July 11 Wednesday
Our Life on Wheels experience continues today with a full schedule of classes and an evening meal compliments of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. The class schedule for today, or at least the courses that Linda and I had selected to take, were weighted more towards lifestyle enhancements than technical matters. The class names convey the meanings almost as well as their synopsis does. National Parks of the West; Refrigerators, Ranges & Ovens; Arizona State Parks; RVing in Mexico, RVing in Alaska; and Boondocking on Forest Service and BLM Lands. It was also another day of plesant surprises as once again we were to exposed to instructors who were the real experts in their respective fields and who we knew by reputation, but had never had the opportunity to meet them. The classes on Mexico and Alaska were a good case in point, taught by Terri and Mike Church, the couple who you could say, both figuratively and literally wrote the book on RVing in those localities. Linda had the good fortune of attending both of these classes and she couldn't say enough good things about Terri and Mike, the way they presented the information and the information itself.
I was similarly impressed by Bob Dilfey and his classes, three of which I will have attended by the time the conference is over. As you can tell there was a good crowd to learn about the National Parks of the West.
Just as we did the last two days, we headed back to the coach to eat turkey wraps for lunch. Today there was no soccer teams practicing, but on the walk back we did pass something rather unusual, a rolling billboard, you might call it. We overheard one of the people who walked by as I was taking this photo remark, "I'd drive something like that if they'd give it to me for free just to be a rolling advertisement." Somehow or other I just don't think that would be something Linda would want to do.
One of the neat things about being on a college campus is that you never know what you are going to find taking place. Linda had wanted to visit the campus bookstore, which is located all the way across campus, so for today, because of the time constraint we decided to eat quickly, then walk over to the small bookstore in the nearby Commons Building. It proved to be a disappointment since it had very little merchandise she was interested in. It was we were leaving the Commons Building that we happened on a musical group playing under the shade of some trees. Unfortunately we had to get to class, but it was just another example of what you can stumble upon if you keep your eyes open while at LOW.
One of my afternoon classes proved to be a real find, both for the content and also for the personality of the instructor. One Sunday night when Gaylord Maxwell had been introducing the instructors, he would often pause, tell a little something about each of them, maybe even recounting a story of one of their earlier experiences before going on to the next name on the list. Gaylord had just finished talking about Nick Russell of the Gypsy Journal, who is probably the best known instructor at the conference and also a long time and close friend of Gaylord, which meant we heard several stories of Nick's exploits. The next name on the list was Vladimir Steblina , and after Gaylord said his name or at least a somewhat close approximation, no one stood up, Gaylord commented that he knew nothing about Vladimir or what subject his class was about, but he (Gaylord) hoped Vladimir showed up and knew what he was talking about.
As anyone who has read the Daily Journal or my other scribblings on this web site has probably already figured out, that's just the kind of introduction that not only makes me curious, it makes it certain that this is a person whose class I've just got attend, if nothing else, just to see what he's all about. That's why at 3 o'clock I was sitting in a lecture hall with a surprising large number of people waiting to find out who this Vladimir fellow was, and what he was going to talk about, which was Boondocking on US Forest Service and BLM lands. It turned out that Vladimir was the just retired Program Manager for Recreation, Trails and Wilderness for two large forests in Washington and Idaho. He was a man who really knew his stuff. But not only that, he also had the most engaging personality and a way of talking that instantly put you at ease, and to top it off, he had his lovely and very accommodating wife helping him.
He started out by saying that we probably wanted to know why he wasn't here for the opening assembly on Sunday night. It turned out that his daughter had totaled their car on Thursday night. She wasn't hurt, just shaken up, but he had been trying to get her something to drive for her job, since he and his wife would be here at the conference. Then once he got that taken care of and they were just about ready to leave, a forest fire broke out very near to their cabin and they found they couldn't get out. The fire burned close, but managed to stay just far enough away that their cabin was the only one in the area that was not red from the airdrops of fire retardant. Then when they could finally get out, the radiator hose on his truck started leaking so they had to stop and get that fixed. Finally they were on their way only to run into another forest fire. As they were driving along, a number of County Sheriff's cars passed them, driving in the same direction at high speed. He'd been involved in forests for almost his entire life and knew they were hurrying to set up a road block to stop traffic, something that might make him miss his class. His solution was to floor the truck, and follow just behind them at nearly 90 miles an hour while pulling his pop up camper. He said that from the fact we are here you can tell we made it through before they got the roadblock set up.
In support of his tale of adventure, that is him standing in front of his first slide, which was taken from the front porch of his cabin during a tanker drop. As he pointed out, that's what it really looked like because the photo was taken without using any telephoto lens, the plane was that close to the cabin. Later he showed a photo of a man standing beside an RV and asked if anyone recognized who it was. I was proud to the be one who immediately yelled out "Tioga George", which made my day as if it hadn't already been made.
Once all the classes were over it was time to get ready to board the bus, a real yellow school bus sent by the Chamber of Commerce which would transport us to where the hamburgers and brats were being grilled and served with all the trimmings. As we walked to where the bus was supposed to stop, Linda noticed something big flying overhead. I quickly took the camera out and actually managed to capture a it. Linda says it is a red tailed hawk, I say it is a big bird.
The bus ride was fun, since it was an actual school bus, then we got lucky which meant we got to sit in the very back seat and pretended to be school kids again . We were a couple of blocks from the cookout when we first smelled it, the air was so filled with the aroma of grilled meats. We wondered if everyone in the neighborhood was going nuts what with the mouth watering smell overwhelming the area. The line was long, especially when those that sit in the back of the bus are the last ones out. We did eventually make it to the food as you can tell from the full plate of the young lady in this photo.
We enjoyed both the food and the company, making more friends we hope to me once again sometime during our travels over the next years. The bus dropped us off up near the front of the parking lot and the walk to the coach proved to be a replay of last evening, only with another couple. Once again it was nearing 11 o'clock when we bid them goodnight and headed back to our coach, the fourth straight day we had been of the go from dawn to late at night, meaning that once again there would be no Daily Journal posted for the day. Sometimes there is so much adventure that the writing about it must wait until later. It looks for sure like this is one of those times.
July 12 Thursday
By now we were settling into a morning routine that was not only comfortable, it was also productive. Breakfast was once again an onion omelet, then after the dishes were washed we discussed the classes we would be attending. Today was one of those days were we had decided to make a switch in some of the classes we had originally planned to take. The problem was that if one of us switched, there was also a good chance the other would also, usually staking the class the other had decided not to take. Think of the game of musical chairs without the music and without the chairs. I know that's hard but so was trying to figure out what class to take when one of us switched.
Our list of classes today included: Furnaces and Water Heaters; Solar Tech Savvy; Arizona State Parks; RVing the North Country; RVing the Heartland; and RV Privacy Issues, which meant that it was a little top heavy in the lifestyle area. I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the tech classes, in fact it is whole series of classes designed around giving the student a better understanding and appreciation of solar. They are taught by Greg Holder of AM Solar in Eugene, Oregon. Greg may not have quite the polish of Al Cohoe, but he does have the necessary knowledge and a rather unique way of getting it across. When we had first looked at solar systems Greg's name was one of two that kept coming up time after time, just like Bill Adams for the Internet Satellite. Unfortunately time constraints and geography made it impossible for us to use AM Solar, and although the system we got has worked for us, we now know we could have done much better. The solar panels are okay, it's the controller, wiring and installation where we slipped up a little, but then again, that is why we are here taking these class. We want to try and not the make the same mistakes in other areas that deal with this always changing way we live.
When we had left the coach this morning we had packed lunch of peanut butter and jelly rollups since we had a little adventure planned for noon. Yesterday's stop at the Bookstore annex had whetted Linda's appetite for more, so today we were planning on walking all the way across the campus to the main bookstore. We met at the agreed upon spot after our morning classes and headed out. There was only one problem, but it proved to be a significant one. I thought I knew the way, but didn't have a map. Linda had the map, but couldn't read it. Now I know that the way most people would solve this situation would be by combining forces and knowledge, then making sure they knew the way to the bookstore, but not us. It was only after having a few "spirited"exchanges, each of us having walked down the side of the street across from the other, no doubt each of us muttering something to the effect of "dumb blond, can't even read a stupid map", or perhaps, "grumpy old man, thinks he knows everything and he can't even remember the street the store is on", you know, little thoughts of endearment like those. The more we wandered, the hotter it got, both figuratively and literally, so finally finding ourselves lost somewhere in the middle of Fraternity and Sorority Row, we had a meeting of minds and map.
Within a minute we found ourselves in the air conditioned comfort of the Campus Bookstore, once again proving that one great mind and a blond mind are just a little bit better than just the blond mind. (If I wrote what I was thinking on that one, the blond editor would just have deleted it so I'll just write something she will approve of) The Bookstore itself proved to be a disappointment, having nothing the blond buyer wanted. They had hats, tee shirts and glasses galore, but so do we. When it came to computer software, the deals were great, if you needed any, but they had nothing we needed. At least the return trip to the other side of the campus was a far more pleasant experience than the trip over had been, as by now we not only knew the way, we also knew which streets were tree lined, meaning shaded, and which streets were not. Who knows, maybe there was a reason for the route we had taken to arrive at the bookstore, though I doubt you'd ever get Linda to think that way.
The afternoon seemed to fly by and before we knew it, we were back at the coach eating another meal of leftover pork and baked beans. The reason was because we had another evening program we wanted to attend. Originally it had been scheduled to be a slide presentation about a trip to Alaska, but unfortunately the person who was to make the presentation had fallen ill shortly before the conference was to start, which was bad for them but good for us since it had given time for another travelogue to be prepared. The new program was to be given by Terri and Mike Church and dealt with their recent trip through Central America to Panama and back. Part travelogue, part hilarious entertainment based on Terri's telling of the pitfalls they encountered, it was one of those, you had to have been there to appreciate just how good it was, type of evenings. Think professionals letting their hair down and talking about the things that are usually left out of packaged presentations and you get the idea.
The chances of very many people who were at the conference ever attempting to travel by RV down to and across Panama in an RV is highly unlikely, yet there were a surprisingly large number of people in attendance, including many of the instructors. As for us, we fall into that highly unlikely but wouldn't rule it out category, which is how we approach the way we live. We have the freedom to set our own agenda and do the things we want to do. Sure we may volunteer at a location for several months, but it's because we want to, not because we have to. The folks I wonder about are the ones who decided not to come simply because they could never see themselves doing something like this. Could it be these are the same people who will quickly become dissatisfied with the RV lifestyle, the ones who say I get bored after being out for a month or so? Are they the ones who rush from place to place, always on the Interstate highways and complain there is nothing to see? When they call it a Lifestyle, that's just what they mean, it's a style of living like none other we have ever known and I'm glad we decided to try it out.
(By the way, if you've figured out by now that I didn't take any photos today, you're right on) As we returned from the program we walked by several different couples who were sitting out enjoying the evening, but tonight instead of stopping and talking, we glanced at each other, smiled and then walked on. Maybe they had their reasons for not going to the the program, maybe they were even more fascinating than the Mike and Terri Church, maybe we were guilty of what I was just thinking about in others, but the reality was that we were just plain tired out from the past five days of nonstop activity and we needed a good nights rest. Pausing only long enough to enjoy dessert, we soon found ourselves transported to a far away place, dreaming of all the adventures the coming years will bring.
July 13 Friday
Our Life on Wheels classroom experience will come to a close today, but as the saying goes, it ain't over till it's over. That was why we were making more changes in our class schedules. Sort of like hanging on the edge of the cliff and knowing that even the slightest finger hold could be significant. Having learned more from the three classes that I had taken from Greg Holder than I ever imagined I could, I had decided that since it would be a few years before a new RV was in our plans, so I would switch and attend Greg's Solar Power Forum rather than one about how to inspect a new RV. Linda was also in the last grasping for straws mindset, switching from basic self protection (she had already taken it at several of the other rallies we have attended) to Search Tools and Web Resources for RVers. You can do your best at picking the classes you want before you come based on both the synopsis and the instructors biography, but until you actually sit through some of the classes, you're simply making your best guess.
Not everything always works the way it should, and the air conditioning in some of the rooms was one of those things. This resulted in my class on RVing the Southwest being moved to the Natural Science Building, where I learned that Natural Science not only the name of the building, but was also incorporated into the building itself.
The neat thing is that the tree trunk extends upwards for three stories and the ferns are all alive, the stairwell being lite with with grow bulbs.
The final session on the program was the closing ceremony, where Diploma's are handed out to the people who have attended Life on Wheels on four separate occasions, then to wrap everything up, the raffle was held. Linda is one of those people who always thinks she is going to win, and I always hope that sometime before she departs this earth, even if it's just once, that she will buy a winning ticket. Here is Gaylord Maxwell announcing the start of the raffle where none of Linda's tickets will be drawn.
Once everything was over and we were leaving, we realized we needed to document something that shows just how good both the people who supervise the parking and the people who attend the conference are.
I'm not sure what the drivers license tests of today consist of, but I remember when I took mine about a decade after the middle of the last century, part of the driving test included parallel parking, which was what the driver of the coach in the center of this photo had to do. The fifth wheel and diesel pusher had arrived first and where parked on the ends right up against the curbs. When the maroon Class A showed up, he had to park in the tiny little space between them with at the most three feet of clearance in the front and the rear. That's the driver, Luke, Judy's husband in the photo. Talk about an awesome job of parking, you're looking at it. Lest you think he was on his own, that was not the case as he was ever so slowly and skillfully guided into the spot by two members of the parking committee. It will interesting to see whether or not Cool Judy posts something about this on the Escapees Forum.
We hadn't been back at the coach for long when Mike Fousie stopped by with his camera. We had met Mike just after we arrived as he was on the parking committee, which means he's personable, friendly, outgoing and has a head on his shoulders. During our conversation it came up that we have our own website and he remembered visiting it, then he mentioned he could take a 360° photo of the inside of the coach, which was why he was here. Hopefully in about a week you will see the results of his handy work on the website.
It was also at this time that very strong wind started blowing from the west. We could see ominous black clouds forming and then the flashes of lightening started crossing the sky. Because we were parked in a grassy area that was more dirt than grass, we decided to move over onto the gravel parking lot, a task that was soon accomplished. Of course this meant that the storms would all pass us by, which is exactly what happened. Then it happened, we had been on the go constantly from morning to night for the past week and here we sat with nothing to do. The other thing was that with the storms passing nearby, the humidity had shot up to what might be termed, somewhat uncomfortable levels. We solved that by going shopping, first at Big 5 were Linda found the socks she likes to wear, then we went across the parking lot to the local mall where we shopped in air conditioned comfort for a while.
We did have one last stop we wanted to make which was at the county fairgrounds to check out the RV sites. While the sites were nice, they were also full, but there was one thing which definitely caught our eye, the dump station.
Wonder when he realized what he had forgotten to do?
July 14 Saturday
It started early this morning, the sound of diesel engines running, and soon we could see movement out the windows of the coach. It was the time of the scattering, when the RVers scatter to four winds, taking their new found knowledge and putting it to use, making their lives better because of it. It only took a few hours and the parking lot was nearly deserted, the bins which would hold the long cables which supplied electricity to many of the RVs now more numerous than the RVs themselves.
While the electrical work was being wrapped up in view of our side window, a different sort of action was taken place out the front window as the last few RVs pulled out.
As the procession proceeded to pass in front of us we noticed that not everyone was towing in the same manner.
Of course the fact this was one of those infamous Land Yachts may have something to with it. Maybe it was out of water? Actually it wasn't, as we had talked to the owner, a retired single lady, a few nights ago. After she had arrived something had broken in the steering column and she couldn't turn the key, so it was being towed to a GM dealer to get it fixed. Those old trusty 454's run forever, even if they are gas hogs, it was just that the rest of her yacht was falling apart.
Linda did have several things she wanted to do today, one of which was to stop at the Saturday morning Farmers Market. What a surprise it was, bringing back shades of the large and diverse Farmers Market we used to go to every Saturday morning when we lived in California. She sure wasn't disappointed in finding what she wanted to buy because they had fresh cherries and apricots in abundance to pick from. Not only were there literally bushels available in terms of quantity, there were also numerous varieties to choose from. Always being venturesome in the foods we eat, she made sure she to pick the varieties she didn't remember having eaten before, Tilden Apricots and Lambert Cherries, both of which were delicious. The apricots sure looked like the variety we usually buy at the grocery store, but did they ever taste better, maybe because the were fresh picked. Linda also learned that being polite means you'll never get near the boxes of fruit and soon she was nudging people aside with the best of them.
Next it was out to the local Goodwill Store where Linda hoped to pick up a few bargains to sell on Ebay. Her search proved fruitless, but I came away with a two volume set on the Revolutionary War and a novel by Neville Shute that looked like it may have been the basis for my all time favorite TV Mini-Series. Only time will time and if the answer is positive you will know. One of the neat things about second hand stores are all the unusual items they have, some of which make you wonder what on earth the person who originally bought it was thinking. Entertainment is sometimes where ever you find it. One thing we did find was the location of a laundromat, which turned out to be back in town just a couple of blocks from where the Farmers Market was held.
Having been dry camping for a week, the little woman was beginning to feel the pressure on the washer door as she stuffed her dirtys into it every morning and so had decided that we would do something about it. Having just gotten some new books I was all for sitting around while the the clothes washed and dried, but of course Linda had other ideas and we were soon in the neighborhood drugstore. Besides the usual items, they had an interesting display of early drugstore items. Then we found a large selection of home brewing accessories and decided that maybe it was a college town thing. If you keep looking long enough you'll eventually find something that catches not only your eye, but also your attention. That was the case with this clock. The little verse is quite appropriate to the Life we live.
I eventually did get to do some reading but that was after we had returned to the coach where also Linda joined me. Just look at this woman relaxing after a hard day of shopping and doing the laundry, does she look like she's got it made or what.
After dinner we visited with a couple who were parked near us and realized that not everyone got out of the conference what we did. They had purchased their rig a year ago expecting to do some traveling but found out they didn't like being away from home any longer than a week or two. A friend had suggested they attend Life on Wheels and they had, but didn't think there was much they had learned. The phrase, "it's not the lifestyle for everyone" is used a good deal in some of the forums and we came away from our conversation with them knowing that they were among those to whom it applied. As for us, we are glad we are among those for whom the phrase, "some people really enjoy this Lifestyle" applies.
July 15 Sunday
Our Life on Wheels experience will come to a complete close today as we move towards Spokane, not only to stay at a new location but also to have an entirely different experience. While we hadn't been the only ones to stay over Saturday night, the parking lot looked next to deserted this morning with only three coaches and a 5th wheel appearing in the early morning light.
We wanted to time our departure so we would arrive at our destination RV park about an hour after noon, thinking some of the weekenders would have departed by then and we would have a better chance of securing a site. We also needed to do some last minute shopping at the Winco, primarily getting some more produce and dairy items. As is always the case when we go grocery shopping, an item or two that wasn't on the list appeared in the cart including a jar of baby dill pickles. The reason for the pickles was one of those grandma things. Our grandson, Zachary, loves dill pickles and so grandma was seduced by the pickle display, though she just couldn't bring herself to buy one of those giant sized jars in which whole dill pickles are normally packed. That was when I came to the rescue suggesting a jar of baby dills, something which later proved to a great hit with Zachary.Back at the coach, Linda worked her special magic and was able to find room in the refrigerator for all the items she had bought. This was on top of everything we had purchased yesterday at the farmers market. I sometimes wonder if there are hidden compartments in refrigerators that only woman know about, because I seem to have trouble getting whatever I take out of the refrigerator to fit back in it, never mind a few grocery bags of additional items. While we were gone, Luke and Judy had moved their coach over near where ours was parked. This was because they and some friends were staying for one more night, so we got to say good bye and good travels. Our route took us through Pullman then north on US-195 towards Spokane. The road was good and because we were driving through the Palouse, the rolling hills of grain made for a pretty drive.
Our immediate destination was another Passport America park, Klink's Williams Lake Resort, which was indeed on Williams Lake situated just south of Cheney. It was off the beaten path but we had a reason for deciding to stay there, which was that it had a lake, offering swimming and fishing, something we figured Zachary would enjoy. We arrived to find the Sunday crowd had not yet left and the place was wall to wall people. We did get a spot and with some careful maneuvering backed in under a huge weeping willow tree. There will be no Internet or DirecTV at this site as the entire top of the coach is enveloped in the hanging branches of that willow and so we couldn't have deployed the satellite even if we had wanted to. Heck, the sites are so narrow and crowded that we can't put the galley slide out and even then there is barely enough room to park the Explorer.
Having arrived early in the day, it gave us some time to relax and read prior to leaving to pick up Zachary at the airport. I have to admit that I am completely captivated by the book I am currently reading, The War of the Revolution by Christopher Ward. Written in 1952, it is not a history of the American Revolution, but rather a history of war itself, the when, where, how, why, and by whom the land battles were fought, something I can't ever recollect reading about. Linda had determined that leaving at 4:30 would give us plenty of time to drive to the airport before Zackary's plane arrived at 5:45. Having learned my lesson last Monday at the start of the Life on Wheels classes, I was in the explorer and waiting when 4:30 arrived. If we were going to be late it wasn't going to be my fault, or so I thought at the time.
The drive to the airport was uneventful until we exited from I-90 onto the road that both the GPS and Linda had designated as the fastest way to the airport terminal. In hindsight, the lack of any signage suggesting that this was a way to the airport should have been a strong clue. Suffice it to say we ended up driving around the airport not once, but twice. The first time was all away around the outside of the airport, the second time was all around the inside of the airport. If you want to know how to get to any part of the Spokane Airport, we can probably direct you from memory since we know we have driven past it. Once we finally found Terminal C where Zachary was scheduled to arrive, I proceeded to park in the metered lot directly across from the ticket counters. After two trips to the ticket counter to get a pass so we could go out to the gate, the interminable delays getting through security including the barefooted walk through the metal detector, we arrived at the gate with minutes to spare only to see Zachary standing by the ticket counter. It turned out the plane had arrive early and he had been patiently waiting for us. After signing the necessary forms we were off to get his luggage. Then it was time to place the requisite call to his mom to let her know he had arrived safe and sound.
Up to that point Zachary had been pretty subdued, but the sound of his mom's voice seemed to cause the dam to burst and from then on it was nonstop chatter. Our last airport incident occurred when we left the baggage area and walked over to the Explorer. The baggage claim area was definitely not across from where we had parked, in fact it was along way from it. Guess we could always conclude that the exercise we got walking to the Explorer was good for our health, though it sure would have been nice to have parked closer. For years I flew on a weekly basis and never had this much of a problem, so it was probably Linda's fault. Back at the coach we got Zachary settled in, dinner fixed and eaten, which was kielbasa with peppers, sweet potato, and onions, and for a side, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. One of the cucumbers was an Armenian variety that Zachary and his mom had grown. It was as good as a cucumber can get and we were happy knowing that both our daughters have a green thumb. After dinner it was time to "do something" as Zachary put it. The first something being fishing. Well not exactly fishing, but after we fixed his reel, which had the line wrapped around the mechanism jamming it, it was time to get in some some casting practice.
Just because you're fishing doesn't mean you have to pay attention as the above photo shows. The distraction came from the fact that a group of kids had just went running down the beach and into the water. It wasn't long before a little boy said he was tired of fishing and wanted to do something else. That meant going swimming, something he was soon happily doing. We had to laugh because he said he wanted to go down the sliding board, which was actually quite close to the end of the dock. But rather than go to the end of the dock and jump in, he swam all the way out from the beach, a distance at lest five times as far as from the end of the dock. The enthusiasm of youth is sometimes amazing.
Once he reached the slide it was time for some fun. Up and down, up and down, up and down he went, a human version of a perpetual motion machine.
All good things must come to an end, but it was the impending darkness which sent Zachary scurrying back to the coach, instead it was the lure of dessert. Devious woman that she is, Linda had a plan to coax Zachary from the water which was the necessity of baking dessert, at least if he wanted any. He had been telling us in our phone calls that he helped his mom cook things, so Linda was going to put him to the test. We now know he certainly does help his mom, because not only did he read the recipe, he got out the ingredients and mixed them all together.
Once the brownies were baked, Zachary ate two of them while they were still warm, and at the same time we had some bittersweet chocolate. Then it was time for reading, Zachary having brought two chapter books along, and grandma and grandpa also reading. It had been a great day and we were looking forward for many more over the next week as we travel around the Idaho panhandle.
July 16 Monday
After the snap and zzzzzz of the bug zapper from the site behind us last night that "lulled" us to sleep last night, this morning's sounds of the birds singing away was a nice way to greet the day. In fact it was so nice that we had two people sleeping in this morning instead of the usual, one.
With Zachary on board, grandma was planning on going all out to make sure he got a good start to the day. One of his favorite breakfast foods is waffles, so she had bought some frozen whole wheat waffles at Winco. After they were both up, she asked him what he wanted for breakfast, adding, "We bought some waffles just for you". He was silent for a few moments, glancing back and forth at each of us, then in a low voice said, "Can I have pancakes?" Here he was, on vacation with the opportunity to have some of grandmas cooking and he wasn't going to pass it up. It turned out he didn't just want pancakes, he also wanted to to help fix them. It was obvious that he has done a good bit of cooking from the way he cracked the egg on the side of the mixing bowl and opened the shell. After you cook you get to eat and adding a glass of chocolate milk made for the perfect breakfast as the smile on Zachary's face shows.
One nice thing about those two sleeping a little later was that I was able to get some work done on the Daily Journal for a change; now if we can only find a spot where we can get the satellite. It didn't take Zachary long to notice the pictures that his cousins, Lindsey and Abby, had colored which were hanging on the wall next to where I sit. Standing in front of them he asked, "Why don't you have one of my pictures?", which was when grandma did her grandma thing. It wasn't long before paper and crayons were out and I was asked, "Grandpa, what is your favorite animal?" Now that was a hard question to answer, especially to a third grader, since there are so many animals I like. It turned out he wanted to know my favorite animal at the zoo, which is the Hippo, especially when they are going into the water. So in short order he was drawing a picture of a hippopotamus in a thunderstorm swimming to a cave. If that isn't using your imagination, I don't know what is.
Having completed his artistic endeavors, he joined me in reading , so while I read about the Revolutionary War, he read The Adventures of Robin Hood and Linda worked on strengthening a bead necklace she had gotten for him. The problem with staying at a Resort is the lure of the water is ever present and it wasn't long before a little boy had his swimming suit on and was anxious to go swimming. On the way over we talked about some of the neat things you can do on a water slide rather than just sit up and slide down. Those years of growing up at a lake were something I would never change, and having spent hours at a time going down the slide I planted a few seeds in his mind as to what he could do.
Showing just how brave he was, the first time down he did a belly slide and as luck was at it, though through no skill on my part, I managed to take the photo just as he was coming off the slide into the air.
His next time down, he did the back slide. Since I had aged at least a few minutes since the last photo (at this age every second counts) I was a little slower with the shutter but still managed to get a photo of the exact moment he hit the water. Of course the slower reflexes weren't the only thing affected by the aging process, the mind also goes and so while the first photo was taken by using the optical zoom, I forgot to use it on the second one, so the photo is somewhat blurry. Guess that just goes to prove that old adage, you can teach and old dog new tricks, but he'll only remember them sometimes, or at least it goes something like that, I think.
Even an eight year old energizer bunny boy runs out of energy at some point, but there was no way we could have counted just how many trips on the slide it took. Back at the coach, we had lunch, no, Zachary didn't want a rollup so he had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then it was time for some more reading.
Lakes are not only used for swimming, they are also good places to fish and soon Zachary had decided to try his luck. From where both Zachary and Linda's attention is focused in this photo, it looks like someone else was having all the luck.
Zachary is a very diligent fisherman, and while those denizens of the deep may not be as smart as Zachary, unfortunately they are a good deal faster. This meant there was a lot of pole yanking on Zachary's part and a lot of work on grandpa's part. Maybe one of the goals of this time with Zachary should be to teach him how to put PowerBait on his hook. While the fish were certainly getting their share of his bait, all the yanking was also causing it to come off the hook and slowly float to the surface. I finally decided there had to be a better way and baited his hook with a salmon egg. It eventually paid off with him hooking a fish and getting it out of the water before it wiggled off the hook and fell back into the water. Using only the logic of a child, he decided the salmon eggs were no good and wanted to go back to PowerBait, which allowed grandpa to get in additional practice at baiting his hook, but resulted in no more hooked fish.
Linda decided to fix bar-be-que pork for dinner, something which wasn't as hard as it sounds since she used some of the bar-be-que pork we had previously frozen. We had to chuckle because while Zachary liked the pork he wasn't sure about the Ak-Mak crackers we serve it on. He definitely didn't like the bean salad, nor the sauteéed zuccihini, and after trying the salad decided that he would just eat the cucumbers. Thinking about it we realized that whatever he helps cook he eats, but it's not always so with what Linda fixes without his help. I think Linda is going to encourage him to help her cook most of the meals rather than use the method she used on me, which was if she cooked it I ate it or I starved.
After dinner Zachary wanted to go for another swim, which was a very good thing as it wore him out. We found that out when we returned to the coach and he almost immediately asked for his brownie and chocolate milk, then got ready for bed and started reading. After a few minutes he turned out his reading light and soon was sound asleep. If the remainder of the time is like today, this is going to be a fun week.
July 17 Tuesday
Just as yesterday morning was different from the night before, so was this morning different from last night. No, it wasn't a repeat of the bug zapper, that family had left yesterday, it was the smells wafting on the night air. As I was laying in bed reading, I could occasionally smell something burning. Of course in these situations the mind can have a field day and was mine ever having one. Eventually I decided it wasn't something burning on the coach which allowed me to finally get back to reading, but Linda kept tossing and turning which made it hard to concentrate on the story. As I was to learn when she got up this morning, she was also smelling something and couldn't get to sleep. There was just the hint of something else with it at first, then it slowly became more noticeable, someone was cooking something, or more likely bar-be-queing something. (We learned later that it was the folks behind us smoking the fish they had caught.)
We were planning on moving today and staying for at least a couple of nights at Luby Bay Campground on Priest Lake, which was a hundred or so miles north of where we were and just across the state line into Idaho. To make sure we had a spot, Linda had made reservations, so we were in no hurry to leave. Linda had wanted to make sure we were staying in places where Zachary would have things to do, hence the reservation. We were wondering just exactly what there would be to do on Priest Lake, and since we understood it was a "vacation paradise", we also suspected the contrast between Priest Lake and Williams Lake might be significant. Here we had everything at our fingertips, a store, a restaurant, swimming, fishing and of course, neighbors.
Zachary wasn't ready to leave this early either as he had a goal in mind, which was to catch a fish. While I worked on the Daily Journal they headed down to the dock in search of the big one, though Zachary would have settled for a very small one if that was what he could catch. By the time I was finished writing and had walked down to the dock they had already had numerous bites but no fish. It turned out that the salmon eggs were just the ticket this morning, the only problem was those darn fish were stealing his bait on the way down and try as he might, he just couldn't catch them. Once again using the logic of a child, if they are biting on salmon eggs and you are having trouble catching them, switch bait and that was why he was using the worms grandma had bought when I arrived.
Unfortunately, try as we might, no fish were caught, even with grandpa helping hold the pole. What made it bad wasn't just the fact he wasn't catching anything, it was that just like last evening, there was a lady fishing nearby who was having no trouble reeling them in. It is in situations like this that trying to explain to an eight year old that it takes a lot of misses to learn how to catch them just doesn't seem to make any impression. He just wanted to catch something and unfortunately it wasn't going to happen.
Zachary fished for another hour with the same results and since it was getting close to noon, we headed back to the site to pack up and leave. We had a new couple on one side of us and I think they were very happy to see us preparing to leave which meant they wouldn't be sitting on their patio staring at the side of a skyscraper. The route Linda had mapped out to get us to Priest Lake meant we would be taking I-90 into Spokane then Rt-2 up and over into Idaho. Zachary was all exited about going to Idaho and wanted to know what the border was like and if everything was different there. This puzzled us for quite a while until it finally dawned on us what he was talking about. When he left California (at the airport) he had "crossed the border", i.e. gone through the security check and he thought you had to do the same thing when you crossed the border into Idaho. We tried to explain the difference, but first impressions are lasting impressions so we weren't sure just how successful we were. Once we crossed the state line he kept pointing out how different everything was and after repeatedly trying to show him otherwise, we realized that he was only seeing the few things which were odd or unusual along the road, so anything we said wouldn't make any difference.
Driving along we did notice that the further north we got, the fewer the number of vehicles on the road. For miles and miles we drove along with nothing but unbroken forest beside the road until we neared the Priest Lake area. Finally the signs started giving the miles to Luby Bay and we knew we were getting close. Leaving the State Highway we headed down a narrow twisting road that had to be the one the campground was on. Wrong, as it dead ended into a dirt road that had at least as many pieces of gravel in it as it had rough spots and bumps. It's one of those times that you just have to go and trust that everything works out, which it did. After driving for what seemed to be a far longer distance that we actually did, we came to the campground. The dirt road continued on, but the roads leading into the campground were paved.
It was at this point that we had our first problem of the trip (I wouldn't count the detour through Spokane as a problem,) which was that the campground had two loops, one on each side of the road with a sign showing which sites were in which loop. I don't know what Linda was looking at because when I asked her what our site number was she said she didn't know and added why did I need to know before we got into the campground. I patiently and calmly pointed out the two signs as the the reason. Once she calmed down and got out the reservation, mumbled several times about not being able to find the site number and wondered why I waited to the last minute to ask her this, she found what we needed and we turned into the right loop which was actually the left loop. The road was wide, the sites were spread out and well marked and other than the fact that ours was almost all the way around the loop, it wasn't long before were unhitched and backed into the site.
Well maybe it wasn't quite that easy. You see there was a post that had the number of the site across from us that was greatly concerning me. Now when ever we back into a site, Linda guides me using our two way radios and before we start backing she always radios me asked me to respond so she knows I can hear her. The only problem is that from that point on it is a one sided conversation as she never takes her thumb off the talk button. She was standing on the side away from the post and I was trying my best to get her to walk over to that side an make sure we were clearing it. I won't bore you with all the details but when she finally understood what I was asking about, the answer to the question was YES!. I also became acutely aware of just how stressful the job she had was, which was directing someone like me into spots like this. I don't know if the people in the four vehicles which were lined up waiting for us to get into the site heard the radio conversation or not, but if they did they certainly realized that the lady directing the coach into the site was not someone to trifle with, so they waited patiently until we were out of the way.
Once we were set up, Zachary wanted to go swimming, so we walked down to the beach, where he had a great time. It was hot and muggy, so Linda and I ended up standing in the water, something which really cooled us off.
Back at the campsite, and like Zachary said, "This is camping, that other place wasn't", we started a fire then began to play a game of find and seek. It wasn't the usual game by that name, this one was best described as the the rain starts falling and we go hide from it in the coach, the rain stops and we come out and seek some more wood, then the rain starts falling again and we hide once again in the coach. It really got to be funny when the rain would stop, we would come out and then whenever we decided to get the lawn chairs back out it would start raining again. We decided we weren't supposed to sit in the chairs, at least until Linda had the brilliant idea of putting the chairs under one of the many fir trees, so here she and Zachary are "enjoying" the campfire.
It should be called enjoying the fire in name only, as they were sitting so far back from it they could barely see it let alone feel any heat from it. Our dinner plans were to roast hot dogs over the coals, something which was done by sitting in the rain listening to the drops sizzle as they landed in the fire. I will say that this simple meal of hot dogs, homemade baked beans and cucumber salad was one of the best we have eaten for some time. Later we went back out when it had stopped raining and had Somemores, which made a great way to end another day in the adventure we call life.
July 18 Wednesday
One thing I had forgotten about an eight year old is the number of questions they can ask. They ask a question and you answer, then there is another question. It doesn't mater if your answer is a single monosyllable or a lengthy dissertation on the subject, there is always another question. Take the start to this morning for example, there I was typing away at the computer when a head popped up from the sofa and Zachary's big smile beamed out at me.
"Good morning Zachary, how are today?"
"Gooood", stretching and yawning, "your computer woke me up."
"I'm sorry Zachary, I didn't mean to wake you."
"That's okay grandpa", another big yawn, "what are we going to do today?"
"Take a drive and see some things", I half mumbled trying to get back to my writing.
"What kind of things, grandpa?"
In the middle of writing a sentence, my response was a less than illuminating, "Grandma has some things planned."
"What kind of things?", he asked, a little more emphatically this time. Deciding that any thoughts of writing were doomed until he had has question answered, I looked up into the very earnest appearing face of a little boy and said, "Grandma thought you would like to see a museum so we are going to go there first, then we are going to go for a drive and look for some more campgrounds."
"Because there are interesting things to see."
Rising up on his knees on the sofa and with hands firmly planted on his hips, "What kind of things?"
Hadn't we just been down this line of questions, I thought? Why wasn't Linda up instead of back in bed snoring away. How was I ever going to get the Daily Journal written at this rate. Why hadn't my answers answered his question? Why, why, why. I'll leave it there, but you get the idea, though eventually I was saved when Linda got up and started fixing breakfast which changed his line of questions from what we were going to do, to what is an omelet and how do you fix it? My only problem was that after all that I couldn't concentrate on my writing and so once again fell behind a day. So much for my recent resolution to stay caught up, though there was some extenuating circumstances..
The combination museum and visitor center turned out to be one of those hidden little gems that we occasionally stumble across in our travels. And not only was the museum filled with interesting things which pertained to the area, we even had a tour guide who pointed out many of the items in the rooms. Here's our guide talking about an old sewing machine.
Zachary wasn't the the only one who enjoyed this special little place, as both Linda and I more than once, found ourselves deeply engrossed in one exhibit or another. The museum had originally been a Forest Service Ranger cabin built by the CCC in the 1930's. What made it even more fascinating was the notebook with the CCC camp newsletters which you could read. Linda made the mistake of pointing it out to me, then had to wait around while I read every word in it. Leaving the museum we drove north stopping at an ancient cedar grove. As was the case at the museum, we once again had our own personal tour guide.
In 1926 this area had been devastated by an enormous forest fire, save for this one small cedar grove we were visiting. Later, loggers wanted to "harvest" the old growth cedars which had survived because of their lumber valve. Fortunately the Forest Service decided to not allowing the area to be logged , but instead to use it as a natural laboratory to study the forest. Because the forest surrounding this area is much newer, the trees being only 80 years old at the most, the high winds which sometimes blow through this area have toppled numerous of these old trees. We had seen a number of them as we walked along the trail, but one in particular caught Zachary's eye and it wasn't long before it was being used for the purpose that exists in the mind of an eight year old.
As you can see, Zachary was a little braver than grandpa, though eventually he did talk me into joining him, then lead me all the way to the end of the tree and back. Once again on terra firma, we engaged in somewhat safer pursuits such as showing just how big around the cedars were.
The neat thing about going up a gravel road in the middle of the forest is that you never know what is going to be around the next bend. Linda did have the pamphlet she had picked up which described some of the things we would be driving past, but as it was turning out, the descriptions didn't do justice to what was at those locations. Take Huff Lake for example. The booklets description: "Huff Lake - Enjoy from the road side, this ancient bog, wildlife viewing area & rare plants (very sensitive to trampling) such as: Northern Starflower, Bog Cranberry, Creeping Snowberry and more." It is one of those places that you are almost past before you realize you are there and so it was with us. We did get stopped and soon discovered this delightful oasis in the middle of the forest. There are numerous, well done, interpretive signs and a boardwalk out to the edge of the lake. It was the first time we had ever seen a spaghnum moss bog and the peace and quiet of the place made for a special time. The vegetation around the dge of the lake was covered with hundreds, if not thousands of blue dragonflies, or at least what to our untrained eyes looked like blue dragonflies.
The term, idyllic, might be the best description for the kind of day it was turning out to be, as one neat experience followed another. As we continued up the road, all three of us started feeling the first pangs of hunger, suggesting that a stop for lunch was in the offing. Turning off the main road, I use the term main road advisedly, since we had only seen one other vehicle in the time we had been on it (guess not everyone likes to drive on gravel roads), we spied a small pullout to the side and stopped. A brief walk brought us to a small creek, where we sat on the bank and ate lunch. All that sitting around proved too much for Zachary and he was soon happily engaged in trying to skip stones in the water. It was one of those times that you could have spent hours planning and never came up with anything even half as much fun as we were having.
Linda had one last place she wanted to find, which was the "shoe tree". We had looked for it on the drive up the road, but had somehow missed it and she was determined that we were not going to have a repeat performance on our return trip. It turned out that the confusion came from some out of order entries in the pamphlet, but with a bit of luck we found it, the key being the Tillicum Trail sign at the bridge across the stream.
To appreciate the wonders of the shoe tree, you have to get up close and personal.
As we walked around around the tree, looking, up, down and and everywhere else, it soon became a place where,"Look at this one", became the norm. Besides every kind of shoe, there were slippers, flip-flops and boots in profusion, but there was even more as we realized when we saw a swim fin. It it is worn on the foot, it is probably somewhere under, nailed on or hanging from the branches of the the shoe tree. Just another of the little things which not only make up Life, but help make the Life we live more interesting.
After returning to the coach, Zachary was displaying the urge to go swimming, or at least what we took to be the urge, since he changed into his swimming suit and stood there with his towel over his shoulder. It seemed like a good idea and soon all three of us were not only down at the beach, but were in the water enjoying ourselves. even though Linda strictly enforced the "no splashing" rule. Later, tired but happy we walked back up the hill to our campsite, then sat around reading, or at least I did, as the two kids worked at building the requisite campfire, remember I'm traveling with Pyro-Mom and and Pyro-Grandson. Zachary had picked tonight's meal and not only that, he was also planning on being the chef and was anxious to get started, so before long the fire was abandoned and we assembled around the stove. I'm not sure how many kids Zachary's age would say their favorite meal was a bowl of homemade chili, but that is Zachary's. Grandpa pitched in and chopped up the meat while the head chef worked on making sure the onions were perfectly cut.
Later we sat around the fire while Linda made up for her earlier culinary inactivity by roasting the marshmallows for our Somemores. Every day we have on earth is precious, and the worst day is still a good day, but every once in while a day comes along that is really special. That was what today was for us.
July 19 Thursday
We had only been able to reserve the site we were in for two days so we needed to move today. When we had arrived at this campground our site had been a bit of a surprise to Linda, not because it was so easy to get into, or so isolated, rather it was because of what it lacked, which was any sort of hookups
The way the system here worked was that about 2/3's of the sites were reservable, the rest being first come, first served. Our dilemma was did we want to move to another site here or did we want to move to a completely different campground. Two things aided in making the decision, the fact that most of the sites we could easily get into and that were level were the reservable sites, and so were already booked, and the fact that we had a bad storm during the night, where the thunder was loud enough that it kept all three of us awake, meaning everything that had been dirt was now mud. It also answered the question as to why the people across from us had packed up last evening and left a day early since their reservation showed them staying through today. Also added into the equation was the fact that while we had a great swimming beach close by, the prospects of fishing seemed just about non existent, and fishing was what Zachary really wanted to do.
Add into this mix the fact that we needed to be at the Spokane Airport about 11:00 am on Monday for Zachary's return flight and the best direction seemed to be south. Thinking about it, we realized that Benewah campground at Heyburn State Park, where had stayed over the Fourth of July, would be the perfect spot. It had fishing close at hand, swimming a short drive away and a number of sites that we could fit into, plus it was mid week and was a nonreservable campground so we were almost certain to be able to get in. And while it wasn't as close to the airport as the RV park at Williams Lake had been, it was reasonably close, so soon we were packing up and getting ready to leave.
When you're eight years old and have always lived in the city, one of the mysteries of life that you probably haven't contemplated is what happens when you flush the toilet, and Zachary, being eight years old and having lived all his life in the city was about to find out. I'll say this much for him. he was right there for all of the action and was only disappointed by one thing, he could not see what was coming out of the end of the hose. I tried to explain that was not something that we wanted to watch, which wasn't good enough for him. The final word from grandpa was a very firm and emphatic, NO! Which ended that line of questions, but not his curiosity about what was happening.
The drive down to Heyburn State Park was very easy, as we took Rt-41 south from Newport to Coeur d'Alene, then US-95 south to Plummer where we turned east on Rt-5. Zachary had problems with the town of Newport, which is just across the Idaho state line in Washington. He knew we had been in Idaho, but hadn't seen any signs saying welcome to Washington when we came into Newport, Neither had Linda nor I for that matter, though we knew we had entered into Washington. The problem occurred as we were leaving Newport and we came upon a sign saying "Welcome to Idaho" something which threw Zachary for a loop. "How can they have a sign saying 'Welcome to Idaho' when we are already in Idaho", he asked. Somehow the answer, "We were in Washington", wasn't something he could readily comprehend. "No we weren't" was his immediate response, followed by "We were in Idaho." It took a while but eventually we got it all straightened out, or at least he said he understood, though for some time we could hear him mumbling something about dumb signs.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful, but there is one left turn that we will have to remember. When you come into Coeur d'Alene from the north on Rt-41 and plan to take I-90 east make sure you are in the left lane as you pass under I-90 as the road splits and you can't get over into the left lane at this point. Fortunately we were in the right, that was the left lane, and had no trouble. We stopped at a pull off on Rt-5 just west of the turnoff to Benewah campground, deployed the MotoSat and uploaded the past few days Daily Journal updates. There was so much spam that we couldn't get some of the email accounts downloaded. the rvers at the because-can account being the worst one with almost 100 spam emails and this with a good filter running on the server. Most of them were a brand new form of spam saying something to the affect that someone has sent you an E-card, so the battle against spam rages on with the balance once again tipping towards the hand of the spammers.
While I was doing the Internet thing, Linda was driving over to the campground and securing a site. It was during this venture that we learned our little two way radios work at the distance between the campground and the pull off, or in over words, across the lake. Once we had everything done that we could easily do as far as the Internet was concerned, I drove the coach over to the campground. The site we had last time we were here was taken, then the next two we tried to get into we found that we couldn't, so we finally ended up in a site that we had planned to use as a backup if we couldn't get in our preferred site the first time we had stayed here. We pulled into it with literally inches to spare on each side, but it should just work fine, though we did have to do a little more leveling than we like, plus because of the slope next to the coach we decided not to put out the galley slide. We were also pleasantly surprised to find a good supply of wood at the site, something that will come in handy when the two family "Pyro's" get to going in the evenings.
Shortly after we were set up, Zachary let it be known that wanted to go fishing, so off we headed, Zachary with his pole and worms, while Linda and I carried chairs and books. As we passed the campground host's trailer we learned that there was a trail down to a dock at site 221, so with Zachary leading the way, we were soon settled in on the dock. No one else was there and we ended up having a great time. At first Zachary was having a major problem, losing his bait every time, whether salmon eggs or worms. Then at last he began to the hang of it soon had caught several small sunfish. He was excited when he caught the first one, wanting a picture taken, but soon it was just a routine thing to catch one of little creatures.
As you can see, Linda was also getting into the act. Then it happened. The bobber disappeared, he jerked the pole and the next thing you knew he was yelling, "Grandpa, help, help me grandpa." From the way the pole was bending this was not one of the little sunfish and Zachary was working hard to hang onto the pole and reel it in. It looked to me like he had his hands full, but it was something that he could catch on his own, so Linda and I both encouraged him and told him to hang onto the pole and keep winding in the reel. Several times he was somewhat close to the edge of the dock, the pole bent almost in a "U", but at last with a mighty heave he pulled the fish from the water and onto the dock. There was a little scrambling on his part, then it was time for photo's.
That pike was just a bit over 16 inches long and was just the right size for Zachary. Talk about excited, he was so proud he could hardly talk, The remainder of the afternoon was spent catching more little sunfish, which may have been what the pike was trying to catch when he found Zachary's hook in his jaw. It made for an exciting day and we are happy to say that all those fish are still swimming in the waters of Benewah lake.
Later, after a meal of roasted hot dogs and the left over chili, we introduced Zachary to the family card game, Pounce, which made for five generations of our family that I know to have played the game. My grandfather, my dad, me, my kids, and now my grandson. And hopefully he will someday be playing with a grandchild of his own, having the same fun that we were.
To experience the connection of being human.
The joy of life.
The spirit of individuality.
The love of family
The adventure goes on and on.
July 20 Friday
I found out this morning that I have a noisy computer, at least that is what Zachary told me, and in fact it makes so much noise that it woke him up. I typed away for a few moments after that and realized that there was a slight noise whenever my finger manages to find the right key and push it. Apparently this was enough to awaken Zachary which surprised me because he had always been such a sound sleeper in the past. The more I thought about it the more I realized that there are things that go on around us all the time that we never notice. That things change, sometimes so imperceptibly that they aren't even apparent.
I'd like to think that is one of the things which makes living the way we do so worthwhile. At first everything was new, different, exciting. The routine of daily living contained the same basics, but they were happening somewhat differently than they previously had. Different in a time sense, different in a place sense, different in an emotional sense, different in a physical sense, and though it doesn't seem to make sense, different in a different sense. It manifests itself in many ways, the fact Linda no longer has her constant heartburn or frequent headaches, that I am more accepting when things don't go as they should and have also slowed down the rate at which I live for example. Sometimes we get so caught up in the big picture that we miss out on the little things that make Life so satisfying and that's when seeing things through the eyes of a child can refresh and renew us.
For a while Zachary just lay there and watched me, then he got out one of his books and read for a time. I could tell he was restless and asked him if he wanted to get up, a suggestion he enthusiastically agreed with. Grandma had turned on the hot water heater last night, which meant he could wash, which he did, got dressed and soon the sounds of a child at play filled the coach.
It isn't like we have a toy chest like he used to have at our house, in fact none of the things he was playing with were purchased with the use he was putting them to in mind. Some of those "toys" weren't even purchased, they were things we had simply picked up in our travels. Oh, we had bought a couple of them, the rubber chicken came from one of those 99¢ type stores in Johnson City, Texas simpy because Linda wanted it. The rubber bugs had been around for years and brought back memories of when our son was in the Marines. How we would send him "care packages", always burying a rubber bug somewhere in the cookies Linda had baked. This was our way of saying we loved him so much, even if as a kid he used to put a rubber snake or plastic worms in our bed on occasion. The transformer type figure had been hanging inside the lamp in our motel room when we were having transmission problems last month and the foam RV's had been "freebies" from the Life on Wheels conference because Linda likes to have the doors that cover her computer monitor open "just so", and they worked perfectly for that task. The old saying that it isn't what you want that is important, it's what you do with what you've got, was never more true. I hope we can keep that thought in mind as we continue our journey through Life.
After a breakfast of waffles for Zachary and whole grain pancakes topped with yogurt and sugar free syrup for Linda and I, Zachary said he wanted to build a fort. I had been sitting by the picnic table reading, but you know, I have the rest of my life to sit and read, but only at intermittent moments can I be a grandpa and this was one of those moments. Soon we were off into the woods, maybe it was just the edge of the woods but to Zachary it was the woods, so the woods it shall be, gathering up sticks to make a fort. He first tried to make a tepee, but that wasn't going to work, so the fort became a lean-to against a tree. It was another lesson in what you want versus what you have and I think the the smile on Zachary's face tells a good deal about how a persons attitude influences how they feel about the things they do.
Life can't be all play and no work, so Linda soon had Zachary busy helping her, though as much as he likes to cook, it may have seemed like play to him. You might notice that Linda is doing her best imitation of a drill Sergeant, but it was to no avail. Zachary had his own technique for mixing in the eggs and that was how it was going to be done. My biggest mistake was not paying better attention to just how he actually mixed everything together because the result was the fluffiest, lightest chocolate zucchini cake ever to come out of the convection oven.
After all this we were wondering if Life could get any better when it did. It wasn't really much and to most people it wouldn't have the same meaning, but to Linda and I it was a really special time. One of the true joys of our volunteer time at Petrified Forest was when we would award the kids their Junior Rangers Badges. When we had left we had brought along a Junior Ranger book for each of the grand kids, then when we were here at Heyburn State Park over the Fourth we had picked up one of their Junior Ranger books. When he was done with the baking, Zachary asked in that sometimes very small voice of his if he could "get one of those badges." It took a few moments for us to realize what he was talking about, but soon he was studying about the animals found around here. When he was done I tested him on his knowledge and he passed with flying colors. Just like Rangers, Junior Rangers aren't just given their badge, they have to be sworn in, which was what I proceeded to do. Then Linda took over and did the same thing for the Petrified Forest. Little things which make for special moments in our lives.
One of the first things Linda had done when we arrived yesterday was to put out her Hummingbird feeder. We knew from past experience that it would take them a little while to find it, but once they do, there would be activity until we leave. Earlier in the day we had noticed an occasional visitor, and by this afternoon we had become a regular stop for not one, but two hummers. We suspected this is the the same two who were feeding the last time we were here and as the day progressed they became more accustomed to our movements and stopped flying away whenever we moved about. I had gotten out the camera to take a photo, when Zachary came up and sat in the front seat with one of the disposable camera's he had brought (his mom didn't trust him with her digital camera for some reason) and proceeded to prove that kids can have all the patience in the world when they are motivated. We won't see his pictures until they are developed, but something tells me his are just as good, if not better than the ones grandpa took.
Next it was reading time, grandma had found some chapter books that Zachary could read and he has been almost devouring them. He now knows about Robin Hood, Heidi, and the Last of the Mohican's, and hopefully he is acquiring a love of reading good books, a habit that we hope he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Every time I finish a really good piece of literature there lurks in a corner of my mind the image of Mrs. Helen Jones, my High School English teacher , the person who steered my reading habits in such a way that I finally understood that every genre of writing has practitioners who rise above all the others and those are the ones that make reading not only enjoyable at the moment you read the words on the page, but also challenges you and causes to thinking about it afterwords. Many people can put dull facts on paper, some people can make them come alive, but only a precious few can cause you to think about those words in terms of your own Life.
Dinner was grilled turkey burgers for Linda and I, and a hamburger for Zachary. Actually we were all supposed to have hamburgers according to Linda's plan when she opened the freezer to take them out to defrost, but due to a slight problem of disorganization in the freezer compartment, we had to settle for fowl food instead. It didn't seem to make any real difference since we loaded so much "guff" on those burgers you couldn't taste them anyway. Then came a real treat. The two "Pyro's" had built a fire, so Somemores were in order, then as the day faded into darkness we took a walk around the campground. It surprised us because there were actually more people here tonight than there had been over the weekend of the Fourth. Once our walk was finished and we were back at the coach it was time for our second dessert of the evening, Zachary's chocolate zucchini cake. As I sat there thoroughly enjoying the last morsel I discovered the neat lady that I have had the privilege of sharing my adult life with wasn't finished yet. It was time for for a cup of Espresso with a dash of Caramel Sugar Free Torani added to it. It was the perfect ending to another wonderful day. I think the words I used to end yesterday's Daily Journal are just as fitting today.
To experience the connection of being human.
The joy of life.
The spirit of individuality.
The love of family
The adventure goes on and on.