Sunday, November 29, 2009

We love State parks

The US State parks and the Canadian provincial parks are some of the least known outdoor treasures of both countries. Right now we are parked at Humbug Mountain which is a worthwhile stop if for no other reason than its name. Forget about the name - this place is gorgeous and would be worthwhile stopping at no matter what it was called.

Right now there's us and one camp host all alone among over 100 sites in this gorgeous location. Our site is less than a 5 minute walk from a wonderful beach. The only possible negative is that we are just a bit too far to fall asleep listening to the sounds of the surf.

And they're not expensive. The provincial parks tend to be a little higher priced. They're usually good value compared with the private parks but the US State parks are downright cheap. The picture is of one of two showerhouses. Inside there are clean modern and free showers with lots of hot water. Anyone who has ever showered in a campground knows that you don't always get all four of those attributes and often you consider yourself lucky if you get 2 out of 4.

We had a bit of trouble finding a site that would give us a view of the satellites. The park is deep in a valley with a high mountain (Humbug Mountain I guess) to the south. My align-a-site sighting tool actually told me that we are looking at the tree tops but the dish locked in with a 62% signal strength. The mountain keeps us shaded until late in the day and we don't actually get much sunshine but that's OK. We just have to think about the snow and freezing temperatures back in Saskatchewan and this doesn't seem too bad.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bah humbug

I debated calling this "The Kindness of Strangers" but I resisted the temptation. The Christmas ads have been playing for some time now on the Canadian stations. The US has been wrapped up in anticipation of Thanksgiving which appears to me to be every bit as big a deal for them as Christmas is for us, if not more of a big deal. Yesterday we were in a WallyWorld somewhere along the coast where they had a full staff on despite the fact that it was Thanksgiving. The staff were placing pallets of black wrapped merchandise in preparation for today - what they call Black Friday - which apparently is the biggest retail sales day of the year. To all of which I say "bah humbug". On the other hand......

Yesterday we got rolling around 10:00 and headed south down the Oregon coast. I had checked the forecast and hoped that we would drive out of the pelting rain that made life miserable for us while we were breaking camp and hooking up but alas that was not to be. We never shut the wipers off all day and rather than letting up it actually got heavier as the day went on. We stopped for lunch at the site of some ancient Tsunami which was actually a great relief to me. Everywhere we go along the coast its Tsunami this and Tsunami that and Tsunami the other thing - parks and streets and restaurants. Not to mention the ubiquitous Tsunami Evacuation Route signs. So it was actually a relief to know that they really did have on here - a long time ago mind you - but there is apparently some real risk.

About 4:00 we crossed a bridge on some Elk River and as I was climbing the hill on the south side a truck came racing up in my rearview, started flashing its lights at me, passed me and waved me to the side of the road as he got ahead of me. I briefly thought we might be about to be victims of some roadside robbery because it was a pretty remote area but I pulled in behind the truck and by the time I got stopped the kid driving had hopped out, run over to my window, told me I had a "huge problem" and continued running to the back of the bus. All this in drenching rain. I got my coat on and walked to the back of the bus and he was right - we did have a huge problem. The driver's side front spindle had sheared cleanly off leaving the tire and rim dragged back underneath the truck. The kid said we were setting off a spectacular light show & I'm sure we were. Apparently it happened as we crossed the bridge, he saw the truck fall and immediately took after us.

We dragged the truck a little further off the road and then Marilyn got on the phone to roadside assistance while I tackled getting us disconnected. Over the next 2 hours while we waited for a tow truck to arrive no less than five kind hearted souls stopped to check on us. The first guy that came along told me who to call locally and where to take the truck for repairs. One young fellow stopped once and then came back to tell us that he lived right at the road we were stopped at and that we could park on his lane for the night. So that's what we did because we were by no means certain that we were going to find a tow truck at that time of day on Thanksgiving.

Just after dark we saw yet another person walking up to the door so Marilyn went to answer it and was met by the mother of the young fellow that lived there. She had a cut off cardboard box with two plates of Thanksgiving dinner in it (complete with apple & pumpkin pie). Marilyn burst into tears but all the woman said was that her son had told her to bring it because we were stuck there alone with no dinner. Which wasn't completely true in our case but I guess there was no way for him to know that.

About the time we got done supper - by then it was really dark - an unmarked cop car showed up. He whipped in behind the micro-truck and I thought "oh boy, here we go". I walked back out to the highway and an affable gentleman in a raincoat introduced himself as the Port Orford police chief. Evidently Good Sam roadside assistance had been using the shotgun approach to obtaining a tow truck, phoning literally anybody anywhere close by and leaving messages for them to call back. Somebody from over 50 miles away had called the police chief to see what was going on - no doubt assuming that we had been in some kind of accident. Of course the police chief didn't have clue one about what was going on so he just hopped in the cruiser and went to have a look for himself. We both stood out in the rain watching the tow truck that it turned out had been dispatched to us drive merrily by and keep on going. Then we walked back to the bus where we explained what was going on.

The chief had recognized the local tow truck and it seemed too coincidental that it wouldn't be coming to us so he phoned the driver. As it turned out once I got to know the driver it wasn't a great surprise that he had driven by. As Eddie Myers used to say, put a pail over his head, point him west and he'll drown in the Pacific Ocean. And this guy wouldn't even had had to walk all that far. With great difficulty the cop finally convinced the driver that he had not only driven by his tow, he had driven by it despite the fact that there was a cop car complete with flashing lights parked behind it.

A lot happened after that which isn't really material to the story. Likely the bearing went out of that front hub, got hot and eventually seized up taking the spindle out. Ford in their infinite wisdom has gone to sealed bearings for the front end of everything. I had those in my 1-ton and had one go out going through Strathmore one night. I felt something in the steering, stopped and couldn't see anything in the dark. I went a few more miles until I was sure something was wrong at which point I jacked the front end and sure enough the wheel was loose already. So when that sealed bearing failed it could easily have heated and taken out the spindle in a matter of minutes, let alone hours.

Oregon Coast
Today we are parked in Humbug State Park which is absolutely gorgeous, a 5 minute walk from the ocean, quiet and virtually empty. Life is good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The wet coast

Oregon undercarriage wash service

During one of our frequent Saskatchewan droughts I swore that I would never complain about rain as long as I live so this is clearly not a complaint. I would however like to observe that I am getting more than a little sick of the sound of raindrops falling on my roof.

Yesterday as we were travelling south on the Oregon coast their department of highways very kindly arranged to provide an undercarriage wash for the bus. We most certainly appreciated their thoughfulness, particularly as it came so shortly after our ordeal entering the country. Our trip over the Coquihalla and the Okanagan Connector a couple of weeks ago exposed us to salt so getting a chance to wash all that off was very convenient. Some of the smaller vehicles likely weren't so appreciative when the state trooper stopped and turned them around but he didn't seem to think we were in any danger of floating away.

Approaching Astoria Oregon

North shore of the mighty Columbia

I just checked Streets and Trips again to make sure that actually is the Columbia River that we crossed yesterday. Its so wide that it is hard to believe it is actually the mouth of the river but that's what it is. The bridge structure at the south end of the causeway is really impressive - a snapshot through the bus window doesn't begin to do it justice.

A year ago now we agonized over whether we should shell out the money for our Thousand Trails membership but we've been really happy that we did. Pacific City is probably the nicest one of their preserves that we have been at yet although Verde Valley would be a close second. Last night we arrived well after dark, tired and stressed out from our earlier ordeal and were met by a smiling "Buddy", the park ranger who was still on duty waiting for us to arrive. We damn near got lost wandering around the trails in the dark but he gave us a perfect reccomendation for a site and we got set up with no real trouble despite the howling wind and rain. The big site selection issue for us is always getting south exposure so that we can use our satellite dishes but Buddy's advice was spot on and we are once again online.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oops – big detour in the road of life

Monday morning we hung around Thousand Trails at Cultus Lake until what we considered late in the morning. One of the hazards of life on bus time is that we are often in situations where the locals are completely clueless about what time it really is. At Chilliwack for example, when it is really 10 AM the locals still think it is only 8 AM. So that meant that we couldn’t pick up our mail until after 10:00 and we wanted to get it one last time just in case BC Health had finally got around to reviewing our health insurance application. Turns out it didn’t really matter but at the time we didn’t know that.

What with picking up the mail and getting a few last minute groceries at Costco we didn’t get to the border until about 11 AM (which of course the local yahoos thought was 9:00 but that’s really not our problem). When we got to the border there was a moderately long line – maybe 15 cars in each of two lanes – so we had to sit a while before we finally got up to the window.

Everything seemed normal, the kid in the shack who looked to be about 13 asked where we were going, for how long, what fruits and vegetables did we have – the usual stuff. Then he wandered back to get the license plate off the truck and wrote it on a little orange slip of paper. “You’ll need to pull over there and park while we do an agricultural inspection”. No biggie – we’ve been through that before, including one memorable return from Mexico when a short armed border cop couldn’t reach one runaway potato in our fifth wheel corner kitchen.

We went inside the station and were briefly interrogated by an agricultural guy. Then another officer came over and started asking us about our travel plans and particularly when we planned to return to Canada. I said something about when it warms up and evidently that was the wrong answer. At one point he shouted “YOU HAVE TO NAME AN EXACT DATE!!!!” And it went downhill from there.

For the next 2 hours they bounced us from one officer to another and generally treated us like the TV cops treat skells. Nobody actually assaulted us but they might as well have. Clearly none of them believed that we didn’t plan to work in the US and a couple of them went so far as to suggest that we had no intention of ever returning to Canada. They kept insisting that we needed to provide proof of employment and that we needed to have a residence in Canada. Several times we heard that “you folks have everything you own with you” which of course was clearly bullshit as anybody who has seen our cubevan can attest to but they were more interested in talking than listening.

Eventually the bottom line turned out to be taking me into a small office where I was fingerprinted and had my mug shot taken. At that point they informed me that we were being sent back to Canada. I kept asking for access to a supervisor but that clearly wasn’t going to change anything and wasn’t going to happen until they had bounced our asses back to the north. Which is exactly what they did after they had fingerprinted Marilyn.

Before actually kicking us out of the country we did get a few minutes with McMillan – that’s what his uniform said his name was. It was like nailing jello to the wall trying to get him pinned down as to exactly why we were persona non grata. All he would give up was that we needed to provide more information about our ties to Canada, our employment and our travel plans. As far as what that looked like – no way was he going to tell us. I pointed out that we have most of our information in files on the bus and the balance available online. We suggested that perhaps we could put something together and come back in the afternoon and he allowed as how that might be a good idea.

So that is what we did. We dug through our files and found some banking information, our Holiday Trails campground contract and some invoices that we had issued to clients. We didn’t have access to the internet so there was a lot that we couldn’t provide but it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. One of the fundamental principles of logic is that you can’t prove a negative and what they really wanted us to do was prove that we weren’t going to work in the US. At least that’s what I think they wanted us to prove. We were outright lied to so many times that I hesitate to say with any certainty what they wanted from us.

Late in the afternoon we took our envelope of stuff, walked back across the border and presented ourselves at the counter. One of the officers stuck his head in a small office and we heard him say “those people are back.” McMillan eventually appeared and took our package. After we had sat for an appropriately long period of time on their hard bench he came back to tell us that we needed to provide more information about our ties to Canada, our employment, etc. etc. At one point I said “I don’t think it is possible for us to provide what you want.” He was quick to claim that he disagreed but clearly he didn’t think we could either. For what it was worth he encouraged us not to give up hope and somehow we ended up agreeing to come back in two days. I think the logic was that he would be back on shift in two days.

By the time we got back to Chilliwack we were already regretting agreeing to come back. Implicit in our return was the idea that we were going to bring more complete information for him to review and we had already realized that nothing we could provide was likely to change his mind. Furthermore there wasn't a lot more we could provide other than what we could access online. However a deal is a deal – once we had agreed to meet him we didn’t feel that we could stand him up.

So yesterday we spent the day cooling our heels on the parking lot at Walmart in Chilliwack slowly coming to terms with not being able to travel in the US as long as we want to live this lifestyle that we have chosen. We couldn’t go back out to Cultus Lake because the terms of our membership require us to spend 14 days out of an individual park after we have checked out. It was a hard day but by bedtime we had more or less adjusted to the thought of spending the winter on Vancouver Island. It’s really not that great a hardship – lots of prairie dwellers would gladly change places with us – it just was a hard shift from the Arizona desert and Mexico.

Today we had to cool our heels until 3:00 (when the locals thought it was 1:00) before we could go back to the border. We each took a vehicle because it is easier to get around that way. Initially we had planned to leave the bus on the parking lot at Costco (about 2 miles north of the border) but we ended up parking it and the truck in whatever the little town on the Canadian side of Sumas is called. From there we walked back across the border with our big package of stuff from Monday plus whatever else we had been able to round up in the interim.

One of the recurring themes in our interrogation had been that we supposedly had all our worldly possessions with us. Leaving aside the fact that we still own some significant property in Saskatchewan it’s simply not true that we travel with everything else we own. To prove that, I went to the storage lot on Tuesday and took a picture of the van with the door open as well as one picture of the boat. We had those attached to the storage contract along with some additional banking information. We were a lot more relaxed than we had been on Monday – mainly we wanted to get the ordeal over with so we could catch the morning ferry to Victoria.

We got to sit on the hard benches again and we got the stern look from McMillan again and then he took our material away again. While he drank coffee and we waited for him to return we talked about how we can replan our lives to remove the necessity of travel through the US and it’s really not that hard if you are willing to be even a little creative. We’re probably not quite ready yet but the time is rapidly approaching to get ourselves FM3 status in Mexico. Neither one of us is enamored of Canada’s so-called healthcare system. What we have seen of the Mexican system has been positive and it is accessible for a reasonable cost. So it’s not a large leap for us to consider just chucking the Canadian residency and moving completely to Mexico.

If you have stuck it out this far then you can possibly imagine our surprise when McMillan returned to tell us we could continue our journey into the US. The subsequent border crossing an hour later was anti-climactic. We had to wait in line for a while and there was yet another black uniformed “CBS” officer to deal with at the window. He had the orange detention slip all filled out and was ready to send us back inside when McMillan dispatched two of his flunkies to straighten things out.

Computers will eventually be the death of us and I suspect that they were somewhat to blame for our troubles this week. We changed our vehicle registrations from SK to BC at the end of last week so they had to show in the database as new or perhaps they didn’t show at all. That may in fact have been the reason for the 2 day delay. It may simply have given them time to confirm that we were who we said we were. One thing I know for sure – we observed enough outright lies to convince me that the only way we could be sure they weren’t lying to us was if they weren’t actually talking to us.

The final holdup at the crossing shack was that the computer wouldn’t allow the guy at the crossing to do anything other than give us a detention slip and send us inside. McMillan must have decided that we had been through enough already. The last we saw of the border was three guys in the shack holding our orange detention slip and peering into a computer screen.

W e still don’t know whether we were detained by a computer, whether our lifestyle really is too bizarre to fit the system, whether the kid that initially detained us over-reacted and his supervisor had to back him up or whether our ordeal was caused by some perverse witch’s brew of all of the above. All I know for sure is that last night I was cool with spending the winter in BC and tonight we are parked in a casino parking lot in Washington.

And by about 2 hours into the ordeal on Monday I knew it was going to make a great story no matter how it all turned out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We eat a lot of chicken

............ which means we have a lot of chicken leftovers to deal with too. I like making a creamy lemon soup out of the leftovers and recently I discovered a great addition to it. I started using Red Split Lentils thanks to a contract I'm working on. Whole lentils (called futbols in the trade by the way) take too long to cook up. That's a benefit if you want to retain the shape and texture of the lentil. Accordingly you have to reduce your cooking time for the RSLs if you want them to retain their shape but I have now discovered that RSLs are a great way to thicken my lemon chicken soup. They will have completely disappeared into the soup after about 3/4 of an hour.

- put whatever leftover chicken bits you have in a pot with some water & boil them
- I always use the leftover gravy which means that my soup automatically has at the very least rosemary spice. If you don't have gravy then spice accordingly but at a minimum add some pepper, parsley & rosemary.
- add whatever is in the fridge for vegetables - my preference is carrots and/or celery
- add rice - I like to use basmati rice because of the slightly nutty flavour and because it stands up to a longer cooking time which is better for soup because it lets the flavours blend
- add a small amount of RSLs for thickening - we're talking about the amount you can hold in a big handful
- you may have to adjust the order of adding the bits - if you are using regular rice or leftover rice then I'd put it in last with the lemon juice
- once the lentils have disappeared completely, add a couple of glugs of milk and a squirt of lemon juice. Go easy on the lemon juice at first because you can't back up - taste it as you go - the goal is a slightly creamy taste with just a hint of lemon.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hanging BC tin

We weren't dealing with the stupidest person in the world this morning. As far as I know that distinction is reserved for the guy at Km 22 south of Nogales who never actually got around to issuing me a vehicle import permit 2 years ago. He peered into his computer, poked morosely at the keyboard, periodically wandered around asking his fellow computer pokers questions and occasionally started all over again. I'm sure we'd still be there if a shift change hadn't come along. The woman we were dealing with this morning could possibly have been his sister though.

We drove into town with the intention of registering both our vehicles but we didn't really know what a licensing office looked like so we ended up at our UPS store thinking we could pick up our mail and ask the owners where we needed to go. They weren't open yet - one of the hazards of us working on bus-time and the foolish residents of BC being on some other time zone - so we wandered across the parking lot to an insurance broker that I noticed there. She claimed that they could issue licenses but from the subsequent performance I'm not sure she had ever actually done it before. At one point she turned to me and asked "what GVW do you want on the truck?" "It's an Explorer - it's a passenger vehicle - maybe an SUV - why do you need a GVW?" "Oh no, its a truck because it has a box." She segued from there into how she had never heard of or seen an Explorer. I explained to her that as far as I was concerned it was a notorious piece of shit but it was a very popular piece of Ford shit. She kept worrying away at how she'd never seen another one like it until Marilyn said "there's another one right now!" and pointed out the window.

After it took close to 2 hours to register Ford's best selling SUV in the morning there was no way in hell I was going to drive the bus back into her tiny parking lot in the afternoon. That was a big surprise for us prairie imports. In Saskatchewan they ask you "is the vehicle currently located in Saskatchewan?" and you answer "Yes". Then they give you the plates. But out here they apparently have to lay their beady little eyeballs on the vehicle in question. I'm not sure what that's all about but it's a major pain in the ass figuring out how to get a 40 foot bus into a license issuer's parking lot. On the way back home we stopped at a Save-On Foods store that had an Autoplan insurer in it. They assured me that they could issue plates and I figured it was impossible that they could be any stupider than the one we dealt with in the morning. My grandmother always said "don't wish for the death of the devil - you might get a worse one in his place" but in this case I think that was simply impossible. They also had a huge parking lot which was pretty much of an attraction.

In the afternoon we left separately so that Marilyn could take Jorgito to a vet on the way to the afternoon vehicle registration episode. I got unhooked and drove into Save-On Foods. By the time I got there Marilyn had finished up at the vet. Apparently our furry little son is obese. That's no real surprise to us but its going to be a rude shock to the four-legged fiend. He already thinks he is perpetually on the verge of collapsing from starvation so a further reduction in his rations will not be met with enthusiasm.

It took at least another 2 hours to register the bus but it wasn't because we were dealing with a fool. In Saskatchewan they used to ask me how much my vehicle weighed and base the registration on whatever number I told them. If I had ever been stopped and weighed more than I was licensed for then I would have been ticketed. So I told the woman this afternoon to license us for 38,000 pounds because we have weighed that much on the road but that wasn't good enough for ICBC - we had to go get a scale ticket. She sent us to the town dump where I'm not sure whether I caught the scale operator on an off day or whether they are always assholes but there was no way they were going to give me a weight today. So then it was off across town to a Esso station with a trucker scale where I waited in line until it was my turn, got cut off by an impatient trucker and waited some more and finally got my scale ticket - for 34,480 pounds. In other words, if ICBC had been willing to take my word they would have got to license me for an additional 3,520 pounds. Serves em right. Mind you, mother Evans didn't raise any fools either. As soon as I realized how they were doing things I opened the dump valve on the fresh water tank and by the time I actually got on the scale I had dumped at least 2000# of water. It just happened that we were also nearly empty on the waste tanks and carrying about 1/3 of a tank of diesel. Even the propane tank is low so we were at about our minimum road weight when we got weighed. Except for one overweight cat.

Tonight we're tucked back into Thousand Trails at Cultus Lake where we will stay until Sunday or Monday. Its actually pretty pleasant here right now. There are still lots of leaves on the deciduous trees so there is good colour on the hillsides. The night before last some folks moved in behind us and they are campfire lovers so we have somebody to sit around a campfire with (and somebody to light the fire in the first place).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The reason for our unpopularity

One of the first lessons a new bus owner learns is: when phoning for campground reservations YOU DON'T HAVE A BUS. You have a motorhome - a 40 foot motorhome if asked - but always a motorhome.

This is the reason why.

"That" is parked across the road from us tonight at Thousand Trails, Cultus Lake. Now there may be some fine people living inside that contraption but when campground owners hear "bus" that is what they immediately assume is arriving. It doesn't show real well in the photo but there is a 5 gallon pail more or less centred under the closest side of the bus which I hope is only catching the dishwater.

This morning we brewed up some tea and coffee. Then we headed over to our hosts for a pre-departure visit. They are getting ready to leave themselves but they probably won't get away until the end of the week. They are headed for a spot north of Puerto Vallarta. We visited them there two winters ago & I could drive back to the spot but right now I can't remember the name of the place.
This is the same park that we were in this spring when we first got out here. Then it was full of people and kids - now it is almost deserted. They stay open year round but the woman at the desk sounded surprised when Marilyn phoned to make a reservation this afternoon. We didn't want to reserve too much ahead of time because we first had to get over the 97 Connector and the Coquihalla. The forecast was for 8 cm of snow overnight but there wasn't anything on the ground this morning. BC Dept of Holidays has this wonderful webcam service for many of their highways. Last night I checked the cams for the Connector and the Coq and then again first thing this morning I had a look as soon as the sun got up. I couldn't see any difference in the snow overnight so I concluded that they hadn't got any snow in the passes. I could see on the cams that the sky was about half clear so I figured the highway would burn off once the sun came up and that is exactly what happened. We ran into a little bit of slush in the passing lane a couple of times but most of the trip was on wet pavement and we even ran into some dry pavement. Of course everything was sanded so the rocks were flying every time somebody went by.
By the time we got to Hope there was an occasional green leaf left on the trees and when we got to Cultus Lake there were green cedars and some of the maples still have their red leaves. As we found this spring, one of the biggest challenges of this place is getting a good satellite shot. Even after picking a site specifically for its southern view we still had some "issues" with getting the dishes aimed. Our neighbour to the north went out of his way to assure me that it was impossible to get a Starchoice signal in this site. (not only is it possible, the Starchoice signal was relatively easy - the Hughes signal was bit more of a challenge but obviously possible or you wouldn't be reading this)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A very productive week

We arrived here a week ago tomorrow with non-functioning Jakes and one whole side of our clearance lights dark. I didn't know the clearance lights were out until we did the safety inspection but there was no doubt about the Jakes. I had the Jakes working by Monday afternoon and yesterday I finished off the clearance lights. We now have LEDs all around, including the one at the top middle on the driver's side that hasn't worked the whole time we have owned the bus. I don't like driving after dark but we'll have to do it at least once so people can see how beautiful we now are.

Last night we cooked up a mess of chicken wings in oyster sauce for our hosts:
- as many wings as you need to feed your crowd, cut them at the joints
- brown the wings in oil with some garlic
- drain off most of the oil and add some red wine
- add some soya sauce and some worcestershire sauce
- add some oyster sauce (you'll find it with the stir fry sauces)
- simmer the wings for about an hour and a half. You may have to add water, depending on how much plonk you used to begin with.
- I like to add some chopped onion and a few chopped carrots but they aren't essential. Sometimes I add parsley too - depends on my mood.
- before serving thicken the sauce with some corn starch

We like to serve the wings over basmati rice prepared according to the recipe one of Marilyn's Iranian tenants gave her:
- partially cook the rice
- slice some potatoes as thinly as you can
- oil a frying pan and warm it
- place the potato slices around the edge and across the bottom of the pan to cover it completely
- spray the inside of the potato slices with cooking oil
- gently place the rice in the pan
- add water sufficient to finish cooking the rice
- place some paper towel on top of the rice and put a lid on the pan
- cook gently for at least another hour

The goal is to have the rice steamed fully and have the potato slices crispy and golden brown when you turn the rice out of the pan. If you do it right the potatoes will provide a golden covering to the rice when it turns out. I used our low sided cast iron pan for the batch we made for the Kirkwoods. I peeked at the rice when I thought it was cooked & I didn't like the looks of the potato slices so I cranked the heat up for a couple of minutes. You have to use your nose & ears to tell you how the potatoes are coming along because you can only see a bit of them around the edge of the pan and the important part is under the rice where you can't see it.

Today I ripped out our non-functioning DVD/VCR combo and installed a $39 DVD player we bought at Wallyworld yesterday. We debated buying the fancy Blueray model but then said "who are we kidding?" We buy all of our DVDs in the bargain bin for a max of $3 so it will be a while before the Blueray discs are in those bins and by then the players will be $39 like the one we just bought instead of $279 like the one we didn't buy. Of course in addition to the DVD player I had to install another box (another $39.95) to convert the multi-wire signal that comes out of the DVD player to the single coax that our TV demands. Can somebody explain to me how it is progress to go from one wire to 3? We looked and looked for a DVD player that had a coax output but they apparently don't exist anymore. Presumably our magic box will still work when we can buy a $39 Blueray player.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Taking the bus back to its roots

The day we picked up the bus from Clarence & Sylvia I followed Bryan St. George back to his home and backed it part way up their very steep driveway. Last Sunday we moved from Chilliwack to Kelowna and once again parked in Bryan's driveway. It's hard to appreciate just how steep and winding that driveway is from the photos but there was no way I was going to back around any corners 6 years ago. This time it was a piece of cake. Bryan was outside calling the signals and we could have put it in his garage if the door was tall enough.
We had a pretty exciting trip over the connector from Merritt to Kelowna because the Jakes picked this trip to quit working. The Coquihalla and the Merritt Connector are two stretches of highway where you really don't want to have a runaway. There's 6% grades on the connector that run for over 10 miles with no let up. I finally ended up in 2nd gear because that was the only one that would hold without regular brake applications. I only got the brakes smoking hot twice but that was more than enough. The Jakes turned out to be a pretty simple fix. One of the wires on the curb side of the engine had broken loose at the solenoid and was shorting out under the valve cover. Once I traced the problem to that side of the engine I decided that I was brave enough to pull the valve cover to see what was going on. That side isn't too hard to get the valve cover off - the other side with the turbo is a whole 'nuther matter. As soon as the cover was off it was obvious what the problem was and easy to fix.

On Tuesday Bryan and I headed off early in the morning to Central Valley Truck Service where Bryan had me booked in for a vehicle inspection. Despite the fact that the bus has previously been registered in BC we still need to have it inspected prior to registering it out here. The inspection went well with one notable exception. I hadn't bothered to check the clearance lights before bringing it in and I clearly should have because I had lost one whole circuit of lights. I think what likely happened is that when we put the awning on we must have pierced a wire along the roof line and now that circuit is shorted out. Of course I couldn't quickly fix that during the safety but they very kindly passed me anyway with my assurance that I would get it fixed. I spent yesterday working on it and have most of the lights back on. I've located the stretch of wire that has the short in it and all the lights on powered side of the short are working but now I have to figure out how to get power to the "other side" of the short.

The mechanical portion of the inspection went well, aside from the clearance light problem but putting the results into ICBC's computer was a huge problem. Whoever the genius was that decided to computerize the safety inspection records obviously never thought about the fact that the inspection technicians by and large are 60+ year old mechanics. It was beyond painful watching Billy try to type the results into the computer but it wasn't entirely his fault either. The application was, to be generous, less than user friendly. They ended up making at least 5 phone calls to ICBC and eventually ended up phoning Victoria to get the original registration number from when Clarence and Sylvia owned the bus. I was pretty nervous during that process because one false move and we could have easily ended up on some list that required us to have semi-annual inspections. No doubt we could have fixed that later but the problem might easily have popped up while we were in Mexico or Arizona and fixing that kind of problem over the phone might have been really hard on my blood pressure.

Right now we're parked in a very pretty spot in a yard belonging to some friends that we met in Mexico a couple of years ago. Their address is Peachland but to me it seems like we are closer to Westbank. When you were seeing those pictures of the Glen Rosa fire last spring they were taken just over the ridge that we look at out the front window. We've been trying to get here all summer but never quite made it until now. Later today I'll get a picture of our parking spot posted.

Tonight we're having supper with one of Marilyn's brothers who lives here. This weekend we'll probably move back out to Chilliwack. We're getting pretty close to ready to head south. We've actually got a reservation at a campground outside of San Francisco starting on Nov 29 so it feels like we are ready to leave. We're still waiting for our BC health cards to arrive and it wouldn't hurt our feelings if we were able to get vaccinated for the pig flu before leaving. I don't suppose there's a hope in hell of that happening though. I'm afraid the epidemic will be over and done before our government ever gets around to vaccinating the white anglo-saxon taxpaying members of the population.