Back Home Again

22 May

We are home once again and almost settled into “normal” routines. Harry was happy to have his TV and feet up in his recliner. Fred seems happy to be off leash in his own backyard and Murphy is busy looking for something to get into. For me, the cool rainy weather is enough to have me thinking about new places to explore that don’t require knee mud boots.

The 2nd Half of Our Trip:

Four nights in Auburn passed very quickly. We made a trip to Silverdale to see oldest son and granddaughters as well as a trip to Kent to pick up oldest granddaughter for dinner with youngest son. It was good to feel at home in the Mazatlan restaurant once again. Had dinner at oldest granddaughter’s apartment on another night and breakfast with an Aberdeen work buddy and son. A few hours with everyone did not seem like enough but at least we had those few hours.

I had not expected Confluence State Park in Wenatchee to be so full but we were able to find a spot. Shared dinners with Diana and a potluck with a few students. The weather was cold and windy so it was not a great night for a picnic but it worked. A visit to campus gave us a chance to see a few more friends but again the time went too quickly. We also learned that the water heater and the furnace both worked in the van. Both were a happy addition to our camping adventure.

Off to Curlew for a long Mother’s Day weekend made us both a little homesick for our cabin. Both are magical places for relaxation and connection with nature. We don’t regret our decision to sell because that allowed us to buy the Honey Grove house but we will always miss it. Dick and Nancy have a beautiful place with such wonders as running water and flushing toilets. Our cabin would never have had such luxuries! We also learned how to open and raise the canopy on the van. It only took 3 master’s degrees to work out the bugs but now we know how all of it works. I doubt that we will use it very often (another item to disconnect and store when we want to move the van) but it will be used. Thank you for the help.

A stop in Spokane wrapped up grandchildren and children visits. Everyone had school and work so we only stayed two nights but it was good to see them. Children have a way of growing up so fast. We stopped at Cabala’s in Post Falls, ID. It is always fun to look but the pink AK47 rifles were depressing.

A night in Montana, a night in Wyoming, and another in Colorado brought us to Denver and more friends. Hadn’t seen Dave and Megan in 15 years and it was great to catch up. Luckily they had guest accommodations because once again the campgrounds were full or required two night minimums for the weekend and there were very few options. We do know where to find a RV friendly Walmart on their side of Denver so we could make another trip to Denver.

The last night out was a rest area in Kansas. There are very few state parks and even fewer RV parks within an easy drive from I 70 in Kansas. Of course we did drive past the nice stay over rest areas to pick a very small one but it was time to call it a day. I have added those notes to our Kansas map so maybe we will do better in the future.

The Texas welcome center outside Gainsville is a nice stop but they did close the trailer dump area. I had planned to empty our gray water before we got home. Once the rain, flooding and general mud issues have decreased, we will make the trip to the local state park to complete that task. From the weather reports, that may be awhile.

5,635 miles over 4 weeks – 28 days made a long trip but a good one. Harry probably won’t be ready for another until it is time to head north for the family reunion. Murphy and I, however are looking at the brochure on the remains of Route 66. – Chicago to LA. Wonder if I can make a detour after the reunion?

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Half Way

1 May

We have been on the road for 1 1/2 weeks and are probably half way on mileage. We are currently in Auburn, WA. The city has a small RV park which makes it convenient. The only downside is trying to locate a good WIFI signal. Got that this morning while Auburn Foreign Car changes the oil and checks our van. Being able to use the laptop is much nicer that the cell phone! I could never type a blog post on that.

This trip has checked a few bucket list items. We spent our first night in Hobbs, NM and then moved on to Carlsbad Caverns and spent the 2nd night in the Guadalupe Mountains in TX. Discussed stopping in El Paso to try Chico’s Tacos but it was too early in the morning. Not sure we would make the trip again just to try a taco. It is a long drive.

The RV park in Benson, AZ was very nice but almost empty. Of 200 sites about 30 were occupied by the last of the snowbirds who had not moved back north. Enjoyed the swimming pool and pool table. Almost matched Harry.

Indio CA turned into a nightmare. I wasn’t able to get anyone to answer the phone at the 1st RV park and got a recording at the 2nd saying they had openings. Decided to try the 1st one. We were able to turn in but then there were people and vehicles everywhere. They were having a music fest for the weekend. 30,000 people were expected in Indio that weekend. Took a lot of work and lots of time to get back out. Wish they had had a sign outside the park. I found a park in Desert Hot Springs (on North side of freeway from Palm Springs) that was only $38 for the night. Small park but the heated mineral pool was just what we needed.

The four days in LA parked in Cousin Larry’s back yard were very relaxing. We enjoyed catching up on all of our lives. It was nice to let the animals explore under the lemon and orange trees. Murphy also had to sniff every plant in the garden. I think he and Fred were sad to leave. We headed out of LA via Highwy 1 along the coast. It was interesting for awhile. Saw killer whales feeding in the bay just below Hearst Castle. Didn’t get a picture of them breeching but we did see it.

Camped at the CA state park just outside of Big Sur. $35 cash only to camp in the redwoods without any hook ups. There was a water faucet across the road from our site. Murphy did try to climb a Redwood and Fred peed on it. It was a place to spend the night. The road was not really designed for our van. 30 MPH curves are nice for a sports car rather than a large slow van. We decided I5 sounded like more fun than to continue up along the coast. Stayed in Red Bluff, CA and then moved on the Albany, OR the next night. Quick hop then to Auburn. We may not be out so long after all.

Favorite Clothes

19 Apr

I have finished packing most of the things we will need for our trip including our clothes. Getting my husband to commit to a selection for the first day has been a challenge. He likes to believe that the only items that are comfortable to wear are the ones he has on at the moment. As the seasons change I force him to try on all of his jeans or shorts so I at least know that the ones in the dresser should fit. His weight flexes just enough that some will be tight one time and loose the next. I have a similar problem and know how hard it can be to select the right sized item are any one time.

I packed based on that last try on effort for both of us. I also set aside an extra pair of my shorts and a favorite tee-shirt for that first day. Harry, of course, wants to wear the shorts he has worn all week. I handed him another pair so I could do one more load of laundry. His current favorite will be clean and ready in the morning. I may need to hand them to him but he should be set.

My favorite shorts will not make this trip. I’m forced to admit they are barely able to qualify as painting pants. The only way I can mend them once again is if I use other fabric for patches. I should probably send the picture to Cabala’s because these might be 30 years old. This is also as clean as they get. Favorite shortsMy second favorite pair I know are 16 years old. They are comfortable but not in tatters. Two years ago I ordered new ones but they are barely broken in so have not reached that favorite classification. Because our summers are long and hot, we wear shorts most of the time. I have a drawer that is filled with all style of shorts that I really need to place into the yard sale group. Harry’s shorts have been narrowed down to only the Cabala’s ones. With 5 pairs of my Cabala’s shorts, what more do I need? Maybe I’ll patch these old favorites just in case.

English Grammar

13 Apr

I was a science and math major in college but I did earn 3 A’s in my required English classes for grammar, lit and composition. I am the world’s worst speller but I do understand basic grammar. My second husband was an English major and I was a help in proofreading his essays for class. I’m sure that my English teacher friends question why we are still friends after they read some of my blog posts because I don’t always do a very good job of proofreading my own writing. I’ve know for decades that when I reread my writing, I read what I meant not always what I wrote. There are also changing rules on commas and use of “the” and “that” and others. There seemed to many more of them when I was in college 50 years ago (where did the time go) than are in use today. Like using two spaces after a period, things do change over time but rules on matching tense have not changed.

I now find myself living in a part of the country where reading Facebook and even the newspaper has my grammar hairs standing on end. Such things as “XYZ and I have rode this ride since it’s inception” and “Went and seen” are more common than I expected. I know that people in the South have their own language as well as pronunciation guides (see how to talk like a Texan) but poor grammar shouldn’t be an everyday experience. My mother always insisted that people judge your education and intelligence by the words that come out of your mouth.  That was the reason actors like Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn adopted a Mid-Atlantic accent (also known as Transatlantic English) accents. Texans don’t really need to go that far but am improvement in the written word would be nice. In the mean time “all y’alls have yearns a bested day.”

Class Reunions

11 Apr

For the last few years we have attended a family reunion the last week of July. We travel 750 from Texas to Illinois to spend approximately 3 hours at the reunion and then reverse the trip. It gives us a chance to see family members I hadn’t seen in years and to also visit longer with others. I consider it a good investment in time and money.

This year marks my 50th year since high school graduation. I had been expecting the invitation knowing full well that the committee would find a way to locate me despite a number of cross country moves. Now the invitation sits on my desk waiting for me to make a decision. To go or not to go, that is the question. It is scheduled for the last week of June so if we go, we would not make a return trip for the reunion.

We flew to Anchorage, Alaska to attend Harry’s 40 year reunion. We both had a ball. He had lots of old friends with whom he was able to reconnect. Although he had not stayed in touch, he quickly caught up on everyone’s lives. Even of 7 members who had passed, six were woman Harry had dated. He felt better knowing what had happened to them. I, in turn, had fun with all of the people who assumed we were in a class together. I answered that I took that class but was 3,000 miles and 5 years later.

His 50 year reunion was after his first stroke. I stepped up to plan the trip. We took the Alaskan Marine Ferry from Seattle to Haines, AK and then drove on to Anchorage. We had the camper and the dogs so we could go and do what we wanted. That was a good plan because he learned a set of valuable lessons.: 1) People age after 50 years so it is hard to recognize old friends if you haven’t stayed in touch, 2) It is harder to recognize people after a stroke and 3) the party is really dull when you can’t share stories. I heard more stories of inflated glory than I cared to hear rather than the fun stories of high school pranks from the 40th reunion. The time spent at the reunion was not the highlight of the trip for either of us. We enjoyed the drive back through Alaska, NW Territories, the Yukon and even British Columbia (not the friendliest.) I’d make that trip again but not go to another Anchorage reunion.

I attended my 20 year reunion because I had already booked a trip to Savanna and only had to extend the trip one day. I don’t remember if there were charges for making that change, but if there were, they were not worth the cost. I managed to stay at the reunion for 45 minutes and learned a few lessons as well. I had nothing in common with the graduates who stayed in Savanna, bought their parents houses and considered the success or failure of the high school football team an interesting topic of discussion. Many also chatted about how nice graduation was for their children. My children were 10 and 12 so graduation was to be a long way off.  There was the man who had to tell me how much he loved me in school but never had the courage to ask me out. I had known how he felt and now had proof why I never acted on it. I wasn’t mean; just not interested. I had attended to find out what had happened to a group of my friends but they were not there. I did learn that the cheer leaders still wore the same hairstyle and tried very hard to retain their glory days. Another friend had gone out into the world, graduated from college, married and then moved back to Savanna after her divorce. Short trip. Short stay at the reunion.

Many people consider high school the best days of their lives. I assume it is because they didn’t have to be adults and pay the bills. I never felt that way. I couldn’t wait to head off into the world and not deal with my mother’s daily criticism. She was never abusive but I didn’t meet her expectations of what a proper daughter should be. At college I had a tad more freedom and only had that criticism via mail, the telephone and quarter breaks. I was still waiting for the “best days of my life.” I know that it was not during the three years of my first marriage, nor the ten of my second or the six of my third.  Like Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” The good moments were few and far between but they were there. The twelve years single were hard but far better in so many ways. I would still not list them as the best days.

The best days of my life have been the ones married to Harry. Even now, we are able to laugh and just enjoy each day. What more can we ask? So the question remains, do we attend this 50 year reunion? Will any of my small group of close high school friends attend? One died when we were 36. The other three married and divorced.  One remarried and then was widowed. Another relocated to California to be near her daughter. If I thought they might be there, I’d consider attending. I can’t even do an Face Book search because I don’t know any of their last names now.

If the topic of conversation is the glory we each attained before retirement, I can hold my own but do I care? People on the East Coast retire to Florida. Those on the West Coast retire to Arizona and those in the Midwest, pick Texas. Some of my former classmates could be neighbors. That’s nice, dear. That is still not a reason to attend the reunion. These are people who moved out of my life 50 years ago. Others have come and gone in between. I am more curious about some of them but no one holds a reunion for neighbors or old coworkers.  I consider myself lucky that I have been able to maintain friendships I made in Auburn or Wenatchee, WA after moving away just three years ago.  I’m looking forward to the reunion of friends on our trip to Washington. That is the reunion that is important. So a class reunion? Not on my bucket list.

Changing Photo Displays

7 Apr

I have boxes and boxes of photos. Some are the black & whites from my childhood and others are arranged in albums. Most, however, are plastic boxes of shots separated from their negatives. They started off arranged in date order although over the years a few boxes were accidentally rearranged when I looked for a special picture for one of my sons.  In the last three boxes the photos and negatives are still in the paper envelopes from the developers. The lucky ones have identifying descriptions and dates but most do not.

As a gift for my sons and grandchildren, I started by scanning most of the albums and the black & white photos of my parents and grandparents. It is very fatiguing to sit at the computer and switch the contents of the scanner. I did hundreds of pages. I put the images on DVD’s and mailed them out with Christmas presents. I made no effort to crop, turn or enhance the images. That effort ended when I decided to switch the computer operating system to Ubuntu (Linux) rather than Windows. That switch cured a number of issues I had with the dreaded “blue screen of death” but created a serious new problem. My beloved scanner would not function with Ubuntu. Because Ubuntu is free with a world wide free support base, I spent a few days searching for drivers for that model. My research said the drivers existed but I could not locate a source. Harry’s suggestion was to buy a new computer or  photo scanner. That is always his first option and usually my last resort but I switched my research to consider the possibilities.

I selected a stand alone film and negative scanner that would allow me to review and create stills from the miles of the 8 mm movies my mother shot as I grew up as well as the slides and negatives. I spent most of January and February watching TV while I sat with a small table and 4 trays of slides and then a box of negatives and one additional box of envelopes of negatives and photos. It was boring work and the “easy chair” in the living room was no longer feeling “easy”. I kept adding more pillows in the hopes of finding a combination that was comfortable. I created 1350 images over a 2 1/2 month span. I did not attempt to do any color correction or sharpen any of the fuzzy ones nor did I touch the 8 mm movies. At best I took the time to rotate but only a 180. Making a change to 90 degrees (camera held sideways) could only be done once I transferred those images to the computer.

The old computer continued to have issues that Ubuntu identified as a failing memory chip and was replaced with a new one and Windows 8.1 operating system. I could quickly view the images and delete or rotate as needed.  Editing will need to wait although I have reinstalled Adobe Photoshop. I know it would take hours to just organize the images into groups. I view my job is to get them to the point they can be shared with everyone who wants them.

There are still years of photos yet to be scanned. Once I am ready to return to the job I will need to look for duplicates that had been scanned from the negatives. I may not worry about it. If I get everything scanned, the children can sort, group, crop and edit to their hearts content.

The best part of this effort came when I set the screen saver to photos. I selected a fast rate of change and stretched out the length of time before the system switches to sleep mode. Lastly I clicked the shuffle option. Now my screen saver is more fun to watch then the TV (okay that never takes much.) All of those images display across my screen from different decades and life adventures. Wedding photos times 4 as well as the trips with sons, granddaughters, and Harry. In between are the hundreds of flower shots. It makes me realize the organizing I really need to do and the number of rotates I missed! Unfortunately stopping the screen saver does not take me to the location of the image last displayed. I have dozens and dozens of folders with photos spread across this computer and an external back up hard drive or two. At best I will collect copies of all of the new images so I can easily burn more DVD’s before our trip west. It may be a harder job that I want to think about so I best start now. Of course as soon as I refill my coffee cup the screen saver display will start so I may just sit and watch for a while.

Newer Windows – The Computer Variety

6 Apr

My new computer has Windows 8.1. I was not impressed with the desktop of “apps” that were chosen for me. I converted that desktop with Classic Shell so it looks and feels more like earlier versions of Windows and has a Start Menu. It isn’t that I don’t wish to learn about a new computing environment, but more that I want to have easy access to all of the computer and Windows settings. Window 8.1 wants to protect users from changing settings that may impact the stability of the program. I long ago learned how to use a cautious touch on changing settings.The Classic Shell gives me full access to the programs and control panel. I can drag and drop the Start Menu programs into new groups or add new folders. They appear in alphabetical order but I can control that order by adding folders or renaming the existing ones. I can also delete any that don’t suit my needs.

I installed Windows 10 beta version on my laptop. It does allow more customization that 8.1 and adds the Start Menu organized in an alphabetical array but the core of that is grouped under each letter rather than with a folder. The right side of the Start window is filled with “apps” again selected for me. I quickly unloaded a lot of “apps” that are not part of my computing life. The Windows settings are easy enough to locate but I can’t say I like the groupings rather than the full list. Again the designers want to simplify user interaction with the core of Windows. They may want to have this version of Windows look and feel like the Windows phone but I’m not impressed. I don’t own nor do I intend to purchase a Windows phone. In fact both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 beta are an excellent negative sale. I’ll keep my Android phone. I’m glad I don’t really use my laptop very much. It started its life with Windows Vista that I could use as a class demo. It also was upgraded to Windows 7 as another class demo. I didn’t install Windows 8 but decided to try 10. It is nice to have a computer to use for such tests. When Windows 10 is actually released I may consider making the upgrade on my main computer but only with the Classic Shell for it which is also in beta.  I like a simple Start Menu!