Friday, December 28, 2007
2 for 2
My dad has had two skin cancer surgeries in the surgeon's office in the past two weeks and will have a major one Jan. 11. I am flying out on the 10th to help nurse him. The next one will be on his chin and several other places. Daddy will probably not be able to eat solids for about a week afterward. Two new spots have become visible since last week. They seem to be popping up so frequently any more there's just no end to it. His PCP will determine if he has the next one under a local or general.
Richard has his final appointment for the disk study he is in on the 23rd. I fly back on the 22nd and we plan to leave for points west on the 24th.
He was denied health insurance due to his disk replacement so will begin the process to get in under VA. He talked with them and found because he is a Vietnam vet they consider them all to have been exposed to Agent Orange and will provide insurance for many of them. It's quite a process but he's hopeful he'll be accepted.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Two DVR Family
Dayna woke us at 8 am to tell us Chris had been in an accident in
Tuesday I ordered an upgrade to a high definition DVR from DirecTV. I managed to get it for $99 instead of the $299 regular price by talking to their customer retention department and threatening to change over to Dish. The installer was scheduled for today and I have spent the past two days getting ready. I decided to run all new cables since I need two inputs for the Hughes Tivo DVR which we will move to the bedroom and two cables for the new DirecTV high-def DVR. This will also make it much easier to use the rooftop antenna and cable TV in RV parks when we are only stopping overnight and do not want to set up the dish.
So, this morning I moved the Hughes Tivo from the living room to the bedroom. I was able to get rid of a lot of extra cables and it works fine. The Tivo has to sit on its side, but that should not be a problem since the only thing in it that moves is a disk drive which does not care which way is up.
The installer arrived about 10:30 and we set about installing the equipment. He had never done an RV before and basically did what I told him. He installed the dish on the mount I made and it worked great. In fact, I think I can reduce its size a little.
Then he made me a couple 50’ cables to do the hookups, and we hooked up the new DVR. It did not work. It did not even power up properly. So he brought out another unit and we set it up. It did not work on one line and after some investigating we discovered that one of the 10 foot cables I had purchased from WalMart was defective. I could see where it was shorted out because the end had not been put on properly. He replaced the end and everything worked.
I had to call DirecTV to get the network Distant Network Service hi-def channels (east and west coast network feeds) turned on, but otherwise it was all there. I do not think this DVR is as user friendly as the Tivo because it does not record things based on likes and dislikes. You have to set up searches with keywords or create season passes.
But, and it is a big but, the hi-def is incredible! I spent the rest of the day setting up my favorite channels, season passes and wish lists and trying to get familiar with it and the new remote. I think I have it all set, but only time will tell.
Dianna on the other hand is not real happy with having a DVR of her own. I thought she would be thrilled. She misses the fact that her old RCA receiver told her the original broadcast date of any rerun. The Tivo DVR only tells her the year it was first broadcast. That is her biggest complaint! I hope she gets used to it. She thinks she will continue to watch most TV live and only watch Tivo'ed stuff that was recorded when she was not home or when more than one thing was being broadcast that she wanted to watch. I bet she will soon discover the joy of not watching commercials. We’ll see.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I already posted about the new TV. The next thing we did was change the arrangement of much of our kitchen storage. First, I built a shelving unit to place in the huge area where the old TV was located. I included some vertical compartments to store cookie sheets, cooling racks and pizza pans. There are also two large, tall shelves that provide places for cereal boxes, crackers, cookies and bags of chips.
That shelving unit allowed us to move all the things on the top shelf of the island so we put dividers and a small cubby unit I built for foil and baggies there. We then moved all the pots and pans from the bottom shelf of the island unit to the bottom drawer below the stove top. That opened up enough space for all the stuff that was in the top two drawers under the stove top.
Our island came with two drawers that opened from opposite sides. We have always used the drawer facing the kitchen for silverware, but the drawer facing the dinning area has just had a few cookbooks and manuals. We never thought it was too convenient. I got to looking at it while I was working with the shelves in the island and realized I could change the direction by removing the false front and reversing the glides. Now we have both drawers facing the kitchen and all the big utensils, like spatulas and potato mashers, are now located there instead of the container on the kitchen counter. Big improvement! With all the moving we now have two drawers with almost nothing in them. How neat is that in an RV? And, in time, we will figure out where we put everything without having to try three places. :-)
We then purchased our new Amana gas range. It has the largest oven available for RV use and required some work to make it fit where the old cook top and top two drawers were. This was the first time I have ever worked with Corian. Although it looks very much like a solid material, it is actually a kind of plastic. Regular wood tools work fine on it and create actual shavings. It does not melt like normal plastic would when drilled and cut.
The first thing our new oven was used for was to reheat Pizza! It worked great. Dianna is very happy to finally have a regular oven. The convection oven works well for many things, but it was not large enough and required us to be plugged in or run the generator while using it. This is much better.
We have a few more minor projects to complete before we leave here in late January. It is nice being near Chris and Dayna's because Chris has lot's of woodworking tools. I could not do the things I have done with his table saw, router, chop saw, drill press and sanders. And, it is fun making your home exactly the way you want it.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Lots of Family Updates
My sister purchased her first home, a townhome, and moved in the end of September. It's very nice with a pond and ducks just outside her back door. She was only about 5 minutes from work at her apartment and is not enjoying the 30 - 45 min. commute she has now. She periodically calls Richard for advice on fixing things that didn't get done before she moved in so she's learning all about being a homeowner.
Our niece Marie has announced her engagement. She and Adam will be getting married Oct. 4, 2008 in Dana Point. Adam is a surfer so they wanted something near the beach. They've picked a beautiful site and I know it will be a gorgeous wedding. In order to serve food at weddings in southern California you have to purchase all kinds of permits making the cost so much greater than it needs to be. Leave it to So. Cal. to get so ridiculous about it. She will have her RN by the end of May and he will have his PT license. They love the area so will live in Orange County someplace.
Our granddaughter Christine has also announced her engagement. She and Nathan have been together for about five years and will be getting married Aug. 16, 2008. She has her CNA and after working for a year at a nursing home will further her education. She wants to be a surgical nurse. Nathan has been working with his dad in a family business but wants to continue his education as well. They are planning their wedding at a chapel in Pigeon Forge, TN. It's a beautiful tourist area in the Smoky Mountains. It's also home to Dollywood.
My dad needs further surgery for his skin cancers. He has three spots on his face, two of which have already had radiation so that is no longer an option. One spot is deeply embedded which makes it a difficult surgery. We're having a hard time getting him to see the right people due to his HMO. The radiology oncologist wanted him to go to UCLA but that request was just denied. We're still exploring alternatives so are not exactly sure what or when or where.
Mom has a cyst on her foot that will need to be removed. She missed her appt. so will have to wait about two months for a new one! Don't we just love HMOs?
Dayna received a small promotion at work. She had applied for three others but management decided to go outside the company for those. She was really disappointed but she likes her boss and is settling in to her new position.
Chris was hired as a permanent employee of Raytheon. He pretty much named his own terms as they found out he was looking elsewhere! It's not that he didn't want to stay but they took such a long time making him a permanent offer that he wasn't sure of his future with them.
Deidra is now a high schooler! Math is definitely not her strong suit so she started going to Sylvan for tutoring this week. She has both algebra and chemistry this semester so really needs the added help. After only her second visit she was so excited that she understood it! They also found out how they can help her at home and school with her study habits. She studies and learns in a way that requires her to be more active than just passively sitting and studying. So the evaluation helped in more ways than one.
The past three years my cholesterol numbers have been steadily climbing. They were so high this year I was told I needed to see my PCP for further treatment. Richard and I got to talking about it, trying to figure out why they should be so high. I eat low fat, walk for exercise and take Omega III. It just doesn't make sense.
We started evaluating the medications I take. Other than vitamins all I take is glucosamine chondroitin. I did some research on the internet and found many who have reported a rise of 50 - 100 pts. in their cholesterol as a result of taking the supplement. There are no studies in the US but doctors in Denmark and Sweden have just begun some as so many of their patients have complained about this phenomenon. Several here have contacted the FDA with their results asking them to take a proactive look into.
Bottom line, I immediately took myself off of it and will go back in about a month for another lipid test. I'm sincerely praying this is the answer so I don't have to take medication for it. I ache without the glucosamine but it will be a small price to pay for better health.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The first project was to buy and install a new TV. We purchased a 40 inch 1080p LCD Sony Bravia. The model number is KDL-40V2500. It has some very good reviews and we are pleased with it. We bought it online for the lowest advertised price which was from Abe's of Maine. It was delivered in less than a week by a delivery company that specializes in shipping electronic equipment.
Mounting it was a big job. I made a solid door to replace the two doors over the computer workstation, and then mounted the TV on it. The door is made from 3/4 inch oak plywood that I trimmed in solid oak and then stained to match the rest of the wood in our home. I used decorative fence gate hinges to hang it on the wall so we still have access to the cupboards behind it. It is very solidly mounted to insure that it stays put when we travel. Today I finished running all the cables so that job is officially finished.
HDTV sure is great. Unfortunately, my DirecTV receiver is only SD, but I am able to receive all the Dallas stations in digital HD. I have been watching a lot more broadcast stuff than I have in years. Fortunately one of the broadcast HD channels is PBS!
We removed the old 26 inch TV and plan to build storage shelves where it was. That will provide a place to store all the stuff we currently keep on the top shelf of the kitchen island and some of the things in the drawers below the stove. When complete we will then be able to build a drawer in place of top shelf in the island, and then remove two drawers under the stove top so we can install a new oven we plan to purchase this weekend. Plenty to keep me busy until Christmas or beyond!
Saturday evening we went to dinner with the Jennings. We went to a neat restaurant in Sanger called Babe's. You choose either fried chicken, smoked chicken, chicken fried steak, chicken tenders or catfish for your meat and they serve everything else family style. It was really good, and reasonably priced. The motif is eclectic western. The building is an old warehouse in a small town. No two tables match and the music was a variety of 50's, 60's, 70's and country. One of the country songs was going and I looked up to notice that it was not a record. One of the waitresses was singing all the country numbers! She sounded professional. By the end of the evening she had done three numbers. We found out she has tried out for American Idol but not been selected. Another waitress from the same place was selected a couple years ago. She was fantastic and we expect to see her make it big if she stays with it. She was that good.
We will be spending Thanksgiving with Jennings, and probably Christmas too. At this point we are planning to make a trip to Chattanooga over New Years so we can see Darin and his family.
There. Now everyone knows what we have been doing and what our tentative plans for the next couple months are.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The last 1,000 miles
Rather than take interstates we took a more direct route with less traffic. We drove to Clines Corners, then down to Roswell (no, there are no aliens there) and then we followed US 380 all the way to Denton. Saturday night we stayed at a rest area near Caprock, NM that is designed for overnight stays. It was peaceful and free.
Sunday we continued on US 380 to Haskell, TX where they have a city owned and operated RV park with full hookups. It is free for the first night. Several of the small west Texas towns have such a set up. They hope that visitors will spend a little money in their town.
First thing Monday morning we called
Sanger is north of Chris and Dayna about 25 miles, but there are rural roads we can take on the scooter to get to their house. Texas Sundown RV Resort is a very large place that is less than ¼ full. The spaces are huge, there is a pool and hot tub, a conference center and even a small golf course here. It is located about ¼ mile off I-35 so there is some highway noise and we can hear a train that runs about ½ mile away, but the noise is certainly less than many places we have been. All in all it is quite peaceful here. Probably the biggest drawback is the lack of any shopping nearby. We will have to go into
We arrived here Monday afternoon about 3 and set up our rig for a long stay. We will probably be here for about 3 months.
This is our first day at our new home for the next 3 months. Both of us are really looking forward to a rest. Since June 1 when we left for
Traveling so far and for so long takes a toll on both people and rigs. We definitely need to rest up, and we have many projects to do on the truck and trailer. Some of them fall in the maintenance category and some are improvements we want to make.
Posting on the blog will probably become much more sporadic. We will update our readers with anything we think you might be interested in, but it surely will not be nearly as exciting or interesting at the past 5 months. We have enjoyed sharing our trip with all of you.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
There are two trails available to hike. The first just loops around the area below the cliffs for some close up views of the hoodoos. The second trail is the one that makes the whole place so interesting and fun. It enters a very narrow canyon and winds for about a mile through some beautifully sculpted rock. At the end of the canyon the trail continues for about another half mile up a steep incline to the top of the mesa where there are great views of the Sandias, the Sangre de Cristos and the Jemez Mountains as well as the Rio Grande Valley down toward Albuquerque.
After our hike we stopped at one of our favorite New Mexican restaurants, El Pinto, for dinner. Of course we both had green chile enchiladas to satisfy our cravings for that special New Mexican flavor. We probably miss the food here more than anything else about the state.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
We packed up and pulled out around 11 on Tuesday. We took
The evidence of the fire of a couple years ago was still very evident, especially between Heber and Show Low. We saw several other fires burning along the way, including one very near Show Low.
We continued on east through Springerville, into
The BLM campground is only $5 a night and has only one spot that is big enough for us. We stayed here a in June of last year when we had Deidra and Dom with us. It is a nice rustic campground where I would not mind spending the 7 days limit.
I’m not sure if it froze overnight or not, but it was cold. We got on the road at a little after 11 again, but since we lost an hour by crossing into
This evening we went into town to WalMart for groceries and prescriptions, then home for TV and surfing. Tomorrow we will explore our old stomping grounds.
Monday, October 22, 2007
We returned the next day to Algodones to get Dianna’s crown put in. The following morning we left for Mesa.
The drive to
The next day we rode the scooter down to see Mom today and spent most of the afternoon with her. She seems to be doing very well.
Saturday morning we took a hike up to
Looks like we will be heading east in the morning.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Richard went in for his cleaning and to get his filling replaced. Total time: 1 hr. Total cost: $65.
She was very good and we'd recommend her in a heartbeat. The cost was about 1/10 the cost of a crown in the States and about 1/4th that of a root canal here. Unbelievably great experience.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
We got on the road yesterday a little after 11 and drove behind the mountains to Victorville, and then down to Yucca Valley. The road was two lane most of the way and not very smooth. After Yucca Valley we descended into Palm Springs where there are now a gazillion windmill generators. We stayed on I10 until Indio where we took Highway 111 down the eastern side of the Salton Sea.
We stopped first at a state recreation area but they wanted $17 for no hookups. Then we tried a couple RV resorts north of Niland but they both wanted over $30 a night. So, we drove into Niland and out to Slab City. On the edge of town we waited at least 15 minutes for the slowest, longest freight train I have ever seen.
Slab City is about three miles east of Niland. It is an abandoned military base that now only has some concrete slabs. RV boondockers have taken the place over. We have heard conflicting reports about the place and our opinion is that it is mostly populated by people who are down on their luck, living free. It has a sense of permanence about it since most of the people there are permanent residents in their older RV’s. I don’t think it is a dangerous place, but there are certainly some characters there. I am betting some of them did/do a lot of drugs at some time in their life.
It was fine for one night, but it is not a place I would spend any time. Unlike Quartzsite this place has junk everywhere. Obviously a different class of people from Quartzsite or Imperial Dam.
Today we drove down to Yuma. As we passed through some of the towns in the Imperial Valley we noticed that many of them have really gone downhill since we used to come this way many years ago. I have no idea why that has happened since there is still a great deal of agriculture in the area. Maybe all the people with any money have moved to the larger towns like El Centro.
We are staying in an RV park located right on the Colorado River. It is an older place, but OK. The winter visitor surge is just starting, but most people do not arrive until January. This park is more than half empty.
We will be here for a few days. We plan to check out the Mexican dentistry in Algadones. Many people think it is every bit as good as what we get in the states, but about 1/3 the cost. Since we no longer have dental insurance it should save us some money.
Monday, October 8, 2007
New Laptop Computer
Fry's had a Compaq on sale for $499 and it seemed to have everything we needed. The only bad thing about it is Windows Vista. What a mess! Why does Microsoft have to keep making our lives more difficult? I know the answer is so they can continue to make Bill Gates richer. My backup software will not work with it and they have removed support for an older style of help files. I found a fix for that on Microsoft's support site, but of course the fix does not fix it. Who knows what else we will find.
It has a large screen (15 1/2 inches) and a larger disk than in my laptop. It is nothing fancy, but every year you get more hardware for less money.
We also purchased a wireless mouse for her, and we bought a new router. The one we have been using is only a B so we now have a G. It will allow my backups to run across the network faster, but I'm not sure what I am going back up the new laptop since my backup software does not work. I may have to plug it directly into the external hard drive and use Vista's built in backup feature.
Donna and Daryl can quit reading here. The rest of the world can hear the reason it was only $499. It has an AMD processor.
Friday, October 5, 2007
We are staying at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds RV park. It is only $25 a night instead of the $55 per night at the park we used to stay at in Valencia. We plan to be here for a little over a week so the savings is significant. It is farther away from her parents but it only takes an hour to get there.
We went down yesterday and Dianna is going again today. We did some yard work for them and had dinner with them as well. The ride down on the scooter was not fun due to the horrible winds here right now. Dianna drove their car back but I rode the scooter. It was dark by then and I had forgotten to take a warm jacket so the ride back was even less fun than the trip down. I forgot the Boy Scout motto!
Today and tomorrow the winds are forecast to be nasty as a front passes through. I even had to tie a rope from the end of my satellite arm to the truck to keep the wind from twisting it. Lovely place.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
We stayed in Susanville until the 23rd since the weather turned on us. A very unusual Pacific storm blew through and we got wind and rain. It rained again most of the night but it stopped by 7 am and was predicted to clear off so we got ready to leave. Just as we got in the truck to pull out of the park it started raining again and continued as we drove south into Reno and up I-80 over Donner Pass. It got down to about 43 degrees at the summit but there was no snow. Traffic was extremely heavy, including a gazillion motorcycles that had been at a rally in Reno for the weekend. They were not having any fun in the cold and rain.
Once again we enjoyed the power of our truck as we drove at the speed limit (which is 55 when towing in California) whenever the traffic would allow, and using the jake brake coming down the other side of the mountain kept the speed in check without touching the service brakes. It finally stopped raining as we neared Auburn in the western Sierra foothills.
We called Dianna’s cousin Carrie and made arrangements to park in her yard for a few days. She was thrilled but soon called back to tell us her idiot landlord would not allow us to do that because he was afraid we would sue him if our RV was broken into. That has to be the dumbest excuse I have ever heard! Carrie called another friend who was willing to let us park at their place, but when we arrived she was finally able to contact her brother Mike who said he had plenty of space for us to park at his new place so we went there instead.
Mike and Randi live a mile or so from Carrie so it is convenient and feels much better camping in a relatives front yard than in the front yard of people we had never met. Mike now has his own business fabricating and repairing harvesting equipment which he runs from a shop he has built next to his house. This means he is home most of the time.
We set up in their front yard, visited with Carrie who stayed for dinner, watched TV and went to bed.
We are using just our solar panels for power and it has been very sunny so we were able to recharge by about noon the first night but since then we have been using much more. It is still keeping up with our use just fine. Solar charging is really amazing.
Tuesday morning Mike finished work on the shuttle truck he had been fabricating for several months and its owner picked it up and took it directly to the field. We drove over in the afternoon to see it in action. Mike did quite a job fabricating this machine using a rebuilt diesel engine driving several hydraulic pumps and motors. It is really impressive. Its purpose is to shuttle nuts from the pickup machine to the transport trucks without requiring the pickup machine to stop. It pulls up behind the trailer being pulled by the pickup machine and bumps into it causing a probe to start the conveyor belt to unload the nuts into the shuttle truck. When full it backs off and then takes the nuts to the truck loading elevator. Fun to watch.
Dianna went over to Carrie’s again for several hours, and when she got home we had to run the A/C for an hour or so. It was about 85 yesterday.
We took a nice scooter ride today. Mike mapped out a trip for us that took us to two covered bridges. The first is in Roberts Ferry and is still in use. Actually it is a new bridge that was built less than 10 years ago to replace one that used to stand there. They had some interesting placards around the bridge that gave us a good history lesson about this area of the San Joaquin Valley.
Our next stop was at Don Pedro Dam visitor center. It was a good place for a stop and a good view of the lake.
Then we rode down to Knights Ferry where the BLM has campgrounds and an interesting collection of historic buildings and a covered bridge that was actually built in 1864. We were able to walk across it and they have kept it in very good repair. The buildings there were once a flour mill and later became a power plant. While we were in the visitor center talking to the ranger we mentioned that we were camp hosts for the State Parks. She was excited when she heard that and told us they needed some camp hosts and would love to have us anytime we could give them three months or so.
We stopped for a late lunch and then rode back home. The trip was about 85 miles and very scenic in the foothills of the Sierras. It was quite warm today, but moving along on the scooter made it bearable. When we got home we had to run the A/C an hour or so until the sun went down and it began to cool off. It was a fun day.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
It was a cold night but not as bad as we feared. The front must have passed through and we awoke to clear skies and lots of deer in the campground.
The trip south on 395 was uneventful. We passed large shallow lakes and a lot of farming that is supported by irrigation. For the most part the mountains were left behind and we followed wide valleys toward Susanville. We found a very nice RV park in Standish, a little town about 13 miles from Susanville. Since we needed to do laundry and some shopping we decided to spend at least a couple nights here.
This afternoon we drove into town to get Dianna’s prescription filled and do a little shopping. Then it was home to watch some TV and catch up on internet stuff.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
We drove the 30 miles or so to Pendleton and first stopped at the local WalMart Supercenter for a few groceries. Then it was off to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mills. We took a tour of the mill and watched wool being carded, spun and then woven into blankets. That is the primary end user product they still make at this mill. Other mills make the material for some of their other clothing.
We looked at some things in their mill shop. In addition to being very expensive it seemed like all their clothing was made in China, the Philippines or some other third world country. They apparently still weave most of the material here but they send it overseas to be turned into clothing. I guess nothing is sacred anymore.
We then turned straight south on US 395 and soon began climbing in elevation. Eventually we climbed to over 5,000 feet and were climbing and descending tree covered mountains. The scenery reminded me of the area in the White Mountains around Big Lake. It was pretty but very dry this time of year.
We stopped for the night in an Oregon State Park in Mt. Vernon, OR. This is a beautiful a state park as I have ever seen. Each site even has water and electric (50 amp) hookups. It looks better than most private campgrounds we have stayed in.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Back on DirecTV
We did stay put today and got the satellite internet and TV up and working again. As I expected I had to call both companies to get it turned back on and working right again.
The only other thing we did today was some cleaning in the outside compartments that had collected a lot of dust while in Alaska.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Columbia River Gorge
We left Washington this morning and crossed the Columbia River on I-205, then stopped for fuel at the Flying J in Troutville, OR before heading up the Columbia River Gorge. The drive was very scenic as we passed waterfalls and several dams along the river. Unfortunately, our truck with trailer was too long to take the scenic route or even stop at some of the visitor spots along the way. There was not much room and they were limited to vehicles no more than 50 feet long. We are 65 feet long. We watched wind surfers on the river as the famous winds in the gorge blew from behind us. It was good for fuel economy and much more pleasant than a headwind would have been.
The scenery changed as we passed through the Cascades and the lush green changed to dry, barren and brown. We soon found ourselves in the great basin and country that looks very different from what we have been in for the past four months.
We drove about 200 miles today, which is a long day for us. We stopped in Hermiston, OR for the night. We are only about 30 miles from Pendleton, OR where we will pick up highway 395 and follow it down to Reno. We may stay here for another night and try to get the satellite internet set up again. I will probably have to spend some time on the phone with customer service so we will see.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
We only moved about 40 miles today. Dianna had made arrangements to meet Sue Spink, a long time friend who now lives in Vancouver, WA. We parked the rig in an RV park in Ridgefield, WA and drove the truck down to town. Dianna and Sue were friends in junior high school and have maintained contact all these years.
We had a nice visit all afternoon and realized it was dinner time. We went out to dinner at Whosong and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant which is located on the Columbia River just east of the I-5 bridge. We ate outside and the scenery was very pleasant.
After dinner Sue took us on a tour of downtown Vancouver and across the river through downtown Portland, OR as well. Portland has an active nightlife in its downtown area.
We did not get home until almost 10PM.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Mt. St. Helens
I guess this is no longer the Alaska Journal, but in our mind we are still returning so we will continue to post about our journey.
Today we saw as much as we could of Mt. St. Helens. Unfortunately, it was very overcast today so that was not much. We went to three of the five visitor centers, which were interesting, but we turned around before we got to the last two since we were in the clouds and visibility was about 50 feet.
We did drive into what was part of the original blast zone when the volcano blew up in 1980. It sure does not seem like it has been 27 years! Shortly after the explosion the federal government took a part of the area around the mountain and turned it into a National Monument. Much of the rest of the area is owned by Weyerhaeuser. Two different approaches have been used in the two areas. The National Monument has been allowed to remain completely natural. The Weyerhaeuser part was harvested and replanted as quickly as possible.
The part of the mountain we were in was the Weyerhaeuser part. It is hard if not impossible to tell that anything happened. The trees that were planted in the early 1980’s are now 20 to 30 feet tall and it looks like the area outside the blast area. The area within the National Monument is also recovering, but not nearly as rapidly. Unfortunately, like I explained, we were not able to see this for ourselves because of the low clouds, but we watched several movies and saw displays in the visitor centers.
We got to thinking and realized it has been at least 30 years since we have been in this part of the country. We have not been up here since Mt. St. Helens exploded. That is really surprising since this is one of my favorite parts of the country. We need to spend a summer up here sometime in the near future. There is so much to see and it is so pretty.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
More photos uploaded
I uploaded the rest of the pictures we took in Southern British Columbia. You can check them out on our gallery.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Today I decided to ride the scooter down to Everett and visit Boeing’s Future of Flight Center and take the plant tour. In a word -- disappointing.
It was overcast this morning so I put on my cold weather gear and rode the 40 miles to the Boeing facility. The Future of Flight Center and Tour Center is a very impressive building, with lots of stainless steel and glass. Inside on the main floor are two stores where you can buy very overpriced sweatshirts and the usual tourist stuff with the word Boeing on it. There is also a café that is open during the lunch hour.
The Future of Flight Center is downstairs. It is built using the new high tech approach so many places are using where they place LCD monitors around the room and let you watch a short video at each location. There was one for each of the 700 series of airplanes, but they were each only about a minute long and were of excellent production quality but very short on real information. There were a few static displays that were OK. They had an engine from a 747 opened up, a cut away of a 737 near the rear so you could see what was below the floor, a mock up of the cabin and cockpit of the new 787 and a landing gear. There may have been a couple other things, but I don’t remember what they were so they did not make much impression on me.
Then it was time for my tour. First, we were not allowed to take any electronic device with us. No cameras or even cell phones. We were gathered in an auditorium where they showed us two 7 minute videos. The first was just pictures of many of the aircraft, spacecraft, helicopters and other products Boeing builds. There was no narration, just the video. They then showed another 7 minute video that was a collapsing of the four months of 777 assembly into 7 minutes. It was OK, but nothing exciting.
Then they loaded us on a bus and drove us to the assembly building. They told us about the building itself and about some of the aircraft we saw on the way out. We parked by the building and were ushered down a set of stairs, through a tunnel and into a freight elevator that took us up to a balcony at the fourth floor level. From there we could see the assembly line for the 777 and see the first 787 sitting on the other side. Nothing was moving and it was really not very exciting to look at. The tour guide explained how the aircraft move from location to location during the assembly process. I figured we would go see the other aircraft assembly areas and sub assembly areas, or maybe the paint shop, or even just drive around the building or down the flight line so we could see some of the other new airplanes being built, but we just drove back to the Tour Center and the tour was over. We only spent about 15 minutes in the assembly building itself, and about 10 minutes driving each way. All together the whole tour lasted just about an hour.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to see, but when I toured the Cessna plant in Wichita last year we were shown the whole place, driven around to see all kinds of different planes, made several stops and even had an opportunity to walk through the factory itself. The Cessna tour was free. The tour I took today cost $17.50. My brother Don who works for Boeing could take the tour for half price as long as he has his employee badge with him. Save your money, Don.
The sun was out by the time the tour was over so the ride back to the campground was more pleasant. Dianna spent the day doing laundry and playing on the internet. We found someone in the park who has an open wireless router and are using his connection. It is better than most of the services we have had on our trip.
Tomorrow we will move further south. We are not sure where.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
It was another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest with record high temperatures. For this area that means the high was 84. It was perfect scooter weather again.
Dianna had contacted her aunt and some cousins on her father’s side who had moved up here years ago. We arranged to meet them and the scooter was the way to go. Our first stop was in Stanwood where our mail was waiting for us and then we took the back roads down to Kirkland where her relatives live. It was a little over 60 miles and a great ride.
We had a nice visit with Aunt Martha and cousins Bob and Terry. It had been a long time. Bob worked on the Alaska Pipeline so it was fun showing him the pictures of our trip up the Dalton Highway. He said it had changed some, but mostly because he had never seen much of it during the summer. He worked mostly in the winter season.
The trip back north was less pleasant due to rush hour traffic. We ended up taking the freeway part of the way just because the back roads were not moving at all. It took a little longer to get home due to the traffic but it was not bad.
We walked across the street to a Mexican Restaurant for dinner. It was surprisingly good and was the first we have had in a long time. Then we watched TV for a while and went to bed early. 130 miles on the scooter in heavy traffic can be tiring.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Back in the lower 48
They let us back in! We drove down the beautiful Fraser River Valley and got in line to cross the border at Sumas, WA. We waited in line for about 1 hour and 20 minutes until it was our turn. Once again it seemed like everyone else took a long time with the customs agent, but it seemed we were only there a minute. He asked where we lived (Texas), where we had been (Alaska), and when we left for Alaska (early June). Then he asked if we had purchased anything while in Canada (souvenirs for the grandkids) and if I used to be a truck driver (no, just a big trailer). What did you do before you retired, (Worked with computers for Ross Perot)? He then said “I voted for him. Welcome home.”
That was it. No questions about meat, produce or anything else. Of course, if we had not eaten it all up he would have wanted to inspect the trailer.
We found an RV park about 15 minutes from where our mail is supposed to come. It should be here tomorrow if we are lucky. The first thing I did was unload the scooter and ride to the nearest Wells Fargo Bank to get some cash. We used all but a couple dollars in Canada and I did not want to pay the $5 fee for using a non Wells Fargo ATM and have to deal with getting rid of Canadian cash so we waited until we were south of the border.
The park we are in is quite nice except they do not have any wireless internet. It seems strange that any park till does not since it is almost expected any more. But, there are plenty of Starbucks and every other kind of coffee shop up here to use for internet.
I’m not sure it feels any different to be back in the US. There is always a nagging feeling that you are not in your country when you are in Canada, but since everything we are doing is pretty superficial and touristy, noticing any big differences would be pretty hard to do. Other than not having to convert kilometers, liters and Celsius temperatures it is pretty much the same. So, I guess it is nice to be back in familiar places.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
The Othello Tunnels
Friday, September 7, 2007
We left the Lac La Hache Provencial Park this morning and soon joined up with the
The scenery had radically changed. I never knew
We joined the
We stopped in
Hope is where we broke down many years ago when we were pulling a trailer with our van. It developed an overheating problem and I had to have the radiator rebuilt. There is a lot to do in the area and it is a pretty place so we will find plenty to keep us busy.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Leaving Prince George
We finally had good internet performance last night so we caught up with postings and some work with the gallery. It was nice to finally get what we were promised when we first checked in. Unfortunately, this morning it was horrible again but we still managed to send Escapees the instructions on where to send our mail. Then we got ready to travel for the first time in a week.
The day was uneventful and the road was good. We were along side the Fraser River for much of the way, and also had to make several climbs and descents. We stopped for lunch at a rest area and again read the signs that are posted at all the rest areas in about the pine and spruce beetle invasion. It is rapidly destroying all the pine and spruce trees in central BC. The reasons for its spread include forests that are just the right age for the beetle, lack of natural fires to keep the beetle at bay and to clean the forests, several dry seasons that let them get a good foothold, and finally because it has not been cold enough long enough in the past several years to kill them off. The result is that millions of acres of trees are being killed. They are trying to harvest them as fast as they can, then replant new seedlings, but much will not get harvested before it rots.
We stopped for the night at a BC Provincial Park and took a nature hike through the woods. It was sad to see the amount of devastation to the trees. Almost all in this area are either already dead or are dying. As usual, it is a very nice park and not crowded at all, especially this late in the season. The camp host is already gone but there should be someone around later this evening to collect the fee.
We had forgotten about the restrictions on bringing meat and produce from Canada into the US. We had just bought a ham and stocked up on hamburger, lunch meats and fresh fruit and vegetables. The frustrating thing is that much of it was actually grown in the US. When we thought of it we immediately began eating ham for every meal so we can finish it before we cross the border. If necessary, we will stay a day or two so we don’t have to surrender any of it. After all, we are not in any hurry.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Galbraith Lake Panorama
I stood in one location and took pictures in each direction as I turned. The truck is directly east of where I was standing.
If your browser works like mine you can zoom into the photograph to get the full effect. There is some spherical distortion, but it's not too bad. I am posting it now since I just obtained the software to stitch pictures together.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
The Prince George Railroad Museum
Monday, September 3, 2007
Prince George TV
It was another day of doing nothing. We fought with internet all day and it worked slowly part of the time. Much of the time we could not connect at all. Everyone in the park is experiencing the same problems, but since it is Labor Day weekend the company is not going to work on it. And, since it was Labor Day it was not a day for doing much as things were closed.
We do have cable TV here, but there are only 5 channels. There are a few American shows sprinkled in, but for the most part it is news channels and something similar to our PBS channel. The programming is horrible and most of the time there is nothing to watch. We are beginning to miss our DirecTV as we know the new season will soon start for some of the shows we watch.
Our satellite internet connection will be available to us once we get into southern Washington. The particular satellite we are assigned to covers most of the US except the extreme northwest corner. That will be nice since our experience with wireless in the parks we have been in has been poor.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Hanging around in Prince George
Friday, August 31, 2007
The Pulp Mill
Thursday, August 30, 2007
At was another day on the road with only a stop for lunch to break up the day. We are truly back in civilization where one small town looks like another and farms and cattle dot the landscape. The terrain is mostly rolling hills with many lakes and rivers.
We arrived in Prince George, BC about 3 PM after traveling about 200 miles. It is a major city with a population of about 160,000 in the city and surrounding area. They have everything modern life could need. We decided to stop for a week and do some cleaning and resting from all the travels. We need to let expenses catch up with travel. It only costs us $20-$30 a day to sit somewhere, but it costs about $50 for every 100 miles we travel. Obviously, it costs less to stay put than to move. We need to do some shopping and I will need to purchase about 50 gallons of fuel in order to make it all the way back to the US without adding more. Diesel as well as gas is very expensive up here so I don’t want to buy more than I need.
We looked in our camping guides and selected Southpark RV Park. The ads said they had long, wide sites and internet. Our camping club book said they offered a 25% discount for members. They informed me that that was a misprint and the discount was only 15%, which made it the most expensive park in town. It is not cheap, but it looked like a quality place. I asked about the internet service, figuring that if it was of good quality the extra cost would be worth it. First they surprised me by saying it was run by an independent company and it cost $6 per day or $20 per month. I don’t know the weekly rate yet. But, they assured me it was very high speed and the connectivity was excellent everywhere in the park. Given those assurances I decided to stay, even though it was much a more expensive place than we normally stay, and paid them rent for a week.
Immediately it was obvious things were not as advertised when we discovered the sites were indeed long enough, but they are so narrow that our slide outs touch the tree branches on both sides. In addition, they have things positioned at the corners so it was a challenge getting turned into the site and will be a major challenge getting out. Then, when I tried to sign up for a week’s internet it was not working. It is now 7 PM and it is still not working. I also realized that it is probably going to cost me twice as much as I initially thought because I will probably not be able to use both computers on one account. Why do campgrounds do this? It does not cost that much to properly equip a place for wireless internet and then to charge for it on top of the campground rent is really out of line. And then, when it does not even work….. You can tell I am not a happy camper right now.
Anyway, we may not post everyday for a while. We may take a couple tours and see some sights around the area so if we find anything worth talking about we will post it.