Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Oh Boy, A Surprise!

Guess what i got yesterday?

Go ahead, guess!

You'll never guess.

I got myself a flat tire!  Yep ANOTHER one!  I seem to be collecting them.  This one had a tiny screw in it.  I'm sure I got it the same place as the nail.  Of course I discovered the problem while camped a good 45+ miles from any sizable town & out of range for cell service. Between the can of Fix-a-Flat I had & the very wonderful camp host where I was camped who had a small air compressor, I managed to get to a tire store. They patched this one & I'm hoping it will hold until I get my first paycheck so I can get 2 more new tires.  In the meantime, I picked up a few more cans of Fix-a-Flat & a bike pump!!!  

I think Grania just wants new shoes all around!  Oh, life sure knows how to keep things exciting!

Got to my summer job site today.  I can't get into my campground campsite yet.  The Forest Service has to clear out some hazardous dead trees first, so I'm staying in another campground & will just go out daily to attend to things.  So nice to finally be here.  I'll tell you more about it after I get started  - today has been a long whirlwind of activities & I'm exhausted.   Plus I have a stack of paperwork to read through yet tonight before I go to bed.

I think it's gonna be a fun summer!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Travel Log Catch-Up: Finale

After being phone and internet deprived for almost 3 days, I decided against heading into even more remote areas of southeastern Oregon.  I headed back the way I came, and north towards Baker City, Oregon.  I was bouncing back and forth between Hell's Canyon area to the east or Phillips Lake to the west.  At almost the last minute, I decided on Phillips Lake, since that took me in the direction I was thinking of going for the rest of my travels.  There are 3 Forest Service campgrounds around Phillips Lake and I chose Miller Lane on the south side.  It was smaller and less expensive.  Boy, did I choose the right one!  The view is simply breathtaking here.  The quintessential alpine lake picture.

I found a site that had sun exposure through the tall pines so I could keep my solar panels happy and battery charged.  I walked down towards the lake, but the water level was low and the Canadian Geese and friends were none too happy about me invading their space, so I kept to higher ground and let them scold me from below.

The first night I had an owl serenade me along with the cacophony from the Canadian Honkers on the lake. I don't think those birds ever sleep!  They sure throw some wild parties - would put most frat parties to shame!

After going to bed having enjoyed the above views, I woke up to this view:

It was as flat as flat can be.  I was just so grateful it happened while here at this campground where I had cell service and a decent size town close by.  I jacked up the car and got the spare out (that was interesting!  It's stored under the car between the front seats and you have to lower it down and drag it out from under the car), but for the life of me, I couldn't get the darn lug nuts off!  Knowing how to change a tire is pretty useless if you can't get the tire off to change.  Unfortunately, my emergency roadside assistance company, Good Sam, totally let me down.  They said they couldn't find any services around to send out.  That was not true.  I called the Forest Service office figuring they might know who I could call, and they gave me the names and numbers of 2 tire shops in Baker City.  I called Les Schwab and they sent someone out to help me get the spare on, then took care of me when I drove down to have it fixed.  They were great.  Turned out I caught a nail.  I could have had the hole plugged, but I thought the tires were starting to look pretty worn and noticed some cracking along the side and I didn't want to take any chances having a blowout while driving, so I bought 2 new tires.  Not good on the quickly dwindling budget, but a necessity.  When I have some money coming in, I'll go ahead and get the other 2 tires replaced.

That pretty much consumed my day and it was too late to move, so I stayed another night.

Common Camas
I don't see anything common about it, I think it is quite beautiful.

Last night while walking up to the vault toilet by moonlight, I thought I saw a large pinecone in the road - then it moved!  So I surmised it was either a very rare, walking pinecone or something a bit more alive.  Good thing I had a flashlight with me and it revealed that it was unfortunately not a walking pinecone but rather a very large Western Toad!  Not at all what I expected the object to be, but a very pleasant surprise.  We had a nice little chat in the moonlight.

You have finally caught up with me!

Today, I had to decide where I was going to go next and when.  Hard decisions.  Watching the weather forecast, I knew the rain was moving in starting Friday night in parts of the state and sticking around the Pacific NW through at least middle of next week along with a drop in temperatures.  Originally I had planned to head further west into Oregon and spend several days checking out John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, but I go where I can find the best weather, so I decided to head north into SE Washington instead.  It looks like the rain will hold off there until Saturday and the temps will stay decent until I have to head to the mountains.  It's gonna be wet and COLD when I get up there, and stay that way for a while.  Bummer.  But for the next few days, I will be hanging out along the Snake River northeast of Kennewick trying to stay warm and as dry as possible.  It doesn't look good for cell service in that area, but I guess I'll find out when I get there.  So, I may not be posting again for several days.
Haven't been able to identify this flower yet.  Anyone know what it is?

Monday I will head to the eastern Cascades and my home for the summer.  I am looking forward to getting there and starting my new job, though I don't know my official start day yet.  I think I will have a few days to get acquainted with the area and learn my way around before I start work, which would be really nice.  

So, that has you not only caught up, but reading ahead into the next chapter.  Let me know what happens!  Well, whatever it is, it will be an adventure as always.

Have you noticed a theme to my campsites during this travel log?  I didn't plan it that way, it just happened.  I have always been drawn to water.  Maybe I was a Divining Rod in a previous life?

Travel Log Catch-Up: Part 2

We left off with me being weary from driving for 5 days straight and also trying to avoid the wintry weather predicted for the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho.  After freezing my butt off in Arizona this winter (which unfortunately reconnected with me in Ohio), I wasn’t too keen on experiencing any more winter.  I wanted a nice, quiet, warm spot to hang out for a couple of days and just relax.  I headed to Southeast Oregon, to what I considered the most obvious place for me to go.  

While on my way, I traveled through expanses of land that appeared untouched by humans.  Nothing man-made for as far as the eyes could see.  
It was so surprising to me.  Probably more so since I was returning from the east, where I felt claustrophobic with buildings and people everywhere and like a shark in a feeding frenzy with all the hustle and bustle.  Yes, there is an energy and excitement in all that, but I found it wearing after only a few days.  I am one of those people who need wilderness and nature around me.  Well, I found it just outside Jordan Valley at a free BLM campground at Antelope Reservoir.  It was a beautiful spot.  The reservoir was full and immense, and the view of the valley was endless and wild.  The sunlight played on the hills like a chameleon, creating a new view every time I turned around to look and the night sky was stunning.

I got to the campsite early evening and had time to set up and hard boil some eggs I purchased on my way.  I know, I know, after my last experience trying to make hard-boiled eggs resulting in my Mutant Eggs, I swore I wouldn’t do it again.  BUT, I had gotten some good advice from several friends and I was ready to give it one more try . . . and IT WORKED!!  I ended up with 12!  YES 12 PERFECTLY cooked and peeled eggs.  I was giddy with excitement at my success.  Turns out I was cooking them too long and not cooling them enough before peeling.  The new method is boil for 10 minutes then dump into an ice bath and peel from that.  I’ll have to test this method a couple more times to be sure it is truly Jordan-proof, but I’m off to a good start. 

After I got done with the eggs and everything was cleaned up and put away, I watched as dark clouds gathered in the eastern sky.  They got more and more intense and were headed my way.  I love watching storms roll in.  However, this storm had a very unusual surprise off in the distance, something I’d never seen before – a rainbow shooting out of a mountain.  

After the overnight showers, I was greeted the next morning to an explosion of tiny purple flowers covering the ground.  I’m not sure what they are, but they reminded me of tiny purple and white flowers that used to pop up in our yard in spring that we called Spring Beauties. 

It turned out to be a lovely day, sunny, warm with a westerly wind.  I had some neighbors in a larger Class C motorhome come in after dark the night before, and in the morning the lady came over and asked if I'd like some breakfast, her husband had cooked too much.  Wow!  What a treat that was, and delicious too.  I like camping by people in larger rigs, they cook!  Unfortunately, the couple had just received bad news from their vet about their dog, he was in kidney failure at only 5 years old and they were spending some quality time with him before his passing.  

Later that day I finally got to wash my hair and then did something I’ve never done before – I cut my hair!  Sure, I’ve cut bangs and some off the front, but never all of it.  It had been over 1 ½ years since I had it cut and boy did it need to be cut.  I had watched some DIY videos before I left Ohio and thought it would be a good thing to learn to do myself so figured I’d give it a go.  Was it successful?  Well, it looks fine from the front.  I can’t speak for the back since I can’t see it, but it “feels” O.K. and the ends certainly look better.  I guess I’ll find out if someone tells me I should get a refund.

My second full day at Antelope Reservoir was a little too déjà vu for me.  In the early morning hours I found myself being rocked in my tearbaby by the wind, which only got worse as the day went on.  It was like the horrible windstorms from this past winter in Lake Havasu City.  The gusts were ferocious.  I was stuck inside all day, so I just curled up and enjoyed reading a book.  Unfortunately, there was no cell service for miles.  It was freeing not being tethered to my phone 24/7 but it was also frustrating not having access to internet to post anything to this blog or check weather or call my family or friends.  I had to keep reminding myself that I lived without a “smart” cell phone for most of my life and did just fine.  I hate that I’ve become so dependent on it and internet access.  

By evening, the wind finally died down, until the next morning when it started to kick up again and the temperature had dropped some.  I had already decided to leave and look for a new place with less wind, but which direction should I go?

To be continued, again . . . (we're almost caught up!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Travel Log Catch-Up: Part 1

Westward HO!  I have been putting lots of miles behind me and seeing beautiful parts of the country.  Unfortunately, many of my campsites have been without internet access so I haven't been able to post along the way.  Once again, I have had to dodge nasty wintry weather, thus changing my plans of where to explore.  I had hoped to spend some time in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, but the forecast for that whole area of Wyoming (and a good part of the state) had snow and ice hitting for most of the time I would have been there.  NOT dealing with that.  I guess I'm still a bit early in the season for exploring the mountainous states.  I'll hit them another summer, when I have the time to really explore and enjoy their beauty.  

After a visit to my tearbaby's builder in eastern Nebraska, I continued my way west.  My goal was to drive shorter days (no more 8 - 10 hours), and get to campsites well before dark so I could relax and actually enjoy them.  Of course, the trick with that is to find free campsites within a 5 - 6 hour max drive that met my needs.  I use freecampsites.net as my main resource for finding free or very inexpensive campsites.  This is a user submission type resource that is wonderful and I highly recommend it.  It has been invaluable to me.  Thanks to it, I have only paid for 2 nights camping in 9 nights for a total of $15.  Not too bad. 

Here is a catch-up of where I've been.  

After a late start from Egon's Wednesday afternoon, I headed to North Platte, NE and stayed at Cody Municipal Park, a huge city park that has a small campground, playgrounds, zoo, kiddie rides, food stand, athletic fields and more.  At $5.00 a night camping, it was a good deal.  The weather was lovely and lots of people were enjoying the park on that spring evening.  

View from my campsite of the South Platte River.
                                                                 Some of my neighbors

As I drove through western Nebraska, the landscape looked the same as the buffalo hunt scene in "Dancing with Wolves".  I could just picture what it must have been like 150 years ago when the buffalo roamed in vast numbers across the plains.  It made me sad to think we will never see such a site again.  It must have been amazing.
Where the buffalo roamed

The weather was warm, in the upper 70's, which made me VERY  happy!  Though I hated being stuck in the car instead of outside enjoying it.  As I got a little further into Wyoming, I started to notice these strange white blobs on the hillsides.  At first I was confused because my car's thermometer said it was in the mid 70's, but as I started to climb in elevation, I noticed more and more of them and they were getting larger!  SNOW!!!  NO!!  Yep, they were great patches of snow left over from the recent snow storms, which must have been pretty good storms because these patches were very deep.  Eventually I came to a Rest Area just north of Medicine Bow National Forest and stopped.  Snow patches were everywhere, and the temp was still in the high 60's - low 70's.  I was in a short sleeved shirt and was pleasantly comfortable.  Now THAT is how I like snow! 
Warm snow! The Best kind!

From snowy mountains to dry desert in just a couple of hours, I found my way to my next campsite in Sinclair, WY.  You might recognize that name - Sinclair gas stations - the one with the dinosaur on their sign.  Never put it together before now - refinery in Wyoming, dinosaur country.  

Zelda and Grania back in the desert.
View from my campsite of the North Platte River

Before leaving Wyoming, I came to the town of Kemmerer.  Now, I'm not sure what kemmer is or why Kemmerer thought it needed to be more "kemmer" then Kemmer, but obviously they did.  That is one of my favorite things about traveling across the coutry, seeing the names given to places and things.  Keeps me very entertained.

Along the way somewhere around the Wyoming / Idaho border, I saw a sheep shearing "factory" on a ridge along the road.  It was just a couple of pick-up trucks and a small hut type thing.  Sheep were walking up to the hut in a line and then out the other side.  I didn't realize what it was at first until I saw the sheep coming out the other side all sheared.  It was like something out of a cartoon.  Hours later in Idaho, I saw a sign on the road saying "Sheep on roadway".  I of course slowed down, but no sheep.  Many miles later I finally came upon the sheep being driven along by cowboys (or would that be sheepboys?) on horseback and herding dogs.  Again, it was such a novel sight to me, and very "western".
Sheep Drive

So that brings me to Friday.  I camped along the Snake River that night in southern Idaho where a mini squadron of White Pelicans flew in for a swim.  That was a treat!

Snake River, southern Idaho
After 5 days of going from one place to the next, I was getting weary from all the driving and was ready to find a nice, quiet place to stop and stay for a couple of days.  I headed to Oregon.  

To be continued . . .   

Monday, May 2, 2016

On the Road Again

Well, these past 2 ½ months have been pretty crazy.  Multiple trips around OH, PA and KY to visit family and friends, taking care of some personal stuff, helping my dad and stepmom move, and trying to get my mobile home organized, condensed, and less stress-filled.  Oh, and of course my time spent anywhere wouldn’t be complete without cold, miserable weather and freak snowstorms in April.

So, a recap of the past couple of months:

I made a couple more trips to Pennsylvania to visit and help my sister get a little break from the chaos that is any new mom’s life.  Let’s just say the Laundry Fairy and Auntie LaLa were kept very busy.  I have bestowed the title “Chaostrophy Crew” upon my little nephew and niece.  Now, if I can just find a litter of Mastiff puppies for them the “Crew” will be complete!  (I know, I am so evil).

I also made a trip to Kentucky to see my “second family” – dear, dear friends from when I lived there.  Visiting with them always does my heart and soul good.  And I hung out with friends in Ohio – I even got to color Easter eggs with my friend Jacquie and her daughters – what a blast.  
That's my blue Herd of Sheep Egg
Jacquie made this orange and purple “Friendship Egg” for me.  We both are Star Wars fans, thus the stickers, and the orange and purple have a special significance to our friendship.  I wish I could have kept it.  

And it wouldn’t be a visit home without time at the lake – unfortunately the weather never cooperated for me and my dad to take our traditional walks on the beach, looking for lucky stones and other treasures.

Lake Erie
One project I did manage to complete during the few decent days we had was making drawer stops for the new drawer system in my van.  Up until then, I just used big pieces of cardboard held up against the drawers with a pile of stuff I had in the van.  Not a good system at all.  My criteria for the drawer stops were that they had to be simple, inexpensive, and not sully the beauty of the platform.  I had the idea a while ago to use rods to hold the drawers, but had to do some sleuthing at the hardware store to find what pieces might work.  I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, but found these D-ring picture hangers instead. 

I was going to use them on the top and bottom, but the lip we made on the bottom to hold the drawers in place was too tall, so I had to MacGyver a solution.  I had an old webbing strap with a broken buckle that I kept for years.  I cut that into pieces and screwed loops of it to the bottom piece of the platform so that they came out from under the drawers.  

I wanted to add D-rings to the webbing loops for the rods to go through, but couldn’t find any, and the O-rings were all too large.  So I took small zippy ties (cable ties) and made rings from them, and voilà, fairly inconspicuous drawer stops!  And all for about $7.00 – plus I got to finally use that broken webbing strap for something!
Drawer system with drawer stops in place.

My time back home wasn’t all fun and games.  One day I received this in the mail. 

Not my birthday, and definitely NOT appreciated!  Just two years ago I was being carded for buying windshield washer fluid and now THIS?  Actually, this was the second senior moment I had – some teenybopper gave me the senior discount at a restaurant, just assuming I was one.  Damn gray hairs springing up!  If not for those, I wouldn’t look a day over 29.  Yep, I’m sticking with that story. 
Now I’m on my way to Washington for my summer job.  I left this morning, and with a much lighter load than my last trip west.  It took a while to get my stuff condensed down, but I am very happy with how it turned out.  Sure, I could still cut back more, and will naturally as I use up some of the extra consumable items I have, but for now I am feeling very “Zen” with it.  It has been a very long time since I felt this way about my life.  Feels good to have the “Zen-ness” back.

And now a Public Service Announcement:  Beware milkshakes with chocolate chips and straws.  I think you probably can guess where this is leading to, but for those of you who haven’t had your caffeine yet, I’ll spell it out.  Chocolate chips and straws should NOT be used together.  Chips get stuck in the straws causing a blockage, which results in you inhaling harder, dislodging the chips which then become dangerous projectiles headed straight for your throat.  Consider yourself lucky if the chips only lodge in the back of your throat instead of down your throat.

One thing I had forgotten about during my hiatus . . . TIME ZONES!!  I think that is one of the many reasons I love heading west – you get FREE extra hours!  You don’t have to answer 20 questions correctly in 30 seconds or bounce ping pong balls into cups while doing cartwheels blindfolded.  You just cross these magical lines and you get free hours!  But the only thing is you have to GO WEST to get them. 

So, here I am tonight camping at a State Park west of Peoria, IL, relishing the existence of time zones, which allowed me to make it to the campground before dark for once!  How nice it was to actually back the tearbaby into a campsite during daylight – so much easier.  Since making camp, I’ve been trying to find my routine again.  While in Ohio, I didn’t stay in Zelda – the weather was just too nasty for it – so I spent the whole time as the Couch-surfing Bag Lady.  I am grateful to have such generous and loving friends to let me crash at their places, but that lifestyle gets old pretty fast.  It is good to finally be back in my own little house and bed . . . even without heat.  Oh well, can’t have everything.   

Yes, it’s good to be back.