Our furnace is out. We think we’ll get it fixed but maybe not. Space heaters work fine if we are hooked to shore power. After an early morning of Mimi borrowing in and out of the blankets as she looked for heat we borrowed Jack’s faux fire place heater. Look at that thing! It’s like a mini-fire place right on the kitchen counter. No smoke, no ashes, no wood chopping, actual heat. Hopefully Mimi will agree to sleep in her own spot with real heat.
Mimi has a reptile heater (Thanks, Sue!) on the wall next to her nest but I think she’s just gotten too old and too skinny for it to satisfy her. I’m going to try adding aluminum foil to the underside of her bed and some more padding. Maybe a real heating pad is required. This morning I made a turkey meatloaf for the boys. The residual oven heat is keeping us toasty on this cool and cloudy California day.
I contracted Burt’s tenacious virus a few days before our departure and this traveling while congested has been very tiring. We broke another trailer leaf spring and I could not muster any enthusiasm for the repair. I just sat around. Here are a couple of pictures I took only because Burt begged me. Walks of more than 20 yards induce wracking dry coughs. Yesterday I asked Burt if I had pneumonia. He reminded me that a week ago when he was in its grip he asked me if he had mono. Today I wondered if it would ever end but Burt’s looking pretty good so I’m going to count on surviving.
Today we landed in Burt’s dad’s front yard. Jack is looking more stooped and frail than he was a year ago. He used to stand as tall as Burt and now he’s a full 4″ lower. He’s 89 and almost a half now so we guess he’s entitled to some slouching. Jack says he’s done with chopping wood and uses a space heater instead of his fire place. The deafness is deeper and even But is yelling to be heard. I just smile. The smoke detector is beeping for a new battery but I can ignore it. Burt will change it soon. The teeth situation is another pile of annoyances. Other than all that aging BS Jack seems pretty darn good. His memory and cognitive faculties are in order.
While Burt and jack went grocery shopping I whipped out a batch of jalapeño cheese rolls. My one burst of movement for the day. We’re going to have some soup for dinner. Pardon me while I go lie down. I just shouted JALAPEÑO CHEESE three times to Jack and induced a coughing jag.
Burt and I mean to leave this place pretty quickly. Too bad we’re both so sick that we haven’t packed. End of season social obligations have sucked all the energy out of us. Here’s what we’ve done instead of secured our property and stowed our gear.
Thursday we took my dad and SaraGay and 11 other kids and five more adults to the San Jacinto waterfall. It was a mob scene. Nobody died. Everyone is home. If you weren’t sick before the waterfall you probably are now or will be soon. Three people slipped and fell. One dead fox was found. A lot of fruit and veggies were eaten.
The next day I accompanied my fried Lorna to the cardiologist in La Paz. La Paz is an easy hour drive from here but 79 year old Lorna had a stress test scheduled and the Bridge ladies decided she shouldn’t go alone. I went. I needed to meet the cardiologist anyway and there’s good birding in La Paz and I adore Lorna, but everybody does so that’s not special. I have also had two stress tests and I knew exactly how it would go. She’d be fine and get pushed to the point of puking or she wouldn’t be fine and would have bad news for the ride home. Neither situation a good one to be alone. It turned out to be the later. That’s Lorna’s story so I’ll end it here. Lorna and I moved on and got her new meds and went to lunch and visited the wastewater treatment plant. I spotted two new birds. One was the black bellied whistling duck, a very funny looking creature. The other was an avocet. I’d seen the avocet many times but never in Mexico.
By that evening it’s obvious I’ve finally caught Burt’s cold. I don’t have time for this. I woke up at 4 AM and puzzled out how to get everything done until it was time to get up. After breakfast I ran chairs and blankets over to Mayra’s yoga studio. Our first birding class was scheduled for Saturday evening. We needed blankets to cover the windows and chairs for all our (hopefully) guests. Then we went to Bridge. Lorna and I played together and we kicked butt. It was a 66% game for us. Hence the we-fie above.
After Bridge Burt headed to round up the kids and I finished setting up the room and projector for Joaquin’s presentation. We’d planned an introduction to birding for children. Joaquin hit a homerun. He was personable and made quick and entertaining work of the subject for our audience. Everyone seemed enthused. Afterwards we went to dinner with dad, SaraGay, Joaquin, and Selene. We were home by 8:30. Joaquin and Selene stayed in the rumpus room.
This morning we were up and birding by 7:30. Burt and I wanted to go to bed but we aso wanted to share our bird spots with our guests. So we hit three places and walked several miles by 11:30. My recent spottings of the endangered Belding’s Yellowthroat at odd locations around town were confirmed by Joaquin. Yay, me. This means these birds are desperately clinging to life in tiny patches of water wherever they can find it. Hopefully we can use the information to build a network of small wetlands that will bridge the larger habitats.
Now I am in bed. While Burt and I were running around a neighbor was in the yard repairing our trailer’s suspension. We’d hoped to be closing things today and pulling out Tuesday. It looks like we might be a day later.
Art Journaling is the first thing I do on waking. I don’t even get out of bed. I reach over and grab my phone and check the prompt. I sit and think. I open my journal bag and grab the book and pen and draw a picture. Then I write. Today’s prompt: What is you most outrageous dream? Two things about this prompt caught my attention. There’s some synchronicity out there. Firstly, I woke up from a very odd musical dream where Burt and I as the Gypsy Carpenters were playing a stadium sized gig with a back up band. The odd part was that I was singing on a ladder from back stage. We can analyze that some other time. Secondly, last night at dinner with my dad and Sara Gay we confessed our next big dream. Stage two of dream achievement plan accomplished. The confession came about because they asked if we were planning to get a new cat when Mimi eventually goes. No, we are not. We are planning on burying Mimi and Elvis when the times come and doing something else. More here down below.
So life dreams, the big ones, are hard to quantify. It’s a tricky thing dreaming. I could say I want to visit the moon. I do want to visit the moon. I wish I could be a universe explorer. But that’s not going to happen so I don’t spend much though on it. It’s a waste of energy. I could also say I wish I was thirty pounds lighter and super-fit. Just not going to happen. There’s all kinds of reasons why but mainly I’d rather not be that kind of person that worries about those kinds of things. I like to focus on dreams that I might be able to accomplish if I have the intention, resources, interest, and luck. Burt and I had a great conversation about how neither of us like to talk pie in the sky dreams but we are good at achieving things many people won’t dare to try. The phrase “if wishes were horses” does not apply to us. I hate those conversations about if I was rich, if I was in charge, or if I was blah blah blah. I’m a down to earth. I can solve a puzzle. I have enough resources.
Here’s what I concluded today, for me, about dreams. Find a dream where you have the drive, the itch, the passion. Then look for the skills, resources, and luck you’ll need to achieve it. I don’t want to be a super famous performer. I’m happy as a community musician. I like to help our kids but I don’t want to run a school. I do want to explore the world. I want to drive. I want to speak Spanish. I want to drive the entirety of South America.
Just as the seeds of quitting work and hitting the road took root a few months before we did it eight years ago this South America idea has been sitting in the soil of our hearts and minds for a while. There are logistical problems with our current outfit. Then there are the elderly pets. There are money concerns, too. Safety, health, age…But recently we saw our window. Mimi and Elvis appear on convergent tracks of expiration. Two years at the most for either or both or them. First step towards down scaling the living arrangements: No new pets.
Last the idea saw life outside the gNash. Burt and I dared tell others we hope to drive to South America. Like all bold ideas it was met with questions and fears for our safety but also with support and excitement. It sounds like we are on teh right path.
So I insist, go find that first step to your dreams.
Below are the 5k race results. I was super pleased to see I had managed under 20 minute miles. Maybe that super-fit goal isn’t as far fetched as I thought.
As I sit here at the El Centro Walmart parking lot as I have for the last three years I am filled with gratitude and relief to find us ready to cross into Mexico for another winter. The year has been hectic and the last week was filled with non-stop activity. A flat tire, broken furnace, Mimi transfer, and pre-Mexico provisioning has consumed our minds and bodies. Burt and I exited the Northern Jaguar Project reserve to find it 26F in Portal. That means it’s time to head south without delay.
All the details of crossing are the same every year but the means of accomplishing our tasks vary. Vehicle insurance – check, health insurance – check (Thanks, Obama), clothes for Vikki – check, visas – check, special foods (chocolate, parmesan cheese)- check. This year we purchased our insurance and visas early due to the NJP reserve excursion. We’ve also learned to do this without joining the Baja traveler’s group that demands a pretty surcharge for the supposed convenience of them getting us our visa. We do self-service at the border. Saves us a trip to San Diego or chasing mail. It’s very easy. If you’re thinking of coming down by car let me know and I’ll tell you how to do it.
I have a nice pile of clothes from my neighbors that were donated by a variety of friends. Thanks, Pat, Jack, Jack’s wife, Eskild, Susan, and Peg. Today I supplemented these hand-me-downs with a spree at the dollar store and Target. Last spring we had a benefit concert and the proceeds of that go to my girls. With the money I bought hair ties, nail polish, socks, tees, tights, markers, and note pads for 14. The Target cashier got a little misty when she heard why I was buying such a volume of children’s clothes in a wide variety of sizes. I am so grateful to my dad and our fans for generously helping us make these gifts.
After all our preparatory work was done we found ourselves with time to spare in a not so attractive town. We did a short bird walk in a city park. The new eBird phone app uses GPS to map and time each bird sighting. I wanted to play with it before we got to Mexico. That worked so add another check to the list of to-dos. On the technology front I also managed to add WhatsApp? to my iPhone. This is a texting app favored by all our Latin American friends from Mexico to Ecuador. I finally got on board and started texting our buddies in their preferred manner. Another check on the to-do list.
The bird walk was quick so then we headed over to the bowling alley. Normally when were siting about in a towny area we’d go to the movies but nothing showing appealed to us and the bowling alley was shiny and new. Burt and I last bowled in Helena, Montana in 2007 when my parents came to visit. It was a cool and rainy day. Bowling seemed like a good idea. It was fun for a few minutes but mom couldn’t really remember how to hold the ball. She was in the midst of her Alzheimer’s. Mom was still active but the activity had to be something she was hardwired for. Bowling wasn’t high on the list of her hobbies. Golfing was okay. So we bailed after one set of ten frames.
Today Burt and I showed signs of untapped bowling talent. Our first ten frames were a disaster. The score was 90 to 38. The next set saw such dramatic improvements you’d think we had been trying to lure in some marks the first round. That was 238 to 141. We quit mid-way through the third round because my wrist was too tired. I started dropping the ball instead of rolling it. Burt thought we could go pro by next week if we applied ourselves. I figure I’d have a psychological breakdown and should get out now.
Now we are snuggled in the gNash and ready to drive. Mimi is already back into her old routines of begging food and walking on me all night long.
Today is Laura and Barry’s wedding day. We’ve been hanging around Portal waiting for this day since the bridge was finished. An event well worth waiting for but, my, there’s not much going on when we’re not working or super hiking. I practiced some of my new Irish tunes this week. I read a book. Burt and I visited centenarian Bob again. A bear attacked the gNash. I saw a couple more tarantulas. We took a hike. A mouse landed on my shoulder.
Yesterday Mimi was dropped off at Dodie’s for her extended kitty B&B stay. I left Dodie with Mimi’s bed, food, snacks, bowls, litter box, litter, blankie, and more food. Mimi’s luggage weighs more than mine. We also left Dodie with our minds at ease because we know she won’t mind having an elderly stink ball as a companion. Mimi isn’t so sure what to do with all the floor space. When I left she was completing her 53rd circumnavigation of the living area. The gNash is soulless without our feline companion.
Two nights ago was the incident of the bear under the gNash. Just after 11:00 I was woken by two quick Olive barks. Olive has a sophisticated system of barks. These two barks were ‘I hear something’ and ‘GoAwayBear!’ I woke up and, with Ollie ears in tune new we were under assault. Olive was quiet and there was a dragging/grating sound emanating from just outside the window on Burt’s side of the bed. I leaned over and peered out blindly but thought I saw a very large and dark hump moving. I said, “There’s a bear” as I shook Burt. Like all husbands roused from sleep he yelled, “There is NO bear.” Insert murderer, robber, thief, rapist for bear and you have all men waking up to wife saying: There’s a …. Is this in their DNA or are they taught by their fathers or is it learned after millions of false alarms?
Clearly Burt hadn’t fully assessed the situation. Nor was he awake. Still I thought, maybe he’s right. It’s probably a mouse. Suddenly more dragging noises and I hit Burt again and I said, “There’s a bear.” This time he bolted straight up and yelled, “There’s A bear.” This was the first time in history that I feel Burt actually met or exceeded my level of concern for our physical safety. Wide awake he knew instantly what I did not. Burt knew the bear had found a stash of food under our trailer (Hellooo, Hell, no…) and now the bear knew our trailer was a flimsy tin can of filled with delightful food. Burt closed his window and the window over the dinette. I left mine open. Menopause, bear or no bear. Our noise making scared the bear enough so that noises stopped and we couldn’t see it. Not much sleep was had as we both envisioned the bear ripping off our grey water tank or stretching a paw in to find the dog food. The next morning the bear was still on the pile of dry beans (my zombie apocalypse supply) when Burt went out to check the damages. He chased bruno away. Our storage cooler had sustained minor bite damages and the rice and beans were spread all around. I presume that bear got a mean tummy ache from eating dry beans. Burt cleaned up the mess as best he could. We seal up the windows whenever we leave now but if a bear wants into a trailer it can make it happen. Today we are moving to a new location. Hopefully the bear doesn’t follow.
Also this week we played music for Bob. It was a kind of practice session. Whiel visiting Burt asked Bob if he had any of his instruments still. Bob still had his fiddle which he had inherited from his father. He showed it to us. I got it in tune and played some tunes on it that Bob’s dad might have played. Bob practically seized the thing from me and gave it a go himself. Despite his torn rotator cuff, deafness, long finger nails, and lack of practice the phrase of a tune came out. Bob commented that he liked my bow. You can see the video on Facebook. This private session was further rewarded when Bob left his house and came to our concert the next day. He doesn’t get around like he used to. He and his gal friend Gloria were all the audience we needed to make our day special. We made plans to have another jam session between our Mexico and Galapagos trips.
Another recent wildlife encounter happened when I decided to clean out a bird nesting box on the old adobe stage building where we are parked. I lifted the front of the box and it was packed full of bedding. Fearing biting bugs and the mites I’ve found in other nests I grabbed a stick to clean the place out. As I dug in a very alarmed mouse jumped out and landed on my shoulder. I screamed. She screamed. Then she ran down my chest, jumped to my knee, and then the ground. I stopped cleaning for fear of finding babies. The birds will have to battle it out come spring.
We will soon be out of touch for lengthy stretches of time. Starting Sunday we will be in Mexico for about a week. This jaunt is a scoping trip for some work we might do on the Northern Jaguar Project’s preserve outside of Sahuaripa, Mexico. It’s a very remote place. No phones, no help, nobody for about 20 miles and 6 hours of driving. Yes, 6ish hours to cover 20ish miles. I’ll be able to be more specific after our first time up the wilderness. The trip’s goal is to see if we can build some things for them. Challenges abound. We’ll try and answer logistical questions about food, lumber, hardware, roofing, power. No actual work is planned for this first trip. Olive, Elvis, Mimi, and the gNash will all be left behind.
After the scoping trip we return to Portal and then a few days later we catch a flight to Ecuador. Our first trip to the Galapagos! I have no idea what internet will be like in Ecuador. I expect none in the Galapagos. That’s another two weeks without reporting. I’ll be prepared to fill you in when I get back. Like our European trip, I plan to take handwritten notes. Again the rest of the family and our camper will be left behind.
Presuming all went well on the scoping trip we will then head back to the jaguar preserve in Mexico and work for a few weeks. It’s possible the pets and camper will come to Mexico with us for the second trip. Those decisions depend on what we discover during the first trip.
We’re living with a tyrant. She demands a sample of all food stuff, walks all over us and our belongings, bosses the dogs, and shows not one bit of appreciation. I’m talking Mimi. Recent near death experiences for her were met by hand feeding by us. Now, despite appearing fine, she demands food be brought to her. And not just any food. She’ll have what we’re having. Just yesterday she swatted a filet of rock fish out of Burt’s hand as he dredged it in egg. Fresh fish. Now. No please or thank you. She’s taken on a more thuggish appearance, too. Scraggly unkempt hair, jutting bones, cigarette hanging from her lips. Last week she had a seizure and ripped out a claw from the root. She never noticed the blood on her foot and she hasn’t cleaned it up. Add a bloody stump to her ensemble and you can see why we give her whatever she demands.
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.
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.