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Posts Tagged ‘RV park’

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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Won this award in the Memoir/Personal essay division of the Writer’s Digest contest this year for the following:8102-WD%20An-hires-AW-1

Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

I was holding Rosalie close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was ninety-four days ago. On April 23, 2013 we would have celebrated fifty-three years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.

A week before she passed we were sitting next to each other on our recliners, not paying attention to the endless commercials incessantly interrupting the program struggling to interest us. “Well,” she said, pulling out the nasal tube flowing oxygen into her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.”

Bear, our previous German shepherd died six years ago and we didn’t get another dog.  That was the only period in my life that I can remember, being dog less. Rosalie developed balance problems, the aftermath of a viral encephalopathy and a brain biopsy, and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog. Thus we were dog less. She knew I missed having a dog and her out-of-the-blue statement was typical of her dark sense of humor.

“Stop talking nonsense,” I told her, gruffly.

The last six months we had together I prayed that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Her diagnosis was stage four-lung cancer. It came on January 4, 2012 after we noticed she had trouble breathing after only mild exercise. I have to explain that she was an animal on our stationary bike. She routinely logged eleven to fourteen miles in fifty or sixty minutes and burned more than three hundred calories and did this four or five times a week.

Our oncologist at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explained that the average statistics for her diagnosis were survival for three to six months. As a scientist I was, and still am, convinced that the brain can heal any disease of the body if we could only figure out how to invoke the necessary killer cells, or immunological responses or whatever other body defense mechanisms are necessary, by sending the correct messages from the brain. So I nagged her with all the determination I could muster about the power of positive thinking and prayer. I encouraged her to visualize her tumors and direct her body defense mechanisms to kill those nasty, unwanted and unwarranted growths.

With her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then ten and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She was a very private person and didn’t want friends, or especially acquaintances, to know she was seriously ill.

In mid-December she needed supplemental oxygen and on Dec. 27 the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.

***

My first German shepherd was named Mister. He and I hooked up during the summer before my second year in veterinary school. His normal home was the back seat of my car. Before I met Rosalie all the girls I dated made a big fuss over him but he was a regal sort and mostly ignored them. When I held the car door open for Rosalie on our first date Mister was all over her. She gave him a perfunctory pat on the head but he would not leave her alone. He kept nuzzling her, pushing his head under her arm and hand begging to be petted. I twisted in the seat to order him down and to stay and noticed he had an erection. Mister was always very discerning and I decided then and there to not ignore his intuition. It wasn’t long until I agreed totally with his first impression.

***

Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, the third German shepherd I have been responsible for. She is about three years old and has been with me since January 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is now calm and protective of me. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle.

The frustrations of the last four days before my obsessively determined departure date were over. Who would believe that a newly single adult male and his dog could experience so many last minute problems trying to get out of town?  But all came together and Charlize and I, comfortable in Old Blue and pulling the Frog, were the last to board the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

Old Blue is the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 in charge of making our journey possible. The Frog is my brand new, albeit slightly crowded with both of us in attendance, camping trailer. Frog pulls like a dream sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.

The purpose of the road trip was to try to figure out what I should do with my remaining years and how to do it. I’m seventy-six years old and was married to the only girl I ever truly loved for over fifty-two of those years. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own. Charlize is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.

Charlize and I traveled familiar roads, taken previously with Rosalie, to Port Townsend, Sequim, and Port Angeles. Once west of Port Angeles we were in new territory. We took a short detour to see what the destruction of the dam had wrought to the Elwha River, now flowing grey with silt and debris, but I hadn’t seen it prior to the return to a more natural state. Undoing our well-meant but destructive “improvements” to Mother Nature may take some time.

Decided, at the last moment to forego the civilized amenities of an RV park in Forks and pressed on to the Kalaloch campgrounds, where my Senior Pass to all the National Parks and Recreational Lands bought a night for only $7, there are some advantages to being “senior”.

We parked about fifty or sixty feet above the beach, where gentle breakers provided a soothing, monotonous background to my day of calm healing, away from the reminders of our house, her things and a previous life. Charlize kept close watch on me. She seems to need respite from her previous life as much as I do.

Half the campground was closed, the road barred by a red and white-stripped railroad-crossing-type gate. I suppose only those seeking solitude find their way to that place, normally rain soaked but now dry. There are thirty odd camping spots in the open half but when I went to bed last night only seven were occupied. Charlize and I walked the place before and after dinner and not a single person greeted us, everyone holed up in their campers. In the fifties my family used to do a lot of car camping, with a luggage trailer and big umbrella tent. The only type of vacation my folks could afford. Our sons and I backpacked and many momentous decisions were made about their lives while we sat freezing on a mountain. Rosalie wasn’t much interested in camping, preferring modern plumbing. I remember campgrounds as friendly places.

Thirty feet west of where I parked Frog there was a sharp drop off to the beach, guarded by a split rail fence. Relentless waves worked their way onto the sand. The sound they made was 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 any human to change events) a wave much larger than its brothers breaks over, roaring its delight.

That night, about four AM, I woke up thinking about Rosalie’s last minutes and started crying. Charlize immediately 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 kibbitz about Frog, not that incessant barking typical of some dogs, just one sharp warning to let the person know she was on duty. I guess she decided I belong to her and am in need of both comforting and protection.

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Matt called as promised, about six PM. I had half-a-day of his time reserved for the next day and we agreed we would go out when it was most propitious. He checked with his fishing guide buddies who had been out that day and decided the afternoon would be best, it might be possible to get into a Mayfly hatch and do some dry fly fishing, the most exciting. We agreed to meet at eleven the next morning and did so.

He drove us upriver where he put his float boat in the water and got all the rods and other equipment ready. He watched me cast a few times on the bank, made some corrections in my “technique” and we took off, Charlize with us. We talked about the wisdom of taking her in the boat with us but he assured me he took his own dog with him when he fished and he was certain Charlize would adjust. It was not to be. The first time I cast my line Charlize was out of the boat and into the river after it. Matt had rigged my rod with two different flies and an indicator.  We called indicators bobbers when I was a lad. He explained that with the strong wind and swift current the indicator would carry the bait downstream faster and I would be better able to mend and control the line. OK, whatever, he’s the expert. But Charlize was convinced that the bobber was her ball and she was determined to retrieve it

The charade continued, Matt and I taking turns hauling Charlize back into the fast moving boat. Finally I used her leash to snub her to the swivel chair I was sitting on so her movements were very limited. Every time I cast she barked incessantly and managed to swivel my chair enough to lunge at the cast. I lost patience but Matt was more understanding. After about an hour she finally responded to my repeated corrections, or just got tired, and settled down.

Matt told me where to cast and how to “mend” the line. Before long I hooked, and Matt netted, a ten-inch long whitefish, cousin to the trout and native to the Madison. The next fish netted was also a whitefish, then a nice rainbow, maybe fourteen inches long and heavy. We took a photo and let the rainbow join the whitefish back in the river. Then I landed two or three small rainbows, new plants, didn’t even need the net for those. They were also put back in the water to grow. A nice sized German brown trout, also native to the river was netted and photographed, then another rainbow. Amazingly when I was fighting to bring a fish in, or when it was netted, Charlize seemed uninterested, even bored. Matt told me his dog goes nuts when he brings a fish in.

We reached the pullout after almost five hours of sun, fun, fast water, and memorable fishing. A compatriot of Matt had retrieved his vehicle and trailer and parked it at the pullout site. My face and hands are sunburned but it was a fantastic day on a world-renown river, spectacular scenery and damned if I didn’t catch some fish and I have the photos to prove it. Excuse the finger, I was really excited.

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I bought a couple of beers for both Matt, and myself at his favorite watering hole, and we rehashed a day I will consider outstanding and he considers about average. After we said goodbye I returned to the RV Park where I met up with Dan.

I connected with Dan at the park the previous evening when he was walking his Miniature Schnauzer and I was walking Charlize. We learned we were both recently widowed after long marriages and were both trying to figure out how best to manage on our own. We agreed to go out for dinner the following day after I returned from fishing.

We went to the local bowling alley where he had been told the food was very good and to my surprise it was. We talked for some time over dinner and discovered we were kindred spirits, exchanged e-mail addresses and agreed to stay in touch.

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Here is the German Brown trout I caught. Check out the river and mountains in the background. Spectacular!

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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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Stayed in a fancy RV park in Fortuna, CA the night of Feb. 5. We had the full hookup at our pull-through space; water, power, TV cable, a dump station. The next day we stayed on U.S. 101 until Leggett then hooked up with highway 1. It became very slow going, but extremely scenic. We stopped at many vistas and a couple of tourist traps. Lunched in a tiny place in Fort Bragg that featured a Wizard of Oz theme and a tasty salad loaded with Dungeness crab. Worked way south, but the road was full of 15 to 20 mph curves, switchbacks and steep grades.

During the day we stopped at three different groves of redwood trees. Only relatively small, protected groves of what were once massive forests. Steinbeck ascribed almost god-like attributes to these three-thousand-plus year old behemoths and when Charlize and I were alone, walking amongst them, I did experience feelings similar to those I felt visiting old world synagogues whose congregants were annihilated. Charlize was subdued, watching me closely as she mirrored the emotions I was feeling.

At three-thirty we started looking for an RV park. The only ones seen were after we passed and the road was too narrow to turn and go back. Stopped at a grocery store in Gualala to purchase some fresh vegetables for dinner and was told about the Salt Point Campgrounds owned and operated by the state. There were no hookups for water, power, cable, no Wi-Fi and no cell phone connection, no sewer dump. The advantage was that, except for two senior ladies living in a RV as “hosts” of the campground, Charlize and I were the sole transient occupants. There was a friendly Park Ranger at the gate talking to a young couple that didn’t stay. He told us that if we walked down to the beach, about a half mile jaunt, we might get a cell signal. Not worth the effort.

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