We be roostin'. Regular readers with nothin' else to do know that we like Tucson in the winter. Lush desert, abundant culture, great Jewish kosher deli, not much wind.
But nix the wind comment right now. Since our arrival two weeks ago, we have endured wind or rain almost every day. As if it followed us from Death Valley.
Thus we have only ventured out coupla times so far. First evening, we headed straight for our other favorite restaurant, Tiny's, the local cowboy bar. Gimme those pork ribs and beer! Aaaah!!
A few day ago, we drove to central Tucson for some hunting and gathering. Stopped at the aforementioned deli for corned beef and pastrami. No beer. And we also dropped by the Pima County Democratic HQ to volunteer our immense talking and typing talents for the Obama campaign. They gave us a week to learn Spanish. No hay problema!, as long as we have Google Translate.
We are also happy to see our several RV friends whom we met at this park last year. Even a couple we met at an RV park in Astoria, Oregon this past Spring. We told them about this place and now they are parked right across the way.
From Death Valley, we drive to Laughlin, Nevada, a casino town. Steve and Sandy lead us to a casino RV park. The casinos are a shock of sorts after a week in the remote desert and months in the hills of Park Sierra. But we keep our tongues in our mouths, except when we feast at a casino buffet.
The next day we attempt to drive through Las Vegas. The city highways are a mass of construction and detours. Immediately we find ourselves heading north rather than east. We drive our RVs down the Strip. Pass an Occupy Las Vegas encampment. [Sandy takes the pictures. I am busy avoiding gamblers on cell phones.] Eventually we regain the highway.
We reach Quartzsite, AZ by nightfall and park in a free BLM desert campground. Then part company with our friends, who will remain in Q for another day or two.
The next day we reach our chosen campground in Tucson, where we will spend the winter. We consider this our yearly vacation after three months of host work in state parks this summer, as well as working at Park Sierra during Spring and Fall. In Tucson we have no responsibilities.
The construction continues for three days. Bruce writes a long letter to the National Park Service, to send when we return to civilization. We feel better.
We stay for five days all together. All four of us visit many outstanding sights, particularly Badwater Basin and Zabriske Point. Dry camping proved easy with proper use of our water and free electricity from the sun.
From Park Sierra, we drove two days to Death Valley National Park. The largest national park in the lower 48 states, Death Valley offers serene views in every direction. From 200 feet below sea level, the mountains on either side of the valley rise as high as 11,000 feet. The park offers many hikes, natural wonders, and historic places. This was our second visit in three years.
We stayed at a new quiet campground, 200 feet [sea level] above the valley floor. Just a handful of RV and campers here, mostly due to the prohibition on generators. Our trailer is the longest in the campground, even bigger than the hosts'. All the more apparent with 15 foot travel trailers parked on either side of us. I didn't say that we were the quietest tho, due to the presence of you-know-who's-big-mouth.
We also greeted friends Steve and Sandy one day after our arrival. This is just our latest rendezvous on the road. We have met them at different times in Washington state, California, and Arizona.
The first day, we met two new wannabe fulltimers, Bill and Terri. They were enjoying their maiden voyage in a truck camper. At breakfast, they were talking about learning about liquidating and living on the road, for, as we agreed, "It's a rat race and the rats are winning." Suddenly we were telling them about fulltime RVing and the Escapees Rv club. We may hear from them again.
Then the fun began. The morning of day two, the aforementioned quiet is shattered by a construction crew breaking ground on a new bathroom building. One hundred feet from our RV, we hear the beep-beep of heavy equipment, see the haze of desert dust, and smell diesel fumes. We decide to see how things go on day three.
That afternoon, we learn of a wind storm approaching the park. Two days of blowing dust with wind gusts to 70mph.
Day three we move our RV down away from the construction. Would move to a different campground, but the other ones will likely see worse winds than we will. We pull the slide in, then go out with Steve and Sandy for a nice day at Scotty's Castle and the Furnace Creek [fancy] motel. We return to our RV, which is shaking so badly in the wind that we hitch it up to the truck for added stability. Also want to avoid damage to the newly repaired hydraulic jacks.
"What, you don't have any RV repair dealers in the middle of Death Valley? Or a bus size tow truck?"
Today we departed Park Sierra after a glorious Thanksgiving feast. We shared a meal with 210 of our closest friends. Well maybe we didn't know a few....
The Park started this community dinner just last year and 160 people showed up. Apparently they liked it, cause they brought their friends and family.
The Park provided turkey, dressing, gravy, and mashed taters for $4 each. Then each person brought a side dish. Picture a 50' table of green beans, sweet potatoes and yams, olives, salads, you name it. Plus a large table of pies, cakes, and pies. Ooof!
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. No fights, no spitballs. And we all cleaned up. Jenna and I helped serve the meal.
Today we drove 250 miles to Inyokern, CA, just outside of Death Valley. Alert readers may recall we tried this same trip last year and were blown off course by a raging storm.
Weather forecast for the next few days - sunny and 80 degrees. Yeah, in December.
Recently I engaged in a fact-finding mission, reconnoitering behind enemy lines. In other words, I was talking with a small group of women. These representatives of their world got around to their usual subject - men. I assumed a Contrarian position.
"Why do men save old copies of Playboy magazine?" one wondered. They all agreed that they knew men with this habit, some intimately, others as acquaintances.
One participant suggested that they [the men] like the pictures. "But really, all those naked women look the same after a while," she said. Others agreed.
No one could posit a better theory tho. And so they turned to me.
I admitted that I had saved the magazines as a teenager, at the bottom of our closet, until my mother apparently found them and silently tossed them in the incinerator. We lived in a one bedroom apartment, so I found no better alternatives. [This harkens back to the days before the Internet, as do many of the readers of this blog.]
I also admitted that I had not saved them as an adult, but still felt qualified to furnish the correct answer.
"No reasons come to mind?"
"All right then," I offered. "I'll reduce this to a multiple choice question."
A. Pictures of naked women. B. The articles. C. The cartoons, featuring pictures of naked women. D. The silverfish that gather among molding magazines.
"The answer," I said, "is A, with C a close second." They all snickered and nodded among themselves, obviously enjoying some secret joke common among their species.
I immediately sent a telegram back to my fellows, telling them not to expect to emigrate from Mars anytime soon. Find no progress. The Venusians remain primitive and uncivilized. Keep the magazines.
Last weekend we set our clocks back one hour to satisfy the 1% elites who want to control every part of our puny lives. Not content to force the working classes to rise early each day to labor in sweat shops and Walmarts [redundant], they make the rest of us dance to their tune by changing the time of day every six months. Have they no decency?
Which is why I'm voting for Herman Cain, a plain spoken tea drinking multi-millionaire. His 9-9-9 plan guarantees that I can stay in bed until 9am. And go back to bed at 9pm. And still earn $9 every working day, minus 90% for taxes. [The 90 didn't sound as good with the three 9s, but you see it in the fine print.]
Has anyone else looked at the 9-9-9 plan while standing on your head?
But I digress.
Conventional Wisdom holds that you gain an hour of sleep on Sunday after adjusting your clock back one hour.
Conventional Wisdom does not live with a dog. Conventional Wisdom surely does not live with a terrier, or Conventional Wisdom would be called Conventional Idiot.
Only a 1% watch dog can afford a battery-driven atomic-clock-adjusting Internet-checking watch. A 99% dog must rely on his own internal clock to know when to sleep and when to awake.
Which is why Clancy now gets up at 6AM instead of 7am.
Attending weekly community dinners. Last weekend we all celebrated 20 years since "lot draw" after the senior members of the Escapee chapter in San Francisco built this park out of the forest.
We saw a slideshow of pictures taken during construction. Amazing. About 40 members are still here. They told of the hard work and fun times on the project. For which we are all grateful. Bruce participated in a skit dramatizing the four days when the new members selected their sites.
Jenna has worked with the new Advisory Council to formulate a long term plan for the park. Also worked on the Election Committee and the Marketing and Promotion Committees.
Bruce contined his efforts on phone and internet systems. He also proposed the formation of a new Computer Services Committee to maintain the computer hardware and software owned by the park. And to consider creating a new park wide network. Which means he will serve as the Chair of that [currently] two person committee. [In fact the second guy isn't even an official member yet. He's on the waiting list, but has pitched right in.]
We plan to depart after Thanksgiving. If the weather permits, we stop in Death Valley National Park for five days before returning to Tucson for the winter.
Certain unnamed readers, well only one actually [Tom!], inexplicably believed the two most recent posts about acquiring a new tow vehicle, AKA the Buick. Irrationally thought I was writing an honest thoughtful post about our lives.
I don't recall ever promising any degree of accuracy in this blog. In fact I conducted my own review of entries and found fewer than 50% with any credibility at all. Fewer, meaning maybe far less than 50%.
It's too small. Not imposing enough. I had to wait to make left turns at traffic lights and lost fights for parking spaces. Faced with a one ton dually truck, they all move aside.
And too many people insisted on washing the car windshield. These guys could never reach the windshield on the truck. Costs went up as they demanded payment for unrequested services rendered. Cheaper to drive the truck.
I guess a car just isn't practical. Maybe I should compromise on a Hummer. With 50 cal machine guns, just as it was designed. No one will approach those windows!
We returned to Park Sierra after watching the hot weather fade via a weather website. Two days after our arrival, the temperature only rose to 58 degrees. One week prior, it reached 95 degrees. Life is timing.
Now we can enjoy a rest from five months of travel through California, the Oregon Cascades, up to the San Juan Islands, and down the Oregon Coast. Good to hit the road, good to stop for a while. Give us a month or so and we'll get the itch to travel again.
After some doctoring over the next few weeks and attending the community annual meeting, we coast into Thanksgiving. Then we expect to turn south for the winter in Tucson.
Don't know what we did to deserve this life. Still trading on our good looks and suavity.
Today we looked at new trailers at Toscano's RVs in Los Banos CA. [No jokes please. I've already made them.]
We do not plan to replace our current RV. Tho Lord knows, as well as long time readers of this blog, that we have been provoked on numerous occasions. At this point, we have fixed all the serious problems with our RV, and only face the normal pesty maintenance of any other afflicted RV owner.
Rather we are looking at the market in case we must suddenly buy a new one. Such as after a serious accident, natural disaster, or party of geezers gone wild. That kinda thing.
So we looked at Carriage Cameos and a Redwood fifth wheel. They did not sell any Excels, our current trailer. We left impressed with improvements in the past four years, such as LED lighting, thin screen TVs on the walls, and longer model names. But nothing to convince us to upgrade. The sales tax alone would cover a lot of improvements and repairs on our current trailer, let alone the depreciation on a new model.
We went home and had our carpet cleaned. All better now!
We have returned to Irelands Ocean RV Park in Gold Beach, OR. Been two years since our last time here. Picture a small RV park about 10 foot above sea level nd 100 feet from the beach.
Hear the ocean waves crashing.
Smell the sea mist all around.
Assemble a tsunami emergency kit.
And Clancy. He so enjoys running around in circles on the beach, unfettered by the short leash I use on him. Running up to strangers, leaping into the air, squealing madly. Dog life is good.
In return, now he sometimes comes to me when I call him. Almost like a regular dog. Certainly like a terrier.
Today we walked under the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge, which spans the Rogue River at the north end of town. Yet another Art Deco style public works project of the WPA. Would that we could put forth such an effort today to improve our national infrastructure, rather than just the bottom lines of banks and Wall Street firms.
The latest repairs on our hydraulic system turned out as a minor adjustment to the control valves. Hopefully we will see no more problems with that system. Now just relatively minor problems to attend to, like a leaking water heater and a malfunctioning water pump.
This week, we dropped in on an Escapees chapter rally in Lakeside, a scant 30 miles south of Florence. I'll make it short, cause it was. The rally lasted three days. Jenna already felt ill before we arrived, and felt no better during the rally. Bruce started feeling puny towards the end too. Thus we really didn't participate in the rally much at all.
This chapter is based in the Escapees park in Sutherlin Oregon, the only park in the state. Similarly governed as a coop. We have visited there twice in the past four years, each time just for a few day.
From Astoria, we moved on to Florence, OR. In the past, we have not stopped here. But we've scheduled further repairs on our hydraulic system with a fella in town. The hydraulics work OK now, but not 100%. Maybe this guy can fix it completely.
Friends Toni and Doug told us about Harbor Vista County Park here in Florence. Indeed it is lovely here, with sites surrounded by tall huckleberry and rhododendron bushes. Even tho the ocean is 3/4 miles away, you can hear the surf and the foghorn all day long. Serene.
As one who grew up at the Jersey shore, Jenna always says, "You know you're on vacation when you have sand in your bed."
We returned to Fort Stevens State Park for a few days. We like this park a lot, and know it well, having spent three months working here in 2009.
Different groups put on reenactments in the the historical area of the Park. In 2009, we worked at a reenactment of the WWII Allied landing at Normandy Beach.
This time we saw a fur traders' encampment, commemorating the first permanent American settlement in the Pacific NW in 1811. Men and women dressed authentically and worked at crafts of the time, such as blacksmithing, bead trading, wood working, and gun smithing. A very colorful event.
OK, OK. I was too tired to take more pictures. We had hiked almost three miles to get there. All I could think about was the three miles back! And that our fool dog would immediately want to play ball upon setting paw back in the RV. Which he did.
Today we departed Moran State Park and Orcas Island. Back to Terra Attacha. Never noticed the feeling of being surrounded by all this land. Hemmed in!
And all these people!! Where did they come from? [Don't answer that! I took Phys Ed too.]
From here, we drop by Sedro-Woolley, know locally at Woolley [ha ha!], to visit friends. Then on to visit more friends in Olympia before turning south and west to the Oregon coast for the remainder of the month, awaiting the return of Fall to Park Sierra.
You could not find a more beautiful scene, with pure clear water sparkling in the sun, three
small islands dotting the surface, chipmunks chattering
and fish splashing, and us sauntering amidst pines and spruce trees in sunlight and shade.
Jenna used her new hiking poles for the first time on a long hike. Not bad for a senior citizen only two years in remission from lymphoma.
What's there to say of late? Well, nothing actually. We sit outside to watch the chickens and deer in the meadow, and reflect on the quiet life. Given the hot air in the other Washington and the heat wave throughout the country, we think we have it pretty good.
Some days we work at the Friends Gift Shop. Some days not. Bruce works on the Friends's new computer and the Gift Shop cash register. Jenna works on necklaces to sell at the shop.
In a few days, we'll go kayaking around the island. Next week we'll spend a few hours on a sailboat.
We plan to leave our assignment after Labor Day, on September 8. See a few friends in western Washington, then on to the Oregon coast, where we will wait out the heat in California.
If you have any ideas on activities for us, please send them our way. But remember to add postage for the high cost of shipping things out here.
One week on Orcas Island now. A moment's reflection. Plenty of time for reflection, actually. Comes naturally in such a place. Peace and quiet. Fresh air. Times Square [look it up.]
Orcas Island, the largest, by one square mile, of the San Juan Islands, contains under 5,000 inhabitants. Filled with pastoral valleys and hills, lakes and ponds. Topped by Mt. Constitution, the tallest mountain in the islands, our worksite.
We have seen just two of the few towns on the island. EastSound sits on the connecting point of this horseshoe shaped island. It combines the charm of a small town with the [slight] bustle of a summer tourist community. One food market plus a food coop, two local hardware stores, a bakery. Many restaurants and gift shops, tho most are probably open only in summer. Not one franchise business in the place; no fast food, no shopping center.
Olga is a tiny town. Two sentences will do.
As for our home, we have parked on the south side of this popular state park. We enjoy walking through a meadow just below our site, where several deer often graze next to the chickens our park ranger host keeps.
Two or three times per week, we drive to the top of Mt. Constitution, to work at the small Friends of Moran gift shop and information center. In the two days we have spent so far, we've seen a steady stream of visitors come through. Happy people enjoying a day hiking, biking, or just relaxing on the mountain, enjoying the spectacular views.
With a 270 degree view, pictures cannot do it justice.
We can endure.
Other benefits - highs in the 60s while most of the country roasts under record setting heat. Just down the hill is the lake side swimming beach.
We have veered north. Way north, to the border of the contiguous United States.
We found a hosting job with the Washington State Park Service. We will work as gift shop and information hosts at Moran State Park on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands! Haha!! At the 2,400' top of Mt Constitution. Hahahahaha!!!
What a lucky break. Those of you who have traveled to the San Juan Islands can furnish your own superlatives. From the sublime ferry boat ride to the amazing opportunities to view Orca whales and dolphins and puffins to the chance to visit Victoria Canada, this place can't be beat.
Those of you who have not seen the San Juan Islands need to get your priorities in order. I'm talkin' to you!!
We will have no cell phone or internet service at our site. We have been promised service at the top of Mt Constitution, so will conduct our business, phone calls, and blogging from there.
We arrived at Nehalem Bay State Park for our two month volunteer position. And discovered that our assigned RV site was too unlevel to enter and to use. Way too unlevel!
The park staff could not fix it or give us a different site for the duration. We would not take the chance of damaging our trailer. So we departed after only a week.
Too bad. It's a beautiful state park right along the beach. And we enjoyed our few days working in the information booth. Too few days to even take a picture.
And so we have revised our plans.
A few days in Astoria, visiting friends from our prior volunteer job at Fort Stevens, as well as meeting friends from Olympia.
Then a stop in Olympia to visit other friends.
Finally on to an Escapees park in Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, southeast of Port Townsend. Tho we have traveled through that area many times during our seventeen years as Washington residents, we never saw this park. Time to remedy that oversight.
Regular readers of this blog, meaning Jenna and I and miscreants sentenced to harsh public service, know that we must always stop for repairs when traveling through Eugene Oregon.
It is ever thus.
This time we needed new parts for one of our hydraulic jacks, i.e. cylinder and valve. Seems I been a'talking about the hydraulic system a lot...years actually. Don't expect this focus to end anytime soon. We have an appointment in September for another part of that system.
Starting out from Collier Park, we couldn't. We needed a tow truck to leave . One of the jacks wouldn't move. A control wire had come loose, the result of my efforts to stem the flow of leaking fluid. If the jack won't move, we can't hitch up, or unhitch. Tow truck arrived without the bottle jacks I specified. Friend and I jacked it up.
And so it began.
The following day, we returned to the dealer who last year moved the table that hit the basement switch that opened the awning that hit the city bus. We are both forgiving and stupid.
For this visit:
First they said they would not risk using jacks to raise the trailer to unhitch. Too dangerous. I used their jacks to unhitch. Then they said that could not install the jack cylinders, as they did not have the right equipment. What?!
Then they said that the hydraulic company did not authorize installation of the valve alone. Bogus!
Then they said that the new valve did not fit. "No, I didn't say that valve is leaking. This valve is leaking. See the fluid?"
Then they bypassed the wiring for the new valve without telling us, disabling part of the function of the hydraulic system. You think I wouldn't notice?
Then they said that we must return next week for several days to install the wiring correctly. I promptly fixed it correctly in 10 minutes.
Then we left, never to return to that dealer again.
From there, we returned for some relaxation time to the mall where we were dry camping. Until 9:30pm when the security guard told us to move to another part of the parking lot...immediately. They needed to use our area for an event the next morning. Likely they had planned that event more than 2 days before we arrived. The event had not started when we left the next morning.