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Sharlene Minshall - RV Life Magazine - The Motorhome and Travel Trailer Lifestyle

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:  Thanksgiving

In the past year, I have put together a collection of my newspaper columns through the years.  This one is from 1986, my first year on the road, and obviously I went from being on the VA Blue Ridge Parkway to Washington and Oregon.  I did not let a lot of grass grow under my full-time RVing tires.  To explain some of the column comments, I was privileged to visit Asia in 1985 with a group of teachers from Western Illinois University (another long story).

“Aren’t young people great!  After an incredible amount of detective work on both our parts, I was able to spend some time with Kathy, a former senior GS from Michigan who now lives in Seattle.  She took me with her to an English class she teaches for refugee women.  That particular evening, there were two ladies from Cambodia and two from Laos.  It was a very informal, comfortable, loosely structured class, more to teach them how to use English in their everyday situations rather than the nuances of the English language (a little like my Japanese).  It was interesting to hear them tell their family stories.           

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The Silver Gypsy:  My Birthday

I was actually born on “turkey day” more years ago than I care to remember - in fact I can’t remember them whether I care to or not!  This is not an especially exciting or even a milestone birthday except that I am still alive and kicking and with my pretty-darn-good-health, that alone is worth celebrating.  I don’t expect anyone, including me, is going to make a big fuss about it.

I’m not sure if I’ve shown you a picture of the cabin where I was born.  I certainly have talked about it a lot.  Although the farm is still in the family, the cabin, playhouse, outhouse, and the barn are no longer there.  Even the bridge over the stream has gone on to a more streamlined, less-satisfying-to-the-eye version.  Some of the trees I used to climb are also missing...but then again, I’m missing a few things, too, height and memory come to mind.

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The Silver Gypsy: Recycling

Do you recycle?  I know it is more difficult when you are on the road full time because not every campground has recycling and sometimes bins for this can be pretty obscure.  We have recycling here at North Ranch for magazines and pop cans but I take mine directly to the dump.  I have to take my trash anyway.  It is amazing to me how much cardboard and how many tin cans I can gather in roughly three weeks.  The trash container is never full unless I have yard stuff to put in it but the recycle container is full in short order.  I also try to make it as compact as I can.

Some companies, like Kimberly-Clark are “going green.” The makers of Scott Tissue have come up with an innovative way to save on trash.  They are making their biggest change in a hundred years by going tubeless with their toilet paper, and a future consideration may be adapting that to paper towels as well.  The less-than-perfectly round rolls still fit over TP spindles and they are good to the last

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The Silver Gypsy: Elections

Oh dear, this is a hard one to write...or maybe I should say...a hard one not to write.  If I really let go and say what I think, I’d probably be fired!  With Election Day just yesterday, I’m quite sure the political ads are still fresh in your mind.  The intervals between one type of election and the next go fast and furious and don’t give us much time to recover - a little like the holidays (which are now fast approaching).  

May I be crass and say I’d love to have the money that’s being poured into just the ads alone for any election, but I think getting the ad money from this one current election would pay off my mortgage, as well as those of several of my friends and maybe provide my bucket-list trip to Ireland (maybe theirs, too). 

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The Silver Gypsy: On a Dark and Lonely Night

It has been my good fortune as a full-time RVer for 20 years plus to be a part of some questionable but exciting adventures.  This was part of a monthly column (View from the Top Half) for the Glenns Ferry Pilot in 1986.  I would swear it is true - (but God might be listening.”)

“ matter what age you are, never lose your sense of humor or adventure.  Traveling alone is fraught with danger as I discovered when I was traveling later in the evening than usual on my way to Glenns Ferry, ID.  It was nearly midnight when I parked up on Navajo Bridge near Page, AZ to get this column written before deadline.  There were several trucks parked nearby, giving me the comfort of the presence of other people, but as I didn’t want to disturb anyone with the noise of the generator that runs my computer, I parked well away from them.

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The Silver Gypsy: Memorials

In my travels, I have visited many, many, MANY memorials, memorials to the early pioneers, to one early pioneer, to famous people, to presidents, to various eras and roads and definitely to each legendary war and its heroes.  There are monuments to famous homes and shrines and poets and authors, plus tributes to ranges of mountains.   There are marble and stone monuments in local cemeteries representing loved ones.   You get the picture.  We have monuments to places for all kinds of reasons and to the sizes and shapes of countless “things” that are the highest, longest, deepest, lowest, widest, etc, as in monuments to fish, crab, and wind.

b2ap3_thumbnail_SD-MT.-RUSHMORE-549-April-20-2005.jpgWe are all familiar with Mt. Rushmore and Chief Crazyhorse (still unfinished) in SD and NH’s natural monument to the Old Man of the Mountain (crumbled a few years back).  A lesser known one is the statue to Hannah Duston, a colonial MA Puritan and mother of nine who was taken captive by Native Americans in 1697.  Eventually, she made her way back to her family after killing ten of her captives at night.   She was the first woman in the US to be honored with a statue.

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The Silver Gypsy:  Teachers, Our National Treasures

Continuing with my reminiscing of class reunions, way back in the dark ages, 1999, I wrote a column on the visit that two classmates and I had with our 1950s Home Economics teacher, Miss Burman.  I had talked with this lady on the phone.  Her voice at eighty-one, was strong and authoritative.  I just knew she was still fourteen feet tall with a military bearing and her back straight as a rod. 

At sixty-something, Peggy, Shirley and I, were seventeen-something apprehensive.  It was a day I wanted to shine as an exemplary past pupil but three sweaty August hours riding in a hot car did nothing for my confidence.  My pals looked svelte and attractive.  We rang the doorbell.  I was already convinced she would take one look at me and say, “I knew you’d turn out like this.”  When she opened the door, we chorused together, once more teamed against “The Force.”  “Good Morning, Miss Burman.”     

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The Silver Gypsy: Random Thoughts

I overheard this in a waiting room recently.  “Watch my purse for me,” said Mom as she proceeded to her appointment.  “Why?” said the son, “Is it going to do something?”  Hmmm. 

TV talk shows often rate the various sayings as the most frequently used, good or bad.  I would nominate, “…take it to the next level.”  This can mean just about anything …going from an expensive car to a more expensive one that’s all electric or it might be in a toothpaste commercial for Wal-Mart.  One gets a rather more steamy idea when the same expression is used on The Bachelor or Bachelorette.  If you’ve never noticed the reference before, I’ll bet you will now. 

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The Silver Gypsy: 60th Reunion!

A letter followed me to Virginia last summer, an invitation to the 60th class reunion of Dowagiac High School’s 1954 graduating class in Michigan.  We missed the 55th reunion because it is a lot of work to put a reunion together and the home town group didn’t want to do it and I can’t blame them.  At any rate, this invitation came with a date of September and with plans already made for the next few months, I was not free to go.  It will be the first one I’ve missed.  We have had them every five years and I’ve driven or flown from far distant points to be there to renew old acquaintances.  It is a disappointment but the invitation brought back lots of memories. 

As September 27th approached, I found my senior year book to reminisce.  I don’t know if class books are still used or whether students still write notes in them on the last days of school.  If they do, I hope they are writing the notes in ink because those are almost the only ones that survived the years.   But then again, I’m sure that none of us were thinking 60 years ahead to whether our silly notes to each other would still be legible.   

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The Silver Gypsy: Interesting Seatmates

People in general are very interesting.  When I flew from Lynchburg, VA to Charlotte, NC, on my way back to Phoenix, I was prepared for an ultra-quiet flight.  These short flights are usually filled with business types who have their noses glued to various sized computers or phones and want no engagement of any kind.  It was a surprise to have a young man about the age of my grandson (17) as my seat companion. 

He asked, “Have you ridden on one of these small planes before.”
“Yes, many times.  And you?”
“No, it’s my first time.”
“I call them butterflies.  It will be an adventure.”
“My name is Ronald.  I didn’t catch yours,” he said with an engaging smile.
“My name is ‘Charlie.”

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