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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
This and That is a good title for today’s post. When you have taken a break from blogging, like I have, things accumulate. I thought I would do a little catching up today.
You know it’s October when the local bucks start testing their mettle with each other over who gets to snuggle up with the local does. These two decided to put on a performance in our backyard. They didn’t do any damage to each other, at least when Peggy and I were watching, but it seemed like a great way to poke out an eye. This morning we watched a doe cross our deck followed by three bucks: a spike, a forked horn, and a three pointer. I wondered what the doe was thinking. Was it, “Wow, look at me and all the guys tagging along.” Or was it, “Damn, I wish those idiots would go somewhere else.” I suspect it was the latter. While mating season is a true passion for the bucks, it’s more like being worn down for the does. At least that’s my assumption after watching them frolic for ten years. Maybe if the bucks had to help take care of the babies…
Several months ago my friend Linda from the blog, Lagniappe, mailed me a fascinating country cloth piece that she had picked up in Liberia, West Africa where we had both lived— me in the mid-60s and Linda in the early 70s. I put it out to admire for a while and then decided it would make a great quilt. Fortunately, Peggy is quite talented when it comes to putting quilts together. The results are quite gorgeous. Many thanks for your generous gift, Linda. And thank you Peggy. It will live on our bed in the trailer.
On our last trip to the Oregon Coast we stayed in a KOA at the base of the Alsea Bridge in the town of Waldport. Peggy and I took a number of photos of the bridge plus we walked across it, admiring the sand at low tide on our journey south and seals on our journey north. I’ve been meaning to do a post on it ever since Peggy and I went kayaking in the area.
Early in September, Peggy and I went to my 60th High School Reunion in Placerville, Ca. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of old folks there.
On Friday, we said a sad goodbye to our small RV, Quivera. We had had numerous adventures in her including making our way across the US several times, going to Alaska twice, and Burning Man at least five times. We retraced my 10,000 mile Bike Trek around North America in her with Peggy driving the whole time so I could take photos and make notes. Last summer, we hightailed it across the nation at the height of the pandemic so Peggy could attend a 70th birthday party organized by our kids on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Three summers ago, Peggy used her as a backup vehicle for me as I did my 750 mile backpack trek down the PCT to celebrate my 75th. Quivera has found a great new home with Terry and her dog Benny in Ashland, Oregon, however. And has many more adventures ahead. As do we. Grin.
This is one my occasional blogs I am posting as I have taken a break from blogging over the summer. Next up, I will do a post on the impressive Alsea Bridge across Alsea Bay in Waldport. Let me just say here, Oregon takes its bridges seriously. After that I’ll touch on what Peggy and I have decided over the summer. It will include our being on the road much more exploring North America. Change is in the wind.
For about three weeks all we saw around here on our property in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon were the two does that hang out here and their four fawns. We wondered about the absence of other deer. Maybe the does turn into ‘mama bears’ when their babies are so young and the other does, bucks, and youngsters find it wise to be elsewhere. That all changed this week. Four or five other does and a couple of bucks had come by to drink water and decided to hang around.
But enough on the adults. I know that the real reason you are here is to see the babies. The following photos are of Misty’s kids. Her daughter’s fawns were born a couple of weeks after Misty’s and are still too small to hang out with the adults. We tend to see them later in the evening.
And to finish off today’s post, a few more cute fawn photos…
Other notes: The fox came by recently, trotting across our deck. A pair of California quail have been hanging around. Three days ago we spotted them with their family of tiny babies, maybe an inch tall. Our lavender is in full bloom, attracting hundreds of honey bees and dozens of bumble bees. We had a population explosion of ground squirrels. I’ve caught 86 so far and transported them across the river to Squirrel Village. They can be quite verbal in what they think about the relocation program. I’ve never heard such fowl language. Not even Rooster can match them.
Peggy celebrated her birthday today. Her brother and his wife Frances drop by tomorrow and we are off to Florida on Thursday to join our son, Tony, in celebrating his retirement from serving as a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard. As you likely know, I am taking a break from regularly posting this summer. –Curt
It’s that time of the year. Two weeks ago, Peggy and I made a trip to Sacramento to catch up with friends and relatives, some of whom we hadn’t seen for over a year due to Covid. We returned home to find that our two resident does (Misty and her daughter)had both dropped their babies. Two sets of twins were cavorting about our yard and kicking up their heels. It’s an annual event that Peggy and I look forward to eagerly.
Fawns sleeping on our porch was a totally new experience for us, however. Mama deer usually insist that their babies sleep hidden away down in the canyon. The fact that they are camouflaged by their spots and more or less odorless keeps them safe from predators. I think the coolness of the cement and nearby water was more than they could resist on a 100° F day. I am going to water down the area late this afternoon to make it even cooler this evening.
Naturally, we take lots of photos when the babies are around. Here are a few more.
Like the gunslingers of the Old West, our reputations far exceeded the reality of our actions. Take Tony Pavy’s pig for example. Tony had a large pond with bullfrogs, a hundred or so acres of scrubland, and a wooded hillside that housed a number of gray squirrels. He also had an attitude similar to Jimmy Pagonni’s: Children were not to be heard or seen, especially on his property. As with Pagonni, we didn’t allow Pavy to keep us from our appointed rounds. We would slip in at night to harvest his bullfrogs and during the day to bring down a squirrel. Tony had a very effective way of getting rid of us. In a very loud voice he would yell, “Mama, get my gun!” and we would streak out of there.
A couple of friends and I were hunting for the squirrels on his hillside when the unfortunate incident with the pig took place. But before I tell the story, I need to digress and provide some background information.
Growing up in Diamond in the 50s meant having a gun and shooting things. At least it did if you were a boy. We graduated from BB guns and 22s to deer rifles and shotguns. Obtaining your first rifle was an experience similar in importance to obtaining your driver’s license, except you could get one a lot earlier. Before we were allowed to hunt, however, certain rules were pounded into our heads. We had to take a course sponsored by the National Rifle Association. These were the years when the NRA’s primary concern was about hunting and hunter safety. They also sponsored marksmanship competitions for improving skills. Ten years after I got my license Peggy won the NRA’s National Pistol competition for youth.
I didn’t become one of America’s premier marksmen, but I did learn it is important to know what you were shooting. This might seem obvious, but flatlanders out of Sacramento often had trouble making the distinction between a cow and a deer. Of a much more serious nature, every year or so one would mistake another hunter for a deer. Wear red hats and bright clothes, we were taught. There were other things we weren’t supposed to shoot as well. People’s houses for example. Robins were also high on the list. They ate their weight daily in bugs. It was okay to shoot ‘vermin’ such as ground squirrels, jackrabbits, coyotes and the scrub jays that pecked away at pears. In fact there was a bounty on jays, $.25 per head.
My usual preference was for watching wildlife, not killing it. I made an exception for gray squirrels. The thrill of the hunt combined with my appetite for a delicious squirrel and dumpling stew my mother whipped up overcame any reservations I had. All of which brings me back to the pig.
Gray squirrels have about the same appreciation for being shot that you or I might. To avoid this unhappy circumstance, they take off leaping through the trees. The one we had marked for dinner was jumping from limb to limb in a live oak tree on the hill above Pavy’s with all three of us shooting at it when we heard a bellow from the barnyard.
“Mama, get my gun! They shot my pig! They shot my pig! Hurry, Mama!”
I don’t know how fast Mama moved but we flew. By the time Ernie Carlson, the County Sheriff, caught up with us we were far away from Pavy’s and about as innocent as newborn piglets.
“Excuse me, boys,” the Sheriff remarked when he pulled over in his car and rolled down his window, “I don’t suppose you know anything about Tony Pavy’s pig being shot.”
“No, sir,” we replied respectfully in unison. We had rehearsed. Besides, we were technically correct. We hadn’t shot Pavy’s pig; we hadn’t even shot the squirrel. It was a ricocheting bullet that did in the pig.
Ernie looked at us dubiously.
“Pavy described three kids that fit your description,” the Sheriff said as he continued to build pressure, hoping that one of us would break. Boy, had we heard that one before.
“We’ve been out in back of Ot Jones pond,” I argued indignantly. And we had been. So what if we had arrived there out of breath.
“Well, you kids behave yourselves,” the Sheriff said with an ominous I know you’re lying tone. We breathed a joint sigh of relief as he rolled up his window and drove off. Once more we had avoided a fate we probably deserved. I suspect now that Ernie was not one hundred percent dedicated to finding the alleged pig murderers. Tony was not universally loved in the community for several reasons, of which regularly threatening to shoot kids was only one.
For example, my father did some electrical work for him once for free. As he was leaving, Tony asked, “Would you like one of my geese for dinner?”
“Sure,” Pop had replied, assuming Pavy was offering it as thanks for his four hours of work.
“Good,” Tony had replied, “that will be five dollars.” Pop was more than a little irritated. He had a hearty laugh years later when I told him about our adventure with the pig. I wisely avoided telling him at the time, however. His perspective on our miscreant behavior softened substantially with distance and age.
Those Lazy Hazy Days of Summer
“Roll out those lazy, hazy days of summer,” Nat King Cole sang in 1963. It was the adult version of what the kids of earlier years uttered when they escaped from school for the summer, “No more pencils, no more books, No more teachers, dirty looks.” Actually I liked school and my teachers, and I loved books, but the appeal of having a whole summer ahead with minimal responsibility and maximum play was close to magical. Since I have been writing about my childhood, it’s hard not to feel a bit nostalgic for those days. As Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again,” however, and he’s right. The idyllic view of our childhood that many of us have doesn’t quite match the reality. It’s human nature to forget the bad and remember the happy, which is a good thing.
But none of this means that we can’t on occasion escape from whatever keeps our feet tethered to the ground and our nose to the grindstone, allowing ourselves to play more and pursue other things we find of interest. I am something of a master at this, having engineered escapes all of my adult life every few years from three months to three years. These escapes have enabled me the wander through the South Pacific, go on a six-month bicycle trip, take two, three month breaks for backpacking, spend three years wandering North America in a small RV, etc. Fortunately, my good buddy of the last 30 years has been more than willing to join me in these escapes.
Anyway, it’s time for another 3–4 month break. This one won’t be major. I only plan to cut back on some of my regular activities to free up time for other activities.
One of these is blogging, which I have now been doing for 11 years. I don’t plan on quitting the blogosphere, only cutting back and writing when I am inspired to do so, like when Big Foot or baby deer show up on our door step, for example. I’ll also be touching base with my blogging friends from time to time over the summer. I should be back to a regular schedule this fall. I realize that it is disconcerting when blogging friends up and disappear, so I wanted to let you know what’s up. Have a great summer, and here’s to being able to travel again. –Curt
For quite some time, we have been making a detour into the forest as part of our daily mailbox walk. It adds an extra mile to our exercise. Plus it is just plain fun. The problem is that the hike only works for late fall, winter and early spring. Otherwise, we are dealing with poison oak, ticks, and little burrs. No one wants poison oak, the ticks may carry Lyme disease, and the burrs are just plain nasty. We come home with dozens in our socks and they are very difficult to remove. Inevitably we miss a few and they end up in our laundry. For some reason, they are attracted to our underwear, mainly Peggy’s. But you can bet I feel the pain…
This spring, I decided to create a trail through the forest that would allow us year round access. It would be poison oak and burr free. Plus we would be much less likely to get ticks. They tend to hang out in bushes and brush off on innocent animals, people and maybe Big Foot, who, legend has it, likes to hang out in our neck of the woods.
I wouldn’t be starting the trail from scratch. Mainly I would be reclaiming and expanding on old miners’ trails and deer paths. My goal, as always, was to have minimum impact, which was pretty much guaranteed since my tools were a rake, mattock, and lopper. I call the lopper, Cindy. You may need to be of a certain age to get that. I tell Peggy that Cindy and I are going up on the mountain to have a little fun. She doesn’t worry; she just snorts. “Wear your gloves, honey.”
I was worried on my first day of trail making. It was two days after the cougar ran across our deck and the morning after our neighbor Bryan had his scary night-time encounter. There was a significant chance that it was still hanging around where I was working. The deer herd was out and came down to watch me work, however. They high-tail it when they are on the menu. Maybe they figured as long as I was there, the cougar wouldn’t be. I hoped they were right in their assumptions. If not, I would wish them good luck as I did my own high-tailing-it act. (Suggestion: Never take off running when you see a cougar. It confirms you are food and fun to chase. Stand tall, look the cougar in the eye, speak to it firmly, “Bad Kitty,” and slowly back away. I’m serious.)
In addition to being a pleasant stroll through the forest, the trail incorporates a bit of history. Miners came searching for gold during the 1920s and 30s. There are old sites for at least seven cabins, a cave, a wood stove, remnants of an old auto, and test holes that they dug following a quartz vein in hopes of striking it rich. They would dig down, find the quartz, shove a dynamite stick in, blow it up, and then check out the results. The test holes come down off the mountain and run right across our property. It could be we are sitting on a fortune. Ha.
Wildlife has adopted the trail for their own use. We’ve found cougar, coyote and fox scat along it as well as deer. And I even found deer sleeping on it. Then there was the young buck who seemed to be having some problem…
In addition to miners’ history and wildlife, attractive trees and flowers are found along the trail as it winds its way through the forest.
I thought that the latest addition to our flower family was pretty face Brodiaea, but now I think it may be a rare Triteleia crocea, a closely related species that only grows in our area.
My blogging friend Crystal Trulove from Conscious Engagement and her buddy Pedro are visiting today and went out for a walk on the trail. Here are photos of them along the trail and in the Bear Cave taken by Peggy.
MONDAY’S POST: I’ve promised to tell you who shot Pavy’s pig, and I will. But I also want to discuss our summer blogging schedule, which will be slim at best. Peggy and I are taking a break to pursue some other interests. We intend to be back with a regular schedule in the fall. And I will continue to check in on you occasionally over the summer. The friendships we have formed are valuable.
I awoke with a start as a deer leapt onto the deck next to our bedroom in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. They frequently cross the deck but rarely at night and never at full speed. It got my attention— but nothing like the loud thump that followed. I imagined something big and thought of getting up to look. But it was a moonless, pitch black night. I wouldn’t be able to see anything and the intruders would be long gone anyway, I told myself. I decided to go back to sleep. It wasn’t easy.
Our neighbor Bryan called the next night. “I’m shaking, Curt,” he told me. A hawk had taken out a chicken of his during the day and he had gone out after dark to check on the welfare of the flock. What he found was a pair of eyes staring out at him from one side of a large tree. A long tail stretched out from the other side. It was a cougar. Bryan kept his bright flashlight focused on the cougars eyes and slowly backed away. And then called me.
Suddenly, the loud thump made sense. The cougar had been in hot pursuit of a deer and jumped onto our deck in hot pursuit. Welcome to our neighborhood.
NEXT MONDAY’S POST: It’s back to tales of my early years in Diamond Springs, California and why the town mantra was ‘The Mekemson kids did it.’