Category Archives: Emotional aspects

Where this all began ….

This is a Throwback Thursday Post!  For  my new subscribers (most of whom don’t know us personally), this is a re-post of my very first blog entry back in 2016. At that time, we were still working, planning, and dreaming of the life we now live. As we enter a new calendar year of adventure, it seems appropriate to revisit the factors that led us to our decision to launch this nomadic lifestyle.


Hi. We are Jeff and Mary Beth Northrup and this is the beginning of our fabulous full-time RV adventure! Well, at least it will be, once we free ourselves from the daily grind of normal life.

We’ve been dreaming and planning for this adventure for many years. More than 20 years ago, Jeff cut a photo of a motorhome out of the newspaper and put it on the refrigerator. “Wouldn’t that be a great life!”, he declared. At the time I was busy tending a more-than-fulltime job, two small children and an active volunteer life in our church. Retirement of any sort was so far in the distant future, it couldn’t even be imagined. But, as our boys grew, we became increasingly active outdoor adventurers. Our work life provided the means to pursue our real passions — hiking, camping, biking, running, motorcycling, and all things outdoors. RV living started looking very attractive.

So, being scientists, we conducted thorough research. We read books, perused blogs, visited RV shows and watched You-tube videos. We spent hours discussing options and scenario planning. Is this REALLY what we wanted to do? And we always circled back around to the conclusion – yes, it sounds perfect for us. So then, it was just a matter of timing. We would get the boys through school and launched and THEN we could go. We would save like crazy, and by then everything would be in place. It was a perfect plan.

Except things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

On June 7, 2012 our younger son was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 18. It was a freak accident – four teenagers heading out to an Everglades fish camp on a rutted gravel road on the first day of summer. The young driver hit a pothole, skidded, overcorrected and overturned into the swampy canal. 3 boys walked away, our son drowned before he could be rescued. It was the worst day of my life.

At that moment, everything changed. We had to re-formulate our whole life, including all of our plans. After walking through a dark time of grief, we re-visited our retirement plans and decided that we still wanted to go forward. In fact, we wanted to go sooner rather than later. Life is too short not to live it fully and joyfully.

So here we are – 4 years later. We’ve saved like crazy. Our only remaining son is successfully launched. We just need to untangle ourselves from the daily grind, and we can begin.

Fabulous Family Fun

Dear blog friends, I have been terribly remiss in my posting over the last few weeks! Between holiday preparations, Disney, travel, and family fun – it hasn’t left much time or inclination for blogging!

Currently, I am visiting family in chilly Indiana. I have 3 siblings, all of us in our 50s to early 60s. Although we scattered throughout the country in our youth, pursuing education and jobs, we have always – without fail – regrouped back home in Indiana for the Christmas holidays. We truly LIKE one another, and regularly coordinate our vacation travel plans to visit and spend time together during the year, whenever possible. What an incredible blessing.

We are also incredibly blessed that our parents are still with us. They are physically slowing down to be sure, but are in reasonably good health and mentally sharp. They remain the heart of our Christmas festivities.

During our week together we played silly games until we were breathless from laughing. We imbibed great wine and indulged in exceptional food — at marvelous restaurants as well as dishes prepared at home by loving hands. We conversed and caught up on the matters of life, great and small. We went shopping, caught movies, and simply enjoyed each others’ company. It was heavenly.

Some of us have traveled back to their home, but I have another few days here with the rest. I’ll tee up a Throwback Thursday post for tomorrow, and will get back on the blogging bandwagon when I return home this weekend. I plan to finish out my series on Holiday Disney and launch a few new topics!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and a most joyous New Year!

2018 Christmas family

Feeling at Home

047I really like this place. We’re staying at a KOA in Orlando, not too far from Sean’s place. We’ve stayed here a couple of times before, so the campground and the surrounding area already felt a bit familiar.

The constant movement this past year has sometimes left me feeling rather unsettled …. adrift. But, being here is like putting down mini-roots for a while. Just having familiar Florida surroundings and weather feels somehow “right”. My favorite market – Publix – is just down the road. We have family and friends nearby and we are having fun with them every weekend. All of that makes the place feel more like home.

Before I started this life on the road, I always had visions of being at an RV resort with lots of activities. But, for one reason or another, we just never were at anyplace that had much going on. Either it was out of season, or just not one of those places. But here, there’s lots to do! Aerobics class in the mornings, Bingo, line dancing, movie night, potlucks, dominos, craft classes, Bible study, food trucks – usually several activities scheduled every day! There’s a friendly group of seasonal folks that come here year after year, some of whom I met last year. I really like being part of a community – I’ve missed that.

In a way, I feel like I have my old “normal life” back. We’re not constantly moving and adjusting to new places. I can settle into a routine of working out, playing, socializing, chores, working, and holiday planning. It feels good.

I’m happy we’ll be here for a while.

 

 

Lack-o-book-a-phobia

4-book-clipart-17I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood. Before e-readers, a significant challenge was ensuring sufficient reading material to last through long plane flights and business trips. I used to stash extra paperback books in my carry-on luggage, but still sometimes needed to quickly peruse the airline bookstore for supplemental materials. My siblings and I call that fear:  Lackobookaphobia. We love books.

Giving away my extensive library was one of the hardest aspects of preparing for full time RV living. It’s simply not possible to take a thousand books with you! Fortunately, we now have e-books as an option.

I was actually an early e-book adopter. Before there was Kindle, public domain e-books could be downloaded from various sources to be read on my Palm Pilot (remember those?!) or computer. But the selection was very limited and reading on such a small screen was not optimal – and reading on a computer screen wasn’t particularly comfortable or portable.

Then came the era of the tablet computer. More books became available in electronic format, although purchasing them was just as expensive as buying the hard copy. I didn’t really embrace e-books as a regular reading “thing” until we were counting down our last few years before launching our RV life. At that point, I made the decision not to buy any more hard copy books, only e-books, and begin building my electronic library.

While purging our possessions, I kept only a few carefully selected hard copy resources – a few cookbooks, crochet pattern books, sheet music, and a couple of small books that have sentimental value. Other than that, it’s all gone – given to friends or donated to charity. Now, virtually all of my reading is done on my Kindle or iPad.

Although I have re-purchased some favorite books over time, the vast majority of my reading materials are free books that are made available by authors through outlets like Amazon. Giving away books is a mechanism for authors to become more widely known. There are just so many authors and books out there nowadays, new writers get lost in the noise. However, if more of their books are downloaded, even for zero dollars, they rise higher in Amazon’s search algorithms, and will gain visibility to (hopefully) realize better sales in the future. Sometimes authors will give away the first book in a series, hoping you’ll get so hooked on the story line that you’ll buy the rest. (And that approach has worked a time or two on me!).

So, where do I find all of these free books?  Read on!

First, you can just go to the Amazon Kindle e-book store and click on any genre that interests you. Then click on “best selling” books. The results screen has two tabs:  best selling paid and best selling free. Click on the “best selling free” tab and you’ll find pages and pages of books that are absolutely free!

You can also sign up for a free service called Bookbub. After registering on the site, you can select the book genres you are interested in reading. Then you’ll receive a daily email with a list of several books that are being offered for free (or almost free) in your selected genres, complete with a link to an online store to purchase it. Usually, the vendor is Amazon. I’ve downloaded hundreds of free books this way.

A similar service is Robin Reads. Just like Bookbub, you sign up to receive a daily email with free or bargain Amazon e-books. I haven’t used this as much as Bookbub, but I do occasionally pick up books that way.

If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you are given one free Kindle book per month through their “First Reads” program. Each month, Prime subscribers can select one book from six Editor-selected, pre-release titles. I wouldn’t become Prime just for that, but it’s a nice bonus if you’re already a Prime subscriber. Amazon sends a monthly email with the title selections as a reminder.

A fantastic free source of e-books is your Public Library. When I lived in Broward County, I checked out dozens of books using the Overdrive application on my iPad. You have to have a library card and your library has to support e-book lending for it to work. Once checked out, you have a period of time (usually 14-21 days) to finish the book before it is automatically “returned” to the library (deleted from your device). Titles and quantities available to be borrowed are limited, but you can put yourself on the waitlist for popular books. You’ll receive an email when the title is available and granted a grace period for you to snag it before it moves on to the next person on the list. You don’t have to physically go to the library to check out books, and automatic return means you never have to worry about late fees, either!

Having access to these free book resources is great! I’ve downloaded and read books that I wouldn’t otherwise have taken a second look at. Some books have been good, others not so much. But since they’re free, it’s no risk to try them out. Sometimes, though, there are specific books that I want to read, and those I’ll pay for. Often, I’ll ask for Amazon gift certificates for Christmas and Birthdays, for this purpose. It will take quite a while, but eventually I’ll re-purchase all of my favorite authors and series.

Living this mobile life, it’s fantastic that I can carry an extensive library – and it doesn’t take up any space or weigh an ounce. Technology is wonderful!

 

Full Circle

040We’re back in Orlando, Florida! Land of palm trees and balmy breezes. Home to Mickey Mouse, and our official mailing address. Also home for our son, Sean, his long-time girlfriend and her family, as well as several other good friends.

We are parked back at the Orlando SE KOA, where we’ve stayed a couple of times before. This time, we’ll be here more than 2 months – the longest we’ve stayed anywhere since we started this crazy adventure almost exactly a year ago.

It’s both comforting and odd to be back here. I’ve almost gotten accustomed to constantly having to find my way to new places. Here, the roads and surroundings are reasonably familiar. Although we’ve never actually lived in Orlando, we’ve spent quite a bit of time here. I look outside my window to see palm trees, as I did for 35 years outside my South Florida homes. It’s nice to unpack and know that we don’t have to re-pack up until the end of January. It’s also nice to get our mail every few days, instead of every few weeks!

So what are our plans for this extended stay?

This KOA offers some ongoing fun activities, like 8 am aerobics, Saturday breakfasts, movie night, craft fairs, and bingo night. Last time, we were so busy running around playing tourist, we didn’t take the time to enjoy the campground. I intend to participate as often as possible!

We also plan to visit Mickey Mouse as well as catch up on a variety of bus chores. Deep cleaning (inside and out) is needed after a dusty year on the road. I intend to sort and purge unneeded items. I brought some things because I had room, but have been surprised at just how many items haven’t been touched in a year. Purging and organizing can be very satisfying. Not to mention Christmas decorating and preparations!

The best part about being back here in Orlando is the ability to spend time with the family and friends who live here. In fact, the very first thing we did upon arrival was order pizza and head over to Sean’s place. We hugged and laughed and made plans for fun activities to come – starting with Thanksgiving dinner with the entire clan. We had way too much food, played games and laughed a lot. Big family gatherings are the BEST!

I’m looking forward to more great quality time with people we love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

298210I want to share with you a letter that I wrote for my brother-in-law last year. He was preparing a Thanksgiving sermon to deliver at his church and wanted stories about being thankful through the difficult times and even for the difficult times.

A major driver for embarking on this full time RV life of adventure was the loss of our younger son. A disruptive life event like that forces you to re-examine everything in your life, including priorities and goals. It changed my perspective forever. Here’s the letter from a year ago:


For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper 
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

I’ve always known that God’s compassionate hand was weaving my life’s 
tapestry. I’ve experienced too many unexpected twists and seemingly random 
“coincidences” that served to put me just where I needed to be. Some of 
those unexpected twists and turns seemed terrible at that moment, and it’s 
only by looking back at the pattern over time that I can see how those 
difficult experiences ultimately served my greater good. Like the time I 
was on the verge of losing my job, but then an opportunity for a much better
one just fell into my lap. That new job lasted 25 years and provided 
handsomely for my family. Or the time I fell in love with a beautiful 
brand new house, but we just couldn’t quite swing it financially, and then 
someone else contracted to buy it. However, that sale on the house fell 
through, the developer instead used it as a model and office, and two years 
later when our finances had improved, we were able to purchase that very 
same, never-lived-in house at a discount during the developer’s close out 
sale. It was our beautiful home for 20 years.

June 7, 2012, the worst day of my life, began like any other day. My 
husband and I went off to work. Our older son was away at college. Having 
just finished high school, our younger son, Nathan, was enjoying a few days 
of summer freedom before starting classes at the local community college. 
As usual, he had unspecified plans with friends. My mind was full of the 
minutiae of work, chores and dinner - until we received the phone call. 
There had been an accident and we needed to come to the hospital right away.
It’s all a blur now – the frantic drive to the hospital, interminable wait 
in the waiting room, being taken back to a private room where a sad-eyed 
doctor said “I’m so sorry … we did all that we could”. Our son, my baby, 
was dead.

What do you do when the unthinkable occurs? Initially, you just keep 
breathing, and do the next thing that must be done. Nathan’s death also 
meant the death of the hopes and dreams and future we had planned for him. 
We had to re-frame our entire lives around his absence. Despite it all I 
knew, even then, that somehow this was God’s plan for Nathan’s life. He 
got to experience all of the delights and frustrations of childhood, 
without having to go through the trials and disappointments of adulthood. 
Not a bad deal, really.

So at this time of year when we especially focus on giving thanks, what 
do I give thanks for?

I am thankful for the time that we had our son. Friends of mine recently 
lost a child just days after birth. I got Nathan for 18 whole years. I got 
to experience Christmas’s and Halloweens, first days of school, soccer 
games, and band concerts. We baked cookies, battled over homework and his 
messy room, laughed together and had adventures. I saw him grow from 
adorable baby, through terrible twos and turbulent teens, into a caring, 
sensitive young man starting to find his place in the world. Shortly before 
he died, Nathan told us that his friends voted and we won for “coolest 
parents”. How many parents of teenagers get to hear that? Nathan knew we 
loved him, and we knew he loved us. There was nothing left unsaid, no 
regrets.

I am thankful for the incredible outpouring of love and support we 
experienced in the days and weeks following Nathan’s death. Our family, 
friends, coworkers and church family just surrounded us and lifted us up 
during those initial days of shock and grief. Their support and 
understanding helped, more than they can know. Now, knowing just how 
much that support means, I try to reach out to others who grieve. I can 
offer the perspective of someone who’s “been there” and gotten through it.

I am thankful for the healing gift that time brings. It has been more 
than 5 years since that terrible day. It takes time to re-define your 
life after a major disruption. Gradually, we have been able to adjust and 
make new plans - wonderfully exciting plans - for an early-retirement 
adventure, living and traveling full time in a motor home. Had Nathan 
lived, we would still be helping and supporting him financially, and would 
never have been able to follow our dream this soon. I would happily delay 
our plans if I could have Nathan back. But I can’t. This was part of God’s 
plan for our life and we intend to fully embrace the adventure. We leave 
just after Thanksgiving.

Most of all, I am thankful for God’s gift of eternal life. I have not 
“lost” Nathan, he is not gone – just transitioned back to the Spirit 
form, our true form. We are all Spiritual beings having a human experience. 
I often feel Nathan’s presence and I know that he hangs out with me.  
We can still be together, just not in the same way. Our physical 
separation is painful, but it is only temporary. One day, I’ll transition 
from this physical body and we’ll be truly together again. There will be 
lots of hugs! In the meantime, I choose to make the most of this life 
that God has granted me.


I am grateful that we are blessed with the financial means to take this incredible journey. I am grateful for our robust health, which allows us to take full advantage of this grand adventure. I am grateful for the family and friends that encourage and support us. I am grateful to Almighty God for His guidance and His Angels that protect us. We are incredibly blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Two Myths of Fulltime RV Living

mythDespite all of my research before embarking on this nomadic lifestyle, I still retained a few misconceptions. Let me dispel a couple for you.

Myth 1: RV living is less expensive than living in a stationary home.  The costs of RV living add up quickly: campsite fees, telecommunications (phone / TV / internet), insurances (RV, vehicle, health), food, and entertainment. Maintenance/repair is a never-ending fact of life for a home that experiences the equivalent of an earthquake every time you travel down the road. And having motorhome service done isn’t cheap! Depreciation on the RV is a hidden, but significant, expense, depending on what you spent on your RV. And if you have elected to retain a home base or a storage unit, those costs can be quite significant. And that assumes that the RV and toad (or tow vehicle) is paid off – monthly loan payments added to all of this can simply bust the budget for many people.

We owned a paid-off 4 bedroom home in South Florida before we retired. When you add up all of the costs of home ownership (utilities, taxes, insurance, maintenance), it would have been less expensive for us to stay put than go on the road, especially the way that we are doing it (which is NOT on the cheap). Of course, we wouldn’t have this life of adventure, either! It IS possible to cut your costs and live relatively inexpensively, by following some of the tips below:

  • RV selection: Buy a (quality) used RV, one that has already taken a depreciation hit. A shorter than 40 foot rig has more options for campgrounds than a Big Rig, many of them less expensive. If you are handy and can do some of your own maintenance and repairs, that can also save big.
  • Campgrounds: Stay in the more basic campgrounds, or boondock.  Stay longer at one place to take advantage of weekly/monthly/seasonal discounted rates. You also will burn less fuel since you aren’t hauling the RV around. Become a work camper to get a free site, and maybe even get paid a little. Some people do well with certain campground memberships (like Thousand Trails), but check the fine print carefully to ensure it makes sense for your needs and travel style.
  • Other costs:  Downsize your belongings to just what you can carry with you – no storage fees or expensive home base. Cook rather than going out. Maximize free activities like hiking and bicycling. Take advantage of campground or coffee shop wifi, rather than using your own data plan. Live with “over the air” TV channels instead of subscribing to an expensive satellite TV plan.

The RV community is full of people who successfully live relatively inexpensively, but you have to recognize that there are trade-offs in comfort, amenities, and fun.

Myth 2: RV life is a never-ending, fabulous vacation. It’s true that we do have a lot of fun, but this is also real life with all of the real life stuff that must get done. Typically, for vacations, we postpone or delegate our life chores, so that we can devote 100% of the limited vacation time to play. With full-time RV living, all of those chores have to get done in between the fun stuff. Real life involves cleaning, maintenance, banking chores, seeing to health needs, working out, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and dealing with family drama. It’s harder, in a way, because we’re a constantly moving target. Handling banking business, getting maintenance done, making dental appointments and such is much more challenging when you have to schedule around location AND timing. You are also living with your significant other (and possibly children and pets) in a confined space that can seem much smaller after several days of adverse weather! You have limited space for storage and for food preparation. Outdoor weather influences inside temperatures in an RV much more noticeably than in a better-insulated “stick and brick” house. The process of packing up, moving, and unpacking is time-consuming and tiring. Every new camping spot requires figuring everything out again: locations of grocery stores, gas stations, banks, etc. If you are accustomed to having familiar surroundings, the constant location shifting can be disorienting.

Don’t get me wrong – we love this lifestyle. But we’ve learned to look at it just like that, a life “style”, not a vacation. We’ve learned to slow down, relax, and allow time for necessary life tasks, interspersed among the fun adventures. We do things together, but also separately, to give the other person some space. We’ve developed strategies to reduce the stress of moving days – such as, packing up the night before, and scheduling more time to get from one campsite to another to allow for unexpected problems or delays. We stay longer at some locations, to take advantage of longer-stay discounts and to make it “home”, for just a little while.

It’s not a fabulous vacation, but it’s a pretty fabulous lifestyle.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

I grew up in Indiana. As a child, I had no direct experience with the awful Jim Crow laws which were, even then, in effect in Alabama. I was peripherally aware of the civil rights movement – it was all over the news – but didn’t fully understand why there was such racial tension.

The Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham is a large interpretive museum that depicts the civil rights struggles of the 1950’s and 60’s. The museum starts with a short video that shares the city’s founding and early history. Then the screen retreats into the ceiling and you are invited into a walking tour through the history of Birmingham’s role and contribution to the civil rights movement.

006Although intellectually I understood the fundamental issues behind the struggle, the museum brings them to life. I was alternately shocked and horrified as I walked through the museum exhibits depicting the unfair treatment of Black’s in the 50’s, their struggles to overturn unjust laws, and the lengths that White authorities went to keep everything the same. The “Separate but Equal” philosophy is hardly equal when spending for Black schools and facilities were half of that spent on White schools. Blacks were paid less and relegated to less desirable jobs. A Black man could be lynched for simply smiling at a White woman. And Blacks had no voice, as most were prevented from registering to vote by rigged “literacy” tests. (A example of the type of questions asked included “How many bubbles are on a bar of soap?”). Deplorable.

The most shocking part is the video footage and depiction of the violence around that time. Riders protesting segregation on buses were bombed, beaten and arrested. Peaceful protest marchers (including children!) were arrested, beaten, and set upon by vicious dogs and fire hoses. Churches were bombed, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, located across the street from the Civil Rights Institute. Four innocent little girls were killed in that bombing – a statue erected in their memory stands across the street. What were the white supremacists so afraid of?

007

Thankfully, the exhibits don’t end there. Ultimately, right prevailed. Discriminatory laws were struck down and the culture began to change. A Black mayor was elected in 1979 and served faithfully for 20 years. Significant progress has been made, but as a country, we still seem to be divided along racial lines. What will it take before we can all see past the externals, and simply accept people for who they are on the inside?

My first conscious memory of interaction with a person of color was at the nursing home that my grandmother managed (we lived next door). I was maybe 3 years old at the time and visited often with my grandmother or parents who all worked there. The cook was a lovely Black woman who would indulge me in the vegetable beef baby food that I loved. I remember her gently helping me wash my hands at the sink one day and I asked her about her black skin. A childish, innocent question – “Are your hands dirty too?” And I’ll never forget her kindly chuckle as she replied, “No honey, that’s just how I’m made. My skin is dark and yours is light. See? God makes people all different ways and in all different colors. We’re the same on the inside, just different on the outside.” It made perfect sense in my 3 year old world.

And it still does.

Full Time RV Living – 5 Things We Didn’t Expect in our First Year

1_f6aGa-44g1FzUEXPNpcriwReflecting back on our first year of full time RV living, much of it has gone as planned, but there are a few things that we didn’t expect!

 

  1. Vehicle repair costs. We started our adventure with brand new almost-everything: new motorhome, new truck, new motorcycle. In our budgeting process, we didn’t include repair costs, figuring problems SHOULD get fixed under warranty.  But, routine maintenance comes up sooner when you’re on the move and that adds up: motorhome chassis oil change/lube (every 6 months), Onan generator service, truck oil changes, motorcycle service and new motorcycle tires. When our rear AC unit went out, we paid for a wasted service call in Las Vegas, because we didn’t understand how the warranty repair process worked. Even when the AC replacement was done under warranty, it didn’t cover all of the service call costs. The most recent incident was discovering our severe alignment problem which necessitated the emergency replacement of our steer tires and has significantly shortened the life of the tag axle tires. We have requested to be reimbursed under warranty, but all of the players are pointing the finger at each other: Spartan chassis, Goodyear tires, Entegra, and the dealership that sold us the rig. I am not optimistic. Paying for all of the routine maintenance and non-routine repairs has added up to thousands of dollars. We can afford it, but didn’t expect it to be quite so much.
  2. High camping costs.  We read a lot of full-timer blogs while researching this lifestyle and figured our nightly camping fees would average about $30-40. We’re finding it actually costs us significantly more ($45-50 average) for several reasons. First, our large size simply cannot be accommodated by all campgrounds, especially the older, and less expensive, ones. Our weight is also a factor, as we have found that our heavy bus will sink in soft gravel or dirt. So we look for RV parks with lots of maneuvering room and solid pads, which tend to be the newer and more expensive parks. Additionally, we are often staying at desirable locations in peak season –  at peak season rates. And, we LIKE the highly-rated RV parks with paved level pads, 50 amp electrical service, nice restrooms and the occasional hot tub. At the end of the day, we will usually choose a really nice, cushy RV park in a prime location over a less expensive park  – because we like it better. It’s a conscious decision that may end up costing more, but we feel it’s worth it for the comfort and convenience. We could do it cheaper if we needed to, but for now it’s the cost of our particular travel style.
  3. The weather is never “average”. As we planned our first-year route, we blithely said that we would “follow 70 degrees”. We meticulously researched the normal weather patterns and monthly averages at each planned stop, with the intent of maximizing our time in the nicest possible weather. Well – it hasn’t always worked out that way! Charleston was freezing. We weathered an ice storm in Northern Florida and another while staying outside New Orleans. We were in Spokane when it hit 104 degrees. Hurricane and Moab UT had highs in the mid-90s in late September. And in Santa Fe, we encountered mid-October snow. None of these reflected “average” weather patterns for those areas. You just have to be prepared for anything.
  4. Missing familiar surroundings. I lived in South Florida for almost 33 years, 30 years in the same Pembroke Pines neighborhood! I had such deep ties after working, living, raising 2 children, worshiping and volunteering for so long in the area. So many memories and relationships. I significantly underestimated the difficulty of emotionally detaching from such a long-term life of stability in order to launch into this nomadic existence. Now, our life is constantly changing as we move from place to place – nothing is familiar except what we carry with us. It has been a process of adjustment, more so for me than for Jeff, I think. It’s getting better over time, for a couple of reasons. One is that time and distance lessons the pain of leaving all that was familiar and stable. Being a nomad IS the new normal. Also, I find that staying in a nice place for an extended period of time (a few weeks or more) allows me to put down mini-roots. I can shop in the same grocery store more than once, become familiar with the area, and feel like its home, just for a little while. I like that.
  5. This US is full of wondrous places. As we travel, we keep finding new and exciting places to go and things to see. There is just so much to do in this enormously varied country of ours. The National Parks are glorious, but so also are the large and small towns, each with its history, culture, cuisine, and activities. We’ve been at this a year and have only begun to scratch the surface of everything that is out there. It could take a lifetime to see it all.

That sounds just grand. Looking forward to it!

 

 

 

Los Alamos – The Top Secret Town

las alamos main gateOn a (relatively) warm day, we hopped the motorcycle and headed for the historic town of Los Alamos, NM. A secretive town during the war-time Manhattan Project, it still seems relatively inaccessible with only one main winding mountain road passing to and through the town. The main gate stands as reminder of its top-secret history.

During that time period, the town was literally nowhere on the map. Mail and supplies were shipped to a PO box address, received in Santa Fe, and transferred up in tightly controlled transports. The birth certificates of babies born on the base during that time noted place of birth as “Post Office Box 1663”. No one was allowed to disclose their working location and communications were screened and censored.

The fascinating history of this area and the birth of the atomic bomb is described in the free Bradbury Science Museum in downtown Los Alamos. (I thought it was named for Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors! But, no, it was named for Norris Bradbury, Los Alamos National Laboratories second Director.) The museum isn’t particularly large, but it is information dense with videos, information displays and scale models.

This museum completed a triptych of atomic energy museums for me:  American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge Tennessee, Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, and the Bradbury Museum. Each shares the story of the Atomic Age from different geographic perspectives, telling their local story.

The Atom Bomb story has two aspects that strike me. First, it is so apparent that the entire country pulled together and sacrificed together during the Manhattan Project era to accomplish a seemingly-impossible goal. Our country is so divided today – does it take a common enemy and threat to our survival for us to pull together as a society toward a common objective? The last time we were really united was after the tragedy of 9/11. That national fervor didn’t last and we find ourselves as divided as we ever have been. It saddens me.

The other aspect that saddens me is the damage that we did to ourselves as we developed atomic bomb capability. Literally thousands of our own people have sickened and died from radiation exposure due to mining, research, bomb building and testing activities. Most of the damage didn’t show up until many years later in the form of cancers and other illnesses. Nuclear test sites are still contaminated by fallout –  still affecting people and the environment.

Was it all worth it? Having “The Bomb” seems to have prevented further World Wars. Dissenting countries are reluctant to deploy their big/bad weapon when the US is sitting poised with a bigger/badder one.  Globally, governments are working toward nuclear disarmament, which is positive. The museums document our scientists’ monumental accomplishment, but also highlight how terribly destructive the Bomb is.

I certainly pray that this horrible weapon is never, ever used again.