We love Portland. Being on the road is amazing, but Portland is hands down the best city we have visited. We celebrated Christmas in Portland once before and are pleased to be doing so again.
Yes it is cold and rainy, I know you were wondering. It usually gets into the forties through the day and thirties at night and probably rains two days out of three. On a rare occasion it will get as low as twenty or as high as fifty. The rain is usually not a downpour and if you dress properly you can go out in it comfortably.
If you wonder why I have a gallery of images from a woodland hike in a post about Stumptown, these are pictures of a hike through the city. Early Sunday we hopped on public transit a few minute walk from the rig, stopped at my favorite restaurant for breakfast, The Fireside, then hopped back on public transit to the zoo. From there we hiked several miles to Pittock Mansion which has a wonderful view of the city. This was a serious hike with great views, switch backs across elevation changes and it left both of us a bit sore. There are hundreds of great trails right inside the city of Portland for hiking. This is the only place I have ever been with such great hiking in the city, and such amazing public transportation. When we tire of the road this is where I think we will end up.
With me back at work now we aren’t getting out as much as we did over Thanksgiving, but we still find time to enjoy the city. We eat out a lot, saw one movie, went to a live Christmas Blues show and in general are having a bodacious good time. I hope this city always remains true to it’s weird nature.
We now have nearly a year on the road under our belt and are getting better at the lifestyle. We had originally planned to spend the Thanksgiving week in the Valley of the Giants, but toward the end of our week in Fort Bragg Kendra was recovering from a bout of cold symptoms and my mother was in the hospital leaving me concerned my father might need my help. A week off grid in the dark cold damp woods wasn’t sounding like the best plan after all. When we started this journey we likely would have just bulled through, but now we adjusted plans and traveled into Oregon instead.
The plan change turned out to be an all around great idea even though I didn’t need to fly anywhere. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, I don’t think I will ever tire of driving through mountain forests. We came over the pass on I5 from California into Oregon. The conditions were a bit dodgy with some ice and snow, but we came through safely. One day later the storm hit and they closed down that pass.
Kendra, master trip planner, reserved us a full week at Silver Falls Campground which has the nickname The Gem of Oregon. Gorgeous campground with huge trees. It got a little below freezing at night but thawed through the day so we were able to keep the RV systems running properly. My mother is now home resting and I am looking forward to visiting for Christmas.
With vacation and holiday I had the entire week off and we went hiking every day exploring the many waterfalls of the region. One day the path was a bit icy and the hiking went slow. With my massive feet I did pretty well on the ice, but Kendra is almost as tall as me with much smaller feet and a section before the last two falls was just too treacherous for her to traverse. She talked me into going ahead and taking pictures while she started back. Due to an incoming ice storm we did not catch the very last waterfall, Winter Falls, this trip.
We are sitting in Oregon enjoying the crisp air and great hiking. Shortly we will head into Salem for a way too large meal and I wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.
Last week when we were hiking along the Mendocino bluffs we came across a falcon playing in the wind coming off the ocean. It was one of the most serene things I have ever experienced and I saved that to share with you today.
If you have read my past entries, you know that being on the road has it’s own special challenges. However; sometimes the stars align and life is very good indeed.
This week we have spot right on the bluffs, and work has been light affording me time to really enjoy the location. When we wake up I open the front blinds and we are looking at waves rolling in.
There is something powerful and invigorating about being near the ocean. Every walk with the dog was a joy. I watched nearly every sunrise and sunset with either Kendra or Shanti or both. Took a chunk of one day to go hiking in Mendocino and wished I had time to do it again.
The most magical thing about being on the road is the freshness. If I had a home exactly where I am parked this week I would eventually become blase about what awed me this entire week. It isn’t the easiest lifestyle, but it is an existential experience I highly recommend.
Last week was a blur for me. The culmination of a year of effort at work resulted in a lot of over time as we finalized for launch on Monday. That meant I ended up doing very little other than working and didn’t get to enjoy the location as I typically would.
We spent through Thursday at Acorn Campground. On Friday I drove to the office where the frantic work continued. Kendra took Shanti to a rover for daycare, then dropped Torta off at the Mercedes dealership in Sacramento to fix the DEF sensor. That was covered free of charge under warranty, but was an exhausting day for Kendra and the pets. I am still a bit put out with Mercedes for programming the vehicle to force you into the shop for bad sensors.
Over the weekend we drove to Fort Bragg, my wife’s home town. Due to the terrain there are no highways into the town, just a choice of incredibly windy mountain roads. I wish I had a GoPro on the dashboard so I could put up video from that drive. It was a couple hours of gorgeous mountain forests which words cannot describe. If it weren’t for the fact that it was heavily traveled, forcing me to pull over and let cars pass constantly, it would have been a lot of fun driving in. We may take a lesser traveled route when we leave, though it is lesser traveled because it is every bit as windy but more than twice as far. We will see.
We have a spot where we can see the ocean again, which is just the best. The cliffs prevent me from hearing the surf, but Kendra can at night. With my overtime completed I think we are going to have a great week exploring this area.
On Sunday we went hiking in Big River Gorge with old friends. The tide was coming in as we did the hike so the river current was going up stream. I find it fascinating that a river can have a current that flows both directions at different times of the day. I want to do a canoe trip down stream both ways some day.
We have far more things to do this week than we will have time for, so next blog entry should be heavy with new photos.
A little rant to begin the entry, because sometimes people drive me nuts. As we transitioned from Avila Beach, more on that later, into the foothills near Sacramento we stopped for supplies in Fresno. If you are visiting California Fresno should be on your do not visit list. Passing through was unpleasant and I cannot imagine why anyone chooses to live there.
The last stop of the day was Whole Foods which was in a strip mall type environment and we had to park a couple hundred yards from the store. Since we were getting supplies for six full days it was more than we could comfortably carry that far. We carted it out and then, since it had no cart area except right at the store, I pushed the cart all the way back to the store. At that distance at the end of a long day it was tempting to leave it tucked in a corner, but I could not bring myself to do it.
As I am nearing the store I see a person finish loading their groceries into their car in the third closest parking spot to the store. You could literally spit from their trunk and have a decent shot of hitting the cart storage area. They shoved the cart in the exact direction it was already pointing far enough that they could back out. This blocked the first and second closest spots, both handicapped, completely. Were they having a bad day and were like “fuck everyone but me”? Were they a sociopath that doesn’t give a crap about anyone but themselves? Would still be a better president than Trump, but what a jerk.
Back to the coast, we had a delightful time in Pismo Beach. Long walking beach on which we watched nearly every sunset and had one sunrise walk on as well. We could hear the surf at night and slept very well.
On Thursday we hopped twenty minutes north to Avila beach. This was us parking about twenty feet from the ocean. Surf was loud enough my coworkers could hear it in meetings and the dog spent hours running in the waves with canine companions. Even though it was a little pricey, I would recommend staying there except it turns out it is on the route to the Diablo Nuclear Power plant. Apparently people work very odd hours there and a near constant flow of traffic even through the night. With the surf it wasn’t awful, but some people had very loud vehicles including one Harley that made my teeth rattle.
We settled into a campsite about an hour south of my office and will move into Sacramento on Friday so I can work in the same building with coworkers for a day. We are in a federal campsite that is underfunded and a little dirty but overall very relaxing. Both the pets love it here.
Also on Friday Torta goes into the shop again.
In Phoenix when I added diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) the sensor didn’t register that I added it. I had spilled some, so we purchased another box and filled it all the way up to the very tippy top. Still told us we were low. Research said this should eventually go away so we decided to ignore it until we got an oil change in Portland. As we pulled out of Fresno this godawful dinging sounded and the message came up that we have only sixteen starts remaining. Apparently if you ignore the DEF message Mercedes has decided that you come in or you cannot even start your very expensive engine.
If you have read my past posts you will know that if two wheel sensors fail Mercedes puts you in limp mode which means first gear only with a top speed of under forty miles an hour. If the DEF sensor fails you get to turn off your engine only sixteen times, possibly far less per the sprinter tech, and then no start for you. The engine won’t fucking start even though it is perfectly capable of it, they just arbitrarily decided that you cannot based on sensory information from a single data point. I have to imagine that someone at Mercedes home office had a diabolically evil laugh as they made these decisions. That person has now risen to number two on the list of people I feel I should be legally allowed to smack displacing Bill Gates.
Welcome to the post formerly known as Viva Las Vegas. We spent last work week at Lake Meade and visited the strip one evening. It was amazing and disappointing at the same time. I’ve never been to Vegas before so my expectations were set by movies. I was expecting flashy lights, cheap drinks, cheap food, and excited people winning a jackpot here and there. They have lights, but mostly it is screens like any other city, the one drink I had was $22 for an old fashioned, dinner was $100 and I never saw anyone win once in any casino we walked through. So it did not meet expectations at all, but it was still cool and I enjoyed it.
On another evening we checked out Hoover dam which was actually amazing. We spent a couple hours walking around and wished we had come early enough for a tour. It was a different era when this beast was built.
We spent a lot of time toward the end of the week reading the news and weather reports to determine if fires would keep us from the beach. There were twenty active fires with reports of flames jumping up to a mile ahead of the main burn making containment nearly impossible. Smoke was visible from space and the safe bet would be to divert, but we took the gamble and drove to the beach. We did go through some smoke on the way here, but it was the right call. Air is clear, with sun, seventy degree days, and amazing sunsets. We really love the ocean.
We are staying about a hundred yards from the beach and enjoying the sound of the surf at night. I think I get the most consistent good sleep when I can hear the surf.
I missed a week and feel a little overwhelmed with covering everything in one blog entry. The time involved switchbacks into the mountains, a rattlesnake, old friends, hiking, Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale, Joshua trees, Boulder City, Lake Meade, Vegas, a React conference, and more. So I guess, start at the beginning.
We stayed in Catalina for another work week and just loved it. I don’t think I would want to be there in the heat of the summer, but Tucson is a lovely area to visit. We did more of the local hikes and explored the camp paths very well. Shanti and I ran into a rattlesnake just after sunset. Not sure if Shanti saw the snake first or vice versa, but I know I didn’t make first visual contact. Shanti was far closer to the snake than I would have liked when I heard the rattle.
Adrenaline is amazing. I had the dog back beside me in record time. I think my reaction alerted the dog to the severity of the situation as she then avoided the snake even more thoroughly than I did. I thought I was recording a video to go below this paragraph as we carefully skirted the snakes claimed territory, but somehow I failed to click record. Adrenaline may not be so amazing for pressing tiny buttons on phone screens.
Kendra and I sat out and watched the sunset on the mountains with dinner, except one night. That night I got off work early and we drove up into those mountains. The pictures really don’t do them justice. We drove an hour and a half and were only three fourths of the way to the top of Mount Lemmon. Well worth the drive, though I was glad it was in the Honda instead of the Winnebago. Pictures really don’t do the experience justice, but I have some below anyway.
Next stop, Phoenix to visit with friends. This time we surfed their driveway for two nights, mooched power, and had a new mattress delivered to their house. To top it all off they accepted our old mattress, and re-homed it with someone who needed it! Talk about taking advantage of friends huh? Feel a little guilty, but the mattress is life changing and the visit was top shelf. Got in a great hike, shopped and ate in Old Town Scottsdale then returned for old fashioned whiskey drinks and sharing of new music.
The next leg of our journey was an interesting mix. We traveled through some beautiful country, which included my first view of Joshua trees but the estimated travel time was only an hour and a half. There wasn’t a direct shot to Vegas so the roads were windy, bumpy, windy, and apparently contained a bubble in time. That is the only explanation I have for how long it felt driving only an hour and a half.
Lake Meade has been a surprise. It came up in old movies all the time, but it is much prettier in person than I anticipated. Rugged mountains all around the pretty blue waters.
Then off to my first professional conference in twenty years. A co-worker, and friend, talked me into the React conference to get us excited for upcoming development at work. Two long days of talks later I think we both came away excited. The conference was a little more pep rally and a little less informative than we hoped, but still worth it. Loved the diversity of the people we met from all over the world. Being a Facebook product I think the global community of the language is as big a deal to them as the language itself.
Next we visit with another old friend, visit Hoover Dam, and spend a work week on the lake before heading for the ocean.
We arrived in Tucson to put the finishing touches on RV upgrades and repairs. When our levelers were broken last winter, getting them repaired was an absolute debacle that left us with a strong distrust of RV dealerships and a great love of whiskey. That adventure ended at La Mesa in Tucson Arizona where we finally had a good experience. They got us right in, communicated clearly, and had everything fixed by lunchtime at no expense. We came back with a laundry list of upgrades and repairs we were sure would take a couple days to accomplish, so we settled into an Airbnb for three nights and dropped off our home.
I have to admit I was nervous about my new batteries. They absolutely must not be run empty, but even without solar they shouldn’t run dry in two days unless someone did something stupid like turn on the air.
If you have read my previous posts you may be anticipating harm to my shiny new batteries, but nay nay. La Mesa completed all the repairs in a single day, they ran to Mercedes and Lowes to purchase parts, and my batteries were at 71% when we picked her up. We will return here winter of 20-21 for yearly work. Maybe add that new awning that rolls itself in when it is windy.
Finally we take our bone weary selves to Catalina State Park for ten straight days of no plans beyond the work day. My first weekend without movement, or major tasks, since before selling the house. I still had some tasks to accomplish, including a haircut and a dog wash, but I feel more rested than I have in months.
My wife has suffered with Migraines for more than a decade. The last two or three years she has become very proactive about it, working with a headache center. It has been a painful process of trying therapy after therapy. At the end of three years she takes a monthly shot and has pills she can take twice a week symptomatically. The problem is she actually has migraines at least twice a week still. Being a strong researcher, she began reading. I linked the book if you want details, but the short story is diet change. For eating purposes it isn’t extreme, cutting out a few things like soy, onions, citrus and glutamates (MSG or savory flavorings). I’ve been rocking on my Blackstone griddle learning new dishes that are absolutely mouth watering. I think we are actually having better meals on the new diet and I am gaining skill daily with the griddle. The horror of the diet is no caffeine. Not even decaffeinated coffee or chocolate. And no liquor, not even whiskey. *shiver* There was an anticipated rebound headache that lasted days, but at day four things are looking better. We had a lovely hike toward the base of the mountains this morning.
There are several terms used for sleeping in an RV without any type of plugins. If you are in a rest area, Walmart parking lot, or a campsite with no power we refer to that as dry camping. If you park on a city street and try to make it look like no one is inside that is stealth camping. If you visit friends we call that driveway surfing, though that often comes with a plugin because friends kick much ass. By far and away the best version is when you get out away from civilization and that is called “boondocking”.
After getting our solar installed we went directly to boondocking. In the mountains just outside of Flagstaff are public lands. They are part of the Coconino National Forest, an area that allows people to park for up to fourteen days. It was a gorgeous area with decent sized pine trees and nice walking.
After three nights here, we had run the generator one time just to top off the batteries before night. We adjusted the location of Torta to maximize sunlight and didn’t need the generator again. Also after three nights there we had found the place will no longer be allowing free camping after this year and we found a lot of people had trashed the general area. Because of this we decided to move down near Sedona for the remainder of the week. That is in the same forest, but a very different environment. What a great decision that was.
Since the drive was barely over an hour Kendra took the Honda to scout ahead and the pets and I took the main highway while she took a more direct but curvier route. After pulling the car behind me for so long it was a pleasure to drive without it. The drive from Flagstaff is gorgeous and over eighteen miles downhill with four to six percent grades. This led to the best gas mileage we have seen so far, over nineteen miles per gallon.
We arrived at the dirt road leading back into the free camping areas with an hour until sunset. Kendra had researched and found a spot five point seven miles in called “Nolan Tank” that was especially nice. She took the Honda ahead and I drove Torta. This was a dirt road with a lot of the surface described as “washboard” and other areas described as “big ass rocks coming up out of the ground”. It took well over an hour, but it was worth it. It was about five miles as the crow flies from the nearest power line. There is a level of peace that you find that far from civilization that you cannot get any other way.
We left early on Saturday to go see friends in Phoenix on our way to Tucson for general RV maintenance. We found a slightly shorter route out. A couple sections were even rougher than the way in, but I managed to get this short video in the best section of road. It was slow going, but the views were amazing!
We intend to spend a full two weeks in the Tucson area to give ourselves a break. We have been moving fast and keeping busy for a really long time. I think I may nap one entire day.