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Showing posts from April, 2008

The End of an Experiment

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm sure you noticed that during the past few weeks I've had some ads lined up along the right side of my web pages. These ads were Google "Adsense" ads -- a program that makes it very easy for people like me to place targeted ads on web pages and get paid for doing so. I was intrigued, wanted to find out how it all worked, and hoped to maybe generate a little "coin" to offset some of the costs associated with keeping a website going.

After one month, I'm pulling the plug on these ads. It wasn't an easy decision -- the TDHoch board of directors discussed it for at least a minute or two. These ads generated over 8 bucks ($8.16 to be exact) in a little more than a month. At that rate, I could be into three figures after a year, and could actually get paid from Google. You see, your Google Adsense account must reach the magic $100 mark before they'll cut you a check. So with this obvious success and new-found wealth, why a…

The Columbia River Highway

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Tuesday, April 2, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

The last installment on our Saturday trip to Mt. Hood, Hood River, and the Columbia Gorge.

After leaving Timberline Lodge, we proceeded a little further east on Hwy 26 to where Hwy 35 North separates and goes around the eastern flank of Mt. Hood, then down into Hood River, OR along the Columbia River on the eastern end of the Gorge. Like many roads in mountainous areas, this one follows a path cut by streams full of melting runoff from the snow pack high above.

We stopped in Hood River at a park along the Columbia to take a few pictures. Hood River is the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge (Portland and Vancouver are just beyond the western end). Until the early 1900's, there was only a rustic rudimentary trail that traversed the Gorge. The rugged rocky shoreline and the unpredictable water levels kept most traffic to the river or to a better trail through a pass on the north side of Mt. Hood. But about 1910, the legislature got serious ab…

Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge

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Monday, April 28, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

The last few nice days have been a welcome change from the lousy weather that has prevailed during the last six weeks or so.

Saturday, we headed to the mountain -- Mt. Hood. This time of year (especially this year) there aren't many days that are clear enough so it's possible to see the mountaintop and the surrounding valleys. So, with a clear day, we were off to explore Mt. Hood, Timberline Lodge, Hood River, and drive the Historic Columbia River Highway back. Over the next couple days I'll write a few posts that highlight various aspects of that day.

The plan was to drive up from the Portland area on Hwy 26, zip up and down the road to Timberline, and then head east and north on Hwy 35 as we make a loop around the east side of the mountain and down to Hood River on the Columbia River. From there, we'll drive the Historic Columbia River Highway back to the Portland Area.



Mt. Hood stands 11,239 feet high. It stands alone, as do the o…

Eye-Opening Experience

Thursday, April 24, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

After crawling out of bed yesterday morning, I became increasingly aware of some changes to my vision. I've always had some "floaters" swimming around in the vitreous gel inside my eyes... I think almost everyone does. But yesterday, a new and bigger blob was floating around in my left eye and was very noticeable as I read the morning news on my PC screen. As I was "focusing" on this problem, I became aware of another -- I was seeing "flashes", small bolts of lightning, off to the far left of my field of vision. What could this be? Hmmm.

I've been fairly vigilant about getting to an eye doctor every year or two. Other than the normal vision degradation that accompanies aging my eyes have been healthy. I always mention the floaters to the doc and when I do they always ask if I've noticed a change in the number or size, and if I've experienced any "flashes". It seems these two symptoms can ac…

Useful Stuff #4

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 -- In wet, rainy, Vancouver, WA

Another in a continuing series about our list of stuff we find useful and would have a hard time doing without. This list is all computer-related.

16) Laptop PC's: One purpose of our Sabbatical is to exercise personal creative talents. Through writing and photography we're both documenting our journey and expressing ourselves with the goal of communicating, entertaining and amusing our readers. Additionally, email has become a primary means of communication with others. All of these things require a personal computer. We have two Dell Laptops so we can both work at the same time and so we have some redundancy in case one or the other machine poops out. Our machines are average sized laptops, both running XP (so I have only one operating system to support), and have been remarkably reliable and trouble-free. (knock on wood, turn around three times to the right, throw salt over left shoulder). We could not be without these ma…

No Regrets or Hand-Wringing

Monday, April 22, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

The blog posting today is more pointed and opinionated than usual. It probably belongs in my Certified Skeptic blog, where I've given myself more freedom to be open about my opinions on politics, religion, and other "sensitive" topics. But there are people out there who wonder how a worsening economy, poor (or negative) investment returns, and rising costs effect people like us, fulltimers, who have seemingly built their lifestyle around the availability of cheap energy and positive investment yields.

Increasing costs for food, fuel, air travel, and almost everything we buy is affecting all of us -- and it's really beginning to bite. Gas is approaching $4/gallon, diesel is well over $4. The price of cereal grains is at near record levels. The common denominator in this problem is the price of oil in particular, and all energy in general. Coupled with the problems in the credit markets and the resulting slow-down in housing activi…

Walk Along the Columbia

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Saturday, April 19, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA
7PM

After lunch, we took a drive along the Washington shore of the Columbia River downstream from Vancouver. The L&C Corp of Discovery camped in this area the night of November 4, 1805, and we thought we'd hunt for their campsite to make sure they picked up all the litter and put out the fire.

Along the way we found a collegiate rowing event at Vancouver Lake and stopped to check it out. The wind was blowing out of the Southwest at about 20mph, the temp was in the lower 40's, it was occasionally drizzling; not ideal conditions for rowing -- probably not ideal conditions for rugby or football either. At least one boat capsized during a race. Safety crews had to yank the kids out of the water and bring them to shore. There are times like this I'm glad I was on the debate team in school.

A while later we found a park near where the L&C campsite was supposed to be and took a long walk along the shoreline. The weather cooperated dur…

A Snowy April Saturday

Saturday, April 19, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA
9AM

As we hit the sack last night, people all over the Portland area were outside covering their tomatoes, marijuana plants, and sensitive flowers. The crack-meteorologists on TV were predicting freezing temps and snow overnight. And there's rain or snow in the forecast for the next five days. Hey guys, it's the middle of April!

We woke to 35f degrees and, thankfully, no blanket of snow on the ground. In fact, it didn't even look like it rained overnight. But there were a couple snow showers that passed through the area while I was drinking coffee and reading the paper. And the dire predictions are holding and we're not planning any trips to the beach for the next few days.

A&G and family are in Seattle this weekend to see friends. Other than taking care of the dog, we have the weekend to ourselves. What will we find to do?

Useful Stuff #3

Friday, April 18, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

More of that stuff we find useful in our fulltiming lifestyle...

11) Folding Ladder: Many RV'ers have large step-ladders hanging on the back-end of their campers and, and in my humble opinion, it makes an otherwise nice looking unit look trashy. The problem is that RV's are high, as much as 12 or 13 feet, and it's necessary to have some way to access the higher portions of the camper for washing and maintenance. So some kind of ladder is essential. We have one of those folding/extension ladders that bends in the middle. It can be used like a step-ladder, or a straight extension ladder. Fully extended, it's about 12 feet. Folded, it's about 4 ft, and fits neatly in a storage bin in the basement. It'd be hard to be without it.

In the category of communication:

12) Our Sprint Aircard and Kyocera wireless router: Sure, we can spend $5000 for a satelite system and be able to find a connection almost anywhere. But since we don'…

Useful Stuff #2

Thursday, April 17, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

More stuff we'd have a hard time doing without...

6) Convection/Microwave Oven: Nearly a miracle. When ordering the bus-house, we traded the standard oven for more storage space and haven't regretted it at all. The Convection/Microwave Oven does everything we need an oven to do, and more. A very useful and space-saving device.

7) Miller Amazing Magic Table: If you aren't familiar with this thing, check out the website www.amazingmagictable.com. It can be an end-table, a serving table, a hobby or craft table, a coffee table -- we're using it all the time. It'd be hard to get along without one. And it's small and well-built.

8) 4 cup Braun Drip Coffeemaker: Where'd we be without morning coffee. This thing is small and makes just the right amount of coffee for us. It makes enough for me to have two cups and Dar to have one. Often, we'll make two pots during the morning and having that fresh second pot sure beats the bu…

Useful Stuff #1

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

Living fulltime in a bus-house (aka motorhome), we have but a small fraction of the stuff we used to own. This isn't just an issue of space -- where to keep it all, it's also an issue of weight in order to stay under the weight rating of the chassis.

The innate need humans seem to have to constantly acquire more stuff is one element that makes this lifestyle a bit un-natural. We're fighting mother nature here. I want more stuff but the "on-board" safety director forbids it, and the bus-house can't carry more, and there's no place to put it anyway. So, what to do?

We've developed an informal process whereby when something new comes onboard, something old has to go. As long as Dar doesn't drag home a new driver (which, I guess, would mean I'd be out), I'm OK with the process. Here's an example of how it works for us: Dar gets a new coat --> Thom gives a coat to Goodwill. Or, Dar buys a new pair of…

The Bus-House

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

Since we began this new lifestyle back in July, I've struggled with what to call our new home, especially when I'm writing or talking about it. "Motorhome" or "Motor Coach" has always seemed a little pretentious to me, evoking images of the wealthy traveling from high-class RV Resort to high-class RV Resort; or highly paid celebrities who don't fly; or Nascar drivers hanging around racetracks with their trophy-wives and kids. We are none of those things.

I have often used "camper" -- a term that reminds one of the units people use to go camping, like travel trailers, tent pop-up trailers, and fifth-wheel trailers. This works for me because we really prefer camping to resorting, we like being in the woods, with plenty of space between us and our neighbors, with a good old-fashioned campfire ring, the smell of pine, the sound of wind blowing through the trees.

I've also used "bus", even though …

The Columbia River Gorge

Sunday, April 13, 2008 -- Along the Columbia River near Vancouver, WA.

Over the eons of time the Columbia River, which drains over 250,000 sq. miles of mountainous area in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Western Montana, and parts of Southern Canada, cut a path through the Cascade mountains on it's way to the sea. It's the only water route through the mountains in the Northwest and the average flow of water is an amazing 200,000 cubic feet per second. The Columbia Gorge, as its called, is about 80 miles long and as much as 4000 feet deep. Not just a grand scenic spectacle, it's also an area loaded with history.

The Northwest has supported human civilization and culture for at least the past 13,000 years -- the oldest of any area in the United States. Native peoples, whose ancestors originally crossed the Bering Strait from Asia, settled here first before slowly spreading around the rest of the Americas. The Columbia River Gorge provided many benefits to these peoples, including a…

Got the Tax Monkey Off My Back

Friday, April 11, 2008

The past few days I've gotten a lot done. Monday was "don't panic, but taxes are due" day. I've always done my own taxes as we really don't have a complicated return. This year, the federal was similar to last years with the exception of all the necessary home-sale stuff.

The state return was different. I had to report to 2 states... both Illinois and Wisconsin... as a partial year resident. And neither state allows partial year residents to "file-for-free" online. So I did it the old fashioned way... printed out the forms and instructions, then read, looked up information, calculated, read more... let's see, enter the amount from line 15b on form 2211 to line 23 on form 1040NRR... then multiply that number by the percentage (carried to four decimal places) calculated by dividing line 35 by line 31 on form NP. It was enough to drive a man to drink.

It was a little more complicated for us this year, but I try to convince mysel…

Slapstick Connections

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

Around the clubhouse at most RV Parks, you'll hear talk of "hookups"... sometimes full, sometimes only partial. This is one of those words that's used by both young and old in this country, but the meaning is quite different for the two groups. Without getting into what the young mean, let me address what we old-timers mean by "hookups": having the luxury of connections to water, sewer, and electricity right there at our campsite when we park our RV. Man, having hookups is high-livin'!

During our travels we encounter what seems like an infinite variation of hookup design. Sometimes the water is waayyy over there and it takes two hoses to reach; sometimes it's on a pipe 4 feet off the ground; sometimes just 4 inches off the ground. Well here at the old RV Park in Vancouver it's actually underground -- in a little plastic vault like those used with in-ground sprinkling systems for lawns. I'm sure the rea…

Wipers and Demons

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 -- Vancouver, WA

This past Sunday we left Fort Stevens Park and made our way along the Columbia River back to our same parking spot in Vancouver. We did have one rather interesting experience along the way.

Highway 30 out of Astoria is a winding and hilly stretch of road for the first 20 miles or so, as it finds its way through and along the edges of the Coastal Range of mountains in Oregon. In addition to the challenges of the roadway itself, it was intermittently raining. I know this is hard to believe, but you've got to take my word for it... it was actually raining. We're moving along with a camper that weighs, with it's attached toad, somewhere around 36,000 lbs. The speed limits on the curves and bends are often 30 or 35 mph. For a mid-day Sunday, there was a significant amount of traffic. It was busy. Driving this thing normally demands your full attention. Challenging conditions like these make the edge a little sharper.

Then it happened. We'…

A Rainy Oregon Coast

Saturday, April 05, 2008 -- Along the Oregon Coast at Astoria

My last post had us in Newport at South Beach State Park. Thursday was a wonderful day with good weather -- no rain. Our tour of Newport included the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Nye Beach, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and, finally, the historic Bay Front area along the harbor where the commercial fishing fleet docks. I'm finding I really like beach towns. They're more laid-back and casual than other, more pretentious, places. They feel comfortable and everyone seems so friendly... and accepting.

In the late 1860's and through the 1870's, increased shipping activity along the West Coast brought with it more shipping accidents and disasters when ships foundered on sandbars, shoals, or rocks. The US Government, wanting to foster growth in the west, made it a priority to build lighthouses to help guide ship traffic along the coast and bays up and down along the Pacific Ocean. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse came directly …

Sun and Water

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 -- Along the Oregon Coast at Newport

The only water we've seen during the past three weeks was coming directly out of the sky in the form of rain. Today was different. Today, sunshine was coming out of the sky and the water we're seeing is the Pacific Ocean. It was simply a perfect day.

Our new friends at AM Solar completed the installation of our solar system on the roof of the camper this morning about 10am. To celebrate, the weather-gods produced the brightest, sunniest day in the past three weeks. Let me tell you, Bunky, as soon as we pulled the bus out of the service-bay, we were producing electricity. If called on, I felt like we could fill-in for Bonneville Dam and save the Northwest for land developers and house-builders. What a sense of freedom that is!

We then aimed the bus due west. After an hour-long drive through the Coastal Range, we were at the Coast. The Oregon Coastline is simply one of the most stunning and picturesque places on Earth. D…

A Power Update

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 -- Springfield, OR

Wow! It's been a while since I sat down and wrote a post to the blog. Consider this short entry a catch-up post.

After little Evan surprised us all with his slightly early arrival, we shared Ryan-watching duties with Duane & Shirleen (Gage's Mom and Dad), and visited Andrea and Evan in the hospital. Evan was born Monday night and by Thursday morning both he and Mom were packing up to go home. They're both doing great. Ryan is handling this new-little-brother thing with aplomb, and Evan is gaining weight the way he should. It's too early to really predict, but based on early returns he's another good natured kid whose doing what he's supposed to be doing... eating, gaining weight, peeing and pooping, and sleeping... lots of sleeping... all with a minimum of fuss. Gage and Andrea make a good pair of parents too. They make it look easy.

With all of that getting back to normal, Dar and I have taken this week to head south …