IMG_20170326_173450The Stew Wagon is a 1999 Ford Explorer. It is my home, most of the time. There’s a meadow in the White River National Forest, where I park, sleep, and spend a lot of my free time. There is no WiFi, cell signal, cable, or communication of any kind. I’m off the grid.

Yesterday, after working at the mill, I drove down to the meadow, opened up the doors and lay down on my bed. Listening to the stream and the birds, it was easy to drift off into a peaceful nap. When I woke up, I stayed there. I moved my head to the other end of the bed, hugged a pillow, and just gazed out at that beautiful place.

I used to say, “I live in my vehicle”. That isnt really true. There’s a difference between living “in” it, and living “out of” it. One means that it’s where I spend my time. The other means that it’s where I keep my things and sleep. Is living out of the Stew Wagon a hardship? Yes and no.

The challenges that come along with this lifestyle are certainly different from those you encounter in a more traditional living space. In a house or apartment, you dont usually have to think about where you’re going to shower, or pee. Also, the kitchen is the kitchen. There’s a refrigerator, stove, sink, etc. Most of the time, you have a furnace of some sort. In a 1999 Explorer? Not likely.

Apart from the things listed above, the very first thing you have to deal with is sleeping. Some people are able to curl up in the back seat. Others can lay down some seats into a bed, of sorts. I have chosen to remove the back seats and install a sleeping platform, with a memory foam mattress for comfort. (This presented new, unanticipated issues, as well.) Another thing is privacy. There isnt much of that when you’re surrounded by windows. Then there are the Signal problems. In a vehicle, you wont have cable, or (until recently) WiFi, and no cell signal in the meadow.

Vehicle dwelling also presents obstacles when it comes to entertaining. There isnt much room for dinner parties. In mine, visitors are pretty much limited to the passenger seat. Still, there are lots of places to gather, so socializing isnt as difficult as you might think.

On balance, the opportunity to discover and experience new places, cultures and people is always there. If I want to go to Albuquerque or Chugwater, I dont have to figure out how that will fit into my budget. There’s no worry about where to sleep, either. My bed is just as comfortable in those places as it is in the meadow.

Life in the Stew Wagon has led me to see myself in a different light. Things I was very proud of, before, seem insignificant now, while things I might have scoffed at have become powerful sources of joy. A comfortable bed, for example, is something I give thanks for every night and morning. There have been times in this journey, when I didnt have one. I’m more capable than I’d ever realized. What people think bothers me less than it once did. I’ve not lost my pride, I’m just proud for different reasons.

Despite the image that I sometimes project, I am not a patient person. I tend to deal with things immediately (without considering the consequences), rather than waiting to see how they might develop, if let alone. Sometimes, it’s fine. It has also cost me a lot of money and time that I could have saved, if I’d only waited. That’s something I’m working on.

Also, I really dont need a lot of people in my life. While a good conversation is always enjoyable, and I love to meet new people, solitude is a strong need, for me. Having a home on wheels definitely provides for that, and I’m learning to cherish my time alone.

Yes, there are challenges, but every day, I wake up in the peaceful place that other people imagine. There are trees, deer, moose, foxes, a singing stream. My list of experiences is growing, as the list of things I want to do shrinks. I’m doing things that other people dream about, and I know that I’ll do the things I dream about, as well.

Having said all that, let me add one more thing. I wouldnt recommend this lifestyle to anyone. It’s something that is either thrust upon you by unfortunate circumstance, or you choose it because it fits who you are.

That’s all I have to say about that. Thanks for following, liking and sharing.

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.


Continuing Education

In the world of Vehicle Dwelling, whether it’s a car, a van, or a thirty foot RV, two things are primary – Heat and Storage. In the past few months, I’ve experimented with several solutions for both. Until now, none have worked very well, but I think I’ve finally found some workable answers.

As fall moves to winter, up here on the mountain, low temperatures are dropping. A few nights have dipped into the twenties, which makes for cold jeans in the morning.

With that in mind, I took this past weekend to install a secondary battery, 1500 watt power inverter, electric heater, and mattress warmer. Combined with the car heater and all my blankets, there really is no reason that I wont be warm through the winter.

With regard to storage, I’ve come full circle. After trying several ideas, I finally came back to the thing I wanted to avoid – milk crates. Yep. After all the failed attempts, I found that, no matter how collegiate it may seem, they represent the most durable and practical system for my storage needs. In a later post, I’ll share photos and some video.

Also, I picked up a roof rack from Craigslist, which will soon support a Thule cargo carrier. That will open up some inside space. There are a few things that I really dont have room for. Among them are my field easel, extra blankets, folding camp chairs. By moving them up above, I’ll be able to reorganize the interior space, and set up a pantry, including a few dishes.

In all of this, I’ve learned a lot about myself. In many way, I’m becoming the person I was meant to be. In other ways, I’m shedding the guy that I never wanted to be. Dont get me wrong. Vehicle dwelling hasnt changed me; it is refining me. By getting rid of all the superfluous “stuff” in my life, I have to focus on the things that are actually necessary, both in the place where I live, and in the way that I live.

So, that’s enough for now. Thanks for following, Liking, and sharing. Until next time…

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Balloon Fiesta!!!

The trip from Denver to Santa Fe was basically uneventful, if you dont count the horrific Front Range traffic. When people are considering the move to Colorado, nobody mentions that we have a horrible highway system. Once past the I-25 parking lot, things got better. I drive to Santa Fe in the dark, which was kind of nice. I enjoy night driving.

Once there, I spent the night in a hotel parking lot. In the morning, I went inside and asked the counter person for breakfast recommendations. He suggested a place called, “Flying Tortilla”; so, that’s where I went. It wasnt bad. Huevos Rancheros is usually a pretty safe choice, at a new place, and it was pretty good. The green chili was milder than I’d have liked, but it tasted good.

Afterward, I walked around Old Santa Fe for a while. It’s mostly a tourist attraction, but enjoyable. There are some nice galleries scattered around, along with the usual shops and restaurants. A park rests in the midst of it. On this Saturday morning, there were several musicians performing for tips.

When I got hungry, I headed for some fast food and then on to Albuquerque.

Saturday afternoon and evening were uneventful, apart from the burning of the PortaPotty.

At 4:30, Sunday morning, I boarded a bus to the International Balloon Fiesta Field. It was a slow start, but once things got rolling, I couldnt put the camera down.

One closing note: When you visit New Mexico, you have to get some of the Piñon Coffee. It’s more than delicious. Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had.

So, I promised pics. Here they are.

At about 11:00, I grabbed a bus back to the Stew Wagon and headed home. Overall, it was a great trip. Maybe I’ll go again next year. Anybody care to join me? I’d be glad for the company.

In the meanwhile…Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Upcoming Posts – A Teaser

Over the weekend, I made the trip to Santa Fe, and then on down to Albuquerque. The International Balloon Fiesta was kicking off, and I’ve never been. I decided to go, taking the cameras with me. There will be pics and video.

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Thanks for following, Liking and Sharing.

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

What Are These Called?

If you follow Colorado State Highway 9 south from Ute Peak Road, you’ll see a small “herd” of these animals, on the right, as you approach Silverthorne. I think they’re Scottish Highland Cattle, but dont know for sure. They’ve been tempting my eye for months, but this is the first time that I’ve taken the initiative to stop.

One reason that I did, is that I’ve not been shooting…on purpose. The scenery where I’m living is, as they say, breathtaking. I could shoot twenty calendars worth of photos, every day. That’s the thing, though. I look out through the Stew Wagon windows and see the same photos that have been shot a million times. There’s nothing to set them apart from anyone else’s pics. So, I dont shoot. Here are some examples.

Now, it’s easy to see why I love living where I do. Who wouldnt? The question is, Are you willing to sleep in your car when it’s snowing and blowing up a blizzard? Yes. I am. (I think.)

So, that’s it for me, today. Thanks for following, Liking, and sharing.

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

The Second Book of Don…


Up here on the mountain, it’s almost at its height. A yearly celebration that I love, although I do miss the variety of colors that one gets in other areas of the country. Nights are cooler, but not cold. Sometimes, in the wee hours, I’m wakened by the bugling of an elk, or by the scuffling of unknown feet in the gravel around the Stew Wagon. Mornings, I can still walk, but I need gloves and a jacket…and it’s dark.

That’s the part that gets me, right now. It seems like we only had a couple of weeks when the sky was light when I got to the mill. For the moment, though, there are still a few hours of light at the end of the day. I find that oddly appropot for this moment in my life.

In the past year, I’ve hit several major Life Events. I’ve taken a J.O.B., and become a bonafide Vagabond. My parents have both passed away. On the eighth of this month, I turned sixty. I was telling a friend that it’s less like I’m beginning a new chapter, and more like starting a whole new book – The Second Book of Don.

I’m both excited and nervous about the prospect. Last night, as I sat in the Stew Wagon, winding down before bed, I made an outline for the next eighteen months. It goes something like this. Pay off my little bit of debt, complete the conversion of the Stew Wagon, and do some regional travel. Also, I’m going to visit my daughter and her family in South Carolina.

Two years ago, I was praying to die. Now, I’m looking forward to the rest of my life, and there’s a lot to look forward to.

Thanks for following, Liking and sharing.

~Enjoy the life you’re living.

Free Day at Denver Botanic Gardens…

Even when there’s not an eclipse, one can still enjoy a late summer day in a garden. Denver Botanic Gardens boasts over 23 acres of beautifully maintained gardens and quiet areas. No matter what you’re after, a lunch nook or some peaceful shade, there’s a place to get comfortable.  Naturally, a free day means lots of people, but the place is spacious enough that it wasnt crowded. This particular free day fell when most kids are already back in school, so the vibe was peaceful, at times, almost hushed. There were lots of couples, cameras, strollers, and hats. Skies were clear and sunny.

A couple of friends and I found a very convenient parking space, just across from the entrance. Gathering our gear (in my case, the MKii, 24-105mm and a 50mm), we crossed York Street and went inside, cameras at the ready.

Now, I need to apologize to you. As noted in a previous post, I havent covered any events this summer, so my brain was in Tourist, rather than Journalist mode. Consequently, I didnt do many frames of my surroundings. No shots of the entrance. Very few of the grounds. Glancing at the contact sheet last night, it appears that I was mostly interested in the flora and fauna. Nor did I do any video, at all. I really need to get back on my game.

Also, I’ll take this moment to repeat how much I appreciate women. On a sun-filled day, women are prone to bedeck themselves in marvelous ways. Broad hats, bright colored dresses or blouses, and all manner of flowing garments were not unusual.  Men, on the other hand, tend to be less demonstrative, in khaki shorts, long socks, golf shirts, and ugly hats. Not surprisingly, this is less inspiring to my inner artist.

These two young women agreed to pose for me, as we had run into each other a couple of times. One lives here in the Denver area. Her friend is visiting from Austin, and was glad to be far away from the deluge in that city.

Patricia and Michelle 2

My friends, Eldon and Joe, helped make it a good day. There are more pics below. Thanks for following, liking, and sharing.

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.