Archives for: December 2011


Broken stuff and grandma?s brownies

Posted by admin on 12/23/11  ~  Posted in: Ethan's Thoughts, Westport

Well, a lot?s happened since my last post ? life in the van continues to be eventful and full of craziness, some good, some not so good.

We?ve found a great spot along the Mendocino County coast that has treated us wonderfully.  We?ve been going to sleep to the waves and waking up to the sunrise over the Pacific for a few weeks now.  We?ve found numerous places to stay at night within minutes of state parks, amenities, etc.  We?ve been spending our days walking the beach, working, and living life as Westfalians.  The beauty here is unrelenting, yielding new and changing scenery with every weather change, every tide.  We?ve driven up and down the coast, checking out beaches, collecting shells, enjoying the constant sun.  All said, life is good.

Unfortunately, not everything is rainbows and gluten-free donuts though.  We?ve had numerous curve balls thrown our way in the last few weeks that have tested our patience with the van, each other, and ourselves.  Let?s go down the list.  First; every time we filled our gas tank we were getting leaking from several fuel lines that are part of apparently unneeded expansion tanks (or something like that), causing a fair bit of gas to drip from the bottom of the van at the full tank ? not good.  We took care of this which required a few feet of fuel line, some hose clamps, a bunch of tools, and the jacking up and removal of both front tires in the middle of a field.  Yeah, real fun.  Nonetheless, the problem appears to be solved.  Second; our speedometer just crapped out on us.  ?I guess I?m going about 55, I?m at the top end of 3rd??  Not good.  That?s on the list.  Third, our sink faucet, which had been giving us some trouble finally died.  Replaced it.  Turned out not only was it bad but so was the pump.  Ordered a new pump.  Waited several days while using a Dr. Pepper bottle with holes drilled in the lid for our ?faucet?.  Major pain in the ass.  Dishes ? not so fun.  Finally, new pump arrived.  Installed.  Defective.  Crap.  It?s Friday night before the Christmas weekend ? I guess we?re back to the Dr. Pepper bottle for another five days ? this will be fun, especially with my parents joining us next week.  Hmmm.  Ok, what?s next??  Oh yeah, the HDMI cable that allows us to play video from my phone, as well as slideshows and video from Shan?s camera got yanked accidentally and busted the end of the cable?AND the brand new LCD monitor.  Called Asus ? closed for the holiday.  So much for movies next week.  Could be worse.  Shipping?s going to be a blast.  We live in a van?forgot to pack the flat panel box and tape gun.  The belt has been slipping on the engine and getting super noisy, kind of like stepping on a flying fox with golf cleats every time we step on the gas.  Gotta tighten the alternator.  Put it on the list.  Tomorrow?hopefully.

Then, to top it all off, yesterday I go to back out of my parking spot and CRUNCH, I back right into a truck that had parked behind me in the aisle.  Bad place to park.  Shouldn?t have backed up without double checking.  Lots of stupid all around.  I get out to look and realize he?s parked in the aisle because he?s just run into someone else and is exchanging insurance info.  Nice.  His truck appears to be fine (at least from the 2nd accident) and he?s eager to send us on our way - I?m guessing two insurance claims in one day would probably not be good for his rates.  Our bike rack is totally hosed.  All bent up like crazy, bolts twisted and such.  We string it together the best we can with some bungees and beat it down to the hardware store.  Ace Hardware sucks but at least they?re everywhere.  Hardware Sales, I miss you so bad it hurts.  We proceed to buy some nuts and bolts then drill, file, bend and twist our bike rack back into shape.  Good as new?sort of.

Well, I think that?s about where we?re at.  Sam got sprayed by a skunk.  Shan and I got in a huge fight.  We?re running precariously low on funds but hey, we?re here, parked next to the beach, listening to the waves.  We?ve just gorged ourselves on Grandma the Great?s gluten free chocolate fudge brownies, which followed Shannon?s meal of crazy delicious bacon, garlic, basil, Portobello, olive oil, handmade pasta, which followed an amazing sunset, which followed a day that started with us waking to the waves crashing into shore.  We bought all sorts of unhealthy food to feast on for Christmas (WWJD indeed) - and tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Like I said, lots of stuff, some good, some not so good.  Lots of stuff to deal with.  Lots of broken stuff.  But any day that ends with us eating grandma?s brownies on the beach is alright with me.

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, we finally got my fishing-without-a-license ticket in the mail today.  $406.  Seriously.

Time for another brownie.  Thanks G?ma!


Some Days Suck.

Posted by Shan on 12/22/11  ~  Posted in: Random Updates


Reason 1,197 to Use a Hanky

Posted by Shan on 12/20/11  ~  Posted in: Shan's Thoughts












Ethan and I have this game. Each day I come up with a new reason why hankies are preferable to toilet tissue for wiping one's nose. Reasons like-reusable, aren't as scratchy, useful for all sorts of other things like emergency tourniquet, spill cleaner upper, surrender flag, trail marker, last ditch lens cloth-the list goes on and on. I think we're up to something like 10,000.

He still has yet to try a hankie. He thinks they're "gross". I have no doubt he will though-the day will come. Right now I think he's holding out more to tease me than anything.  But he'll see, one day, the value of a good kerchief.

He'll come to understand how a clean hankie can bring a smile to one's heart, make one's empty pocket full, make one feel ready for anything. He'll understand that the breadth of uses for a hankie is so vast that's its practically like carrying a survival kit. Think of the utility. The very same cloth used to gracefully wipe ones nose or to direct a cough or a sneeze to is also good for water filtration, limb binding, fire starting, wound cleansing, eye, nose or mouth shielding and that's just for starters. Survivalists recommend carrying a silk hankie for all the aforementioned reasons and add it is also useful for tying over ones nose on a nippy night, cause even in the best sleeping bag there's always a nose tip sticking out, getting chilly. I can think of scores of reasons to carry a hankie, and in fact come up with new ones each day. I swear there's a book here somewhere?.

Our game has awakened in me a kind of hero worship of hankies. I can understand monogramming them, or embroidering rosettes. I can understand the romanticism of a gentleman offering his hankie, provided it is clean, to a lass in distress or keeping hers if dropped, savoring the smell of her perfume on its lacey edges. I can understand the comfort of knowing grandma's, great aunts, even granddads tend to have hankies if ever needed. I can understand why so many have carried kerchiefs for so many generations. Yep hankies pretty much are the bomb.

And now in my new iteration of life I can understand why every pocket of my every coat has a hankie in it -there waiting for me- as I will inevitably need it in this cold we find ourselves in. Yep my hankie is always there for me, and I am most grateful. I wash them with excitement and fold them with precision. Like I said, a worship of sorts. Kind of odd I know but hey, small pleasures right- no denying.  A good hankie, a hot cup of joe and a warm campfire are still undeniably precious in a life spent outdoors.

Wait till Ethan sees. Can you guess what he will be getting from Santa?.....


A very busy week

Posted by admin on 12/17/11  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Ethan's Thoughts, 199, Ashland

Well a lot has happened over the last week.  An epic mountain bike ride with some hardcore ?old? guys.  A wonderful Thanksgiving with 20 great folks and a massive feast.  A fuel line and fuel pump replacement project on the van.  A trip to the vet for a busted cat.  I?ll back up a bit?

Prior to coming up the 199 we had been parked at Smith River, just outside Crescent City, CA.  This was a great day gone bad.  Basically I made a critical mistake and it?s probably going to end up costing us a few hundred bucks and a bit of me feeling stupid.  Coming down through Oregon we had looked into fishing licenses and found that they were around $110 for a non-resident license.  Considering we were just going to be passing through Oregon and wouldn?t be staying long enough to make it worth our while, we decided to pass on this outrageous tax.  Instead, we called a sporting goods store and Shannon had the gall to ask what the price of a fishing-without-a-license ticket was.  Something like $30.  Well heck, I thought, at thirty bucks, we could just take a ticket if we got caught and we?d still be coming out way ahead of the license fee.  Total fish caught: one trout.  When we dropped down into California from Oregon at the coast we immediately started back up toward the Oregon border on the 199.  We stopped for the night at the Smith River, still just inside California.  Not thinking about it the next day, I cast my line in the river a few times.  As luck would have it, I hadn?t been fishing much longer than a half hour when a fish and game warden came out of nowhere and slapped me with a ticket.  He couldn?t even tell me what the price of the ticket was, just that I?d receive something in the mail.  After he left I looked up the consequences online and found that I was into it for a minimum of $250 and some had received fines of over $1,000.

Now I?m going to digress here for a bit of a rant.  THIS IS F*CKING OBSURD!  $1,000 for casting a fishing line into OUR rivers!  Ok, ok ? I can understand the need for proper management and protection from abuse, but I?m not gillnetting for the local Safeway ? I?m trying to catch dinner!  This is America for God?s sake!  The land of the free!  Well, apparently not that free.  Not even reasonable.  More like the land of overpriced taxation on just about everything!  And now that I think about it, they just repealed the tax on corn-syrup-based soda in California!  So that?s right folks, you can get your Pepsi and Mtn. Dew tax-free in the good ol? state of California but you?re gonna pay a minimum $110 tax for a possible fish dinner that you?ve got to catch first.  Anything seem a little crazy about this?  Anyway, my mistake.  Shouldn?t have fished.  Lesson learned.  Seriously though, a nation-wide fishing license seems like it would make sense.  I?m sure not going to pay the $5,000 it would cost to fish in every state, that?s for sure!

Back to the story here.  So up the 199 we headed, spent a horribly loud night next to the highway, then beat it to the Applegate Valley, just west of Ashland.  That night, we discovered that Taio was having some sort of very serious problem.  He was making all sorts of terrible moaning sounds and we soon discovered that he appeared to have an abscess on his back flank.  A late night of research in the animal medicine book in our van in the dark, rainy forest.  Not so much fun.

The next day, to the vet.  $290 later, abscess drained, cone on head, drain in leg, up to our friends Barb and Rich?s house to settle down.  That was Tuesday.  Wednesday involved a deep clean of the van, finding a way to semi-permanently attach Taio to the now ?Taio-Blanket? layered front seat for wound draining, spraying the roof with bleach, and preparing for Thursday?s Thanksgiving feast with Barb, Rich, and sixteen others!

Thursday started with a great yoga class with Barb and friends.  Then back to the house for meal and house prep.  A great walk in the hills with Rich and the dogs.  Dinner involved lots of eating, drinking, and great company.  Probably too much of the first two.  A Thanksgiving to be remembered forever.

Friday started with me ripping apart the van to replace all the fuel lines and fuel pump.  This was a long hard day of getting gas all over myself, stretching around manifolds and hoses, cutting my fingers to bits, getting gas in the cuts, and quite a bit of actual progress.  I stopped at dusk and prepared to go out with our friends to a bar in Talent for some good tunes and dancing.  We definitely got both.  The band was called Left and they rocked and rolled!  A great evening of dancing, hot wings, and fun.

Saturday was more van work.  More gas spilling, more finger grinding, and finally, completion.  New fuel lines all the way around and a new Bosch fuel pump.  Several hours later, fire extinguishers in hand, the van started up without blowing up and all seems good so far.  Visual inspections will continue for some time, as I don?t have a fuel pressure gauge to verify my work more thoroughly.  In the evening we went to see our great friend, and equally great jazz guitarist, Ed Dunsavich play at a winery.  The wine was good, Ed was great.

I had been talking to our friend Dan about going for a bike ride with him and a couple buddies on Sunday so, after making a huge vegetable scramble for breakfast, saying goodbye to Max and Heidi, Sierra, Josh, and Reese, I met Dan and we headed up into the hills.  I hadn?t really givin the ride much thought, Dan is in his middle age and some of his buddies older.  CamelBack half full, no snacks with me, we began our ascent? for NINE MILES UPHILL WITH NO RESTS!  These guys were INSANE.  I think we climbed between 2,000 and 2,500 hundred feet in something like an hour and a half.  Up, up, up.  They chatted the whole way up while I struggled to breathe and hold my breakfast down.  These old guys kicked my ass.  The good news was, we got some great views of the valley, ran into more friends on the trails, and got a seven mile ride back down.  Wow!  What a day.  Back in the van I began stretching, took a couple Ibuprofins, ate a ton of food, showered and passed out for an hour.

When I woke, Shannon had done most of the work, including running to the store, to prepare to host Barb and Rich for a dinner in the van.  We did oysters and crackers and Shannon made a delicious Indian curry with quinoa, and a great tomato and cucumber salad.  A great time was had by all as we chatted the night away, which ended with all of us pouring over maps of the area and the continent.  We said our goodbyes, as they would be off to work in the morning and we would be on the road before they returned.

On Monday we got up, spent the several hours required for departure, took Taio back to the vet for a follow-up visit, grabbed some Mexican grub at a local restaurant and headed into the hills to find a place to go to sleep.  Today is Tuesday and we?re finally unwinding for the first time in a week.  The fog just lifted and Shan and Sam are outside in the sun.  What am I doing in here?!  Gotta go!


Fear and Loathing in California

Posted by admin on 12/06/11  ~  Posted in: Highway 211

Today things really started to sink in.  We have no home.  We?re not welcome in most places.  We have to pay to be left alone.  Sanctuary only comes to those with money.

The day started off well enough; we woke to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, our window view was the expanse of the Pacific Ocean meeting North America as far as one could see from left to right.  Then as we were laying in bed enjoying all this, taking in the moment, this jackass comes to a skidding halt in front of our van, backs up right in front of it, begins laying on his horn, gets out and starts shouting ?IS ANYONE IN THERE?!  HELLOOOOO!!?  I unzip the window and respond that yes, there is in fact someone in here to which he shouts ?YOU CAN?T OVERNIGHT PARK HERE, ALL THIS LAND ALONG HERE IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND OWNED BY PEOPLE, I SAW YOU HERE LAST NIGHT!?  ?Alright?, I say ?well we?ll be moving along today.?  Away he storms and takes off down the road.

First of all, there were absolutely no signs denoting anything whatsoever about private property, trespassing, no parking, no camping ? in fact, there were no signs at all.  There were signs across the street along a fenced-in property on the hillside, but we had turned off the road toward the shore, into a large gravel pullout, away from this land on the far side of the road.  Second, I got the impression, by the way he said ?owned by people? that it wasn?t even his land that was across the street ? in fact, I?m sure of it.  After he left it occurred to me that this guy had some serious issues.  We were in our van, which is completely self-contained, parked along a very remote stretch of the California coast, and this guy felt compelled to spoil our enjoyment.  What?s your deal dude?!

This event then launched a long conversation with Shan about property rights and how corrupt our system is that awards some people huge tracts of land while others are given literally nothing.  And ironically, the ones who are given very little tend to be the biggest contributors to society vs. the ones sitting on eight bajillion acres of beachfront trading stocks all day.  But that?s another conversation altogether?

So anyway, we made some breakfast and enjoyed the view from the beachfront gravel turnout we were in, and a hour or so later the guy comes back, skids to a halt behind our van then apparently sits there to write our license plate number down, then skids away.  Whatever.  Ass.

We spent the next hour or so driving the very windy, very rough 211 down the coast to ?town? after ?town? (more like outposts), only one of which had unleaded gas (not premium, which our westy requires) for $4.75 a gallon.  We decided to head back up to the 101 to find some real gas.  At one point, we had to pull over and siphon pump our reserve gas tank into our main tank to ensure we wouldn?t run out entirely.  This was a bit of a pain, but certainly less so than actually running dry.  Thanks Randy for that gas can ? saved our butts!

Finally we ended up in Garberville, a quaint, potentially charming little town if it weren?t for the high population of whacked-out-on-drugs-or-what-have-you-type-folk who were lingering everywhere.  Seriously, it looked sort of like a Stephen King setting, a bit scary and depressing as hell.  It was here that I attempted to purchase a fishing license.  Here comes another rant.

The California fishing situation is like some sort of exercise in just how asinine and convoluted bureaucracy can get.  This may be true with many other states but it?s particularly absurd in California.  For a non-resident annual fishing license it runs about $120.  Ok, a bit steep, but ok.  Certainly better than a $44, 10-day pass.  Or a $250+ fishing-without-a-license ticket.  Oh, plus you have to buy cards to fill out what you catch (as if I?d know a steelhead from a hammerhead shark).  That will run you another $12 or so.  BUT, and here?s the punch line folks, THE ANNUAL CARD IS ONLY GOOD FOR THE CALENDAR YEAR, NOT FROM WHEN YOU BUY IT!  So here it is, December 6th, I don?t know how much longer I?m going to be in the state, we?re passing beautiful rivers every day, and I?m given a choice of a $44, 10-day pass, a $120 annual pass good for the next three weeks, or simply not fishing.  Oh, and to add to this, just because you have a license doesn?t mean you can actually fish.  You have to call the ?fishing hotline? and find out what rivers are open, what rivers closed, for what types of fish, and for what kind of tackle.  So if you?ve got a license and are caught fishing the wrong kind of fish, or with the wrong kind of hook, you can still be fined!

How did we come to this place folks?!  There was a time, not that long ago, when a person could walk, ride or drive across the country, fishing the rivers and lakes, pitching his tent on any flat ground he could find, and wake up to the sun, not an asshole in a pickup truck with nothing better to do than harass passersby.  There was a time, when every piece of land wasn?t privately owned.  There was a time before every river was managed and taxed (and ironically, simultaneously polluted).  There was a time when travelers could travel freely, unafraid of persecution and harassment, reliant only on themselves and their abilities, and those of their travelling partners.  There was a time when things made more sense.

Every parking lot has a price, every campsite a fee.  Every river has a warden, every lake a regulation.  Every tree along every drive has a ?NO TRESPASSING? sign, every overlook a ?NO OVERNIGHT PARKING? sign.  Every transaction has paperwork, every dollar passed, a tax.  There is no free.  If you want to be free in this country, you?d better have a LOT of money.  Freedom doesn?t exist.  We are never free.  We are simply given more choices by an ever smaller, more elite group at the top of the pyramid.  Do you want this microwave meal or that one?  Do you want ESPN or FOX.  Do you want the $25 county park or the $35 state park.  This isn?t freedom, this is the illusion of freedom.  We?re only as free as our purchasing power allows us to be.  If I were in the 1% I wouldn?t want to give it up either.  I?m sure the freedoms they enjoy are very nice indeed.

So here we are, in Mendocino County sitting next to the beach.  We ?stealth camped? last night, a hundred yards down the road from the county park, in a gravel pullout across the street from the ocean.  We rose early, moved the van across the street to the day-use area (NO PARKING 10 P.M. TO 5 A.M.?) and are enjoying the freedoms that we do have.  We can travel, as long as we can pay for gas, food, parts, repairs, campgrounds, permits, taxes, etc.  We can write, as long as our laptops keep running.  We can run and breathe, absorb the sun and the salty air.  We can sit for hours and discuss philosophy and the possibilities for the future, and the future beyond that.  We can contemplate our existence, our individual power and our interconnected nature.  We can be one with the universe, with everything, with everyone.  We can live in the moment.

We just have to stop and leave at 10 P.M?or pay $20.

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