Camper Life – When Free Isn’t Free

Camper life.

You’ve heard the term.

Relished the stories.

Endless blogs filled with smiling tanned faces of subsequent couples living in pure ecstasy with 3 kids in a 50 square foot space.

Across the country they travel, without a concern in the world…

You know… that life of living ” free “?

Well it isn’t as free as one might think.

Living a camper life can be far from free. In fact, it can be downright expensive.

Sure… once established and on the road, living such a lifestyle can be liberating, albeit once passed the many challenges.

No rent, no mortgage, no roots to any one place…

Yet gaining such freedom, it can be costly.

I’m certainly not there yet.

Free Is Not Free of Charge

Thousands of dollars into refurbing this camper and the roof leaked disastrously on its first run at a campsite.

This is meant to be my one and only home in between my travels. Which is why I had the camper roof professionally sealed.

  • The mission of the RV repair place was to
    1. Reseal the roof and confirm the camper was watertight.
    1. Install a new water tank and water heater and check all water pipes, electrical and gas pipes and repair if needed.
    1. Inspect entire camper and inform of anything needed safety wise
    2. Confirm camper was road ready.

    Then they discovered the carpenter ants.

    Ants Ants Everywhere & Not a Drop to Drink

    Although the 70s Fan camper was quite physically sound all in all, carpenter ants had eaten away a large portion of the floor where the water pump once lived.

    Apparently, this is pretty common based on the onslaught of pictures of ant damage spawned from my post in a Fan camper group on Facebook.

    Alas, I did not know this and did not notice the signs upon purchase of the darned camper. (It was also conveniently not mentioned by the seller)

    The ant eradication, which I must mention was not wholly effective, and repair of the entire 1/3 backend underneath the flooring of the camper was not cheap.

    I opted to keep the ugly vinyl flooring until I could afford what I wanted & hopefully do it myself.

    Down the Hatch- A Bad Omen

    The back hatch flew off on the freeway shortly after I left the RV repair place.

    The road shoulder was too narrow to stop and try to collect it. Luckily it didn’t hit someone behind us.

    Yet it seemed an omen in and of itself. If the RV repair place let the camper leave without the hatch locked properly, what else did they miss?

    Then Came the Rain

    A torrential downpour that lasted over 12 hours allowed water to enter the walls, which in turn caused the interior cabinets to droop.

    It had been raining for days as I traveled to RI, so who knows how long water drained into the walls until it saturated through and made itself known.

    The RV repair place that sealed the roof say they will repair all damage and fix the roof, but for now, here we are… tarped and damp in rural Rhode Island with it set to rain again on Thursday.

    I’m returning the camper to Fredericksburg VA for repairs on Monday.

    A friend in Rhode Island has kindly offered me a place to stay until I have my little home back.

    This way I can continue to sell off my stuff from storage.

    That this camper had very little water damage when I purchased it makes this situation all so much worse.

    If I only had a place and tools to work on it myself I would, but it’s just too big and I would need help. So it’s turning into a bit of a money pit.

    I’ll figure it out, but I’m totally bummed to have paid so much to have the roof fixed and sealed only for it to leak so badly.

    By the Grace of Friends

    My kind friend built a wooden hatch to replace it but it too is waterlogged. So the camper is essentially worse off than when I dropped it off to be repaired.

    I’ll work it out! I always do! But living free, it isn’t free of charge. It is much more work than you might imagine.

    Im totally up for it.

    ~Read more about my travels along with kitties Dusty ( @dustythecampfirecat ) and Dew on my blog

    #camperlife #ontheroadwithcats #nomadiclife #usroadtrip2019 #truckstopcamping #fancamper #vintagecamper #traveltrailerlife #camperlifestyle #nomadam #ontheroad #travellife #routesoftherootless #rootlessroutes #dustyroadsthecat

    Dusty the Camp Fire Cat

    Dusty The Campfire Cat 11/13/2018

    On November 8, 2018, a fire started on Camp Creek Road in Paradise California. The resulting fire become the most destructive wildfire in California history.

    Somehow thousands of kitties survived.

    Dusty the Campfire Cat
    Dust Roads aka Dusty the Campfire Cat. At Joy Smith’s house, Director of FieldHaven Feline Center

    Even if locked in homes in completely obliterated neighborhoods, kitties… thousands of kitties… escaped through broken windows. They were found hidden within drain pipes, under cars, inside chimneys.

    Dusty aka as Dusty the Campfire Cat was rescued from the fire by a good samaritan on November 13, 2018 and found his way to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical School.

    This is his story.

    Dusty The Campfire Cat 11/13/2018
    Dusty the Campfire Cat, discovered in the Paradise fire and brought to UC Davis for help

    Paradise Lost

    Known as the Camp fire (aka the Campfire) due to its place of origin; the fire ripped through the rural mountain communities of Paradise, Magalia and Concow.

    The speed at which the fire burned left it nearly impossible for many to return to their homes.

    Ruins of Paradise. Campfire
    Ruins of Paradise. Campfire

    With no chance to retrieve loved ones, belongings or pets, residents were forced to remain behind the fire lines. Left with no choice but to watch as the fire consumed their world and those they loved.

    Many that were either at home or close enough to home to get to their pets, could not find them in time.

    Explosions and the resulting confusion during a frantic egress, caused pets to flee. Many hid or were simply too frightened to catch.

    The fire, that at one point was burning at the rate of a football field a second, came in so fast, that many people had no choice but to leave the pets they carried behind when the fire roared to their feet.

    So many campfire (camp fire) survivors quite literally ran for their lives as the fire surrounded them. Some did not make it out.

    After the Fire

    The devastating effects of the Camp Fire (Campfire) in the aftermath was stunning. Entire communities were so utterly incinerated, that in looking at it today it is difficult to tell what once stood there.

    Homes gone, trees singed, cars that may have pre-fire been brand new, stripped of paint and tires, some even partially melted, left looking derelict and like something from an ‘End of Days’ movie.

    The Fire Cats of FieldHaven!

    Rescued campfire cats at the Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center for FieldHaven
    Rescued campfire cats at the Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center for FieldHaven

    FieldHaven Feline Center with the support of Alley Cat Allies, as well as other local rescue groups and shelters worked together (and continue to do so) with online Facebook pages, made up of dedicated cat matchers to find lost kitties and try to reunite them with their people.

    A myriad of groups built databases, manned Facebook pages to tirelessly find, trap and reunite kitties from the burn zones.

    With the help of so many dedicated volunteers, NVADG saved hundreds, if not thousands of animals. Despite NVADG’s inexperience and refusal to coordinate with other groups and their lack of preparation, the volunteers made a huge impact and helped so many.

    I may go further into this matter about NVADG in future posts, but we return to the story of Dusty the Campfire Cat.

    Once NVADG pulled out, countless independent trappers, feeders and shelters worked together to seek out and rescue the thousands of surviving cats left behind.

    They continue to do so today.

    FieldHaven Feline Center Lincoln 4/2019
    FieldHaven Feline Center Lincoln 4/2019

    FieldHaven, an established and well respected cat rescue and shelter that has provided shelter and TNR (Trap Neuter Release) assistance in many neighbouring areas for the past 15 years, received funding support from Alley Cat Allies to open a second shelter in Marysville California, to provide space for the unbelievable amount of cats being rescued every day.

    The Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center for FieldHaven, was filled the first day open.

    A few months later the Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station for FieldHaven was opened in Paradise.

    Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station for FieldHaven in Paradise.
    Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station for FieldHaven in Paradise.

    Having worked civilian rescue remotely, for the last 5 hurricanes and floods, as well as for the Woolsey Fire, I jumped in to support FieldHaven with the campfire kitties.

    Dusty Roads the Camp Fire Cat

    Dusty Roads aka Dust the Campfire Cat is one chill cat. (yes that IS a bong behind him... but he does not care to partake)
    Dusty Roads aka Dust the Campfire Cat is one chill cat. (yes that IS a bong behind him… but he does not care to partake)

    I do not yet know who found Dusty. But he became one of a handful of cats severely burned, that found themselves at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Learning Hospital.

    I can safely assume that this is why my precious Dusty the Campfire Cat is here and with us today. P

    See Banana, another Camp Fire cat on Instagram.

    This top teaching veterinary hospital, offered a chance for these cats to live and Dusty now know as Dusty Roads or Dusty the Campfire Cat, was one of those survivors.

    Found with all of his fur singed, Dusty was covered in 1st, 2nd & 3rd degree burns. His eyes were infected and glued shut, his ears and feet scorched, nipples and scrotum seared. Doubtless to say, Dusty was in bad shape.

    It is assumed that Dusty got his name because he came in with all of his fur singed and covered in ash, in result he appeared to be grey and not black.

    Dusty was transferred from VCA Valley Oak Veterinary Center in Chico and hospitalised at the UC Davis Medical Teaching Hospital on November 13, 2018. Just days into the firestorm.

    Dusty aka Dusty Roads or Dusty the Campfire Cat, had his second eyelids removed. He had his eyelids reconstructed, numerous toes amputated and his ears abraded. He was left with chronic upper respiratory issues. Dusty also tested positive for FIV.

    Dusty Roads aka Dusty the Campfire Cat

    Since the day I saw posts about Dusty I thought about adopting him. But being that I live on the road and travel overseas often, I felt concerned about not only taking on such a responsibility, but also if a nomadic life was right for a cat that had been through so much, so I discounted it.

    Yet, there he sat. I adopted. Although FieldHaven is a wonderful place for cats. Huge pens with outdoor access and a well organised and run system. Still it is life in a cage in the end.

    As mentioned in my more recent post, my son was sick of caring for my cat Dew, so I headed out from Virginia Beach to Portland to pick her up.

    Making a wee detour to Lincoln California to visit Joy Smith the director of FieldHaven Feline Center; the group with which I had volunteered from afar for so long.

    The first thing I did once I’d settled into her beautiful and welcoming home was ask about Dusty.

    It wasn’t until the second day that I went to meet him. The third day I brought him to Joys house to see how he’d adapt to change. Then Joy and I brought him in a small road trip. Dust The Campfire Cat was nearly unfazeable. He settled into every situation with ease and was completely calm driving with me.

    Dusty the Campfire Cat, now know as Dusty Roads, instantly became part of the family.

    Together we drove to Portland Oregon, to pick up Dew the cat.  Tomorrow we set out on the road to Yellowstone Park.

    Does he has issues? Yes. He can’t run. His feet badly scarred, part of his ears have burned off. I do not think he sees well in the dark.

    Already sort of a smoosh face, the addition of scar tissue from smoke damage to his nasal passages will mean it likely something upper respiratory that gets him in the end.

    Until it is time for him to say goodbye to this Earth, I’m going to be there for him.

    A true fighter with an undefinable spirit, I just adore the little guy. I think he feels the same about me.

    Stay tuned for Dusty the Fire Cat aka Dusty Roads adventures as a full time traveler with me!

    Cross Country Road Trip – Virginia Beach to Paradise

    Paradise California

    I believe this to be my twelfth cross country road trip in the last year and a half and it is difficult to believe. Nearly two years non stop on the road to date.

    Why am I heading cross country yet again? Because my son and his girlfriend are sick of watching my cat. The cat eats plastic bags then runs through the house barfing and they are pretty sick of it and rightly so.

    Not that I need much of an excuse to  hit the road. I love to travel and am particularly fond of long haul drives.

    Pretty much any excuse to go out on any sort of road trip is good enough for me.

    Need help selling your house in Seattle? Have a cool place to stay in Madrid New Mexico? Wanna have drinks in Denver?

    Festival in Arizona? I’m on my way. Hiking in Maine? Castle in Scotland? Daring bridge crossing in Norway… I’ll be there.

    I do not need a specific reason or destination, the drive alone is pleasure enough. A desolate and beautiful drive in the Scottish Highlands? I’ll do it numerous times. (Lately it seems I’ll do anything in Scotland, any chance I get.)

    I do love to venture out and explore on foot. Yet driving to and around any destination is one of the best parts of travel for me. Be it cross country or a road trip to the next town, even in its simplest form,  such travel it is my bliss.

    Routes of the Rootless Cross Country

    At about noon I headed west on I 64 from Virginia Beach, bound for Lexington Kentucky. Amazingly I made it as far as Dale Indiana, where I spent my first night.

    Having done similar cross country road trip sojourns so readily this past year, I opted to take a new route, staying as close as I could to the middle of the country.

    I planned not to go too far north due to bad weather. Not that driving in snow bothers me. In fact I quite enjoy driving in the snow, and did so on a similar trip nearly a year ago

    Dead Man Pass near Pendleton Oregon 2017

    Fog and snow covered Dead Man Pass Oregon
    Deadman Pass Pendleton Oregon 2017 Cross Country Road Trip i the snow

    being that my plan this time was to get to my destination as quickly as possible, it made sense to avoid possible snow.

    Dew the Cat

    More commonly when I drive cross country routes I base them on things I wish to see and do. Yet this trip is more focused on quickly releasing my cat Dew, from my sons care.

    Dew the barfing cat.
    Dew the Cat

    Dew the Cat

    A sweet cat, Dew is clean, goofy and funny but skittish and sort of… well… dumb. That she does not get along with female cats (of which there are 2 in my sons house) was an issue. As a barf driven in general and has little understanding of boundaries. She also is not fond of the road trip lifestyle, but she is mine, and I love her. So off we go.

    My son has been caring for her far longer than ever anticipated. An outrageous amount of unexpected circumstances held me up, including a broken leg that laid me up for over 5 months.

    America, the Beautiful Toll Free

    The stretch through the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains is phenomenal.

    An aesthetically pleasing, as well as enjoyable drive. Rolling pavement brings you up and around beautiful countryside, with steep inclines and descends.

    On this cross country passage, I mapped the trip via google maps. For the first time I chose the option to avoid tolls. In result, I ended up on wonderful local small town roads that winded me around the turnpikes and other toll roads. It worked out wonderfully.

    Google directed me off of the highway just prior to the toll booth and took me on a few off the beaten path sojourns. Each detour was truly spectacular scenically and roadway wise.

    This unexpected bonus only added a few minutes to the entire trip in the end. At on point, I was amused to see myself pull out right in front of the truck with whom I’d been sharing the road for hours, just beyond the clutches of the “pay your toll” booth.

    Resting at Rest Stops

    I created a cozy little sleeping nook in the back of my Lincoln Aviator.

    Rest Stop on my Cross Country Road Trip
    Sleeping in the SUV at rest stops on my cross country road trip

    It was pretty comfy once I got the sun shade thing situated.

    I slept at 3 rest stops along this road trip. Not only did it save me money, but it allowed me to hop back onto the road with little wasted time. I think I prefer this to motels when on a cross country route focused on expediency. over sightseeing.

    Cross Country Road Trip Rest Stop Dale Indiana
    Dale Indiana Rest Stop

    This one in Dale, Indiana was not the most picturesque, but nicely maintained and I felt safe sleeping there.

    This strip of highway has quite a few decent rest stops normally, but many were closed on this particular trip. I was extremely glad to find this one open.

    Cross Country Road Rest Stop Ogallala Nebraska
    Ogallala Nebraska Rest Stop

    Good morning Indiana From there I hit a Denny’s for a power breakfast then headed out towards I70 making it as far as Oglala Nebraska.

    The Nebraska rest stop was fantastic. Clean with lots of parking. Wide open spaces and lovely views.

    Ogallala Nebraska Rest Stop
    Good Morning Nebraska

    Good morning Nebraska!

    For some reason google gps routed me through Nebraska instead of my previously designated plan to follow straight through Kansas and Colorado, yet I enjoyed the I-80 drive passing miles and miles of cattle ranches.

    Riding High on Audio Books

    As much of this particular drive offers such exquisite views, I tend to revel in the scenery without distraction.

    But on long hauls like this, driven alone, various forms of distraction are necessary to staying alert, even if that sounds a bit oxymoronic.

    One way I pass time is of course my music. When I’m feeling tired I at times rely on talk radio to keep me going. Yet one of my best allies is Audible.

    Listening to lectures or books or whatever wets your noodle, is one the most valuable tools when in the more long haul type of journey. Just make sure you download ahead of time.

    Your in Reno? I’m in Reno.

    Nevada Humane Society
    Dropping campfire cats off to be adopted from Nevada Humane Society with FieldHaven Feline Center

    Before picking up my cat from my sons house in Portland, I will visit with FieldHaven Feline Center, the group with which I volunteer from afar.

    FieldHaven, a long standing cat rescue and shelter in Lincoln California has been working hard to help the thousands of cats affected by the campfire.

    Along with the support of Alley Cat Allies, FieldHaven opened 2 temporary shelters; Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center in Marysville and Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station in Paradise. These additional shelters were necessary for the unprecedented amount of cats let injured, lost, homeless or without shelter and food across the burn zone.

    Having been invited to stay with Joy Smith, the head of FieldHaven, I remained in touch with her as I headed West. When I told Joy I’d be in Lincoln Friday, she mentioned that she would not return from Reno (where many of the unclaimed campfire are being sent for adoption) and ot back home until 5pm.

    Checking my itinerary, it occurred to me that I’d be in Reno by about noon on Friday. In the same time my friend Christine, who I hadn’t seen in years texted me, asking me to stop by when passing through Reno. (Is totally forgotten that she’d moved there)

    In the end, I got to stop in Reno, take a much needed shower as well as visit with my good friend Christine, then meet Joy & Rog of FieldHaven, as well as a bunch of campfire cats at Nevada Humane Society then follow them back to Lincoln.

    Landing in Paradise

    I made it across the US, practically from coast to coast in 4 nights easily.

    The expense of the trip was purely gas, breakfast and drinks in the end and it was yet again another fantastic road trip across the US. I GoPro’d every light day of it and will share it, along with my many other recorded journeys, as soon as I am able.

    Saturday I was able to visit Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station as well as drive around Paradise to see the devastation first hand. It may seem a grim thing to do. Yet certainly I am not a catastrophe tourist. I’d ridden this area on my motorcycle many years before.  The strange familiarity felt by the awareness of knowledge of this place I had rarely ever been. I felt a unique and intimate understanding of the tragedy that affected so many.

    The stories of loss, heartache and then the ultimate satisfaction of reuniting someone with a cat they were sure had perished in the fire. Cognizant of the feeding station and trapping locations as well as if I’d lived there and physically helped. To know the addresses and stories of human, animal and material loss as if it had happened to my friends and neighbors. It is difficult to put into words the sheer devastation of it all and how keenly I was touched by experiencing it first hand, after all of this time.

    And am keenly aware of all hard work and dedication that FieldHaven and the many trappers, feeders, rescuers and shelters have put in just to help give a small bit of relief to the people and animals that have lost so very much.

    Sadness and Loss

    I GoPro’d the devastation but I’m unsure if I shall share it or not. It was heart wrenching to see the depth loss exhibited by these utterly charred neighborhood’s. Businesses mostly gone. Hearth and home obliterated along with the foliage and trees.

    The overwhelming emptiness of the place, bereft in its losses it is tangible as if a solid entity.

    Paradise California 2019
    Rainbow over Paradise

    But the cats… so many survived. They escaped locked down burned out houses like little Houdini’s. Thousands of cats so far recovered. More found and trapped every day. Their ability to survive in a burned out world of nothingness is remarkable. This place so long considered a paradise for so many, as in name then to ashes.

    It was a magical experience and an added bonus to this cross country drive. If it actually meant anything beyond a rainbow happened to cross my path at the most opportune moment or not, I’ll let you decide that. What I will state, is that my expeditious drive across the US, for me was well worth it if just for that moment.

    Hell, I live driving and exploring so much, it was worth it just for the drive alone.

    Next Stop Portland

    Soon I leave for Portland to pick up Dew. Then I will head out with my friend Laurie, her chihuahua Rudy and my cat to cross the country once more, this time via the most northern route heading from Portland to Rhode Island.

    First stop Yellowstone Park.

    My Endless US Road Trip

    Hells Canyon
    Hells Canyon
    Road to Hells Canyon

    After a year of countless US Road Trip expeditions, on October 2018 I set out to Austin to help out my 93 year old mother.

    Mom had fallen and broken her pelvis, so in response to her need, I headed to Austin, Texas to help. This would be my ninth US Road Trip in a single year.

    I took a small blogging break through Thanksgiving intending to record my journey back to Virginia and begin writing again.

    leg cast 2019
    my broken leg after the cast was removed

    Three days before I left Austin for my next US Road Trip, I fell and broke my leg. Sadly, I have been nearly silent ever since.

    That Road Trip; from Virginia Beach to Austin. This was my 11th drive across the US, that covered over 1000 miles in the last year (2018) (so I am excluding quite a few 600 mile excursions in that number). Since that time, (and after 4 months of healing stuck in Austin on my Mothers couch) I have driven a moving truck from Austin to Raleigh North Carolina, flew back to Austin and drove my SUV back to Raleigh and then onto Virginia Beach. My next US Road Trip adventure starts today.

    I have traveled from thousands of drive miles from coast to coast, to coast in the United States (East, West, South). Through deserts, up mountains, across cities, to seashores.

    I have flown thousands of miles, then driven thousands of miles beyond these shores of ours.

    US Road Trip et al

    The 6 month delay created by my broken leg, caused quite a few challenges. Hurdles that I am yet attempting to overcome. One of the key issues was that my son (and his girlfriend) have been stuck with my cat for far longer than ever intended and she’s been causing a bit of havok.  At

    Today, I began a US Road Trip sojourn once again. I will cross the US to pick up Dew the cat. leaving Virginia Beach heading to Portland in an hour.  Travel plans are to begin via the middle route and back again through the northern route, then heading West via the Southern route once more, if all goes as planned (and I utilize the road plan loosely, for I am greatly open to enjoyable deviations (even those nt so enjoyable)

    On this new US Road Trip, I will be stopping in Butte County so that I may visit those with whom I have been remotely volunteering, FieldHaven since the Campfire. Once retrieving my cat, I shall pick up my friend Laurie and her chihuahua, and together we shall head to Yellowstone Park.

    The plan is to US Road Trip across the Northern route ending at Camp Anarchy to attend the festival. From there we head to Rhode Island to try and sell off all of my things. Then we shall pick up my trailer and head West again via the Southern route.

    I plan to once again share my travel stories with you. I hope you will follow along my 12th US Road Trip in a year

    Check back again to see how far I have gotten.

    First stop, Lexington Kentucky.



    Roadside Assistance | 16 Miles From Madrid New Mexico

    ME: Uhhh, I’m on an isolated, unpaved farm road in the middle of the desert at 3am. So yes, unless the coyotes get me.

    RA: Silence

    ME: *sigh* Yes! I’m ok

    RA: How May I assist you

    ME: I have a flat tire and need roadside assistance

    RA: To best assist you I need to get some information first

    ME: OK, but first are you sure you can get somebody out to me here? If not I’ll call AAA.

    RA: First a few questions

    What’s your name please?

    ME: Elizabeth Whitener

    RA: Spell that please

    ME: E L I Z A B E T H W H I T E N E R

    RA: W H I T N E R?

    ME: W H I T E

    RA: W H I T T?

    ME: Whitener… like tooth polish

    RA: Long pause.

    W H I T T N E R

    ME: White ! As in the colour than N E R

    I can tell she still doesn’t have it.

    RA: Address please

    Ahhh, she’s going to try and find me via my address.

    I found you.

    Year, make, model and colour of car?

    ME: 2004 Lincoln Aviator, Silver

    ME: I’m the only vehicle on a 15 mile swath of road in the middle of the night, can’t confuse me.

    RA: Where in Texas are you located

    ME: I’m not in Texas I’m in New Mexico

    RA: Ok let me update your address

    ME: I don’t live in New Mexico, I’m stuck in New Mexico

    RA: Oh so you don’t want me to update your address.

    ME: I want you to get someone out here to fix my tire. I’m stuck in the middle of the desert at 1am. Do you even have a provider available?

    RA: What’s you’re location?

    ME: I’m smack dab in the middle of 52A between I25 and 14N. 16 miles from Madrid 14 miles North of 14N (I knew the 14 miles north of 14 N was gonna fuck her up and it did.

    RA: 14 miles of North?

    ME: I’m the only one a 15 mile stretch of road, I can’t be missed.

    RA: I need to get more information for the driver to find you?

    ME: Are you even sure you can get someone to me in the middle of the desert at 2am?

    RA: I just have a few more questions. What’s the reading in your odometer?

    ME: 77,3481

    RA: Which tire is flat?

    ME: back right

    RA: Do you have a spare?

    ME: Yes but I’m unsure if it’s good.

    RA: Are you alone?

    ME: Just me and the dog

    RA: How big is the dog?

    I almost slammed the phone to pieces in the dashboard. I can here the operator next to her telling the caller she cannot find her a provider.

    I’m tempted to hang up and call AAA. I know she won’t find a tow for me but the questions continue.

    Clouds roll over the little light provided by the full moon on the unlighted, gravel road. The dog is snoring from her hammock in the back seat. I contemplate sleeping in the car over continuing this conversation.

    Madrid New Mexico | Ghost Town Hippie Village | Turquoise Trail

    Madrid New Mexico houses 2018 RootlessRoutes

    Madrid New Mexico. An influential mining town steeped in America’s Wild West.

    The name may come from Roque Madrid who had interest in lead mining the area in the 17th century. Madrid later abandoned the area with little trace.

    Santa Fe railway courtesy of Wikipedia
    Santa Fe railway linked to Madrid New Mexico in the 1930s

    It wasn’t until 1835 that mining of anthracite coal found in Madrid and Cerrillos New Mexico, drew renewed interest to the area, especially by the railroad.

    Anthracite coal was particularly important for use in passenger trains, leading to the building of a spur line to the area.

    But New Mexico was still a rather rugged territory, torn between the strained relations of Mexico and the US. It was not until 1880 that The Cerrillos Coal Bank came to pass.

    Cerrillos Coal & Iron Co designed the layout of Madrid, they built a railroad station known as Waldo Junction then transported most of the inhabitants to to the town.

    This “company town” of Madrid, thrived through this heyday. The innovative and forward thinking leader, Oscar John Huber was instrumental to the towns success and with his nourishing hand the train stop and rich with coal, the town of Madrid boomed.

    Waldo Mesa Rd Madrid New Mexico, RootlessRoutes 2018
    Waldo Mesa Rd Madrid New Mexico, RootlessRoutes 2018

    What You Don’t Know About the Wild West

    Wild West Cowboy RootlessRoutes
    Wild West style cowboy from Wikipedia

    When imagining the Wild West, visions of swaggering cowboys and marauding “Indians” come to mind. In truth, clashes between settlers and the local inhabitants were not the norm in the Wild West. The settlers and the local natives lived in a strained peace predominantly.

    Of course, a land full of opportunity appeals to entrepreneurs, pioneers, opportunists and outlaws alike. But in general, the Wild West was never quite as raucous or chaotic as we’ve been led to believe. And Madrid New Mexico was at the very heart of this new frontier.

    Madrid’s interesting history offers a glimpse into the reality of what later became known as the Wild West. It is a story of reinvention, innovation and strife, all while living in the middle of an arid desert.

    American Frontier Not The Wild West

    Buffalo Bills Wild West
    Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

    New Mexico was one of the last holdout states to join the Union.

    This new American Frontier showed great promise for opportunity, offering the possibility of great wealth. Yet it long remained far more rustic than its more mature and populated brethren to the East & West.

    Once New Mexico joined the Union in January 1912, Arizona followed close behind, making them the last states to join until Alaska and Hawaii joined in the late 1950s. (I am leaving out a Hell of a lot of history here including the Mexican / American war).

    As a territory, New Mexico had little to offer to those not tribally connected to the land until coal was discovered. But when coal was found in a streak from Cerrillos to Madrid, the mining began and the people started to come.

    Houses were broken down in Kansas where the mines were drying up, then transported via rail to New Mexico, and rebuilt in Madrid. A “company town” was born. Madrid New Mexico.

    Oscar Joseph Huber’s Madrid

    Oscar Joseph Huber, superintendent of the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company, encouraged the community to thrive through his progressive management style in Madrid. His innovative and forward thinking ideals demanded the community to pitch in for schools, a hospital and the things needed for a society to be healthy and flourish and it worked.

    Membership to the Company Store and an Employee’s Club, offered members discounts and perks in exchange for their monthly financial contribution and their promised community involvement.

    Huber set the standard for coal mining communities and the idea of those that could afford it, contributing to the communities needs.

    This created a new standard for such communities.
    Madrid stood as a shining light and a healthy and happy town and populace. Well as healthy and happy as coal miners, living in the wake of the toxins and dangers spewed above and dug below could be.

    Celebration & Demise

    Madrid New Mexico coal miners 1930s RootlessRoutes
    Madrid New Mexico coal miners 1930s courtesy of Pinterest

    By the 1920s, Madrid became known for their holiday events. Thousands of lights illuminated the town via coal power, during Christmas. Elaborate firework displays lit up the sky for the 4th of July, subsequently bringing in visitors from far and wide.

    When the popularity of dirty burning coal died out to cleaner fuels such as natural gas, coal mining died out. Madrid’s population dwindled. When wartime came to pass, the result made Madrid a veritable ghost town down to 30.

    Madrid languished. Classic western store fronts, the mining shaft and miner shacks, sat deteriorating under sun drenched skies.

    For more than a decade most of Madrid lay dormant, snuggled between rolling pink hills and azure skies. Not quite a ghost town, but from the 1950s through the 1970s Madrid was practically forgotten. Laying dormant, the near ghost town of Madrid stood as a testament of time.

    Rebirth | Joe Huber’s Madrid

    Then in the early 70’s Madrid New Mexico came to life once more. Transformed by the son of its originator Oscar Huber.

    With the same innovative thinking, Joe Huber invited artists to come rent housing for cheap. The rumour goes, they came to visit and never left.

    Madrid New Mexico neighborhood RootlessRoutes 2018
    Madrid New Mexico neighborhood homes 2018

    Madrid was reborn, bustling to life as a vivacious, counter culture haven and remains such to this very day.  Joe, a visionary, opened up his beloved town to the frontiersmen (and women) of the time, creating a community of artists, and counter-culturists.

    Joe remained dedicated to his home town until his death in the late 1980’s. Some of those who shared Joe Huber’s original vision remain in Madrid today.

    Visiting Madrid New Mexico

    I had a Hell of time when I got to Madrid.  My struggles made so much easier by the beauty of the location and the friendliness of the people. It did not hurt that my AirBnB was divine.

    Luckily the town of Madrid is protected from most types of development due to water regulations. So the sleepy little hippy town remains pretty much intact.

    Driving The Turquoise Trail / NM 14, found between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Madrid, remains a slow moving and quiet artist community, albeit with a large community of dogs. Although the population is only about 200, colorful pubs, restaurants, shops, galleries and museums are enticing enough to spend an entire day there.

    Lots of live music, good food, unique art and the friendly people draw an eclectic spattering of tourists. From bikers to family outings, the area offers a little of everything for everyone.

    The Mine Shaft Tavern offers scrumptious fresh food. Yummy good &drink at The Mine Shaft Tavern

    Yummy food & drink. Mine Shaft Tavern Madrid New Mexico 2018

    Since I travel alone, I take note of how warm, welcoming and friendly places might be for someone alone and they score high on the list of comfort.

    Madrid New Mexico RootlessRoutes 2018
    Madrid New Mexico RootlessRoutes 2018

    The residential area is made up of a patchwork of houses, cabins, yurts and adobes, along largely unpaved and gravel strewn drives. The main road is part of the Turquoise Trail

    Madrid New Mexico, as a destination, is funky and unique place to visit. Truly an outlaw town that created itself and has held onto its counter culture roots.

    A lovely little village, well worthy of the stop, offering food, entertainment, places to stay, shops and more, in a gorgeous location along a breathtaking drive.

    Just remember to slow down to 20 MPH as you come upon Madrid on NM 14. It’s one of the only rules you may find there.

    Travel Trailer Life in My Vintage Fan Camper

    RootlessRoutes Travel Trailer Life

    About a year ago I decided to create a life devoted almost solely to travel. Become… a Digital Nomad so to speak. Somehow I planned to diminish my expenses so that the majority of any future income could be directed to my travels.

    Now I knew I wanted to live my life on the road, but had absolutely no idea how I was going to achieve that. Having already sort of ditched my home, I knew I was part of the way there, but when my random and impulsive purchase of a 1971 Fan Lee Liner occurred, my journey towards living a travel trailer life began. I was that much closer to my dream.

    Although I am not even living in the damned thing as of yet.

    RootlessRoutes Travel Trailer Life
    Vintage Fan Lee Liner 16 foot Travel Trailer / Travel Trailer Life RootlessRoutes

    Preparing for my Travel Trailer Life

    It has taken far longer than I ever imagined for the stars to align and allow me to move in and start this new travel filled life.

    Since I had little plan beyond that which existed in my head, I am not actually off schedule. But I’m ready and it is certainly time!

    RootlessRoutes Travel Trailer Life
    Entrance to my 1971 Fan Lee Liner Travel Trailer

    I left the camper with the guy from whom I had purchased it until April, due to weather. Although I picked the travel trailer up as intended, I ended up heading back to Scotland for a month again. That’s twice in one year now. Since that time, I have been across the US numerous times. East to West, North to South and diagonally covering every existing coast on the mainland.

    You just cannot visit Scotland too many times. Ever!RootlessRoutes Scotland 2018

    Scottish Highland sheep 2018

    Dundonald Castle 2018
    Durness Beach RootlessRoutes
    Durness Beach 2018

    Rootless Routes Scotland Road Trip 2017Traquair House grounds 2017

    It is not the trailer restoration that has taken so very long, but the typical extenuating circumstances of life. Sort of the expected, unexpected, that we all know will happen but do not know what they will be.

    With little warning I had to pick up Roadie from the dog sitter. This was about a month earlier than intended. Roadie was located over 3000 miles away. I was missing her terribly anyway.

    Roadie the dog RootlessRoutes
    Roadie An Australian Cattle Dog living the Travel Trailer Life

    This put me back on yet another cross country US road trip, right at the time I had planned to be selling off my shit and fixing up the trailer. It also ate up a large amount of my budget well ahead of time. But it was just part of life’s expected unexpected.

    Not being one to miss an opportunity to travel. I turned this diversion into a travel adventure, albeit also a bit out of a necessity.

    I flew from Virginia to Portland, drove to Seattle pick up the dog, and back to Portland I went.

    Drove from Portland to Austin, Texas and then from Austin, Texas to Providence, Rhode Island, booking AirBnBs in the places I wished to explore. I did indeed get to explore and visit friends and family. But I was far away from the travel trailer that was meant to be a part of these journeys.

    Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Dogs, Cats & Kin

    When I found out that I had but days to pick up Roadie from the dog sitter in Seattle, I was staying in Virginia Beach.

    Having left my SUV at my sons place in Portland when I left for Scotland, I had to book a last minute flight to Portland to pick it up, then drive to Seattle to pick up the dog. But of course, the travel trailer was still in Virginia Beach. Most of my belongings are in storage in Pawtucket (near Providence) and my Mom was feeling lonely in Austin.

    RootlessRoutes Lincoln Aviator
    My trusty steed that shall be the forefront of my travel trailer life

    My 92 year old Mom was depressed and needing to see me, so after visiting with my son for a bit I headed to Austin Texas.

    Dew the cat
    Dew the cat

    Jameson, my son had been watching Dew the cat while I was away and was not at all thrilled that I was not taking her with me. But the dog was sick, the journey ahead long and I just could not drag that poor skittish cat on another journey until I had the travel trailer ready for her.

    I must make note that the dog nearly died in Baker City, Oregon. At 16 she is already quite elderly. An amazing vet saved her. Alika Fisher figured out it was a resurgence of an infection from a tick bite shed experienced in 10 years earlier. If you ever have an ailing pet in Baker City Oregon do not hesitate to stop at Baker City Animal Clinic. They saved Roadies life.

    So we’ve covered planes, automobiles, dogs, cats and kin. There were no trains involved. Sorry.

    Selling Off Your Life

    It takes forever to sell off all of your shit. Especially if you’re living nowhere. Staying with friends and in AirBnBs until your home (travel trailer) is ready to move into kinda sucks.  You cannot help but feel that you are putting those involved out. Being home is never really being in YOUR home, which puts a lot of ones routine on hold. You stay on perpetual visit mode.

    The money consequently runs out pretty damned fast. And you get to the point, after staying far longer than intended, that you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells. No matter how welcoming the people hosting your stay may be, it is indeed their home and not yours.

    With my writing, photography, online shops and GoPro editing I need a fair amount of space to work and it is quite difficult for some to share their space in that manner. I don’t tend to just visit, I need t spread out in order to work.

    Although my friends in Virginia have been remarkably kind. I have lived amongst them on and off a great deal in the past year. They have become like family to me. A family more accepting and appreciative of me and my lifestyle than one I have ever known.

    They have offered me understanding and support. Given me unending space and freedom to live as I wished within the confines of their home. Lent a hand at fixing up the camper and with helping me move about. I will miss them when I go and cherish everything they have so selflessly offered me.

    Travel Trailer Life

    My 1971 Fan Lee Liner RootlessRoutes
    My 1971 Fan Lee Liner Travel Trailer

    Yesterday, my 1971 Fan Lee Liner went into the shop to complete the things I could not do myself. Soon I will be on the road doing a cross country test drive. Nothing is even close to ready. Yet the travel trailer is ready enough for me to live in. I will finally truly be living on the road nevertheless.

    My travel trailer life will begin.

    Well sort of.

    I still need to head back to Rhode Island to try and sell off more of my shit yet once again. But at least I can stay in the trailer and not bleed out money to an AirBnB. I suppose once living in the travel trailer, no matter what I am doing I have at least met this one goal.

    It’s ironic that getting to the point that I can begin my travel trailer life lifestyle, may be harder than actually living it. Once I finally start living in the damned thing.

    I read so many blogs about the travel trailer life, the RV life, Van life but I have yet to read about what a pain in the ass it is getting to the point where you have cut enough ties from stuff and expectations to actually move in and start… well living the travel trailer life. But I am close, so very close!

    If you wish to find out how it all shakes out. Follow my blog and we can experience it together.

    Madrid New Mexico | Part III | Desert Oasis

    RootlessRoutes Madrid New Mexico 2018

    Overwhelmed with relief to see the sign ‘Welcome to Madrid’, I knew my turn onto Back Road was close at hand.

    No longer any need for the low tire pressure warning since now there was no doubt that the tire was entirely flat.

    Madrid New Mexico RootlessRoutes
    Hello Madrid New Mexico August 2018. It as a Hell of a ride getting to you.

    After turning on Back Road it was only one half mile left to the AirBnB.

    The night was even darker, but it did not take me long to realize this was yet another unpaved road, laden with huge gaping potholes.


    Hello Madrid

    Here we are, actually in Madrid and subsequently what I thought would be the end of our ordeal. But now I was driving on a pitch black, unmarked dirt road, riddled with fissures and huge holes.

    I started chanting again.  “Come on baby, you can do it”.

    The shaking of the SUV caused Roadie to sit up and try to peer out the window.

    “Lie down dammit!” I yelled, worried she’d get hurt flying across her bed, even within the doggie hammock.

    A nice comfy bed was ahead of us. I just needed to make it. Only one fourth of a mile to go.

    I envisioned sleeping in a bed as I traveled down the  mild grade of the unlevel and poorly maintained, muddy road.

    Before me the rent in the road was wide, deep and on the same side as the flat back tire.

    There was little room between the cars parked on either side but nothing was going to stop me at this point.

    Slowly I pulled forward, the front right tire fell into the unavoidable hole causing the SUV to lean dangerously to the right.

    Unpaved Roads & Anxious Dogs

    The dog fell backward (I had told her to lay her ass down) and clunked her head on the door.

    Thankfully, once we made it out of the hole she sat up, after a bit of struggle to get her ground and started panting like the happy dog she is.

    Waldo Mesa Road Madrid New Mexico

    How could .3 miles take so long. I swore the GPS was stuck.

    As soon as I got close to what looked like the turn for Waldo Mesa Road, the map would expand showing it to be further ahead.

    One more gaping hole in the road, of course it was also on the right. We made it through and were once more on level ground. Now making our way up a mild hill covered with huge sharp, rocks for gravel. (don’t they know what gravel is in New Mexico?)

    We completed the last turn in the road and the roadway mellowed.

    Flat dirt, no holes and I was pretty sure the light shining up ahead was the light for our AirBnB.

    As we got closer though I groaned. The house was just as pictured, but subsequently on another fissure ridden hill.

    “For fucks sake!”

    I turned onto Waldo Mesa Road and stopped in front of the gate. I got out and took a deep breath. It may have been quite a challenge getting here, but I was in the New Mexico desert and it was beautiful.

    Grateful in Madrid

    I was so grateful to have made it I could have kissed the sand below my feet.

    I took a few moments to appreciate my surroundings and remind myself how lucky I was to be here at all.

    The AirBnB was adorable and it was surrounded by the scrubby, rolling hills of New Mexico.

    Even in the dark it glowed with a tinge of pink. If I had to have 2 flat tires, then better in this place. I was infinitely glad to be there.

    Roadie whimpered. She had to pee.

    Leaving the SUV on the road I helped her out of the back seat and escorted her to our new digs.

    The key was on the table as promised, so I let her in and went back down the hill.

    Pulling the SUV in was not easy. The Aviator sat at a precarious angle but I really wanted to get into bed and sleep.

    After hauling everything we needed for the night, I loaded the cold stuff into the fridge, washed up, changed and fell fast asleep.

    Madrid New Mexico. About as bleary a picture as I felt

    Madrid, New Mexico.

    Good night!

    Madrid New Mexico | Part 1 | Limping Along the Turquoise Trail

    Madrid New Mexico sign

    The sign read 12 miles to Madrid. 

    I was screwed, yet remained hopeful.

    I might make it to Madrid without mutilating the Lincoln or killing myself, so decided to chance it.

    It was not much of a decision, with so few options left.

    Sleep in the car, on a desolate road, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night or try for the only other reasonable alternative.

    I certainly was not dealing with roadside assistance again.

    So onward I drove.

    Was the level of desolation on this road a good or a bad thing?

    Regardless, I was determined to get to my Madrid AirBnB and lie down in a bed that night. Even if the damned sun was rising by the time I got there.

    The Aviator crawled up a steep and curvy incline, as I murmured my mantra… slightly amending it each torturous mile.

    Just 10 more miles, just 8 more miles.

    Come on baby… you can make it.

    A Dogs Life

    I checked the rear view.

    Roadie was quiet as usual. Asleep in her backseat and nestled in her hammock. Completely accustomed to long hauling at this point.

    Even at her age the dog has the bladder of a champ and only asks to stop 2 or 3 times in a 16 hour stint. 16 hours being generally my limit for long distance driving.

    She’d slept through the flat tire. Through the most of the tow truck guy changing the tire with my equally flat spare. (Thanks a lot you asshole)

    She sat up and watched a bit as said “help” did not check if the spare tire was good. Even after I repeatedly shared my concern and told him that I was completely ignorant to the condition of the spare.

    Roadie wasn’t worried, after all she’s a dog. For a moment I wished she was the driver and I was the dog in the hammock.

    The Turquoise Trail

    Tow truck dude reassured me that the tire was good.

    Then drove off in his tow truck. Leaving me on a gravel road, that not one, not even two roadside assistance services could find without a great deal of direction and description from me.

    Me, my ancient dog and my Lincoln Aviator with an equally flat tire as the first.

    Stuck near Madrid New Mexico
    Between the highway and the Turquoise Trail about 12 miles from Madrid

    Alone on this unpaved road, in the middle of the desert, on a seemingly clear but oddly starless night.

    Me and my sweet dog.

    Left as fodder for the coyotes, only a few miles from our destination.

    It seemed hours ago that I’d turned onto the Turquoise Trail and started on the last 12 miles to Madrid.

    We now had only 7 more miles to go.