Thursday, April 29, 2010

D'oh! A broken window!

A KOA employee was mowing grass near our campsite and unfortunately the lawnmower threw a rock at the Jeep.  We are going to be talking to KOA and have filed an insurance claim with KOA for payment of the new window.  C'est la vie!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hiking the Fort To Sea Trail

Today Chris was busy working but it was my "weekend". So I decided to go for a hike by myself on the Fort to Sea Trail. I had a very nice hike but I did miss Chris's company. I'll be glad when our weekends coincide once again. One more week till we hit the road again!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A different lifestyle

This post is going to be about how we live while we are on the road. Due to both preference and finances we frequently "boondock", an RVer term for living with no services. Its an amazing way to reduce your carbon footprint, its usually cheap or free, and we get to travel. However it makes for a very different lifestyle than most Americans are used to.

When we are traveling we are self contained in our RV. That means that instead of regular electricity we have a battery bank. We have 40 gallons of fresh water capacity and the RV can store 40 gallons each of gray water and black water. Gray water means sinks and showers; black water is toilet water. We have a 20 gallon propane tank on board which is for the stove, furnace, and hot water heater.
Water is the #1 rationed item. We always use paper plates and bowls. We have a dish pan in the sink which captures all the used dish water. We use some of the dirty dish water to fill/flush the toilet (we don't want to send precious fresh water down the toilet) and the rest of the dish water gets thrown outside so it will not fill up the septic. We usually shower about every 3 days when in conservation mode. When I am going to shower I turn on the hot water heater about 15 minutes before my shower. While boondocking we leave the hot water heater off until we need it to conserve propane. We laughingly call our showers "bird baths". We turn the water off frequently while showering to conserve water and also because the hot water heater is very small - 5 gallons of water. Even when on full hookups a hot shower is going to be limited to a few minutes before we run out of hot water. These are the hot water switches, on the left is electric, on the right is propane.

We do other things to conserve water, too. When washing my hands the water only needs to be turned on to a trickle. There is no need to run water and let it just go down the sink. When I do want hot water for a shower or to wash my face I'll capture cold water in a 32 oz cup while the water warms up.

The microwave and oven only run on shore power. So while we're boondocking I heat my morning tea over the stove. I don't drink coffee anymore because a coffeemaker uses a lot of electricity. I have to plan our meals a little better when we're boondocking because I can only use the stove or a grill. If I really wanted to cook in the oven we can turn on the generator but generator use is limited to certain hours at most campgrounds because it's very noisy. It's so loud it's like having a lawnmower running right outside your window!

That brings me to the next majorly rationed item while boondocking which is energy. Things that are hard-wired into the RV can run on the house batteries. But none of our power outlets work. No crockpot, no charging your computer, no electric toothbrush. No TV. No DVD player. No radio. Also the air conditioner will not run. With time we have learned how to go without some things and found work-arounds for others. My "toaster" is a plate that sits on the stove burner.

We tried an inverter on the TV but it was too loud to be able to enjoy our show. We charge the computers while driving (using an inverter from the cigarette lighter) and plug them in any time we run the generator. Chris is going to rewire our radio to run on 12 volt. We turn off all the lights except the ones directly overhead. We have also purchased some battery operated LED lights that help alot.

It is still always very dim in our house after sunset. We have an energy monitor that tells us exactly how much energy we are pulling from the batteries at any time and we monitor that religiously.

We have an on-board generator that can run all the electric items in the house just as if we were plugged into shore power. The generator runs on propane. The generator refills the battery power when it gets low. With our expanded battery bank we can travel for several days without running the generator.

The last item we ration is propane. Propane use varies wildly. In the winter when we were in very cold areas we burned through a full tank of propane in only a few days! We had to ration our propane pretty severely in the winter and that meant we were frequently chilly during the winter months. If we are using our generator frequently we will need frequent propane fills. The bummer about propane is that sometimes its the most inconvenient thing to find. Very few campgrounds actually pump propane. Some truck stops have propane and so that is usually where we refill.

We don't have to do these things to live in an RV. If we had the money and the desire we could stay in commercial RV parks with full hookups. They tend to be crowded. We would always be only a few feet from neighbors. RV parks do not usually have great views like many of the back country places we've found. We like campgrounds better. Many state and federal park campgrounds have water and electric hookups but no sewer hookups. Many have a dump station you can stop at on your way in or out. Flying J gas stations sometimes have fresh water and dump stations. We're still learning how to find completely free places to stay. We can park in parking lots and rest areas but we really prefer places off the beaten path!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Checking out the neighborhood

Here are a few quick pics of the neighborhood:

Astoria Column (164 winding steps to the top!!!)

The view from the Astoria Column. From here you can see Oregon (left), Washington (right), Mt Ranier, and Mt St Helens. We couldn't get the mountains to show up in a picture.

Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. Chilly but very pretty.

Bald Eagle! He's at the top of the second tree from the left. Sorry we couldn't coax him closer but the cats just were not cooperating! ;)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NPS volunteering

Here I am looking all professional and stuff in my National Parks uniform! I'm working at the Lewis and Clark National Park here in Astoria, Or. We have a visitor center with a museum and a replica of the fort that the Corp of Discovery erected in the winter of 1805. I'm learning about Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery, and the Native Americans who were in the Pacific Northwest at the time. I work at the front desk of the visitor center, accepting entrance fees and answering questions. We also have a Junior Ranger program that I do with kids. They fill out a booklet and then I help them with a pledge to take care of the parks and they get a badge and some patches. Kids get awfully excited about this stuff and it's cute to see how happy they are to get a patch and a Junior Ranger Badge! We have several educational programs and get many school groups during the week. Our rangers dress in period clothing and do programs teaching kids to make candles, start a fire with flint and steel, and a ranger shoots a flintlock rifle. Pretty cool stuff!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Settling In

We are just getting settled in for the month here on the northernmost point of Oregon. We are only a mile from the ocean and apparenlty they allow fires and driving on the beach here. Astoria is a fishing town with victorian architecture and many old privately owned shops. We are actually staying in a nearby small city called Warrenton which is quaint and has some more box store shopping opportunities (like Home Depot, Costco, and Fred Meyers which is like a Walmart). I am working at the Lewis and Clark National Park and I'm learning a lot of history in the process. History has always been a weak subject for me so this is a challenge. The park is very well tended and organized. My days off will be Wed-Fri and we expect to spend those days touring the local attractions!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our New View

We've made it to Astoria, Oregon. We'll be here for the next month or so. The park we're at has an indoor pool and hot tub, basketball court, miniature golf, etc. The beach is about a mile away and we're minutes from the nearest city. We realized yesterday that we've started to think that it's hot outside and that it's short sleeve weather when the temp hits 55. That isn't going to be good when we get back to Texas in July/August and see temps twice that. We're really enjoying Oregon so far. The cats seem to be very happy too.


Monday, April 5, 2010

The kitchen view

We stopped at an Oregon State Park for the day. They have awesome parks here where camping is only $16 a day! The parks are well designed with wide drives, huge spaces, and just very pretty!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Look at all those batteries!

While we were in Big Sur, Chris increased our battery bank on the RV from 2 batteries to 6. This has made our travelling much more comfortable. We aren't paranoid anymore about turning lights and other electronics on as needed. We haven't used the generator once on our drive to Astoria! It is very nice! The blue containers you see in the picture are motor oil; changing the oil is the next big maintenance project on the schedule.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter from Sutherlin, OR!

We think that Oregon people seem super nice! If it wasn't so cold here we might want to stay for awhile. We stopped at the local feed store to check it out and when I wanted a few eggs the owner just gave me 5 fresh eggs! They're the green and brown ones; I had the white eggs from a supermarket. Easter eggs!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Driving the rig in SNOW!

We waited through an interstate closure and finally took off once the road was open again. Luckily we were able to watch CA DOT's online webcams to see the road conditions. There was still snow in the mountains but conditions had cleared enough that traffic was moving. We drove through the Shasta mountains today with a light dust of snow coming down. The mountains were beautiful! Chris did a great job of managing the driving!

I-5 delay

We're now parked on the side of the interstate, and it looks like we'll be sitting here a while. I-5 is closed 10 miles north of Redding, CA due to a multi-car accident. Once we stopped to wait for the accident to be cleared we checked the DOT website for information on conditions further up the road. Looks like lots of snow and ice ahead! This picture is from a webcam on the interstate just a few miles north of where we are now. It's just rainy and cold here but we're headed towards the mountains.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The new kitchen window view!

We've left Big Sur and are on the move again! It feels great to be traveling again. Big Sur was fantastic but there is a lot more world to see! I am very happy that Big Sur wrote me a wonderful recommendation letter! I'll definitely visit there again but for now we are on our way to my next job in Astoria, OR. We have 7 days to drive 850 miles so we're going to just chill out and see the scenery on the way there.
Tonight we're staying in a free spot, a casino parking lot a couple hours north of Sacramento. We stopped at a random store called Grandzillas and Wow! they had all kinds of gourmet foods, imported beers, and specialty items. Really neat place!
We are in a lowland valley here. There are lots of farms, orchards, and vineyards in this part of California. I think we've found a nice quiet spot for the night, and we'll probably even go into the Casino tonight and play some slot machines.

Look, we've moved!

We survived Hwy. 1 in the motorhome again. We've started heading toward Melissa's next job in Astoria, OR. Our first stop was just north of San Jose to visit with family in the area. We had a great time with good company and tasty food. Melissa's job doesn't start until the 7th of April so we've got at least a couple of days to see the sights on our way north.