In the summer of 2004 - after nineteen months in the mixed paradise
that is northern California - Arachne and Taourso(with a couple
of cats in tow) hitched up their motor home and drove off for parts
north, east, and south. This is Arachne's's story, again.
May 26, 2004 - Sleepy Hollow RV Camp, near Willits, California.
Drove up from Clearlake yesterday. Had a difficult time hooking
the Scion up on the tow dolly - partly because I hadn't done it
in a year and a half, partly because the new car is built so different
from the old Toyota. The fender is much lower to the ground and
really gets in the way.
There's another reason, which I already see will seriously affect
this trip, and not in my favor. Taourso is considerably weaker now
than two years ago, when we first took off like this. Along with
his constant need of an oxygen tank to breathe, he uses a walker
and an electric scooter to get around (basically we bought the Scion
XB to carry all that.) Taourso can't seem to walk more than a few
steps without gasping and shouting for his inhaler. The upshot of
it is, I get stuck with all the grunt work involved - like hitching
up the car - while Taourso sits around and "directs."
I'm not in the best of shape myself, but it's all relative as usual.
On the bright side, the motor home is running well, and we arrived
here with no mishaps.
Taourso says the new front air bags make the ride much smoother
than before. After all those months parked in one spot, I was glad
to get it running at all. It's still not at 100 percent, though.
The gas tank needs fixing - it leaks if you fill it to the max.
And the Onan generator has quit on us, so we've got no electricity
unless we're hooked up to a line. These will have to be seen to
over the next few weeks as will the point & shoot satellite
dish. Weingard sent us a free one to replace the less powerful one
they installed in '02. But it's sitting in a corner until we can
get to the nearest Camping World - in Portland, Oregon - for installation.
As for the dish presently on our roof, it's crapped out completely.
So no TV at all for the time being. While I'm not thrilled by the
prospect of missing The Sopranos' season finale, I can endure it
if I know the trouble will be fixed.
Internet is also off-limits right now. We have two cell phones,
but neither of them work outside Willits proper, so J hasn't had
the chance to get online with the new phone.
About Willits itself: it's a pleasant little tourist stop, accommodating
people headed for Ft. Bragg or the redwoods. Looked around the Mendocino
County Museum today. Learned about Seabiscuit the horse (who lived
around here) and saw some models of old trains. But there's nothing
here of real interest to me. I'd hoped to ride on the Skunk Train,
but it doesn't open till June. So we're spending a couple days resting,
and making some improvements (like the seat on taourso's scooter).
Plan to leave early on the 28th.
May 28 - From the parking lot of Roger's Transmissions, Eureka,
California. Not a place I wanted or expected to end up tonight.
We were headed north on US 101 this afternoon, just outside Trinidad,
when the RV's transmission gave out. Fortunately Good Sam came thru
with someone to tow us here, just before closing time. Guess we'll
learn about the problem tomorrow. It could be anything from a fluid
change, to replacing the transmission completely. (Mega Poo!)
That seems like the worst of our troubles, but it's not the only
one. Earlier today, we were driving up the "Avenue of the Giants"
- a scenic stretch of Old Highway 101 lined with humungous redwood
trees. Beautiful landscape, but too narrow and twisted to navigate
easily with a vehicle our size. Taourso veered too far to the right
and scraped the side against a large boulder. The damage is considerable:
two hatch doors caved in, the main door thrown out of alignment
(so opening and closing is difficult), the sliding step twisted
and inoperable, the awning's electrical controls broken, several
lights smashed, and the door to the gas tank completely gone.
I think I could've handled each situation - the body damage or
the transmission - on it's own. But faced with both at once, I was
gone right through the wall emotionally. Taourso, meanwhile, is
being his usual what-me-worry self. "It's an adventure,"
he keeps telling me. "I'm having fun." Uh, yeah.
There is a little good news to report. Yesterday in Willits, we
had the starter of the Onan repaired, and got someone to install
it at the RV site. Now the Onan is running fine. Didn't come cheap,
but it was money well spent.
May 29 - Bad news, as I'd expected. Roger checked out the xmission
this morning, says we need a new one. We're in the middle of Memorial
Day weekend, so they can't even start work on it till Tuesday. (It's
Saturday now.) Fortunately, Roger is letting us stay in the parking
lot thru the weekend. We're hooked up to their electricity and water.
Unfortunately, we have no way to dump the holding tanks, and I notice
the "black water" tank is full. This does not bode well.
Took a pleasant one-hour boat cruise around Humboldt Bay this afternoon.
There's been a lot of development around the bay in the last century
- fisheries, railroads, shipping etc. - but not all of it for the
better, IMO. Good to see that some of the shore has been returned
in recent years to the natives and the birds.
May 30 - A generally frustrating day with the RV. Labored half
an hour with the step - that is, I did all the hammering and pulling,
while taourso sat on his scooter ordering me around - before he
declared it twisted beyond repair. Poo! However, I think we managed
to get the door and its lock back into place.
More shit regarding the black water tank (no pun intended.) Against
my better judgement, I let taourso buy a portable 20-gallon sewage
tank for $120.00. But when we hooked it up and opened the black
water tank, nothing came out - even after taourso poked around with
a wire coat hanger (as he's done in the past.) We concluded that
the sensors in the tank are somehow screwed up and unreliable as
to tank capacity. So now I'm stuck with this 20-gallon tank that
I paid a hundred twenty bucks for, don't really want, and have no
idea how to carry with us. It's too big to fit on the tow-dolly,
as taourso suggested.
Saw a new movie this afternoon - Kill Bill Vol. 2. (Already watched
the first one on DVD.) Tarantino continues his tribute to old chop-socky
flix. Not bad, but remember to lock your disbelief in the car. Even
got a bit weepy toward the end. ("How do I look?" "You
May 31 - Made a little progress today. At Taourso's insistence,
we tied the sewer tank onto the tow-dolly, managed to secure it
without interfering with the dolly itself. Earlier this afternoon,
I was ready to throw the damn thing away - actually dragged it a
couple blocks to a dumpster. Taourso had me bring it back. He thinks
it might be useful at some point. So long as the tank stays out
of our way, I don't care.
Glad to see our big light by the door is still working, just needed
a new bulb, which I installed today. Still don't know about the
broken step.Taourso had me twisting and wrenching the step every
which way, to get it under the motor-home, but metal will only bend
so far for me. Poor Taourso labored all weekend to hook up to Internet
with our new cell phone - only to discover that we are not in a
Verizon calling area, so there was no point in even trying. Sigh.
Called every lumber-yard in town to get cut plywood for a new hatch-door,
but none were open (holiday, y'know.) Bought some hinges and hasps
today. Must have door in by tomorrow night.
Drove around the coastal access areas today. A few inlet shores
have been kept mercifully intact for wildlife. Nice places to go
fishing, even if you don't catch anything.
Before I forget: this has been the coolest (weather-wise) Memorial
Day weekend in recent memory. This holiday marks the start of summer
in the American mind-set (forget all that crap about solstices and
such), but to me it felt more like October: sunny but with gusty
winds, and highs never above 70. Of course, it's probably normal
for this location; now I'm wondering what I'll find further north.
Well, I wanted to escape the summer anyway.
June 1 - Still stuck at Roger's Transmissions in Eureka.
Roger started working on a new transmission today, says he'll install
it tomorrow. But there's more: I can't remember all the details,
but he says the engine is in poor shape, thanks to whoever worked
on it last. (Those schmucks at Long View RV again!)
I got very upset, and strongly suggested to Taourso that we cut
short our travel plans. But he won't hear of it; he feels sure it
will last another three thousand miles to our final destination.
Tonight he called his son in Salt Lake City, who I guess knows something
about this stuff. He says if there are no bad symptoms, just keep
moving. One thing is certain: at this point, a new engine would
cost more than the motor home itself is worth.
Today we bought some plywood, and started screwing in the new door
for the hatch. Suppose we now have another day to finish it.
We went to the local VA clinic, so I could learn how to inject taourso
with his kidney medicine (which he needs once a week.) And he had
his eyes checked for glaucoma with the optometrist at Sears. Pressure
on his left eye is still high. Has another exam scheduled in Portland
later this month.
Spent a little time at the Sequoia Park Zoo here in town. Not a
big zoo - a few active primates, one lone chimpanzee, a black bear,
and some reptiles. (FYI: the grizzly bear, which adorns California's
state flag, no longer resides in the state.)
June 3 - Nesika Beach RV Park, Gold Beach, Oregon.
Finally on the road again. We got the new transmission yesterday
- and it didn't come cheap, fer shure! But both Roger and Taourso
are optimistic about the vehicle holding out for the rest of our
Left Eureka this morning, drove north on US 101. Got a good look
at the coastline along California's northern end. Quite a sight
for those not used to it: huge evergreen trees on one side, infinite
rocky beaches and coastline on the other.
Arrived in Oregon around noon. When we got to the RV park, there
was a bit of a challenge: no sewer hookup at our site, and we seriously
needed to dump. But the dump site was on the opposite side of our
sewer as we're driving in. But I managed it, with a little help
from the resort manager, and our 20-foot sewer hose, which I was
able to slip under the vehicle.
It drizzled a bit this morning, and skies remained overcast thru
the day. Hoping for brighter weather tomorrow.
June 5 - Been busy the last couple of days, but in a positive way.
Yesterday we took a long jet-boat ride up the Rogue River, which
joins the ocean at Gold Beach. (Thank you, Jerry's Jet Boat Tours!)
Fifty miles up river and back, through some largely untouched forest.
Saw plenty of wildlife: a bear, a deer or two, lots of geese, ducks,
a golden eagle (rare sight - for me, anyway) and numerous sea lions
and harbor seals.
Hit some serious rapids further up the Rogue River. I was dozing
off by then (not much sleep the night before) so I welcomed the
big wake-up splashes. Plus we had a captain who liked to spin the
boat a lot. That's always fun.
One little snag at lunchtime: Taourso got a wheelchair to get to
the restaurant from the dock, but the tires kept falling off. It
was in such crappy shape, he had to abandon it and use me for a
The day started off cloudy and chilly, but no rain, and the sun
broke out later.
As for today - not such good weather. Intermittent rain and sun
thru the day. We found a bookstore/internet café in Gold
Beach, where Taourso was able to catch up on his e-mail and chat
room jabber. Lucky for us. But the really good news was finding
cable TV hook-ups at this RV site. Taourso bought some cables and
a splitter to connect both of our sets to the line. As usual, I
had to do all the shit work hooking stuff up. But I must admit,
it's worth it getting my programs back, if only for a few days.
Walked around a "dinosaur park" this afternoon, about
ten miles from here. Basically a bunch of dinosaur models sitting
around a rain forest. Lots of ferns, lots of moss hanging from trees.
Taourso was impressed - he says, not so much for the dino statues,
as for how well the rain forest has been preserved.
There's some history going on this weekend. This is the 60th anniversary
of D-Day, so that's all over the news. Dubya goes to France for
a ceremony, etc. Also this evening, I heard that our former President
Ronald Reagan, after years of non-communication, had finally bought
the farm, so to speak. I'll grant you, the man helped define an
era - but it's not an era I remember too fondly, for reasons both
personal and otherwise. So in the spirit of de mortuis nil nisi
bonum, I'll stop right here.
June 7 - Last day in Gold Beach. Tomorrow we head for Lakeside.
Not a bad drive, less than a hundred miles. We're taking this trip
as easily as we can.
Yesterday we went to a large petting zoo, some fifteen miles from
here. It was fun, though I found some animals (like the peacocks)
a mite threatening close up. Taourso had fun feeding the deer and
goats, let a baby goat a ride with him on his scooter.
Generally, I liked the last few days here, in spite of the rain.
Spent a lot of time just driving around and looking at the water.
Taourso says it's an area he wouldn't mind living in, only he wants
it even more deserted than it is. ("Nobody within thirty miles"
is his ideal.)
Had a disappointing experience with the fabled Dungeness crab last
night. Bought two cooked crabs from a seafood market, dismembered
one at home (even more challenging than lobster, using mostly my
bare hands and a chopstick.) A few hours after eating it, I became
violently ill - I'll avoid the details. This isn't the first time
crabmeat has affected me like this; may just have to avoid them
from now on. Poo! Funny, though, have no problems with other shellfish
this way. So the store was nice about it; I exchanged the other
crab for some canned tuna. (Better be good tuna, given the price
Taourso and I got the work done on the hatch door this afternoon.
Put a lock in, and it looks pretty secure now. Aesthetically, however,
it will never be the same.
June 10 - Osprey Point RV Park, Lakeside, Oregon.
Arrived Tuesday. Nice setup here - a little store, a pub/eatery,
and good launderette on premises. Weather has continued mostly wet
and overcast. As the name suggests, Lakeside is near a large lake
(Tenmile Lake) with a few smaller lakes around too. Good area to
sail boats and fish, bad area for cell phones.
Tuesday we drove to the Pony Village Mall, the nearest shopping
center. J bought some sweatshirts (he's been feeling cold lately.)
Much of the mall space is devoted to local artwork, but some space
is still empty. Can't help but wonder: Would TPTB be so devoted
to the arts if business was better?
Yesterday I toured the Umpqua River Lighthouse, one of many along
this coast. FYI: the structure is around 150 years old (been rebuilt
at least once), contains over 600 pieces of red and clear glass
at the top. Its light can be seen for 18 miles off-shore (point
of horizon) but actually travels much further than that. Structure
contains two brick walls, outside wall slanted and inside wall straight.
The US Coast Guard maintains the lighthouse now, but will soon hand
it over to Douglas County. Umpqua is the name of the local Indian
Taourso gets more infirm each year, it seems. He can't walk more
than a few yards without having to stop. Now he rides his scooter
everywhere. Fortunately, we've found in our travels that people
are generally accommodating. This morning, he wanted his support
stockings on, which is a real effort for me. As I see it, all this
"caretaker" shit is how the universe is paying me back
for not squeezing out any puppies. I'm getting stuck with an infant
of a different sort.
June 11 - In a rented boat, at the north end of Tenmile Lake.
Mostly cloudy, but no rain. This is the more scenic (i.e., less
developed) part of the lake. Surrounded by trees (evergreen and
otherwise) grass, reeds, etc. A good many houses with boat docks
along the lake shore, and I can understand why. It's one version
of where I'd build my dream house (for which I have neither the
time nor the money.) Or like the setting of one of those fantasy
novels I still read now and again. Saw plenty of herons, ducks and
other birds around here. (Wish I knew more about aquatic fowl.)
A few cows were grazing by the north shore - strange sight, to me
June 12 - Port of Newport Marina & RV Camp, Newport, Oregon.
Not a bad ocean-front location, but not as attractive as other parks
I've seen. Basically just a big parking lot with hook-ups.
Another up/down kind of day.
First the fun part: Sea Lion Caves, 11 miles north of Florence,
Oregon. 200 ft. below sea level.
The sea lions here don't bark, like those I saw at Gold Beach.
What they do is much closer to an actual lion's roar - hence the
name, I guess. No pups visible, just a few big bulls with their
harems hanging on the rocks; occasionally a few dive into the sea.
I've seen sea lions perform in shows at the New York Aquarium,
but these guys are infinitely removed from that. When you weigh
up to 1500 pounds and have a growl audible for a hundred yards or
more, nobody's going to train you to do anything.
Saw a large flock or cormorants nearby, roosting on a ledge covered
in guano. Beats the hell out of me why anyone would want to hang
in their own shit, but there ya go.
Now for the bad stuff: We were reminded the hard way this afternoon,
why we prefer pull-thru RV sites, and why we must disconnect the
tow-dolly before backing into a non-pull-thru. Tried to back the
motor-home in w/dolly intact, but the dolly bent too far back and
ended up under the vehicle - tearing through the outside paneling
toward the rear. Fortunately, nothing vital was damaged; I think
the cracks can be patched back up. But I'm not feeling good about
this at all. In the end we had to disconnect the dolly anyway. Some
guys from a neighboring site helped out.
Good and bad news re the TV satellite dish. Good: we had the new
dish installed on our roof the other day by Coos Bay Satellite and
Spa. Bad: they were unable to get it working, they say because of
a defective part that Weingard sent. (Yes, trouble with Weingard
is nothing new to us.) So we'll have to wait at least till we get
to Camping World, who would've installed the antenna for free anyway.
In other words, we blew nearly three hundred bucks to put up a system
that doesn't work. Yes, I know taourso hoped to please me by getting
my Dish Network up sooner. But still ...
June 15 - Last night in Newport. Tomorrow we continue north to
Tillamook. Taourso and I spent a lot of time the last few days patching
things up - literally. Glued the broken pieces of panel back to
the motor home, and replaced one of the broken side lights. Stocked
up on supplies at the local Wal-Mart.
A slightly hairy experience for me this afternoon: Taourso talked
the park management into letting us move our vehicle to the side,
just for tonight, allowing us to hook up our tow-dolly and car.
(Makes moving out tomorrow easier) But as Taourso is practically
unable to move these days, I got stuck with driving the rig to designated
spot - an experience I'm totally unfamiliar with. How I managed
it - especially with Taourso's usual bullying over the two-way radio
- I'll never know. But I did okay, except I'd parked too far away
to hook up the sewer hose. No matter, it's just for one night.
Did get a little touristing in, though. The Oregon Coast Aquarium
here in Newport is well-designed and educational, worth taking the
kids to. Best part is a deep-sea exhibit you can walk thru, surrounded
on all sides by aquatic critters. The facility had a seasonal exhibit
on bats, however, that I found mediocre at best. Its giant robot
bat was a total turnoff! Stick to the fish.
More fishy stuff at the Undersea Gardens in the historic bayside
area downtown. You get to go below water level, and see who hangs
in the local tide pools and such - including Dungeness crab, wolf
eels (who, I'm told have very strong jaws) and sturgeon. (FYI: Sturgeon,
the only breed of fish with an exoskeleton, are hermaphroditic.
When a male sturgeon grows larger than six feet, he turns into a
If you enjoy different kinds of fancy beer, like I do, you should
head to Rogue Brewery on the Bay, a brewery/pub/restaurant run by
Newport's own Rogue Ale company. For five bucks, you can sample
four of their many varieties. I tasted a few over a couple days.
The following are my notes from the barstool:
- Honey Cream - light and smooth
- Hazelnut - more bitter, with only a slight nuttiness in the
- Mocha Porter - dark, rich, slightly bitter
- India Pale Ale - quite bitter, packs a definite kick, and a
flowery hop smell thru the nose. (All characteristic of an IPA,
- Chamomellow - a light-colored brew made with chamomile flowers.
Definite bouquet of the herb as you drink in, otherwise smooth
and a bit spicy in the finish.
- Dead Guy Ale - A feisty little brew that belies the name. Medium
amber, crisp going in, slightly bitter going down. IMO, this is
a good everyday type beer, like a vin de table.
- Shakespeare Stout - Very dark, with a good head. Doesn't feel
as heavy as your archetypal Guinness product. Mealy flavor counteracts
- Old Crustacean - A barley wine, dark reddish brown. Pleasantly
spicy, and not as bitter as I'd expected from a brew that strong.
Also liked the bar's ambience. It's small but funky in a good way,
with antiquish benches and tables, and classic rock piped in. No
TV, though, just a video monitor of the building. If I lived in
Newport, I'd probably spend way too much time here.
June 18 - Pleasant Valley RV Park, near Tillamook, Oregon. Arrived
Wednesday morning. The weather has grown more summer-like over the
last couple days. Sun finally chose to emerge, with barely a cloud
in the sky. High temps well into the 80s yesterday. Today was slightly
cooler. Since we arrived in Tillamook, it's been primarily about
the food - namely (are you ready?) - cheese!!
While most people think Wisconsin when they think of American cheese
(and I'm talking literally about cheese made in the US, not the
individually wrapped slices of processed shit), there are parts
of the nation that give that state a run. Here in the West, "Tillamook"
appears as the designated brand name, as "Cabot" is in
much of the Northeast.
Taourso and I took a tour of the Tillamook Cheese factory. Impressive,
and certainly clean. But it's hard for me to watch cheese factory
people at work.
See, back in 1985, when I was - ahem - between radio jobs, I spent
a miserable six weeks at a mozzarella factory in Goshen, New York.
I worked the overnight shift, boxing up 20-pound bags of the shredded
stuff. (Couldn't bring myself to look at a pizza that whole time,
much less eat one.)
Okay, I'll stop there. I'm sure that, for those who enjoy the business,
Tillamook Cheese is a great place to work. Selah. Besides selling
its own cheese, the facility contains a couple of gift shops and
a cafe/ice cream parlor that specializes in - duh! - grilled cheese
And if that's not enough, there's another cheese market in town
: Blue Heron, which specializes in French-type cheeses like Brie
and blue. Like the Roaming Gnome, I enjoy a stinky piece of cheese,
so I stocked up there as well.
As expected, you will see dairy cows grazing all over the fields
as you drive along US 101 thru Tillamook. And as you drive, you
encounter the bovine fecal breeze wafting though the bucolic country
air. It's all about productivity, people!
Both here and in Newport, Taourso and I have enjoyed shopping at
the local Fred Meyer superstores. I won't go into detail, suffice
to say that Fred Meyer is what Wal-Mart and Target can only dream
Today we stuck around the homestead, doing laundry and working
on the motor-home. Fixed up the busted door of the other hatch that
was smashed in going thru the redwoods.
Good news on the cyber-front: After a false start or two, we finally
got the right equipment we needed to get online via cell-phone.
Now we can at least pick up our e-mail.
June 22 - Yesterday, we took a steam train from Garibaldi to Rockaway
Beach (Oregon, that is!) and back. A pleasant 90 minutes of looking
at the bay. But the trip hit a snag - literally - when Taourso somehow
caught his big toe onto his wheel-chair and ripped out his toenail.
Not a pretty sight. After getting back to Tillamook, we got to the
emergency room where a doctor removed the toenail and bandaged things
up. (For better or worse, Taourso's diabetes rendered him numb to
any of this.)
Today we returned to Blue Heron Cheese, where I bought more u-no-what.
Taourso and I walked around their petting farm for a bit, feeding
goats and llamas. (BTW, Blue Heron makes a very good, if unconventional,
blue cheese salad dressing, using oil instead of the usual mayonnaise.)
June 24 - Parking lot of Camping World, in Wilsonville, Oregon,
near Portland. Arrived just before noon today. No sewer or water
hookups (we filled the fresh water tank anticipating this) but the
facility let us plug in to their electricity. The RV is slated for
some work tomorrow morning.
Taourso was having online interruptions again. But he contacted
a local Verizon Wireless place, who got him a different cable. Our
internet is now just fine, thank you.
Stopped at an Apria Healthcare facility this afternoon, and changed
Taourso's oxygen tanks.
Walked thru the Lloyd Center shopping mall in Portland, where I
was reminded once again: (a) I can no longer walk any distance thru
a mall without seriously needing to sit down for a while, and (b)
Spencer Gifts is universal, and for all time.
Overall, I enjoyed my eight-day stay in Tillamook. Lots of scenic
coastline, evergreen forests. Lots of seafood to eat - there's a
fish&chips place seemingly every few miles up 101. But I've
maxed out on Tillamook ice cream by now, and even cheese (!) is
starting to look tedious.
Taourso had his big toe checked out yesterday at the Tillamook
Health Dept. Sure looks different from other public health offices
I've seen - nice pastel colors on the walls, a salt-water aquarium
in the waiting room, and decorative quilts hanging everywhere! You'd
swear you were in some laid-back private professional office. Hmm
Must be more careful in future about cranking up the awning. Last
night I pulled down on the crank and nearly broke the damn thing.
And finally, Pleasant Valley is another of the better RV parks
I've stayed in. Well laid-out, with plenty of greenery, and reliable
convenience store and laundromat onsite.
Weather for the last week: mostly cloudy. Cool temps by the shore,
but here around Portland it's considerably warmer.
June 25 - Japanese Garden, Portland.
This is without doubt the largest and most ornate of any such garden
I've seen (and I've seen several.) Lots of stones, wooden structures
and running water. Yet the garden does not interfere with the trees
that, I assume, naturally grow around here. I also got to see a
full-scale version of the mini rock gardens I keep finding in New
Behind the pavilions
No one dares write on these walls!
It's another world.
Of course, this is a world that charges $6.50 admission. That must
make quite a difference.
This tea house sits with
One window open to all.
"Please do not enter."
Beautiful as this garden is, it is still an exhibit. Something
from another time and place that we saucer-eyed visitors may gaze
upon, but never know. Not that I blame anyone for that.
June 28 - KOA in Chehalis, Washington. Arrived yesterday. By the
time we left Camping World, our fresh water tank was completely
empty, so I did not get my usual morning shower. Fortunately, we
were able to dump and fill our tanks at a rest area on I-5 headed
On the good side, Camping World got most of the work done that
we asked for. Set up new satellite dish, checked fluids in engine
and Onan generator, checked air bags. They did not fix our front
step - said they didn't have time - so rather than wait around till
July, we gave up and just threw the step away. I bought a folding
step-stool, which I think works fine.
The bad stuff: We continue to have trouble with our Dish Network
service. Can't get the new channels we asked for, and not always
the ones we started out with. Even the new receiver I purchased
Saturday didn't completely solve the problem. Made several service
calls to Dish that went nowhere - except to learn that they no longer
accept a private mailbox number. So we had our bill transferred
to Taourso ..son's address. I'm afraid there's no end in sight to
our problems in that area.
Okay, on to something more important: Taourso saw an eye doctor
at Casey Eye Institute in Portland about his glaucoma. Doctor checked
the pressure in both eyes, and it has dropped noticeably. (Guess
all those drops are working!) But while there's no immediate trouble,
he warned that the disease cannot be ignored, and the left eye will
need surgery soon. Taourso mentioned we will be in Salt Lake City
for an extended period, and the doctor recommended someone there.
Later, Taourso called his son with all this stuff. Turns out that
Judy (son's aunt) knows of this doctor in SLC, says he is very good.
Gave us his phone number.
Over the past few days, I've developed pain in my left heel when
walking. I suspect another bone spur like I had about eight years
ago. Because of all Taourso's trouble, I've been ignoring it. He
often refers to me as his "feet" these days, but these
feet are hurting bad!
Last night we had a visitor here - Ladybroker, who Taourso has talked
to online for several years. Pleasant woman, a pagan who says she
likes my writing. Good enough for me! She and Taourso talked mostly
about what they'd been doing, and their mutual dislike of fundies
and Republicans. The usual stuff, right.
June 29 - Saw Mount St. Helens today. In case anyone's forgotten,
this is the Washington volcano that literally blew its top in May
1980, creating major upheaval to the surrounding geography, and
killing lots of animals and a few dozen humans in the process. Took
a helicopter ride over the area this afternoon. Still a bit of sulfurous
steam emitting from the crater, now topped with hardened lava. Plenty
of barren, ashy terrain. A couple of good-sized lakes - formerly
narrow creeks that were dammed up by the eruption. But the amazing
thing is how much greenery has emerged from the site in a relatively
short time. Lots of new trees were planted in place of the ones
that were lost, and those trees are coming up fine. Taourso was
especially impressed - apparently he was here a couple of years
after the eruption; says he found nothing but hot ground and dead
Saw a couple herds of elk from up above. Our pilot says this is
a great place to be an elk; not only is there abundance of fresh
water and vegetation, but since the mountain is now a natural wildlife
preserve, they needn't worry about hunters either. It will be interesting
to see the future of Mt. St. Helens - a most dramatic example of
the earth's regeneration of itself. And this is indeed nature taking
its own course - which is why, in spite of all the unfortunate death
and loss in its wake, I hesitate to use words like "destruction"
or "devastation" to describe what the volcano did.
In a gift shop, I purchased a small bottle of volcanic ash as a
souvenir. Some craftspeople have been making lemonade from lemons,
heating the ash into glass and making jewelry from it. Naturally,
this glass is a strong green color from the copper and other minerals
present in it.
Tonight I had an exhausting time, helping Taourso fix the screen
door. Ever since that crash in the redwoods, it's never quite been
in alignment. But I think we made progress.
Did some more checking up on the Satellite system. After switching
receivers temporarily, Taourso and I concluded that there's no problem
with the receivers, only with the installation of antenna. So we
are scheduled to see another Camping World in mid-July, just to
get that fixed. Poo.
I should also mention that one of Taourso's ideas actually worked.
When he saw what a hard time I had cranking the awning by hand,
he bought a six-foot pole with screw threads around it, and bent
one end into a hook. Then hook the pole to the awning, attach the
other end to an electric drill - and the awning unrolls much easier
now. Taourso says he no longer cares whether or not we get a new
motor in the mail. Frankly, neither do I.
June 30 - Not much happening today. Taourso and I took a drive
into Morton, some 40 miles away, to find an old settlers' museum
that turned out to be closed on weekdays. Did some spray-painting
around the damaged side of the motor home, in a vain attempt to
cover up our patchwork.
Since our trip started, we've gotten numerous comments and inquiries
- mostly favorable - about our car, a 2004 Toyota Scion XB minivan.
Apparently this is a brand new model that no one has seen yet.
Taourso's regulator for his portable oxygen tanks has shut down.
Says we'll get a new one when we reach the Seattle area.
After many weeks, Taourso finally got his own laptop back from
the shop in California, and gods willing, there will be no more
trouble. But he wants to wait till next week to hook it up. Meanwhile,
no internet while in Chehalis, as we are out of Verizon's immediate
July 5 - Last night in Chehalis, leave for Seattle tomorrow.
Minor repairs to the RV over the weekend. Taourso accidentally took
out a tail-light with his scooter, and cracked the wooden hatch-door
at the hinge. But it all looks okay now.
Yesterday we went to a Fourth of July barbecue - friends of Ladybroker..
Nearly all Democrats, spent a lot of time bashing Bush and talking
about how great Fahrenheit 9/11 was. Kids had fun lighting firecrackers.
There were plenty of US flags and tricolor decorations around the
yard, but for once I wasn't so upset by them.
July 6 - Another vary erratic day.
Just before we left Chehalis KOA, I found that the main door of
the RV (the outside door, not the screen) wasn't closing right.
Taourso insisted on driving away immediately, with only the inner
screen door locked, all the way to Seattle/Tacoma KOA - about eighty
miles north on I-5. I hadn't packed the hatch so well last night,
and a couple of things - a wooden yardstick, and the A/C cord to
Taourso's scooter - fell along the highway.
July 7 - At the top of the Space Needle, Seattle.
It looks so clean from 520 feet above ground. Some mountains are
visible in the distance, but not all of them. Actually, Seattle
does look pretty clean, even at ground level - what little of it
I've driven thru, anyway.
If you're going to stay at the Seattle KOA (in Kent), better be
sure your propane tank is full. The shmucks who work there may tell
you they have propane, but they don't necessarily know how to fill
your tank. Poo!
Back at KOA - Earlier today, I realized my dream of the last dozen
years or so: I shopped at ARCHIE McPHEE in Ballard (which, I understand,
was a community independent of Seattle years ago.) It sells bizarre
novelty items like rubber masks, Martian popping dolls, tin matchboxes,
rubber ducks w/devil horns, and gods know what else. I bought a
set of tiki mugs, a couple of poseable "Bendy" dolls,
and one of the stores signature items, the "Fighting Nun"
hand puppet. Taourso bought a pair of rattles with Israeli flag
symbols on them.
July 8 - More trouble with the front door, which still wasn't closing
right. I broke my back prying the door this way and that, while
Taourso kept yelling out orders. The door hasn't been the same since
he hit that boulder in the redwoods. When I mention this to him,
he gets all defensive - "You wanna drive?" It can get
ugly between us, but I must have patience.
On to better things: Over the last couple days, I've done my share
of walking around the famous Pike Place Market. (Thankx to the friendly
Fire Dept. officer who led us there and pointed out the free handicapped
parking.) Bought a good supply of fish, and several loaves of nut
bread at the bakery. Taourso found a deli where, after two years
of searching, he found smoked salmon that met with his approval
(i.e., worthy of being sandwiched inside a bagel with cream cheese.)
And I stopped at Pike Place Fish Co., where I got to watch the
men throw fish at each other.
At one of many vendors, I bought a silver bangle engraved with
the words, "MAGIC IS IN THE MIND" (Taourso's recommendation.)
The vendor advertises the bracelets as sterling silver; Taourso
doesn't believe it as he saw no stamp to that effect. Me, I'm willing
to give benefit of the doubt. This isn't Brooklyn.
A couple of things I noticed from the road:
- Much of Seattle strongly resembles San Francisco, only the hill
are not quite so steep.
- Teriyaki and pho (a Thai noodle soup) are popular fast-food
items here. Every few miles, you can spot some little joint for
one or the other.
July 9 - Did not get into the city today. Instead, we saw Fahrenheit
9/11 at a cineplex in Renton, maybe ten or fifteen miles from here.
Fahrenheit 9/11, is, remember, Michael Moore's attack on Bush Administration
policy from 9/11/01, thru that silly war in Iraq - the movie that
almost didn't make it to theaters, thanks to Disney and the governor
of Florida. Not as funny as his last, Bowling for Columbine, but
a good piece of work nonetheless. How you feel about it depends
largely on how you feel about its subject matter, namely G.W. Bush,
his family and friends. (Time magazine calls it "The Passion
of the Christ of the left".) Moore has a message to deliver,
and is not above a few cheap shots - check out his use of old westerns,
Dragnet clips and Eric Clapton's song "Cocaine." But mercifully,
he avoids the facade of the burning World Trade Center, just gives
us a lot of floating ash and horrified people gazing upward.
You'll need a scorecard to remember all the Bush/Saudi/Carlyle/Enron/Haliburton
connections Moore throws at you. But don't panic, just keep a couple
of images in mind: a US soldier in Iraq speculating on how much
more a Haliburton driver earns than he, and Marine recruiters working
a shopping mall in the lower-income part of Flint, Michigan. That
tells you all you need to know about the future under Bush &
Co. When the final credits rolled, I heard plenty of applause from
the half-full matinee crowd.
What the hell - can't I have my own Passion of the Christ too?
Also today, I learned of the passing of another of my onetime icons:
Jeff Smith, better known as television's "Frugal Gourmet."
A Tacoma native, he'd been spending his last years quietly around
the Seattle area. His insights on food, culture and religion were
an inspiration to me in my own work, even if I didn't always share
his Xtian point of view. And I got a cole slaw recipe from him that
serves me well to this day. No, I don't give a shit about his personal
life or any trouble connected with it. But Rev. Smith is one example
of why belief in reincarnation is so useful. Otherwise, God's got
one of his tougher calls to make. I bid you peace, Jeff.
July 10 - Experience Music Project, Seattle. 2PM.
Just walked thru the "Northwest Passage" exhibit. Focuses
on pop artists from Washington/Oregon. I was reminded not only of
the usual suspects - Hendrix, Heart and the whole '90s grunge contingent
-- but also less obvious earlier ones like the Fleetwoods ("Come
Softly To Me"), the Kingsmen ("Louie Louie" of course)
and Paul Revere and the Raiders (whose singer Mark Lindsay brought
a serious knot to my pre-adolescent panties.) Looks like a lot of
good stuff emerges from a place with continually inclement weather.
Is the Little Ice Age theory of creativity operating here?
At the "Beatlemania" exhibit, I spotted a Beatles Flip
Your Wig board game, under glass. Shit, I used to own one of those!
And let my mom throw it away! Had to walk out immediately.
July 13 - Some catching up here. Experience Music Project was,
indeed, all it promised. A lot of interactive history exhibits -
a la Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - but the emphasis
is on what makes music, and what you use to make it with. Musical
concepts like rhythm, tempo, harmony and the like are featured in
their own little cubicles. Next floor up has booths with different
instruments, and a vocal booth. For a small fee, you can record
your own CD if yer so inclined.
Later, we saw the Seattle Aquarium. Nice setup for watching what
happens under the pier. Aquarium also runs a salmon hatchery, including
"salmon ladders" - steps for the fish to jump during breeding
season. But it's too early in the year to see any of that.
Sunday we did a tour of the city on a "duck", which is
one of those tractor/boat vehicles from World War II. The duck rode
us around a while before landing into Lake Union, a big artificial
lake where commercial fishing boats get ready to sail out. I'm told
that years ago, poorer people built "floating houses"
around the lake shore. Today, the area is strictly a millionaire
camp. Same old story: sooner or later, the rich co-opt anything
from the poor that's cool.
Also Sunday, Taourso, after days of searching, finally found the
new batteries for his scooter. Sears - where else? Taourso insists
we stock up on stuff - propane bottles, cat food, etc. - for the
next six weeks. Thinks we'll be destitute between here and Utah.
Got a little rain this morning. Otherwise, it's been sunny and
quite warm during the day.
Today I went to World Spice Market, not far from Pike Place. Got
interested after seeing the shop featured on Food Network's Good
Eats show. Bought some interesting spice mixtures.
July 15 - Camping World, Tacoma, Washington. Spending the night
here, before repairs and such start tomorrow.
Another day my teeth were on edge. Some of it was kind of funny
in retrospect. We were desperately seeking propane after ten days
without it. First we pulled in at a service station, a man there
tried to fill our tank and couldn't. After stopping at Camping World
for help, I was told they didn't do that work, and was directed
to a nearby "Flying J". A service guy in that spot tried
to fill the tank, again with no success. Counting the men at KOA,
that's four people who could not fill our propane tank. Now the
Flying J man tells us something is stuck in the valve - a pin -
and directs us to Suburban Propane, some fifteen miles away, for
someone to remove it.
So we finally get to Suburban Propane. Their man hooks up our propane
tank - and fills it! I'm like, huh? What was the problem? He just
grins and says, "Kids." As in, no one else knew what to
do. Propane guy explains the "bleeder valve" needs to
be open before filling. Good to know nothing's wrong with the tank,
and we got our fuel. But I'm worn out, physically and every other
way. Glad this day is over. Can't wait for bedtime.
July 17 - KOA, Ellensburg, Washington.
First stop on our trek eastward toward Yellowstone National Park.
Plan to drive thru three states between now and Friday.
Taourso and I have made headway in our satellite dish problem,
with little or no help from Camping World. Yesterday afternoon,
the folks there told me their service man labored several hours
on the dish, and found nothing wrong with it. They said they could
continue with it the next day, but it was going to cost us. To make
a long, fitful story short, Taourso and I figured out that the reception
trouble lay not with the satellite dish, but with the receiver for
the front TV set. We ran out to Sears, grabbed a new receiver, which
we installed here today in Ellensburg. And it looks like we were
Rather than accept any more of Camping World's "hospitality",
we drove away early this morning. Since they had checked our air
pressure and fluids as we'd asked, we probably owe them something,
and I'm sure they'll catch up with us.
I did accomplish a couple of other things in Tacoma. Got a good
look at Mt. Rainier, towering in the distance over the little strip
mall we were trapped in.
And we learned that our Onan generator can run at least a day without
shutting down. Used up some ten gallons of gas over that stretch.
July 18 - Lakefront RV Park, Moses Lake, Washington.
No more evergreens, and certainly no more ocean. Today was mostly
cloudy and very warm with a shower or two.
I wouldn't normally associate words like "semi-arid"
with Washington state, but that's what I found heading east on I-90
today. Wide stretches of brush-covered dry land, with an occasional
cattle grazing spot. More like SW than NW. And it looks like someone
is developing the area. Saw large fields of corn, alfalfa and peppermint
along the highway.
Good news about our awning: yesterday, after finding that the new
control box didn't work, Taourso fiddled with the wires and got
an idea about what connections made the awning run. So today, he
sent me to a hardware store for a bunch of stuff, and then we rigged
up a box with a toggle switch. "I should have done this in
the beginning," Taourso says.
Still have to keep the awning unplugged, unless I'm taking it out
or in. Big deal; I don't have to strain anymore. Yayyy!
July 19 - KOA, Spokane, Washington.
Our last night in Washington. Tried using the satellite dish yesterday
and today. We know it's working, but we still get interference from
tall trees. In other words, the new dish is no better than the old
one. Weingard can forget about finding endorsers in us.
July 20 - Down by the Depot RV Park, Wallace Idaho.
Traveling like this, you don't always know what to expect. I reserved
a spot for tonight, figuring I'd find a desolate hick-gas-station-wide-spot-in-the-road.
I was happily proven wrong.
Wallace is small, but it gets a lot of mileage from its history.
Calls itself the "Silver Capital of the World" for its
silver mines, and touts its background as an important stop on the
old Union Pacific Railroad. Wallace's onetime depot has been well
preserved as a railroad museum. Also offered is a tour of the (now
closed) Sierra Silver Mine, a mile or so from town. I learned that
mining for silver, hundreds of feet below ground, is excruciatingly
hard and occasionally life-threatening. And that mining drills are
So while I wouldn't go out of my way to visit Wallace, it's a pleasant
stop if you're motoring down I-90. Beautiful area, tucked into the
mountains with tall pines on every side.
Weather was fine today. Mostly sunny, breezy and comfortably cooler.
(Winters, I'm told, give you several feet of snow and sometimes
send the mercury into the negative digits.)
Only setback today was pulling into the RV park, to learn that a
water main was busted. But the people there helped us fill our water
tank, so it all turned out fine.
July 23 - Hideaway RV Park, West Yellowstone, Montana.
Good place. Friendly, cooperative people in the office. Not much
of a view, but you can't beat the service.
We parked here mid-afternoon today, and immediately J drove me
to Yellowstone National Park. As expected, it's big, full of mountains,
streams, trees - lots of those - and wild animals here and there.
Of course, I saw Old Faithful go off. I had to. Everybody has to.
Old Faithful erupted at 5:50 PM, more or less. I couldn't see much
water, though, because of all the mist clouding the air. Old Faithful
erupts every 92 minutes on the average. Taourso tells me it became
a shade less accurate after 1989, when the earthquake hit San Francisco
and messed up the whole water table
Honestly, I had more fun looking at smaller geysers in that whole,
thermally afflicted park. Water and steam come spurting out of white,
blue and pink puddles. (The colors are created by minerals, as well
as heat-resistant bacteria.) Occasionally the steam blows right
in your face, like some sulfuric alien sauna.
Especially fascinating are the "Paint Pot" geysers -
pools of boiling clay in several colors.
As with volcanoes (like Mount St. Helens), I think of geothermals
as "Nature's acne" - disruption from beneath, spilling
out thru openings in the surface. But the earth's pock-marks are
a lot more enjoyable to watch.
I was surprised to see how many trees were burned down. Forest
fires must be a problem. But plenty of new trees are coming up as
Later this evening we went to Chinatown Restaurant, in the center
of West Yellowstone. The food is okay, and the place appears really
popular. The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol, yet lists "scorpion
bowls" on its menu. It begs the question: How much fun can
a non-alcoholic scorpion bowl be?
July 26 - Last couple of days, been moving around downtown West
Yellowstone. A lot of souvenir and craft shops of varying quality.
I bought a few T-shirts and some jewelry. Taourso bought more [baby]
clothes for his grand-daughter. (I know he can't wait to see her.)
July 27 - Very long day today, but mostly fun.
Went on a guided tour of Yellowstone's north end, by Mammoth Hot
Springs. On the way up, I learned more about recent forest fires.
The last big one - actually several going at once - happened in
1988. (Cautionary note: the destruction of some 200 thousand acres
of forest was traced to one burning cigarette butt.) Lodgepole firs
- bare at the lower trunk - lend themselves handily to burning and
regeneration. As I mentioned above, many young firs have sprouted
up among the ruined trees. And yes, these new trees have planted
themselves. Lodgepole cones, when subjected to high heat, will dry
out and drop their seeds. Burnt wood and ash from fallen trees nourish
the soil. In short, we're looking at a genuine phoenix death-and-rebirth
scenario from nature, so long as we leave well enough alone. Which
people haven't always done. Park officials have only recently realized
that importing lake trout to Yellowstone's lakes was a bad idea
- the native cutthroat trout are quickly being dominated out of
existence. Encouraging tourists to feed the bears their garbage,
then immediately halting the practice - another bad move. Lots of
bears died or went away as a result.
I did see a couple of bears in the area. Black bears, one cub and
one adult about two hundred pounds, which I'm told is the average
size of a black bear. No grizzlies around though. Poo. I also spotted
a deer or two, and a herd of elk running thru a meadow. Nice racks
on some of those bull elks (okay, bad pun, sorry.)
Mammoth Terraces were fascinating: a plateau of "steps"
formed by dripping water and limestone from the underground springs.
The pools of hot water and steam rising from the ground made me
think, what a wonderful site for a spa! Yeah, right. Of course it's
not suitable for bathing in - too much sulfur in the water, and
water temps of at least 150 degrees. Much of the water is colored
a soothing light blue, which our guide explained was caused by refracted
light. Also coloring the banks are red and green, from certain heat-resistant
strains of bacteria and algae. Scientists have been studying some
of this growth, to find a possible cure for skin cancer.
Later, we drove to Tower Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park.
Impressive sight, but naturally I had to see more. A sign indicated
the bottom of the falls half a mile down the path. I figured, well,
I can walk that. Big mistake: the path in question was a very steep,
winding incline. More than halfway down, I tripped and fell, but
didn't get seriously hurt. Decided to turn back - uphill all the
way. That's how the guide found me, staggering, panting, and spitting
dust. (Everyone had wondered where I'd gone.)
Today was when I finally saw how freakin' big Yellowstone Nat.
Park is. We drove past humungous canyons and immense valleys, a
lot of it closed completely to motor vehicles. I was exhausted by
day's end, and there's still much more to see here.
July 31 - Blue Moon. Still here at Hideaway RV Park. Taourso got
Bob, a local truck repair guy, to do some work on the engine, the
Onan and some other stuff.
This afternoon, Taourso and I went to a photo place downtown. Another
brilliant idea of his. We posed for
a picture in buckskin outfits with cowboy hats - me saddled atop
a stuffed moose. How can this not look silly? And wouldn't ya
know, Taourso has already put the stupid thing online. Poo.
Thought I'd take a moment to mention what you can find in West
Yellowstone, should you find yourself there:
- Characteristic souvenir gifts include bears, mooses (plush and
otherwise), any food items containing huckleberries. Lots of old
Western and Native American stuff too.
- Found a few good places to eat. Chinatown I already mentioned;
it's the only Chinese place here. Café Old Town, a family-level
steak house that also serves buffalo burgers. (I inevitably eat
bison at least once if I travel anywhere within the Mountain Time
- For pizza, try Wild West Pizzeria. Typical of Western pizza
joints, they put some weird toppings on their pies (at least to
an old-schooler like me.) But don't fret, Wild West has all the
classics as well. More importantly, they understand that the heart
and soul of a good pizza resides below, in the crust - no toppings
on earth can redeem a bad one. I found a decent balance of crispy
and chewy in the pepperoni pie I ordered.
- Canyon Ave. Ice Cream easily kicks ass on the DQ around the
corner. Especially liked "moose tracks" - vanilla with
chocolate and peanut butter chunks.
- And West Yellowstone has its own microbrew/pub, Wolf Pack Brewing
Co. I've tried only one of their brews - a light one with a pleasant,
malty flavor and low bitterness, good for the
warm season - but the others are worth sampling, I'm sure. I paid
$15.00 for a half-gallon jug of beer, but later refilled the jug
for only $8.00, so keep that in mind.
August 2 - Drove around Yellowstone yesterday with the camera.
Went back to the geysers and got a few good pictures. Saw a few
elks, but no bears or moose around.
We also wanted to find the RV site near Fishing Bridge, where we'll
be staying next weekend. Am not looking forward to parking the motor
home: we'll need to unhook the car and the tow dolly before backing
in. Of course, all that will be on my ass.
August 3 - Saw an IMAX movie about the Lewis & Clark expedition
(which is a big deal, this year marking its bicentennial). It ran
only 45 minutes, hardly worth the $8.00 ticket price. I guess it
was impressive, being swept across huge mountain ranges and forests
on a big screen - but it made me slightly nauseous. As for the content,
they've already done L&C better on PBS. Meh.
August 4 - Abrupt change in plans. We have scrapped our weekend
in Yellowstone, instead will leave for Utah this Friday. Expect
to arrive Sunday.
Taourso has already scheduled appointment next week with an orthopedic
surgeon. His left knee is malfunctioning, and he can't straighten
his leg, which as you might imagine makes walking very difficult.
August 5 - Last day in Yellowstone. Yesterday there was heavy rain
thruout the morning, delaying any work on the motor home. Repairmen
finally came after 4 PM. Stayed close to three hours, replacing
oil and filter, changing engine belt, and checking fluids. I was
frazzled by the time they left.
August 6 - Flags West Truckstop/RV Park, Downey, Idaho. Right off
I-15. Expect to be near Salt Lake City tomorrow. A wide, nearly
deserted parking area surrounded by mountains, sagebrush and highway.
Weather - sunny, warm and dry with high winds knocking around the
motor home constantly. Still, it's a decent place to stop if you're
between stops, as we are. (Wow, there's that roaring wind again!)
The truckstop has a good deal: buy ten gallons gas or more, and
you can park one night for free. Nice big pull-thru spaces, full
We'd planned to stay at the Idaho Falls KOA, about a hundred miles
back. But Taourso soured on it when, once again, staff proved unable
to fill our propane tank. We cancelled and drove off. Fortunately,
we got propane at a gas station not far away.
August 11 - Taourso got x-rays of his left knee at Tanner Clinic
yesterday, here in Layton. He's scheduled for an MRI in a couple
days. Meanwhile, he can barely hobble around unless he's on his
scooter. It's become a real drain on me.
We're in Utah now, not far from Taourso son's house. Our home for
the next few months is Circle L Mobile Home park. Good enough place,
though packed cheek-to-cheek with mobile homes. The park is right
off Main Street (Utah Rte.126), an endless stretch of chain stores
and chain restaurants (fast and otherwise). Within driving distance
are not one, but two WalMart Super Centers. However, I've already
talked about WalMart elsewhere; suffice to say that my feelings
have not changed.
As Taourso says, we're back in civilization.
We arrived in Utah Saturday. Before we parked the motor home, Taourso
just had to bring it first to his son's house in Clinton, and see
his grand-daughter (the baby, who's filled out quite a bit in eight
Then we parked here. Spent a good bit of time setting up, as our
site was not a pull-thru, had to unhitch the dolly and all. Plus
our water fixtures were leaking. Taourso went out for some new brass
fixtures which are working out fine.
Biggest problem for me is the heat. Gets well into the 90s thru
the day, and only down to the 60s at night.
Every now and then a train rolls by, blowing a very loud whistle.
Or a fighter jet roars by (remember, we're near an Air Force base.)
Still, that's bearable compared to the heat.
August 16 - Got some rain here today, for a change. Cooled things
off just a little. Saturday (8/14) Taourso's family got together
for a picnic somewhere in the Wasatch Mountains that surround the
SLC metro area. His son's uncle Karl brought his brand-new RV -
about the same size as ours, but much nicer.Taourso son and daughter-in-law
brought the baby and also his son's mother, Sue, who's living with
them now. (Sue left her home in Lake Havasu, AZ, a couple months
ago, after being diagnosed with lung cancer.)
Taourso and I stayed long after everyone left, and we talked with
the Aunt and Uncle, mostly about family stuff. I think that's when
the notion occurred to Taourso (and me) about staying in this area
permanently. Turns out there are some quite reasonably priced mobile
homes in our park. We checked them out over the last few days. I
knew I'd need to find a job; looked thru the Sunday paper and -
in the interest of full disclosure - I admit I even applied to the
local (wince!) Wal-Mart. Even so my own common sense has prevailed.
We couldn't stay in the motor home thru winter - not with the snow
and below-freezing temperatures - and we can't go further into hock
on a mobile home right now. So I told Taourso I'd rather stick to
our original plan and head south in November. And Taourso seems
all right with that. Sure was a tempting idea, though.
August 18 - Taourso got results today on the MRI of his knee. Doctor
finds no broken bones, other than some torn cartilage. So he recommends
physical therapy, says come back to him in a month.
So he started physical therapy this afternoon. He has to sit with
hot compresses on his legs for a time, then someone straightens
them out. It looks painful, but has shown some results. Taourso
will be going three days a week for the next few weeks.
Yesterday at a local diner, I ate a most curious breakfast item.
The locals call it a "scone" but it's nothing like any
scone I've ever eaten. It's a saucer-sized oblong piece of fried
dough, similar to what you'd get from an Italian street vendor in
NYC, but without the powdered sugar. The scone is served on a plate,
swimming in honey butter, and is apparently eaten with a knife and
fork like a pancake. Not bad, but I doubt it'd be popular outside
Utah. At the very least, they'd have to change the name - call it
a "Mormon cake" or something.
August 24 - Today I got my Utah driver's licence. (Taourso got
his last week.) So we are now officially Utahns - yeah, that's a
real word - just as we became Californians two years ago.
September 3 - Taourso has eye surgery scheduled for next Tuesday,
9/7. Yesterday Dr. Crandall and his staff checked out his eyes;
Crandall recommends laser surgery for glaucoma, and removal of cataracts
the same day.
Bit of a snag when we first entered Moran Eye Center in SLC. Before
we saw the doctor, a secretary mistook Taourso for someone else,
told him he was slated for cataract removal Oct. 7. We were like,
Huh?!!! and Taourso was all set to leave in a huff, but things were
soon straightened out.
We visited Sue at Davis Hospital this afternoon. She's stuck in
bed, not doing well at all. But she says the clot in her leg is
shrinking. Later I asked Taourso, Does she know how sick she really
is? Taourso says of course she does, but she won't admit it.
It was sunny and hot earlier this week. But heavy rains came down
last night; more expected tomorrow. Temperatures have dropped noticeably
September 10 - Three days since his surgery, Taourso says he sees
much better out of his left eye now; in fact he's removed the left
lens from his glasses. For the next few days' I'll have to put two
different kinds of drops in each eye every few hours. Poo!
Taourso's left leg has improved a little. He's got it out another
15 degrees over the past month. The other day we got most of him
into the shower (rather than sponging him down on the bed.) But
he still needs a lot of work.
September 13 - Yesterday, we went to the Utah State Fair - me,
Taourso, son and daughter-in-law and Baby. We tried to get Sue [who
is back at the son's home] to go, but she wouldn't. I was not all
that impressed - same old carnival/flea market crap I've seen elsewhere.
One display that intrigued me, though, was a vendor for "freeze-dried
meat." Its blurb says it keeps for up to 30 years. Why would
anyone care? Aimee says there's plenty of apocalypse/disaster heads
in this neck of the woods who'd go for that stuff. (Then again,
it might be good with ramen noodles ;^) )
September 15 - Got the motor home and car thru an emissions inspection
yesterday. Also had the propane tank filled. This morning, I discovered
we had no hot water. Whoever had filled the tank hadn't turned it
back on - and never told us, asshole! But we figured out later how
to turn it on, and everything's back to normal.
September 16 - Taourso got good news yesterday about his eye. Dr.
Crandall says pressure in his left eye has dropped down to 10 since
the surgery: a quite acceptable level. Taourso is scheduled for
a cataract operation on his right eye October 5.
Later that day, we went to Farmington and had the car and motor
home registered for Utah. Cost close to $200. to register the motor
home - still, that's a lot less than the California registration.
September 20 - Been raining heavily , off and on, the last couple
days. Some of the rain was icy. Snow on the mountain tops. Temps
have dropped notably.
Bad news - Sue is hospitalized again. I hear her memory is going;
the cancer may have metasticized into her brain.
September 22 - Taourso has just acquired a leg brace - a medieval-looking
contraption of plastic, metal and velcro - designed to force his
left leg straight for a half-hour, several times a day.
Last night we installed a new thermostat. Old one was busted. Last
couple of nights got cold; had to turn the heat on.
September 26 - Temperatures back up again. So far no pressing need
for propane. Taourso bought an electric radiator from Wal-Mart the
other day. He thinks it will help once it gets cold again.
Sue is still on the decline, with a series of small strokes. "Not
good," I keep hearing. Aimee says she talks about death a lot,
in spite of any encouraging words. IMO, Sue has a better handle
on her own condition than anyone. But such is our programming: life
is good, regardless.
September 30 - Jeez, where to start? A major turnaround in our
plans for the future. Taourso and I have decided to stay in Layton
- at least thru the winter, maybe longer - and not head south in
When we were driving around yesterday, Taourso reminded me how difficult
the heat was for me here over the last couple months. We figured
southern Utah would be much hotter. I reminded him how he wanted
to escape the snow. He said yeah, but there were still enough things
to keep him here in Layton: his medical treatments, and family.
And he adds, there are plenty of schools where I could find work.
The result is, we returned to Park Village, a mobile home park next
door to where we're staying now. There's a prefab house for rent
that we were considering a few weeks back, then changed our minds.
Put the October rent down, plus half the security deposit. Then
Taourso started tearing down the railing of the front steps. Expects
to start building a ramp for his scooter today. We told Bob, the
manager at our park, of our plans. He says we can stay till Oct.
7 - a week from today - without paying rent. Then we gotta move.
So I imagine the next week will be extremely busy. We have no furniture
for the house at all, so we'll have to get a bed-frame and dining
room set at least. And in the middle of it all, Taourso has eye
surgery scheduled for next Tuesday. It tires me out just to think
about it. Still, I'm glad about our decision. I've never had a place
as big as the one I'm about to move into. Plenty of room for the
things we want to do. And two bathrooms, one with a walk-in shower
I know Taourso will appreciate.
Now the downside:
Sue continues to deteriorate, and I hear the cancer has spread far
and wide. She's in constant pain and looks quite weak, and I can't
always understand what she says. All of us came by last night to
the hospital. Taourso's son plans to put her in a hospice tomorrow,
but couldn't decide where yet.
October 2 - Early morning. Didn't get much sleep, thinking a lot
about the moving-in work ahead.
Last couple days have been nonstop work, buying furniture and building
stuff. Taourso and I got a ramp to the front porch built, and it
apparently holds up the scooter. (But he'll have to leave it at
the door; no way can he get it around inside the house!) Then we
built a dolly to haul the boxes up the ramp. So we got most everything
we bought inside the house, except for the futon sofa. That we left
outside; hopefully Taourso's son will help with that.
October 4 - Taourso's son came by over the weekend, assembled one
bureau and our futon sofa for us. Taourso says he nearly wept at
how fast his son works compared to him. Taourso really likes the
shower. He sat in a plastic chair, and took his first real shower
Visited Sue at Washington Terrace assisted living center. We were
ready to do a kiddush - brought all the paraphenalia with us - but
Sue didn't want it. She continues very tired and weak. Taourso and
I both detest Washington Terrace. The air felt so heavy and uncomfortable.
"A place where people go to die,"Taourso calls it. And
it doesn't pretend to be anything else.
October 6 - My last night in this tin can on wheels. 'Nuff said.
Taourso's operation to remove cataracts from his right eye - apparently
successful. He drove to SLC for today's follow-up visit, and wore
no eyeglasses at all. Will go back to Dr. Crandall in a couple weeks.
I am less happy about our new wheelchair. It's a big, bulky affair
that Taourso keeps bumping into walls. Already broke a strip of
molding. Our new walls are not terribly strong, I'm afraid.
Here's where I stop, because this is meant to be a travel diary,
and my travels are over - at least for a good while. But first,
some ends need tying off.
A few days after we moved in, there was a death in the family:
Susan, at 63, of lung cancer that got out of hand, as cancer tends
to do. Funeral services were held in Lake Havasu, Arizona, attended,
I'm told, by many friends and relatives. (Taourso and I weren't
there.) In keeping with her wishes, she was cremated, and her ashes
scattered along a horse trail she frequented.
I'm glad to say that Sue got along well with Taourso and me over
the years, and I had to admire her attitude toward terminal illness:
"Some people say, `Why me?' I don't say why me, I smoked for
The people who run this park are nice and accommodating. For weeks
they've let us keep the motor home parked on the street by the house,
while I shlepped stuff from one to the other. A nod of thanks to
the local Mormon church ward, whose people helped us get the heavier
Hardest of all was moving Sonia, one of our two cats. She remains,
after two years, extremely skittish, almost feral, and could only
be removed after we caught her in a trap. She still hides out during
the day, gods know where. As for the other one, Cody, he's settled
in just fine.
The area appears promising. Beautiful scenery (I can see the Wasatch
Mountains from my kitchen window) which makes for a lot of pleasant
drives. Shopping is good, most of what I want is
within reach. It's got its countrified aspects - you can drive through
acres of farmland, and there's plenty of local produce available
in season. But still, there's a good-sized city less than thirty
miles away. As Taourso points out, the best of both worlds.
Only one big problem here: too many freakin' Republicans!
Yeah, if I feel the least bit sad these days, it's from licking
my wounds after the all-around ass-kicking the Democrats got this
November 2nd. But I won't rehash that here. Suffice to say that
this is the first time in memory when I have actually cried over
the outcome of an election. Now it's four more years of ... ah,
I've heard on the news that Mount St. Helens is threatening to
blow again. If so, I'm happy I got to see it this year. Too bad
for all the animals who've settled in though. Whatever happens,
it's nature's way - and nature, like any mother, has her bitch days.
A few days ago, we finally moved the motor home to a storage lot
here in the park. It'll stay there until we figure out what to do
with it. If we should sell the thing, or donate it - fine, I won't
As for any final remarks about RV living, I already made them in
my first diary, and I still stand by them. Just a couple more I'd
like to add:
Do not take a 34-foot motor home thru California's "Avenue
of the Giants."
And never - ever! - buy a satellite dish from Weingard.
Blessed be, all.
- November 2004
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