Wild West Here I Come! Until...
Over the past roughly six months, me & Lucy have been busy. Like, really busy.
So many projects to complete before Lucy and I could set off again. I was cranking them out, doing my best to get Lucy ship-shape for the road again.
A few cosmetic renovations (sewing curtains, installing carpet tiles, new upholstery), some small repairs (new showerhead, yank out the gas stove), some big repairs (emergency brake, WiFi trucker antenna installation, water leaks).
So many necessary items to get (I’m looking at you bear spray, bear bell, bear air-horn, and anything else even remotely related to shoo-ing away bears cuz we don’t do bears.)
Not to mention work. Lucy has needs so work, I must.
And then there’s the stuff struggle.
OMG, the stuff. So much STUFF!!!
Going through stuff, getting rid of stuff, keeping stuff that I think I need but don’t, then realizing that “need” is a tricky word with multiple meanings.
Nothing but straight up musical-chairs-with-stuff ensued for the next six months from the time I first arrived in Houston: take it to storage, I don’t need it; then take it back to Lucy, because yes, I do need it; then, no, take that shit right back to storage because now Lucy’s 400 pounds overweight; ok, well then maybe I need just THESE few things that I already took to storage the first time because how can anybody expect me to live without them. Yeah, let’s go back to storage. Again.
Why? Because I’m a girl and an artist and a book hoarder and I have way too much stuff.
I actually thought I had crossed that bridge of “let go!” when I gave all of my furniture (including my magnificent king-sized Man-Bed), my rug, all of my extra pot & pans, sheets, towels, art supplies, books that I could barely stand to part with, jewelry tools, food, clothes, and shoes to Jose, our fantabulous building Super, his beautiful wife, and three sweet children.
Me & Jose had held the fort down on 121st and 3rd for almost a decade.
Jose was the best building Super you could have ever hoped or prayed for. Listen, let me tell you that a bad building Super can make your life a living hell.
Jose was friendly and smart as a whip. He fixed anything and everything. He looked out for me when shit was hitting the fan in the building, and when the stinky landlord was acting like a monkey. Jose was always where you needed him to be. He treated our building like it was his home. And he didn’t even live there.
But here is the story of the most important, most compassionate thing that Jose ever did for me. The thing that will ensure my never-ending, undying love for Jose is this: he saved me from Mickey.
Mickey? Who is Mickey?
Was Mickey the middle-aged, toothless drug dealer on the corner at the bus stop, selling pills and what-not in front of God and everybody, like I’m not standing right there waiting on the bus? No.
Was Mickey the luckless halfway house resident who, every single morning without fail, called to me from behind the thick metal gate like he was Casanova Brown with a few issues, “Heyyy, Miss Lady…” No.
Ok, how about the scary cray-cray who followed me elbow-to-elbow for five blocks from the subway to the grocery store where I had to give him the Deion Sanders swivel-spin-move around the ice cream truck to get rid of him?? No.
No, Mickey was worse than all of those other unfortunate characters combined.
Mickey was an aggressive, uninvited intruder from the netherworld of New York City’s alleys, sewers, and trash heaps. One who had made the grave mistake of choosing to crawl arrogantly through the gas pipe hole behind the stove into my warm, humble abode.
He was a mouse.
That blood-curdling scream from outer space? Yes, that was mine.
You cannot even begin to imagine the wealth of profanity that flowed from my lips in that particular moment.
Not only did Mickey decide that making his presence known was a good idea (it was not), he also had the unmitigated gall to high-tail it from the kitchen, under my art table, straight across my rug toward the chair and ottoman that I was now standing on top of. The NERVE.
Needless to say, Jose quickly ended up on the other end of my telephone line listening to urgent shrieks of panic, horror, and rage as Mickey’s ass then disappeared completely underneath my chair.
Enter Cirque du Soleil…and then all of a sudden I was standing on my sofa across the room.
Now, here’s what makes Jose truly special. This, right here, is what will ensure that Jose goes down in the annals of time as The One and Only Hero of Heroes.
When all of this rude, ridiculous mayhem broke out, Jose was at the monkey landlord’s office in Jamaica Queens, which is a good hour away from my apartment building in regular, mid-day traffic. It was the end of the day, like, 4:30 pm.
Of course, Jose promised that he’d be there as soon as he could get there. He said the monkey landlord could hear me screaming through the phone.
Well, wouldn’t you know that Mr. Monkey’s Ass then instructs Jose to go run some kind of errand for him FIRST before he was to come to rescue me from Mickey’s clutches. Bastard.
Instead, Jose informed Mr. Monkey’s Ass that, no, the first thing he had to do was to get back to my apartment building as soon as possible because “She’ll stand on her sofa until I get there!”
You got that right, Jose.
And there I stood for another hour, screaming at nobody but Mickey and me.
So, yes, Jose is everything.
Four years ago, when Jose threatened to quit because of the monkey landlord, I told him, “Jose, ain’t nobody leavin’ nobody!” If he was leaving, I was leaving.
Well, It didn’t take Mr. Monkey’s Ass long to realize that Jose was gold in a world full of cheap aluminum foil. Mr. Monkey’s Ass got four more years of my rent money, too.
When I told Jose that I had bought an RV and was leaving the building, he just shook his head and said: “There will never be another tenant like you!”
I love you, too, Jose.
Back to my stuff.
And the too-muchness of my stuff.
By the time the NYC movers showed up, I had 90 boxes of books, pantry items from my Costco hoarding days, more art supplies, and whatever little bit was left that Jose didn’t get.
I thought this now qualified as a Marie Kondo moment in my life. This is it. Kenny Loggins.
Oh yeah, well, and the rigid fiberglass 12 foot-long stand-up paddleboard that I ordered off Amazon, not knowing exactly how long 12 feet really was. Turns out that 12 feet is longer than long. Too long, in fact, for a standard 5’x5’x10’ storage unit. Robert, the mover in Houston, got that one.
Realistically, I knew that everything in those 90 boxes was not going to fit inside Lucy. I knew this going in. But I secretly hoped that it would. Or, at least most of it.
How about half of it? Not even a third of it. Maybe a fifth of it. Or sixth.
I was brutal in my stuff-culling. Oh, how my feelings were hurt!
In the end, I had to take only what was really, truly essential, save a few things that made my life inside an RV a bit more luxurious, like my fake bean bag and my crystals. And my mini ice cream maker.
With all of that messiness done, we were finally ready to go!
Let’s not forget that it was getting hot in Houston, too. Remember: we don’t do heat.
I mean, not that it’s ever NOT hot in Houston. It’s always hot in Houston. And humid.
Here’s the unfortunate truth about Houston: if the heat doesn’t kill you first, the humidity is guaranteed to push you right over the edge into that swampy bayou of sweaty death. It’s terrible.
When the temperature begins to creep up past 75 degrees with 80% humidity…
TIME. TO. GO.
Saturday, March 14th and we’re off!!! Woo-hoooo!!!
But hold on….coronavirus. COVID-19. The modern plague. The monster, killer cooties.
Then here came the quarantines. The deaths. The absolutely surreal craziness.
Because I was headed first to Lucy’s home away from home in Alvarado, Texas for some last-minute work, I hadn’t expected that this coronavirus thing was going to morph into a huge pandemic, let alone within a few days of being outside of Houston city limits.
At this point, I was afraid to go back to Houston because I had been out and about for a couple of days, possibly having picked up some cooties unknowingly from somewhere, and I did not want to risk giving anything to Mommie, so I stayed out.
Once the fam was done at Quality RV Solutions, I motored on over to Lake Arrowhead State Park in Witchita Falls, Texas. Although the trees hadn’t filled in with leaves yet, the solitude and quiet made for plenty of welcome tranquility, away from the ever more depressing news cycles on my phone.
As the world was spinning out of control, I began receiving automatic cancellations to the reservations that I had made long in advance for places like the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Yellowstone.
States like California began going on a kind of lockdown, so that was out. New Mexico had shut down all of its state parks so I couldn’t go there. Other privately owned RV parks were beginning to close.
I had even decided that I’d take the opportunity to head north to Wisconsin to wait out the epidemic with my college roommate, however, although the state park system there was open, they were not accepting any new reservations.
Luckily, the Texas State Park System was remaining open, but some parks began limiting the number of campers allowed into their parks.
A good thing too because the next thing I knew, Texas’ neighbor, Louisiana, was having a coronavirus epidemic of its own which led the Texas governor to begin clamping the screws down on folks coming into the state from there.
Because Texas politicians have a tendency to be…extra special, and not knowing how this border inspecting thing was going to ultimately play out, I decided that it might be better to just stay within the state lines and state-park-hop around big ass Texas.
As I write this, I find myself up in the northern part of the state up near Amarillo in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It’s G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S!
This place knocked me off my seat the minute I passed the park gate.
Just absolutely spectacular vistas and views down into this massive orange, red, brown, and green canyon. They call it the Grand Canyon of Texas and I can see why. It is stunning.
The descent down into the canyon to the campsites was, shall we say, steep.
As in steepity-steep.
Of course, I hadn’t planned on this because clearly my RV-trip-planning skills stink, so as Lucy and I descended ever more deeply into the beautiful abyss, I was left to nervously contemplate (while holding the steering wheel AND the phone camera) how in the hell Lucy was going to haul her big juicy self (and me) back up out of that canyon.
Well, too late now! We’ll cross that proverbial bridge next week!
For some ungodly reason, I decided that I wanted to go on a hike.
My first hike ever.
Maybe I was overwhelmed by the staggering natural beauty. Maybe it was the night sky with stars like diamonds that did it. Or maybe it was watching all of these outdoorsy folks, obviously not social-distancing, riding their mountain bikes all over the place, looking all young and energetic.
I don’t know what it was. But whatever it was, I got caught up.
So off I went with enough water to feed China tucked away in a rather stylish gray backpack, looking like I have no business whatsoever on a trail going anywhere close to some woods.
Ok, so let’s talk about the woods for just a minute.
The woods are the woods for a reason. And that reason is ANIMALS. Hungry animals. Hairy animals. Animals with teeth. Animals with visions of dinner in their eyes.
Onward down the trail, further into “the woods” (not really) I went until my visions of wild animals and yetis jumping out from behind trees and rocks and bushes, sinking their vicious teeth into my fabulous backpack had gotten me so worked up that the next unlucky person who happened to come barreling towards me down the trail got freshly interrogated about exactly how much farther down the trail this torture would end.
Only a tenth of a mile, she said. Poor girl. I think I scared her.
Anyway, let this be a lesson, dear friend. Know your limits. Know where you belong and where you don’t. I don’t belong on hiking trails.
Did I mention that it was hot?
The map said that this particular hike was one mile. Great, I can do one mile in the sun.
No, Dummy. It’s TWO miles ‘cuz you got to get your tired ass all the way back to Lucy.
Through the woods…AGAIN.
No more hiking.
Real-time update: After having received yet another automatic campground cancellation today, 4 April, I’ve decided to head back to Houston in two weeks and wait this thing out. Even though the Texas State Park System is mostly open, campers are only allowed to stay for up to 14 days under normal circumstances, but in addition, they are now allowed to completely close down at their discretion until further notice. Getting caught out somewhere with nowhere to stay ain’t cute, so back to Houston we go.