Thought I’d do an official write-up of the first couple of days.
I got up the morning of July 15, barely awake as I had been up very late to finish packing and got up very early to put the things I missed in storage, as well as get an oil change and pick up some last minute groceries. I think I was more nervous than excited. Heading out in this untested trailer was one of the scariest things I had ever done, including moving to China with only a few weeks to get my shit together. I had barely driven the trailer at that point and was regretting that I hadn’t taken a few more test drives with it.
Colleen and David helped me get the trailer – Corner Of The Sky – hooked up, finish up the final little things, put Indiana Jones into the car, and then we were outside, trying not to cry, not ready to say good-bye. Their spare room had been my home for over a year. Yes, it was cramped because it was filled with stuff that had nowhere to go. Yes, I slept on an air mattress most of the time, which is far from ideal. Yes, their cat, Sparky (aka Not My Cat) liked to wander in and eat Indy’s food randomly and their other cat, Watson, viewed me with distain unless I had chicken or salmon. However, their place felt more like home than anywhere I had lived in the past eight years. Because of them. Their kindness, their generosity and their friendship made me feel safe and comfortable. So it was hard to leave that comfort and jump into the unknown. I still am not sure I would have ever been ready to leave.
I think for the first hour of driving, I rarely took my eyes off my rearview mirrors as I tried to ascertain how Sky was doing. Finally, I realized I couldn’t really tell anything from the mirrors other than if it was bouncing on rough roads or not. I forced myself to relax because I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly that my fingers began to ache.
Indy was not very happy.
I gave him two calming treats before we left, hoping they would help. They did not. He climbed everywhere, crying and meowing at me. He kept trying to climb into my lap as I drove, not exactly the safest thing to do. I kept putting him back into his open carrier, which had his favorite pillow and toy, hoping it would comfort him. It did not. He’d stand on the window edge, staring out with his big green eyes, then look at me as though to say, “What the hell are we doing?” I assured him I had no idea what we were doing either. That did not comfort him.
My goal was to make it over the Grapevine – the area where the 5 freeway winds through the mountains out of Los Angeles and into the Central Valley of California. It’s an intimidating drive even without pulling a trailer. My RAV4 is not great on inclines, so we struggled over the Grapevine. I had chosen to go this way instead of along the coast because I was more familiar with this way. Maybe I should have gone the other way. Too late now.
Finally, after much steering-wheel-clenching and deep breathing exercises, we got to the other side of the Grapevine. I pulled into a rest stop and put Indy in his harness. I had hoped to walk him over to the vending machines so I could get more water. My bottle had spilled along the way. But, no, he was determined to go where he wanted to go and it’s hard to argue with a 22 lb cat when he’s this stubborn. So I gave him about twenty minutes of wandering around, sniffing things, chewing on grass, before I put him back in the car and got water. And we were off again.
Indy kept pacing, which stressed me out. Finally, he discovered he could get under the protective cover I put on the back seat to save it from cat hair, etc., and he settled down on top of the cooler under the cover. I think he wore himself out because he finally just passed out. I’ll admit that I was relieved.
Then I hit the wind.
The Central Valley can be extraordinarily windy and that day did not disappoint. I could feel Sky tugging occasionally on the back of the car and I went back to staring into my rearview mirrors to make sure it didn’t tip over. I had heard stories of teardrops being blown over because they’re so light. I was grateful that the trailer Madeleine Holly-Rosing had given me had a steel floor on it, so I think that was the saving grace. It kept the center of gravity of the trailer down low and made it difficult to get pushed over.
Despite my nerves, the next while went easily. Got off the freeway and drove forever on another road through farmlands and hills that were covered with beautiful golden grass. It was so very pretty, all that gold with the bright sun bouncing off of it. Slowly, the land changed to vineyards and trees from golden grass, which was just as pretty.
I found the road I needed to take to get to the farm where I would stay the first couple of nights. I had to drive another twenty miles and I would be there. I was ready to get out of the car. It had been almost two hours since the rest stop and my bad left shoulder was starting to bother me. I hadn’t stopped again mainly because Indy was sound asleep and I didn’t want to wake him up and start all over again.
The road was a rough country road. Not quite a back country road but not exactly well-paved. The speed limit was 55 but I don’t think I went over 40 because I could see how much Sky was bouncing around behind me. I almost pulled over a couple of times simply out of fear but I didn’t have much of a choice. I had to get to the farm, so I plodded along slowly, letting others pass me as they came up to me.
Finally, I saw the sign for “Jolon RV”, the place I had booked off HipCamp. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. HipCamp is an app where you can find campsites that was offbeat or off the beaten track. Some are really cool and very expensive. Some, like Jolon RV, are just places where you can boondock, which means camping without power, water or any amenities. I was grateful that this place had port-a-potties and outdoor showers at least. There were fire pits and barbecues as well, and running water that you could drink, but I think it was well water.
I pulled into my spot and immediately realized I had done it wrong. It was a back-in spot, where you would back in the trailer so your car is facing the road. I am terrible at backing in so I pulled straight in and then realized my mistake. I could have probably unhooked the car and made it around the picnic table if I had to. I did need to find a store because I had forgotten to get simple things like water. But it was already 5:00 and I was tired, worn out from stress. I texted the owner that I had arrived and asked about a store. There was one a few miles down but it had already closed for the day. So I accepted the fact that the water I had would have to stretch and we probably wouldn’t die if we drank well water for a day.
There was no cell service, though I could get texts through to Cody, the owner, when I had questions. No wifi, though it had been listed on HipCamp as available.
But for the first night, I didn’t worry about that. I got out and walked around, leaving Indy in Sky while I figured things out.
Oh, I did discover when I opened Sky that the shuttered cupboards at the front of the cabin had not stayed closed and pretty much vomited everything all over the cabin. I took a bit to get things at least put away, if not organized, figuring I’d do that later.
There was a duck pond right next to where we had parked and I could hear them quacking happily away. The view was just gorgeous – lots of open land, trees dotting the horizon, that beautiful golden grass mixed in with everything else.
It was quickly apparent that I was the only one there. Cody even said I could take a different spot if I wished. I decided that I would move the next day to the site across from me because it was flatter and easier to just pull the trailer up and unhook it from the car.
For the moment, I put Indy in his harness and let him explore.
He actually got into it. He kept pulling me along, trying to get under things and into things. He’s really strong so it’s always a struggle to keep him in line. Since it was just the two of us, I let him go wherever he wanted to go. Of course, he rolled around in the dirt and immediately was filthy. But that’s what wet wipes are for.
After a while, I got him back into Sky, opened up the galley and evaluated what options there were for dinner, though I wasn’t really hungry. Too much stress, I guess. To be honest, I already can’t remember what I ate. I think it was a muffin, maybe?
I walked around the camp, enjoy the quasi-steampunk feel to it. There were a few sculptures scattered around. One shower had a tiled area around it for a bit of privacy. The other shower had a claw-foot bathtub under it, though neither were terribly clean. After all, it was on a farm and extremely dusty. The port-a-potties at least were clean.
I walked over to meet the ducks. They were so cute! And loud. I noticed as the sun was getting ready to set, the bunch of them waddled out of the pond to go stand on the road. They hung out on the road as the sun set and then waddled back to the pond. They did this both nights I was there. At one point, they started waddling down to me but then turned around and went back. Yes, the ducks were the highlight of this place.
It was so quiet. I’m not used to things being that quiet. I have my old iTunes playlist on my old iPad so I turned that on low.
And I mainly sat and thought. Thought about why I was doing this. Thought about why I was basically homeless. Thought about the past few years and let myself really feel all the emotions I’d been holding in. I cried a lot those first couple of days, letting go of all the fear and anger and worry I’ve been holding in.
Finally, I gave in and went to bed.
Ugh. Living in a small trailer means half your shit lives in the trailer and half lives in your car. So going to bed means moving all the pretty pillows and the solar panel and the guitar and various other things into the car. It means figuring out where Indy’s food and water can do without being in the way, making sure it’s not near the generator in case he flips his bowl, which he is wont to do. Brushing all the dust and dirt off of the sheets. And ignored the eight billion flies that have gotten inside.
Finally, after about thirty minutes of maneuvering, I got into bed. Indy took over part of the “toy box” storage and crashed, his head sitting in the window. It was hot. I kept the fan running until its battery died. I even put up the little “air conditioner” thing, which helped somewhat. But it was going to be hot. Since it was just the two of us, I left the windows open and was rewarded with a nice breeze once the sun went down.
It was hard to sleep that first night. Too quiet, yet there was a lot of traffic on the road just on the other side of the camp. That was somewhat soothing as it was city noise. Moths decided to play with my security light, flying up to it to turn it on and then flying away to turn it off. Indy got very restless a couple of times, and kept pacing around the cabin. Since the cabin is only 5×8, and he’s huge, it was not very restful. Finally, we both simply crashed somewhere in the late night/early morning hours.
As dawn broke, Indy began pacing again, trying to push out of the door. I heard a scary “crack” and thought he had broken the door. Luckily, I couldn’t find any damage. Finally, around 6:00, I gave in. I put his harness on him and let him out. He jumped out, eagerly exploring for something, no idea what. He sniffed and he roamed and he stared at things while I bitched him out for waking me up at that hour.
This has become a daily thing with him. I’ve called it “Dawn Patrol.” As dawn breaks, he must investigate everything. There are apparently areas in the cabin where air can get through because he’ll go from the door to the top of the mattress, which is near the wheel well. He’ll dig and growl and bitch at me until I put him in his harness and let him go out. Frankly, it’s fucking annoying. But after about ten minutes, I can get him back inside and he goes to sleep. Bastard.
The next day, we got up and made some breakfast. I let him roam for a bit. I cleaned up with wet wipes and the well water. Then I packed Indy into the car to go to the store. After that, I had to find a place with wifi because I had a class to teach at 1:00. I packed everything I needed for the class in case I found wifi somewhere.
I got to the store and was disappointed. They really had nothing but very few basics. I got some ice for the cooler, a bottle of water and that was about it. The woman behind the cash register suggested going into King City because it was a town and had a Safeway and a Starbucks, among other things. It was 24 miles away.
Drove into King City, with Indy taking his place on top of the cooler. Yes, it was a small town but, yes, it had a Safeway and a Starbucks, among other stores. I picked up some necessities at Safeway then parked at Starbucks. Their wifi was still running (some stores have shut their wifi down since no one is inside). It took a bit but I managed to teach the class in the car, riding on the wifi. Indy slept through the whole thing. It wasn’t easy but I did it.
Finished the class and headed back, relieved that the road in this direction wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it had been coming in.
Spent the rest of the day kind of just processing. There wasn’t anything else to do with no service and no wifi. I felt restless and disconnected without being able to get online. It was a sad acknowledgement of my addiction to technology. However, I had stuff going on with Women On The Dark Side that needed to be handled.
Finally around 6 PM, Cody, the owner, came by to say hi. He finally revealed where the wifi was – at the camp across the road from where I was. He was very nice, as was his wife and what seemed like 32 children in the cab of his truck. There were probably only three, but all under the age of five. He said I could feed the ducks Cheerios, if I wanted. Oh! That’s what I had for dinner the first night – Cheerios. I had struggled with the propane stove the night before so I had bought some briquettes for the barbecue but Cody brought over some wood as well for the fire pit. He said I could use it in the barbecue because it was oak and somehow that was okay to cook with. Off he went with his family.
I decided I would leave the internet for the morning because I wanted to cook dinner and knew that might take a while. I managed to get a nice smoke going before the fire in the pit finally took. I ended up using the briquettes in the barbecue and kind of cooked some salmon and rice.
As I was getting ready to cook, the ducks came over to say hi. I threw some Cheerios on the ground and was thanked profusely in duck with quacking and waggling tails. One big one – I called him Henry – came right up and ate out of my hand! Another kept biting my fingers until I threw more Cheerio goodness on the ground.
Then I couldn’t get rid of them. They kept pecking at anything standing still to see if it was food. Cody had warned me about this so I was amused at their attempts to eat the little solar panel for my exterior lights. Finally, they got bored and waddled back to worship the sunset.
After dinner, I poured myself a little bourbon, worn out from what it had taken to just get through two days. I was pretty convinced I had made a huge mistake. Lack of sleep, tension, fear all piled up on me and I almost packed up and went home.
Then I realized I didn’t have a home to go home to. So I could go back to LA but that wouldn’t solve anything.
I decided to table any major decisions until I got to the next spot – a KOA in Salinas/Monterey that had come highly recommended. I had originally booked three days there but decided to extend it to five. And I’m glad I did – but I’ll write about that later.
I went to bed, relieved that Indy didn’t pace around much that night. I hoped that meant he was settling in. When dawn broke, he got up, poked around a bit, but went right back to sleep. So at least I got some sleep that night.
Got up in the morning, concerned about hooking the trailer up by myself. I had done it once or twice in the parking garage and I could manage to lift the tongue by myself so I could drop it on to the ball on the car.
But I hadn’t realized that between packing everything into it and parking on a slope, I wouldn’t be able to lift the tongue. I finally figured out I could put a strip of duct tape from the top of the tongue to the top of the trailer, then put a strip on the car from the ball to the top of the car, and use those to at least line things up. I cranked the support jacks up enough that the tongue was higher than the ball. And with surprisingly little effort, I nailed it! Dropped the tongue in place, put Indy in the car and figured I’d drive over to the other campsite, get online for a bit and then head to the KOA.
As I drove out of the gate, I realized the slight incline up to the road was loose gravel. I got within a few feet of the road when I lost traction and couldn’t move. Crap! I went back to thinking how I would handle it if it were ice. After all, I grew up in Canada, driving on snow and ice. I tried everything and nothing worked. I even tried backing up, figuring if I could get to solid ground inside the gate, I could get a faster charge up the hill and probably make it. But with no traction, I couldn’t control the trailer and almost hit the fence. I texted Cody and waited. I tried AAA but couldn’t get a signal.
I was about to get out after twenty minutes and go over to the other camp to get wifi when a truck pulled up. Cody had called a neighbor because he was on a job. The neighbor was very friendly and not judgmental about my situation. In fact, he said the gravel was a new thing and probably wasn’t packed tightly enough. Maybe he was just being kind. He drove through another gate to get in front of me and pulled me up to get out of the driveway.
The whole time, I just wanted to sit and cry. And I did for a minute. But I didn’t want to waste all that emotional energy when I knew I had a two hour drive in front of me to the next destination.
I thanked the neighbor, found a spot to turn around in, and headed up to the KOA.