2020 Annual Holiday Greetings

December 14, 2020

Greetings from Pullman, Washington!

We hope this greeting finds you remaining healthy during 2020, an unprecedented time during our lifetime. Here we are in the midst of holidays, as several faith traditions observe deeply meaningful remembrances and touchstones. May your observances bring you hope, comfort, love, and joy! For us, our creche is displayed with the Holy Family anticipating the arrival of Christ. Our New England Christmas village is on display. In place of a Christmas tree, we have decorated a priceless, 125 year-old, weathered, wood-crafted, porch column from the farmhouse that Diane’s great-grandfather Patterson built in 1895. It’s donned with an artificial pine bough, a strand of lights, and 20 ornaments!

As many of you know, we are fairly new residents of Pullman, Washington. During the first two weeks of March, we were enjoying Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona along with a special visit from Texas friends for a few days. Soon after they left and we were able to seek out reliable Wi-Fi and cell phone coverage, we read breaking news that COVID-19 cases were increasing. The next morning we learned that state park campgrounds were closing in New Mexico immediately. It became quickly evident that we needed to consider whether to continue full-time RVing or to hit the pause button.

Our “Unforgettable 2020” Photo Collage:
– Stephanie & Shane on a Colorado hike.
– Jeremy & Michelle on a Pullman walk.
– Steve & Diane and the last campsite  as full-time RVers.
– An Easter Zoom chat with the six of us “sheltering-in-place”.

Here’s our 2020 rendition of our annual greetings! Perhaps Diane has too much time on her hands?!

A: Archives are where you’ll find Diane working on projects these days. One project is transcribing her Dad’s letters home while stationed during the Korean War in Japan and Korea. Another is creating family Google albums to readily share with family. Diane will not run out of projects as a family historian and photographer! She also is the primary poster to Instagram highlighting travels, photos, memories, and life. She plans the menus and puts together shopping lists.  Apps make aspects of our life easier, especially ordering groceries through Walmart and Safeway.

B: Baking is what Steve enjoys between baking biscotti or cookies. It’s perfect for the Cookie Monster tendencies that we both have. Steve LOVES working the daily New York Times Crossword or their Spelling Bee, while sipping coffee and having a biscotti. He’s a master at making pancakes on our portable Coleman griddle or yummy dinners on the grill. He keeps the coffee brewing! Steve’s taken the Chief Financial Officer role for our household. He is our home barber and stylist, wielding clippers, shears, and thinning shears! Diane’s last hair salon visit was in February in Tucson, Arizona.

C: COVID-19 speaks for itself with the loss of life, numbers of cases, agonizing impact on families, schools, workplaces, hospital systems, industries. Curbside, drive-thru, or walk-up options for grocery shopping and some other services enable us to stay safe in Pullman. We rely on on-line ordering and delivery for items that we’re unable to purchase locally. Coffee! Formerly spending oodles of time in coffee shops across the country as a place to make travel plans, write, and edit photos, we make coffee an essential part of our morning routine and sometimes afternoons too.

D: Downsizing has resumed. It’s what we have done for 12 years! Gulp! The goal is to use this time to reduce the size of our household again. You never know, we could put things in storage and RV full-time again! Plus it will position us to be able to move to a smaller abode should we opt or need to do so.

E: Essential workers across industries are our 2020 heroes who give tirelessly of themselves:  Thank you so much! Election 2020. Ahem…it’s been a journey for everyone, no matter one’s political leaning.

F: Faith in Our Creator’s agape love! We cling to our faith despite not being affiliated with a church. Families, we admire you as you juggle work, home, teaching your children or partnering with teachers, and keeping your family safe! Our Ford F350 truck gets very little use, doesn’t fit in the garage due to its height, takes up our part of the shared driveway with the neighbors, and awaits towing the trailer.

G: Grief has grabbed our hearts this year with the passing of family and friends. We experienced grief at having to quickly shift gears to Plan B to shelter-in-place and then Plan C to hang-up-the-keys on full-time RVing. On March 18, we began cancelling 52 stays, some with family and friends, already reserved for our carefully planned 12-month tour. We are deeply grateful for the 22 months where we traveled full-time in our RV. It was a dream come true and one of life’s highlights!

H: Hope sustains us as humanity moves through so much pain to hopefully a better tomorrow. Hospitality was graciously extended by Barb & Joel so we were able to shelter-in-place at her Denver-area home for 52 days (March 18-May 9) during their winter stay at his Alabama home. Hiking was SO much fun in Arizona from January through mid-March. Cattail Cove State Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, Picacho Peak State Park, Tonto National Forest, and Kartchner Caverns State Park provided many amazing trails and fantastic campsites. Since June, in the Palouse Region, we have hiked at Washington State University’s Arboretum, Moscow Mountain, Paradise Ridge, Kamiak Butte, and Heyburn State Park, all among gorgeous stands of trees native to Washington and Idaho.

I: Idaho is the state where we spent our last full-time stay for a week at an RV park in Moscow, just 10 miles from Pullman. We had two Idaho camping trips in September with four days in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest near Headquarters and a week at Heyburn State Park near Plummer. Instagram keeps us connected around the globe: family, friends, other RVers, other photographers, and other travel writers.

J: JEREMY AND MICHELLE probably never saw the day coming that we would live less than a mile’s walk from them again! The last time was when all six of us lived in Batavia, Illinois. The four of us adhere to a buddy bubble, which gives us the safety to gather for coffee, a meal, and conversation most Saturdays. With both of them working at home, it’s been easier to have a buddy bubble. We gathered on their deck or our yard until the autumn temperatures changed. Now we meet in our living rooms. We had our first Thanksgiving ever with Michelle this year and the first in many years with Jeremy. Christmas Eve will be at our home and we’ll have a Zoom chat with Stephanie and Shane over Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza (shipped from the Chicago area). Christmas will be at Jeremy and Michelle’s. We have joy as we welcomed a beautiful grand-niece, Jordyn Rose, to Diane’s side of the family this year. She’s a cutie based on the photos we receive!

K: Kindness can be so contagious! We bought t-shirts that have Be Kind printed on them. Eric of Clumsy Crow Baking welcomed us to Pullman with some fresh baked bread. The staff at Roost Coffee greet us at their walk-up window with hellos and welcome to Pullman. Joanna, the director of Neill Public Library, greeted us with an exchange of emails and recently a quick masked hello when she brought us our book at walk-up check-out. Our new medical providers and dental office, our credit union, and State Farm insurance agency have all extended kind words of welcome.

L: Love one another as faith traditions place love at the center of life! Living Life with Love, Laughter, and Lifting one another up! There are so many needs in our world. We pray that each one of us is in a position to brighten the lives of others.

M: Moving during a pandemic isn’t recommended, but we had no other option. We know of numerous people who opted to make moves to place themselves in a better situation. Thankfully we had the support and encouragement from Jeremy, Michelle, Stephanie, and Shane during the rapid, two-day decision-making process. More details are in our blog! We miss our family & friends terribly! Memories abound of visits with so many dear ones and of the country’s beauty as we traveled with our trailer. Moonlit nights and unsurpassed star-filled skies while camping in Arizona were magnificent.

N: Our “new” abode is a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 1-car garage condo built in 1979 with 1,500 square feet. We are renting, which includes lawn care and snow removal. NO, we don’t miss caring for the lawn. Although clearing the truck of snow is another story!

O:: OOO for hugs! Online commencements for our nieces were a way to celebrate with them!

P: Peace lessens anxiety as we strive for a better tomorrow! We ask for prayers for loved ones dealing with ongoing health concerns, financial challenges, and difficult decisions. Pullman has been a wonderful place to land. As we traveled the country, we tried to envision where we might live for a spell or longer. Over the seven years of visiting Jeremy and Michelle in Pullman, this community felt like a perfect place! We are situated in the Palouse Region in Southeastern Washington. It’s 10 miles west from Idaho, 70 miles north from Oregon, and 200 miles south from the Canadian border. The Rocky Mountains in Idaho have the Clearwater Mountain Range, a 15-mile drive from us.

Q: Quietness seems to be part of our daily routine as we get absorbed in our activities. Perhaps full-time RVing prepared us for this time at home.

R: Reading brings us joy whether books, e-books, the local newspaper, news apps, emails, etc.. Resilience strengthens humankind as we adapt in the face of adversity during this pandemic.

S: STEPHANIE AND SHANE are in Denver busy working and living along bustling University Boulevard. They try to get away from the sounds of the city and their sixth floor apartment for walks, hikes, or mountain getaways. We last saw them on July 30 when they came to our campsite at Chatfield State Park in Littleton, Colorado, the night before we returned to Pullman with our household. We miss them and Steve’s Mom Lois greatly. We look forward to when we can travel to Denver. Smiles sure beat frowns. Keep smiling, even behind your mask to reveal your beautiful smilin eyes!

T: Tranquility the Trailer is parked in RV storage awaiting 2021 camping in the Pacific Northwest and perhaps a trip to Colorado. It sure looks lonely, but it’s in good company with other rigs.

U: U-Haul helped with our umpteenth move! We retrieved our household on a 10-day self-contained trip with the trailer to Denver in late July. Using the truck, the trailer, and a 20’ U-Haul, the rest of our belongings moved to Pullman. University communities usually are a welcomed buzz of activity. Here, Washington State University resumed with on-line classes this fall. There has been no buzz of activity.

V: Vaccines are coming for COVID-19! Today was the first vaccination in the U.S. We patiently await our turn, as it’s important for essential workers and those folks most vulnerable to receive vaccines first.

W: Walks most days take us around Pullman with its four large hills. Leaving our home, we either go up or go down. Pullman has a great sidewalk system, paved trails, and quaint footpaths along hillsides.

X: XXX for kisses! X for how we criss-cross a street when we want to socially distance.

Y: Yellow blossoms covered the hills of our Palouse Region this June. Known for lentils, canola, wheat, etc., the rolling hills of the Palouse are gorgeous! We had a yellow tinge to our atmosphere for a week in September due to hazardous air quality from wildfire smoke coming from California, Oregon, and Washington. Atop our tree is our yellow felt star that we made for our first Christmas in 1976!

Z: Zoom has been a life-line to having video chats with family, friends, and Diane’s taking Clan McLennan webinars. Let us know if you would like to have a Zoom chat too! It’s easy to do!

May you find FAITH, HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, JOY and KINDNESS today and in 2021!

Our love to you and yours,

Diane & Steve

Trip to Denver: Household Retrieved

While we had settled into the condo as best we could by the end of May, we needed to keep our sights on a trip to Denver. As mentioned in prior posts, the bulk of our household left from our 2018 downsizing was in climate-controlled storage with CubeSmart in the Denver area. It would take easily ten days to make the trip and move out of the storage unit.

Our first step was to discern the size of a moving truck i.e. U-Haul or Penske that we would ultimately need. Diane revisited the household inventory list and photos of numbered boxes. One of the reasons we rented a climate-controlled space was because of family heirlooms, artwork, archives, and photos that were more sensitive to temperature extremes. Some of these items would ideally ride back to Pullman, Washington in either the backseat of our air conditioned pickup or in Tranquility the Trailer, which is nicely insulated. While our CubeSmart unit was 10 feet X 10 feet, we hadn’t packed it to the ceiling. 

Next we confirmed with our daughter, Stephanie, and son-in-love, Shane, in Denver, their availability later in the summer. Steve began to research moving truck rentals based on dates. We estimated that we would need at most a 20 foot U-Haul truck with an “attic” over the cab of that truck. Bingo! Steve had some dates for us to consider.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we weren’t keen on staying in hotels, eating in restaurants or fast-food places, or using public restrooms. Instead, it made good sense for us to travel with our trailer in order to remain self-contained. This decision led Diane to reserving campsites for ten days. The key reservation was for the Denver area. There aren’t many options for camping except at two state parks. Both are extremely popular and weekends especially, book a year in advance. We were in a unique situation where between our truck and trailer combo, we are 53 feet in length. AND, we wanted to fit the 20 foot U-Haul in our pull-through site. Nabbing a reservation for a four-night stay at Chatfield State Park outside of Littleton, Colorado, beginning on a Monday and leaving on a Friday, worked out well. Using Google maps’ satellite view, Diane was able to locate a campsite to easily accommodate all three vehicles. 

For the trip down and back, we opted to reserve sites at KOA campgrounds. Especially along this particular route, we’ve stayed at several KOAs before. Reaching out to each KOA by phone first was helpful. A caveat to our return trip would be traveling with an additional vehicle. We needed to ascertain if there was an overflow parking area where the U-Haul could be parked without incurring additional fees. A few phone calls later, we had reservations in Butte, Montana; Buffalo, Wyoming; and Cheyenne, Wyoming going to Denver. On our return we only stayed in Buffalo and Butte. The fantastic news was both of their KOAs had an overflow lot where we could park the U-Haul at no charge.

Steve reserved the U-Haul for a one-way trip from Denver to Pullman. For the distance, we could have the truck for five days. We knew that the truck needed to be unloaded and returned to the U-Haul in Moscow, Idaho on Monday, August 3. It meant that we’d have to really push ourselves on our return to Washington, but we were open to that plan. Our trip schedule was finally determined, leaving on Friday, July 24 and returning to Pullman, on Sunday, August 2.

Leaving Pullman, Denver Bound

The trip to Denver was non-eventful. Although the best part was being back on the road, towing the trailer, and watching the beautiful landscape unfold across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Our stay in Cheyenne, Wyoming was a perfect pause. On Monday, we were able to time our arrival through Denver to avoid the glut of afternoon traffic.

The Tobacco Root Mountain Range of Montana in the distance.
The Bighorn Mountain Range near the Montana & Wyoming Border.
A pause for bathroom break provided this view of the Big Horns in Wyoming!

On Tuesday we drove to CubeSmart storage and began our work of dismantling the archive shelves, packing loose items into boxes, and loading items that could ride back to Pullman in the trailer. 

Prep work included breaking down shelving and packing up loose items.
We’re organized and ready for loading in the morning!
Our photo collection & albums were stored in the antique cupboard.
We filled cubbies and closets in the Trailer with heat sensitive and fragile items.

Fortunately, the weather was nice so that we could take walks at Chatfield State Park on two evenings. We’ve stayed here on numerous occasions and love the setting.

This familiar view greeted us at Chatfield State Park, Colorado with Chatfield Reservoir and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
We enjoyed a couple of evening walks at Chatfield. The trails are near the campground.

On Wednesday evening we picked up the U-Haul truck. We immediately drove to Stephanie and Shane’s apartment building where Steve, Steph, and Shane moved the sofa, loveseat, and two lamps. The apartment manager gave them permission to hold the elevator in order to get two loads down to ground level. Whew! 

Early risers! We were masked and at CubeSmart Storage early on Wednesday morning ready to tackle more organizing and moving smaller items to the trailer.
After getting the 20′ U-Haul, we drove to Steph and Shane’s high-rise apartment building in Denver.
Using the elevator, Steve, Shane, and Stephanie brought down furniture to the U-Haul.
The sofa and loveseat were a challenge in the elevator! Whew! We were grateful for everyone’s muscles.

Thursday morning had us up early so we could arrive at storage by 7am. We sensed that a Thursday wouldn’t be as busy as weekend days, plus the earlier the better to avoid as many other people as possible. We were worker bees for five hours. Diane rolled carts to and fro while Steve loaded the carts and unloaded them into the U-Haul. We were two very exhausted “puppies” by the end of the day.

Up early again, we were at CubeSmart to load the U-Haul.
And, the U-Haul is packed! It took us five hours. Thankfully there are elevators and dollies.
And, the pickup truck bed is packed!
And, the backseat of the pickup truck is loaded.

The toughest part of this trip from an emotional standpoint was not getting to have the typical time we so enjoy with our family due to COVID-19 and respectfully taking precautions. We were able to have several visits with Steve’s Mom over morning coffee and lunch. Seated apart on her driveway with her in the garage worked out. Stephanie and Shane came to our campsite at Chatfield State Park on the last evening. It was nice to share a meal with them and have conversation. Yet still, it wasn’t enough!

Stephanie & Shane joined us at our campsite for dinner.

Up at the crack of dawn, we set off just at sunrise. Steve drove the U-Haul truck. Diane drove the truck-trailer combo. Despite trying to avoid traffic, we ended up in the thick of it for an insane stretch AND the sunrise was right in our eyes. Yet, once we shifted from I-70 and were a few miles north on I-25, the traffic seemed to settle into a manageable pace.

Up at 5am and off we go at 5:30 from Chatfield State Park.

The drive to Buffalo made for a VERY long day. We tried to switch driving vehicles for 60 miles or so, but Diane’s back wasn’t pleased. Needless to say, Steve had quite the ride with the U-Haul, which struggled on inclines, had no cruise control, and when the engine RPM increased, the air conditioner decreased.

Late that afternoon we arrived at Buffalo KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming.

Two more long days with a night in Butte, found us back in Pullman on Sunday afternoon. Once Jeremy and Michelle knew that we were at home, they immediately drove over to lend their support. In about an hour’s time, they completely unloaded the U-Haul and helped Steve with the pick-up bed. 

We took plenty of stretch breaks across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
We arrived home, taking up 80′ along the street curb.
Let the unloading begin!
Jeremy & Michelle completely unloaded the U-Haul in less than an hour’s time!

Aww! Now we’ve become fairly settled. We will let the COVID-19 pandemic play out, hopefully with good health and a future vaccine we can resume travels to visit family, friends, and special places in the U.S.

In the meantime, be well. And, if we encourage you to Subscribe so that you’ll receive an email notification when we have a new blog post.

Diane & Steve

Living Life at the Speed of Sanity….even in one place!

Getting Situated: A New Home Base During the Pandemic

Since a good chunk of 2020 continues to seem surreal, it is fitting that we finally write this post in mid-September about mid-May, already four months past! Recently we heard a podcast that considered each day “Blursday” since all days of the week appear to blur together. Perhaps this makes for a good excuse for “Blursember” instead of September?

Our New Home Base
On May 15, we signed the lease on a condo. It was uncanny how quickly we were able to locate a place that will serve as a home base for the foreseeable future. With so many Washington State University students living in off-campus housing, we are grateful that we found a place in a quiet neighborhood that is at the opposite end of Pullman than the university.

The condo is much like a duplex with two units attached via a common garage wall and a shared driveway. It’s all one-level with an attached one-car garage. We have 1500 square feet with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, laundry room, kitchen, dining and living rooms. There’s a small deck that gets afternoon shade. Coming from Tranquility the Trailer with its 250 square feet makes the condo massive comparatively speaking! Lawn care and snow shoveling are included in the rent, This makes a turn-key situation where we can leave with our trailer and only need to stop the mail and newspaper. 

Our New Home Base in Pullman, Washington

Before placing Tranquility the Trailer into RV storage, we moved its contents into the condo and gave the trailer a good spring cleaning. 

With each trip from the trailer, we move into the condo.
Once the furnace was working in the condo, we began moving kitchen items, bedding, clothing, and toiletries.
Tranquility the Trailer is empty and spring-cleaned. It doesn’t look like a full-time abode.
Tranquility awaits future camping adventures.

Having Jeremy and Michelle less than a mile away has worked out wonderfully in many respects! They had a spare chair with ottomon and a chaise lounge that they loaned to us. In Denver, our daughter, Stephanie, and son-in-love, Shane, indicated that they were ready to replace the sofa and loveseat that we passed along to them during our 2018 downsizing. Would we like to have these pieces and the two lamps back? Yes! Although, these pieces would remain in Denver until our return later in the summer. In the meantime, our anti-gravity reclining camp chairs became part of our living room experience!

Our anti-gravity reclining camp chairs and rugs from the trailer work well for living room furnishings.
Jeremy and Michelle loaded up their chaise lounge, chair, and ottoman.
We greatly appreciated the use of these pieces along with our reclining camp chairs.

At first in the condo, we were using our two simple camp chairs and a portable table for our dining room furniture. During downsizing, we gave Jeremy and Michelle our square pub table and four stools. Two years later, they were ready to reclaim space in their home and re-gift the set to us. This was wonderful timing.

Our regular camp chairs and portable table are in the dining room.
Jeremy and Michelle regifted back to us the pub table and four stools.

Our REI air mattresses that we used for tent camping before full-time RVing worked well as our beds on the master bedroom floor. The other two bedrooms only had items from the trailer moved to closet shelves, so no furniture. One of those bedrooms became Diane’s workout space with yoga mat, free weights, and bands.

Our REI air mattresses worked as our bed on the master bedroom floor.
Our first night sleeping in the condo was delayed until the furnace was repaired.
The spare bedroom was Diane’s workout space with yoga mat, hand weights, and bands.

Acquiring Household Goods
While the bulk of our household from downsizing had been in climate-controlled storage in Denver, we knew which items we sold, donated, or re-gifted. Between the local Walmart’s curbside pickup feature and Amazon delivery, we began adding to our new household. Through Walmart we added several housewares for the bathroom and kitchen. Using Amazon, we ordered: bed-frame-in-a-box, mattress-in-a-box, TV, vacuum, several small kitchen appliances, and a tower fan. Trying to support local businesses, we purchased a microwave from Largent Appliance in Pullman.

The Lucid Mattress comes vacuum sealed and in a box.
The Lucid Mattress gets unpacked.
Once the mattress fully expands two days’ later, we can sleep on it.
The Bedframe in a Box from Wayfair arrived.
Tools are supplied and easy directions. It took 45 minutes to assemble the bed frame.
Our bed looks normal and sleeping off of the floor is great. Plastic drawers on either side serve as night stands for now.
The Roku TV (used for streaming) arrived. No TV stand required as it fits nicely on the hearth. A box became the coffee table.
Hmm. Decided to wrap a fleece throw around the box so it matches the interior space.

Then in Moscow, 10-miles away, we purchased two office chairs at Staples. In lieu of desks, Steve laid out a plan for an L-shaped work space using cinder blocks and two new residential doors. He purchased supplies for the desks from Home Depot in Lewiston, 25 miles south, and the local Pullman Building Supply.

The second office chair arrived from Staples, so Steve got it assembled.
Steve works on painting the cinder blocks and doors that will become our desks.
It took a week to complete, partially to let the paint cure. We have a wonderful L-shaped work space for two. The chairs are from Staples.

Establishing Residency
The first days in the condo had us working on the checklist to become Washington residents: vehicle registration for truck and trailer, drivers licenses, voters registration, renters insurance, vehicle insurance, health insurance, library cards, and opening an account at a local bank. Unfortunately, the drivers license facilities were closed until early July, yet we were able to get temporary licenses and indicate our wish to register to vote. It was tricky to establish medical and dental care, as they were just offering appointments beginning in mid-July after having been closed due to state restrictions due to COVID-19, except for emergency care. At least we had appointments scheduled for later in the summer.

Our Location and Our Community
Here in the Palouse Region that includes parts of Eastern Washington, Western Idaho, and Northern Oregon, we are tucked mid-hill on one of Pullman’s four hills that make up the city’s landscape: Sunnyside Hill, Pioneer Hill, Military Hill, and College Hill. There’s a narrow valley between the hills where the main arteries take us to businesses, city services, the RV storage complex, Washington State University, the medical complex, and points north, south, east, and west. Across the valley with less than a 10-minute walk, Jeremy and Michelle, live mid-way up their hill. It’s a perfect location for walking to and from one another’s homes, which we do frequently. Plus, we enjoy creating various walking routes in town.

May 17, 2020 was our first socially distanced visit with Jeremy and Michelle took place in their backyard over a pot of coffee!

The primary challenges we’re facing are limited contact in the community. From the beginning, we committed to a “buddy bubble” with Jeremy and Michelle. Except for the cases when we’ve needed medical or dental care or they have a rare driveway gathering with up to a handful of others (book club), it’s just the four of us meeting on their deck or our front lawn. With great anticipation, we’ll look forward to the time when we can get acquainted with others. For now we’re exchanging emails with the library director, picking up books via curbside. We order local produce, baked goods, or take-out meals via on-line and pick-up curbside or with very little contact. Several times we’ve ventured into the Safeway or RiteAid stores during senior shopping hours. There have been very few people shopping during those times.

What’s Next?
By late May, we were as situated as we could be until we could return to Denver to retrieve the rest of our household. This exercise affirmed how much we carried with us as full-time travelers AND how much we really don’t need as far as material items. In the next post, we’ll share the timing and the experience of returning to Denver for the remainder of our household plus the shift for welcoming those items back into our lives!

Living Life at the Speed of Sanity
Be safe. Be well.
Diane & Steve