Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alaska Logistics!!

For those that have spent summers workcamping, leaving your home for an extended period of time is probably no big deal.  With two horses, three dogs, one parrot and a saltwater fish tank, the logistics are rather overwhelming for me.  Thankfully, I have someone who will live in my house while I'm gone, but there are logistics to that too!!!  I have a list of things to purchase that will stay, a list of things to purchase that will go, a list of RV checks to make before I leave, a list of clothes to take, a list of camera gear to take, a list of food to get for the animals ... the lists are never ending!!

Little things like hay for the horses, dog food, fish food, spraying the weeds, finishing the mulch replacement ... seems like I never get the list completely scratched off.  I did get the camera list completed however ....  along with a fisheye lens, I now have three camera bags.  That should do it!!
It was then that I decided to check a few things on-line just out of curiosity.  I already figured my fuel economy and that I actually traveled a total of 4-1/2 hours at an average speed of 50mph (mostly freeway driving).  At Google Maps, I got directions from my town to Anchorage Alaska.  It's over 3,000 miles, not including all the side jaunts we will be taking.  Driving about 5 hours per day, that equates to 12 days just getting there!!  That surprised me!!  After guestimating fuel and park fees, I'm up to $8,000.  People have assured me this is LOW and doesn't include broken windows and flat tires!!!  No matter ... I'm going ... but plan on keeping all my receipts to see what it actually costs.

In the non-shopping hours, I've been knitting some scarves, getting in practice for the hours on the trip when we won't be sightseeing or driving.
I tried to get Cooper to model for me, but he wasn't very cooperative!!
Just remembered another list item ... make sure the sprinkler system is working correctly ... which it isn't.  One zone isn't working at all.  Back to my lists .......

Happy Trails ...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Home Again, Home Again!!

I'm quickly learning that it makes a difference which day of the week you travel.  I do try to pay attention to the time of day, but the day of the week definitely can make it more difficult.  Friday happened to be TGIF day into Spring Break in central California.  Traffic was the worst, intertwined with so many Highway Patrol that the trucks stacked up in the right lane going 50 mph.  It was a long trip home!!

No matter, I made it in plenty of time to unload the beast.  I've decided I'm going to have two wardrobes, neither with very many items.  So if you see me wearing the same shirts every other day, it's because I'm tired of dragging everything from the RV to the house!!  I guess TWO of everything isn't such a bad idea.

The good ... and exciting ... news is that I really paid attention to the fuel mileage on this trip.  It was a total of 392 miles round trip to Chico with  a miles-per-gallon of ....... wait for it .......  10.26!!!!!!!  And yes, I was towing the Jeep.  I don't speed by the way.  I would rather enjoy my trip and not be looking over my shoulder constantly for red lights, or be scared I'm going to run off the road!!

The bad news is that my rig has to have DEF fluid, the new be-all end-all for diesel exhaust in California.  What a pain in the you-know-what.  At this point I have to purchase it in 2-gal containers for about $13.  For those service stations that have it, it sells for $2-something per gal.  Big difference!!  So I went to a Travel Center to fill my tank ... except my tank is on the opposite side of the fill hose.   The only thing I can think to do is get a 5 gallon container (like a gas can) and fill it up, then use that to fill my 7-gal tank.  I'm driving my truck back today to see if the hose from lane #1 will reach to the lane behind the pump where my tank would be.  Any other suggestions would be appreciated!!

Another stash of yarn from Heart Strings to keep me busy.  All of these came from the 50% off bin ... some nice varieties to play around with.
The dogs were exhausted from the long ride home.  A little dinner and they were out like a light!!
Now it's time to get serious about packing for Alaska!!!

Happy Trails .......

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Quick Exit .....

Up at 5:00 this morning, not by choice mind you, I'm gearing up to take off for home.  It got rather nippy last night and someone's heater is really LOUD!!  I'm such a light sleeper, that it doesn't take much to wake me.  Once awake, I might as well get up.  Soon as I move in the slightest, my ADD dog heads for the ball and it's time to play.  If not with me, then alone, or rather with my tennis shoes, boots, rug ... whatever he can get the ball into or under.

Dinner last night at the Olive Garden was excellent and the service spectacular.  32 people went to dinner and with only two waiters, we had our drinks, soup or salad and bread in less than 30 minutes.  Entrees came shortly thereafter.  It was nothing short of amazing, considering service is almost a lost word nowadays.  Several of us found the manager and expressed our appreciation.  If you get good service, tell the management AND the servers.

Time to button up the rig, dump the tanks and hook up the car.  I'm heading back Highway 70/99 to Sacramento, then I-5 home.  It's about 5 miles farther, but the roads are great and there's not much traffic.  A quick return trip to the yarn shop netted lots of new projects from the sale bin that should keep me busy until it's time to hit the road to Alaska.

Head 'em up, move 'em out!!!  Happy Trails ...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Neighbors Last Night .....

You always get new neighbors in RV parks, as some pack up and head out on their adventure, others arrive and begin their adventure as your new neighbor.  At 9:30 last night, these wonderful people pulled in and attempted to park directly behind my rig.  30 minutes later, they finally had the fifth wheel  in place.  I thought about offering to park it for him after the first 10 minutes, but when I peaked out the door, I realized that wasn't an offer that would be appreciated.  At that point, the door slamming began.  I not sure what you could be doing getting in and out of your truck 8 times after the rig is parked, but they definitely did ... and they slammed the doors loudly, just to be sure they were shut each time.  This morning, early, I snapped a picture for you.
I'm not totally convinced this is a safe situation and I'm amazed that they didn't get a ticket from the Highway Patrol.  Maybe there isn't a law on the books for this one!!!  I have no idea how they got their ATV up on the roof, but so far they haven't taken it down.  I would like to see that ... I bet it would be entertaining.

The Group Hosts at our little rally had the local Chico Fire Department stop by for some fire safety tips.  Two very nice, knowledgeable firemen (one fire woman) spoke on all things fire-safety related --- in your home.  They didn't really have experience with RV's, so we helped them out and gave them all the information they could possibly want!!!  Several had been to Boot Camps and seminars, including myself.  When they recommended getting the "hang on the windowsill" portable ladders, I politely protested.  Open the window, through some bed covers over the edge and GET OUT feet first, as fast as possible.  They were rather resistant about some of our recommendations, but I think in the end decided they were out-numbered!!  The best thing they did was bring their "put out the fire" demonstration equipment, and with some prompting, ALL the women tried putting the fire out with rather large extinguishers.  It was great learning experience for them.
I had a request for Easter Hat pictures, but could only find one willing to pose for me.  I think this was a sneaky way for the Hostess to get rid of her old decorations and ribbon.  I heard her say she was soooo glad those pink roses were gone!!
While getting groceries a couple days ago, I discovered a yarn store.  Any men reading this, can just skip this paragraph!!  Knitting and crocheting has become a lost art, so when I spy a possibility, I have to go visit.  This particular store was one of the best I've ever seen.  I was in heaven, surrounded by skeins of the most beautiful colors EVER!!  I wanted to buy everything!!  Unfortunately, I crochet ... most of the creative patterns (and prettiest things) are knitted.  Unlike most stores, you can actually purchase display items here.  I loved this $10 scarf (on the left, made with about $40 worth of yarn) and purchased additional yarn to make a couple more.  I think I can knit well enough to do these small projects.  Maybe some day I can come back and take a few classes.
Another great potluck dinner, another puzzle and it was back to the rig for a little TV, a little crochet and some Cooper love ...
and THAT's when I heard the ruckus behind me.  Hopefully it will be a little quieter in the neighborhood this evening.     Happy Trails .....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's Raining, It's Pouring, The Old Man Is ......

You probably know that one already.  A few sprinkles here and there yesterday didn't slow down this group one bit.  Today may be a different story.  I woke up to pouring rain this morning and discovered my cheap pillows are absolutely awesome.  If you put one over your head, you can't hear a thing!!
We are supposed to get half an inch today ... cards anyone????

My job for the day is  .........   you guessed it, make more food.  Since I stayed away from the baby food and marshmallow contests, I was volunteered to do something with the leftover 5 pounds of potatoes from yesterdays marathon peeling session.  I had planned on making potatoe salad anyway, so this saves me a few dollars.  I headed off with the potatoes to get started.  The problem I encountered immediately was that I'm single ... I cook single ... I don't have pots or pans that cook for more than one.   Maybe I'll be free of this noble mission!!!!!!  Nope .. no chance.  They found some extra pans in the kitchen.  

Short blog today .... I have to start cooking!!!  I tried to tell them I don't cook, but they weren't convinced.  Just wait til they taste my salad!!!!!

Happy Trails .......

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Think I Finally Get It!!

Not all RV groups are alike.  I didn't get that in the beginning when I started this motorhome journey.  I thought everyone was all about going places, seeing things and doing everything imaginable.  Not so, and I finally get it.

Today started with breakfast in the clubhouse, followed at 9:00 by the peeling of 20 pounds of potatoes for the Mulligan Stew planned for dinner.  Shortly after, I disappeared for a couple of hours to return to the Bidwell House.  I really wanted a better image of the exterior.
On my trip to the mansion, I passed by Boot Barn where I had a $30 coupon to spend.  Not a problem, I whipped around the corner, walked in and 15 minutes later walked out with this beauty, including a matching wallet.  SCORE!!!
Okay, back to the group.  There was the marshmallow-tower contest, guess how many pretzels contest, the gourmet (baby) food contest ... are you getting the picture??  For the next three hours I worked on a jigsaw puzzle.  People come and go, but someone is always bent over the table looking for that special piece.  Just before munchie hour, we finished this big one.
Every day we have had munchies at 4:00 ... serious munchies, followed by huge potluck dinners.  Lucky for them I haven't had to cook yet.  I did whip up some Hawaiian Kielbasa slices and got rave reviews.  A first for me!!!  And then ANOTHER puzzle ... with missing pieces.
An hour later came dinner ... the stew was excellent, followed by 7 cakes and pies.  I have to say for once I showed great restraint!!  Dinner was followed by 5 different card games.  That's when it dawned on me.  This particular group is into food and card games.  They don't sight-see, they don't photograph and they don't explore beyond the ten feet of grass in front of their RV.  I finally get it!!!  Even though I'm much more active and want to check out every museum and park around, the truth is that they are  a very nice group of people who will help you with anything you need and are pleased to have you attend their rally.  As long as they don't insist I actually cook something, we'll get along fine!!

It's supposed to be a toad strangler tonight ....  Happy Trails .....

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Little Chico History!!

Bright and early I was off to an Escapees rally in Chico California at the Almond Tree RV park.  Easy to find, just far enough off the highway to be quiet, they have long pull-through sites with 50 amp service and plenty of room for the puppies.  I think it is $30 per night, but I haven't paid yet.
First on my list was a trip to the Bidwell Mansion, now a State Park.  General John Bidwell, as he became known later, was a teacher from back East.  Once in California, he hooked up with James Marshall of Sutters Mill gold rush fame and made enough money to buy a large Mexican Land Grant in the Chico area.  Unlike a lot of settlers, he didn't chase the Mechoopda Indians away.  He not only let them stay on the land for free, he fed and housed them.  He married a gal, Annie Kennedy (no relation to THE Kennedys) 20 years his junior.  In order to convince her, he bought a gorgeous piano .. she said yes.  They had no children and eventually the property came to the State of California Parks System.
Annie made friends with the Indians after they got over the fact she was a female, and they made many baskets for her, which she displayed in the library.
Italianate architecture, there are huge windows in every room so the entire interior is well lit.  John had electrical lights installed, but since electricity wasn't reliable, he also had gas lights in every room.  Also unheard of in 1868, each bedroom had a sink with running water, as well as a bathroom with toilet and bathtub.  How could Annie resist??
Another appointment not often seen was wall-to-wall carpeting in every room except the kitchen and ballroom.  This house was built for entertaining.
Attention to detail was the job of the architect, who lived in a small brick house out back.  Every stairwell has beautiful spindles.
Maid and cooks quarters were located in smaller rooms in the back of the house, but also had running water in a corner sink.  They did not, however have a separate bathroom.  The old tin tub and chamber pot belonged to the maids.
Another invention built into the house were the bells to call the maids.  In every room is a small brass handle.  Turn the handle and the bells in the kitchen would ring a tone for the corresponding bedroom/ballroom/lounge so the maids knew where to report.  A "voice tube" was also built in to the walls ... you could open the little brass door and talk to the cooks in the kitchen.

After becoming majorly rich farming wheat and making flour in his mill for all of California, General Bidwell became a congressional member and ran for Governor, unsuccessfully.  During that time he used the mansion for entertaining Presidents and Generals.  The dance hall on the hidden third floor never got used after he married however, since Annie was strictly religious and would not allow dancing.  Pictures show American flags used as drapes in the doorways of several rooms to show his patriotism.  
The guest bathroom.  As you can see, John Bidwell kept both the gas light (above) and the electrical light (below).  If the electricity went out, the gas lights would be lit.  
Unfortunately, washers and dryers had not been invented yet.  This is the washroom at the back of the house.  To the right is a small wood stove that heated the water used in the concrete sinks.  
Amazing house and interesting history.  As with all guided tours, I got yelled at and chased out because I wouldn't keep up.  People don't understand you just can't snap a picture with a Nikon camera.  I didn't lean on anything nor did I open any doors (we got death threats for that).  These few pictures just don't do it justice, so if you are anywhere in this area, be sure and stop in.  The $6.00 entry fee is minimal and the history lesson well worth the visit.

Gonna have a little black water and hit the hay.  Happy trails!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Get Your Green On!!!!

It's Saint Patricks Day ... get your green on or you will get pinched!!  Actually I can't remember the last time I got pinched, green or not!!  While a lot of people are having corned beef and cabbage along with a beer or two, I'm having salad and water as a prelude to the huge pot-lucks soon to take place in Chico.  At least the salad is green!!!  Happy St. Patricks Day!

I've been packing for the coming weeks adventures ... cameras, summer clothes, winter clothes, dog treats and people food.  Every time I made the trek out to the motorhome, I cringed at how dirty it was.  I kept saying I was going to the local truck wash, but hadn't made it yet.  No use putting it off.  I grabbed the new velcro-attached cleaning brush, bucket and water hose and suited up for combat.

The new handy dandy cleaning brush (purchased at FMCA Indio) really didn't do the job.  You know which one it was ... they had the biggest display!!  I guess it would be great if you had a totally flat sided rig, but with all the bumps from the slide-outs, trim and the awnings, this cleaning tool was a dud.  Mostly it was too wide to fit in between any of the raised areas and no matter how tight I turned the knob, it wouldn't stay put.  The good part about it was the velcro that held the fancy towel to dry the upper reaches without a ladder.  It also had a squeegee that worked well, again if you have a flat-sided rig.   It's useable for the big areas, but I'll be looking for a better one for my rig.

One half done ... and I'm done too.  My thought was I would finish it today.  The other side is in the sun, and you know how hard water, sun and black paint don't work well together.
About 6:00 however, the sun was behind the trees, and with another hour of daylight due to daylight savings time, I went back out and finished the job.  She's mighty pretty now!!!

The hardest thing to wash is the wheels.  Who designed these lug nut covers??  Barely enough room to get your fingers in, let alone a rag to wash them ... all the while squatting down trying not to sit in the water.  I know, I need a rolling chair ... add that to the list!!  So now she has pretty shiny wheels too!!  I heard someone say they waxed the rims.  Can you suggest a kind of wax I might use?  Not that I plan on spending hours waxing .... but if it keeps them cleaner longer, I would be a happy camper!!
Totally off the subject ... in between times of packing, washing and list-making, I've started ANOTHER project ... I think this one is pretty too!!!
So folks ... have a little Kansas sheep dip at your local lush crib but don't kick up a row!!
Happy Trails .....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Going Green!! Well Kind Of .....

Everybody seems to be "going green".  Recycling everything possible and installing solar panels.  At a cost of $24,000 solar panels aren't cost effective for me.  I recycle cardboard only, as our County doesn't feel it's important.  Waste Management Company said it "cost too much" and so ended all of the programs except cardboard.

You wouldn't think you could do much in the way of yard and garden recycling, but I recently saw a program that used recycled tires as a playground area like a sandbox, only softer.  After checking on-line, I found the same recycled tires chewed up in small one inch pieces used in place of bark in flower beds.  I thought that was a pretty good idea, until I discovered you should remove all the old bark first.  This is a very small part of the areas I want to improve.
Three hours and 10 loads of bark later ... I just kept telling myself I needed to get it done before my trip next week.  I moved all the bark from the front to the back yard.  That saved me from buying any more regular bark for those areas, as it usually needs to be replaced yearly.
As you can see, it's a big house with even BIGGER flower beds.  Now I'm up to 25 loads taken to the back yard, I'm creaking like a 90 year old and exhausted, but done with the front yard.
Off to Home Depot for the new recycled rubber mulch.  I found our store has two colors, red and brown.  The bag says the color is guaranteed for 12 years, so I'm assuming the mulch is too. It kind of sticks together and wind and rain are not supposed to wash it away.  At the very least, I don't have to replace it yearly as regular mulch.  Unfortunately it comes in really small bags but that makes them light enough to handle easily.  Thirty bags should do the whole yard ... WRONG!!  Thirty bags did the area you see here!!!
Back to Home Depot, the girl that helped me load the first 30 bags quickly disappeared when I said I need 40 more!!!  The newby, just transferred from the Hollister store, got stuck with the job.  She asked if I had someone to unload them when I got home ... Yup I said ..... ME!!

As nice as this looks when done, the 40 bags are still in the back of my truck.  My back screamed UNCLE!!
Hopefully today, with the help of my friends Advil and Bengay, I'll get the job finished!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Little Charity Goes A Long Way!!

Being a part of the Elks organization, you are asked to volunteer for LOTS of things.  On the other hand, I have also been given tickets to various dinner events.  This was the case Saturday night.  One of the organizations Elks Bingo supports in our town is Love INC.  They provide every kind of service imaginable for people in need, from beds and food to jobs and financial training (family budgeting, balancing your checkbook, managing your money).  I have donated many blankets for children and the homeless, as well as delivering an twin bed to a young mother with a beautiful 4 year old daughter who was sleeping on the floor.  The little girl was so excited when we put the bed in the living room where she would sleep that she jumped on the bed, laid down and pretended to be asleep.  It made me cry!!  So over the years, I've been happy to help this organization.  

Saturday was their annual benefit dinner/auction that I have not previously attended.  Since the Elks had purchased two tables, when I was offered a ticket, I jumped at the chance.  They said to bring my checkbook!!!  Dinner was BBQ chicken and some of the best tri-tip I've had in a long time.  I joined almost 500 people in the buffet line.  Pretty good turnout for such a small town.  Around the outside walls were tables and tables of silent auction items.  Cakes and pies went for $100 or more ... our table bought one for $200 and promptly scarfed it down.  When that was over, the regular auction began.  It was heartwarming to see perfectly normal people bidding $90 for a gallon of milk!!!  Pretty crazy also, but it goes for a great cause!!  Weekend vacation home trips, DJ for a day on a radio station, jewelry ... some amazing things went up on the auction block.

Now you KNOW when I saw the two quilts on the stage, that I was just biding my time.  I had recently looked at the prices of a few patchworks and had an idea what my high bid would be.  I never got there ... but I DID get the quilt!!!   I'm sooooo excited ... it is the perfect fit and color for my motorhome bed and will provide a little more "warm" for the Alaska trip!!
Another great day of spring day of skiing on Sunday resulted in a pulled muscle in my leg ... ugh!!  Oh well, a couple days on the couch resting up from the time change won't hurt me!!  I did find a couple more images from the Saturday shoot .....

Happy Trails .....................

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Photo Phix!!!

It's been awhile since I've done any photography, so today I headed out to an orchard alongside the freeway.  Spring has sprung in the Central Valley resulting in showy almond and peach trees putting on their best displays of the year.  Even with two days of rain, the blossoms are amazing!!
All along the highway are waves of yellow and orange flowers, which I thought were poppies.  Originally planted by the State when they rerouted this part of the road, they have spread to surrounding fields.  Turns out they are some type of daisy.
I was followed a couple of times by local suspicious farmers, but once they saw my camera, they drove away.  I try hard not to trespass, but sometimes to get the right image, you have to tread a little farther off the road.

Being springtime, there are many bees in the orchards, pollinating away and making yummy honey.  Terribly aggravating when they hit your windshield, but their boxes make nice images.  I have never seem any this colorful before.

I ended up at the Federal Game Refuge not far from my house.  Although a little late in the year, there are still quite a few birds left.  This snow-looking stuff is actually geese.  
Finally the sun and the clouds both came out for a beautiful image of the refuge.  Millions of birds migrate here every year.  I definitely think I need to come back with my long range lens.
Happy Trails until we meet again .....

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Boots and Chairs!!

And other stuff --- I'm trying to get organized for the Alaska trip!  Since having the RV remodeled, there has been a large hole just waiting for a chair to plop down.  Lazy Boys have always been my chair of choice.  The local furniture store had about 50 to choose from, including the European type with footstool.  The one I felt was most comfortable was coincidentally on sale.  After choosing the fabric color and opting for the swivel rocker base for an extra $99, the order was placed.  I'm pretty impatient and after several phone calls, it arrived yesterday.  Instead of trying to manhandle it up the stairs into the RV myself, I drove over to their warehouse.  Two minutes later it was in it's new home and I was a happy camper!!  It fits perfectly when swiveled and yet leaves plenty of room to walk by when the slides are in.
Next on the list was replacement of my Nike watch charger.  Somewhere in Arizona my internet mi-fi case with two cords, disappeared.  Thank goodness I didn't have the mi-fi in the case!!  The watch charger cannot be purchased alone ... of course ... so I ordered another watch from  THAT watch was defective.  Don't you just hate it???  But I have to give it up to Amazon ... they sent a new one before I even had the bad one in the mail to them (I kept it long enough to use the charger on my OLD watch!!).  So ..... one for the house and one for the RV!!!!
Although I am a photographer, I use my small point and shoot quite often.  It's easy to slip into a pocket and takes pretty good, high quality images.  Being nine years old however, it has been causing me some troubles.  After 6 years, the battery pack died.  Since my girlfriend had the same camera, I asked how hers was doing ... not so well, it's broken.  Perfect!!  I mean, oh nooooo!!  Can I have the battery pack?  It lasted about two years and died.  You can find anything on the internet, right??  $35 later, I was good for another year until it died too.   Now don't say anything ... I know it's a Canon (bad word in Nikon world) but it had all the features I wanted for the best price.  I'll let you know how it works!!  The bright pink is the new one.
While hanging out waiting for a trip somewhere, I've been working on afghans.  Here is the second one ... Cooper and Jessie have adopted it, so I'm sure it will end up in the RV.
I saved the best for last!!  I've been keeping an eye out for a new pair of cowboy boots.  Tony Lama's are my favorite brand.  I hate the warehouse boot stores, but unfortunately in our area there are no other alternatives.  It's sad that this cow country has become citified and all the old cowboy gear stores have closed.  After trying on several pair, I found these AWESOME boots!!!  They fit perfectly and go with my "old west" style.
I'm packing for a week in Chico with Escapees Chapter 24 (I think .. I belong to so many I get them mixed up!!).  Should be fun and of course I'll post pictures!!