Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Survived RV-ing. Got the T-Shirt.

Make 2000-mile round trip in an RV with family and giant dog.  Check that off my bucket list.

You guys.  We got home at 1:28 a.m last Thursday, after driving straight thru for about 9 hours one day and 14 hours the second day.  Shane drove the whole entire trip, both ways, because he is the actual model that they used for Superman, except that now I think he needs a vacation from our vacation.  His superpower is that he can drive for two days straight and still smile.

At my prior post, I was packing the RV with our wholeentirelife, plus possibly some stuff we never use because what if we have a medical emergency and someone needs a wound stitched ON THE ROAD; plus enough stuff to have a yard sale to raise gas money for the trip home because we always have some financial crisis whenever we leave town and find ourselves scrounging under the driver's seat for cash for that last tank of gas; plus EVERY CRUMB of food in the house; plus EVERY SINGLE PIECE of clothing in the house, because what if it gets too hot/cold/windy/wet/dry or we need to go swimming in a river suddenly; PLUS my husband, our teenager, my mom and all of her luggage, AND a 70-pound English mastiff puppy for good measure, because who wouldn't want to take a 70-pound dog in an RV with no tip-outs, with walkways the width of your kneecaps? Bindi has added "knows how to back up while standing in a moving RV" to her short but growing list of handy tricks, so we feel like she's definitely special.
Who could leave this face at HOME?

We crammed all of this into a new(to us) RV that we'd never test-driven further than the nearest gas station, made sure the basic things worked like lights, water, and the generator, slammed the door, and drove it ALL THE WAY TO ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA, because we keep pretty strictly to our code of living by the seat of our pants.  From our house, Alameda turned out to be exactly 1,006,000,000,000 miles away, but we thought we could take turns driving and it'd all be a hoot, right?  I pictured us playing Scrabble along the way and telling family stories as we cruised through Washington, Oregon, and California.
Image result for rv traveling

Oregon turned out to have A LOT more uphill climbs than I remembered.  After living there for 5 years and driving back and forth to Idaho a lot, I remembered, like, ONE.  There were actually about a thousand, give or take.  It turns out that I-5 through Oregon is JUST HILLS.  It's literally just...a freeway--straight through the middle of a mountain range.  I remember it being much more fun to drive when we were younger, in our (then) new BMW 328xi, but the whole experience in a 28' RV shaped like a giant SAIL was somewhat less exhilarating.

And we didn't play Scrabble OR take turns driving.

Because WIND.  Add to the nonstop hills, the fact that the wind blew, hard.  The. Whole. Way. Picture riding inside a breadbox inside a windtunnel inside a hurricane, pretty much all the way right up to my aunt's doorstep in Alameda.

I may or may not have seen this out the window at one point

Because of the WIND, we didn't switch drivers except that one time when Shane laid down in the back bed at a rest stop, in need of a nap, and I figured I could definitely drive this thing down a straight freeway in the Columbia River Gorge for awhile, because how hard can it be, right?  I think he lasted all of five minutes on the bed before he tiptoed up to the front, stepped over the dog, and said lovingly in my ear Pull over.  You're going to kill all of us.

In my defense, I was totally staying between the lines, even though I think I maxed out at a speed of like 47 mph.  No wonder the drivers of RVs always look like they're 100 years old, all hunched over and crabby.  The wind pushed us around so much that the only place that felt safe was the front seats.  The further back you got, the more it felt like you were in a shuttle launch, with all the crash-warning alarms blinking.  Every time any of us went in the back of the RV, we thought this is it.  This is how it ends.  We're just going to be blown out of control and roll over a hundred times and we'll all die.  I don't want to die in an RV bathroom in my pajamas.

We also ended up driving through northern California in the midst of a 3-year drought and a heat wave at about 5 p.m., so there were lots of OH MY GOSH HOT comments every time we stopped, which was about every hour, because the RV needed gas in every town to compensate for our 8 mpg fuel consumption, and the dog needed to get out at pretty much every single rest stop for the entire length of I-5.

Just kidding.  It was actually more like every *few* rest stops.

And as an aside, can I just say for the record that Oregon has some of the nicest rest stops I've ever seen in my life?  Like, you could live there.
Image result for plantation
OK, not THIS nice.  But still.

Then things started going awry.  About halfway down I-5, we realized the generator wasn't going to work for longer than a few minutes at a time before it died, even though on all our test runs at home, it had worked fine.  It was also so loud that we knew that if we started it up within an acre of any humans, we'd cause a evacuation, so we'd been hoping to run it while we were driving, to keep things charged and possibly use the air conditioner, because Sacramento.  Apparently there was an issue with the relay breaker flux capacitor fuel pump thingie.

So...no generator = no A/C + no charging of the things.

Having no way to charge our phones along the way, I realized that mine was at about 22% battery as we approached Sacramento, and we still needed it to navigate into San Francisco.  I can not even imagine how we all ever did this stuff with just...maps.  Oh. My. Gosh.  I turned my phone off and hoped that the battery wouldn't die in the dark, in the middle of San Francisco traffic.  Because the one thing I did NOT pack was a map.

Right about the same time, I realized that the wet spot on the carpet by the sink wasn't from the dog splashing her drinking water.  Our hot water tank was leaking under the cabinets, (yes, the same hot water tank we had spent an entire 98-degree evening struggling to fit back into a hole that was, I promise, not as big as the tank itself). The spot was spreading.  I looked under the sink cabinet area and assessed the situation.  All the cleaning supplies I brought...soaked.  All the dishtowels and washclothes we brought...soaked.  RV kitchen carpet...soaked.  Wait--Who puts carpet in a kitchen??  

stay focused

I stuffed a large towel under the sink to soak up the leaking, and we stopped at a rest stop north of Red Bluff and laid our motley batch of wet towels to dry out in the sun on a picnic table.  The staff at the rest stop gathered around to ask us, nicely, if we were doing our laundry?  Because if so, it's probably not really appropriate to lay out your laundry to dry on the picnic tables, ma'am.  We reassured them that they were just wet towels, and since the surface of the tables was 1,000 degrees, the towels dried in about 30 seconds, and we were on our way.

I also had an opportunity to actually YELL at my very first complete stranger, because Bindi is very shy around new people and dogs (as in: she panics if they approach too fast).  This woman pulled up in her Mercedes to a rest stop and let both her dogs out, unleashed, where they proceeded to pee everywhere except the area marked PET AREA.  She then watched unconcerned as one of her dogs ran straight for us, where we were sitting with Bindi at a picnic table, on a leash, like normal people do.  Bindi saw the strange dog and went into full panic-reverse mode, straight backwards up Shane's leg.  I completely forgot my diplomacy skills and shouted at this lady, "Leash.  Dog on leash please.  Leash your dog.  LEASH WOMAN!!!"

She huffed off to her Mercedes and drove away.  No apology.  Not even, "Oh, I'm sorry, but I'm just way too special to follow leash laws.  Those scratches look like they hurt."

I've never yelled at a stranger before, but it felt kind of freeing...

We continued on.  The wind never let up for the entire trip, but I speak for both of us when I say that the last 45 minutes into the Bay area at 9:30 p.m. that night ranked in our top 2 scariest road trips.  We paused about an hour outside the city to text my cousin and suggest that maybe we should spend the night at a campground and come into the city in the daylight the next morning. "Oh, no, you're so close! It's only another hour! Just come the rest of the way!" We were like, "Right.  Because, how hard can it be?"  So we headed back onto the freeway, checked my phone (19% battery), and hoped for the best.

Imagine trying to handle a giant box of an RV in strong gusting head-winds, driving 70 mph on a 19-lane 5-lane freeway full of crazy city traffic, while trying to navigate to an unknown destination in the dark.  Shane's a great driver and the calmest man I know, but I've literally never seen him so stressed.  It took all his concentration to keep us upright and also not run over the various insane drivers who kept cutting in front of the RV at 70 mph with like 3 feet of space to spare, without signaling.  

We were both getting tenser by the minute.  Our daughter gave up watching through the window and decided now would be a good time to face the back and PRAY.

Our conversation the last few miles consisted of fun stuff like this:

Him:  We're in the middle lane.  What lane do I need to be in?  What lane WHAT LANE WHAT LANE?!?  WHATLANE???

Me:  Hold on.  My phone's still powering on.

Him:  Hurry UP please.  The freeway forks in 1/4 mile.

Me:  Almost done...I can't make it start up any faster.



Google Navigation Voice:  In 1/4 mile keep left to take the exit towards I-580 south Alameda/San Francisco/Mexico/Brazil and I-880 south San Francisco Airport/I-80 west Fairfield/San Rafael/Napa/blahblah.

Him:  What?? I just need to know which exit.

Me:  I think we keep left.  Ok--Yes.  This is good.  So...Stay left.  LEFT.  Change lanes NOW.

We find ourselves off the freeway under a tangle of what seems like all the freeways and overpasses ever built, driving in the dark, in the industrial part of Oakland.

Google Navigation Voice:  Keep left at the fork.  Keep right at the fork.  Slight right onto Jackson. Use the left lanes to continue onto Central Ave.

Us:  ...did it just say keep left AND keep right? WHICH fork??   AH MIGASH.

Him:  We're going to die.  Can you see any street signs? Where are we?

Me:  No, it's too dark.  Wait.  It says Jackson on the sign there, behind that tree branch.  I think.  No, wait--that's Santa Clara.  Nevermind.

Him:  Just TELL ME WHERE TO TURN, because there are four lanes here, and I can't get across all of them in one block.  Why can't we see any SIGNS?

Me:  I've never been here, so I know as much as you do right now.  Yes, wait-- OK, we're on Central. OK, turn left up here.  You need to be in the left lane.  I think.  Yes.  Move over a lane now.  LEFT.  LEFT LANE RIGHT NOW TURN HERE.

Google Navigation Voice:  Your destination is on the right.

We made it.  Then we saw the alley my aunt was directing us to drive into with this 28-foot motorhome.  C'mon back!  You guys.  It was the smallest alley I have ever seen.  Like the kind of alley that was probably installed when the milk man delivered milk with a one-horse cart, and it is used by apartment dwellers who drive those little electric hybrid city cars, very slowly.  It was lined with brick apartment entries on one side and a solid wall of hedge on the other, and it was exactly 8 inches wider than the whole motorhome.

On our first try, we went in at the wrong angle, caught the trees with the RV stair that had somehow slid out, and bent it all to heck.  When I tried to open the door to check out how badly we'd mangled the step, I could open the door about an inch and a half before I hit the trees.  The step was ruined, so it couldn't be pushed in.  Start over.

He backed up, out into the 4-lane street full of Friday-night traffic, straightened the RV more, and tried again.  This time we were lined up right, but the alley was so narrow that he literally was pushing through all the bushes the whole way back for about 100' to where the parking area was. One really stubborn bush actually broke off our exterior running light and left a set of 4 scratches the whole length of the RV.  As Shane passed one brick apartment entryway, he reached out the driver's window and gently pushed their potted plants out of the way so he could inch past it.


The whole way down the alley, I was following him with a flashlight, wondering are we going to have to back out of this alley? Because if we are, we'll just have to sell the RV in pieces, right here in the alley and fly home.  I wonder if I can put Bindi on an airplane? We can NOT afford plane tickets.  It turned out to be a U-shaped drive-through, so we didn't have to sell the RV.

By the time he turned off the motor, I think my skin was the only thing actually holding me together.

Once parked, we knew we couldn't use the generator in the small space we were in without somehow building a new muffler for it, but we figured no problem, we'll just plug our 60' power cord into my aunt's storage unit outlet.   But no, because the outlet turned out to be 70' away.  Which didn't matter, because the outlet was the wrong amperage anyway.

Holding firm to our "wing-it" creed, we used the onboard batteries all week, got a jump-start when it was time to leave, drove out the other entrance to the apartments (which turned out to be much wider, thank goodness), and did the whole trip in reverse, in daylight.

About an hour outside of San Francisco, we realized we're out of water, so...no toilet, no shower, no washing dishes.  Also still no generator, so also still no A/C or charging of the things.  And why do I smell the septic tank??

Break time.

We found an overnight RV camp ground about half way home and were able to plug into actual electricity, refill our water, dump the septic, charge the things, and continued on home.  I won't even bother marveling at the small-ness of the camp spots at this lovely, shaded RV park by a river.  I stepped out of our door and nearly hit my face on the slide-out of the camper next to us.  Yes, they were that close.  On all sides.  Because:  Hey, suburban life is a drag.  I know! Let's go CAMPING, so we can live EVEN CLOSER to our neighbors. 

this is roomier, by comparison...not even kidding

Aside from the stressful trip getting there and back, it turned out to be a seriously awesome visit with a group of my family that have never before, and may never again, all be in the same city at the same time, so everything was worth it.

And we got to see some beautiful scenery.
Heading down the Gorge

Columbia River

Mt Shasta 

Cool hills outside Fairfield, CA

Unloading.  Because why not?

Shasta again on the way home

Mt Hood from Portland freeway, after going 21 miles in stop/start rush hour traffic. why

But hey--I had time to knit this sock...

If anyone's interested, we also have an RV for sale.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Things Are Looking Up, but Pink Hasn't Called Yet...

Today I found myself driving back and forth between our two local metro areas, looking for random parts for Shane.  Most of the things turned out to not be available, because yeah, we don't have that.  But thanks for driving an hour out of your way to show me this thing that we can't sell you.  Crazy traffic, huh?

I had to deal with slightly nightmare-ish traffic on the freeway, because for some reason BOTH cities have decided to simultaneously host major sporting events--ON THE SAME WEEKEND.  Which means there are 10 million  about 350,000 extra people in both towns, combined, this weekend.  Good luck getting a hotel anywhere within 50 miles of here right now.

But IN SPITE of the fact that all million of them appeared to be on the freeway with me at 4:04 p.m. today, I decided to try to enjoy the drive, live dangerously, and max out my car's stereo volume ("listening to music at the highest volume is not recommended") and rock out, to kill the time.  I may have even been singing.

What made me laugh, though, is that, the way things have been around here in our bank account (or lack of...), even buying small extras can often seem like a big deal.  Heck, some weeks buying freaking milk seems like a big deal.  "Are we out of it yet? Then we don't need it."  Yet, today I had a customer prepay for an order, so we had...ahem...some extra money in the bank to buy milk AND all the things I was in search of, even though they didn't have them in stock. (thanks a lot, people)

Because of this slight uptick in fortune, I found myself singing along with Pink (or however you spell her name) to the lyrics of I Got Money Now, at full volume.
You don't
Have to 
Like me
cause I've got money now
I don't care
What you say
About me
cause I've got money now

Ok.  So, it was like $600.00 extra dollars...  

I KNOW.  But today, it seemed pretty much like the same thing.  

So, that's how *my* day was.

How was yours?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ahmigash I Won an Award!

see? it's official-
So, before I went off in an RV to California last week, I had a lovely comment from Jennifer at Total Randomness, who very kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is a pay-it-forward kind of way for bloggers to appreciate other bloggers, and to remind us that, yes, other people read our writing.

I love her blog and her randomness and real-ness, and I am so flattered that she thought of me, because it usually feels like I'm writing basically for myself, so anyone else who appreciates my rambling is pretty much on my list of favorite people, forever and ever amen.  So, THANKS JEN!!  Also--to the blogging world at large--I'm sorry I'm bad at keeping up on my reading and commenting this year, but I'm hardly ever at my desk (to read) and can never think of anything fun (to write), so...yeah.

ANYhoo.  Here are the my answers to the award-related questions.

1.  Why did you start your blog?  To solve world hunger and focus on issues that help humanity.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Actually my daughter and I started a blog because one day we were driving and the phrase "running with cookies" came to mind because we don't like to run, but we do like cookies, so we thought if we could run with cookies...it might be worth it.  Then we were all, hey, that could be a band name, but neither of us has a band.  Then, she decided to create a blog that we could both post on, because her writing and artwork are hilarious and make me cry with laughter, and I thought I'd occasionally pop in and write long snarky ramblings.  THEN I decided that my writing is WAY TOO LONG AND AND SNARKY AND RAMBLY, (like my thought processes), so I branched off and went all rogue and started my own blog.  So...that's the "why" part.  I guess.

2.  What is your favorite movie?  So many choices...but my usual quick answer is The English Patient.  No idea why...because I hate that the whole thing is about an affair and then she dies and he gets burned and then dies, and that part where Willem DaFoe loses his thumbs, but I always cry at the part where he's staggering along carrying her and crying.  *sniff*    And Ben Hur.  Just, because.  Also, there is an old sort of sleeper movie with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas called Shining Through that I adore.

3.  Where was your last, best vacation?  You guys.  I JUST got back, night before last, from an RV trip/vacation to Alameda, in San Francisco, where we got to see a group of my family all in one place who have never been all together in our lives, and which may never happen again.  That was my last vacation AND my best vacation, but also like an adventure of mishaps and stress.  My next, best vacation will be to the Bahamas.  On a big boat with lots of room service.

4.  Who is your favorite author and why?  I love Phillippa Gregory's historical fiction, but anyone who writes about medieval English history is my favorite.  And Rosamunde Pilcher. Because at the end of her books, you just stare into space and aren't ready to say goodbye to the people and the world she creates.

5.  What is your most prized possession?  I sat here wondering, and I don't really have anything "prized".  Because my family had a house fire and lost everything when I was 16, I do have a very few things from my childhood or my grandparents, and those things are irreplaceable.  Probably because of that loss, I also highly value photos, because without those, the memories are kind of...lost.  If that makes sense.

6.  Cat, or dog?  Both.  Usually cat--we have THREE: Sam (on top), Jack (left) and Louis (right).

happy and dog-less
But then, something seemed to be missing, so we decided that we really needed an English Mastiff, so we got a 10-week-old puppy on March 2nd, and she is now an over 70-pound, 6-month old:

Bindi and Sam last month

7.  What is the most delicious food you have ever eaten?  A dish at a local mediterranean restaurant that is called "chicken ravioli" but is actually cheese raviolis covered in a to-die-for cream sauce that has large chunks of chicken and feta and onion in it, and it is the best thing in the history of food ever.  And some of my old cake flavor combinations, like pink champagne cake filled with huckleberries and whipped white chocolate ganache.  

8.  What is your favorite quote and by who?  Oh, wow.  I usually only quote movies, so I guess I'm pretty shallow.  Seriously, none come to mind, so I must not have a favorite.  I saw a great one the other day that said basically "Never use a lot of words to say too little, but use a few words to say a lot", but then I thought ok, that doesn't really apply, does it?  

9.  If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?  Short list? The Apostle Paul.  The Empress Josephine Boneparte.  Anne Boleyn.  Elizabeth Woodville.   Every medieval queen of England.  My ancestors from Poland.  I could go on and on.

10.  What is your favorite post you've written?  (please provide link)  *stares at ceiling*  Welllllll...I like most of them.  Some I cringe over and think about deleting.  Some are just "meh".  But I usually like this one, because I'm usually feeling annoyed about Facebook in general, and this post sums it up in a lot of wordy paragraphs.   --  Facebook Should Have A Punch Button 

That's my list, and thanks to anyone who reads this rambling.

And, to pass it on, I'm nominating my friend Michelle at Rubber Shoes In Hell, because she is funny and smart and snarky and irreverant and all my favorite things, and I want to hear her answers to these questions.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Is it me, or are we getting too old for this?" and other joys of camping

I know.  We make this look SO EASY

You guys.  It seems like just yesterday I was writing about packing for a trip and working on our irrigation system, and here I am again...packing for a trip and working on our irrigation system.  Because there's nothing as motivational as knowing your entire property could be a parched-to-death wasteland and/or flood-plain when you roll into the driveway after a week of living somewhere else in your very own traveling "home".  I use the term "home" loosely to mean the space where we (and when I say "we", I mean I) take pretty much everything we own, and possibly some stuff we don't, out of our large house and cram it all into various storage compartments in a microscopic traveling box camper and then drag our entire mini-life somewhere else for a few days to a week, then reverse the process when we get home.

Actually the camper's a pretty sweet set-up...I just get snarky when it's time to pack
"Live small" is our motto when we go camping.  Little tiny stovetop, tiny pans, tiny utensils, tiny bathroom, tiny counters, tiny floor space, tiny closets.  If you use a dish, WASH IT AND PUT IT AWAY because there's no other place to set it down.  If you are taller than 5'5", too bad--your feet are going to hang off the bed, no matter what.  Get over it.

To justify the prep-time involved in going camping or RV-ing, the goal should be to stay gone for more days than the packing/unpacking takes.  So, if it takes two days to pack and two days to unpack, plus the rest of the time it takes to sort everything out, get the followup laundry done, and put it all away, we should be gone for ...*stares at ceiling and counts on fingers*  one thousand days.


The older we get, the more Shane and I look at each other in the midst of Windex-ing surfaces, packing ball bearings, replacing RV hot-water heaters, and flipping random light switches and saying "Is anything on NOW?", the more we realize that the term "vacation" should really only apply to those times that involve AIRLINE TICKETS AND ROOM SERVICE.  You know, the kind where your biggest concern is that your sunscreen won't pop open in your suitcase, and when you get back to your room from dinner, the bed is made and there is possibly a towelgami thing sitting there.

Because, for the mom (and often for the dad), camping is never, ever truly a break.  You spend 3 days (or more) tearing apart your closets, kitchen, and bathrooms, and moving it all INTO the camper.  "Where's the first-aid kit/folding chairs/hot-dog prongs/bug spray?" THEN you spend the whole time away doing dishes, listening to random "there's nothing to eat" comments, and picking up shoes and socks from the floor.  Kind of like being at home.  THEN you actually come back home and reverse the procedure, unpack everything you own and drag it back into your actual house, dump most of it on the laundry room, and spend the following week washing all of it and putting it away again.

Yay, when can we do this again?

Add to the mix, the fact that we now travel with a fully operational English mastiff puppy who at 6 months old weighs about 75 pounds.  So...there's her bed, toys, slobber rags, food dishes, food, ramp (yes, ramp), and random other dog-related crap to deal with.  no pun intended.   Well, actually...  

Three weeks ago at 5 months/65 pounds

Last night Shane and I were out working on the motorhome that we are using for this next trip.  We aren't taking our usual camper, which is always packed for the summer with more or less everything we need and therefore only takes 2 days to get ready for take-off (so it's...fairly simple to leave to go camping in the summer--just put in food and our clothes and go)  (kind of).

I had already transferred all our nicely pre-packed stuff out of the camper and into the motorhome, and we were cleaning dead bugs and pine needles out of the ceiling vents, wiping sweat off our brows in the 98-degree heat, and wondering why the air-conditioner keeps blowing the breaker on the turbo twin-prop generator, when we realized that we could use a real vacation.

Haha ha    HA.

I'm no prophet, but I can definitely predict that our next vacation plans will include the words "cruise" and "Bahamas".  There will also be towelgami involved.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

More Stuff Our Kids Say

More fun from around the house lately, since nothing else is coming to mind...

Our youngest, after trying to eat an unsugared, raw grapefruit.   "Gah.  This tastes like being punched in the mouth by satan."

Same child, eating Top Ramen after coming home from school starving.  "I love Ramen so much that I could write a song about it."