Sunday, March 27, 2011

Connor's fundraiser for Special Olympics

Connor's Spring Break Camping 2011 - all done!

I awoke to a rooster crowing pretty early, but it was warm and snuggly in the sleeping bag, so I just dozed a while.  Connor made some noises off on his end of the trailer - all happy sounds.  He was really loving the whole experience :)

Lee had talked with his dad the night before about helping him get a new printer at Costco in the morning, and Pop had invited us to breakfast.  So I kept on the warm clothes & started packing up.  Nothing was damp this time, because I'd left a little vent open above Lee & my sleeping space, and outside, everything just stayed dry (how nice!).  So I just started folding up things & packing stuff up.  Lee came out to help me & Connor came out to explore the morning.  Diana stayed "asleep" until I told her I needed her sleeping bag.  :)

After Lee got most of the stuff packed we did the best cleaning we could of the trailer.  I had brought plenty of paper towels & 409 :)  Diana saw Nancy at the barn when she went to dump the trash, and then we drove over there & we gave her the stuff we'd borrowed & said thanks & good-bye.  Nancy still wasn't feeling great, so we kind of had to keep our distance.

We headed out to Central Point to Pop's place and while he & Lee went shopping, Diana & I took much-needed showers (yay!).  I should have stopped at a coffee place on the way there, though.  I was really ready for the coffee once we got to the restaurant hours later!  Lee & Pop got the printer installed & all, and eventually we headed back home.

Connor had a violin lesson at 4:00, so we really just had time to give Connor a bath & change of clothes before we went to do that.  Everything is pretty much put away now, and we have the photos & memories of our adventure.

Connor's next request - Tent camping by a stream & go fishing.  (Fishing?  He won't eat the fish!).  I think we can pull this off sometime over the summer :)  But I'll need a camp mattress...or a cot!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Connor's Spring Break Camping 2011 - the fun starts

Okay - keep in mind, the forecast was for rain all week.  Just a day or so before we left, Tuesday was showing, "Sunny breaks."  We were really lucky - it stayed dry throughout our camping experience, with only a teeny sprinkle in the evening, just to make people nervous about having come out to join our campfire!

I think we all slept pretty well.  It didn't get to freezing, but it was cold.  There were enough blankets & sleeping bags to keep warm, as long as you didn't let them slide off.  Lee & I had some dampness in our part of the tent, but that was because we forgot to open a bit of the 'window' to let out the condensation.  It was strange not having a car right next to us.  We'd put all the food in the trailer with us, since I didn't want to leave it out for critters.  I would have normally used the trunk of the car as the 'pantry' during this time.

I think I got up first and went to start the fire.  I was surprised how open the area was.  In the dark, it had seemed like closed-in forest.  There was a nice big fire ring off to the side of the site that I couldn't see the night before either.  There was a good pile of cut wood nearby, but it was pretty damp.  While we were working on building the fire, Nancy came by with Joshie and she had some dry wood.  I was trying to light the stove by this time, but I couldn't get it to start.  Lee checked the propane tank & said it was empty.  He loaded it into the back of Nancy's car, and I went to go get it filled.

While I was doing that, Nancy went home and made a big pot of water & pancakes for us!  No trouble!  The guy at the filling station said the tank actually did have propane, and he topped it off for me.  I got back to the trailer & Lee hooked it up again, but needed a wrench - so he took Nancy's car & went back to their house & jogged back.  Once he tightened everything, we could get the stove to work!  Hooray!!  I had brought our small propane tanks, but not the stove, since there was one with the trailer.  Later I found another stove under the bench seat storage, but I didn't know that was there until later :P

In any case, we had hot water & pancakes.  We ate by the fire all bundled up in blankets, etc.  Connor thought this was great.  He kept throwing stuff into the flames, and running around the area to explore.  Diana & I were just kind of hanging out, because that's the way we do it in the morning when we don't have to do anything important.  Lee was still really worried about the car being stuck.

After we'd all eaten, Diana went over to the car to take photos of it stuck in the mud.  I went through the trailer & tidied up & stuff, and Connor basically ran around the area & checked things out - always staying in sight of Lee or me.  He did a great job of not wandering, which had been a concern for me when thinking about doing this sort of thing.  He really did a great job of sticking close.  There was a port-a-potty for the renter/campers that help Nancy with the horses, and it's a 'nice' one that has the blue stuff so it doesn't reek :) 

Before lunch, I called Nancy to see about when we might pull the car out - she was about to call me, and said she was on her way.  She brought her truck down, and Lee & I got in (me in the bed on a bale of hay), and headed through the muck to free our car.  I had forgotten the keys (I thought they were in my pocket) so I ran back while Lee & Nancy got the chain onto the front end.  When I got back, they were ready to go - Nancy carefully towed the car, while Lee drove inside.  He said putting the car in low gear helped too.  The car was pulled free, and then Nancy drove to where we could turn, staying ahead so if Lee got stuck again, she could tow more.  Lee managed to drive through everything, all the way back to the good road :)  Nancy had him follow her to the horse barn so we could clean all the mud off (there was a lot).  Lee's comment was, "Gee, you really don't want us taking any of your topsoil, do you?"

Once we had a car again, we'd considered checking out the natural bridges (made by lava) on the way up to Crater Lake, but apparently there was a lot of snow up that way, so we gave it a miss.  We went ahead and set up for lunch.  Connor had canned spaghetti (which I didn't know if he would eat or not - he did), and we had tomato soup.  I also had the pop n fresh biscuits, which Lee showed us how to wrap around the skewers to cook on the fire (mine was raw inside - just right!).  Again, Connor was experiencing just was he was wanting to do - campfire lunch :)

Diana & I went back to where the car  had been stuck & took photos of the ruts left behind - Diana used my mud boots to show the difference in depth - heh.  And no, we didn't create ALL the ruts, but I did make some new ones on the left of this photo when I tried to avoid this big deep part - apparently there's rock below though, and it would have been fine (hard to tell that in the dark tho).

 Karrie came to pick up Josh & had Ben & Micah with her, so we got a chance to visit with her.  Kraig had come down sick the night before, and Nancy wasn't feeling great now, so Karrie wanted to help with cleaning out the horse stalls.  When we got there, however, the gal that works there was already just about done, so instead, I went & got Connor & Diana, and Karrie got them set up to ride Sterling.
I got the dishes done, and when they came back & Connor messed with the fire more until family started showing up for the campfire/dinner time.  Shane traded with Karrie, because she had a class, and he went off with his boys to do stuff for a while.  They had pizza for dinner.  Donna brought Lee's dad and Tony, and some yummy guacamole.  Myrna & Doug came with Daniel, who did a cool time-lapse video of the campfire later.  Tony's girlfriend Ashley showed up too, and he announced they are getting married in July :)  
It was really nice that so many members of the family were able to come out.  For the ones that couldn't make it (or were sick), I'm hoping we can come back during the summer and do this again when it's warmer :)  Connor has already said he'd like to try tent camping, and after seeing how well he stuck close by, I think we can manage it.  Maybe some other camping family folks will join us as well.  I just need an air mattress...  :P

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Connor's Spring Break Camping 2011 - the adventure begins!

He's been talking about it since last July, when Connie was with us.  He kind of just made a decision in his head, and then informed us that we were going Spring Break Camping in the Tent Trailer in March 2011.  At first he had a different date for Spring Break (I don't know how he even knew it was in March) but he adjusted after I showed him the school schedule.  This month when I put up the white board calendar, he wrote in "Camping" on Monday of Spring Break.  And he had talked about it often, but once it was on the calendar, he stopped.  Seeing it written down meant it was going to happen, and he didn't need to remind us anymore, I guess!

I know it looks like we are catering to his whims, but really, he only has the one thing he wants to do.  The rest of the time, he doesn't ask for anything (food excluded).  Experiences strengthen the connections in his brain, so we try to help him make those experiences he wants to have happen.  And he changes things and grows.  Last year, he wanted to do Spring Break Camping, and we rented a yurt.  That was kind of what he wanted, and he got to ride his bike, which was part of the request.  He was careful to be more specific with "tent trailer" for this year (but we couldn't do bikes, and he didn't ask for that).  Next time, he wants to do camping in our green tent - but I think we've gotten away from Spring Break, as it was pretty cold first thing in the morning!  I told him summer camping is much more warm :)  He also wants to be by a stream so he can do fishing.  I think we can swing that too :)

I don't know if we'll ever get Trevor to join us on something like this unless we were to get a full-on, size-of-a-regular-apartment 5th wheel trailer.  Or maybe one of those bus RVs with the pull-out sides.  If it doesn't have it's own bathroom & shower, Trevor is probably not going to be into it.  He gets physically ill if he's not comfortable, and his comfort is based on man-made conveniences - like flush toilets & heaters.  Still, it's not a bad deal - he takes care of the mail & the dog.  We don't have to worry about having left something electric on, and on longer trips, he takes care of the plants as well.  And it's not like he's going to throw a party & trash the house.  As it is, he knows he could have had a friend over, and he said he thought about it, but never actually called his friend!  His computer kept him company, and after hearing of our adventures, Trevor was really happy he didn't come.

I'd talked with Karrie about borrowing their trailer and I'd asked Nancy about putting it at the campsite on their ranch.  We were all in agreement, and Karrie had Shane set it up for us last weekend.  Shane said the one mattress was kind of damp because there was a leak in the roof, so I made sure to pack extra tarps so it wouldn't be an issue.

As we no longer have the van, I had to be pretty organized with how we packed the Camry.  Yes, the truck would have been a lot easier, but the truck eats gas like nothing.  I brought extra sleeping bags to use as comforters because we can easily get below freezing temps at night this time of the year.  Also, the forecast for the week was rain, rain, rain!  I got our 4 camp chairs in, the large Rubbermaid tub with the camp supplies, and our smallest cooler.  There were the 4 backpack/bags for our clothes, and then extra blankets, and foodstuffs & pillows.  The space for the 5th passenger in the car was piled up with stuff, and the back window ledge was used as well.  We were pretty stuffed in the car!

Lee got off work at 6:30, and I think we were on the road a little after 7:00.  That means we made it down to the ranch about 9:15ish.  By then, it was DARK.  But it wasn't raining!  I had a hard time seeing the little road to the campsites, so we turned around at the horse barn, and then I found it and headed toward the camp area.  I was trying to see the trailer with my high beams, and I could tell the trail was really wet.  However, I thought if Shane was able to tow a trailer in, we should be okay in the car...  We still didn't see the trailer, and I actually passed the campsite area (in the dark, everything looks the same - woods).  I could tell the trail was getting worse, so I pulled off into the grass more and we got a little ways, and then we didn't move :(  Lee switched with me and tried to rock the car back & forth a bit, but only succeeded in getting deeper.  So we all got out, and sloshed around to the back to find the lantern & flashlights in the trunk (I had them all together & they were actually accessible!) and then we hiked back to the road, and up to Kraig & Nancy's house.  Lee's shoes (at least they were old ones) were completely soaked, but I was in my new Kamiks & Connor was wearing the mud boots, so we were okay.  Diana had on cowboy boots, and seemed okay.

At least when we got up to the house, everyone could use the flush toilet!  Nancy got in her truck and took Lee & me back down to the car, while Kraig kept Diana & Connor and was going to take them back to the campsite.  Lee was not saying much.  He wasn't a happy camper :(  Nancy laughed about it, and I was okay - I've done the camping thing with Girl Scouts enough to have gotten to the "it's an adventure" point.  Sometimes things just don't go your way.  You work around it & do your best.  Nancy's truck is a ranch truck - it navigated the mucky sludge great.  She backed it up to the car, and we tarped the back, and then unloaded everything into the bed.  It's actually pretty impressive how much stuff that little car can hold!  Once we got everything we could see (still pitch dark), Lee & Nancy were in the cab, and I laid on top of the gear in the back while Nancy drove to the ACTUAL campsite.  A spot I'd never seen - we never would have found the trailer on our own.

In hindsight, I really should have just driven to the house to start.  I was trying to avoid bothering Kraig & Nancy.  See how well that worked out?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Break 2011

I don't really have much of a plan - I'm hoping there's relaxation in here somewhere...

Diana arrived from school via a friend on Friday evening.   Lee came home from work & took her skating, and then she went to see "Paul" with some friends from here.  She & Trevor are both waiting to hear back on their grades from last term, but Diana was already pretty upset about her final grade for her Calculus class - looks like she's going to need to redo, unless there's a very generous curve (and that instructor is not known to curve).  The class grades will post on Friday, and then she'll know for sure.

She brought a nice big bunch of laundry with her, so the washer & dryer have been going pretty much all weekend.  I did get my shower scrubbed nicely, and hopefully I'll get a little yard work in.

Today is Monday, and I'm prepping for Spring Break Camping - Connor's request since last summer.  We don't have the van anymore, so I'll need to be creative in stuffing the trunk of the Toyota.  We'll be in a tent trailer, and the weather has been drizzly/rainy, so we will need extra tarps and blankets.  Sure, sunny weather would be preferable, but this is the time we've got, so this is when we're going.  Trevor will house-sit and hang with Liberty, since he just get stomachaches when we take him camping.  And as we'll be on Kraig & Nancy's ranch property, there's no flush toilet nearby, and that wouldn't work well for Trevor.

On Tuesday night, we're hoping to do a big family campfire with Lee's sibs.  I'm looking forward to that.  During the day we'll see if we can get some horseback riding in, and maybe explore around the property a bit.  In the early morning, I expect to see the deer & maybe other wildlife.  It's pretty open spaces on the ranch.

Once we're home again, I have house stuff to do that I've put off for a while.  I'd like to get my laundry room in order.  There's plenty of work in the yard.  I need to transfer stuff down to the basement after it's sealed up against moisture.  My house feels very cluttered to me right now - it bugs me.

If I can get my sewing machine out, I'll do some mending and maybe start on a few smaller projects I've been thinking about.  And maybe I'll get some reading time in. :)

Diana goes back to campus next Friday.  The new term starts on Monday.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Auf Wiedersehen Grand Caravan

A while back, Lee had a fender bender with our van.  Car #1 was parked illegally, and then car #2 stopped right in front of him while he was avoiding car #1.  Oh well, that's how it goes.

So for the last few months, we've had the van sitting in the yard, waiting for us to figure out what to do with it.  The estimate Lee got was $3K to get it fixed.  Even though the impact was about 15 mph, it still was enough to ruin the bumper, hood, light and driver's side fender.  Enough got pushed into the wheel that it later deflated.  It was still drivable, just not okay to drive :)

So eventually, Lee found someone to sell the car to - I expect they'll take it apart for the parts (which I checked as a possible option to repair - the good parts should more than make up what the tow cost & payment to us was).  Lee had taken photos of the outside & inside to send to the buyer, and so when I went out the other day to make sure there was nothing in the van before the tow truck came to get it - I was dismayed to find most of the interior covered in MOLD.  Ugh!  Oregon is very damp in winter.  Even though the van was all sealed up, it's not enough to keep the damp out.

Everything had black, white, brown, grey mold on it except the ceiling, and surprisingly, the driver's seat.  The worst places?  The seatbelts.  They were all fuzzy & disgusting.

I got a bucket of soapy water & Clorox wipes, put on some rubber gloves & set to it.  I didn't want the tow people to turn around & say, "Um, no - we didn't sign up for the mold-mobile."  I got most of the mold off the upholstery and seatbelts and carpet areas where it was the worst.  I hope if they decide to repair & resell the van, it'll be cleaned really thoroughly!

At least that made it a bit easier letting go of what was my favorite car to date.  It did a great job hauling us all back & forth to Canada and down to California.  It was comfortable, reliable and totally Girl Scout worthy.

True, I no longer need such a big vehicle - and with the gas situation we're in now, it's better I don't have one - but I will still miss it.  It was a good van.

Now I have my eye on something more along the lines of a Ford F-150 or Toyota Tacoma.  Four doors & the power to haul a tent trailer across the USA.  Ford is making an Eco-boost something that's supposed to work better for mileage...