Friday, August 26, 2011

We're so close to the end, and now as we head into California, I am particularly grateful to all the friends and family who have chosen to support the tour with their attendance.  I'm from Northern California, (hometown: Watsonville) and all my family is in the bay area, so the San Jose game was a chance to have many special people attend.

Stephanie, Wesley, Dan and Joe behind! 

Wesley's a charmer!
We had just come from Salem, Oregon, where my niece Stephanie and her son both attended their first ball games ever!  Her husband Dan had trouble understanding why it had taken her so long to have such an enjoyable experience- he's been a baseball fan a long time!

Ann, Jerry and Joe in front of Arby, our motorhome.
On the way down to San Jose, we got a chance to stop for lunch with Ann (high school friend) and Jerry in Concord, CA-

Once at the game, I got some fun time with my nephew, Bryan and his daughters, Maya and Madelyn. I wished Jocelyn could have come!
Bonnie, Maya, Madelyn and Bryan.

These girls DO know how to have fun.  And ball parks are glad to provide equipment to make that possible.



Good friends are very important.  Jerry and Missy are very strong supporters of this tour, having joined us now for games in Trenton, New Jersey, Burlington, Vermont and now San Jose!   They plan to come to next Tuesday's game in Sacramento (Aug 30) and the last game of the season in San Bernardino, (Sunday, Sept 4).  They definitely win the trophy for most games attended as fans!

Missy, Jerry, my brother Chris, and his friend Joe Rafferty!

My brother Chris George has been a great supporter too!

Aunt Rosemary, me and my cousin Nancy.   

Nancy's very focused on the game. 

Nancy's brother Doug, her mom Rosemary, and Nancy herself get very active in the YMCA audience participation exercis!  
Last but not least, I was thrilled to find some of my best friends from Watsonville High School in the audience-  

In front, Noris and her husband Doug- behind, Kathy and her husband Ed.  It's been great staying connected through Christmas cards for 45 years!!

It just doesn't get better than this for me.   

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Home Stretch! Adding another blog and media links as well...

Joe and I are both sitting here late at night, as usual, plunking away on our laptops.  Tonight's a good night. The wifi is functional and the pictures are loading up pretty quickly.

Howard and Leslie Fisher, from Whittier, now in Port Angeles, Washington, joined us for the Everett Aquasox game in Washington State. 
We're in Sunnyside, Washington, in a teeny tiny RV park that's really just a narrow parking lot sandwiched between two industrial park businesses in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of a small town.  We've been parked here for four days, saving the difficulty of driving Arby over two major mountain passes each way on our trip to Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle where Joe sang last night.

Tomorrow we set out for Salem, Oregon and are already scheming about handling the ascent to Satus Pass.   We've discovered while navigating the Rocky Mountains and neighboring ranges that Arby doesn't enjoy long upward grades.  We just tuned him up and he still labors intensely.  Our plan tomorrow is that if He's working way too hard (as evidenced by repeated overheating of the motor) we'll separate the vehicles and I'll drive Toad, the tow car, until we're beyond the mountainous part of the drive.

Joe sang in Yakima tonight and in Pasco Washington three nights ago, which is the basic reason that we parked in western Washington.  We're in the home stretch, feeling pretty good about having kept the schedule, but also about finally reaching the western states with lower temperatures and MUCH less humidity.  But the drives on this side of the country really stretch out.  As my older son Jared said about driving across Oregon, "It doesn't LOOK all that big on the map, but it takes forever to cross it."  I'm sure that's true, so am preparing for tomorrow and the next day.  We practiced by crossing Nebraska in one day- which was no picnic.

I've neglected writing this blog partly because I've started another blog that's specifically designed to support travel interest by providing a sequential map of where we've been.  My friend Liz Lower-Basch in Washington DC chose this for her blogging on her recent trip to China and Japan with her family, and I found it easy to follow.  It has a table of contents at the bottom of the display, which helps the reader follow more easily how the travel flowed.

Also, Joe's received enormous amounts of media attention, and I've posted the link to his blog in a side bar here which links to the articles, but I'll also embed it here:

Asa Eames, Fort Wayne, IN, age 4. Fascinated by Joe, he kept asking me, "Where did your guy go?"

Every visitor coming through Dell, Montana should have a breakfast or lunch at this  cafe in a former one room schoolhouse.  Freshly cooked home comfort food.  Fresh yeast CINNAMON ROLLS. Don't miss it. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nebraska Storms are Scary!

 In Omaha, we found a lovely campground- Walnut Creek RV Park, well maintained and with a space for us at the top of a hill. The manager of the camp had set it aside, thinking we'd like a view of the lake,  which we did.  It was a hot, sunny afternoon, and I fell asleep.  Joe didn't want to wake me, and left for the ballpark around 6 PM, only to find there that they'd moved the game time up a half an hour without telling him, so there was 8 minutes to performance time when he arrived! 
That wasn't the problem that defined the day, however.  He had said earlier that he'd planned to take down the awning, which cooled one side of the RV from  the hot sun, as we wouldn't need it at night.  But he didn't want to wake me so he left it up.
I woke to raindrops and a wind starting up and in no time at all the wind was howling and the awning was flapping.  It rocked the RV back and forth as the sky darkened and the wind howled.  I hadn't ever retracted the awning, and panicked, couldn't remember which switch it was.  I pushed a bunch and nothing happened, as the wind howled and I feared that the RV would be pushed over. I'd read enough horror stories of awnings and high wind to know that there was real danger. 

This is the first storm that came through while Joe was at the game.  The next was to be the one with 65 mile per hour winds - a short but powerful burst. 

As I looked out into the lashing rain, I saw the arms of the supports bend and realized that I couldn't do anything. I tried to call Joe but could hardly find the numbers to poke on the tiny iPhone pad, and miscalled three times. when I finally got through, the awning suddenly was GONE.  I was really rattled, and Joe said he was on his way home. Thunder and lightning was everywhere, but at least the RV wasn't rocking as badly as before.
He got home a few minutes later, and said that the awning had ripped off the front support and blown over the RV roof where it sat. We were able to get storm information and the winds were blowing at up to 60 miles an hour. Later, people in the park said that this isn't unusual for the Nebraska plains. 
There was nothing to do but wait.  A huge mercy was that it hadn't broken the air conditioner, which continued to work all night (without it, the humidity and heat makes it almost impossible to sleep.)  It was a little hard getting to sleep, as the thunder continued for hours. 
In the morning, when we could see the damage- all the metal parts were bent beyond fixing - we weren't sure about how to remove it or dispose of it.  At 24 feet long, it's a sizable fixture, and heavy. 

The damage seen the next day- Those supports were supposed to be straight out, holding up the awning. It had ripped away from the front support- you can see it pulled up over the top of the RV. All those metal pieces had to be cut off and discarded. 

And this is when we were so glad we were in a regular RV park.  As the morning warmed, folks walked around looking at the damage from the storm.  Two men, older than we and more experienced, came to chat and offer help.  They brought a ladder and a reciprocating saw (as full time RVers with big pickups, they had just about everything they might need.  We had a lot, but we didn't have a saw.) I retreated to the interior of the RV to let the men work on it.  
As he pulled on the awning to dislodge it, the spring caught Joe's thumb and smashed it so hard that it turned purple and cut him.  It's throbbed for two days now, and he'll soon lose the nail. 
Working together, the three men got the entire apparatus removed, and duct taped the exposed wiring in case we wanted to install another awning again later. Then they cut all the long pieces into smaller sections and one of the men put all the pieces in the back of his SUV and took it down to the park dumpster.  What angels. 

We have the easy days and the harder days, and some days, like today, are a mixture-- and we’re on our way for one of the longest days of the trip- across Nebraska, which in Arby takes about nine hours. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Amish Wanderings in Western New York State

Our tour takes us to some surprising places.  As we planned for where to stop for the two games at Erie, Pennsylvania and Jamestown, New York, there was a handful of campgrounds that seemed appropriate.  A little more research revealed that the Pope Haven campground in Randolph, New York, was right in the middle of Amish country. This was an unexpected benefit, and we reserved as space right away, specifying that we wanted a shady spot, as the heat continues to be an overwhelming factor in our daily satisfaction. 
Arriving at the campground, we were impressed by the open spaces and crowds of children everywhere, running across wide grassy lawns, playing basketball and splashing in the pool.  Best of all, we were assigned a site that was in a cool corner of the forest, with bunches of trees between us and nearby sites, keeping us as cool as we could be in the humid climate. The hilly terrain of the camp added to the sense of quiet privacy. 
We had arrived on a Saturday afternoon and were to leave Tuesday. None of the Amish businesses were open on Sunday, so we planned for touring on Monday.  According to the camp host, the local Amish were pretty orthodox, staying to themselves, driving wagons, and not even using bicycles to get around. He mentioned that the nearest family business, Raber’s Toys, was anchored by a family with 13 children, and the father was also one of thirteen. We were to find that many of the shops in the area were labeled Raber, and were likely his sons.
We’d been provided maps of the area that indicated that the local Amish businesses operated from their homes, which was both a benefit and a caution for us.  I felt a little uncomfortable invading their privacy, but soon relaxed at the thought of pulling into a driveway and making my way to the door with the homemade sign advertising the goods they sold. 
The roadsides are plain and lovely, and very quiet. 

We are asked not to take pictures of the Amish people, and so we didn’t, but we did take some snapshots of the land, the buggies and the wash on the line.  Judging from the number of homes with long clotheslines full of white, black, blue and purple garments flapping in the wind, Monday was wash day. 
At Raber’s Toys, our first stop, we found a friendly dog greeting us as we came in. Grateful for something to say to break the ice, we asked if this were his dog, and the bearded proprietor said she was one of his dogs. Another came in and then we noticed a third resting behind the door.  They ambled about, enjoying the attentions we provided.  
The shelves were full of handcrafted items - marble towel racks, such as my grandmother had used to hold her towels- the marble is pushed up by the towel, then slips down to hold it in place. Innumerable toys and puzzles, made simply of wood and nails, unpainted, were arrayed on shelves.  A wooden horse swing, complete with a bright colored nylon bridle, hung from the ceiling. “Go on, try it,’ encouraged the proprietor.  “It’s made for all weights, not just children.”  The broad seat and the heavy fittings gave me confidence, and as I leaned back on the ropes, swaying back and forth, I could easily see myself under a tree at home, reading in the swaying breeze.  Hmm. Only $95.  But where was I going to find a level place on my hillside under two branches that could bear the weight?  I filed that thought under “Would have been nice” and moved on. Though there were a wide variety of doodads, there were useful and handsome items as well, all reasonably priced.  Cutting boards, cedar chests, and a lovely kitchen center island with a butcher block top, and a fold- down leaf.  Really nice, and under $500. Hard to imagine that kind of quality at that price elsewhere.  But it wouldn’t fit in the RV and we have a galley kitchen anyway!
Through a low window, we saw two men sawing wood in the adjacent room, and as another group of people came in, a woman in a long dress, a close, tidy bonnet and a warm smile came in to sit near the door to process purchases.  The kids in theother group rummaged through the slingshots and rubber-band guns to find souvenirs for the day.  The dogs moved in and out through an ingenious mechanism that let them into the shop or outdoors into the attached dog house.  It even had a weather-blocking screen so the dogs could come in and out of the doghouse during the winter. Very practical.

We moved on down the road to an iron shop. Really just a section of the barn/workshop, with heavy dust and dirty windows, it had were shelves of various iron small items, such as coiled iron holders for small jam jars. I didn’t really understand why anyone would want elevated jam jars, but the mystery was solved when I saw the other display of a wide variety of candles packaged in the jam jars. These were for indoor ambience!   The teen boy in the shop would slide looks at us, but not talk.  As we walked out, having only bought two summer squashes for 25 cents each, we saw four young children in the yard, all barefoot in plain colored clothes- long dresses with bonnets for the girls, straw hats for the boys.  I would have gladly photographed them, but was constrained by the request to honor their privacy by not doing so.  Their shy waves indicated their wary interest in us, which was to become a pattern.
Buggies at the iron shop - the children peeked around bushes at us, but we couldn't take pictures.  We were strange and interesting to them,  girls in their fabric caps and boys in straw hats, all barefoot. 

The next store, a cedar shop, mostly had furniture, which was lovely.  The proprietor, a bearded man of about 30, was friendly and welcoming as he emerged from his home across the driveway.  He had few pieces of furniture, having moved most of his business to custom orders for bedroom sets.  Still, he had small blocks of cedar I could tuck among my cabinets to keep my clothes fresh. “Sand those down to renew the scent,” he advised, and I told him that he was motivating me to sand down my cedar lined entry closet at home, which I often overlook. 
The quilt shops were interesting.  We only went into two, and the second was more rewarding- the proprietress came in soon after we did, along with her small granddaughter. both barefoot.  “We have 28 grandchildren,” she smiled, responding to our question about the girl. Later she added that she had had eight children, and the girls took up needlework. Little Amanda, at six, would enter Amish school this year, and would stay, by tradition, through eighth grade, at which point she would begin in earnest to earn her trade, as did all the children.  When we spoke to Amanda, her eyes widened with some alarm, and her grandmother translated into German. “She won’t learn English until she gets to school.  I knew English before I entered school, but today’s children all learn just German at home.” 
She proudly lifted the quilts from the king-sized bed on which they were all layered, having Amanda help her lift from the other side of the bed. “She hasn’t done this before,” the woman informed us gently, “But she wants to help her grandmother.” As pattern upon pattern was revealed, I wished we had a need for a quilt but we didn’t.  These were done completely by hand, in careful stitching and a variety of patterns.  We have two full quilts at home, and two quilt tops we inherited and didn’t finish, so this was not our day to make a purchase.  A map on the wall had pins all over the world, and Elizabeth (for that was her name: Levi and Elizabeth Wengerd, L & E Crafts, 12641 Dredge Rd, South Dayton NY 14138) said the pins represented people who had bought their quilts. We bought some sweet aprons with small tools in the pockets, and a doll’s dress with a bonnet for nieces.

As this was a Monday, which is a centuries-old traditional day for doing the wash, we were treated to the view of many homes with the washing on the line- a lovely picture in itself.  Keeping the clothing colors to a few solid colors made a lovely display.  Large families meant lots of laundry, and the bigger the farm, the longer the laundry line! 

Just because colors are restricted, that doesn't mean they're not lovely. Picture these garments on small children with straw hats and cloth caps! 

This large farm has a substantial vegetable garden as well as a large barn and silo and house.  The laundry line told us this was an Amish household. 

More laundry, in lovely hues. 

One thing we noticed as we traveled through the community was that power lines went to some of the houses, indicating they weren't Amish.  We also noticed that many of the homes with power lines also had American flags posted, which would never happen for Amish families, as they do not participate in governmental or civic activities unless required by law, as in the payment of taxes.  They have their own schools, which they are only required to attend until the end of eighth grade. 

The leather shop down the road had well-made belts at $15 - we bought two for Joe.  There was a beautiful saddlebag- would that we had a horse!  Because the Amish don’t take credit cards, we had to scrounge through our pockets to get enough cash for our purchase and were 4 cents short. “That’s OK”, the young man grinned.  As we got into our car, he came running out to return a dollar bill- apparently we had slightly overpaid!

The basketry shop was not evident from the road, though there was a sign.  Feeling invasive, we pulled up in a circular driveway next to a barn with buggies in it, and saw a small building behind the main house with a sign: Baskets for sale.  We approached the building to find a sign that said to knock and wait.  An elderly man came to the door, and  told us to wait a bit more.  A younger woman came out from the main house and led us to a small one room building, similar to most of the home shops, and a young boy who had been napping, stretched across two chairs on the back porch of the house we’d first  approached, slipped in to see the interaction.  He never spoke, and the woman told us he was six-- unlikely to know English, but definitely curious to see what we were like. When we told the woman we were from California in the Los Angeles area, she was excited, pointing to the card that told where she got her basket caning from- a firm in Los Angeles!  I pointed to a US map she had on the wall and indicated to the boy where we’d come from, but he didn’t seem to understand the relationship between the illustration on the wall and the people before him. Fair enough- not many of our six year olds know much about locations on a map either! 
A final stop at a roadside produce stand yielded a gaggle of children. The oldest, a girl, maybe eleven, came from the house to assist with purchases, though the stand had a sign that asked patrons to take what they wanted and put the money in a locked cash box through a slot.  The girl dutifully added us the three items we bought, but miscalculated.  She couldn’t see the prices posted, and was undercharging by 25 cents.  We corrected her, and she ran to get change from the house, back down the driveway, while six or seven pairs of younger eyes peeped over shrubbery at us.  I walked part of the way down the driveway to see if the berry bushes in her front yard were the same as those on the highway that had such abundant berries- and if they were edible. She shyly said that those weren’t for people, they were for the birds.
This is an unedited photograph- it was mid afternoon and the cloud was bright, but it didn't seem as bright as the photo allows- cloud cover had just moved, and there was sudden brilliance over the horse and buggy in this Amish yard. 
As we drove back to our campground, we were warmed by our contact with this culture that seemed content with their choices.  Many of the ideals we value today in our busy world but seem to have trouble managing - simplicity, economy, living close to the land and its rhythms - they cling to, untroubled by the mass of information overload that clutters our daily lives.