Sunday, May 27, 2012

Random Acts of Rv'ing V 4.0

V 4.0 of "firsts" to us, but perhaps useless information to you, as we travel across the good ole USA. Sights and information seldom shared by those on a full time RV journey--attempt to enjoy.

Boon-docking in the RV world is the ability to park your rig on a parcel that will not charge for your presence. Most RV'ers seek out a place that is remote, scenic and perhaps amongst wildlife. We boon-docked in the parking lot of the Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. In our world, a wild horse on a logo qualified for wildlife and the wi-fi signal was quite remote, like only "2 bars" worth. Sort of felt like Moses wandering in the wilderness. I am thinking loon-dockers is a better fit for us.

As I may have mentioned in an earlier post (translate: to lazy to check), this is our first diesel vehicle and I was very concerned about reaching for the wrong nozzle after pumping gasoline exclusively for the past 36 years.The streak is alive-- 3,000+ miles, 270 gallons of chocolate gold, and no mistakes. I give credit to the Cliff Note inside of my fuel lid to remind me "green handle only"!

"Let's see---with our monster tow vehicle, how we gonna pay for the diesel?" Oh, let's sell beads and Scentsy candles! Strangely enough (to me), why a billboard ad on your front cap of the 5th wheeler where its view is obscured by the monster truck and the back end completely bare? I guess they forgot about the number of folks that would be passing them on the interstates. Things to ponder (but not for very long). I do though like the strategy of the separate bedroom--the truck sleeper!

I don't want to rush to pass judgment, but I will. Who the heck mounts their roof access ladder in the MIDDLE of their rear picture window? Nothing like being backed up onto a scenic river bank having to pretzel neck around the steps to see the view.

Since I originally thought RV meant Retarded Vagabonder, I created a checklist. I guess it is the "aviation interest" in me understanding you can never be too safe. This is ours for hitching up on a travel day and it rests on a clipboard inside the truck. Teri also has one for the inside. This is all to prevent the horror stories of coming unhitched while moving, air vents blowing off the top of your roof, TV antennas twirling like helicopter blades, trailer steps bouncing off the curb, pulling out of  your space still plugged into electric, etc. Yes, PRAY is the final step-- it never hurts.

Some RV parks take leveling their rock bed parking sites a bit more serious than others. A pavement roller owned by the campground, must have been some discretionary spending monies left in last year's budget.

Hiking gear that did NOT make The North Face 2012 summer catalog. (In fairness to the Mrs., which I am all seldom about, this was an unannounced visit into the dense jungle).

And from the patriotic RV community this Memorial Day, we pay tribute to our military personnel who have paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms--including the freedom to write ridiculous blogs like this. Salute!

There you go my dear followers, 2 minutes of your life that will never be returned to you.
Journey continues, day 53, from Caldwell, Idaho.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Sights of Oregon

Calgon Oregon Take Us Away

How about some enthusiasm Oregon-- could the welcoming sign be any smaller? I honestly never saw it, but the co-pilot was quick to wake from her nap grab the camera.

Our RV park in Sutherlin, Oregon was a converted drive-in theater. This was our view from our rig. Movies only play on the weekends and occasionally on a weekday if they have enough "over-nighters" paying a visit. I was so looking forward to fogging up our windows and taking a trip down memory lane watching "RV" with Robin Williams, but no luck. Life story continues.

Once having over 450 of them, Oregon's all wood, covered bridges now total a mere 56. Folklore has it they were covered so cattle and horses crossing would be less spooked with the wooden floor covering up the water below and the roof casting darkness thus calming them. Others believe it was due to the abundance of wood and the roof protected the floorboards from the elements. I personally think the trend began to simply increase post card sales.

The Beaches restaurant on the Washington side of the Columbia River across from Portland, a cheap way to get another state map crossed off of our list as traveled. And no my wife is not having a cougar moment, that is our oldest son who flew in from Denver, CO. for a 4 day weekend to experience life sharing 300 square feet of living space. And at 6 ft 4" in height, he probably wanted more than his 100 foot share.

Uhhh, nice try, but that motto belongs to our home town of Austin, Tx...

On second thought, with Pee Wee Herman standing in the corner of a Coca Cola box as your bike's basket, I concede you might be in the running with us for your weirdness.

When in Portland, do as the locals Voodoo. With their doughy goodness, Voodoo Donuts was fabulous and worth our 20 minute wait. Speaking of weight...

I had their Voodoo Doodoo...well, actually, they had another name for it, but I couldn't recall it. Chocolate cake doughnut, chocolate frosting and cocoa puffs---a choco-trifecta!

Proclaimed as the world's largest book store, Powell's takes up an entire city block and has the equivalent of 1.6 acres of shelf space and over 4 million books. My two readers were in literary heaven. As for me if you recall a previous post about reading, I was about as thrilled as Rosie O'Donnell at the Ramen noodle factory.

With the back drop of the splendid Columbia River Gorge, we said Au Revoir to our oldest. See ya in 4 weeks!

Bridal Veil Falls east of Portland. Speaking of, our oldest is unattached-- brides may apply. Oh, and he cooks. He cleans. He saves money. Come to think of it, he would make a good wife.

After a hard day traversing the wilderness, I would guess northwest explorers Lewis and Clark looked up to the stars every night and said "Thank you Lord for guiding us here and not El Paso".

We were blessed with a rare Portland 4 day streak of sun, followed by a more seasonal presentation of subtle moisture and pillowy clouds. In Portland, you are always amidst the mist---where sprinkler companies are bankrupt and car wash owners are millionaires.

The Grand Canyon, San Francisco Bay, Wine Country, CA., Lake Shasta and now Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge ---yes, we have been blessed with a memory bank full of this country's prettiest images, and the journey is only 11% complete. Oh wait, the budget is 15% depleted. California and Oregon are beautiful, but they bill you for it.

We will climb out of the North Cascade Mountains tomorrow morning and, for the first time since this journey began 46 days ago, we head in an easterly direction---toward tater country, and prayerfully, the sun. Frankly, after 3 days of rain, I wouldn't mind being a baked potato by Friday.

And another first, our initial battle for campground spots as the Memorial Day weekend unleashes America's vacation campers on us. Argghhh, might have to start scoping out Wal Mart lots and truck stops. They are free--well, until you buy $75 worth of groceries and $95 worth of fuel.

Thanks for joining us, the adventure continues....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Random Acts of Rv'ing V3.0

RV Rule #1- anything with a tire is subject to breaking.

A first amongst a dozen campgrounds visited when I inquired as to their rules of washing vehicles at the campsite--"We not only allow it, we encourage it". Nine others said "no", one you had to move to a dedicated wash pad area and 1 other wanted $10. Regarding the fee one, I used my RV charm and good looks well-honed husband begging skills and asked for a complimentary wash in exchange for a week's stay--it was granted.

"Alex, I'll take THINGS THAT MAKE YOU LOOK THIN for $400".

After logging 3,000 miles in 5 other states, not a single driver did I see pumping their own fuel that was engulfed in flames-- did I miss something? I enter Oregon where I learn employees must pump my gas. Join altogether folks as we sing the chorus to "Nanny State". I felt like tapping on the employee's shoulder and asking "Hey, since you have nothing to do but stare at me while you hold that nozzle, how is that VCR holding up for you?". And I didn't want to scare him and bring up any discussion of ATMs, oh the horror.

Molly Maid called, she wants her Brillo pad back. Woah, time for a haircut. Thank goodness for my wife, chef, co-pilot, wheel estate cleaner, prayer warrior and interim hairstylist. Me, unemployed blogger of nothing. Yes, married outside of my league and all that.

This was on the inside of the door of a campground restroom. I saw the little praying doll figure and was thinking "What kind of tough times are these stalls seeing?". I read it (not much else to do since I didn't have my graffiti pen) and noted they omitted the final sentence: "And these are the same folks who will hop into their $200K motor home tomorrow and blaze the Interstate with you at 70 mph!". You really have 2 groups in the elderly RV category-- fit, agile and well-oriented to the RV lifestyle would be the first type. The other represents this class-- "Dalbert, we turn 85 this year, think we ought to start focusing on that bucket list and get started on the USA motor home tour? Yes, Gerty, let's head down to Camping World". It's like I keep staring at their RV's rear view mirror looking for the handicap placard.

Another of this country's unsolved mysteries. A 40+ year old man, standing bare-footed in the 43 degree waters of the Sacramento River strumming his banjo and singing to his heart's content to an audience of trout. Due to the distance, I could not grasp the name of the tune, but the chorus sounded like "My Old Kentucky Mental Home".

There you go folks---more useless information on the RV highway--I hope I did not disappoint!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Views from Northern California

Our rig, all nestled in the trees and ready for a week of rest from the weary travel.

Gorgeous. And the scenery behind my darling, awesome, as well. Oh, and matchey-matchey. Happy Mother's Day!

The city of Redding, CA., needing a town "centerpiece" to attract visitors, hired famed (so they tell me) Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to come up with the design. In typical CA. fashion, the City had originally estimated an outlay of $3 million--the tab for the Sundial Bridge came in at $24 million. So goes the state of California.

No doubt, quite intriguing and glorious with the blue glass walkway which is translucent and spans about 3/4 mile across the Sacramento River. 

How it works-- take the 217 foot tall mast, mix in a sunny day, cast a shadow........

...then walk over to the dial on the north side of the bridge where circular, metal time-stamps are affixed in 30 minute increments, and, wolah, where the shadow lands, you have the tiempo. The time stamp in the photo is for "1:00" and the current time by watch was 12:45 pm, pretty accurate, all be it is only 100% spot on once a year, on Summer solstice. Now, the dial is a bit cumbersome to fit around your wrist and is real pain when the TSA wants to scan it through X-ray, so stick with your Timex.

The view at night with with its aquamarine glow created by the lights which rest below the bridge. Now, one issue that has been noted with the design (again, taking you above and beyond Wikipedia) are ladies adorned in dresses crossing the bridge with the light projecting from below are creating a different kind of show. Ahh yes, Senor Calatrava, quite the womanizer. And men, leave the commando and Spandex idea at home.

I am proud of my wife who has joined her cycling enthusiast husband. A mile after this photo on the Sacramento River Trail------psssss----- flat tire on her bike, about 2 miles from my truck, which really psssss-ed me off. I wanted her to suck it up and ride back with the flat, but Mother's Day and all that, I put on my shining armor and went back for the rescue vehicle.

Postcards-R-Us. I was awestruck at the Grand Canyon, but Lake Shasta Dam, a mighty close second. Phenomenal, free one hour tour. Some of the info shared by the guide:
  • Started in 1938, took 3,500 men working 24x7 days 6 years to complete.
  • The materials for the cement dam were not trucked, trained or barged in--the City of Redding provided a 9.5 mile conveyor belt, the world's longest!
  • It is the 2nd largest cement dam in the USA---#1 is?? Wrong, not Hoover. Time to Gurgle-it.
  • Most think majority of water comes from Mount Shasta snow melt--woops, only 10%. The other 90% from rainfall where NoCal averages 62" a year.
  • Purpose in orders of priority: 1) Flood control 2) Farmers' water 3) Hyrdo-electric
  • CA. provides 60% of this nation's food, so keeping the farmers happy is paramount
  • Brilliant--those 5 "chutes" off to the left in the photo (penstocks--new word alert) collect the water FIRST, before sending it downstream to the farmers. The water is then sent thru a turbine/generator system (see next photo)where enough electricity is produced to help supply 17 different states.
See, I can pay attention--no A-D-D here.

Five honking-sized GE turbines that start the electric-making cycle. The force of the water being delivered by the penstocks rotate the turbines and convert it to electricity. If the only job of the dam was to provide power (and not flood control and farming water), these 5 turbines and the lake water could power the entire City of San Francisco.

The original Super Slide---- 600 ft drop at a 39 degree angle.

The tour group now on the river side of the dam. Someone commented about some of the weed clusters actually growing out of the cement and inquired how those were addressed. The guide indicated Search & Rescue groups practice their repelling by coming down from the top and actually will remove the weeds during training. Landscapers by day, S&R by night.

Next up, a boat ride across the splendor of Lake Shasta to tour the caverns.Fortunately, it was a perfectly calm day as Teri, boats and motion do not mix well, hence zero cruises in 25 years of matrimony. Once the boat arrives on the other side, a tour bus scoops you up a 17% grade, 1.5 mile ride to the cave entrance.

Teri entering darkness. Well, she probably did that on our wedding day. Interesting enough, this was her first cavern tour. I am guessing Casa Bonita in Lakewood,CO.doesn't count.

You've seen one stalagmite, you have seen them all. The thing I found most interesting was drips of something hitting my head. The guide claimed it was moisture seeping through the rocks. But, there are bats flying above you, if you know what I mean.

What a way to end 19 days in California, 800 feet above emerald green Lake Shasta in the Cascade Mountains! If you are one short when you create your Bucket List, this is a MUST SEE as a camera does not do it justice.

Off toward Portland tomorrow to see what Oregon has to offer these vagabonds. And even more exciting, our oldest son flies out from Denver next Friday to join us for 4 days in the City of Roses to share 300 square feet of wheel estate. Oh, and he is bigger than me. Perhaps a sleeping bag and a sturdy picnic table will suffice as a bedroom. Coin flip?

Day 39, the journey continues.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Random Acts of RV'ing V2.0

Version deaux of useless RV info over the past couple of weeks. Inside view of the oft not so glamorous lifestyle of full-time RV'ing.

California started off so promising. Picked these 2 jewels right at the RV park day 1 in Bakersfield, CA.

And then it all went so terribly good bad. We met up with a friend of Teri's and her family-she a Mexican "chef" who is married to an award winning BBQ'er, both skills automatically qualifying them to be Texans. We ended our visit at Rosemary's in Bakersfield where you actually sit down and are waited on at this delight-full creamery. They take ice-cream making there seriously and their serving sizes--huge--had a passing moment of actually sharing one. Fortunately, the thought dismissed itself rather quickly.

"Shushhh-- we aren't telling the other 49 states".

I am not sure what this bird was chasing, but it must have been exciting----until the moment he slammed into our 12 foot tall trailer. Funeral services pending.

Dave's nose wipes. Teri's colorful, eclectic living room decor.

60's hippie chick keeps stalking me.

"Absolutely no clothes hanging outside". Yet another typical RV park regulation. How about this for a compromise--"Nude Swimming Permitted". Problem solved and I don't have to use my truck mirrors to defy you!

Jayco Manufacturing design flaw or sense of humor? Regardless, when I make the bed, I am not real warm to the idea of being rectally probed by the window's emergency evacuation handle.

Due to the state's mismanaged financial situation, the "Welcome to California" signs at the state's entry points have been replaced by more economical signage.

When I say "useless information", I am serious. Day 34, the  journey continues from beautiful Lake Shasta, CA...