And the road goes on forever...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This is My Life These Days

Immediately upon my return I of course unpacked the rig, and then got busy with six months of neglected housecleaning. It was time to clean the open shelving; a task I always dread since it involves not only the step stool but sometimes precariously balancing on the countertop and reaching far overhead. Despite it all I wouldn’t change a thing—the open kitchen shelving is one of my favorite things about my house! 

Since rain is now keeping me indoors I have moved on to caulking the melamine edging in preparation for priming and painting. These shelves were always meant as a first temporary step—something cheap and fast to get up for storage, but now with Marc gone for who knows how many years, it has become apparent they will have to be stared at for years. I figure I at least need to make them look more finished. Eventually the hope is for some thick, solid planks. 

My yard of course, was overgrown; the grass was pushing 5-6 inches and the weeds even taller. It took a good week to clear out and plant my flower beds in front. In addition, I got things set up for all the bird life I found and they have really moved in since then. We have more birds than ever before and I am seeing species never here before either so it’s been like an aviary. Hearing their cheery song fill the days is so pleasant.
Something we’ve battled since living here is the distance from the house to the shop and driveway and walking through wet grass or mud. I determined that this would be the summer when I did something to help the situation so now having the advantage of the truck, I took it to Mennard’s and loaded up on pavers that match others we have as landings. I then got a walkway measured out and designed and lugged the heavy things into placement. Since the pavers weigh 32 pounds each and I had like 35 or so, this was no easy task. The pavers have sat there, helping to kill the grass underneath and I’ve slowly been cutting and digging out the holes to sink them ground level. This too, is a lot of hard work, since it’s done bent-over with a pick axe and isn’t easy on my bad back, so I’m lucky if I get three a day done.
In amongst all this work, Marc managed to fly home for a four day visit and we enjoyed a fish fry Friday at our favorite bar and grill, Rustic Woods Campground. They have the most marvelous live edge bar which I always drool over (even without a beer in my hand), hoping maybe someday we can design an island for our kitchen which can incorporate something similar. You may recall right now I am using a $100 Sam’s Club stainless work table! Live edge has become particularly popular as a focal point for making unique furniture and bars and I am finding lots of local Wisconsin sources for the slabs, using everything from pine, maple, ash, hickory and walnut.
While Marc was here he got the garden rototilled and ready for planting, which I hurriedly did that Saturday. Since he won’t be around I have no need for as large a garden as I had last year so it is relatively simple this year, mainly with greens and just three tomato plants. He did hit it right on time to see spring unfolding and awakening here on our property—just gorgeous!

His visit was too short and I’ve settled into my summer routine: mowing, yard work, gardening, and volunteering for the shelter. I peruse Pinterest constantly for ideas I can incorporate into the yard so I’m working on some potentials I can manage to do myself. I try and add a few more perennials each year and I’d love to plant more trees if I can figure out how to lift them by myself. Old age is not kind to muscle power.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

I'm Back!

Upon stepping back into the great room of our house two things hit me in the face: how massive it felt after trailer-living for so long; and that I missed it so badly that I immediately got tears in my eyes. In six days, I had gone from the Yuppies and mountains of Bend, OR, traveling 2188 miles back to the rednecks and deer stands of home. 

The trip was long and a little arduous with weather but overall things went well with no close calls and courteous drivers for the most part. Several sections in Montana brought on some anxiety—a pass between Idaho and Dillon which required 4-wheel drive and the six-mile-long 6% grade coming out of Butte which is so steep and curvy that even the semi-trucks have a 25-mph speed limit. With the features the Chevy provides on the ability to both downshift and use the built-in tow haul and grade braking, all went well with not having to use much braking to remain in complete control.
A couple of foible’s: my backing skills are non-existent at this point and the first campground I had in mind in Parma, Idaho had just one spot available and I could not for the life of me get the trailer backed into it. In frustration, I pulled up all other area campgrounds and happened upon a fishing access free camp near the Snake River which thankfully had several pull-thru spots. As it turned out, by nightfall all the fisherman left and I had the place to myself. It was a bird haven and I heard their calls and the frogs croaking long into the night and very early the next morning.
The second night was equally frustrating as I got led on the grand tour of downtown Idaho Falls with the GPS thinking I had wanted N Yellowstone Ave instead of South. I finally arrived at South Tourist Park, a very well kept city park right on the river, offering water, dump, garbage and a free one night stay. Everything went well until late in the afternoon when I was bothered by cars which kept circling the parking lot. They would park for awhile then take off circling again. There was one other motorhome there and a few tents (in pouring rain??) but I was beginning to wonder if I had stepped into a gang or drug exchange area. Finally, I had it, and called the non-emergency police number and shortly an officer arrived. He stopped one of the cars, the other fled and then came over to have a conversation with me. It seems during the off season this park becomes a haven for gay pickups and collusions and it only got worse after the officer left. There were some highly suspect people who would drive in and park for several hours and although I was never directly bothered or approached, I would not feel comfortable ever staying here again. All the reviews I had read of this spot did not mention this aspect either: a lesson in not fully trusting online reviews!
Save for one stay in the Billings, Yellowstone RV Park at an outrageous $50/night, the rest of my camps were at WalMart, always a trusted source. The bad weather forced me to abandon my first routing from Billings of going through Wyoming due to its snow and then high winds for several predicted days, so I opted for the northern route through the oilfields of North Dakota then across Minnesota. I managed to hit the travel through Minneapolis-St Paul very early on a Sunday morning so it was a relative easy two-hour drive through. Then back into blessedly, rolling green, beautiful Wisconsin.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Last Fling

Time has passed so quickly this month and of course, been bittersweet. The hours with Mom are so precious. I deliberately haven’t been on-the-go too much beyond taking her out for a few shopping trips; instead spending time chatting, making meals together and playing Mexican Train (her favorite) nearly every night. I did manage to Craigslist some items Marc wanted sold and raised enough cash to cover some of the expenses of my return to WI. I also babysat the installation of her new heating system and thermostat and she is well on her way to understanding how that will work. 

Unfortunately, she still refuses to give up her wood stove, saying that does a better job on keeping her old bones warm. Given her age, my brother and I were hoping to do-away with the whole buy and split and stack and pack thing with the wood. Oh well, since he is the one left to do it, he will need to deal with it and her stubborn refusal. 

On their last visit my son and daughter-in-law made a fabulous dinner for us last evening and I indulged in all my seafood favorites! He used to be a chef so he easily whipped up homemade Hollandaise to top off King salmon stuffed with Dungeness crab, smothered in Brie then baked to perfection. As if that wasn’t enough heaven, I also bought 24 fresh oysters which I BBQ’d and we washed it all down with Hillary’s homemade margaritas on the rocks. The temperatures even cooperated for us to do a little “porch sittin’”.
Early on Tuesday I will start the long slog east; following for a time the path through Idaho taken by daughter Rachael and Eric as they make their move to Dallas. They leave very early Monday morning having wrapped up everything in Portland and watched as the moving company left with all their possessions save for what would fit in her Subaru for the trip. I’m sure we’ll be comparing texts each evening as to our travel days, although mine will be much longer than theirs and certainly much slower paced. The weather forecast doesn’t sound particularly optimal with lots of rain showers for the first few days and maybe even some snow showers in Montana. It’s still changeable spring in the high country. 

This my last entry for awhile, since I had internet at the house turned off and have not as yet scheduled its re-installation. Plus, life will be hectic for a time given all there is to catch up on at home, like grass cutting and weed pulling and planting a garden!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Travel North and Birthday Bash

It was a warm Saturday morning as I pulled away from our Yuma lot with my casita and cats behind me and hit the road north. I had a relatively easy first day, stopping just outside of Searchlight in a small RV park for my first night out on my own. All went well the second morning too, getting through the dreaded Las Vegas but north of there I nearly got run off the highway by a passing motorhome and toad who misjudged oncoming traffic as he was passing me and very nearly swiped the front end of my new truck and barely missed the oncoming car. That night was spent in a Hawthorne, NV casino parking lot where they even provided free dump and dumpster. An early start the next morning brought me through Reno and Hwy. 395 north which much lessened the traffic and country roads allowed me to hit Klamath Falls, OR before tiring out at the Klamoya Casino parking lot. Bend was an easy hop in on Hwy. 97 the next morning, a Tuesday, so all in all I made good time I figure, as my first towing effort with 1173 miles done in three days and three hours. 

The kitties were not happy campers in the least and I had a lot of problems with young Spirit in calming her down and finally (after a week!) getting her to eat again. And it took a vet visit at that. The trailer proves to be very confining for all four so I am not looking forward to the long haul homeward when I leave here. 

Time is flying as preparation for the two-day family reunion/birthday bash took up much of last week and out of town company started arriving two days in advance. It was great seeing everyone and I think my mother was very moved and shocked at the surprise appearance of her sister Myrna, whom she had not seen in seven years, which we had kept a secret. Myrna had to leave on Mom’s birthday but not before partaking of the superior baby back rib and chicken BBQ put on by my son and daughter-in-law.

It was sad to bid Rachael and Eric adieu as we don’t know when we will see them again given their move shortly to Dallas, TX. My daughter has gone from working in cyber security for Nike to the same type position at the headquarters of PepsiCo. They will be moving on April 22nd, off to new adventures and at a salary level that will allow them to finally purchase their own home so they are off-the-chart excited.
My time has been filled with preparing Craigslist ads, helping mom and doing bunches of research for a new heating system and running her around town since she finds it difficult to drive here now with all the traffic. Bend has become a mess—the type usually found in crowded California cities and I find I often employ what Marc refers to as “The Law of Superior Tonnage”. In other words, when the small Yuppie-mobiles refuse to allow me in or to merge, I merely come on out anyway. Works every time! I just don’t get the “freeze them out” mentality of Western drivers after driving so long in WI where everyone automatically and courteously moves to the left to allow you to merge. God get me home soon!!!!

Seriously though, I see so many changes for the worst since I was last here nearly four years ago. The whole world wants to move to Bend and I can hardly wait to get out of here—it’s just maddening now with its overcrowding, its complete Yuppie mentality and designer beers, its sky-high housing costs with no availability for new transplants, and its Goddamn small roundabouts at practically every intersection. They used to call it “Poverty with a View” and I don’t see as it’s changed much excepting now they could probably also throw in “The place of the HAVES and the HAVE NOTS. There is no middle ground in Bend; you’re either filthy rich or you are nothing. What’s comical about this whole thing is that when my mother passes on, my brother and I are going to be left with ten acres in this nirvana that others would kill to own since the average lot size is now 4500 square feet and goes for $265,000. But alas, her property is not in the urban growth boundary so cannot be split—otherwise we’d retire as millionaires. Ah, what popularity does to a place is shameful. One of the best decisions of our life was to leave this place in the rear view mirror.

More to follow.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Always the Hard Way

What have we been doing? 

So, the farther we get into fixing the ’97 Dodge, the more there seems to be to fix. We take it out for a 30-mile spin towards Quartzsite towing the trailer and I don’t care for the way it handles the trailer despite the addition of the air bags and heavy duty shocks Marc installed. Getting it back home he notes that there is antifreeze leaking and further checking reveals it isn’t from the radiator hose or something simple. It’s from the engine.
I start to cajole that it may be time to consider a new(er) truck; larger, more capable. After all, everything we drive is pushing twenty years old and older. Marc balks big time. The days ebb by. We have sank so much money and time into this. 

Two weeks before I am due to leave, Marc goes out on his own to hunt for a new truck. He comes back with a line on a new GMC 2500HD 4-wheel drive with optional tow package, which gives it a dash-installed trailer brake, heavy duty springs, anti-sway and back up hitch camera. A couple days later after arriving at an agreed price he sends me in, we sign paperwork, he leaves back for work and I drive home with a new truck. All 25 miles of travel until the transmission goes gunny bag; apparently not knowing what gear it should be in so let’s just randomly shift and rev the engine at inopportune times. Marc calls the dealer an hour later and tells them to come get it—it’s their truck again, we want nothing to do with it.
In lieu of the GMC, the dealer suggests substituting a Chevy—same truck, same equipment, they’ll give us the same price. Only it’s not the same truck. The GMC has wheel trim which help prevent rust, important to folks who drive salted winter roads; and it had the running board option and cargo bed lights. It also commands at least a $1000 pricing premium for the brand over a Chevy. We’re sent home with a dealer plate and the Chevy to try.
Our deal was made on a GMC—we want the Chevy similarly equipped for the same price and MINUS the brand premium or we walk. The dealer goes back and forth for two days before capitulating. Parts should arrive to the dealer Friday to turn the Chevy into its cousin by Monday or Tuesday. With any luck, I’ll have a new truck by mid-week and I can maybe leave here on time next weekend. Why should something so simple have to turn into such a time-consuming disaster of stress and headache? 

Dealing with the typical car salesmen and glad-handing dealers made us realize what we had in our encounters purchasing our two RVs recently from Dean Peters at Schieks Click Campers in Wisconsin. What a jewel he is—a regular guy who pulls no punches and just gives you an honest deal. What a concept. 

Monday update: It’s finalized and the new Chevy is ours. The fender skirts are larger and more appropriate to heading off rust and somehow give the refined truck a more rugged appearance. We hitched up this weekend and I drove out twice and it feels so much more comfortable with the load. It has a six-speed transmission which can be manually controlled which is a boon on downhill grades; we tried it on the 6% grade into Wellton.
I’m very pleased but still nervous as a Nelly, as they say. My anxiety shifts into high gear at the thought of going off on this venture by myself even though the truck is equipped with OnStar. Who would have thought at the beginning that it would have required the purchase of a new truck and attendant expense? I figure at the speed I’ll drive and the rate of mileage, the trips will be very time-consuming. We’ve done all we can to assure me a safe trip so it’s time to do the dance. Just one more thing left for Marc to do: install the bed lining and the auxiliary fuel tank he purchased for the Dodge into this new truck.