2017

TL;DNR: We bought an RV. We went to Yellowstone, Olympic and Death Valley nation parks in it, visiting friends and family along the way. We saw a few movies, cancelled our DirecTV account and started watching DVDs. I made an animated movie and wrote some blog posts. We started the daunting task of clearing away 25 years of pack rat accumulations.

The year in review

Jeanne bought an RV in January. Between winter storms, we took it for some overnight trips to see what we had and what we needed. Jeanne made several trips in it with friends. Together we made three trips, to Yellowstone, Olympic, and Death Valley national parks. We would have made more, except it spent months in Manteca, for a toilet replacement.

We started walking to dinner one a week at La Bamba Mexican restaurant in January. It is about seven tenths of a mile from our house. I was in such bad shape that it took half an hour to get there. I started sporadically walking Googie in the afternoons. Slowly I became more able to walk. I started taking one hour walks every day in June. This allowed us to expand our list of weekly restaurants. I rode my bike for the first time in 20 years. I am so out of shape that I can only ride 5 miles. We bought a bike rack for the RV and took the bikes to the Olympics, but never used them. In October we put them away for the year. I will start again in the spring.

Jeanne rehabilitated very few birds this year. She would have rehabilitated more, but the rescue center has stopped using volunteers for home care and very few came in through the organization that sends her out to receive and rehabilitate birds. She continues to teach her raptor identification class and attended the CCWR annual symposium. She is considering retiring from rehabilitation after decades of volunteering.

In August, I misplaced my reading glasses. I was certain they were in my bedroom, so I started a search. I realized that my room was cluttered with decades of pack rat accumulation. I started to clean it out. This expanded into a project to clean out the electronics and toys in the house, but not the garage. I gathered all of the electronics and other toys that I hadn’t used in years. I sorted them into garbage, recycling and donations. We offered the toys to our neighbors for their kids. They said their kids only played on computers, so we put the toys on the curb and announced that they were available on a neighborhood mailing list. The neighbor’s kids took most of the toys. The rest we donated to goodwill, along with a dozen shirts and pants that no longer fit because I had lost weight.

We did the same thing with the electronics. Most weren’t taken, so I tried to sell them through Next Door. When that failed, I offered them for free. Most were taken. The broken eletronics went to a recycling center. This led me to my ham radio gear. I am in the middle of a project to set it back up and get back on the air.

I had collected a stack of notebooks and other paper that was about three feet tall, along with other office supplies that we never used, so we gave most of that away as well.

Over the years, we had stashed various things in whatever place they had happened to fit. As long as we were gathering all of these things together, we reorganized. Now that we’re done, the house is devoid of accumulations and we can find everything in it. The exception is film related photography gear. We have a massive scanner, a complete darkroom, and a collection of 35mm, medium format, and 4×5 cameras. Jeanne would like to tackle it next. The garage looms as a massive tax that will take many months. I do not look forward to tackling it.

I had spent 40 years developing computer software but had never used very much other than the tools of a developer. This year, I started using personal information management tools. Now I have my contacts organized, my calendars all merged, and an on line to-do list that I can access from my tablets and computers. My favorite use of the to-do list is to remind me daily to wind my pocket watch. I can read my email on my tablets or computers. I can even write blog posts on either.

My seven year old Alienware laptop had a bad power connector and needed a new fan. Before we left for the Olympic trip, I dropped it off for repair. A month later, it was returned to me, with a dead battery, flaky graphics, and a new fan, but without a new power connector. It is impossible to get new batteries, so I finally broke down and replaced it. My new laptop has a smaller screen, is much faster, and many pounds lighter.

I am putting the better graphics and speed to good use. I have always been interested in computer graphics and 3d animation. There is now a very good 3d modeling, rendering and animation program called Blender. I started learning it in the spring. Eventually I made a brief animated film, The Gray Man. It is not yet finished. In the spring, when my energy returns, I will work on it some more.

The day before we left for Death Valley, my ancient iPhone 5 refused to connect. I checked the cable and used an air bulb to clean out the connector, to no avail. A friend suggested that I probe the connector gently with a needle. This worked, but it reminded me how venerable the 5 had become, so I bought an iPhone 7, keeping true to my claim that I would only buy prime numbered iPhones. It has not arrived, but I am not anxious to go through the tedium of transferring to it.

My SAD hit hard this year. As the days got shorter, my energy declined. My doctor suggested using a SAD light. I bought a Verilux happy light(tm) and now spend an hour each morning using my tablet while sitting in front of it. This starts my day. I have made other changes. I have a routine now. I have more clothes that fit and wear shirts with collars more often. I bought a beard grooming kit and carefully shave every morning. I keep my hair short, and have it cut by a barber. In short, now that I have no dress codes to thwart, I am no longer a slob.

Jeanne, who rarely buys on impulse bought an Amazon Echo Dot on sale as a Christmas present to herself. We had her daughter and granddaughter visit from Sacramento on various holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Bethany brought her new rescue dog Roxie to Thanksgiving. Roxie and Googie got along well, which was a relief. They got along almost as well at Christmas, but Googie tired of Roxie’s enthusiasm late in the day and they had to be separated.

We ended the year with our usual debauchery: An early meal, a quick toast, a hot bath, and off to bed by 9.

A day

He chafed against the routine of youth, rising, school, homework, dinner, TV, back to bed, visits to family and church on Sunday. He broke with routine in college, attending class only when it interested him, keeping no schedule for meals or sleep. He had the luxury of selecting only jobs that afforded him the opportunity to work his own hours. He continued in this manner for forty years.

In 2010 his employer was purchased by a large company, with very good medical benefits, that did not include his HMO. Friends recommended a PPO organization. He selected a primary care provider. She sent him to a cardiologist, who suggested he see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist was good, but moved on. His next psychiatrist was good. She encouraged him to establish a routine. He resisted. She moved on. His next psychiatrist, who he still sees, was good. She convinced him to improve his sleep hygiene. He finally agreed to try.

He has compromised. His day is structured around sleep and meals, but has blocks of unstructured time:

0600 He awakens, puts on his moccasins and goes to the toilet. He has an enlarge prostate. This takes a while.

0610 He weighs himself, takes his blood pressure and goes to the dining room

0611 He moves the full spectrum lamp onto the table. He turns it on and starts a timer on his iPad. He plugs the iPad and his iPhone into the charger, readies his stylus and puts on his reading glasses.

06212 He has SAD. He spends an hour in the light of the lamp. He uses the time on his tablet:

  • He reads his email then checks his calendar for the day.
  • He checks his To-Do list. He maintains it with ToDoist. It will show routine items for each day as well as weekly and monthly chores and one time tasks.
  • He reads a few web comics. Every day he reads Schlock Mercenary. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays he also reads Freefall and Girl Genius.
  • He solves puzzles in flow free. There are new easy puzzles each day. If he takes the time to solve them he extends his “streak”. There are also packs of puzzles. He has solved several thousand of those and will soon run out.
  • He may write entries for his blog.
  • He uses any remaining time according to his mood:
    • He may play a game. He has recently completed The Room 3. He has found more room escape games, Talos and The House of DaVinci. He prefers puzzle games, either story line walk throughs like The Room series or physics simulations, like The Incredible Machine. He has a bridge building simulation but is stuck and hasn’t looked at it in weeks.
    • He may check the status of Amazon orders.
    • He may check his Vanguard account, perhaps trading or moving money between investments.
    • He may read from a book using the Kindle reader. He is currently reading The ship breakers. He uses Amazon prime, and so receives a new novel each month. He has also bought several books he has not read. Once he would not buy another book until he finished reading the current one. This change amuses him.

0715 He removes his reading glasses, caps his stylus, unplugs his devices, puts the lamp away and makes breakfast: A Wasa brand light rye cracker, a slice of meat, usually ham, and a slice of cheddar, lightly toasted in the microwave. He eats at the dining table.

0730 He places his breakfast dish in the dishwasher, moves his reading glasses, stylus, and devices to the coffee table.

0731 He goes to the toilet, brushes his teeth, then shaves. He was unkempt for most of his life, leaving his hair and beard untrimmed and long. Now he keeps his hair short, and trimmed by a barber every six weeks. He has a beard trimmer and keeps a neat short beard. He showers, dries himself and dresses, fresh underwear, a clean shirt, jeans and shoes. Once he wore nothing but black t-shirts. Now he wears t-shirts with designs, or, more often, polo shirts. In winter, he will wear long sleeve shirts. He winds his pocket watch. It keeps good time when it is wound daily. He takes eight pills. He has gout, diabetes, high blood pressure, GERD, high cholesterol, an enlarged prostate, sleep apnea and depression.

0800 He moves to the bedroom where his computer is. He is learning to use the 3d rendering program blender. He alternates between doing tutorials and practicing the techniques from the tutorials. He has made a brief animated film, which still awaits post production, and is now working through a tutorial constructing a ukulele. He alternates this with constructing a classical guitar. The tutorial makes an approximate identifiable ukulele. He is constructing the guitar to match plans he has found on the web. The techniques are similar, but the detail is more precise and there is more of it. He will eventually become bored before completing the guitar and move on to other tutorials. His folders are littered with half finished projects.

1000 He performs tasks on his todo list for the day. In winter he limits himself to easy tasks mostly performed on line. SAD leaves him unmotivated to perform anything more complex. When the SAD is abated, he performs active tasks.

1100 He drives to lunch. Tuesdays and Thursdays he lunches with acquaintances from his days in technology. Tuesdays they have rotated among three restaurants, New Tandoori on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, Yiassoo on the 2nd and City Fish on the 4th. Recently, New Tandoori has raised its prices. The person who arranges the lunches is looking for alternatives. He would like to replace it with Himalayan Kitchen, but that is farther than the three regulars from Apple would like to go, so he is looking for places closer to Apple.

Other days he eats with his wife. On Sundays, Fridays and Saturdays, weather permitting, they take their dog and eat at outdoor tables. On Sundays, they rotate through a list of four restaurants, Yiassoo, La Salsa, Fishes Wild, and City Fish. City Fish does not have outdoor seating. Every fifth Sunday, they pick a restaurant they’ve not been to before. Mondays they eat at Chick-Fil-A. Wednesdays they pick a restaurant, often Carl’s Jr or Arby’s but sometimes one they haven’t been to. Fridays they eat at Starbird, and take the dog. Saturdays they eat at Adamson’s French Dip and take the dog. They have eaten there every Saturday they are in town since it opened in 2000.

His unstructured time starts when lunch ends. He will spend more time on the computer, or work on other tasks from the To-Do list, perhaps read. During the afternoon, he will walk for an hour. He tries to match his walk with errands, usually shopping at nearby grocery or department stores. He lives a mile from a shopping center that contains a Trader Joes’s, and a Safeway. Nearby there is a Target. In a different direction there is a tiny strip mall with a 7/11 and an O’Reilly Auto Parts store. Somewhat farther in the opposite direction, there is an REI and a Bed, Bath and Beyond. Down the street from them is an Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) store.

His recent projects have included a multiple day effort to clean 25 years of hoarding from his bedroom, give away what he no longer wants and recycle what he can. In the spring he will start on the next cleaning, finding homes for a dark room, studio lighting, and film cameras he no longer uses. Then there is the garage. It will take months, if not years to clean.

1730 He discusses dinner with his wife. Wednesdays the cleaners come at dinner time, so they will eat at Five Guys Burgers and Frys. It has outdoor seating so they take the dog. Fridays they will walk to dinner, weather permitting. There are many restaurants in the shopping center and in nearby strip malls, although they mostly choose La Bamba or Hunan Home’s Express. If they eat at home, they will eat at 1800.

1900 They sit together at a computer. They look at the Cheeseburger web site I can has Cheeseburger, I has a hotdog, Fail Nation, and Wins. They look at Facebook to see what their families have posted. He rarely posts to facebook.

More unstructured time starts when they are done. Currently, they watch an episode of The Avengers from the Complete Misses Peel DVD collection. The only other TV they have watched in years is Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. Once he would have retired to his bed, where he would use his laptop until late and then sleep. His psychiatrist has convinced him to only use the bed for sleep. Now he will change into his pajamas, and use the iPad in the front room until bed time.

2200 He takes eight pills, adds water to his CPAP humidifier and goes to bed. He will rise a few times during the night to use the toilet but otherwise sleeps until 0600.

He has daily, weekly, monthly and other periodic tasks in his To-Do list. Most are to remind him to take care of himself: taking his pills, having his haircut, cleaning his CPAP equipment, replacing his hearing aid batteries and ear domes. Many are computer house keeping, checking on backups, making sure mobile devices are synchronized and computer updates are installed.

He has one additional periodic entry in his calendar. He sees his therapist every other Wednesday. They will discuss whether to change that to monthly at their next session. He has breakfast monthly with a friend, but that varies depending on the season and their travel schedules. Most of the remaining entries are for occasional medical appointments. He sees his PCP yearly and when new problems arise. He sees a cardiologist, psychiatrist, sleep specialist, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, and urologist for his various conditions.

His routine is varied by travel. His wife used an inheritance to buy an RV and they take various length trough out the year. He adheres to his sleep schedule as much as possible and other routines but on a flexible daily schedule, punctuated by periods of driving.

Olympic National Park Trip Planning

We used to car camp on the coast, along California 1 and US 101, in California, Oregon and Washington. Some of my favorite campsites are along those routes. We’ve decided to take the RV north on 101 to the Olympic National Park, visit friends in Seattle, and then rush home along the interstate system. We’re leaving in a few days. Here is how we planned the trip.

Early Disappointments

Earlier in the year, we decided that we would make this our fall trip for the year. We like to travel “off season”, and September once was off season, because most families have children who have to be back in school, and because fall weather is variable. In June, I started investigating places we might stay in California, and was disappointed to discover several things.

September is no longer off season. Enough older people, foreign tourists, people without children, and families willing to take children out of school for vacation travel in September that it was nearly impossible to find campgrounds that weren’t already booked for the entire month.

This was exacerbated by California’s continuing budget shortfall and the bad weather from last winter. Campgrounds were closed for the season because of lack of budget, or were closed because of weather damage. This put even more pressure on the remaining campgrounds. In particular, we had hoped to camp at Richardson Grove state park, one of our favorites.  It was closed for the season, as were several nearby state parks.

Places we had camped at in the past were not accessible to RVs.  We had once had a very cool experience camping on Gold Bluffs Beach campground, in Redwood National Park, but it didn’t allow RVs over 21 feet.  Ours is 25 feet.

The biggest disappointment came when our RV was in the shop for nine weeks in July and August, making it impossible to plan for September because of the uncertainty of the return date. For this reason, we abandoned any hope of making the trip in September.

The RV returns.

We finally got the RV back in late August. We took it out for a shakeout trip in mid September and concluded that we could make the trip in October, if we could find places to stay along the route.

For us traveling in an RV during the busy season is very different than car camping. When we car camped, we were far more spontaneous. We could throw together the camping gear and clothing and hit the road. We would drive as far as we felt like, stopping along the way where we liked and find campgrounds along the way. There are fewer campgrounds for RVs and they are usually busy. This leads to more structured trips, requiring advanced choices of camping spots, complete with reservations. The RV provides many benefits, but the cost includes this sort of planning.

The rough plan

We decided to go as soon as possible.  I have an appointment on October 4th, so we decided to leave on October 5th. We would travel slowly up the coast, taking our time for sight seeing, but return quickly.

Initially, we had thought to alternate between overnight stays and multiple day stays as we moved along the coast, but we couldn’t settle on places where we wanted to explore, so we decided to take five days driving up the coast, and then spend three nights at Sul Duc Hotsprings campground in the park.  From there we would drive to Bellevue and spend a day with our friends, before taking three days to drive home.

Taking five days to travel up the coast means that the overnight locations were spaced closely enough to allow plenty of time during the day for sight seeing. I’ve driven from Seattle home in one day, but it’s a very long day, and I was in a fast car, not a slow RV. Typically in the car we take two days, but the RV is slower, so we decided to take three days, stopping once in Oregon and once in California. It was time to look at a map and figure out the days.

Resources

  • AAA maps and guides
    • California state map
    • Oregon state map
    • Washington state map
    • Northern California travel guide
    • Oregon travel guide
    • Washington travel guide
  • Google Maps
  • Google Drive My Maps
  • Woodall’s 2017 Campground Guide
  • KOA web site
  • various state and national park web sites

Arranging a route

I start by eyeballing a day’s drive on Google maps.  Even if we can’t stop at Richardson Grove, it would be nice to stop near there.  To make this trip easy, I use the KOA selection tool, asking for campgrounds near Garberville. This gives me the address of a KOA campground in Garberville. I take that address and plug it into Google maps and ask for driving directions from home to there. Maps tells me that it’s about a 4 hour drive.  We want to set up camp while there is still light and rarely get out of town before 9:30.  That seems like a reasonable distance.  I turn the address into a waypoint on My Maps.

Then I look for somewhere that’s around the same distance from Garberville.  I want to end up near Redwood National Park. That’ll make a short day, but I settle on Crescent city, where there’s another KOA.  I’m quickly falling into the habit of picking KOA campgrounds without checking Woodall’s for alternatives.

I repeat this process of eyeballing, getting directions, and making waypoints until I get to Olympic national park. In the end, I find 5 stopping points. Next I plan our route home.  I originally plan on 4 days, but we discuss this and decide that since it’s all interstate driving and we’re not interested in site seeing along I5, we’ll do it in 3.  The problem is that there’s really no good way to break it into three days and not end up driving in bay area commute traffic.  I settle on taking three different length days. The second will be very long, but that means the drive home will be short and should finish before traffic gets very bad.

On the way home, I have to break with KOA in California. There are no KOAs along the California stretch of I-5 north of Sacramento, so I ask Google maps for RV campgrounds near Red Bluff.  I select one based on customer ratings and plug it into the system.

Next I transfer all of the waypoints into BaseCamp.  My Maps can export KLM files and BaseCamp can import them. This works, after a fashion, but most of the data about each waypoint is lost. I go through each waypoint and fill in the address, phone number, and web site, changing the waypoint marker types appropriately.

BaseCamp allows you to set arrival and departure targets for each waypoint.  I set departure times and let BaseCamp calculate arrival times. All of the trip times work out so that there is plenty of time for sight seeing along the way.

Next I go online and make reservations for each of the campsites.  This goes well until I reach Astoria.  There are no slots at the KOA, so I use Google Maps again and discover a state park with open sites.  Finally I make the reservations for Olympic national park. I received email confirming each reservation.  We were set. 

Visiting Friends

When we had thought to make the trip in September, I contacted friends in Seattle to see if they’d like a visit.  They would, but they were going to go to Europe for a long vacation. Early September would be possible.  When it became impossible to predict when we would have the RV back, we had to give up on seeing them.

After I had made the trip plans, I thought to check my friends’ email and discovered that they would be back in early October.  Not thinking about them already being in Europe, I sent an email asking if the 12th of October would work for them. Fortunately, they happened to check their email and we were able to arrange to visit them. This meant changing our last two reservations.

I called each of the campsites.  Both were friendly and cooperative. There would be no problem changing the dates.  Both sent me updated email confirmations. Travel plans were complete.

Bicycles and Wiis

About a month ago, I started riding bike again after twenty years.  I’m in terrible shape. If I miss a few days, I’ve effectively started over again.  I had done some research on racks for RVs, but we’d decided to wait.  Out of curiosity, I checked deliver dates. We could get one by the 3rd, giving us a chance to set it up before we left.  I ordered one. It was the wrong one.  I tried to cancel the order, but it was too late.  I’ll have to wait to return it once we receive it.  I ordered the right one.  It should be here before we leave, but I may need other pieces, so we may not be able to take it. I’m hoping that we will.

A few weeks ago, as part of a cleanup campaign, I mentioned to my wife that I was going to see our Wii, which we hadn’t used in years.  She objected, so I decided to keep it. Since I’ve started exercising again, I bought a balance board and started using it. My wife mentioned that she had briefly thought of taking the Wii with us, but realized that we couldn’t because the motion sensor bar is attached to the top of the TV.  A quick check on Amazon determined that one would be available in time and inexpensive. It’s on order. Hopefully it will be working when it arrives and we’ll be able to take it.

But Wait, There’s More

The logistics of RV travel include meal planning, making sure that everything is loaded and properly stowed, making sure that there are sufficient quantities of prescription medications, and dozens of small details.  We have checklists for that now and have started working through them. There’s a lot to do. It’s very different than throwing a few things into a car and heading out.

But the planning is done and the doing is next. There are batteries to charge, supplies to buy, house sitters to arrange, clothes to clean and so forth.