Today (April 10) I’m in an area of the Southwest that I’ve not spent much time in, after leaving Cedar Mesa and The Grand Gulch Primitive Area in Utah, yesterday morning (April 9, 2014).
I drove down the Moki Dugway off the mesa then down through Monument Valley and into The Navajo Nation, so I could get groceries in Kayenta, which is a town within the Navajo Reservation.
I love driving roads like the Moki Dugway, and I especially love listening to the other folks talking about how their stomach was in their throat, and their blood pressure went up as they looked over the edge, it always makes me smile inwardly.
Anyhow, after getting groceries, I realized I’d have to drive a long way to camp that night, or stay at Navajo National Monument. I simply don’t feel comfortable driving into back roads on the reservation, not just for my own safety, but this is Navajo land and it is illegal for non-Navajo’s to camp on Navajo lands without a permit or in a campground. Also, many of these unmarked roads actually lead into their homes. It’s nothing like dispersed camping on BLM lands.
So I drove the nine-miles into Navajo National Monument, and was happy to see I had my choice of camp spots (and they are free).
Navajo National Monument has been a stop off for me a few times in the past, as there is such a long stretch of land with nowhere else to camp out here. When I turned into the camp ground, I felt a little release in my chest, and I heaved a sigh and relaxed.
It was the same kind of feeling a person who lives in a house may feel when they get home after working all day, or after a busy day of hiking, or shopping. They walk into their familiar, safe and cozy home, kick off their shoes, and sit back to relax a while before making supper.
I always feel this when I pull into a familiar camp spot, even if it’s only a patch of dusty sand just off a dusty road.
At this camp ground I know there is a place to wash dishes, to dispose of trash. I know the bathroom is heated, and there is running water, and the best of all, I knew that when the sun set there would be a great view of it dipping behind the horizon, ready to light up someone else’s corner of the world.
It felt just like coming home, even if only for one night.
Until next time…
Leaving home behind…and heading into the unknown for a few days…Homeless Gal
I think it’s wonderful that this family is living this way. Yes!
Yep, at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in Page, AZ, you can get a 15-minute shower for $2.00. I had my first shower since March 16.
I washed my body and hair in about 2-minutes, then allowed that hot water to hit my injured shoulder for the next 13-minutes. For once I said to heck with that 3-minute shower rule, boy, did it feel good.
And I did my whole wash for just $1.50!
It might cost $25 to pitch a tent in GCNRA, and $48 for an RV with hook-ups, but who needs those… not I (by the way, the Wal-Mart in Page, AZ, allows people to sleep in their parking lot, but I found something better – Sorry, I’ve been sworn to secrecy on where it is).
Until next time…
Cleaner than I’ve been in a month… Homeless Gal
I always get a bit of a kick out of meeting with my friend Jo, when we decide to get together to do something in the desert.
As many of these places are too remote for cell phone reception, it’s a case of just guessing where to find the other and when. We usually have an idea of the general area, and then one or the other of us will park along the only road there, and wait.
The winter before last I was camping along the San-Raphael Swell for a couple of weeks, and on the day I thought Jo might arrive, I just parked my car in view and went for a hike. On my return, Jo was there with his motor home. Sometimes desert roads are so empty in winter, you might drive for 8-hours and not see another vehicle. It’s temping to flash ones lights and wave at the other person, total strangers though they are, and sometimes it actually happens, and passing strangers share happy waves.
When I met Jo on March 17 this year, he told me which dirt road near Moab he’d be camping along, and to just find him.
Jo has a little Winnebago Warrior motor home, and he’s become very adapt at driving it way beyond the spots any other motor homes will go. Even most vans won’t go where Jo goes, so I wasn’t surprised when the road started to get rough, and I still hadn’t found Jo.
Then I spotted him way up ahead parked on some slick rock, the best kind of camping surface and also much harder to do damage to environmentally.
A week or two ago we found a spot on slick rock that actually required me to get out and direct him, as it was just getting into 4WD stuff. By some miracle, he made it up and down without doing too much damage.
I love it…
Just sharing this for fun…Homeless Gal
Before I left Moab on March 30, I decided I was in need of a shower.
Unfortunately, showers cost $5.00 – $7.00 these days. That’s a lot of money, especially when you’re one of those people who never exceeds the three minute shower. I guess we have to pay for those people who take twenty, or even thirty minutes to shower. It’s hard to believe, but I timed a woman once, and she took 32-minutes. I was beginning to get worried that she’d dropped dead in the shower, when she turned off the faucet. It horrifies me that someone can waste so much water, and think nothing of it.
Anyhow, showers cost too much, so what are my alternatives?
Well, there are the bathrooms in places like McDonalds, and Wendy’s. The advantage to them is that they have warm water, but it’s difficult to maintain privacy, and on busy days, almost impossible. One can use these places to do a quick wet-wipe wash in the toilet stall, or even clean ones teeth, but a hair wash is out of the question.
This is when I use the family bathroom at a visitor center. In this instance it was the family bathroom at Arches National Park.
It’s incredible how few people think to use the family bathroom. Scores of people troop right by it, and never give it a thought. These rooms have a toilet, a sink, and a baby changing table, which makes a great place to put clothes, bag etc., while washing up.
To clean up at these types of bathrooms, one needs to take a little bowl of some kind to hold water in, and to pour over ones hair, a wash cloth, a small towel, and of course shampoo, unless you want to use the soap they provide. The hot water isn’t always there at Arches, as it’s solar heated, but when one lives in their car, one learns to enjoy the brisk bite of cold or luke-warm water, even when hair washing.
It’s a bit of a trick, as they have made it as hard as possible for people to do full body washes and hair washes in these bathrooms, but there are no signs saying ‘no bathing’ so I wing it.
Afterwards I always clean up, wipe the splashes off the glass, dry the counter etc. I think it is always important to be mindful of others that use the room after me.
I estimate that I used less water to bathe my whole body and wash/rinse my hair (I keep it short), than it took for one flush of the toilet.
Voila! All clean, and ready to get dirty again…
Until next time,
Smelling sweet again…Homeless Gal
There are a few tools that a girl who lives in her car (and is also fond of traveling and camping in remote places), absolutely can’t live without out.
Tools such as a hammer, axe, basic vehicle repair kit, and so on…but then there are a couple of others things that are essential. One is duck tape, and I’ll cover the usefulness of that in another blog. The other is lots of bungee cords.
I don’t know that I could manage without bungee cords.
When I carry gasoline and wood on top of my car I use them as tie downs. They are great for hanging trash cans from trees or from the car wing mirror, or using as hooks to hang things from various places and the list is endless. I used one to create a curtain across the section of my vehicle between the front seats and the back, but my favorite use for them is to use as tie downs when I create wind, sun or rain shelters off the back of Mitzi.
Above is a quick sun shelter which I threw up in about 4-minutes at a trail head along Comb Ridge and Butler Wash. It was hot, and I just needed enough shade to make it more pleasant while created supper on the bumper of Mitzi. I used a piece of scrap wood I found near by as the anchor because the sand was so soft.
Before I left on this trip I bought an old tent from a thrift store for $2.00. It only had one pole that belonged to the rain fly, so I cut up the tent to use for repair parts, and also made a tarp from it for using under my bivy sack or one person tent. However, I really bought it for the fly. Look what a great extension it makes to Mitzi’s rear end.
With this up I have shelter from wind, sun, rain and snow, but I also have privacy when cooking. It takes about 5-10 minutes to set up, because every set up location is a little different.
On both of these shelters I used bungee cords to stake it down. They are incredible for this kind of use, and I couldn’t live without them.
In fact, I think I need more….
I’d better start picking them up when I see them along the highway…
Until next time,
Seeking more bungee cords along the way… Homeless Gal
March 30, 2014 – Setting off alone.
I left Moab just after lunch-time, and the skies were overcast with a little bit of wind. The forecast said there was a 10% chance of rain, and I didn’t think anything of the wind, as it’s often breezy around Moab.
Things changed though about thirty miles south of Moab. The winds picked up significantly, and hundreds of pieces of tumbleweed started to blow across the highway, first from west to east, then from east to west. I found myself gripping the steering wheel harder, and slowing down to make it easier to counteract the gusts that were now coming. The cars behind me didn’t like that, and one came up while I was doing around 55 – 60 mph, with his flashers going (something required of VERY slow moving vehicles in passing lanes). His impatience irritated me.
I came to a section where I suspected a gust was imminent and prepared myself for it, and just then I got hit with a gust so strong it almost blew me onto the other side of the road, I hit the brake and swerved back again, narrowly missing a car coming towards me. I slowed down to 50 mph, to hell with the cars behind me.
I pulled over a lot and they whizzed past me accelerating with as much noise and gusto as they could. Then it got even worse. The wind had blown up such a dust storm that the skies were filled with it, and were a very deep, blood red. It was eerie and foreboding, and I gripped the wheel until my knuckles were white.
Then I saw something strange up ahead on the other side of the highway. As it came into focus within the red light of day, I saw it was a huge truck that had been blown sideways, and had skimmed along the shoulder of the road, mostly off the road, and had wiped out all the guard rails, and bushes as it plowed along. The whole front end of the truck was gone, and the huge trailer it had been pulling was just a pile of rubble scattered for a couple of hundred feet along the side of and in the road.
Incredibly, the driver was walking along the length of it, and putting up warning cones. He looked more than a little shook up.
The wreck was on a bad bend, so I flashed my lights like crazy at the next twenty or so vehicles on that side of the road, which all appeared to be driving around 70 mph (speed limit was 65 mph). I often get this feeling that more and more American drivers think that when a speed limit is posted, it means they HAVE to drive that speed (or more), rather than taking into account weather conditions, and adjusting their speed accordingly. I find I like driving less and less these days. Perhaps that is why I prefer very quiet roads and avoid cities like the plague.
Anyhow, I decided that I didn’t really want to camp in my car in a dust storm, at least not yet. I’ve been spoiled the last couple of weeks with my friends small RV being parked next to Mitzi, and I’ve got a little accustomed to all the available luxuries, a bit like a motel room on wheels, so I figured I’d drive to Monticello and camp in the Manti LaSalle National Forest, in the Abajo Mountains.
(That’s where I am now, writing this post while sitting in bed in the back of Mitzi. I often write posts way ahead of time using Windows Live Writer, then post them when I next get internet access).
I found a spot on the edge of the forest, and parked in a clearing surrounded by trees (I avoided parking under one, because of the wind and falling branches). Snow blew sideways, and the wind rustled through the branches. A familiar sound. I had the woods to myself.
I hope the weather improves tomorrow, my feelings really drop and hit bottom when the skies are overcast and gloomy. It’s one of the reasons I left England, because I suffered with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Well, that’s my bla..bla..for now, and the beginning of the rest of my life.
Until next time,
Camping all alone in a dispersed camping spot, in the Abajo Mountain, Utah – It will be a cold night…Homeless Gal
UPDATE – IT WAS A COLD NIGHT, AROUND 24 F, BRRRRR. I DIDN’T SLEEP WELL, WAS PARKED ON AN ANGLE AND DIDN’T WANT TO USE MY LEVELING BLOCKS IN CASE I HAD TO LEAVE SUDDENLY. I HAVE CAMPED IN THAT SPOT THREE TIMES NOW, AND I NEVER SLEEP WELL. THAT AREA GIVES ME THE CREEPS, NOT SURE WHY, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED, I’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN ANYONE BACK THERE BUT I ALWAYS FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE. MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE I’VE NEVER SEEN WILDLIFE, NOT EVEN BIRDS. WHEN I WAS LEAVING THIS MORNING, I SAW THAT SOMEONE HAD DUMPED A DOMESTIC SHEEP BACK THERE, AND IT WAS SLOWLY BEING EATEN AWAY BY CRITTERS, IT’S WOOL SCATTERED ALL OVER THE PLACE. UGH!
ANYHOW, THE SUN CAME UP THIS MORNING, AND THE WIND HAD GONE ELSEWHERE…IT WAS A GOOD SPOT TO SPEND THE NIGHT OUT OF THE SAND STORM.
I just said goodbye to my friend Jo, whom I’ve been camping and backpacking with these past two weeks. (I actually wrote this on March 30, 2014).
I’m about to head out into the desert on my own for another week or two, and do some exploring, hiking and such.
Moment’s like this are hard. No matter how much I love to travel and roam, saying goodbye is always hard. There is always the potential that I may never see my friends again, and yet, the pull to explore and travel is too strong.
I’ve been like this all my life. Even as a little girl I’d gaze dreamily up at airplanes flying over my home town of Macclesfield, in Cheshire, England, and I was barely a teenager when I was looking into emigrating to Australia. I ended up in the United States instead, and am now a citizen of this country.
I have created a spreadsheet that records all the places I’ve lived in during my life and here is a summary of it:
England – 9
California – 4
Michigan & Indiana – 10
Louisiana & Alabama – 2
Colorado – 21
Oregon & Washington State – 4
FOR A GRAND TOTAL OF 50 PLACES in 53 years (surprise, surprise I’m not really a gal, but a woman), and that doesn’t include any of the places I’ve (sort of) lived, while living in my car.
I will feel out-of-sorts for a couple of days while I re-adjust to being alone again, and not even having a friend to meet up with later in the day or week.
However, I will be okay, I always am, and before I know it I’ll have settled into a schedule that works for me; my own rhythm with nature and travel, and the road, and the sun, and the moon, and life will go on one day at a time…and I will always be looking forward to what is around the next bend, or over the next hill, or on the horizon.
There is so much to see, experience, and explore.
Life is for living, and that’s what I intend to do.
So until next time…heading into the desert and feeling just a tad lonely, but doing fine…Homeless Gal
I just wanted to let everyone know, that the rack I built for the top of Mitzi is working like a charm. I’ve been hauling firewood around up there on and off for a couple of weeks now, even at speeds of 75 mph and in high winds, and there have been no problems. (It also stood up to a wind storm with gusts so strong, it blew a huge hauling truck of the highway and demolished it).
I built the rack with 3/4 “ plywood, some scrap 2X4, and an assortment of screws, bolts, and washers.
I used the track that is already there to affix the rack to Mitzi, by finding washers that slid in the track perfectly without being able to pop out. Then I found bolts with a head that would also fit in the track, through the washer, then made my frame, and drilled holes all the way through the 2×4 and the plywood, and bolted it on top. It can be removed fully assembled. You can affix any kind of carrying device on top that you wish. I’m using bungee cords in addition to the galvanized brackets I made to hold the crates on.
Bye for now,
Enjoying the comfort of a fire, which is like a dear friend, Homeless Gal
I’ve recently been dealing with a few aches and pains that have puzzled me.
Those of you who have read my posts in the ‘About & Introduction’ category, will be aware that I have several disc injuries (caused by an abusive ex-husband) that prevent me from doing certain jobs, mainly jobs that have repetitive motion in them, like mopping, bending over bath tubs to clean and making tons of beds, and also ones that require heavy lifting, or standing or sitting in one spot for long periods. (I know, that covers most jobs). Some people say that if I’m able to hike and do canyoneering and stuff, then I can’t be that bad, and I suppose they are right in some ways. I’ve learned that activity is the best thing for my injuries, as long as I don’t overdo it.
Last February (2013) I did a slot canyon in the San-Raphael Swell called Ding and Dang. It was a lot of fun, and Jo and I even ended up rescuing a couple who were in over their heads a bit (it was an easy canyon, but even easy slots can be very tricky and quite hard for beginners, especially people who know nothing about climbing technique, and fail to bring along some webbing or a rope).
Anyhow, while doing this slot, I injured my shoulder while lowering myself down a slippery chute, which I lost my footing in. For years now my right shoulder has given me trouble, keeping me up many nights. Nothing has helped it, and since this more recent injury it occasionally troubles me more. I’ve never bothered to get ex-rays and such because of the cost (I just gave it a rest for a couple of weeks), but from visiting a new massage therapist (a gift I received) and a chiropractor in Moab, I may have an answer.
It appears that my clavicle (the bone that goes from the sternum to the shoulder, and basically holds the shoulder in place, and therefore keeps the whole side of the body in place) is not where it should be. The chiropractor tried to get my clavicle back in place, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t. (He’s the second chiropractor to try). After 30-minutes of trying, and lots of grunts, hits and pushes, which produced several bruises, he gave up, and said he has a gut feeling that my clavicle is actually in front of my sternum, and has been there so long it has fused to it. Only x-rays can tell for sure, and if he’s right, only surgery can fix it.
The other problem I went to the chiropractor with was my foot. Something popped in it while I was wiggling it, and it swelled up and hurt like hell. I still went backpacking, thinking I’d have to turn back after a mile or two, but amazingly after about 3.5 miles, it started to hurt less. Whatever was out, had apparently worked it’s way back to where it needed to be, and at mile 5.0 it was feeling pretty good. All I have now is a light sprain, which I’m nursing carefully.
I’ve not been able to sleep on my right side comfortably for years, but now I’m in my car I’ve found a way; I actually hang my arm and shoulder off the sleeping pad, between my bed and the ice chest, then prop my spare sleeping bag (used as a pillow) between my shoulder and the ice chest, and it holds my shoulder back and in place. With my arm hanging off but lightly supported on the floor, I don’t put pressure on it in the wrong places, and I can sleep for an hour or even two on that side. It is sooooo wonderful!
Of course, I’ll never be able to have a boyfriend when I have to sleep like that, ha ha.
Maybe it’s time to see what Obama Care can do for me. Those of us who have lived with pain and injury for most of their lives because of the cost, might finally be ale to get help.
Now wouldn’t that be wonderful. It might even pull America out of being a third-world country.
So until next time…living with the pain for now, but holding out hope with Obama Care – Homeless Gal
On March 16, I moved out of the little cabin I had called home since July 1, 2013. If you have read my other posts, you would be aware than I lost my job in the Colorado floods, and then as an indirect result, lost my cabin as I couldn’t afford to pay rent.
Although not having a job played a huge part in my decision to leave the cabin and live in my car, I also had a very strong urge to get back on the road and travel, and live a life that was free of all the usual expectations of society. It is expensive to live that life, and also very constricting. I prefer to be free to leave wherever I’m at on a whim, or stay as long as I wish or need to. I do not need a cabin or apartment to live a happy and contented life, and I certainly don’t miss paying all that rent, heating costs and other bills.
I’m now on the road, driving from one place to the next, and staying in each spot for as along as I wish. If I stock up on water and groceries, I can stay in one spot until I run out of supplies. Food and water is an expense that I have regardless of whether I live in a house or a car (and I can usually find water for free while on the road). Gasoline is an expense I also have when living in a traditional home, and though I may use more gas to get into some of the remote places I enjoy visiting, I may very well stay there for a week or more at a time, so in the end I spend a lot less money on gasoline and other living expenses than I do in a town.
Towns have too many temptations. Coffee shops are my big downfall, and that delicious smell of coffee, and the enticing sandwiches and other foods being cooked there are just too hard to resist sometimes. Coffee costs around $2.00 – $5.00 depending on whether it is drip or a latte, add a sandwich, and $10 – $16 can vanish very quickly with tax and a tip. When I’m in the middle of nowhere, there are no temptations other than the temptation to explore the rocks near by, or see what is up the trail. When one eats little, and walks a lot, one gets fit very quickly. That is how I like living. Or, if I choose to just sit for an entire day and watch the sun rise and set, and do nothing more than watch the birds catch the wind, then I can do that too.
I have now spent two weeks in the desert around Moab, UT, seven of those days were spent in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, and three of those days were spent backpacking.
I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. Already my cabin feels as though it was a distant dream…strange how time does that.
I’m really enjoying my freedom at this time…and the road and more locations are calling me to move on…
So until next time…
Not sure where I’m going, but I’m on my way…Homeless Gal
So I live in my car…I’d like to upgrade to a Van. Then I’d be called a Vandweller, instead of ‘a woman who lives in her car, or even, rubber tramp.’
Vandweller has a nice ring to it, and it’s even in the the online dictionary – Wikipedia:
A vandwelling may be:
Vandwelling is a lifestyle of living full or part-time in a wide variety of vehicles, mainly cargo vans that have been modified with basic amenities like house batteries, a bed platform, and storage space. Although the term can apply to living in other types of vehicles, it is mainly associated with vans because the word vandwelling is a portmanteau of the two words van and dwelling. Some vandwellers live this lifestyle by choice; seeking freedom, self-sufficiency and mobility by living outside the normal life of paying into conventional housing.
To read more of Wikipedia’s take on vandwelling, click here:
When everything you own has to fit in your car, but you still intend to have a life filled with adventure and do lots of fun things, like climb, explore, backpack, take pictures and write, one really has to cut out of the unnecessary things.
While I was living in the cabin, I acquired a few things, mainly so that I could fill in the empty spaces. I still didn’t have much. I had some pans and dishes given me that I made good use of, but now that I’m living in my car, I’ve had to cut down to the bare necessities. I sold all my dishes, and pans, and I now have two stainless steel plates, and a set of nesting camping/backpacking pans. The pans also double up as bowls when I need one. My camp stove, plates, cups, dishes, and food all go in one blue plastic box. I have a plastic shoe box that holds all my utensils, camp knives, matches, and other bits and bobs of that nature. Those two boxes are my kitchen. I use the top of the box, or the top of my bumper to cook on, chop food etc. Works pretty well, I can even cook inside my car if I have to.
Here you can see the pans I was using while at the cabin, and I also had a 1/4 thick wok/pan. The second picture shows the pans I now use. The biggest one isn’t very big. I have more than I need, but they all nestle so perfectly, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of more.
These were the dishes and glasses I had at the cabin. I now have two stainless steel plates, and two stainless steel mugs, and several stainless steel water bottles.
This was my stove and fridge in the cabin. I now use a white plastic ice chest, it’s not a very good one and I definitely need a better one, so will keep my eyes open for one in a thrift store or yard sale.
When it comes to cooking though, I have quite a few options. 1) I have a backpacking canister stove. The canisters are expensive, but I often find partly full ones in campgrounds where they have a place for people to discard their used ones, which then get recycled or disposed of safely. Many people discard ones that are still half full, and I’m not ashamed to dig through them and find the ones that still have life left in them. I truly hate waste. 2) I have a backpack twig burning stove that my parents gave me last Christmas. I have yet to try it out, maybe I’ll try it tonight. 3) I have a fuel stove that runs off Coleman fuel, and is the kind one pumps. It is larger but great for camping. 4) Then there is always the good old-fashioned (and my favorite) way of cooking around a camp fire. I love campfire cooking, a good camp fire is like a dear companion, it keeps the cold and loneliness away, and I often cook up a weeks worth of food ahead of time, so it can be eaten throughout the week without having to cook again.
So there is a little example of my downsizing. I have done this with everything I own, including bedding, clothes, and well…everything.
One really doesn’t need much in life, and I have more than many people in the world. I’m very lucky indeed.
So until next time,
Living the life of a minimalist, Homeless Gal
Now that I’ve decided to go homeless permanently, I decided I needed to make a couple of things to make my life a little easier.
When I lived in Mitzi prior to my getting the cabin, I just had a narrow pad on top of some boxes and stuff. It worked well, but was just a little awkward. So now this is going to be my home for a long time, I decided to build a bed. It’s not anything fancy, but it is more solid that what I used before, and actually gives me more storage space under it, and makes my storage easier to get at.
There isn’t much room in the back of Mitzi, and I didn’t want to spend any money, so I came up with a solution from bits I found around.
One of the problems with a Mitsubishi Sport, is that when the seat is folded up, the back of the vehicle isn’t flat, in fact there is a big step in the middle of it. A challenge, but one I managed to overcome.
Another thing I wanted to do is have a place to carry a gas can, so I can have four or five extra gallons when I go into the boonies for long periods. Also, I sometimes gather firewood, and although I don’t care about splinters in my bed too much, it can be a nuisance having to move firewood in and out of the car every time I stop. So I wanted a place to keep a bit of firewood on hand, without it being in the way.
The obvious solution to this was to carry it on top, but I already have a car top cargo box up there, and it didn’t leave much space. I looked at car-top racks, and bars, and they were not affordable for me, so I decided to make my own.
Now I have a place to carry an extra four or five gallons of gas, and some firewood. How I’ll get the gas up there, I don’t know. I’ll worry about that when the time comes. Ha, Ha.
This little project may not look like much, but it actually required quite a bit of figuring out and planning.
First I had to decide what to build the rack with, then figure out a way to attach it so I can remove it. I also had to raise it up so it wasn’t sitting on the roof top. Then I had to drill the holes, get the right bolts, washers, locking washers, wing nuts, and figure out a way to attach the crates (bolted on) and paint it in steps, so that even the unexposed wood has some protection from the elements. I also had to get the measurements right, so it didn’t touch the Thule, and so I could open the rear door and get the crates on. After all that, when it was all assembled together, it had to slip into place perfectly, there was no room for error.
Took me all day and five trips to the hardware store, but I did it, all on my own. Phew!
Okay, so it isn’t the most beautiful car rack in the world, but it’s solid and functional.
So those were my two ‘building’ projects in order to get my new home ready to move into.
All it took was $20.00, some ingenuity, and some borrowed tools.
Until next time,
Getting closer to hitting the highway,
In preparation for becoming homeless again, I’ve been selling it all. At least all the things I don’t need.
I’ve not accumulated much while having a home for 8-months, but I did have to get some things so the cabin wouldn’t echo and be too sparse.
The only furniture I acquired was a chair (which I rarely used) a tiny coffee table, a rolling computer desk, and a little wicker end table. The chair and coffee table were used by friends when they visited. I still preferred to sit in my camp chair which is collapsible and low to the ground, and feels better on my back.
So I started selling things:
I sold all my dishes, pots, pans, ornaments, pictures, TV, DVD player, boots, clothes, books, towels, rugs, glasses, blender, and so on. None of these things are necessary when you’re living in your car.
Some things I’m leaving in the cabin for the next tenants are the chair, coffee table and end tables, and the bedding, some lamps, the plants and some rugs.
What I haven’t sold are my sleeping bags, camping stoves, gear, pots, pans, camp chair, backpacking, climbing and hiking gear, and other such essentials for camping permanently and living an outdoor life. I’m narrowing down my clothes to one bag, plus my down coats, pants, gloves and booties, which I cannot live without, and my hiking boots and a couple pair of sandals.
I’m trying to keep one outfit that I can wear to a job interview, or if I decide to go out somewhere nice one night…doubtful, but one never knows.
I also have some tools, stuff for fixing gear and doing repairs on tents and such, some maps, guide books, writing books, and my camera, computer, along with some necessary personal items.
It all has to fit in my car and my roof top cargo box, and still leave me enough room to sleep, cook, change clothes, watch movies, read, and so on, while in the back of my vehicle.
I have been gathering things like stuff sacks, water bottles, an old tent fly to use as a sun or rain fly off the tailgate of my car, and old army bag to use as a protective barrier around my 5-gallon water jug, some black fabric to hang up in my windows for privacy when camping, and so on…
In a day or so the test will come…
Will it all fit?
Until next time,
Trying to sell it all, without overdoing the minimalist approach to the point of no comfort at all…
(Some of my friends might recognize some of the things above, as things they tossed out at some point. Thank you for getting rid of them, because I got to enjoy them for a while).
I decided to write a brief summary of my attempt to live a normal lifestyle, with a full-time year-round job, and a cabin as a home, as that period in my life is now coming to an end and I’m returning to being homeless.
I have written a series of 11-posts on the subject (See the category ~ A Home for a While) but I know that is too much for 99 % of you folks out there to read. I KNOW that no-one cares about that period of my life quite that much if at all. (Even though it’s full of flood drama) I guess I did it more for myself really. I find that getting it down on ‘paper’ so to speak, helps me to work-through and clarify things.
On July 1, 2013, I moved into a quaint little cabin in the mountains. I did this because I had finally found a full-time, year-round job in this town where year-round jobs are a rarity.
I then committed to having a home, as I could actually afford year-round rent.
I did this: 1. Just to try it and see what it was like. 2. For my parents, who didn’t like the way I was living and felt I should get a real job and a real home.
On September 9, 2013, the 1,000 year flood started, and on September 13, did it’s worst.
Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding mountains couldn’t hold all the rain that had been falling for days, and it flowed into the ravines, and creeks, and most of the water and flood mud flowed down to the town of Estes Park and through it. The St. Vrain River, the Big Thompson, and North Fork of The Big Thompson Rivers and all the tributaries and seasonal creeks, all rose to historic levels, and proceeded to flood the town of Estes Park, and wipe out tons of road, and destroy many homes and seriously damage several small communities down in the canyons (one was almost wiped off the map).
The town ended up being cut-off from the rest of the world for over two-months, with the exception of one windy, and sometimes dangerous mountain road, that was a VERY long drive to anywhere. The place I worked at was flooded so badly, that it was red tagged, and deemed unsafe to even enter. I lost my job. The rest of town was pretty much shut down too, and though many businesses opened quickly, there was no-one here to spend money. I mean, people couldn’t get here, and all seasonal residents had been told to leave the Estes Valley in order to save resources. There was no sewer for much of the town, the infrastructure was damaged, and the list goes on. It was a mess. (You can read all about it in the longer version). This also meant that there was no work, even some of the store owners were visiting the local food bank.
In November access to the town was completed, though it was rough, and there will be road works for years to come. November, December, January, February, March with practically no money coming into this town, so no jobs.
I couldn’t pay my rent any longer, but my sweet land-lady let me stay due to hardship, and I buckled down to helping her with as many things as I could in exchange. She’s 88-years old, and almost a computer whiz now. ha ha. (yes, she wanted computer lessons).
I scrounged for firewood to heat my cabin, I got food from the food bank until they turned me away at the end of December because I no longer had a lease on my cabin (yep, its true, read it in the longer version). I got $139.00 a week for about two months from unemployment, then that was also stopped at the end of December.
Although the town is without a doubt beautiful, I got tired of it. There was nothing to do and no money to do it with anyway. A small town became a miniscule town, and the winter weather didn’t help. The winds were the worst I recall here over an extended period, the cold colder than ever (as most of the country also experienced), snow every day (beautiful, but with the cold and wind, hard to take) and still no work.
In addition I found that I was craving to get out of here, and not just because of the after effects of the flood. I found that living in a cabin wasn’t giving me as much joy as I’d hoped. I loved the cabin, and the wildlife, but I was itchy to leave.
Ultimately, I’ve decided to leave the cabin, and return to living in my car, but I will cover all that in the next couple of posts.
Time to move on to the next chapter in my life; a homeless female, rubber tramp, gypsy, nomad, bohemian, untethered, minimalist, photographer, writer, adventurer, with very few bills or commitments, and OH SO LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!!!
It is March 2014 – and this ends my attempt at living a normal life in a permanent home.
Movin on with a smile on her face, and a twinkle in her eyes…
Don’t get me wrong, volunteers are wonderful. I’ve volunteered a few times for good causes such as the Salvation Army, The Nature Association, some thrift stores that raise money for new equipment for the local hospital, and I used to be a volunteer Fire Fighter. However, so far I haven’t given my time away to a profit making company. I just have a really hard time with that when there are so many people unemployed in this country and in dire need of a job.
There is little doubt that volunteers have helped people in too many ways to count on this planet, but in the past few years I’ve noticed that more and more profit making businesses are using volunteers in place of hiring people and paying them a salary. It’s very smart on the capitalists part, but it sucks for the unemployed.
My direct experience with this in the past few years has been limited, but I’ve been well aware of it. For example; our local Y. M. C. A. is one of the biggest job sources in this little town that I currently reside in. Unfortunately, in recent years they have laid off tons of employees, and those remaining have found that their work load has been doubled (twice the work extracted from them, with no pay-raise), and then they have hired volunteers to help cover some of the other jobs. You may think that the Y. M. C. A. isn’t a for-profit business, but it is, so don’t be fooled. I know about the doubling up of the work load, because this happened to my ‘then’ husband and some friends, and I know about the lay-offs because it has happened to many more of my friends.
Another example of volunteers hurting people who need work came to light during the recent floods in Colorado. This is a completely different scenario than the one above. After my workplace was flooded and closed down, I showed up at one of my employers other three businesses (three out of four of her stores had been flooded, but the other two were quick fixes) to let her know I was willing and able to work. But my employer turned me away because I wasn’t needed. Why on earth would my employer want me to help clean out flood mud (an employee, who she would have to pay), when she was surrounded by plenty of well-meaning, and very helpful volunteers shoveling mud out of the kindness of their hearts for free. They of course were totally oblivious to the fact that I was standing there, being denied a much needed pay check and wouldn’t be able to pay my rent the next month due to lack of funds. I’m not angry at the volunteers at all, I’m angry at my boss telling me to ‘go home’ so she could avoid paying me a paycheck. It is unprofessional and self serving.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been looking into getting an outdoor job somewhere. I thought that working in a campground would be right up my alley. I may not have much experience with RVs in an RV type of park (I could learn), but I sure know a lot about tent and car camping, and the outdoors, and how to behave around wildlife, bears and so on. I would make a great campground ranger. Of course, I don’t stand a chance of getting a job with the National Park Service, or the Forest Service, as veterans are now getting priority on those jobs, and with my education having come from the UK, and not the US I really have no hope at all, (I tried, but got nowhere), but I have also learned that many of the campground jobs are given to volunteers, and so there is a distinct lack of paid jobs available for people like me, who need One.
These WorKampers work part or full time, in exchange for a place to park their beautiful $300,000 or $500,000 RV (usually required) and often the volunteer jobs are only available for couples. It seems that most of the positions are covered in this manner, which leaves people like myself out of the loop. Why pay someone when they can get a retired couple, or two retired couples to do the work in exchange for a place to park their RV? Some of these workers even get paid a bit as well. (However, often times they work very hard indeed, and I don’t think they always get a fair deal). I don’t blame them one bit for doing this, it supplements their retirement, and helps to pass away their senior years doing things in beautiful places, but they are taking jobs away from people who need them, like myself.
And so it goes…
I don’t think it’s right that profit making businesses use volunteers, instead of paying wages to people who need it.
Agree or disagree?
Until next time….
Trying to find a job I will enjoy, doing what I love and I will put my heart and soul into, in an area that is mostly filled up by volunteers – Homeless Gal
(Part 12 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
After I lost my job in the Colorado Flood (September 2013), I applied for disaster unemployment insurance. I received disaster unemployment through October, November & December 2013. On January 12, I learned that I don’t get any more money. ZERO! In just three months, at $139.00 a week, I’ve exhausted my benefits.
On the same day I received a notice that my Food Stamp benefits had expired. I’ve had to re-apply for them, and keep my fingers crossed that they I get re-approved.
Yesterday I also went to our local food bank to see if they could help out. I was told that I was due for an interview, and that I had to bring a LEASE, or a utility bill with me to prove that I had a home. However, they stressed that a rent receipt is not considered acceptable.
Now then, lets take a look at this…
I don’t have a job, because there is no work here and there are several hundred people applying for the whopping 5-jobs that are in the local paper. (Jobs even scarcer than usual because of the floods, and because winter is here). I’ve been told I won’t get any money from the government from here on, BUT in order to get food from the food bank, I HAVE TO have a home and pay rent AND prove it by providing a lease.
Hmmmm…. how does one pay rent, when one doesn’t have any money to pay it? And WHY, do I have to have a LEASE in order to get food from a food bank run by a CHRISTIAN MINISTRY! What is wrong with a rent receipt handed over monthly? what is wrong with a letter from a friend saying that you live with them? Why oh why, do I have to commit to a 6-month, or 1-year lease, to be able to get food from a food bank run by a church.
If I sign a lease, then I’m committed to staying in a place where there is no work. WHAT IF I get a job in another town or State? Does a Christian Ministry Food Bank really want me to lose my rental deposit (if I had one) if I skip out early for a job elsewhere? Does it really want me to commit to something I cannot pay for, in order to get some food I cannot afford to buy.
There is only one way I can see around this, and that is to ask my landlady to write up a FALSE LEASE; In other words, in order to give the food bank what they want, I would have to ask her to LIE FOR ME!
I know that some would do this, but I’d rather starve and resort to living out of a backpack than ask my sweet, old landlady to lie for me. I simply cannot do that. Besides, I’m not sure she would anyhow, she’s just too honest, and if she did give in, she’d probably lose sleep over it. It would be heartless of me to ask.
I have another beef with this wonderful government. In November I sent in an application to LEAP for assistance with firewood. However, before they would give me any help, I was required to purchase some firewood from a legitimate source (a real business that pays taxes, and not just my neighbor who cuts it up and sells it from his yard) and send the receipt to them. A cord of firewood for my little wood stove would have cost me $220.00 (special cut to 12”, and therefore more work). At the time I had $280.00 in the bank. In all honesty, I couldn’t afford to buy a cord of firewood, so I’ve been scrounging for it, getting it anywhere I can. Scrounging, or buying wood from a neighbor doesn’t earn you any help from LEAP. Gathering and chopping the wood yourself until your back feels like it’s going to break, and you shoulder injury flares up, doesn’t either, even when you’re 52-years old, and female with degenerative disc disease, and it’s so bitterly cold outside. So once again, I could not get help, because I was too poor to spend the money I was required to spend in order to get help.
So how does one get help with the cost of firewood when one can’t afford it. Well, I would have to ask a company to give me a receipt. I tried this… I asked a couple of legitimate businesses to give me a receipt for firewood, and then I told them that once I got the money, I would buy the wood from them. This seemed like an honest way of dealing with the problem, just in the wrong order. I would get the receipt, get the money, then buy the wood. I’d be warm, and the lumberjack would get his sale. No harm done.
But no-one would do it for me. So here I am…sitting in my cabin, in down pants, down coats, down booties. Fortunately I haven’t resorted to down gloves yet, it would be very hard to type with those on. I have enough wood left for about a week, if I use it to warm the place in the morning, and the evening, and only when the outside temperatures get well below freezing, and ago without during the day and the night.
(I actually wrote this post on January 19. Since then, I have sold some of my belongings to raise the money to buy 1/2 cord of firewood… so I’m good for a little while).
It has become very evident that I cannot afford to keep my home,and that I cannot stay here. I was trying not to spend the little bit of unemployment I was getting, instead I was trying to save it up. I wanted to have enough money to be able to leave this place if a job came up elsewhere. I wanted to have enough money to be able to get by until the first paycheck came in. I wanted to have enough money to pay a deposit on a rental place if need be in a new town, or at least pay for camping if there was no national forest (free camping) near where I got a job.
It cost’s money to move, it costs money to move to a new job out of state, it costs money to move into a home (usually a deposit, and first months rent) even if you don’t buy a single thing to put in it.
I know there are many people out there (most people) who cannot even begin to understand how a person can become homeless. Perhaps, after reading this, you have a small idea of how a person can end up homeless.
THIS IS YOUR AMERICA! In the month of January 2014, thousands of people had their unemployment taken away. Without it they will not be able to pay their rent and other bills, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we see a surge of homelessness in the next few months. The system is far from perfect, and more and more people are calling their vehicles home.
But wait… it’s illegal to live in your car… OOPS!
Until next time…
Trying to figure out how to survive and handling it just fine, why? because I’ve already learned how to live with very little.
I HOPE THIS POST ANGERS PEOPLE ENOUGH ONE WAY OR THE OTHER, TO GET SOME COMMENTS, AND SOME SHARES.
The other morning I had an interview with Xanterra Resorts at Yellowstone National Park. Xanterra runs some of the concessions within the National Park System. They are the folks that serve you meals in the cafés and restaurants, sell you T-shirts and other knick-knacks you don’t need, and things like that.
** Here are some facts about working for Xanterra:
Xanterra – Yellowstone National Park, WY. Job Position – Campground Attendant
Hours – 35 a week, working shifts (sometimes working until 10:30 PM, and other times starting at 6:30 AM).
Pay $8:45 an hour. May to September, 2014 (summer seasonal).
Cost of housing at Lake Village (dormitory room, shared with one or two other people) $44.00 + taxes bi-weekly (mandatory, unless you have an RV).
Cost of food (it is mandatory that you eat in their staff cafeteria, three meals a day, except on your day off I suppose) $154.00 + taxes bi weekly
Distance from housing to work, twice a day 2-miles one way (8 miles a day) = 40 miles a week (It is mandatory that you drive back to the cafeteria for lunch).
Distance from Lake Village to the town of Cody, WY is about 80 miles (160 R/T)
Distance from Lake Village to Gardiner, MT. is about 60 miles (120) R/T
Price of gas at Fishing Bridge in February 2014 $3.75 gallon. (Could go up any time, possibly to $4.00 + a gallon).
** So with these facts in hand, I decided to do the math, and figure out how much money I would make if I took a job with Xanterra in Yellowstone National Park.
Here are my calculations – If I were to take a job with Xanterra working as a campground attendant at Fishing Bridge, and assuming I worked 40-hours a week, my base pay would be $591.00 every two weeks.
From that I’m going to deduct 25% for taxes (just a guestimate). This brings the bring-home pay down to $443.00 for two weeks.
From that I’m going to deduct the mandatory $200 bi-weekly charges for food and lodging. My paycheck is now $243.00 for two weeks (and that’s not taking into account taxes on food and lodging). If that were another $30.00, my paycheck would be $213.00, in exchange for two weeks of cleaning showers, toilets, bathrooms, emptying trash cans, picking up trash and maybe directing traffic and other odd jobs.
There is also an additional $1.00 a day health membership fee of some kind (so if you have to go to the clinic, you’ll get a DISCOUNT on the clinic’s fees). Which brings the pay down to $199.00 (lets round it up to $200.00).
Okay – so after 80 hours of hard labor, working all kinds of weird hours, and being forced to eat the food they serve, whether I like it or not, AND sharing a room with other people, and a community bathroom with who-knows-who, I would have $200.00 to show for it, which has to last me two weeks.
** Okay, so we now have a bring home pay of $200.00 bi-weekly before other necessary living expenses. Lets move on…
So Fishing Bridge is kind of in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. Lets say I decide to go to town once a week on my day off, or just drive around to look at some places and see the wildlife. Let’s use Cody, WY as an example. It is 160-miles round trip to Cody. Gasoline is $3.75 a gallon in February 2014 (possibly more in summer). My vehicle gets about 16 miles to a gallon in the kind of driving conditions Yellowstone has. That means it would take about 10-gallons of gas for me to drive to Cody and back, which would cost about $38.00 +.
So if I were to drive to Cody, or Gardiner (120 round-trip) or drive around the park (it’s a big park)on my two days off, I could easily spend $40.00 a week ($80 every two weeks)on gasoline.
So we take my bi-weekly paycheck of $200, and deduct the cost of gas from it. I now have $120.00 every two weeks, left to live off. That is $60.00 a week! From that I have to pay for regular chiropractic care (usually $40 – $50 a session), which I need at least bi-weekly (weekly is what I really need at this time in my life), there is also the cost of auto insurance and maintenance, driving to and from work ($10.00 per week estimate) personal items, snacks, social activities (there is an employee bar, but who could afford it), personal toiletries etc. bills and loans that I have to make payments on, and all the other bits of things that a person needs above and beyond rent and food, in order to live. (For those of you who aren’t aware, I have spinal injuries from my abusive husband, and chiropractic care is what I will have to do for the rest of my life. It is also the reason I can’t take housekeeping jobs, or anything that requires leaning slightly forward for extended periods. Indeed, I wouldn’t be sure I could do the campground attendant job, until I tried).
I ask you, how is a person supposed to save and get ahead, and pay for auto insurance, or pay off their debt, with such a tiny amount of money coming in?
In fact, the average person gets more than that on unemployment.
(Oh now I see…that’s why people don’t want to work for minimum wage, and would rather get unemployment and food stamps….(touch of sarcasm injected here) honestly, can you blame them?).
The truth is, I don’t think I can afford to work for Xanterra. I don’t think that Xanterra can meet my essential needs with what they are paying, and the mandatory deductions that are taken out in order to have the pleasure of working for them. I know that they are using the beauty around them to entice people to work there, that the natural beauty is part of the paycheck, and they are just barely paying enough for a person to get by.
I know that I can live on a lot less if I can camp in my car, and buy my own food (and it would be much healthier food). I’m not sure that I’m willing to give up my healthy diet (and therefore my health), and pay for something I don’t want to eat (because I try very hard to avoid any preservatives, additives, toxins, artificial ingredients, high sodium, chemical sweeteners etc. which I’m sure most of their canteen food would be made up of).
I was excited about having an interview with Xanterra, and the possibility of working in Yellowstone NP, until I did the math…
Now I’m very disappointed. I suppose this is a wonderful opportunity for a young person stepping out into the world to get their wings, to experience a new and exciting place. However, I’m 52, and I’m not that gullible.
I just had my interview. It was very brief, because I asked my interviewer to confirm that my calculations were correct, and they are. She agreed that I couldn’t expect to make much money working there. We ended the conversation very pleasantly, and I decided not to accept the job.
I will continue to search for an employer that has respect for me as a person and an employee, and will at least meet the minimum requirements I need in order to live up to most of the standards that society expects of an American Citizen and get a head a bit (that is of course, without expecting to make enough money to pay for a roof over my head, other than the one that rolls on four wheels, because in this day and age that’s not a realistic expectation).
Are there any employers like that any more?
To see my income in 2012 go here ‘W2.’
Until next time, seeking an employer who cares about his employees as much as the bottom line… Homeless Gal
(Please feel free to post your thoughts on this, whether you are for or against Capitalism, and please share it. There are too many people out there that are oblivious as to how hard it is to make it in this country on minimum wage, or even a $1.00 above minimum wage). Thank you.
(Part 11 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
After the flood, things gradually improved. I cannot say that anything returned to normal. By the time Halloween came around the town was still cut-off, and people who had to drive to The Front Range came back with stories of long drives (10-hours round-trip), or knuckle whitening trips on the one dirt road that was a shortcut (cut about 2.5 hours on the long-road, one way). This dirt road was not designed for gasoline tankers, Safeway trucks, and UPS deliveries, and they had severely eroded the road, which previously had a few local cars on it and no more. I didn’t drive it myself, but I heard the stories.
Much of the town was still in a no flush zone, and many roads were still inaccessible. Our beautiful lake looked like a quarry, with goliath sized equipment digging up dirt, and hauling it down the canyons to use to re-build the roads. The workers doing the labor (the‘hard hat angels’ as they have been called), worked seven days a week to get the roads opened again. The National Guard pulled out, and left their road closed signs in place. Other than the constant rumble of trucks the town was dead.
Rocky Mountain National Park was closed for quite some time after the flood. There had been some mud slides in the mountains, and places like the Alluvial Fan were forever changed (again), and they wanted to be sure that the park was safe for hikers before they opened it. All park accesses were closed to hiking, and most roads were closed, and it was hard to find anywhere to go to hike. We have plenty of National Forest around us, but with so many roads closed we couldn’t get to the access points. We were trapped. When the park did finally open it’s gates again, it was open for two days only. To our dismay, our only place to go and get out of town for a few hours was closed again by the Government Shutdown of 2013. The elk were bugling in the park, the aspens were turning gold, the trails were empty, but we couldn’t see any of it.
On Halloween downtown blocked off a couple of blocks for the usual trick or treaters, some entertainment was held in the street, and people dressed up in fancy costume and wondered around. One of the most popular costumes was of a Port-O-Toilet. One store front dressed it’s windows with someone playing a banjo made from a toilet seat, and had Christmas lights on another toilet seat, calling them ‘seat warmers.’
I decided to stop by one of the other stores my boss owned, and actually bumped into my boss. I told her I’d heard that she would have the store opened up again in about 4-weeks, and asked if I would be going back to work then. I was ready, willing and able, and excited to get back to it. (If you recall from a previous post, when I was hired for this job I was told it would be year-round, full-time. I had made the decision to get a place to rent based ENTIRELY on this promise. After all, one has to have regular work to pay rent). However, she just looked at me and said “No, I won’t be re-hiring you, I only needed you through Thanksgiving anyway,” then she shrugged, turned her back on me, and walked away.
I stood there in shock, flabbergasted. I yelled after her, with reasons to keep me, but she ignored me. I was just a nobody to her, and I had been dismissed with the flick of a shoulder, and in that moment my life was shattered. Tears sprung to my eyes. I looked at her son (who I’d worked with) who was handing out candy, and he said nothing. Now what would I do? I needed that job to pay rent, to live, to survive! I wondered around staring at the costumes and the happy smiles on kids faces, but I felt numb.
And so that was that…No job, no work available in town, $139.00 a week of disaster unemployment and some food stamps, and $3,000 worth of new debt on my credit card from vehicle work. It wasn’t enough to live off. It wasn’t enough to pay rent, buy firewood, and water, and gas for the car, and pay auto insurance that was due, and other necessities.
It seemed to me that my one attempt at living in a home, had been a failure, and that The Universe had something else in mind for me. I made the decision to stick it out for as long as possible, maybe try and make it through winter with a home. Maybe I’d get lucky and find a full-time, year-round job in this town, there is a first time for everything after all. (Although I had been TOLD I had a year-round job, I later learned that this was a lie told to me by my employer. Other jobs that have been promised to be year-round, actually have been, except that the hours reduce to about 6-hours a week during the winter months).
Re-considering if it’s worth the trouble, time, effort and struggle it takes to have a regular home…
Photographer Iain McKell (left) has tracked and befriended a small tribe of New Gypsies for over ten years and his collection of pictures is available in his book The New Gypsies, which is published by Prestel Publishing.
Check out the article here:
In some ways I envy their lifestyle, but I like to live alone…
(Part 10 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
On the morning after flood waters receded (September 14) I showed up at the other business location my boss owned, to see what was expected of me. Strangers were in the store helping to clean out the mud. My boss clearly didn’t want to pay an employee when she had people working for free, so I was just ignored. I decided to let it go, after all, she had three stores flooded, and had been evacuated from her home, and she was clearly under a lot of stress.
Then I showed up the following two mornings also, and was again ignored. I was not informed that I was out of a job, I was just ignored. Two weeks after the flood waters receded, I got confirmation that I was out of a job (through another employee), and applied for Disaster Unemployment. The place I worked had been red tagged, and had been deemed unsafe. No-one was even allowed to go in it. The two stores that weren’t too bad, were not in need of me as an employee, staff had been cut down to almost none. I was jobless, and wondered how the heck I was going to pay my rent that was due in two-weeks.
If the timing wasn’t bad enough already (I’d only been working there about 10-weeks, so hadn’t managed to save up much money yet), my vehicle broke down as well. Suddenly my only credit card went from a zero balance to $3,000, with no income coming in to pay it.
I was out of a job, and with the town suffering the way it was, I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of employees lost their jobs that day, as there was no tourism, and most of the jobs available were flood clean up, which was being taken care of by unpaid volunteers. The town was emptying of people rapidly, as people had actually been asked to leave the valley. Only year-round residents and business owners were allowed in, and other essential traffic such as medical staff, the National Guard and so on. Summer residents would be let out, but couldn’t return, and were told to winterize their homes, as they may not be able to come back until next year. Road blocks were set up on the only access road, and people had to prove they had a right to enter the town. To get in or out of the town, people had to travel on a windy mountain road, that was partially eroded away and which had a mud slide across it. Traffic was being allowed through, but some none-4WD vehicles had to follow in the wake of a snow plow that pushed to water aside for the car.
Trail Ridge Road that went over the top of the tundra, in Rocky Mountain National Park was also open to essential traffic only, but the rest of the park was closed. Trail Ridge Road leads to a couple of very small, remote towns on the west side of The Great Divide, and there is even less there than in this town. It can also be a very scary drive, with sheer drop offs, tight bends and unpredictable weather. To get anywhere else going that way, it was a very long drive. Still, they used it to bring in some essential equipment to help with the flood recovery. I can’t imagine what it was like driving over the tundra for the convoy of huge equipment that came to help us. Some people won’t do it in cars!
What can I say, it was a mess.
It was about 2-months later when one of the main highways leading down one of the canyons was opened, and we residents were let out of jail (or so it felt) and we got to see what the flood had done down that canyon. It broke our hearts.
By Thanksgiving (November 28, 2013), Hwy 34 had opened also. No more 5-hour drives one way to get to the city. However, in my opinion, Hwy 34 was even more heartbreaking than Hwy 36, and though we are grateful that we were let out of our mountain valley, the drive down the canyon was not a pleasant one any more. The devastation was, and still is, hard to see and is heart breaking. As for the little town of Glen Haven, it is all but gone. I had a home there once, and all that is left is the mail box with the house number on it which someone found and set there so we’d know there was once a building there. This breaks my heart even more, and even now, more than 4-months later, Glen Haven still doesn’t have all its roads re-built, and about half the town still can’t get to their homes.
And so the aftermath was revealed, the stories of bravery, and struggle all around. This effected everyone here, even if they didn’t get flooded. Whenever we drive out of this town, we see the destruction, and though one may start down the road in high spirits, they are quickly sobered when our eyes lay upon the devastation. It is hard to deal with, even now.
As for myself, on October 5, I got my first disaster unemployment payment. I had gone 6-weeks without any income, and I was hurting.
And so this ends the main part of the story of the flood. But my story doesn’t end here…
Until next time,
Trying to catch up on my summer, while I still have internet access available to me regularly…
(Part 9 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
On the 14th, the clouds lifted a little, we could see the tops of some peaks, and with the clearing skies, came the sound of helicopters, tons of them. Not a minute went by from dawn to dusk, when the sound of helicopters did not weigh on ones ears. Rescues, and more rescues. Helicopters of every shape, size, and color. Hundreds of people were stranded on the sides of canyons, their homes washed away, or buried, or unsafe. The usually tiny rivers were too full to cross safely, and people were rescued by rope and helicopters. The sound of blades beating the mountain air went on continuously for days.
As this little town didn’t have access in or out other than helicopters, and one very windy, and partially eroded and flooded mountain road with a mud slide across it, it was left to defend for itself. A Red Cross station was set up, and run by towns folk, cots were gathered from anywhere they could find them. Food was donated as were clothes and such, some hotels opened their doors to those in need, some people took strangers into their homes, handing over their keys and telling them it was theirs for as long as they needed it. The community came together to help. As the flood waters receded, people pulled on boots and gloves, and started to help business owners clean the flood mud out of their stores.
Many homes that weren’t in a flood zone, or near a river suffered too. The rain had saturated the ground so much, that new springs had popped up all over the place, and an enormous amount of home had water in their basements.
Sewage and water lines were washed away, and a huge portion of the town was told they could not flush their toilets. A map was drawn up of the No Flush Zone, and the few port-o-toilets that were available in town, were distributed around. Whole neighborhoods sharing just a couple of port-o-johns. There is one picture of a horse tied to such a toilet, a favorite of mine. I heard that the lines for the toilet could get quite long. The town set up a dump station for people to take their ‘buckets’ to empty them. This inconvenience actually went on for a couple of months, and once the temporary sewer lines were in place, you could practically hear the cheer echo off the surrounding mountains.
On the 14th I drove into town, and stood in front of my place of work. The river had flowed through it, and it was obvious that I was out of a job, at least for a while.
Some communications were getting back up. One internet company set up some free hot spots in town (many thanks) and people stood around with phones and laptops, texting or sending emails. Phone lines still weren’t up though. I sat in one coffee shop with my laptop checking the news (still nothing about Estes Park, Glen Haven and other towns near where I lived), and the gentleman next to me was sort of in shock. He had managed to come up from Glen Haven where his home had been washed clear away, along with everything he owned in the world, including his medications (which he needed badly). One man had cycled in from Pinewood Springs (a pretty good haul), to find out what was going on, and to send some work related emails out. They had no communications either.
It was a mess.
Okay, this is a long story, so I’m going to split this into two sections, I’ll send out part two in a day or so.
Until then, hanging in (just barely) and it’s now over 4-months after the flood.
Still in a home, barely… Homeless Gal.
(Part 8 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
On Friday 13th of September, 2014, the flood waters reached their peak and did most of the damage. They rushed down the canyon, washed away homes, cars, and lives. They undercut, roads, hillsides and foundations, and the areas that were already weakened by the two previous days of flooding, were destroyed.
Towns like Glen Haven, Drake, Pinewood Springs, Lyons, Estes Park, which are in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, were cut off from the rest of the world. Pinewood Springs acquired a new name, The Isle of Pine, and the only way to get in and out was by helicopter or on foot. Glen Haven was so badly damaged, that the little town was almost wiped off the map, and was also cut-off. Only two buildings remained standing, plus the new firehouse and post office. Fortunately they managed to get the fire trucks and equipment out of the firehouse, before the entire building was washed down the canyon along with most of the rest of the businesses. Other towns like Lyons were also cut off, but as they were closer to a larger infrastructure, got help quicker. At the time we did not know how bad things were down in the canyons, as Estes Park (being at a higher elevation and quite literally, the end of the road) was in the blind. Clouds hung low, and helicopters couldn’t get there, power lines, networking cables and the like had been washed away, landlines and cell phones did not work, even the emergency services had a hard time staying in contact.
People drove around the valley in circles to gawk at the dangerous flood waters, as there was no way in or out. Many of the shelves in the grocery store were empty, and there were no food deliveries coming to the town, no mail deliveries, and even if there had been a way to get into town, the area around the Post Office was flooded.
At this time residents didn’t have a very good idea of what was going on down the canyons, or out along the Front-Range (Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins). A few had TV, and there was radio, but we were unaware. We did know it was bad, we knew that all the water that had come from the mountains this town nestled in had gone out to the Colorado Plains, and that the cities in-between had been slammed by the surge, but exactly how bad, we didn’t really know.
Friday the 13th wasn’t really a day to go out, and there wasn’t really anywhere to go, so I stayed home.
Reliving the flood, while trying to catch up on the past few months,
Homeless Gal (well, not right this minute, but I’m heading that way again…)
Mark Boyle outside his off-grid caravan. Photograph: Mark Boyle
By: Amanda Froelich,
Think you couldn’t live without money? Irishman Mark Boyle challenged this notion and here’s how he finds life with no financial income, bank balance, and no spending.
“If someone told me seven years ago, in my final year of a business and economics degree, that I’d now be living without money, I’d have probably choked on my microwaved ready meal.” According to Boyle, the plan back then was to ‘get a good job’, make as much money as possible, and buy the stuff that would show society he was successful.
To read more, click the link below….
On You Tube…
(By the way – Mark Boyle has a couple of books out – The Moneyless Man, and the Moneyless Manifesto) check them out!
I wish I could go to this extreme, but living with no money takes away my ability to explore on my own, with relative safety. In order to grow my food, I’d have to remain in one place. I haven’t found the right place to settle for the rest of my life yet, so I can’t do that. However, I’m happy with living with very little money. I’ve managed to last 4-months on just $500.00 in the past, while traveling and exploring some amazing places. I’m guessing about 50% went to gas, the rest to food and other such necessities. We don’t need much to be happy. The times I’ve lived in my car and gone without the luxuries of a consumer society, have been some my happiest times.
Right now I’m paring down my belongings again. When I move into my vehicle this time, I will have even less than the previous few years, which wasn’t much (would all fit into my vehicle, including my furniture (camp chair, and Thermarest pad for my bed). I like to have room to move, and there isn’t much room in Mitzi, so the less I own, the more room I have.
Anyhow, more on that another time…
Hope you enjoy the article…
Until next time…
Living on a very tight budget, as I now have NO income, Homeless Gal
I’m currently reading this book, and I’m loving it. It sums up everything I feel about society and the cost of living in a home, and many peoples need for excess stuff and so on.
I understand Ken Ilguanas completely, he is a soul mate.
I know that my family don’t understand why I choose to live the way I do, and probably never will, but they can be assured that I’m not the only one doing it.
I recommend this book for anyone who doesn’t understand my lifestyle, wants to learn more, or is considering becoming a voluntary homeless person themselves.
I’m trying to save up money now to buy a van, or truck, so I can be more comfortable in my chosen lifestyle (the back of Mitzi will do for now, but as I’m sure I won’t be getting a permanent home for many years, I’d like to have a bit more room at least). One thing is for sure, I will not be able to buy a van as long as I’m paying rent, NOR will I be able to pay off the credit card I used to fix Mitzi this past winter in a speedy manner. I don’t want to be one of those people who can’t afford to do anything but work, and take a vacation once a year. That is not living, it is existing.
Until next time…
Making plans for her future life as a rubber tramp…
(Part 7 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
On September 12, the rivers and town flooded even more. I watched from my cabin on the hill, as the waters rose below the dam. The town was letting water out of the lake, and the gates were fully open. Beneath the dam, a new lake had formed, and swirling mass of debris, and shit (quite literally), and all of that water was squeezing out through one bridge before it went down into the steep-walled canyon I mentioned in my previous post. Both of the roads that led out of town to the east (our two main highways), were closed. The high road that led over the tundra, and the windy road that led south were also closed with the exception of essential traffic. People couldn’t come into this town without having a good reason, and proof that they were a resident, business owner or such. We didn’t really know what was going on down in the canyons, but we knew it wasn’t good.
In downtown the rivers that flowed through town had risen, and many of the stores had started taking on water. Elsewhere homes were flooding, even when not in flood planes. It seemed that half the town was taking on water. Other rivers were rising, and undercutting the banks, so houses started to crumble into the rivers, and cars were being washed down stream. We had learned that many of the sewage pipes and water pipes had been destroyed, and that the mud and water was to be considered toxic, and also full of sewage, which could cause major heath hazards. Our lake had become a cesspool.
Then the power went out for many people, we lost internet access, and landlines, and couldn’t use our cell phones, and we lost our local news channels as the cables were swept away by flood waters in the canyons. The outside world didn’t know what was going on up here, and we didn’t have much idea what was going on elsewhere either. We were truly cut-off.
On the 12th, I drove into town, passing by the lake, and watched the waters lap close to the road. Southwest of my cabin was another river, that I noticed suddenly appeared very wide. Tons of household debris was washing down it, and piling up at the causeway that ran along the south side of the lake. Tires, windows, wood, refrigerators, children’s toys, whole trees. The list was endless. There were signs at the road that ran along this river, claiming ‘Road Closed.’ There was nowhere left to go. The cars that were driving around, were quite literally driving in circles. We were cut off from the rest of the world.
I made it to town, and parked where I could. Downtown was blocked off too, and there was a gathering of people staring at the town that had now become a lake. I made my way around the flooded areas sticking to higher ground, and made it to my place of work. I wasn’t surprised to see it standing in water, and mud. The hotel behind it had lost it’s parking lot. A metal gate from some stables up river was hooked on a destroyed gazebo, and flapped up and down as the raging river slammed into it. There were some places I simply couldn’t access, and on my way back, I found that I couldn’t return the same way I’d come, as the waters had risen to flood the parking lots that quickly. I was stranded on an island, and had to remove my shoes to wade back to safety.
On the evening of the 12th, I sat in my cabin listening to the roar of water that was heading down the canyon get louder. I could feel the earth vibrate, and could only imagine what was happening to the homes and small towns down there. A new sound started behind my cabin, and when I went to investigate I saw that I now had my own little river running behind the cabin. I was high and dry though, and with my own water supply, and a septic tank that was also on higher ground, I found myself in a situation where I was actually better off than many others for once. Even my power stayed on.
I have a friend who is living in his RV, and I’d offered to let him park in my driveway for safety while this was going on. He’d made it out of his camping area to my home just before many of the roads were flooded. I have a wind-up radio and we listened to what was going on (one of those emergency survival radios that my dad gave me for Christmas one year). We learned that all our water was heading down to the towns and cities east of us, and then out to the plains, and was causing total bedlam and severe damage. However, our little town wasn’t mentioned in the news. Even the news media couldn’t find out what was going on up here. The only people who really understood how bad it was, were those that were stranded in the mountain foot-hills west of Fort Collins, Loveland, and Boulder.
I barely slept that night, and wondered what tomorrow, which was Friday the 13th, would bring.
Looking back on the flood,
(Part 6 in a series about my attempt to live in a regular home – Please check out the ‘A Home for A While’ category).
One day in September it started raining (the 9th?). We didn’t think much of it at first, we get rain here every now and then, but pretty soon we realized this was different. The clouds settled in, and kept on dumping and dumping.
As I’ve mentioned before, this little town is in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is built in a beautiful little valley, with mountains all around. There are many rivers and streams, and seasonal streams that flow from the high peaks, glaciers, and valleys, and a couple of them flow right through downtown. Normally this water flows lazily through town, and people from other states don’t even realize they are rivers. They call them creeks (cricks) and steams. The only time the water reaches the banks is during the spring snow melt, when it may flood the post office parking lot a bit, and lap over its banks in a few other areas, but it is normal, and most residents and stores are ready for it. (That being said, there have been floods here in the past).
As the rain grew heavier and heavier, I decided to collect some of the water that was pouring from my roof, and save it to use for flushing my toilet (I have to pay for water delivery, and so I re-use as much water as I can. Plus, I naturally abhor water waste, after having lived for long periods where I have to haul, scrimp, or ration my water supply for days or even weeks and months on end). I emptied every plastic container and bucket I had, and set them under my water spout. I gathered about 125 gallons of water in just 1.5 hours (or thereabouts) from my downspout. (I learned later that this is actually illegal, as all the water is owned by the people that own the water drains, or something like that. Just another one of those ridiculous rules of society). I used this water for the next two weeks, to flush my toilet, scrub mud-laden boots, and water the plants.
I had never seen rain like this in the 17-years I’d (more-or-less) lived in Colorado. It just kept coming, and then it got even heavier. I was fascinated.
On September 11 (9/11), the rivers flowed over their banks, run-offs (or seasonal streams as the real estate people like to call them) formed in every gully, water pooled in low-lying areas, and springs started to pop up everywhere, including under peoples homes. The rock that makes these the Rocky Mountains, could hold no more, and it went to the only place it could – up out of the ground, and then down to the lowest lying areas.
Downtown flooded, the two rivers there joined, and the main street became a river. In other areas, normally tiny little rivers that looked like streams, swelled way beyond their banks, and grew to sizes never seen in this valley before.
The store that I worked at was right on the edge one of these two rivers, and the water was lapping the banks on this day, but my place of work was still okay, at least for now. I walked through town where I could, and took many pictures. Everyone was taking pictures.
There are basically only four ways out of this little town. Two of the roads lead downhill from this high valley, one passes through a deep sided canyon for about 20-miles, the other also goes down another long canyon, but it is a little wider. Both lead down to the flat plains of Colorado. There is also a road that goes up out of town. It twists and turns, and rolls, through the mountains and is a very long, though scenic drive to the next town. The final road out is over the top of the Rocky Mountains, and passes clear over the top of the tundra. It is a very long drive to anywhere going that way (45 miles to the next town, which is even smaller than this one).
In past years when I was camping in the forest around here, or when I lived down this canyon (in an empty little cabin with no water), I signed up for an emergency service that would send me an email, voice message, or text message to my phone, for certain areas that I frequently camped or took refuge. I did this with hopes that I would get the warning message before I got trapped in an area if there was a wildfire, or other dangerous situation imminent, as homeless people don’t have landlines and therefore no reverse 911 service.
I think it was 9/11 when the emergency warnings came to my phone. They were warning of high waters, and that people who lived in any of the canyons should stay off the highway, away from the fast-moving water, and remain on high grounds. I sat in my little cabin, listening to the rain on my roof, and felt a sense of dread wash over me.
And so the floods began, and this was when things changed…
I will continue in the next post…
Looking back on the floods – Homeless Gal