Wandering Wanda

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.  Mom’s are pretty good at providing these three squares each day.  Generally, in our house, Lenny has done a good portion of the cooking and I have been a solid sous chef.  The three squares I’ve been trying to provide though have nothing to do with food, but more to do with nourishment of the soul.  Lenny and I both work during the day and Lilya has school, so as much as we would love to be out exploring all day it just isn’t realistic.  However, since we have been able to select our geography we have placed ourselves right next to some fantastic trailheads.  Now a morning, lunchtime, and evening hike are just right outside our door.  We have been working on getting out a little every day to feed our souls.

Lunchtime hike. It took us less than 10 minutes to get to this great view from our site.
My brother Ray and Mom on one of our trips.  Notice the cool Tom Petty shirt!

My mom passed away 5 years ago this week.  I’ve been reflecting on memories with her all week and one thing keeps coming to mind.  As kids growing up, we were so lucky to take long trips from California to Canada to visit with family.  It was on these trips that I think the love for nature and outdoors was fostered in me.  Over the years we took every conceivable route to British Columbia you can imagine and saw some amazing places.  Even though these trips eventually ended, my mom continued to love to get outdoors whenever we could.  Even late in life, she had a big bin packed with camp gear and would try to get me to camp with her whenever she could.  She had an old goose down sleeping bag and a tent that might have been from the ’70’s or ’80s!  Our last camping trip together she pulled these items out only to discover at the campsite that there were holes in everything and it had been well worn.  Thank goodness there is always a WalMart nearby and the tent we purchased on that trip is the one I still use today.  I also still have her fire pit coffee pot and her old camp stove where many a delicious pancake adorned with Canadian maple syrup was made.

Christmas was Mom’s favorite holiday so it’s fitting her tiny urn is under our tiny tree.

My Mom asked to be cremated when she passed away and requested that her ashes be spread under a beautiful tree on my Uncle’s property on Gabriola Island.  Our family gathered together and celebrated my Mom’s life in a way that she would have loved.  At the time, I also purchased three small urns for my brothers and me and kept a few of her ashes aside for each of us.  I find it so fitting that since we are now in a tiny space that this tiny urn has been perfect to bring along on our travels.  I know my Mom would have loved that we are on this adventure and that as a mom, I’m also feeding Lilya’s soul by fostering her love for nature.  I’ve decided I think it would be fitting to leave a few of Mom’s ashes wherever we go.

Thanks Mom!  I love you and miss you but you are still with us every day.

Snorkeling Wanda
You for Scuba?



Branson to Hot Springs and on to Fort Worth

img_2131We have been quite busy trying to stay ahead of the freezing weather so I’m a bit behind on updates.  We are currently just outside of Austin and plan to be here for the week.  It’s been raining non-stop for the last few days but the sun made a much-welcomed appearance today so we went to church with a coworker of Lenny’s that lives in the area and then puttered around Austin.  I look forward to sharing more about this area in my next post but I’ll catch you up on our travels since Thanksgiving.

img_1983I’ve had two convertibles in my life and sometimes when I get on a beautiful winding road I really miss driving with the top down.  One of those vehicles was a fun little two-seater sports car that was so much fun hugging tight turns.  After visiting with family in Branson, we traveled to Hot Springs, AR down 7 Highway.  It’s one of those kinds of drives you love in a little roadster but not so much with a big truck and trailer!!  I do highly recommend this route as the views were incredible but also be prepared to get a good glute workout.  Again, Lenny was a champ but between the oohs and aahs I was flinching and grimacing the whole way.  The steep drop-offs are always on the passenger side! We stopped at a little roadside gift shop at about 2100 ft.  The view from this area is absolutely amazing and according to the roadside stand, you can see into Missouri as well.  I don’t doubt it.

We arrived after dark at the Gulpha Gorge campsite which is managed by the National Parks Service.  It is a first-come-first-serve location so we weren’t sure what we would find but we were hopeful.  As we were driving around we were flagged down by an enthusiastic guy who told us his friends were just visiting in the spot next to him and that it was an awesome campsite.  He helped us to get the trailer backed in and shared the warmth of his fire for a moment.  When we woke up the next morning we were not disappointed.  It was a great little spot that backed right up to the creek and the hills over Hot Springs.

Partial view from the Observation Tower
Downtown Hot Springs

Hot Springs is an interesting National Park.  You can hike some great trails into town and if you hike to the observation tower you will enjoy an amazing 360-degree view over the town.  Besides the trails, the park is the town itself as well as the bathhouses along Bathhouse Row that utilize the 143-degree mineral springs that are unique to the area.  If you take a ranger tour you get the full history of the Fordyce Bathhouse which is one of the nicest in the area.  When I heard “mineral springs” and “bathhouses” I envisioned this wonderful spa experience but the bathhouses were really built as medical facilities.  People would come from all around with a doctors order for a series of baths.  There were ALL kinds of ways that they bathed people but none of them really looked very relaxing.  One of the more disturbing treatments was an area where a “medical professional” would wash people with what looked like high-pressure fire hoses.  There are some other very unique treatments but I’ll leave it for you to explore on your own. Lilya can also give you a tour as she is now a sworn Jr. Ranger!

Outside of the history of the mineral springs and Bathhouse Row, the town is a cute little area with lots of quaint shops and restaurants.  One highlight for Lenny was a visit to the Superior Bathhouse which has been converted into a brewery.  We enjoyed a sample of their local brews that are made with the mineral waters.  We also had an amazing pizza at Grateful Head Pizza and spent an afternoon working from Kollective Coffee.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have met some great people so far on our trip and one of our highlights from Hot Springs was the family next to us at Gulpha Gorge.  Remember our enthusiastic neighbor that was so helpful getting us set up the night we arrived?  Well, Tom, his wife Shannon, and their three kids have also been living full time in an RV for the past 10 weeks. Tom is a retired professional snowboarder who has a pretty interesting story.  img_2060He has lived through the wild world of snowboarding and now focuses his energy traveling around the country talking to kids about dreaming their biggest dreams and not letting their circumstances deter them in any way.  Tom also works with an organization called Compassion Causes that has a school in Nicaragua.  Spend ten minutes talking with Tom and you quickly realize you are talking with someone who has found his passion and is pouring himself into it fully.  The kids all became fast friends, we exchanged information and wished them well on their way back home.  We are looking forward to meeting up with Tom and his wonderful family again in California.  You can read more about Tom and his mission with Dare to Dream here as well as his work with Compassion Causes here.

From Hot Springs, we traveled on to Fort Worth, TX.  Again, we have been traveling in the evenings but we landed at a nice location in Grand Prarie called Loyd Park. Thanks to the park staff, we once again found a great campsite with a pretty view of the Christmas light display across the water.Fort Worth-50

Our purpose for stopping in Fort Worth was primarily to visit with Cody and since we all had quite a busy work week, we didn’t get to explore much.  We did, however, go late one afternoon to see the longhorn cattle drive through the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Fort Worth-120
Longhorn cattle drive!

It’s a ten-minute event but pretty cool and a great chance to see longhorn cattle up close.  I don’t recall ever seeing one previously so it was a fun experience.  Most importantly, I was able to visit with Cody a couple of evenings, see his apartment downtown and get a little time to just hang out.

So far, things have been going well and we look forward to staying south in the warmer weather at a slower pace of travel.

Thanksgiving and Thankfulness

If you don’t know what we have been up to, we rented out our house in downtown Lee’s Summit to our friends the Parkers who we met through our local community.  They took advantage of a good market and sold their house and didn’t know exactly what their next move was.  We were all chatting at a Fourth Friday’s event this summer and we mentioned that we had a wild idea to rent our house and work and live in an RV for the next year and that they could stay at our place while they figured it out.  The next day, a call came from our friends asking if we were serious.  We were serious as a heart attack!   They came and checked out the place and next thing you know, they would be moving in at the beginning of August.  At that moment, everything became real.  The Parkers have been amazing and a great help along the way.  We think they might be Airstreaming next year!  Haha!

Hanging with the Parkers on the 4th of July. They had to make sure the neighbors were cool before they moved in!

About the same time, tenants at another property we had been renting for 9 years let us know that they would be moving out.  We knew we didn’t want to hassle with trying to rent that house again and since the market was pretty good, we thought it would be best to sell.  However, that property needed a LOT of work to get a good market price.  So, the week we moved out of our primary residence, we moved into the rental and began rehabbing it.  I wanted to have it listed by Labor Day but we were WAY off.  It was just SOOOO much work.  Cleaning, painting, repairing, etc….  Lenny and I worked our day jobs and spent our nights and weekends getting everything done.  It’s never as sexy as it looks on HGTV!  At one point, we were all sleeping in one room in the basement as we worked on the upstairs.  We also didn’t move much into the house since we knew we would be moving back out again soon.  We finally got it listed in October and had several great offers within days.  Nine years of property management and several months of hard work panned out.

Our first cooked meal! Thanksgiving dinner.

So last week we had to move, deal with closing issues for the house, move some remaining items into storage, consolidate the rest into our new 30ft shiny house and get us out of town before the weather got too bad.  If you have been following winter storm Bruce, I’m feeling very thankful right now that we snuck out just in time!  We had planned to leave on Wednesday evening to spend Thanksgiving in Branson with Lenny’s family but had another delay so I found myself trying to figure out what to do for Thanksgiving.  We haven’t had a normal routine for months and the one thing I wanted to ensure was that we took the time to be thankful and to enjoy a decent sit-down meal even in the midst of a tight timeline.  So, Lenny went to the store, got us a small ham, and items to make a few traditional sides.  And of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without pecan pie and eggnog!  So, our first cooked meal in the Airstream was in the driveway of the rental house on Thanksgiving.  To make it more memorable, I forgot to open the stove exhaust and set off the alarm!  Total newb move!

Waking up in the Airstream. The cutest sloth I know!

We finally made it to Branson and spent the rest of the long weekend, getting things in order and learning how to do everything in this little house.  Thankfully, we have had the conveniences of Lenny’s parent’s house for showers and laundry since we still aren’t in a warm enough setting to unwinterize.  Basically, we are still practicing but are planning our next move to Hot Springs, AR (the first National Park and first on our journey) and hope that we will soon hit warm enough weather that we can unwinterize the Airstream and have a fully operating home!  So, in the interim of all of this work, I think it is important to take a moment and reflect on just a few of the things we are most thankful for.

  • Our families, both genetic and adopted
  • Our wonderful friends (shout outs coming for a few in an upcoming post)
  • Our health
  • To live in a time and place where we have the freedom, technology,  and opportunity to take on such an expedition while still maintaining our jobs and quality education for Lilya.
  • The support and excitement of our coworkers and clients
  • The timing of everything.  Both good, and even what seemed to be bad at the time. 🙂

Please leave me a comment of what you are thankful for below.

  • IMG_1941


First Time Towing

Lenny said he overcame his three biggest fears with the Airstream on Friday.  When you have never towed a 30-foot trailer before, it can be a little intimidating but he managed it like a champ!  After several hours of orientation Lenny slowly pulled the Airstream out of the garage.  Apparently, he thought they might do that for him!  No better way to learn then just getting behind the wheel.  We drove through evening traffic in Des Moines, hit some tight construction, practiced backing in a large parking lot (which I highly recommend along with a fun tip called “the scoop” that we learned on YouTube).  With a little practice, we then came home and backed it into the driveway on the first try.  With all the excitement, anticipation, and anxiety gone, we cracked open a cold beer and relaxed! 


We spent some time picking up items yesterday, lining all the drawers and shelves, and getting acquainted with the operation of everything so now the packing of all of our stuff into our shiny new home begins!

Our silver ship is almost ready to sail!

We got the call today!  Our Airstream has come off the line from Jackson Center, OH and has arrived at RVOne in Des Moines, IA.  I was pretty frustrated a couple of weeks ago with the delay but both Airstream and RVOne have been great in working to make the best of the situation.  Mistakes happen but the effort to get it right is so very appreciated.  Honestly, the weather the last few days has been so bad that the idea of trying to get on the road in snow and unusually frigid November weather makes this delay seem welcome, minus the fact that I want to run screaming from the cold! Anyway, I’m reminding myself daily, to take it slow.

We are frantically wrapping up several things here and moving our few items into a storage unit.  We head to Des Moines on Friday for our demo and pick up.  As new RV’ers, we are feeling excited and a little scared at the same time.  It’s pretty silly but I feel like we are bringing home a new baby.  Certainly not the same level of responsibility but for the first time in a while, we are doing something where we don’t really know what we are doing!  All in all, I think this is good.  I’ve always believed you should push yourself a little out of the comfort zone and this definitely is a big change.  Silly things like where do I get my hair done, how do we get mail, deposit checks, get reliable wifi, good drinking water, doctor’s and dentists, pack all our clothes and kitchen items we need into a very tiny space……

for the first time in a while, we are doing something where we don’t really know what we are doing!

the list of things that runs through my mind has caused a few sleepless nights but the excitement of all the possibilities is also endless and outweighs the other concerns.  I’m generally amazed at the problems we can solve today.  Omnidirectional cell boosting antennas, depositing checks by taking a picture on my phone, collaborating with my coworkers on video calls!  There are very few problems you can’t solve.  BTW – I hate to tag age on myself but I remember watching shows as a kid where video calls seemed amazingly futuristic and now Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts/Meets are a regular part of my vocab.  Amazing!

One last fun thing from today.  Lilya and I were talking about downsizing to the trailer.  I heard her happily singing in the most fun voice, “I’m getting nothing for Christmas, because we don’t have the room….”  Now, before anyone thinks this is sad, we will still have a traditional Christmas experience even though gifts may be small in size. What I really loved though was her response when I told her that we will be having the BEST Christmas with family in California and experiences that aren’t the norm, her song changed to “I’m having the very best Christmas….”  That is what this opportunity is about.  Spending time with family, giving back to others along the way, and hopefully solving every challenge that arises with grace and a great attitude!