Archive for December, 2008

Border Fence

Yesterday I saw, up close and personal, the tall, metal border fence erected between the small eastern San Diego County town of Jacumba and the little Mexican town of Jacume across the imaginary border line. For some reasons, both understandable and unfathomable at the same time, seeing this symbol of division brought tears to my eyes.

After a short drive through desert and brush, we parked next to the fence and just stared. What was once an uneven barbed wire fence where people from both sides of the border regularly crossed had, in a short time, grown to over eight feet tall and now extends for miles, even climbing a mountain. The day before I’d sat captive in the car while driving my 83-year-old mother home from a trip to the mountains. I listened to her complain about all the Mexicans here, about how they all had too many noisy kids, about how she had never been biased before but now hates it that everyone she sees now is Mexican. I held my tongue, probably literally at times, not trusting what would come out of my own mouth.

I grew up here in eastern San Diego County in the 1950s and 1960s, listening to people talk about the “wetback” problem. I watched as the border crossing between San Ysidro and Tijuana gradually took longer and longer to cross, ostensibly because of drug enforcement. Back then, perhaps naively, I even accepted that.

But yesterday I experienced only a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes, and a wish that we humans beings could stop being so cruel to each other in the name of border security. Call it not facing facts, being naive, being a Pollyanna, a bleeding heart liberal, not being aware of or choosing to ignore all the facts. I accept all that. However, the lump in my throat is still there, and will be for a long time.

“Border Towns Are Close Enough to Touch, but Worlds Apart” by Charlie LeDuff, NY Times

“Goal is to seal entire county, Hunter says”


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Several weeks ago fellow blogger and friend, Yarntangler wrote about playing Scrabble. My mother and I play a lot when I visit her, and tonight was no exception. We gathered up my new Deluxe version, a Christmas gift to myself, rounded up the cat, and set to it. Our games during the past week have ended very closely, usually within 5-15 points of each other. However, tonight she was either very astute or extremely lucky. Here’s the word she made, using all her letters for a bonus 50 points, and taking up two Triple Word squares. Her total for the word was 122 points. If she’d had the letter “B” instead of the blank, she would have gotten 18 additional points. Needless to say, she beat me so badly I’m still licking my wounds.

The cat and I are going to challenge her to another game tomorrow.

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Desert View Tower

Sometimes I’m amazed at how beautifully things turn out without any real effort on my part. Verse 48 in Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching reads this way:

In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can’t be gained by interfering.

Today I realized how much I’ve been trying to force things lately according to how I believe they should be. When I quit interfering, I was amazed at what happened.

Today my friend Lou and I drove out Interstate 8 to the Desert View Tower near Jacumba, California, one of our favorite spots. As we’ve done on visits in the past, we spent a lot of time talking with the owner, a fascinating person. We talked about how he wanted to hire more teenagers to work there part-time and he mentioned he’d hired workampers in the past.

It was getting pretty cold up there and we needed to get back, so we left and drove back toward San Diego. When we stopped at the Golden Acorn Casino for snacks, I all of a sudden realized a possibility: I needed a place to live in my RV during the month of January but didn’t want to drive all the way out to Blythe or Yuma or pay $600 or more for a site. Why couldn’t I workamp there at the tower for that month? I mentioned the idea to Lou and he was all in favor of it. So, I told him I’d call the owner when we got back.

We left the Casino and instead of taking the freeway toward San Diego, Lou headed the car in the opposite direction. “Where are we going”” I asked. “I figured we’d go back to the tower.” Oh, he knows me entirely too well, realizing I’d most likely forget to call once we got back. So, I talked to the owner and we arranged for me to park my RV there with electricity and water hookups and work five hours a week. He also has a piano in the gift shop and told me I was welcome to play it anytime I wanted.

So, from letting things pretty much take their own course, I’ve now got a free site for January that’s fairly close to my mother and friends, a piano to play, and a part-time job welcoming and visiting with tourists to the tower.

Another lesson learned.

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Mud Cave Time

What a long way from frozen Coffeyville, Kansas, in more ways than just weather. It’s also quite a completely different way of life.

Yesterday a good friend and I drove out to the Anza Borrego Desert to explore mud caves. In all my years or growing up here, I never knew about these. Here’s a wonderful website we used to find information about them:

Hidden San Diego

We hiked through almost all of Chasm Cave as well as checked out Plunge Pool Cave, Big Mud Cave, and Carey’s Big Mud Cave. Since it rained heavily a few days ago, those caves were exactly what they’re called–muddy. I’m sure we looked like a couple of mud monsters when we got back. My shoes were caked with at least an inch of sticky mud a couple of times, and the legs of my jeans–well, we just don’t want to go there!

We took all four little dogs, but decided to leave two of them in the car since keeping track of them all in the dark would have been quite tricky. However, they all got to run around out in the desert and make us chase them–so much fun, at least for them!

Here are some pictures. I was surprised at how well my camera worked inside the cave.

Someone has a great sense of humor: Hollywood and Vine, in the middle of the desert.

Inside Chasm Cave

Skylight in Chasm Cave

Arch – reminded me of Bryce Canyon

Cave Opening

Examining sandstone

Entrance to Plunge Pool Cave

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It’s been a good trip from Coffeyville, Kansas last week to San Diego today. A good friend from San Diego flew into Tulsa for my birthday last Friday, and we were able to spend two days together. I showed him my new house in Bartlesville, OK; we saw a wonderful art exhibit at the Price Tower–“Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things,” in which artists transformed common objects such as audio tapes, floppy disks, water bottles, newspapers, old clothes, and more into work of art. One of my favorites were the rugs made from old clothes. Fascinating! The ultimate in recycling. We also wandered through the Gilcrease Museum of the Americas in Tulsa, the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. There was too much to see in one day, but the Ansel Adams photography exhibit was outstanding.

After he left, I met an old friend from Kanab, Utah last year in Mineral Wells, Texas. She and I talked forever, catching up with a year’s worth of stuff, including their new house in Nebraska, my new house in Oklahoma, their workamping plans for this coming season, their new German Shepherd, a real sweet dog, and much, much more.

From there I headed west to Hobbs, New Mexico and stayed overnight with a friend’s dad and his wife. She has a magnificent collection of Barbie dolls, more than I’ve ever seen in one place. I had no idea there were so many different Barbies. I enjoyed visiting them quite a bit even though they were probably ready to toss me out after I finished the crossword puzzle before they did. Thank you, M. for setting up that visit.

From Hobbs, I headed south into Texas again, then west and north to Las Cruces, New Mexico, opting to stay at an RV park in order to do some needed laundry. The park is behind a motel owned by the same owners; the shower facilities are former motel rooms with everything removed but the sink, toilet, tub, and shower. I’ve never seen a bathtub in an RV park.

From Las Cruces to Tucson, Arizona and a stay with M.’s son and wife – a very charming couple. Both are in the Air Force and travel quite a bit. They made homemade pizza (delicious!) for dinner and we talked a lot. I’d love to visit them again on my way back to Oklahoma to see the Airplane Graveyard and eat at Magpie’s Pizza.

After Tucson, an overnight stop in the desert near Yuma to boondock with another friend. We took a long walk and caught up with what’s been happening since October, cooked hot dogs over a campfire, and drank wine. He’s only been fulltiming for about a year and was very interested in my reasons for deciding to move back into a house.

Finally, into San Diego, CA this afternoon to my mother’s place, a mobile home park that does not allow anyone to park overnight on the streets in the park. Since my RV would definitely not fit under her carport, I needed to take out everything I needed for my stay and find a place to park it. Luckily I’ve got a friend with large enough property up in the hills, so my little home is safe and secure. We visited with them for a while this afternoon as I hadn’t seen them in almost two years.

The traveling was excellent. I enjoyed driving the RV without towing the pickup, which made a definite positive difference in the handling as well as the gas mileage. It was so wonderful to be able to fill the tank for $45 instead of $145 as I had to do in October.

However, I called this entry “Can you really go home again,” for a good reason because I’m really wondering if that’s possible, expecially when a person is 62 and their mother is 83. I agree that the past two years of fulltime RVing and working on the road aren’t easy to explain to someone who thrives on consistency, on living in the same place and working at the same job for a long time. I feel so understood and comfortable with all my workamping friends, and have loved the places I’ve been able to work. Changing jobs every few months is a fact of life for us workampers and is what makes our lifestyle so interesting. I’ve done things and seen places that I’ve wanted to do and see since high school. And I’ve made some lifelong friends as well.

Unfortunately, my mother sees it as changing my mind all the time, not being able to stick to anything, not being able to hold a full-time job, and so forth. I’m so old that her criticism no longer bothers me much. However, I’d love to find a way to help her understand that my life for these past few years has probably been one of the happiest times of my life. The question is: Do I really need to? Probably not. But her criticism of my decision to rent and possibly buy the house in Oklahoma, made during a visit to two old friends, was quite uncomfortable. I’d like to chalk it up to age and to her need for security. I really don’t need her approval. But, sometimes it would be nice to feel a little more attempt at understanding.

My reasons for the decision are these: a need to have a garden again, to grow fantastic vegetables and flowers; a need to get another piano and resume my lifelong love of playing; a need to have room for sewing, quilting, and other hobbies; and a need for a permanent home in a place small enough for actual community. And I believe I’ve found it. I’d like for her to be happy for me. Maybe that will come in time, with a visit or two. Maybe she and I will be able to talk enough on my visit here that she is able to understand my lifestyle enough to no longer consider me such a flake. At least that would be nice.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate (or cigar) in one hand, champagne (or beer) in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming……“WOO HOO what a ride!”

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Santa Claus is a woman

I’ve been on the road for a week and haven’t had much of a chance to write. However, I received this from a good friend this morning and decided it might be perfect–perhaps a little sexist, but funny all the same. Enjoy.

I think Santa Claus is a woman….I hate to be the one to defy a sacred myth, but I believe he’s a she. Think about it. Christmas is a big, organized, warm, fuzzy, nurturing social deal, and I have a tough time believing a guy could possibly pull it all off!
For starters, the vast majority of men don’t even think about selecting gifts until Christmas Eve. Once at the mall, they always seem surprised to find only Ronco products, socket wrench sets, and mood rings left on the shelves.
On this count alone, I’m convinced Santa is a woman.
Surely, if he were a man, everyone in the universe would wake up Christmas morning to find a rotating musical Chia Pet under the tree, still in the bag.
Another problem for a he-Santa would be getting there. First of all, there would be no reindeer because they would all be dead, gutted and strapped to the rear bumper of the sleigh amid wide-eyed, desperate claims that buck season had been extended. Blitzen’s rack would already be on the way to the taxidermist.
Even if the male Santa DID have reindeer, he’d still have transportation problems because he would inevitably get lost up there in the snow and clouds and then refuse to stop and ask for directions.
Other reasons why Santa can’t possibly be a man:
• Men can’t pack a bag.
• Men would rather be dead than caught wearing red velvet.
• Men would feel their masculinity is threatened…having to be seen with all those elves.
• Men don’t answer their mail.
• Men would refuse to allow their physique to be describe even in jest as anything remotely resembling a “bowlful of jelly.”
• Men aren’t interested in stockings unless somebody’s wearing them.
• Having to do the Ho Ho Ho thing would seriously inhibit their ability to pick up women.
• Finally, being responsible for Christmas would require a commitment.
I can buy the fact that other mythical holiday characters are men………
• Father Time shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous – definite guy.
• Cupid flies around carrying weapons.
• Uncle Sam is a politician who likes to point fingers.
Any one of these individuals could pass the testosterone screening test. But not St. Nick. Not a chance.

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In January 1, 2006, I began my adventure as a fulltime RVer and workamper, living in my little 23-foot motor home and working for extended periods at various lodges and campgrounds around the country. It has been a wonderful time, made possible by all the outstanding friends I’ve met along the way. To be honest, before I began this journey I pictured RV owners as mostly rich, snobbish people with more money than brains. In a college economics class, one of my instructors bad-mouthed RVs, especially the boxy Winnebagos that were popular in the 1970s. And I think his comments about them stuck–until now.

I have found RV owners to be the friendliest, most thoughtful, most helpful, and most caring people I’ve probably ever met. And it doesn’t matter what size or type of vehicle they have. As a single woman, I am constantly amazed and thankful for all the little things I’ve received for the past two years and for the chance to contribute my talents as well. As I prepare to leave Coffeyville, Kansas tomorrow for the warmer climate of San Diego for a few weeks, and then back to my new little house in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I’d like to express my thanks and gratitude to all of you, but several people in particular. I won’t mention names, but you know who you are. Although I might be moving back into a house, thus ending two years of travel and adventures, I’m keeping the RV. After all, there’s much more of this country to see and more friends to make.

When I arrived here in October, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I drove into the main campground, found no sites available, and was finally guided to an area by the playground. However, I couldn’t find any water hookups. I stopped at one large RV and talked to a woman about where I might find some water and she showed me. After a while, we became quite good friends. She didn’t tow a separate car, or “toad,” as they’re called, and the ever-important laundromat, supermarket, post office, and Wal-Mart were several miles down the road. So, she bought my gas in exchange for rides. Since we had several weeks before beginning work, we were able to do a lot of sightseeing, extending our travels further into Kansas as well as into Oklahoma and Missouri. It was so much fun to see places I’d never envisioned. We played Scrabble, walked her dog, ate meals together, spent money at Wal-Mart, got free flu shots at a Cherokee Nation festival, and even bitched a little about Amazon. She’s been a workamper and fulltimer longer than I have and shared her adventures and knowledge with me. Even though I decided I couldn’t handle the Amazon job, she’s stuck it out the entire time, working eleven-hour shifts five nights a week. I value her friendship very much.

A month or so ago, another woman wanted someone to make her and her husband a flag for their motor home and I volunteered. I’d never made one before, but how hard could it be, especially since I have my sewing machine. At dinner one night, she showed me a drawing she’d made on a paper napkin of how they’d like the flag to look, but basically left the design up to me. They love the finished product. And thus began another wonderful friendship. She and I are both “crafty” type people: she knits, crochets, makes dollhouse miniatures, Christmas decorations, and just about any other type of craft thing imaginable. She also haunts thrift stores and flea markets for the most amazing things. I mostly stick to sewing and quilting. Most important, she and her husband have also had a wide variety of workamping experiences and loved to share them with me. She is the first to volunteer for any type of helpful project such as a canned foods drive or a collection for the homeless shelter. She even moderates a workampers forum for Amazon workampers here in Coffeyville. She served as a role-model for my starting this blog and continuing with it. She found a great dining room chair for my new house and helped dicker the store owner down to $15 for it. Perhaps most important, when she found out I was going to be leaving tomorrow, she quickly rounded up places for me to stay along the way and on the way back. So, I’ll be honored to stay with her father as well as her son and daughter-in-law. Her husband volunteered to look at my water connection problem to see if he could do anything with it, even when the temperature outside was in the 20s and after working all night. So, to both of you I express my humble and heart-felt gratitude.

Finally, at least for this post, I need to recognize a friend and her husband whom I worked with in Kanab, Utah last year. We became excellent friends and co-workers, supporting one another during a very difficult period at work. We have stayed in touch ever since then even though jobs and travels have taken us to far-flung places in the country. She and I will finally get-together this coming week in Texas for a day or so to catch up, and I can’t wait to see her again. It might even turn out that we might be related in some way since there is the same last name in her family’s history as my maiden name. So, we’re checking that out.

And those are just a few of many, many helpful and friendly people; those of you who provided a carpool to Amazon, organized dinners, introduced me to geocaching, and just took the time to share your experiences with me. To all of you, whoever you are, I am extremely grateful.

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