not a place. We sold our house of thirty years and now find ourselves in much smaller quarters. Later this week, we will wake up in a new place, but in familiar surroundings. It's a bit like air travel - get in the tube in one place, sit a while, and get out of the tube somewhere else. Home is where Kath is and Moxie is and I am. This is home, whether it's in Missouri, Colorado, Texas, or someplace else. We are home.
  • You can get by with a lot less stuff. The two hundred pounds of dishes and barware we gave away are not missed at all. The closets full of clothes are redundant. The garage full of underutilized tools is easy to do without. It's a mind change. You can do it.
  • You can get by with a lot less space. We went from 2,000 square feet of house to a bit over 400 square feet, including the space occupied by furniture. We don't feel cramped, but we're still working out the "kitchen dance".
  • You can get by with a lot less luxe. We turned off the cable TV connection months before we left, and while over-the-air broadcast isn't always the greatest programming to be had, it covers the necessities - news, weather, Jeopardy. We'll get by with 4GLTE internet connections when we can, less when we have to. Priorities have to be adjusted. My cloud backups need to be redefined and a new workflow adopted.
All of these things are pretty basic mental adjustments that come with the idea of giving up a house without wheels in favor of a movable feast. The conceptual mountains to climb are more subtle:
  • You have to leave things behind. You may have once cherished that one souvenir, or held tightly to something that once signified a life change, but honestly, these things are anchors. Every pound has a cost when you're on the road. Your capacity to carry things is finite. You have a very real weight limit. More importantly, these things not only weigh you down physically, but they create a mental bridge to the past. That may not necessarily be a bad thing for some people, but in my case, I would far prefer to redefine our lives in a new way. Already, the house we lived in for thirty years has faded into the the gray past. Mind you, I'm not immune to nostalgia, but I have a limited amount of time left to explore the world, and too much baggage just weighs me down. I shredded trash bags full of film, contact sheets, old cards, letters and pitched as much as could. I have a couple of regrets regarding photo equipment, but the decision was the right one at the time. The first dumpster load is painful. It gets steadily easier with each attempt, and eventually becomes cathartic, even enjoyable. I've always had issues with my weight. Losing tonnage this way is fun and easy.
  • We decided to go full-time RV. Others buy new houses, cars, bling, or shoes. The truth is, regardless of how you choose to pull your life into focus, nothing really changes unless you do. You are still the same people that first turned the key. If you had unresolved issues before you rolled out of the driveway, you probably still do. Ruts are portable; they travel with you, habits die hard, and only then if you repeatedly and consciously try to kill them off.
  • Once you've shed the mantle of stuff you don't need, you have to learn think small and light. The manufacturer of your RV knows this. Your bathroom lavatory sink is made of plastic, not porcelain. Your walls are hollow and your house flexes. There are places where your size 13 shoes can't navigate. The ceiling in your bedroom is just high enough to walk through, but not high enough to allow you to put on your shirt in the morning without banging your knuckles on the air vent. This is life in the white whale. I have bumped my head on every prominence and fixture in the house, including the front door. It's four inches shorter than I am. I will learn to duck.
  • Finding the time to work is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as finding the space. Time has been meted out in inconvenient chunks over the last three months, and shifting into writing mode has been problematic. Truth is, the space is only part of the issue. I am easily distracted, and close quarters make it difficult for me to concentrate on image editing, writing, or just catching up on the news. Sometimes just anticipating distractions makes working difficult. We don't have a dedicated work space - our dining table is our computer desk - and I am not effective working on a laptop. Years of multiple--display-array large studio monitors have spoiled me to desktop computing. I am still working on solutions. Hide the remote. Maybe headphones and blinders. Single malt sedatives. Maybe I just have to learn to be more flexible. We'll get there eventually.
We still have far to go and much to learn, but we're off to a wonderful start. Coming up next, news from the road.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Notes From Basecamp

Our stay at Bennett Spring State Park is nearing its end. We rolled in here at the end of February, and quite frankly, we didn't know what to expect from the park, its management, or our new venture as full-time RVers.

We had left the house in the hands of our realtor and just ran like hell. Long story short, that has turned out as well as could be hoped for. The house was under contract within a week, and the sale closed a few weeks later. We're free.

We've seen several seasons here - winter still had a firm grip on the area when we arrived. Winter gave way, reluctantly, to a struggling spring, and from time to time, summer has elbowed its way in as a kind of preview of things to come.

We've been in two campsites. The campsite in Campground 4 was almost perfect, but we were bumped for camp hosts with more volunteer seniority, as it were. We rolled down to Campground 3, several weeks before it was open to the public - our own private campground. We've watched herds of deer wandering lazily though the park, unconcerned by our presence and our binocular eavesdropping. We've been witness to the annual unveiling of the flowering dogwood, clouds of white bracts floating in the dense oak and hickory forest. Not long after they had peaked and started to leaf out, the remaining trees and shrubs, began to fill out in a deep emerald green that I hadn't seen since Scotland. We've gone from a barren stick-season park in the Missouri Ozarks to a lush midland forest park.

The main draw for many that come to Bennett Spring is fishing. The area has been a destination for trout anglers since the park opened in 1924, and every day finds anglers in waders up to their chests in the cool rushing waters of the spring branch. The hatchery in the park stocks the spring and the nearby river, and few come away without their limit, or at least enough trout for dinner.

We've met great people here, both from our volunteer time at the Nature Center and throughout the area. The park has hundreds of campsites, ranging from basic tent sites to full-hookup RV pull-throughs. There is good wifi in all the campgrounds - though it has an aggravating time-limiting feature. Understandable, but annoying. There are showers and laundry facilities for campers, and when warm weather really hits later this month, a large swimming pool. All in all, and wonderful family destination. Our 2016 host merit badges in our pockets, we have already applied to return next year in preparation for our trek east, through the Smokies and up the east coast.

We'll soon weigh anchor and begin our trip across Kansas and Colorado, hopscotching our way to Dinosaur National Monument. We'll set up on the banks of the Green River, and help campers there get the most of their experience in the high desert of Utah.

In my opinion, Missouri has some of the best state parks anywhere, and their web site is certainly among the best and most user-friendly. Our experiences in the Missouri Parks have been first-rate, and we can highly recommend the parks and historic sites all over Missouri.

Until next time, here are a few images of our time in Bennett Spring State Park.

More later when we hit the road again. Follow along if you like. Thanks for stopping by.