Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If It Ain't One Thing, Its Another

It's been seven weeks since I last posted a blog and a whole lot of stuff has happened—and not happened.

We had a delightful visit with our friends Mike and Deb at the KOA in Shingletown, California. I blame my advancing years but I can't remember how long ago we last saw them. I suspect it's been several years but the beauty of this friendship is that it doesn't seem to matter how long between visits because we pick up where we left off. And, being that there are four personalities involved, it amazes me that the dynamics remain the same—we all like each other.

Mike and Deb had their grandson, Enoch, with them. He's a cutie. Blessed with beautiful, warm weather, we spent a good amount of time around the swimming pool to keep him entertained. Enoch made a few friends with other camping kids and kept disappearing without a word to either of his grandparents. It was driving Deb nuts. Thank goodness it was a fairly controlled and safe environment where kids could just be kids.

Our next stop was Gold Hill, Oregon, where we spent a month. Cypress Grove is a clean and lovely RV park with nice folks managing the place and quite pleasant but for two minor drawbacks: It's situated right next to I-5, yet surprisingly not too loud; and, the small laundry room has only two washers and two dryers. There was one major drawback, though, and we don't know how many people in the park it affected, but we were parked under some sort of locust tree. Everyday we had more and more of this sticky stuff that coated everything. It was as though we were misted by sugar water. We could only imagine what the top of The Beast looked like and at one point Rob checked and said there were leaves stuck all over the roof. We had the car washed twice but shouldn't have because it looked the same the following day. Even if we left our Kindles on an outside table for a little while we'd find them sprinkled, too. The stuff washed off easily, but it was annoying enough that we might never go back there because of it.

While staying at Cypress Grove, we met a nice couple, Dixie and Frank, who have a really great Chihuahua named Bruce. Bruce took a liking to Rob and would jump right up onto his lap and settle in. Rob said if we were lucky enough to find a dog like Bruce, he wouldn't mind having one—a Chihuahua that is. But it's a moot point. Dogs are too much like toddlers. No dogs for us while living on the road. Another person we met was Eddie. He's a retired Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputy (for those who don't know, that's the county where our house is located). Eddie is 70 years old but likes to keep busy so he's working for Oregon State Parks and spends his days at Rogue River State Park keeping people in line. He would get back to his motorhome in the evenings shaking his head at how really great some people are and how the rest are really stupid. Yep. I know.

Gold Hill is near Ruch (pronounced Roosh), where the locals go to hang glide and paraglide from Woodrat Mountain. We were able to see several of our friends from our California paragliding community at a week-long competition called Rat Race, which was held during second week we were there. Rob got one flight in on the practice day and didn't fly again. There was no one to fly with and one must always fly with a buddy.

On one of the days before people started arriving for the competition, we took a drive up to launch for a look-see. While driving back down we spotted a bear loping across the road. We slowed down and I was hoping to get a photo of it, but it took one look over its shoulder at us, hied up the slope and was out of sight in a flash. I wish we'd had more time to observe the bear, but it was just so cool that we got to see him at all.

We took a day trip to Crater Lake to enjoy its unique beauty. The last time we were there was 25 years ago when we took a camping trip with daughter Elizabeth the year she refused to go visit her mother. That was back in the day when camping meant tents and sleeping bags, ice chests, Coleman stoves, lanterns, washing dishes using two dishpans with water heated on the stove, and sitting around the campfire until you couldn't keep your eyes open any longer. Those were the good, old days. Really.

We discovered our air conditioning (heat pump) wasn't working while we were in Gold Hill. I remember noticing while we were home that the air coming from the vents didn't seem as cold as usual but didn't really think anything of it. Then one particularly warm day, Rob thought the heat pump was making a strange noise, then he said he smelled something. We shut it down and called Camping World in Eugene. We set an appointment for the day we were leaving Gold Hill. During the interim we had several days where the temperature was in the mid-90s and a couple that got to 103°. It was unbearably hot in The Beast. We drove to a Lowe's in Medford and bought a 20” box fan to either help keep air moving or exhaust it through a window. We wanted to visit the Rogue River State Park and dip our feet in the river, but I was afraid to leave the bird and cats alone in case any adjustment was needed to help keep them comfortable.

At the beginning of our last week in Gold Hill, Rob decided we should leave two days early and go straight to Camping World. It was good we did because we needed two days there for them to determine the extent of the problem. The capacitor was fried. The part had to be ordered, so off we went to Cape Perpetua National Forest campground for a week at the coast. We arrived a day late, and even though I'd called, the message didn't get to the camp hosts. If we hadn't arrived that day, they would've given our spot to someone else. What's interesting about that is anyone else owning and/or running a campground or RV park are not allowed to rent out a space that is already reserved and paid for by someone. Cypress Grove couldn't re-rent our space for the two days that were left on our reservation. We were told its called 'double-dipping' but it is perfectly fine for the Feds to double-dip. We prepaid our week there two months in advance and they were going to give our paid space to someone else? There's something wrong with this picture.

But, the upside to that week, besides visiting with my cousin Eric and his wife Donna who live to the north, and our friends Bryan and Marty who live to the south, was that the weather was refreshingly cool. No air conditioning required!

We dry camped that whole week—no electricity, no water, no sewer hook ups and no shower facilities in the restrooms—which meant washing up at the sink. No showers allowed because water conservation was what would get us through the week. By the morning we left to go back to Camping World, our fresh water tank was nearing empty and both gray and black water tanks were approaching full. For me, that week was a vacation from our vacation-like life because not only were we roughing it water and power wise, we also had no connectivity and our satellite dish couldn't see any—that's right—satellites. It was just like the old days! Couldn't be reached by phone, couldn't watch TV, and couldn't check emails or Facebook. We spent lots of time outside enjoying our beautiful campsite, had campfires, read and explored the beautiful coastline. Believe me, though, we didn't stay incognito for the whole week. When we'd go into the town of Yachats (pronounced Yah-Hahts), we'd park in the lot at the local market and could be seen earnestly poking our fingers at our cell phones.

During the last several weeks, there have been emails and Facebook postings from the organizers of my 40th high school reunion, which, by the way, I did not attend. They posted the original list of graduates and highlighted those for whom they still needed contact information. I've often thought of my friend, Linda Pruitt, and found that it appeared they had her contact information. I emailed off a request for one of my classmate-organizers to get my email address to her. In no time I had a email from Linda. We've been corresponding ever since. I am so pleased to be reconnected with her. What's funny is that her married name is Miller, which means I have two friends named Linda Miller. Hmmm. What are the odds?

So here we are at Camping World with The Beast backed into a space at the far end of the parking lot, electrical cable fished through the iron fence and plugged into one of their outlets meant to power units they have for sale. When we need to dump tanks and fill up on water, we just drive over and use the dump station they have here. We've been here a week and are waiting for the extended warranty company's inspector to arrive. We hope he/she will authorize a new unit so that we don't have to keep dealing with repeated issues by replacing a part here and a part there.

By the time we leave, we may have received about three weeks worth of free camping altogether. It could be an easy thing for them to tell us that we could stay for a few nights, but otherwise find a nearby RV park. They haven't done that. They have welcomed us to stay. When it comes to the repairs needed, they've been completely honest and straightforward and have stayed on top of the situation. They will be receiving a stellar review from us.

When the repair is completed and if its too late in the day to get to Graham at a reasonable hour, I might just spend our last night here baking my personally-tweeked-recipe-of-super-delicious-to-die-for Snickerdoodles for the entire Camping World staff. They deserve it.

I am really looking forward to meeting the folks at Rainier View RV Park in Graham, Washington—when we get there. I had to call to say we'd likely be a day late. Then I had to call and say we would probably arrive sometime between the 30th and early August. They checked their scheduling and told me there's no problem. We are to simply get there when we can get there but just keep them informed. They're RVers, too. They understand.

Update: the inspector arrived and it looks like they are going to piecemeal the unit. Oh, goodie.

Lots of wings awaiting their turn for a flight.

The next group setting up to fly.

A pilot's view.

One after another.

Rob bringing up his wing for launch.

Rob shortly after launch.

I love the TiPi at the landing zone at Fiasco Winery.

Baby wine grapes.

The lovely venue for the paragliding dinner Red Lily Winery.

Working on getting Louis and Brandy used to their harnesses.

I brought Brandy outside and she did pretty well, but her body was plastered to the ground.

I love this house and the property around it. I had to wipe the drool off my chin…

Bruce making friends with Ollie.

The children of Gold Hill put on a parade for the 4th of July.

Beautiful Crater Lake.

At the Natural Bridge on the way to Crater Lake.

Our awesome camping spot at Camping World.

At Cape Perpetua campground.

One of the walking trails at Cape Perpetua.

Our campsite.

Eric and Donna. So enjoyed visiting with them.

Interesting flower.

This looks like a raspberry in a thicket of blackberries.

Too early to pick the blackberries.

Blackberry blossoms.

Getting ready for a campfire.

Rob sharing his lunch with Ollie.

A gray day on the coast.

Love this one.

The Heceta Lighthouse.

Our resident hummingbird. He was watching for the interlopers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Home Again, Home Again…

Since we left home on June 14, 2013, we have traveled 10,125 miles, passed through four states, stayed in 20 states at 47 different campgrounds and two 'other' places—my aunt and uncle's in the Sierras and the home of my high school friend, Linda, and her husband Alex, in North Carolina.

Our first year out included two specific goals for us to meet: We had to be in Virginia Beach by about mid-September for daughter Mandy's and son-in-law Steve's renewal of vows celebration; and, we needed to be back home in California for our youngest grandson's first birthday. The rest of the trip's schedule and route was based on meeting those goals. I'd make reservations for one or two week stays in the locations where there were friends to visit, where Rob could paraglide or places of interest to explore. In the areas along the route that had little or no interest, we'd stay two or three nights to make sure Rob, the primary driver of 60 feet of rolling house and car, had plenty of rest between long hauls. Over time, Rob has grown more and more accustomed to driving The Beast so we no longer need as much down time in between. This will now allow us to get where we want to be more quickly and spend more time at interesting places.

When we arrived at home early in May, I wondered how I might feel once we got here. Aside from disliking heavily populated areas and traffic, would I find that I missed the familiarity of home? Would I discover that I missed our family more than I'd thought and want to stay, not travel anymore? Would I feel restless and want to move on to the next new place and new people to meet as I had many times throughout the trip? I felt as though I'd come out of my shell a bit over the last year what with feeling more at ease meeting new people and initiating introductions and conversations, so I wondered would I be more outgoing once I got home?

The truth is I still don't like heavily populated areas and traffic, so the only good thing to being in a familiar area is I don't have to use my GPS to find my way around. I found that it was wonderful seeing my family and I'm gratified that our kids have built solid lives for themselves and our grandchildren are happy and healthy, but I still feel no need to be present week in and week out in order to watch them grow. That's for their parents to do. I am glad Rob and I got to witness three firsts with our grandson, Oliver, though. As mentioned before, we came home for his first birthday, we saw him eat sugary icing for the first time and we witnessed his first time in a swimming pool, which he loves, loves, loves. And, although I don't actually feel restless, I am ready to move on because I found that I am reverting to my old ways here. I'm spending way too much time indoors, fast becoming the hermit I was before. I think I like the interaction with strangers on the road. It's good for me.

The two most prominent observations I had about being home again are these: First, I miss seeing my mom regularly and even though we have her blessing to be traveling 'while you still can,' as she put it, she isn't getting any younger and I feel a bit heavy-hearted about not being near her. Despite the fact that I haven't spent inordinate amounts of time with her while here, I think it has more to do with proximity. If the need were to arise, I'm there. In a heartbeat. Second, is something that we've all done. You know how you might put up a note where you'll always see it as a reminder of something? Maybe its an affirmation or an instruction to do something—like we have a note in our bathroom to 'turn off gas.' We turn on the propane to the water heater because it's quicker to recoup hot water for our showers than electricity alone. Ever notice how you quickly begin to see past the note, how it becomes invisible? The note is right there, but I can't count how many times we've heard the flame go on later in the day and say oops! forgot to turn off the gas! (What a waste of propane). Well, coming home to the Bay Area was like that for me. When you see it everyday, it becomes routine, invisible, same-old same-old. I was reminded of how absolutely, incredibly, stupendously beautiful the Bay Area is. I recall feeling that same way whenever I'd come home for a visit when I lived in New Jersey many, many moons ago. Sometimes we just forget. Now, if all those people from other countries and states, who decided they also want to live where it's absolutely, incredibly, stupendously beautiful, would go home…  I'm not really that narrow-minded, but you know what I mean. I feel I have a little more clout to think this kind of thing than most others as I am a third-generation (northern) Californian. Not too many of us around. I remember when Oregon's natives had a campaign to keep Californians from moving up there!

Speaking of the Bay Area made me think of something that happened while in Florida. Someone asked us where we were from and we responded, "The Bay Area." This person said, "Oh, from the Tampa area?"

Uh. No.

There are many bays around the country, and I'm sure the locals near any of them call them 'the bay area,' but it seems to me that in general terms, there is only ONE Bay Area in all the country and it is San Francisco (never, ever call it Frisco!). Just like there is only one 'Windy City,' one 'Big Apple,' one 'LA,' one 'Sin City,' one 'Big Easy.' Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just a proud, possessive, native, California snob who feels squeezed out of the place (by people, cars and politics), that has always and will always, no matter where I am, be home to me.

Enough of that.

Our sweet, adoptee, Spooky, has been re-adopted by my sister, Pamela. We just couldn't keep him. When we took him in he was 7 1/2 pounds of furry skin and bones. He weighed in at 15 1/2 pounds the last time I stood on the scale with him. Because of his size, just plain big and tall, he couldn't comfortably squeeze his way through the kitty door to the litter box and would pee on the carpet. He'd force his way through to poop, but not pee. We just couldn't have that. As long as he had easy access, there was no problem. He is a wonderful, calm, friendly, loving and beautiful kitty. But with his health problems, I couldn't leave him with a shelter. Someone might've decided he wasn't adoptable and, therefore, not worth saving. I couldn't bear to not know what became of him, so I am eternally grateful that my sister took him. He'll be happy because all animals are cherished there. Our little home seems kind of empty without him, but I don't think Louis and Brandy have minded his absence one bit. In fact, I think they're relieved.

We leave, again, in four days. By then, we will have been home for a month. The time has gone screaming by and of the many projects we intended to do, several have gone undone or unfinished. Probably because we didn't make a list and now I can't remember what they all were. I had to break the news to my son-in-law, Terry, that I've decided to keep my sewing machine, so now I don't feel the rush to finish the dashboard cover, complete with screened cutouts for the vents (pain in the arse), that I started. And, we were going to go through our drawers and closets to weed out clothing we haven't worn over the last year, but that hasn't been done in any major way. But that's okay. We can give clothing to charities wherever we go.

We will be heading up to Shingletown, outside Redding, for five nights to meet up with our friends, Mike and Deb, for a short visit. Then we will head into Oregon to spend a month near Ruch (pronounced Roosh), where the annual international paragliding competition called Rat Race, at Woodrat Mountain, is being held. We'll be seeing many friends and meeting lots of paraglider pilots from all over the world. This will be our third time at Ruch, but the first time in many years. From there, we will be dry camping at a National Park near the coast to visit friends and family for a week, then on up to Washington for another month. From there, who knows? We'll figure that out when the times comes. Such is the beauty of this life on the road.

Oliver on his birthday present from Gramma and Papa.

Hey! How come no one let me taste this stuff sooner!

Jack and Oliver show some cousin love.

Jack, Papa, Elizabeth and Oliver.

Jack helping the inexperienced driver.

Oliver enjoying the pool with daddy, Chris.

Oliver with mommy, Hayley.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Almost Home

We finished our time in Quartzsite with a drive down to Yuma to visit our friends, John and Charlene. They have a very nice place there—a Park Model—and they have a little casita on their property as well. They spend winters there and summers in northern California. They treated us to lunch, which was really nice of them, and then took us for a drive around the area in which they live just outside Yuma proper. There is a neighborhood adjacent to theirs in which the builder was originally planning to subdivide lots and then sell them for exorbitant amounts without providing the basic infrastructure of water, electric and sewer. They soon found out that people just weren't buying it—no pun intended—and they had to change their game plan. Most people have built small structures that might contain a laundry room, kitchen, bathroom, and maybe a sitting room and bedroom, but are really minimal because most simply drive their RVs down and park them on their land for the season and live in them.

We had a neighbor while in Quartzsite with whom, thanks to Rob, I had an opportunity to chat. Dave Gatley is a photographer who used to be the chief photographer for the LA Times and has extensively traveled the world photographing our military, celebrities, etc. He is recognized as a world renowned photojournalist and was nominated for the pulitzer prize three times. He is the only photographer who's been allowed to photograph our Navy Seals during their intensive training and, as a result, published a book of these photographs through the US Naval Institute in 2011. I loved looking at his photographs on his website at What a treat it was to meet Dave.

Because our Quartzsite friends, Phil and Linda, were so gracious, took us out into the desert in their ATV and were game to join us for the eclipse and Blood Moon by taking us to an ideal place to view it and photograph it, we wanted to do something for them. Instead of dinner, I decided to do something different and make brunch for them. It was a hit and a lot of fun.

The forecast was such that we thought we'd have a comfortable night out in the desert for the Blood Moon, but it wasn't as warm as we'd expected. We left before the entire eclipse was complete because of the culmination of several factors—my poor neck had a serious kink in it from the way I had to sit to see and focus my camera on our telescope, we became uncomfortably cold and my camera battery, which was fully charged when we started out, died but, thank goodness, not before I got a good photograph of the full Blood Moon. I ordered new batteries the next day as the ones I have were in their final throes anyway.

We headed on to Lake Havasu City for two weeks staying, again, at Cattail Cove State Park. We were treated to an Easter brunch by our friends Mark and Jeannine, who picked us up on the beach in their boat. From there, along with a second boat—a pontoon—and many of their friends, we headed south to Havasu Springs Resort. They put on a wonderful brunch. Lots of food from which to choose—bacon and eggs, hash browns, biscuits and sausage gravy, french toast, fruit, savory dishes of meats, potatoes, vegetables, and desserts. I even went back for seconds. We had a nice time and it was wonderful to get out on the lake.

Mark and Jeannine are in the business of repairing dual-paned RV windows that have broken seals, so we asked them to take care of a couple of our windows. They did a wonderful job and we appreciate their quality work.

The last weekend we were in Havasu there was an event called Desert Storm where boat owners brought their crafts down to show them off and participate in a Poker Run on the lake. Most of these boats are huge, colorful and fast. One evening they had many of them displayed along one of the main streets in town for everyone to view. There were vendors of food and marine goods and the local bars and restaurants were doing brisk business that night. We met Mark and Jeannine at a restaurant called The Red Onion and had dinner with them. Then we walked the street to check out all these boats. We lost Mark and Jeannine and it would have been near impossible to find them again so, when Rob's knee started to give him fits, we headed back to The Beast.

We didn't see Mark and Jeannine again before we left Havasu because they were busy with business and getting ready to head to Sacramento for the summer to handle window repair in partnership with an RV dealer there. I think they're going to have a really good year!

Now we are in Santa Paula, California, just east of Ventura. We've enjoyed spending time with daughter, Kristie, son-in-law Matt, and grandson Cayman. Poor Matt is having back problems and could barely move for a few days but is on the mend. Kristie was in northern California when we arrived, so we took Cayman on a Friday evening to spend the night with us. He and Papa took a swim in the park's pool/spa, which was a bit of a treat. On Saturday we took him out for his birthday shopping before taking him home and awaiting his mom's arrival home. Kristie and I walked a botanical garden one morning. It isn't a typical botanical garden of the sort that is landscaped with delineated beds with fresh annuals planted each season but of a natural type with indigenous plants along the trail. Kristie made us dinner one evening, which was delicious, and took us out to dinner another, which we appreciated very much. We've enjoyed just being together.

We leave here tomorrow, May 9th, and will be home on the 10th. I am truly looking forward to seeing our friends and family but for some reason I have mixed emotions and I can't quite identify exactly what it is I'm feeling so I'm unable to describe it. We've been gone for 11 months and that's a long time. When we leave again, it's quite possible we won't be back for well over a year. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm really living this life and that it's not all just a dream.

Charlene and John with Coco.

An Arizona scene—between Yuma and Quartzsite.

Full moon.

One third occluded.

The Blood Moon

A little color at Cattail Cove.

On the way to Easter Brunch.

Rob hamming it up.

Our friend Mark Livers.

Our friend Jeannine with her granddaughter, Breezy.

Breezy enjoying an orange at the Red Onion.

Rob is thinking "I really really want one." Uh. No.

Rob checking out one of those huge, fast boats.

Interiors are lit with LEDs. They look pretty cool.

I photographed this dune buggy for cousin-in-law, Keri Luiz. Have you been reading the blog, Keri?

Keri does pinstriping, etc. This looks like it was done with airbrush.

I photographed this vendor because their display was so handsome.

Imagine taking a ride in that.

This boat was very impressive, but it broke down on the water during the Poker Run.

The interior.

Meep! Meep!


The lake from Cattail Cove during the Poker Run.

Going fast!

There's the green boat I photographed.

The beach and boat ramp at Cattail Cove.

Camp visitors.

Cayman in the pool at our RV park in Santa Paula.

This is the last photo of Cayman before he lost one of his front teeth.

Hamming it up with Papa.

Kristie at the top of the trail overlooking Ventura and the grand Pacific.

Cayman after making a wish and tossing a penny.

Cayman and Kristie at Cayman's school on 'Family Picnic Day.'

Cayman with his best girl, Maggie.

Such a ham!