Friday, June 27, 2014

Animal sightings

photo by Julie Rumo

A car flashes its lights at us.

We don't know why.

We think maybe our lights need to be on. We lost track of time. Is it dusk? 

We're heading down a country western road in Idaho (maybe Wyoming) somewhere south of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We're laughing, singing and engaging in mindless car-safe horseplay. We're laid back, At ease.

We've just spent four filled days looking for grizzlies, elk, mule deer, bison, moose and gray wolves, our eyes burning into the mountainside, woodland and watering holes, praying for a least a glimpse of these magnificent animals. (God answered YES on almost all accounts.)

Now we're just kicking back in the Ram truck, late in the afternoon on a day when rain sashays with sunshine, treating us to a watercolor sky against a western range backdrop. We leave the national park system behind, and are now on the open range.

No fences.

The highway cuts through honest-to-goodness ranch-like grazing land.

And now this car passes us, blinking its lights.

We don't know why.

We round the bend and immediately see cattle, mostly mommas and babies, roadside. They crowd the shoulder. A few stand out into the road (the other lane.) 

We slow down, nearly stop, roll down the windows and bellow and moo until all the bovine stare at us. We scare a few of the babies, who jump backwards. A few quake where they stand.

Around the next bend we see more of this roadside attraction. We resume our bellowing and mooing. A momma backs up immediately, taking her two startled babies with her. We laugh. Lots.

But darn, we forget to blink, to help out the next guy. To warn him or her of this potential collision with the open range of the not-so wild West.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The good wait

Reason 748 why traveling with friends is so much fun.

We are in an RV repair shop near Ocean Shores, WA, because our new-to-us fifth wheel's braking system failed. So we have to wait a while for repairs.

Usually, while waiting for repairs, I'd lease up the dog and go for a walk, then return to wander around the repair shop, read posters on the wall, flip through repair manuals. Yawn a little.

Julie, the mom of the three boys traveling with us, had other plans.

She grabbed a lawn chair and her tanning lotion and set up on a rocky/grassy area to catch some rays. One of her boys set a chair up for me, then headed off to play with his brother. THEY walked to dog.

I joined Julie. In a chair. In the sun. And just chatted. 

So the waiting became fun.

Oh, and the repair was minor. An electric line spliced long ago had rusted loose. New line installed.

We're good.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stepping out of myself and into a tidal pool

I borrowed this picture until I can download my own.
I'm standing on the edge of the Pacific Ocean at Ruby Beach at low tide. Because we (well, really THEY) want to explore the tidal pools.

I don't like tidal pools, where trapped murky water imprisons unseen critters that slither through a  dense cover of algae. No matter where they are.

These tidal pools connect Olympia National Park to the Pacific on the outer edges of the state of Washington. I am here with my husband, Allen, our dog, Jacob, and four-sevenths of the Rumo family from Cicero, NY. Three of the four Rumos with us are little boys, ages 9, 9 and 8. They and their mom want to play in the tidal pools. So we head down the hillside to do so.

I plan to sit at the edge and just watch. And hold my nose. But mom immediately heads back up the hill to the restrooms, leaving me -- the tidal pool hater -- to watch the boys.

We wait. I look out toward the Pacific  -- way far away because it's low tide, its waters ebbing from huge barnacle-covered rocks. Then I look back to the boys, killing time until mom returns. Kicking sand.

I sigh. I know what  have to do. I have to overcome my loathing of  murk and slither to begin these kids on a great sea adventure. "Come on, boys," I yell (hiding my disgust), and head for the nearest rock.

I look back. They follow. I look down, no murkiness. The damp sand is clean. The water cool. No smell.

At that rock we find a world  populated with sea stars, anemones, brine shrimp, sea worms, barnacles and dozens of other lifeforms. They live in water so clear I can see individual grains of sand. The vivid oranges and purples of the starfish accent the black and white muscles, the yellow lichens and green anemones. They boys giggle, dance about, point, even climb.

It's a beautiful world unlike any I have explored. No yuck or muck.

When mom returns, we explore more. For hours. So  I guess it's true. That sometimes you have to put your preconceived notions aside, suck it in and just do it, go out on a limb. Because that's where the fruit is.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thank God for good neighbors

Finally, we reach Seattle, where all our kids and grandkids live.

And it's time to back into our campsite in a crowed campground as tight and manicured as any residential street in the big city just south of us.

We picked this place, Pleasant Lake RV Park in Bothell, WA, because it's so close to all the kids and grandkids who live scattered from Seattle (30 minutes  away) to Woodinville (10 minutes).

It's our first back-in in our new-to-us 30-foot fifth wheel. And it's tight. Very tight.

So we give it a go. And stop. Then we go. And stop. Then we go. And stop.

We just can't do it. It's like threading a needle with twine. From the side. Without light. Wearing a blindfold.
Then, we meet the Harley guy (he's wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt).

He's camped in lot that mirrors ours  in a monster fifth wheel (40 feet?) he's got perfectly tucked into the pines. He steps out his door. And watches.

I yearn for his help.

"It's our first time" I say, which I think is gentler on our confidence than throwing myself at his feet and crying out for help.

"No problem," he responds, in a drawl so slow and so southern I think of molasses.

He lumbers over to Allen, who's behind the wheel and beginning to sweat, and issues soft, low and slow continuous directions and confirmations:

"Turn the wheels left. Pull forward. Turn the wheel right. Back up. Keep turning the wheels. Turn the wheels. Stop. Now you gotta swing 'er ass around. That's right. Now rock it back an' forth. Yup. Doing good. Doing good. You got 'er in." 

And then he's gone.

And we're home for the next four nights.

We meet the nicest people while on the road.

I hope this one's around when it's time for us to leave.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sometimes it takes a kid ...

It's all a matter of perspective.

We're on our first journey with another family (a mom and her three kids; read her blog at in our new RV, a 30-foot Wildcat fifth wheel we've nicknamed Lily. 

The first three nights, we call Walmart home. On the fourth, we book into a campground in Bozeman, MT, giving us a chance to unhitch Lily. Something we've done only once.

After a few minor glitches (I still read the directions step-by-step), we successfully separate Lily and our truck (kids named him Buck the Truck), and set off to explore Bozeman.

It's morning now and time to reconnect, to stitch together that RV umbilical cord to make us  a 50-foot moving machine.

I'm driving, having to eyeball the top of the hitch receiver in Buck's bed with the hitch on Lily's front end. I'm backing up slowly, slowly, slowly, and CHUNCKCLINKCLUNK. Perfect. We're connected. Yay!

I drive Buck forward slowly and I hear Allen in absolute meltdown. "STOP STOP STOP," he screams. And he keeps screaming unintelligibly. 

I slam on the brakes, leap out and LOOK! Lily has come unhitched and she now sits crammed jammed on Buck's tailgate, causing it to bulge and buckle.


We grab my instructions. Nothing. We did nothing wrong (other than nearly destroy essential fifth-wheel equipment).

So we have to have another go at it, with Allen at the wheel. CHUNKCLINKCLUNK. But then a MAJOR CWANK! Allen pulls away slowly and Lily follows, like a lamb after her shepherd. Success. 

He stops, leaps out to examine the damage. Yep. The tailgate bulges and the top is scraped and gouged. It's awful. But it works, so we get on our way with sullenness as well as Lily in tow.

Here's where perspective fits in.

Kenley, our 8-year-old, quips, "Think of it as a birthmark." 

"What?" I ask.

"The damage. It's a birthmark."

YES! Kenley is brilliant. It's our first journey in Buck and Lily, so the damage is a birthmark.  Damage to treasure.