Friday, April 30, 2010

It’s always somebody else’s fault

Hitler unified a war ravaged country by blaming the Jews for his country’s problems.  Mugabe maintains his rule of terror by blaming the whites.   Arizona’s Governor Brewer milks local public opinion by discriminating against Mexicans.  Even the president of the USA blames the evil banks and appears ready to file criminal charges against Goldman Sachs. 


And we don’t have to stop at Hitler, all through history somebody, some race or some entity has been to blame for the ills of the world.  The ancients had the best plan – they blamed their problems on the fickle whims of their Gods.  The common theme is that it’s never our fault.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rocky & Taz

We finally left Murray & Jill’s this afternoon.  They are just too good of hosts – it’s hard to leave.  Last weekend when we arrived they had another new arrival.  Their dog is getting on in years and they have decided to get a replacement dog while the old one (Rocky) is still around to train the pup.

Rocky has several cats to play with so I expect he thinks this new arrival is just some kind of clumsy cat.  Last weekend Taz had trouble navigating the steps and he wasn’t getting far away from his doghouse but over the course of the week his legs got a lot steadier.  He still likes the safety of his doghouse and his secret place under the deck but now he wanders farther afield and occasionally tries to catch Rocky’s tail or chew on whatever part of Rocky happens to be close by.

Yesterday afternoon I got to participate in another mini-rodeo.  Murray and Clayton were tagging calves and cows and de-nutting where necessary.  Mostly I just tried to stay out of the way but they were kind enough to pretend that I was useful and then afterwards we got to the best part – the rye.

This afternoon we made a leisurely journey down #11 Highway from Saskatoon to Regina and I made a leisurely trip down memory lane.  As we passed Hanley I remembered the time we stopped there on the way back from the farm at Kenaston to Shellbrook.  I expect it was the spring of 1967, probably after Easter so maybe not that far off exactly 43 years ago.  Father had a 1964 Mercury with the goofy “breezeway” back window that sloped in rather than out.  Lew Duddridge owned the Ford dealership in Hanley and he had a 1966 Montclair demonstrator on his lot.  When we got back to Shellbrook I remember father talking about that car and a few weeks later he headed off to Hanley with the “old” car.  A three year old car now is no big deal but in the 60’s a 3 year old car was getting long in the tooth and father put a lot of miles on his cars.

When he got back to Shellbrook he was driving the new Montclair but I guess the deal almost didn’t happen.  I’m not sure about the numbers now but $3200 and $3500 stick in my mind or maybe $3500 and $3900.  Whatever the exact numbers were I’m reasonably certain that they were under $4000.  Father thought that Duddridge had agreed to the lower number but when push came to shove apparently he hadn’t.  Father said afterwards that he wasn’t negotiating – he just couldn’t afford the extra $300 so he got up to leave.  He said it was the only deal in his life where he had been successful in negotiating that much of a discount.  Looking back a $300 discount doesn’t seem like much of a deal but I guess it was close to 10% off so in that light it was pretty significant.

That Montclair was a lot of car.  It didn’t have air conditioning or power windows but there wasn’t much else available at that time that it didn’t have.  It was certainly a big step up from the 1964 Merc and father drove it until he bought the appropriately coloured lemon yellow Torino in the fall of 1971.  I can’t remember exactly when he got rid of the Montclair but it would have been over 10 years old when he traded it on a Grenada.

We’re settled in again at Comfort Plus campground east of White City.  Karen welcomed us like long lost friends and assured us that their ground was solid enough for us to park back in the trees where we are out of the wind.  I was more than a little nervous because we had checked down the road at Dyer Straits and they still think that their yard is too soft for us.  We parked with landing pads under each wheel and now 6 hours later we still haven’t sunk out of sight so I’m thinking we may be OK.  I buried this thing in the yard in Nipawin several years ago and it took a 2-1/2 yard loader to drag it back onto high ground so I really don’t want to do that again.  We weigh about 36,000 pounds which is 8 to 12 thousand pounds more than a comparably sized motorhome so we need to be careful where we try to go.

We ran into Regina as soon as we got set up so we could have a visit with father but he wasn’t very much with it tonight.  Maybe he was having an off day or maybe he wasn’t fully awake but whatever the cause there wasn’t a whole lot going on. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This is way too cool

There’s a gonna be a baby eagle hatch here in the next couple of days and you can watch it live.  Actually I think there’s going to be two but the first one is expected over the weekend. 

I don’t usually go ga-ga over this kind of crap but this one’s cute.  Make sure you turn the sound on too.  Someone was running a chainsaw close by this morning and whichever of the eagles was sitting on the eggs wasn’t too happy about that. 

We’re parked east of Saskatoon in Murray & Jill’s yard but not for much longer.  We’ve been here close to a week now and we’re anxious to get out before the weather goes to hell.  Marilyn had a meeting in town today – she wasn’t sure how long that might take so I stayed here with the plan that I will break camp after lunch and head into the city.  We’re at the wrong end of about 12 miles of gravel road which is just fine as long as its dry but not so great if it rains. 

More importantly Murray & Jill are great hosts and we don’t want to wear out our welcome here.  We had a pretty busy week so we didn’t see a whole lot of each other but that’s not unusual when we park here.   

Saturday, April 17, 2010

More angels

We arrived in Regina this afternoon, parked on the street in the north end

and made our way to Dove House.  We got to father’s room about the time that they were coming to get him up for supper so we stayed out of the way while they slung and lifted him out of bed.  He can’t really help himself much at all anymore so they have a sheet with lift rings on each corner and a portable crane to lift him in and out of bed.

It’s hard to say who is in the worst shape at Dove House.  Some of the inmates have pretty good mental acuity and very little mobility while others have reasonable mobility but their minds are long gone.  We visited with father while the staff rounded up the rest of the inmates and started serving supper.  Everyone else was having chicken strips and french fries but because father is prone to choking he had something that looked like chili and mashed potatoes.  Nothing seems to affect his appetite – he tied into his meal like he hadn’t eaten for weeks. 

During supper one of his table mates decided he didn’t want to take his medication and got mildly abusive with Shelby.  I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in that job but she hung in there cajoling, pleading and finally bargaining to get the guy to take his drugs.  I expect he has some mild dementia based on his other behaviour and it sounds like this is a regular event at every meal.  Another one of the inmates launched into a complaint about how everyone else had received bigger plates than hers and was ultimately still unconvinced when Shelby placed her plate on top of her neighbour’s for reference.  Another old dear finished her meal, had a couple of muffins and then when most of the others at her table had left inquired when they were going to eat. 

The ones I feel sorriest for are the ones like father and a couple of his tablemates.  Knowing what is happening to you must be the worst torture in that situation.  I recall several years ago when his cousin thought he had early Alzheimer's.  That “knowledge” turned out to be a false alarm but Ken said knowing what was coming was a terrible burden. 

The people that choose to work in that environment are really angels.  One of the women on duty tonight at first struck me as maybe not the brightest bulb in the string of lights but later redeemed herself.  Father’s abusive tablemate thought he had tricked her into bringing him a 2nd cup of coffee, which he wasn’t supposed to have for some reason to do with his catheter.  When the woman returned with his cup it was full of water but by then he didn’t remember that he had wanted coffee so he was just happy to see her again.  When he left the table he made a big scene about keeping his bib with him, insisting that it was his towel.  A couple of minutes later the one I thought was slow-witted returned carrying the bib that he had by then completely lost interest in.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Welcome home

After our ordeal crossing into the US last fall we were understandably nervous about coming back across the border.  Crossing an international border is always a little unnerving because you are in such an unprotected state between the time you leave one country and enter another.  You really have very few rights or recourse in that no-man’s land between two countries.

Marilyn’s coffee maker showed up Monday morning, just like the UPS online tracker said it would.  By the time she had discovered that it had arrived, driven into town to pick it up, returned to the campground and we had lunch it was well into the afternoon.  We were only a little over an hour from the border so we headed north and arrived at Sumas to find about 4 cars in the line ahead of us.  The line moved relatively quickly and then we were at the window. 

I gave the young fellow our passports and he wanted to know how long we had been out of the country, what we had bought and how much booze we were bringing back.  Since we had been in a drinking frenzy for the last 5 weeks we were actually under our limit, despite stocking up heavily before leaving California.  Then he said “Welcome home”.  That’s the way crossings should go.

That night we drove as far as the Wallyworld parking lot in Westbank.  A friend who lives in Kelowna says it isn’t correct to call it Westbank anymore – the correct name is West Kelowna – but apparently the sign painters haven’t got around yet because there were still plenty of signs proclaiming it to be Westbank.

On Tuesday morning we drove into Peachland to Dwight & Bobbi’s insurance agent’s office.  They got us started on straightening out the raping that ICBC gave us before we left the country last fall.  Time will tell how much money we get back but we are expecting at least something from our good claims history and based on the fact that our permanent address is now Peachland.

We made such good time at the insurance office that we were on the road again by noon.  We had a leisurely drive up the valley to Sicamous and then east through the mountains to Golden.  It was still pretty early when we got to Golden but I couldn’t think of a good place to stop east of Golden until we got to Cochrane so we decided to shut down for the night.  After we got settled in we realized that it was almost 6 years to the day since we had stayed in Golden our first night after picking up the frenchybus in Kelowna. 

Yesterday we left Golden and arrived in Airdrie in the mid afternoon.  It always feels like coming home when we pull into Alison & Camiel’s yard because we spend so much time here.  Last night we had a great leisurely meal and traded tales of travelling and boats.  They have just bought a Hunter 36 which they currently have moored in Guaymas so they are pretty excited about that. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A riveting experience

I’ve been waiting 3 weeks for the weather to break and finally yesterday it happened.  We were at Charterfest in Bellingham yesterday so I couldn’t get any work done during the early part of the day and it was still cold late in the afternoon but today was a grand day. 

The frenchybus is starting to show its age.  The smooth side rollboard that they used when they did the conversion is to a degree structural.  Buses are a very complex engineered structure.  Most people, even a lot of bus owners, would never know that a bus doesn’t actually have a frame.  Long before car manufacturers had figured out how to spell monocoque, buses were monocoque construction.

The area along the beltline where the rollboard meets the original stainless steel is a stress point and the rivets that attach the rollboard to the frame are starting to work underneath the paint and creating blisters.  I first noticed the blisters about a year ago and they have got a lot worse in the last 12 months.  The solution that I have arrived at is to add rivets between the existing rivets.  The shiny rivets and caps in the photo above are the new ones.  From a distance they look pretty good.

Unfortunately our home is getting to the stage where it looks much better from farther away.  A $20,000 paint job would restore it to its original splendour but that would likely add at most $5,000 to its value.  So even if we had $20,000 waiting to put into a paint job (which we don’t) it’s not going to happen.

This winter I got up the courage to add some rattle can clear coat on the curb side of the bus and I think it improved matters a lot.  Some campgrounds frown on maintenance or repairs so I have to watch where I tackle those projects but I intend to redo the clearcoat on the driver’s side.  If I can find a cooperative bodyshop I should be able to get them to computer match a paint code so I can use rattle cans to touch up the rest of the paint as well.  I figure a couple hundred bucks worth of rattle cans will add as much to the bus’s value as the $20,000 paint job that we aren’t going to buy.

We spent the warm part of the day yesterday looking at more boats.  The Port of Bellingham puts on an annual weekend called Charterfest to promote their local charter companies.  I think there were three charter companies represented and likely over 50 boats in the three fleets.  One of the companies encouraged the boat owners to be present for the day so we had a chance to visit with several charter owners.  Another of the companies specializes in Grand Banks so we got a chance to take a real hard look at two different models of Grand Banks.

The more recreational boats we look at the more I am convinced that what we are really looking for is a commercial boat that has been converted to pleasure at the end of its working life.  In the same manner that we look at production motorhomes and wonder how people can put up with the compromises that are necessary to own one we are starting to look at the glitz and glitter on recreational boats and wonder why we would want the headaches.  Yesterday we were onboard a 2 year old 46 Defever which is a very expensive boat.  I’m not 100% sure what its worth but you wouldn’t get much change from a million dollars if it was new.  The owner was onboard and I’m sure he’s very proud of his boat but all I could see was silly frills designed to make it look pretty while it was tied at the dock.  It actually had 5 closed circuit video cameras, 4 exterior and one monitoring the engine room.  Give that circuitry a couple of years of exposure to salt water and it will just be one more thing to spend maintenance dollars on.

We also had a chance to get onboard a 42’ power catamaran.  I suppose there are likely different layouts but they’d have to be a lot different from this one to interest me.  The staterooms were unbelievably cramped and they would have to be regardless of the layout because the hulls are so narrow.  The living area, salon or whatever you want to call it is amazing because it crosses over both of the hulls.  But the quarters that have to be stuffed inside the hulls are by necessity tiny because the multi-hulls are so narrow.  I never did see into the engine rooms but I zeroed in on where they must be located and you’d have to be a spider monkey to work on the engines.  That was on a 42 foot cat too which I had been led to believe was a pretty large boat.  NO THANK YOU.  Butt ugly and crowded we can do without.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Finally found the damn tulips

And it turned out to be well worthwhile to look for them.  I’m still not sure why they grow them – most of the fields must be for bulb multiplication.  But we did see one place where they were picking cut flowers.











Most of the fields seemed to be variations on red. 











But there were a few yellow fields that were not daffodils. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our 3 sons

Periodically somebody will say “so how are your kids doing?”  And what are you going to answer?  Just once I’d like to hear somebody say that their kids are a colossal failure due completely to poor parenting. 

Of course in our case the kids really are doing just fine thank you. Tonight I was scanning the Christmas pictures of them because I find it easier to keep track of digital pictures than the real kind.  Then I got to paging through some of the historical pictures and one thing led to another.

Over the years we have spent a lot of time on the water.  One of my fondest moments was when the kids had some friends along in the boat and the friends desperately wanted to get the tube out.  I don’t remember which of the kids it was that told them the way it was “tubing is what we do when we don’t really have anything else to do.”  But that doesn’t mean that they don’t still enjoy time on the tube.

They haven’t needed us to get around for quite a while now.  This winter the three of them decided to go to the Olympics.  Some kids would have borrowed a vehicle – some would have taken their own.  Some would have taken the bus or a plane.  But not these three.  They found a couple of friends, chipped in some money and bought a motorhome.  Not a very good motorhome by the sound of it but an RV nevertheless.  They put a keg of beer on ice in the shower stall and headed west until they saw the ocean and then turned north.  When they got to Whistler they flagged down some random citizen and asked where they could park for the night.

It sounds like there was some miscellaneous civic and private property that got inadvertently liberated and I’m sure the young ladies of Whistler can remember the smell of the 5 guys from Medicine Hat.  It should however be noted that when they returned to Medicine Hat they sold the motorhome for a profit.  I’m not sure that they actually made money on the trip but their transportation was at least subsidized by the gain on the motorhome.

What prompted all of this however was the posed pictures they took and sent us at Christmas.  Ain’t they a handsome bunch? 


Monday, April 5, 2010

Waiting for the weather

A couple of years ago we got back into Alberta too early and then sat through several storms before moving to Saskatoon where we again sat out a couple of storms before returning to Nipawin.  We’re not inclined to make that mistake again so it wasn’t hard to convince ourselves to spend another week in northern Washington.  Not that the weather here has been so dramatically better than the weather in Saskatchewan – exactly the opposite in fact – but the odds are better here. The days are getting longer so it isn’t so hard to take but it sure would be nice if it would warm up a few degrees.

SWMBO has been shopping for an espresso machine for some time now.  Personally I’m inclined to decide I actually need something bad enough to shell out the necessary bucks and then either go online and buy it or head for the nearest discount tool store but her process is much different.  She actually does the research through whatever  consumer group it is that does that sort of crap, goes to libraries, studies the various brands and models and eventually settles on one that is “best”.  Then she spends a considerable amount of time shopping for the right price on that specific model of that specific brand.  Which is a good thing I guess but it sure takes a lot longer than my method.

So anyway she finally hit on an ebay auction late last week but of course shipping ran into the Easter weekend and it seems that the seller is kind of a putz.  So her alternatives were to have the machine shipped to some friends’ place where we would pick it up this fall, to pay some exorbitant surcharge for express shipping (which likely would have turned out to be pony express shipping) or to wait a few days for it to arrive.  We chose the latter since the weather was inclining us in that direction anyway.

Its no big hardship to spend a little more time in this area.  We’re a little further from the water now but not much and we’re only maybe 15 miles as the crow flies from the other park.  They call these places “preserves” and except for the one in Las Vegas that is a good name for all the ones we have been in.  The level of services is adequate but not extravagant.  Several of them, this one included, don’t have sewer hookups.  If they don’t have sewer hookups they offer a pumpout service that you have to pay for (obviously if you are a cheap SOB like me you can drive to the dump station) and some of them have a limited number of full hookups with the balance electric and water only.  I can see how that would be a bigger problem for some of the production RVs with smaller tanks but our holding tanks let us go a week if we are careful in our water usage and longer if we are really anal about it. 

Leaving aside the lack of sewer hookups about half the time, the preserves are either isolated or at least out of the way.  The one at Morgan Hill for example was less than 20 minutes from Fern’s house in San Jose but snuggled into a bunch of orchards with wild turkeys running through it and generally as far away from the hustle bustle of San Jose as you could imagine.  This place is less than 2 miles from I5 so its certainly not isolated – if you listen carefully you can hear the traffic on the interstate but as you can see from the pictures it is really peaceful and at this time of the year virtually deserted.

We looked at some more boats but I think we’re probably done looking for a while now.  This 44 Defever was “on the hard” in Anacortes and its a good thing we don’t have our money together yet because we’d likely have made an offer on it. 

Its by no means certain that we will end up with any recreational trawler-type vessel.  There’s a lot of similarities between production recreational trawlers and the RV industry.  The production recreational vessels tend to have extra trim and smaller “scantlings” in order to keep the cost down and increase their appeal to the cocktail crowd.  It took us a lot of RV time to arrive at bus living but we’re thinking we might bypass that time in the boating world and go directly to a commercial vessel that has been converted to a liveaboard.  Those aren’t easy to find and (similar to the converted bus situation) some of them are really scary.  We’ve still got lots of time so for the immediate future we will focus our search for something that started out life as a commercial vessel, in the same way our bus started out its life in passenger service.

If we do end up with a recreational vessel I’d say there’s a really good chance it will be either a Defever or a Hatteras.  Both of those names seem to hold their value really well and while we haven’t been on board a Hatteras yet, its easy to see why Defevers are so popular.  Arthur Defever has drawn a lot of boats in the 90+ years he has been alive.  The ones that carry his name are the best known obviously but there are many other very capable cruisers that he drew.  We have been impressed by his common sense layouts and incredible headroom throughout the vessels. 

Early in our search we looked at an Ocean Alexander Mark I where the very earnest young owner sounded completely believable when he assured us that we would never find adequate headroom in any production boat and further that we would never find an accessible engine room.  At the time we didn’t know any better than to believe him. 

I can’t stand up in the engine room on the Defever 44 (or the 48 for that matter) but there’s lots of room to work in it.  That’s one of the highest priorities for me.  I miss my workshop and I intend to replace it whenever we move onto a boat.  I want a place for a drill press, vice and maybe a little 110 volt MIG.  All of that is eminently possible on a Defever as far as we can tell.  It sounds like an oversimplification but I believe that if we can find a large open engine room and over 1500 gallons of designed fuel capacity then everything else will magically fall into place.

Now if the weather would just smarten up.  I’m starting to feel a serious urge for this ……..