Returning Home

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The view from the back of our trailer in Abraham Lincoln State Park in North Dakota

I’ve been procrastinating about writing this post, mainly because there’s not much exciting to write. We left Vashon, WA on August 9, and arrived in NJ on Sept 1. Mostly we drove a couple of hundred miles — give or take — and then rested up a day before moving on. We only unhitched once — because the car had to go to the shop for a minor repair.

We made a detour around the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which added a couple hundred miles to our trip. When we left Vashon Wa we stopped at Potholes State Park near Spokane — then it was on to Square Dance Campground in Missoula Montana, and then Hardin, Montana. Hardin is SE of Billings and was considered a corona virus hotspot — We were leery of that, but we needed to stop. From there we went to Miles City, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Blue Lake in Iowa. From there we went to Amana Campground, also in Iowa, Rantoul, Illinois, Friendship Village in Pennsylvania and finally Pine Hill Campground in Pa. The only toilet and shower we used for 3 weeks was in our trailer bathroom.

It’s true that RVs are the best way to vacation right now — campgrounds are full. But we didn’t think of our three week drive as a vacation — it was a means of getting ourselves back to NJ in the midst of a pandemic.

This guy with the cockatiel had an Escape Fifth Wheel -When we meet other Escape owners on the road we immediately have new friends. I did pet his dog, but the humans stood far apart.
When he spreads his wings it’s quite a sight, but this bird would not pose on command. However he did speak nicely.

Our Sturgis detour meant we missed the Badlands and the Black Hills, but we know we have no business complaining. We are lucky to have spent the past six covid months in our trailer. We had a lot of fun, we spent more time with our faraway children and grandchildren than ever before, and –knock on wood — we are healthy.

The campground in Miles City was walking distance from the business district and the Farmer’s Market. We left Vashon with enough staples for two weeks, but we ran out of fresh vegetables a week in. The small farmer’s market came at just the right time.

We were in Ohio when our driver side back trailer tire disintegrated. Terry pulled off immediately — so did the people in the car behind us. They were worried about us — they’d seen flying objects, and at first they thought their own tire had shredded, because pieces of ours hit their windshield.

We were stunned when we saw not just the destroyed tire but the foot square hole in the fiberglass. The mom, Crystal, and 17 year old Colin immediately began to help. Colin did some heavy lifting while Terry changed the tire, and Crystal helped me stay calm. Then a local man and a State Trooper stopped to make sure we were all right. From things that were said I suspect we may not have shared political views, but the incident was a reminder that we that most people really do care about each other — even strangers from New Jersey.

Thankfully, the trailer was functional, because we were five days from home. Terry patched the holes with duct tape to keep critters and bugs out. And of course it was fortunate that we weren’t hurt — and that we didn’t cause physical or automobile damage to anyone else.

We arrived home on September 1. Because we live on a fairly busy, narrow street, we brainstormed tactical maneuvers in advance to ensure there would be enough space to get the trailer into our driveway. There are a couple of key spots on the street that need to be empty in order to seamlessly back in, so we arranged for three of our neighbors to grab those spots the day before. They pulled out the minute we turned the corner, leaving us plenty of room.

A week later I looked out the window and watched this guy come down the street when cars were parked all over the place. It took him precisely 40 seconds to easily maneuver the flatbed into the driveway. “I’m a professional,” he told me when I commented on his expertise. I guess so.

These trips are usually my idea. I propose them to Terry, he grumbles, I propose them again, he grumbles some more, and then, resigned to his fate, he helps me plan a route. But this time there is no question that he really wanted the trip to happen.

Those of you following the blog may remember that our first day out we took a ferry from Cape May, NJ, to Lewes, Delaware. While we were sitting on the deck, I commented that Terry was quiet — Then and only then did he tell me that he had a toothache. When I asked him why he hadn’t told me earlier, he responded that he knew if he had told me, we wouldn’t have left.

That was March 3. And he’s right. If he’d told me, we’d have postponed our trip — and by the time his dental work was done, the country would have been locked down . We’d have stayed in New Jersey. Instead, Terry used clove oil every morning and night; after a week the tooth quieted down and the rest is blog history.

9246.8 miles

The trailer is in the shop. The insurance company is supposed to pay for the damage — We’re keeping fingers crossed. Sometimes we miss our trip — life is simpler in a trailer. But we were ready to be home, and we’re enjoying the roominess of our house. I don’t know when we’ll be on the road again, but until then, Terry and I send prayers for the future of our country

With love,

Ruth

Life on Vashon Island

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The Mukai Gardens https://mukaifarmandgarden.org/

I never took my kids on an airplane until they were old enough to blow their noses and read magazines. I knew I couldn’t be one of those heroic parents who spends five hours in the air soothing a screaming baby or amusing a toddler. Also, halfway through every transcontinental flight I promise myself that I won’t ever fly again.

Well, this time I really mean it. I understand why they are required, but I will never be able to fly with a mask. So it is particularly lucky that we have a trailer. We love our trailer for many reasons, but now — during the time of covid — we are especially happy that no matter where we are — we have our own bathroom.

When we first arrived on Vashon Island we quarantined at an Air B&B — but the bed was so uncomfortable that we ended up sleeping in the trailer. After our grandchild was born on June 24, we moved the trailer to our children’s backyard, and here we’ve been ever since. We see them every day, we share a lot of meals, but we have our own space to retreat to in the evenings to play Scrabble and Boggle.

Speaking of Scrabble and Boggle — we have a perfect system. Terry beats me at nearly every game of Scrabble and I beat him at every game of Boggle . (Terry has this to add about boggle — not “nearly every”, but “every”. Current count is 109-0.)

I’m constantly amazed by the height of the trees.

Vashon Island is heavily forested. When you leave the tiny downtown area to traverse the rural roads, most houses are hidden by the trees. In the center of the island is a 440 acre working forest and nature preserve with ten miles of walking paths. Our rental place was an easy half mile away from the trails. On the way to the forest we walked past the Mukai Farm and Gardens, named for the Japanese immigrant family who bought this land in the early part of the twentieth century and launched a thriving business. In her spare time, Mrs. Kuni Mukai put together a garden that reminded her of Japan. The house and gardens are being restored and are open to the public.

This was an excellent spot to practice Tai Chi https://mukaifarmandgarden.org/

There was an exhibit of haiku pinned to the outside of the buildings– many were pandemic related, but not all.

Mt. Rainier. As the crow flies, its distance from where we were was about 50 miles. It is considered the most dangerous volcano in the US, but it hasn’t erupted since 1894, and that one was fairly small. However, if there is a major eruption, the tremendous amount of glacial ice could cause mudslides known as lahars, and much of the Seattle/Tacoma area could be destroyed.

Obviously an island is surrounded by water but it’s not always easy to get to a beach on Vashon, since most of the waterfront property is privately owned. Not only that, but beachfront property in Washington State extends to the low water mark. In practical terms, that means if you access a public beach and take a walk along the shore — even at low tide — you can’t continue walking once you come to a privately owned home because they own the beach.

So we were happy when we learned about Maury Island Beach and Marine Park. It did involve a fairly steep downhill hike to get there, but we were rewarded with great views of Mt. Rainier.

On our second trip to Maury Island we saw something bobbing in the water and at first we thought it was a turtle. It turned out to be a seal.
We also discovered the Maury Island Lighthouse — a good place for swimming if you don’t mind frigid water —

At the Maury Island lighthouse we finally got a good look at Comet Neowise. It was our third try — the first two nights we’d gone to the ferry terminal, but it was way too bright. The lighthouse beach was mostly dark, except for the lights across the Puget Sound in Seattle. The evening we went to see the comet, we were completely alone on the beach. First we watched sunset on Mt Rainier and then, once it got dark enough, we saw the comet.

A couple of nights later, when the comet was higher in the sky, we watched it from our children’s backyard.

Comet Neowise. This is a fairly big comet, with a nucleus of about 5 km. It’s period of revolution is about 7000 years. It was the brightest comet to be seen in the northern hemisphere since Hale-Bopp in 1997.

As of this writing we don’t know what comes next. It is time to head back east, but the number of covid cases continue to increase, and we are debating both our route and the safety of driving across the country.

Until next time,

Ruth

NORTH TO VASHON, WA

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WE’RE NOT IN THE DESERT ANYMORE! REDWOOD FOREST, KLAMATH, WASHINGTON

The week before we left Joshua Tree, the early heat wave let up, the national park partially re-opened and we had a few days of cooler weather to walk some of the trails.

The Hidden Valley trail is surrounded by granite and large piles of rock that keep out the wind and allow water to collect, creating a micro climate that supports a wide variety of plants and grasses. In the 1880’s cattle rustlers hid stolen cattle here in order to re-brand them before selling in the Arizona market. In the 1930’s a local cattle rancher blasted open the secret entrance and grazed his own cattle. Unfortunately they overgrazed the valley, thus reducing the grasses.
YUCCA FLOWER
The pinion pine was an important tree for Native Americans who lived in the desert. They used the wood for construction and cooking, and they waterproofed their baskets with the pine pitch.

The seeds of the pinion pine were an excellent food source for the Native Americans. To collect the seeds they beat the green cones off the branches. Then they put the cones into the fire until they burst open, revealing the roasted seeds.

I wonder what kind of trial and error it took to figure that out.

It was a relief when the park opened. During the long weeks when the park was off limits, we’d told ourselves that it was okay — that we could walk in the Mojave Desert Land Trust or BLM land — but it wasn’t the same. There is something magical about a national park– and we were missing it. We also doubted that limiting people’s access to the outdoors would really keep the virus at bay.

SKULL ROCK



Terry got to see this hummingbird in the Hidden Valley.

We left Joshua Tree on Memorial
Day, after hours of debate over the route. Not only were many campgrounds closed, but much of California was experiencing 100 degree weather, which we wanted to avoid. Our first stop was Sequoia Campground, just outside of the closed KIngs Canyon National Park. We were happy to learn that nearby Sequoia National Forest was partially open.

The view from our campsite, in Sequoia Campground, where trailers and RVs were physically distanced. The temperature in the campground was in the low nineties, but as we drove up the mountain, the weather got steadily cooler.
HUME LAKE, SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST

What a great place! Hume Lake was created in 1909 when a creek was dammed up so that rough cut lumber could be transported out of the mountains. The lumber went over the dam and floated downstream on a flume of water.. A fire in 1917 put an end to the logging operation. It always surprises me when I read about something like this — so much effort went into building the dam and the flume, and they were used for such a short period of time.

ONWARD TO THE REDWOOD FOREST

Big Tree — This 1500 year old redwood is 286 feet high. It’s diameter is 23.7 feet and its circumference is 74.5 feet. In the mid 19th century, there were roughly two million acres of ancient old-growth redwood forest along the coastal mountains of California and southernmost Oregon. Today just about 5 percent is left. The parks preserve 35% of the 5%.

The day we left Sequoia Campground we were tootling up the highway — I was laughing out loud, listening to a Dave Barry book, when Terry yelled to take off my headset — we were being pulled over. I had just enough time to pull out the insurance card and registration, when the young cop stuck his head into the passenger side window and said,

“Sir, you aren’t from California, so you probably didn’t know that no matter what the speed limit, cars pulling trailers aren’t allowed to go more than 55 mph.”

This was news to me, and I assumed it was news to Terry, but it turns out that Terry did have an inkling there was such a law — he’d just assumed it didn’t apply to us. When he answered the cop he mumbled something about trying to keep up with the flow of traffic.

The nice officer tried again,

“So being from out of state you weren’t familiar with California regulations regarding trailers?”

Meanwhile, as they were having their conversation, the nice police officer, whose nose and mouth were less than two feet from my face, WASN’T WEARING A MASK.

After about ten years Terry got the hint and agreed that he didn’t know he shouldn’t have been going 75 miles an hour.

Now clearly Terry and I have been more relaxed about the virus than most people we know, but we wear masks in stores and keep our distance, and this cop was VERY CLOSE. Going through my mind was that I need to be polite, I don’t want to make him mad, a ticket will cost a lot of money, but he SHOULD BE WEARING A MASK.

Finally I said something about social distancing. The officer looked surprised, but HE STILL KEPT ON TALKING. After a century he went to his car, came back WEARING A MASK and handed us a warning.

It’s been two weeks, we don’t have the virus and we’re obeying all speed limits. I’m pretty sure that being white and old helped get us the warning instead of a ticket. But what if we’d been people of color? What if we were towing a beat up trailer instead of our shiny Escape? And what if the cop who stopped us wasn’t such a nice young man?

Then what?

All the campgrounds in Redwood State and National Parks were closed, but we found this private campground in the tiny town of Klamath, Ca, and after five minutes were ready to move in permanently. There were great owners, great views, excellent showers and clean washing machines. We didn’t even care that it rained two inches our first full day.
On this day we could officially say we’d made it coast to coast

The first couple of days we took easy walks– but we were intrigued by a four mile hike that started out in the Redwood Forest and ended at the ocean. I assured Terry that we could do it — we weren’t THAT old.

The Redwood forest https://www.visitredwoods.com/listing/about-the-coastal-redwoods/484/ Even during a dry season, the trunk of an ancient Redwood can contain thousands of gallons of water.
Monkey Flower

Foxglove

After the first quarter mile, the trail went down — and down — and down. We later learned it was an 800 foot descent. It was exhilarating to be surrounded by the giant trees amid dense foliage, but we both wondered what the climb back up would be like — would we need knee surgery at the end? Along the way we passed a hiker who told us that at the bottom the trail got confusing — she also mentioned going through muddy water — the previous days’ rains had left large puddles.

We thought about what she’d said and continued on. Neither one of us wanted to be the one to wimp out, but that climb back up was on our minds.

As we got closer to the shore, the Redwoods gave way to tall pines and we could hear the ocean. We danced around some mud and water, lost our way a couple of times and finally came to a spot where the choice was to either get our feet and ankles totally wet and muddy or turn around. We tried several different routes but each one ended in deeper water than we wanted to ford — with or without shoes. So with reluctance we turned around.

Peeking through the foliage we could see the beach — We were so-o close!

The climb back up was strenuous, but neither of us even came close to a heart attack. We walked slowly and took every opportunity to inhale and enjoy. I kept thinking that I’d probably never be on this trail again, and I needed to imprint it on my soul.

It was a dramatic moment when we left the pine trees and re-entered the Redwood forest.

When we drove to Vashon, WA the next day we were only a little bit sore. We’re staying in an Air B&B here while we visit with our son and daughter-in-law and wait for their baby to be born. We’ve gone from 100 degrees to wearing down jackets again, and it rains every day, but we’re not complaining — much. After three months of living in a 19′ trailer, it’s nice to spread out into this two room cabin.

More on Vashon next time. Until then,

Stay well and obey the speed limits.

With love, Ruth






THE DESERT IS HEATING UP

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Recently, a bunch of people emailed me a link to an article about camping in an RV during this pandemic. A few folks mentioned that they can’t imagine life with a mate in a 15 x 7 foot living space. Terry and I keep congratulating ourselves that we’re mostly having a good time. It’s true that there isn’t much space to maneuver, and patience is required, but we have our routines, and as long as he keeps his stuff in his area and I let him jam the frig with beer (really two bottles!) we are good.

The Joshua tree is actually a succulent that grows only in the Mojave Desert. It completely relies on the female pronuba moth for survival. The moth has specialized organs to help collect and distribute the Joshua tree’s pollen. The female moth lays its eggs in the Joshua tree’s flowers and the hatched larvae eat the seeds.


Joshua trees only flower in years when there is enough rain. This closeup of a Joshua tree flower as well as the photo above were taken last year during what was referred to as the “Super Bloom.” This year we have not seen any flowers on the Joshua trees. The bird is a black-throated sparrow,

To be honest, life in a small trailer does have some stressful moments. Recently, in the middle of the night, I had the most traumatic experience of my RV’ing life when I stepped into four inches of water in our bathroom. The cold water faucet was on — and I realized with horror that water had been running for hours while we slept. However, the rest of the trailer was dry — somehow, after filling the bathroom cubicle, the water was channeled outside, even though, to our knowledge, there is no emergency valve in the bathroom or on our gray tank. When we emailed them, even the trailer manufacturer couldn’t explain why the trailer didn’t flood. And we won’t find out until physical distancing lets up and we can let an RV mechanic into our trailer.

I had PTSD for days afterward, thinking of the damage that could have been done, as well as the wasted water. Needless to say we are paying close attention to our faucets.

The road runners continue to amuse. A few days ago our daughter was serving dinner, when our grandson came running to tell us that two road runners were copulating — and sure enough that was the case. Sadly, Terry didn’t have his camera so you’ll just have to imagine the scene.There has been other wildlife, however. One day a swarm of bees landed in the tree in our daughter’s backyard.

They assumed the shape of a cone.

According to my sources (my son-in-law and daughter) when a hive gets to a certain size, half of them leave. We don’t know where they came from or where they were going, but for some reason they chose our tree for resting, and then, an hour later, flew off together — every single one. We keep wondering how they communicated.
While we’re on the topic of bees, Terry saw this one while he was walking in the neighborhood,
This Red Racer surprised me when I was walking to the trash can, but it slithered quickly away. A few minutes later Terry walked out of the driveway into the street and the Red Racer appeared in front of him. Red Racers can grow to six feet and are the fastest snakes in the desert — they can slither 7 mph. Stay away from them — they’re not poisonous but their bite can tear your flesh. http://digital-desert.com/wildlife/red-racer.html

We think this is a yellow backed spiny lizard. We saw it crawling up the wall behind the freezer our daughter keeps on her patio. Earlier, a road runner had been on top of the freezer. He may have been hunting this lizard.
Desert Iguana

It’s been so hot lately that we’ve stayed close to home. When we leave our daughter’s house we walk past a bunch of barking dogs — and come to acres and acres of open space.
This datura plant also grows back east.
Last fall Terry found a datura plant on the Rutgers campus — The datura is adaptable and can grow where other plants don’t. The flowers are hallucinogenic, but it’s reportedly not an enjoyable experience to get high from them. So unenjoyable that the feds haven’t bothered to outlaw the datura.

The big excitement this week was the discovery of a black widow spider spinning a web on the patio. Our son-in-law got a “Bugzooka,” captured her and released her a distance from the house. Black widows have a scary reputation and you truly don’t want to get bitten — it is said that their venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s — but the spiders are not aggressive — National Geographic reports they only bite in self defense –like when a human sits on them. Most people recover from a black widow spider bite — in the U.S. no one has died since 1983. It is the mate of a black widow who is in the most danger — the female black widow tends to kill and eat her partner after mating.

Here you can see the hourglass on her abdomen

She isn’t very large
Freedom

A lenticular cloud. They form downwind when moist air rises over a mountain. And here, that mountain is San Gorgonio (11,500 ft.), about 40 miles away. These clouds can stay motionless for hours.
This is what it looked like a half hour later.

In a couple of weeks we will be heading toward Vashon Island. Until then, Terry joins me in wishing you all good health.

With Love,
Ruth

Some clarification

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Terry and I left New Jersey before social distancing was a familiar term. People were going about their business as usual — buying toilet paper, attending religious services, dancing at weddings, looking forward to baseball’s opening day. The day after we left, the person who lives in the White House told Sean Hannity, “It’s very mild.” On March 7, he said “I’m not concerned at all.” On March 10 he said, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” By the time the country was starting to be on lockdown, we were halfway to California and so we proceeded with our trip.

April 21, 2020 The Journey Continues, Joshua Tree, Ca.

The big excitement in trailer parks is watching gigantic trailers — like this one our daughter owns — maneuver around corners into tight spaces. We can fit almost anywhere, and our trailer is easy to pull, but there is an obvious trade off — no fake fireplace, no two door frig, no garage for four-wheelers and one of us has to climb over the other to get out of our bed. But we manage 🙂

In late February, when I began packing for a trip that would take us through many weather changes, I heard the words of my late mother, Lillian,

“You’re not going to the ends of the earth,” she intoned. “You can always buy anything you need.”

Bear in mind that she rarely took her own advice. Nevertheless, I heeded her words and packed the absolute minimum amount of clothes and just enough food to last for a few weeks. As Lillian used to point out,

“There are stores all over America.”

Oh, Mom, if you only knew.

Like people all over the world, we are obsessed with Covid 19, but the truth is that Terry and I have nothing serious to complain about. Not only are we — knock on wood — healthy, but we don’t have to worry about food, we have savings, and we are with family.

However, we are aware that in order for us to be comfortable, millions of workers are literally putting their lives on the line. This virus is vividly demonstrating the economic divide that has always been with us.

When we walk in the Mojave Desert Land Trust we see very few people. Everyone keeps a wide berth, so there is no need for masking. However, I’d forgotten my brimmed hat and was afraid of getting my nose sunburned again. No one looked at me askance, but just imagine if I’d appeared in public like this a couple of months ago!

Joshua Tree National Park is closed — barriers everywhere and rangers enforcing the “Keep Out” signs — but people who live here know where there is open space to hike.

When we entered Coyote Hole it seemed so stark —

And then we climbed up and up, and we began to see the flowers all around us.

Last year at this time there was a Super Bloom in Joshua Tree which was due to an inordinate amount of rainfall the previous winter. People said they hadn’t seen anything like it in two decades. This year there were several days of rain in late March, but it came too late to boost this spring’s number of flowers. Nevertheless, we see flowers everywhere when we pay attention.

Flying Cholla — fascinating to look at but so mean — We skirt a wide path around these bushes because it seems to us that the thorns really do fly.
Desert Pincushion
Bluebells — water collects in the crevices of the rocks — allowing the flowers to grow

Beavertail
These flowers would make a lovely ground cover in our daughter’s backyard of sand and scrub except for one thing — as they grow, they produce sharp thorns. If you don’t dig them up in the early stages you end up with a carpet of needles.

This roadrunner visits us every day — Roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family

Roadrunners are actually ground birds that can run up to twenty miles an hour. Up until now the only roadrunner I ever heard of was in a Loony Tune cartoon. As kids, my sister and I would watch Wile E. Coyote chase and try to eat Roadrunner – and every week Roadrunner escaped. Recently, Terry noticed that the same roadrunner (at least Terry thinks it’s the same one) appears in our daughter’s yard at about the same time every day. It comes racing in, catches a lizard and races away.

Male roadrunners dangle food offerings such as lizards or snakes from their beaks to entice females. Terry has seen it carrying a lizard, but hasn’t yet been able to get a clear shot.


Fun Facts from the National Wildlife Federation (which is where I got all my facts): Roadrunners like to sunbathe and they often mate for life.
The crest puffs up when the roadrunner is trying to communicate with other roadrunners.

Even though we’ve done some exploring, the whole physical distancing thing keeps us near our trailer most of the time. However, this week, San Bernardino County is reopening county parks and golf courses and will start allowing other recreational activities — with the caveat that people must maintain physical distancing. On the one hand, it is a relief; on the other hand it is really an experiment to see whether the virus can continue to be contained. As other states begin to relax their lockdowns, our prayer is that the number of cases — and the number of deaths — continues to decrease.

Take Care and Be Well,
With Love,
RUTH

APRIL 4 2020 JOSHUA TREE, CA.

Hiking along the ledge, Catalina State Park, Arizona

When I last wrote we were in Las Cruces, New Mexico at an RV Park. Since then we have arrived in the town of Joshua Tree, California, and are parked in our daughter’s driveway.

Ideally our Escape 19 and Sara’s Momentum would be positioned closer together to give a true comparison of the difference in size.

During our time in Las Cruces we didn’t see a whole lot because state parks and national monuments were shut down. We did manage a couple of walks along the Rio Grande River, but while it was pleasant, it wasn’t the most scenic spot we’ve ever been. The best pictures Terry took were from our campground.

The Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, NM
The end of the rainbow. In my last post there was a picture of the full rainbow. Because we were so high up it felt like we could really see where the pot of gold was buried.
Here it is — The Rio Grande.

After nearly a week we drove to Catalina State Park in Tucson, Arizona, where we met up with Michael and Christa Lubatkin. Michael and I are friends from way back. We graduated from Spring Valley High School in New York, we both went to Albany State, and in our junior year — 1968-69 — we were part of a large group of Americans who studied at Hebrew U in Jerusalem. (What a year that was! — a topic for another time.) After college we both found ourselves in Boston. Distance and busy lives conspired so that we hadn’t seen each other in 30 years.

Christa and Michael were our tour guides at Catalina State Park. For 13 years they led walk/study tours all over Europe and Israel. In the daytime they hiked, and at night the groups studied with the Rabbi who accompanied them.

When we made our original plans, the covid 19 virus was not an issue, but by the time we reached Tucson, physical distancing was in full force. We debated a bit, but in the end we couldn’t let the opportunity for a reunion pass us by. Michael and Christa came to the campground, and we went on a wonderful hike, doing our best to not breathe in each others’ direction.

Mariposa Poppy
Desert Chicory
Mockingbird
Mockingbird leaving its perch

Hummingbird

We had planned to stay at Catalina State Park for only two nights, but the second evening we strolled through our campground and saw an amazing saguaro. Terry had to run back for his camera, and by the time he fetched it, the light was gone. So there was no choice but to stay another night. 🙂

Usually being a photographer’s wife means nagging the photographer to organize his pictures. This time it meant climbing up a fairly steep embankment in order to demonstrate the height of this saguaro.

We were grateful to Arizona for keeping the state parks open, and so were a lot of other people, because the two parks we visited were full. People had their own routines to avoid touching doorknobs and faucets in the restrooms, and everyone was careful to step to the side on the paths, so we didn’t touch shoulders. With all that, I would say that most who passed us seemed relatively calm and peaceful. Being in such beautiful settings did a lot to lessen the stress, and we thought about possibly staying in Arizona, going from one campground to the next.

But there was too much uncertainty. Would Arizona continue to keep the parks open? Would food be an issue? And overriding all other concerns was the thought — what if one of us gets sick? Living out of a trailer wouldn’t seem so idyllic then. So with mixed feelings we left Tucson and headed toward California. But we made one more stop — Buckskin Mountain State Park on the Colorado River — the border between Arizona and California.

We think this bird was possibly feeding her babies inside a nest in the saguaro. We saw her go in and out. Catalina State Park, Arizona
Our campsite in Buckskin Mountain State Park, Arizona
Whither I goest, so goes my guitar.

You’d think we’d have a picture of the Colorado River, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. People were out in boats and sunning themselves along the shore. I practiced yoga and Tai Chi in a huge grassy area overlooking the beautiful river.

We got to the Amaral Matilsky family’s home in Joshua Tree one week ago, and it looks like we’ll be here for an indefinite period of time. It’s a good place to be. The weather is mostly warm, there are places to walk without running into crowds, and the number of virus cases in San Bernardino County is low. Being with our daughter and son-in-law and the grandchildren is an excellent way to get our minds off what is happening to our country and the world.

I wish you all good health and lots of love,

Ruth

March 18 Las Cruces, NewMexico

Life is pretty strange right now, but campgrounds are functioning normally — maybe a little cleaner than usual. Stores along the way have slightly less food, but mostly it’s been okay. We know that restaurants are not serving but we usually do our own cooking. Normally we stop in libraries for internet but libraries are closed. We are presently in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’m sitting outside with a view of the mountains, trying to use the spotty internet. We are here for a week in order to clean the trailer, clean ourselves and take stock. This trip is like no other.

“Wildlife” on Assateague. Not for the squeamish.
We earned this rainbow. It came at the end of a long day of trailer chores and hours of rain. It was taken from the KOA campground in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The city of Las Cruces

Terry used to shoot up rockets at nearby White Sands Missile Range. For nearly 50 years I’ve been hearing about La Posta, his favorite Mexican Restaurant tn the world. Our plan was to have a special dinner there, but like most people, we are now staying out of restaurants. As problems go, this is negligible of course, but it’s too bad.

While we are worried about the corona virus, I’m thinking we’re more likely to get malaria.  The South has seen a tremendous amount of rain this winter, and the mosquitoes are so ready to hatch.  Thankfully, however, they’re not quite ready enough.

When we started the trip we had a deadline – we needed to be in Joshua Tree in time to see our daughter and grandchildren perform in “The LIon, the Witch and the Wardrobe,”  Now, like everything else, the play has been cancelled. Theoretically we could take as long as we want to get to Joshua Tree, but our hearts aren’t in it. We’re enjoying the journey but the corona virus hovers over us. Will we get sick? What will we do if we get sick on the road?

I think we really are getting old. I can’t even believe that at one point we took two kids across America in a tent! It’s all we can do now to take care of ourselves. On this day at Medoc State Park in North Carolina we spent the morning doing chores and then were ready for a brisk sit when we decided that we just had to see something! So I promised Terry it would be a short walk, only it turned out to be three miles — short for some, long for us on that particular day. But we saw the local flora and that was important.

From Assateague Island we went to Medoc State Park in North Carolina. We must have looked as tired as we felt because the ranger volunteered to let us stay in the handicapped spot which had FULL HOOKUPS. From there we went to Sesquicentennial Park in South Carolina and from there to John Tanner Park in Georgia.

Our neighbors at John Tanner are full timers for about 8 months of the year, traveling slowly, camping in one place for a week or two or more, exploring everything in a 50 mile radius. They were staying here for two weeks because the wife bought her husband a ride with a race car driver around the track at a nearby speedway.




This waterfall was right around the corner from our campsite, but we would have missed it if our neighbor hadn’t showed us the way.

I couldn’t help but wonder what rights this stone referred to.

We drove straight through Alabama to Toomsuba Mississippi, then to Poverty Point Reservoir State Park in Louisiana If we’d known then that the play was going to be cancelled we would have stayed longer. We missed The Poverty Point National Monument. “The site contains earthen ridges and mounds, built by indigenous people between 1700 and 1100 BC during the Late Archaic period in North America.[4] Archaeologists have proposed a variety of possible functions for the site including as a settlement, a trading center, and/or a ceremonial religious complex.” Who knew? This was our loss.

From there we went to Mineral Wells State Park in Texas — This is known for bottled “Crazy Water.” The legend is that a “crazy” woman drank from the well and got less crazy. Then someone noticed that the well water cured his stomach ailments. In time, thousands of people flocked to the town to drink the water. Then someone bottled it and the water is still being sold as “Crazy Water.”

It was in MIneral Wells that I started to think about malaria. It had been raining a lot and continued to rain while we were there. The mud was so bad that we couldn’t get to our picnic table. But when you are in a tiny trailer, you find ways to get outside.
I wanted to see something different, so I convinced Terry to drive to Monahan Sandhills State Park, west of Dallas. Families come here so their kids can go sledding down the sand dunes. However, at this time you have to bring your own sled, because the office is not renting them. Needless to say, we and the trailer got full of sand.
REST AREA IN TEXAS

And now we have been in Las Cruces for three days but so far we have not seen the sights. We’ve done laundry, cleaned ourselves, cleaned the trailer, fixed the stove (actually Terry fixed the stove) and braved the supermarket this morning. We were in a health food supermarket and there was food, but a lot of shelves were empty. No toilet paper anywhere except at our campground store where we are allowed to buy two rolls at a time. Our daughter sent us an SOS from Joshua Tree where she can’t find any and there are six people in her family. So we are helping out.

A Canadian couple we met tonight has to cut their trip short because the Canadian government has told their citizens to come home. The funny thing is that since they’ve been in the U.S. they will have to self quarantine.

It’s a tense time for all of us, wondering what will happen next. I wish you all good health and the stamina to deal with the new reality that absolutely every one of us is living.

With Love,

Ruth

We May Be Crazy-March 6, 2020

We avoided D.C. by taking the ferry from Cape May to Delaware.

You would think we were complete newbies.  After delaying our trip for two months, we finally pulled out on Super Tuesday, after debating endlessly whether it was smart to start a long trip like this with the corona virus hanging over everybody’s head.  Verdict:  Not smart, but we’re going anyway.  We need to get to Joshua Tree so we can see our daughter and grandkids perform in “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe” and we don’t want to fly.

The idea was to stop the first night at a place with full hookups so we could work out all the kinks… Well, it is still March, we got to the campground in Delaware and it was totally empty — no water, no electricity, nobody in sight.  It was now 4:00, we didn’t have a campground book or a campground app, and every place we found through our phones was closed.  We finally decided to drive another hour to the National Seashore on Assateague Island in Maryland.

Then Terry announces we will run out of gas in 17 miles and we couldn’t find an open gas station — just mile after mile of closed resorts and closed restaurants. Just before the gas fumes ran out, google maps took us on back roads and found us a station.  Then we realized that we were on our way to a National Park and who knew if there would be water?  Which we didn’t have — so I ran into a Food Lion, got  5 gallons of water and saw the gorgeous sunset below.

Long after dark we pulled into the campground, gratefully entered the trailer and discovered that our trailer battery — which is fed through our solar panel — was not working and we barely had lights and couldn’t use our heater.  We did have propane, so I heated up last night’s leftover Thai food and we went to sleep.

Assateague Island is home to wild horses — they are everywhere. They roam cheerfullly through every campsite

Terry really is a genius, he figured out that there was no water in the battery, added some of our Food Lion water and voila! — lights and heat.  (btw, Terry did know that you are supposed to put distilled water into the battery, but we didn’t have any and he took a chance). Terry was gung ho to be on our way but then we met the only other people in the campground — Mary Ann and Jack.  She convinced us not to miss the beauty of Assateague Island — So we spent the day walking along the bay, admiring the horses and soaking up some sun.  Terry gave Mary Ann some pointers with her camera and she made us dinner!  My poor gluten deprived husband got to eat meat loaf as well as lots of other delicacies.  If I’d made dinner it would have been hot dogs 🙂

Last night and tonight we are camped in Medoc State Park in North Carolina.  We’re presently in the library in Rocky Mount NC — where Jack Kerouac once lived with his sister.  We don’t have a whole lot of time so I’m sending this now, even though Word Press has totally messed me up and I can’t get the photos to go where I want them to be. 

With Love,

Ruth

I saw this sunset in the parking lot of the Food Lion, but credit for this photo goes to Mary Ann Justice who was already camped in Assateague and got to enjoy the sunset on the bay

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AthenaJumping

Wonder Woman Athena — While Terry and I were spending our days scouting out the perfect eclipse viewing spot, our children were doing things like this.  (photo credit: Jem Matilsky)

It’s Sunday of Labor Day Weekend as I start this post — and America is partying — At least in Illinois and Iowa.

moon-after-eclipse

Terry’s mind is still on the moon and how several cosmic coincidences allowed us to see it eclipse the Sun.  This photo was a few days post-eclipse, from Lander, Wyoming.  As we traveled east from the Tetons we were on the eclipse path, and most people we met had seen the eclipse — it was like we had this bond.  Then we veered south and people had seen it partially and then not at all.

The 2017 Solar Eclipse is over.  And so is most of our trip.

Our family reunion was two years in the planning.  A year ago we won the telephone battle for reservations in the Tetons — after three hours on the phone we came away with RV sites and cabins  for 14 people.  We opened four credit card accounts to get the bonus miles so that we could fly out various family members.  Ruth reserved rental cars months in advance (including one in Colorado for the eventuality, just in case, that an  airline connection was missed), before the companies started charging $250/day.  And she figured out how to feed 8 of those family members with only a 6 cubic foot refrigerator in which  to store food.

eagle

I’d never seen an eagle before and s/he was much more beautiful than any picture.   The eagle stayed on the branch for at least five minutes and turned this way and that. It was like s/he was posing for us. (photo credit: Jem Matilsky) It turns out that it is quite difficult to tell male and female eagles apart — there are size differences that I wouldn’t know how to judge.

It was a great reunion and it’s still a great trip.  For awhile there were 14 of us for dinner each night and now there are two.   That’s okay for now.

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Me and my girls. I was wondering why the eclipse glasses wouldn’t stay on my head and then Terry figured out that it was my bushy hair. So that is why I’m wearing the tight scarf.

Our first stop after Colter Bay was Lander, Wyoming — one of the towns on the eclipse path.  People there were still talking about the eclipse — and about the traffic. Our friend who saw the eclipse in Casper said she feared that many people in years to come would be talking not so much about the eclipse — but about the hours long gridlock in an area that just does not see traffic jams — ever.

There’s a state park in Lander called Sinks Canyon — where the Popo Agie  (pronounce it “Puh-po’ zha” ) River flows along  into a cave and the water literally sinks into the rock and disappears underground.  A quarter mile later it re-emerges.  To prove that it is the same river water that re-emerges, there has been experimentation with dye, and sure enough — the dye shows up downstream.  But what no one understands is why the amount of water increases at the other end.

sink-cave

Above is the cavern where the river disappears. It is theorized that underneath is a labyrinth of caves — but no spelunkers have been able to explore the caves since they are so small.

Lander Sink Downstream

Popo Agie River Downstream

trout-Sinks

When the Popo Agie River emerges there is this trout pool with the largest trout we’d ever seen — hundreds of them.

From Lander we went to Laramie, Wyoming where we visited friends on their 800 acre horse ranch.   They took us to Vedauwoo, where we hiked the Turtle Rock Trail.  Vedauwoo is an Arapaho word that means “earth born.” According to legend, the rock formations were created by “playful spirits.” The area is still considered a sacred space.  I suggest you click on these pictures to get the full effect.

 

We returned to Illiniwek, Illinois, on Wednesday, August 30, and were lucky to get the next to last spot available for the Labor Day weekend.  We’re enjoying the last days of our trip on the Mississippi River, watching the barges go by.  Democratic Picnic

Illinois Democrats from Moline organized a Labor Day picnic at our campground, and quite a festive event it was! What a relief to be with hundreds of people, not a single one of whom was a Trump supporter.  Illinois has same day voter registration and just passed a law (thanks to people like our son Jake, who worked with local groups and leaders to get it passed) that provides for automatic voter registration. We spoke with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, and met one of the candidates for governor in 2018.  Their message:  Trump won because people who are struggling economically were turned off when Hilary (and Obama) talked about the “great recovery” — because it certainly didn’t reach them. Take heed Democrats: Identity politics has to be coupled with realistic economic plans.

Tugboat on the Mississippi

Have I mentioned that traveling with Terry is educational? He gets such joy out of learning what makes things work. Near our campsite was one of innumerable sets of locks and dams on the Mississippi — this was #14– We spent one evening walking across the dam — and the next day waited for two hours while two tugboats and the barge they were guiding made it through the locks. What a production! I have to admit that it was hot and I might have just trusted that the guys in charge would make it happen without our oversight, but Terry was so involved in the whole thing that I didn’t have the heart to complain –well, I complained, but not too much. And I admit that in the end it was satisfying to see the barges get on their way.

Barge on the Mississippi

This is a picture I posted during our first time in Illiniwek — here you can see the large white tug pushing the barges — the smaller tug in the top picture seems to be used only for guiding in and around the locks. We were told that the barges contained wheat and corn.

We spent several days riding our bicycles along the Great River Trail, and bade goodbye to the west.

. . . . . . . . .

It’s Thursday Sept 7 . . . . . . . and we are in Zanesville, Ohio resting up from two straight days of driving.  We want to be home and we don’t want to be home.  We have things to do in NJ but Terry is retired now and that will change things in ways we don’t yet know about.  Meanwhile, we’re processing the trip.

As we drove through Illinois on the way to Indiana, I noticed a bunch of signs one after the other along the road — They went like this:

I HAVE A GUN

IT’S PRETTY AND PINK

MADE THE BAD GUY

STOP AND THINK

Guns Save Lives

Turns out there is an organization dedicated to spreading this message.  There are a lot of people who really love their guns.  Another reason Trump won.

. . . .. . . .  . . . .

Vintage Car Ruth

This truck was produced the same year I was born — 1948 — The weekend before we returned to New Jersey we camped at a huge campground in Bedford, Pa, where they had on-site activities — like this car show.

Vintage Car Terry

Some of the “vintage” cars were from 1972 — and even 1982 — The ones we liked the best were from before we were born.  THAT is vintage!!

. . . . . . . . .   BACK HOME . . . . . . . September 13 2017

We pulled in Monday morning — amazingly, our normally busy street was practically deserted and we had no trouble backing into our driveway.  (Terry here:  Actually, not so amazing.  Ruth planned our window of arrival:  Monday, when most people would be at work.  From 10 am. to 2 pm.  Just working the odds….  As Pasteur said:  “chance favors the prepared mind”.)  Our heads are still on the trip as we get used to living in our 10 room house — after being in a 15′ x 7′ living space for three months On the trip we had two coffee cups — here we have a cupboard full  —  in the trailer I almost exclusively used my kindle and couldn’t find space for a box of envelopes — here I have shelves and desks and closets and a library.   Too much stuff.

BUT — I do have to admit that I am delighted to be reunited with my wardrobe.

BEFORE WE TAKE YOUR LEAVE — There are some people I don’t want to forget:

Eclipses neighbors

Our “neighbors” during the eclipse party. She took our family picture, for which we are forever indebted — and he recommended the book I’m presently reading — “American Eclipse.” We were ships passing in the night — and also politically sympatico.

 

Then there were:

The artist couple at Wolf Camp who painted their teardrop trailer with polka dots.

Cara — Christian Mom of 4, including two Haitian orphans —  who told me I was “cute” and spoke seriously about bigotry in our country —

The guy with the BERNIE t-shirt in Nebraska who set up his telescope and invited everyone in the campground to look at the Moon and Saturn.

The self named “cat lady” in Wyoming who managed one of our campgrounds and made a birthday party for a long term camper and invited everyone to come. She wouldn’t tell me how many cats she had.

There is a fondness in my heart for 11 year old Simon who heard me playing the guitar in the Badlands and came to sit with me and tell me his life story.

In Casper we met a couple our age who sold everything they owned and bought a van so they can spend the next 18 months traveling throughout all 50 states (although I’m not sure about Hawaii)

I’m wondering whether the young woman I met in the pool at Thermopolos — who also had an August 21st birthday — was able to see the eclipse when she went to Nebraska.

We met so many full timers — Among them were Carina the fiddle player who’s been full timing for 16 years — the man whose birthday we celebrated in Casper who’s been on the road for 5 years with his wife — and the full time couple from Seattle who publish an RV magazine — from their RV.

We were  — and are — truly blessed.

With lots of love, Til Next Time

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Ruth and Terry