Saturday, April 30, 2011

Packing Challenges

So what did you get for Valentine’s Day?  I got a waffle iron.
Doesn’t sound so romantic, but really it is.  The Saturday morning tradition in our home is for Joe to make his really excellent waffles.  It’s our way of insuring that I never get thin. 
This waffle iron was special because it was smaller than our regular waffle iron, the better to fit into the RV!  See, it wasn’t going to be so different from regular life! Cherished traditions will continue! 
I had been stressing, typically overthinking everything, about what was to go in the RV and what wasn’t.  How could I pack in every important thing to make me comfortable in the months ahead living on the road?  Short answer: I couldn’t. Choices had to be made.  First off the list- the dogs. Romantic notions of having their cuddliness soon faded when faced with their needs, particularly for routines. Next came all the physical stuff: kitchen supplies (we DO plan to cook, especially waffles, as much as possible), toiletries, and clothing. (He made the decisions about the tools we brought: a massive amount.) 
At home, we are entirely spoiled by having far more storage capability than it’s reasonable to have.  This supports our Costco-holism, as we can ALWAYS engineer another spot to store that impulse purchase and the quantity purchases of water and paper products, not to mention canned tomatoes. Not so in the RV. Like on a boat, all space must be productive. 
So I had spent way too many hours trying to figure out what was going, and where it was going, and the last two days before we left was constant engineering of space. I’d carry out an armful and bring part of it back into the house. Despite the fact that we’d had great advice (Jeanette, daughter of the RV’s original owner, said “It took me FIVE YEARS to realize that there are stores out there and I didn’t need to pack everything”), I decided that I’d take what I “needed” and either ditch the extra or send it home in a box. (Another benefit of having Jared there to receive the boxes.)
Finally, on Friday, April 29, we declared ourselves done with the packing, started the car and headed out to Victorville for the first game of the RV part of the tour, all cozy and comfy, knowing we had everything we needed.  I was so pleased because everything seemed stowed away. One great thing about the RV is that nothing can be left out on surfaces as you drive as it will fly through the air, so the place is neat and tidy pretty often.
So, on Saturday morning, April 30, I’m so happy to see the waffle iron!  It’s our first chance to keep tradition; we have enough time before we leave for our next stop. So Joe asks his typical weekday question: “Would you like eggs and toast or cereal?” instead of saying “It’s Saturday! We’re having waffles!”
I asked the obvious question. “Why is the waffle iron out on a Saturday if we’re not having waffles?”  Joe made a face. He had already lost an hour’s worth of work before I woke up because his computer suddenly UPDATED without permission. We weren’t on WiFI, but apparently a keystroke on the new little notebook computer launched into an update that had probably downloaded while we were on WiFi at the Mavericks game.  All was Lost.  He was not in a waffle mood after having to rewrite all that work.
It turns out that the waffle iron was out because at the end of the day of packing, he had not yet found the right spot for it, and had put it under a pillow on his bed and then discovered it in the morning.  He did eventually find a spot to store it, and I will eventually get my waffles, but not today! Today we’ll continue to learn what goes where and whether memory will allow us to realize what we actually brought.
Oh, and I had cereal and he had toast with bananas and peanut butter.  Almost as good as waffles. ;-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Side Benefits of the Tour: Jared’s home!

A significant concern I had in preparing for a four month absence was taking care of the house.  We have a lot going on here.  Stretched wide on a 4/5 acre site at the edge of Whittier,  this lot provides a fire break from the canyon floor for about 6 houses behind us on the next street.  Keeping the yard watered and weeded is a significant feat.  We’ve been improving the lot since we moved in 12 years ago by constructing paths, which form terraces to even out the less steep side of the lot, and bringing in over 90 tons of river rock, which serves as mulch as well as to define the edges of stairs and bases of fruit trees. Weeds blow in from the adjacent canyon floor and if they are allowed to bloom, they quickly take over our hard won landscaping. 
We have had the help of Hiro Ota, our landscaper and go-to guy, a creative and resourceful man who committed to helping us 11 years ago, and provides not only construction and maintenance help, but also excellent advice.  He does a lot, but Joe and I do a lot of yard work too.  It takes time and energy to keep everything under control and I was concerned that someone who came to house-sit might not be willing to deal with the high-maintenance aspects of our home.
Luckily, our older son Jared was ready for a hiatus from his work in Reno, and agreed to come stay here while we’re gone, with the extra added bonus that he will care for both dogs.  He’s been here for a little over a week, and is glad to get started substitute teaching in our local school district, as he had nearly a decade ago, but he’s also putting in a vegetable garden.  He came nearly a month before I am to leave with Joe in the RV so he could get oriented to all the quirks of the home. 
What I didn’t realize we were getting in the deal was his excellent cooking-every single day! He loves to cook, and makes outstanding dinners every night, just for us two- and sometimes for guests.  Just last night he roasted chicken thighs over slabs of onion with garlic tucked in and a layer of spices on top that he whipped up. He loves hot peppers, so he’s planted two big pots on the patio with them, and set up trays of herbs and pots of tomatoes and cilantro and...well, you get the picture. 
Another unexpected bonus was the enjoyment of his company in these few weeks before I leave.  It’s pretty exciting to have lots of quiet time with this truly interesting person--he’s insightful and witty.  With uproarious laughter rolling down the hall from  the computer room caused by his discovery of the humor section of, and his tender care of our two dear dogs, he warms the emptiness of a Joe-less home for these three weeks. 
I have to confess to a little trepidation about the limitations of “home” on the road; I’ve become accustomed to reaching for a book or a magazine or any number of conveniences with which we have feathered our nest, with perhaps the most significant being 24/7 wifi internet connection.   That’s simply not going to happen on the road, as the rhythm of the days will be far different: no walking the dogs, hours and hours of riding, sitting in one seat, with perhaps some 3G connection on the road, some wifi in parks at night.  On the other hand, I’ll have the fun of minor league games, visiting friends across the country, and the constant companionship of my husband, with whom I travel pretty well.  So it won’t be too bad. Plus I’ve been stockpiling electronic gadgets and games, which is very meaningful for me.
LIke my unexpected gratitude for my older son’s presence in these days before the trip starts for me, I think I’ll find lots to like about the time with Joe, especially basking in his happiness in making his national anthem tour dream come true. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Making Arby our Home: The Nesting Process

Arby was a terrific purchase.  Though 16 yrs. old, it only had 23,000 miles and had a “toad” (which I was to learn was a vehicle that was towed behind the motor home). With the luxury appointments of an automatic leveler, a full length automatic awning and a really easy to use tow hitch, it was pretty easy to figure out the basics.  Following excellent advice, we took our first outing to the Yucca Valley for lessons in operating the motor home, which gave me at least far more confidence.  I can now navigate narrow residential streets and park in fast food parking lots! 
Looking to the bedroom area past the kitchen, with the dinette cushion in foreground.
 An amazing amount of support material - pans, sheets, blankets, warning flares - was left in the RV by the former owner.  With a new roof, nearly new refrigerator and an interior and motor in really great condition, all we needed to do was customize.  

Looking toward the cockpit (passenger chair)  past the sofa bed (across from the dinette)
Safety matters first: new tires! Though tires can look new, if they’ve not had a lot of wear, but they were six years old, and had to be replaced.  
Joe has done hours and hours of work fixing up the interior.  Here he's replacing a hinge in a bedroom cabinet.
Finished the hinge, willing to pose for just a second! 
Updating some of the interior has really helped us feel that this is our home. We replaced the mini-blinds,  with nearly identical mini-blinds, as the blue color scheme is soothing.  And in the bedroom, we recovered the cornices with a fabric that blended with the other colors in front, and also made bedspreads and pillow shams. 
Looking past the bath area (tub on left, loo on right) to the bedroom with storage cabinets above the beds

New bedspread and cornices, with our front yard in the background. 

Same view with new honeycomb shades Joe installed.

Lastly, Joe has stocked up on tools to use for repairs.  That’s part of the thrill of RV travel. Lots of repairs, and more so if you don’t know what you’re doing, so lots of asking for advice and getting books to explain how to do things. 
It feels more like home every day!