Project Update

 

I found this very confusing.  Then Jolyn explained seeds are the new chewing tobacco.
I found this very confusing. Then Jolyn explained seeds are the new chewing tobacco.
There are some seed spewing anarchists out there. They are really messy on astroturf.
There are some seed spewing anarchists out there. They are really messy on astroturf.

I’ve been busy. Blogging about ZazzEuroVacay 2017, taxes, helping Burt kept me busy for a solid three weeks. This week things are slowing down. Burt has the work side of things well in hand. I occasionally help hold something or sweep up but there isn’t much for me to do. One of the tasks I took on was to try and fix our truck fan. I’m going to be very specific here in case somebody else is searching for the information. The internet gave me the information but there were a few hiccups in the road to repair.

We have a 2001 Dodge 2500 Ram Diesel Cummings. The fan only worked on high or setting 4 out of 4. No air blew on settings one through three. High works when it’s 101 F out there. High all day, every day isn’t fun. You can take that phrase to the bank. I searched on Google and found out the most likely problem was either a blown fuse or the blower resistor. I checked all the fuses. Internet rumors said the resistor could be found near the blower itself which is located under the glove compartment.

I got down in there (see photo) and looked but could only find the blower. I did not find a resistor. Burt came over and took out the blower. We could not see the resistor. Burt called a trusted mechanic and got a new guy at the mechanic’s shop. Burt asked where the blower resistor was located. The new guy said his truck had the same problem and the solution was to be found in the switch on the dash. The switch with the blower settings. Makes sense but was news to me. I (being a female) didn’t dispute this new idea. After all, the internet is frequently wrong. Trucks change. Maybe the people on the internet had different year trucks. Resistors can be anywhere on the path of electricity. So I proceeded to take apart the dash board and get at the switch.

Photos below show the switch assembly. I got it apart and I still couldn’t find a resistor. I figured it must be inside the assembly. I opened up the switch assembly and everything inside fell out. Not a reassuring sign. I could not put it back together. I put the dashboard back on and told Burt we no longer had an option for high. A few days later we went to a NAPA and asked for a blower resistor. They had it in stock. I’m skipping over the spousal disagreement of who had to go in the NAPA. I might be able to repair a truck but I can’t face a parts store. Eventually I entered the NAPA and looked at the blower resistor and said, “That won’t fit on the dash switch.”

Back to square one minus a working switch. So really I’ve lost ground. I used to have high. Now I have nothing. Burt ordered a used switch off eBay. It showed up two days later. I put it in. Miraculously it worked on high but it did not solve our problem. So I was back at square one for reals. Now you might need a ven diagram to follow this but try to keep up. Did I just buy a used switch with the same problem as my old switch or was the problem somewhere else? Like, maybe, was the problem in the hidden resistor? I was paralyzed for a day trying to decide what to do. Burt was ready to go to an auto shop.

I gathered my nerves and hit the internet again. This time I Googled: Where is the blower resistor in a 1991 Dodge Diesel 2500? How do you find the blower resistor in a 1991 Dodge Diesel 2500? How can I replace the blower resistor in a Dodge Diesel 2500? I got answer after answer that it was under the dash by the passenger side door. Finally some combination of search terms gave me a link to a video of a guy making the repair. I watched the video. The guy had the part (sadly, it was the part the NAPA tried to sell us). That was a bittersweet moment. The guy gets down under the dash saying now screw it back into place and CUT and then he says there it’s in. No footage. No peek under the dash. Nada. But he says this: you can see two screws behind the blower and you can follow the wire from the blower to the resistor. I had seen the wire. I got down under there again and followed the wire to where I could just barely see a screw. I could feel the second screw with my fingers. Phillips head in hand I got the puppy out. The ceramic insulation fell apart a soon as I freed it from its housing. This was feeling very auspicious.

Burt went to a different NAPA and bought a new resistor. I put it in. Our fan works on all settings. I feel like a rock star. A rock star that got mansplained out of my work process but still a rock star. I have a few advantages over Burt on this type of work. I fit under the dash and my hands can reach into smaller spaces.

I broke this.
I broke this.
Here's the back of the replacement. Don't open it up. It will break.
Here’s the back of the replacement. Don’t open it up. It will break.
The replacement part inserted.
The replacement part inserted.
This is the piece that was broken. Not by me.
This is the piece that was broken. Not by me.
Blower resistor back in place under the dash.
Blower resistor back in place under the dash. I stuck the camera up in there. You too can use your camera like a probe.
Me getting it done. Small hands and I fit under the dash.
Me getting it done. Small hands and I fit under the dash.
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Work Photos

Alsea Falls and Marla
Alsea Falls and Marla

The shock of travel keep hitting our systems. Leaving the Baja desert and going to Europe and then the Pacific Northwest wreaked havoc on my inner compass. I’m still waking up in the morning wondering where I am. I’d say we have earned our gypsy credentials in the last 2 month. We’ve been in the Seattle area for a little more than a week converting a garage into a painter’s studio. It is a very urban location but tucked away on a quiet street. The dog park is only a ten minute walk away and there’s a fenced backyard. Olive has managed to dig up the lettuce so she’s no longer allowed in the yard unsupervised. Despite that the job and location are great.

We plan to drive back to Alpine, OR via the Olympic peninsula in time to catch the solar eclipse. Flat earthers beware. I have no patience for such nonsense. Below are some scenes from Alpine. More to follow. I got the taxes done.

foundation
foundation
poppies
poppies
We found a nice Bridge game about a half hour away.
We found a nice Bridge game about a half hour away.
Tent platform frame.
Tent platform frame.
Hashtag and lunch
Hashtag and lunch. Best watermelon ever.
My new skill
My new skill
gNash parking
gNash parking
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At Jack’s House

Nine toed man shops for shoes.
Nine toed man shops for shoes.

We’re on the cusp of a leap across the Atlantic to see Spain and Italy. Dad’s footing much of our expenses and we are very grateful. Meanwhile we’re racking up some bills just so we don’t embarrass him or our niece and nephew with our shabby clothing. The Gypsy Carpenters have frequented the second hand stores for so long our wardrobe is, to put it mildly, distressed and distressing. Shabby chic departed a year ago. Even all the generous hand-me-downs from family and friends don’t cover the gaps in our attire. As we headed to Jack’s and the dog kennel on I-5 we passed a huge outlet mall. We stopped there and found Burt some shoes, shirts, shorts, and a pair of pants. I nabbed a new handbag and a dress. I think we are ready to summer on the Amalfi coast. Or at least week on the coast. We won’t be hip but we won’t be stained and ragged either.

I spent quite a bit of time informing our banks and credit card companies of our plans. Automated systems cannot understand SPAIN. Please tell us where you are traveling…You’re going to Maine? No, SPAIN. You’re going to Bahrain? No, Spain. You’re going to (I kid you not) Peru? Close, they speak Spanish there…I’m in pain yelling Spain. I should have used Spanish. This happened at two companies. Eventually the computer overheats and they put a human on. Both companies informed me all charges overseas are now subject to a 3% surcharge. Wow. Talk about annoying. It used to be credit cards were the cheapest way to travel. A traveler was guaranteed the best exchange rate for the billing cycle. Not no more. I’ll be applying for an international card when we return. I filed my annoyance with both companies. The Costco card person tried to remind me that I wouldn’t get a 1% cash back dividend if I changed cards. I didn’t take the time to point out the grievous math error.

I’m finding leaving the country logistically difficult. It’s weird. We live in Mexico half the year and everything is so easy. But then when we go there I have the dogs and my car and driver. I have the cards permanently approved in Mexico. We bring cash. Among the pre-trip prep work was arranging the airport shuttle. It’s $25 a day to park and the SFO parking lot versus $63 for two to get door to door service. We’re leaving our truck at Marla’s house in Marin County. Thanks, Marla. The dogs are $39 a day for two in a kennel out here in the boonies. Mimi’s care is free. Well, sort of free. Burt installed a new water heater for his dad. Add to that the $10 a day to make the phone work in Spain and Italy. There is no such thing as a free lunch but I am not complaining. We’ll be back at work soon and make up this deficit.

 

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Motored North

Recycled bottle art. This was a gift from Maria Jose.
Recycled bottle art. This was a gift from Maria Jose.

Just three days ago we were leaving Pescadero. Today I was at a two-story Bed Bath and Beyond with only pesos in my pocket. It all happened so fast I forgot to get U.S. dollars. Good thing I carry plastic. The drive was very easy. I slept. Burt drove. Years ago I used to sleep as soon as I got in a car. I traveled all over the south at napping pace. A couple of decades ago I lost the ability. Maybe the beauty and drama of the inter-mountain west was more interesting than the pine trees of the southeast. Now I suddenly can sleep again. It’s a nice way to cover the world. Burt puts in a book on CD. I check out. Every hour or so I have to wake up and change the CD. Sometimes Burt has to fill in the gaps in the story. This trip was Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Instructions. Entertaining science. Stupid plot. Poorly disguised science education. A for effort, Barbie, but if people don’t believe in climate change and the disasters that await this book won’t change any minds. It also irks me that Barbara reads her own work. It’s too precious. Her honeyed southern accent seems to self delight in her own wit. For crying out loud you sound too darn happy with yourself. Remind me to never read my stuff out loud. But maybe I will since this is fact and hers is fiction. I am writing about me after all.

Here’s some gross me stuff. I have been managing a bit of a female infection down there as we travel. A few days ago I was overcome by female troubles. I was gonna try and ignore it and see if it cleared up. Burt dragged me to the pharmacist. He helped me ask the pharmacist for the hongo medicine because I was too shy. The young man was totally professional. Silly me. The hongos were cleared and I realized I might have a UTI. Driving 1200 miles in three days with a UTI might be the definition of discomfort. Not exactly agony but always on my mind. I never peed my pants but I was reduced to climbing in the back seat with a Tupperware while stuck in LA traffic. The lyrics from two songs swapped back and forth in my head… ‘I drove all day and never even left LA’ and ‘if I ever get off of this LA freeway’ as I executed the move. Thank you yoga.

Today I called my BFF as I was waiting for an urgent care to open. I thought we’d catch up while I waited. When I told her where I was she said,”so and so’s here. Talk to him.” So and so happens to be my primary care physician and BFF’s husband. I try not to abuse our relationship but this was the perfect situation. Doctor hubby had me relay my symptoms and agreed with my diagnosis and sent a prescription to Costco saving me an office visit.  Do you have a urinary tract infection? Painful urination and cloudy pee (the Tupperware revealed this) are the hallmarks. I was doubtful because there was none of the urgency I remembered from my last infection some 20 years ago. I can blame this one on menopause and wearing a wet suit and my husband.

Rumpus room ready for the summer.
Rumpus room ready for the summer.
The truck packed and ready to roll.
The truck packed and ready to roll.
Sealed up rumpus room.
Sealed up rumpus room.
Some precious things. Insurance purposes.
Some precious things. Insurance purposes.
Good-bye bridge friends.
Good-bye bridge friends.
The bridge iguana
The bridge iguana
Olive wants to stop driving.
Olive wants to stop driving.
My heart can'ttake the heat. This nearly did me in.
My heart can’t take the heat. This nearly did me in.
Sand dollar.
Sand dollar.
Elvis at Pabellon.
Elvis at Pabellon.
Wind art in the sand at Pabellon.
Wind art in the sand at Pabellon.

 

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Starting Where I Am

This was an accident. I quite like it. Here I am.
This was an accident. I quite like it. Here I am.

Today’s encouragement in the journal/blog adventure of 2017 is to start where you are. Take it for what it is. This applies to you dear readers, too. I recall our mantra from the first few years on the road: You get what you get and you don’t get upset. It wasn’t meant to discourage true feeling because, face it, some things are worth getting upset about,  but to encourage moving forward with what life provides. The mantra came from a book on evolution called Your Inner Fish. Here’s another I remember from my childhood: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Here I am in Mexico. An ex-pat connected and disconnected.

The last twenty-four hours have been the kind of day I could only dream of in the US. Yesterday afternoon we hit the ocean. I immersed myself in salt water for the first time since we arrived. We played tunes and had dinner later. This morning I had a tennis lesson. Spanish class is next and then dinner and more music with Montana friends this evening. Tomorrow more friends arrive. All is perfect. Well, maybe not. I spent the post tennis morning knee deep in frass. With spray bottle of vinegar in hand I took on the black goo of insect feces in our bathroom. Guests require a degree of hygiene we have yet to achieve since arrival. Just when I thought things were under control I realized our trailer has an ant population. I’m not sure where we picked them up. They could be local. On top of that, last night I found my instrument cases saturated with what I can only hope is water. We have a full on ecological invasion of our lives and it is making me grumpy. The gNash is turned upside down as we try to air dry and find the ant source and lure. We’ve never had ants come inside in Baja. I need to move some spiders from the bathroom into the trailer. As so many say, “We are living the dream.” It’s a disgusting dream full of bugs and dirt but it’s our dream.

Resolved to take our lumps and be grateful the ants don’t bite we are moving forward. Friends await. Food and music. Glorious weather. So here I am.

And then there’s these flowers. Every year we arrive and our barrel cactus is heavy with yellow fruit. Until this week we had never seen the flowers. And then this. Glorious.

Barrel cactus bloom in our yard.
Barrel cactus bloom in our yard.
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Interwebz up and blogging continues

Disco Queens
Disco Queens

My style choice of black on charcoal paid off under the disco lights at New Year’s Eve. We had some fun making moves to the funky music. Our host’s tastes runs to the mid 80s so we share a lot of common musical history. Despite the fun vibe we only last 2 hours. Six to eight. The long drive from California and we are just plain old party-poopers. Go ahead, you can call us that. We’re not embarrassed.

Landing at our property is always preceded by worry about what we will find. Two years ago we arrived post-Odile’s the Cat 5 hurricane. That was a mess and a disaster and troubling. It took weeks of dirty effort by us and helpers to make the place livable. Since then we’ve had our neighborhood weeders come in before we arrive and it has made parking the trailer and getting down to real work of setting up house keeping easier. Day 1 was filled with Burt opening the rumpus room, bodega, and bathroom. Plywood covers all the windows and doors while we are away. Six months is a long time for a home to be empty. Nature moves in. We had quite a cop of roaches living in the bathroom. I did not know roach frass could accumulate to such a degree. In the arena of shit cleaning it’s much harder to clean the gecko droppings. Score one for roaches in the bathroom. Meanwhile, the rumpus room was full of gecko droppings. I think I see the pattern. Water in bathroom makes great habitat for roaches. Geckos visit the roach buffet and return to the dry and airy rumpus room to digest. Spiders were everywhere.

The next day I tool a broom to the rumpus room and got it presentable. Then I took a cloth and water and started on the bathroom. I have to develop a new plan and attitude to really get it clean. The roach poop will not come off. It’s sticky. Here’s to hoping white vinegar does the job.

Today’s big goal is Olive. The poor pooch is a walking sticker remover. She is wall to wall spines. Today I will give her a close cropped hairdo. It’s all the rage for the terrier set. This afternoon it’s bridge. This evening some fine dining.

Perfect blurrrr of Janet's hair
Perfect blurrrr of Janet’s hair
RR contemplates the green or is it the new year? Enigmatic
RR contemplates the green or is it the new year? Enigmatic
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Slab City for a Third Time

Macaroni Art made of spent munitions.
Macaroni Art made of spent munitions.

Burt and I busted free of Portal and all its charms on Friday a week ago. Our new transmission was installed in under three hours. Since we are in Mexico  we can conclude the job was well done. We got a new clutch, too. We were glad we got out when we did despite missing Christmas with our many friends because the temperature dropped and snow arrived. In slab City it was cool and dry. We set to eradicating the two months of window sill mold we’d grown since heading east in October. Burt and I spent Christmas day with a spray bottle of white vinegar and a roll of paper towels. It was beyond time. We were passing time waiting for Rosemary and Ed to get to us so we could travel the Baja together. RR and Ed were up in Death Valley finishing volunteer duties and managing their vehicle logistics. More on them later. In summary: we are safe in El Pescadero on our homey lot. All appears well. Some termites and cockroaches have had a good time in our absence.

Meanwhile enjoy some Slab City art. This is from a neighborhood called East Jesus. West Satan is next door. Slab City seems to be revitalized since the last time we visited this free, anarchist haven for snow birders, runaways, junkies, and artists. The library is reinhabited and restored. There are competing live music venues and a new hostel. You can rent an RV in Slab City and pretend you are one of the free for $25 a night. If you want to read about our previous visits and see more of the cool art just put ‘Slab City’ in the gypsycarpenters.com search bar. Brings them right up.

Happy New Year, Everyone. Stay kind. Stay connected.

Inviting gate of Stay Out.
Inviting gate of Stay Out. Check out his rules for life. Church of the Chocolate Martini.
This message is not safe for TV
This message is not safe for TV
Burt likes the roofs. Looks like The Wizard of Oz gone wrong to me.
Burt likes the roofs. Looks like The Wizard of Oz gone wrong to me.
Silver macaroni man. Textures are the game here.
Silver macaroni man. Textures are the game here.
Tower at Slab City
Tower at Slab City
Decoys die here.
Decoys die here. The Salton Sea is a big duck hunting destination. Some decoys get left behind.
Bottle wall and the munitions covered VW van.
Bottle wall and the munitions covered VW van.
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Backtracking. Everything that could go wrong and didn’t.

Here's the back of the truck from 3 weeks ago. Add to it most of my mother's clothes and a few odds and ends.
Here’s the back of the truck from 3 weeks ago. Add to it most of my mother’s clothes and a few odds and ends.

Burt and I perched an hour from the border between the USA and Mexico. Tomorrow we plan to meet Rosemary and Ed and cross over into our winter in Baja. More and RR and Ed later. Today I want to try and cover a subject that was set aside when my mom died: What could have gone wrong working in Virginia and did not.

When we agreed to take on the rehab and remodel of a home in Alexandria, Virginia we did so with a couple of caveats. One, we bid the job high because we had no idea what we would find when we physically arrived on site. We had a home inspection report but those are not reliable and certainly not geared towards home remodeling and repair. They are for home sales and negotiation. Burt and I are not impressed with the industry on a whole. Both of us have had home inspections fail to turn up fundamental flaws and over blow minor problems. Two, we could get kicked off the job at any time by either the building department for not having permits or the police for illegally camping on the street. A quick perusal of Fairfax county building codes revealed only a couple of areas where permits were required. Small, inconspicuous areas. When we learned that the most disruptive and visible work (replacing all windows) was permit-exempt we thought the job was a low risk enterprise. Still, we can’t guarantee a neighbor won’t turn us in. Our client was ready to take that chance. She knew we were fast and reliable. Her efforts to manage local builders from 2,000 miles away had been frustrating and expensive.

Dear readers might wonder why the owner didn’t simply get a permit. It’s not that easy. There are many reasons. Permitting a kitchen remodel can add significant time. Time means money. Also, permitting required an application by the actual owner. The boss on the job was the owner’s child. The actual owner is 89 and in poor health. No chance the owner was coming to Virginia to fill out paperwork. The only work requiring a permit was minor electrical and plumbing for the kitchen. Demolition, cabinets, windows, floor, painting, cleaning….all of this did not require a permit. Weighing the options it was worth the risk to the owner. Remember, a permit issue is the owner’s problem. We can legally work for anyone, anywhere. But as responsible business people we don’t want to knowingly get a client in trouble. We let them make the choice.

So there we were enjoying our season of no work when this job offer came our way. Consciously we debated the sanity of taking a job in a place far away with cold weather coming. A job in a place notorious for rules, crowds, Type A personalities. We discussed my mother’s health. We knew we could tack on a visit or two to see mom and dad. My brother and his family were near. The job was in a new area of the world. Google earth photos showed room for us to camp in the back yard. We could say we worked coast to coast. Mom’s health and our interest in the area tipped the scales over to, “Let’s go!”

Here’s what we worried about:

The camping situation.

Building inspectors.

Ordering windows, cabinets, counters, appliances. How long would it take? Could we get done by Christmas? Could we do it under budget?

Disposal of debris.

The size of the job.

How much could I work on my new heart meds?

On this job, nothing went wrong.

At first it looked like our camping situation was destined to cause problems. The Google Earth photos didn’t show the fence around the yard. For the first two weeks we parked road side. It felt like everybody was staring at us. The neighbors were watching but they were watching with delight as we made the worst eyesore in the neighborhood look clean and welcoming. They were thrilled we were in town and on the job full time. After 2 weeks we took a week off and towed away to visit my folks. This was the last time I saw my mom. Our timing was good. Some might say miraculous. After the visit we figured out a way to pull into the driveway and become less conspicuous.

Building inspectors never showed. Happy neighbors? Discrete work? We kept all debris out of sight and hauled it away frequently. We were quiet. The job was mostly unpermitted work.

After decades of working in the wilds of Montana and the intermountain west the ordering of supplies in the east coast megalopolis was a revelation. Everything is seemingly available at your finger tips. Things that take 6 weeks in Montana take 10 days in Virginia. Half the windows we needed were in-stock. The furnace had to be replaced and they had a new one in two days. Granite counters showed up five days after the cabinets were installed. This job had a coefficient of efficiency we never imagined possible. We had time to play bridge.

The job was just big enough and not too big for two. My heart meds slowed me down but I could work. Overhead stuff is really hard with low blood pressure. I grew frustrated changing light fixtures when my hand and arms didn’t have enough blood and I was gasping for oxygen but I got most of it done.

And then the real miracle. As we closed in on the last week of work my mom began to die. She could have gone mid-job and caused a ruckus. Surmountable but logistically hard. She could have waited until we were three weeks down the road. When turning back would have been costly and time consuming. Nope. She died two days before the job was done. Mighty convenient mom. Thanks for thinking of us. Living this wandering life makes traveling easier and harder. Timing a person’s death and the upheaval it causes is never convenient and always troubling. My mom could not have made it easier for us. It’s crazy that way back in August we thought about how nice it would be to be nearby and we could visit. We even thought about the end. We wondered if she might die while we were there. Someone somewhere was listening. Mom heard us? We heard mom? Our client heard that thing called god? I’ll never know.

 

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Working all night long

Looks like he's reading but he is sound asleep.
Looks like he’s reading but he is sound asleep.

With the gNash parked mere feet from the front door of our current project Burt takes full advantage of his early mornings and the accessibility. Recently he’s been going in as early as 3:00 AM. Now back on the west coast that’s midnight. I’ve been pondering what this means for Burt’s internal clock and our lark/owl interpersonal relations for weeks and then this morning happened. Burt woke up and misread the 11:00 PM as 1:00 AM. Our clock is two hours behind. He thought oh, it’s 3:00 I might as well go to work instead of trying to sleep. But it wasn’t 3:00, it was 1:00. Got that? So Burt showed up for breakfast at 8 AM after putting in nearly a day’s worth of work. In the meantime I was sleeping soundly in the spacious bed. We were both awake for breakfast of pea soup. Now it is 11:55 AM and Burt is sound asleep. I’m doing computer updates and backing up writing and photographs.

I made a pumpkin pie but I can’t bake it until Burt wakes up and lights the oven. As of yesterday we have been living in this 22′ box for seven years and I still can’t light the oven. Co-dependency is what they call it. We’re off to my brother and sister-in-law’s place for the holiday. We haven’t settled on a meal plan. I was supposed to bring my pie but Christian won some pies in a raffle and so I get to keep this one. There’s no such thing as too much pumpkin pie in this trailer.

Yellow room will be white soon. I find this shade of yellow hostile and jarring in a bed room.
Yellow room will be white soon. I find this shade of yellow hostile and jarring in a bedroom.

 

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Nataani Nez (That’s me)

Trees in transition at Grand Teton National Park.
Trees in transition at Grand Teton National Park.

The Gypsy Carpenters are in Portal, AZ ahead of schedule. We were planning some more back country explorations but the wonky transmission flared up. Again. Our 2001 Dodge diesel is occasionally difficult to shift. This summer it started balking and we made an appointment at a specialist in Whitefish, Montana. We had a place to park and a car to borrow up there. Then the problem shifting disappeared, the parking place was less welcoming, and the spare car was wrecked by a deer so we cancelled the appointment. We drove a few thousand more miles and no trouble. Heads deeply in the sand. Call us risk-takers.

We high tailed it out of Montana and abandoned plans to fish in Yellowstone because of foul weather. We blasted through the park and made it to a glorious fall scene in Grand Teton National Park. That night we camped near Pinedale, Wyoming. As we approached Vernal, UT I made it clear I wanted to stop at Dinosaur National Monument. Burt was ambivalent. I insisted. We had been before but the quarry exhibit was closed for major repairs (4 years of repairs) and Burt had not seen the most awesome dinosaur display in the world. Well, the LaBrea tarpits come close but they aren’t just dinos. Just then the transmission started to balk. I feared Burt would scuttle the side excursion but he didn’t. Rain was headed our way and it was hard to enjoy the tour wondering why we didn’t get the transmission repaired back in Montana but it was worth the effort. Even Burt was amazed at the in-situ display of 149 million year old fossil bones. Take the trip if you are within 100 miles. That night we limped to a rest area south of Price.

I contacted my friend Berna and said, “Hey we’re coming to see you. Tomorrow.” Berna is always sociable and welcoming. We trained for several marathons and ultra-marathons together and once upon a time worked at EPA together. Berna was ready to see us. We spent two nights in Shiprock. We helped Berna attach reflectors to a road sign so her 80 year old Uncle Alex could find the turn into his road more easily. Maybe I shouldn’t freely confess what could be construed as defacement of public property but I admit it. All three of us were in on it. I suggested that 80 years and difficulty seeing at night might be ground to stop night driving. I was voted down. All of us had dinner at a restaurant called Nataani Nez. Nataani Nez was a Bureau of Indian Affairs boss in the 1930s. Alex told us a story about him and how his name means tall boss.

The next day we drove 400 miles looking for piñon pines. Burt is a natural hunter gatherer and Berna’s Navaho family took many expeditions to the mountains to gather piñons. Berna’s mom had died a few years ago and Berna had not been out since her mother’s death. We decided it was time. Too bad we couldn’t find a tree. We covered the entire NW corner of New Mexico. Finally through the use of Facebook and general perseverance we found a productive tree. One tree. After 4 hours in the car we spent 1 1/2 hours on our hands and knees collecting pine nuts. Between the three of us we collected over $200 worth of nuts. Even the dogs got into it. Olive says she prefers acorns to pine nuts. Burt’s driving annoyed Berna and Berna’s driving terrified us so I was voted in to drive us home. Me, the non-driver, was fast enough but safe enough so no one complained. That’s how I earned the name Nataani Nez. Tall boss.

In the midst of this Burt called out trusty Animas mechanic, Darren. Darren has done some major repairs for us and we can’t complain. He was ready to see us as soon as we could get there. With our crosscountry trip coming up we it was time to stop playing like ostriches and get the transmission fixed. We decided to head straight to Portal and get ready for Portal Irish Music Week. Here we are.

This is mostly the view I see when I visit the Tetons.
This is mostly the view I see when I visit the Tetons.
Special colors on this tree.
Special colors on this tree.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Miss Northern Navaho Nation
Miss Northern Navaho Nation
Sign remodel
Sign remodel
Berna and Alex
Berna and Alex
The nostril of the second fattest horse I've seen. The most fat was at its side.
The nostril of the second fattest horse I’ve seen. The most fat was at its side.
Berna sporting her 1999 Portal Marathon Finisher T-shirt. I had one, too.
Berna sporting her 1999 Portal Marathon Finisher T-shirt. I had one, too.
Piñon pine nut gathering.
Piñon pine nut gathering.
Pine nuts
Pine nuts
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