Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The View from Home

Weary, sniffly, and a little sad, we're finally at home. The Turtle is sitting in the side yard, awaiting her next adventure -- but R and I are wondering whether it makes sense to travel by motor home now, what with gas prices (among other costs) skyrocketing. Our per diem expenses have doubled over the last couple of trips. We could probably save money if we traveled by car and stayed at hotels. Of course, that would mean sleeping in strange beds, eating restaurant food, living out of suitcases, limiting what we could carry along.

I don't think either of us is ready to make that decision just yet, but it's certainly something we'll be talking about over the next few months.

Meanwhile, we have precious memories of this trip -- memories of time spent with family, and of course memories of the places we visited (and revisited) along the way.

The photo on the left was taken when we paid a visit to a neighbourhood park with my beautiful great-grand-niece. (Boy, it makes me feel old to write that!)

The next photo shows the lovely frozen chocolate-strawberry vegan pie that her mother made for me. I ate the pie while I sat out on my sister's deck on a beautiful Texas evening, feeling very fortunate - very spoiled, in fact.
(By the way, it took a major effort of will not to steal the dessert plate. Isn't it gorgeous?)

I didn't get to do everything I wanted to do -- like finally meet John Hayes (Robert Frost's Banjo) in Portland -- but I did get to spend the day with Peggy Richardson (Wizard of eBooks) in Las Vegas, and that was a whole lot of fun. Of course, I've never been with Peggy and not had a whole lot of fun!

I got to spend two nights in Death Valley and take a walk at more than two hundred feet below sea level. That experience left me stunned. I wanted to move there -- permanently.

I spent days driving through several deserts -- and I do love deserts, especially the Sonoran.

I got to spend more time with my little sister than I have since we were both children, and that was very cool indeed. We talked and laughed and cried and sang and cooked and knitted. It was perfect.
Altogether, then, I feel good about this trip. Eventually, I'll finish moving our belongings from the Turtle into the house, and then I'll sit in the Turtle and write a post (The Bug suggested that, and I love the idea) about how much I love being there.

I can tell already that traveling by Turtle will be a hard habit to break.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Flying Saucers over Oregon (and other natural wonders)

And wonder of wonders, I'm posting twice in one day. That's because I'm just so chuffed to have wi-fi that works. This is how it happened:

We left Cottonwood, California at about 9:45 this morning, aiming for Portland, Oregon. I wasn't able to have coffee with John Hayes (of Robert Frost's Banjo) on our way to Texas, so I was determined that we would meet on this leg of the journey. Around noon, I called John to tell him that we would be arriving in Portland around 6:00 p.m. We agreed to have dinner together. 

We made good time, and we enjoyed the drive. Our eyes have grown accustomed to dry landscapes, both in Texas and in several days of desert travel, so the greenness of the Oregon countryside is wondrous (though, personally, I think it could do with some prickly pear).

We were on schedule until we hit a succession of rainstorms, and then there was an accident that slowed traffic down, and then there was a construction zone. By six o'clock, we were not in Portland. We were in Salem, and R was flagging noticeably. I don't drive at night, so he was taking the last shift, and he was tired. I had to call John and renege on my offer of dinner. There was no way we were going to brave Portland's rush hour.  John was gracious, as always.

We pulled off the highway at the first exit that advertised an RV park, and we followed the signs to what turned out to be a very shabby place indeed -- so shabby that we turned around and left, even though all we wanted to do was stop.  I told the proprietor that we really, really needed wi-fi, and they didn't have it, so they gave us directions to another park -- this one. It's called Hee Hee Illahee, and it's great. We plugged in, made and ate dinner, then headed to the jacuzzi for a relaxing dip before returning to the Turtle and falling into our respective computers.

R is convinced that we'll be home tomorrow. I have my doubts. I wish we had time to hang around in Portland for a day or so -- partly so that I could finally meet John, but also because I saw a bumper sticker tonight that read "Keep Portland Weird". It sounds like my kind of town.
 Can you hear me now?

So much for making an early start. It was nearly ten o'clock Friday morning when we finally left Deming, New Mexico. We drove to Tonopah, Arizona and pulled into Saddle Mountain RV Park, where we have stayed before. I remembered it as a pleasant, clean place with all the amenities. Well, it was still clean, as far as I could tell in the dark, but this time I think we caught them off guard.

The night before, we had paid $20 to stay at the Hitchin' Post, an unassuming little place in the middle of Deming, where we had electricity, cable tv, free wi-fi, and the best water I'd tasted in a long time. Now we paid $30 to stay at Saddle Mountain, where we did have electricity, but that was about it. The office was closed when we got there (I think it was about 7 p.m.) and I was just pulling an envelope out of the night check-in box when a man pulled up on an ATV and said he would guide us to our space. Okay. We followed him around in circles for a few minutes and pulled into the space he indicated. He took off to show someone else in, and I finished filling in the registration and putting $30 in the envelope, figuring our guide would come back to pick it up. Nope. And there was no way I was going to go wandering off into the night, looking for the office, so I just hung onto the envelope until morning. Meanwhile, R hooked up the electricity and water. He called me to come outside and help him locate the tv cable. I tried, but there was no cable. Our neighbour (who was from Vernon, B.C.) told us that you could pick up tv, but only by antenna. Fine. Our tv antenna blew off in a Texas windstorm, several years ago. I checked on the wi-fi situation -- it was pay-as-you-go, and I've decided not to do that anymore, since I'm getting really antsy about putting credit card information online.

Anyway...we decided to have dinner, play cards for a while and then go to sleep. I turned on the faucet, but no water came out. We went outside to make sure that we had turned on the tap out there, and we found our neighbour outside, also checking his water tap. The water had been shut off.  So we went back inside and turned on our pump, used our own water supply to do the dishes. The water did come back on, a while later, but we were already playing cards by then.

In the morning, we stopped by the (still closed) office and dropped our payment in the slot. Apart from our Canadian neighbour and the stranger on the ATV (Who was that masked man?) we hadn't spoken to a soul.

Never mind. We were on our way to Beatty and a hot mineral bath. I don't remember how long we drove on Saturday -- I do remember being delighted to arrive at Bailey's Mineral Hot Springs RV Park. We've stayed there often enough now, that we have the location saved in Maggie's memory. The owner (whose name I can never remember) told me that he's jumped on the modern technology bandwagon, and sure enough, I see that he now has a website -- but I still couldn't get the wi-fi to work. I turned on my computer and went online, then decided to go have a quick dip in the bath. When I got back, the wi-fi was gone, and I couldn't find it again. My computer said there were no wi-fi networks within range, and it just kept saying that. I hadn't moved. I don't think the office had moved. It's a mystery.

So we played cards again (R won) and we went to bed. I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and planned to have another dip in the hot spring before we left. But we both woke up at about 6:30, and by the time we were ready to leave, the padlocks were still on the springs, nobody else was up, and we decided to skip the bath and be on our way. It was just before 8 a.m.

We drove through some spectacular scenery, and I tried to get some pictures, but they really don't do the landscape justice. I was sad, because we were leaving the desert behind. (I did take a few photos, but the connection here is weak, and I can't get what photos I have to upload. Maybe when we get home I'll be able to post them.)

At 8 p.m., (YES, THAT'S TWELVE HOURS LATER!) we pulled into the Alamo RV Park in Cottonwood California, just south of Redding. We had spent the day just trying to get below 5,000 feet and stay there, but the Turtle seemed to have developed an affinity for heights. She kept climbing and climbing, sometimes over 6,000 feet, and wouldn't listen to our complaints until, finally, when we had driven through Lassen National park and darkness had overtaken us, she turned her nose downward and began a precipitous descent to about 200 feet at Red Bluff, CA. Unfortunately, we missed seeing the sign for the RV park that was just the other side of the I-5 entrance ramp, so we kept going to Cottonwood and passed out here at the Alamo.

 Now, says R, we have broken the back of the journey (Why do people say that?) and we can relax. We'll be leaving here in an hour or so, but there's no hurry. I am Turtle. See me smile.

Friday, March 02, 2012

 One Tired Turtle and The Ancient Practice of Bi-location

It's not quite 5:30 in the morning. We went to sleep early last night, both of us tired from a combination of altitude (We're up over 4,200 feet here) and wind and, of course, eight hours of driving. I woke up wondering what the day had in store, wondering what day it was and whether my sister had to go to work. I rehearsed the first few moves of the day -- walking to the kitchen, making coffee, looking out at the birds on the deck -- and then realized I was tucked up in my bunk over the Turtle's cab, rocking slightly in the wind. Don't get me wrong. I love being in the Turtle -- but at least part of my mind is still in Texas hill country, while my body is nearly seven hundred miles away, in Deming, New Mexico, at the Hitchin' Post RV Park.

We spent yesterday on the I-10. I saw a javelina (wild pig) rooting around near the side of the road. Apart from that, the only memorable moment was when I saw the first of several dust storms bearing down on us (or us on it). So I learned something yesterday. I don't like dust storms.

Our plan for today is to get an early start (not quite this early -- it's still dark. I'm up now only because my moment of disorientation brought me hurtling into wakefulness). We will head northwest, past Phoenix, to some unknown Arizona stopping point.

Perhaps my French press will reappear today. It went into hiding while the Turtle was in San Angelo, and so far it refuses to come out. I can manage with instant coffee, but I suspect that I need to get back into some Turtley habits -- like making coffee in my French press first thing in the morning, climbing up to get the coffee canister from over the dining table, getting the French press out, watching to see when the coffee is ready to be pressed -- to help me pull mind and body together.

Meanwhile, I think I'll make those Welsh cakes I meant to make last night. I was just too tired to manage it, but I feel much better now, and Welsh cakes would make a lovely (one day late) St. David's Day breakfast.