Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 15, 2015 - Future Plans

Well, we finally finished posting about our RV trip from Mexico to WA state.  Sorry it took so long to get those posts up on our blog.  It was a very interesting trip with many GREAT stops.  We've now been home for about 5 months.  What have we been up to, you might ask?

Steve:  I've been working like mad (marine electrician).  In fact, I have not had any lulls since our return and have worked many weekends trying to keep up with the workload.  The work has been steady, and plentiful.  I have been turning down work for the past month or so because if I don't, we are not going to get out of here in January.  Oops, I'm spilling the beans already on our future plans.  I've also been working on the RV getting it ready for the road trip to Mexico and back.  In addition, I've been gathering supplies and materials for future boat projects that I will work on once we are back on the boat in Mexico.  I bought two outboard motors to bring back with us.  One is a Yamaha 25hp 2-stroke.  Just like the one we had, except it is a "short shaft" model.  This is what our dingy was designed for, and it will be much better than the "long shaft" model we had that was constantly hitting the bottom and prevented our dinghy wheels from being truly effective in surf landings and departures.  The other is a Suzuki 2.5hp 4 stroke for the 10' Walker Bay dinghy.  With a small motor on that boat we will now be able to travel much further than before.  Previously we were limited to rowing distance. Plus, it's a nice, safe (low power) motor for the kids to get used to operating by themselves.  Work-wise, I renewed my NMEA Advanced Electronics Installer certification.  Plus I attained two new certifications:  1). The NMEA 2000 Network Installer certification, and 2).  The ABYC Marine Corrosion certification (a 5-credit college course).  It's been a VERY busy 5 months.

Kathy:  After a short stint trying to find the dream IT job, without success, we confirmed that the dream boat trip must go on.  We gave the job-search attempt a short couple of months with some specific requirements.  You just heard "dream" twice two sentences ago - on purpose as there are many dreams to be had.  Stopping that job search then led to applying to help out in the schools as a para-professional to make a bt of money to help the boating dream and to keep me busy.  To work in the school, I had a bunch of hurdles to jump through including submitting my college transcript (I recollect being a better student than my GPA would indicate, hahaha).  Anyway, I have had the opportunity to work in our school district this fall and have enjoyed being able to experience first hand what middle and high school ambiance is like.  I have also been helping our marine business with bookkeeping and how to help Steve out with automating the paperwork part of the business - the part of running a business that is not fun!

Cindy and Kevin:  The kids spent the first few weeks catching up with their friends and playing a lot with them.  Movies, sleepovers, birthday parties, and more.  Grandparent time in Idaho with cousins was a highlight, so another fun summer vacation there for them.  They started school with all of their friends in La Conner.  Kevin played on the soccer team and they went to the playoffs finishing 3rd.  Cindy has been in the pep band playing at sporting events.

Our plans:  We are going to try and leave La Conner the first week of January in the RV.  We will head south toward California.  If the mountain passes in Oregon and Northern California are not good we are going to cut over to the coast and skirt around the mountains traveling near the coast and hopefully below snow level.  That will add a day or more to our trip south, but we certainly do not want to drive the RV over a snowy mountain pass!  We will continue south to the Los Angeles area and then head east toward Palm Springs, then directly over to Tuscon Arizona.  From there it is due south into Mexico.  5 hours after the Mexican border we will again be reunited with our boat, Adagio.  We miss her and can't wait to get reacquainted :-)

We will spend our first weeks in Mexico getting our boat back into cruising condition.  She needs new bottom paint, and we have to de-hurricane the exterior.  We stripped the exterior clean in case a hurricane decided to pay Adagio a visit.  Then we have to re-provision, get the boat in the water, and do some routine maintenance like oil changes, new impellers for the cooling systems, and re-activate some systems that were put into storage-mode, like the water-maker and the water cooled freezer.  Then we are going to drive the RV back up to Arizona where one of Steve's friend's (and a customer) has graciously offered to let us park our "bus" on his property in Arizona until we can come back to get it later in 2016 to drive back home to Washington.  It will be great to have the RV in the states while we are boating!  We won't have any worries about the RV.

Our boating plans begin with exploration of the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez, which we have not yet seen.  After several months of exploration, and hopefully relaxation, we will work our way south toward Cabo San Lucas.  Not because we want to spend any time in Cabo (it's a tourist trap that really has nothing to do with "real" Mexico), but because that's the last stop before jumping out into the Pacific Ocean to make the infamous "Baja Bash" as we head north toward America.  The Baja Bash is aptly named, because you are heading north for about 1000 miles heading into the wind and waves.  It can be a very uncomfortable ride, and it can be a "bash".  But, on this journey, the weather is everything.  We intend to be very patient and wait for calm periods in the weather and seas.

If we don't have too many long weather waits, our intent is to make as many miles as we can while the weather permits, all the way back up to our home waters of Puget Sound.  If it goes quickly enough we will likely make a short stop in La Conner to re-provision, change out the Mexico clothing for NW clothing, and then depart quickly as possible.  Then we head north to Alaska for the summer!

Kathy spent a summer during her college years working at the Glacier Bay Lodge, and Steve spent a few weeks back in the 90's kayaking Glacier Bay, camping on the beach every night.  Kathy and I both want to show our children Alaska, and Glacier Bay while they are still children, and before the glaciers retreat so far that there isn't much left to see.  The summer of 2016 is our best opportunity to meet these goals.  We would return to our home by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

So, we have a lot planned for 2016.  It will certainly be exciting, and will encompass some very dramatic contrasts.  The cactus and arid desert landscape of Mexico will transform into the evergreen trees, waterfalls, and glaciers of Alaska.  The contrast can't get much more extreme than that.

As we rapidly approach the new year, we would like to wish our friends and family a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.


Steve, Kathy, Cindy, Kevin, and Zappa cat....

a couple pictures from the fall:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

July 13, 2015 - Cle Elum Washington

We are a mere 150 miles from home but already spent a long day traveling to get here to a park in Cle Elum, WA. We also want to arrive home early in the day so we have time to unpack the RV which needs to stay in the marina parking lot for the weekend.  According to rules, we are not allowed to spend the night in the RV so we need to remove ourselves from it.  Our house is rented so going to our home is not an option.  We planned to stay in a house that was unoccupied for the last four years, not empty, and not ready for us to move in, so we knew we needed time to get it cleaned up enough to be able to sleep there on our first night back.  We plan to stay there for a month or two until our renter's move out.  Plus we will need time that first day back so we can chat with some of our neighbors and friends who know we will be back tomorrow.  So arriving early tomorrow is a  strategic move!

Beautiful Cle Elum River
This is so close to home yet we have never been here!
Great trail along the banks of the river
Last Day, tomorrow home.  It's been:

304 days on the water from the day we left.  And how many nights on the water?
-  Kids, minus 2-3 nights on land (sleepovers with land-based friends in Mexico)
-  Steve, minus approximately 10 nights on land purchasing an RV in Arizona
-  Kathy - and proud of it, NO nights on land

Total trip:  320 days

Total Distance:  estimated 4,500 nautical miles by boat
                          estimated 2,500 statute miles by RV

.................we are not exact on this, Why spend effort on this figure, it's the journey, right?

BTW, we left our boat in San Carlos Mexico, so now we need to continue our journey and go back and bring it home.  More to come on our departure date from La Conner, WA this time by RV rather than boat!

July 12, 2015 - Parma idaho

We had called my Aunt Mary Helen and uncle Hans to see if they were around as we would be going by their house, quite close, on our westward trip.  We were lucky that they were and so very inviting for us to come to dinner and stay overnight.  We had gotten up early and spent the morning at Craters of the Moon and then drove several hundred miles to see them..

What a wonderful evening we had.  My cousin Jodi, cousin Helen, husband Brian, cousin Chris, and Chris' daughter Jodi, I don't believe I had seen  most of them since our wedding in 1996.  So great to catch up with everyone.  A wonderful dinner and spending time with everyone.

Kevin, sitting in a ski chair Uncle Hans made.
Morning photo before leaving from left to right:
Cindy, Zappa cat, cousin Jodi, Aunt Mary Helen, Uncle Hans, Kevin, and Kathy

Friday, December 11, 2015

July 11, 2015 - Craters of the Moon National Monument Idaho

We left Salt Lake City early to get a start on the day ahead so we could enter the park when it opened.  We planned to spend 4 hours here and then head to visit family in Idaho.  It started to rain as we left Salt Lake City, the first rain we have experience for quite a long time.  We entered the park just 30 miles to our west shortly after they opened for the day.  We decided to experience a ranger led talk at the caves which started at 9am   We had to find, and changed into our jeans.  We also had to search for our rain jackets.  Mind you, this is one of the first times we are wearing jeans in over 8 months and we scrambled to find them before the hike started!

We had our own private hike with the ranger who described the park, the lava fields, and how they came to be.
Lava field in Crater of the Moon National Monument.
There is a paved trail wandering through the lava fields
Going into a lava tube/cave.  Very interesting and very unique.
Lava tunnel!
The entrance to a very tight lava tube.
Walking the trail.  There are miles of trails to walk here.
Interesting formations from the lava flow 900 years ago,

This is a cinder cone you can hike up.  It's taller than it looks.

Great view of the lava flow from up here.

The lava fields seem to go on forever.
Our park Ranger telling us more about the lava, and it's history.
We were lucky that nobody else went on the tour with us.  
Hiking through lava fields.

Descending into a tunnel.  This is a park for the adventurous.
Looking down into a crater,

Add caption

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

July 10, 2015 - Salt Lake City, Utah

As our journey north continued we passed the Great Salt Lake.  We decided to stop and say we swam in it.  We found a very nice park and stopped for a few hours.  But the water was very muddy and as we waded in, it just did not seem inviting.  The lake appeared to be low, almost 10 feet or so. In fact, the boat ramp was closed due to low water levels.

We stayed just north of Salt Lake so our next leg would take us into Idaho where we would visit Craters of the Moon.  Staying north of Salt Lake City would would let us avoid having to transit a major city at rush hour in our big bus-like RV.  We try to avoid rush hour now that we are driving this monster.

Standing in the water, too muddy to go for a swim
Zappa gets some time outside
Our small home.  One bike on the back, two up top and one folding bike inside.

July 8, 2015 - Zion National Park Utah

Zion is incredibly beautiful.  We drove on the parks highway from west to east which has a one mile tunnel.  The RV is too big to just drive through like a car, so we had to pay and extra $15 for an escort through the tunnel.  Actually they just let us drive right down the middle of the tunnel without an escort vehicle in front of us.  Once on the west side, it was amazing.  We drove through some of the most beautiful land that we have ever seen.  There was a very long descent navigating switchback after switchback, down into the canyon.

With the beauty came some additional stresses but then luck!  We drove through a first come first serve campground and as we were leaving (no spots), Steve found the RV's brakes had completely faded away.  We pulled over in the parking lot to assess the situation.  That experience left us shaking due to the fact that we could have crashed and lost our lives if the brakes had faded to nothing just 10 minutes before while on that steep descent.  Looking in the RV owner's manual, we could not find the brake fluid reservoir location.  Steve's cell phone was not working so we could not call the mechanic (Cindy and I still did not have cell phone service yet).  We decided Steve would go into town less than a mile away by bike and get some brake fluid and call the mechanic from there if there was cell coverage, while the kids and I waited.  Steve found some brake fluid, and cell coverage.  The mechanic said the brakes were probably just overheated and then boiled the fluid, and that they would come back in about 45 minutes.  As he rode back to us he stopped at the other campground and there had just been a cancellation, so we got the spot in the already full campground.  So here we were an hour later going down the block to the next campground, and a National Park one to boot.  We were parked very close to the starting point for the shuttle buses that take you into Zion.  You are not allowed to drive up the canyon there.  Everything worked out great.  Our brakes came back and we had a place to stay the night (there was not much of anything even outside the park).
We even got to see a ranger presentation in the campground that evening!

The park road just after entering the park, absolutely amazing!
Again, the view on our drive west through the park, before the 1 mile tunnel.
One of the hikes (or walks).  

going through the canyon
Many people but we got this at a lull (no other people in view).
water flowing down these rocks

One of the hikes.  Cindy and Kathy are in the middle over there, maybe Kevin!

The hike through the canyon

 We like these car sized RV camper thingy's that we started seeing in Arizona.  This one says on it, that it "includes the kitchen sink."  Perfect for flying in somewhere and then tdriving to your destination!

July 7, 2015 - Wahweap - Lake Powell AZ

We stopped here after our trips through the monuments in Arizona.  We are right at the border with Utah now.  We stayed here several nights as Steve has found that the exhaust pipe had separated at the catalytic converter, and had almost fallen to the ground under the RV.  Another day, another adventure in this thing! The fix was an easy one, just requiring a new muffler clamp.  It was a beautiful drive getting here.

Driving along
A beautiful drive.
A stop along the side of the road.  Lake Powell in the background.
Our RV stop overlooking Lake Powell.  We rode our bikes all around the area.
Starting a fire
Getting ready for S'mores
This is a pretty nice way to travel....
Fabulous sunset at Lake Powell

July 5, 2015 - Sunset Crater and Wapatki National Monument AZ

We left Williams AZ in the morning to push further northward, toward home in WA state.  One of Steve's friends had strongly suggested going through these two parks.  They are in the general direction we are headed but it's a little detour to drive the roads through the parks.  What an interesting and beautiful drive it was.  Well worth the detour!  Sunset Crater is the result of volcanic activity around a 1000 years ago.   Beautiful landscape and trails!

Aerial view (courtesy of the visitor's center) of Sunset Crater.

Lava field in Sunset crater national monument.

Life can grow just about anywhere.
Cindy, on the run, as usual.....
Wapatki was interesting and beautiful as well.  Here is information from the park site:
For its time and place, there was no other pueblo like Wupatki. Less than 800 years ago, it was the tallest, largest, and perhaps the richest and most influential pueblo around. It was home to 85-100 people, and several thousand more lived within a day’s walk. And it was built in one of the lowest, warmest, and driest places on the Colorado Plateau. What compelled people to build here?
Human history here spans at least 10,000 years. But only for a time, in the 1100s, was the landscape this densely populated. The eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano a century earlier probably played a part. Families that lost their homes to ash and lava had to move. They discovered that the cinders blanketing lands to the north could hold moisture needed for crops.

These ruins are estimated to have been built and occupied around
the 1100's.  Amazing that they are is such great shape.
These 900 year old structures are quite large.  Impressive.

Can you imagine what life must have been like 900 years ago.  I didn't see a single
outlet where they could plug in their iPhone's for recharging!  :-)

Cindy and Kevin explore the ancient ruins.