Tick Tick Tick

That sound you hear is my head about to explode.  We are removing ticks constantly.  Elvis now has numerous pusiferous spots on his neck, head and pits.  I think we may have to go to the vet tomorrow.  We thought we were getting ahead of the little suckers but yesterday a fully satiated blob rolled off and tried to walk away.  I sent her to the inferno.  On today’s walk we picked off 5 more and e weren’t even half way with the hike.  As I type Burt has Elvis in the showers.  I’m not sure who will come out on top or if it will help in the battle.

Today we started our morning watching neoprene clad surfers take on a beautiful 5-6′ curler at the campground.  The wave was so nice we had our ritualistic should we or shouldn’t we discussion for the tenth time.  We keep thinking we’ll hold out for warm water on the east coast and then we see the waves here and wonder if we shouldn’t get after it.  Problem is we don’t have wetsuits or boards and we don’t want to drag either all over the US.  Sadly we have decided to wait.  Nonetheless, it was a beautiful wave and inspiring to watch.

Burt on the top of the Indian Caves

After our morning fiddle practice we headed for a hike to the “Indian Caves” or “Wind Caves” depending on who’s talking.  We are at the southern end of Point Concepcion, a desolate remote place.  We hiked up a ridge to the “caves” and got a great view of the bay and countryside.  On a ledge at the lower most alcove was a woman on her sell phone.  She was holding the phone like a mic and she sounded like she was giving a monologue.  40 minutes later she was in the same place doing the same thing.  Burt and I thought we would come back to the spot for any lengthy conversations we might have.  I was bummed that I couldn’t ask her how she manages the ticks on her golden retriever.   Didn’t want to interrupt.  We had a lunch of dry-cured, spicy salumni, cheese, apple and crackers.  Elvis got to eat the apple core and salumni wrapper.  Aren’t we the best?

After that hike we hiked to a nearby hot spring.  It was too tepid for us to bother so we headed on to Nojoqui Falls in a nearby county park.  The falls spilled over a travertine build-up.  Looked like a stalagmite out in the open.

Sycamore and Susan

Burt just ran in with Elvis.  He didn’t bother to get dressed.  Just him in a towel with Elvis on a leash running across the campground.  Gotta go and help sort them out.


Perfect day yesterday

I’m writing while we drive along 101 looking for an open campground.  California budget cuts have resulted in a mishmash of services available at the parks.  You can’t trust the maps or internet.  The result is a couple more hours of driving than we anticipated and me typing while moving.  I hear from you that the posts are regularly read.  We appreciate all your kind messages.

Bull elephant seal
Bull elephant seal

We arrived at San Simeon Park two days ago about 8:00 PM.  Due to poor signage and mis-information from the GPS it was a complicated arrival.  We turned around twice before we found the correct turn and then passed the discretely marked entrance to find ourselves on a road bearing the warning: Not Recommended for RVs.  A half hour later we were pinioned across an intersection.  The truck and trailer blocked all lanes.  I have found the frontier where Burt and I cannot communicate.  Neither of us understands the basics of trailer backing.  It’s as if we’ve decided to conduct the business of our marriage in Esperanto.   Backing incidents have happened several times.  We get in a jam, hem and haw, say I don’t know, throw up our hands, my stomach starts to hurt and surrender to the trailer gods.  Every time we think there is no hope the trailer starts to move in the direction we envisioned at the start.  Maybe the trailer speaks Esperanto.

After that ordeal I made us soup for dinner and we hit the sack.  Early yesterday morning Burt met the ranger on his walk with Elvis.  Burt told the ranger that he had fished nearby as a child.  The ranger told Burt how he could get out to the same point.  After breakfast we headed to San Simeon point.  On the way we spotted a buzzard drying its wings.  They look like Dracula with their pitch black wings spread and there red knobby headed leering.  We turned around for a better look.  While I was taking pictures Burt spotted a bull elephant seal fishing in the surf.  It had a ginormous bulbous proboscis.  Its bark sounded like a tear-the-house-down kind of plumbing problem.  Nearby in the sand were some females.  They seemed to be between life and death.  More pictures and we were on our way.

Check out these teeth

We headed to the point.  The walk alone was lovely.  We started along the beach and then headed up the escarpment and walked through a grove of eucalyptus, cypress and Monterey pine.  WR Hearst planted the trees in the 1920s.  On the beach there was a dead elephant seal and its buzzard attendants.  The buzzards were doing a tidy job. Only the head had been eaten so they had a lot more work to do.

Out on the point we spotted a few sea otters.  I never would have believed this was possible.  The sea otter was almost extinct in the 30’s and even now there are only about 3,000 believed to be along the California coast.  So despite the odds there they were.  They were lolling about on top of the kelp beds.  One of them rolled continuously lengthwise.  It looked like an enjoyable Pilates exercise.  Only later did I realize that it might be a method of keeping watch.  At the time the otter looked so relaxed and graceful it was hard to believe it was doing it for any reason but because it felt good.  We walked along the rocks and kept watch on the kelp beds.  On our return to the truck we spotted some porpoises or dolphins (don’t know which) and a sea lion.  What a day.  When we drove back to camp we saw the remnants of Hearsts’s herd of zebras.  Now that was a surprise.


Today we did the Hearst Castle tour.  We were both disappointed in the material presented.  It was a fluff job regarding the construction of the estate.  I enjoyed the tour but we both would have liked a more rigorous family history.  On the way back to the visitor center on the bus I spotted a bobcat.  A first for me.  Who would have guessed?

If you can’t tell, this part of California is very wild.  I was surprised by the remoteness and lack of people.  The terrain is highly convoluted.  It reminds me of the panhandle of Idaho.  There are no straight roads.

Tonight was are camped at El Capitan about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara.  We are returning to a more populous region.  You can see the Channel Island (and oil rigs) from our campsite.  Tomorrow we’ll play in the tide pools or maybe head up to the condor refuge.


The sun is out and we’ve changed footwear

Elvis doing the dishes on his chew proof teather
Elvis doing the dishes on his chew proof teather

We are finally in flipflops and sandals almost 4 weeks after we left Helena.  Still too cool for shorts.  This morning we took a walk on the beach at Half Moon Bay.  We saw a Merlin and Marsh hawk.  A little while later we found a sea lion pup alone on the beach.  Sea gulls were gathered looking nonchalant.  We watched for a bit.  More birds arrived.  The pup looking baleful.  We left when I decided I’d rather not know how the story ended.  I watched a Desert Big Horn commit matricide this spring and that was enough for one year.  The campground host told us later the rescue people had chased it around the previous day with no success.  Yesterday’s rough seas had beat it up a bit and it couldn’t get out to sea with the rest of its group.  I don’t know what a group of sea lions is called.

Last night’s host was from Polson, Montana.  He presumed his fellow Montanans would share his ethnophobia and attempted to regale us with how stupid he perceived the rest of humanity to be.  While I made mention several times that we are all descended from non-English speaking immigrants he was unstoppable.  When he complained that the East Indian’s would share a picnic table in an occupied camp site I suggested perhaps this was normal behavior someplace else and shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of disrespect.  He had complained to the rangers about the things he had seen and the rangers told him that over 300 languages were spoken in the vicinity.  I envied his chance to be a host in a park with so much cultural diversity and a culturally sensitive official bureaucracy.  His complaints that the rangers rescued everyone whether or not they could speak English were mind-blowing.  Burt and I were both puzzled that he would presume we shared his racist views just because we were from Montana.  Also puzzling that he didn’t alter the course of the conversation based on my responses.  I mean do you have to hit a person over the head?

From Half Moon Bay we headed south to Monterey.   At the wharf we saw our first seal.  Every restaurant was offering free samples of their clam chowder as we walked down the dock.  4 samples was enough to determine that it just didn’t matter.  Fresh red snapper for dinner.  San Simeon tomorrow.  Rosebud, anyone?


Parasites damn parasites

Jack at home
Jack at home

We’ve been offline a few days while up in the Sierra foothills visiting Burt’s dad, Jack.  After spending 4 days living off the largess of Burt’s mom and the Golden Center Retirement village we moved over to literally scab onto Burt’s dad’s place.  Free food and parking and electricity.  At the same time we learned Elvis is playing host to a nasty variety of tick.  Michal found the first one.  Since then its a constant stream of arachnids.  They are so small we can’t find them until they get parked and start sucking his blood.   I find them so revolting I’m ready to head back to the land of ice and snow.   Every tingle and itch on my body must immediately be investigated to determine if they’ve left Elvis for me.  We travel with tweezers.  Last night we almost ripped off Elvis’s nipple despite headlamp and reading glasses.  He took it pretty well.  Jack suggested we needed anatomy lessons.

Indian Grinding Rock State Park

The Miwok Indians lived throughout the Central Valley of California.  Some of them still do.  Just a few miles from Jack’s house is a great State Park:  Indian Grinding Rock.     At the park is an enormous bedrock outcrop that the Miwok used as a mortar for grinding acorns.

grinding rock recesses
grinding rock recesses.

The Miwok would collect acorns, cook them and then grind them on the enormous stone outcrop.  There were a surprising number of individual grinding station all around.  It looked like they might have invented the assembly line.  I wonder if there were spots that were more desirable from a work or social point of view.  There were enormous oak trees.  At least 3 different kinds.  Mixed in were sugar pines and toyon and ponderosa.  We saw numerous tasty looking mushrooms.  The highlight was a flock of wild turkeys.  We are turkey crazy and that was our third flock of the trip

Burt Drives Trailer Across the Golden Gate Bridge and thru Frisco

More steady driving from Burt has us safely shrouded in fog at

Your Driver.  Safety is always in season.
Your Driver. Safety is always in season.

Half Moon Bay State Park.  We left Jack’s after another great walk.  A manly squirrel took a potshot at us from 40′ up a tree.  From the ground we could tell it was bigger than 4 Montana squirrels.  The drive across the central valley was uneventful.  I enjoyed catching up on email and the news.   We’ll have huevos rancheros with homemade refried beans for dinner.   We’re debating the local attractions:  The King Tutenkhammen exhibit? Monterey Aquarium? Hearst Castle?  We could go broke if we go to everything we are interested in.  Send us your vote.

Here are some pics:


Lunch with Gertrude and Bryce

Burt’s brother and sister-in-law had us over for scrumptious lunch and fun conversation.  There was sauteed zucchini and cheese and dates and tuna fish and avocados and toast and persimmons and tea and I don’t know what all.  It was a build your own open faced sandwich free for all.  I got to see yet another facet of Burt by finally meeting Bryce.  There is little family resemblance when you look at them but then they start talking and laughing…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.  It was an occasion full of joy and love and sharing.  I am so happy I got to see the two of them together.  I hope it happens again soon.  Gertrude is a peach, too.  And their daughters, well, I’m just speechless.

When I’m with people I never think to take pictures.  I find it distracting from the conversation.  I hope Ada will read this and email me a family photo so I can post one here.

Tomorrow we go to Pinegrove and visit Burt’s dad, Jack.


Pinochle anyone?

Michal Mittelstadt
Michal Mittelstadt

We are ensconced in the parking lot of the assisted living facility where Burt’s mom lives.  The management generously allowed us to park on site.  We are eating in the facility dining room free of charge, too.  Michal is very lucky in Bunco and won a supply of guest dining passes.  So here we are living for free at an assisted living facility.  We could be here a while.  We fit right in.

This morning we walked 4 miles to Placerville on the rails to trails.  We started walking in a light mist.  About an hour in we were trudging in a steady rain.  Turn back or plow ahead?  There were no signs or mile markers so we had no idea how far we had come or how far we had to go.   Walking in a wooded foggy place with my head down can leave me feeling disconnected.  Feet wet, glasses foggy.   Trask Trask Trask. We kept walking, found our way to town and a little cafe.  We called a cab and sweet talked the guy into taking muddy, wet Elvis, too.  Never mind that both Burt and I were sodden.  Good thing cab drivers are tip motivated.  Another one and a half hours in a 45 degree rain could have been surly.

A round of pinochle, showers and laundry.  We’ll play a few tunes this afternoon.


Visiting Burt’s Mom in Placerville, CA

Just got to Placerville.  Spent the morning walking around St. Helena.  That’s Heleeeena for all you Montanas.  Went to a lovely shop that had at least 30 oils, vinegars, sauces and spreads available for the tasting.  We bought rich smooth sundried tomato paste to make sandwiches with.  A few storefronts later and we had a whole wheat boule and the sandwiches were all but made.  A little dubliner cheese, some red onions, slip it under the broiler and YUMMY even when parked in a strip mall First Baptist Church lot on the outskirts of Davis, CA.

This evening we enjoyed dinner with Burt’s mom, Michal.  Showed her our trips photos and the Grand Canyon video. Then a lengthy game of Rummy 500.  First time I won playing the Mittelstadts.

It might get a little quiet around the site for the next couple of days.  Let me know what you want to hear about.  I can follow up on the poop drama.  This morning we filled the black water tank with the heavily chlorinated water from our fresh water holding tank and then successfully disposed of it without spilling a drop.  The heavily chlorinated water was one step in getting safe clean water on board.  Yes, we have clean water in the tank for cooking and cleaning for the first time since we left Montana.  We are getting the hang of this thing.


Wine country, virtual pig hunt and sh*t management

001Here’s the scene inside the Nash.  Me blogging and Burt playing guitar.  If we all work together there is enough room for everyone.  I have finally come to terms with the fact that I brought too many cutting boards (6) and pillows (too embarrassing to count).  We’ll off load them soon.  I should have realized that we only need a fraction of the kitchen supplies that we brought.  There is no room for dirty dishes.  We do dishes all the time.  Therefore we only need one, maybe two, cutting boards and the like.

We spent  a dark and cold night in Redwood country.  Now we are in the Napa Valley at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds.  I am slightly dismayed to report that I am pleased we accidently released a small bit of blackwater in this part of the country.  Our lack of fresh water has not prevented us from producing black water.  If you need more information on how that works give me a call.  Anyway we finally got some place where it was warm enough to empty the black water tank.  That place is California’s beautiful wine country.  I love it here and understand why people rave about the place.  The open forests and vineyard covered hills.  Never mind the food and wine.  We wound up here in a random easy going way that003 I hope directs most of our trip.  We got out to take a walk and noticed that our bikes and bike rack and spare tire were barely hanging on to the trailer.  Indeed the bumper in its entirety was about to shear off from the trailer.  Glad we noticed it before we had a major catastrophe.

What to do now?  I put the word “welder” into the GPS (thanks, Dad) and it sent us to this place in Geyserville,  Garzini Welding.  The welder was only 3 miles from where we were.  We swung in and showed him the problem. He had the time and materials to weld on an entire new bumper.  He even backed the trailer into his compound at no extra charge.  Our team has yet to grasp the finer points of trailer backing.  Mr. Garzini recommended Sonoma Lake for a hike while he set to work.

Sonoma lake is a reservoir in the hills above the vineyards.  On the way we saw migrant workers pruning vines to keep us supplied with vino.  At the trailhead there was a sign about pig hunting.  Burt and I were ecstatic.  We were finally taking a step towards one of our trip goals, pig hunting.  Elvis went all googly eyed on the trail.  He could tell something special was in the woods.  We saw Madrone trees and Live Oak.  The grounds all around were dug up by pigs foraging for acorns and mushrooms.  It was heaven.  We followed some fresh scat and piggy trails here and there.  We climbed a 018Live Oak.  Elvis jumped up and joined me in the tree.  Maybe he thought he could catch a squirrel if he learned to climb.  The country was steep and difficult to walk in off trail.  After an hour we headed to town to have lunch at Diavolo a wild boar themed restaurant.  Burt had a brisket panini and I opted for a BLT.  Could not resist.  We also got a nice sausage of genovese salumni for the road.  Nest door was a new wine tasting room:  Mercury Wines.  We stoppped in and sampled 3 wines.  The owner had some with us.  I wondered if he drank all day with all his visitors.  We bought a 2008 Pinot Noir that had a smokey taste from all the fires that year.  Since we’ve had so much smoke in Montana in recent summers we could not resist.  From there back to the Welder.

Our trailer was better than ever and he even fixed the steps that had been nearly ripped off in a different incident.  More on that later.  So we headed off to see more wine country and find a place to camp.  That’s how we wound up at the Napa County Fairgrounds.

The campground host here is an enthusiastic RVer.  She brightly explained how to hook up and make the dump.  As usual it always sounds easier than it is.  We hooked up the hose and placed it in the tank and opened the valve.  The black water gushes out.  Soon its a trickle and you stand there and wonder if its done.  I pulled the end out of the tank and lost a bit of control so some spurted out at my end.  Then Burt lifts the middle of the hose to keep my backwash from doing I don’t know what and dislodges his end.  The tank was not empty.  I said, “Put it back on!”  But it could not be done.  Burt got the valve closed and I got my end back in the tank.  We laughed.  I wondered if the host was watching, her window only 5′ away from our shenanigans.  We decided that was enough for one day.  We hooked up our hose and tried to rinse the stuff away.  We promise to get better at backing the trailer, putting the stairs away, and emptying our tanks.

Here’s what the Russian pig rooted ground looks like:008


First spat of the trip

Elvis wants to taste those pudgy Eugene Mallards
Elvis wants to taste those pudgy Eugene Mallards

Over two weeks in and there was a minor misunderstanding that quickly went south.  The post fight analysis points to an over adrenalized state brought on when the truck and trailer started rolling across a Fred Meyer parking lot on the outskirts of Eugene, OR.  We had pulled in to grab a few groceries.  I was preoccupied with emailing and Burt had to go to the bathroom.  I said, “I’ll be ready in a second.”  Burt replied, “I’ll meet you at the bathrooms”  and leapt out of the driver’s seat.  The door slammed.  I was carefully trying to put the computer away and I glanced out and thought, “Are we moving?  Hmmm…”   I looked into my computer bag and then did a double take and looked out and saw that yes indeed the truck was gaining speed as it rolled towards a car 30’ away.  I was buried beneath a morass of cables and bags and had the console and stick shift between me and the emergency brake.  I lunged head first for the brake and my first attempt failed.  It was more difficult than I realized since I had never used my hand before.  My second attempt stopped the truck with a jolt.   When I popped up I saw Burt running towards the truck with panic on his face.  He kept running until he got in and crushed the brake with his foot.  I barely moved out of his way in time.  We laughed and goggled at the near disaster and went shopping.  Discord struck about 20 minutes later.  Suffice it to say that I don’t want to talk about Tiger Woods ever again.  Here’s a link to trailer safety.

Mimi is Queen of the Nash – Coronation Ceremony to be announced

Queen Mimi on her throne
Queen Mimi on her throne

The 5.5 pound feline has ridden alone for 2000 miles in her private accommodations at the rear of the Nash.  While she maintains a superficially snobbish attitude she has been in general good humor.  She eats and drinks regularly.  Almost every night she’ll agree to play with her string.  She has not made one attempt to escape and has therefore avoided the humiliating harness and leash outfit.  She snuggles up to Elvis.  Only two bouts of vomiting have marred her otherwise perfect record of using the litter box.  To top all off she is generally cleaner than each of her traveling companions.  All Hail Queen Mimi.  Long Live the Queen.

We are camped on the Oregon Coast tonight without cell service.

The dark and cold make the trailer seem close.  We hiked down to Hobbit beach this afternoon after a bowl of creamy clam chowder in Florence.   Our friend Sandy Wardell suggested we check it out.  Hobbit beach is named so because the environs feel like you are in, you guessed it, the Hobbit.  The beach is tucked away below a steep cliff.  We hiked a half mile trail through a tropical feeling forest.  The rhododendron crowded the understory. Bromeliad like ferns grew in the crotches of the trees.  The roar of the waves grew oppressive as we approached the beach. Sort of like last night’s Son Volt.  Both were walls of sound in a good way.   There was only one other couple on the mile long crescent of beach.  We never got close enough to make out their features.  They walk towards Heceta Head and the shade.  We stayed in the sun and headed north.  We found a 2 1/2’ long dead squid with eyes intact.  It was pink and rubbery.  We’re not above eating fresh roadkill so this was tempting since it was so cold out but it didn’t quite make the grade.

There is a massive California Sea Lion colony in the area and we saw a raft of 20 or so floating on the swells.  A couple even surfed a few waves.  The waves were a nice shape, peaked beach break.  It is official: we found a great surf break and us without boards or wetsuits.  Never mind that there were massive icicles hanging from the cliffs and sheets of ice on the beach.  Elvis tore around and got a good sniff of everything.   It was his first day at the beach.  Predictably he ran away from the incoming waves just like we did.  Here are some pictures of the things we saw.


Holiday party was worth the wait

Late Saturday afternoon we headed over to the Lauber’s house in NE Portland.  I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive showing up at the home of a complete stranger.  We had met on Facebook as fans of Dan Roberts, the luthier who built Burt’s guitar.  All anxiety evaporated as soon as we walked into Suzanne’s home.  The place was decorated to within an inch of its life.  Christmas trees in every room, teddy bears lining the stairs, and my favorite, a blue sky of twinkling stars covering an entire dining room wall.  The food was plentiful and delicious.  Pulled pork kept Burt’s plate full.  He had to go back 5 or 6 times to get his fill since there were only mini-plates.  Next year he’s bringing his own plate.  That was all before our friend Dan showed up.  Dan and the home’s owner, Suzanne Lauber, are first cousins.  When Dan and his fiancee Rosemary arrived we had Irish whiskey and an Islay scotch to choose from.  Once the business of choosing a drink was done we got to play some tunes and play we did.  But not before an old college friend of mine popped in to say Hi.  Bernadette House and her boyfriend Larry swung by on their way to another engagement.  We couldn’t chat long but we sang a tune or two and made plans for the next day.  I think we went for another 4 hours.  It was an older crowd and they went nuts for Fulsom Prison, Jackson and These Boots were Made for Walking.  The best moment of the night was when we wrapped up Horace Silver’s Song for My Father and a man told us his daughter used to request it every night to go to sleep by.  She called it the Da Da song.  He had been a jazz drummer in the sixties in DC and assured us we did a stand up job.  We thoroughly enjoyed playing for such a diverse and friendly crowd.  When we wore ourselves out we GPSed our way home and hit the warm bed in the Nash.

This morning we joined Bernadette and Larry and Becca and Hans for breakfast.  We had another great round of catch up and the Burt and I headed back here to Eugene to see Son Volt.

Here are some pics of Portland in the twilight…