Jimmy’s Views 2013

 sunrise_JimmySmith_JulianneGCraneThis page holds the 2013 musings and reflections of Jimmy Smith, long-time bicyclist, one-time retreat center owner and now a semi-retired, extended-time RVer and part-time fisherman.

Jimmy and Julianne began their extended RV exploration of the USA in 2009, where they have been primarily searching for sunsets to watch, back-country roads to bicycle, trails to hike, streams to fish and lakes to paddle.

Photo: Jimmy Smith strolling through Park of the Sierras at sunrise. (Julianne G. Crane)

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‘CHRISTMAS MEMORIES’ — December 7, 2013

I stumbled out of bed this morning to find Julianne and her sister Josam leaning over the kitchen island sharing Christmas memories from their childhood. After claiming my cup of coffee I retired to my place a bit outside the animated discussion, content to catch drifts of their childhood.

Given what I’ve heard over the nearly five years together with Julianne, I can only imagine the tenor in their household and the slim pickings on Christmas morning. Three young girls and a divorced mother working two or three jobs, with a father gone off to ‘greener’ pastures, in a place called West Virginia–does not constitute the makings of happy memories. But the peals of laughter woven into their stories this morning remind me of the power of memory and the ability to winnow through and choose what we hold onto.

TomBombadil_JimmySmith_JulianneGCraneIt’s so funny how things go. I was sitting here scrolling through my own Christmas memories, including a Coast Guard tour to Antarctica in 1972. I can’t remember the circumstances exactly, but we were either bashing through the ice near McMurdo Station or some other thing that Ice Breakers did. Might have hugged a Penguin or two. Lost in my reverie the phone rang and it was my old Coast Guard buddy Tom Bombadil calling from Oregon.

That winter of 1972 as we cruised toward the southern pole, Tom and I read Tolkien’s The Hobbit’ and Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. We bunked within a few inches of each other, and both being radiomen, we sat the radio watch together. So we spent a lot of time together. Being steeped in the story of misty mountains and Trolls and Dwarves, nosing our way around the Antarctic continent I began calling him Tom Bombadil, rather than his given name of Tom Anderson. The name stuck and a couple years later he formally changed his name. What do you do with guys like that?

A swirl of Christmas memories stir in me and I sit here in gratitude as we coast up to another solstice where the sun that has taken leave will begin her slow return.

Have a merry

‘SCOUTING STORIES TO TELL’ — October 28, 2013

Early Saturday morning sun bounced off the colorful array of tents and darting forms outside our camper’s door at Goliad State Park. After the relatively silent of the previous day and night, a wave of exuberance claimed this land  along the San Antonio River. Suddenly, several dozen Boy Scouts, or more specifically Cub Scouts, were encamped immediately next to our site.

Goliad_Cubs_3_JulianneGCraneSince their arrival, being an old Eagle Scout, I have had a very tough time staying away from their campfire. I have stories they need to hear. I have skills they have yet to learn. I still have lodged in my memory all the sacred words. A Scout is: Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Obedient. Cheerful. Thrifty. Brave. Clean. Reverent. It is part of my repertoire, my DNA.

Back on my very first night of scouting as a newly minted 12-year-old, I passed all my requirements for Tenderfoot and was launched on a meteoric rise through the ranks towards Eagle. So many of the things I learned and experienced then have helped create this shambling older man that is camped along this river on the South Texas Plains.

These scouts have all the modern contrivances and a host of attentive adults stewarding their meal preparation and tent pitching. Gossamer canopies shield them from harmful midday solar damage. I’m not judging it. I haven’t seen one boy lost in some electronic device. I will, however, report that things have changed since I was a boy.

We were a ragtag group, somewhat resembling a gang of sorts, with names representing most of the nationalities assembled in the steel mill and coal mining country of western Pennsylvania.

Most of our dads labored underground for intermittent wages and excess was not a part of our vocabulary. We pieced together our somewhat shabby outfits with an ingenuity born of desire and need. Most of us dreamed of a complete official Boy Scout uniform.

Speaking of memories, here is one. After becoming a Tenderfoot the new challenge of attaining Second Class beckoned. More skills to perfect. My love of cooking was likely germinated in that moment.

Our troop was on a winter hike. Phillip Kerpakus and I were in pursuit of passing our cooking requirement. The snow was at least knee deep. I believe the rules stated that fire was to be kindled with the use of two matches and no frill such as paper. I soon had a blaze going and was happily creating some extravagant feast. Phillip, his two matches spent without any success, was hanging around my fire. Our scout leader Bruno Bottegal, a fine and gentle man, agreed to let Phillip use our one fire to cook his meal. It turned out that Phillip was planning to produce an egg sandwich for his meal. Now, not only was there knee-deep snow, it was cold, freezing in fact. As Phillip hunkered down to crack his one egg into his battered frying pan, he discovered his raw egg was frozen solid in its shell. Being a bit of a temperamental kid, with tears springing from his eyes, he flung his egg into the woods.

When Mr. Bottegal made his way to our cook site he gently told Phillip he would not be able to pass his cooking requirement. That sent Phillip in search of his white egg in the white snow. Somehow he managed to find it and warm it enough to encourage it out of its shell. Soon he had his meal of two thin slices of bread encasing his egg. As I remember, with our leader looking on, Phillip bit down on his masterpiece and a huge gout of yoke streamed down his chin onto his only winter coat.

Phillip soon lost his enthusiasm for the outdoors and retired from the pursuit of higher learning through scouting. I, on the other hand, have many life-defining memories from those days and nights on the trail with my gang of scouts.

‘WHY ARE WE SILENT?’ — October 22, 2013

Rumi wrote a poem that spoke to his own transitory nature. The part I remember was: “Do you think I know myself any more than a pen knows what it is writing or a ball knows where it is going next?”

Out of fear of being wrong or ridiculed for stupidity some of us fall silent. Some of us never even experience our own unique voice. Most of us take early moments of failure or ridicule and never go out and play in the world again.

I think about the little boy who drew and colored a beautiful white swan and stood proudly in front of the second grade class to share the work. Where did that boy go? And where are those luscious crayons?

I heard a story recently about a little girl coloring with total abandon in class. The teacher examining her work asked about the picture. The little girl stated she was making a picture of God. The teacher offered that no one knew what God looked like, to which the young artist replied: “They will in a few minutes.”

I love that story. That story and so many of my hopeful moments are born during TED Talks. I somehow managed to subscribe to it a couple years ago and occasionally find these presents silently left on my computer.

Full_Moon_clouds_JulianneGCraneSo back to my point, why am I silent? Why am I reluctant to write? Why am I unlikely to share my thoughts in a dark stormy night?

Not smart enough? Embarrassed not to have a tidy package of understanding? Afraid to say I don’t know my way? Afraid to start down a dark passageway thinking I’ll spend all the final days of my life in darkness?

My most recent post attracted mostly responses of alarm. I wonder if folks thought I was going to off myself or fall into a pit of bitterness. And what right do I have to be bitter and have my faith tremble while I sit in comfort harvesting all the bounty of those that went before me?

Maybe my worst fear is to be found out as a sniveling narcissist laboring from one existential crisis to another. But hey, do I know myself any more than a pen knows what it is writing or a ball knows where it is going next?

What I do know is that I will be more willing to bring forth what streams through my little mind as I cavort and play and occasionally speak to some misery or another.

‘A QUIET PLACE IN A CARTWHEELING WORLD’ — October 12, 2013

I sit here in a quiet place.  As I look around peace prevails, soup warms on the stove, water comes freely from the tap.  You know, all the things one unconsciously reaches for and expects and depends on.131012_JimmySmith_JulianneGCrane

And yet, I feel there is a storm cartwheeling all around me threatening my very existence.  Very real dramas are playing out, their tentacles reaching into the soft recesses of my emotional body.  I glance around and nothing; quiet and calm and plenty.

I’m reminded of a recent post where I spoke of my nighttime dreams.  When are we not dreaming?  What is it that gets added to this present moment that charges it with so much extra weight?  It is some dreamlike quality or the sheer quantity.

Am I uniquely so self centered in this quest for understanding and release from the turmoil unfolding just outside my gaze?  And talk about impotent, what is a fella to do?  Chop wood, carry water, scan the horizon, breathe and relax, repeat.

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I have lost much of my faith in Mankind.  And it is in such contrast to my day-to-day experience of human beings I encounter.

It is like a schizophrenic split.  I feel like the human race is a race toward extinction.  The violence we direct toward each other that is carried to me through all the media sources, through the porridge of my daily reading, tests my serenity.  Do I not read?  Do I not listen?  How will I know when the Tsunami is near?  Or hear a child’s laughter?

‘MEMORY’ — Sept. 28, 2013

Memories, how mysteriously they lay filed away, to resurface in their time.

JimmyWalking_JulianneGCranejpgI was out for a walk here in central Texas, down a quiet country road with woods on each side.  It was clouding up and a good breeze kicked up with the promise of a storm.

Suddenly there it was, the memory.

I was probably six or seven years old, out with my girl friend Cheryl who conveniently was my neighbor. We had a fair amount of freedom in those days and we were out exploring.

We were on our bicycles when a storm thundered in and we took refuge at her grandfather’s home back deep in the trees down a dirt road.

Thunder and lightning and wind and rain drove us into the refuge of a warm lit kitchen where her grandparents’ live-in housekeeper greeted us warmly.  I think there was the promise of treats in the offing.

As the lights flickered, the housekeeper, Ann (her name etched in my memory), disappeared and returned with a carved coconut head that seemed popular in those days.  Now I’m at most seven years old.  She held it out at my face level as I gazed innocently. Then she cackled in a raspy voice that she was a witch.  A lightning bolt could not have had more effect on me.  Within an instant I dashed out into the storm, jumped my little bicycle, and screaming sped off toward home.

It is fascinating how, lying in that mysterious place, bits and pieces of memory are the record of our lives.

‘THE PRESENT MOMENT’ – Sept. 25, 2013

Here is a quote that I thought enough of to pin up in our little rolling casa.

“There would seem to be nothing more obvious,more tangible and palpable then the present moment, and yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact.
…  Milan KunderaThe Art of the Novel

I think about that. And, I am witness to my own endless quest to be present. I have spent most of my life in a stupor or off in flights of imagination.

Years ago I came to some peace with the endless cycling from the picture perfect presence … to the present moment … to being plunged into memory … or distracted into some future yet to arrive.

As a younger man I had the desire, for some reason, to empty myself of all but the present moment. A number of meditative techniques and some years of sitting practice led me to relax my standards for perfection around my ability to arrive at some place called ‘enlightenment.’

What a huge relief. Now I bumble along, stopping occasionally to attempt to remember what task I am engaged in or what tool I went to get. Years ago a casual acquaintance reported to another friend that he thought I was a dreamer. How true. But, aren’t we all dreamers?

‘FAMILIAR STARK LANDSCAPES’ – Sept. 14, 2013

EasternUtah_landscape_JulianneGCraneYesterday we clipped along at our brisk 55 mile-per-hour pace across familiar landscape in eastern Utah.  It is amazing how much my brain captured and retained from our July passage across this same real estate.  Certain mountain-scapes, but mostly the occasional homesteads were familiar.

It is fascinating for me to think about the hearty souls that fashioned a tenuous shelter in this breathtakingly stark landscape.   When Julianne and I first came through this country nearly five years ago (my how time flies) I achingly looked for home as we passed similar canyons and shelters.

These days it is a more relaxed heart and a more curious gaze that I am looking out from.  Where will our picket fence and puppy be?

‘NIGHT SONGS OF TRAFFIC’ — Sept. 12, 2013

The sigh of the occasional passing motorist tugged me from the final wisps of sleep here in the Big Sky Country of Montana.  It is rare that our navigator books us in for night songs that include the sounds of semis; but if we were any closer to the interstate we would feel the blast of wind from the intrepid night travelers.  Maybe it is indicative of the nature of this particular mission we are on.  It’s called a fast blast to Texas to offer Julianne’s sister some support for an upcoming move.

‘CAMPER IS ALMOST LOADED, HEADING SOUTH’ — Sept. 6, 2013

Strains of “My bags are packed I’m ready to go” keep streaming in the backside of my mind as we sort through the various treasures that were brought out of hibernation for the summer.

Item by item is getting checked off our pre-flee to do list.

The outside temperature, moderated by a quiet steady rain, invites me to peruse my clothing selection. Didn’t I have a long sleeve shirt somewhere? One more time we will attempt to shed the gravitational forces of our “homeland” — the Pacific Northwest.

And while we leave for another cycle on the road, something here–like some sense of home–calls a bit more insistently.

This summer, rather than getting wrapped up in a property caretaking responsibility, we opted for exploring the national parks of Utah, the Rocky Mountain states, and just outside our own backdoor. (Left: USFS Bonaparte Lake Campground in northeast Washington state.)

My friend Bill stated a few days ago that there are 80 lakes within a 55-mile radius of Spokane. Given our recent canoe acquisition and our latest (and I might add LAST) home on wheels, we are set to explore many more quiet asphalt and dirt roads in seasons to come.

For now though all roads point toward Texas and the opportunity to help Julianne’s sister get transitioned from her country home to a tidy apartment somewhere else.

This notion of our own little place with a picket fence and a puppy lives on in some hazy apparition for now.

‘NAP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY’ — July 18, 2013

I’ve just had a nap in the middle of the day, curled beside my sweet lady.

I’ve licked the last bits of creamy vanilla ice cream strewn with plump blueberries. And I have just read two essays, one speaking for a simple life unfettered from the desire for more. The other by Oliver Sacks on the joy at becoming 80. All of this rocks my world.

Before the nap I was wrapped in a lethargy of indecision. Our meander across so many beautiful mountain tops and through fertile plains had become a bit wearisome. The road has lost a bit of its allure. But what next? What makes this life have meaning? How will I finish my last day with a sigh of contentment?

All that angst now given way to the last smear of ice cream, the lingering scent of my lover, and the reminder that this is all sacred and sweet and simple if I let it be.

‘GOOD MORNING FROM HIGH IN THE ROCKIES’  — June 28, 2013

After a long stretch of time in the Utah semi-back country without any internet or cell connections, we are holed up above Durango, Colorado, in a forest service campground on Lake Haviland.

The little mountain lake is summoning me for a late morning baptism.  First, however, I must finish my chores.  I’ve hauled water, three gallons at a time, and filled our 20-some gallon fresh water tank (against park rules I might add). I’ve lit the hot water tank for the second time on the trip for a late afternoon outdoor shower. And, I’ve started my dish for a gathering of friends later today.

We are going to a pre-wedding BBQ up the road a few miles and after many days without a thorough scrub, it must be time.  Funny, I can’t detect any aroma except the big batch of black beans I have simmering on the stove.  Julianne though with her extra sensory abilities seems to be applauding my efforts toward that end.

After weeks on the road that have resulted in a good coating of dust on all the camper’s horizontal surfaces; mountain elevations that make our lungs tremble; numerous bug bites; low-alcohol content beer; and other things that aren’t coming to mind at the moment–Julianne’s eyes have taken on a nervous darting about.  I’m not sure what it’s going to take to help her hit her stride again.  Somewhere between a full-service spa and an apartment within walking distance of a coffee shop might offer the cure.

Transfer Campground

High in the mountains west of here, our last encampment offered a wonderful mix of sights, sounds, and sweet blend of humanity.  It reminded me of why we have returned to meandering the back dusty roads in a truck camper.

“Fringe dwellers,” which I recognize myself being, tend toward these out-of-the way places for reasons including: simple accommodations with little or no expense, tricky enough access that tend to weed out the less courageous, and a group of travelers that are more likely to embrace the notion of “potlucks.”

This last encampment was very rich in all these regards.  Our campground host proved a lasting treasure for his exuberance and great nature.  He was a fringe dweller for sure. He arrived on site after spending a lifetime in Los Angeles, including a stretch as a street minister and several years doing stealth street camping in his rig.  All his wilderness experience came from the good old TV.  His total relationship with rabbits, which plied our camping spot in a relaxed manner, was “Bugs Bunny.”  He was a riot and very excited about us intrepid guests.

Our other neighbors consisted of a lovely couple, raised in Montana, that for several years have escaped the Phoenix area for tent camping in this no-frills national forest campground.  Rounding out the contingent of immediate neighbors was a great guy with an equally great and huge dog.  What he lacked in worldly wealth, he more than made up in gentle friendliness.

So I might pose the question to my sweetheart, “Where Would You Rather Be?”

COMMUNITY’ — June 13, 2013

I’ve been thinking about a community we camped next to for a couple of days.

Pulling into a developed park often dishes up surprises.  I get a lot of pleasure from watching different rigs and families spill out of a myriad of contraptions and set about making themselves somewhat at home. Some programs are much more ostentatious than others.

This speaks to a humbler version of home and family and community.

I first noticed our neighbors by their efforts.  Without a discernible sound they were at work with an obvious carpentry project.  The entire family was involved with no bickering that I was aware of.  I hated to stare, but couldn’t help myself.  After awhile I even broke out my binoculars.  Other campers walking by seemed to scuttle by nervously with a glance or two in my direction.  I couldn’t help myself.  There didn’t seem to be any effort to provide a meal and I was sure they were working up a serious hunger.

Being the cook that I am, I sprang into action and produced a number of small treats that would not interfere with their focused efforts.  I didn’t know if they were vegetarians or vegans or if they might like a sugary treat so I tried to cover all the bases.

It was after breakfast for me and I had some left over oatmeal.  That was after packing over a brown sugar extravaganza. They didn’t seem much interested in sugar.  The oatmeal went over much better.  Seems like they appreciated a more solid food source.  We also had some quality leftover chicken and cheese, which I made into a platter of sorts.  Major score.  I’m sure the building project slowed down appreciably.

So we camped together for a couple days and I watched with fascination and no small amount of envy the level of cooperation and industry that fueled their efforts.

After all of this, I am now much more inclined to be more kind and patient, and take a moment to release the occasional ant that stumbles into my homestead.

After all I was the one that wandered onto their homestead and likely took many of their lives just passing by. (Click on image to enlarge.)

‘A BEAUTIFUL BIRTHDAY IN PARADISE’ — June 11, 2013

The Quaking Aspens are shimmering under a light breeze and the towering Ponderosa pines nicely shade our little wheeled casa here on Payette Lake in the shadow of the Salmon River Mountains of Idaho.  A gifted tracker would easily follow a faint trail through the thick pine pollen, but small price to pay to be sleeping next to such magnificence.

I got to be 64-years-old this morning a bit before 11 a.m. ET.  Given the time difference I was having my morning coffee quite aware of the moment stated on my birth certificate.

I mused on that a bit and ended up taking a walk to help shrug off my imaginings of those early moments and their implications.  Suffice to say there were some difficulties for both my mother and myself. Most everything was left to my own conjecture given that not much was ever said.  Suicide attempts, institutions and a few faded black-and-white pictures were pretty much all that was left for me to sort out.

So given my shaky start, I consider it a huge gift to be here having this life and I am in deep gratitude today.  I’m sorry I can’t thank either of my parents in person for the gift, but thanks none the less.

Update on our new truck camper

After taking possession of our latest (and last) version of a rolling home nearly two weeks ago, I am also settled into gratitude for that purchase.

Seeing a picture on Craigslist, and having a number of conversations through e-mail and phone, brought to mind what it might have been like for a dusty cowboy waiting at the end of a stagecoach line for a bride he had yet to meet.

After a cursory exam of the advertised 2005 Northern Lite and the passing over of our wad of hard-earned green, we camped only a couple miles from the purchase place for two days of stowing our kit of gear and the tentative first steps toward falling in love with her.

Each of my moments of alarm relaxed into a place of ease as I acquainted myself with all the systems.

The new “bride” has come with her own personality and temperament.  Some of these attributes came with a casual comment from the previous owner.  Like “be careful about filling the fresh water tank full up.” It appears to hump itself up and make access to my precious spice and seasoning drawer inaccessible.  I can live with that.  Just offload water until I can get at the masala.

Oh, and the door.  Level the camper perfectly and the door won’t close without a hard tug.  Still scratching my head about that, but what’s wrong with the eggs rolling a little to the port side and hugging the edge of the frying pan?

All and all it appears that a long-term love affair is in full bloom between the camper and Julianne and myself.

Soon we will leave these pristine mountains for the deserts of Utah and hugs with old friends; then on to majestic national parks; and then a wedding celebration of dear young friends in the big, big mountains of Colorado.

And, as always, more will be revealed along the dusty back roads of America.

‘LIFE CYCLES’ – Friday, April 26, 2013

I’m looking out at a sun-drenched landscape in Eastern Washington, where lawn mowers are just now being pulled from their winter resting places; the trees are just leafing out; and no one is hiding on the shady side of places yet. What a nice time to be coming back to the land Julianne and I call “our country.”

The past week is a blur. We waved goodbye to our trusty 5th wheel and moments later began our sprint north from the lovely foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the sunshine had already begun to feel oppressive and the life cycle of grasses and other tender plants was completing.

I have always marveled at the life cycles of plants and how quickly they finish, leaving their seeds behind for some future spring rain to call them back to life. I can’t help but wonder about my own life cycle as I raise my face to the tender sun.

‘CHANGE’ – Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sometimes change comes imperceptibly, like the graying of hair or the coming of a new day.  Sometimes change sweeps across the landscape almost taking our breath away.

That somewhat familiar ache in the top of my chest is visiting again this early morning well before the first light.  I’ve been tugged from sleep to sit and say we are leaving our lovely resting place on the flank of the Sierra Mountains in California.

Change is sweeping across our landscape much quicker than we expected.  Just a few days ago we were visiting a friend on his land overlooking other mountains in our homeland of Eastern Washington.  His generous offer to host us and our little rambling home on wheels drew us north for a look.  Could this be the solution for this longing we have for a sense of home and place?  As we climbed to the highest rock outcropping in search of the elusive cell phone signal and attempted to fathom the serpentine dusty approach to a suitable RV site for our trusty little 5th wheel, both Julianne and I knew there could be no fit for us there. The thousand-plus mile drive north bore no fruit.

Moments later, on that wind-swept  perch overlooking Lake Roosevelt, we sketched a new plan.  What would happen if we wiped the slate clean, to explore a completely different plan and destination?

In my mind I crafted an advertisement for our Citation 5th wheel on Craig’s List in Fresno near where we have been living intermittently this past year.  That afternoon our request for a ready and willing buyer was cast out into the ether’s.  Several days passed before the one and only response came. Yesterday, after a friendly visit and inspection, it was final, our sweet little home is going away.  Soon we will be sailing off into the wild blue yonder.

Quite some years ago, after showing a new acquaintance a piece of abandoned farm land and sketching out my rosy future, he wondered off and described me as a “dreamer.”  From what I gathered it wasn’t a term of flattery.  Years later as that outlandish dream bore fruit and he became my friend, we laughed over the memory.

So as the very first light begins to creep in and chase away the night here at Park Sierra, I peer out the window with that catch in my throat and begin my goodbyes.

I wonder what waits us beyond the bend in the road?

* Julianne’s note: We’ve been getting a number of inquiries asking if we are getting of the road entirely. The answer is ‘absolutely not.’  We’ll continue to RV frequently using our truck camper to explore the backroads of the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. Then in the winter, we’ll escape for a month or two to warmer climes in the desert Southwest.

‘FIRST SIGNS OF SPRING IN EASTERN WASHINGTON’ – Saturday, March 30, 2013

So we are here in our old stomping grounds, the Pacific Northwest, and more specifically the Inland Northwest.

I started a hike, with a good friend, on the edges of wheat fields being worked into planting condition.  We trailed higher and higher along a path, soon stepping around rivulets of water trickling out of banks along our way.  Then we were winding through patches of snow in north facing Douglas Fir groves.

All the while I kept scanning for places that get bathed in the early spring sunshine and finally there it was, all alone, a Buttercup.  Soon I found more brave blooms hunkered down close to the forest duff.

I knew I was home again.  For years I have hiked out onto the margins of snow to find the first Buttercups.  Before long the Grass Widows and Shooting Stars will light up these same pathways, then the Balsam Root with its bold displays of color.

Ahhh, I am happy today.

‘SAYING GOODBYE TO PARK OF THE SIERRAS’ – Thursday, March 21, 2013

Goodbyes are hard and they are happening now here in the Park of the Sierras.  We are saying our farewells and my enthusiasm for an uncertain future is tempered by the catch in my chest.

Water often seems to figure into my pictures or metaphors describing this journey of life.  So once again as we push off from the bank in such a nice quiet eddy and begin to feel the current pick us up and pull us around the bend and away from the familiar.  I have to trust this force inviting us deeper into our lives.

I trust this ribbon of asphalt river will swing around back through this valley again and new friends will sing their hellos again.

But now I can hear coming off the canyon walls downstream the excitement of the water and the promise of another fertile piece of ground to nestle into.

It’s interesting, this past week I was working on one of the projects in the park operating a compacting machine.  We were packing sand around a new septic tank.  I’ve been running this machine from time to time and I have learned to relax and wait with it.  We get so attached to the march forward at some respectable rate.

We think when things are going slow and there seems to be a lack of traction we think we need to push.  This machine has taught me this: When it has done its job of compaction it will walk itself forward.

How many times do I have to learn this lesson?  So as we catch the current and drift deep into the river going north I want to steer away from the rocks and hear my laugh echoing up the canyon walls.

More later from around the bend.

* Send your comments by clicking here.

‘SITTING ON THE COLORADO’ – Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013

Over my right shoulder there is a startling mountain-scape of craggy peaks largely free of vegetation jutting up. On my left, palm trees frame the view of the same stark mountains thrusting into the sky, and a crystalline blue ribbon of Colorado River winds along its base.   Deciding between the views could give a guy whiplash.

Sitting here in our little camper this morning, as we begin to wind down our winter tour of the southwest, I’m reminded of several things.

This winter Julianne and I continue to admire our decision to again travel in our 8 ½-foot slide-in truck camper.  It has nicely provided us all the shelter and support systems to make life comfortable, and make travel up most roads possible.  For some reason I would not have been able to arrive at this conclusion without first aching for, acquiring, and dragging around our 29-foot 5th wheel trailer for a year.

Sometimes it just takes having a personal experience for me to draw my own conclusions.  A sure sign of wisdom might be not having to personally make all the twists and turns, and to be able to use other folks’ research, to draw my own conclusions.  Nice idea anyway.

I haven’t been writing for some time, but I have been busy gathering memories and friendships along the trail.  The portfolio of pictures resting in my mind’s eye is nicely filled.  Paths have crossed and been re-crossed, the way they do out here on the road.

There is a mystery out ahead of us as we attempt to plumb our future.  Where is our place?  Where will be our garden?  Is there a puppy out there that wants to call our place home?

I am satisfied to rest in the mystery.

‘TO THE DESERT WE GO’ – Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

I always have subscribed to the notion that smaller is better and much of my life I have explored the realms of simple and small.  I’ve never been quite sure if the experiment was altruistically-based or if I just didn’t have the focus or energy to make life “bigger.”

Tonight we are under a vast starlit sky high above such things as smog and lights on the edge of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. We are small, in our little 8-1/2′ truck camper.  One short step will take you just about anywhere you need to go in here.

Between the pestilence that was lodged in my chest and some semi-recognized funk that seemed to grip my life force, I’ve struggled to remove myself from the couch these past number of weeks.

Loading up the camper and carefully outfitting it for this trip to the desert was helpful ,but I couldn’t quite feel the joy.  Now, out here under the stars far from any routine, the weight has lifted from my chest and the open country beckons.  Maybe that is why some of us travel, and travel, and travel.

I do know that I’ve been compelled time and again to set down the known and recognized in favor for some unexplored countryside. I can’t think of a better place than the desert to contemplate what my heart yearns for.  And to the desert we go now.

‘GROUNDHOG DAY’ – Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013

February 2nd and no groundhog in our neighborhood to offer up its advice.  However, birds are chattering away outside our door, the park is sunlit and seemingly in the throes of an emerging spring.  Here at our pleasing latitude and sedate elevation in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it could be possible.

If I were in a digging frame of mind I would be casting those early season seeds.  I still miss that and hold out hope in the future for a garden again.

I mount the keys of my computer this morning with increasing, yet limited vigor. The past couple weeks I’ve been sulking near my bed with some rendering of crud lodged deep in my bronchial passageways.  Now as my lungs begin to clear and my mind, while lagging behind a bit, finds some low gear to begin pulling me up from my bed.

Julianne is bent over her computer finishing up some research for an article prior to our cruising out of here toward the desert in a day or two. There are hot springs out there and unvisited quiet roads to explore, and a campfire or two, and who knows what else to discover.  Our little traveling camper is all buckled down on the truck ready to go. And truth be told, so am I.

We’ll keep you posted from out there over the ragged edge.

‘AWNING ETIQUETTE’ – Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2013

It seems I continue to take classes in the RV lifestyle section of the School of Hard Knocks.

Most of my classes fall under the sub-category of “If Only.” My latest might be called “Awning Etiquette.” As in NEVER being lulled into thinking that all is well with the awning. Our awning is now piled in its various component parts along side the shed.

What began as hyper-vigilance rapidly disintegrated into chaos when, after a night of rain, a yawning pillow of water greeted me in the morning when I stepped forth from our RV.

Even at that moment things could have turned out differently if I would have had the presence of mind to run for the broom and attempt spilling water from the pool. But no, I sprinted toward the moment of awning doom.

Here is the lesson: “DO NOT ATTEMPT AN AWNING ADJUSTMENT WITH SEVERAL HUNDRED POUNDS OF WATER POISED OVER YOUR HEAD.” I might be the only budding RVer out here not knowing this.

In that moment of lifting the support arm handle, our handsome 18-foot ocean blue awning was in tatters. After much cursing and shameful head hanging, convinced our nice awning was a total loss, I began poking through the debris.

I reminded myself that this isn’t the space shuttle; it’s just a simple awning.

Using YouTube videos, I began acquiring an understanding of the inner workings of the roller assembly and carefully removed the damaged end of the spring assembly and bludgeoned it back into something resembling straight. I blocked up both ends of the long round roller tube (see right) and tentatively began bouncing on the middle to straighten out the noticeable bow caused by the water weight.

It ain’t the space shuttle, right?

As I’ve told my tale of woe to fellow travelers, there were many stories shared with pretty much the same outcome as my own. All were accompanied with knowing smiles and frequent bursts of laughter.

In the grand scheme of the universe, we’re dealing with very little things here on the edge of the RV frontier.

Happy adventures in the New Year.

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To read “Jimmy’s Views 2010-2012, Click Here”

Photos, unless otherwise noted, by Julianne G. Crane