If I’ve been remiss in writing, you can blame our coffee pot. Months ago when we were provisioning The Rig, we went to Cabela’s, the store known for its vast supplies of camping, hunting, and fishing gear. This was my first experience in a Cabela’s and I was not disappointed in the quantities though I later learned we had gone to the “small” outpost. Nevertheless, in my excitement to buy lots of stuff, I zeroed in a classic looking coffee pot which seemed just large enough for a few cups of coffee or could be used to just boil some water. The real selling point, however, was that it said “Cabela’s” on the exterior. Also, since it was the floor model, we could get a discount (bonus!). We were so exited to brew our first batch of coffee on our shakedown overnighter. John and I each enjoyed our first cup of some strong brew, but things broke down after that. Our second cup contained some grounds and by the time we tried for a third, partial cup, we were left with dark, gritty sludge. This coffee pot works like percolator where hot water boils up through a small tube and runs back down through the grounds. Apparently our Peet’s Major Dickason’s and anything Starbucks isn’t made for the the Cabela’s perk. We are too stubborn and loyal to try other brands such a Folgers which might have larger grounds, so we basically just suffer and complain. But, the real reason I hate our pot is the amount of time it takes to wash the dang thing. Equipped with a million parts, this one appliance creates the most mess and uses the most water. From my sailing past, it was ingrained in me not to use too much water when washing dishes, so even though we have full access to water, I’m still stingy on the water when washing. When I’ve had additional support on board, I swear silently as I dump messy grounds in the trash, but if I’m alone, I curse openly with words not fit for print with each piece I wash. Don’t tell John, but sometimes I just give it a rinse and call it good. So, there you have it; I have not been writing about the small towns, forests, fields, and general sights because I’m too busy washing the damn coffee pot!
I’m fortunate that I married someone who knows how to make coffee. John preps the coffee the night before so that when he wakes up ( without an alarm), he can get the thing brewing so it’s ready when I stir out of sleep. We both enjoy some quiet morning time while the caffeine does its job. Checking email, avoiding news, responding to questions, figuring the route, etc. are a few of the morning online tasks. We give Olivia a shake about an hour before “wheels up”. She doesn’t like it. She groans, rolls over, and goes back to sleep. We give her a few more soft jostles before the voice tone changes. We go through them all: quiet cajoling, gentle whispers, firmer pleas, stern reminders, unaccommodating commands until she finally says, “Ok. You don’t have to be so mean!” It’s the same every day.
John scurries about. He gets the bike off the rack, does maintenance and other important tasks, though sometimes it’s unclear what. Whatever it is, he needs about 1.5 hours to get ready, sometimes more. Meanwhile, Olivia snakes her way out of bed, sits down and says, “I’m hungry.” I’ve anticipated this and have several cereal, fruit, and yogurt options at the ready. This is breakfast #1 and needs to get her about 20-30 miles where she and John will eat The Main Big Breakfast which will get them the rest of the way.
It turns out there is a lot of preparation involved every morning to get ready for the day’s ride. Here are some morning remarks, questions, and asks: Have you seen my arm protectors? Mom, can you get me one chocolate and one raspberry goo? Is there any ice? What Cliff Bars do we have? Dad, you didn’t send me the ride last night and I need to download it. Is this day 30 or 31? Wait, where are we meeting you? Are there any hills today? How did it get to be so late? When is our next rest day?
Once they finally leave, about 20 minutes behind schedule, my chores begin. I wash the dishes, fill the water, put things away, dump the bilge, review my departure check list (which keeps growing), and head out. Sometimes I do laundry and run errands. If a town is about 30 miles from our starting point, the cyclists will hit a diner and eat a huge meal. Sometimes I rendezvous with them, in hopes of snagging some bacon, but it’s usually all gone. If the mileage doesn’t work out, we arrange a meeting spot and then I make the meal. Basically I do the same thing I do at home but on wheels and with less refrigerator space. I don’t mind, in fact, I like it.
I suppose we really can’t predict the future and can only experience the present when it is upon us, but I have to say, I really had some major misconceptions about life on the road. Here is my litany of delusions and facts:
#1: I had visions of gobs of time for reading. To this end, I downloaded four books onto my Kindle app. In reality, I have about 10 minutes at night before bed and my eyes close and I fall asleep. This is similar to my routine during the school year which is why it takes me so bloody long to finish a book (sorry book club!). Happily, I’m reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie which is his narrative about traveling from East to West and back again with his pet poodle, Charlie He moves at a faster clip than we do, but we overlapped briefly here in Montana. Like me, he loves the state and wished he had more time. One thing I’ve learned from him is that whiskey seems to help in most questionable situations. If he encounters an aggressive, angry type he breaks the barriers by offering fresh brewed coffee and “a little something to make it interesting.” This seems to do the trick in solving most problems. I’m thinking I might pick up a bottle, just in case.
#2: Taking up running. I bought a new pair of running shoes foolishly thinking I’d have lots of time to exercise. I knew I wouldn’t be hitting the gym, and running is an efficient and cheap way to get the heart rate up. In truth, I’ve only “gone for a run” twice – in three weeks.
#3: Hiking. I had visions of visiting lots of trails, especially over the passes. In preparation for all these hikes through bear infested forests, I purchased a large can of bear spray, just to be safe. Fact: two hikes, no bears.
#4: Planning awesome units, lessons, projects for next school year. You know, the ones which take thoughtful foresight to create really inspirational and meaningful activities which will make me the best 6th grade teacher ever! I brought along several important, and I might add heavy, books to aid my self-motivated professional development. Truth: see #1.
#5: Driving through pastoral, quiet, country roads. These country roads were to allow me time to remember Walt Whitman’s poetic insights and fashion my own while overlooking the vast beauty of this country. Fact: Highway 2 is fast and I have to pay attention to Google’s directions. It’s fortunate that I’m driving a truck and only have to go 60 mph verses cars which are instructed to go 70. I did have a sense of accomplishment when I passed my first vehicle. Some might say that passing a tractor doesn’t count, but I say pat your back when you can.
#6: Journal writing. Perhaps it’s fortunate that I lost my journal 5 days into the trip. I believe it slipped into the garbage which is maybe where it belonged all along.
#7: Biking. Yes, I brought my “mom” bike hoping that upon arriving at our destination with hours to spare, I’d hop on my bike and ride to the local country market on Main Street to purchase necessary groceries. Truth – The poor thing hasn’t even been taken off the rack the entire trip. It sadly watches the world go by from the rear while collecting mountains of dirt and dust and is probably ruined from neglect.
#8: Daily, witty, and thought provoking blog quips about the adventure. Reality: One a week and of questionable quality.
The Rig Driver
I’m the first to admit that when it comes to amps, volts, and types of power, I’m pretty much an idiot. I blame my father, though I suppose I should blame my mother as well, just to be fair. Despite the many things they did teach me, this is one area in which they let me down. (Also, I can’t throw a ball. Dad!) When we first bought The Rig, John went to great lengths to explain how the thing is powered. In an effort to try to cement the details in my brain, I would diligently repeat his verbiage, but in all honesty, it really didn’t stick. I just pretended I understood, but John knows I’m bluffing whenever I ask something like, “What do you mean the fan I buy needs to be 12volt?” He just rolls his eyes. John has a model he made when he was about 7 years old that has copper wires and batteries and a when you flick a switch (because of course it has switches) then a fan spins or a light blinks. Even looking at at this deconstructed device with all its exposed pieces, I still don’t get it. It’s like magic. I’m convinced that learning how all this stuff works is sort of like learning a foreign language – if you don’t learn it as a youngster, you can pretty much forget about it. Still, I try hard to sound like a know what I’m talking about. When I call an RV Park, I smartly say that I’m driving a 30 foot Class C RV and 15 or 30 amps is fine. It’s a good thing I haven’t been asked any clarifying questions because then the proprietor would know that I’m a fake. I have no idea what a Class C vehicle is, only that I drive one.
Thr Rig and I are quickly becoming best buds. I think she resisted at first, perhaps unaccustomed to the feminine touch, but she has come around and responds well to my commands. Still, I respect her preferences and try to accommodate her as needed. I’ve learned that she prefers a slower pace which gives her time to look for wild life and follow directions. 40 miles per hour seems to be a comfortable cruising speed but this is difficult when the speed limit is 60. This is why she enjoys roads with the least amount of traffic, especially big rigs. Fortunately, the further along our route, the less traffic we have. Her favorite road sign is “Reduced Speed Ahead” and she adheres without complaint to those speed reductions. The Rig also likes the roads with many turn offs so that she can let those in a hurry pass. She does grumble when I try to accelerate going up hill and I’ve found that while she may push herself and angrily roar her engine, this does not necessarily indicate any increase in speed. What it does indicate is using a lot of fuel without much gain. Thus we keep to the slow lane and know that eventually we will reach the top.
Crew and bikers have grown to appreciate the RV life style. Initially we mocked the AC unit, but now we can’t live without it. Given the current heat warnings and 90 degree weather, the cool air in the Rig is a much appreciated blessing. The convenience of the beds, storage, refrigerator, and head has made this trip more pleasurable and perhaps even possible. Given the morning resistance from the stoker and fatigue from both (captain and stoker) after the ride, the Rig is not only home, but a necessary place to rest.