July 1 Sunday
It was the dawn of another gorgeous day on the Snake River and we were up early, but then so were most of the other folks who were here. It has simply amazed us that so many extended families are camped in this park, with groups taking up four or five sites. All this meant that Linda was having a field day watching everything that was going on around us. Deciding that if a little was good, a lot was a great deal better, Linda strongly suggested that we should go for a walk. After making the rounds we had to both agree that the best looking rig in the whole place was in site number 11.
We always feel good when we hear someone remark about how nice our RV looks and you know what, maybe it is true. Then of course there is always the difference between men and women and how they react to that compliment. I hear it, smile, then head off to write about our life. Linda hears it, takes a look at the coach, only sees that it is a mite less than perfect and the next thing you know the step ladder is out and she's drawing hot water into the bucket. Soon the view out the front window is interrupted by the outline of a woman washing the windshield. Once that was done she disappeared from view. After about 10 minutes I started wondering where she had gone. Walking around the back of the coach I discovered her just finishing up after having washed the rear of the coach. Like I said, men and women react to things in a different manner
As is our custom, we were in no hurry to leave, though the distaff side of the family had suggested 11:30 would be a good time to start heading down to the dump station. This meant that we pulled out almost exactly at 11:30 in spite of my best efforts to leave later. She had everything figured out time wise so that we would be arriving at the next park at the most opportune time to get a site. Somewhere along the line I have learned that to suggest otherwise is like playing with fire. If I'm the reason we don't arrive when she wanted and there are no sites available, I am simply dead meat. If we arrive and there are spots available, it is only because we were lucky this time, at which point I am warned that not leaving when she wanted will never happen again. Sometimes it is simply better to know your position in the pecking order of life, keep your mouth shut and just do what she wants. Today was one of those days.
On the road we started the long, long climb up out of the Snake River canyon and headed north towards Heyburn State Park and Hawley's Landing campground. At first we seemed to be passing mostly wheat fields, but as we drove further north, the color of the fields and the type of crops grown in them changed. It took us a while to figure out what it was, but finally we realized it was lentils. As we drove along the quiet beauty of the rolling hills made us realize that there is so very much of this wonderful country we live in that we have yet to experience.
We made it Hawley's Landing just about the time Linda had planned, and with the help of the campground host, Dennis, we were able to find a site that was available for several nights and that we could also get into. Once we were set up, Dennis and his wife, Debbie, stopped by and we had a great visit. They had started out with a 5th wheel, but switched to a motorhome and were now in the process of looking for another, bigger motorhome with the perfect floor plan. Linda gave Debbie a tour of the coach, after which we learned that it is indeed a small world. We mentioned we were going to be at the Life on Wheels Conference in Moscow next week, where upon Dennis and Debbie informed us they were going to give a short talk on camp hosting as part of one of the sessions. We got our book out and discovered it was one of the sessions I was attending. Like I said, it's a very small world.
Later, after gathering some wood for the evening campfire, we grilled shrimp which had been marinated in Linda's secret sauce, the one that uses olive oil, Jack Daniel's, chili powder, garlic, and fresh ground pepper. Served with couscous and grilled asparagus, it was one of those homemade restaurant meals we seem to eat quite frequently. Some days things work out and today was one of them, we ended the day talking about how we used to head up into the Sierra's for the weekend because this campground reminded us so much of the ones we had stayed at in those days gone by. Good memories and good times, what more could we ask for.
July 2 Monday
For years I worked with a fellow who always greeted everyone when he walked in the door each morning with the words, "Just another day in paradise". This morning as I raised the night blinds and looked out on the campground those words came back to me. I noticed how the patches of sunlight shining down through the trees provided depth and intensity of color to the scene before me. In the underbrush birds hopped about, hunting for breakfast, while in the background, a collection of vehicles and a 5th wheel reminded me of where we were. While I couldn't feel the gentle breezes that swept through the woods, I knew they were there, the deft movement of light and shadow on the trunks, branches and foliage outside my little window, letting me know of its presence.
Was this paradise? Who's to say, but for me at this moment it was. Once again the smiling face and booming voice of my former coworker appeared before me, and I again dwelt on those words from my past. Then another saying intruded, "One man's Heaven is another man's Hell". In my life I've know people who would gaze out this same window and see the antithesis of what I was seeing. For them, to be here would be shear misery, all the dust and dirt, the cold air, the perceived filthiness of having to use a public restroom, and they would long to be back at their house. Once again I wondered about my coworker, did he know something the rest of us didn't? Did he truly understand that life is what you make it, and he had decided to make it the best place to be?
One of the great things about the human mind is that it can take thoughts like these and apply them to our daily lives. Take our breakfast for example, most of which I fixed for a change. Of course Linda would probably describe it differently, saying something to the effect that, "Sure Bob fixed breakfast, in his own mind at least." I really couldn't see what she was getting upset about, after all I did get the leftover sausage patty and pancakes out of the refrigerator and set them on the counter. You'd have thought she would've appreciated the nice compliment I gave about appreciating her help as she heated the pancakes and sausage in the microwave. Plus she also got some syrup and applesauce, both sugar free of course, to top them with. The nice thing about getting her all charged up is that the excess energy needs to be burned off somehow or other. I must say that she certainly put it to good use.
This was going to prove to be an interesting day in more ways than one, what with the fact we had no Internet or TV, though we did have cell phone coverage. We decided that given the fruits of paradise, we'd make the day into a paradise, or at least a paradise from our past. Since this was just like many of those campgrounds we had enjoyed up in the Sierra's (though they were sans water and electric hookups) we would enjoy what was here rather than trying to bring our world to it. Well, there would be an exception or two, but otherwise it would be like a weekend in the woods.
One thing that was really concerning Linda was what we were going to do for a campsite after tonight, since ours was reserved by the Mathison family starting tomorrow night and going through the weekend. That meant a move was in our future, it was just that we didn't know where. Linda had put some thought into it and her first foray was around our campground loop, stopping at each site and inspecting the tag to see if it was reserved through the Fourth of July. There were a couple of sites which would be open, unfortunately there was no way we could get into them with our coach. Not giving up, she set off towards the other loop, but once again struck out. I suggested that maybe we could drive up to the Park Headquarters and see if they had any cancellations, but she surprised me by saying no to this and then proceeded to put forward her Plan "B".
What it involved was a little drive, but in the opposite direction. There were several other campgrounds in the Park and she had her eye on one of those. It wasn't far, only about seven miles to the East, but it was a world of difference. First the road back to the campground we are in is not only very short, it is also in great shape. Of course the fact that the Park Headquarters is also on the same road possibly helps. The road back to the campground we were going to check out was narrow, twisty and exhibited a good number of potholes, with several that could have been classified as kettle holes. The campground itself was almost deserted even though it had electric and water, which meant that we immediately fell in love with it.
The camp-hosts were excited to see someone, and they worked hard at an unnecessary task, recruiting us to stay at their campground. We found four sites that would work, two which we would say were okay, a third one which was very good and the fourth which was great. Plus the last two both had sewer hookups. The one we liked best was occupied, but the host said the people were planning on leaving tomorrow, so it may be available. Since it was a first come first served campground, Linda was already trying to determine when would be the best time to drive up in the morning. As with the campground we are currently in, there would once again be no Internet or DirecTV, but we could certainly live with that. We decided that there may be one or two places on the road to the campground where we might be able to get on the satellite, so if you are reading this before July 9th you know we got online.
Back at Hawley's Landing, the camp host stopped by almost as soon as we drove back in and told us they were getting some cancellations due to the fact that the water was contaminated by E Coli. (we had been using only the water from our tank since we arrived because of all the signs saying Don't Drink The Water) Even though we were leaving, we decided to go take a look at it, and as we suspected, we could get into it, but it sure wouldn't be very level. Besides we had already figured out that with the sewer hookup at the new campground, we could get caught up on laundry. If it was possible, paradise was getting even better. Deciding that we needed to burn off some of our excitement, we took a walk down to the lake. Other than a small incident with a snake, it was fun. Even the snake was nothing, or at least to Linda, she never saw it even though she almost manged to plant her foot right on it. Maybe it was the fact I grabbed her by the shoulders and stopped her in mid stride when she didn't pay any attention to my shouts of Stop, Stop, that prevented her from doing one of her famous war dances, which in a way resembles the scene in the God's Must Be Crazy where the Rhino stomps out the fire. On the plus side, the lake has water iris blooming along the shore and out in the water, the water lily's are absolutely beautiful.
We also noticed indications that there were beaver, though we saw no dams or houses. It was just after Linda commented on the fact that even though the normal size of beavers were 50 to 55 pounds, but they could grow as big as 110 pounds, that we rounded a turn and saw this.
Doesn't look like much from the photo, as there is nothing to give scale to the size of the tree, however just look at the pile of wood chips below where it or they had chewed through this tree. The tree was probably 16 to 18 inches in diameter and that had been on seriously determined beaver, or one of the 110 pounders she had just mentioned. The rest of the day was spent reading and lounging around, though I did spend a few hours working on the website. It's in my blood you know. The evening was once again spent around a campfire, and tonight Linda was able to get it going without any relighting, addition of paper, etc, which may have had more to do with my building the fire than her lighting technique. Regardless, it was another great day on the road we call our adventure.
July 3 Tuesday
This was turning out to be one of those, "the faster I go, the behinder I git" kind of days. We knew we are going to move over to the Benewah Lake campground, so the plan was to have the website already to be uploaded, then if we found a pull off in the right place to give a good view of the sky at approximately 140°'s, we would have a chance to update the website. The biggest obstacle to this happening was not whether we could get a clear view for the MotoSat, it was if Bob got all the updates done to the website, hence the the reason for my ealier comment about "the harder I work at the website the farther behind I find myself". Of course that gives a good indication of just why I'm behind, I've got to do everything twice, changing it the second time I do it.
We didn't have a plan for what was happening today according to Linda. I on the other hand felt we had a very good plan, which was to work on the website, eat breakfast, drive the Explorer over to Benewah and get the best site we could, return, finish the website,then drive the coach over, stopping at a pullout to see if we could get online. Of course to Linda that was not a plan at all, it was merely a wish list, since to her plans have times when things must get done. At times I've reflected on our life together and questioned whether or not she might have been happier being a Drill Sargent in the military, by now she would have been one of those Master Gunnery Sergeants with her entire sleeve covered by chevrons. On the other hand she got the same thing when she got me, the eternal bumbling recruit who gets his right and left feet mixed up, is never where he is supposed to be when he's supposed to be there, and has the habit of always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Did she luck out in life or what?
I had thought she would be chomping at the bit to get over to Benewah Campground, so it was with a bit of dread that I worked on the website while she slept. Things just weren't coming together the way they should, though the fault was actually not mine, it was the fact I was using a new program to write the webpage. Of course I could just hear her saying, "If you claim to have as many brains as you say you do, why'd you pick today of all days to use a new program that you don't know how to use." I guess you could say that individuals who have a death wish are an entity unto themselves. Eventually, the slumbering goddess awakened, and since we were getting low on eggs, she fixed oatmeal for breakfast. I do need to put that phrase, low on eggs in the proper terms, meaning that while we still had a goodly supply of eggs, the use of eggs for both breakfast and the baking of desserts was going cause a shortage. The bottom line being that Linda's dessert supply could possibly be endangered, the result of which means oatmeal for breakfast until she can go shopping.
Once the dishes were done, we drove over to Benewah where we got a surprise. As we pulled in we could see that the site we had wanted was occupied, which was not good news. Then looking around we discovered the site which had been occupied yesterday, the one with the 30 amp hookup and the wonderful, shady area was now vacant. Faster than you can you could have read those words, Linda had the paperwork filled out and the site was ours. The camp host suggested we leave a couple of chairs in it, and congratulating ourselves on our good luck, we headed back to the coach, where Linda got it ready to move while I did my best to get the website completed, knowing it was going to have to be uploaded at one of the pull offs, or it would be Saturday before we were out of the woods again. To put things into perspective, here's our current site which is also in the woods.
It soon became apparent that the bigger obstacle might not be connecting to the satellite, it might be getting the website done. I finally decided that leaving a few things out was preferable to what Linda would do to me if I didn't get done, so with a few exceptions, the days adventures were written and proofed, then it was time to pull out and discover whether all this struggle had been worthwhile. Were we organized or what? Linda headed out in the Explorer, equipped with a compass, what better way to tell which direction is which, and one the two radios we use when backing into sites. I was following with the other radio, and wonder of wonders, we both had them turned on and were monitoring the same channel. While the road was one of those curvy twisty things that makes it unlikely there will be any other large coaches coming the other way, and thank goodness, there weren't any, only logging trucks, but they go past so quickly you don't ever have time to get concerned, and so it wasn't long until I heard Linda's voice come over the radio saying she had found a spot that might work.
Rounding a sharp downhill curve I spotted her just ahead on the other side of the road and managed to get pulled off without doing any damage. She wasn't certain we could get online, since there was several tall trees which were just about where the satellite should be. I calmly looked over the hole we were down in, wondering why she thought this was the spot, then taking the compass from her, I took a bearing. Guess what, she was way off on her estimate of where the satellite should be. It was out over the open lake and so we would have no problem getting on line. That woman is really something, because even when she messes up, she still does good. Thinking about it, maybe that's how she views me, sure she messed up getting hitched to me, (remember that her being an hillgirl from Appalachia, she used terms somewhat different than the normal person when we first met) but shucks, I'm not all that bad, and besides, being retired at her young age isn't all that bad for her either. It turned out that messed up was the perfect word to use describing the situation we were in. Only I was the one who messed up, not her.
First of all, I had forgotten to turn the inverter off, which meant the MotoSat controller would be all out of sorts when asked to find the 89W satellite somewhere up there in the sky. To reset it, I unplugged it for a while, then plugged it back in and waited for the GPS light to come on, something that didn't seem to want to happen. Finally tiring of the wait, I got out the computer and fired it up, only to discover that that Streets and Trips wasn't available. After a little fiddling I got it working and manually put in the co-ordinates. Do you think the MotoSat could go right to the satellite like it normally would? Of course not, and like a drunken sailor searching for his shipmates, it searched first one way and then the other, making full circle searches of the sky without ever stopping to determine where it was at. At last luck was with us and it found a satellite, not the one we needed of course, but it at least knew where it was, so before long it was finally locked onto the signal.
Proving that nothing is easy when you are trying to hurry, I had forgotten that I was not only trying out a new HTML editor, I was also using a new FTP client, which meant I had to hand enter all my names and passwords. That done, a transfer screen came up which only faintly resembled the ones I had been using. It may have been one of those programs that are written to be used intuitively, but by now all my intuitivity had come and went. I tried a few things, none of which worked, and turned to Linda telling her that it was a new program and I wasn't having any luck getting it to work. She smiled that great big beautiful smile of hers, the one that won my heart some forty years ago, and said to just take my time, because she knew I could figure it out.
At that moment President Bush could have pointed me towards Pakistan, asked me to find Osama Ben Laden and I would have had him captured by nightfall. Within a short time the website had been updated, plus I was also tweaking a couple of other things to make them work better. Like I mentioned earlier, Linda would have made the best Drill Sargent the military ever had. Maybe I should buy some late night TV time and put her on opposite Anthony Robbins, then he'd find out what a real motivational speaker could do. You know, for all the frustration that we went through, it was actually a very pretty spot to stop, maybe we could shoot her info-mercial right here?
The uploads completed and checked, we headed off to our forest hideaway. Having already driven the road several times we knew what to expect during the drive back to the campground from the main highway which, even though it was a paved road, had enough rough spots to make you drive slowly. It was also somewhat narrow, maybe one and half lanes wide, , but since it is a dead end road, it is not heavily used. In fact. having driven out twice and this being our third trip in, we had yet to meet any oncoming traffic. When we arrived at the campground we made the second campers over on our loop. They have several other loops, but no vehicles over 20 feet are allowed on them, so they are filled with tents, which makes it nice for everyone. We get the comforts of home while they get the sites with the views of the lake. It didn't take us long to get backed into the site and set up. Since we were going to be here four nights we decided to drop the air, which was a good idea anyway, especially in light of the fact the site sloped towards the passengers side, meaning it was going to be a higher than normal first step to get in and out of the coach.
Once we were comfortable, Linda discovered a way to be even more comfortable, by getting out the lawn chairs, settling under the shade of the firs towering over our site, then picking up and starting to read the novel, Sacajawea, by Anna Lee Waldo.
If Linda could do her thing, then I could too, which was not quite as simple as it had been for Linda. First I had to get out the extension cord, then move the ladder so I could plug it in and bring the computer, mouse, and power cord from the coach out to the table. Realizing I had forgotten the mouse pad which necessitated another trip to the coach, I finally settled in, beginning to write. Discovering the table was made of very hard aluminum, I decided I needed to go back into the coach and get a pillow to sit on. just as I got comfortably situated, the sun popped out from behind the tree that was obscuring it, meaning I had to adjust the screen and increase its intensity so I could see what was on it. Only then I could concentrate on my writing. Of course no sooner did I get into the swing of writing than Linda gets up, comes over and asks to borrow the camera. I bury my head and start all over again. And you thought I just put this photo up to match the one of Linda, but now you know the rest of the story.
The day seemed to fly by, mainly because we were having so much fun simply doing nothing. Dinner was grilled, marinated shrimp, sweet potato salad and a cucumber salad, made using our 3 for $1 Yakima Valley cucumbers, Walla Walla Sweets and fat free sour cream. A meal that was just as healthy as it was delicious. Then as is our custom when we are "camping" as opposed to "living in the RV", we, or I should say I, built a fire, giving Linda the opportunity to light and feed it. That woman really enjoys her fires, and all because her mom would never let her have one when she was a little girl. We did discover something that the Benewah campground had that Hawley's Landing did not. Mosquitoes, lots and lots of mosquitoes. Of course Linda had the solution, dousing herself with Deet, lighting the Citronella bucket and building a smokey fire. Nothing, not even a hungry horde of blood suckers are going to prevent Pyro-Mom from enjoying her fire.
We finished the evening with fresh baked, lemon pound cake, though maybe 7/8's pound cake may be a better description. Never one to be content with what she turns out of the kitchen, Linda had tinkered a trifle with the pound cake recipe, reducing the whole wheat flour from 2 cups to 1 and 3/4. cups, hence the new name, 7/8's pound cake, the result of which was a slightly fluffier, and better tasting cake than she had made the time before. She topped it with some peanut butter dough, (someday I'm going to have to get her to post the recipe since it isn't what you think) and a couple of sips of coffee brandy. Now comes the million dollar question, why do I now call it 7/8t's pound cake?
I always wondered what getting a minor in mathematics was good for, until I run into situations like this one. We originally made the cake with 2 cups of WW flour which made a pound cake. So if 2 cups equal a pound cake, what do 1 3/4's cup equal? To make it easy, lets change the fractions to decimals: thus we have 2 cups making a pound cake and 1.75 cups make some other sized cake. To find out what the other cake size is, we have to divide the new cake by the old cake, or 1.75 divided by 2, which gives us .875. Converting .875 back into a fraction yields 7/8's. Hence the name, 7/8's pound cake. And you thought you only read about our adventures to see what dumb thing I managed to do to aggravate Linda. See, maybe she actually saw something in me, though only Linda and the Good Lord knows what it was.
July 4 Wednesday
Independence Day, the day of parades and fireworks began with a serenade of song from within and above the forest. For some reason the birds were very enthusiastic this morning, maybe it was the beauty of the day or a desire to melodiously proclaim the joy they felt for just being alive, but what ever it was it was something to enjoy by those who were awake in the early morning hours. And then the real reason for the explosion of song hit me, last night Linda had opened the window on her side of the bed, where she now lay gently snoring, a sound that once it had escaped through the window projected to the farthest reaches of the surrounding forest. Those birds must have heard it and misinterpreted what those sounds meant, thinking the great grizzly which sometimes roams the forest floor was still deep in hibernation, hence the joyous cacophony of sound letting all the neighborhood creatures know that it was safe to venture out.
Since the term, enough to wake the dead was quite appropriate to what was filling the air, I was soon up and busily engaged in writing yesterday's Daily Journal, but I had not been up for long before I decided to add my own soft rumblings to the roars coming from the back of the coach. Feeling the ebb and flow of the cool outside air passing over my body as the grizzly gulped in great quantities of the atmosphere then so explosively expelling it, I decided to turn on the front heat pump to improve the level of comfort inside the coach. I was busily typing away, warm air pouring from the overhead vents when a loud click, followed by numerous muffled secondary clicks took place, indicating the circuit breaker for the air condition had tripped. When I walked into the bedroom to check the breaker panel Linda was sitting up in bed, yawning and scratching her head, but the moment she saw me she said, "The circuit breaker tripped", like I wouldn't know what had happened.
This did result in the day finally getting started in earnest, with Linda soon making breakfast and then delving deeper into adventures in domesticity. Her favorite pair of shorts were showing signs of an impending structural failure, something which Linda viewed as not something she wanted to have happen at an inopportune moment, then she thought of a way to ward off this catastrophe with something her sister, Katherine had given her. In a flash she had the little heating iron, the Pellin and a small piece of fabric out and was describing to me how this would repair the small tear near one of the front pockets. I went back to typing and she began her preparations, impatiently waiting for the iron to heat, then displaying the native intelligence seldom found in the blond of the species, she wrapped the iron in a piece of aluminum foil to speed up the heating process. I was so impressed with her efforts that I decided to take a photo of her applying the patch.
I went back to my writing and she completed the repair, then exited at how good a job she had done, she called me over to look at it. I asked her, "Why did you put it on the inside, wouldn't it look nicer on the outside?", to which she replied, "No." Guess there was no discussion on that subject. Once again trying to collect my thoughts, I stared at the screen wondering what to write when my concentration was again interrupted, or perhaps I should say blasted away as a string of indelicate words filled the air. Once she claimed down to a degree commensurate resembled a small nuclear explosion versus the volcanic eruption of a few moments ago, I was able to ask what had happened. "I put the patch on the wrong pocket" was what I concluded she had said after filtering out a large number of adjectives she had included in order to properly spice and flavor her reply. Naturally this incident almost demands some comment about the blond brain, but I think her actions spoke far more eloquently than any words I might be able to add.
At least she did not dwell on what had happened, but plunged right back at it, mending the other pocket, which was the right one, both figuratively and literally. Then, no doubt still smarting from her recent miscue, something I'm sure she will not forget for some time, she decided it was time to wash clothes. Unfortunately the events of the morning were still haunting her, not her bungled patch job, instead it was the tripped breaker. It had happened once before the same way and she remembered, possibly because of her current heightened state of awareness that the previous time the washer wouldn't work even with the breaker reset. Checking the EMS panel. all the lights were blinking, so taking the clothes out of one side of the closet she soon had the offending fuse pulled and replaced, applauding herself for her abilities. She had "done good" and I told her so. Before I could get several paragraphs written the lights were dimming in the coach and looking up it was readily apparent what was the cause the windows were all being blocked, but at least Linda had a huge smile on her face so all was good once again..
One item we carry along which has given us a great deal of pleasure is our Hummingbird feeder, and this morning was proving to be no exception. It was only up for what seemed like a few minutes before the first visitor appeared, at first diving in, taking a quick gulp, then backing off a few inches before repeating the process. On it's next visit it must have felt more secure because this time it perched, leaning forward to drink briefly, sitting upright for a few seconds before taking another drink.
We spent the remainder of the day with Linda reading while I split my time between the Daily Journal (I was trying to get all the posts for June finished) and doing some reading of my own which was simply amazing because for all the reading I have done over the years I can't believe I've never read Faulkner, but it is one of those better late than never situations, the words leaping from the page like a panther descending on his prey from an overhead branch, the twists and turns of the words jumping back and forth from narrative to thought like the way the hummingbird we had just witnessed had enjoyed itself at the feeder, all the while the words flowed on and on, like a river flowing endlessly (rivers have no beginning or end, after all where is the end of the clouds above or the ocean below) from spring to sea, sometimes taking up an entire paragraph with just one sentence, or filling the sentence with comments enclosed in parenthesis (something that I would never be guilty of) before once again grabbing hold of you with the seemingly superhuman struggles from which he involves, submerges, then regurgitates his characters (in case you're wondering the story I am reading is called simply "Old Man") and is a style of writing which immediately appealed to me (of course your reaction my be completely different) and even though some of his sentence structure can be a challenge, I love the fact that his writing has many words I am not completely cognizant of and in fact, have never been exposed to before so naturally I plan to make it a goal to expose myself to more of this Pulitzer Prize winning author.
Take the proceeding paragraph for what it was, a chance to have a little fun, not an attempt to imitate one of the greatest writers the country has ever produced. I don't mind making a play on words when it deals with song lyrics and the occasionally poem, but I know I'm out of my league when it comes to literature. One thing which was lacking today was fireworks, so we substituted by having a fire in the evening. It was easy gathering the wood because there's an abundance of dead limbs a short distance into the forest, then having fun building the fire. Last evening Linda had tried with less than scintillating results to get the fire going, having to add some paper to the smoking pile before ignition took place. Tonight's fire may have been easier to get going, but it certainly proved to be no better in the end than her fire of the previous night. For dinner we grilled hamburgers, filling out our plates with homemade baked beans and sweet potato salad, the fire substituting for fireworks. This made for a pleasant, quiet evening in the Idaho panhandle, which was quite a change from last year when we were at the Logan County Fairgrounds in Lincoln, Illinois where we were entertained, not only with a spectacular fireworks display, but also with a night of open wheel racing. It's a big country, we come from many backgrounds, but we are all Americans. I hope your Fourth of July was filled with as many neat experiences as was ours .
July 5 Thursday
As an old member of the New York Yankees was attributed to having said, this morning 'it was deja vue all over again'. Well maybe not the exact same scenario, but when the results are the same, does the cause matter? There I sat, typing away, the clock showing 7:14, no sound from the heat pump because I hadn't turned it on having learned my lesson yesterday, the only appliance running being the silent water heater when a loud click, reminiscent of the one heard yesterday resounded throughout the coach. At the same time a message appeared at the top of the computer screen letting me know the AC power had been unplugged and the battery was powering the computer. This was not a good thing since I sure hadn't unplugged anything, heck I hardly had anything plugged in. My immediate thought was what had I done now, which was immediately followed by looking around and seeing that everything powered by AC was out. That could only happen if the main breaker tripped, or the breaker at the box tripped, or something had failed that wasn't easily repairable. A quick check of the breakers confirmed none were tripped, either in the coach or at the box. My next thought was that maybe the power to the campground or to our box was out, so I got the plug-in light out of the bay and checked the box. Nothing, so it was either the line to our coach or the campground. Looking up I got confirmation that we weren't the only ones having electrical problems, our neighbors across the road were out checking their hookup and battery connections.
Then I noticed the camp host talking on his radio and going towards the back of the building that housed the restrooms and showers. Deciding that I would be only slowing him down if I walked over to talk to him, I returned to the computer and tried to write. However instead of the thoughts of the 4th filling my mind, I found myself wondering what the electrical problem was. Finally giving up with my literary endeavors, I walked up to the front of the campground. The maintenance person was already there and accompanied by the host was looking at the electric pole behind the building.
It turned out that this type of situation, a sudden loss of power, was not all that unusual at this campground. The source was the electrocution of another of the myriad squirrels that infested the forest. The host said they had counted 17 pairs in the campground alone, though they were not the problem. The problem was always somewhere alone the wires coming to the campground, wires which were hung from poles and as a result of a bit of misdirected dental enthusiasm, a loud noise and a dead power line as well as a dead squirrel was the customary result. Call it what you may, to Linda and I it is just another day in paradise.
As the host said, it is an easy fix once we find where the problem is, it's finding where the problem is that's hard. Not knowing how long it would to repair the power outage I decided to make the best of the situation and after turning the computer off, I gathered up some more fallen dead branches. Linda seemed to have the idea I was thinking in terms of a forest fire, while I insisted Pyro-Mom would have no trouble turning the pile I had collected into ashes.
Now just to give you an idea of when during the day all this was taking place, look what soon appeared from inside of the coach.
Breakfast was a cheese omelet and fresh cherries, served by a cute waitress, what more could I ask for? The rest of the day consisted of relaxing, reading and writing. Well there was also the fire, which we had decided to turn into an all day event. We started it about 9:30, building a good bed of coals, then putting a large pine log on top. With a little nursing we soon had it burning, a condition that was maintained throughout the day with no action on our part. Not that there wasn't action around the coach in the late morning, it just didn't come from us. Our hummingbird feeder was proving to be quite an attraction, being discovered by no less than three hummingbirds. Those little buggers are quick and try as we might we couldn't get any good photo's. There did seem to be one dominate bird who would go after the other two every time one or both of them would show up. It was quite a show and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
I think the display of energy exhibited by our feathered friends must have rubbed off on Linda, because it wasn't long before she had the ladder and several buckets out and was busily engaged in washing the coach. No hurrying, just a steady pace and almost before you knew it she was trying to talk me into doing part of the washing, the part that required standing on the ladder. Being a good servant I knew that what madame desired was for me to provide, so in no time at all I found myself helping.
Dinner was something which had been in the works for over 48 hours, a couple of grilled marinated pork tenderloins. She had gone all out, even making a bean salad , which we ate along with more of the sweet potato salad. Last nights burgers were the best meal we have had in a long time, but I would say that tonight's was just a fraction behind it. The next order of business was to resurrect the fire, something which was quite easily done and we spent the remainder of the evening enjoying the fire and talking about how much fun we have had over the past two days, days when we got to relive our weekends in the Sierra's, then moving on to talking with excited anticipation about the next three weeks. We have the Life on Wheels conference next week, then the following weekend we well be picking up or grandson Zachary at the Spokane Airport. Zach will spend the week with us as we travel in the northern Idaho and Montana area, then we will head south towards Medford where we will be spending the month of August at the Denman Wildlife Preserve. Life truly is an adventure, and we can't wait to once again hoist anchor, spread our sails and glide before its winds of opportunity.
July 6 Friday
One of the reasons why we don't stay in campgrounds very often was made abundantly clear this morning. It has nothing to do with the people who are here, they are just as nice, if not nicer than the ones you meet in RV parks. It has nothing to do with the way the sites are situated, sure they may not be as level as the ones in most RV parks, though we have stayed in RV parks where our site was much less level than the ones here. Neither is it the spacing between sites, since we have more privacy here than we do at almost all RV parks. And since we very, very seldom, meaning almost never ever use the restrooms that is not the reason. You could add public vs private, or isolated vs convenient or even cost to the list and it would be none of those.
It is something which you can not get away from, something that you just have to learn to put up with. Of course the fact that Linda was washing the bathroom blinds spoke volumes about just how insidiously pervasive those tiny airborne particles were. It's not just the gritty layer that you feel on every horizontal surface, there are also the small rocks which get carried in on your feet, the sticky feeling of your body and the fact that dirt marks seemingly appear out of nowhere to wreak havoc to you clothing. Of course the other side of the coin is all the fond memories it invokes of past camping trips. Since it seems the negatives far out way the positives, why do we stay in a campground like this. The answer is simply because we really do enjoy being in this kind place; isn't that what makes RV'ing such a wonderful weekend get a way for some and a lifestyle for other? Some people would never consider staying at a campground like this, preferring the multi-star Resorts with all the bells and whistles, others would look aghast at the treeless, crowded sites of an in-town RV park. Neither is right or wrong, they just like different things. As we've lived our adventure we've gotten to experience many different styles of parks, campgrounds and overnight parking spots, in most cases it was more or less a case of if the shoe fits wear it. Some people try to make everything perfect and never get to have the actual experience. They may be happy in their own right, but we would never trade our life for theirs, even if this is the view out our window.
We weren't what you would call full of energy this morning, not because we were tired, but rather because we seemed to have really gotten into this relaxation thing. I sure knew I was relaxed when I had managed to stay in bed until the unheard of hour of 7 o'clock, by which time many of the campers were already well along in the process of packing up and getting ready to leave. It seems that most people only stay here for one or two nights before moving on, and I will readily admit that if your object in staying here is something other than fishing or relaxing around the campsite, there is not much reason to stay for long unless you are into driving somewhere everyday, which is exactly what we did for years and years, but that was then and this is now.
While I didn't have a cute waitress bringing a breakfast tray out to me this morning, the cute chef fixed an awesome bowl of oatmeal, adding several spoonfuls of strawberry yogurt as a nice extra. It was while we were eating that we once again noticed our hummingbird friends at the feeder. I say friends because there were two of them today and wonder of wonders, they were both eating at the same time. By now you know the story of our life when it comes to hummingbirds, it's okay to watch, but taking photo's is a nearly impossible task. It immediately became apparent that as flighty as a single bird is, when there are two eating at the same time the slightest thing will send them flying away. Consequently we did not get any of those prized photo's of two birds eating at once, but Linda did get a very nice photo of the dominate bird perched at the feeder.
Once we had a good photo it was time to see if we could identify which species it was. Remember, bird people we are not, so out came Sibley and in no time at all we determined that it was a Calliope Hummingbird. We had remarked when they first appeared that they were the smallest hummingbirds we had ever seen, which is how the book describes them, "our smallest bird", that along with their range and coloration made for three out of three, so unless it carries a name tag which identifies it as some other species, a Calliope Hummingbird it shall be. As Linda was taking the photo's of the hummingbirds, someone else decided they also wanted their photo taken. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so here is one of our interloper. It may be that while we may hear the sounds they make as Caaaaw, Caaaaw, in their language they may be saying Pretty Birdy, Pretty Birdy.
If Linda could have her way I would probably be doing a lot more around the coach than I usually do, but that's not to say that I always succeed in work avoidance. Yesterday I had managed to get out of washing the far side of the coach by claiming the sun was shining on it, which would make for water spots. This morning I discovered blonds not only can have a good memory, they can also put two and two together and come up with four. Meaning that I was informed the side of the coach was now in the shade, she had a bucket of warm soapy water and it was time for me to drag myself away from whatever useless thing I was doing and get working at what she wanted me to do. I have to admit the just washed coach really looked nice, and I did such a good job that she probably has me marked down to do it again the next time.
After that exhausting experience, it wasn't because of the work, it was the work location because standing on a ladder when the ground as not as level as could be is not the easiest thing, I retreated to the coach and worked on keeping current with the Daily Journal because when we get to Moscow tomorrow I want to be able to once again be current on the posts, which isn't going to happen unless I get to writing. Linda was also starting to look to the future, a future which should provide her with the opportunity to list some more items on eBay. With that thought in mind she set up her photographic studio and and started taking shots of what she would be listing.
In the early afternoon we were outside reading when a truck stopped at the site next to ours. We noticed some strange things going on, which included the table being moved and some folding chairs being set up. Finally Linda's curiosity got the better of her and she walked over, which is when she found out there would be a program in about 15 minutes which would cover the history of the park as well as the wildlife which can be found here. Needless to say, we were right up front during the talk and made sure we handled everything that was passed around.
The surprising thing about this pelt wasn't that it had no odor, it was how amazing soft both the fur and and the skin were. If it wasn't for it being from a skunk, given how pretty it was, there would've been some fashionable use for them in the past, probably meaning they would have been trapped to near extinction. Speaking of extinction, Linda did a little of it herself tonight, getting the last package of our Puerto Penasco shrimp out of the freeze, which were promptly placed in marinade before being grilled. It was another great day and we again spent the evening sitting around the campfire while Pyro-Mom did her best to make the woodpile disappear (not really, but I think she had the thought in mind), before having a slice of lemon 7/8ths pound cake for dessert. This has been a good place, we have really enjoyed ourselves and it will be sad leaving tomorrow, but new adventures await. As a final salute to another great adventure we had several months ago, here is a photo of the last of our shrimp on the grill, which brings back memories not only of good times, but also of good friends.
July 7 Saturday
Another travel day, but one with a difference because today we will be doing some backtracking, driving south to Moscow to attend the Life on Wheels conference. Last night Linda had said she wanted to get an early start, which to me meant about 9 o'clock. What I hadn't planned on was being wide awake at 4:30 (it starts getting light just past 4 up here) and not being able to go back to sleep. Not that I don't mind getting up early, and 4:30 was the time I got up for many years, but for our present life, it has become a little earlier than I like. In the end it really didn't matter when we got up, we still left a little later than we had been aiming for. Part of that was due to putting away the accumulation from sitting four days in one place, and part the need to dump the waste tanks, fill the fresh water tank and gather up the excess fire wood, so it was just before 9:30 that we pulled out.
It was just before 11:30 when we drove into Moscow and followed the voice of the GPS as she directed us to the University. Since we were low on diesel we wanted to fill before parking at the conference because we probably would be running the generator an hour or two most days, but trying to follow the map they had provided was more than we could do. Not because Linda got lost, it was because it was one of those maps that had been copied so many times that it was now undecipherable. Our solution was to park the coach, unhitch and drive around in the Explorer to see if we could locate a station. Eventually we did, right down the street, but what had thrown us off was the fact the station didn't have anything posted on their signs about having diesel. I'm not sure what was worse, driving by and not seeing it the first time, or the fact we needed to get fuel for both the coach and the Explorer, oh well, we charged both so it won't be due till next month. Is that what they call rationalization?
Once we were fueled up it was less than a mile to the campus and all the turns were very well marked with Life on Wheels signs which made it quite easy. We were staying in the boondocking area, which was a grass lot right beside the main parking area. As luck would have it, we were the first ones to be be boondocking, everyone else electing to have hookups, and were parked all the way down at the far end next to the fence, which turned out to be the perfect place, though we weren't sure about it when we pulled in. What we almost immediately discovered was the prevailing wind, which blows from the west, provided a cooling breeze whenever we opened a window. The people who parked next to us didn't have the same benefit since our coach blocked the wind. Like Linda always says, things happen for a reason.
Speaking of things happening, it was shortly after we had gotten set up that Linda noticed we had suffered a catastrophic failure, not with the coach, but in the Hummingbird feeder department. Unbeknown to me, one of the first things she had done upon arrival was to mount the feeder on the same mirror where it had been for the past four days. We were doing something in the coach when I innocently asked, "Are you going to hang the Hummingbird feeder from the mirror?". She replied, "I already put it out", then exclaimed,"It's fallen," as she bolted for the door. She came back inside holding the feeder in both hands and sadly reporting that it was broken. Looking at it, I concluded it was more than merely broken since one the perches was broken off and the reservoir was split around the top. When she said that maybe it could be glued back together, I suggested we get in the car and go on a shopping trip for a new one, which is why we have this photo.
Yesterday we were serenaded by a crow who may have been calling out , Pretty Birdy, Pretty Birdy, today we were serenaded by a bird of a different species, reminiscent of our friend Richard from Quartzsite and Mexico. The syntax in the previous sentence may be a little twisted, but hopefully the meaning is as clear as mud. We ended up getting not one, but two feeders, so Linda should really be happy. In addition we had also made a mail run to the post office, picking up the general delivery packages our daughter had sent. When we got back to the coach, Linda immediately put up the two feeders, then opened one very special envelope, the one which had my first retirement check in it. She was much more excited about it than I was, probably because she looked at it as meaning she was married to an rich old guy, while I looked at it as now meaning I was an old guy.
Because of how we are parked, we look directly out onto the road which leads into where the conference is being held, and while the view differs by the minute, there is one constant that we see repeated over and over, which are the RV's which continue to stream into the parking lot. Motorhomes and a lesser number of 5th wheels are the predominant rigs, but for spice there is an occasional sighting of a Class C. Proving to be very rare birds are the travel trailers, popups and the Class B Rv's. Doesn't mean there aren't any here, it's just that we haven't noticed any drive up the hill.
One thing I have forgotten to mention is the professionalism of all the people associated with Life on Wheels. From the people who greet you when you first drive up, to the fellows on the ATV's who take you to your parking spot (and did the best job we have ever experienced) to the people who handed out our registration packet and patiently explained everything to us, it has so far been a great experience. We also enjoyed stopping and talking with Joe and Vickie Kieva, whose seminars we attended many years ago, planted the first inklings of a lifestyle which eventually germinated and blossomed into the life we live. After having just come from the dirt roads of a forest campground, the open fields, parking lots and people everywhere made for quite a difference. Looking out and seeing all the RV's parked with the Kibbe Dome (the University's indoor football arena) in the background gave it the appearance of something akin to the rendezvous of days past.
After dark we decided to take a walk through the rows of parked rigs, combining some sightseeing with getting a little exercise. It was a comment here and a bit of conversation there that resulted in our spending a pleasant evening talking to Cool Judy and her husband Luke. Visitors to the Escapees forum are probably familiar with Cool Judy, who is frequent poster, and who, unbelievably is even nicer in person than she is on the forum, which is really saying a lot since she is always so supportive on the forum. They also have a motorhome home made by Monaco, and we ended the evening in our coach showing them our computer desk and side mounted TV unit .
It was once again a time when those words I have used so often carried the essence of who we are and what we do.
July 8 Sunday
While the classes at Life On Wheels (LOW) don't start until tomorrow, we will being doing LOW "things" off and on all day today. As we have learned, the early sunrise meant an early start to the day and Linda certainly got off on the right foot when she again fixed a great omelet. We had bought a package of Adells basil garlic precooked sausage a couple of weeks ago and she has been thin slicing one into each omelet, which adds that extra special something. Of course my addition of Habanero sauce sends my omelet over the top, even if she does think otherwise.
I had one fix-it job which I wanted to tackle this morning, which was determine what was wrong and if possible, repair, my shortwave radio. I had cleaned up the case and battery compartment a couple of weeks ago after discovering the batteries were leaking, but ever since that first repair job it hasn't worked on battery power, just on AC. That hasn't mattered until now since we have been having hookups at all our destinations, but not this week. It was a simple matter to find the reason it wasn't working, the wire leading from the batteries had broken off at the contact. The fix was also simple since I had packed the little soldering iron in one of my toolboxes when we were home this time. For once my guess as to which tool box the tool I needed was in was correct, so in a short time the radio was fixed and working just like new. Well almost like new, since I only had AA batteries, which powers the memory, but not the four D cells needed to operate the radio.
The need to shop fit right into Linda's plans since she had her grocery list in hand and was past ready to leave by the time the radio was reassembled. The nice thing about LOW is that everything is so handy, it's just a matter of driving to the bottom of the hill, through the intersection and turning into the parking lot where the Winco is located. She had a number of items on her list, but we decided to make one change, which was to buy only the produce we would need for the next several days, then make a second trip back before we pulled out this weekend. It had been a long time since we were in a store which had such an extensive bulk food section and Linda wasn't just buying for a change, she was also having fun shopping. As always we ended up getting some things that weren't on the list which is the advantage of having a larger refrigerator and freezer.
One of the activities we wanted to attend was the campus tour which was given at 11 o'clock, and our timing worked out just perfect as we weren't rushed at all, returning to the coach and getting everything put away with time to leisurely walk over to where the tour started. We had attended the orientation session yesterday, so while they finished up with that part, we window shopped in the bookstore. Many of the instructors are also the authors of some of the better books on the RV lifestyle and while one or two temped us, we resisted the urge to splurge. It is a case of waiting until after we have attended the classes to determine if those books are something we actually need or would just be nice to have. We find that the longer we are on the road, the less necessary, but the more fun it is to have those books, making it easier to pass them by. Since the two tents were side by side, it was easy to do.
You could tell the conference was nearing that point where the energy of everyone comes together and something really special happens. Last spring we had attended the LOW conference in Bowling Green, Kentucky and while it had been very educational, the group dynamic experience had been lacking. Here, at Moscow you can not only see something in the faces of the people you meet, you can feel it in the air.
The campus tour turned out to be just that, a tour. Where at Bowling Green all the classes had been in one large sprawling building, here the experience truly would be more collegiate in nature, with classes held in various buildings around the campus. The University buildings are a blend of the old and the new, and while the newer buildings are quite attractive (and also proudly display their benefactors name), there is something very special about the buildings that students 100 years ago used for learning just as we will be doing.
By the time the tour was over, we were feeling like we knew our way around campus, meaning Linda was happy, which was a good thing. The tour hadn't included a stop at every building and afterward we walked around checking each one, and that was when we came upon the elm trees. Not any elm trees, some really special and very different elm trees. They had been mentioned during the tour, but try as I might, I just couldn't pick them out. When Linda finally pointed them out, I snorted and argued that there was no way those were elms. We had elms around the house when I was little boy before the Dutch Elm disease killed them all and they had to cut down, so knew they were very tall, open, vase shaped trees. What Linda was calling an elm was just the opposite, a very low growing tree with drooping branches which were very heavily clothed in leaves. My first doubts about my position arose when I got close enough to look at the leaves. They certainly looked exactly like the elm leaves I remembered, but the shape of the tree was still wrong. A few steps further we came upon a plaque which erased my remaining doubts and confirmed that indeed, this was an elm.
Here's what the Camperdownii Elm looked like. Note that in order to show the size of this 100 year old tree, I have had a pretty model pose standing inside the tree's canopy .
As I mentioned yesterday it seems the predominate RV at the conference is the motorhome. Here is a view of the area where the instructors and the first 50 people to register for the conference are parked. It looks like Motorhome City.
Once we had returned back home, an apparition appeared before our eyes. Well, maybe not an apparition, but at least a sign of the times. Having had the "luck" to be located where we could look at the entrance road to the conference, one thing we had noticed was the number of motorhomes who had arrived without a toad. Now everything may be handy, but it is still a fair walk to the closest grocery store, not because of the distance, but because of the changes in elevation you must negotiate. What we had seen in the distance finally came into focus and it was not an apparition, it was real people. People who had been shopping and were returning with their groceries. Now some may wonder at us because we are out in boondock land as opposed to being up the parking lot with 30 amp power. but we had nothing on these folks who had walked to the store and back. Not only had they walked to the store, but they had been prepared, taking along their cooler to bring back any perishables. The ingenuity of RVer's is the most amazing thing. Just look at all the interesting things you could be doing if you were out on the road.
The day wasn't done yet as we had an entertainment hour, the opening ceremonies and the play this evening. Linda was bound and determined that we wouldn't be late for any of the sessions, even if the session wasn't a session, which was how we ended up at the auditorium before the doors were opened. However I must say it was cool being the first people into the hall. The entertainer was Eric Engerbretzen who knew just what his audience wanted, songs from the late 50's through the late 60's. For each year that someone would request a song, he would immediately start playing a well known song from that year. Linda asked for something from 1967 and he played "Kentucky Women", which was originally sung by Linda's favorite singer, Neil Diamond. Not only that but an alteration or two the lyrics and the song could have been about Linda.
Next there was the opening session where all the instructors were introduced, followed by a break during which we ate dinner. We finished off the evening with a night of theater, Elvis People by Doug Grissom, a play which we both enjoyed. It was "different" and so your appreciation or lack of appreciation may be different than ours, but whatever it may be you will find at least one thing in the play you will like. Tomorrow begins our classes, so it was with much anticipation that we bid the day a fond farewell and looked forward to tomorrow.
July 9 Monday
The first day of classes at the the Life On Wheels (LOW) conference and Linda was more than prepared. Last night she had checked and rechecked the schedule, put her room assignments on a separate piece of paper, adjusted the cord for her name badge so it looked better, filled the water bottles, looked at the campus map to make sure she knew the location of the buildings for her classes, set the alarm on her cell phone for 6:30, and to top off the day, went through all the selections of her cell phone ringtones to find just the one she wanted to have awaken her. I didn't have any problem with all her doings until it came to the ringtones, after all why does it matter what sound wakes you up, once you're up, you're up for gosh sakes.
I had tried to work on the Daily Journal while Linda was going through her mechanization's, but with not much success, so resolved to work at it early this morning. That is why she awakened this morning, not to the pleasant (to her at least) melody she had so carefully and annoyingly picked out late last night, instead it was my voice saying, " The alarm is about to ring, are you awake." Sometimes being an early riser can have its moments.
The only other problem we encountered this morning dealt with the meaning of the words, are you getting ready. To set the scene, we had enjoyed a great breakfast of cheese omelets and fresh nectarines, while at the same time trying to get a few important things done. There was a slight difference of opinion as to what was important with Linda thinking it was filling out a volunteer application, then getting ready to head to our classes. For me, it was getting as much done on the Daily Journal as possible because Linda had a virtually nonstop day of 'things' lined up for us to do and writing time was going to be mighty slim. One other important item on her agenda dealt with the fact that it was the first day of classes, and Linda was hoping to get there early, while I was just hoping to get there. That was when the first signs of friction appeared, something that reached near ignition temperature before I finally exited the coach.
I was typing in the code for a photo when she asked, "Are you getting ready to go?", to which I innocently replied, "Yes.", because that was indeed what I was doing. It was not something I could just drop at that moment, so I worked at finishing the line of code. I had just completed hibernating the laptop when she asked in a most withering voice, "I thought you said you were getting ready?" I could immediately sense this was going to be a no win situation for me, so I mumbled something about not being able to stop in the middle of something and headed off to brush what for myself and most people are called teeth, but at the moment referring to Linda could more precisely be termed fangs. Innocent babe in the woods that I was, I had heard her last remark, but the true import of it had not registered. Several minutes later I was back up at the front of the coach gathering up the last of my things when she put her face right up to mine, said in a very loud and not so nice way, "That was what I meant when I asked if you were getting ready", where upon she whirled about, went down the steps and slammed the door shut.. Nice going Bob, I thought, you really got off to a good start this morning, didn't you.
When I finally came out of the coach, I had been in such a hurry, I had forgotten my sunglasses and the garbage, and had to return to get them. Common sense sometimes rules and I swallowed my desire to ask why in the world had she not carried out the garbage since she knew I was behind in getting ready. I also bit my tongue and didn't mention how nice it was to not have to walk shoulder to shoulder with everyone else, so maybe being late wasn't as bad as she thought. I was however, not thinking when I noticed that she seemed to be walking rather slowly and so commented, "I hope you're not walking slowly just so you can blame me for being late." Sure won't make that mistake again. Appalachian girls, ah so pretty, wonderful and sweet, but make a mistake and with their tongues you're going to get beat.
The class schedule at Life on Wheels is set up so that there are multiple classes scheduled during each period and while some couples attend the sessions together, Linda and I opt for different classes each period, which maximizes the amount of information we are exposed to. The classes are divided into two groupings, technical and lifestyle and about 2/3rds of Linda's classes are lifestyle, while about 2/3rds of mine are tech.
Most of the classes were held in large lecture rooms with complete audio visual support, each instructor using PowerPoint type presentation software and with the slides being shown on a large screen. The lecture rooms made it quite easy to have an unobstructed view of the screen, and except for one or two problems with the climate control in the rooms, it made for a setting which was very conducive to learning.
One thing we quickly learned was , the larger the class, the more comfortable the chairs were going to be. This was because the large classes were held in the lecture halls which had padded seats, while the smaller classes were held in classrooms where the chairs had wooden seats. By the end of the day I had determined those wooden seats were okay for 45 minutes, a little uncomfortable after 60 minutes and downright uncomfortable after 90 minutes, which was the end of class, had rolled around. From the squirming and shifting around that I observed, I wasn't alone in feeling a little uncomfortable. One class that took place ion wooden chairs was an overview of Alaska by Joe and Vicky Kieva.
One of the great things about the classes is it's not just what you learn from the lectures and questions, nor is it what you learn from the instructor after the class, it's the great time you have have visiting with people between classes. Heading for one of my classes I chanced upon Linda, doing what makes LOW such a special experience.
Just because classes were over did not mean the day was done, as tonight was going to be RV open house between 6:30 and 8:30, though many people visited long after the official ending time. When we were at the Kentucky LOW conference in 2006 we had decided to open our coach and so I had played host while Linda visited other rigs. I had learned that while it was great showing people our coach, I had really missed seeing the little things other people had done to make their RV's more livable, so tonight we both planned on being visitors rather than hosts. One of the problems with walking to all those RV's, especially after such a mentally exhausting day, is finding the necessary energy to do all that walking around. That is where dinner came in, turkey burgers, sweet potato salad, cucumbers in sour cream and dill weed, to which was added grilled Walla Walla onions. Good wasn't the word to describe that meal, maybe great or fantastic, and did we ever enjoy it or what.
Afterwords we walked around, visiting RV's and getting several ideas for additions and modifications we might do to make our coach more livable. Maybe a collapsible set of shelves or a sliding shelf under the cooktop, how about a Velcro screen for the bedroom window, or the same to be used as a stationary sunshade over the windshield. Someone had decorator, stackable cardboard drawers which sat behind the front seat when they were parked and which rode on the bed when traveling. Another alteration that many people had undertaken was the removal of either one or both of their couches, then installing a computer desk. We also saw a number of coaches that had no couch at all, having replaced them with recliners. Universally we heard how people thought the manufacturers made floor plans for people other than fulltimers.
We finished up our coach tour at Judy and Luke's, then sat outside and visited for another several hours, the perfect end to a day of knowledge and fun. We had done good.
July 10 Tuesday
Our second morning at the Life on Wheels (LOW) conference dawned warm and sunny. The bad thing about the hours for the conference is that it doesn't look like I will be able to get any writing done, the good thing is everything thing else. Yesterday I had managed to step into the veritable pile of doo-doo with my being late in getting ready to leave the coach, so you can imagine how I was on my best behavior his morning when I say I was a new person today, standing outside the door waiting on Linda rather than the other way around. There might have been one other reason for it also, which was the fact that my first class was in Albertson Hall, which was, way, way, way over on the other side of the campus from where we were parked.
As we did yesterday, we would be going to different classes in order to be exposed to as much information possible. Linda's classes included: Work Your Way Across the USA; Camping & Boondocking on Public Lands; and the aptly named Beaks and Feathers-An Intro Guide to Birds. My list was a little more technical, with classes on propane and solar, plus an informal and impromptu get together for the Internet satellite users who were at the conference. Having left for class at an early hour, it was no surprise that I arrived to find only a few other people in the classroom. Looking at the photo it is easy to see where the best seats are.
They call the LOW conferences, College for RVers, and based on the location, the quality of the classes and the abilities of the instructors they are using the right term. There was one instructor I had today who stood head and shoulders above all the other excellent instructors and that would be Al Cohoe (as he says, it's just like the salmon, only spelled with an e on the end) who taught the class on propane. Al is one of the senior instructors at LOW, having taught here every year but the very first year (there was only one instructor that first year and that was Gaylord Maxwell, the founder of LOW). Al not only knows the technical side of his subject, he also has a very professional presence, having created a technical college program for training RV technicians in British Columbia. One of the little things he does which is really helpful, especially in a large lecture room is to rephrase each question so that everyone in the audience hears and understands it before giving his answer. It's the little details like this that not everyone may notice, but which makes for the kind of experience that has you saying, that was a great class, I'm glad I took it.
There are many options for lunch, given that there is a 90 minute break between classes. Some people go off campus to a restaurant, other carry their lunch, some eat at the several cafeterias on campus, including the LOW food tent set up near the bookstore, and other, us included go back to their RV's to eat and relax for a while. We find that we don't even seem to realize we are eating our turkey wraps, we have so much to talk about . Today as we talked we noticed we were not the only ones doing something different during the lunch hour. Here it was, the hottest part of the day and down below us on the soccer fields, the teams were practicing.
The afternoon seemed to fly by and before we knew it our classes were over for the day. Just as was the case last night, we once again had something we wanted to attend this evening, though tonight it was actually two things. First off was a happy hour at the Best Western Inn which was across the road at the bottom of the hill that we were parked on and was close enough to walk to, though most people chose to drive. As we were getting ready to leave the coach, a couple of Frisbee golf players had just thrown at the goal over on the next hill. It was then that we saw their dog go charging after one of the Frisbees, and pick it up in its mouth and carry it down to a drainage ditch. All this was out of sight of the players and a short time later we saw them down in that general area, looking everywhere for one of the Frisbees. Since we were now walking nearby, I went over to them and mentioned about seeing the dog grab the Frisbee. A little later we watched in amazement as the player, using a stick, lifted his Frisbee from the muddy water. He was very thankful for my telling him what we'd seen and we all had a good laugh over the dog's antics.
The happy hour was out in the courtyard of the motel and it wasn't long until our table was filled to capacity. That was where we met Bob and Aleine, a couple we talked to several times over the next two days and whom we will probably run into somewhere down the road. They were one of the smarter people when it comes to living a life on the road, as they were here to learn all they could before they purchased their first RV. As Gaylord Maxwell, the founder of Life on Wheels, pointed out in his opening remarks on Sunday evening, people like them are the smart ones, they are finding out what they need to know before they spend their money on something they either don't need or won't like. There probably is something to the learn before you go philosophy, though most people are just like us and make it a learn as you go lifestyle.
There were a couple of interesting things about the happy hour, not the least of which was the family of California Quail which where living in the courtyard area. While momma was on the ground close by the little chicks, papa stood guard high up on the roof.
The other interesting thing was the number of people who had called me by name today. It seemed that everywhere I went people were saying Bob this and Bob that. Maybe I'm more famous than I thought.
We had one last thing to go to tonight, so we hurried back from the happy hour, ate a quick meal of leftover pork and baked beans, then walked down to the theater building. We were going to see our second play in three nights, this one being a musical titled, Summer of 42. While I'm not particularly fond of musicals, this one proved to be a winner, at least by my standards, which usually means it has never been produced on Broadway. Hey, we've all got our likes and dislikes, and this one is mine. None of the glitzy Broadway staging here, no cast of dozens, just good,enjoyable entertainment.
You'd have thought that after all this we would have been content with returning to the coach and getting caught up on our sleep, but fortunately we came across a distraction. As we started down the row of RVs where the coach was parked, we happened upon a couple sitting outside, enjoying the warm evening. Of course the next thing we know we had been talking for over an hour and it was time to heading off for dessert. That's the way it is at LOW, after all, you are among the true brethren so to speak.