Living Off The Grid

This summer, I went off the grid. Living off the grid has always fascinated me. For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to give up all the creature comforts we all take for granted, and live a simpler life.

In the rugged mountains of Washington, I made a soft attempt to go off the grid. No electricity. No running water. No bathrooms. I deem my adventure a ‘soft attempt’ because the expanse of a month was all I committed to trying out this lifestyle. This was simply a test to see if my endurance and fortitude could withstand what it took to live such an amazing way of life.

Having designated only a month, I didn’t have the time to fully immerse myself in a complete lifestyle change. Thus, I kept a few luxurious conveniences.

  1. I continued to buy my groceries from local stores versus growing my own veggies, foraging for berries, and fishing or hunting for meat. After all, I do love to eat, and a growling hungry stomach would definitely taint my experience.
  2. Never knowing when an emergency may occur, I also kept my iPhone handy – charging it in my car when the battery signal would glow red.

Setting up camp in the mountains of Washington near the banks of the Snoqualmie River, I was pleased to have such a beautiful and ideal location for our little adventure. Organizing camp took no time at all. Having tented across the United States to get here, we were now old pros and setting up and tearing down camp.

The serenity of our location was a cool salve to our frayed nerves. We’d gotten caught in some crazy wet weather along the way, and were happy to finally have a chance to dry out our gear.

Having none of the conveniences we’d all come to rely on was an adjustment. With no electricity, no running water, and no bathrooms – we quickly learned to make due and to appreciate what we no longer had.

While living off the grid may be a peaceful life, it isn’t an easy life. It wasn’t long before I learned why very few choose to live off the grid.

Bathing:

The simple act of bathing was a time consuming chore. No longer did we have the option to simply step inside our shower, adjust the faucet to find a warm soothing spray, and soap up. Instead, we had two options:

  1. Brave the frigid temps of the Snoqualmie River, and hope we didn’t become ill.
  2. Trek down to the river where we’d fill our water jugs before carefully trekking back up the hill to camp, heating jug after jug of water in a large pot over our campfire, and then using that water to fill a large blue tote that we’d designated for our baths.

When Nature Calls:

Maintaining dignity when nature calls can be difficult in the woods. Admittedly, the girls struggled with this more than the boys. Fortunately, we found an outhouse conveniently located three miles from our camp that we used now and again.

Laundry:

On any given day, my extended family of five can accumulate quite an impressive amount of laundry. Staying caught up is essential if you don’t want it to become an overwhelming chore. Two of us normally head to the laundry mat twice a week when we’re living in our Beast.

Living in the great outdoors 24/7, our clothes seemed to naturally accumulate dirt and soil. Thankfully, we had the river close by, so there was no need for us to wonder how we were going to keep our family clean. Hauling our laundry down to the river, we scrubbed and washed our laundry the way families used to before the invention of washers, dryers, and laundry mats. Clean wet clothes make for a heavy haul when you are carrying them up a steep hill on a river bank. Hanging our clothes on a rope strung among the trees, we let the sun dry them.

Sinking down into my camp chair, I’ve never been more grateful to be done with laundry. Laundry has never been my favorite chore. It isn’t particularly hard – just time consuming. I never realized just how hard it could be. Doing laundry is back breaking work without the convenience of a washing machine or running water and a sink.

Potable Water:

Having enough potable water on hand was a worry I had before we knew where we’d be camping. In preparation of our adventure, we bought six gallon jugs of water from the store in addition to several cases of bottled water. Our plan was to use the gallon jugs for cooking and save the bottled water for everyone to drink. We greatly underestimated how much water we use on a daily basis. Our six gallon jugs were empty by the end of our first day. Shocked, we briefly wondered how safe it would be to use the water from the river, but fear of jeopardizing our family’s health kept us from trying it. Thankfully, three miles away at the campground where we’d found the outhouse there was a water pump that offered potable water. We could use the old water pump to fill our water jugs, and our water would be safe for us to cook with.

Like everything else, filling our water jugs from the old water pump proved to be no easy feat. It took several minutes of us steadily pumping on the old heavy metal arm before the old pump would be primed enough to shoot out water. Replenishing our daily supply of cooking water was a two person job. One person would pump and the other would hold the jug steady under the tap as the water shot out full blast – then they’d switch positions. Pumping enough water to fill six gallon jugs was too much for one person.

It wasn’t what I expected, but things seldom are. Living off the grid is hard work. I never fully realized just what it would take.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the peaceful mornings around the campfire. I loved having everyone take a step back from their electronic devices to talk, laugh, and be with one another. I liked seeing everyone pitch in to complete the daily chores.

Sometimes, reality is a hard pill to swallow, but the reality is – living off the grid isn’t for me.

I prefer the creature comforts of my Beast where I can enjoy a hot shower and a soft bed.

Daily Post: Jeopardize

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Onward, We Go…

imageIt’s still early. I have time. Careful not to wake my sleeping family, I quietly make my morning cup of coffee, grab my laptop, and head outside. I cherish these moments – quiet moments before the people I love most in the world are up and about. It’s the perfect time to sit, think, and write.

We leave tomorrow. I can hardly wait. I’m so excited. I’m almost giddy. We’ve been stationary for a few months now, and it’s making me restless. The road has been calling to me, beckoning.

This time will be a bit different. We are leaving our home behind. The Beast will be secured in storage while we tent for the next month. Taking advantage of the summer months, we are going to get out doors and get back to basics.

We’ve been preparing all week, and we’re almost ready. There are just a few odds and ends that remain. It’s been a long haul, deciding between necessities and frivolities. Yes, I could make do with just a sleeping bag laid out on the ground, but am I prepared for the havoc that will wreak on my back? I don’t think that I am. An air mattress may be considered a frivolity by some,  but I deem it a necessity.  I’m not as young as I once was. None of us are. Traveling with our Beast is a luxury I’ve become accustomed to. It is so much easier just being able to just tighten down the hatches before hitting the road. It may be a little harder this way, but it’ll be fun.

Onward, we go….

Unlimited Possibilities

 

 

imageWe have nothing to do, nowhere to go. The empty afternoon offers unlimited possibilities. The day beckons to us, inviting us to explore. Hopping in the car, we set off to find an adventure.

A slight breeze offers relief against the powerful Florida sun, making the afternoon pleasantly comfortable. Munching on our packed lunch beneath a picnic shelter, we’ve decided to spend today at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida. The park promises to fill our empty afternoon with beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife.

Taking advantage of the complimentary boat ride, we glide along Pepper Creek in a pontoon boat. Listening to the Park Ranger’s informative introduction, I take in the beauty of the park. It is breathtaking.

Purchased in 1940, this fifty acre park has actually been a popular attraction since the early 1900s, when trains would stop allowing passengers to enjoy the view of Homosassa Spring. Over the years this beautiful natural park was used to house trained exotic animals that were used on television shows and in movies.  However, animal education, understanding, and compassion have since changed how the park manages captive wildlife. A participant in Manatee rescue and rehabilitation, the park has helped rescue and rehabilitate more than forty injured manatees in the span of thirty years.

Exploring the park, we saw manatees swimming, stunning wildlife at the zoo, met an artist, rode a pontoon boat, and learned little something about animal rescue and rehabilitation.

What started out as an empty afternoon ended in a beautiful adventure.

 

Daily Prompt

Perfection in a Bowl

 

 

PhoRarely captured, perfection is fleeting. Few and far between, perfect moments leave a lasting impression.

It has been nearly ten years, but I remember the afternoon perfectly. It was soggy. Rain had surged in making for a wet, damp day. This was nothing new or unexpected. Washington State averages 147 days of rainfall a year.

Josh and I were work friends. We were as tight as any two work friends could be. It had been a crazy day, and we were in need of a break. Grabbing lunch was the perfect opportunity. Josh wanted Pho. He was coming down with a cold, and hoped the soup would help ward off his cold before it really set in. I’d never heard of Pho, but I was up for an adventure.

As luck would have it, the restaurant wasn’t too far from work. Walking through the door, we were greeted by delicious aromas. Sitting down, we were served tea and water as we looked over the menu.

Knowing what he wanted, Josh put his menu aside. Looking over the selections, I felt my apprehensions grow. I was starving, but nothing captured my attention. Seeing my struggle, Josh urged me to just have what he was getting. He assured me I would love it. Nodding in agreement, I warned him it had better be good. I was starving. He laughed, and told me not to worry. He ordered us each a bowl of chicken Pho and an appetizer of spring rolls to share.

The spring rolls came first. The translucent paper thin skin of the roll showcased large plump shrimp, glass noodles, and slivers of cabbage. They were delicious. Although, I must admit I didn’t care for the peanut sauce accompanying them. It was too sweet for my liking. Preferring a little spice, I dipped mine in a little Sriracha sauce. While we ate our spring rolls, the waiter brought us a platter of Pho garnishments: lime wedges, fresh jalapeno slices, bean sprouts, and Thai basil. The rest of our lunch took no time at all, and soon the waiter set before us two large bowls brimming with a scrumptious broth, meaty hunks of chicken, and rice noodles.

Unsure of what to do, I watched my friend. Adding the garnishments to his soup, Josh told me everyone has their own preferences for Pho. This being my first time, I thought it best if I simply try it his way. Copying him, I squeeze one of the limes releasing the juice into my broth, float two fresh jalapeno slices into my soup,  before topping it off with several bean sprouts. He warns me that the jalapeno’s will heat up my soup. Not as brave as him, I forgo the chopsticks. Only on our lunch break, I didn’t want to slop Pho down the front of my suit.

Spooning up a bit of broth, I took my first taste and find perfection. Perfection in a bowl of Pho.

Daily Prompt

Seeking Solitude

TypeWriter ImageThe outside world looms larger than life. The television blares. People talk and laugh. A car alarm sounds off. A dog barks.It is in moments like these when I struggle. All, I want is a moment of quiet where I can become lost within my own mind, focus on my thoughts, and capture the story running through the recesses of my mind.

Quieting my exterior, I immerse myself in my writing. Pounding away at the keyboard, I have somehow effectively managed to remove myself from the life happening around me.

It’s time. I am ready to converse and laugh, but the silence is deafening. My world is quiet. Everyone around me seems to be submersed in their own activities. Restless, I prowl about. Like a precocious two year old, I want to throw a fit and harass my family into paying attention to me.

It’s a fine line to walk. As a traveler and a writer, I have a need to experience life. I have a need to – feel the wind on my face,  experience the stifling muggy heat of Virginia, smell the dank mustiness of an earthy farm, hear the story of the woman who works at the five and dime store, suffer through the agony of defeat, wade in the waves crashing against the pristine white shores of the sandy Florida beaches, laugh until I cry, navigate my way along the hustling city streets of New York, and to be overwhelmed with gratitude. I have a need to do it all, to see it all, to experience it all.

I’ve had enough. Bursting at the seams, I’m ready to implode. My body needs rest and my mind needs relief. Armed with my laptop, I squire away. I’ll be better once I spend the next few hours, days, or possibly weeks pounding away at the keyboard.

Daily Prompt

 

 

Sakura-Con

sakura

An annual anime convention, Sakura-Con takes place at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA.

Excitement hangs in the air. Costumes decorate the city streets. Sakura-Con is here.

My daughter has spent months planning, crafting, and sewing together her costumes. She loves anime, and this particular convention holds a special place in her heart. It is the first, she attended.

Walking into the convention center, I’m instantly transported into a world of imagination and make believe. It is a world, I struggle to understand.

There are throngs of people everywhere. Hesitantly, I follow my daughter’s lead through the crowd. I don’t know what to make of the scene around me.Looking around, I wonder if saying “yes” to this event was such a good idea. People are everywhere in various states of dress – women and men in skimpy outfits, furry creatures, people decked out in armor, women and men in beautiful gowns, and anime characters galore. Moving about the crowd, I’m struck by the overwhelming sense of friendship and camaraderie. People talk, laugh, and pose for pictures with the characters they like.

Picking up a schedule, we map out our day. There are numerous activities, we can participate in – various panels, costume contests, fashion shows, meet and greets with different voice actors, band performances, anime video premiers,  gaming competitions, and more. The options are endless.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. Constantly on the go, the events run from early in the morning until after midnight.I’m exhausted by the end of the first day.This anime world is a crazy, but I’m comforted to know it is all in good fun.

The stamina needed to keep up with it all is insane. The events run from early in the morning until after midnight, entertaining everyone and keeping them on the go.

On the second day, I know what to expect and better prepare myself. Bringing my laptop and camera with me, I sit myself at a central location while my daughter goes to the events with her friends. Sometimes, I join them. Surprisingly, there are events that hold my attention. Other times, I simply wander about taking pictures.

By the third and final day, I’ve learned a few things. The panels have helped enlighten me. The anime videos have entertained me. The detailed work put into the costumes have astonished me. The friendly open people have helped to welcome me into their world.

We’ve attended several Sakura-Con’s over the years, and I still struggle to understand the world of anime. I couldn’t begin to tell you which character belongs to which anime. However, I have fun every time I go.

More Information on Sakura-Con

Homeless America

Do you ever worry it could happen to you? I never used to, but I do now. My eyes were pried open when I began traveling the United States.

Homelessness isn’t an allusive problem, but a reality. It is no longer a problem that exists somewhere, out there. From the smallest of towns to the largest cities, homelessness is steadily becoming more prevalent.

Look around. Do you see it? Has it made its way to your town – to your neighborhood?

Anacortes, Washington:

During the summer months, tourists can be seen milling about the town moving from shop to shop. Once little more than a fishing village, Anacortes evolved over the years into a prosperous town thanks to the tourist industry. Ideally located on Fidalgo Island, Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juan Islands.

Commercial fishing boats can still be found docked at the Cap Sante Marina, but pleasure boats are now the majority. Sadly, the fishing industry has diminished over the year as costs and regulations have increased.

It was in this little, scenic seaport town that we met Perry.

Driving along R Avenue, we were headed down to the docks when we drove past a man slowly making his way down the sidewalk while pulling a metal cart behind him. The cart seemed to be filled with all his worldly possessions. Scuffed and worn, he looked like he’d seen better days.

Pulling off the road, I rolled down my window and offered him some money.

Smiling, he softly shook his head. “While I appreciate your generosity, I never accept something without giving something in return. Will you give me a second?”

Mildly surprised, I nodded in agreement.

Turning to his cart, he dug through it until he found what he was looking for.

Smiling, he held out a baby carriage for me, he’d built out of a beer can. “I saw your little one in the back, and thought you might like this. Be careful, don’t let her play with it. The edges are sharp.”

Taking the carriage, I admired his work. “Thank you. It’s beautiful.”

Visiting for a few minutes before parting ways, I learned that Perry had made the streets of Anacortes his home for the last three years. He loved the area, but would like to move somewhere a little warmer. The damp winters make his arthritis act up.

Washington DC:

Home to the President of the United States, Washington D.C. is a beautiful hustling city that lies along the Potomac River. Well-known for its monuments, museums, and galleries, the city is rich in culture. However, it is also well-known for its homeless problem.

It is here in our Nation’s Capital that 12,215 people were found to be homeless on January 28, 2016, by the COG Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee.

The problem is only too evident when you drive through the city. Tents and tarps set up under a bridge create a temporary community. This makeshift tent city is one of hundreds popping up around the United States.

Orlando, Florida:

This past Christmas was our first on the road. We spent our holiday season at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake in Orlando, Florida. A hundred and eighty-three acres of rich green land adjacent to beautiful Turkey Lake, the park was a lovely change from the cold Alaskan Christmas we had experienced the previous year.

Exploring Orlando and the surrounding areas, we spent approximately a month at the park. While there, we came to meet a nice young family who also happened to be staying there. On the surface, their family appears similar to mine. Like us, they are a family of five and they are a mobile. However, that is where the similarities seem to end.

We are an extended family with grandparents, parent, and two teenagers. We made a conscious choice to give up our stationary lives and adopt a nomadic traveling lifestyle. Our home is a thirty-four foot RV that we navigate around the highways and back roads of the United States. We live doing what we please.

They are a traditional family with a father, mother, and three young girls. Their mobile life isn’t by choice. They are a homeless family who primarily live out of their car. They expand their home to include a small tent when they are fortunate enough to be able to afford the fees of a campground or park. They live in fear that someone will find out they live out of their car, and will tear their family apart.

How desperate would I have to be, to knock on someone’s door to ask for help?

I’ve turned this question over and over in my mind, but I still don’t know the answer. It is something I simply can’t imagine. Perhaps, it is one of those situations where you just need to be there to understand.

In the last year, I’ve heard that knock four times. It comes as a surprise every time. Although, I imagine it’s easier and less intimidating to approach an RV than it is the door of a two story home. We do what we can to help – providing sack lunches and warm blankets. It isn’t nearly enough, but I like to think it helps.

Homelessness happens easier and faster than many of us realize. The reality of it is, it can happen to anyone for any reason.

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