Monthly Archives: October 2012

Quotes heard while “sleeping” inside the Camper

Look at this one.  That’s an old trailer.   -ye-ah; 50’s

Look at this little camp-ah.  THAT’s an OLD one.

daddy: Thers’s a camper.  small child:  That’s a nice camper.  That’s a nice camper.

Thats a regul-ah one they painted silv-ah.

Look at this one, isn’t it cute.

dad to kid: Look at this little camper, that’s an oldie.  kid:  yeah, cool!

drunken crowd:  look,  wow, look, (tap on side begin to knock on door), yeah its been to Yellowstone and Oregon (?)

little girl whispers to parents: there’s somebody in there

another crowd comes around, taps, starts knocking, Girls voice of reason: shh, shhhh, there are people IN they-ah,  another says: I’m gonna Parcours off that thing!

male: That’s what I want to live in.   female: Harold, that’s why we don’t live together!

young woman: Nice house!  No REALLY.  I just want to lay in there and listen to the rain on the roof.  So cool.

man in SUV: I want to do that with my wife.  She’s in a wheelchair so I’ve got some figuring to do.

Knock knock knock!  me: Yes,  knocking person: */@~*,  there’s somebody in there!

That thing is Bad-Ass!  I could live in something like that!

That’s an old camper,  Antique right there.

Look how old This thing is.  Its in good shape too.  Its like an antique.

Cute little thing.

– David

A glimpse og the 'rig', including emergency fuel and water along with the cargo roof box thanks to Jane and Craigslist

A glimpse og the ‘rig’, including emergency fuel and water along with the cargo roof box thanks to Jane and Craigslist

Most recently during a quick interior tour of some details, Jason: “you were a machinist!”

Day 40, 10/24/2012 The kindness of strangers

Knowing me means you also know I don’t sit still well.  Rain isn’t the reason I am not doing much of anything right now.  I’ve been waiting for a return call with an estimate for repairing the head gasket etc on the 4Runner.  In the pre-dawn hours I rambled online through the SST (special shop tools) I would need, thought about what I could rent or borrow and pretty much avowed I wanted to take the motor apart right here in camp.  After investigating a few options within camp and awaiting “one more phone call”,  I humbled myself to ask a favor from a neighbor camper (Jason, the only other camper right now as all the “climbers” have gone home).  I needed a ride 2 miles to get my propane bottle filled.  I would not be balancing the big white “30lb” bottle on my bike, nor carrying it walking.

Jason readily gave me a ride up Rte 32 to get a propane refill while his own water heated for a before work shower.  Even Jack at the stove store was ready and started to to call around and suggest a good mechanic for us.  Then Jane and I decided to ride our bikes a bit.  Jack made us aware that a rail-trail was being developed and it started right here in Rosendale.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARails-to-Trails is one of my few regular charities.  Rail-trails represent a nice, semi-paved entry into green places that most people would never see.  Jane and I are not most people.  We like to “mountain bike”, so narrow, rooty or rocky trails are our favorite.  Railtrails can be boring, but of course without a car we had to go somewhere.

After our brief hour or so, the trail proved young and unbuffed, yet still a nice old rail trail.  We stopped at a local bike shop and asked about Single-track trails.  Warnings were heard that rifle season starts Sunday and pretty much all trails require a drive to get to.  I tend to talk a lot and explained our dilemma.  A customer overheard and began to offer suggestions.  He knew everyone around here. Although a world traveller, he had over sixty years of history here and friends in every direction.

His bike fixed, he offered to call or take us to some of his connections.  Unused to accepting help, I mostly stood agape.  My delayed replies seemed to include, uh, uh if you want or think you should. By adventures end, he drove us “just up the road” in three or more directions. It may have been a half hour of driving before we all introduced ourselves to each other.  Byron is a most gracious man, he even expressed his own cautions and misgivings referenced to the last time he did a traveller a favor (an RV sat in  his garage for a year).   We visited Rick, a longtime friend (he skied everywhere with him, shared the coldest day of his life at 26 below zero).  Rick is a master craftsman, detailing a 1932 hot rod with a flathead waiting on the floor in his shop.  The frame project looked near completion, as Byron joked about the 2 years its been “sitting there”.  Rick and his son, a world-class snowboarder and “crazy kayaker” who goes over falls are sort of hobbyist mechanics.  They work on just enough jobs to satisfy quality and bills I guess.  Byron says Rick just works til he gets mad, then goes out of the shop for a while. Anyone who has actually worked on a car would see the humor and sanity in that strategy.

Some two-minute jobs become hellish 2 hour perseverance tests: My pre-trip replacement of  the rusted-stuck, flimsy little fuel filter, tucked under the frame and cross member would be a prime example.  I couldn’t use a torch or grinder as the sparks would have enjoyed the dripping gasoline more than I could stand, wrenches were crushing it as I tried to protect the in and out-going fuel lines.  Even a hacksaw wouldn’t fit.  I kept pecking away using a broken hacksaw blade clamped into vise-grips and eventually: The mechanic had his way.  I cut through the hexagon, nut-shaped portion several times til it succumbed and unscrewed like it was supposed to.  I did have to crawl out and stretch, breathe, and breathe again, but didn’t leave the garage on that one.

Rick said he couldn’t even start on my car for about two weeks.  We’re not in a hurry, but we can’t be in port without a car for that long.

Next, we drove to Byron’s own home where he offers to let me use one of his sheds.  I’m afraid 15 miles from the camper without air tools, a torch, or my own home’s resources and contacts could be frustrating.  Who next?  He suggested a few options and Chilcott’s.  Chilcott’s has several mechanics, the shop is meticulous and Byron has known Alex Chilcott since they were kids.  He calls and talks to Alec, then thrusts the phone to me.  “How do you know the head gasket is blown?, did someone tell you?”  I give the story and symptoms…he nods by phone, agreeing and says they could do it.  “Don’t think it’ll be done in 2 days though”…because the heads have to go to a machine shop, it could take a week.

While dropping off the truck I meet Mike.  He almost tries to talk me out of “putting that much money” into the car.  I know everything is uncertain, but my research has unveiled many of these V6 Toyotas burn through their gasket, then go on to live a productive life.  Besides, the brakes, shocks, rear bearings, muffler and more are new.  I put 50 hours into preventative jobs in the three weeks before we left town.  Used cars are complex electro-mechanical devices.  Roulette is an unforgiving game and my best intuition, call-outs to Lynn in Cumberland, and other research says:  Fix what you’ve got, keep the known variables.

What a remarkable day.  We started without knowing what we’d do “all day” and were chauffeured through steps of help we barely even asked for.  People are Great.

OOPS, almost forgot.  Upon being dropped off in our driveway, our camper neighbor, Jason, invited us over for Brats on the grill.  We brought pasta salad and potatoes for a great picnic-table fireside feast.  The rainy day has turned to just cloudy and held off long enough to relax, eat and hear about non-destructive testing, dye-penetrant and a short contract in NY City.  People are Great.

P.S. This morning the professional warning call came from Chilcott’s, this was to be an expensive repair.  I was prepared for that and offered my sweeping, parts-cleaning services or anything to defray the cost…we’ll see if they have any reception.  I told them they could ADD to the bill if they didn’t like my work!

– David

Our new friend Byron was really incredible. He gave us hours of his time, even showed us his lovely home that he had built himself many years ago. David’s so right – people are great and we are lucky to have found another one here in Rosendale, NY!

It’s easy to forget the natural goodness of people when someone in their car cuts you off or when reading the horrors on the front page of the newspaper. (I date myself – I meant the newspaper online of course!) Reality shows thrive on  showing the nasty side of the human race. But, everywhere we go, we seem to find the kindness of strangers…

– Jane

Here are some photos of our railtrail ride today:

(These and all the photos on our blog can be clicked and made larger)

The day was wet and dreary and no one else was around, which added to the spookiness of this abandoned cement kiln from the 1880's.

The day was wet and dreary and no one else was around, which added to the spookiness of this abandoned cement kiln from the 1880’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A giant conveyor went deep into the quarry to bring up lime from the earthThe conveyor ended somewhere in the bottomless quarry, now filled with dark water

A giant conveyor went deep into the quarry to bring up lime from the earth

 

 

 

 

I imagine folks, now long gone, working at this site in the 19th century

I imagine folks, now long gone, working at this site in the 19th century

 

 

The conveyor ended somewhere in the bottomless quarry, now filled with dark water

The conveyor ended somewhere in the bottomless quarry, now filled with dark water

 

 

DAY 39 – 10/23/2012 – Beached! In which the truck fails…

I just put a pan of Toll House bars in the oven. There’s laundry drying in the shower and the rice and beans leftovers are stowed away.

It’s day two in the Creekview Campground in Rosendale, NY. We’ll be here for a while. Maybe another week.

The 4Runner blew a head gasket on Sunday night. It sits idle on the campsite, waiting for attention.

It’s just another adventure on the Tramper Voyage, sort of “Little House on the Prairie” style! It’s ironic that right now I’m reading A Painted House by John Grisham. It’s not his usual tense legal drama but rather a story based on his own childhood in rural Arkansas in the ’50’s. There aren’t many modern amenities. Hard, hand labor is the order of the day.

While we do have Internet and cell phones we have no microwave, dishwasher or washing machine. The water reservoir must be filled daily. Hot water is produced only after we turn on the water heater, powered by propane which, in turn, also has to be refilled. So, compared with our former lifestyle, we are somewhat roughing it in a small trailer. And, it’s raining which keeps us inside.

But, it could be worse. A whole lot worse.

On Sunday evening, we were finishing a day of driving after a nice hike up Monument Mountain near Great Barrington, MA.

Here's the gully that I dropped David's camera into while on our Monument Mountain hike. The camera dropped, I screamed. It bounced, I screamed again. Bounce. Scream. Bounce. Scream. Then, splash! into a stream. I think it's dead... but it had a good 10 year run.

Here’s the gully that I dropped David’s camera into while on our Monument Mountain hike. The camera dropped, I screamed. It bounced, I screamed again. Bounce. Scream. Bounce. Scream. Then, splash! into a stream. I think it’s dead… but it had a good 10 year run.

We had arrived in the Shawangunks region of New York state and thinking about where to park the Tramper for the night.

There was a description of a nearby trailhead parking lot that sounded good (and free). But, the Shawangunk mountains are a playground for New York City and the trailhead lots were crowded with rock climbers on this beautiful October Sunday. Also, we encountered a tremendous traffic jam outside New Paltz. Everyone was headed toward the interstate back to the city.

Sunset in New York, with the car thunk-thunking.

Sunset in New York, with the car thunk-thunking.

So, we opted to head for a small campground instead. The truck, by this time, was starting to run very rough. The trailhead was on a mountain. The campground was in the valley. We chose the campground, just a few miles away. Good thing we did!

It was full dark when we pulled in. The truck was overheating but managed to pull us into a campsite. We met the manager (or maybe he’s the owner), paid for the night and settled in.

David soon determined that the truck had blown a head gasket. Oy! It will require a pretty big repair. David has spent the last two days on the phone and online, trying to figure this all out. I’ve been mostly reading and washing things. And baking those cookie bars which are now cooling in their pan. The Tramper smells delicious and is nice and warm.

The Creekside is a small independent operation. Maybe a dozen campsites. Hot showers, flush toilets (I know! Sorry! I try not to mention the ‘t’ word much but it’s a reality!) and electric and water hookup for the Tramper. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABill, the manager/owner said he stopped selling firewood a few years back. He didn’t want to deal with collecting the sales tax. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon but he adds local color and is giving us a nice weekly rate.

We landed in a pretty good spot! Imagine if we had opted for the trailhead. Life would be a lot less cushy right now.

My good friend Donna gave me this lamp years ago. It makes a nice glow at night.

My good friend Donna gave me this lamp years ago. It makes a nice glow at night.

There would probably be no cell phone or internet service on the mountain either, even with our hotspot. We’ve run into that situation many times on our trip. Lack of these services would have made it very difficult for David to get help with the 4Runner. Not impossible, just more difficult.

So now, we wait. And hang out in the trailer. It’s very cozy and comfortable in here. The renovations that David did are holding up very nicely! In some ways, it’s easier to live here. There are different chores but a lot fewer chores than at home. Life is simpler and sweet.

Yummy maple syrup we enjoyed on our pancakes this morning. Purchased from Matt, the nice shoe salesperson we met back in Maine

Yummy maple syrup we enjoyed on our pancakes this morning. Purchased from Matt, the nice shoe salesperson we met back in Maine

Tomorrow, AAA will come and tow the poor 4Runner to a shop in nearby New Paltz. David’s been talking with a guy in an auto shop there. David has a talent for establishing an instant rapport with people and the guy seems to want to help us out. Not a discounted-price kind of helping us out. But, he’s sympathetic and maybe won’t rip us off. Fingers crossed!

Now the bars are ready to eat…

– Jane

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI outlined nearly this exact scenario when we were “truck shopping”.  No amount of prep can eliminate all risk.  When buying the ’95 4Runner for 2 grand I stated, even if we blow the head gasket or transmission, we may just have to throw another thousand at it.  We’ll just meet some new people and settle in biking and waiting.  If you recall the “blacksmith’s hammer” of pre-ignition, it is pinging that likely killed the poor head gasket on the anvil of mountain climbs and sometimes highway paces.  Fortunately, Toyota has a revised MLS, Multi-Layer Steel gaskets that reportedly hold up better.  I wish the truck were nestled in my own garage where I would disassemble, measure and repair everything with the help of a local machine shop…but I won’t be dropping bolts on the ground here where the weather could change overnight and it’s raining right now.

I always believe our problems are only as big as our hysteria.  Sometimes, I almost think I like it when I have trouble.  No, I don’t really like problems, but have always enjoyed a methodical reaction.

In my teens I was on a school bus shuttling skiers to the Trailside Lodge in Vermont.  When it became stuck on ice, sliding slightly into a shallow ditch nearly everyone sat still worrying about being late for dinner.  Even though I knew I couldn’t budge the thing by pushing, I went out, walked around for a look.  I managed to direct a few willing strangers and a friend to lay branches under the wheels in the culvert, then safely orchestrated pushing and rocking from our team to free the bus.  Thought and caution are good reactions.

We will sort this out.  (At least it is not ruining a treasured one-week vacation) And, who better to be stuck with? ..than Jane

– David

Keene slideshow

We took so many photos of the Pumpkinfest that we made a slideshow of them. We took pictures of the impressive, artsy jack o’lanterns as well as those that were cute and very dear.

Some photos of the people of Keene, NH are included and scattered throughout. There’s even a pic of me and David.

Of course, we didn’t even come close to representing the  enormous number of pumpkins at the fest. But, maybe those of you who submitted one just might find it here:

– Jane

DAY 36 – 10/20/2012 Keene, NH Pumpkinfest

Searching for coffee and free Wifi as we headed southwest through New Hampshire, we saw a dot on the map that looked large enough to supply both. Plus, a bit of medium-small town charm. We like charm.

Keene, NH turned out to have all three – coffee, Wifi and charming people.

As we parked our rig and made our way to Brewbaker’s coffee house on Main Street, we noticed that something was going on in this town. Folks were setting up tents and tables and long, long rows of boards on scaffolding and milk crates. We wondered, but the lure of caffeine and blogging took us into the coffeeshop.

Two hours and two blog posts later we stepped back out on Main Street. So much orange! Pumpkins and jack o’ lanterns were everywhere! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn trucks, in boxes, on pallets and beginning to fill shelves.  The official flashing sign pointed to the pumpkin drop-off.  Numerous teams were registering the finished jack o’lanterns ready for lighting.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFamilies brought one or two at a time. Trucks with trailers brought 700 at a time from larger donors in some cases.

We had stumbled upon the prep for Keene’s Pumpkinfest 2012! Rain was pouring and under a tent we met Misty, who told us what was going on.

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

Her enthusiasm was infectious and soon we found ourselves helping the smiling, but soaking, volunteers. Directed by Trey and Sandy of the Swampbats baseball organization, we carried  lumber,

See? Jane worked too!

See? Jane worked too!

unloaded jack o’ lanterns from schools and corporations. We even carved some pumpkins and several hours passed swiftly among our new, gracious friends.

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

I had to break out my own power tools just for fun to see if they added any efficiency to the age-old task of putting faces on the gourds.  Yes, they do speed it up! Quite a bit.

Keene was preparing for battle. They were deep in a contest with Highwood, IL to  display the most lit, carved jack o’ lanterns. Not only the town but the entire region was participating in the annual rivalry. A Guiness world record was the prize and local charities and non-profits were the beneficiaries: Discover Card was donating a dollar per pumpkin for Education to the winning team and $10,000 to the other city. HGTV will air the contest on “Pumpkin Wars” to be shown on Halloween night.

It was a huge, well-organised effort and we were in the middle of it! We decided to stay the night to see the spectacular display on Saturday.

We met so many friendly folks.

David carves out the Alzheimer's patients' pumpkins. They expressed themselves with paint. But to be part of the contest, they had to be carved!

David carves out the Alzheimer’s patients’ pumpkins. They expressed themselves with paint. But to be part of the contest, they had to be carved!

Saw so many families working together and a whole community pitching in. People were incredulous that 2 traveling Baltimoreans would stop and get involved so readily. They were so very appreciative and kind. They declared that we could be “honorary citizens” of their lovely town.

We, however, were grateful that this opportunity came up. So many nice people to meet and chat with!

Here's Trey with David. (David is wearing his BSA hat, picked up at a second-hand shop in Maine)

Here’s Trey with David. (David is wearing his BSA hat, picked up at a second-hand shop in Maine)

So many glimpses of warmth and happiness. There’s something magical and glorious about rubbing elbows with people who are striving to accomplish something. Even if the goals of said folks are sort of remote from us, we relish the sense of community.

Hard work, especially with a team, is good. Besides, we don’t have jobs right now so a little work mixed into the play is very good!

It turned out to be quite moving to watch an entire community celebrating together.  The parade passed the ‘Kleenex test’ (Hallmark Cards and the Stagges would know what I mean) .  The costumed and pumpkin-headed American Legion Band,

Members of the Keene American Legion Band

Members of the Keene American Legion Band

the bright day after so much rain, and thousands of families walking and reveling in the temporary harvest extravaganza.  We just stood and stared, couldn’t have walked very fast anyway.  Well, at least until it began to get dark and we joined others frantically lighting pumpkins! The streets were packed already, with still more pouring in.

As the contest ended, we slipped out of town before the mobs began to leave. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe didn’t know if Keene succeeded in lighting more jack o’lanterns than anyone else, but the Tramper was calling. Time to find a secure campsite for the night…

– Jane and David