Thursday, October 19, 2017

Six months ago I would never have believed I would be typing this, but our beloved Alice has moved on to her next phase of life; she has new owners. We regretfully made the decision that she is just a little bit too small for the two of us to be dodging twelve hairy paws as our three "fur children" cavort around the coach under our feet. We kept thinking that, at eight years of age, our cats would begin to settle down. They had seemed to when Joe and I set out on our three week maiden voyage in our 26' GMC motorhome, and we were delighted with how she performed for just the two of us. We returned home to make a couple of quick repairs and install new air bags and a screen door, eagerly anticipating a re-launch with the kitties in a couple of weeks. By the time we unpacked our bags, the furry little critters had entered their second childhood and showed no sign of slowing down any time soon. They still don't. It's true that they sleep for hours at a time, but then they spend hours running full bore from one end of the house to the other, banking off the backs of the living room recliners, making scrabbling and sliding turns on the kitchen linoleum. Then they repeat it going the other direction. Endlessly. For hours. I just didn't see that working out in Alice, especially since the only chair backs available would be our captains chairs in the cab area. Having a cat with three hundred or so extended claws hit the back of your head while driving could be construed as a distraction by some. Especially some wearing uniforms with wide-brimmed hats, if you follow me.
   So, with much regret and a few silent tears, we listed Alice for sale. She was purchased within a week by a really great couple who appreciate  vintage coaches like we do, and I think the three of them will very happily make many wonderful memories together. Now the hard part begins. We have to find another motorhome that will make us as happy as Alice did (most of the time anyhow...she could be a bit of a diva occasionally). 

 We set out for southern California with high hopes last weekend to look at a beautiful Holiday Rambler at a dealer in Lebec (on the Grapevine). While we loved almost everything about the coach, especially the high build quality found in the HR's, the setup of the dash just didn't work for Joe. Since he does most of the driving, he needs to be able to have better vision from the cockpit. It wasn't that anything was wrong with the coach, it just didn't work for us. We looked at a Fleetwood Bounder there as well, and may return this weekend to look at it again. We looked at several in L.A. as well, but nothing was quite what we were looking for. We tried to look at a bunch more between SoCal and Santa Cruz, but it is amazing how many sellers don't return calls or e-mails. I guess they aren't all that anxious to make money. I certainly would be.
While we were disappointed to return without our next rolling home, we plan to go again tomorrow to look at some coaches that people want to sell enough to actually answer their phones, as well as the previously mentioned Bounder. We still lean strongly in the direction of the Holiday Rambler but nothing is ruled out (yet) at this time. Their are so many flakes selling mis-represented rigs out there (we were briefly sucked in by one yesterday) that it can be a slow process sometimes. We are anxious to hit the road again and it can be an extremely frustrating process, but we are confident that our next perfect home-on-wheels is already waiting for us out there somewhere, and since the journey is what it is really all about...onward we go, with tails held high (a fur-child reference; fur-parents will understand)!

If you happen to see Alice somewhere out there on the highway, blow her a kiss for us. More updates soon...

 Have a wonderful day everyone!     -Lynn


Sunday, October 8, 2017

1977 GMC Eleganza II Clean Inside and Outside.
This Motorhome is mechanically very sound.
The Engine was rebuilt by Applied GMC Motorhomes in Fremont, Ca.
It has new Knuckles and steering parts.
New torque Converter …
Applied GMC also installed a new headliner with insulation and resealed
all windows.
Brakes were rebuilt and replaced.
New Flexible Solar Panels. These panels maintain the clean profile of the
coach without sticking up on posts on your roof
New Radiator.
Following is a list of our additions to the new and rebuilt items above (done by
previous owner: we have receipts):

New House Batteries , six Volt 400 Amp Hours .
100 Watt Flexible Solar Panels with SunPower Solar Cells (300 watts total)
Bogart Engineering Power Controller and Battery Charger
Installed New Suburban Heater. This took many hours of work and engineering to avoid
cutting the cabinets, which is the “quick and dirty” way many choose to do it.
Brand new propane valve.
New Old Stock OEM air bags with five miles on them.
New E-Rated Tires installed one year ago, which now have 4000 miles on them.
New black tank and toilet, and fixed the Macerator so it now works properly.
New wall paneling (with insulation) in living area.
Re-finished cabinet doors throughout the coach.
Replaced fuel lines front to back.
Installed a  brand new 40,000 LB transmission cooler .This kept the transmission temps under 180 F the entire trip, with major hills and all.The transmission fluid is clean and smells good.
New alternator.
New gauges:  water temp , oil pressure, voltage.
New transmission temp gauge.
Rebuilt Leveling Switches for the Air Ride System.

*All in all over 50K has been invested into this motorhome over the past fifteen years.
*We would feel very comfortable in driving this motorhome across the U.S. tomorrow.
*We have tried to update this coach while still keeping the original feel of the coach.
*The original upholstery is in good condition.
*New carpet in cab area and vinyl wood-look flooring in living/kitchen area.
*Paint is in decent condition but not perfect .. It's fine; people compliment it regularly.

We have been very pleased with this motorhome, both in comfort and performance. We just completed a 3000+ mile trip to the southwest during a record heatwave and enjoyed every minute of the trip. The bed is comfy, the AC kept us cool, the coach was easy to drive, and the solar system worked great. All the appliances work. The macerator makes dumping quick and easy. In truth, we are only selling “Alice” because we have three very active cats who will be
travelling with us, and we just need a little more room.

The coach worked really well for the two
of us. If it wasn’t for the “fur children” you couldn’t pry this motorhome out of our hands. We set it up for full-timing and boondocking, and it will go wherever you want it to. As an added bonus, you will get a lot of smiles, waves and “thumbs-up” wherever you go...people love these GMC Classics!

Monday, October 2, 2017

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair,
and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights,
let us remember that there is a creative force
in this universe,
working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil,
a power that is able to make a way
out of no way
and transform dark yesterdays into
bright tomorrows.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Las Vegas
and their families and friends.
You are not alone.
-Lynn & Joe

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

          He who has experienced solitude shall not easily become a victim of mass persuasion.
                                                                               -A. Einstein

Friday, September 8, 2017

   What, exactly, defines art? I am familiar with the typical definitions of course, but doesn't that define only typical art? Where, for instance, do we draw the line between art and graffiti? Is it graffiti only if it is rendered on something that is owned and treasured by someone else, or does an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere count as well? At what point do we accept graffiti as part of the urban landscape, a viable form of art that deserves a place in our culture? Do we ever welcome it, or is it always a blight on the landscape? If a significant number of people dislike a public piece of art, does that make it graffiti? I once heard music defined as "the poetry of the people"; measured by the same yardstick, is graffiti the artwork of the people?

   All these questions come to mind because I have recently realized that some of my favorite photos, popular among viewers as well, contain an element of graffiti. So, does this mean I am promoting graffiti as an acceptable thing by photographing it? Most of the structures in these photos are far outside of towns and are obviously abandoned, but probably still do technically belong to a property owner somewhere. Is it o.k. as long as it's "artistic" tagging, but not if it is "ugly" tagging? Who is qualified to make that call? Certainly not me, even with years of art training under my belt.

   I think we can all agree that two or three letters scrawled on the side of a city library is graffiti and not to be tolerated, but what if the midnight artist rendered a beautiful portrait of a famous author along with his or her initials? Does that then become public art? What if the powers that be painted a bad piece of art on the same wall to cover the uninvited portrait; does the new painting then become graffiti? If a community mural is altered or covered with new artwork without the consent of the original artist, is that vandalism?

   On a section of old Route 66 between Amboy and Chambless, CA there is an embankment where generations of travelers have left messages written in rocks, sticks, bottle caps and other roadside detritus. S+S proclaim their love from inside a rock edged heart, while Asia says just that; "ASIA". Is it a person or a geographic designation? We'll never know, and for myself, I prefer it that way. The mystery is part of the beauty; so, are all these people vandals tagging the highway with graffiti, or are they artists participating in an interactive highway art installation? Perhaps, you say, it's not graffiti because of it's transitory nature. After all, rocks are a natural element easily removed if desired; but do we really desire their removal? What about the petroglyphs left by early man? Technically that is probably graffiti too, but think how much of our history as a species would be lost without those simple "tags" left by our ancestors.

   I think it is safe to say that art is a constantly changing concept that adapts itself to the times, and what is art today may not be considered as such down the road. Art revolves around symbolism, and the definitions of symbols are constantly changing. What is arguably the most hated symbol in recent history was known in Native American culture as "whirling logs". It was a traditional symbol used in sand painting, rug and basket designs, and in jewelry designs. After it was hijacked by the dark side prior to WWII, the tribes stopped using the design (incidentally leaving us with a pretty good way to date native designs to pre or post c.1940). This is just one of many such examples, but I'm sure you get my point.
   So, will I stop shooting graffiti covered buildings in the interest of preserving art in it's purest form? Not a chance, my friends! Will I make postcards out of hateful messages scrawled on buildings and scratched on windows? Not a chance, my friends! I guess we each have to draw our own line in the desert sand and let others choose whether to step over it or not.

   Peace!         -Lynn

Sunday, September 3, 2017

                                                        Not all who wander are lost!

Friday, September 1, 2017

   I was born in Paradise, a small town in the foothills east of Chico, CA in a house amidst the pines. From there my family moved to another house among giant trees, this time in the tiny mountain community of Zayante, where the trees surrounding us were redwoods instead of pines. One winter of living in a home where the deck pilings were a target for the huge trees wallowing down the rain swollen creek below was enough for Mother, and the following summer we moved down the mountain to the (then) small and sleepy town of Santa Cruz, on the coast of California's Monterey Bay. Although it was my parents' choice to live where we have, I've quite happily spent most of my life either in the mountains or along the seashore, and I love them both. Anywhere I can be outside of four walls most of the year gets my vote; so why is it that I feel so strongly drawn to the desert country?
   Whenever I pick up a U.S. map, my finger goes to the southwest like a divining rod to water; I don't really know why. I know that I feel like I can really breathe there, but I feel that way in the mountains too. I'm not talking about physically breathing, although that is easier in the dry air as well, but more in a spiritual or psychological sense. When my husband Joe and I were photographing late model stock cars for a living, he once commented that their beauty lies in their violence. If you have never had the privilege of seeing these cars race, let me explain what he meant by that. The late models are very powerful, very lightweight cars that make upwards of 1200 horsepower and when they race on a 1/4 mile or 1/3 mile dirt track they are truly a thing of beauty. What Joe was referring to with his comment is how the cars are so powerful that they "stand up", lifting anywhere from one to three wheels in the air as they fly around the oval track, twisting the frame violently in the process. We've seen them do this for almost a full lap at a time, sometimes even longer, so we know that the violent can also be beautiful on occasion. Don't misunderstand me.. I am not an advocate of violence, it's just that some violent things can also have an innate beauty to them. The desert is like that; the contrast of triple digit temperatures in the day and near freezing temperatures at night could be viewed as a type of violence, without adding in the lack of water one minute and flash flooding the next, with nary a cloud in sight.

   The desert is without doubt a harsh and unforgiving environment, but it is not without beauty to temper the violence of it's extreme nature. Even on broiling days, there are the brilliant pinks and soft yellows of cactus flowers. The heat haze paints the distant mountains and sage in soft purple and grey pastels. Distance is deceiving; the faraway snowy peaks seem within walking distance and many a desert visitor has been led to their death by that deception. The desert is tricky as well as fascinating. The landscape seems a barren wasteland to most, but those who look closely see numerous forms of life that have adapted to life in the desert. A wide variety of creatures hide underground and in rocky crevices during the blasting heat of the day, but the place comes alive at sunset.

   Have I mentioned the sunsets? A truly magical thing happens as the sun drops to the distant horizon. Suddenly those dusty grey shapes in the distance become gilded in hues of gold and scarlet and lavender. The sky gradually becomes a luminous blue stairway to the heavens and tiny pinpoints of light appear, singly and then by the thousands; and unlike the light-poisoned metropolitan areas they go all the way down to the horizon, where a thin wash of heliotrope still lingers, reluctant to relinquish it's hold on the day.  And it's not just glittering stars that appear in the desert night skies; other strange and wonderful things reveal themselves to those who remember to look up. Comets, falling stars, satellites, military aircraft that "don't exist", and strange lights that can't be categorized all illuminate the magnificent void above us. In the vast unlit areas of the southwest all these magical, mysterious objects suddenly become visible to the eye without additional aid. If you are lucky enough (or plan well enough) to have binoculars or a telescope, you will discover a whole new world splashed across the incredible night sky overhead.

   While you look wonderingly above you, the desert floor  begins to swarm with activity around you. Small rustling sounds in the sage nearby leaves you guessing, while the staccato yips and cries on the night breeze are more recognizable. Coyotes are viewed as dangerous pests in cities, but their chorus is a perfect musical accompaniment to the night out here on their own turf. The light breeze that carries their song is a welcome relief to the overpowering heat of the day, and the temptation to stay up all night is strong
   Dawn in the desert is cold and sharp, and breathing is both painful and exhilarating. Starting from a faint blue-white glow the horizon line slowly takes on a soft golden hue, which then becomes a rose colored wash extending further upward toward the retreating stars with each passing minute. The rose soon morphs into a more vibrant crimson hue which transforms into an orange-red tint, then a liquid tangerine which in turn becomes a searing orange ball of flame as the sun rises above the distant peaks. Another day is born; the mountains far across the valley floor take on the mauve tone they wear in the light of day, the last remaining critters of the night return to hiding, and waves of heat can be seen building before your eyes.

   Daytime in the desert can be temperate in winter and the transitional seasons but is blistering hot during the summer months, and summer lasts longer here than in most geographical areas. Everywhere you look you can see decaying signs of hearty pioneers who took on the harsh conditions in search of a new beginning. Some came to start over, others were running away from something; many were heading west and, for myriad reasons, never
made it any further. Untold numbers followed the siren song of a golden temptress and spent years searching and digging in the dry, scorching hills and valleys; but gold is a fickle mistress and most who came to these arid hills, accompanied only by their complacent burros, left empty handed. Many of them never left at all, finding a lonely resting place somewhere out there under the blazing sun. To this day the amiable descendants of miners' abandoned burros mooch around the gold rush town of Oatman, AZ, and are a tourist favorite.
   Commonly visible throughout the desert country, abandoned cars, cabins, houses, mines, and often entire towns attest to the spirit of the early pioneers. They were a hardy breed who believed they could conquer the hostile climate, and some succeeded. Scotty's Castle in Death Valley is proof of that, but many (perhaps most) fell short of success. The desolate, abandoned ghosts of the silent desert are part of what makes this territory so mysterious and compelling. Within every one of these tottering structures, with windows like blank staring eyes, lies buried a story of someone's hopes and dreams. Was that dream ever fulfilled? Was this just a stop on the road to a better place, or was this dismal shack where the dream ended? Did the dreamer move on, or are they entombed somewhere under a broken cross concealed by decades of shifting sand? In some cases the story is known and a little research will yield an answer; in most cases the closing line of the story will remain forever a mystery, known only to the ghosts of the desert.

   Those of you who have driven this lonesome stretch of old Route 66 have seen the rusting hulks of Model-T's and other vehicles alongside the road; each one is a tribute to the undying American belief that we can make things better if we just take the bit between our teeth and go for it. Some of these early travelers merely exchanged the dust of dying farmland for the dust of the desert, while others passed through to the "land of promise" farther west. Many of us are the descendants of those early pioneers, as is my husband. My family came west later, but over the same inhospitable route as these earlier pioneers. There were roads then but not a lot of bridges, and it was a long, hot, dusty journey punctuated by flash floods and dust storms; I remember my grandmother telling tales of that trip!

   So as I sit here in the sticky, humid, sweltering 105 degree heat of a record smashing coastal heat wave, I still yearn for the desert. So many times I've heard the joke "but it's a dry heat"; those of you who live in an area with lots of moisture in the air know it's true... there is a difference! While I may not fully understand my desire to be in the desert, I do know that a preference for dry heat is not the reason; there is much more to it. I think it is really a combination of things, but mostly my enjoyment of open spaces and untold possibilities. Like those earlier desert dwellers, I see beyond the heat and emptiness to what lies within the heart of the desert; the vast spaces that compel you to venture ever further, seeking you know not what. The mystery and enchantment of fiery colors against pastel hues; the perception that sunrise and sunset are both a beginning; the feeling that no matter how solitary your journey you never walk alone, for the ghosts of those gone before walk with you; these things will continue to draw me back to the enigma that is the Great American Desert until one day I, too, joyously join the spirits on the night wind.

   Be well, my friends, and live the life you deserve!        -Lynn