Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Life Remains Good

Since I haven't posted in almost a year, I thought I'd give you an update.

Bob and Suanne on a You Tube Video talking about 
Homes On Wheels Alliance's Emergency Fund for Nomads. 8/19
After 10 years of retirement, my good friend Bob Wells and I co-founded a nonprofit called Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA), which is a 501(c)3.  I am the Executive Director and Bob is the President.  We are building a Board of Trustees of eleven members.  We help those in need within the mobile community.  As with any start-up, the hours are long and work challenging.  Yet, the rewards have been great.  Not only do I love our mission, but I enjoy and admire the people I work with.  And, to top it off, I've been able to remain a nomad, spending lots of time in nature.

An amazing rock formation called "Feathers," hundreds of feet tall 
over a campground at Frenchman's Coulee in Washington State.  
Found while scouting for Caravan locations, 7/19.
HOWA's first birthday is in a week and I'm proud to say we have already helped several people and are currently accepting applications for three other fully-funded programs -- Nomad Emergencies, Minivan "Home On Wheels," and Solar Panel Kits.

In addition to the above efforts, HOWA has an active Caravan Program, where those in the mobile community can meet up and camp with others.  Furthermore, we are deep into the planning of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, large gatherings where we expect at least 9,000 people who attend to learn and build community together in the Desert Southwest in January.

A dirt road in New Mexico, amazing views while scouting
Caravan locations, 3/19.
As you can tell, this is not my typical blog post from my retirement years.  One day I'll get back to the luxury of travel by whimsy.  Yet, for now, what I'm doing is equally fulfilling and liberating.  HOWA's work is truly important, my colleagues are a joy to be around, and the community connections have been amazing.  People are good.  Nature remains my solace.

When I decided to take the Executive Director's position, I knew my life would radically change.  I fully expected that I would get back into working long hours and take an active leadership role.  I also knew that this position would require me to become a public figure.  That's been a transition as an introvert who had previously preferred to lead an unobserved life.  Although I'll continue to grow in this role, I'm accepting its changes and challenges.

I love being in my Prius during a rain, the sound on my roof.
Here is the location of our last Minivan Build (across the way), 6/19.
Even though I'm an introvert, I've always liked to perform and teach.  So, the little bit I've shared the camera and stage with Bob (already a full-on public figure) has been kind of fun.  The challenges for me come from being recognized in public, which is kind of unsettling.  Typically people are truly appreciative.  The hardest part, as expected, is being openly critiqued, criticized, and hated on.  That hasn't happened too much; but, as with all negative comments, they take on a life in my head that becomes larger than the many positive comments put together.

My skin is growing thicker.  I'm ignoring the haters and listening to helpful critiques.  Most importantly, I'm focusing on those who I want to help.

Full-time nomading, aka vanlife, vandwelling, rving, is coming into its own in the media.  For example, Bob was recently interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning, a couple of documentary film makers are sharing a camp with a Caravan right now, and a major motion picture about this lifestyle is in post production.  Who would have thought!  I'm glad for the publicity.

Taking a nice break in a forest at sunset in Western Washington State, 7/19.

For all of the camping lifestyle's inconveniences, the benefits -- being in nature, traveling the backroads, sharing campfires among friends, and its affordability -- make it a way of living that I want to promote.   It's the antithesis experience to our society's consumerism, turmoil, distrust, and readiness to fight.   Here, I have the freedom to just to be.  Here, I've found like-minded others.  Here, I embrace myself.  And, if I don't like "here," I've got the wheels to move.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Like a Tall Glass of Water

Maple Bay State Forest, August 25, 2018
I'm calmer now -- sitting, surrounded, quiet.  Just a half hour ago I knew I had to get out, or get to.  I'm not sure which, maybe both.

What has happened to me?  I've changed.  Or, maybe I'm just now letting myself be myself, know myself.

For this past week, I've been in Small Town America visiting loved ones.   And I've been camping in a fairly upscale RV park next to a small patch of woods.  Yet ...
Yosemite National Park's Tunnel View, 2009 
A half hour ago every cell in my body was crying out to leave, to return to my home. Not a conventional home or place, but Primal Nature.  You may think I'm talking about "Nature" as something like the famous Tunnel View at Yosemite which is truly spectacular, awe inspiring, and primal.  But, I'm really talking about places that are much more ubiquitous.

Redwood National Park, 2011
  It's the "being" that I crave -- the "being with," "being in" nature, that feeling of smallness and completeness under a forest's canopy, within a desert's sprawling vastness, or beneath the Milky Way's arch in an intensely dark and bejeweled sky.

Joshua Tree National Park, 2010 
For right this minute, though, I've found an ancient forest.  A small patch this state has set aside.  I found it on my way to a possible dispersed camping spot.  I stopped on a whim after seeing signs on the highway.  I followed a rough, overgrown road to its end.  I don't have the required recreation pass to be here; so, I won't stay longer than it takes me to make this blog post.

Maple Bay State Forest, August 25, 2018
But, I'm calmer now, satiated.  This feeling is similar to when I've been dehydrated, drank a tall glass of water, and experienced that visceral sense of satisfaction -- meeting an exact need, exactly the way it needed to be met.  Every cell in my body says "thank you." 

Drinking it in.  August 25, 2018

The satiation is real, but temporary.  When I leave here, I know I'll need to spend more time in nature again, just as I'll need to drink water again.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mice and Stuff

A mouse never got into my 2004 Prius during my 8 years of camping out of it.  But, I've had at least 5 mice in my 2015 Prius in less than a year.  I caught two, but the others exited on their own.  A good friend, with some space, allowed me to take the stuff out of my car in an attempt to find the mice's entry way.  I was also glad for the opportunity to do some deep spring cleaning.  I took everything out, including the donut spare and glove box.

Everything out of the Prius!  May 2018 

When I took the glove box out, I found insulation had been torn up for a nest.  And, there were mouse droppings, too ... BINGO, I found the mice's entry/exit point!  Behind the glove box is the cabin filter that was ready to be changed.

The old cabin filter with evidence of mouse chews.  A ball of the mice's tore-up
insulation.  The back of the glove box with insulation pulled off by the mice.
(Inside of the glove box is the new cabin filter that I installed.)  May 2018 

Unfortunately, behind the glove box is full of wires, the filter, and other parts.  There is no way to get behind it all to find the mice's entry/exit point. 

Wires, filter and parts behind the glove box. The mice's foyer.  May 2018 

So, I researched and discovered that mint and original Simple Green deter mice.  So, Simple Green got sprayed in the engine compartment against the back wall by the glove box.  And cotton balls with peppermint oil were placed inside.  I also have mouse traps if/when another one joins me inside.

In addition to finding the mouse door, I thought you all would be interested in seeing all the stuff that came out of, and went back into the Prius.

10'x10' tarp with all of the stuff emptied from the Prius, including
a couple of chairs at the bottom left.  May 2018 

It's even hard for me to believe that all of that stuff came out of my car.  For more detail, here's a one-minute video of everything.



I have 3 main storage areas in the Prius: 1) Under back hatch, 2) On front passenger seat and floor, and 3) Behind front passenger seat.  But, first the bed gets made up.

I use a REI 3.5" Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad  (25"x72")
and many layers of bedding to cover me if cold,
or peel off when warm.  May 2018 

Under the bed and above the donut spare tire is a storage area where I keep rarely used items (oil, antifreeze, compressor, extra sleeping bag, etc.).

With some covers turned down on the bed on the right, the left-side is
packed and strapped down, ready for travel.

To the left of the bed and under the hatch I store camp furniture (chairs, table), tent, tarp, cooking utensils, stove, bags of bags (zip lock, grocery, nylon duffles), water storage bladders, office supplies, small fan, window cover, broom (without handle).

What's left on the tarp after packing most of the areas under the hatch.  May 2018 

Also, under the hatch, I store cleaning supplies (Simple Green, liquid soap, vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, corn starch) in a cubby to the right back of the bed.

Containers of cleaning supplies are in a cubby at the foot of the bed.  May 2018 

Next I packed the front passenger seat area.  My goal is to keep everything below window height.  Here is where I keep my food, toiletries, out-of-season clothes, step stool, front window covers, mouse traps, mosquito repellent, and electronics.

Front passenger seat all packed.  May 2018 

After packing the cleaning supplies in the back, and the loading up the front passenger seat, the tarp is looking almost empty now.


After loading the Prius with the cleaning supplies, food, toiletries, electronics,
etc., most of the tarp is visible.  In the right front are tools, adhesives, and
car items that need to be organized.  May 2018 

After re-organizing the containers that hold my tools and car maintenance items, they were packed behind the front passenger seat, along with butane, propane, fire extinguisher, an umbrella, and bathroom and laundry supplies.

Behind front seat all packed.  May 2018 


Every space is used in the Prius.  Under the driver's seat is a fanny pack and my shoes.

The shoes I'm wearing are also stored here while sleeping.   May 2018 

The tarp is almost empty.

Clothing, an insulated lunch box.  What's that in the far left corner?  May 2018 

MSR Dromeday Bags (water bladders) are great for small areas because they take up very little space when empty.

Three of my 4 water bladders.  Two are full, one almost empty.  May 2018 

The items that remain on the tarp are stored in different places depending on if I'm in camping mode or travel mode.


Camping Mode:  Bags of clothing are in the
driver's seat.  Insulated lunch box of food
on the floor where it's coolest.  May 2018 


Travel Mode: Bags of clothing on passenger seat,
 and insulated lunch box of food on the
floor where it's coolest.  May 2018 

If the Dromedary Bags have water in them, I carry them at the foot of my bed in travel mode.

Travel Mode:  Full water bladders are placed on the foot of the bed and
strapped down during travel.  They are covered with the white material
to the right to keep them from heating up due to direct sun exposure. When
in Camping Mode, they are either outside or on the dash.  May 2018 


To the casual observer, the packed Prius doesn't look very organized.  But, in fact, it's extremely organized.  Likes are with likes; a place for everything, and everything in its place.  I know what color bag contains which items.  Things I rarely use are at the bottom, and things I use frequently are toward the top.  When in camping mode, I can reach everything from the driver's-side passenger seat.

I've been called a minimalist.  But, when I look at everything I have and carry, I'm not sure that term fits.


Off the tarp and in the Prius. May 2018