Hi, everyone, and greetings from the beautiful little town of Florida, NY. I know, most of us grew up believing Florida was a state. Apparently our teachers were misled. Anyway, Florida was the hometown of William Seward, the gentleman largely responsible for our having acquired Alaska from the Russians. Great houses here. Terrible taxes, though.
We had one hell of a time getting off of Bainbridge Island. First off, we drove up to Everett, north of Seattle, to pick up our fifth-wheel coach. The coach is huge, and perhaps the largest thing either of us have had to control in our entire lives. We spent the better part of the day just familiarizing ourselves with the various systems, switches, valves, and what-not, things that mostly went into one ear and out the other. Fortunately, we videotaped our little orientation, and there are plenty of owners manuals to help whenever we have a question (although, as we’ve since discovered, the manual for the coach itself was/is woefully inadequate, and a lot of what we have learned over the past several weeks has been through trial and error…and there are still some features about it that we don’t understand or are even aware of their existence). Anyway, at the end of the day, we hitched it up to our little red pickup and drove it home, taking the ferry in Kingston.
We arrived at our driveway about five in the afternoon. Three hours (and a broken hitch) later, and after two helpful professional truck drivers had each given it a shot, we finally figured out that we weren’t going to get the coach into our driveway. It was simply too long (36′), and there wasn’t enough space on the opposite side of the street to maneuver the truck. Needless to say, this put a terrific crimp in our plans, because we had thought to park the coach in the driveway and load all our stuff into it there. The house was to be cleaned while we were loading, and we had planned on essentially living in the coach until it was time to pull out, as we could hook up our water and power to the house. No such luck. We had to park it on the street during the day and cart our stuff all the way there from the house, and at the end of the day (it took us two days just to pack), drive the thing to a vacant lot and sleep there, no power, no water. While we were packing, I got more than an earful of rude, irrate criticism from our ostensible neighbors who weren’t happy about the terrible incovenience of having to drive around our parked coach. Three people on separate occasions called the police to complain. I’m afraid it left a terrible taste in my mouth about some of the people on Bainbridge Island (if I think about it, I still get angry). Jeanie is quick to point out that, yes, there were several of the other type of neighbors who were more curious than critical, and many (including several of Jeanie’s former doula clients) wished us well.
We had a couple of things to drop off at our storage unit in Poulsbo. More adventure: we pulled into a parking lot adjacent to the storage facility, and promptly snagged a low-hanging power line on one of the two air conditioners we have installed on the roof. Took us nearly an hour to extricate it, and it ended up breaking off some of the housing around the a/c. Twenty minutes on our journey, and we already have a broken hitch-handle (over-stressed by one of the truck drivers when he jack-knifed it, trying without success to squeeze it into our driveway). It was late in the day (we pulled away from our house nearly four hours later than we had planned, and we were still expected in Cape Kiwanda, Oregon that evening.
Arrived in Cape Kiwanda at about three a.m., where a kindly night watchman guided us to our site, which we had to back into. Irate neighbors who we’d awakened, and who were plenty willing to express their irritation. Clipped a tree struggling to back into the site, but fortunately little damage to the rig. Finally got settled in, the animals fed (oh, I forgot to mention we have our dog, two cats, and parrot with us…they travel in the back seat of the pickup, and their collective yowling, howling, and squawking, makes for quite a noisy trip…we have to turn up the volume on the in-dash stereo to drown them out).
Spent a week there, and, after the dust settled, spent some time basically tossing a huge chunk of the things we thought we’d be able to fit in the coach. Some dishes, clothes, that sort of thing. We’d subscribed to DirecTV, and had a dish and receiver, but I couldn’t figure out how to install the thing myself, so no music, and none of our usual Sunday HBO shows, at least for the time being. We did enjoy several pleasant walks on the beach (one of the things I’d missed while living on Bainbridge). You can see a picture of us on the previous post, posing with Annie in front of Haystack Rock there just off the beach at Cape Kiwanda.
After a week of rest, we pulled up stakes and drove back up to Portland, then east on I-84, then I-90, and it’s been basically non-stop packing, moving, unpacking, through this and that little campsite, most of which aren’t particularly memorable. Pasco, Washington. Missoula, Montana. Gardiner, Montana, and the north gate of Yellowstone. Yellowstone was gorgeous…although the heat made it so most of our sightseeing was from the inside of the pickup cab. Gardiner is mostly rock and dirt and heat this time of year. The rest of the year, it’s just rock and dirt. Saw a couple of black bears and herds of elk. Disappointed there weren’t any moose or elephants to be seen. Amazing scenery, though. Jeanie had never been to Yellowstone, and it had been maybe 25 years since I’d been there, so it was essentially new to both of us.
Next stop was Hardin, South Dakota (did I mention it was hot?!?). Visited the Custer battlefield at Little Big Horn, about a twenty minute drive away. Very sobering, and I found myself depressed for a couple of days afterward. Hardin is a terrible, poor little town. I wondered why the suicide rate wasn’t higher. Did I mention hot?!? 103, and about 80% humidity. I’d planned on getting into some sort of physical shape this summer, but the only time of day where the temperature was tolerable was about two a.m. The campsite advertised itself on the web as having a river on the perimeter, then discovered it was more a sewage culvert about a yard across. Bugs. Heat. Tried to bicycle into the countryside and had to fight off a constant barrage of insects that kept flying into my eyes (which were already burning from sweat) and nose and mouth. I’ve been thinking of wearing a welder’s mask whenever I go bicycling again, but haven’t yet figured out how to wear that and my helmet at the same time.
Left Hardin, and arrived in Salem, South Dakota. We knew were in trouble when the lady checking us in presented us with a complimentary fly swatter. “What’s this for?” I asked stupidly. The lady only smiled and said we’d find out soon enough. We found out. Swarms of pesky little flies who found their way into every nook and cranny of our coach. We spent several minutes after each of our forays outside just attending to the little devils. Salem was our first taste of violent weather. Thunder, lightning, and three inches of rain over a period of about sixty minutes. No leaks in the coach, however. The extra rain only added moisture to the already high humidity. Discovered we were staying a stone’s throw away from a pig farm, and when the wind was just right…well, you get the idea. Amazing animals, pigs. We were more than glad to leave Salem.
Next stop, Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic. Not a bad site, actually, though, again, beastly hot. You’ll find pictures of these various places (those we remembered to photograph) scattered here and there on the blog. Other stops along the way: Spearfish, SD, where I finally got instruction over the phone at 2 a.m. on how to hook up the DirecTV dish. Still had problems with the reception…had to junk the dish we originally had, and buy another, and it wasn’t until we arrived in another beastly hot place in Illinois called Garden Prairie, that we had a techician come out and actually show me how to aim the thing into the sky. No problems after that. We were invited to a corn shucking contest by the site managers, and, later, a corn boil. Corn was very big there. In fact, corn has been very big EVERYWHERE. Read this: there is more corn than you can imagine on the eastern half of the US. Gotta have a source for the high fructose corn syrup that inundates everything we eat and drink and is causing a huge chunk of the country’s population to become…well, HUGE. Anyway, back to Spearfish. Its a cool little college town (Jeanie and I have decided that we love college towns. Lots of activity and a sense of youthfulness everywhere. Vitality, I think, is the word I am looking for. Huge windstorm forced us to stay a day later than we had planned.While there, we visited Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, and Deadwood (made famous by the HBO series).
Okay, before I go any further, Jeanie wants me to point out that, despite the little glitches here and there, we really ARE having fun. Really. No kidding.(We are, actually. I don’t think I’ve felt this alive in years, and I have the privilege of being on a tremendous journey with the best friend I’ve ever had in my entire life. What’s not to love about this trip?)
Early August, and we arrived in Ohio, at a quaint little camp just outside Lisbon, and about a half-hour drive away from the Homer Laughlin factory in West Virginia, where they make Fiesta Ware china. We toured the factory…well, actually, we didn’t get to tour it…we arrived there on a Saturday, and they only conduct tours M-F, so we browsed through their little sales outlet. Kinda musty, dusty, and dark. Not at all what we expected for the largest ceramic china manufacturer in the US. But now at least we can say we’ve been there, and now on to bigger and better things. The camp in Lisbon was quiet, hidden under a carpet of pine trees. By the way, does anyone know how to make water flow uphill? Discovered in Lisbon that, apparently, visitors to the campsite have been draining their black water holding tanks (the tanks on the RVs that hold the pee-pee and poo-poo deposited therein by the RV’s occupants) into drainage pipes that lay uphill from their coaches. Still haven’t figured out how they’ve been doing it. As for Jeanie and me, we couldn’t use the normal drains, and had to dispose of our black water at a drain station at the other side of the camp on our way out.
August 7th, left Ohio and skirted the western part of Pennsylvania, and entered New York State. Lordy, the place is gorgeous, and chock full of history. Terrible roads, however. Anyway, our first stop in New York was in Niagara Falls. This had to be the highlight of the trip so far. The campground was just off a well-traveled tributary to the Interstate, but it was quaint, nonetheless. Right next door to a town named Bergholtz, and some of the most gorgeous Victorian-era houses we’ve seen. Personality up the–nose. Didn’t discover until much later that the Erie Canal emptied into Lake Erie close by. Niagara falls was stunning. And, yes, I’m rambling. But I think it was in Niagara Falls that the trip started actually being FUN (in the ordinary sense of that word, and not the sort of fun you have to look for in obtuse, philosophical ways). Wait a minute…I have to fill my half-empty glass before I can continue…
Next stop was a place called Tall Pines, in the town of…unbelievable as it may sound…Bainbridge, New York.
View Out Our Back Window, Tall Pines A site right on an honest-to-goodness river, backdropped by farmland just bursting with–what else?–corn. The staff had great fun introducing me to S’Mores and Camp Bingo and Slip and Slides. Our first camp fire. Our rig (thanks to Jeanie’s touches) has become quite a little home for us. It’s great having our animals with us, and being able to go pretty much anywhere we want to without worrying about when to leave. Our own food (we both enjoy cooking) so we don’t have to frequent restaurants, our own shower, our own bathroom facilities. Now if we can just figure out how to get that black water to flow uphill….!!!
We’ve been in Florida for about three weeks, nearly four. Taking care of our grandson, Brando, which is the main reason Jeanie and I decided to adopt this lifestyle. Next post…New York City. Crazy. Just crazy. But more on that later.
I might mention here that our house on Bainbridge still has not closed. The ostensible buyer, a gentleman from Holland, has had a devil of a time transferring his money into the US (something about the Patriot Act), and he has been making small payments to Jeanie to keep the deal alive. Not sure how that will play out…might have to kill the current deal and put the house on the market again…something we’re not at all looking forward to.
Anyway, that’s pretty much it, for now…at least what I can think of. As I said, more later.