Sunday, June 24, 2007

With Apologies to MS Spears

OOOOOOPS! I did it again!

How many of you noticed there was a 10 month gap in my diary of our first years on the road? Probably no one! But here it is anyway. This one shold have gone between our Reincarnation and Life's little circles! I'd skip it but you have to meet Clancy!!!!!

A Different Road and Clancy Joins the Family

When last we saw our newly hatched fulltime RVers they were heading north out of Sacramento, CA. The original plan was to earn an adequate income telling tales Under the Story Tree, reality, however, altered that plan.

The Spring of 2004, brought us our new home on wheels, freedom to roam and the highest gas prices of 2 centuries! Being fledgling Storytellers it would take quite awhile to be able to build a reputation that would ensure us enough story sessions to make a living. But along with a Second Life comes a willingness to be flexible.

In preparation for departure, we had discovered the seemingly all-knowing Jaimie Hall (Bruzenak). Jaimie had written a book entitled Support Your RV Lifestyle. It was replete with the voice of experience and designed to help newbies like us avoid some mistakes. Within the first 40 pages I’d already hollered, “I never thought of that!” at least six times. We treated the book as a bible and did almost everything she suggested.

(Ironic note #1: The two things we didn’t do her way were things we really regretted!)

(Ironic note #2 :Jaimie has published the 2nd edition of Support Your RV Lifestyle and guess what two fledgling storytellers are on the cover!)

The most useful thing she pointed us to was Workamper News. A subscription service aimed at fulltime travelers, Workamper helps put great people like us into great jobs all over the country. We’d written a joint resume and it was on line at for employers all over the country to see. Soon the calls came in.

To make a long story short - something you may have realized by now I don’t do very well- We had been hired for our first job on San Juan Island, near Seattle, as camp store managers. Fun, scary, stimulating, hard, confusing, and satisfying. Our summer was one long learning experience and the best thing we learned was how terrific other Workampers could be. We still correspond with another couple we worked with and hope we can find a place to work together another time.

Off to Omaha, Nebraska to house sit for #3 son, Sage Words and #1 DIL (Daughter-in-law), Sparkles while they were deployed in different directions. What fun we had exploring a part of the country we never expected to enjoy with #1 DIL’s mom.

We led the first storm of the winter down to the South Eastern corner of The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) to spend Christmas with Old Newsie and his bride, Grandma B. Naturally, we went mostly to visit the folks and my brother and sister-in-law, but we were also adhering to the first rule of full timing. North in summer, south in winter.

Yeah right - we have a picture of us snowed in by Dad’s house!

:>) :>) :>) :>)

We had just finished dinner and I had these big meat scraps left. “We need a dog”, I told Big Jim. He wasn’t too sure about the idea but off we went to the Lea County Alternative Humane Society. We were living a second life and we knew our dog was hoping for her own second life.

German Shepards, Bloodhounds, Beagles, Terriers and Poodles. All wonderful dogs, but too big or too noisy. We told Craig, the caretaker, what we were doing and that we needed a medium sized dog with personality to travel full time and maybe even help with the story sessions. He’d see if he could find one the following week.

“I think I have the right dog for you, he said when he called, I just picked two more up at the pound who were scheduled to be euthanized today.”

We hurried right over and into my arms he placed -a mop! A completely docile Pomeranian who simply lay in my arms and let me stroke his long silky fur. He never looked at me, barked, or moved as I stroked that long silky fur and thought about twigs, burrs, ticks, and mud in campgrounds.

Big Jim was saying something about “nice and quiet’ but my attention had been grabbed by another little tri - colored pup who had been jumping at her cage behind me, telepathically shouting LOOK AT ME!” from the moment I arrived.
One look, that was it. Can you believe both of them thought this dog, part dachshund and part blue heeler, was not the one for us? Craig shook his head, worrying that she wouldn’t take to travel. Big Jim just shook his head, he knew he finally had a little girl in his life.

A week later, after they had been able to treat her minor cold, we went back to pick her up. We’d thought about all kinds of names like Gypsy and Hobo, even Rover! But we finally decided on a name in honor of one of the dearest ladies I ever knew, Big Jim’s feisty Irish Aunt Mary. When we arrived with a new leash and collar and I called “Clancy!” she came instantly.

Clancy, the Gourmet Weiner Dog, is a working member of our trio. She is mentioned in our resume and is described as an official greeter, model, and tear-licker-awayer. And Craig was wrong about her not wanting to travel. She lets us know she’s been in one place too long by jumping up on the dash or in Big Jim’s seat and waiting until we finally get the rig under way!

See ya down the road,

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Missing April & May Blogs

With thanks for the inspiration to Paula Charles, the Family Laureate.

“April showers bring May flowers”,
has something to do with the moon.
But some May flowers take many hours!
In fact, it’s half past June!!!

Yarntangler unfortunately got tangled up pretty well during April and the blog intended for the month never got off the ground. Then we took off for the month of May and discovered the joys of being off the radar so we had little or no Internet connection. We’ve now finally arrived at our newest adventure and just got reconnected this weekend!

Hopefully, the eight or nine of you who are following these Ramblings of mine will be pleased when you discover a few extra installments. I didn’t have the Internet but I did get the tales ready to tell! I even learned how to put a hyperlink into my blog! Wow! Look how far I’ve come!!!!!

…..uh…. Maybe I haven’t come that far after all. I put them all on the blog in reverse order! DUH! Now you know the real reason I'm called YarnTANGLER.

Okay , moving on...
So if you have been with me all along, go over here on the right >>>>> look for “June 5” and find the post called “How to be Reincarnated Before you Die” and read DOWN instead of UP until you come to something from March!

If you have just joined the gang you are soooo welcome. You may read the same way and then scroll to the bottom and read normally. Or you can start at the bottom like everyone else until you finish March and then go to the top and read down.... yeah that's right.

And if you are contemplating doing a blog- remember the writing is a heck of a lot easier than the tech stuff!


(<: oh okay you can laugh. :>)

See ya down the road,
How to be Reincarnated Before You Die

A whole lot of somebodies once said, “You only get one chance at life.”

Big Jim and I thought that was totally unreasonable and decided that the Good Lord meant us to have all the chances we could handle. So after Big Jim worked his butt off informing folks of what was going on for 33 years as a radio news guy and I worked almost as hard raising kids, teaching other people’s kids, and trying to make a contribution to various communities as a volunteer, we decided one day that our first life had almost run it’s course.

After the astonishingly non-catastrophic morning upon which Big Jim was downsized, we realized that we were pregnant with our Second Life! Since there were two of us making the transition, the pregnancy lasted just about 18 months.

Our Second Life began as a dream way back in 1978 when we saw a brand new Winnebago pull in next to the Circus Tent (See previous blog about the Circus Tent). The plan was that someday, after we got rich, we’d be able to take off in a motor home and just see this beautiful country of ours before it was completely paved over. On that October day in 2002, we knew it was time to stop dreaming and start getting ready to go. Obviously, after 33 years, radio wasn’t going to make us rich (wish we’d figured that out in 1978!), we’d wasted an awful lot of time.

So we cobbled together several part time jobs -five at one time for a little while- in order to better prepare for an eclectic future. We worked in tourism, Jim at a museum and me at a cave. At the same time we read everything we could find about RVs, life on the road as fulltimers, and the kinds of jobs available. Big Jim had begun telling stories to both kids and adults as a sideline and I’d even lent my lesser talents and untrained voice to the effort. It was fun. We thought we could manage to make a go of it by gathering families Under the Story Tree. (check that part of our lives out at )

We shopped for the first home we would ever own; one on wheels. Unlike the majority of full time RVers, there was no house to sell to finance the Second Life. We checked out scores of motor homes, made up a shopping list and sent it out to our sons around the country. Everyone began looking for Mom and Dad’s escape wagon!

In January 2004 we picked a day when our first life would be finished - June 14th, - we told everyone we would be quitting our jobs that day. We did not have a motor home yet.
On June 14th we quit our jobs, going away parties in both places insured lots of leftover cake to see us on our way.

On June 15th, Big Jim flew to Omaha where #3 son, Sage Words and #1 Daughter-in-law (DIL), Sparkles had found us a pre -loved Winnebago complete with every single thing on the shopping list right down to the blue fabric!

On June 17th, Big Jim and Sage Words each took a deep breath, climbed into the RV and turned it West toward California, learning how to drive a motor home as they enjoyed some long wished for father /son bonding time. What went on along the way, the mishaps, embarrassing mistakes, first time black water dumping experience has remained private; memories too sacred to share with anyone else even-oe especially me

On the morning of June 21st, the three of us said goodbye to sons #1 ,Lone Duck and #2,Jugglesorcerer, boarded the enormous vehicle (that I never expected to be able to fill) and took off into the great - traffic mess that was the Sacramento International Airport to allow
#3, with only a few last minute sage words, to fly home.

On the afternoon of June 21st, 2004 having left the confusion of Sacramento behind, Big Jim and I turned to each other, let out enormous sighs and simply grinned. We had been Reincarnated and our Second Life began.

See Ya down the road

Life’s Little Circles

As we drove West again in late February, 2005, we watched with some trepidation as streams of motor homes, 5th wheels, and trailers hightailed it East on I -10. What did they know that we didn’t? The only thing that had never worked in the Winnebago was the radio and given Big Jim’s disenchantment with that world, we’ve never gotten around to doing anything about it.
We finally got to Quartzite, AZ, a place I’d always longed to go, about a month late for the biggest flea market in the world but right on time for a rain of biblical proportions. We camped on the famous free BLM land one night, woke up in a lake and headed out. Every single booth along the road was buttoned up tightly against the torrential rains and we missed out on the whole shebang! As we traveled farther into the West, the stream of RVs became almost bumper to bumper as hundreds of Snow Birds fled the wildfires in Southern California.

: >{ : > { : > { : > {

Northern California, a lovely campground, lovely town, not so lovely job as it turned out to be nothing like we’d been promised. (We had not taken Jaimie Hall’s advice to ALWAYS get it in writing!)

We left amicably after 3 months and ended up right back where we started from - at Moaning Cavern in Vallecito, (off of Highway 49) the place we’d spent our last few days before hitting the road a year before. I went back to work in the same gift shop I’d left on June 14th, 2004! We became the first Workampers the company employed and hopefully, there will be more in the future.

But what a difference! Big Jim, who was well known there as my hubby and #2 son’s Dad became a knowledgeable and respected guide and discovered a passion for caving hitherto unsuspected. Moaning Cavern is the deepest chamber,open to the public, in California. RVers are welcome to dry camp overnight for a small fee. Jim took hundreds of people into the cave by the famous spiral staircase while hundreds of others entered via a 165 foot rappel. Jim also served as night security and even took off on ten minutes notice to lead tours in another of the company’s caves, Black Chasm, near Volcano. Interestingly, he’d only been in that cave once before! He occasionally made deliveries to the other locations and soaked up all the cave lore he could.

There we sat, parked in the employee parking lot, able to “go home” in less than a minute from work. I was able to perform the merchandising job I had advanced into right there, at a picnic table, in the shade. Clancy sat with me near the picnic area and began her career as comforter to children who became frightened going into the cave and having her picture taken hundreds of times with school groups.

The staff loved taking their breaks and chatting with me under our canopy, away from the store. Since I also worked occasionally in the office we all got to know each other better. I was called on to host cookouts, and pot lucks and then wonderfully, an engagement party for #2 son, Jugglesorcerer and #3 DIL, Buttercup.

Ahhh, there’s a story… The woman who finally stole the heart of our confirmed bachelor and showed him the way to HIS new life!

Are you ready for this?

She was my BOSS!

She was also HIS boss!

But she’s an intelligent woman; she was well aware of the rules. She told me what to do until 5:00. At 5:01 I was the MOTHER-IN-LAW!!!

Also a writer, someday Buttercup will tell her own story but in another Ramblings I’ll share the story of their beautiful wedding - 155 feet below the earth at Black Chasm Cavern!

But now we are almost caught up to the present so I’ll tell you about what we’ve done in the past six months and where we’ll be starting in June when next we meet.

See ya down the road,


Rambling for a Month Out in the Boondocks

We ended up staying at Moaning Cavern for a full year! We’d come for a summer job, stayed for a fall wedding, wintered over because it was too late to find a job down South, dealt with a few medical ickys, and agreed to one last summer season. Then we told the owner it was time to move on. When he reluctantly agreed to let us out of his parking lot he asked what we wanted to do next. We surprised him by telling him we wanted to explore more caves!

With his blessing and recommendation we headed to the beautiful Caverns of Sonora, Texas. The irony that amused many of our friends and us as well, was that the first time we escaped the area we had been living in Sonora, California!

We took a month to get from Northern California to West, Texas. Believe me it takes a dedicated scenery watcher to make that happen! We took the least traveled roads, of course, and if there was something to stop and look at we stopped and looked. We saw every historical marker, funny sign, oddly shaped cactus and anybody’s homemade pie! We certainly didn’t hurry. This was our down time and there are not many areas that can produce much less stress than I-40 and Route 66! (Well, if you don’t worry about what the awful crumbling road might do to your vehicle that is.)

Some RVers pride themselves in how far they can travel in a single day. They wake up at dawn, pull out of the KOA and hit the interstate. Ten hours later they pull into another KOA and go to bed. At the end of a month they go home and add a series of states to their window map. Those folks seem to have missed the meaning of the words RV stand for; Recreational Vehicle. We take a very different view. We like to brag about our shortest day.

We left an overnight at Wally World and headed for the highway debating whether the bumps on I-40 might be less than the bumps on RT. 66. We were sitting at an intersection a mile from Wal-Mart when we spotted a sign reading “Calico Ghost Town - 8 miles”. No questions asked, we headed for Calico.

Maybe the rest of the year Calico was a ghost town but not that Sunday! That was the second day of their annual festival. Thousands of people had come from as far away as San Diego and Oklahoma City to take part in dog shows, watermelon eating contests, dirt digging contests, and Strong Man competitions.

Then there’s the Mule Race. This has to be the funniest race you’ll ever watch. Rules say no riding them but you can push them, pull them, bribe them, coax them, sweet-talk them, not-so-sweet-talk them (but only when there are no children present) or anything else you can think up to get them around a course that covers the entire town. It goes down hills, through rocky areas, through a mandatory water obstacle (mules HATE water) up a steep hill and then down the main street past thousands of cheering onlookers!

But the best part: THE BEARD Contests.

I never knew that there are men (and the women who love them) who follow beard competitions all over the country and, in fact, all over the globe ! They seem to have a competition for every form of facial hair. Best Mustache, Curliest mustache, Longest mustache, Neatest, Thickest, Funniest .

And then the real thing- The Beards: Fuzziest, Grungiest, Neatest, Most Distinguished, Curliest, Wildest, Shortest beard, (won that day by a teenager who had begun a soul patch 3 days before) and Longest.

Big Jim didn’t need a lot of coaxing to enter the contest. His last day at the radio station in 2002 had been his last day to shave his then neatest and most distinguished beard. So he got up there with 11 other men, one of whom had come from San Diego to claim his 4th annual rosette for the longest beard.

Big Jim won by ¾ of an inch! His 11 ½ inch long winner had knocked out the 4 X champion!
Then, since it was 5 PM and the festival was over, we drove down to the bottom of the hill and camped at the Calico camp ground, right next to the Calico Cemetery. We had gone exactly 9 miles!

See ya down the road,

In the Middle of Nowhere Texas

Much to my amazement, in November of 2006, I found myself returning to the state of Texas, a place I’d bid a firm adios to many years before. This time around I brought a more mature point of view and was prepared to find only the best. Our six months at the Caverns of Sonora was a time of many contrasts. Dry, dusty, heat, and typhoon like storms; meanness and heartbreak, generosity and laughter; disregard for material things and respect for the wonders around us.

Caverns Of Sonora

We were lucky enough to begin working at Caverns of Sonora (Texas) on November 1st. It ranks among the top 4 most beautifully decorated show caves in America (the exact pecking order depends upon which one you are working for at the time). Only a few miles off I-10 at exit 392, they also have a small very affordable, campground with water and electric available for RVers and tenters too.

Like everything created by God, Caverns of Sonora is unique; every cave is different. There is a reason to visit as many as possible to see what Nature has done with the same idea in various places. Visitors who stopped by weren’t always sure they wanted to go on the tour. “We just went to Carlsbad.”, they’d tell us. I’d answer that “Carlsbad Cavern’s really big thing is that it’s a REALLY big thing! While the Caverns of Sonora are a more intimate work of nature and 90% active. You need to see both caverns to appreciate their individual beauty.”

My personal favorite part of the cavern is the Christmas Tree Room. Hundreds of tree-shaped formations, decorated with sparkling crystals, make me imagine snow fairies might be hiding behind each one.

Tears in the Desert

One thing the Caverns of Sonora had to show off was it’s trademark Butterfly. A rare formation made up of two fishtail-shaped helictites, it was a strange, translucent, and wonder filled thing. The Butterfly took thousands of years to form and brought breathtaking moments to thousands of people who stood in awe of it’s delicacy.

And then in a few seconds, just before Thanksgiving, it was destroyed forever by a selfish, thoughtless, ignorant vandal who thought nothing of snapping off and taking away a wing for the heck of it! This supposedly privileged young person, attending a prestigious college, apparently never learned the first thing about respect for what has been given to us all to enjoy. Where were his parents when he should have been learning that we are all the stewards of these natural gifts?

The Caverns of Sonora has scores of sights more awesome than the butterfly, and they will not suffer from it’s loss - any more than we will all suffer from the loss of one more bit of beauty in an increasingly unbeautiful time.

Bob Cats and Pea Hens and Armadillos-Oh My!

Clancy discovered and protected us from rattlers on 3 occasions in California, whimpered longingly at the sight of horses as we drove, survived vicious attacks by Smokey the Guard Cat at Moaning Cavern. She was even able to withstand the unstoppable energy of Mystic the Wonder Pup, son #2’s terrier mix, while trying to nap in the shade, For the most part, however, she had led a fairly sheltered Second Life of her own since joining our adventures.

Then we arrived at The Caverns of Sonora! In a dog’s world a terrific place to be is where there are new sights, sounds, and smells. At the beautiful Caverns of Sonora, Clancy was afforded an embarrassment of riches!

Our site was directly across the road from a solar powered deer feeder that spewed corn out for the gentle creatures twice a day. At dawn the release popped open and Clancy jumped up on our bed. She managed to push the accordion shade up a fraction of an inch with her nose and one of us would oblige her and open it all the way. Then she sat on our pillows and watched Deer TV on her wide screen.

Big Jim and I never tired of watching them either, and one morning I saw a doe teach her baby how to get a drink from a frozen water station right behind our Adventurer.

“Put your front paw on the hard water. Now raise it and bring it down sharply. Ha ha, I’m sorry, Sweetie, did I forget to say you might get your nose wet?”

We tried to let Clancy have some freedom, and at first allowed her to run around with the other 4 resident dogs who had grown up on the ranch surrounding the caverns. Unfortunately, she simply couldn’t figure out why the deer wouldn’t stick around and play tag and she’d follow them far out onto the range. There she took the opportunity to chase sheep and goats being raised for wool. She went wild with the exhilaration that a good chase involved - until she ran into a cactus, anyway. There were also cows, and her beloved horses but chasing any of these animals was simply against the rules. We also worried because there were snares set all over the ranch for bobcats and we were afraid if one of the cats didn’t get her, the traps would.

Gophers, prairie dogs, mice, squirrels, and even a skunk were considered fair game in her mind. Luckily they’d been there longer than she and knew the bolt holes so she never did catch them.
Then there were the armadillos! These funny looking armored rodents drove her crazy. She quickly learned to avoid the pair of pea hens that spent their days on the porch as these birds, which were bigger than Clancy, would, when backed into a wall, simply turn around and chase her! It was funny however, when they would fly up to the roof top to see her take a flying leap expecting to go with them. She finally met her match when she cornered a porcupine! At that point and since the only command Clancy simply ignores is “come”, we reluctantly attached her to a tether once more.

Meanwhile, back at the cave, Big Jim was delving ever deeper into cavern lore and soaking up all the experience he could at the feet of Bill S. one of the smartest and most knowledgeable men I’ve had the privilege of knowing. (he is also one of the all time great raconteurs and practical jokers as well as one of the best BBQ cooks in the southwest! ) Bill is the center of a great crew with a heart as big as Texas. His goal in life is to be a Desert Rat and spend his time exploring caves and studying artifacts.

Living in Sonora amongst some of the most open and honest people I’ve ever known, gave me a new appreciation for the Great State of Texas. There is little pretense and each person is welcomed for who he is rather than what he is.

See Y’all down the road!