Over The Hill With Sherry

Traveling – It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller

I started my RV traveling/work journey 4 years ago as of January 1, 2020. In those four years and prior I have learned so much….in the beginning, I had a couple of friends who had been RVing and working full time so I did a lot of talking with them and researching several of the resources they shared with me. Along the way, I have continued to research and pick up additional information of where to look and find jobs and because people are often asking me what I do and how do I find jobs I decided I would make this post with a list that I am aware of and have used.

https://www.coolworks.com

Workamping jobs.com

https://careers.delawarenorth.com

https://www.xanterra.com

https://www.foreverresorts.com/employment

https://careers.aramark.com

Amazon Camperforce – Fulfillment centers

https: www.amazondelivers.jobs/about/camperforce

KOA Work Kamper Programs $35.00 membership Fee

https://KOA.com/community-camping-progrms/work-camps

The first 8 months I was on the road I had the finances so that I did not have to work and that was wonderful, but I knew I would have to go back to work. My first on the road job was in Vacaville, CA working part-time at a thrift store cashiering for 6 months, I then applied with Delaware North and got a retail/cashiering job at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon working at Desert View. I mainly worked at the Trading Post, but I also cashiered at the General Store and the Gas Station during the summer. I spent 10 months working and living at the Grand Canyon……I can tell you it was an awesome experience to be able to spend that much time getting to know the Grand Canyon and then being the tour guide to friends and family who came to visit. While there I was able to venture out on my days off and visited so many awesome places. From there I went to Phoenix and went to work for a heavy equipment/RV company doing office work and was there for a year and 3 months. This job came to me because I had been referred to them for some RV work of my own in February of 2016 and my RV was in the shop there for about 4 days. During that time I got to know the owner, we stayed friends and I ended up coming to work for him January 1, 2018. It was a situation that worked out well for me at the time as I was able to get some additional RV and car repairs done. Things were very flexible for me here, I lived on site so no commuting to the job, was able to do a lot of site seeing around the Phoenix area as well as traveling further out to Sierra Vista to visit friends who lived there, I also had the opportunity to take off for a few weeks to see family and travel (unpaid) the end of August 2018 and did a 4,000-mile road trip. Read my blogs titled Road Trip – September 2018. By the end of January 2019 things were shifting and changing at Dynamic Diesel and my hours were getting cut, so I took a part-time/seasonal position with Delaware North in Phoenix, AZ as a Cash Room Attendant at the Spring Training Games at the Maryvale Sports Stadium with the Milwaukee Brewers till the end of March 2019. This was a great experience and opened even more doors for me. A couple weeks before the Spring Training games ended I was browsing the Delaware North job site and found a opening for a Cash Auditor at Kings Canyon National Park. I applied for the position and was hired. I gave Dynamic Diesel my two week notice, packed up my motor home, loaded my car onto my tow dolly and off I headed to start my new job on April 12th, 2019. I arrived in Kings Canyon April 8th, so I had a few days to get settled in and explore a bit before my first day on the 12th. I spent 6 months at Kings Canyon National Park which was another great experience and made many new friends. You will find more information on my time there on separate blogs.  One of the awesome things I enjoy about this life is the opportunities I have had to see so many great, beautiful places and make many new friends. I am going to be honest here and say that living this life is not always perfect or with out its struggles and frustrations, because that is just how life is. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people….but the trade off you get makes it all worth while, and when things start going sideways or get to frustrating or the season ends I always had the option of moving on to somewhere else for a new adventure.

I decided that since I was back home visiting Washington and had renewed my passport in 2019 that I would take the opportunity to make a visit to Victoria B.C.

Day 1 (December 29, 2019) – I boarded the Blackball Ferry Coho for the 2:30 P.M sailing in Port Angeles, Washington. The day was a little overcast and cold. The hour and a half crossing to Victoria B.C. was pretty uneventful, other than a short stroll I took out on the deck for a few pictures and spotted the tail of a whale. I waited around for a bit hoping I would see the whale resurface but I never did. It was pretty windy and cold to be outside so I wandered back in where it was warmer.

I arrived in Victoria B.C at about 4 P.M and after 45 minutes of waiting in line to get through customs, I was finally on my way to spending 4 days exploring Victoria. Now the last time I was here was about 37 years ago when I (being pregnant with our son Aaron) came with my husband Randy, our daughter Erika, and my parents.

It was quickly starting to get dark so I pulled out my map and my instructions to get to my hotel. I had done my research before I left the U .S as to how to get to my hotel from the ferry…..boy was I off base and it turned into an hour and a half public bus ride craziness, first of all, it appeared to me that I could ride the bus or walk it in about 15 minutes, so I started out walking and realized after walking a few blocks that I was at 700 Douglas Way and my hotel, Island Travel Inn was at 1850 Douglas Way, so I caught the bus and it was my understanding from previous research if I rode the bus I needed to get off at Jackson and Douglas. So I paid my $2.50 bus fare and got on the bus….so we’re traveling along a bit when the driver turned down a different street. I was like … Oh no, this is not right…. I have not ridden the public bus in a long time and I was in a place I was not familiar with and not completely sure of my directions. So after we traveled a couple blocks I asked the driver if this bus would circle back to Douglas?, He said no…..you need to get off at the next stop, walk to the corner of Qudra and cross the street to catch bus #6…..so I did….I get on bus #6 pay my $2.50 bus fare again and I tell the driver where I need to go….he said he was not sure where that was but that I needed to get off at Douglas and View and catch bus #30 or #31 because that is still a ways to walk….so I ask him for a pass since I have now paid $5 in bus fare and for $5 you can get an all-day pass. He gives me a pass, I get off and find my way to the next bus stop. I get on bus #30 and I tell the driver where I need to go….he doesn’t speak English very well and I finally get out of him that I need to get off at Hillside. I get off at Hillside and see the building address is 2610 Douglas…. Really!!! Now I have gone to far….by this time it’s been dark for awhile other than street, traffic and store lights….I’m still in the downtown area and plenty of people out and about. I cross the street to catch the bus going back the other way. I get on the bus and again explain to the driver where I am going and how I keep getting fouled up…the driver says he thinks he knows where my hotel is at. It seems the drivers know cross streets and bus stops, but not so much the addresses and this hotel is not well known I guess…..so we’re rolling along and this lady on the bus has obviously overheard my situation…..she tells me she is staying at the same hotel and will show me the way…….our stop soon comes up, we get off and sure enough it’s just a block and a half from my motel. I was so thankful for this lady and told her she was my angel. So finally I made it to my hotel, my room wasn’t ready so I got a deluxe suite with a Jacuzzi, King Bed, little refrigerator, and two separate sitting areas. This is an older hotel, a bit dated, but clean and decent. What an adventure! 

Day 2 (December 30, 2019) – After a really great nights rest in the very comfortable, huge King size bed I ventured off to the Butchart Gardens by public bus.. ..let me tell you after yesterday’s escapade I figured out the bus system…..so with a little more map quest research I knew which bus to take and I was right….made it there and back with no issues….I have to say I knew that the gardens were not going to be in bloom like they are in the Spring and Summer, but I really thought there would be more colorful winter plants and some flowers, so I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong it was a very awesome place and I can imagine how gorgeous it is in the Spring.

The Gardens began as a limestone quarry dating back to the early 1900s. Over time the quarry was transformed into one of Canada’s premier garden attractions. The floral gardens were started by a cement contractor by the name of Robert Pim Butchart.

Robert and his wife, Jennie Butchart, moved to Victoria, BC from Ontario, Canada. The Butchart family has carried on the legacy of these now-famous gardens. Jennie Butchart recognized that the mild temperatures and the lush environment was an ideal setting for gardening. Slowly the gardens grew and the Butchart Gardens were born. The Butchart’s received many accolades…… Robert Butchart was given the key to the city and was made a Freeman of the city of Victoria in 1928 and Jennie Butchart was named Citizen of the Year in 1931.

After the death of Jennie Butchart, the gardens fell into despair. The grounds were left unattended until 1946. It was then that Ian Ross, the grandson of Jennie Butchart and his wife, Ann Lee Ross, brought the Butchart Gardens back to life. In order to help with the costs, they began charging admission and generating revenue from their seed and gift store, as well as the Benvenuto Tea House.

The gardens are open year-round and you can see hundreds of different colors and varieties of flowers.  During the holiday season, the Butchart Gardens are decorated with Christmas lights and decor depicting the 12 days of Christmas. I had arrived at about 2 P.M in the afternoon so I stayed till the evening to see the lights. Here are some photos I hope you enjoy.

Day 3 (December 31, 2019) – Rain was in the forecast for today so I made plans to be indoors and go see the Craigdarroch Castle which turned out to be amazing……so gorgeous and so much history. Craigdarroch is a four-storied stone mansion that wow’s you the minute you see it, it sits on a hill in an older, nice residential area overlooking Victoria B.C.  You pay an admission fee in a modern building just a short walk across the driveway from the castle. Tickets are at $14.85 for adults, $13.85 for seniors (I don’t know what the senior age is…..I completely forgot to even ask and paid the adult ticket price), students 13 or older $9.75, children 6-12 $5.35 and a family $36.00 (2 adults/seniors and 2 students/children).

The castle was built by wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria and is now a National Historic Site. Visitors are able to have a glimpse of privileged life in the 1890s.  You are met at the front door by a guide who gives you a self-guided tour brochure that takes you through all rooms on each floor. The tour starts on the 1st floor and up the front formal staircase. On each floor, you are able to view reception rooms, bedrooms, and studies that are furnished, with a portion of the furnishings being original to the home. The woodwork and stained glass in the formal areas of the home are so amazing and beautiful. The view from the top floor at the top of the stairs gives you a panoramic view of the city of Victoria. Once you reach the top you are then directed down the stairs to the backside of the house where you will find a few servants quarters, the kitchen, pantry, and storerooms which are still in the stages of being restored. Robert Dunsmuir died April 1889, 17 months before the home was completed. His widow Joan and a few family members lived in the home for a short period of time, but eventually, it was abandoned since none of the children wanted the home. For a time it was used as a residential school and a military hospital then was saved from ruin by the government and opened for tours.

After my day at Craigadorrch Castle and being a little soggy getting to and from the bus and castle I stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant just across the street from my hotel called the “White Spot Caledonia” which was pretty good. I got a small caesar salad with a toasted turkey sandwich, fries, and a soda. I went back to my hotel room to watch some TV and just relax as it continued to rain. It was on my mind that being in was New Year’s Eve I had wanted to check out the “Wonder of Lights” exhibit that was just a block and a half up the street from my hotel, but with it raining I did not really want to go out and I was feeling so warm and cozy in my room. I had relayed this thought to my daughter as we were texting……she said: “Mom you went to explore and experience what is there, so you best go check it out”……I pondered on it a little longer and the rained had started to let up so I went. Centennial Square in downtown Victoria was transformed into a holiday wonderland. There were themed light exhibits, light tunnels, and a 40 foot live Christmas tree that was decorated. When I arrived around 7 PM it had recently just stopped raining, it was still early and so there were not very many people out….it was all free,  soft Christmas music playing and people walking around, and taking pictures. I did not stay long, I just wanted to check it out and see what it was all about and take some pictures……. and that was how my New Year’s Eve wrapped up as I then walked back to my hotel and hunkered down for the night.

Day 4 (January 1, 2020) –  Happy New Years Day……Today there was no rain and a nice day to be outside, so off I went to the 11th annual Habitat for Humanity Gingerbread fundraiser at the Parkside Hotel and Spa. I had run across this event when I was looking on the internet for things that were happening in Victoria while I was here and this was free and sounded interesting so I went and checked it out. It was a small venue that featured Gingerbread exhibits that were created by professional and amateur bakers. This year’s theme was “Building a Diverse Community.” Habitat for Humanity Victoria brings communities together to help families build strength, stability, and independence through affordable homeownership.

Across the street from the Parkside Hotel and Spa was an interesting old church…..The Church of our Lord….It was not open to go inside but there was a historic marker out front that said that this building was constructed in 1875 for the Reformed Episcopal Church. This building is one of the finest expressions in wood of the Gothic Revival Style in Canada. The architect enhanced the building’s Gothic character by exploring the advantages of board-and-batten siding to reinforce the vertical thrust of its pointed roof, pinnacles, and spire. Inside is a Gothic Hammer beam ceiling that spans the broad open space to provide an unbroken view of the apse and pulpit. I really love old buildings, and churches with their history, and architecture.

From there I walked up Belleville Street that runs in front of the Parliament Building. The very beautiful and grand BC Parliament Buildings sit on 12.5 acres of land on the waterfront of downtown Victoria. The building was started in 1983 and completed in 1897 but details, refinishing, additions and upgrades were ongoing right up until 1915. The parliament building was designed by 25-year-old architect Frances Rattenbury, a “Free Classical” Romanesque and Renaissance style. Rattenbury and his crew used local material, resources, and expertise. At night the 500-foot long building is illuminated with thousands of light bulbs.

I walked a little way along the waterfront on Government Street, sat on a bench for a while to people watch and admire the view of the Parliament Building, The Harbor and the Empress Hotel.  Fairmont Empress Hotel commonly referred to as The Empress is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, it sits in downtown Victoria, facing the city’s Inner Harbor and also was designed by Francis Rattenbury. The Empress Hotel has been a symbol of Victoria since its opening in 1908 and has hosted Kings, Queens and Hollywood stars from around the world.

I next made my way to the nearest bus stop and caught the bus back to my hotel and stopped by a small mom and pop Chinese restaurant you could eat in or take out. I ordered chicken chow mein to go and it was very filling and good.

Day 5 (January 2, 2020) – Today I was up early, checked out of my hotel, caught the bus to the Blackball Ferry Coho to catch the 10:30 A.M sailing back to the United States – Port Angeles, Washington. The hour and a half sailing back was again uneventful and that concluded by adventure to Victoria B.C.

 

On my trip back home to visit my family in Washington, we (my daughter, her boyfriend, and his 3 children ) decided to visit the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Park as they live only a two-hour drive away. For the 30 plus years, I and my husband had lived with our kids in Washington we had made a few trips over the years to the Olympic National Park, but we had not been to the Rain Forest. I think with working, raising kids and the fact that we lived in Gig Harbor, WA another two hours further south made for a 4-hour drive just one way.

I was really excited that we were going to the rain forest, the weather forecast was for rain which is not surprising since the Hoh Rain Forest gets as much as 14 feet of rain a year, along with the fog and mist which adds another 30 inches of rain, making this one of the world’s lushest rain forests, and designated as one of the wonders of Washington State.  So we packed some lunch and off we headed about 9 AM this Saturday morning. As the morning progressed the rain held off and some sun actually started coming out.

Some of the most common trees that grow here are the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock (Washington’s official state tree), which can reach heights of over 300 feet and seven feet in diameter. Most of them are covered with huge clumps of hanging moss and ferns. Moss is an epiphyte, which is a plant that grows on another plant without harming it as opposed to a parasite. Epiphytes get their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, fog, and debris that accumulates around them.

We arrived at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center at about 12:30 P.M. and took a look at our map as to the different trails we thought we wanted to do. We decided on the most popular trail….”The Hall of Mosses Trail” is a 0.8-mile loop. This trail proved to be just right for me since I have bad knees. Walking through this trail was absolutely awesome and beautiful, it’s like walking through a living, green cathedral.  The best time to visit the rain forest is when it is damp and raining because that is when the moss is the lushest and greenest. The rainy winter and spring seasons are also the best times to see the Roosevelt Elk that live in the area since they move to higher elevations in the summer. The best way to share our day is through my pictures, hope you enjoy them!

After our hike, we ate our lunch that we packed and started heading back home…..our timing was perfect as within about 10 minutes of leaving it started to rain. On our way out of the park we stopped and got some pictures of this beautiful herd of Roosevelt Elk…..Olympic National Park is home to the largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt Elk in the Pacific Northwest. Named for President Theodore Roosevelt, they are the largest variety of elk in North America. The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the best places to see these amazing animals. They are non-migratory herds that stay in the Hoh Rain Forest area throughout the year as they feed mainly on ferns, shrubs, and lichens from the rain forest, as well as the meadow grasses.

Our drive back took us through Forks, WA  where the “Twilight” story took place. We stopped at the Visitor Center just outside of town where we got a “Twilight” map of Forks and saw “Bella’s Trucks.” Next, we stopped in town to check out the “Forever Twilight” collection at the Rainforest Arts Center. The space is small but it’s pretty cool, you can view the authentic on-screen costumes that were worn,  authentic movie props used by the actors, a backdrop for photos, fan quilt, and other interesting memorabilia.

And our last stop of the day was at Madison Falls. Madison Falls was a short paved walk through a lush forest from the parking lot. At the end of the paved trail is a viewing point where you are able to see the falls drop 40-50 ft into the creek below which runs into the Elwha River just across the paved road opposite the parking lot. The Elwah River is a 45-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula and runs into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is about some of my roaming and wanderings that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Many of you who know me and who have been reading my blog know that before I started my nomadic lifestyle I lived and raised a family in the Pacific Northwest of Washington State for almost 40 years. I still have family there and so I, of course, get back to spend time with them.

FIERO MARINE LIFE CENTER

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I stopped one day at the Port Angeles waterfront and checked out the Fiero Marine Life Center. The facility is very small and the young woman who was volunteering that day was so full of amazing information about all the sea life that I ended up being there for about an hour and a half. There are about 5 tanks containing various marine life that are fed directly by seawater from the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The natural water flow keeps the habitats at exactly the right temperature and provides the food source the habitats feed on.

I enjoy the Sea Anemones with their beautiful colors, they are among the most colorful creatures in the ocean that range from purple, red, green and white. Their bodies consist of a stalk that ends in a flattened disk with a central mouth surrounded by tentacles. Anemones are carnivores and will eat fish, crabs, and anything else that swims within reach.

I found the Pacific Hagfish to be disgusting looking but amazed at the by-product it produces that is used in consumer products. It lives near the ocean floor and excretes huge amounts of slime in self-defense, so when a hagfish feels threatened, it releases hagfish slime, a protein-based, jelly-like substance from slime pores that run the length of its body. This slime is a thick glycoprotein excretion called mucin. The mucin is made up of long, thread-like fibers. These strands, which are arranged in bundles called skeins, are thinner than human hair, stronger than nylon, and extremely flexible. When the skeins come into contact with seawater, the glue holding them together dissolves, allowing the slime to expand rapidly. It is said that one hagfish can fill a five-gallon bucket with slime in only a few minutes. This gooey material has a surprising number of uses…… Hagfish are already used for making products such as “eel-skin” bags. The strong, flexible fabrics made from hagfish slime could replace petroleum-based materials like nylon which would be more durable and environmentally-friendly.

There are many uses that are being researched…..such as protective gear like safety helmets and Kevlar vests, airbags in our cars, lightweight strength and flexible car parts. The U.S. Navy is currently working with hagfish slime, hoping to create a substance that can protect divers from underwater attacks, fight fires and even stop missiles.

PORT WILLIAMS / MARLYN NELSON COUNTY PARK

Little remains of Port Williams which was once a thriving commercial port on the bay of the  Strait of Juan De Fuca near Port Angeles, WA.  In 1944, the waterfront with beautiful views was renamed Marlyn Nelson County Park in honor of a Sequim born Navy sailor who died from wounds in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Nelson was 19 years old and a 1940 graduate of Sequim High School. He was an engine room mechanic on the battleship USS California. A monument bearing his name and a photograph was erected at the one-acre park in 1999.

DUNGENESS LIGHTHOUSE

Operating since 1857 at the tip of Dungeness Spit, the Dungeness Light Station was the first lighthouse built in the Washington territory. Once towering 91 feet, the upper portion of the light station’s brick tower was removed to deterioration in 1927 and is now 63 feet. Living quarters were added and modified over the ensuing decades to accommodate lighthouse keepers, who often lived at the lighthouse with their families, and an armored marine cable bought power to the light station in 1934. The light station and 80 acres surrounding it were designated a National Historic District and placed on the National Historic District and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

PUGET SOUND SPOTTED SEALS

I drove out to the spit in Port Angeles and found some spotted seals hanging out on the logs on the bayside of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you did not have binoculars or a camera like mine that zooms in I would never have seen them and they blend in with the logs. These harbor seals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal protection act and Washington State. Their populations in Washington State have recovered since the 1970s. Here are some pictures of the seals, the harbor and the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

More miscellaneous photos I took while wandering

 

 

Well here it is November 4, 2019, and my 6 month season at Kings Canyon National Park has come to an end. Today was the day I was pulling out and heading to Washington State. I had spent the week packing things up in my motorhome for traveling and today I was up early to do last minute things and get my tow dolly connected to the motorhome. I thought I had it all figured out and I pretty much did, but there always seems to be a hang-up here and there. A few days prior I had managed to pull by hand my tow dolly out of the brush where it had been sitting since arriving here back in April. A few of the rental trailers had been picked up by the rental company so the two spaces next to me were empty and made it easier to pull the dolly out and place it in the empty spot next to me. My plan then was that I could just pull my motorhome out of my spot and then back up to the dolly and hook it up. Well, my motorhome is 34 feet long and for some reason, after several attempts, I just could not seem to get it backed into the position I needed. I was close but just not where I really wanted to be, so I decided that maybe I could just pull it by hand to line up with the hitch on the motorhome. Well, I just did not have the psychical strength to get it moved and pulled by hand to line up correctly and in fact, it ended up rolling kind of sideways into the backside of the motorhome. No worries no damage. Knowing I was not going to be able to do this by myself I called up a couple of my guy co-workers, but they were working and involved with a year-end audit so they could not leave. I called my co-worker Andrew, who is the restaurant manager. Things were slow so he was able to help me out. He had the muscles to get the dolly moved to where we needed it and between us, we managed to get it hooked up on the hitch. My next obstacle was since I had been there one of the power lines was lower than it had been before due to some work that had been done over the summer, so Andrew kept a watch as I pulled out and up the hill that I was not going to catch the top of my motorhome on the wires…..Yea!, I cleared the lines. The next obstacle was just getting down the rutted out dirt road that was always a mess to drive even our cars on. I just took it really slow and easy so that I didn’t rattle and shake everything out of the cupboards in the motorhome. I made it down to the flat area of the parking lot where I had parked my car the night before. I knew Andrew had to be getting back to work and I thought I could load my car myself. So I proceeded and was able to get the car pretty much loaded by myself…..this was really the first time I was doing it by myself as the previous few times since I have been towing the car I have had help. I was doing good till I was at the part where I had to place the tire webs over the front tires and just wasn’t sure about if I was placing them correctly. About that time two of our girl co-workers came by in the company truck and asked if I needed help…..I was debating whether they could be of any help when I saw Rick our housing manager. I told the girls thank you but I thought Rick would proably be able to help me, so I got Rick and YES, he was so much help, he actually gave me good tips and got me all setup and the car secured for travel.

I made my last rounds stopping off at the Market, the Trading Post, and the Restaurant to say my last goodbyes to everyone. It was bitter-sweet. My time at Kings Canyon was amazing but also had its frustrations. I was ready for a change and ready to get back to Washington to spend time with my family. I made so many good friends at Kings Canyon and I knew I was also going to miss them a lot.

I was finally pulling out about 12:30 P.M. made my way down the mountain which is all downhill for 57 miles from Grant Grove Village to Fresno, CA. I made it to Stockton, CA by late afternoon where I was meeting up with a friend who lived there to have dinner, visit and stay overnight. It was great to catch up with my friend and take a good break from the day of just trying to get loaded up, on the road and driving. I stayed overnight at the Walmart parking lot.

November 5th – This morning I was back on the road knowing I needed to get the air checked in my motorhome tires before I went to much further. After sitting for 6 months at Kings Canyon I knew they were a bit low and you just can’t get air in your tires anywhere. The tires are much bigger than car tires so I needed a truck place. In Lodi just off the freeway about 12 miles from where I had stayed at the Walmart, there are several truck services, so I got off at the exit and spotted a truck tire and wash place that was an easy pull in and out. Pulling a tow car I can not back up so I always have to be thinking ahead about getting in and out of places pretty easily.  I parked alongside the road and walked into the place of business to make sure they would be able to help me out and sure enough, they could. There were no other trucks being serviced so I was able to pull right in and get taken care of. My tires were a bit low just as I thought…..all tires were checked including the tow dolly tires. I was not charged at all, but gave him a tip for the service and helping me out. So off I went, hopping easily right back on the freeway. I drove this day till I stopped at a rest stop about 4 PM just outside of Weed, CA as it was getting later in the day, I don’t like to drive in the dark and did not want to be driving over the Siskiyous in the dark.

November 6th – I made it through the night just fine although it was cold. One of the things I have going against me right now is my propane heater and my generator does not work, so I have no heat when I am on the road and its November…..Brrrr! I bundle up a bit more, put on my gloves, turn on the front dash heater but it’s not really made to heat up all the space in the motorhome, but it does a good enough job after a while that I am fairly comfortable. Today I drove a few hours and stopped at a rest stop at about noon for some lunch and to get a shower while the temperatures were warmer. I proceeded on my way and stopped again for the night around 4 PM just a couple hours before Portland. OR.

November 7th – Today I drive the rest of the way to Washington close to my destination of Gig Harbor arriving about 7 PM. I drive to Port Orchard, a small town about 15 miles outside of Gig Harbor where I can park at Walmart for the night. My son lives about a half-hour away so he and his girlfriend come to see me and welcome me home. I stay the night in Port Orchard but the temperatures really drop during the night and it’s very cold without any heat.

November 8th – This morning I called my son and talked to him about how cold it had gotten during the night. My son talks to the homeowners where he lives to see if I can bring my motorhome to their place to park and hook up to electricity for the night….I am so grateful as they say that it is fine. I have an Airbnb reserved in Port Orchard on the 9th for a month, so I just needed to get through one more night in my motorhome. I drive out to the Key Peninsula and my son helps me get parked and all settled in. I am happy to be warmer.

November 9th – It rained during the night and I awake to some drizzling rain. I spend a few hours getting some things packed up and loaded into the car that I will take with me to the Airbnb that I think I might need and some of my scraping book stuff to work on while I am staying there. I borrow a car from my son’s girlfriend since mine needs to be worked on. I head out about 1:30 and pick my grandson up from high school at 2 PM. He is going with me to the Port Orchard Airbnb to help me unload the car and get set up. Check-in time is 3 PM…..We get to the Airbnb, meet up with Shannon the host who was very nice. The cottage is just as awesome and cute as I thought it would be from the pictures that were posted on the website. The cottage sits at the front of the property near the road with a circular driveway between the cottage and the main house which is on the waterfront. The cottage is blocked from street noise and view by a row of very tall Juniper trees….its a lovely place.

 

 

Well, a couple of weeks have gone by since my birthday and turning the big 60! Wow, where have the years gone? I remember in my younger years thinking 60 was so old and so far away and before you know it here I am 60, but do I feel old? Oh, there are some days I do especially when the body has its aches and pains…….but in my head, I still feel young at heart and I just want to keep on going and going. Turning 60 this year meant that I was not near family and friends to celebrate as I am working and living in Kings Canyon National Park an hour and a half outside of Fresno, CA. Two good friends, Colleen and Teri who live about 5 hours away had been talking about coming up here to visit me, so I suggested they come for my birthday! So the planning started a couple months ago…..they were able to get reservations at the John Muir Lodge which worked out really great because it is right near where I live and work. They were easily able to get a room for the night of June 18th, but there were no openings for June 19th so we kept checking to see if there were any cancellations and looking into other options just in case. The time was getting closer and still, nothing was coming up…..but Teri persisted and called the lodge and low and behold there was a cancellation for June 19th and she snagged it up. We were all so excited and happy about that.

So June 18th finally arrives……Colleen and Teri start out early so they can get here by 11/11:30 so we will have several hours to go exploring on Tuesday. Well, due to traffic, potty, gas stops, and a little site seeing they arrived about 2:30 P.M. I, of course, was on pins and needles as I waited for them to get here…..it was too hard to stay home at the RV waiting so I spent a couple hours at Grant Grove Village near the meadow on a bench taking in nature and texted there where I would be when they arrived.

As I was sitting on the bench I heard a voice ” Were here” I jumped up, gave them both big hugs…..so happy to see them! We got them checked into their room at John Muir Lodge, chatted and let them unwind a bit from the long drive. I first took them to where I lived with my RV in the woods so they could check out my neighborhood.

Our next stop was the General Grant Tree Trail, a 1/4 mile walking loop that is a nice, easy stroll and lots of fun as we checked out the “Fallen Monarch” which was home for 2 years in the late 1800s to the Gamlin brothers who were loggers while they built their cabin just up a ways from the Fallen Monarch. The Fallen Monarch was also used by the US Calvary for a time as a stable for their horses. 

Next on the path was the  General Grant Tree, which is the nation’s only living national shrine. In 1956, President Eisenhower gave the Grant Tree this designation in memory of Americans who gave their lives in wartime. Named after Civil War General and our 18th president Ulysses S. Grant, this tree has a volume estimated at 46,608 cubic feet, weighs over 1,250 tons, is 267 feet tall (the height of a 24-story building), and has a diameter at base height of 29 feet. The General Grant Tree is the world’s third-largest tree. Then it was off to dinner at the Grant Grove restaurant and the end of Day 1.

 

   

 

 

The first stop on the .08 mile loop is the “Fallen Monarch, ” a thousand-year-old Sequoia Tree that is more than just a big old log lying on the ground. The Fallen Monarch has lived through different periods of history with a unique past. No one knows when this giant fell but is was hallowed by wildfires so that when it fell, it became a tunnel that you can walk through. We do know that a couple brothers who were loggers….the Gamlin brothers found shelter in this tree. It served as temporary housing for them from 1870-1872 while they were constructing their cabin not far from the Fallen Monarch. Soon after the Gamlin brothers moved into their new cabin the tree became a gathering place and soon became the local saloon and hotel with table, chairs and even a homemade chimney that extended out the tree’s bark. Later in 1876, the chimney was used as a cookstove and the trunk of the tree as the stables for 32 horses of the US Cavalry.

The General Grant Tree has a volume estimated at 46,608 cubic feet, weighs over 1,250 tons, is 267 feet tall (the height of a 24-story building), and has a diameter at a base height of 29 feet. The General Grant Tree is young by sequoia standards at around 1,700 years old and is still growing thicker. The General Grant Tree is the world’s third-largest tree (General Sherman Tree is the largest) with the broadest base diameter of any sequoia at 40.3 feet. The General Grant Tree is a significant tree for all of America. In addition, to being “The Nation’s Christmas Tree,” The General Grant Tree is a national shrine in memory of the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served and fought and died to keep America free. The General Grant Tree is America’s only living shrine. The tree is of course named after Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious Civil War General, and America’s 18th president”.

As you continue up the trail you come to the Gamlin Cabin. The cabin is over 140 years old and has been reconstructed and relocated three times. “The cabin was built in 1872 by Israel Gamlin, who with his brother Thomas filed a timber claim to 160 acres within the Grant Grove. They lived here until 1878 while grazing cattle in the mountains. After General Grant National Park was established in 1890 the cabin was used as a storehouse by the U.S. Cavalry who patrolled the park until 1913. Later it became the quarters of the first park ranger station”.

Gamlin Cabin

Next on the trail loops is the Centennial Stump. The Centennial stump has a diameter of 24 feet and an interesting history.  “This tree was cut in 1875, and a 16-foot section was sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Only the outer shell was exhibited, the parts being reassembled after shipment. Eastern people refused to accept the exhibit as part of a single tree and called in a “California Hoax”. It took two men nine days to chop down the tree. Its upper trunk is the scarred log downslope from the Grant Tree. Ladies from a nearby logging camp used to conduct Sunday school services for their children upon the stump”. The “California Hoax” was a sad finish for the 1,800-year-old tree, it would be 14 more years before the grove received permanent federal preservation as a national park”.

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Today was my day off from work so Jill (the market and gift manager here at Grants Grove) had decided to go see the movie about Elton John called Rocket Man in Clovis. In the meantime, we had two new J1 young men who had arrived to work here from Turkey……Cim and Demir. Nhmet who is also from Turkey had already arrived and has been working in the lodge for a couple of weeks. They are between the ages of 18 and 21 and are living in one of the cabins where I had first lived when I got here. They also have no transportation to get around, so we took them with us to town so see the movie, go grocery shopping and had dinner.

Rocket Man was a great movie……anyone who grew up listening to Elton John music through the ’70s, and ’80s will appreciate this movie. Elton John was an amazing, talented musician and singer, he was very eccentric and flamboyant, but when you see this movie and grasp an understanding of his childhood, the craziness of being a star and those who took advantage of his weaknesses and his fame brings the music he sang to a whole different level of understanding about music and his life. So if you get a chance to see it, you should. I do not think you will be disappointed.

So what is a J1 and why are they here? In essence, the J1 is the J1 Summer Work and Travel (J1 SWT) visa which allows 3rd level full-time students completing degree level courses work in the USA for 4 months between May 15th and September 15th. Participants can opt to travel for a further month (up to October 15th) depending on the reopening date of their college and SEVIS compliance. The J1 SWT is also a cultural visa and all participants are required to undertake as many cultural activities as possible during the summer. J1s are hired to work in many of our National Parks to help fill the staffing needs over the busy summer/tourist season.

As I mentioned Nhmet, Cim and Demir are all from Turkey and attend the University in Istanbul and are majoring in Engineering. Nhmet and Cim are pretty quiet and they do not speak English well. Demir is 21, speaks English very well, is very social, very educated and knowledgeable. It was very interesting to talk with him as we went about our day and the differences in our cultures. Shopping was overwhelming for them and us…..so many choices of foods and the fact that in Turkey they do not have much processed food, they don’t have the big shopping centers and grocery stores as we do, they have small markets everywhere. Most people in Turkey do not have cars as they are very expensive…..Demir said most girls won’t date you if you do not have a car, because having a car means you have wealth. He lives in a high rise flat, they have mass transportation…..bus, train, etc he said. After two hours of shopping, we were exhausted but we all wanted to relax and get a bite to eat before heading back to Kings Canyon so we opted for Apple bees where we could sit down and where a variety of food options were available. Demur really liked the place, thought it was very nice. Nhmet and Cim ended up not eating….they do not eat Pork and so there was a discussion with the waitress whether various foods were all cooked on the same grill, which they were so they choose not to eat as they were concerned that whatever they ordered would have come in contact with Pork. Demur chose to try a hamburger which he liked……he had a very candid discussion with Nhmet and Cim about trying new foods. After making the hour and a half drive we finally arrived home at 10:30 PM. I quickly put away the few groceries I had and went to bed. It was a fun day.

Hey everyone,

Gosh it has been forever since I have blogged and I have really missed it, and now I am just that much farther behind in catching up on everything. Well after spending a year and three and a half months in Phoenix, AZ I finally left. After I got back from my six-week road trip at the end of September 2018 it was just a really rough time for me. While I was on the trip I had some car issues that I was able to temporarily fix so I could get back to Phoenix. Once I got back I had the shop I was working for do some major fixes and repairs to my car which took three weeks and $2,800.00….I have had mixed emotions about this job as time has gone on…..I’ll try and share the frustrations as well as the blessings as I do some catching up in my blogging. So for starters with my car things could have been a lot worse…..I had access to the company truck if I needed to run to the grocery store, not having the money upfront to put into my car I was able to make payments on the repairs and have my car back on the road to use. The reason it took three weeks to fix is that it took over a week to just get the right bracket I needed that helps hold your transmission to the frame, along with the motor mounts which I had to have replaced, the arms and an oil leak. Having to drop the transmission while the car is sitting on the ground on jacks and putting it back in is a pain in the butt for the mechanic and time-consuming……so frustration number one is our shop not having a lift…..even though one was purchased at the Richie Brothers auction but was never put in so, therefore, more labor went into the job which cost me more money even though I also got a 10% employee discount.

By this time the holidays were approaching and the holidays are always hard for me. I was invited by a couple of friends to spend Christmas with them, but I just did not want to. Christmas is for families and I just felt I would be the third wheel and feel out of place. I did have a Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Susanna and Endel which was nice. For Christmas, the shop was going to be closed for a few days so I made plans and reservations to go to Las Vegas, but at the last minute I caught a terrible cold and my head was hurting so badly I just could not even make the 4-hour drive, so I stayed home and nursed my cold through Christmas and New Years and then I was all well. The weird thing was I had not been sick in the last couple of years and out of the blue I catch this crud which took two weeks to get over and now here I am 5 months later and have not been sick again. There was a reason, I will never know that I was not to make that trip.

So I got through the holidays and the new year 2019 started…..I was feeling really down and depressed. I just was not happy working at the shop, things were going downhill and very frustrating. I no longer knew really what my job was any more or even what I would be doing each day. There were weeks I was working 25-30 hours a week. I needed to be working 40 hours a week, I was barely making my bills and my debt to the shop was getting paid very, very slowly. I was on an active search for a new job…..nothing was really popping out at me that seemed like a good match. I went on one job interview that I thought would be good, but that was a joke. I had to take some random, abstract test and if I passed it then I got an interview….well I did not pass it. So as February rolled around things were gearing up in Phoenix for the Spring Training games that would start the end of February. I got on the Delaware North job website and was looking at jobs (this is the same company I worked for at the Grand Canyon), well lo and behold there was a cash room position at the Maryvale Sports Complex for the Milwaukee Brewers just 10 minutes down the road. I applied for it and in just a couple of days, I was called in for an interview and hired on the spot. I was so excited because I would be making a few dollars more an hour than I was at the shop, it was part-time so it would fill in the empty holes that had sprung up working at the shop and it would get me away from the heavy depression and unhappiness that was going on at the shop. Those 5 weeks working at the ballpark was just what I needed and I had an awesome time. I will write more about my time and experience there on a separate blog post. In the meantime, I  was still looking for something long term after the spring training season ended and with only one week left I was on the Delaware North job website again and ran across a position for a Cash Auditor at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. I right away applied and within two weeks I received a phone call and had a phone interview with the HR department and then the General Manager. I was hired on the spot and was asked to get to Kings Canyon as soon as I could. So within 5 days, I had my motor home ready to go, new tires on my car dolly, my car loaded up and left Phoenix behind. I took three days to travel, stopping the last night at the KOA in Visalia to see and visit my friend Chris who had been living in her travel trailer for several months helping out family in the area and it happened that she was pulling out the next morning to head for Southern California, then Arizona and on to South Dakota. I was really glad I got to see her. The next morning I made the last leg of my journey up to Kings Canyon on April 10th.

Me and Chris April 10, 2019

I left Phoenix, AZ on April 6, 2019, to head to Kings Canyon National Park where I would be starting a new job as Cash Auditor for 6 months. I found that my friend Chris, who had been living in California near Visalia for a while was still in the area and was heading out soon so I stopped and spent one night at the KOA near Visalia to see her. I had not seen her in about a year so it was good to catch up.

I pulled out of the KOA April 9th with a forecast of snow expected. I called Kings Canyon to get a more accurate weather report…..I was told it was not snowing at the moment and if it did it proably would not stick around. Well, I did not want to have to contend with snow at all in a 34-foot motorhome towing a car. The drive took me almost an hour going from less than 1,000 ft to 6500 ft at Grant Grove Village and all uphill on a two-lane, winding road. The going was slow…..but I finally made it, checked in and was told I could park my RV at the bottom of the small hill to the staff housing called “Wormwood.” There was still about 2 1/2 feet of snow on the ground and it was going to be a couple weeks before the staff campground would be free of snow. So in the meantime, I would be staying in one of the cabins, which turned out to be more rustic than I anticipated but I knew it would be temporary. I got my key to cabin #10….it was a short walk from the parking area. Most of the walk area was clear of snow except for a few patches. There were some clumps of snow on the cabin steps and I knew once the evening came it was going to ice up, so I asked the maintenance guy if there was a shovel and if we could get the snow off the steps to the cabin. He took care of that for me and I got a few things from my RV and brought to my cabin. The cabin was small with two twin beds and two locker units at the end of the one twin bed for clothes and personal items. One of the locker units had the two nightstands stored in it. I did not feel like dragging them out, so I used the other one that did not have to much stuff in it except for a few odds and ends.  I got a rag and started wiping and cleaning the locker, and swept the floor. The weather was not to bad during the day, but once the sun started going down it got pretty cold. Each cabin had one heater to use because that is all the breakers could handle, otherwise, the breakers would pop, which did eventually happen a few times over the course of the two and a half weeks I ended up being there. The heater helped somewhat, but it was still pretty cold since the cabins were not insulated at all…..they really were not intended for people to stay in during the winter, but there was only so much housing available. We had a common area not far from my cabin that had a kitchen along with two washers and dryers. On each side of the kitchen area outside were the men and women’s bathrooms and showers….. men to the left and women to the right. In the pictures below I have marked my cabin with an “Orange X” and the kitchen and bathroom building with a “Yellow X”

My first day of work was April 12th, so I had a couple days to get acquainted with things and do a little adventuring. My first outing was an eight-mile drive to Hume Lake and General Grant Tree which I have written about in a different blog post.

Hume Lake beginnings go back to the mid to late 19th century. During the 1800s the United States government began selling federal government land to the public. In 1888, two men,  Hiram Smith, and Austin Moore bought thousands of acres of timber for logging the giant redwood trees. They formed the King’s Canyon Lumber Company and began business. After experiencing financial problems, the company was reorganized & renamed the Sanger Lumber Company. By 1905, the Sanger Lumber Company began to decline once again, so the company was sold. Ira Bennett & Thomas Hume then bought the company and land together. Bennette & Hume decided they needed to move the mill operations to be profitable. The mill was moved four miles east to Long Meadow. The water from Long Meadow and Ten Mile Creeks was used to form an artificial body of water, which is now Hume Lake to store & transport the timber. Once again though, the company ran into problems and eventually closed its doors in 1924 because of a lack of profits and a large fire that destroyed over half a million dollars in lumber. The land was sold back to the government and on January 9, 1946, a group of Christian men opened the Hume Lake Christian Camp on 320 acres of lakeshore property.

 

 

 

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