Posts Tagged ‘Recreational vehicle’

Writer’s Digest Judge’s Commentary*:

So much personality shown in Charlize–we get real emotion and expression in the way the author has painted every scene with the dog. We also get deep emotion (and tears) in the early conversation with his wife, where she says that he can get a dog now that her demise is near. What a selfless statement, a deep realization, and a wish for her husband to be okay after she is gone. This is truly moving, and we long for the author to find the perfect dog to connect with.

“Hope is the mantra of anyone sitting on a boat” on page 75 is a true gem of this book. Author peppers the story with these resonant thoughts. Well done. They stay with the reader.
The ending just drops off when he’s home again and happy to have arrived safely. We could use a description of his home that has been colored by his travels along the coast, the same excellent skill in capturing scenery and feeling. That would round out the story beautifully. A very good read.

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My travels with Charlize will continue. She is, after all, a great travel companion and provider of comfort and attention. I have searched to discover how to live on my own after so many years of being married to the same wonderful lady. During this past year I made a lot of choices, some good, some not so good, all were important to the journey.

I thought having a camping trailer while traveling around the country was a great idea. It was something I thought about from time to time over the years but Rosalie was never interested. We lived in an eight by fifty foot house trailer when first married and she was not interested in reliving that experience or anything resembling it. Within a few of weeks of her death I went shopping for the trailer I named Frog. During our first trip it was a fun new experience but reality started to settle in soon after. Driving on the open road pulling Frog was OK but extra concentration was needed when parking driving in inclement weather, especially high winds or pulling into a crowded gas stations.

Finding a nice RV Park during was not as straightforward as expected and it took me about half an hour to set up Frog and about the same amount of time to disconnect and get underway again the next morning. It also wasn’t inexpensive, fifty-dollars a night for most of the commercial parks. Then there was the task of emptying the “black water tank”, sewage to the uninitiated. The final blow was gas consumption. My truck, Old Blue, essential for pulling the trailer, was averaging about eight or nine miles to the gallon costing close to or exceeding four dollars a gallon.

Old Blue, although a year old when I purchased her, was also a reaction to Rosalie’s death. I was driving a ten-year old pickup truck while Rosalie drove a year old van. After her death every time I got into her van I started to cry. I was already anticipating taking a long road trip with a camping trailer, so I traded the van and the truck for a year old, high end, Dodge Ram 1500 four-door crew-cab with four-wheel drive and over-sized wheels. Old Blue was built for tough, manly activities. I was anxious to get out of our house and separate myself and my newly acquired rescued dog Charlize from Rosalie’s memory and palpable presence in the house. I was not yet able to clear out her clothes and other things. I needed to escape all those memories associated with all that physical “stuff” of hers. So there we were, me, Charlize, Old Blue and Frog, off to find, what?

During that first trip we wandered for almost six weeks and I was not yet unhappy with my choices. The second trip we took seemed to involve added hassles with Frog and the RV lifestyle. I began to think that the cost of RV parks and extra fuel might cover the costs of a lot of hotel rooms.  Even with the renovations I made, Frog was not all that comfortable, especially without utility hook-ups. Several times I just left Frog someplace and discovered travel was less complicated, less expensive, more relaxing. Gradually I came to the realization that a travel trailer, or any recreational vehicle, was not the choice for me. It was going to be costly but sometimes one has to admit a mistake, pay the price and get on with life. Frog was sold and gone. It cost me, but what life-lesson doesn’t?

Another reality was in store. I really liked Old Blue, but even when not pulling the trailer gas millage was an issue. On the best of days, on the highway at modest speeds, even with “Eco-Boost” I could only expect sixteen or seventeen miles per gallon. Then there were the garages. After I got her home I discovered Old Blue was five inches too long to fit in my garage at home. When trying to park in the parking garage at the Harborview Medical Center or at the building where my lawyer’s office was in downtown Seattle I found that I sometimes had to stop and back up to get around some close corners and into a parking spot without clipping a post or a big car parked in a compact spot. I discovered the deciding factor preparing for surgery on my ankle. With the specter of twelve weeks of recovery and not being allowed to bear weight on my left leg, I practiced getting in and out of the truck using just my right foot. I found it all but impossible because Old Blue was just too high off the ground.

So Charlize and I went car shopping. We found a new crossover SUV that was easy for me to get in and out of using just one foot. The sales people probably thought they we dealing with just another weird old man when they observed my strange behavior testing this ability. The new vehicle, actually a computer with four wheels, gets excellent gas millage, has enough room for Charlize and everything we might need for road trips. It’s also easier to keep clean. Was trading Old Blue for the new car another poor choice, made too quickly? I don’t know yet, but I’m glad I’m not struggling to get in and out of Old Blue on one foot, or stuck in the house because I can’t. The new car also fits into my garage.

So—the journey continues, life’s journey that is. Steinbeck travelled with his dog Charley searching to define the America of that time. My Charlize and I will continue our travels but my search to find out how to live without Rosalie is resolving. I still miss her every day but am becoming more accustomed to making my own decisions and finding something interesting and worthwhile to accomplish each day. I am more comfortable with the philosophy that each person’s life is a journey. Inevitably we end the journey alone and along the way have to learn to deal with the loss of loved ones. Both Rosalie and I lost our parents’ years ago and we cane to accept that as a normal part of the journey. Losing Rosalie was much more difficult but also part of the same journey. Losing a child would be devastating, but many others have coped with even that, I pray I never have to.

Charlize, I realize, has an easier life to deal with. She lives only in the moment. She obviously has memories of some sort of abuse but they only intrude when something happening in the present brings back those memories, for example when I correct some behavior I don’t think appropriate. I wouldn’t ever think of hitting her but someone has, based on the way she responds when I raise my voice.

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Charlize and I are back in San Diego, Carlsbad, CA actually. Frog’s refrigerator was no longer functioning. For reasons unknown when I changed LP gas tanks the refrigerator still ran on the battery or direct electrical hook up, but not on gas. So I took her to a guy who repairs appliances on RVs. We’re fortunate to be in a place with many, many RV parks and experienced people to keep them going. Turns out it was just a loose wire to the igniter, which is what I thought the problem was but, of course I had no idea where the igniter was or how to get to it. Now all systems are functional again.

Yesterday, Sunday morning, my son and I took Bentley and Charlize to the Delmar Dog Beach at Delmar, CA, just south of Carlsbad. Charlize surprised me by going into the water without problems. She and Bentley had a great time with all the other dogs. Everyone was, for the most part, well behaved, particularly the dogs.


Charlize and her buddy, Bentley, outside looking in, so forlorn

Charlize and her buddy, Bentley, outside looking in, so forlorn

Bentley and Charlize retrieving in the surf.
Bentley and Charlize retrieving in the surf.


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We stayed in a KOA campground in Lincoln City, OR. The people were nice, the place average. Frog’s hot water heater didn’t work, nor did the combination radio, TV and DVD player. Frustrating.

Charlize has decided I belong to her and am in need of both comforting and protection. About four AM I woke up thinking about Rosalie’s last minutes and started crying. Charlize jumped off her bench and came over to stick her nose under my arm determined to comfort me. It worked. The next day in Old Blue she barked when a highway construction flagman approached to kibbutz about Frog. Not incessant yapping like some dogs do, just a sharp warning to let the person know she was on duty.

We stopped at a RV sales, service and parts store in Newport to find out why the water heater wasn’t working. It turned out to be just a case of my ignorance. There are two switches for the water heater.The one accessible from outside Frog, controls the propane gas flow. Another switch, inside the cabin, controls the electricity for the starter. While Frog is in use I am supposed to leave the gas switch on. When I am ready for hot water I have to turn on the electrical switch inside, under the sink. When the later switch is turned on a red light goes on that says: “reset”. I thought something was wrong and spent three days trying to read the owner’s manual and figure out how to reset the thing. It cost me twenty bucks to find out I was just too impatient. After awhile the burner ignites and the red light goes off. Now I have to find the manual for the DVD, TV and radio device and figure out why I can’t make it work. Before this trip is over I’ll be a qualified RV mechanic.

We stopped many times today to stare at the amazing scenery along the Oregon coast. Wave follows wave, long lines separated by time and space. Some break over, spilling white turbulence, before arriving at the rocks. Others crash against those stalwarts. Not all of the huge rocks constitute the shoreline cliffs. Some stand out in the Pacific, as outposts, forward observers, battered, ceaselessly battered, fighting against the inevitability of erosion. A few of the outposts defy reason. From those sprout one, sometimes more, ridiculously determined evergreen trees. I have no idea what kind of trees they are. Probably, as my ten-year old granddaughter advises, I can Google it, but where’s the fun in that? Too easy.


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Saturday at six AM, Charlize and I walked the Kalaloch campground in the dark. It wasn’t really dark. A half-moon was out, bright but not as bright as the moon I remember growing up in Phoenix, long before that place became the megapolis it is today. The winter moon of the desert, that I remember, was bright enough to read by, or maybe my eyes were young enough to see by.

Thirty feet west of where Frog is parked there is a sharp drop off to the beach, guarded by a split rail fence. Relentless waves work their way onto the sand. The sound they make is similar to a busy highway. A vez en cuando, (the English translation of this expression would be “from time to time”, but in Mexico in 1967 when we lived there for a year, it conveyed a connotation of inevitability, an inability for a human to change events). A wave much larger than its brothers breaks over, roaring his delight.

I was up at five again, walking Charlize. It was cold enough during the night for a sheet of ice to form on Old Blue’s windows. I had to scrape them before we could leave. The moon, still bright before dawn, illuminated the stark silhouettes of Douglas fir, various pines, Sitka spruce and western red cedar all in stark relief. Their trunks bent slightly east, towards the Olympics. Their tops, sheared by high winds blowing in from the ocean, pointed at the mountains.

Charlie and I ate our breakfasts. I cleaned up, with her close supervision to make certain everything was done properly, and we were ready to leave before seven. All the other RV’s were still dark, their occupants sleeping in, I presume.

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