Is It Pomo Bluff— or Chicken Point… Fort Bragg, California

I see a massive wave like this and I remember the wise advice of old sailors: Never turn your back to the ocean. Even now when I look at this photo, I think, run! Fortunately, I was happily ensconced on a high cliff at Pomo Bluff when this big fellow came rolling in.

I laughed when I read the information sign posted up on Pomo Bluff in Fort Bragg. Sailors, fisherman, and other boaters of yore making their way out of Noyo Harbor would go out on the overlook to check how the Pacific Ocean was behaving. It could be calm and welcoming or it could be ferocious and dangerous. Checking was an opportunity to chicken out, to remember there was a cold beer that required quaffing at the local pub. Thus the name. Modern technology and weather forecasting have reduced the need to do a visual check.

We wandered around on the Bluff, admiring the ocean, checking out ice plants, watching rowdy crows, and wondering who owned the mansion hidden behind a tall fence.

In spite of the big waves, it was a beautiful day on the ocean. We watched as the charter boat, the Telstar, made its way back into Noyo Harbor. It’s available for sport fishing and whale watching. Apparently some folks had been out to try their luck. We didn’t wonder about what they caught or saw, we wondered how their stomachs had tolerated the rolling sea. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking back toward the entry into the protected Noyo Harbor.
A close up of the sea stack seen above.
Looking out to sea from Pomo Bluff. Go far enough and you will end up in Asia.
Peggy captures a photo.
And then goes in search of another. The sign is a common one along the coast, warning of the dire consequences of getting too close to a cliff’s sheer drop. But does this woman casually strolling along seem worried?
How can one resist when the best photos are often on the edge?
Such as this. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Ice plants provide an attractive foreground for photos on the coast. But there is a problem. It is an invasive species that replaces native plants.
I was surprised to find that the ice plant had adopted fall colors, something that I had never noticed before.
This crow took a break from its aerial display of chasing other crows to steal their food, to rest among the ice plants.
Peggy captured one carrying something delectable, like a long dead snail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
From her perch out on the point, Peggy was also able to catch a photo of this mansion. Otherwise, it was hidden behind a tall fence.
So I took a photo of it through a knothole.
A seagull showed us the way. I liked its feet. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And finally we came to the end. It was time to head on to our next adventure and my next post: The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.

The World’s Biggest Snowball…

I looked up our road and saw our grandson Ethan( aided and abetted by his mom, Tasha, and Peggy) was rolling a mega snowball down the road. They were about to hit a steep part. Iorek, the truck and Serafina, the trailer were in the line of fire. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Our daughter Tasha, her husband, Clay, and their two sons, Ethan and Cody, joined us for Christmas. We met them in Medford at the airport in a rip-roaring snow storm at 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. With visability occasionally dropping to a few feet and the road disappearing under the snow, it was a long drive to our home in the mountains 30 miles away. Everyone agreed I had earned the stiff shot of rum I poured for myself immediately on arrival. And the second.

The visit was all play after that. We hadn’t been home for more than 30 minutes when our neighbors Bryan, Margaret and William with 10 or so relatives showed up on our doorstep to sing Cristmas Carols. Peggy raided our cookie stash to reward them, which was a good thing since she had baked enough to last a month and Tasha was eager to bake more, a mother-daughter tradition.

Two days later, I took Bryan and his family on a snow walk over the trail I had built in the National Forest behind our house. When I got back, Peggy, Ethan and Tasha were missing. That’s when I looked up the road and saw the snowball.

By the time I got up the hill, Ethan was sitting on top of his snow ball and Peggy had persuaded him that rolling it down into our canyon was a better idea than rolling it down the road. Serafina and Iorek breathed a huge sigh of relief. Ethan, btw, at 16 is now more than six-feet tall! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Since our other grandson, Cody, had missed out on creating the snowball, Peggy took him out on our deck to build a snowman.

Peggy and Cody working on their masterpiece.
Unfortunately, the snow was really dry. Great for skiing; not so much for building a snowman. Frosty immediately fell apart. Peggy grabbed a carrot, shoved it into the remaining pile, and declared the effort a success.
You’ve undoubtably heard of people being buried in the sand. Cody wanted to be buried in the snow. Peggy, being a good grandmother, quickly agreed. Here, she is ready to drop a large snowball on his head, finishing the job!
Cody had enough. He sat up and held out his hands for Peggy’s snow…
And naturally, grandma accommodated him!

My fun was recording the action, getting in a snowball fight, and taking photos of the snow. We had over a foot by the time the storm was finished.

We wouldn’t be sitting out on our patio!
Our rose bush had morphed into some kind of snow monster.
I saw this and thought “What the…?” Were we being invaded by aliens? On closer inspection I determined is was a reflection of a light from inside our house.
Mainly, I was awed by the beauty of the snow on the trees. I framed this with snow coming off our roof.
My favorite tree, a Douglas fir, and the forest beyond it.
A view from the other side of our house.
As you can see, the snow has now melted, which is just how we like it to behave. A few days of beauty and play, and then on its way! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I’ll conclude with this. It is the Ghost of Xmas Past! Snowman style.

Escapism: Or Is the Word— Balance… Happy New Year

This cormorant at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California seems to be saying, “Bring it on! Show me what you’ve got!” It’s a New Year’s type of message. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

When Peggy and I were seeking an escape in 2021, we headed for the Oregon and Northern California Coast. It seemed like a reasonable answer to what was happening in the world. There is something calming about the ocean, a balance if you will— a reminder of the past, a welcome to the present, and a glimpse of the future. The waves continue to roll in. Worries tend to fade away under such circumstances and the spirit is renewed. Bring it on. Show us what you’ve got.

With this in mind, I decided to dedicate my first post of 2022 to the beauty and the wildness of the ocean using photos that Peggy and I took in 2021.

The sheer power of the ocean can make you stop, and say “ahhh.”

The ocean is much more than crashing waves, however. There is incredible beauty…

And an abundance of plants and animals uniquely adapted to life on and in the ocean.

I’ll conclude this first day of 2022 with a photo of the Cabrillo Point Light House, which has a beauty of its own. I rendered the lighthouse in black and white to reflect historical photos found in the lighthouse museum.

HAPPY NEW YEAR— Curt and Peggy

T’is the Season… for Glitches :)

With Christmas a mere three days away, it’s time for my annual Christmas post. (Shamelessly borrowed from the weird Christmas cards and letters I create for family and friends— plus past posts.)

Have you heard? There are some glitches in the Christmas present supply chain this year!

They started with us. Our kids are coming to join us for the holidays, which means we have been pressed for time. We decided to send Old Tom the Cat out to buy presents. What could possibly go wrong?

Lots. You never know what the cat will drag home! Not only was the gift too big for the door; he wasn’t housebroken. And the zoo refuses to take him back.

Meanwhile, more serious trouble is brewing at the North Pole. Blitzen was plying his red-nosed friend with eggnog and rum to make his red nose shine brighter when suddenly Rudolph had a coughing fit. Blitzen leapt six-feet away, donned his face mask and whipped out his vaccination card, waving it around like people use crosses to scare away vampires. (Does that work?) Millions of children were depending on his flying companions and him to deliver Santa and his bag of gifts to their roofs. This was no time for risks!

Santa was even more worried. He might lose his guide. The last time that happened on a foggy night, he had depended on GPS and ended up on Mars. He decided on a back-up plan…

He asked Rudolph’s girlfriend, Rudette, to be the backup for Rudolph. She was excited! She would be the first ever female reindeer to guide Santa. She would strike a blow for equality. Little girl reindeer the world over would look up to her.

Even that didn’t resolve Santa’s concerns. Rudette and Rudolph are quite close. They even share the same stall and who knows what else. When one gets sick; the other is likely to as well. Santa decided to be 100% safe. He would recruit a back up to the back up. He searched the Northlands far and wide for someone to guide his sleigh. And got lucky…

Monty the Mauve Nosed Moose volunteered his services if needed.

So rest assured kids, Santa and his eight reindeer plus someone with a shiny nose will deliver your presents this year. In Santa’s immortal words:

HO! HO! HO!

Oh yeah, and Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night… Plus a Happy and Healthy 2022!

CURT and PEGGY

Going on a -.-. — .– Walk at Pt. Reyes… Plus: Peggy Snuggles up to a Police Horse

The cows had a hungry look in their eyes. We were thankful they were vegetarians.

Peggy and I had decided to revisit an old favorite of ours, the Palomarin Trail that enters Pt. Reyes National Seashore from the south. We had driven down to Bolinas and were on our way out the narrow, pothole-filled road that leads to the trailhead when we saw a series of poles, lined up like they were standing at attention in ranks. I knew immediately what they were. 

The poles were part of the historic Marconi wireless radio station near Bolinas. At one point, they had been connected by wires.

In 1914, decades before the likes of Elon Musk and his techie cohorts started working on worldwide wireless technology, Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless radio, had built a huge, wireless radio station near Bolinas to send Morse Code messages flying across the Pacific Ocean, setting up the first-ever communication system between ships at sea and land. A small parking lot was connected to a walking trail that wound its way past the historic poles and toward the ocean. We were easily diverted from our original intent of hiking the Palomarin Trail.  

The pole-filled field was doing double-duty as a cow pasture and a herd of cattle insisted on checking us out— up close and personal. It was lunch time and they may have thought we were sneaking alfalfa past them. The Morse Code in the title, BTW, spells C -.-. O —, W .–, in case you were wondering. And boy, that takes me back to my Boy Scout days in the 50s when memorizing Morse Code was essential to working your way up through the ranks.

We checked out the poles, talked with the cattle, and had a pleasant walk out to the coast with both Peggy and me taking photos. 

Not quite Mt. Everest, but I was still willing to pose for Peggy. We found large cement blocks throughout the area. At first, I though they might have been part of the coastal fortifications the US built along the Pacific Coast in WW II. Then we decided they were used to anchor the poles and wires. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A whole herd of cattle was lined up along the road. They remained on the road, not budging as we walked by.
I thought this young fellow munching on grass was quite handsome.
Peggy stopped to admire a lone tree on our walk. The brush had a soft, welcoming look to it. But looks can be deceiving!
It was close to impenetrable.
As we approached the coast, the Pacific Ocean stretched off into the distance. The Farallon Islands can be seen as bumps on the horizon. They were once known at ‘The Devil’s Teeth’ for their ability to rip the bottoms out of sailing ships. In the 1800s, millions of birds’ eggs were taken from the islands to feed San Francisco’s growing population. Today the islands are a designated wilderness area and are part of a marine sanctuary. The birds no longer have to worry about their babies being stolen.
Looking north, we saw some of the towering cliffs found along the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Sir Frances Drake, the renowned English hero and buccaneer (fancy name for pirate), apparently admired these cliffs on his visit to the area in 1579. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking south we could see the giant Sutro Tower that dominates the San Francisco skyline. Herb Caen, the well known and beloved columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, once described the tower as a “giant erector” that was stalking and planning to eat the Golden Gate Bridge. I read Caen religiously when I was growing up. It was back when newspapers still had a sense of humor, before they adopted their Doomsday, Penny Henny view of the world. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Afterwards, we stopped off in Bolinas for lunch. It’s another favorite coastal town of mine. One reason is the fact that the locals refuse to have signs leading into the town from Highway 1 for tourists to follow. Whenever Cal Trans puts one up, it’s torn down. I think that Cal Trans has finally given up. At least I didn’t see any signs. It has always been a fun, quirky town with its own unique cast of characters. Last time when Peggy and I visited with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake, we came on a bookstore without staff. A sign said “Take any book you want and leave whatever you think the book is worth to you in the cash box.” It was a very Bolinas type of thing.

While I’m on Bolinas stories, I’ll mention that it was also the site of my first ‘Hippie’ experience. I’d stopped in the town in 1968/69 and decided to do a little sunbathing on its infamous nude beach, which I had read about in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a time before Google listed “The Best Nude Beaches in Marin County,” a time when the Protestant ethic still reigned supreme among America’s middle class. I confess I was a little nervous about getting naked, but it was the sunburn that left a lasting memory!

A sign of the times in Bolinas. As we were walking through the town in search of lunch, we came across a car with a ladder on top that included a sign that set me to laughing. I could identify with it.

Having featured cattle today, it is only right that I should feature a horse as well. It’s a requirement of the Old West. The day after our Bolinas walk found Peggy and I hoofing it along the Bear Valley Trail. It connects the Visitor’s Center with the ocean in an 8-mile round trip. We were feeling our oats, so to speak, when we came across a pair of real hoofers, i.e. horses. A woman was walking one and stopped to chat. As it turns out the horses were part of ‘San Francisco’s Finest.’ It was a police horse, a proud member of the mounted patrol that can often be found patrolling Golden Gate Park. They’ve been at it continuously since 1864. The horses were out for a play day on the Bear Valley Trail. 

Peggy, who likes horses, insisted on snuggling up to it and I dutifully snapped a photo on our iPhone. I, on the other hand, am not a horse person. It isn’t their size, their looks, or their personality, all of which I find pleasing. It’s their smell, and the fact that they often leave prodigious piles of poop along hiking trails. Have you ever seen a sign that says “Clean up after your horse?” I’m not sure what it is about their smell, but it clings to you. I wonder if cowgirls and cowboys think of it as perfume? 

Peggy snuggles up with the horse along the Bear Valley trail.

That does it for today. I’ll wrap up our recent visit to Pt. Reyes in my next post. Then it will be off to Fort Bragg and Mendocino.

When the Big One Strikes… A Hike Along Earthquake Trail: Pt. Reyes

At 7.9 on the Richter scale, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake wreaked massive damage both in structures destroyed and lives lost. This photo is from the National Archives.

I was wrapping up my day at the Lung Association in Sacramento when the building started moving shortly after 5 p.m. on October 17th, 1989. Peggy and I were at the very beginning of our relationship. You might say, it was off to a shaky start. “Is this the big one?” leapt into my mind as I ran outside. But buildings weren’t falling or people screaming. “Not this time,” we thought, relieved. 

Had you been one of 62,000 baseball fans crammed into Candlestick Park for the World Series, or worse, commuting home from work in the Bay Area, your perspective would have been substantially different. A major 6.9 earthquake had ripped into the Santa Cruz Mountains along the San Andreas Fault south of the stadium. Nearby freeways collapsed including a section of the Bay Bridge, numerous buildings were destroyed or damaged, 63 people were killed and 3,757 injured by what became known as the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

A number of faults are located under the Bay Area. The next big earthquake is projected to be along the Hayward Fault. The Pt. Reyes National Seashore is the land jutting out to the left of the San Andreas fault at the top of the diagram.

Eighty-three years before the Loma Prieta earthquake, an even greater one shook the Bay Area. Blame plate tectonics. The San Andreas Fault, marks a distinct boundary as the Pacific Plate grinds its way north past the North American Plate, building pressure until an earthquake erupts.  At 7.9 on the Richter Scale, the energy released from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake equaled blowing up an estimated 6,270,000 tons of TNT! 

Earthquake Trail, found next to the Visitors’ Center at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, commemorates the event. Peggy and I were there last week and went for a walk along the trail. Like San Francisco, Pt. Reyes felt the full fury of the earthquake as portions of the land moved north as much as 20 feet.

With arms stretched out, Peggy points to two sections of a fence that were separated during the San Francisco Earthquake. They have been rebuilt to demonstrate the power of the earthquake. The lower fence had moved 16 feet north. The San Andreas Fault is located directly under Peggy’s feet.

The trail is easy to hike and is well marked with information signs. Its bucolic, serene beauty makes the damage done by the 1906 earthquake hard to imagine, however. 

A bridge along Earthquake Trail at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
The peaceful beauty found along the Earthquake Trail at Pt. Reyes belies the potentially destructive force that lies just beneath it. Fall leaves added color.
While the trail is short and easy to hike, it provides a variety of scenery, like this meadow…
Interesting trees are perfect for little people to explore… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A fun stump found along the trail.
Peggy took an interesting closeup. She saw a dragon, a monster, and more….oh, my.
Birch.
Moss
Various Conifers…
And in conclusion, a bit of sunshine.

NEXT POST: More photos from around Pt. Reyes National Seashore and our maiden three week voyage with Iorek the Truck and Serafina the trailer.

What’s in a Name…

Names are important. Almost everyone knows Eeyore the Donkey. If you read this blog, you also know Bone. He’s being a bit sartorial here, all dressed up in his kilt. He’s also known for running around naked.

I’ve been tardy in the world of blogging lately. My apologies. Other things have demanded my attention: Important things like learning to back up a trailer (a work in progress), or make the trailer’s hotspot work so we can have decent internet, or figure out what the hundreds of buttons (a slight exaggeration) in our new Ford 150 do.  And a gazillion other things. Like the naming of the trailer…

I asked Eeyore to help me back up the trailer last week in my first ever campground backup spot at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. This was his reaction. The Olema campground host was hardly more helpful. “I’ll be glad to come out and yell at you when your wife gets tired,” she told me.
A partial view of the buttons on our truck, lit up at night. They are hard enough to figure out in the day when you can see their labels.

Names are important, right? They provide recognition. Everyone, or just about everyone, recognizes Eeyore, for example. And if you read this blog, the odds are, you know Bone. But did you know Bone and Eeyore are the best of buddies? They’ve been traveling with us together for over a quarter of million miles on North America’s highways and byways over the past 20 years. They became good friends when Eeyore saved Bone from hanging in Tucson. He’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with ladies of the night.

Naming characters like Eeyore and Bone is natural, but how many of you also name your vehicles? We always have and recently we were faced with the challenge of naming two: our new Ford 150 pickup and our new Imagine trailer. The truck was easy. It is big, strong, and white like a polar bear. Iorek (pronounced Yorek), a king of the polar bears in The Golden Compass, immediately popped into our minds.

Iorek the bear in a free, downloadable photo from his role in “Golden Compass.” He was also quite gentle in his role when it came to Lyra.

The trailer has proven to be more difficult. We wanted something that suggested wandering. After all, this blog’s title is Wandering Through Time and Place. My Pacific Crest Trail backpacking name was Wanderer. One thing was clear. The name for the trailer had to represent a strong, independent female personality who loves roaming to provide a fitting partner for Iorek. The two of them are hitched.

Peggy suggested that maybe we should just go with Wanderer. But we wanted something more exotic. Remember, our first travel van was named Xanadu after the ancient summer capital of Kublai Khan. The second was Quivera, in honor of a mythical Native American city of gold that the Spanish Conquistadors could never find because it moved around— a lot, apparently.

“Go for a character out of Greek (or Roman) mythology,” our son Tony urged. And certainly there were strong Roman/Greek goddesses who wandered. Think of Diana, the Roman Goddess of the Hunt (Artemis in Greek Mythology), who spent a lot of time traipsing around in the woods. Like Peggy. My kind of woman. Or Persephone, who split her time between Hades and the outer world, creating the seasons as she moved. Then there was Medusa. But her nasty habit of turning people to stone disqualified her. She was a sweetheart in comparison to Pandora, however, who opened her box and set free all of the horrors of the world. What are a few stoned people in comparison to that? The treasure trove of Greek and Roman mythology encouraged me to check out mythological figures in other cultures. I found a number of promising leads but none quite clicked with us.

We were also open to historical figures. A ‘legendary but possibly historical character’ out of Ireland’s ancient history caught my attention. Muirisc was given land by her father, the 66th high king of Ireland, between 300 and 200 BCE, in what is now County Mayo.  According to Wikipedia, “She was known as a sea captain and a warrior who ‘ruled o’er hardy sailors and great men’ and was famed as much for being ‘daring’ and ‘bold’ as she was for her beauty.”

A wandering sea captain queen famed for her beauty, daring, and boldness— How could Iorek help but be charmed? But I don’t think “being ruled o’er’ was part of his agenda. (I’ve never been much on that, myself.) And he had someone in mind. “Serafina” we heard him whisper. She too was a queen, the queen of a clan of witches that live around Lake Enara in Finland. Like Iorek, she knows about extreme cold weather, and also like him, is a character in the Golden Compass. Both shared responsibility for helping and protecting young Lyra in her battles against totalitarian evil. They were a team.

It was hard to argue against Iorek’s logic. He’s the one, after all, who has to pull her along the highways and byways of North America. Plus, I like the way her name rolls off the tongue: srr-aa-FEE-na.   And maybe, just maybe, she will jump on her broom and park herself in campground spots that are particularly tight!

Imagine Serafina.

The Imagine 17MKE… Our New Tiny Home: Plus Halloween

Our new 2021 Ford 150 and 2022 Grand Design Imagine 17MKE. Are we ready to hit the road, or what! We are camped in Bend, Oregon as I write this blog. We came here to pick up our trailer from Blue Dog RV in Redmond, just north of Bend.

It’s not hard for Peggy and me to imagine a life of wandering. After all, we full-timed it for four years in our two Pleasure Way vans, Xanadu and Quivera. The first time we took a year off from work and travelled in Xanadu. The second time, we celebrated Peggy’s retirement with three years of exploring North America in Quivera. We are veterans of the open road, you might say, with a quarter of million miles crisscrossing the continent behind us.

But wandering with a trailer is a totally different kettle of fish, a virgin experience as our friend Leslie Lake would say. She also likes to note that virgin experiences are few and far between at our age and should be treasured.

I tend to agree but had serious second thoughts when Peggy and I mistakenly turned into a tiny parking lot yesterday and had to turn the trailer around while dodging parked cars. It quickly ramped up from virgin experience to Halloween nightmare. “Turn the other way!” my faithful traveling companion yelled at me from safely outside the truck as I was backing up. “No, the other way!” she yelled. Hmmm. After two or three times of that, pardon my French, I was beginning to wonder how many frigging ways a trailer can turn. And yes, I am well aware that the truck goes one direction and the trailer the other when you are backing up.

Aside from a very steep learning curve, we are really enjoying our new, tiny home and pickup. I decided to share a few photos of the Imagine 17 MKE. We haven’t named her yet, but the truck’s name is Iorik (pronounced Yorik). If you aren’t familiar with Iorik, he was the large, armored polar bear in the book/movie, The Golden Compass.

Murphy bed couch in an Imagine 17MKE.
A Murphy bed was close to a requirement in our new trailer because it frees up valuable living space, which is at a premium in a small trailer. When not down, the bed morphs into a couch, perfect for entertaining guests.
Alaks quilt made by Peggy Mekemson.
We decided to use one of Peggy’s quilts as a backdrop to add color and a personal touch. This is our ‘Alaskan quilt.’
Peggy serves as my model. The kitchen’s counter top is on the right.
African quilt by Peggy Mekemson.
Here is what the Murphy bed looks like when it is down. Here we are using Peggy’s African quilt as a comforter. It’s quite cozy. Note the small reading lights. They work quite well.
Mood lighting over Murphy bed in and Imagine 17MKE trailer.
The bed comes with blue, mood lighting. I don’t expect we will use it much but it is fun. I noticed that Peggy’s brown eyes turn golden under the light! A lioness, perhaps? One can only wonder.
This is our other couch, the one Peggy and I will use most. It is housed in a small slide out that also adds space to the trailer. The middle section can be converted to a side table for snacks. A larger fold up table comes with the 2022 Imagine but will live in our truck unless we are entertaining or working on projects. We are also trying out our various quilts on the couch.
Each unit of the couch can be turned into a recliner that goes all the way back if we want to take a nap. Note the lights on the drink cup. One of them simply lights up the cup holder. The one on the right turns the recliner into a massage chair. The one on the left heats the chair. This definitely isn’t a trailer of yore.
A comfy chair deserves a good book. Baldacci can always be trusted to spin a good tale. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
What I wasn’t expecting in a small trailer was the counter space. A large, stainless steel sink is in the middle. Its cover is made of slotted steel and rolls out, doubling as a dish dryer. Beyond that is our stove and then more counter space. Off to the right is a humongous refrigerator. Solar power runs the refrigerator when we are boon docking. Our TV is above the window.
Our three burner stove. A small oven is under the stove and a microwave above it. Add our Insta-Pot and air fryer and we will be able to cook just about anything on the road.
One of our major concerns in picking out a new trailer was the amount of storage space. Now we are wondering how we are going to fill all of the space we have. (I’m sure we will mange. Grin.) Anyway, I just counted 28 drawers and cabinets. Most are very generous in space. The five you see here are mine. All mine. That’s mine, Peggy. You have your own five.
There is also ample storage in the bathroom, but what really impressed me is that I fit easily into the shower!
Now you’ve seen the inside of our trailer, imagine moving in. Again, think scary Halloween. It’s just like moving into anywhere else when faced with the severe challenge of downsizing. Fortunately our 20 years of traveling in Quivera and Xanadu prepared us for the experience. We simply unpacked Quivera into our truck and then loaded our trailer from that while camped in Bend.
Bend has a lot to offer including great outdoor recreation… and beer. There are several brew pubs but the granddaddy of them all is Deschutes Brewery. Peggy snapped this photo of me at the brewpub celebrating time off from cramming for Trailer/Truck 101. A table of pirates sat next to us, but they had forgotten their parrot…
In the spirit of the season, I decided that this black vulture from the Florida Everglades (photo taken several years ago) would make a good substitute. Happy Halloween!

Our Link to the Stars… Or at Least an Army of Satellites Marching Across the Sky

Our roof now has a new addition, a Starlink satellite.

If you live out in the boondocks, like Peggy and I do, communication can be something of a challenge. Our only solution has been to reach up into the sky and hope that the sky gods are listening. As a result, our house is starting to look like a military installation out in the Nevada desert.

Searching for signals from the heavens. On the far right, a booster to enhance Verizon signals which our son-in-law Clay installed for us. It definitely improved our Verizon service but we still have to depend on a landline for most phone conversations. Next, in order, satellite dishes for our TV, Hughes, and Starlink connections.

This past summer I was becoming increasingly irritated at the service we received from Hughes. Slow to start with, it was getting worse. Several of our neighbors had switched to Viasat and argued it was much better. I did my research and was prepared to make the leap. That’s when Clay suggested that I check out Elon Musk’s Starlink. If it served our area, I might be able to sign up as a Beta tester. It promised internet services at speeds several times faster than either Hughes or Viasat at a similar cost. Plus it included unlimited data. I went online and discovered that our latitude was one of the first to be served. So I signed up, made a deposit, and waited.

A few weeks ago, a large box showed up on our doorstep. Unlike Hughes and Dish, who sent technicians out, I would be on my own with Starlink. I was a wee bit nervous. As you may recall, things mechanical and I don’t get along. It isn’t that I can’t do them. Owning a house in the woods for 11 years has certainly taught me that; its just that I prefer to do other things like writing, photography, cooking, traveling, reading, watching movies, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, pulling star thistle and scrubbing out toilets— you get the picture. People like Clay and my friend Tom, on the other hand, take great joy in fixing things. When Tom comes to visit, he brings a tool box with high hopes of finding something. Clay insists that I have a list for him. Even Peggy gets a gleam in her eyes when she is holding a power tool.

The big box, other boxes from Starlink, and the stand to use for placing my dish on the ground.

Before the box arrived, our first chore was to download an app to our iPhone and wander around the yard with the camera on and the phone pointed toward the sky to find the best, obstruction-free place to set the satellite. Did I mention we live in the boondocks, in a forest, with lots and lots of trees. South was fine. It’s where our other satellite dishes are pointed. The Starlink dish, however, likes north. Heres what our north looks like:

It includes lots of white oaks and very tall Ponderosa pines.

The app was not happy. It kept telling me to move to another location until I ran out of locations. I talked with my friends Bryan, who lives up the hill from where we live, and Jeff, who lives down the hill. Both had received Starlink dishes a couple of weeks before we got ours. Both told me that the app had told them the same thing. They had ended up placing their dishes in the least obstructed locations they could find. I decided to do the same thing:

And I found this. Call it a window of opportunity. A small window. To take advantage, I would have to place our dish up on the roof.

Now—to backtrack a little— I opened the box. The dish came with a stand, a hundred foot long ethernet cable, a modem and a router. It was designed to be placed on the ground. It even came all plugged together, almost idiot proof. All I would need to do was drill a hole in the side of our house, which was scary enough, but was something I could handle, or sic Peggy on.

Did directions ever come more simple? Find your location, set down your stand, pop in the dish, drill the hole in your house, plug the modem and router into your electrical outlet, log in, and woohoo! You have super-fast (for the boondocks) internet.

It was drilling holes in the roof that I found disturbing. They can be injurious to your house. Water can seep through and and do all sorts of nasty damage. Some people might also question the wisdom of a 78 year-old wandering around on a roof. They are probably the same people who questioned my wisdom in celebrating my 75th birthday by backpacking 750 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, much of it by myself. No, I was not worried about being up on the roof. Try perching on a narrow trail by yourself with a thousand foot drop below you in a strong wind with a forest fire rapidly approaching.

I did what any modern fix-it person does and went looking for YouTube videos. There were plenty, of course. The secret was simply find the roof studs for screwing the mount into and seal the hell out of the holes. Okay, I could handle that. I bought extra outdoor sealant just in case. But I also opted for back up if needed. I called Joel, a roofer and really nice guy who had replaced a skylight for us. He quickly volunteered. He’s also waiting for a Starlink dish. And I checked in with Bryan, our uphill neighbor, who had already installed his Starlink dish on the side of his house and is quite handy. And then I waited again. Starlink had sent us everything we needed for the ground version, but it had another package for roof installation.

It arrived a few days ago and included a roof volcano mount, six large screws and (lo and behold) a tar-based super sticky sealant and directions how to use it. Elon Musk leaves little to chance. Okay, I said to myself— “Self, you can do this.” I gathered all of the tools I would need, loaded them into a garden apron Peggy loaned me, and up I went, like Santa sans reindeer. Peggy held the ladder and did whatever worrying that needed to be done. I am pleased to say that my mounting effort was a success. At least so far. Next, I affixed the cable along our eaves and came to my last scary task, drilling a large hole in the side of our house.

Check out the volcano mount! What fine work. Grin. I’d used a silver spray paint so I would know exactly where to place the large screws. BTW, each end of the cable came with the round thing-a-ma-bob you see here. It’s what required the large hole in our house.
The next major challenge was drilling a hole large enough to accommodate the ethernet cable. Would you trust this man and his big drill? Neither did my wall. I admit, it was a bit too much.

This drill exactly matched the size of the hole I had to create, but my first problem was that I needed to drill smaller holes before the large bit would enter the siding. Whatever. Except the sky was darkening, the wind picking up, and a possible downpour about to erupt. I drilled my smaller holes and quickly realized that my bits weren’t long enough to make it through the wall. Even the big bit. Measurements were called for as to where we would need to drill from the other side. Peggy demanded her turn with the drill and eventually, we had holes on both sides that would accommodate the cord. A wire that I had adapted for the purpose showed our two holes were exactly aligned. Exciting huh? Well, it was for us. Believe me.

Here’s the ironic part. Just as I was finishing up, a Fed-Ex truck drove down our road. It delivered another package from Starlink. It included everything I needed to drill the hole in our wall. At least I was able to use the patches it sent to cover the holes and the silicon sealant.

Star link kit for drilling hole in wall for ethernet cable. Note the extra long bit for reaching all of the way through the outer and inner walls. Number 1 was the bit designed to drill a Starlink size hole. At least I got to use the sealant and the caps.
Here’s a shot of how I often looked when dealing with Hughes. Fortunately, you can’t hear my language. Peggy would agree.
Here’s my standard expression on Starlink. Yes, I have obstructions.My Starlink monitor reported 8 seconds in the last nine hours. There were another 42 seconds of downtime due to other issues. So far, our speeds have normally been 7-10 times as fast as we have on Hughes. There is a reason for the big grin.