It’s the end of the mall as we know it

The economy is collapsing and it’s partially my fault.

You see, for the past three years I wrote about how happy we were in the Airstream, traveling full-time and living cheap. We didn’t buy much, we didn’t throw much away, and we were happy with less stuff in our lives.   We were free of the trap of consumerism, having less and enjoying life more.   And this was bad.

Bad because apparently, other people listened.   They listened to me, and to Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping, and the people who advocate “Buy nothing day” the day after Thanksgiving.   They listened to newspapers and TV stations too, who told them that we were all going to consumer hell this year, and consequently people slowed down their shopping and now we’re all in economic quicksand.

I will admit that I was happy during our three years of minimalist living.   Heck, it took that long just to get rid of the surplus stuff we’d acquired during a dozen years of homeownership.   (We’re still using up the last of the hotel soap collection.) In those three years we had less each year than the year before, and we liked it.   Life was simpler, we didn’t have to worry about money nearly as much, and we didn’t waste energy coveting or caring for expensive things.

But now my frugal message has come back to haunt me.   Earlier this year people started to think twice before buying big-ticket items, and the toys went first.   That meant RV sales slowed down.   Manufacturers of RVs started dying (Nu-Wa, National RV, Western RV, Alfa Leisure, Weekend Warrior, Pilgrim International, Travel Supreme, Ameri-Camp).   All the rest have cut back production and laid off staff.

Then the OEMs who supply parts to the RV industry slowed down — things like vent fans and hitches.   And so all the OEMs called me up and said, “Sorry, but things are slow, so we’re canceling our advertising program.”

Ouch. We just lost another one this morning.   It’s very frustrating when you lose customers, even more so when they are long-term customers who love your product but are just hitting hard times.   It’s downright scary when you realize that if too many more of them bail out, you will be next.

So I take it back.   I didn’t mean it.   Buying stuff is really fun, it’s educational, it will make you sexier and improve your skin quality.   Especially if you buy things for your RV.   You need stuff.   Stuff makes the world go round.

Perhaps it’s not all my fault, however.  It’s very popular to blame “the housing market,” as if the houses themselves were somehow at fault.   Apparently those houses were building themselves into a frenzy, and they told people to buy them for ridiculous prices on speculation, and encouraged people to take out huge loans against theoretical value.   Then those darned houses decided not to perform anymore and tipped over the world economy.

At least, that’s what the Administration is claiming.   The banks, the mortgage companies, the developers, the speculators, and all the regulators from the local to federal levels were just victims of this terrible, house-instigated tragedy.  As were those of us who took out huge HELOCs to buy even bigger flat-screen TVs.   At least, that’s the theory.

I have a little trouble buying that, because in many ways the decline of consumerism has been forecastable for a while. “Is the mall dead?” asks Newsweek, citing the fact that 2007 was the first time in 50 years that a new indoor mall didn’t open somewhere in the country.   It’s one of many signs that our society has peaked in its interest in buying stuff.

The idea that we could just endlessly increase our consumption to drive the economy was fun for a while, but in the end it is just another Ponzi scheme doomed to collapse eventually.   In addition to selling stuff, you’ve got to build value, not just keep landfills busy.   Besides, economics aren’t just numbers, they are the result of human behavior, and in this case we have a huge wave of people called Baby Boomers who are changing the entire world with their economic clout.   Right now they are retiring, which means they don’t buy big houses as much.

But they are interested in RVs, thankfully, and Boomers drove an enormous wave of RV industry growth from 2001 through 2007.   In total self-interest, I hope that they will resume their profligate RV-buying ways very soon.   We don’t have to worry about RV speculation becoming a plague on the economy later.   Everyone who buys an RV accepts up-front that it will depreciate like a car, and they don’t harbor hopes of selling it at a killer profit next year or taking out a second loan on it to buy a house.   It actually makes a weird kind of sense for Boomers to crack that piggy bank 401-K and go shopping for the travel trailer of their dreams.

Incidentally, I suggest an Airstream. Not only are dealers hungry to sell, but each new Airstream comes with a free one-year subscription to Airstream Life magazine.   See, you’ve already saved $16.   Everyone knows that in America it’s not how much you spent, it’s how much you saved.   So go out there and do me a favor: save me.

Even though you’ll be buying something, in the end your Airstream will return more on your investment than any other thing I can imagine.   You’ll find quality of life that is independent of how much stuff you have.   You’ll discover the joy of simplicity and less obligations.   Like us, you’ll find that once you’re out there on the road, less is more.

But this time, let’s just keep that a secret.

Happy little bacteria

When we lived in Vermont we had a black compost bin behind the house.   Into it we tossed nearly all the food waste (everything but meat, bones, and fish) from our kitchen, as well as regular supplements of grass trimmings, leaves, and sticks.   For six years we put stuff in that bin, and yet it never filled.   The stuff just broke down naturally and decreased in volume as it did.

Once a year I’d open up a little hatch near the bottom of the bin and pull out half a dozen shovels full of rich brown compost.   I’d toss it on the garden in the spring, and as a result we never needed fertilizer.   Between composting and recycling, we also hardly had trash to throw out.   It was a great system.

We became big advocates of composting. I even had a little book that I’d share with people who asked about it.   But you don’t need a book to start composting.   All you have to do is buy or make a bin, and start tossing the biodegradable stuff in it.   You can get fancy and think about layering the materials or worrying about nitrogen levels, or adding moisture, but I never really put any effort into it and still everything broke down just like Mother Nature intended.

While traveling in the Airstream, composting became an impossibility.   You need a certain “critical mass” to get the bacterial process going, and a little jar in the trailer wasn’t going to cut it.   Being compost loonies, we actually looked forward to the day when we’d once again get a pile started in our backyard.

Last weekend Eleanor bought a bin locally from Tucson Organic Gardeners.   They usually cost about $80 but if you hunt around you can often find discount deals through the local municipality or a gardening club.   We paid $40 for ours because it was essentially a recycled plastic trash can, turned upside down and drilled full of holes.   (The Tucson Organic Gardeners call it a “zero carbon footprint” compost bin.)

Installation is easy.   Just plunk it down on earth (not pavement) somewhere convenient, at least ten feet from the house.   Scrape up the soil a bit.   Kick-start it with something yummy.

I’ve started ours with a mixture of Halloween pumpkins and palm fronds.   The fronds provide the “brown” (dry carbon-rich stuff) and the pumpkins provide the “green” (damp nitrogen-rich stuff).    Keep the mix to about 50-50 and your pile should be self-sufficient once it gets big enough.   Being in Arid-zona I might have to add a little moisture to our composter once in a while, but other than that the process is the same.   The bin and the bacteria do all the work. The bin keeps the pile moist while letting in a little oxygen, and the happy little bacteria get busy eating up everything.   As they say, “Compost Happens.”

teva-hangar.jpgWell, most of the time.   Eleanor showed me a clothes hanger that came with a Teva product.   The hanger advertised itself as being “BIODEGRADABLE   polylactide polymer,” and a “compostable corn-based plastic hanger.”   Well, doesn’t that feel nice and green?   Too bad it’s just window dressing.   The hanger won’t go into our heap, because in fact it won’t biodegrade under the conditions found in typical backyard compost. It needs extraordinarily high temperatures, found only in a handful of commercial composting operations nationwide.   So it will end up in the same place as a petroleum-based plastic hanger — the landfill.   There’s a lot of stuff out there pretending to be “green.”

Emma says that composting means “there’s fewer trash heaps in the world.”   (She already gets it, even before we have the homeschooling lessons on bacterial decay.)   But besides doing a small thing to help make our ecology more sustainable, there’s a reward at the end: soft, sweet-smelling brown soil that will go into next year’s garden and help grow tomatoes and herbs for Eleanor’s kitchen.

Eleanor collects her food scraps in a plastic tub under the kitchen sink.   Every 2-3 days, we walk out to the composter and toss ’em in.   This works very well for us, but people sometimes tell me that they don’t want to do this because they are concerned about attracting insects or creating odors in the kitchen.   We’ve never had such problems, probably because we keep the tub sealed, and because we are religious about dumping it regularly.   It’s easier than emptying the trash can.

Since we stopped living in the Airstream, our impact on the earth has gone up.   We use more water, generate more trash, buy more things, and use more electricity. It’s a difficult-to-avoid consequence of being in a house.   Diverting our food scraps, leaves, clippings, and even dryer lint to a closed cycle that turns eventually into more food, is not only a way to compensate for our increased impact, but kind of fun.   It’s not often that we find something that is free, rewarding, green, results in a valuable product (fertilizer), and provides a home science lesson all at once. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

Top 12 mistakes of full-timers

In the past year, I’ve been getting a lot of requests from people for information about the full-time lifestyle.  Most of our lessons are covered in the Tour of America blog archives, but since not everyone wants to read through all 800+ blog entries, I’m going to summarize “The Top Twelve Mistakes Made By Full-Timers” here.   Hopefully this list will help a few prospective travelers to start off on the right foot.  In no particular order, here they are:

1.  Driving too much.  Everyone starts out with a bang — rushing away from home base to get to the first great destination.  Over the first few months, new full-timers seem to cover thousands of miles per month, and then gradually they calm down and begin to stop at all the great little things that they’ve been passing by.  That’s when they get into the rhythm of full-timing, and inevitably start to enjoy their travels more.

Tip: Slow down!  Stay longer, talk more, meet more people, explore the small stuff — and save money by traveling less and getting weekly rates at campgrounds.  Set a limit, like no more than 100 or 150 miles on driving days, and no more than two or three travel days each week.

2.  Keeping too much in storage.  This is a classic.  Ask any full-timer who has been traveling for more than a year, and you’ll get a story about how much stuff they left behind in storage, and how much they’ve come to regret it. Storage is expensive, but worse than that is the shock you’ll get when you come back and find all the stuff you paid to store that you didn’t even remember owning (or no longer want!)

Tip: If you plan to be out for more than a year, be aggressive about getting rid of the marginal items.  Sure, it’s still useful, but will you be happy to pay $10 to store a $5 item for a year?  Better to get rid of it and buy another one when you get back. Try your local Freecycle (on Yahoo! Groups) to get rid of low-value but useful items.

3.  Trying to keep a rigid schedule, OR not allowing enough time to explore.  Isn’t the point of full-timing that you can explore without a schedule?  Yet I have met many newbie full-timers who are rushing to keep up with their schedule, just like they did when they had jobs or kids in school.  When you hit a good spot you’ll nearly always find you want to stay longer than you thought, so if you must make plans, leave yourself lots of time and plenty of options.

Tip: Don’t make reservations unless absolutely necessary.  Remember, you’re a full-timer — you can wait until a space opens up. The exceptions are airline tickets (where prices go up if you wait), and really popular things that must be reserved months in advance.

4.  Being afraid to camp without hookups.  You can only see the country if you’re willing to get off the beaten path once in a while. Boondocking terrifies some people, but it’s actually fun, easy, and economical.  It’s in those rustic national park, state park, Bureau of Land Management, National Forest, and Corps of Engineers campgrounds that you’ll find some of the most memorable outdoor experiences in the USA.

Tip: Get to know the capacities of your holding tanks, and how long they will last.  This takes practice.  The best way to learn to boondock is to just do it.

5. Not carrying water.  This one amazes me.  People will advise you to carry less water in order to improve your fuel economy.  It’s a myth, at least for our rig.  If you are not climbing a mountain, 200 lbs of water (25 gallons) isn’t going to impact your fuel economy much.  With travel trailers and motorhomes on relatively flat land, aerodynamics play a larger role than weight. (But see Tip #7 before you decide.)

Not having water means you must go where the water hookups are, and you can’t stop spontaneously at a delightful spot along the way.  It also means that if you have a problem and can’t reach your intended destination, you’re out of luck for showers, cooking, and toilet.  Yet I constantly hear from other travelers that they recommend leaving the water tank empty and filling up only when they arrive.  That’s like leaving your gas tank on 1/4 all the time and hoping there’s a gas station every 50 miles.

Tip:  If you’re concerned about weight, just carry 10-15 gallons.  That’s enough to get you through a night with careful conservation.

6. Using the wrong mail forwarding service.  When we were looking for a new mail forwarding service, people advised us to “just use any UPS Store.”  Bad idea.  What if that little shop in the strip mall closes?  It just happened to a friend and fellow full-timer a few months ago, and he had a heck of a time moving everything to another address.

I recommend looking for an established mail forwarding specialist that has a succession plan in place in case the owners retire or the business has to move.  Also, look for a service that will give you excellent personal attention via phone and email.  It can work to have a friend or relative forward your mail, but ask yourself if that person will keep doing it reliably and regularly for a year or more.

Tip:  We use and recommend St. Brendan’s Isle.  Others use Escapees mail forwarding.  There are a lot of other services that specialize in RV’ers, too.  Do a Google search to find them.  USPS “change of address notifications”  are not a good choice — temporary mail forwarding is unreliable and lasts only for six months.  The USPS Premium mail forward service is better but too expensive.

Try to reduce the volume of mail you receive by using e-billing (see Tip #11), asking to be removed from mailing lists, and closing unnecessary accounts.  Ideally you should just get a few pieces of mail each week, so you can spend most of your time enjoying the travel experience.

Make sure whatever service you choose will forward your periodicals (magazines) — we get a lot of complaints from subscribers who paid for the cheapest service they could get and found out later that their magazines were getting tossed.  Ask if they will deliver urgent mail by FedEx if needed (at your expense).  Also, make sure you get a physical address, not a PO Box, or you may have trouble with banks and drivers licenses later.

7. Traveling overweight.  I don’t mean you, I mean your RV!  Hardly anyone ever weighs their rig, and yet everyone should.  Overweight travel means tire problems, premature brake wear, handling problems, hitching problems, and DANGER!  Don’t do it.

Tip:  Drop in on a CAT Scale (located at truck stops all over the country) and get weighed!  It costs just $8.  If your rig is approaching or over the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating on the serial number plate, start culling out the heavy stuff.  Traveling overweight is asking for trouble, and it’s the most easily prevented cause of accidents.

8. Deferring maintenance.  Oh yeah, we all do it.  But still, for a full-timer or long-distance traveler, it’s crazy.  You’re putting extra miles and wear on every system, and that means you need to think about maintenance as a preventative step, not as a response only when something breaks.

Tip:  Start at the bottom and work up. Think about brakes, tires, wheel bearings, axles, shocks, and hitch parts.  Then look at other things that can kill you, and the systems that control them.  Check for propane leaks, faulty appliances, batteries in smoke and CO detectors, date on the fire extinguisher, signals, tight bolts, lubricated parts, etc.

Everything in your rig came with an Owners Manual.  Pull ’em all out and look for the parts that say “DANGER” or “CAUTION,” then act accordingly.  Then maintain the heck out of everything you own at least annually.  If you don’t want to do it or don’t know how, find a really good service center and plan on spending 4-5 days there every year.

9. Not understanding the rig.  If you go out on the road assured by the dealer that “you’re all set,” you’re going to have a nasty surprise someday.  A hitch part might break, a tire will go flat, an appliance will stop working, etc., and if you don’t really understand the systems, you’ll be at the mercy of whoever you meet who claims to.  AAA membership is not a substitute for having a spare and knowing how to use it.

Tip: (Shameless self-promotion here)  Get a copy of The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming.  For about $10, it’s the quickest, most reliable way to get up to speed quickly.  You can also get it from Amazon.com.   Or, you can spend six months reading contradictory and often uninformed opinions on Internet forums.

In general, try to learn how to change a tire, jump a flat battery, grease the hitch, find and replace the fuses (all of them including truck and trailer), lubricate the locks, check the tires, test for gas leaks, winterize, and logically troubleshoot other problems.  As Robert Heinlein said, “specialization is for insects.”

10.  Choosing the wrong state of residence.  Some states have lower income taxes than others, some have punitive residency requirements, some are very expensive for vehicle registrations, and a few have perks (like discounted state resident rates for theme parks).  Think three times before you choose a state of residence.  It’s easiest if it matches your mailing address, but that’s not always necessary.

Tip:  Look at the cost of vehicle registrations, income taxes, health insurance rates, vehicle insurance rates, and residency requirements.  Once you’ve got a state picked out, move all your accounts to your mailing address, and get a passport too.

11. Not using online banking.   A lot of people just love paper statements, but you’ll find that if you don’t use e-billing to get your bills, you’ll often get hit with late charges on your credit cards and other bills.  That adds up fast, and can affect your credit rating.  These days banks are narrowing the gap between when they send your bill and when it must be paid.

Tip: Get every credit card, utility, bank, and other recurring relationship to send you an e-bill, or get rid of that vendor Have all your small recurring bills (cell phone, etc) billed automatically to your credit or debit card, to reduce the number of bills you get. Save copies of the e-bills on your computer as PDFs so you can refer to them if you need to.  Use online banking to simplify your bill paying. It’s generally free and easy to use.

12. Relying too heavily on the GPS.  GPS is a great tool and we love it, but it is no substitute for a good map, or common sense.  The GPS database won’t tell you about all the things you’d like to see, either.  But it will send you down a one-lane (or non-existent) back road to save 10 feet on the route.

Tip:  Use the GPS as just one of several tools.  Keep and use a good road atlas.  Research things to do on the Internet and through local brochures before you plan your route.  When traveling in the west always have a supply of drinking water in the truck, and be sure to ask locally for information before going on any dirt road.  When approaching state or national parks, always follow the official brown signs rather than the shortcut your GPS is advising.

California road trip

I have trouble staying in one place for more than a month.   The southwest is delightful this time of year, with dry and warm days and crisp evenings filled with stars.   Tucson has been just fine in all respects, but with the Airstream sitting in the carport, it seems a shame to miss the opportunity to explore a little more.

Early on Thursday morning I pulled the Airstream out of the carport and headed west.   Eleanor and Emma stayed home to take care of other things, so I was alone to think and observe as the desert scenery drifted by.   Even though our hiatus has not been long, it was a strange feeling being back on the road, both invigorating and yet uncertain.   I’m so used to traveling with my two companions that towing the Airstream alone is always a little uncomfortable.   Why am I doing this?   Where am I going?   But the little things in the desert soon steal my attention, and then I’m looking at every ordinary thing (tractors, dead motels, billboards, farms, dusty roads) and wondering what story lies behind it.   Each thing invites exploration, so the road is never dull even though I’ve traveled it before.

The iPod played a nice medley of music, and each song reminded me of a different place.   I hear Barenaked Ladies and I think of a week we spent in Victor, ID with our friend Rich C.   I hear Squeeze and I’m thinking of humid nights driving across I-10 through the swamps between Baton Rouge and Lafayette.   I hear Blink182 and I’m thinking of a particular week in Tampa.   Some songs lead me to Vermont, others to Mexico, and one particular album always reminds me of a dark early morning when we went to catch a snorkel boat in Maui.   I like having music that reminds me of these places, it’s like an alternate form of memory.

The reason I’m on the road is to get the Airstream a pair of new axles.   It has been sagging a little lately, and that has made it hard to hitch up properly.   A heavy trailer like ours needs to distribute its tongue weight across both axles of the tow vehicle (in this case, our Nissan Armada), and lately that weight distribution hasn’t been what it should be.  I can tell by the way the Armada is starting to sag in the rear.  When the axles on the trailer sag, it messes up the geometry that makes weight distribution work.   It also means the trailer is getting a rougher ride, which is bad for longevity.

In Corona, CA, 458 miles from our home, a business called Inland RV specializes in Airstream axles.   I could have gotten the axles replaced locally, but Inland RV really knows the axle business and they support the magazine with their advertising dollars, which means a lot to me in this economy.   Besides, our two good friends Terry and Marie have recently relocated to work at Inland and I wanted to see them as well.   Terry is a super mechanic and I wanted him to see the condition of all the trailer’s running gear (bearings, brakes, tires, axles) and check for other problems.

We had a mystery squeak coming from the brakes and I wanted him to take a look at that too.   Terry correctly diagnosed the squeak problem before I even arrived, just from the description.   It was caused by a prior service center not peening over little tabs on the outer brake pads, and easily fixed.   Stuff like that makes me crazy — why can’t the first guys do it right?   I’ll drive my Airstream hundreds of miles to find someone who can do the job right the first time, and often I have to.

The service work went well on Friday, but I hung around for another night to visit a little more.   The shop has extended me the courtesy of parking in the service bay, which is a peculiar experience.   We did this once before, at Roger Williams Airstream in Weatherford, TX.   Being indoors means that “day” and “night” lose meaning.   It is sunset when the shop closes, the doors lock, and the big fluorescent shop lights are switched off.   There is no dawn until someone comes in.   I awoke in the pitch black wondering what time it was.   It was like a winter morning in the far north, when the sun doesn’t rise for hours after the people do, except that the temperature never changed regardless of what was going on outside.

A trip like this has to include at least a little tourism, so we took Saturday to check out the March Field Air Museum.   It’s like Tucson’s Pima Air & Space Museum, but smaller.

Eleanor packed the Airstream with enough food for me to live for a week, and it has hardly been touched because everyone else keeps feeding me.   I’m well-stocked to wander around southern California for a long time.   There’s some temptation to do that, but it’s not the same when I know E&E are waiting for me to return to Tucson.   Aimless wandering is best done as a family.   I’ll go home on Sunday, and instead plan the next big trip, which I suspect will happen — based on prior history — in just a few weeks.

The secret to successfully staying home

 Adam and Susan have been visiting Tucson in their Airstream for the past week.   They are becoming, with our constant encouragement, full-timers in spirit.   They arrived here without a rigid schedule and have been just taking every day as it comes.     That’s the right frame of mind — just “be” in the moment and don’t worry about tomorrow.

Since I was between issues of the magazine without a lot else going on, I took a few days to go hiking with them.   I’m trying to retain some of the lessons I learned while full-timing, and one of them is to take the vacation opportunities whenever you can.   We hiked the Sabino Canyon Trail up to Hutch’s Pond (8 miles roundtrip), a little of the Mt Lemmon Trail at the height of the Santa Catalina Mountains (about two miles), and a little of the Romero Canyon Trail from Catalina State Park (about three miles).

Our choice of trails wasn’t random; I’ve been scouting various route ends in the Santa Catalina mountains so that we can put together a long day hike from the peak of Mt Lemmon at 8600 feet to Tucson’s base elevation of about 2400 feet.   The total hike will be about 14.5 miles, all downhill.

There’s a hidden goal in this hike.   We are planning a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike with Adam and Susan next fall.   Starting from the north rim, we’ll hike from about 8200 feet elevation to the canyon floor, and then back up the south rim.   It just happens that hiking down from Mt Lemmon to Tucson almost exactly duplicates the weather conditions, distance, and geography of a hike down from the Grand Canyon’s north rim.   Then we’ll hike up another trail (on another day) to simulate the steep hike back up the south rim.   This will help us test our gear, stamina, and mental gumption before we get to the real thing.

emma-wizard.jpgWe’re also thinking about other roadtrips.   We are definitely going out to California after Christmas, and the only question is how long we’ll be out.   Eleanor is already talking about “a month or so.”   She wants to visit Death Valley, and I’ve already scheduled four stops in southern California.   I can also see stops in Las Vegas and Quartzsite. We clearly aren’t ready to just “settle down” and stay home.

I don’t know why, exactly.   Life at home has been very pleasant.   The “fall” weather in Tucson is amazingly nice.   The house is comfortable, and Tucson has provided us with all the diversions you can expect from a mid-sized city.   We’ve met people.   Halloween was a great success (30-odd kids at the door, good trick-or-treating for Emma in her wizard costume).   But undeniably we still like life with a regular mix of new scenery.

Adam and Susan have left for California and won’t be back for a few weeks.   In the meantime, I may haul the Airstream off to the Los Angeles area to have an axle issue dealt with.   It’s a good excuse to check out a few spots in California that I’ve been meaning to visit. And being recent “homebodies,” any excuse to travel is a good one.

Planning trips is part of the same pathology.   I hate not having a trip in mind, even if it is only a rough plan.   So without even meaning to, I’ve sketched out the next year of travel, much like I have sketched out the next year of Airstream Life magazine.   Most of it is entirely speculative, but it’s fun to consider nonetheless.

The Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike is logistically challenging.   Our hike will be about 24 miles, but the drive from one rim to the other is about 250 miles.   That means we need overnight lodging at both ends of the hike, as well as tenting in the middle while we are in the canyon.   The temperatures will range from near-freezing at the north rim when we start hiking, to mid-90s at the bottom of the canyon in the afternoon.   Reservations are needed far in advance for lodges, campground, the hiker shuttle from one rim to the other, a backcountry camping permit, meals at Phantom Ranch, and “duffle service” (mules can be hired to haul your pack up the south rim).

We’re also working on getting our gear in order, like new hiking boots for everyone.   They’ve got to be well broken-in before we hike 24 miles, so there’s another reason to find some local hikes.   It all works, and it makes the little things we do to fill the time into really meaningful things.   I like the complexity of the rim-to-rim plan because it keeps me occupied when we are not traveling.   Everything we do now helps get us closer to the big event.   So it turns out that the secret to successfully staying home may be in the planning and preparation we do in anticipation of the next time we go away.