Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Leaving Idaho

by Lori Gebbie

Leaving Idaho was a little more difficult than we expected. We started off at Caldwell RV Park because we needed to rest overnight. We stayed because we needed a little vacation to settle in after all the packing and moving and stress. While we were there, we met some pretty fantastic people! Two in particular come to mind.

Dan and Robert met while Robert was out fishing. Dan lives at Caldwell, and would often walk around the park, socializing with the residents. An eccentric gentleman, with a lot of life experience, he and Robert hit it off immediately. He invited us back to his RV, and as I looked around at all of the various photos and trinkets he has tucked in everywhere, he and Robert sat and talked. Off they went, into their own little world, bantering ideas back and forth, discussing hypothesis and theories that would rival any scholar. Ecologically minded, Dan was working on a solution for our fresh water ponds and lakes. Here, clearly, was a man of heart and great ideas. But he needed some help with his focus. We gave him some ideas on how to help himself, and reminded him, just breathe.

Terry came out when I was fishing with Robert. We chatted casually, and then she went back home. Later, she came by, and we talked again, and she started to talk to us about life, balance, and focus. There was an instant camaraderie between us, and we felt connected in some way. A beautiful woman, a gentle soul, and a very talented artist. She showed us her work, and we discussed ways she could help advance her career. We are really looking forward to seeing her again, and helping her in any way we can.

We left Caldwell RV Park on Saturday nite, and started off. But it got dark quick, and the road was torn up, so we had to move real slow, at about 45mph. The stress of holding onto the van to make sure it stayed on the road was telling after such a relaxing few days. So we pulled out for the night to rest. The next morning, we headed back out toward Twin Falls. We took a break there for lunch, and to let Robert stretch his leg, which he couldn’t feel at the time. Once more, we headed to the highway on our way toward Las Vegas, and as we crested into Utah, Robert was starting to have trouble with his leg again, so we exited again for the evening. In the morning, we headed out again. The van was purring softly as we headed up the grade on the outskirts of Ogden. But there was a grade in front of us, and it was getting warmer, and as we crested the grade, the lower radiator hose blew. We rolled into the Perry Port of Entry truck station and turned off the van. The hose had come off, it didn’t split, so we tried to clamp it and fill it, but when we started the van again, there was a small white puff coming from the tailpipe, and it was dripping water. This indicated a blown head gasket, so with heavy hearts, we asked to pull off for a while until we could figure out what to do. We had just had the van serviced in Vancouver, so we were very surprised, since we had told them we were going to be pulling a load through the desert and asked them to make sure our van was road worthy. We called the shop, and they arranged towing for us. Horray! However, our mechanics decided it was not their fault, and were not going to reimburse us for the expense. We were down to gas and food money, and the future looked bleak.

We have a friend, Dawnelle, who had moved to Utah recently, and we had planned on stopping by on our way through, but weren’t able to make an event she had planned the prior evening. When we missed her event, she felt saddened she missed us. She told us she prayed that we wouldn’t pass her by on our way through, so when I called her up, she was overjoyed that we were here, and has been nothing but a ray of hope for us. She has allowed us to park at her home while we figure out our situation. She is also pulling her resources together to help us find a cheaper alternative than the $2700 the shop told us it would cost us to fix the van.

So, here we are, in Ogden, Utah, without a vehicle, and looking for portrait work to try to raise some money so we can get our van fixed and back on the road. We are blessed to have Dawnelle here to help us remain sane and to give us a safe place to park until we figure this out. And blessed for her friends who are mechanics and willing to help us as well. So, sorry, Las Vegas, it’s gonna be another few weeks until we can get there, but, we’re on our way!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Little Longer in Idaho

by Lori Gebbie

Yesterday, we took a drive into Boise to see a few of the sites there. That’s when I saw the sign. Cracker Barrel, Exit 50B. My heart skipped a beat! Ohh I love Cracker Barrel! It was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in South Carolina, and traveled in the area. It was always a special treat to go to see some of the kitsch items they carry in their little store. And the food is hearty and the portions are plenty. Good old Country Style eatin’. And to top it off, authentic Sweet Tea!!

We found out there was a Birds of Prey Museum and Aviary close by, as well as the Lucky Peak Dam. There was only half an hour left in the business day for the Aviary, so we noted the location and headed toward the dam.

It was a real pretty drive, and we just took our time and enjoyed it. Since Robert has to do the driving when we’re hitched to the trailer, I get to drive when we aren’t. I noticed he spent most of the drive rubbing his leg, but he’d brought his cane, and he wanted to try to stretch it out a bit. We got to the dam, parked the van, and off he went. I went toward the waterline, and sat at a nice table under a tree to do some writing and relaxing. When he came back, he was limping quite a bit, so I had him do some stretching on the shore. A little while later, we headed up toward the other beach area and took some more pictures of the water feature there, but he was getting tired, and we’d been away from the animals for about five hours now, and while I knew they COULD be good, I wasn’t sure they WOULD be good while we were gone.

By the time we got home, I had to help Robert out of the van. He went straight into the trailer, and straight to bed. He couldn’t feel his hip or any of his right leg. And we were supposed to leave in the morning. Of course, he said he just needed to rest, so as soon as he was able, I sent him for a hot shower, and we settled in for the nite to watch a slideshow of the shots we’d taken. We knew we had an early morning, packing the trailer up for travel, so we got to bed a little early.

In the morning, Robert said we had to get moving, so with a lot of creaking and groaning, we started moving around. I noticed he was really favoring his leg, and when I asked him, his head fell and he said he still couldn’t feel it. He looked worried. So, I did what any wife would do. I went to the office and extended our time here. This is just a typical situation we deal with. Sometimes Robert’s disability puts him down for a few days. Before, he would try to push on and keep going, but I had to remind him that we are on our own schedule now, and if we go slow, well, we’ll get there eventually. Once we can both drive, we’ll be moving a lot more, but, for now, this will do.

So, here we are, still in Idaho, trying to heal our bodies enough to make another run. We’re considering this our “vacation at the beach” which we’d planned to take before running to Vegas, but didn’t get a chance to do. We are paid up until Sunday morning, so today we are doing nothing, just spending “us” time, hanging out at the lake, just relaxing and enjoying the time and space and peace we have.

Tentative Agenda: If Robert is walking, then tomorrow we head out to the Birds of Prey Museum and Aviary. And, maybe back to Cracker Barrel, too! After all, it IS on the way! If not, more fishing and hanging out by the camp.

PET REPORT: Since the kids stayed home yesterday while we went wandering, Robert brought Prinnie outside and we set her on the top rung of our step ladder. We also brought Tye and his cage out, and set him on the table. We had some people come by and chat with us and the birds. After about an hour, we put them back away, and got the kitties into their harnesses, and put them in their cargo crate and took them to the lakeside with us. They enjoyed watching the ducks and squirrels running around, but as it started getting hotter, I took them back to the trailer, turned on the air conditioner, and everyone settled back down again. Prinnie is making a lot of friends here, she sees people walk by the trailer and calls out to them.

“Hello!! Hello there! Come here, come here, come here, Hi Hi Hi!!!” and when they see it’s a bird and come to the window, she says “Hello there, how are you?” and of course, when they laugh, she then asks for a cracker.

We are becoming known as “The Couple with the Parrots and Cats”. I hope that’s a good thing!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Driving Into Idaho 6-20-10

by: Lori Gebbie

We left Fort Henrietta at about four that afternoon. We drove onward up the mountains above Pendleton, the Blue Mountains. At the summit we pulled out to let the van rest, and to take some photographs of the valley. Wow, was it beautiful up there! As we crested and began our descent, the road and the weather started to turn. We were driving in asphalt, tire ruts making the trailer dance and sway behind us, and the hail came with the wind. Fortunately, we saw a rest stop, 1 mile! We pulled out to wait out the storm, our little family huddled in the trailer. Dry docked at a rest stop, enough electricity to run lights but not outlets, we ran our laptops till the batteries went out and went to sleep for the nite.

The next morning, we woke up and it was gorgeous outside! We got the trailer ready for travel again and headed out. The roads were still rutted, but the hail and wind had stopped, and we had a light rain. It’s very stressful to drive when you are trying to control something that large. Especially when you don’t have all of the proper equipment that makes it easy in today’s standards. Nope, we were doing it old school, just a ball hitch pulling a load behind us. White-knuckled and screaming (mostly) with our inside voices. We decided to stop at the first stop for coffee and gas, and pulled into Durkee, Oregon.

In Durkee, there were two things that I saw, a gas station and The Hungry Redneck Café. We decided to stop there for some coffee, and to ease our quickly frazzling nerves. It was getting harder and harder to stay motivated to continue on our trip, with the way our bodies were being beaten around in the van. Being pushed and pulled, constantly being thrown off balance, your body’s natural reaction is to compensate. So we were really feeling the stress from driving.

The café sat just off the gas station, the only things on that exit on that side of the freeway. There was a beautiful ram head mounted in the dining room, watching over all who came in. Beautiful painted canvases along the walls, price tags in the corners, all the art was for sale. We talked to the waitress, Robin, and she was sympathetic to our plight, making sure our coffee cups never emptied. Such a sweet lady, happy with what she had, and she said something to us that we always say to everyone else. “I just hope you two have enough. You only need just enough.” That’s when it all settled for me. She was right. We didn’t get to do this with a great deal of financing, we had just enough. And just enough was going to continue to work for us. We ate a light breakfast, and while I finished my coffee, Robert grabbed the camera and took some more pictures.

We needed to figure out a better plan, because our current one was quickly wearing us down. I remembered what Robin had said, we needed just enough, and just enough means rest, too! We headed for the border town of Ontario, and pulled into the first rest stop inside of Idaho.

There was an information center there, and I talked to the lady there about some of the things to see on our route. My father had told us to stop at the Lucky Peak Dam, and seeing as how we were almost to Boise, I took matters into my own hands and decided we were going to stop for a few days and recoup. Our backs were both strapped, every muscle aching. We stopped at Caldwell RV Park in Caldwell, Idaho.

This park has a private 7 ½ acre lake, and residents and campers are permitted to fish without a license. Robert’s face lit up. He was actually going to get to fish again, after 15 years! Today is our second day here, and he’s been fishing for a little while this evening. He’s already caught a few fish, too small for keepers, but he’s having so much fun, I don’t think it matters. What does matter is seeing the child light up in his face again, after so many months of seeing the old man’s pain. This is why we are doing what we are doing. All the rest is just bonus.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Digger Squirrels and Jack-Knives;

by; Lori Gebbie

I remember going camping as a kid with my family. My father used to drive, my mother in the passenger seat. My brother and sisters would sit in the back seat, and I would sit on the seat in between my parents. My father used to take some pretty scary roads, winding mountain roads. Everyone else would be able to sleep through it, but I was there, white-knuckling it and sweating it out with Dad. I vowed never to go on such a scary adventure ever again, and for about 30 years, had been able to avoid it…

We finally set out, Friday at noon. We hooked up, everything looked great. We started to drive, yep, everything still on track. We got on the freeway, ok… at about 55 mph, we started to sway. Badly. It was enough to send me into tears of panic, but Robert was driving, and although he’d never experienced hauling a travel trailer, he was able to pull us out of the sway pretty evenly. Then a semi went by us, and we started swaying again. I was afraid the rubber would be pulled off of the tires, but we were able to slow down enough to pull out of it, and pull out in a rest stop to regroup ourselves. We were in Hood River , Oregon.

While we were at the rest stop, of course we took out our camera and took a short walk. It was a beautiful rest stop, up against some real pretty forest area. As I came around a building, I ran into a squirrel, eating a peanut. Robert got some great shots of the cute little guy, and then we saw the lady with the peanuts. Her name was Shelly, and she and Kay were feeding them. The little guys were so tame, they would come up to us and stand on their hind legs, begging for treats. Then she pointed us to her daughter, Talia. She was sitting on the ground, her legs spread out, with peanuts lining her legs. The squirrels were crawling all over her, munching on the peanuts, and she was giggling the entire time. It was real great to see her taking such delight in them, and even more beautiful to see Kay and Shelly light up when they felt her laughter. “She’s having the time of her life! She just loves animals” says Kay, as the squirrels engulfed Talia’s lap.

After the squirrels, we went back to the van to get ready to leave again. We ended up speaking with a real nice couple, who, like us, had taken to the road full time. She offered some real good advice on stops and stuff, and he helped Robert with the van and trailer setup. We set back out, and stopped in The Dalles, Oregon, to check on tire pressure and fluids. After adjustments were made, we set back out to a more comfortable and relaxing ride. The sway problem had been equalized, one of the trailer tires was low, and our new air shocks were at passenger levels, not tow levels.

So, feeling confident, but very road tired from the stress and the unusually sunny day that we were blessed to drive in on our voyage out, we pulled off when we saw a sign for a campground. We were in Echo, Oregon. The campground is called Henrietta. However, there was no real signage. Apparently everyone in Echo knows where it’s at! So we continued on the road we assumed would lead to the campground, and found ourselves on a tight canyon road. A 24’ Chevy van pulling a 27’ travel trailer. Canyon roads. This was a scary point, as I’d been through something similar in just a car. But, holy moly, there was no place to turn around. Finally, at the bottom of a curve, there was a small pull out, so Robert tried to turn us around, because ahead of us was a hairpin I wasn’t especially interested in trying to take! Well, let’s just say, we didn’t quite make it, and in trying to back up (behind us was a ravine and in front of us a grassy steep hill) we managed to jack-knife the trailer. And the road was at an angle, and the front jack was dragging on the ground. We were blocking one full lane and a bit of another when it jacked. We both looked at it in panic. Severe panic. Mind numbing panic. What do we do now?? I prayed. Hard. “If this is the path we are supposed to be on, please send help to us so that we can continue on our journey. Please send us a trucker who has dealt with a jack-knife, and is knowledgeable and can help us out.” I looked at Robert, he was doing the same thing, both of us wide eyed in panic. And then, a couple pulled up to us. The man took one look at us, and, barely holding back a smile, asked us if we needed help. Well, here was the ex-truck driver I prayed for!! They pulled out and with a reassuring calmness, and great sense of humor, he helped us figure out how to get out of the mess we were in. But we needed just a little bit more help. We couldn’t get the tire up far enough to get some wood under it for traction. Then another car pulled up and asked if we could use another jack. What?? We felt truly blessed as ten minutes later we were back on the road, being escorted back to the campground in Echo.

So, tonight, we sit in Echo, at Henrietta Campground, and I feel truly blessed to be here. My mother’s name is Henrietta, so I feel extra protected staying here tonight. It’s beautiful, quiet, and out of the way. Just what we needed to untangle our nerves. It’s taken us four hours to calm down enough to understand that we are safe, our home is intact, and we are cared for.

Tomorrow is a different journey.

PET REPORT: Buster decided to jump out of the van when we stopped for gas, near a highway. Panic set in, but he hunkered down by the back tire and waited for us to get him again. I’m a bit scratched up from the ordeal, but he’s safe and that’s what counts most. It was a bit hot, and the kitties were happy that we were able to turn on the air conditioning to cool them down when we finally stopped here. Fortunately, while it heated up a bit outside, keeping the back vent open seems to keep the trailer pretty even temperature, between 75 and 85. The parrots are tropical, they can hang in up to about 100 or so before they start to get cranky. Princess is a Green-Wing Macaw, and Tye is a Miniature Noble Macaw

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our First Night

Well, I’m sure we’ll laugh about it in a few months, but what a first day out!!

Rule #1 when traveling by RV: Travel light.

We had it all figured out. After furniture weight was subtracted, we thought we were good enough. Apparently, that wasn’t the case. We stuck around later last night than we had anticipated, because we were donating the last of our furniture, and the guy was on the way. At last, he was there and gone, and we pulled out of our driveway for the final time. Goodbye, Roots!! Hello Open Road!! Then the trailer bounced a little, and we thought, uh ohh. Gotta go a little slower. We were sitting lower than we were both comfortable with, so we headed to our local Walmart to regroup and figure out how to make this happen. “Why Walmart??” I hear you cry. Because Walmart allows RVs to park, overnight, in their parking lots all over America. Except Washington, you have to ask permission. So we asked the guard and he said to pull to the far lot and we’d be “OK” for the night. We pulled in and unhitched the van, and the weight off the van was real noticeable. We needed new shocks. We drove about five miles, total, last night. This morning, it was interesting to wake up in a parking lot. The world going on around us, like it was normal to park next to an RV with people sleeping inside. We giggled and contemplated walking across the parking lot to Jack-in-the-Box for coffee in our jammies, but we were good and got dressed.

We contacted a shop and are set to have new air shocks installed tomorrow. We are also lightening our load by about a thousand pounds. Hopefully the two combined will be enough to get us started, because this weather makes it hard for me to breathe comfortably, and I need to get to a drier climate ASAP.

We drove to a local RV campground here in town, and pulled in for the day and a half it will take us to get going again. It will also give us a chance to ask a few veteran RVers for some quick tips.

PET REPORT: The kids all traveled real well! Prinnie and Tye rode in the trailer, and we let them see out the window as we were driving. We didn’t hear any squawking, so they were fine. The kittens hid in the back corner of the passenger area. They usually went to the vet when they drove in the van, but I think they are starting to get the idea. We have some real cool harnesses for them. We keep them on during the day while there is a lot of movement in and out of the rig, but take them off at night when we settle down. I think in a few days they will know that when the harnesses are on, we’re moving! The birds are getting used to being locked down for travel, too. We’ve had a bit of chatter today, so they have adjusted well to it so far. I’m sure on Thursday when we move, they will all be ready to go again. At least, I’m hoping!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Almost on our way - How soon will the adventure begin;

We are on the last part of sorting out our old life and preparing for the new. We expect to be on the road now by Friday or Saturday at the latest, everything is going very well just a lot of little details and load/space considerations being made. Cannot wait to have all this finished and take a few days shooting and traveling in the new home, GO MAN GO!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Beautiful Life

by; Lori Gebbie

I always admired the people that took to the road, experiencing America and the World. But I always had too many commitments to pack up and leave. Rent, bills, family, friends… there just never seemed to be a way. Of course, I did my fair share, I’ve lived in Germany, South Carolina, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and for now, Washington State. While I’ve seen a bit of the world, there was always the hunger to keep traveling.

When I moved to the PNW (Pacific North-West), I knew I was here for a reason. Looking out the airplane window as it crossed the Columbian River to circle into PDX airport, I felt such an overwhelming feeling of “HOME”, it brought tears to my eyes. Just 2 short months later, I met Robert, and my life felt oddly connected to his in so many different ways. We talked about art, history, photography, life. He was an artist who had given up his craft, and so was I. We both knew intimately, the rush from a creative burst, getting exactly the right angle, hitting the note in the sweet spot, and the thunderous applause from a crowd of admirers. We also both knew the pain that goes with setting your tools down and walking away from your art. But two Creatives getting together can only spur that spark so much before it sets hold. Within a few weeks, Robert finished this art piece that he had put down almost 2 years prior. And, he took a few pictures of me for an online profile on a chat site we belonged to. We put them up, and a few of our friends said they wanted new pictures, too. So, slowly we started doing pictures for friends, just one or two here and there, nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, just a good image of friends.

In the meantime, Robert and I were both working, set up in a cute little duplex, waiting for the sale of a house he shared with his ex-wife to go through so we could settle and buy our own home. We moved into the duplex, telling the landlords that we would probably only be there for 3 months, as we were awaiting the sale of a home. Everything seemed set in place for us to continue to prosper as an American Family.

But Robert was working with a 50% disability from a chronic back injury, and all those hours on his feet started getting to him. He walked all day at work, on hard concrete floors, and would come home hobbling almost every night. And I was trying to work through my own medical issues. I stopped working first, and did what I could to manage our household and take care of his aches and pains so he could continue working. But all those aches and pains add up, and he would find himself out on temporary disability, flat on his back for weeks at a time, trying to prolong another operation. That worked for a while, and then he contracted the MRSA virus and was out again during the month-long quarantine period. By the time he got back to work, the company was in a bit of an economic mess, and started laying off employees. When they got to Robert’s section, they were going to lay off the swing person and give Robert that position. But the swing person was healthy, had a young family he was trying to support, and was already used to the hours. And Robert knew that he would continue to be out due to his disability, and now MRSA, for blocks of time. So he took the hit and went on unemployment. By this time, we had already started poking around stock photography, and figured we’d either find another job or make stock work. So we went full steam into our project, while looking for work. But the unemployment numbers kept rising, and the longer we were out, the more unemployable we became. We cut down to bare bone basic necessities, and lived a very frugal life, shooting stock, and shooting portraits for clients.

Meanwhile, for the last five years, the house sat, in limbo, on the market, hoping for a nibble here and there. We never counted on the house selling, we were even planning on releasing his ex-wife from the house and moving into it ourselves, until the market got better and we could sell it then. Then, a few weeks ago, we got a phone call. “Robert, can you come sign some papers? Someone put an offer on the house.” The house sold!!

We looked at our bills, looked at our home, dreamed a dream, and decided to buy an RV trailer and hit the road with the kids. We are retiring, and traveling America! Well, I say retired, we’re just taking our cameras on the road. Being stock photographers, there are always pictures in demand, and right now they happen to want travel photos. So, we’re going to do our best to oblige them.

But packing up your entire life to fit into a suitcase isn’t always that easy. We tend to gather little things along the way… A photograph here, a letter there, someone gives us a cute figurine, and what about all the serving plates and candlesticks? Not to mention Robert’s shop, all the tools, compressor, and then there’s the professional gym he has. We’ve had to delay our start just a bit, as we finish packing everything that we MUST have into our vehicles, and all the rest that we have to keep is going into an 8x10 storage unit for a few months until we can figure out what to do with all of that.

So, here we sit, at 90%, trudging thru the last 10% of our things so we can clear out and head on our trip. We’re still rolling full steam, just taking a little longer to get out of the gate! We’re hoping to be on the road in 2-3 days, now it’s just a matter of running to storage, bringing the last box into the trailer, washing walls, and turning in keys.