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all but the cats write here ... to remember, to share, to mumble, to shout ... follow along by RSS or email if you like.

Filtering by Category: vehicles

Housekeeping

bethany

I’ve never been the most consistent housekeeper, but you all pretty much know that by now. I do make lists often though, so will attempt to briefly update you on what we’ve been up to since the last post about the Land Ho! Art Sale in June.

The Sale is over!

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The Land Ho! sale ran for two weeks, and we sold a nice amount of work! Enough to get a good nest egg going for our Land Fund, even after paying off all of the costs of scans and canvas and paint and shipping supplies. It was a lot of work to get everything ordered, packaged, and shipped, but it felt good to wrap up that whole effort and call it finished. Big thanks to everyone who ordered something, or sent in a donation, it was mightily appreciated!

Finishing up at Keren and Bobby’s …

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After hogging Keren and Bobby’s basement and driveway and back yard for months on end, with all the forging and art making and sprawling that we seem to do, it was time to move on. We had to finish up some work first though that we’d started before the Art Sale became a thing, so we focused on the renovations in the basement that had been started before it was turned into a temporary studio and shipping center. Lots of trim and painting and flooring and sanding and door hanging before we had to call it quits because Michael had a Sol LeWitt job coming up in Cambridge Massachusetts … but first we had to get the trailer to Chicago so the boys and I could help out at my folks while he worked at Harvard.

Getting Out …

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Getting out of any long-term stay is hard, and leaving after 6 months is even more difficult. There was a torn awning to remove and dispose of (sadly), many tools to sort and stow, and a seemingly endless list of things to pack and dispose of and tend to. We badly wanted a few days to ourselves before landing in Chicago, but it seemed like the window was getting so small that we might not have more than a night or two on the road. We had to be there by Friday August 10th at the latest. On August 3rd, we got a call that my Dad had something that appeared at first to be a heart attack, and he was in the hospital. We prayed, packed faster, and managed to get on the road on the 6th. After a few hours of heading over the mountains, we knew that Matilda’s transmission wasn’t just sending out warning signals, it was in its death throes.

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After stopping for a night with Caleb and boys (pure bliss!) we tried to limp North but had to admit that we weren’t going to make it. We were forced into a …

Mini Transmission Vacation!

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It was now Tuesday August 7th and we were in Wilkesboro NC with just 4 days until Michael had to hop on Amtrak in downtown Chicago. It was now looking like Dad had open heart surgery looming in the next week or so as he had some afib and a faulty valve, and they were busy giving him tests to rule out possible complications. We had to find someone who could get and replace the transmission in a 1995 F250 in 2-3 days. We asked God to point us in the right direction, limped into a big truck body shop, got a recommendation for a transmission place in the next town that said they might be able to help, and landed in a VFW campsite nearby.

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After chatting with a friendly veteran, befriending the camp host’s 4 crazy dogs, and getting the camper set up, we took off to see if these folks could indeed help us. Matilda’s 20’ of red and white loveliness looked like the runt of the litter when parked among the rest of the trucks in Gear Jammer Transmission’s crowded lot. The mechanics came on out, crawled under Matilda and poked around, and made a few phone calls. After being assured they could get a new one and put it in in the next 48 hours, we hitched a ride back to our campground with the friendly owner.

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Before collapsing for the night, we took the transmission guy’s recommendation of a hole-in-the-wall BBQ place a short walk from our campsite, devoured a quiet and delicious meal together, and mused on the way in which we were getting my strongly desired “few nights to ourselves” before landing in Chicago. It was hard to fully relax with the worries about Dad and his pending surgery, which ended up suddenly scheduled for Friday the 10th, but it was still lovely to be on our own and puttering for a couple of nights. We got a purring Matilda back late on Thursday, and prepped for an early Friday morning start.

Dad’s Surgery

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Friday was our drive to Chicago day, and Dad’s surgery. I’d talked to him a couple times by phone, and knew he had no fears at all. We trusted that all was in God’s hands, and got on the road. He was scheduled for a valve replacement, a double bypass, and an ablation. He ended up with a quadruple bypass, a new valve to replace what they discovered was an abnormal 2-flap one, and a maze procedure. By the time we arrived in their driveway just before midnight, he was out of anesthesia and back in one piece in the ICU.

Michael and Harvard

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Saturday morning we took stock of the state of things at the house where my brother Stephen and his wife Rene and son Paul were caring for Mom, briefly visited Dad in the hospital, and then Michael packed up in time for me to take him to the train heading downtown, where he’d hop on Amtrak to go East. I must have messed up my Metra schedule while reading it on my phone in the truck the day before, because the train he was to catch only ran on weekdays, and at the last minute I had to hightail it into Chicago to drop him directly at the station. The prospect of Michael being gone for 5 weeks while I was helping with Mom and Dad and the household, while also parenting and homeschooling, loomed large, and I tried to get my head around how to handle it all as I drove back to the house.

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Michael dove deep in Cambridge where he was helping re-install a huge Sol LeWitt wall drawing in a museum on Harvard’s campus. A 5-story atrium with tight spaces and convoluted scaffolding and minimal AC was more challenging than some jobs, and between Harvard’s work rules and delays from the construction crew working in the same space, the job stretched to 7 weeks. Getting him back at the end of that time was pretty delightful.

The Scene at 4N405

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Since we arrived on August 10th, much has changed. Dad was in the hospital for another two weeks after we got here, and was more than ready to come home when they pulled the final drainage tube out. Mom took a pretty steep dive downwards after he went into the hospital, missing the connection of being with him daily, and having seen what happened to him when he passed out while at the park. Their bond is a huge part of what keeps her going, and without seeing him or being able to be with him at all, she lost a lot of ground and basically stopped being able to walk.

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Her care needs increased a lot as a result, and she currently needs 2 or 3 people’s help on a daily basis. They decided to move into the in-law apartment at my brother’s new home, which includes a flat floor plan and wider doorways, and plans are in motion to add a kitchenette and laundry to accommodate their needs. In the meantime, we have added a Hoyer lift, a wheelchair, and a ramp down the front steps to the household. Dad has gained strength steadily, and recovery is going well enough that he’s back to work and up to long walks and carrying boxes to the car. Those boxes would be the result of the sorting of his vast book collection down to one bookcase’s worth to take along to the new place.

 A telegram my grandfather Elmer sent to his fiancée Juanita for Valentine’s Day in 1937, 8 weeks before they were married.

A telegram my grandfather Elmer sent to his fiancée Juanita for Valentine’s Day in 1937, 8 weeks before they were married.

We’re currently taking care of Mom with a lot of help from my sister Martha, working on sorting and emptying the house of a lifetime of accumulation (it is minimal by most standards!), and preparing to fix the house up for sale once they move. There’s a lot to do, and we’re here as long as we’re needed.

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The land we had our eye on is still available, but we’re not focused on it at the moment. We’ve tried to just do what’s in front of us for years now, and the current situation is no different. There are needs, there is work that we know in our hearts is ours to do, and we’re in it with everything we’ve got.

Onward …

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The Boyds

fynn

After Aran and Lexie's wedding, the Boyds said we could park at their house.  When we got there, we parked in the cul-de-sac and got unhitched. We went inside and met Bordeax the dog, and talked. 

Two or three days later, Stan offered to take us water skiing. So we went.  

We had to pull the boat out of storage so we took off the tarp and towed it to the launch. We launched and Lois was there but she had some appointment so she could only be there for part of the time. So we went on the Delta.  At first it was slow because there was a lot of parked boats. 

When we got out of the slow zone we went for awhile.  Then Stan showed us how to ski and did a test run. 

Douglas went next, he got up for about one second. 

After Douglas went, we took Lois back and dropped her off.  Then we went back out. I went next but the skis didn't fit so I kneeboarded.  I lasted for about a minute. 

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I think Mom went next. I don't think she could get up so she kneeboarded.  My dad got up for about 3 minutes ...

... then I went again on the kneeboard.  I was able to stay up for about 5 minutes, until there was some sort of waterfall and it made waves and I was getting pulled into it. 

We went around a bit and looked at some houses, and started to go back. When we got back we went and towed the boat back and put the tarp back on and went back to their house.  

The next day we went to Aran and Lexie's.  When we got there we talked awhile until me and Douglas went to the park across the street. After we came back we went to sleep on the floor.  The next morning we got up.  Aran went to work and we all walked to the park.  Me and Douglas played awhile while the grownups talked.  When we got to the apartment it was time to go. 

We got back to Stan's house.  He offered to take us flying that day.  We went to the airport and Stan drove us there.  We had to wait for the plane.  Stan checked the plane. 

Everything was good.  So we waited for the runway to be clear and Stan put it into full throttle and we took off. 

We flew for awhile until we got out of range of the airport and Stan said I could fly the plane and showed me how the controls worked. 

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After that we flew over the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Not long after that we started heading back. Stan did a partial dive but we couldn't do the death drop of zero gravity because my mom got sick.  

The next morning we left. 

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Westward Ho! / Day 12 ... We Made It!

bethany

Friday, August 26

The pre-party for the wedding is tomorrow! Time to suck in whatever leftover bits are still floating around, and get in gear. Tumey Hills was a beautiful spot to wake up, with light on golden hills, and whatever latent fears I had about trespassing were annulled when the Park Ranger drove past and waved. A good start to the day.

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Just as we were about to pull out, Michael noticed that the two tires on the passenger side of the trailer were nearly shot, worn almost threadbare and really torn up. They hadn't been that way 2 days before, and so we concluded that heat + I5's construction zone had done them in. (In retrospect, it's likely that under-inflation played an even bigger role).

We looked up tire shops, drove very slowly and carefully to the closest one and had two new tires put on, very thankful to have enough funds to do so!

Back on the highway, we made it to Tradewinds RV Park in Vallejo by 1:30, relieved to have a place to stay for a whopping 3 nights in a row ... no breaking camp in the morning! I hadn't done bridge research on getting TO the park however, so was a bit shocked at the $20 bridge toll, thanks to having the trailer in tow.

We found our spot and got parked ... tight quarters but clean enough and just what we needed.  We emptied everything out of the back of Matilda and stowed it under the trailer or under a tarp, locking up the go-kart too. We didn't want to add to anyone's temptations when parking in the city the next two days. Did a bit of housekeeping too, got groceries, and tried to relax a bit. So very glad to be settled after 2500-ish miles!

Finally starting to think about getting a long hot shower in the morning, coming to terms with my choice of wedding outfit (vintage, borrowed, wildly colorful for me, and crazy platform heels), and getting my mind around being social and formal. The gears were shifting, though a bit creaky in the process.

previous posts : DAY 1  / DAY 2 / DAY 3 / DAY 4 / DAY 5 / DAY 6 / DAY 7 / DAY 8 / DAY 9 / DAY 10 / DAY 11

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Westward Ho! / Day 5 ... Crossing into Colorado

bethany

Friday, August 19

Our neighbors pulled out long before we did, but after giving Matilda's engine a once-over and tweaking the fan shroud, we made a quick jaunt into town to get groceries, and check out the Pony Express Station/Museum that had been relocated into the local park. After gathering tidbits like the fact that the service only operated for 18 months, riders were preferred to be teenage orphans, and that the fastest trip over the whole 1840 miles was 7 days and 17 hours and carried Lincoln's inaugural address … we scurried back to the camper, hitched up, and headed west towards I70. We had debated the whole I70 vs I80 thing, but opted for the hillier and more scenic southern route.

Our late start meant that we decided not to push through Denver that day, but took our time. At one of the big truck stops, we finally got our rig weighed, something we'd never yet dared to do. We knew the empty weight of Matilda was 6300 lbs, and the empty trailer was 5400 lbs, but I'd long suspected that we were a fair bit over our GVRW load limit given that we've got a lot of tools and books in every nook and cranny. We can add about 2200 lbs of stuff, but that includes any water and propane in the tanks, not to mention all our personal belongings. It adds up fast!

After asking at the trucker's counter how the whole system worked (and being a bit sheepish about it, just because camper folks aren't always welcomed with open arms there), I paid for the required access code and got back in the truck. We swung through the scales, picked up our results, and discovered that we were just under our overall limit! Phew. Nice to know before heading over the Rockies :).

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Crossing into Colorado was a bit weird … the scenery changed almost immediately to scrubby hills full of cattle, and corn fields. The views were a lot longer, and it just felt different.

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We found a free city park “campground” in Fort Morgan that included 15amp electric, which turned out to be a parking lot with a small median strip that had some outlets 6' up on the streetlight poles. We jury rigged our cord to one of them so that the weight of the extension cord wouldn't yank it out in the night, and I started in on dinner. Our neighbors, with the exception of one spiffy looking 5th wheel, all seemed to be living out of their cars or trailers, and not by choice. It became the Friday night drag strip for awhile, but quieted down early enough to get some really good sleep.

previous posts : DAY 1  / DAY 2 / DAY 3 / DAY 4

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Maiden Voyage part 2 : Christmas Jam

michael

Two hours of 60 mph in steady rain brought us about 30 miles from Harrisburg on 81.  We pulled into a Pilot and parked at the end of a row of sleeping tractor trailers.  We staggered out and went to check on the cats who had been locked in the bathroom.  The trailer suddenly seemed very small next to the big rigs, but it was still exciting to be a part of those-that-sleep-on-the-road. The cats were curled up together on a towel sleeping like this-was-how-they-always-did-it.  We got the kids out of the truck into their bunks and Bethany and I headed for the big neon DINER sign.  I was starving.   We’d lived on nothing but snacks for the last 36 hours, and I could already taste a big greasy cheese-burger and fries.  I’d forgotten it was Christmas Eve.  The diner was closed.   We went back to the camper, crawled into bed, and fell asleep to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and cat-feet in the camper.

Four hours later we awoke to no rain and the sun breaking over the tail-end of the cloud-bank.  This was a truly fantastic Christmas morning.  I just went back and checked weather history to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it had misted for 2 straight weeks, and found that on Dec. 15 the sun HAD come out for 2 hours in the morning, but that was it.  From the 10th on it had been sunless.  There was a Ray Bradbury story we read in grade-school about these kids living on Venus where the sun would shine for 3 hours every 7 years.  It felt about like that.

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I grabbed my moustache-soap and the kids, and we headed for the Pilot restrooms to freshen up.  What a motley lot of transients deck the halls of a truck-stop on Christmas morning!  It was an honor to belong in a way I never had before.  I fell to conversating in the mirror with a trucker fascinated by my waxing process.  Turns out he used to be a scenic working on set designs for commercials in Atlanta.  Anyone remember a Nintendo commercial for a Star Wars game where Darth and some storm troopers burst through the door on these kids playing the game?  This trucker was operating the fog-gun on his back under the bed.

We got the cats back in the bathroom, hopped in the cab with some fresh coffee and beef-sticks, and hit the road by 8:30.  SUN!  If all went well, we’d hit Knoxville in time to open the presents Keren and Bobby had for the kids before Christmas was over.  We hadn’t had time or mind power to get the kids anything ourselves, but we all agreed a camper on the road was what we’d all wanted most.  Just when it seemed my confidence would allow me to keep up with traffic at 65-70, the winds began.  All through Maryland and into West Virginia we were yanked this way and that, forcing us to go 55-60.

We made our first stop at the West Virginia welcome center.  Bethany went into the camper to get something and discovered the bathroom door had not been latched properly.  The cats were at large and quite at ease.  Well, that was that, then.  Actually, it was a relief.  We had hoped they could adjust enough to watch out the windows while we drove, but no-one expected this much progress in half a day. 

By now everyone was ravenous.  I could tell by the way Douglas and Fynn said such beautiful things to each other.  We determined to pull off at the next exit with food.  A mile before the exit the truck started losing power.  All of it, really.  “What’s happening?” Bethany asked, as I futilely kept tromping the gas, pulling to the side.  “I don’t know.”  The truck putt-puttered to a stop, and the battery light came on as it coughed its last and died.  “Maybe it’s the alternator.” I remembered noticing 2 weeks before that the headlights would brighten slightly when revving the truck at an idle.  I turned the key off, then on.  The truck turned over sickly but did not catch.  We looked under the hood, feeling completely inadequate at diagnostics.  My stomach was singing a mournful song of auto-cannibalism.

“Maybe having the heat on in the camper is draining the truck battery,” Bethany suggested.  “That’s run off the propane,” I said.  “The fan is electric,” she said.  “Oh, yeah, right!”  We turned off the heat.  We hauled out a compact battery charger we were bringing to give to Keren and Bobby, hooked it up, and what do you know?  VROOOM, VROOOOM, VROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!  Matilda was back in action.  We revved at high idle for a while, then put it in gear and headed for the Waffle House.

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“Do we turn it off?” Bethany asked in the bank parking-lot next to the Waffle House.  “Yes. If it doesn’t turn back on, we’ll figure it out.  At least we’re in a town now.”  Matilda was purring normally and if there was still a problem, I didn’t want to pussy-foot around it.

I can’t remember ever enjoying a Waffle House meal more than that.  I had a bacon-egg-n-cheese on French toast with hash-browns and everything else my family didn’t eat.  Douglas, who is normally Bethany’s gluten-free partner, was allowed to eat Waffles for Christmas.  It was bliss.

The truck started fine.  We headed into Virginia.  The wind stopped and I got up to 75.  The sunlight on the Blue Ridge mountains was glorious.  They were really blue!  And only got more so as we enjoyed a fantastic sunset.

When night settled, we received a text from Keren: Dear Douglas and Fynn, This is Santa.  If you don’t make it to Knoxville before midnight, I’m taking all your presents back up the chimney!  We laughed.  Then we noticed the running lights of the camper winking off and on in our mirrors with every bump.  We pulled off at the next exit, strapped on our headlamps, and went to investigate.  We unhooked the supply at the hitch and there it was: a bent prong in the plug.  A small flat-headed screwdriver unbent it. All the lights came on, and we were back on our way.

We got 3 miles farther before the lights started winking again.  AAAAAAAAAAH!  We took the next exit and found a well-lit gas station this time.  I crawled under the truck and began checking the truck wires surrounding the hook-up.  Two sets looked hand joined with electrical tape.  I held one and wiggled the other.  “Bethany! What are the lights doing?”  “Nothing.”  I held the other and wiggled the one.  “They’re flickering!”  I stripped and sanded the wires and twisted on a wire-nut.  Bethany fed me tools.  The lights came on and stayed on.  Not a flicker.  The store there had camper bulbs (2 were out) and we got a jar of Nutella for Fynn and a jar of Homemade Black Cherry Jam for Douglas as Christmas gifts.  We had to get them Something!

It was about 9:30 and we were back on the road.  The wire problem was fixed, and it sure explained the burning brakes on the top of that first mountain!  It looked like we’d hit Knoxville by 11:30.

At 10:30 the truck began losing power.  I tromped futilely on the gas as we putt-putted to the side of the road.  The battery light came on but the headlights didn’t dim.  This made me think it might not be the alternator.  We were out of ideas.  “Maybe it’s the timing belt,” I posed, remembering a similar incident with my dad when I was about 9.  I found out later Matilda doesn’t even have a timing belt.  “Um, I guess we pray.” I said.  We told God we didn’t know what to do and we could use some help.  We tried starting the truck.  I came to life like nothing was wrong and after a few minutes of revving we pulled back on the road, and made it into the city limits of Knoxville by 11:58.

Four hours of sleep wasn’t much to go on, considering that had been the average for the last few weeks, but we were almost there.  The impending relaxation was palpable.  Keren texted to say we shouldn’t go the route Map Quest proposed but should come a different way.  An easier way.  Now my sister is a very visual person, so things like what color gas station sign can be seen from a curve to the left, or how high the Starbucks sign goes above the trees, stick in her mind a lot easier than which direction North is and what number exit to take.  Bethany was tearing her hair out to establish where to put Map Quest down and pick up Keren’s texted fragments and clarifications.  Exit 6 was actually exit 3A which would have been the first exit after exit 5 were we going East not West.  But after a Merry tour of Knoxville’s North side and Bethany got Keren live on the phone, we were guided into the skinny lanes of Sherwood Forest, Keren and Bobby’s neighborhood.  It was 12:30.

I was able to back the camper down a hill and turn into their 40 foot drive in one shot.  The satisfaction of that helped unclench my jaw a bit, and all remaining frustration was squeezed out with bone-crushing hugs from Keren and Bobby.  It was a good landing.

 
 

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Happy Camper

michael

Um ... I'm not too sure how to say this for fear you won't believe it.
But enough artwork sold to buy a camper and retrieve it. 
It is sitting in my driveway as we speak.  What's that? 
You still do not believe?   Lo!  Photographs ...

This is the cart I bart when you bart my art.

 parked in the dark

parked in the dark

 in the parking lart of the cart mart

in the parking lart of the cart mart

I am one pleased and thankful artist.  Thank you all.  I think if you go outside and stare up at the waxing moon you will see me at the wheel of a red white rig with a big GRIN, caravanning like E.T. on handlebars, not in front of, but right over the moon.  Really?  An artist can sell work AND buy a camper?  AND fly over the moon?  Oh look!  The pilot has cake on his dash he is eating.  I mean having.  I mean eating.  Whoa!  Watch out for that MOON!

...

The kids have pretty much moved in.  The heat isn't on but 35 degrees is perfect sleeping weather, right?  Apparently; They're in there again tonight.  Fynn spent a lot of the day running and jumping in the trailer.  Douglas hunkered up in his bunk in a book.  Bethany's locus is a swarm of bees moving into a new hive.  I, myself, am pleased as punch to have proven I could back a 50 foot vessel into the drive.  It continues to drizzle but it's melting the snow.  It seems that our dreams are granted a go. 

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The Sale ... is done! The camper ... being hunted ... oops, is found!

bethany

(this is what happens when you start a blog post, and then don't finish it in one sitting ...)

Whew.  That was intense, exhausting, exciting, and waaaay more work on this end than anticipated.  But the response?  Truly Awesome!  Completely and utterly humbling and fabulous and exciting, to watch it unfold over the 2 weeks the sale was open.  We sold 34 pieces of art I think, and made more money than Michael thought possible :). 

(insert writing break of 36 hours ....)

.... aaaaand we found one!  It's not in our possession yet, but we trade cash for the vehicle and title next monday!

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