For over thirty years I’ve watched with curious silent humor as my wife would wash the dishes thoroughly before loading them into the dishwasher. I, myself, don’t engage in dishwashing very often because, as with all domestic tasks – I do it wrong. There is, apparently, a specific science beyond my comprehension, to the delicacies of laundry folding, towel stacking, pillowcase fitting, bed making, carpet vacuum lines, and now – dishwashing.
But yesterday my sweetheart had put in a particularly long and exhausting day and I wanted to relive her of the menial task of washing the dishes.
So, after watching her perform this tedious enterprise thousands of times over the years I duplicated her actions and performed the duty flawlessly. However, about midway through the stack she asked, “why are you hand washing them, we have a dishwasher?”
I was perplexed and bewildered because now I had no answer. The foolishness of my actions was obvious, to me at least. But the foolishness was a learned action, perceived though years of visible evidence. Yet now, it was me, caught red-handed as it were, with the foolishness of the action, as if criminal, now in my wet hands.
I unfolded my defense in a deliberation suitable to withstand judgment in any courthouse. Yet, in the end, my feeble defense faltered at her denial that she had EVER pre-washed the dishes.
That was it. A simple denial and my case was annihilated.
How can I, after the passing of thirty-some years, my eyes gloriously affixed to this lovely woman, watching and wordlessly amused at her need to double-wash, be so entirely and completely wrong?
My self-worth, my self-esteem, my entire ego teeters in the balance at these moments. Every drop of manliness is shredded into a prison of mental mush.
It may be weeks, or even months before I can show my face in public again. The shame is too great, the burden is too heavy.
Interesting conversation with a gentleman camped next to us. . .
We happened to be chatting about our individual lives and what brought us to where we are in life. He worked 30+ years for a UAW (Union) plant in Michigan and his wife was a school teacher. They both retired with full pensions, social security, and insurance. The American dream – right?
So, here they are. Parked in a campground with a 28’ camper. She hates it because it’s too small. He hates it because their new trailer has lots of trouble like leaks and electrical issues. They sit inside because it’s too hot most days and he listens to his wife yell at him because there’s no room for visitors or family, no space to cook or relax, no room to get away from each other.
They can’t afford to buy a larger or newer unit. They don’t own a truck, so they can’t move anywhere.
So, this is retirement. Sitting in hot, humid Florida; hating your home, location, and situation. Can’t travel because they can’t afford a truck.
Yes, this is what they worked a lifetime for – this is retirement – this is the American Dream!
He asked what brought us here. I told him our story. We lived our part of the American Dream. We owned the big house, had the great business, and lost everything.
Now we live on the road. We have a nice home on wheels that we built ourselves. We work a few months, then play a few months. We are not rich, but we’re not broke either. Our insurance is God alone.
Amy said “why wait until you’re old and retire to be miserable, when we can be miserable now!”
She’s kidding of corse. But we enjoy our life together. We enjoy seeing new places and working different places. Sure, there have been many times during our last couple years that we’ve had struggles and hatted our location or job. We’ve been broke with barely enough money to buy fuel. We’ve also had seasons when we could take a breath and relax for a couple months. We have the luxury of moving on if we don’t like our circumstances, we’re not stuck for 30+ years at a job only to retire and be stuck again.
We miss being with friends and family. We miss the relationships that were built. Our hearts often ache for true friends and we search for purpose in our travels and our life. But, we’re incredibly blessed and happy that we spend 24/7 with each other and love being together, even in our little home on wheels. We love our opportunities to reunite with old friends, and occasionally even with new friends. Even as I write this, we are anxiously anticipating meeting up again with some new friends that we met for the first time just one year ago. Now those friendships have become important relationships to us. If it wasn’t for our travels, and our summer work together, we never would have enjoyed a new and lasting relationship.
So, I wonder what tomorrow will bring. I wonder who we will meet. Will we meet someone who will be a new friend for a season, or even a lifetime? Maybe we will just chat with our neighbors in this little park, or enjoy the beauty of temporary location. Maybe – maybe tomorrow will bring new struggles, new problems or maybe it will bring new excitement and new joy.
Either way, we’re glad to be living this life on the road. We’re glad we can do this while we’re young. Yup, we’re not retired; we probably never really will be. We don’t have pensions and we don’t have Social security. We work. We find creative ways to support our lives. But we don’t live to work. We don’t spend our lives working so we can retire and hate our lives.
Florida is the land of dreams. Palm trees, oceans, miles of white sand beaches, amusement parks, everglades, alligators, and more. It’s warm year ’round and even when it’s a bit cool, it doesn’t last for long. Almost heavenly.
We knew we had to get out of Michigan with the bus. The cold and condensation of moisture inside our bus was not yet controllable. We had months of work that had to be done to make the bus into a welcoming home, and it couldn’t be done in the north. We put it on Facebook that we needed a place to work, someplace south and warmer. An invitation came from an uncle of Amy’s that she hardly knew; but family just the same. He was kind enough to offer his place, electrical and water hook up for the bus and all the tools and advice we could use. It was in Florida, the land of paradise.
I was a little apprehensive about driving the bus so far from ‘home’. I still didn’t get it through my thick skull that ‘home’ is the bus and we’re near home every time we’re near the bus. But, it’s hard to get far away from the familiar.
Well, off to paradise we went. Amy had never been to Florida, so I thought “why not?” It’s not snowing there, we will have everything we need, and we can get all our work done.”. So, off to Florida we drove. I remember crossing the state line and starting to see palm trees along the road. You really know you’re in a different place when the landscape changes so much.
We arrived at Uncle Oren’s house on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and backed the bus in beside his house. The yard is all sand. In the north I would be afraid of this much weight on sand, but he assured me that it would be fine. He was right. The sand is firm and solid. The big tires moved across without hardly an imprint.
The first couple days were spend unloading our bus bays of saws, tools, and wood that we had brought with us. Oren had a large carport tent that he lent us to keep the sun off while we work. The sun was hot during the day, but the evenings were comfortable. We would wake to comfortable temperatures but everything soaked with some kind of heavy dew. Apparently maybe a mist from the nearby ocean. Whatever the source, absolutely everything was wet. The walls of his house next to the bus, the bus windows, the tent over my tools, my tarps, the sand would stick to our shoes… it was as if it poured rain all night. But, by ten o’clock or so, the hot sun would come out and steam away the moisture. Until about noon it’s like a sauna, hot and wet. By noon or so, it’s pretty much dried up the ground and it’s just a blazing sun. Now for folks that like to sleep til noon, then lay on a beach and drink umbrella drinks, that must be paradise. For this Englishman who get’s sick in the sun, I’m starting to wonder if this really is paradise afterall.
We began to find our way around the territory a bit. Oren’s home is in a country setting and a quiet side street in a small subdivision type residential area. Neighbors are not too close and nobody really minds a bus in a yard with saws running. We’re not far from the town of Spring Hill, which has everything we need like Lowes and Home Depot. All the roads are lined with restaurants, supermarkets, medical clinics, barber shops, adult stores, and churches (usually together). We’re not city folks, but it is nice to have the necessities nearby.
We began to make some progress with the bus. We started by building the drawers for the kitchen and bedroom cabinets. The boards were already cut up in Grayling, but they had to be assembled, the slides installed, etc. By the end of each day the heat was exhausting and I had these terrible little bites on my ankles. I could never find the creature that was chewing on me, but each evening I would sit down and take off my shoes and socks and begin to rub Cortizone into these awful red welts. We also began to learn of other critters to watch out for. Apparently there are plenty of snakes and bugs to be leery about. Neither Amy or I are big fans of anything that slithers, and so far have not met any up close, but there is a certain anxiety about the potential of meeting one unaware.
As our friends in northern Michigan began to share stories of a record winter we were complaining of extreme heat and nagging bugs. Seems it was good that we escaped Michigan. The north has experienced one of the coldest winters, with the most snow that it has seen since the 70s. Looks as though this cycle has began to make a swing. I’ve heard it said by the ol’ timers that the weather runs in forty year cycles. I guess maybe when we’re old we might be able to tell the young ‘ins the same thing. It’s been hard for us to get any sympathy for our overheated woes from our Michigan friends who are cold and buried in snow; most waiting for this global warming thing that the government keeps working on. I think Al Gore might actually be dumber than a bag or rocks, but that seems to be the first criteria to being in a position of governmental power… I digress.
While we have been here, we have enjoyed a trip to Orlando to visit Sea World. Oren and Patty had some complementary tickets through a membership they have. So we went. It was a great day. A little cool for the locals that day; probably in the mid to upper 50s, but for us, it was a nice change. It’s a great place to visit if you get a chance. To buy tickets would be out of the question for us, just too pricy. But, if you are offered some kind of pass, take it. Lots of fun things to see and do. The crowds were terrible, people wall-to-wall. So, I suggest that you go when its snowing or blowing to avoid the cowds… seriously. If you go at Christmas or spring break, you’ll never really see anything but a bunch of crazy people.
Amongst all our complaining about the hot humid air, the burning sun, the skin crawling bugs, the flesh eating fire ants, the threat of snakes and other jungle creatures; we are incredibly grateful – thankful to Oren and Patty for allowing us this time and place to accomplish a great deal of work on the bus. We expect when we leave here in March we will have most everything finished on the inside. That makes for a very successful winter. Without their offer to park here and work we could never have done this. We truly are thankful.