Monday, December 29, 2014

Good Books and Great TV and A Little Bit Of Painting

I am generally a "home body" whether we are on the road or at our sticks and bricks home.  And if you have read many of my posts, you know that I am basically a couch potato.  I like the idea of hiking, and I like the idea of swimming, and I like the idea of walking hither and yon, but I rarely do it.  And yes, this makes me wonder if I will ever fit in with full time RVers, because from the blogs I read, you are a busy and physically active group.  Perhaps it is because those of you going and doing actually have something to blog about.  I, on the other hand, blog about couch potato activities, recipes and general musings, especially when we are not on the road.....which we are not now, not that I'm whining.  Okay, maybe I'm whining just a wee little bit.

When I find an author I enjoy, I tend to binge read all their books.  Then I get frustrated when I get caught up to the last (most recent) book.  I'm always on the look out for new authors and new series.  I prefer the mystery genre, and I love books that are set in cities with which I am familiar.  Books set in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, California, Alabama, Hawaii and Florida, top my list as those are the areas I have visited.  I can picture in my mind the settings and surroundings that are described.  I've been catching up on some J A Jance books I had missed over the years.  I love all of her series, including Detective Beaumont, Ali Reynolds and Joanna Brady.  I did a binge reading marathon of books by Chelsea Cain, which take place in the Portland, Oregon area.  I'm so glad I discovered her.  I've always enjoyed John Grisham, and it appears that I have missed quite a few of his newer books.  That is where I am finding myself now.

On to TV......Well, Sons of Anarchy has aired its last episode.  I loved those characters.  I know those characters.  I was not enamored of the last season.  However, because it was so wonderfully written by Kurt Sutter and his team, what happened was exactly what should have happened.  I just did not want to say good-bye.

I have to ask though, what the heck is up with the "winter season finale" - at least I think that was the term they were using.  Apparently it is now common to develop an arc, insert a cliffhanger, and make you wait through the month of December to see what happens.  It's not the end of the season, but instead a 4-5 week waiting period.  And some shows only introduced a few episodes before they inserted the winter season cliffhanger.  Can't wait for How To Get Away With Murder to return.  I'm also waiting for new episodes of Scorpion, Madam Secretary and Stalker.  This will be the last season for Parenthood.  I've enjoyed this show in the past, but so far, I'm bored.  I will watch until the last episode, but I have to wonder if the writers have changed or if they just ran out of story line and are trying to wrap things up.  The Mentalist is in its last season as well.  And it is the same thing with the few episodes I've watched this season.  I've got my fingers crossed for the return of Justified, also in its final season.  I love the characters and the way they have been written.

Two shows I have enjoyed in the past, The Bridge and The Divide, I hear have not been renewed.

I hope they don't mess with The Blacklist and The Following!

When I'm not reading or watching TV, or doing the mundane things such as housework, laundry, dishes or cooking, I have been painting.  Here are a few of my recent projects.








What is up this week?  Cleaning off my desk is on the list.  It is usually in a state of organized chaos. Recently it has crossed the line into just plain chaos.  I'm not sure what else, but I'm sure it will include reading, watching TV and painting.  I love retirement!

A Post Holiday Musing

First an RV update:  The infernal leak has been located and patched.  We've had 3 relatively heavy rainfalls (sometimes spanning more than a few days - go figure, we live in the Seattle area), and the patch has held.  No signs of any leaks.  Kim will now begin to put things back together, and he has assured me that if I start making reservations for March and April, I will not have to change them up yet again.  I'm holding him to it.

Now, on to the musings....

Re:  Holiday Traditions

When I was growing up, we had set holiday plans.  It rarely varied.  All holidays were celebrated at our house, with my paternal grandparents.  My mother claimed Christmas Eve to share her traditions.  This meant lutefisk, boiled white potatoes, rutabagas, peas and creamed onions.  This was followed by a drive around the area admiring Christmas lights.  It also meant opening presents Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning, my sister and I were allowed to get up on our own, open our stockings and see what gifts Santa brought.  We just had to be quiet about it.  Eventually the adults got up, and we had breakfast of Yulekaka (Norwegian Christmas bread), scrabbled eggs, sausage and grapefruit.  Then it was off to church.  The rest of the day was spent playing quietly (as it was in those days, children were to be seen but not heard).  Most all of the Christmas Day foods and traditions (roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, broccoli and pecan pie served on Christmas Tree Spode and using the good silver), was determined by my dad's side of the family.  Whether or not my grandfather gave dinner a two thumbs up was what decided if it was a good or a bad holiday.

Of course, in my mind, it was always a good Christmas.  There was no drama.  Everyone got along.  All was good.  In hind sight, I'm guessing my mom would have told a different story.

Once my sister and I grew up and got married and had kids, things changed a little.  My grandparents had passed away. My sister and I both married into large families that had their own established traditions.  My husband had a son from a previous marriage, who always celebrated Christmas at his mother's home.  We started celebrating Christmas with my family the day after Christmas.  It just worked out better for all.  I think my mother appreciated that she could have a relaxed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, go to church without having to rush home to cook, and make sure everyone was happy.

Once my mother was of an age that she could no longer host the holiday celebrations, it landed on my sister and me.  We tried to keep the traditions going but eventually our father had passed away, and our mother was nursing home bound.  We started celebrating just with our own immediate families.  By this time our kids were old enough that we were working to establish our own traditions.  My Christmas Eve tradition is that we will never, ever, have lutefisk in our house again.  Other than that, I have really established any tradition other than a Christmas Wreath jello mold that I serve every year.  We also use the Christmas Tree Spode, but not the good silver (I also don't want to polish silver if I don't have to).

Four paragraphs later, and I'm finally getting to the point of this musing.  How the heck can I have the Christmas of my childhood memories when I'm the one in charge?  I've tried.  It is darned near impossible, not with toddlers around.  And should I mention that it is totally unrealistic?  It is all about expectations, isn't it?

This was the insight I had at Thanksgiving this year.  My grandsons did not care about how I had imagined this perfect turkey dinner, where everyone sat down at the table, said grace, and then raved about my wonderful cooking.  Heavy emphasis on the word "imagined" here.  First of all, I'm not a great cook and if anyone raves about just one dish - I'm usually pretty pumped.  While grace was part of every meal I had growing up, it is not something I've carried through with my kids.  We do have the talk about all the things for which we are grateful, but formal grace has rarely been said.  And finally, I have yet to cook the perfect turkey.  Half of us like it moist and juicy, half of us like it definitely cooked through and through.  The potatoes are never warm, and the gravy turns out only about 50% of the time.  And like my mother, God bless her, I almost always forget to take the rolls out of the oven.  All this happens on its own.  Add 4 grandsons under the age of 5 to the mix, and the whole day is far from relaxed.  They are never all hungry at the same time, nor do they like the same foods, and they seem to find nothing more fun to do than run around the kitchen.  I love my grandsons, and I would never change anything...except maybe my own expectations.

Taking this all into consideration, I decided to try something new for Christmas.  My son and his wife and their two boys, would come to our house at noon on Christmas Day, to be joined by our oldest son, and our daughter with her two boys.  We would have a day of snacks and finger food.  The kids could open their gifts and play.  The adults could munch away and visit.  We used paper plates and paper napkins.  My grandparents would have been appalled.  My mother is undoubtedly applauding my decision to take away all the stress of fixing a meal, and just taking time to enjoy my family.  As the grandsons get older, there will be plenty of time for formal sit down dinners with the Spode and the good silver.  For the next couple of years, it will be munchies and paper plates and no expectations.  Life is good.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sigh......

The other day, while driving to down I-5 through Seattle, I saw a good number of rigs, presumably heading south for the winter. Was I jealous or was I envious?  Accordingly to Wikipedia, and I quote:

"Envy" and "jealousy" are often used interchangeably in common usage, but the words stand for two distinct emotions.[1] Jealousy is the result or fear of losing someone or something that one is attached to or possesses to another person (the transfer of a lover's affections in the typical form), while envy is the resentment caused by another person having something that one does not have, but desires for oneself.

It appears that I am envious....but not really.  I don't feel resentment towards those of you that are already headed out.  But dang, I wish I was one of you.

The repair work on the trailer continues.  I stay out of it, and I'm doing my best not to nag.  In fact, I have agreed not to nag/panic until January 31st.  God help me! As it is,  I am starting to get tired of whining about the situation anyway, and have been looking for other outlets to occupy my time.

First up, get the doctor appointments out of the way.  Whoopie!  I thought I may be looking at bunion surgery, and if so, we wouldn't be able to leave for 8 weeks anyway.  Might as well get that over with.  Then perhaps I can resume walking, and maybe even take up easy hikes.  I read so many blogs and see so many gorgeous photos that people take on hikes - I want to see those scenes too. A swollen, throbbing foot has kept me from doing things like this in the past (not to mention that I am totally out of shape), but if I take care of the bunion, maybe I will be able to do some of those things.  However, it turned out that it was going to end up being reconstructive surgery.  Apparently, my proximal phalanx has started to slide off the first metatarsal, which would require realignment of the big toe, complete with metal plate and screws.  That part I could handle.  Also, there was the 6-8 weeks in a cast, putting no pressure on the foot at, using crutches, a walker and/or a scooter.  Even that I could handle.  The part that made me say, "Maybe later," was no showering for 6-8 weeks.  Well, one could shower, if you had a hand held shower head and a shower stall big enough to hold a shower chair and a 5 gallon bucket on which to prop the casted foot.  The only shower in our house that could possibly accommodate that is downstairs, and I would not be able to go down the stairs (or rather I could go down, but I could not go back up).  I just could not do sponge baths and sink shampoos for 6 weeks and be a happy camper.  Plus, I would be looking at 4-6 weeks of physical therapy afterward.  Nope, it ain't gonna work.  Although I do have to say, I will now be more open to a full sized shower if and when we buy a new 5th wheel.  The salesmen always look at me funny when I'm not impressed with full sized showers in a rig.  I'm 5'3" and my husband is 5'6" - we aren't that big - and I'd rather have more cupboard space than a tub sized shower......At least that was what I thought until I heard about what is involved in the recovery process of this bunion surgery.  I guess Aleve and I will be good friends for the next few years.  The pain is really only higher than a 5 out of 10 when the barometer sudden drops or when I've been on my feet for a long time.

The eye doctor appointment revealed that I am still seeing 20/20 or better, two years post-cataract surgery.  I'm so glad I had it done.

In the meantime, I've wanted to take up painting.  I started with watercolors and wasn't happy, so I switched to acrylics.  I've made some progress.  I have never painted before.  And I doubt anyone would call me artistically inclined, but I'm watching You Tube videos and I've done a few pieces that make me smile.







Do you paint?  Do you have any You Tube videos or other sources you would recommend.  I'm obviously a beginner and would welcome any guidance.  Maybe I'll try painting some scenes reminiscent of Arizona, Nevada and Southern Utah.  I'd like to give up the envy and be happy right where I am.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

RV Repair Update Part 2 And What's To Eat

I read on another RV blog that no matter what, when it concerns RVs, Fact #1 is that it is going to take longer and cost more than you think.  I can attest to that. I had hoped things would be done by now.  In fact, in my initial plan, we were to be back on the road by October 6th.  Somewhere along the line, Kim told me that was unrealistic.  Okay, so we stay home for the holidays, and leave January 6th.  Now that schedule date is up for discussion.  Kim continues to work most days on the rig. I don't know what it is he is doing, but he is out there doing something.  (Correction - he tells me what he is doing, but I don't really comprehend.) There are continued phone calls to "RV" at the NuWa Factory for "how-to" information.

I just know it is taking much longer than I wanted it to (see Fact #1).  I guess I shouldn't be surprised. As far as costing more, God bless us, not so much quite yet.  In fact, we did get quite a good deal on the new carpet and pad that will eventually go in the rig, once all the leaks are found, and the areas of rot in the floors and walls are fixed.  We chose a patterned carpet, and I'm just hoping that it is not too much for a smaller space.  It does blend well with the interior, and there will be a break in it as the galley floor is hardwood (or whatever they call the stuff that looks like hardwood but really isn't).



As I am more of a hinderance than a help in the RV repair department, I have taken over doing most of the housework and getting the yard ready for winter.  I have found my mulch spreading limit is about 6 bags a day (which includes the weeding prep work).  What will be nice is coming home in the spring and hopefully not seeing how prolific the weeds could be.

I am also working through the gazillion recipes I've "pinned" on Pinterest.  Here is one I have filed under Family Favorites called Greek Marinated Chicken and it is courtesy of Budget Bytes

Ingredients
  • 1 cup plain yogurt $0.63
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced $0.32
  • ½ Tbsp dried oregano $0.08
  • 1 medium lemon $0.49
  • ½ tsp salt $0.02
  • freshly cracked pepper $0.05
  • ¼ bunch fresh parsley $0.20
  • 3½ to 4 lbs chicken pieces $6.86


Instructions
  1. To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper in a bowl. Use a fine holed cheese grater or a zester to scrape the thin layer of yellow zest from the lemon skin into the bowl. Also add the juice from half of the lemon (about 1-2 Tbsp). Stir until the ingredients are well combined. Roughly chop a big handful, or about ¼ bunch, of parsley and stir it into the marinade.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and marinade to a gallon sized zip top bag. Remove as much air as possible, close the bag tightly, and massage the bag to mix the contents and make sure the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate the bag for 30 minutes.
  3. After marinating for 30 minutes, either cook the chicken on a grill OR preheat the oven to 375 degrees in preparation to bake the chicken.
  4. To bake the chicken, place the chicken pieces in a large casserole dish (9x13). Bake the chicken in the preheated 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
I have made it a few times and everyone loves it.  Last night, I used 3 thighs and 2 breasts (bone in and skin on).  Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

RV Repair Update Or Hey, What's New On TV

Well, there is no RV repair update.  Kim is still working on it.   A tremendous amount of his "working" apparently involves thinking and research.  And honestly, I understand this and it is not a criticism on my part, but I have a serious case of itchy feet syndrome.  I'm ready to be back on the road, and sitting on my ass somewhere other than home.  I'm just frustrated.  I'm a full believer in measure twice, cut once, and I am very appreciative that Kim is researching and learning the best ways to make the repairs.  I know it is saving us a lot of money.  I'm just in a grumbling kind of mood, and I'm a tad bit jealous of the other RV bloggers who are writing about the places they are going and things they are seeing.  And to top things off, I had planned to spend the morning weeding and getting mulch on the flower beds, and I looked out the window to see rain, rain and more rain, even though the forecast was for sunny skies and 74.  Now, I'm just pouting.

The Fall TV schedule has begun - the highlight of my week so far.  I started to watch Debra Messing in The Mysteries Of Laura.  I may have made it to the second commercial.  I recorded it, so if there is nothing else on, I may give it another try, but I doubt it.  I'd rather watch a rerun of CSI or Law and Order: SVU or The Closer.

Madam Secretary with Tea Leoni was another story.  Great plot line, although I felt like I had seen most of the first episode in the trailers.  I like the character.  I love the writing.  And they left me with an intense scene that will insure that I tune in next week.

Tonight we will be enjoying the new seasons of Big Bang Theory, The Voice, and one of my very favorites - The Blacklist (James Spader is so deliciously evil).  I'm looking forward to The Scorpion.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Are You Reading?

Kim's work on the fifth wheel continues, which means we are "camped" at home, living in the house. My yard is under control.  The house is as clean as it is going to get. ( I refuse to go overboard when the temperatures are in the 80s. ) Yesterday, I washed windows and gave the kitchen floor a good scrubbing.  Today I may dust, but otherwise it will be a day of relaxation.

Which brings me to the subject at hand....what are you reading?  Here is what I am currently reading or re-reading.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield.  This is a re-read.  It is part of my morning spiritual//prayer routine, along with 365 Saints by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, and Around The Year With Emmet Fox by Emmet Fox.

As part of my "continuing education" I've been reading and enjoying How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson.  I have started writing a mystery, and I'm just having trouble finishing it.  I've got plenty of excuses on why I'm not working on it regularly, but primarily I am just not feeling motivated right now.  I'm looking for inspiration and a swift kick in the behind-er.

For fun, I am now reading Judgement Call by J. A. Jance.  Somehow I missed this book, which is the 15th in the Joanna Brady series.  It takes place is Bisbee, AZ and surrounding areas.  I have enjoyed the character over the years, and we hope to travel to that area next year.  (It was actually planned for this November/December, but the RV repairs took precedence)  If you haven't read any of J A Jance's books, I highly recommend them.  I love her Detective Beaumont series which takes place in Seattle. I love being able to picture in my head exactly where things are happening.  I also love her Ali Reynolds series which takes place in the Sedona, AZ - another place I have spent enough time that it is very easy to imagine.  Book 16, Remains Of Innocence, is on deck.

Also on my Kindle is A Shot In The Bark by C.A. Newsome,  Cloudbusting by Slade Roberson,  The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson, and The Racketer by John Grisham.

I recently finished Top Secret Twenty One by Janet Evanovich.  Not my favorite in the Stephanie Plum series, but the author continues to be a role model for me as far as my writing goes.

So, what are you reading?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mega RV Countdown

Last night, we watched Mega RV Countdown (Sturgis) on The Travel Channel.  Lots of cool rigs.  But who ARE these people?  Who gives their son a tricked out motor home for a high school graduation gift?  Such craziness.  And honestly, who wants their rig to look like a spoiled rich kid's bachelor pad from the 80's?  I guess I am just more simple folk.  To each his own.  And I suppose I will be watching more episodes just to see how the mega rich (or mega in debt) people spend their money.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Snowball in August (or How Trailer Repairs Can Get Out Of Hand)

I know this has nothing to do with snow, but this project has grown like a snowball rolling downhill.

It all started when I noticed one of the seams across the front of the 5th wheel trailer, under the overhang where it meets the vertical front panel, would gape open when resting on the front landing gear and close when hitched to the truck. You'd think it would be just the opposite, gape open when hitched, close when resting on the landing gear.

That started an internet search which led to Lippert Frame Flex problems. Apparently it is not all that uncommon. In Lippert's defense, they do supply 80% or more of the frames to the entire RV industry. On the other hand, if you look at some of the welds they are definitely questionable.

I looked on our trailer where others reported having issues and lo and behold, I found the frame was cracked at the welds for the pinbox. Not the welds failing, but the frame metal itself is cracking.

Now back to the snowball reference. While gutting the bedroom to give the welder access to the frame to repair the welds and beef up the frame I found wood rot in the walls and floor. The bedroom slide room front outer corner is rotted top to bottom as is the floor where it attaches to the wall. I had found that leak a couple years ago and fixed it with eternabond tape but it appears the damage was already done.

Now it appears I also have some water damage in the front right corner above the overhang. This is probably why the front seam was gaping. There are a number of lag screws, both vertically and horizontally securing the side wall to the frame, and between rotten wood and frame flexing, the lag screws are either sheared off or not holding.

So far, as mentioned, I have the bedroom and closet gutted and the floor and part of the wall in the slide removed. I just purchased some lumber today and will be starting to re-frame the walls. I found a source for the 1" OSB board for the slide room floor (Midway Plywood Co.) and found an RV dealer (Paulsbo RV in Everett, WA) who could order the black vapor barrier cloth that is on the bottom of the flooring. Not easy stuff to find. Mobile home suppliers have it but it is only about 2 mil thick as opposed to the stuff on the RV which is more like 12 to 14 mil thick. There is also a special tape called floor scrim repair tape. I saw one person's repair online and he used the tape to reinforce the vapor barrier cloth where it contacted the rollers when extending and retracting. I think I'll do that, too.

I also removed the under belly panels. The ones that look like corrugated plastic. It's called Coroflex. I wanted to see what was under the trailer and look for any signs of water incursion from below. I also have some water damage to the big slide and surrounding floor and don't know if it is related to the water damage I described above, but water leaks are hard to track and I need to be sure I fix the leak or I'll be doing this again. Actually, no, I won't. I'll trade it in on a new rig.

We've already cancelled leaving for warmer weather in October to make sure we have the frame flex problem fixed and all the rotten wood up front taken care of. On the plus side. I've justified buying a bunch of new tools with some of the money we've saved by my doing the work myself. It's a little scary because I'm learning as I go but I come from a long line of DIYers so I've had years of experience doing the odd job.

I've started a photo album on PhotoBucket to document the project as it progresses.

http://s1276.photobucket.com/user/torzach/library/

Kim

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I Am Reviewing The Situation......

and I think I better think it out again.

How many times do we spend hours planning a trip, investigating RV parks, estimating expenses, etc., only to change our minds.

I had planned our Fall Journey to include Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.  I was really pleased with the places I had chosen to stay and getting excited about what we were going to do and what we were going to see.  And then shit happened.

My recently gallbladder surgery (combined with our high deductibles from our new insurance plan - what a headache!), and some unexpected repairs needed on the 5th wheel, seriously tapped in to our travel money.  We could make the trip, but it would be on a tighter budget....a much tighter budget.  And we have some family stuff going on that I would like to be home for.  We might actually find time to make annual check ups, eye exams and dental appointments if we stayed home until after the first of the year.

We haven't made our final decision yet.  I am open and receptive to buying the winning Power Ball ticket or having some financial windfall bless our bank accounts.  I will wait to see how the medical claims pay out, how big the RV project becomes, or how itchy our feet get after being home for months at a time, before we start canceling reservations.  In the meantime, I guess we will just go with the flow.

Happy Trails!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

DIY Or Hire An Expert

Good Lord, what have we gotten ourselves into?

If you are a regular reader, you know from the other day's entry that I was balking about moving all of our stuff back into the house, so that a certified welder can get into the rig to re-enforce some of the frame work that is showing signs of wear and tear and cracks.

Kim and I have ongoing discussions about whether projects are DIY or require a professional.  On this particular project, we compromised.  Kim said he could do the prep work, and we could then hire a professional welder to come in and do, well, the welding.

I went out to check on his progress, and this is what I found.

Where are my stairs?


What happened to the bedroom?  Do you know how to put it back together?




He assures me he does know how to put it back together.  But where are my closet doors and the mattress?  And the drawers?


In the living room area.

I hope Kim will post his version of doing the prep work.  I think it is best that I just stay out of the rig until it is completed.  Oy vey.......

Preferences
§
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0
-
=
Backspace
Tab
q
w
e
r
t
y
u
i
o
p
[
]
Return
capslock
a
s
d
f
g
h
j
k
l
;
'
\
shift
`
z
x
c
v
b
n
m
,
.
/
shift
English
alt
alt
Preferences

Saturday, August 9, 2014

When People Respond To Your Posts....

or don't, do you take that personally?  One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  One of the "agreements" is to take nothing (anyone says or does) personally.  I do try to remember that when I write a blog post.  I try to remember that I don't always respond to someone else's blog, even though I enjoyed reading it.  I think if you feel compelled to write something that someone, somewhere, will get something out of it - a laugh, a memory, inspiration, information or something - otherwise, you wouldn't have been inspired to write.  What will you write today?

Having One Of "Those" Days

Yes, I'm one of "those" people who usually wakes up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to get on with the day, whatever that may entail.  This morning, I'm having a case of the blahs. Could it be that it is because I know I have to empty the rig because we are having some welding done to the fix some cracks in the frame around the pin box, and the "living room" floor also has some water damage, and needs to be replaced.  We have discovered that the drooping floor has been a major issue in keeping the one slide from working smoothly.

My daughter and her sons have been, and will continue to, house sit for us.  We are home for a few weeks here and there during the year, and usually it is most easy for us just to continue to sleep in the rig, even though we are sitting in our own driveway.  We will be "moving" into the basement for the duration of the repairs.  The good news is that the basement is the coolest part of the house, which is especially nice because we have been having relatively warm (for us) temperatures here in the PNW.  The square footage of the basement is greater than the square footage of the fiver, so really it is not a problem.  I'm just griping about carrying all the clothes down the stairs, re-arranging my office space, moving all the toiletries (and miscellaneous bathroom stuff) down to the bathroom in the basement.  Yes, I'm whining.  It's 9:30am - too early for wine-ing?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thousand Trails LaConner: Bad News, Good News, and Mediocre News

We've just returned from 6 days up at the Thousand Trails Preserve in LaConner, WA.

Bad News:  No cell service, no internet, no satellite reception.  Of course, this all came in the middle of a week of drama and urgent situations with family and friends.  To be totally out of communication was a big challenge for me.  Now it is not the park's fault that cell reception in the area sucks.  If we were lucky, we would get one bar of cell service, but the reception was horrible and calls were often dropped.  They do advertise wifi at the family clubhouse.  And we were easily able to connect to the wifi router, but the router rarely connected to the internet.  There was a sign in the clubhouse saying "The Internet Is Working" but it wasn't.  Only one morning was I able to get and stay connected.  The speed was equivalent to dial up.  To get a decent connection, we had the option of using free wifi at the LaConner Library, or driving to Starbucks in either Oak Harbor or Burlington.  It is about 5 miles into LaConner (and parking is not easy to find in my opinion) and 10 miles into Oak Harbor or Burlington.  You can pick up strong 3G or weak 4G once you hit Highway 20, and even better the closer you get to I-5.  We could not pick up any satellite signal from our site due to the trees.

Good News:  It is a beautiful park with lots of trees and shade.  Two playgrounds.  Mini Golf.  You will see squirrels, chipmunks, eagles, birds and bunny rabbits.  The grounds are well maintained.  There was a fair amount of privacy between the sites.  The sites were of varying size, but I think more than half of them would accommodate our 33' fiver.

Mediocre News:  There is no pool, but there is a hot tub/spa.  There is salt water beach access, but it is a rocky beach with many barnacle covered rocks.  One of our grandsons took a tumble and got cut. It is great for the kids who love to explore tide pools and look under rocks.  There is no place to really swim or play in the sand.

If you are familiar with Thousand Trails, you will know that although they advertise full hook ups, it really means that there are "some" full hook ups, but most of the sites are water and electric only.  In this park, I would say maybe one-third of the sites have full hook ups.  If you have FHU, you won't have a beach view or satellite reception.  If you want the beach view (they are limited as well) or satellite reception (also limited due to the trees), you will not have a FHU site.  If you know this ahead of time, you won't be disappointed.

I found the park staff to be limited, and not particularly friendly.  They were not rude by any means, but either they were just having a bad day when I asked questions, or they did not enjoy their jobs.

The bathrooms were clean, but could be updated.  Water pressure was low but that could have been due to the warmer than usual weather we are having in Western Washington, and water conservation in general.  I saw a notice about some septic back up issue they were having as well.

The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is nearby, so there is noise from fighter jets, during the day and sometimes at night.  The Blue Angels were in town for Seattle's Seafair Celebration, so we heard lots of jets flying overhead.  For me, this was cool (although we rarely could see them due to the trees), but I could see how this may bother some people.

There were a few annually leased spots in this park.  Most were poorly maintained, and did not compare at all to the annual lease holders we have seen at Thousand Trails in Mt Vernon and Leavenworth.

Bottom Line:  If we decide to try this park again, we will wait until after the high season and the park is not so full.  We will try for a water view site, and hope for better cell reception.  Being totally off the grid did not work for me.  I can go without Facebook, Words with Friends, Candy Crush, and TV for a week, but I prefer not to.  What was really an issue for me was the lack of phone reception.  I had a few instances that week, where I needed to speak to family and friends, and I could get no signal.  That was a deal breaker for me.  However, I am willing to give it another try, during a less busy time at the park.

Some park photos:

I couldn't get a decent picture of our campsite, but this what I looked at from my chair outside each morning.  Lots of green (something I miss when we are camping in Arizona), big trees, and shade.


These two beach pictures were taken from nearby the family clubhouse, I think.



From of the decently maintained annually leased sites - obviously a train buff.


There were quite a few tent sites with great beach views!  I was a little jealous but I don't do tent camping anymore.


One of the salmon spawning streams on the property.


Our son's family came to visit one day.  This was taken as we walked back to the campsite, after a rousing game of mini-golf (more of a cross between bowling and golf), time at the playground, and some beach exploration.

Camping and Pinterest

On our recent camping trip to Thousand Trails in LaConner, Washington, I tried out two things I had found on Pinterest.

1)  Roasted marshmallows dipped in Baileys.  This was a definite keeper, and something I will try again.  We roasted the marshmallows over the barbecue and it really is not the same as doing it over a campfire, but the Baileys was quite tasty!

2)  A DIY bug spray to discourage mosquitoes.  Fill a 4 oz spray bottle with original Listerine, and spray around the campsite, on the chairs, rugs, tents, etc.  We sprayed our hats and our shoes as well.  This worked fairly well, in combination with a citronella candle.  I'm guessing that Deep Woods Off works better, but if you do not like the idea of spraying these chemicals on your skin, give the Listerine a try.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Refrigerator fan upgrade

Well, the second unit, in as many years, has failed. The small 12V computer cooling fans start slowing down and making noise. The sleeve style bearing has given out. Now when this thing is working it is great. The refer stays colder, with little or no hot spots and the coils don't ice up. But having to replace them every year or so is not an option in my opinion. At first I thought I would just try to replace the fans with new ones, maybe even ones with ball bearings. Most of the replacements I found were anywhere from $3 to $7 each and no guarantee they would hold up any better. In my search for new fans I came across a new product that claimed to be the solution. It's pricey, but if I don't have to replace it every year maybe it will be worth it. It was easy to install. I opted for routing the +12V wire out the same access hole with the thermistor wire to the back of the unit and using the supplies wire splice to tap into the +12V at the circuit board. The -12V wire has a clip that pushes onto one of the cooling fins. The unit itself is held in place with two big square pieces of Velcro. Obviously, it's too soon to tell if it was worth the cost but I'm liking it so far. It looks as if it were designed from the factory as opposed to the clip-on ones I had before. I'll do an update at some future point on how it's holding up. If you're interested in reading more about it here is the link. http://shop.smartrvproducts.com I have no affiliation or interest in this. Just reporting my observations so far.

Kim

This is the new unit installed in my refer.
 


This is similar to the original eBay fan unit I had except mine was blue and had an alligator clip to hold it to the cooling fins and provide the -12V ground.
 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Staycations

I am being inspired regarding how much there is to do and see in Western Washington and the PNW in general by reading the blogs of other RVers who are currently in the area.  Why is it, when we have got all these cool places to see and things to do, that we stay just stay home?

Well, part of it is that we are home because it is summer time and there is so much to get done around the house and in the yard.  I am, however, one to dump the chores and go do something.  Husband, not so much.

I've been reading blogs where folks are visiting the Pike Place Market, Mt Rainier National Park, The Lavender Festival in Sequim, hiking on the Olympic Peninsula.  If I read one where someone has been to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, I may just need to kidnap husband and say we are going.  Sol Duc has been on my bucket list for years.  We just never quite get around to it.  Anyway, I am a tad jealous of all you who are visiting our beautiful state.  We've had quite the run on good (if not just plain hot - for us anyway) weather.  We are now having a few days of rain, but the warm weather is to return this weekend and beyond.

Yesterday, I did ditch my better other half (who spent the day vacuuming and mopping floors - for which I am very grateful) and drove out to West Seattle to meet up with long time girlfriends at Salty's On Alki to celebrate a 60th birthday.  Four of us have known each other for more than 40 years, and we adopted the fifth one about 20 years ago.  It is always a good time when we can get together.



Before lunch, I stopped at the Hamilton Viewpoint to see if I could get a good shot of the Seattle skyline.  It was overcast, and I only came away with a somewhere between a just okay and decent shot.  Oh well.




I had to duck out early from lunch to avoid the traffic that was sure to ensue with President Obama's arrival into Seattle about 3pm.  I live about 30 miles northeast of Seattle but it takes me about 60 minutes to make the drive.  I had just passed Northgate, when I caught a glimpse of Air Force One making its decent into Boeing Field.  Good driver that I am, I did not try to snap a picture.  So it goes.  At least I was well on my way home before the State Patrol started closing on and off ramps.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Somewhere Between FHUs and Boondocking

This last week, I had my first experience RVing without full hook ups for more than an overnight.  Our galley gray water tank has a capacity of 28 gallons; the bathroom has a 50 gallon tank.

I admit, I am not a good water conservationist.  I run a lot of water when I do dishes (and yes, I am one of "those" people that pretty much washes the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher at home).  Therefore, I had to really plan and think about what I was going to cook.  How much could I just do on the grill?  How much could be done in the microwave in disposable bowls or on a paper towel?  We elected to use mostly paper plates and bowls on this trip.  We did use regular silverware.  We used paper cups, except for alcohol, which IMHO requires regular glassware to be thoroughly enjoyed.

As far as showers, we had to limit them to every other day.  Yes, I could have used the showers in the restrooms at the park, but that is uncomfortable for me.  I'd rather just do a quick wipe down with a clean washcloth in the privacy of my own rig.  I did make use of a large plastic bowl.  I filled it with water I had heated in the tea kettle.  I used this to soak my washcloth.  When I was done, I dumped the water into the black tank.  I did a similar routine on my shower days.  I used the shower head to get myself wet all over.  Then I turned off the water and used the bowl method for wetting down the washcloth and lathering up the soap.  I turned the water back on, rinse off, and once again dumped any left over water in the bowl into the toilet.

I pleased to say that between the two of us, we managed to fill both tanks only two-thirds full over a 5 day/4 night stay.

I read blogs of people who boondock regularly, and I have to admit I am impressed.  We do have a blue buddy type set up we can use, so I know I could manage if I have to.  It just seems like such a large amount of work for Kim. The water conservation part would be very hard for me.  I am way on the low end of that learning curve.

If you had asked me earlier this year, I would have said there was no way I would go boondocking.  Then I read a blog that made me realize I really shouldn't say I don't like something until I try it.  I like the idea of being out away from things and people, to sit outside undisturbed, to see the night sky without interference from street lights.  I'm working my way up to giving it a try.  Now I know I can do 4 nights without dumping the gray water tanks.  Next step will be learning to minimalize the amount of electricity I use so that running a generator can take care of our "needs".  I will have to re-define what are actually "needs".  The electric tea kettle?  The computers?  The TV?  The DVR?  The satellite dish?

Right now, given the choice, I would choose full hook ups.  However, I am willing to give other options a try ..... from time to time anyway.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thousand Trails Mt Vernon, WA - Post Stay Review

We just finished a 4 night stay at the Thousand Trails preserve in Mt Vernon/Bow, Washington.  I do like this campground.  The vast majority of the sites are separated from other sites by a row of hedges, bushes and/or trees.  Each site is deep, wide and pretty darn private.  They are very well shaded.  The campground has similar facilities to those that I have observed in other TT Campground in Washington State.  There is a pool (large), a clubhouse, a playground, easy hiking trails, clean (not what I would call modern, but definitely kept up) restrooms, putt-putt golf, rental cabins and yurts.  Every staff member we spoke to was polite and helpful.  With Mt Vernon and Burlington 6 miles south, and Bellingham about 15 miles to the north, there are plenty of services nearby, including healthcare, RV repair, Walmart, restaurants, casinos, gas stations, etc. (Incidently, we paid $3.95 per gallon for diesel while we were there.)

Verizon cell service was fine; we had 4G with 3-5 bars most of the time.  The Wi-Fi at the clubhouse was decent - not slow but not fast.  We have suspended our Millenicom for the summer because we are going to be at home most of the time.  I suspect it would have been fine given that the cell service was good.

My only "complaints" and I use the term loosely because things are what they are:

For a few of the days, we had unseasonably warm weather for this area.  The voltage in the park dropped in late afternoon when people were returning to their rigs and starting up the AC.  Our EMS (electrical management system) shut off our power.  It was mildly annoying, but once the temperature cooled down, the voltage went back up.  We just made it a point not to run too many electrical things at the same time.

Also I think having to do with hot weather, there was an annoying batch of flies that had apparently just hatched.  It was really most bothersome the first night, and eventually they went elsewhere.  We had a citronella candle burning whenever we sat outside in the afternoon and evening.  The mornings were fine.

As I had said earlier, the park is heavily shaded, which of course means satellite reception is difficult. Had we brought more cable, Kim thinks we could have picked up a signal.  Those who were camped around us had their dishes out by the roads.  We just put ours away and started re-watching The West Wing (one of my favorite all time shows) on dvd.

The park sits not far off the I-5 freeway, and you do hear freeway noise.  It is mostly background drone, but if you are bothered by it, be aware.  We were in spot B-39 and it did not bother us.  We heard it, but could easily ignore it.  One night, we did hear train whistles.  It was also the warmest night of our stay, and I think we just weren't sleeping well because of the heat.  I understand there is a race track nearby as well.  I've heard complaints about the noise on the weekends, but we were only there during the weekdays, so I cannot comment on that.

Although, it seems I wrote more about the cons than I did the pros - I liked this campground and we will stay there again.  It is great for us for a quick getaway.

Two Casinos, Fish and Chips, and A Beautiful View

Thursday, we took a drive into the town of Anacortes, WA.  I'd only been there once before, and that was to catch a ferry to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.  I was a bit surprised about how "big" the town was. I lived in Seattle until I was in my early 20s.  However, since that time, I have lived in relatively small towns.  I spent 10 years in Westport, WA (population at that time about 2,000).  From there, we moved to Snohomish, WA.  We have been here for 25 years, with a few other small town moves in between.  The current population of Snohomish is 9,000.  Anacortes has a whopping 16,000 residents!  That's big in my eyes, and way too much traffic. Of course, the majority of the traffic is due to the ferry terminals which take travelers to the San Juan Islands, as well as to Sidney, BC, Canada.  So, the "big town" reference is relative.  If you are from a large city, Anacortes is a small town.

The names of many towns in Washington state are of Native American origin, however, Anacortes was named for Annie Curtis, wife of early settler Amos Bowman.  And that's my piece of trivia for this blog entry.

While just driving around the town, we spotted an RV park down on the water, so we went to check it out.



Here are a few pictures of the sites and one of the back deck of the social hall/lodge.  I'm pretty sure those sites that back up to the water are pretty near perfect in the summer.  I wanted to be those people sitting outside, enjoying the view!






We stopped at a lookout for the view and found this.






This is a Douglas Fir, from The Olympic National Forest, approximately 970 years old.  
It was 242' tall when cut.

Back in the truck, we were just driving around.  Kim is a retired commercial fisherman, and he had been to the shipyard in Anacortes many times, so we drove down to take a look.  We saw some signs pointing to the Cap Sante lookout.  It is a short, but narrow and winding road up to the top.  Not appropriate for anything other than passenger vehicles (cars, trucks - no RVs).  The views were gorgeous!





Next stop, lunch!  We were just tooling around side streets, and I saw a sign for the best fish and chips at the Island Cafe.  I have to say, I concur.  We were too hungry to think to take a picture before digging in, but here is what was left when we were through.



And our final stop in Anacortes was at the Northern Lights Swinomish Casino.  It's a small casino with a lovely RV Park out back.  




Both Kim and I left a small contribution to the Swinomish tribe before moving on to the Skagit Casino.  This casino is just down the road from Thousand Trails Mt Vernon where we are staying, so I suggested we stop and see if our luck had changed.  It hadn't.  At that point, it became obvious is was gin and tonic time back at the campsite.










Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Checking Out The Area Around Mt Vernon, WA

First off, let me say that we actually live about 50 miles from where this Thousand Trails park is.  I'm pretty familiar with the area.  When we are close to home, we try to visit a few places we haven't been before, and as well as a few that we know and like.

Monday after we arrived, it became apparent we were going to miss our screened cabana (there are a good number of flies here), so we took a quick trip to the new WalMart in Mt Vernon, and then over to Camping World in search of a reasonably priced alternative.  We were looking at $150 + at both places, and as we had a perfectly good one at home, we decided just to tough in out.  A friend told me a to fill a plastic bag with water and then hang it on a tree or off the awning, and it will discourage flies, so we are giving it a try.

After the shopping failed - not exactly failed as WalMart here did have the "baby" Coronas that I like - little 7 oz size - that I can actually drink before it gets warm.  A regular bottle is a bit of a waste for me.  Anyway, I had never been to Big Lake which is just east of Mt Vernon, so we took a drive around it.  There were homes and property there that are pretty darn close to my dream homestead.  Homes with decks offering a sunrise view, with rolling grass hills down to the floating docks, on a lake big enough to allow motor boats.  They are probably out of my price range, but now I have a dream.  We did find an RV park on the lake.  I'm not sure if they offer daily or weekly rentals, but they do rent by the month.  There was no where really to pull over and take a picture, but I did have this older real estate listing that at least shows a picture.  I don't recall seeing any For Sale Signs, and that is why I think this is an old listing - but the picture will give you an idea.  I don't believe they have a website, but you can google the phone number and address if you are interested.  It looked very clean and nice.

Big Lake Resort and RV Park

Tuesday's drive took us up WA 11/Chuckanut Drive.  Do not drive your RV or pull a trailer here.  There is a weight restriction, and the lanes are very, very narrow.  However, there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view.




We also stopped in to check out Larrabee State Park.  I think I am a shirt tail relative by marriage to the Larrabee the park is named for.  I believe he was the brother or cousin of my paternal great aunt's husband.  Charles Xavier Larrabe donated the 20 acres in 1923 and it became Washington State's first state park.  There were a few FHU sites that would accommodate our 33' fifth wheel.  According to the website there are 26 utility sites with maximum site length of 60'.  This is a reservation park.  I was surprised at the cost per night - around $35 for the FHUs.  Pretty much what you would pay for a "resort" park in Western Washington.  However, it was a nice park with beach access. Here are a few pictures.  As you can tell, I'm going through "tree" thing, picture-wise.





I would have taken a picture of the camp sites but they were full and it seemed a little intrusive.

Wednesday's outing, took us back up to Bellingham for lunch with Kim's oldest son, Tim.  We ate at Avenue Bread and Deli on Railroad Avenue.  It was a great place for lunch with lots of options for sandwiches, salads, soup, and drinks.


Next we set out to cross off two things from my local bucket list.  I have always wanted to go see the Sculpture Park at Western Washington University.  It wasn't quite "hot" yet, so Kim agreed.  Unfortunately, we found that the sculptures were spread out around the campus.  I had surgery a few weeks ago, and wasn't up to a long walk.  We will have to put this off until spring or fall, when the weather cools down.

We did, however, get to check one thing off the list;  making the drive around Lake Samish.  Lots of nice homes scattered among old summer cottages.  We did cruise by a mobile home park (I believe it was called Park Terrace) where we saw some spots with RVs.  From the look of things, they appeared to be long term renters (large propane tanks and decks with potted plants plus there was no signage welcoming over-nighters.  It was clean and kept up, and they did have a lake access private park with a floating dock.

I saw a sign for a Whatcom County Park that looked like it had a swimming beach.  We will have to check that the next time we are up here.  It looked nice. The info for this park is below.  I believe it is day use only.

Lake Samish Park

Tomorrow, I'm think a day trip to Anacortes and maybe Whidbey Island is in order.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thousand Trails Mount Vernon/Bow - At First Glance

We arrived at this TT preserve yesterday.  We had driven through the preserve a few weeks ago, and already had some camp sites picked out.  We found B39 open and found it to be a spacious site.


There are trees and shrubs between most all of the campsites here.


This is the amount of space be have behind our rig.


My only real complaint so far has been that there are an unduly number of horse flies.  We've talked with the management and it seems that they last for about 1-2 weeks and then disappear for the season.  Unfortunately, we picked "the" week to be here.  And also unfortunately, someone who will not be named (what the hell - KIM) forgot to pack the screened cabana.

There are a number of annual leased sites here.  Just as in Leavenworth, they are well maintained and people have done lots of upgrades in their sites - i.e. brought in gravel, potted plants, bird feeders, etc.  I think I would consider leasing a site as soon as I find "the" park that feels like home to me.  I'd have to love it to lease (with a slight nod to HGTV's show - Love It Or List It).

More of a review at the end of our stay.