Better Late than Never?



me and Bill
My poor journal is so full of apologies for not keeping up. It is much like this blog, an occasional recap of life looking backwards. I’ve been too sad and challenged these last few months to keep up with a journal or blog and keep putting it off in hopes that at the point I looked back, I could see the silver lining. We were called back to Tennessee right after Christmas when Nolan’s dad became very ill. I’m sure there is no easy way through the illness of a parent and the nearing death. Our silver lining is that we were available. Our mobile lifestyle was just what was needed to hurry back and be there for the needed undefined amount of time. Though hard and difficult, it allowed numerous priceless moments with a great man as he fought to live out his last days with dignity and in good relationship with friends and family. Our experience with Hospice and the amazing care givers they employ, has forever given us a new appreciation of the services they provide and the attitude that there can be life and joy even in death. We have limped along with Sonshine Leather through it all. Nolan’s head has suffered greatly, from the constant in and out of our small camper to use the laser given its height is less than his. We have worked out of his parent’s garage and the camper until the temps started reaching towards 100. We joked in the beginning that we were going to be led by the cloud and pillar of fire, but it seems our fire has become more defined as heat. When we and our equipment start struggling to work, it seems it is time to move. For months we have driven past a little (but bigger than ours) camper that was for sale. We stopped repeatedly, but were told it had been bought but not picked up. We had given up on the idea and started making improvements and repairs to take out our little faithful, when all of a sudden the “For Sale” sign was back. It was a strange moment in time that we had the funds in the bank and were able to purchase it. We knew better than to buy another without a title but after lots of inquires, were given hope that it might be possible in Tennessee, as this one was lost. Sure enough, we had it licensed and a new title on the way within just a few days. We celebrated as we headed out of town for a brief visit to kids in Texas, in only the van, leaving two old campers in Nolan’s mom’s driveway. It actually helped with her first experience alone, as it looked like she had lots of company! Our plan was to visit Texas early so we didn’t get stuck in the 100 degree weather of August again. It almost worked. We experienced their first big heat wave, but we were not working in it! Back to Tennessee, we found Nolan’s mom to be doing well, we had a rush of June wedding business and a camper that Nolan could stand up in, and the garage was starting to get hot, seemed like time to head North and west! I’m not sure I have ever worked so hard as those two weeks of rehabbing our “new” vintage camper. It is a 1971, so actually older than the first. The biggest challenge is always how to place, move and secure the laser. I always have to give up a kitchen or closet for our biggest necessity, but we came up with a pretty good plan and pulled it off. I finally really identify with those pioneer women that never had a closet! Thank the good Lord for cotton knits! We also now have a table that does not have to become the bed and a bed that does not have to be a table during the day. We feel blessed indeed. Our little camper that served us so well, found a new home with a great couple that plan to love it as we did. It felt bitter sweet to see it go. It was really strange that as we left our home of Tennessee, we actually felt “at home” for the first time in months as we headed out of Tennessee in our new rig.
It felt like we quickly adjusted to the once familiar routine of travel and finding places to eat and sleep until we hit the badlands of South Dakota. Our transmission begin to leak and slip as we cut our first National park trip short. We made it to a mechanic that sent us ahead (45 miles) to the nearest mechanic that could work on a transmission. That didn’t work. I think we may have made it 15 miles. For those of you that have never experienced the Dakota’s, it only takes about a mile to be in the middle of nowhere! Cell phones worked a little and we were told it might make it if we let it cool. We tried to settle in for the hours that it would likely take (it got really hot) I may have made it an hour before I started sobbing and giving up. Nolan’s mom was gracious enough to add us to her Triple A membership so we called and submitted to being towed, camper and all. It was still a hard reality to know it would still be hours before the ordeal was over, it was Friday evening and all mechanics in South Dakota take the weekend off (or so it seems) and nowhere to stay. So now I know that tow trucks can haul an ambulance and pull a camper and for a price…take your camper to the closest in our case, KOA! Thank the good Lord again for KOA’s. They are expensive, but they seem to be most everywhere! I’m embarrassed at my lack of faith and pessimistic attitude. I feel so much like Joe in Joe vs the Volcano, when his life has been spared multiple times and his heart is full of gratitude and yet, the fact is, he is still on a raft in the middle of the ocean….. I tried to be thankful and was for our new surroundings but dreaded being so stuck and that all our saved up funds would be gone as we anticipated a new transmission. I know I’ve said it a 100 times, but God really likes a good story. I just get tired of playing the same part, which is most often the doubting and depressed victim of the hardships of life that takes two steps forward only to be dragged back 3. So our delightful surprise the next day was a fellow traveler in an old restored 76 Wesfalia on his solo journey from Florida to Alaska! He was lonesome from his travels thus far and anxious for company to see the area, so invited us along for the next 3 days. We saw the one and only night time blast at Crazy Horse, where a passionate family is slowly carving a statue of Chief Crazy Horse on his horse into a mountain. Here is a link to the one before this one (very similar to what we saw)
It was amazing to me that life could be so scary and amazing at the same time as I went from being totally stranded to seeing more of the sights and wonders than ever would have on our own. Thank you Bill for such a happy ending to our stay in South Dakota!
I also have to put a big thanks out to Aamco of Rapid City ( They were amazing to overhaul our transmission, give us rides to and from the campground, warranty their work and give us finance options that we could manage. Thank you Nick!
As much as we fell in love with Rapid City and the Black Hills, it was good to have South Dakota in our rear view mirror. We spent the 4th of July in Paradise! A real place in Washington state almost half way between our kids in Portland and Seattle. We had one of the most amazing views I have ever seen looking out over a beautiful valley and lake and the peaks of Mt. Rainier, Adams and St. Helens, in the background. It was a mixed time as we anticipated trying to find Josh and rescue him out of his homeless situation in Portland. As we listened almost daily to his worsening plight on the streets and agonized over the inability to help someone not ready for our kind of help, it made me think, you really can be in Paradise and Hell at the same time!
Once we finally got to Portland, we spent hours searching the streets for Josh. I’m afraid it doesn’t give one a good feeling of a city if your first experience is searching the homeless areas for someone you love. Nolan took me back to our camp a couple of hours away so he could come back to hopefully meet up with Josh and spend the night with him at Walmart in the van. He was successful, but it has been a struggle to find him the help he needs. I’m two days into camping alone while he works to get Josh some help. I may need some distance yet to be able to paint a silver lining to this interruption. It has been an amazing two days of quiet and time to write for me. I was also able to finally get some water running in the camper. It was my least imperative objective when I took on this project. Nolan took care of the wiring and I fixed the look and feel, I’ve always managed without running water, but I’m very happy to now have it! Just a couple of pieces of hardware away from having hot water! The campground we are in is beautiful, but mostly closed while a water system gets rebuilt. Nolan still doesn’t know that he left me with no store within walking distance because usually these places have them in the campground. It’s actually been a fun challenge so far to make meals out of cheese, apples, p-nut butter and crackers, one avocado and two very soft bananas oh and some sausage! I haven’t gone hungry yet and have always said I could live on cheese. Thank goodness, I had just bought my first block of Tilamook cheese to celebrate getting back to the west! So, I feel this is enough news to catch up for awhile. For the few clients that might be reading this, thank you always for your patience with your orders! We haven’t missed a wedding yet and I think have only been late for one anniversary, and that might just be the biggest miracle we have experienced yet! We hope to have a peaceful and smooth leather season ahead!

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