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Monthly Archives: June 2011

 

I left Taco in Boise to meet Kelly in Seattle over the weekend.

One of Kelly’s besties, Shena, lives there and girlfriend, Lizzie, was sweet enough to put us up… Seattle is my kinda town, if it weren’t for the dreary skies. Flowers and fruits are to die for, good coffee abounds, and everyone is super chill. There is a tight little queer community here, though only one lesbian bar. We were staying in Capitol Hill just before Pride ūüôā

We did some gay things over the weekend – caught “Pride American Idol” and bar hopped a bit before finishing the night at the “Wild Rose“.

Since everyone was working Monday, Kelly and I took the opportunity to do touristy things.

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Pike Place Market

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Space Needle

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Fremont Troll

We stayed only 2 days in Seattle before heading back to Boise – lots of distractions along the way.

First stop gas and a burger
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Then gas and a winery! Goose Ridge Wineries is one of the best places to get sidetracked.

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I had reservations at the Miracle Hot Springs of Buhl, ID in exchange for helping Noel on a job in Twin Falls. Some LEDs needed to be adjusted in a series of donor wall installations at St. Luke’s Hospital and veneers needed to be applied to the sides of each. Easy job, good deal!

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We stayed in Twin Falls for dinner. Canyon Crest had unbelievable views, fantastic service, and the food was pretty good, too.

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The Miracle Hot Springs are amazing. We pulled in to our little RV plot with hookups (this time, I took Taco). We had 2 hours in our own hot spring “hot tub” followed by two massages. Very cool, very relaxing.

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The next day, Noel threw a pizza party for my birthday. The perfect finale to year 35!

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I decided to drive straight through and arrived in Boise, Idaho, before dark. I’m visiting my friend, Noel, and helping with some cool projects around the house and at the family owned shop, “Classic Design Studios“. The Webers make signs and will fabricate just about anything you send their way – they have the tools and ingenuity to do it.

I arrived just in time for the weekend! Noel had a trip planned for Saturday morning in the foothills of Idaho City. He and dad were foraging for morel mushrooms and invited me along.

I hate mushrooms.

That’s harsh… I will eat anything and have the appetite to back it all up, but I’ve never been a fan of the fungi. I love gathering my own food and I loved morel mushrooms (especially in a butter bath).

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Noel and I spent the next few days bopping around town and planning the built-in pantry he had been envisioning since my impending visit, 6 months ago. He salvaged some gorgeous slabs of 2 inch (+) thick, hard maple – aged for over 2 years and milled flat for countertops. So exciting!

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Noel’s shop has a computer numerical control (CNC) machine. These machines read computer drawings and operate tools to exact replicas in the desired material. This machine moves on x, y and z axis. I’m an old-fashioned gal with an arsenal of dead hobbyist’s tools of the 50s and 60’s. I was the last person to use email. I had my doubts.

We had about a dozen sheets of plywood that needed to be cut down and machined for the assembly of pantry cabinets in Noel Jr’s house and a wall of bookcases for the parents’ (Noel’s and Lucy’s) house. We started by mapping out all of the pieces on the computer to get the best yield on the sheet goods.

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Normally, I draw a bunch of cartoons with my measurements and drop it off at my lumber yard for them to cut everything down for me. 50 cents a cut saves my back and my nerves. It’s a real pain getting large materials into my basement shop. Once I have the parts cut, I can machine them for assembly. With Noel’s fancy machine, you barely have to touch the material – technology does it all.

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My lasting impression of this tool is that it is completely awesome if you are doing lots of intricate machining (signs) or if you have multiples of a single pattern to machine. For this job, I could have done it faster and with equal precision, but I’m getting old and tired ūüėČ I bow to the mighty machine.

Here are some photos of the project from start to middle. I’m taking a brief vacation to meet Kelly in Seattle, WA. She’s returning to Boise with me and will fly back to Boston after we spend some time at the Miracle Hot Springs of Buhl, ID. I need to rejuvenate before completing my work in Boise and continuing on with my west coast tour…

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The drive through the rest of Nebraska was swell – When I crossed into Wyoming, however, the highway narrowed to 2 lanes and the speed limit increased to 75 mph. The traffic around me (including the big rigs) was going at least 80. The terrain is absolutely gorgeous, though I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it all as I was busy digesting the heart that I inadvertently swallowed. The winds were terrific and nearly swept me off my feet when I got out at a pull-off to check everything and take a breather. My truck, with Taco in tow, struggles to do 40 on inclines – good thing she’s cute.

I arrived in Laramie late in the day. I gained an hour with the changing time zone, but I was exhausted and hit the hay soon after I pulled into yet another Walmart parking lot.

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Laramie is internationally known for the murder of gay student, Matthew Shepard, back in 1998. I usually get a handful of messages from members of the LGBT community as I pass through each location. I didn’t get a single one in Laramie.

I awoke before dawn hoping to get an early start on the next leg of my journey. There was a severe weather alert for later that afternoon – winds at 55 mph and flooding of the Laramie River.

I went to start my truck and got chugging instead of revving – Good grief. I called AAA again. Within 30 minutes, I got a tow to a garage. Again, my rescuer was super nice and friendly, even though I roused him out of bed. I always expect people to admonish me for my tiny truck with livelihood in tow. Instead, most people are respectful and even show some admiration. My rescuer related that he lived in his truck 2 years before moving in with his new lady friend. Everyone has a story.

I waited for the prognosis. Bad news… Rich Avery, the manager at Laramie GM Auto Center, called and regretfully informed me that another part had to be ordered for my truck. A part that would take 2 days to arrive! What in the world was I going to do?! I was stuck at the Walmart parking lot for two more days!

Rich asked if there was anything he could do to make life easier for me, sounding more dismayed than I was at that point! They have a shuttle that runs all over from the shop. Rich’s wife, Cindy, drives the shuttle a few days a week in addition to running her business, Piper Green Valley Ranch (100 head of cattle). I asked if they wouldn’t mind charging my power inverter. I was using power faster than my solar panel could provide. Without my car battery as backup (I charge as I drive) my phone battery was dying and that was causing me to panic a little.

Cindy pulled up in the shuttle, took one look at me and said, “I’ll be back with my truck in a few hours. I’ll hitch you up and you’ll stay at my place. Tomorrow, we play.”

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I had dinner with the family that night. Daughters, Kendahl and Christa, are home for the summer. After dinner, I retired to my camper.

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The next day was AMAZING! I accompanied Cindy to the vet with the 3 dogs. Two of them needed minor surgery. We came back to the house and did a few chores.

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Then the real fun began! Cindy and Kendahl saddled up two horses – Rebel and Mickey. We loaded an off-road, 4 wheeler with tools and fencing equipment, and I drove behind those two on horseback, into the pastures. Cindy restretched wire fencing in places and worked on a gate while Kendahl and I stapled and secured the wire to the posts. When we were done with the fence, it was my turn to ride Mickey and try my hand at cattle herding. It was fantastic!

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That night, we had some delicious sirloin steaks from one of the herd, “Ribeye”.

The next morning, Cindy was getting calls that some of the cows escaped. We scouted the area and found them where they were supposed to be – false alarm! While we were out, Cindy noticed an electric fence that needed fixing, or the cows soon would be roaming. Fence repair became our first task of the day.

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Next task was to straighten out some of the irrigation lines that Cindy had installed across the land, fix some parts, and make sure that the watering holes were filling properly for the cattle.

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After that was fixed, Cindy gave me a lesson in how to break a horse. “Freedom”, a new mare, needed breaking in so she may eventually be saddled and ridden.

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You have to be the boss while simultaneously earning their trust. Cindy handed boss duties over to me while she started cleaning the corral. I think I need a little more breaking in!

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Then I got to ride “Handsome”. He’s already been broken.

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Then, my turn to clean the corral.

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By this time, my truck was just about ready. I think we were all hoping they would find something else wrong with it! They had me stay for dinner again and I would set out early the next morning.

Things I got from this experience:

– a terrible tan/wind burn line across my forehead where my bandana was.

– debunking of the myth of “cow tipping”. Can’t happen. Anyone who says they’ve done it is a big old liar.

– the desire to come back for a visit every year for a little “Ranch Therapy”, visit my new friends, and start my career in the rodeo ūüėČ

Rich, Cindy and the girls were the best adoptive family a Walmart orphan could hope for and I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and generosity, for the adventure, and for the opportunity to further restore my faith in humanity.

You guys are the best!

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!

On the morn of my departure, Cindy knocked on my camper door with breakfast, food for the road, suckers for the road, and her pocket knife. I nearly cried.

Salt Lake City, Utah next? Unless I can high-tail it to Boise, Idaho.

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Another dreamy drive…

The Midwest has lots of wind turbines

Looks like I’m staying at another Walmart. I’m exceptionally pleased with the whole Walmart experience. You can say whatever you want about the place – I say the security is great and the employees are incredibly friendly, helpful, and don’t even bat an eye when they see me come in and out to use the facilities – and it’s FREE.

Have I mentioned how much I love my portable toilet? The Fiamma bi pot 30 is super compact, easy to use, and beautifully designed for effortless disposal and cleaning. It saves me from late night trips to public restrooms.

Well then…

My friend, Bob, grew up in Omaha and had some great suggestions for bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, many of them were closed on Sunday. After dinner (pale in comparison to Marge’s cooking), I biked out to Brother’s Lounge… and back. Next time! It has great reviews and is a well respected establishment in the area. Nearly 10 miles for an Aquafina – I needed the excercise!

Special thanks to Diane, of Lincoln, for the kind words and encouragement. She contacted me just as I was leaving Nebraska. I’ll give you a shout next time I’m rolling through. I would love to help your mom out with any projects she has!

Next stop – Laramie, Wyoming!

Camanche lies on the Mississippi River, just a few hours from Chicago. The drive was great – flat and boring! Miles and miles of farm land for long stretches at a time. I was there to visit my friend Audrey’s family… I’ve been threatening to visit for months.

I arrived in the afternoon, took another much needed shower and jumped in the car with Marge and Larry to get a tour of the area. First stop, Nutrition Plus, in Clinton – Ron and Carey own this fantastic health store. I got my chlorophyl supplement, a tour of the store and a peek at all the improvements Ron and sons, Austin and Wade, were making. Smoothie bar with wifi, gym, and batting cages – If I lived in Clinton, I’d be there every day! Next stop, Eagle Point Park. There are gorgeous views of the Mississippi, 5 miles wide, and I got to see the lock where the barges pass. Pretty amazing. Yummy Italian at Rastrelli’s in Clinton.

Next day, Marge made bacon and eggs ūüôā and then I drove out to meet Ron at Clinton Church of Christ to see if I could lend a hand with the garage roof replacement. It was HOT and thunderstorms were in the forecast. The guys started at 6AM, hoping to beat the rains.

While we were working, these lovely ladies were fixin lunch –

After a delicious lunch, I went to Blain’s Farm & Fleet to get an oil change and a new pair of work pants! I literally spent two hours in here (while I waited for my truck) and enjoyed every minute. You can find just about anything at this place. Loved it!

Back to Marge and Larry’s for another fabulous home cooked meal followed by a visit to Natalie and Kent’s beautiful home. Thanks for such a warm welcome and giving me a taste of home.

Thanks Marge and Larry for putting me up! Biscuits and gravy in the morning and then Omaha, Nebraska!

The drive from Ravenna to Chicago went swimmingly well.

I took a tiny side trip (just a jog off the highway) to drive through Taco’s birthplace, Elkhart Indiana – “RV capital of the World” (and apparently, “Band Instrument capital of the World”, who knew). ¬†The RV Hall of Fame is worth a trip.

I made it into Chicago right at rush hour Рthe highway was bad enough, try towing a vintage camper  down the bumpy streets of the West side of Chicago.

I was meeting a friend of Kelly’s for dinner that night and parked my whole production at a Walmart on W North Ave and hopped on public transportation into the city. ¬†I’m somewhat directionally impaired and transit systems are baffling to me (inbound, outbound, N,W,E,S…) ¬†I finally made it into town to meet Kate at a bar on N Ashland Ave, The Cobra Lounge. ¬†We had a few drinks, and then Kate took me to another cool hipster hotspot, Big Star, in Wicker Park.

“Tacos, Whiskey, Hillbilly Music…sounds like Heaven.” is their tag-line and very aptly describes the scene.

It was packed – the service was fantastic and the food was delish.

There's a hotdog in there, somewhere

We ended the night just before midnight (I had to move Taco to a 24 hour Walmart just outside of the city).  There is so much more to do and see РChicago, you will be hearing from me again, soon.

Next stop – Camanche, IA!

I awoke in the Walmart parking lot, grabbed a coffee and hit the road, a bit fearful that something else would go wrong… ¬†I called ahead to a campground I had researched the night before – Hidden Valley in Ravenna, OH (about 25 miles northeast of Akron). ¬†There was a vacancy and I made the 300+ miles in good time and without mishap!

Unfortunately, Hidden Valley doesn’t have a website, but it appeared on my AllStay app for iphone. ¬†It’s a gorgeous RV park and campground – Even better, it’s only $25 dollars a night and that includes full use of the facilities, electrical and water hook-up.

The¬†community largely consists of retirees – It’s very peaceful here (unlike the Walmart parking lot, which was noisy 24 hours with trucks, but free :)). ¬†Bingo night might get a little rowdy – looks like I’ll miss it.

I took a much needed shower and headed into Akron for dinner and drinks with some new friends. ¬†I have a few really good friends born and raised in Ohio, and now I’ve seen for myself – Ohio is full of really cool people. ¬†I ate some yummy Mediterranean food at Aladdin’s Eatery, and then I met up with the gals at a little gay bar on West Market – Square Bar. ¬†Really cute with an outdoor patio in back. ¬†Boston needs more of these.

Thanks for showing me a good time, ladies!

Off to Chicago!

She’s been adapting surprisingly well to her mobile surroundings. ¬†It’s nice having the camper as a constant. ¬†Spending a full day in a tractor-trailer yard during the tire fiasco made her rethink this entire venture, though. ¬†It was hotter than blazes in that wide open yard of black rubber. ¬†While the guys were working on Taco, Sophie was forced to sit with me in the truck, or outside in the shade of the building. ¬†Even in the shade, it had to have been at least 90 degrees. ¬†Sophie started to pant and kind of hyperventilate and she wouldn’t drink any water, so I released her from my hold with the hope that she would figure out what she needed on her own. ¬†In Equinunk, she roamed outside the camper – but she only ever stayed under the camper, too afraid to go anywhere else. ¬†Instead of lying under the truck, she made a bee-line for one of the loading docks (there were several, with docked semis full of tires at each one). ¬†I freaked and ran in after her. ¬†It was super dark in each bay and I thought for sure she would end up on a cross-country adventure of her own. ¬†I had a flashlight on me and caught the glint of her eyes amidst a giant pile of tires. ¬†All sanity has been restored and Sophie is speaking to me again.