Off of the Grid

Security Blanket

Someone recently asked me if we would sell Winnie.

I had a moment of panic. “Get RID of Winnie?!?” I think my world actually stopped rotating for just a moment. In that space, I suddenly realized how much of a security blanket our RV has become for us. Even though Winnie is a bit big to drag over our shoulder, I’m not sure that Daniel and I wouldn’t go that far to keep her with us.

The conversation in question was with a homeless person who was selling found items at a street sale. Our son had decided that was the moment that he must take a nap in the camper top of our Eurovan so we were there for a bit. We had shared that we had experienced some hardship and if it weren’t for the RV, we’d have been in shelters or living under overpasses. Most likely, our family would not have survived intact.

In 2012, my husband and I inexplicably found ourselves without income. Not just broke but absolutely nothing coming in. Since social services look at the previous years income, we didn’t qualify for any help. Daniel kept looking for work and I started looking at getting anything. But we couldn’t pay our rent. It became a daily question of where were we going to park the rig? It wasn’t a question of could I find a job, but rather, how was I going to get there? We had dear friends who were offering to let us park the RV on their property for free but they didn’t have power or water and they were a good half hour outside of the city limits. No buses. And we didn’t have anything but the RV to drive. How would I get to work? The daily question of whether we were going or not became an almost scheduled argument. The need vrs the practical. We would scrape up enough to ensure that our son never went without a meal, and then our animals but Daniel and I couldn’t say the same about us. You know, when you don’t eat for a while, you get some pretty major headaches. No wonder homeless people tend to be grouchy. Job sources in Tucson were telling Daniel that they wanted him, but “not right now.” We were out of time. Daniel contacted possible employers in Austin, TX who were very interested in him a year before and let them know he was available. They indicated they absolutely still wanted him and to come on out. What a bad idea that was.

We headed out to Austin with the last of our funds. Monies we had scraped together by selling whatever we could. Before we hit the AZ border, we had to replace two tires on the rig. We made it into Texas and found that our belts were seizing. We fixed that and discovered a bit further that our glow plug actuator had failed. I think Winnie was trying to tell us something. In stops and starts, we limped into Austin and made it to the WalMart parking lot just off the highway. Daniel had found some short term contract work that he could do from home which meant he was shlepping off with his laptop to the nearest site of free internet to do his work. It wasn’t a lot but it kept us going for a bit. Unfortunately/fortunately for us, he is very, very good at what he does so the work was completed for the project in short order. But it was income and we were desperate for anything. Turns out Austin is very expensive to try and RV camp in. We couldn’t find an RV park for under $55.00 per night and that was more than we could reasonably spend. Couple that with the fact that there was a music festival going on and all the parks were full. We were stuck. We had to get someplace where Daniel could get cleaned up and ready for his interview. Our generator was out of fuel. We’d been without power for long enough that our refrigerator was dead and useless, our water tank was empty and our black and grey water tanks full. We had to find someplace to dump, and at least load up on water. We found a state park to stay at, and paid the precious money for one night, the night before the interview. We all bathed, and enjoyed the creature comforts only power can bring and got ready for the next day. We got Daniel to the interview, and he was in there for 10 minutes. No joke. Apparently they were a bit miffed at him from the year before when he called and said he had found work in Tucson so we would not be coming to Austin after all. They stated they would like him to take all the non-standard stuff they didn’t want to waste their full time programmers on, but they didn’t have anything for him now. All the other leads in Austin seemed more interested in our story of the journey out there, than in any real offers. We had wasted the last of our funds, and all of our hopes on nothing. We had been assured, “Yes, absolutely we want you right now!” only to find smoke and mirrors.

We went back to the parking lot at WalMart. We sold what was precious to us and which had lasted through all our other purges. My harp. Daniel’s bass. And any recording/music equipment the pawn shop would take. Any remaining jewelry I had of any value, any tools – whatever we could sell, we did. It earned us a measly $700.00. We could stay in Austin at the WalMart for maybe two weeks with that, or could journey back to Tucson where at least we would have a place to go, and community to help us out until we got back on our feet. It was a no brainer. We headed back to Tucson.

It took us 8 days to get to Austin, and 3 to get back to Tucson. Our RV Park manager had heard we’d hit some seriously rough patches on our journey and so saved our spot. Another tenant had left with their slot paid up through the month so the RV Park Manager let us stay in the slot that was paid. We wouldn’t have to worry about the rent for a month. When we drove into Tucson not sure where to go at 9pm at night, we were able to come home to the place we had been for over a year. Arriving back, the job offers that were pending suddenly became available and Daniel had viable work for the first time in 5 months or more. We came home to Tucson, and Tucson welcomed us back with open arms and hearts. I can’t say that I have experienced that anywhere else.

I remember when we were on the road, looking at the people camped out under the overpasses of the highways and realized, without Winnie, that was us. Two very highly capable, educated, talented professionals were 1-step away from sleeping under a bridge. I have never been so humbled in my life. I didn’t believe it before – but so many of us in this economy are living one paycheck at a time and that’s all it took. That one paycheck no longer coming in. Nothing saved. Nothing to fall back on. It truly can happen to anyone. I remember sitting there, looking at my husband and my son in front of me laughing, and being so thankful to Winnie. We had a roof over our head. We were together. We had a home. Running or not, we at least had our home.

So, get rid of Winnie? Naw, I can’t see that happening. We are doing better now, hard lessons learned. But Winnie will always be that security blanket. Come what may, we have a home. A home that we built with our own two hands. A place that has sheltered us in heat and cold, in rain and wind. A place where we have loved, and fought, and laughed, and discovered. She might be a bit big for a security blanket, but there ya go. What can I say. 🙂

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