Three dogs are easier when we are stationary.

Every nice roll in the grass is interrupted.
Every nice roll in the grass is interrupted.

Despite the fact that the TeamCholvis just ate a dozen eggs and gooshed the extra into the seat cushions this morning I will admit that three dogs aren’t too trying now that we are stationary. Feeding, peeing, pooping, and exiting a vehicle multiple times a day drained TeamHuman. Leash 1, leash 2, leash 3…where’s leash 3…come back here…wait…wait…oh, there it is…clip…OKAY…12 paws hit the ground attached to three strings and a human. The human ducks and twirls and, to date, has not gone down. Occasionally a dog is loose. Maybe the hand didn’t quite have a hold or maybe the dog was never attached. Cue the gutteral command to STAY. Cars are almost always whizzing by when we get in and out. Adrenaline floods my body. The dogs always, so far, stop. I capture the loose mutt and we proceed to walk. Usually we split them between us. Burt takes Elvis and maybe another. I almost always deal with Olive. She’s fussy.  When one human must do the job alone it’s ergonomically uncomfortable to walk all three. Elvis must be dragged, the others pull. I try to channel my inner neutral balance between the sixty pound in each hand. The key is to transfer the pullers to the dog that needs pulling without throwing out your own back.

Happily the life threatening dog comfort walk is less frequent now that we are in our summer work spot. There is ample property for some free ranging. There is a yard. There are leashed walks that do not involved a vehicle. Cars are few and far between. Now if we take a leash walk I get Olive and Burt takes Elvis and Chava. Burt is the master trainer for heeling. After the pups have released some energy they might get free time in the woods. Chava and Olive are getting better at their off-leash heeling. Recall is only a problem for Elvis. He is deaf, stubborn, demented. I am always amazed at how much our older dogs teach the younger dogs. Elvis taught Olive, Olive is teaching Chava. But it cuts both good and bad. Chava has noticed Elvis getting away with all kinds of transgressions and has tried to follow the Elvis mentoring plan. Elvis won’t come, sit or wait for food so why should I? As my mom used to say: Because I said so. After a week of it Chava seems back on track with following us not Elvis.

So after a rough couple of weeks where we learned this Chava was stuck with us, that he might have ringworm, that he was growing so fast and eating so much and needed to be walked six times a day and once at night we’ve finally reached the spot where it’s only a little more energy to manage him. And he’s a good dog. And he doesn’t have ringworm.

Remember Seinfeld? Here comes Newman.
Remember Seinfeld? Here comes Newman.
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Long Overdue Poop Catastrophe

This is a shot with my new long lens.
This is a shot with my new long lens.

Many, many miles have passed under our truck this last week. We pulled out of Jack’s driveway on Monday and headed east towards Logan, Utah. We stopped and visited Great Basin National Park before landing in the yard of Burt’s friends from the year he experimented with college. But first the poop-tastrophe of 2019.

Longtime friends and readers know I have had many involuntary and surprising contacts with poop. Literal shit storms have followed me around since I was a wastewater treatment plant technician in 1984. All previous shit shows are now relegated to second tier events. That time to groover exploded and coated my chest with a brown air-brushed patina of feces? Not worth mentioning. The time the other groover exploded at the car wash when I was trying to illegally flush the contents? Ho hum. Olive rolling in human feces? Which time? Never mind. The shit coated bathroom behind the bus stop? The emergency evacuations in bushes, buckets, pants? The porno movie in Ecuador playing while I held the ‘door’ to the toilet shut and dumped? I could write a book and all would pale in comparison to the latest event. And yet it was so fast and stunning it’s hardly worth telling.

One great advantage to traveling with your home attached to your truck is there is always a bathroom when you need it, assuming you can pull over. Last week I had a sudden need for the bathroom. Burt dutifully pulled over at the top of the pass coming out of California. Nevada spread below and a icy alpine lake was by our side. The elevation was substantially greater than where we had just spent the last three nights. We were  five to six thousand feet higher that we had been at Burt’s dad’s house. It was gorgeous. I grabbed the key and dashed to the gNash. It wasn’t your normal urgent situation. It was a passing that required time and relaxation. I must have gotten dehydrated and, remember, I have that devious redundant and twisted colon. Think ungulates. Burt popped by to check on me and reported he’d seen a mountain quail. Dammit. A lifer bird and I was sitting on the throne. What could be worse?

Finally my work was done. RV life requires a degree of sanitary involvement that most of us would rather avoid. Since the toilet uses very little water you must turn and face your masterpiece and make sure it reaches its final destination. You depress the flush pedal firmly and quickly to try and induce a vacuum effect. If the poop is stalled extra effort is required. Some people use a pot of water to try and flush. A brave few grab a wad of TP and give it a nudge. The less brave or more health conscious use a tool we have named The Poop Stick. Poop sticks are disposable. when your poop is stuck you go get a stick, use it as needed, and discard. The result is that while it is very convenient to have a toilet with you at all times it comes with a price.

So there I was…Finally relieved of my burden. I turned and watched. Foot to lever. Firm and quick and BOOM. Instead of going down, or at least politely remaining stuck, it all exploded and flew skyward and hit me square in the face. Urine gravy with poop meatballs. My mouth was open. The word surprised is meaningless. I felt assaulted in the strangest way. Shock. Terror. Disgust. I heard a sound come out of me that I had never heard before. I was wailing and laughing and yelling. Burt came running WITH the dogs. Chava very helpfully ate the meatballs. I screamed at Burt to leave as I wailed that I needed help. Floor, ceiling, walls, and me were dripping in urine and a week’s worth of festering septage on top of what I had placed in the bowl. I started spitting and stripping while I kept wailing and chuckling. Burt left with the dogs. I mopped and cried and laughed. There was shit and pee in my hair. My glasses had saved my eyeballs. A long while later I came out of the gNash in fresh clothes but carried the knowledge that I was not clean. I could not wash hair without a shower. On the up side, the dogs were eager to hang out with me as we drove down into Nevada. Eau de Poo is a canine favorite. Urine has a lingering taste, too.

All day long I felt if I was slipping into some kind of dis-associative state. I veered between maniacal laughing and angry mutterings regarding the closest shower. I ate and drank but still imagined pee. We shopped at Trader Joe’s and Costco and I passed an entire day in a bipolar state of panic and hilarity. The shock of the blast was so profound that I found myself wondering how people emotionally survive bombings and other sudden violence. Something so minor as a toilet malfunction was bringing deep thoughts.

Of course we presumed the disaster was caused by the rapid change in elevation but we were wrong. The toilet is vented and had never exploded before. The real cause was a blocked vent. This became clear when the toilet exploded several more times over the next two days. Subsequent explosions were far less catastrophic because we had learned to gingerly press the flush pedal to let the tank off-gas. Still pee was on our seat and I took some mean hearted comfort in Burt getting hit. The persistent problem created a new sense of panic. I was ready to scrap the whole house but we hatched a plan on how to clear the vent. It was a muti-step and iterative plan but luck was on our side. The vent cleared as mysteriously as it clogged.

All’s well, for now. This could happen again. Despite my day or two of PTSD I’m already back staring at my shit and slamming the flusher as hard as I can hoping it goes down instead of up. Hope does not rise in this situation.

These ducks don't want to know.
These ducks don’t want to know.
I can't remember.
I can’t remember. Oh, yeah, looking for sagebrush sparrow. I heard it.
I ate the turd. So proud.
I ate the turd. So proud.
Regret.
Regret.
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Driving North at a Leisurely Pace

Olive's last night at the home beach.
Olive’s last night at the home beach.
the Gypsy Carpenter's last night at the home beach.
the Gypsy Carpenter’s last night at the home beach.
This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the inetrnet shoud be.
This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the inetrnet shoud be.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Pinochle
Pinochle
This dog is eating twice as much as Elvis and it shows every day.
This dog is eating twice as much as Elvis and it shows every day.

The gNash and Dodge are rolling uphill towards Montana and we’ve got a hanger-on. The usual Gypsy Carpenters crew minus Mimi (DEP, sweet kitty) plus foster puppy Chava are all festively packed in the king cab of our 18 year old Dodge and it’s got all the makings of a drunken party. There’s daily fights, spilled drinks, vomit, public scratching, and that’s just the dogs. Only Elvis and Burt are completely satisfied with their space. Nobody crowds them and gets away with it. Meanwhile Olive, Chava and I are jockeying all day, everyday to make do with what we can get. You’d think we’d swiftly work out a compact of who sits where  when but noooo.  Chava is growing faster than a kudzu in July so it’s a turf battle everyday. What worked before noon on Friday was no can do by Saturday night.  Mood and climate also impact the degree of bodily contact allowed. Too hot? GTF off of me says Olive with a gap toothed crooked snarl. Too Cold? Climb up on my lap, there’s room for you both, says me. Just when everyone settles down somebody (me, Burt, or Chava) has to go to the bathroom and the proverbial pot is stirred again. And despite Chava knowing I am his boss he still treats me like a mom he can walk all over. Chava even tries to nurse on my forearms as he falls asleep. What a cutie-pie.

In the midst of the hourly land rush there have been countless bowls of spilled water and the aforementioned vomit and deafening barks in ears. Burt’s worried the floor boards are rusting from the constant moisture. I’m worried I’m growing mold on my perpetually wet bum. There are legs, teeth, and tongues everywhere and they have not figured out how to coordinate. Maybe that’s a good thing. Imagine them working together to thwart us. The mental and physical effort to keep two old dogs and one new puppy safe and satisfied is not 30% greater than the two dogs alone. I’d say the well trained but scarily growing puppy is a 100% increase in energy cost for Burt and me. He’s so fast and less solidly reliable to hold a stay or wait. By Monday morning he might weigh less than Olive but he will be stronger than Elvis and Olive combined. And he just eats and eats and eats. Which means he poops and poops and poops.

And it’s all been worth it. We’ve taken our time and let puppy stretch his legs in new places. When we first got Olive we did the same thing. We visited the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir just like we did eight years ago with Olive. A condor even flew over head on Chava’s first hike, the steep 4 KM climb to the Mirador (lookout) where you can see the Bahia de California from the top of the mountains. Human year equivalent 90 year old Elvis waited in the gNash. We told him it was boring. He only ate a little bit of a window shade in retaliation.

Today finds us at Burt’s Father’s unibomber home in California. We lovingly call it this because it’s a 50s era mail order log cabin with no potable water and a hot water heater only turned on once a week for Jack’s shower. It’s a dark place. If and when I take a shower in the cool rust waters, the dribble hits me in my bellybutton. I tweak my back wetting my hair and I come out smelling like a can of nails left under a drain spout. Not worth the effort. I’ll wallow in my dog water stink and vomit a few days more.

This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the inetrnet shoud be.
This is the most liked and commented upon photo I have ever posted. Crap Bird Photography is the way the internet should be. That’s a California Condor.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Travertine Hot Springs.
Pinochle
Pinochle. Bad hand.

 

 

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Remind me to tell you about…

California ground squirrel.
California ground squirrel. I bumped his butt with my phone and he ignored me.

So there’s this thing I wanted to tell you about but so much time has passed it seems I should move on. So, next time I’m wondering what to write about remind me to describe Jack’s house to you. Burt calls it a unibomber cabin. He’s got the drift of it but Jack’s place is more interesting because he’s not intentionally leaving behind modern conveniences. Jack’s home is magnificently uninviting and it has water and electricity. I’d like to capture the sensations of visiting in writing. Meanwhile, here we are in Mexico.

After leaving Jack’s place in the Sierra foothills we’d planned to visit San Francisco area friends. The vast and thick plume of smoke from the Camp Fire forced us to keep moving south to look for clearer air. Smoke is nothing to mess around with when you have a heart issue and when you’ve already been exposed to severe concentrations in the past (Hello, Montana?). It was sad to bail on friends but bail we did. This brought us to the central coast for a few days of pre-Mexico chores and an early Thanksgiving feast. It was smokey but not deadly in the Paso Robles area. I was irritable. My constant state these days. Backache, eye blob, trumpitis and the hot flashes have returned. Our friends were nice to me, anyway. I dragged everyone out to see Bohemian Rhapsody and it did wonders for us all. It was a fun movie even if it strains credibility.

Finally we were on the road to Mexico. Then we realized we had more chores and it was Thanksgiving week in LA. We were slowed by our desperate need for new batteries for the gNash solar system and tires, too. This put us in the deadly no man’s land between Bakersfield and LA. The Tejon Pass area. OMG. An hour north of LA on the Monday before turkey day and the roads were full of semis all looking for a place to pull over and make their required rest stops. We drove ina circle for an hour. There was a Walmart we almost dared becuase teh manager said it ‘might be okay.’ They only rented the lot. Dispersed signs said otherwise when we finally spotted them. Rather than dare the LA spaghetti we headed back NORTH to a Pilot truck stop. It was full at 5:00 PM. We went to another huge vacant parking lot. Abandoned mall. More signs forbidding parking. Burt was tired. I was my usual crabby-assed self. Finally we decided to hit a state park about 15 miles west of the freeway. We arrived around 8PM. It was dark. There was room. We were up at 4 AM and on the road towards Potrero State Park. That place was empty when we arrived but due to fill by the next day. An entire family tree had rented the place for Thanksgiving. That disaster was barely averted. A day later and our usual spot to hang before we cross the border would have been full, too. We learned to avoid LA during the holidays after a couple of bruising trips early on.  Ever since we’d made an effort to enter Mexico from points further east but we forgot there was a reason and it wasn’t merely because we happened to be there. Maybe we’ll remember this time. LA and San Diego and all points in between from the Sunday before Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day should be avoided at all costs. State parks on the coast are filled months in advance. And they cost too much, too.

My mood lightened as soon as we crossed the border and then a day later Burt was sick. He dragged his ass and our home down the peninsula in 5 days instead of 3. I did offer to drive but the thought of me one-eyed driving on the shoulder-less transpeninsula highway was an idea neither of us could stomach. The extra days gave us time in La Paz to start our visa process so it worked out brilliantly.

And so here we are. The gNach is on her spot in El Pescadero. Ants swarmed in as soon as we landed. Burt’s been unpacking these last two days. I have torn the trailer apart rooting out the ants. I found an open bag of raisins and a withered fig that they were using as their home bases. All food is tightly sealed and all crumbs swept away. Hopefully they will migrate on their own. When I’m not spraying the army of hormigas with white vinegar I am rounding up the paper work to finish the next stage of our visa application process.

Here’s an abridged version of the visa process: 1. Apply for the visa in the US. This means show up to a consulate with passports and many copies of evidence that you can afford to retire in Mexico. Bring photos. 2. Cross the border and make sure you fill out your new visa forms correctly showing you are seeking residency. You now have thirty days to finish the next stage. Go! 3. Freak out when you realize two weeks of national holiday and a changing of the federal government all occur within your 30 days. 4. Read online to make sure you don’t mess up. 5. Freak out and lose more sleep over the new president (AMLO) and his minions and the holidays. Last time the government changed all the immigration procedures went out the window. 5. Show up in the migracion office of your county or state. For us this is La Paz. La Paz ia an hour away from our home. 6. The migracion officer is very helpful but she says: you know the holidays are coming up. You must move fast. We ask when the holidays start. We are given a very vague answer with a shrug. Any day now what with the president changing this Saturday and the Virgin of Guadalupe of the 12th and Christmas on the 25th and then New Year’s Day….I’m verklempt just writing this. 7.  There is an online form we must submit online and print. There are forms in hard copy we must fill out. There is a fee we must pay at the bank and bring back a receipt in triplicate. They ask for a bill that shows where we live, power or water, I explain we have solar power and use trucked water, we have no bills. She says bring a google map. We need more photos. The dreaded official ID photos of Mexico. Our officer suggests we can get it done in La Paz today. 8. I run to an internet cafe to fill out the online form but the guy has stepped out. He’s left a sign saying he’ll be back. Burt is off trying to park. 9. Burt returns but the internet is still closed. We head off to do the photos. 10. The photos are below. No hair on forehead or ears. There’s a communal pomade pot for slicking your hair into submission. You can imagine how inept Burt and I were. The results are stunning. 11. Head back to internet cafe. Guy still not there but two nice women want in so they call him. He shows up. He’s sad to inform me the internet doesn’t work. Then it suddenly does. I spend 40 minutes looking for and filling out the forms. I go to print them and the internet crashes. No charge. 12. I take advantage of this disaster to head back to migracion and ask a few questions about the forms. This works well because the officer now recognizes me and seems eager to help. She takes me step by step through the forms. 13. I decided I am too tired to face trying on-line forms in Spanish again. I’m too tired to make sure I don;t screw up. If you make a mistake on your forms the whole process is rebooted and you lose your fees. 14. Burt an I decide to head to Pescadero and make camp. 15. Ants. 16. I successfully fill out the online forms. 17. I head into town to pay taxes, transfer money, pay for visas at a bank and get my copies of all forms. 18. The tax office internet is down. 19. The bank informs me I am using a bogus number for my money transfer. I panic. Am I committing fraud or have I lost $3,000? 21. In a deep funk I swing in the tax office. The internet is restored and I pay my less than $100 in annual property taxes. 20. I go home to regroup again. 21. April prints out the online forms. 22. I find the correct transfer numbers. 23. We head to the bank to get our money and pay for the visas (we’ve been home 48 hours) with the plan to head to La Paz and execute the next step. 24. At lunch Burt says,”What time do they close?” I check. The answer is at 1PM. We give up for another day. 25. The car battery is dead. 26. Ants.

So tonight, after two days of ants, unpacking, cleaning, copying, form filling, and bureaucracy dancing we are going out to dinner. Tomorrow at 8AM we are going to La Paz with many more copies of everything than they said we would need. Please pray, cross your fingers or make sacrifices according to your beliefs. The office is open 9 AM until 1 PM. And here’s the gospel truth, this system is a piece of cake compared to the US and for this I am grateful. We have to get her done. The new president arrives in just two days.

Official ID photos. They want to know what you look like dead.
Official ID photos. They want to know what you look like dead.
Cardon
Cardon
Cholla
Cholla
Long spines
Long spines
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This isn’t going as planned

Salty bird
Salty bird. Maybe a grebe?

The Gypsy Carpenters drove north up the Owens Valley of California on our way to Jack’s house. Burt had a an idea or two about where we might stop. We headed off the beaten trail and found ourselves late in the afternoon at a place with no room for our rig. Benton Hot Springs is a fine looking hot spring getaway. It’s developed but you get your own tub at your campsite. If you can pull in. We couldn’t. You’d think that would be in the guide book but it wasn’t so let me say it here. RVs do not fit at Benson Hot Springs.

So there we were on thin ribbon of road at 8000′ in the Sierras. Four years ago at this exact time of year we were trapped in the Sierras by a fall snow storm. We drove through the gathering dusk and finally landed at a pull out near Mono Mill just above Mono Lake near Lee Vining, California. My last bit of internet said we could expect 13 degrees F that night. Uffdah. No snow on the horizon but that’s some serious cold. Our new Mr. Heater and CO2 monitor were put to work. .It was an uncomfortable night but everyone and our pipes survived.

In the morning we visited Mono Lake. I had not stopped to visit Mono Lake since a 1985 visit to Yosemite. Burt, California native, had never stopped. So we each wandered our own way for an hour. Burt and I habitually walk apart but within sight of each other.  I think we see more stuff that way. It’s quieter and we cover more ground. I found a hot spring. Bathing is forbidden at the Navy Beach hot spring so it was perfect. No pressure for me to get in. I also found a salt covered dead bird that looked as though it died mid under arm preening.

The Mono Lake visitor center was already closed for the season so we did not get to learn much about the area. Mono is pronounced Moh-no. It’s famous for its tufa outcrops which I mistakenly thought were pillars of salt. These white piles are actually stone deposits from thousands of years ago. The tufa pillars were formed when the water was much deeper way back when. In the big scheme Mona Lake’s water is very low now but recently it was much lower. Most of the incoming water was diverted for the coastal cities but in the 70s they realized birds really needed Mono Lake and they started putting the water back in. The current surface is about 40′ lower than before they started diverting but much higher than its lowest amount.

We did not spend much time. We were within a few hours of Jack’s house and we wanted to arrive before dark. There was one more hot spring between us and him. We went. It had no room for RVs unless we paid for  a campsite. This place had private showers and a public soaking pool but we did not want a camp site. Burt famously said, “Are you sure you don’t want a shower?” I famously said, “No, I’ll take one at your dad’s.” So we ate lunch on teh side of the road and then continued on our way.

That afternoon we arrived at Jack’s with an hour of sunlight to spare. We were only 2 days later than we expected and earlier than we’d planned when we got off the Rio Grande. The eyeball emergency had given our schedule a big boost forward.

Mono Lake
Mono Lake
Salty log, Mono Lake
Salty log, Mono Lake
Hot Spring Navy Beach, Mono Lake
Hot Spring Navy Beach, Mono Lake
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Still not to Jack’s house

Kelso, CA train station
Kelso, CA train station

I am writing this pile of posts having finally arrived and departed Jack’s house. There was sparse internet on the way and, well, my back hurt and my eye irritated me. But you, dear reader, are still not to Jack’s house. The regulator repair slowed us down.  So the day drew to a close and we found ourselves wondering where to stop just where I-40 comes into California. We opted for the Mohave National Preserve. But where in the vast undeveloped reserve. BLM rules allow for boondocking on any road but could we find a road? There was an awkward ten minutes turning around in a dead end vista site. Traffic is sparse out in the Mojave so we were able to back directly out into the highway. Eventually we accidentally found a free boondocking site just next to Kelso. It was sunset when we arrived so we took a quick walk and then headed into the gNash for some DVD watching. Kelso, has or had, a train station. It was hard to tell. I mean it has a train station but does the train stop? Hold on, I’ll google. No you cannot catch a train from Kelso. Passenger service stopped in 1964 and with it the town crumbled. Now it is restored as the National Park Service’s visitor center.

We got up and split early. Hot springs and Jack were still ahead.

Kelso, CA train station
Kelso, CA train station
Kelso jail
Kelso jail
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Lonely and scary drive

Moon viewing
Moon viewing

We’ve arrived safely in Arizona last week. It was a high strung drive for me with Portal Irish Music Week looming and internet going in and out. Despite the self generating worrying we stopped and explored some new areas. Burt wound the gNash and crew through Capitol Reef National Park. Like Yellowstone Capitol Reef was fully booked and had no space for us. We drove through and enjoyed it from the windshield. The night before we spent out on a high pass in cool air. Elvis again demonstrated his growing senility when he took off after some birds and could not find his way back to us. It was a fraught twenty minutes before Burt spotted him a half mile away on an opposing hillside heading in the wrong direction. Burt was able to catch up to nearly 13 years old Elvis and lead his tired bones back home. More leash time for the old doggo.

Our last night traveling we spent on the Coronado Highway at the edge of the Mogollon rim. We’ve spent many nights up there and really look forward to trips into this wild country. Eight years ago some fugitives were captured near us. Remember that? No? HERE’s the story. Now we can add this bit of discomfort to that story. That night, as usual, Burt fell right to sleep. I tossed and turned and played some Bridge on-line. On-line Bridge puts me right to sleep. Usually. Around 11:00 PM a vehicle pulled up next to out camper with its lights on. I listened for doors. Nothing. Then the vehicle pulled out. No big deal. We were parked in a circular pullout for a view right on the highway. There was cell reception. Three minutes later the same vehicle pulled in with its lights out. Now my spidey-senses were on full alert. I nudged Burt and he was instantly awake. He must have heard the car in his sleep. I said, “Car.” We sat in silence and listened. Burt got partially dressed. He had his machete. I had my stick. We had bear spray. We listened and listened. It was awful. The car rumbled. I kept saying to myself DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAILER. Over and over again. DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAILER. I thought about how I told a single female friend these words as she headed out on a long solo trip. Our only protection is in the trailer. Did you read the story above about the RVers being killed and their rig being stolen? That story was repeating in my head. Burt and I had a few hushed whispers. The dogs were dead quiet. I steadied my breathing. I cursed all the scary TV we watch. I considered how this route was a great place for drug passes.

After 20 minutes or so the car pulled away. Nothing happened. They probably were on a phone call. Burt and I finished dressing and waited another ten minutes and got the hell out of there. Burt drove us to the bright lights of the Morenci mine and we finished out rest there.

Now off the Portal Irish Music Week.

Ollie in her slightly snug bed.
Ollie in her slightly snug bed.
Who would mess with us?
Who would mess with us?
Hubble Trading Post jewelry.
Hubble Trading Post jewelry.
More jewelry from the Navaho Trading Post.It was hard to resist.
More jewelry from the Navaho Trading Post.It was hard to resist.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Navaho Rugs
Navaho Rugs
We-fi right before the scare.
We-fi right before the scare.
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The end is in sight

Shower - rectilinear fixtures all around.
Shower – rectilinear fixtures all around. The one faucet isn’t on because the set screw had no threads.

My services are suddenly in demand as we wrap up this major remodel. My new meds and the increase in work has improved my tennis game. I’m quicker than I’ve been in a while. Laying flooring requires hand strength and squats. Look out Dad and Sara Gay, Burt and I are in training to take you on this winter.

This summer’s weather has been better than we could have hoped. There was a month on smokey skies but only a few days over ninety degrees. The evenings have cooled down without exception. We haven’t needed our A/C once. The post-Mimi remodel has given the gNash new life. There’s more room and better fengshui. Aside from the truck being at the mechanics for over two weeks it’s looking like a successful summer on the Gypsy Carpenter business and pleasure plan.

Burt thinks we have about 8 days left of work. we’re going to play tennis, music and hike and work from now until our departure for Portal.

Powder room floor demo.
Powder room floor demo.
Our Mexican hammer has the best staple removal tool.
Our Mexican hammer has the best staple removal tool.
The stove is in and it works.
The stove is in and it works. Check out that back splash.
Then I did this. What is wrong with me?
Then I did this. What is wrong with me?
Drilling tile requires a water cooling stream. Here's our system.
Drilling tile requires a water cooling stream. Here’s our system.
Here's a visiting box elder bug. Some say stink bug.
Here’s a visiting box elder bug. Some say stink bug.
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Beartooth Pass

A herd of goats takes in the sights.
A herd of goats takes in the sights.

This year’s Musician’s Rendezvous in Columbus coincided with a spike in the local temperature. Sitting under the cottonwood trees while playing tunes with your buddies is a great way to spend a summer day. The campground where we all gather is on the Yellowstone River. If you want to cool off you can take a dip in its chilly waters. The Gypsy Carpenters had been looking forward to this weekend since last winter. Sad to say gNash life and an erratic heart and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit do not mix. So Burt and I came up with a mix of music and alternate cool activities for the weekend.

Day one we arrived at Itch-Kep-Pe park and found a spot with some shade. It was Wednesday and all of the really deep shade was already occupied in anticipation of the weekend’s activities. Musicians come from all over Montana and the best spots fill early. Burt and I played a few tunes with each other and went to bed when the bugs started biting. The next morning we took a walk and did some birding before the day warmed. We found the nest of a Cooper’s hawk and watched the recently fledged youngster fly all about and beg food from a parent. We also found an unattended firearm in the bed of a maintenance cart for the nearby golf club. I sent a few emails and posts around about the gun safety problem. Burt and I thought in hindsight we probably should have called the authorities instead of walking away from a loaded gun. Ethical dilemma. Personally I was afraid to confront the owner face to face. Stand Your Ground is a bad law. My fear of being shot for having harsh words with someone overrode my desire to stay and make sure the gun was properly handled.

After our walk we did what all smart people looking to avoid a hot day do…we drove to Billings and played Bridge. An air conditioned day of cards. What could be better? That evening we headed back to our superheated trailer and pondered the next day’s survival plan. We debated simply leaving and heading to the high country but the lure of tunes was strong. People we only see once or twice a year were on hand and eager to play. Luckily, Montana still cools off over night. We decided to play music until noon then get in our truck and head for the hills for the late afternoon and evening, come back after dark, sleep, wake up and play more morning music. It worked out perfectly.

Friday we played tunes in the morning and then drove an hour and a half to the Beartooth Plateau. We looked for the black rosy finch, a high altitude bird, but only found white-crowned sparrows, solitaires, and gray jays. The altitude (10,000′ or so) was easier to take than the heat. Burt and I and the pooped poopies returned to the gNash at 9:30. Things were just starting to cool down. Burt took a dip in the Yellowstone while I lay on an ice pack.

The next day we decided to head to electricity so we could run our air conditioner for the 104 degree spike. So after a few hours of fiddling with Barb and Zondra we pulled up and headed to Emigrant to do some maintenance on the client’s property we built 6 years ago. We arrived safe and sound but we have also learned our truck has sprung an oil leak. We fear it’s the end. She’s got a gusher.

This one is still leaving last year's coat behind.
This one is still leaving last year’s coat behind.
Baby goats on th erun.
Baby goats on the run.

A great place to cool off.

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Long loved the Queen

Mimi's last day
Mimi’s last day

We knew it couldn’t last forever. The Gypsy Carpenters are sad to share the news that our original feline companion has passed on to the great unknown. Our decision to leave jobs and house behind and try life as itinerant carpenters and musicians included Mimi as an after thought. That was nine years ago. Mimi was ten. Long in the tooth even then. No cat was going to get in the way of our great dream. We’d figure something out. Somebody, somewhere would want to take her for us. And that was true. Lots of people loved Mimi and another home could have been found but it never happened. Mimi surprised us all and adapted to life on the road as though she wondered what took us so long.

Nineteen years ago Becky Holmes and I plucked her from a litter of barn kittens. My recollection is that every cat in that barn was dead within the year. Predation, mostly. Mimi was a scrapper from the day she was born. At five weeks she was already supplementing mother’s milk with her own prey.  It took a year of living in my home for her to stop hiding full time. That feral part of her personality never left. Not one kiss in nineteen years. No belly rubs allowed. No holding. Mimi sat on me when she wanted and then I could scratch her ears. Burt called her a spook. She had nothing to say to him. Or Elvis. This was why we though she’d be happier in a new home.

But then life in the gNash changed her profoundly. Forced into close contact with Burt, Elvis, and me she learned to get along and engage. She wanted to sit with us and asked for attention. We had morning wrestling matches and Mimi kept the mice away. If the water bowl was empty Mimi knew how to get it filled while Elvis suffered in silence.

The last three years I’ve wondered daily how much time left we had together. She was restless and occasionally suffered seizures. This last year it became clear twenty was not within reach.  She was losing weight and starting to act funny. I worried constantly that she would decline rapidly and suffer because we were in some remote place without veterinary care. I wondered if I should pre-emptively euthanize her. I wanted to do best by her and feared I was really motivated by my own needs. Sometimes I wondered if I could smoother her if needed.

Last month Mimi was in respiratory distress. We took her to a vet and assumed it was the end. The vet gave her a magic shot and for a few weeks we had the old Mimi back. She was eating and exploring and resting normally. Then one day it all turned terrible.  She wasn’t herself. She couldn’t eat, the weight was melting away daily and, finally, her breathing was labored. We made special meals and tried offering food at all hours. It was no use. I consulted Becky, and Sue, and Magi and we all agreed Mimi was ready. Burt and I took her in and had her put to sleep. I sobbed. Burt cried, too. But it was the right time and the right day. As Becky said, “It’s better to do it on a good day.” Meaning Mimi could go while she still had some energy to walk about and look at things. And that was the last thing she did before we carried her to the vet. The picture above is Mimi sitting outside and enjoying the Montana sun just a couple of hours before she died.

SOmething horribly hilarious happened at the vet. I’ve been waiting to write this because I needed time to catch it. Mimi had just died and Burt went to pay our bill while I held Mimi in a box. I was wearing sunglasses. The receptionist greeted Burt with, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Burt stoically ignored the inane pleasantry. I stayed calm. Then she made another sunny inquiry and Burt says, “I have a dead cat.” Plain as day. New picture in the dictionary for awkward. It took a moment for the woman’s face to collapse. I watched the slow motion change of expression from smile to WTF-did-I just-do to OMG-I-really-fucked-up to sorrow. She was devastated. Now Burt and I were trying to cheer her up. We knew she didn’t know. She was just trying to be nice. She handed me tissues and I gave them back to her. I reassured her that we were not offended. Finally I said, “You are right. It wasn’t that bad after all. It was time.” And it was true.

Here’s what I said that day on Facebook: There will never be a cat as trailer ready as Mimi. Tiny, tidy, quiet, and an excellent mouser. She tolerated two dogs and two clumsy humans. Queen of the Nash.

I am grateful to so many that helped care for Mimi over the years. Just this year we had Dodie, my dad, SaraGay, Burt’s dad, Janet, Barbara and Sue all step in and keep her safe while we traveled the world. In years past Magi and John and Burt and others have lent a hand. I am also please beyond knowing that she went at a time where we could provide for her and that we are able to bury her in Montana. Montana will always be home.

Near the end
Near the end
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