Saturday, March 24, 2018

Grateful for Help Received (3/24/2018)


March 1, I found myself pretty far away from everyone I knew.  I had budgeted just enough money for gas to reach the next location where I hoped to stay put and work on the van.  Suddenly, I realized… I was BROKE.  How can one not know that is about to happen???  Well, for me, it was stupidity.  I had failed to make note of the re-occurring Amazon Prime annual fee of about $100…. and had not cancelled it.  Now, taking into consideration the automatic Electronic Fund Transfers already set up for the rest of the month, I was left with only $40… and had no way of getting to the next destination.

Also, my shoulder pain was increasing to the point it was causing my Blood Pressure to be elevated and I needed to buy a blood pressure monitor to keep an eye on it.  In addition, I had infections in both ears which began from allergies… and I had co-pays for meds to cure that problem, I did not feel I had the money for all that, so decided to sit in that drug store parking lot and try to figure it out.  The itching was about to drive me mad.

I felt stuck, desperate.  Was I going to have to sit in this parking lot and wait three weeks for my March 21 payday???  I felt like a trapped wild animal.  I decided to ask for help, not an easy thing for me to do, as stubbornly independent as I am.  So, I sent out a plea, asking only for $5 or $10, to the contacts in my Google email, trying carefully to eliminate people I didn’t know, or who I knew were not in a position to help, or businesses, etc.  I didn’t do a perfect job of that I guess.  LOL

The response was immediate and gratifying.  Also a bit scary.  Two people whose email addresses sounded familiar, came back at me with a lot of hate, calling me names and telling me to grow up.  One said, it was the second time in seven years I had begged him for money.  I forgot what the other said, but he was also hateful.  All the others renewed my faith in humanity and gave me hope.  One wrote me yesterday, saying she finally managed to get the service dog I helped her with financially.  Friends help friends.  That’s what we do.

First my regular budget update for the month.

Budget Update

Month / Pay Period





Sep 20- Oct 17





Oct 18 Nov 14





Nov 15 – Dec 19





Dec 20 – Jan 17





Jan 18 - Feb 20





Feb 21 – Mar 20





These are not by any means my only budget items. My monthly Electronic Fund Transfers for bills come to: $295.00 monthly.  I can’t change much of those right now.  I tried to cancel my gym membership, but Planet Fitness said I could not, unless I paid for the remainder of the contract.  This is not what they told me when I joined and I am planning to try and fight this as there are no gyms near where I boondock.

So, here is an accounting of my expenses since 3/1 when my plea went out.

Supplies - $100.00
Groceries/meals out – $105.00
Solar supplies – $13.75
Gasoline – $141.21
P.O. Box/postage – $43.00
Kayak Chute Supplies – $100.00

None of that would have been possible without the help I received. Thank you again.

Major changes to my rig:

Kayak Chute:  For nine years I have loaded my kayak on top of my van.  It was difficult at best.  With pending shoulder surgery and a very long recovery, I had to find a better way to manage the 53-pound bulky boat.  Building a box on the floor of my trailer in order to slide the kayak into the trailer without any overhead lifting is the only solution I could come up with.  Lifting the kayak overhead may not be possible after the surgery, so I want to prepare for that possibility so I can continue to be independent and keep kayaking.  This week I accomplished that due to financial assistance I received.


Once it was all helter-skelter in there, and whatever I needed was always under something else.  Now things are compartmentalized, and the kayak slides easily in and out with only a couple inches of lifting, which I can do with one arm.

No more of this:

tx_trip 048tx_trip 051tx_trip 052

Still to do – Peeling van paint:  Finish fixing peeling paint on the van.  Hard to do with shoulder situation so I bought an oscillating sander to assist.  My last major adaptation.  I like to keep the van looking neat and clean.  These Chevy vans were really bad about paint peeling off.  I keep postponing this as it hurts a lot to do it.

New thought: I now carry 3 six gallon jugs of water… when I make camp.  That is 48 pounds per jug.  Most the places I buy water sell five gallons for $1.00, so I began just getting the five gallons instead of six. But even the 40 pounds is getting too hard to lift.  I need to find a way to have a water supply on hand that does not involve me lifting those jugs.  I just might not be able to do it after surgery.  I am looking for affordable solutions now.  A friend is going to share plans for her system.

Van work needed:  I still need to replace the power steering fluid pump on the van and have the name of a trusted mechanic I will check with this week.  I have the pump donated by a supporter.  Big O tires also said I need a lot of front end work to keep my van from eating my front tires.  I had to buy two cheap new ones a couple months ago to feel safe and get by.  The estimate from Big O tires was over $2,000, for things like Pitman arm, etc. Same Big O gave a friend of mine the same estimate on his van… he said his van was not even worth that.  I am going to see what this local mechanic thinks, as I think my van is worth that to me… it is my home, the only one I really ever want to have.  If you wish to help with van work, you can use the donation button on the right.

I have thoughts of setting up a Patreon account to raise funds for the van work needed.  In the nine years I have had the van (and 100,000 + miles), I have only replaced the water pump, and tires.  I have driven places and gotten into situations I should probably not have gotten into… but I need to keep this machine working… and make it last me the rest of my life???  I would be selling notecards, reprints of my art work, maybe some original art and possibly some vandwelling mentoring sessions… where newbies could come camp with me for a week.  Any thoughts?

Another new thought?  Most likely the first few months after shoulder surgery, I will have to sleep in a recliner.  I really don’t want to spend that time inside a nursing home or someone’s sticks and bricks house any longer than necessary, so I have begun thinking about getting a recliner inside my van.  My bed is easily removed… and if a recliner will fit (it will have to be a power recliner or one with a left handed leaver)… I will find/get one… some way.

I CAN and I WILL do this.  (And I have not given up my Arizona Trail hike dream… but all the rest of this has kind of put it on the back burner.)

Thanks go out to all the generous supporters and I pray the trolls get a life and find some happiness out there.  (Don’t worry, Trolls, you have been removed from my Google Contacts.)  I am humbled by the support I have received and will pay it forward.


Maybe I should buy land here… southeast Arizona????
(and call it home)

Monday, November 20, 2017

HipStar™: The World's Best Hands-Free Travel Cart

Posted first by Igor Koshutin (Creator); re-posted by Swankie.

HipStar™ - Hands-Free Travel Cart 
(watch video -

Hey Backers, 

Today we have another great supporter - Charlene Swankie (AKA "SwankieWheels"). Charlene is living on Social Security, but she is living life to the fullest, camping full-time in a home built camper van.  Here is a bit of her back story: 

In 2005, Charlene could not walk and was shopping for a wheelchair. She then had bilateral knee replacements and two years of physical therapy. She has had to learn how to walk all over again. Soon, she began biking and running. In 2008, she was feeling so fit, got bored, bought a kayak, learned to kayak and set off to Kayak America. Charlene's goal was to kayak all 50 states, and she completed her 50th state, Hawaii, on her 70th birthday! She is now 74 and recently began looking for a new goal and decided on a solo hike of the 800-mile long Arizona National Scenic Trail (or Arizona Trail). She is working hard to prepare for that challenge. Charlene has wilderness and outdoor experience, having studied and hiked with Paul Petzoldt (founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School - NOLS) in the 1970s, but that was 40 years ago. A lot of retraining is required.

Here is what Charlene wrote: 
“I struggle to get ready for the hike due to limited finances, and also a bad shoulder. That is why HipStar™would be so important to me. I am seeking a second opinion this month on the shoulder to determine what I need to do about it and how much recovery time will be required. My goal to hike the AZ Trail felt aimless... and I kept searching for a purpose for doing it. I wanted a goal that was bigger than life itself, like kayaking all 50 states was, but I couldn't find one until I connected with HipStar™. Needless to say, I am extremely excited about this new challenge... of working with HipStar™ to make the wilderness more accessible to seniors and those mildly physically challenged!

One problem I see is, the Arizona Trail Association  doesn’t allow carts!!! Why??? They allow bikes, and horses, and unicycles? I know I could not use it on the ground through the Grand Canyon Angel Trail, but that's what is so great about your HipStar™ design, I can roll it where possible and backpack in other places. I intend to fight this with the AZ Trail Association and get permission to use HipStar™! I am going to contact the Americans With Disabilities group and get them behind me in fighting the park and trail systems, to allow these carts. ACCESSIBILITY is supposed to be provided for all and not allowing seniors to use the cart is discrimination! I might even fight them to the point of getting arrested and jailed for refusing to be forced off the trail for using the cart. And I certainly would bring in the press if that happened.”

Then we discussed this subject. I told her that I was also going to apply for special permission to use HipStar™ on restricted trails as soon as HipStar™'s design is completed, tested and first product rolls out production line. But, of course, I had no idea what stages I have to undertake. So, we agreed to join efforts and outline the plan. I am sure many of you would support us! 

Then Charlene wrote:
“I am very excited about the idea of doing battle with the Park Service and other trail associations on behalf of all Seniors who wish to continue to enjoy the outdoors. I think this could be a wonderful partnership between HipStar™ and the senior community. Let’s continue to explore the possibilities!” 

Charlene has written about her kayaking adventures and pre-visits to Arizona Trail trailheads, and also about life on the road for the past decade as a full-time vandweller. 

Charlene Swankie :

Please visit the HipStar™ website for more details.

Also support them on HipStar™.  HipStar is a collapsible cart that makes it easy to move heavy items over any type of terrain and can be used as a backpack if needed.   The HipStar™ is a project of our passion in striving to help people achieve full mobility with only the power of two legs and accomplish physical feats they never thought possible – no matter if they’re young or old. It will be an affordable way to make travels more enjoyable. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Awakening of Swankie (being all I can be… to me)

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.  If you want to eliminate the suffering of the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation. Lao-tzu


Left Monterey, CA yesterday morning arriving in Paso Robles, CA where I may stay a few days.  Away from anyone I know, away from doctors, just away. Last night I parked in a large parking lot not far from Walmart.  Used to be a Kohl’s store there but it is closed now.  One other camper in lot.  It was quiet and I rested and caught up on stuff.  Got the ladder out and cleaned off my solar panel, and took the plastic off the roof vent, as I doubt I will get any rain here and I need the air flow. I will fix the leak soon, when I get out to open spaces.

So, I woke this morning thinking, I’m nobody to no one – no one’s mother, daughter, sister, wife, lover, friend.  No one.  OK, then so I need to be all that to and for myself. 

The people I have loved the most, have hurt me the deepest.  In some cases so deep that I can not to bear to think of them or be with them anymore.  I could not be to them what I wanted to be to them or what they wanted me to be.  I CAN be all that to me and if I work hard and fast I will be able to leave the second-best legacy behind for them – the genealogy I have spent 1/2 a century working to collect.  Statistics say I have 15 years left, well, probably more as I’m a lot healthier than most living 73-year olds.

Feels good, fresh, starting over at will.  No obligations to others, just me!  Take the best care of me that I can.  Be the best I can be.  That felt hopeless before, but with the recent involuntary weight loss (caused by the removal of a hormone-secreting benign tumor in my right airway, blocking air flow to my right lung) I have hope that I can be all that – to me, for me.  Yes, it is time to be selfish and it is o.k. to be selfish.

So, I better get busy.  Today, I am working on genealogy notes laying around on my desk.  Be gone, notes, be gone.


Monday, September 25, 2017

On the road again... heading to southern Califonia (Sept. 25, 2017)

Have visited with family and friends in Washington State, Oregon and northern California. (Me with Lois Middleton)

 My granddaughter and a Gypsy Vanner.

Now heading south to take care of health issues (follow-up with lung doctor and another bronchoscopy) for myself and get back to my plans for hiking the Arizona Trail.

More blog posts will follow soon.  I hope you have not been too lonely in my absence.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.