The Silver Gypsy

Often I write about whatever has shown up on my personal radar for the week. It might be about problems, politics, gripes, happy thoughts, memories, favorite people or places, or even not so favorite people or places.

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Sharlene Minshall

Sharlene Minshall

Widowed at 45, Sharlene Minshall dusted herself off and left Michigan driving full tilt into a twenty-year solo, full-time RVing saga taking her from Key West, Florida, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; from Baja and old Mexico to Newfoundland/Labrador; and most drivable points in between. This, mother and grandmother, former medical secretary, and intrepid traveler, canoed the Yukon, mushed sled dogs on a glacier, paraglided off a Colorado mountain, served as “cabin girl” at a western dude ranch, and among other adventures, rode a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, played with the polar bears at Hudson Bay, and lived six months on a Mexican beach. Sharlene gave lectures at Life on Wheels venues for ten years, and published six non-fiction, RV-related how-to and adventure books. Recently, the Silver Gypsy reinvented herself as a fiction writer with her first e-novel, Winter in the Wilderness.

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The Silver Gypsy:  The Desert Critters

We who live in the desert are not only blessed by beautiful flowers, but critters who make their home here.  Sitting on my deck where I look out on to the lovely Saguaro Park, if I sit quietly and just observe, soon something will move, and then something else, then it is almost hard to keep track.  We have many, many quail who trail across my yard or the park.  Scurry is a better word to describe their crossings.  One flies up to the bridge railing or perhaps a high cactus or maybe the shed TV antennae and this leader seems to direct them, “Come on, stay straight, follow me.”  They often travel in families, maybe to a “Potluck” or 401 K run. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_MIN-ROADRUNNER-6170.jpgIn the springtime, this is very evident as two quail will be in front of a lengthy line of quail babies running along so fast to keep up, sort of like golf balls with legs, another similar bunch right behind them.  Unfortunately, the roadrunners pick them off one by one as they follow all in a juicy row.  Not easy to watch, but a part of nature.  The quail continue to peck their way along, as the baby numbers dwindle.  The parents are lucky to have five or six left to grow into adults. 

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The Silver Gypsy:  Desert Springtime

So many RVers visit the southwest during the winter months but they often head out again before the tax deadline and they miss the desert springtime. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_MIN-MEX-POPPIES.JPGWe seldom get rain but it happens occasionally and I am always fascinated with approaching storms.  The raindrops make their staccato dance on the roof, a peaceful sound.  It is close to Easter and the desert has a sense of renewal.  It takes so little water to make a miraculous change.  I knew that within hours, the plants would leaf out and the cacti that slurped up all that water, would bloom.  It is a cloud-covered morning, a rare cool morning, and the air is cleansed and fresh.  It is a morning meant for sitting on my back deck with a giant cup of coffee. 

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The Silver Gypsy:  Unusual Sightings

My 2½-month trip to VA, MI, and WA last summer/fall was so much fun.   I was fortunate enough while staying with my youngest, Tracey, and her family in VA, to be able to go to their Jamerson Family YMCA several times.  This 63,000 sq ft. facility that opened in April of 2002, has a pool where the water was always warm enough to walk right into, and depending on my choices, there were usually few other people swimming.  My grandson was able to join me a few times which made it all the better.   What intrigued me most was the magnificent mural on the wall.  I never tired of looking at the beautiful faces of those children swimming underwater.  

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The Silver Gypsy: Carving a Menagerie

One morning last September when daughter, Janet, and I took a few days to explore the Northwest, we started down Foster Creek Avenue in Bridgeport, WA, and as we continued along, we realized it was lined with intriguing wooden carvings.  Bears, bobcats, salmon, owls, herons, eagles, wolves, and rabbits lined the streets.  We had to stop, turn around, and drive it again. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_MIN-SCULPTURES-045.jpgWithout anybody around to ask, we continued our trip.  When I returned home, the Internet solved the mystery.  New curbs and sidewalks were being put in and in the process, the trees would be made unstable and dangerous.  The city also realized the trees were diseased and harbored insects.  The evenly spaced sycamore trees have now been docked, limbed, and carved into a unique menagerie by Bonney Lake chainsaw sculptor, Jacob Lucas. 

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The Silver Gypsy: Daily Life

Costco is a big box store that I have belonged to for a long time.  They often check my tires for air and will also rotate my tires for free.  I don’t buy a lot there because most of the portions are too big and it would take me forever to eat or use whatever it is, but I really like their hamburger.  I take it home and divide it into stew-sized, hamburger-sized, and meatloaf-sized portions and freeze it.  I buy just enough that my “reward coupon” for using the American Express card covers my yearly fee.     

However, it bugs me that when I get their big coupon selection through the mail, some of them list the “Instant savings” with a Warehouse Price and the Instant Savings subtracted from it so you can see what the actual cost is.  Then there are a good many of them that say “$70 Off” in big red letters so you feel like you are getting a bargain but they don’t tell you off of WHAT!  The good thing is that you are no longer required to clip the coupons – that is done automatically when you check out.  

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The Silver Gypsy: Becca, Jess, and Machu Picchu - Part 2

“The following morning was MACHU PICCHU DAY!  We awoke before 5 a.m., packed up and walked to the train station.”  Jess said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been on a train.”   Becca recounts, “The ride was about two hours long, lovely, following the river and winding into the valley between the old rock giants.   Aguas Calientes (or Machu Picchu Pueblo) features a stunning view of the mountains and beautiful bridges over the river.  Unfortunately, it also featured a bucketload of tourists.  Since we both have a low tolerance for those who destroy things and disrespect culture, we avoided the overcrowded, overcharging buses going to the ruins by deciding to hike.  This included 2.5 hours, a 1,500’ elevation change, and the 4 miles of beautiful trail that was a rock stairs carved into the mountainside. “  

With this decision, they each enjoyed some alone time and found the hike to be an amazing experience.   “I could see the ruins growing farther and farther away as I climbed the endless rocky stairs to the top.  Occasionally I met a hiker going down and sent word back to Jess.  For about an hour, I was with a mom and her two young sons, an interesting perspective.  They were obsessed with touching every rock because it was ‘ancient.’  

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The Silver Gypsy: Becca, Jess, and Machu Picchu - Part 1

Excerpts from Wikipedia:  Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site 7,970’ above sea level on a mountain ridge NW of Cusco.  It is believed that it was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti, and often mistakenly referred to as the “lost City of the Incas.”  Built around 1450, it was abandoned a century later.  Brought to international attention in 1911 by American historian, Hiram Bingham, the restoration continues.  In 1981, it was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.  In 2007, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.  It is vulnerable to earthquakes and weather systems, and decidedly, from the pressures of too many tourists.

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The Silver Gypsy: The Winter Olympics

When I was a youngster, back in the dark ages before Smart Phones, GPS, or even TV, imagination was my strength (and salvation).  A fair-sized (in my memory anyway) swamp lived a half mile down the road.  Sometimes, unknown to my mother, I would sneak down there during the day and skate by myself on “rubber ice.”  That is melting ice probably only held together by a mother’s general everyday prayer for her childrens’ safety.  I occasionally did a triple axel-triple toe loop, but sadly, no one was there to verify that I was the first woman to successfully execute that move.  However, I digress. 

 

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The Silver Gypsy: God Bless All Volunteers

I visited my oldest brother’s widow, Mary, when I was in Michigan last summer.  I walked in the dining room as she was eating lunch.  She sat by herself.  I walked up, gave her a kiss, and asked if she knew who I was.  She said “Nooo.”  I said I was Sharlene and her face brightened into a big smile when she realized who I was.  I hadn’t seen her for four years and a lot had happened in her life since that time.  However, she hadn’t forgotten she was as close to being my big sister as anyone could be.  

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The Silver Gypsy:  Old Friends

It was a surprise when I saw the Class B pull into the North Ranch Club House just as I was getting there on my walk.  I knew Grace Cota was coming for a visit; I just didn’t know when.  Grace was here several winters ago but I didn’t get acquainted with her until I did an interview of her for my other (at that time) RV Life column.  That column consisted of all RVer interviews called “The Meanderthal Generation.” 

Let me tell you a little about her.  Grace Cota first rolled the tires of her 1995 Chevrolet Class B Falcon as a brand new full-time RVer in September 2007.  Grace lived in Pennsylvania for the first seventeen years of her life, “in a little town, in a little house, in a little bedroom.”  After divorcing in 1975, she bought three houses over several years and with the help of a contractor friend, renovated them, lived in them, rented them out, and eventually sold them.  Then in 1992, after 23 years as an elementary school teacher in Phoenix, AZ, Grace retired.  “I enjoyed it,” she said, “with exceptions.”  Spoken like a true teacher. 

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