Sunday, October 28, 2007

10/28/07 Glacier National Park

(Click on the slideshow to see the pictures full size at Picasa Web Albums. Sarah also has a web album for Glacier National Park.)

We arrived at our campsite near West Glacier after a short but beautiful drive. The San Suz Ed RV Park was completely empty except for the owners of the park. Instead of parking in the Campground area, we were directed to a spot behind the main house with insulated plumbing and easy access. The kindly owner won over both children with her homemade cinnamon rolls.

We were asked to stay inside the RV if we heard any loud banging noises in the early morning hours made by the local bear snacking from the trash cans. I assured the owner that when you travel with two teenagers, you never get up early anyway!

Mel sent us a indoor/outdoor thermometer that we hooked up for the first time. As we watched the temperature dip below freezing, I followed cold weather protocol of disconnecting the fresh water and sewer hoses so they wouldn't freeze, used water from our 100 gallon tank and kept a close eye on the levels of our black and grey water tanks. We didn't have to encouraged to keep the RV warm to keep the three tanks from freezing, the floors were ice cold and we wore socks and shoes whenever we were awake.

The heaters kept the inside of the RV around 65 degrees even when the temperature outside dipped below 20 degrees. I will say that Sarah and my low-voltage electric blankets were very cozy!

The town of West Glacier was completely shut down. You couldn't even buy a cup of coffee. We were directed to a restaurant in Columbia Falls fifteen miles away called "The Back Room of the Nite Owl." Truth in advertising: you walk through the Nite Owl restaurant to the Back Room finding a completely separate restaurant. It was our kind of place. Plastic red and white table cloths, a roll of paper towels on each table, and platters full of BBQ, beans, little red potatoes, and frybread! The kids taught me to play a card game called "Cheat" and we laughed ourselves silly.

We spent three days enjoying Glacier National Park. Unfortunately, the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, thought to be one of the world's most spectacular highways which bisects the center of the park, was closed for repairs. Besides missing out on the magnificent views from the mountain peaks overlooking the Continental Divide, there was no easy way to see the Eastern side of the park which housed the Native American exhibits.

We enjoyed glacier-created Lake McDonald. The water of the lake becomes so glassy that it is a perfect mirror to the surrounding mountains. Because the lakes are always colder than 50 degrees, they grow very little plankton, which makes them especially clear. The bed of the lake is filled with beautiful smooth stones that enchanted us for several hours. We tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to skim rocks and Sarah created artwork.

Most of the trees on the mountains surrounding the Lake had already lost their leaves, but the Tamarack Trees which were a beautiful gold. We began seeing these trees in Canada. It is quite a surprise to see pines change colors and then lose their needles.

The McDonald Falls were a treat. Sarah took some great video footage, but the files are too large to post.

The second day Dave and I left Sarah at the RV to do one of John Muir's favorite hikes up the Trail of the Cedars, through Avalanche Gorge to Avalanche Lake. We took enough snacks to keep us on the move for several days and clothing, hats and glove appropriate for a blizzard. Avalanche Gorge with its sculpted walls and foaming whitewater was so beautiful that we almost called off the hike and went back to get Sarah.

We kept on and were rewarded with the sight of Avalanche Lake surrounded by jagged alpine peaks with frozen waterfalls. We saw mountain goats on the jagged peaks, but they were too far away to get a good picture. We had lost the warmth of the sun earlier in the hike and we stopped briefly to have a snack and a drink before we briskly hiked back wanting to get back to the car before dusk. The pace Dave set was quick and energetic and we were feeling euphoric from the exercise and the natural beauty when we got back to the car.

Avalanche Gorge was so beautiful that I got up early the next morning and took Sarah on a "surprise" outing. It was 25 degrees out and the windows of the car were icy -- Sarah had never seen that before and she took pictures while I cleared off the ice with hot water. She took some dramatic pictures of Lake McDonald at dawn and enjoyed the walk through the old-growth cedars to Avalanche Gorge. (Don't ever call it a hike -- Sarah only goes for walks!) It was a magical time together for the two of us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10/23/07 No One Was Killed & Car Wasn't Totaled

One of the arms on the tow hitch connecting the towed car, a Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, to the RV came loose on Highway 2 nearby the Kootenai Water Fall, just west of the town of Libby, Montana.

During the drive through the mountain pass, I noticed that the floor was vibrating more the usual, but I attributed that to the rough roads in Montana due to the use of studded snow tires.

When I looked at my rear view camera screen, I saw the Maxx was not in it's normal centered position directly behind the RV. I confirmed this by looking out the left mirror and saw the Maxx (Yikes!), which should never be possible since the RV is wider than the tow car.

At this point, I believed that the Maxx had broken free. As I started to slow down, the Maxx bumped me. I thought if I slowed down the RV, I could stop the Maxx too. I alerted the children. When I got to a full stop, Dave was to run back the highway and wave him arms to stop any drivers from crashing into us.

I started to pull the RV closer to the side of the road and the Maxx neatly followed. I was surprised at how easy it was to stop both vehicles. Dave and I flew out of the RV. He ran like lightening down the highway. At the back of the RV I could see that the Maxx was still attached with one arm.

I moved the RV all the way off the road, called Dave back and we put the Maxx parking brake on, unhooked it's good arm from the RV hitch, removed the cables and electrical wiring, moved the Brake Buddy from the driver's seat, reinstalled the fuse in the engine compartment and started the engine to see if it would still run, at a speed that make a pit crew envious. Dave stowed the broken hitch and we checked the RV and car for damage.

The tow hitch arm that had come loose (probably because Dave didn't correctly anchor the pin, compounded by my incomplete check of his work -- I should have found the error in my pre-trip checkout) was completely ground down by rubbing on the highway, probably that was the vibration I was feeling. Of course the securing pin was missing. The rest of the hitch looked fine.

The RV was completely undamaged. The Maxx has a couple gashes out of the front bumper, maybe from bumping into the RV, and the license plate is smashed, but readable.

We drove the Maxx into town and stopped at the local Forest Ranger's office. In there I met a local woman with an RV who thought "Twinkle Welding" might be able to help me. She even drove me to their location -- thank you, good samaritan!

Twinkle Welding took me back to get the RV. When they saw the tow hitch, they thought it could be repaired. They ordered parts from the manufacturer of the tow hitch which were sent by overnight mail.

There was a lovely RV park a few miles from the welding shop, so we parked and hoped that the overnight shipment would arrive. We were told by numerous local residents that there really is no "overnight" to the town of Libby; UPS overnight usually takes two days.

The owner of the RV park told her own "tow car sets free from the RV" story. Their car completely escaped, even breaking the emergency cables, and rolled away, over a berm, and into a farmer's field between the posts of the fence virtually undamaged. If the car had broken free earlier, it could have killed pedestrians in the town or if it was later, the car could have gone over a cliff.

We also feel remarkably lucky. Look at all the lucky breaks:

1. The car didn't break all the way free and run someone over or crash into another car.
2. The car could have been very badly damaged, but instead it tracked neatly behind the RV for enough miles to grind one of the tow arms off, yet it was only slightly banged up.
3. The RV could have been damaged by the car bashing into it.
4. We broke down close to a town.
5. I met a kind stranger who took me to quality, welding repair shop that knew about tow hitches.
6. The tow package manufacturer in Nebraska had a web site where the welding shop manager could identify the needed parts.
7. He accidentally ordered the parts for the 2007 tow package, but I had the 2006 tow package. He realized his problem before the 2007 parts had been sent out, thus saving us from paying a $90 shipping fee to get the wrong parts.
8. The tow package manufacturer took the order and shipped the parts from Nebraska 35 minutes before they closed for the day.
9. We stayed overnight in a lovely RV park with WIFI.
10. UPS got an overnight package in 21 hours to "no-where Wyoming" to quote the welding shop manager.
11. The right parts were in the package to repair the tow arm.
12. The welding shop stopped everything to work on the project.
13. The parts, shipping and repair bill was only $255.

If we hadn't gotten so lucky, the damage costs could have been staggering and someone could have gotten seriously hurt...

Conclusion: Mary Ann handles all the major safety systems herself; Dave can help on unhooking and managing other areas of the RV.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10/23/07 Travel to West Glacier, MT

Today's a travel day. Last night Sarah made a fantastic soup mostly carrots, leaks and onions, to use up much of our produce that can't be brought back across the border. We also enjoyed the last of our Canadian farmstand fruit - ambrosia apples and pears. I already wish we had more of that homemade apple juice. Montana, here we come!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

10/21/07 The Gold-lined Hole in the Ocean

Well, everyone has certainly heard about how boats are just "holes in the ocean" into which one throws money...well, I'll go (have gone) one better: how about a gold-leafed or simply gold-lined hole in the ocean called "a wooden boat restoration."

It seemed like a good idea at the time. My friends Tim and Michael were wanting to get out of their 1968 Hunter Motor Yacht (a classic wooden boat built in Orillia, Ontario, Canada), and I knew I would need a place to live once the full-time part of this Grand Adventure began. Seemed like a win-win.

So, on July 3rd, a shipyard guy and I planned to motor the boat to Newport Beach and haul the boat out for a survey and what little was [supposedly] needed. [OK, quit snickering]. We barely made in to Newport - ten minutes after leaving Long Beach's Alamitos Bay, the boston whaler hanging from davits on the stern tried to commit suicide. One of the pulleys let go, the bow of the dinghy bit into the ocean and nearly yanked the rest of the boat off its davits before we could stop. Phew! -- that was a close one.

OK, I can handle this. So we recover the whaler, use a spare dock line to keep both sets of winches from unwinding, and resume the beautiful, leisurely trip down the coast some 20 miles to Newport. Right? ....Nope.... Moments later, the port engine temperature starts to rise, its oil pressure starts falling, the rpm's die off, it shudders, and then.... silence. Lost an engine. Why? I'll get to that.

OK, I can handle this. No problem. This is why they build twin engines into some boats - like this one. Off we go again, one engine running, and in minutes, it too suddenly starts loosing rpm. Well, this is suddenly a lot less fun than I had planned on. We get on the radio, call for Vessel Assist - the mariner's version of the AAA, and tell them we "may" have a problem. They ask if this is an emergency and if we require their immediate assistance (we optimistically say not immediately), and then they ask that confidence-building question – how many souls aboard? (You know, so they know how many to look for, should something untoward happen.)

OK, I can handle this. By now, the engine rpm' s are falling from the nominal 2800 it should have been at, to as little as 1000-1200 rpm. Then, it surges up and back between 1200 and 1800, and finally settles in at about 1250 rpm -- about 8 miles per hour. At this rate, my coastal jaunt will become a [seemingly lifelong] journey.

OK, I can handle this. As a good skipper, I go forward to make sure we have a working anchor to set, in case this second engine dies. Well, the anchor is not attached to the anchor line. And, the anchor line is about the diameter of a pencil and is dry and brittle. It would last oh, maybe five seconds...or until the first real tug on the anchor by the boat. Hmmm. this is looking troublesome. We ask Vessel Assist to notify the Harbor Patrol in Newport, in case the Vessel Assist folks, who are now busy working a new problem in LA Harbor, can't get to us in time -- before we would drift into shore - and onto a beach.... not a good thing to do with a 45-foot long motor yacht.

OK, I can handle this. Well, after a couple of hours, various phone and radio calls to different folks, we finally limp into the harbor. Harbor Patrol offers assistance if needed, but we manage to get all the way to the shipyard under our own steam (well, gas, to be more accurate). Glad to be at the yard, we leave the boat without much further investigation until after the July 4th holiday.

On July 5th, we haul the boat up onto the yard using a marine lift (elevator, really). It turns out the port engine had a broken rod, which we found after a week's effort dismantling the engine and bringing it out of the boat in many small pieces -- you see, without a big overhead hatch, the motor had to be completely disassembled in order to remove it. The other engine, though it had run the whole time, but barely, had blown off the exhaust house, drowning the 6.5 kw Onan generator, the fire supression system sensors, and several other things, like the old batteries.

[Really! It is impolite to say 'I told you so'... however true.... ah, for the love of old, wooden boats.]

Since it is now October when I am writing this, I know a lot more about the boat. I'll spare you most of the details. We have rebuilt both engines and transmissions completely, rebuilt the generator, installed all new batteries, rewired the ENTIRE boat - both AC and DC -- and are having fun with other details. In addition, new screws have been added to every wooden board above the waterline to the edge of the deck. The deck has been rebuilt, and the entire boat and deck has been repainted. The varnish was redone, the ship's navigational lighting was redone to bring it up to [nautical] Code, and so on. Oh yes, I have a new frig -- this one is AC/DC -- and a new cooktop (ceramic). I have a substanial new anchor, new windlass (the thingy that drags the anchor out of the water), new anchor chains and ropes, and a new swimstep, aft ladder, rebuilt gangway, new swim ladder off the swimstep... Oh, sorry, I wasn't going to go into detail. Never mind.

I am really excited about the boat. As a purist, she is a wooden wonder - fine lines, strong construction, nice appointments, and a classic Canadian yacht. It will be a comfortable home for me, while I work my -- uh, um, while I work really really hard to pay for her upgrades and refits, and to pay for the diesel in the RV. But I love the water, have always been near it, and this is the second time in my life when I will be living aboard (as I once did for many years on Velella, a 44-foot sailboat).

In the pictures, you can see the terrible shape the bottom was in -- both trim tabs had pulled out, and the zincs which help prevent corrison were nearly shot (it was eating through these every few months) -- now I know why -- as does my electrician as well, having been shocked several times on both the AC and the DC side of his house work aboard from loose wires that were still connected at one 'hot' end!!). The thru-hulls are now all bronze, all the brightwork outside (varnish) has been redone, the hull is an admirably restored piece of wooden art with a linear polyurethane (glossly) finish, and the boat has all of its requisite safety gear, and even a few creature comforts. The rest of the comforts will come over time, once I get to move aboard -- hopefully in early November.

After three months “on the hard” (sitting on land, in a cradle), and a bunch of money later, we know own a small, movable condo that is 45 feet in length, and almost 13 feet wide. She comes with two staterooms, two heads (bathrooms), a galley and salon. The aft deck can be fully enclosed and the helm is in a raised pilothouse, out of the weather. She could easily be right at home in Seattle and the Inside Passage, or on the Great Lakes cruising the inland seas, or heading out the St. Lawrence waterway, or even transporting us down the Intracoastal Waterway on the eastern seaboard of America. Lots of future possibilities.

Of course, after our dramatic ride from Long Beach to Newport, there was still one more very unsettling moment to come: As the boat was lowered back into the water a week ago, her now-dried out and shrunken hull planking allowed so much water to come aboard that both bilge pumps kicked on immediately, and ran non-stop for almost two days. OK. I was told that this is normal for wood boats, but really! I made the shipyard temporarily add another, portable 110v bilge pump, just in case. Now swollen back to her normal shape, the bilge is virtually dry inside. Phew!

In the next few weeks, after sea trials and breaking in (I know, poor choice of words) the newly rebuilt engines, I will be moving aboard “Motor Yacht (written M/Y) Foresight.” The dinghy’s name is “Hindsight” and it is still hanging out on the stern davits, I am happy to add. As part of the Grand Adventure, we may well, this coming summer, or the one after, use the boat to explore British Columbia and southeastern Alaska... in our marine RV!

While I am working here in Orange County, I will live, most of the time, on the boat, and then travel back and forth to join the rest of the RV’ing Malkoff’s wherever they are. When they come back to SoCal to visit, we can all go diving and boating locally, or over to the island (Catalina) or even visit the other Channel Islands – something readily done in a power boat that goes 15-20 knots, versus a sailboat that zigzags into the wind and takes a small sabbatical to get anywhere… at 3-6 knots. There will be new pictures of the boat, once she is ‘dressed out’ and the interiors are cleaned up. If you can’t make it to the RV to visit us on the road, come down to the boat, and sit a spell, listening to the sounds of the sea...

10/20/07 International Selkirk Loop

We decided to make a day's outing leaving the Creston Valley, known for it's grain fields and fruit orchards, and heading north along Highway 3A following the Kootenay River up to Kootenay Lake, then on to Nelson and then back again in a loop to our RV park. The scenery was beautiful and the fall colors were fantastic.

There is a ferry that crosses the lake every few hours. Of course, we paid no attention to the ferry schedule when we started out, but we were surprised when we pulled up to see the ferry pulling away from the dock! No matter, it gave us time to wander around, let Mayim get out her zoomies and stop at the local coffee shop to drink Mochas and read the Guinness Book of World Records.

From the ferry we headed south to Nelson and stopped for an early dinner at the historic Hume Hotel, founded in 1898. While we waited for our meal, we played hang man and drank special jasmine tea.

On the drive home we saw five mountain goats and SNOW on the mountain pass! It was -2 Celsius. (We were able to have the dash in the Maxx convert to kilometers and Celsius so we could be authentically Canadian for our drive!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Learning to Blog

I'm sitting in the RV learning how to blog.

I feel like an "old dog" because I'm studying the tutorials, reading the help entries on "getting started," and experimenting with the different features.

The "young dog" (Sarah) is sitting across from me with her computer, IMing her friends, listening to music and redesigning her Gaia marketplace.

I doubt that she would read the instructions -- she'd just do it!

10/15/07 Creston, British Columbia -- Loonies & Toonies

Creston, British Columbia is beautiful. The fall colors are spectacular and everyone has been so very nice to us.

We are staying at "Pair A Dice RV Park," the perfect full service campsite with speedy WIFI, Direct TV for Dave’s Mythbusters show, a laundry facility, plenty of places to walk to for lunch, and a quaint town with lovely bakeries and coffee shops. The town is filled with adorable houses that have trees with vivid fall foliage.

The kids are excited about the Canadian money with it’s beautiful silver foil and the $1 and $2 coins called Loonies and Toonies.

Dave has a part-time job raking leaves for the RV park, Sarah is catching up with her friends and I’m using the high speed WIFI to get caught up with emails and to develop my blog.

We’ve taped some classic movies and last night enjoyed “Field of Dreams” and tonight we’ll watch “The Barefoot Contessa.”

Our only disappointment has been that we had planned to go to an OctoberFest party, complete with a German Band and Polka dancing, but can’t because the kids aren’t drinking age.

Our last night we had a campfire in the community area. We thought it would be easy to light a fire using some of Dave's raked leaves. Apparently, it is a skill. Our new friend Lloyd taught us how to "blow just right" on the embers Sarah created to get the fire going and picked out the perfect wood for the fire pit. Of course we roasted marshmellows -- why else would we sit out in 40 degree weather?

Friday, October 12, 2007

10/12/07 Travel to Canada

Friday was a travel day. Sarah doesn’t like to travel and then stay a place for only one or two nights and then travel more. Consequently, she prefers longer travel days and then staying put. This fits with my original plan of moving the RV every 7-10 days, however we haven’t kept with that since we’ve been on a schedule to arrive at different places on specific dates.

So, I decided not to stay overnight for one night in Boise, just head on into Canada… Since I didn’t have internet and my mapping software at the last campsite, I didn’t really fathom how long of day of driving that would become. We left Kamiah at 10:00 am, did a beautiful drive with lots of fall color and arrived in Boise at 2:00 pm. Originally I thought I’d be in Coeur d'Alene at 12:30.

I had chosen a restaurant the Wolf Lodge Inn from the book “Eat Your Way Across the USA” from Demi. Dave and I were looking forward to a meal of barbeque cooked over tamarack and cherry wood with buckaroo beans, a twist of krebel (fried bread) and steak fries. Sarah would have to find something vegetarian to enjoy. Unfortunately, they didn’t serve lunch.

If this had been a movie, this would have been the foreshadowing moment where the music changes. We should have found a camp site and waited for dinner. Instead we went to a Red Lobster where Dave ordered all you can eat shrimp, we played with his new puzzle set and laughed at “Priest, Minister and Rabbi jokes.” When we set off for Canada it was 3:30.

I had instructions from Mel, but the signs were very clear directing us to the US/Canada border crossing, so we followed the road signs instead. (More scary music…) As we crossed over the last 25 miles to Canada on mountain roads, we were stopped by a road crew due to a semi being broken down ahead blocking the road. The sun set while we were waiting and an hour later we were at the Canadian border showing our passports.

The border crossing was actually pleasant – we were boarded by a senior officer who told me not to tell him about what produce I had in the refrigerator and to forget that Susan had given me a stun gun, as long as I didn’t have any real guns. He and his wife regularly winter in Sedona, Arizona and he gave me their phone number there and invited us to visit since they have RV hookups at their condo where we could stay for free.

By the time we left it was very, very dark. (More music…) I pulled over so a semi could drive in front of me to take advantage of his headlights and hopefully his knowledge of the road ahead.

The semi left me in his dust… We crawled along the very dark road into Creston. None of the instructions matched anything that Mel had given me. There wasn’t a car or a house anywhere and the signs said we still had 25 km to go. At 8:00 pm when we arrived in Creston, completely disoriented, the town was completely closed for the evening. Finally, we found a store with the lights on and the helpful clerk gave us perfect instructions to the RV park; we were only 4 km away. By 9:00 we were in our campsite, completely exhausted. It turns out that we crossed into Canada at Kingsgate, not at Porthill as Mel had planned.

I finally agreed to let Mel put the full service, talking GPS in the RV. We ended up driving 315 miles that day. From here on out, my maximum is closer to 200, maybe 225 miles if we aren’t on mountain roads.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

10/7 - 10/11/07 Kamiah Idaho, Lady Bugs & Joy

Our trip to Kamiah started off by proving Mel’s point about the RV needing a GPS guidance system. I went the wrong way on Highway 84 – east instead of west – adding 54 + 54 miles or an extra two hours to our already long 240 mile drive through gorgeous mountains with fall colors along the Snake River.

We were tired when we pulled into the Lewis-Clark RV Park in Kamiah at dusk, but had a fun day seeing the sites and listening to a murder mystery book “Dark Harbor.” There was not a peep of complaint from the kids about the long driving day and they whipped the RV into shape once we got parked.

Cleaning up the breakage from bouncing the back tire over the curb exiting Les Schwab after filling the tires proved a valuable lesson. In my hurry to exit their parking lot onto a busy main street, I turned out of the parking lot too quickly and ran over the curb. The twisting of the RV sprung the doors of the kitchen cabinets open and then bounced the dishware out. I broke a plastic plate, plastic bowl and one of my crystal wine glasses. Darn. All because I failed to follow the most important RV safety principal – go slowly.

This RV park is seriously cool. It is built in a fort style and is quite large. It has 50’ deciduous trees like poplars lining the rows. The trees are all starting to change colors. Right across the highway is “The Heart of the Monster” a Nez Pearce Indian Park. Since where we are staying doesn’t have WIFI and our broadband card doesn’t work her, we don’t have internet. It would be fun to research the Nez Pearce Indians and plant foliage of Idaho.

No internet access has forced us to do other things. Dave and Sarah have been playing Magic. Sarah has yet to win a game, but it is very complicated to manipulate all the Magic cards and understand all the rules.

I’ve been catching up with myself and getting small chores done. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve stopped Dave’s pull out bed from squeaking with massive amounts of Silicone Spray and WD40. I taken steps to master the black water tanks, but failing to find any documentation regarding maintenance in by books, I filled and emptied it a few times. Wrong. I should have just run the hose, opened the valve and the sprayers do the work.

Lady Bugs have fallen in love with the RV. It didn’t make any sense why they were so attracted to the windshield. Then Sarah figured out that the Lady Bugs were eating the splattered bugs on the windshield. If you came inside, you could watch them through the windshield. Now we just need to figure out why some Lady Bugs have spots.

The most wonderful thing happened today. Dave was away, he’d walked into town for lunch, and Sarah and I took Mayim and some art supplies to the park across the street. We realized that if we cut across a marshy area and hiked over a berm, we could be next to the river. We let Mayim off her leash and she zoomed around. She was so thrilled when she saw some ducks that she raced into the pond area chest deep into the water, then she caught up with us, raced over the top of the berm and ran until she jumped the river. She was wild with excitement. So was Sarah!

Sarah loved the yellow flowers covered with three or four different bugs. She willingly trudged through the mud at the marsh and even wanted to take off her shoes to feel the mud in her toes. (I’m trying to loosen up – but of course I said “no” – I guess I’ve still got a long ways to go before I can be a “real” unschooling mom.) She was so excited when we got down to the river that she said “can you believe this – we’re learning now!”

She and Mayim had a great time. It was such a treat to be able to take pictures of them playing. But more than that, Sarah, maybe for the first time when she was in nature without other teenagers like at Patrick’s Point, was really glad to be there, outside, in nature, on the RV trip, completely happy in the moment. I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt when she asked to come back tomorrow and if we could stay here longer.

Mayim's Life On-The-Road

Our dog's name is "Mayim," which is hebrew for "water" which fits perfectly because she is a Portuguese Water Dog. She is an integral part of our Family-on-the-Road and was the first one to acclimate to life in our 39' Fleetwood RV as we tour America and Canada.

As we headed into Canada this week along the scenic International Selkirk Loop, we made sure she has all the right papers to be an international traveler.

We were in Salinas, California in September and went to see the John Steinbeck museum and got to see his camper "Rocinante" named after Don Quixote's horse and lots of pictures of Charley. I'm not making this up -- Charley is in a retriever cut! He looks just like a PWD!

Mayim loves to travel. Once our RV had to be towed and it was going to be a long repair schedule. We drove from Oakland to Orange County (7 hours) with the dog in a tiny space in the hatch area of the tow car with all our luggage and computers in a space as big as she was (no room to spin 3 times) and she acted like it was no big deal.

She loves to look out the window when we are travelling in the rv – she travels on the couch on the passenger side so she can keep track of me driving and the refrigerator door at the same time!

She enjoys getting out of the RV at each new place, every three to seven days, and sniffs deeply to get all the new scents.

Sometimes we have to leave her in the RV for 6-7 hours alone. If we are going for longer, we leave her with a fellow RVer who has admired her and often has a dog too as the official “babysitter.” She stays with them through the day and dinner and then gets put in the RV for us to come home in the evening.

Originally I didn't think that a dog would be happy in an RV and I was going to leave her behind for the two years with my best friend and Mayim’s best doggie pal. The first RV trip convinced me how much Mayim loved the touring.

Plus, you would be amazed how many people are full timing with pets. Sometimes there will be this tiny fifth wheel and out will come two or three hundred pound dogs! It’s amazing how much precious space people are willing to give up for their pets. People walk their cats on leashes and parrots and finches sit outside on picnic tables during nice weather.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

10/6/07 Reassessing and Improving Life in the RV

Sarah and I had a long talk about life in the RV. She had many valid complaints. Many of her complaints were about living in such close proximity with Dave. She is very aware of the two different styles of “mommy-management” between her and Dave. She discounts Dave’s Aspergers and wants a higher level of accountability from him.

Deeper, she resents not having a home and is ambivalent to negative about the RV trip. I can’t blame her for her lack of choice in the RV journey, it was not a democratic decision. My hope is that she’ll come to value the trip and the experiences of seeing all the states, if not during the course of the trip, then as an adult. Most of the other complaints were typical teenager-parent concerns that she and I would have no matter where we lived. I assured her that I would begin work immediately on areas I could improve now and would work toward long-term solutions for the other problems.

I took up a similar conversation with Dave. He says that he understands how Sarah could feel about a double standard and in light of his birthday (and in his mind the short twelve months until he turns the magical age of 16, an important milestone for him), he has resolved to step up toward a higher level of responsibility and accountability. He is completely committed to the RV trip concept and has no complaints, save one, about Sarah.

He views her as hyper critical and wishes she could go for 24 hours without criticizing him. It’s easy to see his point-of-view. She doesn’t cut him any slack. The concept of “I’m OK; you’re OK” or “live and let live” still alludes her. Fortunately Sarah has a fascination with the 60’s and the hippy lifestyle – so I’m hopeful about her becoming more accepting of us all.

Friday, October 5, 2007

10/2 - 10/6/07 Fleetwood Rally, RV Repairs & Dave's Birthday

The Fleetwood Travelcade Club met in Meridian for a Rally. The average age of the group was 65, so there were no children or teens. Most of them have been with the group since the late 80’s and the friendships were deep. The group prefers hugs to handshakes and were very welcoming. There were plenty of group activities and social times.

Morning started with breakfast from 8-9. The time was a little early for Dave, Sarah and I since it was still a little dark outside and we weren’t used to being in the mountain time zone.

There was a morning activity. One day there was a luncheon. Each afternoon there was a social hour from 4-5 for cocktails, but we didn’t attend.

Dinners were fun – pizza, Mexican potluck and a steak feast. The meals were quite a challenge for Sarah’s new found vegetarianism, buy Mayim was happy that Sarah would pick the meat off her pizza and sandwiches and bring it back to the RV for her. We continued celebrating Dave’s birthday and brought a ½ sheet cake, chocolate of course, to the potluck and the group sang him happy birthday. All-in-all, we really scored on the meals. We paid $52 for our fee and because the Oregon Club underwrote the event, we ate all those meals at no additional charge.

The activities were perfect for us. Sarah and I learned how to line dance. She wore jeans and the pretty turquoise “pareo” scarf that Scott had given me. It was fun to dance in the in the row behind her. I was surprised at how many different dances and steps there were to learn. As soon as I started to get the hang of one, they started a new dance.

One day we went to the Idaho Historical Museum in Boise. We went in a 15 car caravan, but the car in front of us didn’t make the correct turns and we got separated from the group. Sarah began teasing that the group was trying to lose me. We had to stop twice to get directions. Many one way streets later, we finally arrived.

It was a great Lewis & Clark museum and also had a typical 19th century house sitting room, living room, kitchen and porch with authentic laundry facilities. There was a bar with a two-headed calf, a Chinese herb shop and a Chinese temple.

At the gift shop the kids bought chocolate “Potato Spud” candy … that tasted, in one word, awful. The woman proudly told us that they were sold only in Idaho and we knew why!

The next day we went to the Idaho Art Museum and their beautiful rose garden. Sarah loved the video room showing time lapsed drawing and the children’s “hands on” room; Dave liked the electronic moving kaleidoscope; and I liked the white mesh city-like sculptures hanging from the ceiling. Sarah and I walked around them several times and then, after waiting for the gallery to empty, laid on the concrete floor looking up at their graceful lines and shapes. The rose garden was dew covered with roses that smelled like … roses!

We also went to Cabelas, a sporting goods shop with all types of taxidermied animals. The magnificent moose, deer, elk, wolves, beavers, etc. and the hunting equipment completely freaked Sarah out. She was much happier at our latter shopping at Sierra Outfitters. We found her a $350 jacket for $40, a warm skirt, a knit hat and some warm long sleeve pullovers for Dave.

Disaster struck for Dave and his outside TV and gaming station. The slide that holds the heavy TV came unscrewed from its base due to the pathetic installation with three sheet metal screws. I sent photographs to Mel and we discussed the fix at length.

Three trips later to Home Depot I owned a Black and Decker drill, hack saw, assorted ¼ bolts, locking washers and nuts, metal strips for support and a hose to clean the black water tank. I have to admit that even though it was frustrating to make multiple trips to Home Depot, I felt empowered – I am very proud of my fix. It seems quite substantial and a good long-term solution.

Rewiring the damaged TV power cable was difficult. I think it would have been much easier with a better quality wire stripper and crimper tool. When I finished the rewiring project, Dave helped me carry the heavy TV outside and remount it. The rehooking the TV back up to the inside and outside audio system was tricky, but Mel and Dave were a great help. As Dave can attest, has outdoor system is back working perfectly! It was a project completely out of my comfort zone and I feel stronger and more capable because of it.

Dave’s real birthday morning was a travel day from Meridian to Kamiah. We gave him an electronic joke book, logic puzzles from the art museum, a rechargeable razor and an IOU for a new wallet.

We said goodbyes to our new Fleetwood friends. I heard many comments about my bravery. Funny, from a group of long-time RVers, I wouldn’t have expected that remark… I learned a lot of practical advice from this group including concern about my corroding batteries, my new tarp for the bikes, black water tank maintenance, snow chains and how to plan winter travel, tire maintenance and pressures, and cleaning snow off of the slides before closing.

Monday, October 1, 2007

9/23 - 10/1/07 Catching up with my Family – in the Pacific Northwest

It was a hard first month. I worked pretty much 6 ½ days a week….and missed the family terribly. Talking on the phone just doesn’t quite do it. Next time I go to them, I will probably bring along the video cameras for our computers, so we can chat and see each other using Skype software. That should help, I hope.

We met up in Tualatin, just south of Portland, OR. My friends Charlie and Naomi, who also live in an RV there, picked me up and we headed to their place. Some hours later, Mary Ann Dave, Sarah and Mayim pulled in… I parked the coach (several times – see Mary Ann’s comments on that).

We hung out in the area for two wonderful dinners, a trip to my all-time favorite bookstore, Powell’s, and then embarked on the route that Sarah planned for us. Even though the first stop was not far east of Portland, it was world’s away from the hustle of community. The local diner was campy, as was the ‘cute’ little grocery store in the town of Cascade Locks. We shopped for snacks, and played Sequence at night.

The following day, we had this wonderful, slow-paced drive through the countryside – found a dragon lurking within the deep forest – and escaped to the Vista House (overlook above the Columbia Gorge). A very cool building, with great views, neat old glass in the windows – leaded – and photographs that went back to the 1800’s. The coffee was hot, and cheap! And yes, we all snacked on candy as we continued to go from one waterfall to another – there are almost two dozen reachable in the Gorge.

The fish hatchery was OK, but the late afternoon arrival meant that we did not get to see them letting in fish (they had closed the barn doors to the “native” streams being sought so fervently by the Coho); milking them, and preparing and fertilizing new eggs. There was an informative movie, and you have to marvel that these are freshwater salmon at birth, migrate 125 miles to the sea, where they spend 4-5 years in saltwater, ranging all the way into the Gulf of Alaska, and then, one day, return from the ocean to this freshwater stream. They are driven by the urge to reproduce and perpetuate the species. It is quite a sight, though hard if you only think about this as the end of their lives. Rather, it is a process that has long occurred in natural streams and, more recently, in hatcheries. Every major dam further up the Columbia has a fish ladder – quite a sight to see when the salmon are running.

The last full day in Cascade was spent on the water. The 3+ hour paddleboat ride was on a windless, glassy water morning. The wind did not fill in until about the last 30 minutes of the ride, and even then, was quite warm.

The drive to Pendleton that afternoon was startling in the abrupt transition from the forested hills and lands of the Columbia Gorge to the bone-dry grasslands and rolling hills of interior Oregon. Vistas widened, and you could see for many miles. River valleys cut across the broad plain, and some of the “rolling hills” in the distance would turn out (a few days later) to be a 4000-foot high mountain ridge we climbed through on our way to Boise.

Pendleton itself is built in a river valley, so we actually didn’t see the town when we drove just past it to the Umatilla Indian Reservation (and Casino) and their RV park. The park was nice, and the spaces, Amen, again were pull-thru’s – what a treat. I know, it sounds silly, but after a long day’s drive, it is little stuff like that – and clear satellite access to the southern sky, that makes us all happy… oh yes, and Wi-Fi, and hot showers, and Jacuzzis… you get the idea.

The next day’s trip to the Pendleton factory was pretty cool, though all of us had itchy eyes when we left this house of wool! We got to see the entire process from wool being stretched and wound into threads on these huge drums, and then blended to make all of the various Pendleton colors. Next, the colored drums are putting on huge looms, and the blankets and other items are woven in continuous lengths… a pile of blankets might be 100 blankets long. These are then inspected, cut, and shipped out. While the wool is too itchy for most of us, it was neat to see the process from beginning to end. And, no, we didn’t buy a single “Pendleton” there.

The drive to Meridian, just west of Boise, was scenic, crossing mountain ranges and following a series of river valleys. We crossed, and re-crossed the Snake River, and made it to Meridian/Boise before supper. My last few days in the coach were spent being beaten regularly at Sequence by Sarah, and doing Mr. Fix-it jobs around the coach. I had gotten to feel [almost] guilty in Pendleton when the rain started and Dave did not notice – you see, he usually plays his game cube or play station on the outside TV… only it began to rain and we weren’t yet set up for him to play indoors… I know, cruel parents! So in Meridian, I cured that as well. Now he can play indoors or out – though he seems to much prefer the joy of being outside, playing, and taking in the environs.

It wasn’t quite as hard to leave the gang at the airport, but then, hmmm, I called from San Francisco, my change-of-plane stop, and then called from John Wayne airport (at home), and then, hmmm, called again that evening from my borrowed bedroom through the kindness of Al, in Villa Park. But hey, it wasn’t realllllly “as hard” to leave.

Of course, I am sitting here, in my office on October 21st, writing this entry and trying to figure out when, and where(!), I will meet up with the family next…. Stay tuned.

9/28 - 10/1/07 Pendleton, Oregon and Goodbyes

At Pendleton we stayed at an RV park co-located with an Indian Casino. The difference in landscape was stunning. The trees and mountain passes changed into a treeless plain surrounded by low mountains all covered with brown grass. The sky seemed enormous – the view went on forever.

We all went over to the casino for a seafood buffet. Dave was thrilled. The food was underwhelming, but then Saran and I aren’t much for buffets.

It was nice to sleep under the giant skies and gentle rain without train whistles.

The next day we went to the Pendleton wool factory and took their tour. It was very interesting; unfortunately none of us brought our cameras which was too bad because the wool colors were spectacular. They made the yarn there and wove their signature blankets.

We went to Radio Shack to buy the necessary TV/Audio cables for Mel’s rewiring project and then to the grocery store.

The next day while Mel worked on rewiring, Sarah and I went to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute. This museum was spectacular! No expense was spared to tell the Indian’s story. We spent several hours there and only a call from Mel and Dave made us leave to start off to Meridian/Boise. Dave had been to the museum the previous day and enjoyed it too.

Mel’s last day with us in Meridian was spent on the audio rewiring project. At the end he was victorious. Unfortunately, the new external Direct TV dish hadn’t arrived as scheduled so he was able to make everything work but that. He was training us how to use it within minutes of having to go to the airport in Boise.

Separations continue to feel devastating. The emotion is overwhelming. The feeling of loss made both of us miserable. We talked by phone during his layover at San Francisco and again after he arrived to Al’s house at Villa Park.

Our time together “adventuring” is so special -- but the separating is awful.