May 22, 2017 – Camping Issues-The Tent

I have been having a lot of discussions about camping lately all ahead of another possible change in lifestyle. The only constant in life is the fact that change will happen, sooner or later, even if we are not prepared for it. So seeing we plan on moving on again in the near future, its time to start the process that gets us back on the road. Parting with things that just will not fit in the back of our little Chevy S-10, planning on how to pack up what will go with us, and looking ahead to the things we might need to replace or acquire.

We started with replacing our current camping tent. So here are some of the thoughts that happened:
1. Coleman Instant Cabin Tents (which is what we had to replace)do not have ports for electrical cords. Running a cord through a zipper leaves an opening for snakes, spider, and scorpions.
2. The zipper on the “D” style doors of most tents do not hold up very long at all. No more “D” style doors for us because when that zipper fails, you no longer have a secure or private structure to retreat to. There is something about a curved zipper that seems to shorten its life.
3. Too many tent makers do not consider that the sun will warm up the interior to a temperature that can be deadly. When night time temperatures remain in the 90 degree range, any tent without adequate ventilation becomes a toaster oven. Off grid trips also complicate this by not having the ability to run a fan. At the same time, most tents are designed too cheaply to hold any kind of heat when the night time temperatures drop into the 30’s and 40’s.
4. The so called “Bath-tub” bottoms are cheaply made and wear out far too quickly if you spend any amount of time inside the tent. Tiny rocks, twigs, and any surface that is not completely flat and smooth will result in small holes in the flooring which opens up a way for bugs to enter. Sure, you can buy an area rug but who has the space to tote that around with them long term?
5. Height is always a problem in tents. At 6’1″ my husband needs to be able to stand up occasionally. Most tent manufacturers think 5’7″ is adequate. Many more are far smaller. We are okay with a 10′ x 10′ footprint but why should we have to stoop all of the time? That may be great for kids, but how many kids actually go tent camping all by themselves. And stop claiming you can fit 6 people in these tents when we all know that means you can fit two adults and maybe one child or dog. We live in this and do not walk through the door to drop into a bed because there is no room to walk or even change clothing with any form of comfort. Covering the floor with mummy bagged people means you can uncomfortably put 6 very small and underweight people inside one tent if you have room to put ALL of the rest of your camping supplies into a vehicle or a second tent.
6. To answer the height problem, we started buying cabin tents. The side walls are fairly straight and most of them are just over 6 foot high at least in the very middle. This style is right, however the design of the set up leaves a lot to be desired. With plastic hubs at the top of the Instant Cabin Tents, breakage happens. Pinched fingers are common, and the pressure needed to make the legs click into place to extend the tent upwards makes it a trial for the less than fully fit person. Its a struggle to set them up or tear then down in any kind of wind unless two to four people are assisting you. Odds are, its only going to be one or two people setting this monster up and there are four or more legs. The design is definitely flawed.
7. Weather proof? Really? I have yet to see one tent that will totally stop the rain from oozing in after the third set-up. The first few times are okay if they are for very short periods of time without exposure to real weather. We however set up a tent and expect it to last at least a year. Unfortunately, we are discovering that they tend to only last for about 6 months from set up to trash bin. When your living on a fixed income and a tent is your alternative housing arrangement, its hard to plan to drop half a months worth of income on a new tent every six months. Sure you can spray everything down with a silicone product to reduce leakage but even that can be short lived when your tent is set up in a region that has 100 degree days. The sun cooks it until it dies. So once a month we were budgeting $12.00 for two cans of spray, waiting for a low wind day, and saturating the entire tent down again. Which by the way means we had to sleep in the stink that those sprays create.

We ended up buying a Bushnell Instant Cabin Tent for the next leg on our journey. They have come up with some nice features that we are hoping will make the experience a little more enjoyable. They have developed a rain fly that has a reflective barrier that they claim keeps the interior cooler. This new tent also has an air conditioner port as well as an electrical cord port. Would be nice to try out that feature however we do not have room to tote an air conditioner with us and we are not always in places that have electricity. The rain fly also extends beyond the straight zippered door (remember, no more “D” doors for us) which allows you to step outside the tent without being exposed to the weather beyond. It also has some outside netted storage pockets on the front of the tent (protected by the rain fly). While that will free up some space inside, I cant see it as very practical when everyone and every critter can have free range with your personal property. Time will tell if they get used or not. Because it is a cabin tent, the height is good. The new size dimension of 11′ x 9′ will be interesting to see if it actually feels like its any bigger than the traditional 10′ x 10′. We set it up for a brief trial run and had a heck of a time getting it back into the skin tight bag they provide but that seems normal too of most manufacturers. They forget they have machines to put those tents into those bags prior to shipping. Out in the field, all you have is common sense and your own two hands.

As our daughter says, “Common sense is not common anymore”. I believe even as young as she is (25)that she is on to some old school ways of thinking. Makes me think we did something right with her. How I would love to set down with some of these tent manufacturers that never seem to field test their products before thrusting them unto unsuspecting families and explain what is truly important for long term camping in various regions of the country. What we need is a company that customs makes tents to individuals needs. Of course that would be expensive I’m sure. But one can dream, right?

So many more topics to cover, so little time. Air mattresses, water storage and shower bag needs, food storage, clothing needs and limited space…and the list goes on and on. Until next time, happy traveling and camping.

Catch up time

Have you ever noticed that  just when you think everything is going smoothly, all of a sudden everything changes.  That’s part of why there has been such a gap in these blog postings.  Just when we thought that we had it all figured out and were getting very comfortable in our tent living situation, along came a change.

My husband and me were given an offer to work more hours in the campground we are at in exchange for a travel trailer to live in rent free.  Of course, living in a desert environment requires a person to think ahead about the “dry heat” and how that will affect your health in the long run.  Since we have had continuous high heat warning on and off over the last two months, I think it is safe to say we made a wise decision to accept that offer.  Of course instead of working one day a week, I now work five and my husband works three.  That means a lot of other changes had to happen.

As a ghost writer for “Upwork.com” I had to cut back on my writing schedule.  That in turn cut back on our income which means shopping even smarter to make it through the month. I also have come to realize that this new schedule affects my ability to work on my jewelry hobby which was another source of income.  If I do not have time to create new pieces of jewelry, it means that soon I may have to consider closing my Etsy shop because I am slowly selling off all of my inventory.  Of course if I can not find the time to write that means I am also not publishing any more children’s’ books on Amazon.com.  What a mess a good thing has become.

So when do I let my soul catch up?  This hectic work schedule makes it hard to find the energy for most things.  I heard it told that white man created time and money and now he is a slave to both.  So very true.  Of course some chaos in our lives is good because it keeps us motivated.  Too much chaos leads to stress and then to other health conditions.  I have found that if I do not spend time in the great outdoors, even if it is 112 degrees, I would probably lose focus on why we started this journey in the first place.  Even though I attend a church service, I find there is no greater connection to my higher power (creator or God, which ever works for you) than to step outside and marvel at the amazing world we are surrounded by.  I star gaze every night and watch little creatures every day that have adapted to this desert environment.  Those brief moments allow me the time to catch my breath and let my soul find some solitude and peace.  There is just something about being surrounded by a universe that is far bigger than any of us will ever be and feeling like a part of something huge, even when we don’t know the role we play in the grand scheme of things.

And through it all, we survive and thrive.  We continue to grow and find happiness in the little things that life has to offer.  My wish, hope, and prayer is that we eventually get to go back to our tent and have a lot more free time for ourselves.  Then I can really catch up. At least until the next change comes along.

March 3, 2016 -Plan for the travel bug

No matter how far you travel from your original starting point, most people discover that there is never enough time to see everything and do everything that you want to do.  No matter how often you talk about wanting to visit a new place, it seems like something always gets in the way of your plans.  Travelers learn that no matter how well thought out your travel plans are, there is always going to be something that you missed or forgot about somewhere along the way.

During our journey to arrive at this destination, we saw many things that were interesting, informative, and even some things that were scary (like many rattle snake and falling rock warning signs).  And along the way, we made stops where we learned of even more places we would have loved to have had the opportunity, time, and money to have explored.  It doesn’t matter where you end up, there will always be another place you would like to be.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t found joy where we are at, it simply means we realize that the opportunities to learn and see more are limitless.  Once you start on the road to traveling, you soon find that you want to see and do more than you ever imagined.  Inevitably, someone will ask if we stopped at this spot or that spot and when our reply is “no”, then we end up listening to all the reasons why we should have went there along the way.  That would be great if you had an endless amount of time and money but most of us don’t.  What is great though is meeting people who have been to all these other places that can give you a good run down of what you might find so that you can make an informed decision as to whether it is something to add to your future travel plans.

Sometimes, we hear of places that sound intriguing only to find out that they are total tourist traps and not all the worthwhile to put a lot of effort into getting to.  It doesn’t mean we have totally crossed them off our future to-do list, it just means they drop in priority.  The best advice I can offer is to really research your travel paths and make sure you plan on stopping at the really major sites along the way and hopefully you will find out about some of the minor places that are truly worth spending time to find and visit.  Don’t be afraid to ask the locals about the history of the areas you travel through because you will learn things that are never taught in any schools.

Also be aware that you have to plan for the unexpected when you travel.  You can have the best laid out travel plans but if you’re not flexible, you will create a huge amount of stress for yourself unnecessarily.  Life is really short, take advantage of opportunities as they arise and you will live a much fuller life and most likely find happiness along the way.

So if the travel bug is nipping at your heels, do not wait until your too old to enjoy what this world has to offer.  Look closely at your life, decide what is truly important to you, then make your travel plans and go enjoy the trip.  After all, if you’re not enjoying your life, chances are, your spending your life energy so that someone else can enjoy their life at your expense.  That was what set our journey into motion and caused us to be living in a tent in a campground thousands of miles away from the former life we felt we had been trapped in.  I know it sounds very radical, but hasn’t freedom always been a radical thought?

 

March 01, 2016 – Travel and Campground Hygiene

When you think of hygiene the first thing most people think of is personal body hygiene. And while that is extremely important if you don’t wish to become offensive and smell like a goat, it is also important to consider hygiene of your vehicle, tent, camp site, and any area you may spend any amount of time at.

Personal hygiene can be attended to any time you have access to water. But remember it is more important to have water to drink than it is to bathe with. If water is hard to come by, plan on picking up unscented baby wipes which are reasonably priced at most major grocery stores and do a great job of a quick freshen up in any restroom stall. Its amazing what you can do with one gallon of water if you carefully use it for bathing, tooth brushing, and hair washing. Of course if your lucky enough to have a shower available, by all means make use of it.

Vehicle hygiene is about keeping your vehicle free of debris that can get underfoot when your driving (bottles are the worst), food wrappers and half eaten food items that can attract wildlife to your vehicle in rural areas, dirty clothing that makes your vehicle smell like the dead goat, or even worse, those loose pieces of paper that end up flying out the window as you drive down the road and which end up on the road side (if your lucky) or on someone else’s windshield (if you’re not so lucky) which could cause an accident. Use trash cans when you stop to take a break to make sure your vehicle is safe and clean.

Campground hygiene is also more than just personal hygiene. Whether you are sleeping under the stars, inside a tent, or using an RV of some sort, the area you are spending time in needs to be kept reasonably clean for your own health and safety. Food that is left lying around can encourage a lot of unwanted visitors from the animal kingdom. Food containers, wrappers, and half eaten foods can not only cause health issues but it can look very unsightly. Clothing and towels draped all over the place looks just plain trashy and most campgrounds have a policy against it. It’s not just what is outside your sleeping area either. Having clutter inside of a tent causes stress and the possibility of trip and fall problems. Leaving clothing laying on the floor or ground makes it hard to move around in the darkness of night even with a flashlight. Most tents have little net pockets which are great for all those little things that you would struggle and stress about if you had to spend your time searching for them every single day.

A good idea is to find ways to keep items organized into boxes or totes for easy access. The less time you spend searching for things, the more time you have to enjoy your day. We all know that we need to do this and yet it seems to be the biggest struggle for most people to make it a habit and to stick with it. I found it best to go a step further and use different colored totes so I didn’t need to spend time opening a half-dozen totes of the same color. It did not take long for me to remember which items were in which colored totes. Of course clear totes are a bonus as you get a sneak peek of what’s inside.

The interesting thing about giving hygiene consideration in advance is that it also provides a sort of mental hygiene as well. When you have an organizational plan, your mind has less clutter and you will feel better. It’s a form of having less stress in your life. Less stress leads to greater peace of mind, gives you more energy to focus on other more pleasant activities, and can actually make you feel younger. Sounds like a great game plan to me! Alternative living in a tent in a campground can have enough stress of its own, anything I can do to reduce or remove stress is worth thinking twice about.

Feb. 26, 2016 – Strange things we’ve learned

We have run into many interesting people and situations both on our travels and now that we have settled down into a campground. People always like to give advice and not all of it is usable or advisable. But I am sure they mean well when they give it. Some advice has been very useful and we wish we had known the information a lot sooner.

Our first day in this campground, we were setting up our tent in blistering sun. No one told us that it only takes a half hour to get seriously burned. I spent the next week with huge water blisters on my shoulders and arms. Because I have a strong belief in not putting chemicals on my skin, and have never had too many problems with mild sunburns, I never thought about the difference in the suns abilities in different regions of the world. Everyone kept telling us we needed to drink lots of water but no one warned us about the intensity of the suns rays. I learned quickly to keep my skin covered or to limit the time I am exposed during the middle of the day.

I also have a fascination with photographing wild life. I’ve taken pictures of a Colorado River Bull Frog (which have poison glands all over them), Tarantulas (no one told me they could jump), and Scorpions (which can move very quickly when they want to). Contrary to what most people think, scorpions are normally really tiny, about two inches fully grown, and here in the United States they are not deadly unless you are allergic. If you get stung, it hurts like a bee sting, you take Benadryl, go lay down for a few hours and the pain goes away.
Anyways, my fascination has let me get right up on top of these little critters and snap all kinds of pictures without a second thought. Then one day I’m walking around in sandals and this little scorpion runs over my foot and I about have a heart attack on the spot. I never thought about the types of shoes I was wearing and no one bothered to point it out to me either. I now wear moccasins almost all the time. Of course I should be wearing hiking boots because I have yet to see the elusive diamond back rattle snake and the Gila monster that lives somewhere close to the campground.

Some of the better advice we have been given has been about our tent and our air mattress. I never thought about it but an air mattress on the ground draws the temperature of the ground straight up to your body when you sleep. A new friend of ours was nice enough to give us a large piece of foam to put over the air mattress which made a huge difference when the nights were really cold. We were also warned about how fast the sun would break down the cheaper tents. Sure enough, a month after the warning, our tent started to shred around the zippers. We ended up upgrading to a better brand of tent with a different zippered door design. We were told canvas would hold up a lot longer but our research has proven it is too far out of our price range at this time.

Before we left for this journey, we spoke with our doctor who gave us some very useful information as well. Always make time to get out and stretch your legs so you don’t develop blood clots and other circulation issues in your legs from setting too long. If your going to sleep in your vehicle, make sure you can lay flat (again its a circulation issue). Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Junk foods will not sustain you very well and after a very short amount of time, it can actually impair your judgement. And make sure you do not drive when you are tired no matter how pressed for time you are. You can’t get to your destination if you died in the process. We discovered that it is okay to grab cat naps in rest areas during the day but not a wise idea for overnight stays. If you really must travel and need to sleep somewhere at night, find a truck stop and get permission; its much safer and people will watch out for you.

And last of all, never judge a person by how they look. We have met some very kind and friendly people that are certainly not main stream people. Just because they looked a little different did not stop us from offering a helping hand or a cup of coffee. The rewards of meeting new people from different walks of life can be very rewarding. Yes, use care, just don’t over judge people just because they are not exactly like you. We live in a society where the media already slants things so that you only hear and see what someone else wants you to see. When you chose this type of alternative living, you have to learn to see with you own eyes, hear with your own ears, and feel with your own heart without someone else bias opinion shaping your thoughts and actions.

Feb. 25, 2016 – Employment Choices and more

Another beautiful sunny day. I spent the morning trying to straighten out auto insurance issues over the phone. Because I do not own a printer or a fax machine both businesses I have to deal with are required to snail mail documents to me which is really slowing down the process. Very annoying but sometimes that is just how technology has to be. I asked if I could attach a digital signature to an emailed document but was told that was not acceptable. In my mind I want to know how that is any different than a faxed document. Of well, I’ll just spend the next week watching for something to show up in the mail.

That process reminded me about finances and the type of work I do. When we first hit the road, I was at a loss of how I could generate extra income. My husband receives a small monthly income but it is not quite enough to met our needs. I have always had small businesses throughout my life so I figured I would find some way to make that work. I had been creating and selling jewelry both at a local flea market and on line on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OriginalPoetryJewels) for the past few years anyways so I figured I would continue to do that. Then I studied the craft show laws for the new state I am in only to discover that it was never going to work due to huge fees that this state imposes. SO I had to set back and rethink my strategy. So First I decided to open an Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OriginalPoetryJewels) and see how that went. It is okay but with current shipping rates its not a steady income by any means. SO I decided to do a little research and find out what people do that live in RV’s and travel a lot. I wish I could remember which blog I stumbled across because I would love to thank the writer but I remember he had all kinds of advice for things like photo sites that pay for nature pictures, travel companies that pay for articles about travel locations, and about 20 other really useful ideas that I would never have thought of on my own. What really stood out though was a recommendation to check out a company called Upwork (Https://www.Upwork.com) which allows clients to hire freelancers for a wide variety of online work. Because I have a varied background and love to write, I signed up with this company and started applying for writing jobs. It did not take long for me to find I had almost too much work to handle. I have become a ghost writer for several different people. I wrote a novel and many self-help books over the past few months. I’m not getting rich by any means and my husband thinks I should focus on writing for myself since I have self published some children’s books on amazon.com (As Gabe Grows Series by Peggy Sue Florka). For now I am enjoying working for people around the world and getting paid to research and develop books for others. I can see his point though and have started several projects of my own that I will eventually self publish.

Out side of those work opportunities, the campground manager approached us in November and asked us if we would like to work for him in exchange for our site rent. We thought about it for a few days and then accepted his offer which was really quite generous. So for one day a week we provide campground services which range from desk duties to bathroom cleaning and lots of things in between. It seems to working out very well for both him and us. We get to meet a lot of very interesting people and it gives us something to focus on rather than just being fully retired. Of course my writing never lets me be fully retired but I like being challenged and with the campground job, the book writing, the jewelry making and selling, and the everyday normal tasks that everyone does, I stay very busy.

The hardest thing I think we face is that living in a tent and using a screen room for an office tends to put us at the mercy of the weather. When the winds are strong, sand blows around and is not a good environment for my computer. If it rains we have to store most of our items either in the tent or in the back of our truck and again the computer is at risk. If the temperature drops too low, we have two small heaters we can use but even that is not always enough and sometimes we are forced to huddle in the truck. And of course we also have the days when it gets so hot that my computer shuts down even with a cooling fan operating underneath it. The sun comes up at seven in the morning and is totally set by seven at night so when I decide to work into the late hours of the evening, which I often do, I end up working by the light of a lantern. Its takes some adjustment but we seem to have gotten it down pat after seven months.

Campground tent living is a unique experience and requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Some days my husband and I look across the table at each other and shake our heads in disbelief that we are really doing this and are doing it so well. He tells me I am tenacious and not like most woman. I tell him that he is wonderful for putting up with me and my strange ways of looking at our reality. Our choice for alternative housing is not a matter that should be taken lightly and is not for everyone.

Feb. 24, 2016

After another night of howling winds and very little sleep, the sun comes up and starts another beautiful day.  I have been following the weather reports of the tornados on the east coast and am glad we did not decide to live in that vicinity of the world.  Those families will be in my thoughts and prayers for a long time to come.  Its hits hard when you see an RV park flattened by the forces of nature.  Thankfully there were not more people killed.  I feel lucky to have such minor complaints as wind, chilly nights, and hot afternoons.

People often ask why anyone would want to live in a tent.  I am not sure I can totally explain the amount of freedom that is granted when you give up everything and start over with next to nothing.  First off, the less you own, the less you have to worry about fixing, replacing, repairing, maintaining, breaking, storing, or having stolen.  You learn to truly appreciate what you do have and you learn not to take things for granted.  Then there is the financial side of things.  My house (tent) costs about $150.00 and lasts anywhere from six to twelve months.  My air mattress runs $20.00 and last about the same length of time.  A typical tent site in a campground runs between $300 and $400 a month and includes a lot of amenities depending on the campground.  Currently our site includes water, electric, Wi-Fi, a picnic table, a fire ring for campfires, a campground hot tub and pool, a campground bathroom with showers, access to a laundromat 24 hours a day, an on site camp store for basic supplies, games and books that can be borrowed for free, on site mail delivery and pick-up, a large flat screen television in the store if I chose to watch it during business hours, and free trash removal.   A small town is less than two miles away and a bigger town is only twelve miles away.  The only difference between living in a tent and living in an apartment is that I have to walk a lot further to get to the restroom than you would in an apartment or house.  I consider that part of my exercise for the day.  I breathe fresh air everyday, I get plenty of sunshine, I hear the birds sing all day long, I see the stars shine brightly every night, and I feel healthier because of it.

Living in a tent in a campground or anywhere else for that matter has a lot less stress than trying to maintain a house.  I don’t need to own a vacuum cleaner nor do I have to mop floors.  I’ve learned I don’t need a closet full of clothing and can survive very nicely with about five different changes of clothing.  Make-up and perfumes are for a younger crowd that is dissatisfied with who they are so that was no big issue to leave it all in a trash can when I was deciding what was essential for this journey.  I have no one to impress but myself because my husband loves the real me and not something that comes out of a container or off a shelf  in a department store.  My husband downsized from several large tool boxes to one small travel tool box and has managed very nicely.  An 18 gallon plastic tote houses all of our cooking utensils and dishes, not several cupboards full of extra items that rarely get used.  Food storage has been our biggest struggle for space and we could probably do better.  We have three 18 gallons totes and two 5 gallon buckets just for food, besides the small Styrofoam cooler.  One tote for beverage and beverage related items such as coffee, creamer, teas, hot chocolate, water drink mixes, and bouillon. One tote is for dry goods like pasta, crackers, oatmeal, instant potatoes, soup mixes, and cornmeal. The other tote is for anything that comes in cans including tuna, chicken, soups, vegetables, and gravy’s.  One bucket is full of white and brown rice and the other bucket if full of dry beans and peas.  I doubt we will go hungry anytime soon.

Storage space is very limited when you live in a tent.  Our space is limited by the fact that everything needs to fit into the back of our S-10 pick-up should we decide to up and relocate anytime soon.  Which is another reason we chose this style of living; if you don’t like the neighborhood, you move on easily.  There is no long term lease that forces us to stay in any one place for any length of time.  We are truly free to travel and see whatever sights we can afford to travel to.  Free to be who we are, go where we want when we want, free to do just about anything we want whenever we feel like it.  Its that freedom that enticed us to give campground tent living a try and what has kept us here for so long.  I don’t see us moving back into what is considered regular housing anytime soon.