Life Goes On

Growing up in a small town in the Midwest during mid 20th century. Various philosophies and impressions formed and insights revealed resulting in attitudes and actions for the 21st Century.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To RV or Not RV, that was the question

(The picture to the right was taken in a MacDonalds parking lot as the sun was coming up in New Mexico.)

In August we sold our fourteen year old gas motor home. We had driven it thousands of miles for eight years and enjoyed it very, very much. To friends and family, we had gained the reputation as the 'motor home grandma and papa'. When we arrived, our house came with us. What fun for the grandkids to visit our motor home. The most interesting part?? You guessed it, the marine potty that flushed by stepping on a pedal and later, after installing a new toilet, you had to bend over and pull a lever to flush it.

When we would bring it to the house to be loaded, it would sit in the driveway a day or maybe two. Our mailman often saw it there and began to ask about it. Joe showed him the inside one time and a few days later, he told us if we ever wanted to sell it, he would like to buy it. A few weeks later, he and Joe struck a deal. He would buy it. However we had one last trip scheduled by then, so the date for delivery was set right after we returned from the trip.

We went to Red River NM and upon returning, fixed the step that broke during the trip and the mailman drove away in his motor home.
For the next few months we debated pros and cons of ownership of such a large, costly vehicle. Eventually, the pros won and we started looking for a decent used motorhome to buy.

In December we wanted to go visit Ron and Kim in Phoenix so we got serious in our hunt. As we surfed the web looking for homes, we kept seeing PPL in Houston. It is a large lot with used consignment rigs as well as new rigs that are all open so that potential buyers can wander around, taking time to look them over with no sales person pushing for a sale.

We had looked at a diesel pusher in Norman, the price was right, but it would need to be painted. More looking, but nothing appealed to us like the National Tradewinds did. There was one at PPL in Houston, so Sunday morning Dec. 9th, early in the morning we headed south, trying to get out of town before the big ice storm that was headed our way could prevent our leaving. The roads were already slick and icy and trees were covered with ice as we carefully headed south on I-35. Missy would stay in town with Joe Paul and Nancy as motels do not welcome doggies very often. We would miss her, but a new rig would keep our little family together in future travel.

By the time we got to Purcell, the ice had turned to rain and a few more miles south brought us to dry highways. Optomistically, we were driving the Saturn, our ten year old tow vehicle, with the tow bar and other needed hardware in the trunk. If we found a rig we liked, we could drive it home and tow the car.

The rest of the way to Houston was smooth and uneventful except when we stopped to change out of our winter wear and put on some short sleeved shirts. We were sweating from the heat!!! Soft, warm, balmy breezes were blowing in from the coast. To heck with the air conditioner, we opened the sun roof and enjoyed the warm air. Well, not really, the compressor that makes the car cool went on the fritz right about then. Oh well, the weather was beautiful, if a bit warm and we enjoyed it to the fullest.

It took a bit of doing to find the hotel. It was in downtown Houston, near the Galleria, a small Day's Inn with free wi-fi. After unpacking, we decided to try to find PPL before making the trip the next morning. What a nightmare!! We were under and over highway 59 freeway, first trying to find our way there and then back. We never found it and since it was already dark we did the same routine again, wandering back and forth until we found the street that went to our hotel.

Refreshed a bit, the next morning, we drove to PPL and began the hunt for the right motorhome. In and out of every motor home that was in our budgeted price range, and length, not over 36 or under 34 feet. Believe it or not, we picked up five pages from five motorhomes that were in the running. The front runner was the Tradewinds. It had been owned by two different people and was for sale again. Mileage was about 60,000 miles but for a diesel, that's not bad at all. The number two runner up was an Allegro with three slides. Pretty, but just not as nice as the Tradewinds.

Tired and worn out, we took all the papers we picked up in the rigs and headed over to Walmart. In our rush to get out of town, I had forgotten both my socks and one of my medicines. I could get both at Walmart.

Heading back to the highway, there was an old bus on the side of the road that had been painted white and converted to a kitchen cooking tacos. You stepped up on the wooden platform, ordered your tacos and either took them home or ate in your car. I tried my best to order two tacos and one quesadilla, but was woefully unable to communicate with the ladies who spoke mostly Spanish. I only got two tacos so I took them to the car, where we happily consumed them. They were delicious and we needed two more. So back to the wood platform to order more. By then a bi-lingual young man had arrived and helped with the order. We had a wonderful Mex-Mex food feast. What a treat.

At the hotel that afternoon, Joe got back online, looking for other Tradewinds for sale and by golly, he found one in San Antonio! Only 200 miles away! It was a one owner with 32,000 miles on it. After much discussion, we decided to call him and make an offer. Joe called and talked to the man about it, asked some questions and then told the man we would like to look and it and told him what we were willing to pay for it. The man said he had to talk with his wife and would call us back. He called late in the day to tell us that he would take our offer. Joe said we would come the next day.
We hit the road again, headed to San Antonio. The weather was absolutely fabulous, soft, warm breezes, what a delight for folks that scooted out of town running from an ice storm. Sadly the ice storm was much worse than expected and left one out of three Oklahomans without power for days. Our house continued to have power during this time and three of our four children that live in Oklahoma were there for varying lengths of time. One needed to use our phone, theirs was out, another needed a short stay until the electricity came back on in their neighborhood and Jim's house was damaged when a tree fell on it, knocking the power box from the house.

[[At this writing, Saturday following the storm, Jim is still with us. The power box had to be put back on the house, rewired and then OG&E would bring the power to the box. That finally happened Saturday evening.]]

We rolled into San Antonio around rush hour and found the house where the rig was parked without much difficulty. The house sat on a five acre plot and had been converted to offices. The land was flat and the rig was sitting on the driveway, hooked up to power, cool and comfortable.

When we walked in we both were in shock. It was not like any of the other Tradewinds rigs that we had seen! The door was not up front, but in the side, like a gas rig. Instead of the dark cherry wood with white and navy trim, it was completely neutral; soft tans, greys and taupes. Hardly any color at all.

And the BATHROOM!! It was all wrong. The potty was not in a little private room, but sitting right out next to the sink and shower. Of all the floor plans I had seen in drawings on the web, I told Joe I would not tolerate an exposed potty. We looked at each other with open mouths. Joe excused us from the owner. We went into the bathroom to talk about how we would tell him that we would not buy it, that it was all wrong! However, the longer I was in the bathroom, the more I began to see why someone would lay it out like that. With the doors to the kitchen and the bedroom closed, it was huge! A large single room with a toilet, sink, shower, three closet doors, and eight drawers. We would be able to shower and dress without ever leaving the room. What convenience!! Everything in one place. It was just right.

The slide was out and the living room/kitchen area was very big. It was tasteful and beautifully finished with lots of little extras; leather sofa with suede throw pillows, leather rocker recliner, leather captains chairs, solid oak drawers and door fronts, tile kitchen floor, fine fabrics throughout, Moen faucets, etc.

And the door placement? The one thing I did not like about the diesels we had seen was that the door opened right in front of the passenger seat. With that being the exit, I could not have my computer or art table in front of me while riding. But with this layout, my entire art table with desktop fit in front of the passenger seat with room to spare. It was not what we expected but it was exactly what we wanted!!

We took it out for a test drive. I rode on the sofa, amazed at the power, turning radius and ease of handling. After talking it over, we decided we wanted this rig. Like a couple of kids in a candy store we said "We'll take it!!" Later we realized that we had not asked nearly enough questions, we didn't even roll out the awnings to see if they were undamaged.

Since we were buying it, the owners told us to make ourselves at home as it was too late in the evening by then to make the wire transfers at the bank. We drove to a nearby Walmart where I bought a set of sheets for our first night in out 'new' rig. It took over a day to get our credit union and their bank together for the wire transfer so we spent a second night in the driveway.

We headed back to Oklahoma on new tires, pulling the car. It was a great trip. By the time we got home, the worst of the ice storms had passed and the area was beginning to thaw. Son Jim was with us another night or two and we really enjoyed his company. He's a great cook.

Since then we have discovered all the things wrong with it and have started the work of fixing it up. We have replaced all of the tires, it still had the original tires; worked on the signal lights; repaired the back up camera, no picture; replaced the speakers on the front television, no sound; replaced all of the coach batteries, all were completely dead and gone; paid the tax on it and licensed it in the state of Oklahoma. Whew. We are still working on it. The ice maker is totally broken. We have removed it and will add an oak door, making a new cabinet.

But nothing seems to dim the delight of driving it over a mountain, while pulling the car and the engine doesn't even shift down. With all of the storage area in the basements, we can carry inventory to arts and crafts shows, enabling us to subsidize our travels. It is 36.5 feet long and gets 10 miles to the gallon even in mountainous regions.

This picture was taken in January in Phoenix where we were parked next to a fruiting orange tree. It was a wonderful park, beautiful surroundings and warm, 75 degree weather. But that's another story.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vacation Trip to Red River New Mexico

For weeks my brother in law Joe and wife Nancy tried to convince my husband Joe (yes, they are actually two brothers named Joe) that we should travel together this August, camping in our rigs to Red River New Mexico where the weather was pleasant during the day, around 76° F, and at night, in the 40's and 50's. 

Brother-in-law Joe (AKA Joe Paul) has a new pickup truck and a new 30 foot Outback fifth wheel. We, on the other hand, have a 30 foot, fourteen year old Fleetwood Coronado motor home. We have driven it for the last eight years from our home in central Oklahoma to Carlsbad Caverns; Yellowstone twice; Idaho four times; Grand Canyon, once was enough, we lost the transmission there on Christmas day; Phoenix three trips; Kansas City, six trips; Branson, too many times to remember; Alabama five trips both in winter and summer; parts in between, and all over Oklahoma to the many beautiful State and Federal parks and lakes. That being said, we were a bit skeptical of taking our elderly, much used motor home on such a long trip again.

But ever the optimists, and influenced by the 107° F. sticky, high humidity heat in Oklahoma, we decided to 'saddle up' the old rig and head for the high country just once more. Over the years we have had to replace a few things in the rig like the padding in the cushions, the front curtains, the toilet, the refrigerator (twice), the tranny and tranny hoses and clamps, as well as the tires (three times) a side window (after a break in), and other parts etc. With so many new parts, surely it would make another trip.

We googled the area, printed out maps and pages of where we would be staying at night along the way, and began loading the rig the day before we were supposed to leave, which is fairly easy to do as we have it down pat by now. We filled the appropriate tanks with water, propane and gasoline. 

During Tuesday afternoon, the day before we would be leaving, unexpected out of town company dropped in. When we headed out early Wednesday morning, we hugged them all and gave them the key to the house, telling them to "Make yourselves at home". 

Perhaps it was because of the confusion of the company or the break in our routine, but we accidentally left a couple of things behind like the google maps, the satellite receiver with remote control and all of Joe's medicines.

Blissfully ignorant, we teamed up with Joe Paul and Nancy, had a quick bite of breakfast and headed west on I-40. By the time we reached Elk City, Oklahoma we had come to realize that Joe's medicines were not in the rig so we pulled off and drove to the local Wal-mart to see if we could get at least a weeks worth of medicines. Sure enough, since we buy our drugs at a Wal-mart in our home town, they could refill all of our prescriptions except the one that had expired. 

The very helpful pharmacist called our doctor's office to get permission to refill the expired drug prescription. All this took about three quarters of an hour. When returning to the rig, I noticed a lot of water under the front of the rig but since we were running the generator, I thought it was from the air conditioner. I could not have been more wrong.

Back on I-40, we were talking about the wonders of computers, how you can go miles from home and get your medications almost as easily as buying them at home when my husband suddenly said "Boy, it's really hot!" Thinking he meant the weather, I agreed and mentioned that's why we were headed for the mountains. "No, the rig is hot!" was his quick reply. He turned off the air conditioner and slowed down. The temperature dropped a bit but not enough to continue to drive much further. 

After a quick conversation with Joe Paul (thank goodness for cell phones) we decided to try to limp into the nearest town. Fortunately there was a weigh station coming up where we pulled off to see what could be causing the overheating. When the guys opened up the hood, water was everywhere and squirting out of the big black hose attached to the motor. It was then we realized that the water I had seen under the rig was the water used to cool the motor. 

We filled a gallon jug six times from the faucet in the kitchen to refill the motor with water hoping that it would last long enough to get us to the next exit and to an auto supply store. Back on the interstate, we rejoiced to see an exit come up in less than two miles! We pulled off and limped into the town of Erick that turned out to be a very small, make that very, very small town. There was very little traffic and even at the very slow crawl, we went all the way through town and were headed out the other side before we knew it. 

Pulling over to the side of the road, and stopping in front of a very old garage that no longer pumped gas, Joe Paul went over to the two older gents sitting out front and asked where the auto supply store was in town. Being told there was no store, the men asked what were we looking for. Upon hearing that we needed a radiator hose, one man told Joe Paul that he'd bought a bunch of radiator hoses at an auction a while back and dumped them next to the building and pointed to where they lay in the tall grass. "If you can find one that works, you're welcome to it!" he called out. 

Thanking the men, Joe Paul went to the pile, picked up a hose, looked it over and saw that it obviously would not work and then, seeing the round end of a hose sticking up out of the grass, reached in and pulled it out. The hose was brand new, still having the label on the side of it.

 By the time Joe Paul got back to the rig with the hose, Joe had the 'dog house' (the lid like thing inside of a gasoline rig that covers the engine) open and was trying to remove the ruptured hose. Joe Paul got some tools from his rig and we scrounged up some more tools from ours. Finally they got the hose off of the motor. 

Suddenly Joe asked Joe Paul "Oh Gosh!! Does it have a hole in it?" Since there are two hoses that carry water he was hoping that they had removed the damaged one. Sure enough, a close look revealed a quarter inch slit in the hose. Whew. They had removed the correct hose.

Nancy and I sat at the table and watched as the two Joe's discussed if the new hose would work. "It's too short." "No, it's not!" "The end's too small!" "Well, you can push hard to get it on!" Finally the old hose was off and they laid them side by side on the floor. The conversation continued, "They don't match!" "Turn it around!" Like magic when they turned the brand new hose around and laid it down on top of the damaged hose, they matched perfectly. In a tiny town in Oklahoma, in knee high grass, was the perfect, brand new, radiator hose for a fourteen year old motor home. Even if we had found a well stocked auto supply store, the chances of having that old radiator hose in stock was probably slim to none. 

When we heard "Oops!" we wondered what could be happening now. While working to remove the clamps from the old hose, one had fallen into a snarl of wires under the motor and could not be retrieved. Could we hope for another miracle? Back in his pickup truck, Joe Paul drove a block and a half to where a hand lettered sign near the road read "Dollar Store". 'Turns out that the "Dollar Store" had some of about everything including a package of hose clamps in three sizes. A conquering hero could not have had more cheers than when he tossed the package of clamps onto the floor next to the exposed motor. 

Thanks to a set of sockets and a ratchet, the job of installing the new hose began in earnest. Fortunately we had found a great big shade tree and pulled the RV  under it providing shade in which they could work. A slight breeze kept the Joe's cool while installing the new hose. 

Everything went well until the final end had to be pushed onto the motor. It seemed to be too small. I suggested that they lightly grease it, saying that I had some butter we could use. After a animated conversation of whether or not the grease would help or hurt, the decision was made to lightly grease the hose.

Unable to suppress a bit of fun, I asked if they would prefer butter or margarine. Fortunately, I had the butter ready for Joe before a verbal storm could start and, after a bit of lubrication and pushing, the hose slipped onto the mount and was tightened up. 

After a bit of cleanup, the breather was replaced and we were ready to roll. But wait, all the water and the coolant had drained from the motor. Could the "Dollar Store"????????? Yep, the "Dollar Store" had three brands of Coolant.
The rig was filled and ready to roll. Back on I-40 we again headed west into the sun, bound for Amarillo. Earlier, my Joe had told his brother we couldn't make it to Amarillo before the end of the day. He wasn't far off. In spite of everything, we kept on rolling, the rig ran fine, and at dark, rolled into Dalhart, Texas, our planned stop for the night. We had thought that our trip was over before it began, but instead we were on schedule and headed for Red River. 

The next morning our only problem was trying to find a place to park a motor home and pickup truck with trailer at the local MacDonald's for breakfast. 

The landscape changed as we headed north and west into the high desert, foot hills and finally into the mountains. As we went higher and higher, it became cooler and cooler. Air conditioning in the rig gave way to wide open windows with mountain air rushing in. 

We entered Carson National Forest and were enthralled by the variety of sights. Crystal clear, cold streams were beautiful to watch sparkling and dancing through the undergrowth, trees, stones and bluffs. The Palisade's were majestic and stately, and astonishingly powerful with their stone formations and outcroppings reaching to the skies above a rapidly running, tree lined river. 

Further along, an old log with a six inch groove carved into the length of it channeled water from a small stream into a broader stream. Joe Paul said the log had been there over 20 years ago when he had stopped at that same spot. The water was cold, 56° F, and crystal clear. Missy and I splashed across the stream, enjoying the fresh cold water. 

Campground in Red River

The river running through the campground.

Remember Oklahoma? 107° F and humid? What a joy to revel in cool mountain air and cold water. 
Flowers everywhere!!

Trip to Red River New Mexico, cont.

As we traveled along the roadway, new vistas would open up occasionally, revealing great beauty or majesty for us to ooohhh and ahh over. The lake at Eagle's Nest was breathtaking in it's broad scope and glorious landscape.
We were soon past Eagle's Nest and up over Bobcat Pass and across the Continental divide. Elevation 9800 feet.
We rolled into Red River, a charming ski town, around noon on Thursday and checked into Red River RV park where we had reservations until Sunday. They put Joe Paul's rig near the office, backed up to a trout stream. We were sent to the other end of the park, backed up to the road. Since we eat most of our meals together etc, it was a bit inconvenient to take food, crafts, etc back and forth between the rigs.
In spite of the extra walking, the visit was pleasant, the people there were very friendly and helpful. Camp hosts Paul and Linda were delightful. When we arrived, they were working at a table in front of their rig, making beaded bracelets that they sold to a gift shop in Questa. As an artist, it is always such fun to meet creative people.
No matter where you are, there is a routine for living. When traveling, it kind of goes like this:
1. Get up, make coffee, guys visit back and forth, we plan breakfast, cook breakfast, clean up. After clean up, loaf around, go to town, do light housekeeping, shower, etc. Then do Number 2.
2. Plan lunch. Eat out? Cook in? Once decided, we either get in Joe Paul's truck and go to town to eat, or fix lunch, clean up.
3. Afternoon: Shop? Tourist event?? Play with crafts???
4. Plan Dinner/Supper. Eat out? Cook in? once decided... you get the picture.
5. Evenings. TV? Movie? Crafting? Bonfire??? We're on vacation, maybe do any, all or none.
6. Bedtime. Whenever we feel like it, early, late, who cares?
That night we had our first dinner at Joe Paul and Nancy's rig, with us carrying in our part of the meal while balancing an umbrella and holding the doggy leash.
It rained a lot while we were there, but the rain falls straight down. You don't have to close your windows, and the water is absorbed right away so not many muddy puddles. We went to town that afternoon to ride the lift to the top of the mountain, but it had just been closed due to an oncoming storm with lighting.
We were at the bottom of the lift by ten on Thursday morning ready to ride. Since I had slightly rocked the seat on a ferris wheel one time, years ago, Joe preferred to ride the lift alone. Go figure! So he went first, me second and Joe Paul and Nancy rode up together. Getting on to a moving seat was a bit of a challenge with a tote and sweatshirt in one hand. My camera and umbrella were in the tote and I was carrying the sweatshirt "Just in case..". Once seated, the camera was put to good use. The ride was thrilling, often we were looking down at tree tops. Several times during the half hour ride to the top, the lift would suddenly stop, leaving us swinging slightly in the breeze. That was OK by me, all around us, the mountains, slopes and trees were glorious. The sun was quite warm, but the breeze was cool and refreshing. At the top of the lift, we had to now get off of the moving seat. We were told to step out and walk forward. What they forgot to tell us was to walk very fast forward or the seat would bump your backside and stop the lift. Joe got off first and hollered at me to go fast getting off. I turned around and grabbed Nancy by the hand when they arrived, hurrying her forward, but Joe Paul did not move fast enough. After bumping his backside, the lift stopped.
The view from the top was inspiring. We could see snow covered mountain tops in the far distance. However, the sun was very bright at the higher elevation, over 11,000 feet. Out came the umbrella, now for shade instead of rain. After taking some pictures and laughing at the cheeky chipmunks, we headed down the mountain again. By now clouds had covered the sun and the sweatshirt was warm and cozy. Joe Paul and Nancy went first, me next and then Joe. At the bottom, Joe Paul got away in time but Nancy did not. The lift stopped.
After lunch in town, we headed back to the RV park for some R & R.
Friday afternoon in our rig, I showed Nancy the explosion albums that I had been making with polymer clay covers. Since she is a scrap booker, she was eager to learn how to make one. After supper in her rig, we pulled out all her scrap book stuff, played with the punches, and ooohhed and aaahed over the pretty papers.
On Saturday, Nancy and I sat at her table outside under the awning and we again drug out all of her papers, card stock, punches, glue, etc, etc.... After choosing the three card stock patterns and colors, we folded and glued the album pages together to make the explosion effect when opened. Much conversation ensued as to whether the album would be for journaling, pictures, or a mix of journaling and pictures. The next discussion was about an appropriate cover. She decided, not to use polymer clay, but wanted instead a card stock cover with a frame in which to put a picture of their rig. Added elements such as a title, pine trees, flower, leaves, butterfly and frog punches using appropriate colored papers would embellish the cover.
We were having so much fun and enjoying the glorious cool so much that we really did not want to leave for home on Sunday as planned. Joe Paul and Nancy mentioned another campground on the other side of town that they really liked, having stayed there before. Larger sites, tall trees and WIFI!! With that happy news, we decided to stay three more days and we would move on Sunday morning when our time was up at Red River RV park and go home on Wednesday.
The next morning, on Sunday, Linda, Nancy and I walked to a small Baptist Church just around the corner from the campground and over the bridge. The fellowship and message was a blessing. While we girls were in church, Joe Paul moved his rig to the new campground. Joe broke camp and was waiting for us when we exited church after the service. We started walking toward the motor home when a big brown dog started running and chasing after us. We were nearly scared to death, but the doggy only wanted to say hi and slobber all over us.
Our new spot was fabulous Tall trees on three sides, and our rigs were side by side. No more carrying dishpans full of stuff from one rig to the other. We were just a few feet apart.
Joe and I both logged onto the web using our respective laptops. His a PC and mine a Mac. What fun to check our emails, forums, and websites. As my granny used to say "We were in hog heaven!". Not quite sure what that means but she always said it when everything was going right and she was happy.
That night, after cooking steaks on the grill for supper, and clean up over, Joe Paul built a big campfire between our rigs. We toasted marsh mellows and drank Lemon Drop Martinis. When you are camping, you sometimes have to substitute ingredients, but the martinis were still great tasting and a relaxing end to a good day.
Monday was more of the same. Step 1, then laundry in the camp laundromat, lunch in town, then back to the park for doggy walking. In a lovely setting with lots of trees, river with rapids, foot bridges, and walking paths it was easy to stay out walking for a long time. It became obvious that the weather and environment was so good, that we had to book two more days, and leave on Friday. We had not turned on our air conditioner since moving into the spot under the trees. And, like every night since we arrived, the furnace was turned on to take the chill off of the rig. The temperature reached the low forties before morning that night.
By Tuesday, Nancy had decided how she wanted to make the covers for the explosion album. We sat under our awning and played during the afternoon. She working on the album, me sculpting a bit. However, her project was so interesting that we both got involved with it. We used her card stock, punches etc. I contributed a gold edging to the cardstock from my work kit. It turned out to be a very nice album. As we played, it began to rain softly. We stayed under the awning until we were so cold we got up to get sweaters and blankets to stay warm.
During that afternoon, Joe was checking the reports on his backup service and realized that one did not make. Trying to figure out why, he logged onto his home computer then reviewed the servers. One was not responding. Our company, daughter Viktoria, was still at the house so he called her and asked if she could go to the computer room and check the server. They worked together on the phone long enough for him to diagnose that a drive had crashed. After a lengthly attempt via the web to re-route the backups, it became obvious that we would have to leave the next morning.
He woke up in the middle of the night with an idea of how to save our trip and make the backups. He started the work around by logging onto our computer at home and working on the servers from the mountains. By morning, he had it under control and we were able to stay one more day. We took long walks and enjoyed the trout stream, visiting with other campers and watching children laughing and playing around the campground.
We ended up leaving around ten in the morning the next day and drove the entire 700 miles home in one stretch. When we hit the lower elevations, it seemed as though the air was not only hot, but heavy and hard to breathe.
We arrived home safely after a sixteen hour drive with breaks only for food and coffee. The next day, at home, unloading the rig was a sad event. Earlier in the month we had put up the rig for sale. Before we left, the mailman told us that he wanted to purchase the Couch Mobile. He would be picking it up in less than a week after our return. It is amazing how much stuff you can put into a 30' rig over eight years. I am still trying to find places to put it away. We decided to keep the things from the rig together, linens, cookware, swim wear etc so that when we replace the rig, these things can more easily be loaded into it.
I was outside this afternoon when the mailman dropped off the mail. He and his family are having a ball with the rig and he told me a lot of stories. We are so happy to know that they are enjoying it as much as we did.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Uncle Charlie

Uncle Charlie died yesterday. Growing up, my mom was a serial marryer. When she wasn't married, she dated. My father was out of the picture and over 1700 miles away since I was three. Uncle Charlie lived across the alley from my grandparents, where my mother, my little sister and I lived in a tiny house on the back of the property between marriages and boyfriends. Uncle Charlie was more a dad to me than my father or any of the men who came in and out of my mother's life. When we were little, he would take my sister and I, along with his kids out to the A&W Rootbeer stand on the outskirts of town in his Chevy Impala convertible. The joy of drinking a cold rootbeer in a frosty mug while sitting in the back seat of a convertible on a lovely summer evening has stayed with me all these years. He gave us many bright and happy moments in our frantic lives that were filled with our mother's drama. I will miss him. The world was a better place because he was in it.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thinking it over

I had such a strong desire to start a blog. To write down the thoughts and memories of my life and the many adventures and travels I have had. Everyone has a story and I did not want mine to get lost with either senility or forgetfulness, or lack of energy. Sometimes the little stories seem to be like short movies that play quickly and leave me with the same feelings that I had at the time the 'movie' was 'recorded' in my life.

After going through the work to create a blog, and dip my toe in the water so to speak, I wrote a little something and posted my first blog,

Then I got too busy to blog. Life keeps happening, I keep recording new 'movies'. 'Probably never get them all written down, but I will do my best over the next few years to record the best and the worst of them.

First trip continued

Continuing post, trip to great north west.

Coming out into the heat, I turned to Joe and pleaded to go back to the mountains where we left the windows open to cool off and had to wear jackets after dark to stay warm. He asked why would anyone want to live here when they could live up there. We had a resulting conversation about the very high cost of homes in Jackson and Driggs. It is amazing how many pointless conversations we can involve ourselves in to take our minds off the HEAT!
We pressed ever eastward, reaching Salina Kansas in the afternoon. We finally were headed home on I-135 and from there to I-35. Since we live only a mile and a half from I-35, it felt wonderful to really be heading home.
Our original plan was to arrive home on Sunday afternoon but with the smell of the stable in our noses, we did a full 12 hour day of hard, hot driving to get home by Saturday night. We did the whole bit about having a roomy home again, lots of water, our own bed, a roomy shower, Missy with her doggy door (no more walks at dark and dawn) and our own computers.
I had the laptop most of the trip. Charting our course with the GPS receiver. Yelling stuff like, turn here!! change lanes!! don’t change lanes!! we just missed the turn!! Hundreds of dollars of hardware, software, and other technical goodies and we still could miss a turn.
When not calling out directions, I would draw or work on this account. Some of it I actually typed while riding through the countryside.
When we stopped in Gutherie (30 miles north of OKC) for dinner, we were too tired to go home and cook, we were unable to start the generator so we could leave Missy in the Couch Mobile. When the gasoline level is below a quarter tank, the generator won’t run so that you can’t drain the gas tank dry. By then the sun was nearly down and the Couch Mobile was in the shade. We thought that she would be fine with the windows open and the fan on. We opened the windows, turned on the fan, and put out fresh water with ice cubes. We made sure it was comfortable, got out, locked the door and started for the restaurant. Boy howdy! You never heard such a ruckus in your life. She stood on the back of the sofa, next to the screen and yipped, howled, whined and carried on like she was being hung over the grand canyon by her back leg. We looked at each other and laughed as we headed back to the Couch Mobile. We wouldn’t be dining out tonight it seemed. However, as we prepared to leave, Joe noticed that the gas station next to the restaurant had pretty good prices on fuel and put in enough to bring it back up to half a tank. The Couch Mobile holds 100 gals. For those of you who have an interest in such things, we average around 9 mpg.
We drove back to where we parked the Couch Mobile the first time, turned on the air and went in and had dinner after all.
Full, tired and finally cool we rolled down I-35 toward home. I asked Joe, “Why, when we were so glad to go, we were so very glad to be coming home?” He said “That is the point of a vacation. It makes home such a great place to go to.”
The familiar highway stretching ahead of us made me feel peaceful and happy as I reflected on all we had done, seen and experienced. The highs, the lows, the growing and stretching of our hearts and spirits. We drove nearly 3,000 miles. We came home safe and sound, loaded with souvineres, memories and experiences.
Some After thoughts:
When people come to the US from other lands, the one thing that seems overwhelm them the most is the vastness of our country and the network of highways. The great northwest is a perfect example of this. Four lane highways as straight as string cross the huge, vast open fields and prairies. Many other highways snake around the foothills and mountains, over passes and through tunnels. Most of these roads are in very good condition, smooth and well marked. An invitation to just take off and see the U.S.A..
Each of the states we passed through had their own distinct and beautiful features.
We began our trip in Oklahoma. We spent some time in each of the following states, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
Oklahoma, our starting place, is home to us. It has lakes, rivers, high plateaus and hills. Oh, and the wind comes sweeping down the plains.
Kansas is a lot like it but a bit greener. However, on I-70 where we spent all of our travel and camping time, it is flat. Not just flat but mostly devoid of human habitation. Flat and empty and big. Those vast flat lands were rich with growing things. Corn, wheat, enough food to feed millions of people. The line, “amber waves of grain” from the song “America the Beautiful”, had to have been written about Kansas wheat fields. It does something proud-like to your heart to see the vast fertile fields, bursting with ripening grain. As I write this, I am thankful for the again for the blessings of God on this land, thankful to be an american.
Colorado, just next door to Kansas, starts out with fields but majestic mountains begin to pierce the sky on the far side of Denver. Rocky mountains tower over all going so high into the sky that not even hardy trees can exist on the barren slopes. Snow falls heavily in the winter and some of it stays on those lofty peaks all year long. Clouds crown the mountains and cloak the slopes. Eagles and other great raptors soar freely and ride thermals to greater heights than other birds dare to go. In the spring, when the snow begins to melt, rivers swell with the pure clean water that, over centuries, has carved winding paths through even the rockiest of canyons.
We drove north out of Colorado into Wyoming on I-25 with the mountains on the left, the prairie on the right. We turned west onto I-80 at Cheyenne. I had never been in Wyoming before and didn’t have any idea what to expect. It was a curious mix of Kansas and Colorado. Mix up the mountains and plains, you should get a lot of empty rolling hills. That’s Wyoming on the south and middle. Again there were not very many trees or cities. But boy was there lots of earth and sky. At one point we saw ridge after ridge of wind generators. The way the wind blows up here, I could see why the high ridges was an ideal place for them. The empty fields in Wyoming seemed to be pasture for cattle, horses, antelope and bison. The biggest crop that I spotted appeared to be oil. We saw a refinery or two along the way.
The open plains and foothills of Wyoming possess a ruggedness and wild beauty. These rolling hills could be very deceptive. As we would begin to go up what seemed to be an average hill, our Couch Mobile would drop down into a lower gear and begin to claw and growl it’s way to the top. From all of the snow fences we spotted alongside the highway, my guess is that lots and lots of drifting snow can be a real problem. There were even barriers on the interstate that could be closed across the road, shutting down the highway completely. We just looked at each other when we saw that, eyebrows raised. Both of us wondered just how bad snow could be that would require shutting down an interstate highway.
From the rolling foothills we drove northward into the Tetons and Jackson Hole. The mountain ranges were a sight to behold. Going home was just the reverse. We enjoyed the sights all over again.
It was a trip that we will remember for many years to come. We want to go back, we will go back, we did go back. I guess that is the sign of a good vacation. We left wanting more.

Travel Blog, first trip in the Couch Mobile

In 2000 my husband and I decided to buy an old RV and travel with our doggie Missie on weekends and annual vacations.After the first exciting drive, we broke it, and us, in by taking some local trips, then a longer one to visit Carlsbad Caverns. Confident and excited we then planned a vacation to the great Northwest. This vacation would do two things for us, we would see Yellowstone and spend tme with my sister Toni and husband Gary.
We would be leaving Moore Oklahoma and would be heading for Driggs, Idaho to be the first to spend time up on my sister Toni’s acreage. They have electricity there because their summer home was being built. From that location, we would be able to visit a number of National parks and forests. Yellowstone, Teton, and Targee parks are all within a hundred mile radius of their property. Jackson Hole with all of its attractions is a 45 minute drive over the pass.
Because of our schedules, my husband and I both would have to work on Monday the 14 and Tuesday the 15th, beginning our vacation on Wednesday morning the 16th. Hoping to get a few miles under our belts we planned to leave on Tuesday night, driving to Wichita where we would spend the night.
On the 14th Joe’s van had a boil-over and he had to drive me to work on Tuesday and pick me up when I was done. I took no lunch break and so was able to leave at 5:30. We got home, finished loading the Couch Mobile, hooked up the toad (our Saturn) and began the trip check.

Everything went well until the light check. No lights on the toad and one not working in the Couch Mobile. Daylight was burning away and we were getting more and more frustrated. We had planned to get to Wichita before quitting for the night, but you can’t drive without tail lights on your toad or turn signals on your Couch Mobile.
Joe crawled under the Couch Mobile and pulled out the signal light bulb. It was burnt out. We turned on the toad’s parking lights for tail lights and took off for the auto supply store. We bought the necessary light bulbs.
True to form, we had to go back inside and buy the tool needed to remove the toad’s rear light red plastic cover. Joe tested everything. Then discovered that the after market, add-on right brake and turn signal that was connected to the Couch Mobile was not getting any juice. This problem would require more time and work than we could do at night in the store parking lot. Leaving the Saturn parking lights on for tail lights for the toad, we finally headed out of town.
We got as far as the Waffle house in Edmond. Not only were we tired and frustrated, we were hungry. Lunch had been a very long time ago for the both of us. We discovered when we went to leave that there was not enough space to turn the Couch Mobile around while pulling the toad. We had to unhook the toad, turn the Couch Mobile , and re-hook the toad.
As if we didn’t already have enough problems, the tow bar would not snap into position so that we could insert the retaining rings. We stopped on the west side of the interstate, no luck, even a hammer could not convince the bar to snap into place. Crossing the interstate, we stopped on the east side, twice. Finally Joe persuaded it with much enthusiasm to get into place and stay there. Off north again on I 35, headed, finally, for Wichita, exhausted, tired and need I say, hot and cranky.
We didn’t make it. We got as far as a rest stop in northern Oklahoma. Parking was at a premium. We were able to pull into a slot between two huge semi rigs. Both of them were diesels and their engines were running, probably to keep the drivers cool. Because of the size of them and the lack of moving air, we were not wanting to risk starting our generator in case carbon monoxide might put us to sleep forever.
We had not driven long enough to cool down the Couch Mobile, it was extremely hot outside and inside. Even the mattress was hot all the way through. We had a miserable hot, sleepless night. A predictable end to a really rough day. Not a good way to start a vacation. But, we figured the worst was over and the rest of the trip would be great by comparison. We were right.
The next morning we got rolling northward on I-35 as early as possible. It was still very hot and we couldn’t seem to get the Couch Mobile cooled down. I discovered why late in the afternoon, we had left a bedroom window open and record heat was being sucked in. After closing the window, we finally began to notice the temperature dropping.
We took I-35 north to I-135 north to I-70 west in Kansas where we made a beeline westward. By the time we pulled over in Colby Kansas, our moods began to elevate and we began to feel like we were actually on vacation.
In Colby we stopped at the only RV park close to the interstate. It was a nice, if plain and had dinner in the restaurant. At first, I thought we might have hit the jackpot, a small restaurant, very limited menu, maybe they would have great food. Turns out that the food was just OK but the homemade bread was good.
We had hooked up to the electricity when we parked and turned on the air conditioner in the RV. By the time dinner was over, it was COOL. We went right to bed and slept for over 10 hours. It got so cold that I had to put the bedspread back on the bed to keep us warm during the night!!!! The next morning, rested and cool, we took off again to the west, headed for Idaho and Yellowstone.
Our game plan had been to arrive in Denver around noon on Thursday and go to Camping World, the Mecca of RVr’s. Because of the late, late start, we ended up hitting Denver about 4:00 PM. Rush hour. From the way they drive there, I would more likely call it Frantic, Panic Hour. Much like I-35 in Oklahoma City, nearly every interstate that we traveled on, right through downtown, was under construction of one kind or another.
I was watching the computer map with the GPS arrow moving along the highways as we drove. As much as was possible, I tried to keep Joe headed toward Camping World with only one or two bobbles. The map put Camping world on the west side of the interstate. We pulled off at the exit and headed down the frontage road. It was desolate looking with only one forlorn building ahead of us. We speculated that the very popular Camping World store would probably have a bit more traffic than that building had. We were right. It was an animal clinic. It was at the end of the road, no turn around area, gates were shut. We got out and stood there reviewing our options when Joe said “Look across the highway.” Yep big, bright and bold with banners flying was..... Camping World.
By now you are aware that turning the rig around with the toad hooked up would not work. Sooo... we unhooked again. I drove the car, he the Couch Mobile and we headed back up the frontage road, under the overpass and down the other side to Camping World with the giant parking lot that had pull through slots just for motor homes with toads. We spent an expensive hour there. We would put things in the shopping cart and then take some of them out, and put them back. We left with stuff we needed and some that we didn’t. I got some flower shaped plastic patio lights to hang from the awning. I was tickled, Joe was underwhelmed.
Out in the parking lot, we did the hookup again. It had cooled off a bit and a breeze was blowing so it was not as hard to do. The little pop thingies popped right in and Joe was able to put the retaining rings in lickety-split. Easiest hookup of the trip.
We headed up I-25, out of town and there was heavy traffic for the next 40 miles! If that weren’t enough, it started to rain, no not rain, downpour. So badly that we heard on the radio that a fireman had been sucked into a culvert by a flash flood and drowned. The rain continued to get worse and worse and finally Joe decided to pull off and wait it out. Just as we got to an exit, it began to slack off and we kept going. For awhile though, it was a real frog strangler
Well, you could probably could have seen this coming. It got really bad again but we plodded on and finally ran out of it about 20 minutes later. We stayed on I-25 to Cheyenne Wyoming and turned west on I-80 which turned out to be a clone of I-70, just as empty of human habitation but not as flat.
We finally stopped in Laramie for the night at a KOA kampground. It was nearly full but they had a pull through and we got a good night’s sleep again. It is amazing how very tiring it can be just sitting and riding or driving.
Friday morning, Joe was up to his old tricks. While I was still asleep, he went outside, unhooked the water and electricity, stowed all of the loose items and took off. Once again I woke to the bouncing of the bed. The day was dawning, the Couch Mobile was cool and we were on our way Joe at the wheel and me in the passenger seat in my pajamas. I like the energy of that kind of wake up call.
We made good time and began to think we would make it to Toni’s place in Idaho before dark. We took I-80 to highway 191 to highway 189 to highway 22. 22 would take us over the Teton pass from Jackson Hole Wyoming to Driggs Idaho. As we drove toward the pass, we saw a sign that said STEEP 10% grade, shift down. We had done so well so far and I didn’t think that 10% sounded so very steep. Well, if we thought it growled and crawled up over the foothills, we hadn’t heard growling and clawing yet. The Couch Mobile labored up hill (or would that be up mountain) as we began to get real sinking and queasy feelings in our tummies. Unlike the little engine that could, our poor Couch Mobile seemed to be chanting, “I know I can’t’.
We pulled over at the first pull over area and got out. I smelled burning brake smell and really began to be afraid. Then I realized we hadn’t been using the brakes. It was a car next to us. He had ridden his brakes down the mountain until they had gotten so hot he had to quit driving until they cooled off. Joe struck up a conversation with him and it turned out that they were from a Methodist church in Illinois and that after the May 3,1999 tornado that destroyed a huge area of Moore, they had come down as a church group and helped in the cleanup. It really is a small world.
I told Joe if he wanted to unhook the Saturn, I could drive it over the mountain and he would not have to pull it with the Couch Mobile. He thought that the Couch Mobile would be able to pull the hill with out it. Once again we unhooked and stowed the loose stuff. He told me to meet him at the top where he would pull over before heading down the other side.
The only other time that I had ever been over a pass was in Colorado about 16 years ago. It was so high that it was even above the timberline. The air was very thin and it was like being on top of the world. I must have been expecting to go high like that again but as I drove up the pass, I suddenly popped over the top, tall trees were everywhere. It was nothing like I had experienced before and I found myself barreling down hill (or is that down mountain). I had the presence of mind to brake briefly and shift down into second and then into low. Even in low I was still flying, or so it seemed to me. I touched the brakes only as needed and finally began to bottom out. All the way down, I could feel the little hairs on the back of my neck standing up and prickling. I had a few fearful moments. The Idaho side was much longer and therefore not so scary as the Jackson side but it was enough for me.
I pulled off the road into a park to the right and waited for Joe. Later, comparing notes I realized he did not have nearly the ease of passage that I had. I got out to walk Missy in the park and waited and waited. Just when I began to become concerned that Joe might have had to use a ‘runaway truck exit’ , I heard an awful noise, like a giant chain saw coming from up the highway. As I watched, the Couch Mobile slowly oozed into view, followed by 8 or 9 cars, all of them behind a big diesel truck that was rattling and wheezing and making that awful noise. Hurray! He made it.
We decided that I would follow him the rest of the way to Toni and Gary’s place. We arrived about 4:30. Her builder, Pete Moyer was still there. They are building a handcrafted log home. The logs were up and stacked. There were some rafters up and the daylight basement was framed in. It was impressive even unfinished. I went in the opening that would become the front door and stared out the 16 foot wide window. Dead center was Grand Teton and the Teton mountain range. The foothills formed a V shape below it and it looked like one of those big wallpaper murals. I got cold chills just looking.
Pete asked us to put the motor home up on a rise at the top of the hill to the left of the house. We couldn’t drive up the slope, the Couch Mobile would high center and even though it would be comical to look at, we would not be able to get any sleep on a 15% slope. (I am learning about these things). We had to move cut ends of logs and part of a pile of lumber, drive down beside the house and then back up the hill wiggling back and forth to miss the logs, the wood stack, and Aspen trees in the grove next to the house. An hour later, we were in and hooked up to the electricity. The window over our dining table opened up to the Grand Teton range. We only used the electricity for lights and the microwave. It was so cold up there that we didn’t need the air conditioner, just opened the windows. The first night we discovered we had to close the windows while we slept. It dropped into the 30’s that night and several nights after that. We needed jackets every day at one time or another. When we looked up at the night sky, you could see thousands of stars and the milky way shining overhead. Took my breath away.
It was just wonderful to eat dinner there that evening, the sun was setting on the Grand Teton giving it a rosy glow, the Aspen leaves were rustling in the breeze and we felt on top of the world.
On Saturday morning we were up early and took off in our toad for Idaho Falls to pick up Toni and Gary at the airport. We let the GPS pick the route for us. Not a good idea. It took us south to Swan Valley, piny pass and then over to Idaho Falls. We could have gone just a few miles north and taken a big highway west and then a big highway south but we didn’t know that at the time. The drive to Swan Valley was beautiful and we would have enjoyed it a lot more had we not missed the turn. We were nearly to the Teton pass when we discovered our mistake. We headed back north and turned where we were supposed to, rushing toward Swan Valley. This pass was only 6%. Piece of cake. We caught the highway west and were on the north side of Idaho Falls when my cell phone rang. It was Toni. They were at the airport and wondered where we were. After a quick explanation we headed for the airport and picked them up 15 minutes later.
One note about Swan Valley. It was beautiful but as soon as we were close, Joe said “Barley. I smell Barley” Sure enough, when we got down into the valley we saw acres and acres of Barley. Idaho provides 80% of the barley and hops used by beer brewers. They also grow potatoes. We saw all kinds of potato things from giant ones to boy and girl potatoes holding hands. Really corny.
We brought them back to Driggs where we stopped to buy groceries and get lunch. I had the best Pizza ever in a little bitty restaurant in downtown Driggs. All that afternoon we did R&R at the Couch Mobile. Toni talked with her builder but the rest of us sat in the shade and drank soft drinks, visited and admired the view.
Just for fun and because there was no roof on the house, we took the charcoal cooker into the living room, set it up and cooked in their new house. We had great steaks and potatoes on the grill. Green beans and corn, bread from the store in Driggs with strawberry and honey butter. It was a feast. Good food and good company. The air was cool and there was a bit of a breeze. Perfect end to a lovely day.
On Sunday we started the day with breakfast in the Couch Mobile and then coffee at the Bistro in Driggs.
Then we drove over the pass and north of Jackson to Teton Park. We started at Jenny Lake, took a boat to the other side and hiked up to Hidden Falls. Beautiful walk, the falls were very impressive. I had fun feeding the chipmunks. Tired and worn out we headed back over the pass to the Couch Mobile. Because of the fires north of the lake, there was a sort of haze over everything. I got some great photos of the sun setting behind the mountains with bars of light striking out through the haze.
On Monday, we made breakfast and gabbed and relaxed. Toni spent more time with her builder and we located a kennel to leave Missy in for the next two days so we could go overnight to Yellowstone.
That afternoon we did something very daring. We went to Jackson and went white water rafting on the Snake river. We didn’t take the wussie ride either. We were lined up five in a row on the side of the raft wearing life jackets with paddles. You could sit with both feet inside, one in a holder the other loose or you could straddle the side with one foot inside in the strap and the other hanging in the water. Toni and I straddled. Joe sat behind me, Toni sat ahead of me and Gary was the bull rider on the front. He didn’t get a paddle. Too slow I guess.
When we hit the whitewater, all I could do was focus on paddling. Our guide said we could get through it better with the water to push against. I found myself chanting over and over, “dig, dig, dig.” Meaning to dig the paddle into the water and use it to keep myself upright on the edge of the raft.
The guide promised to pull us out of the river (43 degrees) if we fell in or the raft overturned. Several times we thought we might need rescuing but managed over and over to stay upright. It was so very exciting. Not like anything I had ever done before. You can’t win in a battle with the river. It went fast and it was beautiful. We had some quieter water between the worse white water but not enough to get complacent. In one place the depth of the river dropped from about 8 feet deep to 85 feet deep. It didn’t change on top much but the flowing water swirled around making bubbles that rose to the surface like the bubbles in champagne. Fascinating. Pretty too. Sometimes it seemed like there was just too much to take in at once. We saw an Osprey fishing and an immature bald eagle took off just over our heads and soared nobly away. It was probably disturbed by all of the screaming, hollering and paddle waving in the weird floating thing below him.
Gary managed to start a water fight with the boat ahead of us and we all ended up soaking wet. Not one square inch of me was dry. I was even wet under the life jacket. We didn’t notice it so much while we were moving like mad trying to keep the raft going the right direction while remaining upright and on the raft but when we got near the end of the trip and the water became more calm, we began to suffer the results of the wetting. We were cold! In August, we were cold. Kind of a mixed blessing.
The highlight of the rapids was a huge dip in the water called the Big Kahuna. The regular Kahunas were nearly more than I could handle and when I saw the BIG Kahuna coming up, I nearly panicked. There was no way off the boat so we had to go through it. I can’t begin to describe it. Imagine a rough river with a giant Hole in it. The water dipped first down about 8 feet into what appeared to be a hole in the water and then shot up and out the other side. Big drop down, huge splash up. I did pretty good until Toni came flying back onto me when the raft bent double, throwing me into the bottom of the boat. I suppose better the bottom of the boat and not the water. It happened so fast I can’t even remember how I got there.
We survived the Snake river, the Big Kahuna, the long trek back to the bus and the long ride back to Jackson. Since we were the last trip of the day we were fed dinner at the Rafting company after we returned. Joe and I had steak, Toni and Gary had barbeque chicken. We had changed clothes and were huddled over our food wearing jackets. I put two shirts on.
We were tired the night before. That night we knew we were not only tired but drained of all energy. We headed back over the pass to the Couch Mobile, numbly got ready for bed and turned on the furnace to take off the chill.
On Tuesday morning we finally headed to Yellowstone. We took Missy to the kennel and headed north. Because of the fires the closest entrance to Yellowstone, the South entrance (north of Jackson Hole), was closed. As a result, we had to drive north up the western side of the Tetons in Idaho, then into Montana to the West Yellowstone entrance. It was over a hundred miles but a lovely drive.
We arrive in Yellowstone late that morning with Gary driving. They had been there often enough that they knew just where to go for the best sights. That day we saw: Bisons, Elk, Canadian Geese, Coyote, Porcupine, and Moose.
We had lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge. Afterwards we sat on the porch and watched Old Faithful do it’s appointed performance. Gary made reservations at the Old Faithful Inn dining room for dinner for my birthday. We spent the entire afternoon walking through the geysers, mud pots, pools, rivers, etc. etc. One really strange item. On the way to the Inn for dinner we walked past a Bison that had just stopped in the grass next to the parking lot. He seemed to be enjoying his dinner while an idiot stood about 6 feet from him. More people are injured by buffalo than bears every year.
We got back to the Inn just in time to be seated for dinner at 8:30. We ordered and ate a wonderful meal. We were so tired though that the guys accidently left their hats on the chair backs. I called but the hats must have new homes by now. (Later I wrote a note to the restaurant and we got the hat back.)
One neat note. Yellowstone hires people from all over the world to work each summer. Our water guy was from Transylvania. Others we met were from England, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands.
A not neat note: the roads were under construction there too. We had some delays.
We drove to Mammoth Springs were we had secured a cabin in which to spend the night. We saw the coyote on the road that night. Once again, we all went right to bed, very tired from all the walking that day. Wide open windows kept us cool enough to need the blankets all night.
The morning dawned clean and clear. It was Wednesday the 23rd, my birthday. I woke up with a blister on my lip. I thought I was getting a dratted cold sore but it turned out to be sunburn. I went to the Hamilton Store nearest to the cabin and bought a hat to protect my skin during the rest of the sight seeing. It worked really well. Especially if I remembered to get it out of the car and put it on my head when I got out. Several times I would be hundreds of feet from the car on some high point and realize I was squinting from the sun on my face!! Even the threat of sunburn could not dim the glorious, magnificent views we saw that day.
We stood on a high point that jutted out over a canyon with roaring river rapids below, a water fall up stream, towering cliffs of yellow stone and an osprey chick in a nest on the tippy top of a stone pillar over the river. We saw lower falls and then looked right down into the upper falls. We drove and stopped anywhere there was anything to look at.
In one of the slow downs that are so prevalent in Yellowstone. We were overtaken and passed by a small herd of Bison. I rolled the window down to take pictures but I was not an idiot. I could have touched it from the window but he looked like he could roll the car over without straining very much if suddenly disturbed.
We saw so much beauty, wildness and re-growth of the forest from the forest fires in 1988. I got lots of pics and put them on the web and sene links to family members to the pictures.
That afternoon we were able to leave yellowstone to the south. As we traveled south, the air became more and more smoky. Soon we entered the Teton National Park north of Jackson Hole. We stopped by the side of the road at Jackson Lake to watch the hills and mountains burn across the lake from the road. Helicopters rushed to the lake, lowered the buckets hanging below them, scooping up water they circled around to fly over a nearby part of the woods that had smoke billowing from a dozen different places, he would begin to dump the water that had just been scooped up, flying in a curved path that would scatter the water in a broad fan over the fire. We watched as over and over again the helicopter made one trip after another.
Then as we watched, another,even larger one flew in to relieve the first. It seemed to me that the first one flew away slowly and tiredly. We stood watching and wondering how lighting could start so many different fires along the western side of the lake. We saw one fire after another as we traveled south to Jackson. It is sad to see such beautiful landscapes consumed and charred. The rising smoke covered the sun. The light produced a fiery orange glow that made the sparkling reflections on the water seem to be bits of floating fire. Hardly any mountain for miles was free of smoke trails wending their way to the sky, drifting northward.
We stopped in Jackson hole to pick up the photos taken of us as we went through the Big Kahuna rapids. Since Toni and I were flipped bottom up and Gary was blown backwards off of the front, we were eager to see what it looked like. The pics are great. When we got to the photo shops, we found that everything happened so quickly that in one photo I was sitting up and paddling, the next, out of site on the bottom of the boat under my sister. Paddles were flying everywhere, all mouths were open, most of the eyes were shut. I will scan them when we get them in the mail and put them on a Zing internet album and send out links.
We again drove over the pass, tired and worn out. It was after 7:00 so we couldn’t go get Missy at the kennel as it closed at 6:00.
During the long drive over the pass, we had one of those, “What do you want to do for dinner, no what do you want to do for dinner?” conversations. I finally confessed wearily that I could not sit through another meal on a hard wooden chair in a restaurant again that day and could we please just go to the Couch Mobile where I would be able to scrounge up lots of stuff to eat. Everybody agreed and we went straight home.
I fixed pear salad, 4 kinds of cheeses, 4 kind of crackers, sliced apples, and hot dogs with mustard, chopped onions, and relish. We ate heartily and watched the last Sole Survivor show on a west coast station. Ah the joys of a satelitte receiver in the woods.
Tired and full, we once again made up the living room beds and went to sleep under lots of covers as it was, as usual, cold, up high in the mountains.
On Thursday we woke on our hilltop with rain pattering on the roof. Concerned that the unpaved area we were parked on could become very slick and dangerous, Joe and Gary maneuvered the Couch Mobile onto the gravel area near the house. It only took the two of them 10 minutes to get it out contrasting the hour or so it took Joe and I to get it up there. We needed to pull out any way as Toni and Gary would be heading back to Iowa from the airport at Idaho Falls by 2:00 that afternoon and we would be taking them to the airport and heading back to Oklahoma ourselves.
We planned to have breakfast at the Bistro Restaurant in Driggs. Toni and Gary had highly praised the food ever since their arrival and we were eager to see if they were right. We drove into Driggs where we had great coffee and ordered breakfast. The special was mexican eggs on homemade tortillas. My stomach was not quite awake and I was leery of having something that unusual but Gary’s stomach was eager for the special. I instead ordered Eggs Benedict. I had never had them but thought that this would surely be the place to try something new. I now know one more thing that I will not ever eat again. I could go into detail but don’t think that would be nice. I will restrain myself. Gary, however, had a great breakfast while I wished I had made such a good choice.
After breakfast, I ate the country fries on my plate, we went to the kennel to get Missy. She practically wiggled herself into little pieces when we came in. After two days, I think she probably thought that she had been abandoned for sure. The vet and her assistant thought that her little begging pose was a plea to be picked up (actually she was asking for bacon). She said she carried her around as much as she could but had to put her down when work demanded both of her hands. She had groomed her too. Everybody back together, we headed back to the Couch Mobile.
Toni met with her builder and architect to finalize the location of the front door, fireplace and staircase while Joe, Gary and I stowed all the stuff and got the Couch Mobile ready to roll. Joe and Gary took the Couch Mobile over pine pass to Swan Valley. Toni and I followed in the Saturn. We left the Couch Mobile at a gas station, with permission, and all four of us drove on to Idaho Falls.
There we left them on the sidewalk in front of the airport with lots of thanks and what a great time declarations. Joe and I drove back to Swan Valley where we picked up the Couch Mobile and had a snack before taking off to the east.
Joe drove the Couch Mobile over the two passes to highway 189 while I followed behind in the Saturn. Pulling it over them would be very hard. We ran into 7 different construction areas. One was miles long, no pavement, just gravel and rock, one way only. I felt lucky that I was able to go through right behind Joe without separation.
We decided that we were hungry about the time we were 50 miles south of Jackson Hole. Finding a restaurant was very hard by then. Biggest problem, no towns, just miles and miles of prairie. We finally found a place to eat in a town called Farson, population, 324. In the restaurant, waitress population, 1. Some customers began to help by refilling cups and glasses, one lady added up her tickets for her. No one became cranky or impatient. I just love small friendly towns.
We stopped for the night at a K.O.A. campground between Green River and Rock Springs Wyoming on I-80, 45 miles from Farson an hour after dark.
The scenery on I-80 is as bleak going east as it is going west, I-70 is the same way, nothing to look at but flat land and fields.
When driving westward, getting an early start is a good plan as it is cool and the sun is to your back. Stopping early is also a good idea because at the end of the day we are hot and tired and don’t enjoy staring into the setting sun.
Going east though is a very different story. An early, cool start puts us staring into the rising sun, resulting in lots of heavy duty squinting and trying to find a spot where we can shade our faces from it’s brightness. The only bright spot in this circumstance ( no pun intended) is that when we are tired and hot in the evening, we will not have the sun in our faces.
We spent our last night on the road in a Kansas town called Farson. The lady at the desk told us we would have cable at our hookup. Well, cable in Farson consists of about a dozen clear channels and a dozen that either have picture or sound, some neither, just a horrid noise designed to annoy and cause ones eyeballs to roll totally back in ones head. Good thing we were too tired to watch much TV, there just wasn’t much to watch
We had breakfast in a gas station there. Joe said the biscuit and gravy special was very good. We headed east again on I-70, nearly 400 miles until we would be able to turn south toward Oklahoma. We stopped at the Bear Place Restaurant for lunch where we bought a piece of home made chocolate pie for a snack later in the day. While there we heard the waitress talking about the heat wave they were currently having. They had more days with temperatures over a hundred degrees recorded since the 30’s.
To be continued.....

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Continuing.... Boomers

Lots of babies were born during the Second World War, many more were born just after the end of the war. We are called the "Boomers", a short name for a phonomenem called the "Baby Boom". Thousands of soldiers coming home from the war celebrated with their wives, producing, literally, millions of babies.

I am a 'boomer', as is my sister, five cousins and a long list of second cousins and even an uncle, all of us boomers.

I was born during the war to a beautiful young woman and a handsome young doctor. My father had a special dispensation to not go to war, but to stay at home in America to tend to the mentally ill in a hospital 35 miles from my home town.

The family tells this story about my birth. My father, upon hearing that my mom was in labor, took the bus home and ran the last few blocks to arrive at the home of my great aunt, where my mother was in labor, just about the time I arrived in this world. My sister, who would arrive 18 months later would be born in a hospital. I, however was born at home. My mother discovered how painful childbirth was and was not going to go through that again. Smart lady.


Life goes on, but first it has to start.

Born before the first part of the last century has a certain zing to it. Being a teenager in the 50's was the best ever.

Growing up in small town America in the Mid West was... good? OK? Actually the town was a good place to be. It was small, but not too small. Folks, in general, were decent and God fearing. In school we learned to read, write and cipher. No political correctness. We bought war bond stamps with a dime at school, helped to fill red cross boxes with necessities for the soldiers in Korea, played outside for recess twice a day in grade school, walked to school and back in all weather, and feared the dread disease Polio. In the dog days of summer, our folks kept us away from crowds and, I am sure, prayed we would stay healthy.

We went to school during the week and did our best. We went to Church on Sunday and learned to pray and were taught to trust God. We could go to the movie in the afternoon and watch double features until midnight and walk home in the dark, safe and sound.

It was very hot in the summer, lots of humidity accentuated the heat. Riding a bike fast and sleeping outside helped us to stay cool, as did swimmimg from the time the pool opened until it closed. We had no TV for most of our childhood, so we played outside, all over town.

Long springs and long autumns were delightful. The excitement of starting school in the fall and the even greater excitment of getting out in the spring were the bright spots.

My town was in that loop of arctic air that blasts down from the north pole so winters were cold, wet and snowy. I loved the snow. When the town was blanketed, you could walk down the street and barely hear your own footsteps.

What a wonderful experience, growing up in a small town in America. Life was sort of like those movies when the color is all golden. No, wait a minute. The town was great, my family? Not great. Sometimes danger lurks in unexpected places. I was safe on the streets at midnight, but not in my family home.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

First time

I finally created a blog. Waded through the muck and mire of radio buttons to join blogdom. Yeah!!