catching up

The week following saw sissy's birthday and then the niece's senior and final dance recital/going away to college celebration. Or in other words there was more planning, running around town, and executing said plans on the event days. This was on top of completing my parents honey do list in which I'm happy to report that things are going as planned. Many changes/fixes have taken place making their day to day lives easier again. This was a busy month to say the least and I'm glad everything is done and winding down.

It's been three weeks back in the city (one I happen to care little for) and I think I'm just about ready to leave. I've still got about three to four more months before I depart and I'm hoping they'll pass quietly and without incident. 

Financially I've seen money go out at an alarming pace but this was expected in part from my trip and all the family related events. I've been reviewing my options for short term employment but am not sure what exactly I want to do at this time. Here are a few of the options I'm considering.
  • IT work - This is the least desireable to me because I kind of want to distance myself from tech work and move into other areas. The reason it's still on the table is because of how much I can earn in a very short amount of time. 
  • Retail work - It's easier compared to what I used to do, and there are plenty of jobs available. The main drawback is how managers in this genre generally treat you poorly, and the pay is low. I'm just not sure if I'll make enough to save for later. 
  • Amazon - I'm seriously considering taking a seasonal position at a fulfillment center. The rate of pay definitely allows me to save despite how physically demanding (I've read) the work is. However this is still a plus given my historically high lipid profile.
  • Cash out the 401k - I know, I know, I know. Everyone says to leave it where it is. Here's the thing. Despite paying taxes and a penalty for early withdrawal, it would allow me to pursue work at a very very relaxed pace. The other thing is those penalties get washed out at tax time because I earned less this year than the year prior. I still managed to collect a tax return to boot. I learned this from the last couple of down turns.
Now that I've got some time to myself I'm going to finally reconnect with some friends.


nine days

... since I arrived back in CA. The last week has been differently busier than the nine days prior. After getting past the initial welcome back crush of family and friends I turned to unloading, unpacking, getting moved in, and everything stashed away in a matter of two days. 

The relaunch of Bistro Chienne was a success!

The first order of business was getting my sister's dog (Oreo) onto Bridgette's feeding schedule and brand of food (Acana). Not a difficult task since Oreo is a tubber that eats anything at anytime. She gets smaller portions since the food is healthier/richer and is finally losing all the leftovers weight my parents put on her. 

Samsung Tab 2 7"

Second order of business was getting a (late) Mother's & Father's day gift for the folks. Sissy and I decided to bring them up to date tech and got them both tablets this year. By decided I mean that we took them window shopping to find the ones they and our wallets liked. Luckily they're fairly tech and internet savvy so the learning curve wasn't too steep. It also hurts none to have a tech support pro as a son whose living under your roof and ready to help on demand. The grandson expidited the presentation of the gifts, and unwrapping before devouring a bowl of rice at our Father's day lunch.

Om nom nom nom nom!
We didn't even get a chance to catch our breath before we moved onto the next piece of family business. My niece's graduation from high school was in two days. Clothes were dry cleaned, hair was done, and presents were prepared for the big day. I don't think any of us could be happier or prouder for her at this moment. She even gave the farewell speech and rocked it! We've got about 15 years to prep for the next one which should be just enough time.

Little brother is watching you, always.

We had our celebration dinner at the niece's favorite restaurant. The Melting Pot. My father had never had fondue before in his life. I pee'd myself when he almost tried to use two of the fondue forks like chopsticks. During dinner a video played of my niece's pictures and dance recital videos throughout the years. It was kind of surreal eating really great food while crying at the same time. I would do it again though. I'm seriously so proud of my Silly Silly Sabi's accomplishments.

Now I'm getting caught up with personal pursuits and more importantly seeing all the friends I've held at bay since returning. Odd, but I'm busier now that I'm not working than when I was.


take the long way home: part four

Not a single elk was seen
We were treated to some of the prettiest scenery on our way down the mountain. Matter of fact it was so pretty that I tried to find another RV park to spend more time up there. All we found were seasonal RV parks which were all booked months in advance and filled to capacity. We did manage to find several mostly unoccupied state parks without hookups. I really regretted my decision (the week prior) to hold off buying a portable generator for the sake of saving money. As cool as it was up there I still needed the extra power my  now 3 year old deep cycle battery was incapable of holding long term. There were a few other reasons we had to have hookups as well.

View from the Mogollon Rim

We pressed on and landed in Payson for the night. The park we settled into was on the edge of town and not as close to the wilderness as we were hoping for. This was made up for by the quaintness and good food the town had to offer. We went for a nice walking tour of the place and then picked up some dinner to go at Gerardo's Firewood Cafe. The pasghetti and meatballs was so worth it! After being at this for almost a week now we both settled into our new routines. A glass of scotch while I watched another episode of Kitchen Nightmares and the beagle .... well she had found an enjoyable yet peculiar way in which she repeatedly ended the night.

I saw this every freaking night
Our last stop before finally making our way into Phoenix to visit with some friends was Camp Verde, AZ. This place is at about a 3000 ft elevation and we definitely felt it's lack of effect on the heat compared to where we had just come from. Most of our time there was spent either inside the truck or trailer with the AC running full blast. The park we stayed at had some rather colorful locals residing there, but none who were life threatening to us. Just slightly off in a fun way. We found this out when we hung out and had lots of beers as we hoped around from RV to RV in a kind of full timers version of a pub crawl. In the morning, while I was trying to fight my hangover, I made a discovery. Well ok, it was really more of something I had missed completely. When I left TX one of my stops was to be the Gila cliff dwellers site in NM. I had to scrub that because the Park service had closed it to the public from the 3rd to the 7th. The worst part came when I learned that even if it wasn't closed I, the beagle and her kind are not welcome there. Montezuma's Castle was not only just a ten minute drive from where I was staying, but they also Welcomed dogs there. We packed up, drove in, and spent most of the morning there while I got my Anthropological geek on! Bridgette was treated to a couple of bits of steak again that night.

A slight fixer upper
The next three days were spent down in Phoenix with a catching up with childhood friend and his family. A nice benefit was that his house was built on a one acre lot so I didn't have to find a place to stash my rig. He was also generous enough to provide power to keep the AC running and everything inside from melting. We stlll also slept in it during our stay despite his offer to put me up in the house. It was more out of convenience that we did that than any other reason, and the beagle had to her hind legs on back of the couch thing or else she wouldn't get a good nights rest. Our stay with them was Great, but long overdue. The last time I had visited was ten years ago and I reazlied then that I need to be more diligent with keeping in touch. I will most definitely make plans to visit my friend and his family again. Only this time it will be in the winter when we can enjoy being outside a bit more and I also plan to cook for his clan as a Thank You!

On Monday evening we made our final destination in southern CA to stay with my family. We're staying here for the summer'ish before moving on again. Our timetable depends mostly on getting some work and adding to our savings. This was a fun yet hectic nine days for us. I'm looking forward to doing it again but at a more relaxed and stationary pace.


take the long way home: part three

After touring as many of the Billy the Kid sites we could stomach we decicded it was time to make camp. We checked out several great places but found one that was perfect for our needs. We spent two very relaxing days there and it was just what we needed. Even as relaxed as my pre-trip packing was, I still hadn't worked out the day to day living in this rig and knew there would be kinks to work out. If you're ever in Ruidoso please check out the R & R RV Park as it excelled our expectations. The time here allowed me to decompress, unpack what was needed, and research the road ahead. We even managed to get the AC/Heater temps worked out for a good night's sleep.

Not an F was given during our stay!
I wasn't able to make up my mind what route to take out of NM the first day. On the second I decided to let a very nice lady curator I'd met at the Billy the Kid visitors center suggest a very scenic route out of NM for me. I have to say that the first 20 minutes the drive was everything she said it was, but started to have my doubts after that.

Decisions, decisions?
As badly I wanted to go back based on what I was now seeing, I pressed on. I was not dissappointed in the least bit despite how lifeless the route had become. It wasn't until I drove through something called the Malpais Valley of Fires that I realized she'd sent me somewhere special. The picture below only captures a fraction of what's really there, but you should see it for yourself time permitting.

Quick, climb on something because the ground is lava!

The rest of the drive out was boring up into Soccorro where I stopped for gas. It was there where I had a shocking discovery. My trailer hitch was just above the ball and not fully over it as I'd first set it in Ruidoso. I got insanely lucky that it never fully slipped off and something worse had happened. It was from this point forward that the vistas only got better and better.

I regret nothing!

Along the way I kept on seeing signs for something I didn't have clue one what it was about until I was almost on top of. It was about five miles out of my way despite being able to see it all each inch of every mile. This was one of the best surprises of my trip so far.

That's what she said!
The gift shop was closed since I arrived after 4pm but the nice thing is the tours are all self guided there. We reached the tenth part of the tour when I felt the beagle and I was being closely watched. I stopped, looked around, and almost missed him. Almost!

Close up of Uncle Buck.
This could've been a major distaster had the beagle and I kept marching onto the array without notice. Buck's can and will charge you if they feel you're encroaching on their territorry.

Actual distance when I spotted Uncle Buck.

As stupid as this may sound. We moved slowly closer, but I stopped several times to stomp my feet and snort loudly. I wasn't sure if this would work because I couldn't for the life of me remember what freaking kind of animal this was. I did what I did only because it's kind of a common bull type behavior. He got up and headed towards the open desert when we got within about 10 feet. By the looks of his left antler I could tell he had lost a couple of fights and wasn't in the mood to lose another. We were luck he did what he did because I would not have hesitated to pick up and throw the beagle at him while I ran like the wind in the other direction. I am all that is man!

These things are huge. The picture doesn't do it justice but trust me when I say they are HUGE in person. I walked away from them understanding less than I thought I knew about them, but you should still see them in person when you get a chance. 

The rest of the drive was extremely pretty but uneventful. I decided to stop in a small town that was about 3/4 of the way planned and I didn't regret it. I had found the RV Park almost by accident and didn't realize that something wasn't quite right until after I had contacted the park managers to secure a spot for the night. Luckily they not only accommodated me, despite my limitation, but went the extra mile to help make the stay a touch more affordable. 

You must be this old to ride!
This is what I saw the night before and then told the park managers I might be a smidge too young for this ride. They informed me that there's a rule with parks like this in AZ that if they're at 80% occupancy of those who are 55+ and over ... they can and will take anyone of any age. The park is resort class and well worth the stay, even if only for one night! If you happen to stay Please say Hi to Ted and Karin for me.


take the long way home: part two

Sunday morning we left Carlsbad and made our way north to Roswell, NM. I was almost disappointed in not seeing a single flying saucer until I came up on this sign welcoming us to the town.

No import will ever be as reliable as a 'Murican truck
Our first stop was the town of Lincoln, NM where the Lincoln county war began and Billy the Kid rose to promenance as a gunfighter. This is the also the town where Billy was tried, convicted, and made his famous escape killing Deputy James Bell and Deputy Marsall Bob Ollinger in the process.

Lincoln Courthouse/Jail
The town sells a pass which gets you into all of the museums for only $5 per person. The tour is free for beagles apparently. Lincoln is not a big town and you can walk end to end in about 3 minutes if you're a power walker. It took us about 50 times longer because I was massively geeking out at each stop, and the beagle couldn't walk a straight line to save her life

Pretend the minivan is a wagon and the street is dirt

Inside the T&M store
Now this next spot is a bit of a treat. This is the site where the McSween home once stood and also where Alexander McSween along with some of the last of the Lincoln County Regulators lost their lives as the home was burnt out. The home next to, on the right, of the store. This picture was shot from behind the right side of the store looking out towards the street. I parked in front of it when I arrived having no idea what the empty lot was until I read the historic placard in front.

That's my rig in front.
Being able to physically connect with while I toured the town put me over the moon since I'm an old west gunfighter fanboy. I'm not sure what this says about me as a person but can't and don't want to help it! Bridgie got some steak for dinner that night on account of my being in an excessively good mood.



No undertaking is ever without problems and here are a few of the ones I've encountered so far.

The day before I left I received an email from the manufacturers of my composite see through propane tank. In short the US-DOT issued a recall after allegedly discovering some unsafe mfg practices. What those are I don't know since there wasn't any detail on that. I had one day to find a place that would drain it, remove the valve for me, and then pickup a replacement tank. This was on top of working a full day, picking up the trailer, and then load my stuff so I could leave that same day. As you might recall, my roommate talked me into delaying my departure by 12 hours which took the pressure off. I have to ship the recalled tank back but am waiting until I arrive in CA to do that. It seems the Lite Cylinder company has taken their website offline and replaced it with an under construction sign. I can't login to update my return ship address since I'd purchased it when I lived in San Antonio. I also seem to be getting to voice mail only when I call so this doesn't look good so far. I'll update if/when this is resolved.

The second day into my trip I was pulling out of a supermarket driveway in one of the small towns I stopped in and heard a loud scrape/clunk sound. This is normal when certain driveways are a bit on the low side. The rear bumper of the trailer has two V shaped bars beneath them keep it from bottoming out. Unfortunately this isn't what I'd heard. It wasn't until I arrived at the RV park and was trying to unhook that I learned what the problem was. The hitch jack pad (even though it was completely up) had caught on the street and twisted a little to the side. This made cranking it down almost impossible. I kind of panicked for a second and thought this was going to cost me a fortune to fix. It doesn't, and it didn't cost me anything to fix in the end. A replacement jack runs about $50 and is easily replaced by removing only three bolts. The reason it was free was the proprietor of the RV park was able to crank the tube back into position using only a pipe wrench.

Manual climate control and the current weather conditions of differing geographical locations. My first night I turned off the AC only to wake in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night. The temp there was in the high 77º at 4am. The second night I let the AC run and woke up freezing at about 5am. The temp was 48º. I will get this right and do my research before I arrive at my next stop!


take the long way home: part one

So when I finally left Austin on Saturday morning I realized that I had revised my travel plans about a hundred times. I gave up the ghost and instead decided to let the wind blow me and the beagle around (yes it tickled, and yes we liked it). We left somewhere between 10:30-11am that day and actually had a tailwind help push us out of Texas and into New Mexico, and we must never speak again about how we enjoy the wind this way.

Objects in picture may appear smaller

On the way out of  Texas I remembered two things before leaving. The first was that I took all the online lessons of driving slow when pulling a rig (to the point of annoying everyone behind me) to conserve gas. Two years prior I made the mistake of driving way too fast (i'm no superman), and blew an obscene amount of money after making it only a quarter of the way to my destination. Had I gone all the way I would have blown about triple of the budget. I decided to tuck tail and return home which resulted in only costing me half the trip budget. An acceptable loss all things considered. The second lesson was making sure my weight was absolute. What I mean by this is that I also had also made the mistake of traveling with a full tank of water which contributed to the financial loss due to the additional weight. 

We stopped in Carlsbad for some gas, rest, and dinner around 8pm. After spending about an hour in the McDonalds parking lot (for the free wifi to figure out our next move and not for dinner) we decided to stay the night there since we just spent the last 10 hours driving, stopping for gas, food, and/or to pee/poo. Sorry, no pictures of our stay there since we arrived at night. Trust me, I'm doing you a favor since it didn't look that good at night. What I saw in the daylight wasn't any better. 

I slept so so that night since it was my first night in the rig in a while. Even though it was a restfull sleep it still felt strange. This was two nights in a row of odd sleep. My first being on the couch and not my bed (which  was packed away) at the apartment. I'm expecting/hoping sleep to get back to normal since I'm sleeping in the same bed each night again. The beagle is adjusting about as well as I am to travel, but in all due honesty seems to be doing better than I am. I constantly hear her sawing logs in the truck, trailer, truck, trailer, truck, etc. When we stop she seems to reap the rewards of the walk more so than I do. I am determined to take her lead and derive more enjoyment than she.