Thursday, February 1, 2018

Prelude to... a Return of "TailS from the Back Seat"

ˈprelˌ(y)o͞od,ˈprāˌl(y)o͞od   noun
  1. 1.
    an action or event serving as an introduction to something more important

Although a 25th wedding anniversary is quite momentous in itself, the celebration and gift exchange between John and Susan last May was truly just a prelude........

The historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath on their 25th anniversary.  A silver wreath is a metaphor to represent a place where love can be found. The connection is drawn in the fact that wreaths are actually made of sticks and such which birds use for their homes. Thus, a silver wreath is a representation of having your heart open and allowing your true love and you to build your home around it. 
Hence, a 25th Wedding Anniversary is known as the "Silver Anniversary". 

So what special gift would John and Susan share for their 25th wedding anniversary??? 

Surely a shiny, silver Smith & Wesson revolver would have been appropriate, 
but they decided to forego the Smith (this year) and just present.....


Wesson was born in Fox Lake, Wisconsin but she ain't no Green Bay Packers fan!

The anniversary present was to include a relaxing 2-week Midwest sightseeing adventure in the RV traveling from Idaho to Wisconsin to pick up Wesson, but a broken axle on the RV took the relaxing out of the equation and added to the "adventure"...for all of us!!

It is usual for puppies to exhibit separation anxiety when leaving their birth family, 
but Wesson is anything but usual.....
she immediately embraced her new family and the open road!!

"Sweet Dreams"

Back in Idaho, Wesson also took to her new environment with ease.....

Maybe too much ease for Jake.....

Just how long is she going to stay with us?

Wesson soon made friends and the training in all things dog began....

...and it was quickly clear that Wesson and Jake would live happily ever after....
just like Susan and John...

"What a Wonderful World"


          I see skies of blue, 
        And clouds of white. 
        The bright blessed day, 
        The dark sacred night. 
        And I think to myself, 
        What a wonderful world.

   The colors of the rainbow, 
   So pretty in the sky. 
   Are also on the faces, 
   Of people going by, 
   I see friends shaking hands
   Saying, "How do you do?" 
   They're really saying, 
   "I love you". 

  I hear babies cry, 
  I watch them grow
 They'll learn much more 
 Than I'll ever know 
 And I think to myself, 
 What a wonderful world. 

       Yes, I think to myself, 
       What a wonderful world. 
       Oh yeah.

Stay tuned for a return of "Tails from the Back Seat"!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Joy of Nothing

This is a blog post about nothing. During the last four months of 2017, we were parked on various streets and parking lots throughout the country. We almost always had somewhere to be and something that had to be done. For the past few weeks we've been back in the middle of the desert with nothing to do.

Everyone should have a zero day every now and then. We've been lucky enough to have a few weeks of them. Sleeping for as long as you want, reading a book all day, taking long, leisurely walks in the desert with the dogs, and enjoying the deafening silence both night and day. Completing some small project each day is rewarding enough, but when we think we need to accomplish more, we'll enjoy a nice sunrise or sunset.

Nothing really matters when you have the chance to do nothing. Government shutdown? Who knew and who cares? Flu pandemic across the country? What does it matter when you're getting 9-10 hours of sleep a night, exercising in the sun, eating well, and enjoying a spot of wine every now and then (all of them much better remedies for the flu than any vaccine)? The disfunctional circus continues to spin on its axis without us looking over its shoulder.

The only news that concerns us is the progress of the Philadelphia Eagles. Since we've been in our current boondocking spot, the team has won their two playoff games and is on their way to the franchise's first Superbowl since 2004.

While we were working the high school marching band events in the fall, we met a 17 year old student from New Jersey who is a big Eagles fan. We tried to explain to him that he should cherish every moment of this season because they don't come along very often for Eagles fans.

The Eagles won their last NFL championship in 1960 (beating the Green Bay Packers and handing Vince Lombardi his only post season loss) before we were born. After graduating from college in the 80's and working our first jobs in Philadelphia, we used to run into "old timers" in the corner bars who would tell stories about the 1960 season or even about the seasons of the late 40's when the Eagles were a football dynasty.

All we've known of the Eagles over the past 40+ years have been moments of exhilaration between long stretches of humiliation and heartbreak. For the past two weeks they have won in the playoffs while we've been camped in the same spot and have worn the same clothing on each game day. To keep the streak going, we will stay in the same spot for the next two weeks and wear the same clothes again for the Superbowl. Every little bit of effort counts.

The last time the Eagles were in the Superbowl they beat the Falcons and the Vikings at home in the playoffs. They then went on to lose a close Superbowl to the Patriots. This time around, we're hoping that history will rhyme rather than repeat.

Okay, that's enough work for today.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Marching to the beat of a different drummer

Our annual return to work vacation has taken us to various workcamping jobs out west. This year we thought we would try something totally different. Something that would never be considered a true workcamping job.

This job took us to Cedar Hill, TX in early September for training, then on to Bethlehem, PA (via RV mecca Elkhart, IN) for the season, then down to Florida for one last event (again via Elkhart, IN), before returning to Cedar Hill, TX in early December. It was a three month tour that covered 4,600 miles, gave us the chance to visit friends and relatives in PA, and put us in Elkhart, IN two times for significant preventative maintenance and upgrades to our 5th wheel trailer. One of the additional benefits was that every mile we traveled was reimbursed and every hour spent driving was paid to us in an hourly wage. That alone more than paid for all of the fuel, wear and tear, and upgrades we did to our trailer.

Our seasonal vacation job this year was the management of official event merchandise stores at high school marching band contests. There was some attraction to working at high school marching band contests since Susan was allegedly a member of a "world renowned" high school marching band known as the Liberty High School Grenadiers.

This is a uniform, not a costume!

We worked six major high school marching competitions, sold over $330,000 of event merchandise (clothing, patches, pins, etc.) and managed 50 "helpers" over the course of the season. Our job was to handle the logistics, inventory, payroll, accounting, cash management, merchandising, and sales for each event. We had some events where we worked for 24 hours straight including drive time to and from events. It was a physical and mental endurance test. Much more than any agricultural harvest we've ever worked.

On the road with two vehicles and trailers. We towed like this from Cedar Hill, TX to Elkhart, IN to Bethlehem, PA, back to Elkhart, then to Orlando, FL, before finally returning back to Cedar Hill, TX.

Weekly inventory delivery day. It gave the neighbors something to peek out of their windows at and wonder about.

We had events at Metlife Stadium, Rutgers University, Towson State University, Allentown, PA, and Disney's Coronado Resort in Orlando. This band was in the small high school category, but they had some fun props.

You can't just park on the street in front of your mother-in-law's house for months on end, so we had to get creative with our boondocking options. The local Polish Catholic Church was kind enough to let us stay in their back parking lot for a month. We particularly enjoyed the home made pierogies from their annual fund raiser.

The kids we met at these competitions were all band nerds and proud of it. They were polite, well spoken and infectiously enthusiastic. We heard countless stories from the parents about bored, disinterested kids becoming focused and purposeful because of their band participation. There's no doubt that being a part of a large, tradition-filled group was making a difference in the lives of these kids. They were learning the values of working together for a greater goal. They were learning the value of being part of a shared narrative that is bigger than the sum of its parts. It was almost enough to make even the most cynical and skeptical curmudgeon think that maybe, just maybe, there might be a glimmer of hope for the future.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Eclipse!...All Alone At The End Of The World

The whole Great American Eclipse thing has been interesting. This was our first and most likely last chance at an easy look at a totality event. While everything we've read said there was going to be a frenzy with crowds flocking from all over the country to flood the totality zone, we were convinced we could find a spot in the middle of wild Idaho on public lands to enjoy the show in private.

We were also convinced that so many other fulltime RV friends we know would be trying to do the same. Much to our surprise, everyone we talked to said they were doing everything in their power to avoid the event, even though they were planning to be within a few hundred miles of the totality zone as a course of their regular travels.

One of our friends, a former NASA engineer no less, was shockingly uninterested in the "event". I Mean, how could someone from NASA be bored by all this? I can't blame them. I probably wouldn't be all jazzed up about a total eclipse either if I had access to files about extraterrestrials or other intriguing space oddities.

Our interest in the eclipse hardly counts as an obsession. We have spent zero dollars on specialized cameras and astronomical devices (other than $3.00 certified eclipse glasses). You won't see us on a charter flight through empty skies, on a cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific, or on an isolated island in the Moluccas going for totality.

But even for us, the fundamental inversion of day turned to night as the moon blocks out the sun has a primal mystique that is hard to match. We were in search of an all embracing visual and sensory experience...that's all.

After a scenic and leisurely nine hour drive south from Bonners Ferry, ID, we found a sweet spot on BLM land next to the Big Lost River, one of our favorite trout streams in Idaho. While there were hordes of campers about 25 miles from us in the Mackay, ID area, there was no one in sight at our little spot. As far as our civilian GPS could tell us, we were right on the centerline of the eclipse totality band. A nice place to witness the end of times.

Idaho's tallest peak, Mt. Borah in the background to the east.

Nothing but the gap through the Sawtooth Mountains going to Sun Valley to the west.

The Big Lost River. Idaho's best kept trout fishing secret. 

Fishing is fine, but a private dog swimming lagoon was big draw for some. 

The day of the eclipse dawned with a brilliantly blue, clear sky. We set up our chairs at 10 AM to watch through our protective glasses as the moon slowly crept across the sun.  

The first signs we saw started at 10:13 AM. All we really noticed was a gradual cooling off in the area. Without our solar glasses to see the moon slowly taking a chunk out of the sun, it just looked like a normal day. Even up until the eclipse was at about 99%, there was a big shadow being cast by our rig and the solar panels were still putting out juice.

Still very light out at 99% of totality.

At 11:30 AM the totality event started for us. It lasted two minutes and 15 seconds. All the hype was true. As the sky darkened, the temperature dropped another 10 degrees and everything seemed to get eerily silent. It was as if a giant switch was suddenly flipped, the sky went dark, some stars came out, and the sun's corona around the moon looked like a florescent high definition disk. Overcome with elation, we hooted, hollered and jumped for joy. I suppose if we were living five hundred hundred years ago or so, we would have been on our knees praying as fast as possible for redemption.

At total eclipse, rather than being completely dark,  it looked like we had a 360 degree sunrise with no more shadow being cast by the rig.

A very amateur shot of the sun's corona at totality

The "diamond" when totality ends and the moon starts uncovering the sun.

At totality, "sunrise" is in all directions around you.

A partial eclipse almost seems like a big yawn. A total eclipse, however, is worth every bit of effort to be part of. Although this will most likely be our first and last total eclipse, it's easy to see how the raw excitement combined with the adventure of a quest can easily get you hooked. We can't help but think about Antarctica in 2021, Indonesia in 2023, and Egypt in 2027 (with Luxor bang on the centerline). Each eclipse comes with its own sense of place and purpose. The reality is that some day we will be too old or too ill to even consider the list of upcoming total eclipses and the broad, hypnotic loops of astronomical time they represent. And yet, we know they'll continue without us, without all of us, long after we're gone.