Manifesto

Quill and Document
Quill and Document

According to Wikipedia, the definition of manifesto is: “a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer.”

Yup, that sounds about right.

It is based on the idea of “making manifest” – presenting evidence that demonstrates the existence of a thing.

So, what is the thing that we are demonstrating the existence of, exactly?

Hang on a second…I am a little rusty, but I promise we will get there together.

Everything That Can Go Wrong, Did

It is no secret that 2020 has been a gigantic shitshow for pretty much the entire planet, with the possible exception of ownership and stockholders of home delivery companies. It has been tremendously difficult for those of us who are creative types especially.

Personally, Melissa and I got an early start on the craptastic experience back in September of 2019. The death of our niece, as well as several of Melissa’s family members, created a sinkhole that we just never really climbed out of.

Renesmae firehouse portrait
We still miss you. Always will.

Which was unfortunate, because it was also supposed to be the beginning of our “great adventure” – the sale of most everything we owned to hit the road full time in an RV.

So, then COVID happened…

The Year Of Cancellations

I had big plans back in the day, at the start of our adventure. Everything would be meticulously photographed and documented. I was going to write every day. We would share our journey with family, friends, and the world at large.

Instead, I managed a whopping 5 blog posts this year. I completely petered out by July, and fell into full-time “writers sulk.” (Like writer’s block but with more pouting.)

Over and over again we found our travel plans disrupted and derailed. We got trapped in an RV park in Arizona for 8 weeks. Maggie May’s transmission gave ass,. Endless park closures led to perpetual cancellations and reshifting of our route.

The final straw for the year was September. The sudden death of my favorite uncle completely derailed us. We pulled up stakes from our hesitant exploration of Utah, (Zion was closed) and headed home. In three days we made it home, only to sit and wait through the endless confusion that is COVID. We finally managed to have a memorial service for him. I somehow managed to deliver his eulogy, and then went and had about a week’s worth of alcohol therapy.

That’s about the one thing we “accomplished” in 2020 – we both developed pro-level drinking skills again. Yay us, I guess?

Turn It On Its Head

Ray Casias w/guitar
The musician I wanted to be when I grew up – Ray Casias.

After the demise of my Uncle Ray, I seriously considered just quitting the RV Life completely. It seemed like one thing too much. We spent three months in Albuquerque, wrestling with what to do next.

However, his example got me thinking. He battled a degenerative disease for years that took away his mobility, his ability to play guitar and sing, and his ability to pastor a church (though never his passion for his faith.) HE would have given anything to be able to do what Melissa and I were doing, no matter how poorly it was going for us.

And, in the middle of all that chaos and indecision, Stella appeared.

We loved Maggie, but nine months of living full-time in her had taught us a lesson: storage is important. And stumbling over Stella in the RV park where we were staying seemed too good to be true. (Not an affiliate, we just love them to death.) Oddly, her owners felt the same way. “It was waiting for the right owners to come along,” one of them told us. So, we scrambled to make it happen. And, somewhere in there, it became apparent to us: we were committing to doing this “RV Life” thing for the foreseeable future with this purchase. And I was going to need to make some changes to my daily routine.

The saying goes that the best time to make a change is 5 years ago. The next best day is today.

Making It Manifest

Home, ’til the next major upheaval anyway.

So, we come to it. I resolved to “make manifest” the changes in my life that need to occur.

I’ve recommitted to daily work – every day I’ve been taking a picture on my phone and posting it on Instagram and Facebook (as I am sure some of you have noticed.)

Every day I have been walking the dog further and further. Like many of us, the enforced inactivity has led to me packing on excess weight. I am now hovering just under 200 pounds – not horrible, but still 25 pounds above where I had stabilized after bariatric surgery. I am determined to shed them and stop this creeping reversal.

And, I have begun slowly re-engaging those creative muscles. I have a slate of ideas ahead for the first time in almost a year and a half. What are they, you ask? Stick around, and you’ll be among the first to know.

It is the simplest thing in the world to just give up. To sit still in the roaring traffic that is our current world and wait to see which semi will run over us first.

Instead, I am choosing, today, to put my head down and start moving again.

Putting It In The Bucket

One of the first things I am going to do is create a new “bucket list” for myself. Believe it or not, I completed my “lifetime” bucket list back in 2017, with the publication of my first novel and completing my first 5k. And, for some reason, I never set up a new set of goals.

Sounds weird looking at it now.

But, in the days ahead, I will be generating a new one. I will even add it to the site here and start checking things off the list as I go. You may be interested, you may not. but putting it out there where the whole world can see it will help me be more accountable. As I take these plans and make them manifest.

We’ve just started a new 7-month road trip. It will not go as planned. There will be changes, and cancellations, and hiccups. But I will do my best to push through and not quit. And I have a few projects coming up that will help all of you follow along.

It isn’t a set of New Years Resolutions that will be abandoned by January 15. It is instead a commitment to a lifestyle change. As my nutritionist said back when I was preparing for bariatric surgery – I will have bad days. It is just important that my good days outnumber the bad ones.

Welcome back, and I hope you enjoy journeying along with us.

Here’s To Manifesting My Manifesto,

  • Jeremy

What A fANTabulous Day We Are Having

Las Cruces, NM. Green chili. Old adobe buildings. Scorching heat. (101 degrees today.)


Oh, and an entomologist’s paradise as well.


Last night we hopped into Maggie and discovered our breakfast bar/counter space was covered in ants. Little tiny black ones, merrily anting away, getting into every single drawer, cabinet, and open container of food. (Including some that were supposedly airtight, mind you.)


3 exhausting hours later, we had beaten back the invasion. We had sprayed every outdoor surface with Ant Murder Aerosol. We had washed every dish. We had thrown away two trash bags worth of ruined groceries.


And still this morning, every time an errant breeze wafts over my skin, I slap myself, positive the 6 legged invaders have returned to exact vengeance upon me for their slaughtered kinsfolk.


The management at the RV park has been…less than helpful. When I reported the problem this morning the woman (older, bespectacled, disinterested) behind the counter shrugged and said “It’s that time of year.”


Umm, ok, fine, but what are you going to do about it?


This triggered a series of inquisitorial questions aimed at ME, mind you. Did I spray my tires?


Well, no.


Did I spray my water hose?


Again, no, because –


I didn’t leave food out in the cabinets, did I?


Well, yes, because that’s where dry food GOES, in my pre-ant existence.


Again with the shrug. They would send someone to put out granules. Which might kill my dog. FYI.


I departed seething. How the flip was I supposed to know about spraying down every part of Maggie that was in contact with the ground with ant spray beforehand? Certainly, no one mentioned this to me when I checked in.


At our site, I met a maintenance guy who told a very different story.


We’ve never seen an infestation like this before, he reported. He’d already been to three campsites this morning, dealing with multi-legged, antenna-waving invaders.


I pointed out the origination point near our campsite, a tree about five feet away. He thanked me profusely for tracking down the colony. Apparently, most RVers don’t bother to figure out where they are coming from.


I had performed this investigation as I was following and carpet bombing the little bastards last night, but maybe others don’t take this quite as personally as I do.


Given his attention to detail and promise to come right back if we should have a recurrence, I didn’t begin packing us up and moving on down the road. But I am still pretty pissed with the front desk staff that could not give two shits about my problem and attempted to shift the blame to me for not taking precautions they never bothered mentioning in the first place.


Life on the road. What’s not to love?

I cANT Even,

Jeremy

#RVlife, Interrupted – The Grand Finale

On February 28, 2020, a gathering of our friends and family got together to wish us “Bon Voyage” as we set out on our RV adventure.

On March 19 we were headed back to Albuquerque with our tails between our legs. After 2 and a half weeks we now had no home, no RV, and no idea what we were going to do next.

Not to mention the sudden arrival of COVID-19, which had thrown everyone’s life into a shambolic panic.

Fear and Exhaustion and COVID

Delilah has had about enough of this travel nonsense

We had made desperate last-minute arrangements to land at an AirBnB in Albuquerque for the following week. With nowhere to live in Las Vegas, we had to drop back and punt to somewhere where Melissa could continue working for Shipt. If Maggie wasn’t ready for potentially months, (as we had been warned) we were going to have to come up with a totally different (RV and house-less) plan altogether.

But the fly in the ointment was this: our reservation didn’t start till the following night. Meaning we had nowhere to stay on our first night back in New Mexico.

Reluctantly, I pulled a totally Millennial move – I called my parents.

We had just spent the last two weeks in the COVID-drenched mess of Las Vegas, NV. And now, here I was, about to threaten my parents’ health with our possibly contaminated selves. I felt like a twenty-year-old who had just lost his job at the mall.

Nonetheless, I pulled up my big boy underwear and made the call. Standing in a gas station parking lot alongside I-40, I called to ask my dad if we could, pretty please, potentially expose him and my mom to an asymptomatic virus overnight.

Of course, he cheerfully agreed. Parents. I won’t ever understand them, but I am sure glad Melissa and I still have ours.

The reunion that evening was awkward, filled with elbow bumps, and carefully mandated distance rather than hugs and close conversations. But it was so amazing to feel safe. I slept for the first time in weeks.

How The Other Half Lives

I don’t know what I expected from our short term rental. What I had not expected was how luxurious and huge a nicely appointed one-bedroom apartment could feel after living in an RV for a couple of months.

So…this is how non full-time RVers live. Huh. Who knew?

High ceilings! A Keurig! A gigantic television! A washer and dryer, for goodness sake.

Not to mention the holy grail of civilized living: a solid, reliable internet connection. I felt like a cave dweller who had just discovered fire.

But, outside in the world, things had gone crazy. Melissa was shopping huge orders driven by panic buying. Her days were filled with long lines, irate customers, and demands for nonexistent sanitizer and toilet paper.

Welcome to the world of coronavirus

Near the apartment, where I would walk the dogs, I was struck by how empty Albuquerque’s streets were. Businesses and restaurants were closed. The nearby airport was strangely quiet. I could hear Revelie and Taps being played every day from Kirtland Airforce Base, miles away. I’ve read plenty of post-apocalyptic fiction, and this was by far the weirdest apocalypse I had ever heard of.

Hope Springs Eternal

Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, the situation stabilized. The Ford dealership where Maggie was residing was declared an “essential service”, and work on her continued. I got almost daily calls from the service center manager reporting on her progress.

Once they got her on the rack the problem was discovered – a temperature sensor inside the transmission had failed, allowing the interior of the tranny to cook itself. Multiple components had to be replaced. Thank goodness, it was all going to be covered under the warranty from the tranny replacement right before we purchased her. But all we could do was wait.

Finally, the day before our stay ran out, as we were discussing how long to extend our visit home, the call came in. They had just taken her out for a test drive. The transmission held up for over 20 miles, and they were closing the books on her.

Our studio apartment on wheels was whole again, and we could come pick her up any time.

The Road Home

The Badlands of Arizona, where the dinosaurs roam

The next morning, bright and early, we headed back West. While in Albuquerque, we’d gotten our 3,000-mile oil change on the Fiesta – 7 weeks after the previous one. We were getting good at this shuttling back and forth thing.

Google Maps will tell you that the drive from Albuquerque to Henderson, NV should take you about eight and a half hours. Imagine our surprise when, after leaving at 6 AM, we arrived at right around noon. We had gained an hour in the time change but, even so, we made pretty good time. I think we might have been a little anxious.

The dealership was complete chaos. I had expected the usual hurry up and wait that accompanies any sort of auto repair. Not today. They shuttled me to the head of the line, handed me a pen from a sealed bag (“Yours to keep!”), and pushed an envelope containing the keys to Maggie across the desk to me. I was then directed to the lot, where I was instructed to fire her up and move her out. Total elapsed time? About 10 minutes. Melissa had not had time to finish walking the dogs before I was parked on the street in front of the dealership and waiting for her.

The one benefit (?) to the COVID outbreak was that booking ourselves back into the Thousand Trails RV Park in Las Vegas was simplicity itself. They were “dying” for lack of reservations, and I was able to secure a slot the very same day I called. (Normally you need at least a few weeks lead time.) With fear and trepidation, I pulled Maggie out onto the freeway, and tentatively got her up to speed…

…and she responded like a champ. The best she had ever run since we purchased her, back in December. I began to speculate as to the diligence of the mechanics who replaced her transmission right before we bought her. No shuddering, no hesitation – she performed an awful lot like an empty truck with an oversized engine, not a 14,000-pound apartment on wheels.

We’ve been constantly warned that RV Life is not for the faint of heart, and that no plan survives your wheels touching the pavement. We had been put through the fire and emerged, with a barrel full of “wisdom”, a few more grey hairs, and a functioning home. It was time to take stock and change our plans in light of the COVID-changed landscape.

But at least we had our own walls to sleep in, on top of our own wheels to travel on.

Back on the road, where we belong. Well, the RV Park, but you get the idea.

Catch You All On The Road,

  • Jeremy and Melissa (and Vixen and Delilah)

#RVLife, Interrupted – Part 2

In February, when we moved out of our house and into Maggie May full-time, I felt a tremendous sense of disorientation. For weeks I would wake up in the morning and be completely perplexed as to where I was. I even spent several days dealing with a sense of personal disassociation – now that I no longer lived in a house, I was unsure who I was.

Now, less than two months later, I was experiencing those exact same sensations as we drove away from Maggie’s indeterminate repair. If I don’t live in an RV, I wondered, who the heck am I, exactly?

Luckliy, I didn’t get to spend much time on my navel-gazing, because I needed to figre out more time-pressing matters – like where we were all going to spend the next few days/weeks.

The Dangers of Emotional Decision-Making

Normally, if you’re going to get stranded somewhere, Las Vegas is not a bad place to pick. The climate is decent, cheap food is everywhere, and it isn’t exactly like accomodations are thin on the ground.

Melissa immediately recommended we look into an AirBnB rental. I was hesitant, however…we had no clue how long this whole repair process was going to take. We briefly discussed just driving back to Albuquerque and imposing on family members for the time being, but both rejected that…we wanted to stay close to the dealership so we could spring into action and reclaim our home the minute she was ready.

However, this left us with limited options – most hotels are not fond of pets. We would have to find an inexpensive hotel with a liberal pet policy, then try to book ourselves in 3-4 day increments while we awaited word on Maggie’s fate.

It just so happens that a few miles away from the dealership in question was a major Henderson casino fixture: The Fiesta. It was convenient, it was inexpensive (being part of the low-end Station Casinos chain), and they had a liberal pet policy! Or car was a Fiesta, the hotel was the Fiesta…it must be kismet, or something, right?

And this is what happens when you manage to talk yourself into something you KNOW is a bad idea.

The Station Casinos Experience

This is a good place to mention that we have history with the Station Casinos in Las Vegas.

Over the years of our travels to LV, we’ve stayed at a number of different properties. The process would go like this – one trip, Melissa would choose our destination hotel. Everything would be glorious and fabulous. The next trip, out of a desire to have more money available to do stuff in Vegas, I would pick one of the Station Casinos, since they tended to be the least expensive option.

And our hotel stay would be a disaster. Every single time.

Because I am apparently incapable of learning from experience, we tried four different Station properties over the years. We had four different, but equally terrible, hotel experiences. Meanwhile, Melissa booked us at places like The Rio, Treasure Island, and the Monte Carlo, which were universally wonderful. By the time epilepsy struck and forced us into poverty and out of vacation travel I had still not learned my lesson.

Which brings us to March, 2020.

It was about 10:30 AM when we rolled into the Fiesta’s parking lot. At this point, Vegas was already being hit hard by reduced travel thanks to the spread of COVID-19. The parking lot was maybe 1/4 full. But when we called to ask about the possibility of early check-in, they told us they could accommodate us at 2 PM.

Standard check-in time is 3 PM, mind you.

3 and a half hours would have been plenty of time to call AirBnB. Or contact Expedia and find accommodations at a friendlier and more customer-driven place. But I am nothing if not stubborn. We waited (with the dogs, mind you) in the parking lot for the entire duration.

When a Fiesta Isn’t a Party

I could spend many, many paragraphs outlining our stay from Hades at the Fiesta. Instead, let me sum up:

It was bad. Like, really, really bad.

From the inedible food, to the urine-scented main hallway on the “pet friendly” floor, to the 6 square feet of “dog park”, it was everything a vacation experience shouldn’t be. Luckily for them, I wasn’t on vacation – I was a homeless wanderer, waiting for my home to return from the garage. I did everything I could to stay in our room or wander around the casino floor. Since we were in terror of “noisy dogs” getting us evicted, we took turns bailing out of our room, with one of us constantly staying with the critters to keep them from complaining about our absence.

And the final straw arrived on the night of the 17th of March: a Special Bulletin went crawling across the bottom of our television screen. The Governor of Nevada was mandating that ALL casinos immediately cease operations…including hotel accommodations.

Effective immediately, Las Vegas was closed for business.

On The Road Again

Oddly, nobody panicked. (Well, maybe Delilah, but she is one neurotic excuse for a dachshund.)

We checked with the front desk. Yes, indeed, we were being thrown out the next day at noon. No, we would not be getting refunded despite having paid for nights we would not be getting to use. Color me surprised.

We decided to go the AirBnB route instead. The next day we would check in with the dealership, get an estimated time for repairs, then book a stay for that amount of time. This is why God invented credit cards, right?

But the next day, the bottom really fell out.

The service manager was brutally honest with me. Apparently, the majority of the technicians did not want to be working during the shut down, and had communicated their position to management. “Honestly,” he told me, “we may be closed for the next month or two. Even if we don’t shut down, we can’t get to your rig til next Monday at the earliest, and it could be a week to ten days after that before it is ready.”

I hung up the phone in disbelief. Ten days? A month? Maybe two months? No credit card I have was gonna cover that. It was time to face the truth.

After only six weeks on the road, we were going to have to go back to New Mexico.

#RVLife, Interrupted

RVLIfe Interrupted

(Part 1 of 3…I hope)

So there you are, cruising down the road, minding your own business. Your mind is full of your day’s to-do list – your destination, things to accomplish, worries to be worked through, maybe even a goal or two. Nothing could be further from your mind than how you are getting to where you are going.

Then, it happens. Maybe a rattle you’ve never heard before. It could be a sudden loss of power. Sometimes a strange rhythmic thumping announces a flat tire. And you realize with a sinking heart that every other priority is going to have to be put on hold while you deal with this.

Now, imagine that your interruption isn’t just affecting your car, but your house as well.

Welcome to #RVLife.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

It was “wheels-up” day for us in Las Vegas, NV. We had a beautiful day to travel 400+ miles all the way to the New Mexico border to take care of a MVD mix-up. We were on our way to park the “toad” (a car towed behind an RV) before we pointed our noses East.

As we headed through Henderson, Maggie May lurched. She recovered, then did it again. And again. Simultaneously, the”Check Engine” and “Service” idiot lights illuminated. After we pulled into the right lane to slow down, we noticed what was happening – the Tow/Haul feature was randomly engaging and disengaging all on its own. Attempts to turn it off manually failed.

Just about the time I was preparing to pull the little convoy off the side of US-93, we drove past a sign for a Ford Dealership. (For those that don’t know, Maggie May is built on a Ford E450 chassis.) I took this as a sign of divine providence, and we bailed off the highway and into the overflow lot at the service department.

Our trip to New Mexico was over, barely 10 miles after it had begun.

Beside The Road Instead Of On It

One of my main motivations for buying Maggie in the first place was the fact that she is a Ford truck. No particular evangelism about Fords in general, but Ford dealerships are everywhere. If something went wrong, I reasoned, it would be very easy to find someone to work on her.

What I had not counted on is that she is a Ford RV, and that makes things…complex.

The front desk at the dealership met my request with a healthy dose of skepticism. “I don’t know if that thing even fits in the bay” was the technician’s initial response. But, driving at less than walking speed and flinching every time I nudged one of the orange traffic cones marking my lane, I was able to get her inside the “receiving” area.

Then, the questions started. Had I been speeding? Had I been checking the fluids regularly? How long had the indicator lights been on before her lurching started?

After a few minutes of questions, I was able to get to the bottom of their motivations. It turns out Cruise America paid Ford to replace Maggie May’s transmission in the days before we bought her. Unless the dealership could find some nefarious behavior on my part, this was going to be a Ford warranty repair…meaning Melissa and I wouldn’t pay a dime for it.

My self-satisfaction at not having to shell out several thousand dollars for repairs was short lived, however. I asked for a potential timeline for repairs. Our technician shrugged. “There are a bunch of repairs ahead of you. Probably a week, maybe two.”

Cue the “panicked cartoon characters” music…

The State Of Separation

The next few minutes were a flurry of activity as we dashed around Maggie’s interior, trying to gather up anything we might need for an indeterminate stay somewhere else. Underwear, toothbrushes, leashes, and dog food were grabbed and stuffed into random bags. With each of us carrying bags on our shoulders and a dog under an arm, we headed for the Toad, unsure of our immediate future.

This is probably a good place to mention the real heroine of this story – our Ford Fiesta. She serves as Melissa’s work vehicle and our mode of moving around our new locations once Maggie is docked. Now, without warning, she had become our savior, and our tiny home on wheels.

Emphasis on tiny. She already spends her time packed to the gills with Melissa’s work implements – bags, hangers, and a wagon. Now she was also housing two adults, two dogs, and a week’s worth of “stuff.”

We looked in the rear-view mirror as we pulled out of the dealership, leaving poor Maggie alone in the garage, and wondered about how long it would be before we would see her again. As we hit the traffic light and turned left into Henderson, it occurred to me: I had no idea where we were going to go now.

Just like that, we were homeless.

To Be Continued…

Jeremy