Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31

The Last Day
We have reached the very last day of July 2011 and tomorrow we will be starting on August. That means 2 more months to go and we are getting into departure mode. The BIG CAMPING season is over us again. In good time before departure we will be cleaning the coach inside and out, we will check our lists of what stuff to take and what not. We will be looking at tires, oil and all the technical intricacies BEFORE hitting the road. We will also have the Motor Home serviced at our Freightliner Service Center in Bangor, ME.  I discovered that place 3 years ago and was thrilled to see that only very mature personal is working there. Truckers are using that facility and that also gives me confidence in their work.

We might also have to replace 2 more tires in the rear. They are now 7 years old and showing cracks on the flanks.

When all that is done, we are looking at a 3700 mile journey until we are safely parked again in our spot in the California Desert.
Parked in the desert
I had a few days break from my work on the porch as we had a visitor from Prince Edvard Island. He left this morning on the ferry via Deer Island. If the weather has been as nice farther north as it was here, he must have had a gorgeous ride home.

The Campobello-Deer Island Ferry
We were lingering on the beach until the ferry was well underway. While we were down there, we discovered something tiny moving around in the water. At first we thought of small fish. But with a closer look we saw that it was no fish. It was KRILL. 

Krill is the reason that the giant whales are coming up here for feeding. Matter of fact KRILL is the reason that we have a marine life in the ocean at all. Only these fellows we saw seemed to plan their suicide as they were heading for the shoreline. The wavelets were washing them up on the gravel where these guys died!!! We figured that their time was up and like many species they kind of know that, and end their life by shoring up. Life is full of wonders!
Molly has discovered Krill!
After coming home I retrieved my tools and started working on the porch in the shade of the house. It was good to be busy again after those last two days. But around 2pm the sun had made it around to the front our house and I started to lose gallons of water which have a tendency to run from the top of my head into my eyes. I have even made a special hat, cause I figured baseball caps do not allow for ventilation. So I rather took an old cowboy hat and cut open the crown of it. But even with that arrangement I got "watery" eyes. And when I came close to a headache, I finally had to throw in the towel and give it up for today. I rather settled down with an ice-cold lemonade under the roof of the new-constructed porch.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

From a Tent to a Luxury Coach

July 30

I wrote the below article a few years ago and it was never published before, so here we go: (Warning: It's a long one)

Decades of camping
I guess I was around 16 years old, when I had my very first experience of going camping on my own. The tent was tiny and I had to share it with a friend of mine.

Mom drove us to the campground by a lake some 60kms from home. There she left us with all of our equipment, which was a kayak, bedding, clothes and food.

5 years later, I had just filled 21 and was owning my first car, my next camping experience was a trip to the north of Scandinavia. Again we camped in a tent, fighting hordes of northern mosquitos. An experience I will ever remember was when I and my friend had left the tent open while we had gone on a walk. Upon our return to the campsite we discovered that the entire tent had been filled with scandinavian-size (very large) mosquitos. It appeared to be difficult to sleep with the monsters, so something had to be done.

By one or the other reason I had brought a smoking pipe along, which I now put to use.
Thinking quite rightly that the insects would not enjoy a massive amount of smoke, I filled my pipe with tobacco. When sufficient amounts of smoke escaped the pipe, I dove into the tent and closed the zipper behind me. Being on my back I started puffing along on that pipe. Pretty soon I could not make out the ceiling anymore and watched gleefully as hundreds of mosquitos started a kamikaze-style descend landing kind-of-dead on the floor. After nearly 10 minutes of me coughing inside the tent, my friend opened the zipper.

Now all we had to do was sweeping the floor and all our mosquitos were gone.

It was a full 4 years later and the year of 1976, when I was able to purchase a brand-new Volkswagen Transporter. Immediately after I started to convert the vehicle to be my first RV. Benches were made of light-weight plywood, ceiling cupboards were hung along the side and the rear, and a tiny little kitchen was made with a camping-style propane stove. A full-size roof rack covered the entire roof from the front to the back. On it I transported my kayaks, tires, jerry-cans and everything else which would not fit inside the vehicle.

This RV made many trips from Germany to Scandinavia and I was hooked on to that lifestyle for ever.

Long after the transporter was sold I discovered an old travel trailer hidden away in the garden of a neighbour. I started pestering that man long enough until he was willing to sell the 1969 model of a british produced trailer for a small amount.

The trailer needed an outside scrub, new paint and new seat cushions and was ready to go the same summer. I hooked it up behind my vintage 1966 Mercedes 230 and off I went, discovering the mountains and valleys of Norway. Whereever I pulled into a campground I had the attention of everyone around.
That travel trailer remained not the last one I owned. A 23ft German-brand trailer followed in 1999 and was pulled by an American Chevy Suburban all the way up to the Lofot-Islands in Norway.

After moving to Canada I soon got struck with the idea of buying a Class C motorhome. But at the time it seemed too costly so the idea was put to rest – but never forgotten.

In 2004 I spent days on the Internet looking for a used Class C – and finally found one in the great “Garden State of New Jersey”. The fact that the vehicle was some 3000 miles from Alberta did not deterr me a bit. One day in april, I got on a plane heading eastward. In Toronto I had to pass the U.S. Customs, so all baggage had to be taken out. When re-entering the security zone I put my briefcase onto what I thought was a security conveyor. However, my briefcase never popped up on the other end. Instead it had gone to the distribution centre of all flight baggage, without any name tag or destination tag on it. I must have panicked, because the brief case contained $10,000 in cash for the motorhome to be purchased. Upon my lament a friendly lady came to inquire about the reason of my hollering. She told me that the brief case would eventually pop up again at the main baggage claim, as it had no tags attached to it. We returned through U.S. Customs whose officers gave me a curious glance. After 5 minutes at the baggage claim my property popped up. Running out of time now, I had to hurry back to the gate. I kind of flew through U.S. Customs again and made it safely and in time for departure.

The take-over of the motor home went without complications and soon I was dashing westward again – this time negotiating heavy traffic through the eastern United States. After 200km on the highway I noticed that the once “full” showing tank meter was nearing the “Empty” sign. Knowing that the Ford had a tank of 36gal. I started wondering. After filling up I had to realize that this great vehicle had consumed a gallon of gas for every 7 miles. Wow, even with gas prices of 2004 this seemed a bit over the top.

On my way home I had ample opportunity to learn the location of many gas stations along the way.

It is needless to say that the Class C did not stay in my ownership for a very long time. By the end of the same year I had purchased a Ford F350 Dually Diesel and a 5th wheel. My RV-career could continue just the same.

In 2005 we were ready to leave Canada for 6 months and head out for the ultimate trip to the Southern United States.

Our first destination was Vancouver, BC. In Kamloops we made the mistake of missing the turn towards Cache Creek and the TC 1. Instead we found ourselves climbing up the Coquihalla Highway. Unfortunately that Highway is a mis-construction alltogether as it challenges the RVer with steep grades of 8% over many kilometers.  Our 2001 F 350 took that in a most unfriendly manner as it blew out the transmission about 25 kilometers up from Hope.

Hope is only a little town and its name is symbolical for many people. Travelers have hope to master the intricate Coquihalla Highway, the repair shops in Hope are hoping that many travelers will develop a need for their first-class expertise in repairs and replacements and all people of Hope must sure have a hope of never having to drive the Coquihalla Highway during wintery conditions.

After waiting 3 days and paying $5,000 out of our budget we could continue our first journey to the south of the United States.

Two more trips have now followed and this last year (2008) I had started to eyeball the sales-lots of many RV-dealerships where  a tremendous amount of Class A motorhomes were up for sale at heavily discounted prices.

One afternoon, I was searching the Internet and Ebay, simply to find some comparisons, when a special ad from a seller in Glendale,AZ caught my attention. It was a typical Ebay auction and the highest bid on this 2004 Damon Diesel pusher had just reached $30,000. Reserve price not met. Of course, who would ever expect to buy that coach for such a low amount.  In a daring moment of frenzy I made my bid with $75,000. Naturally I became the high-bidder of this item. Being sure somebody would come along with a higher bid I hardly mentioned it to my wife of many years. Three days later I was still the high-bidder and things became exciting, to say the least. Two more days left. After another day with still no change I had to confess to my wife. I think she did not really put her mind to it as I heard only a low humm from her.

The last day came up. I checked on the Ebay auction every couple of hours – no change. I was sure that some guy would make a higher bid the last minute of this auction and the game would be over. But even with one hour left, no higher bid had come in. I was sure a bidding assault would start any minute now. At 5pm I was glued to the laptop. 

Only a few minutes of the auction was left. The countdown was as dramatical as the launch of the space shuttle. Three minutes later I received an Ebay congratulation to the winning bidder (which was me). I must have screamed it all-around because my wife peeked though the door thinking I had lost my marbles.

We had just become the owners of a 2004 Damon Ultrasport on a Freightliner chassis.

During the following day contact was made to the seller and a trip to Glendale was scheduled for Friday the week after. 

With almost 4 hours to drive we started early. Since our GPS-girl was showing us directions, we arrived on-time at the given address. In a large company parking lot we saw the Damon glistening jewel-like in the bright sun. The sellers, two guys who had started to buy and sell bank repos, were friendly and showed us around in our future home. Everything seemed very little used and after completing the paper work we were free to go.

But it was friday afternoon, construction workers along the street and heavy traffic from all directions. I tried to navigate that vehicle within the drawn-up lines and watched the mirrors eagerly.

Being one of the last days in november it got dark early and at Gila Bend we found a huge wide-open parking area to stay for the night.

Before sleep overtook me it dawned on me that I had made the transition from being a tenting tourist to the driver of a luxury coach. And it had only taken me 40 years.

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29

The Garden of the Gods
While being in the Denver area in 2008 we went to see the Garden of the Gods at Colorado Springs. It is a short and easy trip down I-25, before one has to turn to the west and getting into the Park. There is no admission fee, and one can either walk or drive around the ring road. But I will say that a walk would definitely be an asset. The park has a special history as well.

Park History
By the 1870's, the railroads had forged their way west. In 1871, General William Jackson Palmer founded Colorado Springs while extending the lines of his Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. In 1879, General Palmer repeatedly urged his friend, Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad, to establish a home in the Garden of the Gods and to build his railroad from Chicago to Colorado Springs. Although the Burlington never reached Colorado Springs directly, Perkins did purchase two-hundred and forty acres in the Garden of the Gods for a summer home in 1879. He later added to the property but never built on it, preferring to leave his wonderland in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public. Perkins died in 1907 before he made arrangements for the land to become a public park, although it had been open to the public for years. In 1909, Perkins' children, knowing their father's feeling for the Garden of the Gods, conveyed his four-hundred eighty acres to the City of Colorado Springs. It would be known forever as the Garden of the Gods "where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park."
How the park was named...
It was August of 1859 when two surveyors started out from Denver City to begin a townsite, soon to be called Colorado City. While exploring nearby locations, they came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M. S. Beach, who related this incident, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden" when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, a "young and poetic man", exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods." It has been so called ever since.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28

I don't know what to call this
Ok, it's not a piece of blank paper when you use a computer, it's a blank screen which stares at you. But the challenge is the same. 
Anyway, today was a good day, the sun was out all the time and I made great progress on the porch project. Kind of worked my way around the corner and joined Bea there who was scraping off that old paint from the wood shingles. 
You know we had to buy a heat gun for that task.  Well, some places that paint falls off if you just breathe at it, but then again it can be a pain to clean the shingles. A neighbour has already given the verdict: We are NUTS! Yes, that's what she's said. NUTS! Of course we could just blow some new paint on top of the old paint, but you know how long that would last, right? So here we are trying to do it the right way, and people think we have cracked.

Around noon, I was just getting ready to re-start work after lunch again,a nice young girl steps up to our door. She has two letters with EXPRESS printed on it. I almost kissed and hugged her, but took myself back a step. These letters contained our passports! Spankin' new Canadian passports. And I had those feelings that we'd never see them passports again. You know like: Lost in the mail.  We had sent passport applications with mugshots and everything pr. express letter on June 14. Then, what happened was that Canada Post went on strike!  From there to July 05 it is about 3 weeks right? That was the day when Passport Canada received our express mailings. I see our passports are stamped July 22. July 22!! That was the day when Norway was attacked by that lunatic. Today is July 28, and it is 6 weeks after we sent our applications. But time is nothing, if you look at where they are issued:  It says Victoria, BC. Now Victoria is probably the farthest away point of civilization in Canada. (around 6000km?) 
I won't speculate about any reason for that.
Well, later in the afternoon it got kind of hot outside, and since we needed to get a refill for the fridge, we took off heading south across the bridge and on to Machias, where there is a bigger and well-equipped super market. When we stopped at U.S. Customs I held our new passports out the window. These guys were getting used to receiving paper copies only from us for the past weeks. So now he eyed the new passports saying: "Let's see whether them work. Yep  yours work, now lets see about your wife, yep works also. have a nice day!"  What nice guys the U.S. has stationed here at Lubec!

Before we were heading off south we dropped in at Martha's home bakery. Martha says I am regular now. I am grueling the day, when being in California again having to live without Martha's bread for 6 months. Maybe I have to come home earlier.

We had a real good shopping spree in Machias. That Hannaford Food Market is sure a nice place. Got all the goodies I need. Bea bought a build-on pizza. Know what that means? You kind of buy a pizza foundation with some cheese on it, then at home you can build on to that with whatever you have and like. I bet she is just about putting the pizza on her blog. 

And that's it for today folks, wasn't so bad, was it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27

Just another day...
Trying to put another post together is not always coming to me easy. Other bloggers have realized that as well. 

With the day starting out gray and with a drizzle I had to stay inside, even though I rather wanted to work on our porch.
With patience I sat in my favorite chair, glancing out of the window. But my hope to see a clearing in the sky remained small. 

Our thoughts are still going to Norway and the victimized families after the July 22 terror attack. Just as 9/11 had severe consequences for everyone's life in North America, there are consequences in Norway and Europe as well. While Norwegian authorities proclaim that the terror attack will not destroy their freedom and democracy, authorities in Germany tend to increase general surveillance, thereby threatening the principal idea of a free society. One might ask the question whether terrorists are slowly succeeding in undermining a peaceful society, by forcing authorities to restrictive measures against their own population.

In the days after the attack, Oslo has been transformed into a sea of flowers. People have gathered in the city by the thousands to mourn, to talk and simply be together as a Nation. As we are reading the Norwegian Press we have received a lot more information than what media in North America have published. The eyewitnesses account of the attack are heartbreaking. Like after a war, Norwegians are now seeking peace for the sake of peace. They seek healing of their minds and heartaches.  
Commentators also predicted an upswing of active democracy for the coming elections this fall. 
When the rain finally subsided, I could get outside and to my tools. During the afternoon hours some more dark clouds popped up over on the American side producing a little thunder and a light sprinkle on our side. But it sure was enough thunder to scare Molly into hiding. 
Thunder clouds this afternoon...
...made Molly hide behind the tarp.
At the end of the day I had managed to put all the rafters on to one side of the porch and even thrown an OSB-sheath up on the roof, before Bea was calling for supper.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26

Time - so far away
I have been ranting about time on this blog before, but it seems the topic is still occupying my mind. Time seems to have a strong influence on our world as we know it.

I grew up in a Germany which was just recuperating from a terrible war. But people were full of hope for a new future and everybody wanted to forget the war. In my part of the country the British Allies were still ruling public life. The first German-made cars after the war re-appeared in the streets. Some of them were made of pressed and varnished cardboard! Some of them came along on three wheels, like a trike. Every couple of weeks a guy stopped in our street with a three-wheeled pickup shouting loudly RAGS (Lumpen). 

We could bring him almost anything. He knew how to recycle, but his private enterprise was soon forgotten as society took a full dive into the glitzy world of unstoppable consume in the 60's.
Money became more abundant, people bought new cars, and TV-sets started to invade the homes, with the result that fewer people went to the movies or met with their neighbors. We started down a road which led us where we are today. When the seventies arrived, drugs had arrived as well. We heard of people dying of overdoses.

Radio stations had already changed the music-style they played. In my ears it was to the worse, but that's personal. Today I am listening to oldies from the 60's again.

I often went down to the harbour to see the fishing vessels unload flounders, herring and cod. Behind the harbour were the fish smokers. When they were busy the area would bear the unmistakable smell of the smoke and the fish. My aunt used to work in the office at one of the smoke houses. One day her boss invited us all for a tour through the facilities. In my remembrance we walked through dark, smoke-smelling corridors. There, behind steel doors, golden shimmering fish was hanging in the smoke. 
Germany, Europe, Eckernforde, Kiel sprats, Schleswig_Holstein, fish, market, Eckernfoerde, food, Europe, Northern Germ (1597-97857 / 10840568 © Prisma)
Fish (sprats) in the smoker
My parents loved fish for dinner or in the evening with a slice of dark bread. In those days fish was cheap, because there was so much of it. The fishing fleet in town was at least 15-20 vessels.
Instead of fishing nets we see the many masts of Twohundredthousand-Dollar sailboats

Time made it all disappear. And I don't even know when that happened. It all kind of disappeared over night, although I am sure it took a couple of years, but I never noticed, because I didn't pay attention to things like that.
Lighthouse at the harbour

Under my last visit in my home town I walked down to the harbour again. Yes, it is all very pretty down there, luxury yachts are moored where smelly fishing vessels used to be. The quay has changed. In an attempt to retrofit the harbour to a long-gone era, fancy cobblestone has replaced the blacktop which covered up the original stone-plaster along the harbour. There are benches too, benches for the tourists to sit down on and take in the nice view of the moored boats.   Every now and then the tourism organisation arranges a huge party at the harbour with false pirates, a fair for the kids and lots of vendors selling all kind of food. I went down there with friends and we bought a smoked eel. When I was a kid, this eel would have been smoked right there in town. Not so today. The eel came from neighboring Denmark! Well, I thought, Denmark is only 40 miles (60km) away, but then this eel cost more than a steak dinner at a restaurant. Time changed that too!

Visitors coming to my town say it is a pretty place. It might be pretty, yes, but it is not authentic anymore.
The atmosphere of reality is gone and the trouble is most people don't remember it the way it used to be. When we see places like the harbour in my home town we look at an artificially staged scene, made to please our eyes and cater to our ever increasing demand for comfort.
Some views hardly ever change -
the beach as it could have been in my childhood

Maybe that is the reason why I like to drive over to Head Harbour here on Campobello Island. I can still find authentic life  down there. Very few rich-boy looking yachts are around there, but I see the lobster boats of local fishermen with their bright colors reflecting in the dark water. And that pleases ME!

Head Harbour - Campobello Island

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25

The Willow Creek Ranch, WY

Just south of Kaycee,WY
It is April 15 2006 and we are early up to make the 55 minute ride from Kaycee to the Ranch. As soon we leave I-25 we are driving through a hilly landscape where cliffs are towering and dry creeks running through. Old cabins show up along the dirt road and the narrow winding road runs deeper and deeper into this remote area. After passing a ridge, the colors in the landscape change from grey rocks to red sandstone. The road is turning rough and especially the last leg to the ranch does not permit anything else than 4WD-vehicles. Deep ruts on both sides require a high ground clearance for any vehicle.

We are on our way to the 57,000 acres Willow Creek Ranch. The ranch is a working guest ranch without most of the typical Dude Ranch facilities. But who ever wants to see a part of the real west and breathe in a good portion of history, is in the right place. 

Besides of a few cabins, it is the old bunkhouse from the old days when cowboys used it as their quarters, which offers accommodation for the guests. Guests will also learn about the rich history from the Old West, when outlaws ruled the area, hiding beneath the "Hole-in-the-Wall".

The ranch's history is unique and somewhat mysterious. Kenneth MacDonald, the founder, was kidnapped as a baby, less than a year old, with his nanny and taken on board a ship to Australia. He never knew his real name or anything about his family or native country.

Bunk House
His nanny died at sea and he was raised by an Australian family who taught him the sheep business. When he was twelve years old he sailed with a sheep-shearing crew to California to shear for the summer. At summer's end, the crew sailed home with his wages, but without him. He went to work for sheep ranchers in California and in about 20 years he owned several bands of his own sheep.

Present owners, Sammye and Gene Vieh,
invite you to share a little piece of
Heaven with them.In time, he walked his sheep from California to Rawlins, Wyoming, and began to ride circle looking for a place of his own. He found what he sought under the red wall and put together the Willow Creek Ranch in 1882. Through inheritance, it remained in the same family until its sale to the present owners, Gene and Sammye Vieh.

Fort Houck and Indian Petroglyphs
On the ranch is the foundation of old "Fort Houck", originally built as a "road ranch" to house a post office and small contingent of troops to protect a marching road and stage coach route. It was a way station for the stage between Barnum and Arminto, Wyoming.
The high walls and caves of nearby Buffalo Creek Canyon still contain the names and dates of soldiers stationed at the fort, plus numerous Indian petroglyphs. A Sioux Indian trail crosses the ranch, and was once part of the Army wagon road. There is evidence of Indian campsites with teepee rings still intact.

Will Taylor Pioneer Homestead
The dilapidated remains of several old pioneer homesteads are scattered throughout the ranch, so we have re-created a "Pioneer Homestead Experience" on the Will Taylor homestead site.
The original old log cabin still stands and a new log cabin has been built on the site and furnished much like it would have been a hundred years ago.

The new "prairie cabin" is next to the original old Will Taylor cabin.
This means no electricity and no indoor plumbing. A log outhouse and outdoor shower add to the authenticity. There is no sign of human existence for miles, just magnificent views of the south slopes of the Big Horns, and miles of prairie and canyons to view from the front porch swing.

After returning to Kaycee we start in the afternoon on a second tour towards Barnum.
This is the northern extension of the "Red Wall" and we are awed by the beauty. The red sandstone contrasts the pale green hay fields and meadows. Dark colored Angus cattle is grazing the area. As the sun sets the colors of this area turn into a frenzy, which I will never forget.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24

It was on February 19 2007 that we arrived in town.
Fredericksburg, located centrally in the "Hill Country", turned out to be an amazing town with it's German Heritage visible at every corner. And spring was about to arrive as well. So the Sunday we drove through Main Street or "Hauptstrasse" as the sign also says, the town was crowded with weekend tourists from the nearby cities of San Antonio and Austin. Cafe's and restaurants were open and people were relaxing outside enjoying a coffee or a meal. 

The many storefronts of Fredericksburg have their merchandise on display and with German pastries, German beer and Bavarian "umpta" music, visitors will find  everything and anything they might desire, 
but it better be German. We settle in at the Fredericksburg RV-Park, where we meet the very nice owners, and their likewise nice camp guests.

Bea has discovered the line dance group
in the club house


This RV-Park, convienently located close to Main Street, offers a variety of activities which take place daily in the two Club Houses. My favorite is the sunday icecream night, where everybody gets a bowl of his choice of icecream for 50cts. The social side of being together with people mostly sharing a common interest is a nice side effect.
Fredericksburg became our "Base Camp" for 2 weeks. From here we did a couple of nice trips into the Hill Country.

One of these trips gets us to the "Enchanted Rock" just north east of town. This ancient place was named so by the Indians, which heard strange "groans" from the mountain under changing weather conditions. We take the drive and from a hilltop we get the first view of the Rocky round shaped mountain. 


At the foot of it Texas has established a State Park. If you want to climb the mountain, you have to pay the entrance fee. But just the drive through this hilly landscape with its many live oaks, farms off to the side of the narrow Road makes you feel like being somewhere in the French Provence. Here and there a winding creek splashes its clear waters down the hill, creating small lakes and ponds. It's a beautiful country out here.