Just another average sunset in paradise!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My first night at Walmart

After leaving Idaho early Monday morning, we headed west with no particular destination in mind.  I had some idea of the route I wanted to take but missed a couple of turns and just kept going.  There are no real boondocking opportunities going through the farming country of southern Washington.  I decided that there must be a Walmart in Yakima, WA and thought it was about time I tried camping at one.

Walmart sunset

What I found was a 24 hr Walmart Supercenter just off highway 82.  When I say “just off” I mean it.  The highway is less than 30 yards from the end of the Walmart parking lot.  I found a great spot in the corner of the parking lot.  It was close to the highway but I figured that there would be very little traffic at night.  I never got the chance to find out.  Within an hour of my arrival, several big rigs had parked within a few feet from Dod.  One was a refrigerated carrier which meant that his auxiliary diesel would be running all night to keep his load cold.

We moved to the far end of the lot which was actually as far from the highway as you can get and far away from the big rigs.  Since Dod fits in a regular parking space I had my choice of sites.  I wound up in a corner space in the employee parking section.  Very quiet until . . . . .

Apparently tradition has it that just before starting the midnight to 8 a.m. shift the night crew has a pizza party in the employee parking section.  Not to worry, they all left just before midnight.  All quiet and back to a restful sleep until . . . .  I don’t know if it happens at all Walmarts but I can tell you that at the Yakima Walmart, they sweep the parking lot between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Tuesdays!  This includes motorized blowers to get the garbage away from the curbs and then over an hour of a regular sized street sweeper covering the entire lot.

All-in-all not a very good first experience with Walmart camping.  One thing I did like was the reading light.  It was about 85 degrees inside Dod when the sun set.  With the very bright parking lot lights I was able to set up a chair and read my book with cooler temperatures and a gentle breeze.

Overall, not what I was expecting but I will give it another try or two before making a final decision.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baby bird season

In Southern California we are used to the birds hatching in April or May.  Here in the Northwest it is much later. Last week I saw two very different fledglings.  The first was this young Great Horned Owl.  He flew by my camp and sat on the fence post long enough for me to get my camera and take this picture.

As he sat there robins and other small birds were dive bombing him.  He didn't fly away until I took a few steps toward him.

That same day I was inside Dod reading when I heard a commotion outside that involved Jesse and some type of frightened animal.  When I went out Jesse was at the end of his cable staring at a baby robin sitting about 8' away.  The robin just sat there not moving a feather.  After a few minutes of listening to Jesse whine, I went over and picked up the bird and moved it about 20 yards away.  The mom was of course doing fly-bys the whole time I had her chick in my hands.

I saw the baby the next two days and he was flying a little better and a little longer each day so I think he may actually make it to adulthood!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weippe Rodeo

This was a big weekend for Weippe!  They held their 50th Anniversary Rodeo complete with a Friday night dance and a Saturday parade.  I skipped the dance.  I was thinking of going until I went through my wardrobe.  I had the appropriate Levi jeans but would have had to wear a T-shirt or golf shirt and either tennis shoes or boat shoes. And the only hat I have with me is definitely not a cowboy hat!  It's a ball cap that says Huntington Beach - Surf City, USA.

I did attend the parade.  One of the things I like best about small communities is the way everyone gets behind town events and  county fairs.  There are only 418 residents in Weippe and well over 100 were in the parade with another 500 or so spectators lined up two or three deep for the total length of Main Street (3 blocks).  Everyone expects to see the current Rodeo Queen in the parade but I was surprised to see the queen from the first parade (1961) and about 30 other past queens in the parade.  These included a mother and daughter queen set.  Mom from 1966 and daughter from 1989!  They also had next year’s queen in the parade; so much for suspense.

Fewer floats than the Rose Parade (zero),  fewer marching bands than the Rose Parade (zero) but every bit as much enthusiasm and enjoyment!  A couple of hours well spent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to make friends and influence people . . . .

One of the many conversations I had with Annie during the Bluegrass Jam concerned a “self-appointed” camp host.  Bob lives locally and comes by the camp daily to make his rounds.  Almost as soon as Annie set up her camp he dropped by.  He remembered her from a previous year or some other function; I really don’t remember.   They talked for quite awhile and I got the impression that she was trying to give him the brush off.
Shortly after he left she came over to my camp and said “Did you see that pervert?”  I asked why she thought he was a pervert and she told me she caught him trying to look down the leg of her shorts while she was changing shoes.  Okay, that’s kind of weird but “pervert”?

Then she told me about part of the conversation.  After the normal small talk, Bob apparently told her what he had been up to for the past year.  He just got out of the slammer for stalking a woman.  He served 4 months in county jail for a crime he definitely did not commit!  Boy! I wish I had a similar story I could share with an attractive woman camping all by herself!  What an ice breaker.

I asked her how she replied to his story.  She told me she just changed the subject and started talking about her camping equipment with emphasis on her can of bear spray and her new hatchet.  Way to go Annie!
Then I thought to myself that our first conversation started when she asked me “Do you need to keep your ice chest in your car here?” and I told her that I really didn’t think bears were a problem at this campsite.  Then she showed me her can of bear spray and her new hatchet.  Huh?

Later I mentioned the coincidence of her showing both Bob and me her bear spray and hatchet.  She laughed and said “With you I was actually thinking of protection from bears”.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Doing the flip-flop flop!

As I have grown older it has become apparent that my coordination is not as good as it used to be.  In the past I could go for days without an injury that caused bleeding.  Nowadays, it seems that I can be injured just by thinking about a project.  If I can go 2 more days without an injury I will be scab-free for the first time in at least 3 months.

After I finished 90% of the Dod projects that required power tools (or just ordinary tools for that matter) I probably had 20 small scabs on my arms, legs and head!  Each time I got that number down really low, I would obtain more and I never can really figure out how I get them.

About two weeks ago, Jesse and I were walking down a trail we have taken many times before.  For some reason I decided that I really didn’t need to change from my flip-flops into my tennis shoes for this walk.  WRONG!!  I was looking one way while my feet were going the other way.  My flip-flop caught on a rock and I took one of those “slow-motion” tumbles.  I say slow motion because I saw the ground coming up and was able to use my right arm to break the fall and avoid injury to my head.  However,  all along my right side from my foot to my shoulder I got road burn.  Add another 40 scabs and a bruised hip and ego. 

Those are all gone now and the only remaining scab is one that just appeared from out of nowhere on my left index finger.  I think maybe I should wear padding and gloves for the next couple of days so I can indeed be scab free!

p.s. After writing this I got two new scabs just packing up camp!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Plans change!

My trip to South Dakota has been cancelled.  I found a clause in the California vehicle registration laws that allows me to avoid re-registering Dod until I return from Mexico sometime next year.  That saves me about 1,000 miles of driving and fuel expense ($400.) and allows me to remain in the Northwest until I head for Mexico around the 1st of October.

Everything continues to be great here in Idaho!  I am in Weippe today at a cafe with internet (not the same as an internet cafe) waiting for the annual Rodeo parade to start.  It is a town with only 418 inhabitants but it looks like more than that are on the streets already.

I am way behind on posting new blogs but will try to catch up soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blue Grass Jam is nearly a bust!

I was prepared for a full campground over the weekend.  The area around the park includes Fraser (maybe 100 people), Weippe (418 at last count) and Pierce (maybe700?).  Well as luck would have it, Pierce was celebrating "1860s Days" with far more on the schedule than just music.

Turns out the "jam" consisted on one main guy and a few of his friends.  By Friday evening when the event started there were just 4 other RVs and they all belonged to band members.  The main audience was just family members supporting their favorite musicians.  The music was however very good and the way the pavilion pointed, I could hear it from my campsite just as if I was in the immediate vicinity

Thursday afternoon,  I was over talking to a guy I met the day before.  His wife kicked him out of the house and he is camping in the back of his small Dodge pickup.  Not too fun!  I had him over for a spaghetti dinner Wednesday night and he was very thankful.  From his campsite I watched a petite blonde set up a tent right next to Dod.  The band leader's wife was helping her so I figured it was a daughter or something.  When I got back to camp, Annie (the petite blonde) and I introduced ourselves and began a great friendship.

We spent hours in great conversation.  She was cute, intelligent, witty (she got all my jokes and sent some great one-liners back at me) and one of the nicest people I have ever met.  We spent most of the weekend listening to the music from the campsites rather than the pavilion and the conversation never lagged.  What makes a good conversationalist?  A lot of things.  Annie had all of those things and I was sorry to see her go on Sunday.  We exchanged numbers and I promised that if I am ever in Lewiston again, I will call her.

By 2 pm Sunday Jesse and I had the park all to ourselves once again and it was great!  Monday we headed to an isolated camp near Lolo Creek about 30 miles northeast from Fraser Park.  We camped right on the creek and again there was not one other person around.

I am typing this from a Motel parking lot in Lewiston so I am sort of bundling a few days worth of stories together.  When I get to the next camp I will download pictures and provide more details.  Heading north to Coeur d'Alene in about 10 minutes.  I decided to take the northern route so I will stay in the big trees longer on my way to South Dakota. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

When you have 24 hours a day to devote to nothing but yourself, you have plenty of time to ponder life; the past, the present and what you would like for the future.  I have always wanted to live my life better and healthier in the future but now I have no excuse for not doing it.  It still won’t be easy but I have made some serious inroads lately.  I am eating much healthier than usual; Jesse and I walk 3 to 4 miles daily; and I have completed most of the projects still remaining for Dod’s complete restoration. 

Next comes the tough part: making resolutions and actually keeping them.  Some of the ones I am considering are:

1.       Spending 30 minutes a day doing isometrics.  Using isometrics requires no equipment, only time.  Last time I had a regular routine with isometrics (about 3 years ago), I lost 15 pounds and moved another 10 pounds from my gut back to my chest where it belongs.

2.       Spending an hour a day improving my Spanish.  I brought along six books and 20 CDs to help me in my goal.

3.       Quit smoking (I don’t need to say anything more do I?).

4.       Cut back on my drinking; this is as much a budgetary item as it is a health item.

I found a scale in town and I am down to 187 lbs. which is about 5 lbs. over what the book says my desired weight should be at 6’1” in height.  That 5 lb. mass is located in my gut but when I started this journey the mass was closer to 20 lbs. so moving 5 lbs. up to my chest should be easy.

Doing some quick math made me face the reality that if I give up both smoking and drinking I can afford three or four restaurant meals each week or spend a couple of nights with hookups each week.  It must sound like a no-brainer but 50 years of bad habits don’t disappear overnight.

Wish me luck!

Friday, August 5, 2011

If you build it they will come!

In 1934, the community of Fraser obtained permission to build a ball field on the current site.  In 1942, the Clearwater County Board of Supervisors voted to obtain 10 acres including the ball field area to create a permanent county park.

Obviously, much time and many dollars have been extended to make the park what it is today.  The park sits on the northern edge of thousands of acres of wheat fields.  In fact, part of the ball field is used to produce hay.  They got 5 of these huge bales from a small area out in right field.  One morning I captured this old farmer on his John Deere picking up the bales.

The diamond is complete with dugouts, bleachers and a snack shack.  The snack shack is available for rent as a cook shack for parties, family reunions and festivals.  August 5,6 and 7 they will hold the annual Blue Grass Jam.  From what I have heard it is a really big deal and all of the campsites will be taken with several other campers utilizing the ball field for dry camping. 

I occupy the premiere campsite in the park and have been given permission to stay there through the festival and for as long as I want.  It was pretty easy to gain permission.  I made friends with the woman who is responsible for park maintenance.  We met on the day I arrived and she stops by almost every day for a neighborly chat.

Yesterday, while she was driving a riding mower cutting the grass and weeds in the hot sun, I brought her a large bottle of water fresh from my fridge.  Today, while I was in my office/movie theatre (the gazebo) writing some posts, I heard a terrible racket coming from the mower.  When I looked around she was down on the ground attempting to repair the mower which had developed a severe vibration around the blade.  I’m no mechanic but I think logically (most of the time) so I offered to help.

We removed the pulley cover and discovered a total build up of debris.  After clearing the debris and replacing the cover the same problem was still there.  Back off with the cover for a closer inspection.  I found a large chunk of pine cone had lodged in the blade pulley and every time the belt went over that spot it became off balance creating the vibration.  After removing the pine cone piece and reattaching the pulley cover the problem was solved! 

She said I saved her a trip into town to get a mechanic and also allowed her to continue mowing and not blow the entire day.  Who knows, I may get a home cooked meal in addition to the extended stay!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fraser Park

Fraser Park is a 10 acre site provided and maintained by the good people of Fraser, Idaho.  The sign below pretty much says it all: this park is free!  I stumbled on this great spot by taking Idaho Highway 11 north from Highway 12 at the little town of Orofino.  There are signs on the highway indicating “Visitor Information” and “Roadside Table”.  I stopped hoping to get a free Idaho map but no such luck.

When I pulled in on Thursday morning there was only one of the 10 campsites taken but that was one more than I wanted taken.  I drove on for about 30 miles up Highway 11 looking for a good boondocking spot.  All of the gravel roads that led off the highway were logging roads and the barren patches of land that the loggers had created were not very nice to look at.  The logging companies were very considerate in placing a sign on each road that timber harvesting had paid for the road.

I followed Highway 11 north to what I thought was its terminus and then decided that Fraser Park was my best bet.  When I got back to the park the campers that were here in the morning had left and I had the park all to myself.  It is now Sunday morning and I am still the only camper here!  

I have already used up my allotted three days but I am going to ask the park cleaner-upper if I need to leave for one night or if I can stay.  If I have to leave for a night, there is a great boondocking spot just behind the park.  Someone had too much money (or too few brains) and put in a road for a housing development with about 30 half-acre lots.  The electric and telephone/cable (Verizon) are already in place but there is no sign of any construction activity.

As I write this post, I am sitting at a picnic table in the gazebo.  There is free electricity here and I am taking advantage of it by charging my computer; my electric razor; and, my three iPods.  There is actually one site right next to the gazebo where I could park and plug in for the night.  I won’t use it but I will, however, bring my TV down for the occasional movie.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Showers Predicted

The weatherman hasn’t said anything about showers in the future but I predict there will be several in my immediate future.  Before I left Pendleton I visited Walmart for the last time soon and purchased a Coleman Solar Shower.  It was only about $8. so I thought I might as well give it a try.  Just like any normal man I did not read the instructions: How tough can it be?  You fill it with water; put it in the sun; wait a few hours; and, enjoy a hot shower. 

When I first used it I was a little disappointed in the time it took to heat up and also in the less than hot shower.  However, when I took the pictures for the blog I just happened to read the instructions.  You are supposed to put the bag on a flat surface (I had done that) with the black side down and the clear side up.  As long as I can remember, black is the color that absorbs more energy from the Sun so I had the black side up!

The next morning the clear side was up and in about 3 hours the temperature had risen to an estimated 90 degrees and just perfect for a shower.  I’m sure most of you know the drill for a shower in an RV.  You get wet; turn off the water; soap up; turn on the water and rinse off.  You complete all the steps as quickly as possible to conserve hot water.  It works the same here except you are outdoors.  I get three showers from one 5 gallon fill up.

My shower area is at the rear, right side of Dod.  I hang the solar shower on Dod’s roof rack; place a canopy chair nearby both for privacy and for a handy shower table.  I absolutely love showering in the great outdoors.  I wait until the sun is shining on my shower area and then go natural.  After the shower I put on a pair of swim trunks and just let the sun and air dry me.  If ever there are people nearby, I will of course shower in my swim trunks!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Boondocking Paradise

We took highway 82 out of LeGrand and traveled through some beautiful farmland.  The road followed the Wallowa River most of the way to a small town called Enterprise.  From there we took highway 3 north.  It is only about 90 miles to Idaho.  Shortly after leaving Enterprise we passed a sign that said “Next Gas 79 Miles”.  I was glad I had topped of my tank in LeGrande because I can just imagine the price per gallon they will charge at the first gas station.  

The highway began a steady climb up into a dense forest. I spotted a gravel road heading west with a sign that said Wallowa 27 miles.  Gravel roads are quickly becoming my favorites.  Within 5 miles of the highway I found a great looking dirt road with signs that said “Rough Road” and “Not recommended for passenger vehicles”.  

Being foolhardy I just ignored the signs and I am so glad I did.  Just a few hundred feet up the road I located the best boondocking spot yet. 

Much like the spot we stayed at just off the Jubilee Lake Road, this is also a hunting camp. 
This is the rig they used to field dress their last victim.  It could have been a large deer but from the size of the bones, I am guessing elk.

I have been here for 3 days now and have only seen two vehicles go by.  One was a Forest Service SUV and the ranger just waved and kept going.  The other was a pickup truck with a man and his wife who were stocking up on firewood.  And I mean really stocking up!  The truck was empty when it passed my camp on Tuesday morning and when it came back by early that afternoon, it was stacked high with logs about 18 inches long and 12 inches in diameter.

There are 5 small roads within a few hundred feet of camp.  Jesse and I have hiked each one and they all have nice spots to boondock but not quite as nice as the one we are in.  I only meant to stay a night or two but it is so perfect that I wound up staying 4 nights.  I will be leaving Thursday morning; not because I want to but I have to.  I have picked up a small cold and my nose will just not stop running.  I have used up a week’s supply of toilet paper and napkins just blowing my nose.  I am down to paper towels now and they are not soft enough for my liking.

Just a quick note!

I haven’t been able to keep up with my posts due to lack of internet connection.  I haven’t been able to send or receive text messages or phone calls due to the lack of cell service.  This is to let my friends and relatives who may be worried not hearing from me for over a week that I am fine and boondocking somewhere in Idaho.

Currently I am parked near the library in Weippe, ID logged onto the internet.  I will try to schedule  all the posts I have written recently to publish automatically.  If not, it will be a week or so before I make the long drive (6 miles) back into town to post again.