Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Homeless … well, yes, but enjoying life on the road!

It has been two weeks since we left our former home in Niwot and started living out of our company command center where we have now taken up residence. It is proving quite the adventure. Surprised? Well, actually, it has had its moments and some issues are still being worked out, but overall, we could live this life if we had to. Wait a minute; we have embraced this lifestyle! And yes, we had to. But on the flip side, it’s an entry point into potentially a lifestyle we may embrace more fully in the years to come and reading of others who RV permanently it’s hard to ignore the upside.

And what exactly is the upside? It’s the carefree gypsy lifestyle, of course, something Toad of Wind in the Willows fame could relate to. We of course have spent a lot of time at Willow Springs, so perhaps a little of the mystique has finally rubbed off on us. However, in embracing this lifestyle as we have been doing for more than two weeks now, it’s still very much a compromise as we have been attending industry events while we work on our digital marketing programs, so it’s not all wine and roses. What about martinis? Well, true enough; there is wine in the fridge but the Vodka in the freezer has proved more appealing as the weather has simply turned very furnace like.

The Holen - Buckle family though isn’t suffering in any way. While a temporary downsizing from 10,000+ sq ft to approximately 400 sq ft may throw off some families, the adjustments we have made haven’t been too onerous on either Margo or me. Quite the contrary, in fact! If all we have packed away in storage should suddenly evaporate somehow, we wouldn’t be all that bothered. There aren’t any possessions we cannot replace.   

Our Tiffin Open Road 38’ RV is a bunkhouse coach, meaning that in addition to the bedroom suite at the back of the RV, we have bunk beds along one side. While we are travelling solo, these bunk spaces have proved to be ideal storage spaces and we have pretty much wedged into the space all those items we simply didn’t want to put into storage. Mostly company papers, it turns out, together with a couple of pieces of memorabilia we can’t part with. 

On the other hand, it’s kind of fun to have the run of the place all to ourselves and even as this is our sixth summer with the RV, it is a very private lifestyle that really isn’t sharable with others, unless of course, they bring their own RV with them. This has happened numerous times with our friends from Simi Valley, Southern California, who essentially helped push us into the lifestyle but this is more the exception then any rule we have adopted.

From Niwot, Colorado, we drove out east before turning south into Texas, where we overnighted in Amarillo. Our plans called for us to participate in an industry event in Grapevine, Texas, where we were spending a couple of nights at the Gaylord Resort hotel. Then it was a dash across west Texas and New Mexico before turning north and into Arizona and Nevada in order to make it to another, much longer, event in Las Vegas. The earlier reference to furnace-like conditions wasn’t accidental as for more than a week we lived with daytime temperatures pushing well past 100 degrees, but after spending time in Las Vegas before, we have now sorted out how to manage the various power systems in the RV whereby the evening temps inside the RV were reasonable. 

There’s one thing that high temperatures cannot detract from and that is the opportunity to grill outside. Fair enough, coming from Australia, there wasn’t a summer that passed where cooking outside on the BBQ didn’t mean sweltering in unearthly conditions, all for the sake of cooking that ultimate snag – a sausage to be held in a slice of white bread covered in tomato sauce. Turns out that this is an ideal training ground for eventual cookouts in the southwest of the US, as it’s hard to say which situation was worse, although the extra dash of humidity Sydney experiences in summer oftentimes pushes the pain level past the threshold of civility!

We have had the same Coleman grill now for all the summers we have spent on the road and it’s still lamb shoulder chops that I really enjoy grilling the most – yes, a ribeye or two have spent a short amount of time on the grill as have pork boneless spare ribs. Again, perhaps it’s an Australian thing to throw a couple of lamb chops on the grill before anything else but as they were from Australia, it seemed to be the right thing to do.  And of course, there was a martini nearby to help fend off the heat.

Heading further south we were already being warned that the conditions were likely to deteriorate around the time we departed the Dallas / Fort Worth area and headed for Las Vegas, but we have experienced pretty much everything Mother Nature can throw at us so we weren’t too concerned. There were little signs that anything much out of the ordinary would happen so we simply kept on driving. After all we were homeless, right? Where else could we go?

Readers of the posts to this blog may recall our trip last year out to Virginia and the Carolinas and how the drive through West Virginia to the Outer Banks was spent ducking heavy rain showers. At times, the rain was coming down so hard that we had to cut our speed considerably and just when the worst appeared to be behind us and we were a mere half mile from our destination alongside the Atlantic Ocean, one last storm flooded the area and we had to be directed to an alternate campsite. Well, it happened once again. 

Pulling out of Fort Worth on Interstate 20, we hit rain and it stayed with us all the way to Abilene. As we pulled into our campsite for the night we were met with an all too familiar sight – water everywhere. No grilling tonight, it turned out, just a little extra chilling of the martinis, but we were fine. Nothing we hadn’t experienced before, but hearing the furnace kick in early in the morning reminded us that even with daytime temperatures pushing the limits, night time can still be chilly. However, this was only a small foretaste of what was yet to come as the thermometer was going to break new ground at the top and the bottom!

Driving the company command center also meant towing the trailer where we had stashed the Mini Cooper S roadster. It is proving the ideal vehicle to tour areas where we spend more than a couple of nights. Getting it on and off the trailer is an easy assignment but the combined length of our big rig is about 60 feet so navigating tight spaces still has its challenges. Our stay in Grapevine at the Gaylord Resort meant we had to park it in the offsite secure truck and bus site, but we missed the turn off and drove right into the compound.

Easy enough to do, all right! Getting out? Well we had to call security and work with escorts even as they had to stop the traffic while I reversed the rig and then executed a very tight u-turn. Point is that this was just a training exercise as we found many of the campsites along our route had even less space to maneuver and if badges were being handed out for “most improved reverse parking efforts” I would happily raise my hand.

Throw into the mix an uncertain water depth and you can only begin to imagine the angst coming from my only passenger. What happened next couldn’t have been more extreme had we planned it from the outset. Now to throw a little salt into the wound, so as to speak, Margo had left our Niwot home totally spent! After six or more weeks packing boxes – some 70 plus at last count – allowing me time to continue to meet customer’s critical timelines, there was no way she was in shape to tackle driving the rig and as we have both observed in all previous trips, it really does take us a full week before we truly begin to relax. All of which is to say, the driving duties fell to me exclusively so the 3,000 mile round trip was definitely going to be a test for both of us. 

Not to worry, we quickly put the wet conditions behind us, but as they say, be careful what you wish for in case it comes true. Inching our way around the construction sites dominating the highways in and out of El Paso, we continued into New Mexico only to witness much dryer conditions with temperatures already past 100 degrees. Of interest, we passed a Border Patrol checkpoint that had been set up on the Interstate. More curious though was a second bank of five cameras we encountered after having passed by literally dozens of regular looking cameras and sensors.

With Margo and I both being of a technical inclination, our curiosity heightened when we reached the checkpoint only to be given big smiles, no fifth degree and an almost “how was Dallas?” greeting. To us, it looked a lot like facial recognition is now in play along our southern border as cars all around us were stopped and interrogated. But not the Holen - Buckle family from Niwot! Perhaps, as Margo speculated, it had nothing to do with checking our identity as it did with us being as old as we are and as harmless-looking as we have become.  Get out of here, you two! And, yes, have a nice day …

Stepping outside to fire up the grill were now well and truly behind us. With the climbing temperatures it became a case of nights spent eating cold pizza. And yes, an appletini or two! The good news was that any previous misadventures running the dual air conditioners appear to be well and truly behind us as we have really come to terms with managing the power on hand and with this accomplished, we have been pretty good at keeping the temperatures inside the RV bearable. Las Vegas soon appeared on the horizon, shimmering under the dessert heatwave that is ever present at this time of year, and it was time to set up camp for the longest period of time of the trip – almost a full week.

The blessings of Las Vegas are few and far between, but the one thing they have sorted out is the air conditioning. There are a couple of malls we always like to spend time in, if for no other reason than it allows us to walk the lengthy corridors in relatively cool conditions. We stop by the shops, we talk to the sales folks and we oohhh and aaahh at the really cool stuff on offer. I have always been drawn to upscale watches – you know, the ones that just can’t keep accurate time – whereas Margo loves accessories. Shoes, handbags, whatever! 

Still in awe of all the work Margo did in the six or so weeks before we left and watching carefully as she experiences pain from stretched and worn muscles, it wasn’t all that hard to watch Margo do some serious shopping this time around. Margo loves fine shoes with Prada and Christian Louboutin already in the closet but now she has added a pair of shoes by Jimmy Choo. More or less completing her shoe “bucket list” these shoes brought her considerable pleasure and it’s been a while since I have seen her as happy as she was as she walked out of the store carrying a bag with a pair of Diamond 65s. But wait there’s more …

Arriving earlier than we had expected at the mall that connects Crystals at City Center, where there is a Mastro Steakhouse with the Aria Hotel, we walked the upscale shops that dominate the center. In very short order we found ourselves inside Prada – its biggest store in North America as it turns out. Almost instantly, Margo was drawn to a small handbag she really liked. To be honest, Margo has been looking for such a bag for goodness knows how long and has rejected everything she had come across to date. So it was obvious, this was the handbag she wanted but first we had to have dinner at Mastros. After dinner it was straight to Prada where she bought the bag, one of only three brought to North America, and as simple and elegant as it is, you would never guess what it is and perhaps ultimately, that is the main reason why Margo likes it. No one will ever know what she is carrying when she steps out for the evening. 

We are now back in Colorado, parked alongside Boyd Lake, just a little south of Ft. Collins and only a couple of miles from where our new home is being built. The weather here is as unstable as it has been everywhere else, with a tornado warning issued the day after we arrived. But it is a pretty place and being near the water is proving to be an unexpected pleasure. We have fully settled into the RV life even as we enjoy the time we have spent together. Looking further ahead it will likely be another two months living in the company command center before we have the chance to move into our new home. Until that day arrives, however, it’s going to be several weeks of changing campsites, new experiences and yes, more grills, more martinis and even more shoes and handbags I expect!  

No comments: