We’ve been busy visiting unplanned destinations, spending quality time with Duncan and Colton, and of all things, desperately seeking out a Walmart! These last few stops have brought beauty and adventure to our lives, but sometimes travel also brings out new stressors. With so much travel under our belt, we have some new lessons learned on how to handle these stressors and maintain a healthy relationship in such a small space!
Spokane was not on our schedule, but plans change and it turned out to be a real bonus. The drive through the Palouse, one of the seven wonders of Washington State, from Lewiston, ID to Spokane, WA, was the most dramatic yet majestic farmland I have ever seen. The giant hills were covered with green wheat fields from horizon to horizon.
Deborah was able to complete her one busy workday with all the connectivity she needed. The following days, we played golf at the historic Wandermere Golf Course and took a long day trip touring Northeast Washington.
Northeast Washington seems like the forgotten part of the state. As we drove through the Colville National Forest, we came to appreciate just how rural this part of the state is. The area is bordered to the west by the Columbia River as it flows south from Canada. It widens as it becomes Lake Franklin Roosevelt, which is backed up for more than 150 miles by the Grand Coulee Dam.
Next, it was time to get back on our schedule and move to Leavenworth, WA. There, we would be meeting our daughters and grandsons for three days of family camping.
Crockpot Green Chili Pork
With everybody scheduled to arrive at the KOA in the afternoon, we decided to cook green chili pork in our crockpot as we drove west on I-90. Before I could even start BAM, Deborah smelled something burning. It wasn’t a campfire; it was electrical.
Looking at our old crockpot, there was smoke coming out around the plug. (Remember, Mom always said, “Never submerge the plug when washing.”). We quickly unplugged it, and I reassured Deborah: “No problem. We’ll stop at a Walmart along the way and buy a new one.”
Where in the World Is Walmart?
Walmarts are traditionally motorhome friendly with huge parking lots and are often located right off major highways. I was anticipating there would be one along the freeway in the outskirts of Spokane.
Such was not our luck. Deborah put Walmarts near me into her iPhone’s browser. It seemed that, in the direction we were headed, we were perhaps further from a Walmart than anyplace in the US. The next one on our route was in Wenatchee, about three hours to the west.
Wenatchee sits on the western side of a steep valley hosting the massive Columbia River. The Wenatchee River flows out of the Cascades from the west and joins the Columbia just north of town. It is more of a gorge than a valley, as the land rises dramatically up from the Columbia River.
Deborah pointed out the first exit we could take. It would cross the Columbia and then wind through 4.6 miles of curvy, tight city streets above the river. I said, “No way.”
Proceeding to the north end of Wenatchee, we turned west on US Highway 2 toward Leavenworth. After crossing the Columbia, Deborah said the Walmart was just 1.2 miles to the left. I felt this might be our only chance for a crockpot.
Against my better judgment, I turned. I was already tense from driving for more than three hours. Almost instantly, I came to a fork in the road and naturally took the wrong fork! I had to weave around through hilly, crooked, residential streets while homeowners peered out to see what the heck was driving through.
Desperately Seeking Walmart
I now began to rant and express my frustration. It was generic, but Deborah could easily—and probably correctly—take that it was aimed at her. She remained steadfastly silent. Back on the right road, I followed my Garmin and turned right up to a very steep hill. Now I was really freaked out. My biggest fear is getting BAM into a situation where it becomes impossible to turn around.
It was then that Deborah spoke her first words: “The entrance is right here.” I didn’t see a sign, and it didn’t look like a Walmart entrance to me. It was a short road, up to an even steeper hill with a hairpin turn at the end.
At this point, I loudly announced that I was predicting the worst possible ending. There was still no Walmart in sight. Finally, as I made the second, 180-degree turn, the smallest Walmart parking lot imaginable came into view. It was on the side of a hill, filled with trees and surrounded with concrete islands.
Cruisin’ the Parking Lot
I am unable to back up BAM with Willy attached, so my focus and concentration were on selecting a path, between cars and across parking lanes, where I could make a giant circle back around to the road where we had entered. The one flat spot, at the bottom of the lot, along the perimeter road, already had a motorhome parked. It was blocking the natural exit. With a total length of 60 feet, including Willy, I stopped where I could, blocking two throughways serving parking rows.
I commanded Deborah to go get “the damn crockpot” while two cars, aimed at the side of BAM, honked at me as if I could actually move. They eventually solved their problem by driving around me, inconveniencing themselves by two parking rows. Apparently, they felt better by hanging their arm out the window as they passed, displaying their middle finger. As if I cared about their problems!
Life After Walmart
As badly as I had treated Deborah, she came back and politely displayed our new crockpot. Without conversation, we transferred the green chili pork into the new pot and plugged it in.
Next, she got out and helped guide me through a couple of really tight spots as I circled back toward the exit. The final 36 miles to Leavenworth were completed in silence.
Tara, Brandi, Duncan, and Colton arrived shortly after we had parked BAM at the Leavenworth KOA. Cocktails helped to change our attitudes—mine mostly—before our evening dinner of delicious green chili burritos.
The subject of Walmart never came up, although our girls sensed something must have happened that afternoon. Later, when we were finally alone, I apologized to Deborah. I knew my behavior had unnecessarily been targeted at her.
Returning to the Scene of the Crime
Leavenworth is a fun, genuine, and authentic Bavarian town. The KOA is a very large, family-friendly campground on the banks of the Wenatchee River. Kids ride their bikes up and down the many roads connecting sites.
Six-year-old Duncan took to his bike like never before. Three-year-old Colton couldn’t keep up on his push scooter. Deborah and I decided it was time Colton got his own bike. It’s the kind of decision that grandparents make in a flash. We then realized the only place we knew where we could get a bike on this particular day was the Walmart in Wenatchee. Driving Willy to Wenatchee, I felt good about going back to revisit the site of my angst. It was time to exorcise some demons.
“Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of
understanding and misunderstanding”
– Diane Arbus
I often have people ask me, “What is it like living in a small space 24/7 with your partner?” Well (deep breathe), Tim and I decided to live this Risk Blossoming life because we enjoy the travel and adventure. Still, living with someone in small quarters can create difficult and stressful situations for even the most socially adept.
So far, we have survived and thrived with our life in a Motorcoach. It has been a journey into ourselves and our relationship. After 40 years of marriage, we better understand what we need and how to express ourselves.
Living small means you are going to get in each other’s space. Learning to effectively communicate is essential to navigating daily life. I do not like conflict. It drains me emotionally. But when you live with someone in a small space, an argument and some conflict are inevitable.
One of our lessons learned is to not let things fester. Both of us have learned to call for timeouts and request the opportunity to express our perspectives and feelings, so we can discuss how we want to go forward.
That is exactly what we did with the Walmart crisis. Tim does get tense when driving the combined 60 feet of BAM and Willy in heavy traffic, over high bridges, and down small roads. (Heck, I get tense sitting in the passenger seat!) While being silent, I was trying to NOT add to his tension and frustration.
Ultimately, he explained that he was trying to please and accommodate me to find Walmart to get the crockpot replacement. In doing so, he went against his gut and judgment.
After listening to Tim’s perspective, I offered up a simple solution, which got immediate support and approval. The solution was, “When you are driving BAM, you are the captain. You make the decisions on routes and stops. No questions asked.”
“A relationship with no arguments is a relationship with a lot of secrets.”
Travel and Stress
Travel will add extra stressors that can affect how you interact with one another. But focusing on effective communication, and providing proactive and authentic respect, appreciation, and gratitude to your partner are basic to living with someone in a small space.
But isn’t that true of all relationships?