Return

When I can, I make the choice never to follow the same route. I don’t even like to return from someplace the same way. My preference is to visit different places than the places I have already seen. After all, there is so much to see or experience in this world. My philosophy is to take the road less traveled, the route that is unexplored.

Then again, I do allow myself to break that rule; after all, I am only human. Again this year, my husband and I, on our winter motor home trek westward returned to a favorite spot in the Imperial Valley Desert criss-crossing the California/Arizona borders. In that world, nothing is formal. One just parks the rig “snug up” against the Imperial Dam reservoir, a place of shifting sands, changing winds and daily fluctuations in water level.

This refuge offers us two weeks of solitude. There are no hook ups or complications other than those of choice. This place offers hiking, kayaking, biking, endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, little light pollution and new friendships. The winds this year were relentless. The sands blew, the water level in the reservoir by our rig fell to a new low and stayed that way for several days. Our kayak remained near the rig, high and dry awaiting the water’s return. The mud dried and cracked and sand accumulated everywhere.

And sand there was; inside the motor home, on the windowsills, thin coatings on the mirrors, counter tops, and the dashboard. On the exterior, sand coated the sides, the windshield and windows, the surfaces of the electric coils that connects to the tow vehicle. The car and bike were coated too. The sand layers can be erased, but the events of this year’s desert dwelling will be embedded in my mind forever. This year we did hit the “jackpot.”

I am a great believer in Kismet, or beshert or fate, whatever word works best for you. Somehow, people are there at the right time filling in the spaces. It is almost as if these people are “planted’ in the right place by some outside force, even when you think you are the only one in that place. Often on a hike or in a strange town, someone appears at the moment you face a fork in the trail or turn in the road and they provide the guidance to set you on track. It seems to work both ways, that we are there to help others at their right moment. Corny or not, it occurs often enough to keep me believing it is so.

This year, the fluctuating sands and low water brought new adventures on the trails and as the layers of sand accumulated we added new friendships that helped enrich our stay. The backgrounds of these people were as varied as the grains of sand. We shared our adventures nightly around a campfire or just sharing drinks and salsa or nuts.

These folks come from the all over the states, Canada and overseas. Some travel full time, some with pets aboard, some keep their older rigs or have the newest in the industry. As on the trail, we learn so much from each other and are never at the loss for words. The best thing is that after our two weeks are up, we can stay in touch via email or Facebook and perhaps meet again the next year.

It was fun to walk on the dried river bed and hike in areas that are not exposed when the water is high. After several days, the water did return to a high level. The kayak was put to use and we hiked to the distant mountains finding trails, seeking old mines, seeing the wildflowers in early bloom. We encountered a couple on that trail with whom we could share our discoveries and learn about their success rock hounding for Turquoise and other gems.

The two weeks fly on by. We drive the rig up the sloping road with some regret, headed for another desert, more new friendships and the constantly shifting sands. Return we will to repeat our quest for adventure and discovery in the ever changing desert.

Out My Left Window

Point of view is everything. In RV terminology, the left side of the rig is street side, where traffic flows. The right side is curb side, entrance and exit; the “portal” to adventure.

The street side houses the hookups, electric, water, sewer and stuff that makes the mobile unit into a stationary home. Once the rig is hooked up, the left side is neglected unless there is some work to do or items to retrieve from the basement storage. This side though is curb side for your neighbor, becoming a sort of “pecking order” for each rig in the row. Each of us is vulnerable to the awareness of the curb side neighbor. Just being on board, observing the left neighbor becomes a default and unintentional act of voyeurism.

It brings to my mind the tale of living in a glass house open to scrutiny all around. Living in a “stick” house (homes without wheels) offers more privacy with more interior living space. In a motor home, windows prevail, exterior movement and sound is “in your face.” Sure, you can pull down your shades or dismiss what is going on next door. I have never observed anything earth shattering such as physical abuse, extreme quarreling, murder. But, it is hard to completely shut out every activity. Sounds of motorcycles revving up cannot be ignored, sounds of children’s voices cannot be ignored, sounds of exuberant conversation cannot be ignored nor can movement of any extraordinary kind.

What I have most often observed are Rvers in their daily routine just as our curb side neighbors observe us. Most commonly, I see folks arrive and set up their rigs, pack their car for a day of adventure, mount their bikes, take off on a hike, pack a picnic, unload groceries, prepare to do laundry, play with their pets, entertain visitors and grandkids. I observe people happily pursuing life on the road. A few stand out in my memory.

In a Texas State Park, we pulled in next to a vintage Air Stream trailer, the gleaming aluminum variety revered by so many. The couple appeared to be spunky but quite senior. They sat outdoors in two lawn chairs, next to two curious items, a pet leash and an empty lawn chair. Later, a cat slept in the sun tied onto the leash. It hardly moved, why the leash, you may ask?

Then we observed the gentleman helping an elderly woman down the trailer steps into the third lawn chair. We did meet these charming people, English folk by background, and heard their story. They were en route from a a trip across country and a month in Mexico to join their family in reunion in San Diego. The cat was 27 years old. The elderly “mum” 104 and going strong. (The couple in their 80’s). Ironically, we encountered them the next winter. The cat had died but “mum” was still going, but sadly not nearly as well as the year before. Aren’t’ people amazing?

A couple from Quebec (according to their license plate) were outside speaking loudly and excitedly in their beautiful French, of which I know not a word beyond the tourist talk variety. They seemed to be awaiting someone’s arrival. Soon, another French speaking man arrived. The neighbors wife and this man sat at a table directly under the window where I write and edit photos. They each began to work on needlepoint projects the size of blankets or coverlets. The husband retreated indoors. Soon the TV screen began to flicker.

The conversation under my window was exuberant and animated as they worked. Outdoors, the needlepoint workers each hunched over their work maintaining a constant and animated Gallic chatter, presumably about their needlepoint projects. I have no other information about their work or their relationship. They were still at the table working when I returned to the rig 3 hours later, the husband probably napping in front of the TV.

There are endless stories I could relate about people under my window, caretakers for spouses in wheelchairs, parents of a disabled child and the simpler more common examples of RV living. More can be seen from the window, breathtaking views of desert, mountains, rivers, oceans, creeks and reservoirs, threatening storm clouds approaching the campsite, days on end of rain, snow in areas of unexpected accumulation, the Blue Angel Jets on a fly over, helicopters dousing the land with buckets of water.

Life out of my left window takes on an aura of voyeurism, mystery and romance. But, the best part of this style of living is exiting the coach on the curb side and pursuing your own dreams.

Ann Carol Goldberg