Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z = Zipped Up (& Unzipped!)


Well, my second year of participating in the A-to-Z Challenge has come to an end.  This month sure flew by and felt a lot easier to do the daily posts than last year!  I hope you all have enjoyed reading the posts and viewing the pics as much as I did creating them.  Although I doubt I’ll ever get up to doing daily posts all year long, I will try to keep posting as frequently as possible!

survivor-atoz [2014]

I sure wish my squirrel situation was as nicely “zipped up” as the A-to-Z posts!  When the squirrel was captured successfully last week, a black plastic trash bag was put up in the soffit hole and another trap set just in case there might be another “family member” roaming about.

Over the weekend, I kept hearing brief, faint noises in the attic a couple times a day, but I thought I might just be imagining things or else it was just noise from the winds and rains.

Well, yesterday, that all changed!  In the morning, I was now certainly hearing a critter up there again.  When I stopped hearing it in the afternoon, I went out to find the black trash bag now on the ground (with about 20 holes in it from where the squirrel tore through the bag!).  I quickly went around to check the trap and was discouraged to see that the trap door had shut with food still left inside…but no squirrel!

So the unwanted houseguest saga continues!  I got a tall pole and was able to push a new trashbag up into the hole again, and have called my squirrel-catcher man to come try a different trap.  Stay tuned for “As the Squirrel Turns”!




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y = YouTube Channel


Hey, did you know that there’s a WinnieViews channel on YouTube?  Yes, Sir-y, there sure is!

Follow the link to Subscribe to it and you’ll get to see our WinnieViews videos before they get posted here (although, I must be honest, we likely won’t be shooting many new videos until our house work here in Chicago is done and we start traveling again).


Do you have any favorite YouTube channels that’d you’d like to share?  As a full-timer usually on limited bandwidth,  I like to now subscribe to favorite YouTube channels so that when I do get to a place with solid free WiFi, I can catch up on all the videos I’ve missed via the “My Subscriptions” view in YouTube.  Very handy!




Monday, April 28, 2014

X = Xenophobia and Beyond


A decade ago, I had absolutely zero desire to vacation in Mexico.  Other than a brief visit to Germany in the 1980’s, and a few visits to Canada, I had never been out of the United States.  Why go elsewhere when there’s so much of this country to see?   Besides, living in Chicago, I had access to every conceivable ethnic cuisine and exposure to people of all races and nationalities. Why look any further?.

I never really thought of myself as being xenophobic.  It wasn’t that I felt “fearful of foreign lands and cultures”, and I was certainly never driven by hatred.  I just didn’t want to spend my vacation seeing (or carefully trying to avoid seeing) people living in “poverty.”  But to be honest, I never spent much of my non-vacation time here in the U.S. seeking out people living in poverty either. 

Looking back on my actions now, I suppose there was no other way to define my behavior than to call it xenophobia.  That term seems to only be thought of to define the most egregious behavior – hate groups, radical racists, and the like.  Behavior that merely ignores others because of being too preoccupied with one’s own people and environment? Well that seems to be just fine and dandy here in America.  It couldn’t possibly ever be considered the least bit xenophobic….could it?

It wasn’t until I traveled to Mexico this past winter that I fully realized how misfortunate I’d been to isolate myself in that way for so long.  But the first few days and weeks in Mexico didn’t immediately lead me to that revelation.

The US media painted a pretty powerful picture of the drug wars in Mexico over the past few years.  So powerful, that many of the frequent snowbird travelers to Mexico chose to avoid the country for the last couple of years.  

When I first crossed the border into Mexico and began seeing the stark contrast in living conditions between the US and Mexican border towns, my mind immediately began to conjure up images of those who might occupy those simple homes.

I’m sad to admit that my first thought conjured up an image something like this one (this photo is of Mexican gang members in Nashville):

Tennessean gangs
(Photo by John Partipilo / The Tennessean)

But, as my days in Mexico went on and I began to meet and interact with the Mexican people on a daily basis, my perceptions quickly began to change.

Road signs, restaurant menus, gas stations, bank ATMs, and corner grocery stores all gradually became more familiar (and thus less “foreign”).  Modest, simply concrete block homes on the Isla started feeling normal (as the more ostentatious homes of the U.S. began feeling uncomfortably abnormal!).

Now, to be honest, I still was living a pretty “gringo” life in Mexico, cocooned in the uniformity and relative opulence of my motorhome in a foreign tourists’ RV park.  But there was sufficient daily interaction and immersion into local Mexican life, that I was able to be transformed by it at a comfortable pace in a very welcoming and positive way. 

My memories now (of those who I encountered in Mexico) could not be further from the photo above!  In over 90% of my experiences, the people I met were consistently polite, courteous, friendly, hard-working, and (without fail) genuinely welcoming.   Completely impossible to maintain any preconceived fears after 3 months in such a beautiful country!




Now that I’m back in Chicago, I’ve discovered something when driving through some of the Hispanic-dominated (and less economically affluent) neighborhoods—I’m no longer as eager to avoid them!  And that makes me feel very pleased to have broadened my internal horizons as much as the geographic ones.

If you’ve followed the blog for the past few months, I hope my images and stories have, in some small way, expanded your horizons and sparked your curiosity and enthusiasm to grow as well!  If you’ve not traveled beyond the U.S. border lately (or have not lately visited a neighborhood within the US where English is a second language), give it a try! 

Your life may just be forever changed and enriched by the experience!





Saturday, April 26, 2014

W = Wait Has Ended!


Well, I was going to blog about a different “W” topic today, but breaking news just occurred here a short while ago… my furry houseguest left her penthouse apartment (my attic) this morning and is now occupying her new SUV (Squirrel Utility Vehicle)!


Our new friend Kevin from Windy City Wildlife is on his way over now to take her on an “all expenses paid” roadtrip to her new home!   So long, little friend.  Now, get back to the woods where you belong!





Friday, April 25, 2014

V = Vatching and Vaiting!!!

Ok, so my “V” topic is a bit of a stretch here, but I’ve already got a good “W” post coming up for tomorrow, so bear with me as I “shoehorn” this one into “V”!!!

I got on the phone today to search for professionals to come help evict my unwelcome houseguest.  The guys at Windy City Wildlife answered immediately and dispatched Kevin out to set a trap for our furry little friend.  Mmm, some yummy peanut butter snacks in here that Kevin said squirrels just love!


So now I am to watch and wait (err, “vatch and vait”) for the little thing to wander out from the attic and into the trap to eat her delicious peanut butter buffet!   Then Kevin will come back to take the little pest away and attend to patching up the hole in the roof soffit.

He said business is pretty busy this time of year with all sorts of mama critters preparing to have their babies, so fingers crossed that she gets caught before giving birth to a whole brood in my attic! Surprised smile




Thursday, April 24, 2014

U = Unwelcome Houseguest!


Well, it seems that when one vacates their house and goes to Mexico for the Winter, word gets out around the neighborhood that free room and board are available here!  I discovered an unwelcome houseguest the second night I returned when I heard scratching and running around in the closed off roof space behind my bedroom closets.  That night, I just got up, yelled loudly, banged on the closet wall, and that seemed to have scared the livin’ bejeezus out of our guest who promptly ran off into the night.

All seemed to be quiet until last week when a cold front came through and my guest returned for another night of free lodging.  I went out the next day to see if I could figure out where the critter was entering and exiting and found the problem spot:


Yesterday, when I heard the critter running outside on top of the roof, I ran out to look at this spot and finally got to meet my houseguest face-to-face—a squirrel! 

So today, I decided to finally get my supplies together and get up there to “close the door” once and for all.  I donned my hiking boots, gloves, and kneepads and got my tall ladder out of the garage.  I made my way up until my feet were level with the first floor rain gutters, but with the roof so steeply pitched, I could not figure out any safe way to climb the roof further unless I had special spiked roofers gear.  No thanks!  I decided to back down the ladder and leave this job to the professionals!

In the meantime, my guest is still happily coming and going no longer seeming to be scared of me in the slightest…she likely had a real good chuckle today watching me try to evict her!… arghhhh!  

I am going to so miss these joys of home ownership!



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T = Television Made Smarter


When I left for Mexico last November, I suspended my DISH Network subscription since American DISH channels were not available in Mexico.   So, when I got back to Chicago earlier this month, since I had not been watching much of any TV over the past 4 months,  I thought it’d be a good time to finally “cut the cable” and try going with just over-the-air (OTA) television for awhile and supplementing that with a $7.99/mo Netflix DVD subscription (and renting occasional Redbox movies too if desired). 

So far, with Chicago’s 50+ OTA channels, this approach has been working just great and I’m enjoying the $60/mo savings!  Now, I think I’ll be cancelling DISH permanently and selling the Winegard Carryout, ladder mount, and DISH receiver. 

I’ve loved my new J floorplan tremendously so far, except for one issue-- the default TV position above the door.  You’re forced to only sit in the dinette benches and crane your neck up to the ceiling to watch TV!


Another full-timing challenge is how to best do my photo editing.  I’ve got a 26” NEC pro photo monitor at the house that I would REALLY like to bring full-timing in the View, but I just can’t justify the added weight and space unless it could do double-duty and replace the View’s TV as well.

Fortunately, I’ve now figured out a way to do just that and solve both problems.  As an added bonus, this solution will also even give me some cool DVR capabilities as well so I can record shows when I’m in larger metro areas and watch them later when I’m in the boonies!

Here’s the new setup:


The monitor is mounted onto a heavy-duty HP articulating arm (actually a rebranded Ergotron LX) that clamps onto the dinette table and allows the monitor to be positioned high, low, near, far, or even swung around to be viewed from the rear bed!

Windows users have a lot of options when it comes to TV Tuners.  But for us Mac folks, we currently only have one solution—a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual Tuner (HDHR-4).  Fortunately, it’s a high-quality, small, lightweight box that works really well!

While the HDHomeRun can be used with the free VLC media player software, that solution was a bit clunky to change channels and seemed to pixelate more channels than a normal TV set.  But once I bought the recommended Elgato EyeTV 3 software ($79), those problems were eliminated and TV-watching via the Mac is now a fantastic experience!

EyeTV 3 has a terrific interface that is more readable and functional than my old DISH DVR receivers (which I had been happy with for years)!


All features are accessible using a simple Apple Remote and my old eyes appreciate the large, easy-to-read text!  EyeTV lets you pause live TV, record it to your Mac, and offers a variety of program guide and scheduling features.


Channel changing can be done from the Apple Remote itself, or via the quick-scroll selector above.


The Program Guide is delivered via TVGuide and is free for the first year (and $20/yr after that). 

To set up the system, I just unscrewed the existing Jensen TV’s cable from the Antenna booster (in the cabinet above the sink on a J model), and plugged in a new TV cable to run to my HDHomeRun box.


When an HDHomeRun is installed in a typical home setting, it is usually attached via an Ethernet cable to a Wifi Router.  Computers, tablets, etc can then access the TV signal via a wired LAN or wireless Wifi connection.  But since I’ll just be using the HDHomeRun with one computer/monitor in the RV, I just connect it directly to my Mac with an Ethernet cable.


The HDHomeRun is not much bigger than the tee tiny Apple Remote!

For sound, I could just have it play right through my Mac laptop speakers.  But, since I updated my cab stereo to a Sony Bluetooth model, I can stream the sound from my Mac to play through my stereo speakers!


Even better, I can flip the toggle switch in the RV to “Radio” and allow the cab stereo to also use the 2 speakers and subwoofer in the center of the coach so that I now have a full “surround sound” experience just like home!


The final bit of coolness to complete the system is an iPhone app called TV Towers USA that lets you see the coverage area of every free OTA TV station in the US, and also includes a compass to help you know exactly which way to point your RV antenna to get the strongest possible signal  (additionally, both HDHomeRun and EyeTV provide signal meters per station to aid in getting the antenna into the best position).

I’ll likely be removing the over-the-door Jensen TV to reclaim the 20 lbs of cargo weight capacity, and will tidy up the HDHomeRun installation so that Millie and I aren’t tripping over cables.  I’ll also probably make a slipcover for the monitor to keep it as free from dust as possible when not in use and/or being transported.

Awesome sauce!  I am one happy “gadget girl” today with this new setup!



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S = Sunshiny Earth Day


The Sun shined all day today for Earth Day in Chicago!  I had planned to go take a hike, but after seeing a hiking event listed for this weekend that I want to go to, I decided focus my energies on the backyard today instead.  I want to keep the “Big Mo” ball rolling on this house project!

I’m now happy to report that the fence gate is fixed, the loose twigs and branches have been gathered for mulching, and a nice big bag of “Millie compost” has been collected from the yard!  The forecast is still rather cool here for the next week, so I’ll need to wait a bit longer to spruce up the plant beds with new flowers and mulch, but other than that, the backyard is now pretty much done and ready for sale! 

How did you celebrate Earth Day?


Earth Day HD




R = Rescue from the Restless Recliner


As I drove back to Chicago from my Winter of living in the Winnie, I plotted out what I intended to do once I arrived back to my house:

1. Go through 4 months worth of mail.
2. Get my taxes filed as well as tax returns for my mom’s estate.
3.. Finish getting the house ready to be put up for sale.  

I figured a month should be sufficient time to get that list accomplished, since I’d already done a lot of the major house prep work during the past 2 years.

After my first week in Chicago, I was feeling pretty good—both items # 1 and 2 were checked off and I had successfully met Uncle Sam’s April tax deadline!

But the past two weeks were an entirely different story.  It suddenly hit me on one of Chicago’s gloomy, gray days that for the first time in my whole life I no longer had any hard-set deadlines to meet, nor any firm dates to arrive at my next destination, or even a clue where that next destination might be! 

In a word, the last two weeks have been mildly terrifying

I began sinking further and further into the comfort and familiarity of this tan recliner…absolutely paralyzed by this new untethered, unstructured life ahead of me.


Oh sure, I was keeping myself busy with catching up on some website reading, buying a few new items for the RV, and ticking off as many non-essential computer projects as I could think of.  But exactly zero-zilch-nothing-nada got accomplished related to getting the house ready for sale or making any progress in the direction of my dreams. 

What the heck?  Time’s a wasting! The Springtime real estate market won’t be hot for long!

Every night I’d get myself pumped up to start on the house the next day, but by morning, I was beating a well-worn path right back to that recliner to suck up yet another precious day with nothing to show for it.  My internal FUD voice began yelling louder and louder.  You probably have one of those nagging FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt) voices too?

FUD:  “What the heck are you doing here, Lynne?”
Me: “Just looking up a few things online.  I’ll be back in a jiffy!”
FUD: “You’ve been getter rather comfy in that recliner.  So, tell me again, why are you wanting to get rid of it?”
Me: “Because I want to be a full-time RVer”
FUD:  “Yeah, well, if you really wanted to do that don’t you think you’d be upstairs sorting through closets right from dawn until dark?   Take a look around the neighborhood—do you see any other person getting rid of practically all of their possessions?  No, because they’re all responsible adults out working at their full-time jobs, that’s why!”
Me: “Shut up, you stupid FUD voice!”
FUD: “Don’t you think you’ve already screwed up your life quite enough by quitting that well-paying corporate job and alienating many of your oldest friends with your irrational behavior?  Have you now gone absolutely friggin’ insane to also want to sell your house and everything in it?” …
”Are you doing all this just because you haven’t met a nice young man to get married to yet?”
Me: “Grandma, is that you?  I’m trying to have a conversation with FUD here!”
FUD: “So, just what is it that you’re trying so hard to run away from?”"

Well, old FUD seemed to halt me right in my tracks with that last one.  

Some warmer weather arrived to Chicago this past week, and signs of Spring were finally starting to make their way to our suburban neighborhood —husbands out reviving their lawn mowers from winter slumber, wives out preparing their gardens for new colorful plants, and kids out playing and riding their new bicycles around the cul-de-sac.

What was wrong with me for not being out there doing those same things? and maybe networking with the neighbors to find a new full-time job while I was at it!!!

It’s interesting that in my whole winter in Mexico, I never once had any of these thoughts or fears.  Maybe because I was always surrounded by fellow RVing full-timers and snowbirds who were already living lives prioritized by their passions rather than conventionality?  Whatever it was, I seemed to feel infinitely more comfortable with them than my neighbors here in Chicago.

Today has been another gray day here in Chicago, but on this day…finally…the recliner has sat empty for most of day while I’ve started tackling the job of clearing out an upstairs closet.   Coincidence that this renewed vigor is beginning the day after Easter, our annual celebration of rebirth and eternal salvation?  Perhaps.

But I also got a little help from my “new life” friends and inspirational bloggers, who made me realize some powerful new things about my current journey.

Full-timer friend, Suzanne, said that during this stage of her extrication from normal suburban life, she’d constantly ask herself questions as if going to a daily ophthalmologist’s exam—“Which of these looks better? A or B? A…or…B?”

Do I want to A) stay in this house?  Or B) travel around full-time in an RV?   Would I like to A) go find another full-time job to pay for this house?  Or B) see if one of my passions eventually leads to some modest income to sustain my travels further?

No question!  I want option B!

I read a great post today from David Cain at (the Frightening Thing You Learn When You Quit the 9-to-5).  His experience, and those of his commenters, confirmed that what I’m going through right now is pretty normal for such a life-changing move.  

And, so, it’s finally hit me that this new phase of my life is not about "running away" from a status quo “responsible adult” life, it's about running towards a fully self-directed passion-driven life!

Suzanne’s final words of wisdom told me to envision it being next January and to imagine me still sitting here paralyzed by the recliner.  Whoa! Talk about an indelible motivator!  I’d rather walk across Antarctica in my bare feet than sit in this house one more winter!!!  So, yep, that visual got me off my butt today and finally moving forward towards my goal again!

I’m finally facing the truth of this new direction in my life—a passion-driven life is just plain scarier and less-predictable than the suburban corporate-drone life I’ve had for the past 30 years.  When I make mistakes and failures, or leave tasks unfinished in the future, I’ll no longer have anyone else to blame for that…except myself!  

On the flipside, though, when I succeed, it will surely be more satisfying than ever before.  This quote from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” sums it up nicely:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

If any readers in the Chicago area are interested in a gently used tan recliner…it’s now for sale!




Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q = Queen of the Roost


Hear Ye!  Hear Ye! 

The Queen has returned to her Throne!!!


Long Live the Queen!

…and pity the poor jester trying to figure out how the queen’s sofa will ever fit into the Winnebago!




Friday, April 18, 2014

P = Pulled In and Parked


After leaving the Checotah Flying J, we had a warmer sunnier driving day through northeast Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri.  Incredibly, after taking over 7,000 photos this winter, I took zero on this day!  Missed a few really good shots too, like the full-sized bald eagle perched atop a small, wobbly tree right alongside the highway near Muskogee.  So strange to see one so close to the highway, on a much smaller tree than you usually see them in!

A few hours later, I was cruising along northeast of Tulsa and happened to look over at cattle grazing in a field.  There was something a bit odd within the herd, though, and as I got closer, I recognized them as three full-sized camels!  They were just grazing right alongside their bovine brothers as if it was just a perfectly normal thing to do!

But beyond those two momentary oddities, the day’s drive was fairly ho-hum.  The Interstate routes through Missouri and Illinois are exceedingly familiar, and as a result, the vistas just don’t inspire me the way other places do!

We had an uneventful, quiet night at the Wal-Mart parking lot near Ft. Leonard Wood, MO and continued on to Chicago the next day.  The only photos I took were out of sheer boredom in St. Louis as I sat in a long, slow-moving backup of trucks waiting to get onto the bridge across the Mississippi river!


I arrived back to my house after dark, pulled the Winnie (with Tracker still attached) right into the center of the driveway and parked.  After over 3 months and over 5,000 miles, we were back to our “non-mobile” home again.

We will stay parked here for the next few months as I work to get the house listed and sold this summer.  After that, the world is our oyster!




Thursday, April 17, 2014

O = Oklahoma Old Times


High winds and  storms were moving into Texas, and Millie and I had a decision to make:  stay perched on the hilltop in Llano, or quickly head north to outrun the front.  I noticed that the strong winds would be coming from the South, and that made the decision much easier —Perfect!  They’ll help blow us north! 

I found a good route that would keep us out of the crosswinds, and soon Millie and I were on our way to Oklahoma.

The skies got dramatically darker as we neared Glen Rose, TX, so I pulled over to check the real-time radar maps on my Weather Channel app   It seems the winds were doing an excellent job of pushing those storms into Dallas and keeping them out of our intended route through downtown Fort Worth!


Sure enough, when we got to Fort Worth, the black clouds were nowhere to be found.  Now all we had to do was slip the Winnie beneath the big spaghetti pile of highway ramps!


I pulled into the Ardmore, Oklahoma Flying J with a few minutes of daylight to spare and snagged the last open RV parking spot for the night (and what a bonus, it was level too!).

My cousin Linda and I had made plans months ago to see each other on my drive back to Chicago from Mexico and were really looking forward to seeing each other again after 15 years.  The next morning, I rolled the Winnie up to her house and Millie got to meet her three little doggie cousins while Linda and I started catching up.

Millie made herself right at home in fairly short order-- doing a quick “Hoovering” of the little dogs’ bowls to clean up their leftover food and water, grabbing a few larger toys out of their toy box to play with, and like any certifiably rude and obnoxious houseguest, Millie then jumped up on their living room sofa to stretch out for a nice nap!  Sheesh!

Thankfully, the little dogs were gracious hosts (“Nuestra casa de perros,  es su casa de perros!”), and in the meantime, Linda and I went out to lunch and then to look at nearby camping options for my rolling home for the night.

We found some absolutely fabulous campgrounds at Lake Murray State Park, just a few miles from my cousin’s house, and I rolled into this nice pull-thru site with a good view of the lake about an hour later.


Linda invited Millie and I back to her house for dinner and we got to meet her partner, Jim, who was now home from work.  He and Millie became fast friends, and by the end of the evening, I was having a very hard time extricating Millie.from the luxurious splendors of her newfound Oklahoma home!  All truth be told, I was quite enjoying those splendors too! 

It was a great dinner and fun evening retelling old funny stories of our dearly departed relatives.  Our grandfather was an executive for the Packard Motor Company back in the day and always had a passion for big, fast cars—even well into his 90’s when he would insist on driving us kids and our parents out to dinner whenever we’d visit.  This meant driving down the middle of a 2-lane country road to his favorite steak house…at no less than 90 miles an hour!   On multiple occasions he would forget to open the garage door before putting his boat-sized 1970s car into reverse…always mystified how someone could have come along and pulled the door down right into his path!  Our grandfather was quite a colorful character, for sure!

His passion for the automotive industry carried over to his children (my dad and Linda’s mom), who had an epiphany in the mid-late 1970s to pool their life savings’ and buy two used car lots in Ardmore.  I was thrilled at the time, as I had just gotten my driver’s license and looked forward to spending the summer with my dad and brother in Ardmore and getting to drive all sorts of fast and fun cars!

The next morning, I took a quick tour around town to see some of these old haunts before leaving Ardmore:

Glen Rabe bought the car dealership from my dad and aunt, and has now successfully run it from that location for over 30 years (apparently proving that the location was just fine; it was the management that needed fixing)!.


Down the street, the Sonic Drive-In continues to do a booming business.  This was the social epicenter of town for High School teens with fast cars in the 1970s, and apparently, it continues that same role today!


Downtown Ardmore is still hopping like it used to.  I knew my dad’s old second car lot was around here somewhere…


and then I saw it!  What is now the Jimmy J’s Dairy Freeze, was the former “Kar Korner”—a once briefly-thriving Mecca of the southern Oklahoma pre-owned automotive world!


Even the old garage behind the the white “office” was still there—where my brother and I spent some happy summer weeks helping to wash and detail cars!   What a hoot!


After my brief trip down memory lane, it was time to get the Winnie rolling north again.  I decided to bypass the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) and take the leisurely route across eastern Oklahoma through McAlister and Muskogee.

We arrived to our overnight spot at the Checotah, OK Flying J just after a rainstorm and enjoyed seeing our first Spring daffodils while dodging the rain puddles.  Warmer weather can’t be too far behind now!






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