Visioneering Forward

Has anyone noticed lately how a lot of TV shows are featuring “Visioneering”? This is the act of envisioning something you want, a goal or a thing or a relationship for instance, and imaging it to be real. Word on the street says that it produces results and delivers your wish. In any event, if it makes you feel better it can’t hurt.

The same TV shows have their characters making a Vision Board, a piece of cardboard or poster board upon which they glue or tape pictures of their vision. Then they put that board in a place where they see it frequently to help themself imagine the wish coming true.

Scientists might cast a little stank-eye at this notion, but even if it just improves your mood it’s an interesting and fun thing to do. So get out your Vision Boards, scissors, tape and glue sticks and get to work! The year is young and there’s plenty of time to make your dreams come true!

What would you wish for if you truly thought it would come true? Lots of money?

money

Moolah

A private airplane?

private plane

Your own private airplane

A fabulous new motorhome?

motorhome

Who wouldn't want this?

Maybe a country home?

country home

A nice little country get-away

Maybe a new vehicle?

tractor

This is MY idea of a new vehicle!

Or would it be for something more like good health?

eye chart

Good vision from good visioneering

Or happiness?

kitten

Coming through!

In any event, whatever makes you happy should be what you strive for this New Year. Build yourself a board. Have your kids build themselves a board. Or not. But make sure to get your mind in its right place and get ready to make it the best year ever!

Tippy has the day off, so here is his side kick Eddie to wish you a Happy New Year!

Eddie's TOTD

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Out with the Old

We’re still in Oxnard watching the clock tick on 2011.

Oxnard Sunset

Watching the old year fade away

We have had a remarkable year, one that brought us tons of joy and discovery, new friends, a new home, and a simpler lifestyle that is serving us very well. We wish all of our readers, family, and friends (and yes, even our enemies!) the best of the new year. It holds a lot of promise for all of us, and opportunities that only need to be seen to become real.

Here’s one guy that is truly enjoying some of the local color, a whole fried fish at a local Mexican restaurant, Cabo, in Oxnard. It’s been a good year!

Oxnard Fish Dinner

My whole fried red snapper dinner

It maybe wasn’t such a good year for this guy, however.

Oxnard Fish

The whole fried snapper

Another guy who had a great year is our Grandson, Brandon. He came to spend the night with us shortly after we arrived and got to spend some time with his old buddy Bongo. They don’t show well, but those are some brand new teeth up front!

Sleepover Brandon

Brandon and Bongo hanging out

We’re going to enjoy today doing some very relaxing stuff. It’s a beautiful day here in California weather-wise, so we’re taking in the beach. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be the movie of the day. Gelato will be lunch, and we’re throwing some lamb chops on the barbie for dinner. Happy New Year to all, and here’s Tippy with his  usual sage advice.

New Year Resolution

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On the Road Again 2

It’s been a long while since we updated the travel blog, and that’s mostly because we haven’t been traveling! We spent the last 4 months camped at Park of the Sierras SKP waiting for our name to come to the top of the list for a permanent membership, and it finally did! On December 9 we made the big move to our new permanent base of operations, site 114. It doesn’t look like much right now, but we have some plans to add a little landscaping and patio extension to make it much more comfortable. And we have a shed for storage!

The new digs at Site 114

A paved drive AND a shed!

Wendy and I have made lots of new friends here. Park Sierra, located in Coarsegold CA about an hour south of Yosemite’s south entrance, is a Co-op SKP park, which means that all of the members volunteer to provide services for upkeep to keep the costs of running the park low. We pay $110 per month for our site, and that includes all of the amenities except electricity and propane. We have a spacious site, a 9X12 shed, two friendly neighbors (Hi Becky and Paul!), a paved driveway, a huge clubhouse with a giant commercial kitchen, a huge Pole Barn with a large selection of woodworking, welding, blacksmithing, and general tools for our use, 4 miles of walking trails (wandering through an old-growth oak forest), and a ton of wildlife (mostly woodpeckers, squirrels and gophers, but also including bobcats, raccoons, and an occasional mountain lion). These gals spend most of every Tuesday quilting, and not just for themselves. They participate in Quilts of Valor, a project to donate high quality quilts to returning veterans as an appreciation for their service.

Quilting buddies at Park Sierra

Wendy has also taken up Beading. She caught the bug from her new friends, and has been cranking out these beautiful bracelets like crazy, giving me plenty of football-watching time!

Beaded bracelets are the latest new hobby

This place is a real treat, one of the finest RV campgrounds we have ever been in. It’s a private park (membership only). The founders followed their vision to carve this park out of a weed-choked oak forest 20 years ago, and now it’s home to about 500 retirees enjoying 254 spacious campsites spread over 160 acres in the Gold Country. We don’t worry about intruders much because the road in is a little rough.

A driveway it ain't!

Just kidding. That’s a photo of a bridge that washed out in a flood before the Friant Dam was built to create Millerton Lake, the main source of the San Joaquin River. We’ve done a lot of local sightseeing to get more up-close-and-personal with our new digs.

We are on a 2 month road trip right now, camped at Evergreen RV in Oxnard, CA. Because of the holidays (and because I didn’t book a site in time) this is a close as we can get to family in the San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills. It’s a LOT warmer than Coarsegold where the nighttime temps were dropping into the high 20’s, so it isn’t so bad making the 45 minute drive in to see them.

We’ll be off in mid-January to San Diego to visit more family, and then off to southern Arizona for a few weeks of more warm weather to visit some friends at the largest gathering of RV’s in the world. Quartzsite AZ is host to approximately 750,000 RVs during January, an event that has been going on for more than 30 years. That’s an average of about 1.5 MILLION campers in one spot, all dry-camping in the desert (no water, electricity or sewage, although strangely the cell and internet service is excellent). We’ll stay until the water runs out or the waste tanks fill up, then we’ll skedaddle back to our new home base!

Oh yeah, here’s Tippy! Are you happy now Dan?

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Pulling the Rug Out

As part of our floor refurbishing in the rig we decided to replace the old carpeting in the dining area and our upstairs lounge, which functions as our office. The rig is 7 years old this year, and the original carpet is cut-pile beige, or at least it USED to be beige. We lifted up an edge that had been doubled over and it isn’t even CLOSE to its original color. We had originally thought to replace the lounge area carpet with vinyl, but the removal and reinstallation started to look way too complex, and so we compromised on some nice tight loop “office” quality carpeting.

The “Before” in the dining area was pretty ugly. Of course there were plenty of food stains, from us and the previous owners. But it was just poor looking and it never looked very clean.

The Dining Area (or Sewing Room!) Before

The “Before” for the lounge area wasn’t quite as bad, but it still was dated and never looked clean regardless of the effort we took to vacuum and spot clean.

The Upstairs Lounge (Office) Before

The carpeting in the dining area has one exposed and finished edge since it is in the slide that moves in when retracted. So we wanted to have a nice finished edge there on the new carpet as well. We elected to buy a large area rug (Walmart, $79) that was the texture and color we wanted, and we cut pieces out of it to do our carpeting job. In this way we were able to preserve the finished edge. Wendy made some adjustments after we cut it to fit on the small “wings” at the sides that lap around the wall of the slide. She cut the binding loose from the rug before we cut it to fit, and then sewed that same binding back around the exposed edges.

Wendy had to bring the Sewing Room outdoors

The original binding was re-used for the new cut edges

Carpeting the dining area was a snap. It’s pretty much a rectangle, and the table removes with just 2 screws (Note: there are round wooden plugs concealing the screws, use a small screw tapped into the plug to pull them out).

The Dining Area after clean up (staples, staples, staples!)

The upstairs lounge area was a bigger challenge. We have two opposing slides in that area, and the old carpeting was installed before them at the factory. So we elected to remove the foot panel on each slide to expose the underneath, and cut the carpet back as far as we could. After that it was just a matter of pulling out the old carpet and cleaning up any staples left in the sub-floor. We left the existing padding since it was in pretty good shape.

Under one of the slides upstairs

Once cut loose, the big piece pulled right out

We cut the single piece out of the rug and fit it to the area, making cutouts for heater vents and other structures. Then it was just a matter of folding it over and stapling it under the exposed edge with an electric stapler (Arrow ET501 with 5/8” staples). A few tacks in the dining area and done! We were very pleased with the result. It looks clean, is a darker color to not show stains so much, is a tight loop pile that won’t “grab” the pet hair so easy, and is MUCH easier to vacuum. We can even sweep it to get up loose bits. We had enough of the rug left over to redo the steps as well. Thank God for electric staple guns!

The finished Dining Area

The finished upstairs Lounge/Office

As always, here’s Tippy!

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Carve a New Wood Floor for Your Rig

I’m kidding, of course, but that’s what it felt like when we started our project to replace the old, mismatched wood floor in our fifth wheel. In the “Before” pictures you can see that the old floor only covered the main kitchen/dining area, and had aluminum strips screwed down over the transitions to the original vinyl floor in the bedroom and commode. You can also see, under the cats, where we had previously patched the old floor to get rid of the nasty carpet section next to the dining area (we have a separate blog about replacing all that old carpet). The old wood planking was a “floating” floor, and the planks had begun to separate at their ends, allowing all kinds of dirt, dust, and cat litter to collect. It had to go.

Before

The mismatched flooring (between the cats)

The old wood floor, which had been installed in the new unit at the factory, was put in before the cabinetry in the kitchen, and I wasn’t about to remove the cabinets to get the floor out.

Many layers of old flooring, under the cabinets

We had to devise a way, actually several, to cut the old floor even with the edge of the cabinet base so we could install the new floor. We started with a flush-cut hand saw, but that didn’t cut through the composite layers of the old floor very well. We then tried some sharp chisels and a hammer, but that didn’t work so well either, and it was taking forever, and the neighbor was complaining about all the strange “banging”.

Literally carving out the old floor

I tried drilling a line of holes and then chiseling, but that also took forever, and it wasn’t going to work in a few areas that were recessed.

We tried drilling a perforation line

We finally settled on purchasing a new Rockwell SoniCrafter oscillating saw, a tool made for this type of flush cutting. This tool went through the old floor like butter.

Finally! The right tool (wrong manufacturer)

It really performed well right up to the time where I needed to change the blade angle to get at the remaining spots. I discovered the flaw in the saw when the soft allen wrench they supplied to change the lock screw on the blade quickly rounded off at the same time it stripped out the hex cavity on the locking screw, which was also too soft for the job (c’mon Rockwell, get it right!). Luckily, we had finished most of the job, and the few remaining spots weren’t too tough to tackle. The saw went back to Lowe’s for a full refund. Needless to say, I won’t be buying any more Rockwell power tools.

The old flooring also ran under our stairs to the upper level, but rather than cut around them we just disassembled the steps and moved them out of the way (much easier!).

Step dis-assembly was pretty easy

For the new floor we chose Armstrong Exquisite® vinyl plank flooring for a couple of reasons. First, although it only comes in one wood-grain color, it was a good match for the rest of our woodwork. Second, it is very reasonably priced at around $1.80 per sq. ft. at Lowe’s or Home Depot. (Note to travelers: we actually saw this flooring at a Lowe’s in Portland Oregon at $0.99/ft, but unfortunately didn’t buy it at the time, especially with no sales tax!). Third, it is a breeze to install. Since the new floor is also a “floating” one (no glue!) the only prep you need for the existing floor is to clean it of any loose or “bumpy” stuff; smooth is what you want under your vinyl. It comes in 6” x 36” planks that can be trimmed by scoring the top side with a razor knife and “cracking” it from the back. They stick to each other at the ends and the edges, forming a fully sealed vinyl sheet when you are done. The sticky strips have a good work time, so it’s easy to make adjustments while you are installing. If you want other colors or grain patterns, there is a higher end version of this flooring, Velo®, available in 38 other patterns and colors, but the cost goes up to about $3/ft.

Score with a knife, and crack from the back

For the tricky areas Wendy, who is a seamstress and pattern maker, cut out paper patterns to get the fit right before we cut flooring material. The results were well worth the extra few minutes it takes to make the patterns.

Take a few minutes to make paper patterns for those tricky spots

The demolition part of the project took by far the most time, almost 2 days by the time we tried all of our removal solutions. With the proper tools (and good quality ones at that) it would have gone much faster, perhaps 4-6 hours. The installation, which still took us 12 hours, could have gone faster except we were taking our time and trying to stay cooled off in the 95 degree weather. We finished off the flooring with some baseboard. We used a pre-finished synthetic product (Lowe’s or Home Depot) that is a rigid, dense foam covered with a vinyl wood-grain material. It’s easy to work with, cuts like a dream, and installs easily with an electric brad nailer (Arrow ET501 using 5/8” BN1810 brad nails).

Add a baseboard to cover the edges

We are thrilled with the finished project. It gives us one smooth floor from rear to front, so it’s much easier to sweep and clean. It makes the rig look newer and cleaner, and it makes the inside feel longer and more spacious. It’s not a DIY project for the timid, but if you follow the detailed instructions on the new flooring it’s a pretty straightforward thing to do.

The finished product

Oh yeah, here’s Tippy with some advice on buying new tools (something I neglected to do!)

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Gold Hill Oregon Wildfire Aug 18 2011, Up Close and Personal

We stayed overnight at Valley of the Rogue State Park (southern Oregon) during our transit from Portland to Sacramento, and we not only got a terrific pull-through RV spot without a reservation, we ended up with a front-row seat to a wildfire that broke out in the late afternoon. We had returned from picking wild blackberries along the banks of the Rogue River when we noticed a crowd gathering on the road into the campground. By the way, the berries made a scrumptious blackberry crunch!

About 6 quarts of wild blackberries

The campground is immediately adjacent to I-5, and we heard from the camp host that the fire started alongside the interstate about 2 miles north of us. Although we couldn’t see the flames at the start, that soon changed. Here is a shot of the start.   

At first it was only an impressive column of smoke

It progressed very quickly, climbing the back of the ridge that was behind the ridge in front of us. It was impressive to see the flames roar over the crest of the ridge, especially when a large fir tree would explode as the flames reached it.  

The fire very quickly crested the first (farthest away) ridge

 The locals threw everything they had on hand at the fire since it was immediately next to a major interstate, and also just “across the street” from a heavily populated state park campground (us). They used a large DC-6 Air Tanker to drop water. 

The DC-6 fire fighting tanker came very close overhead

The fire fighting tanker drops below the close ridge

 They also used several helicopters to dip water out of the river and drop onto hot spots. Watch the video here. For all their efforts, however, they couldn’t keep the fire from burning through the canyon and eventually jumping the ridge directly in front of us. 

The fire jumps the second (closest) ridge

I had a front row seat as the fire burned down the slope toward the freeway. 

Warren watching the fire progress down the slope

 As the fire progressed toward the freeway, which thank God formed a natural firebreak for us, the wind shifted and filled the campground with smoke. 

Our smoke-filled campground

At that time we also took on a lot of ash fallout. This picture is of an ash that landed in our campsite. If you look close, it’s a complete burned whole oak leaf. 

A full oak leaf ash from the fire

While the fire burned, the campground was under only a voluntary evacuation, and about half of the campers in the totally full park did exactly that. About an hour after most of them had left, the wind shifted again and completely cleared out the smoke and ash. The fire marshall never did order the evacuation, and we got a very good and quiet night’s sleep. The camp host reported that 6 fires had started at the edge of the interstate and that arson was immediately suspected. It’s a shame what some people will do. We were glad to see that the helicopter water drops were able to save the 3 houses and travel trailer we could see on the slope across the freeway. The only property loss we observed was a car or truck that caught fire and exploded in a spectacular boom when the gas tank blew up.

And, as always, here’s Tippy!

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The Four Faces of Hood

While visiting our friends Linda and Jim Schrankel at Tollbridge Park near Hood River (they are camp hosts there this summer), we had the opportunity to circumnavigate Mt. Hood, partly on our way there and partly on our way back to Portland. It looks completely different from the North, East, South and West, so we thought we’d bring a little micro-blog presentation!

 Tollbridge Park, a really excellent little gem in the shadow of Mt. Hood, is located about 18 miles south of Hood River Oregon. Making the drive south on Hwy. 35, you first see the full-on view of the mountain as you crest a grade a few miles short of the park. When I was a little kid in Los Angeles, we used to entertain out of town guests with a trip to Disneyland. This was 50 or more years ago and Disneyland was mostly still surrounded by farms then, so when you got near enough, say 10 miles or so, on the freeway you could see the latest attraction, the Matterhorn, poking into the sky and you knew you were close to the happiest place on earth. Today you get your first good look of the Matterhorn from the off ramp, looking through the towering buildings that surround the park. It’s not the same. But coming over that hill on our drive and seeing the North Face for the first time, I was immediately reminded of that view of the Matterhorn that promised the fun was about to begin.

Mt. Hood North Face

 We got a good view of the East Face from Lookout Summit, a rocky promontory that juts out of the foothills east of Hood. We hiked to the top, schlepping cameras, Flip video, and tripod early on a Friday. Lookout Point, just a short hike down from the summit, delivers a broad panorama of the Cascade Mountains from The Three Sisters in the south, near Bend in central Oregon, all the way north to Mt. Rainier, sitting on the southeast flank of Seattle. You get great views of Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens too, and of course Mt. Hood sits center stage looking so close you swear you can reach out and touch it. I was fascinated by the two ash ridges on the East Face (they slant down midway from the summit to your left, the left one is covered in snow, the right sits fully exposed). They keep their ridges sharp by sloughing ash like a Saharan sand dune sloughs sand in the breeze. I think if Hood was to blow (it’s overdue you know), this would be the face that would pop, just like St. Helens did.

Mt. Hood East Face

We got our view of the South Face on the trip back when we decided to drive Hwy 35 south to Hwy 26 where we turned west for the trip back to Portland. If we hadn’t been towing 7 tons of trailer, we would have made the trip up the steep and windy road to the Timberline Lodge so the south face could be the backdrop. The Timberline was used for the exterior shots in the movie The Shining.  Heeeeer’s Johnny!

Mt. Hood South Face

And finally, we got the view that 90% of everyone gets since the West Face is exposed to the population of Portland and Interstate 5. This is the postcard view of Hood that also harbors most of the spots where late fall or early spring mountain climbers get stranded and need rescues. It’s the side most often shrouded in the clouds and fog of the marine layer that makes its way up the Columbia River on many mornings, but not today. 

Mt. Hood West Face

The many faces of Hood were keys to inspire us to also understand something about the surrounding areas that they face. For instance, the north face overlooks the Hood River Valley with its vast fruit orchards and farmlands that produce apples, pears and cherries (yummm!). Logging still dominates the eastern foothills, and the South Face has clusters of ski areas for the Portland metro area. And, of course, the western watershed is host to Sandy, the gateway to Mt. Hood and the edge of the vast Portland metropolitan blanket. All-in-all it was much more than a postcard tour of the mountain; we got acquainted with the different economies and populations of the area. And Hood is a little unique in our experience by providing a fairly easy circumnavigation, something you don’t get from every grand mountain you see!

 Thanks again to Linda and Jim for making our stay at Tollbridge a fun and pleasant one. It’s nice to have some local knowledge of an area you are new to, and also fun to plan our next encounter. Someone mentioned Quartzsite AZ?

Camphosts Jim & Linda Schrankel

Oh yeah, here’s Tippy!

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