Saturday, July 26, 2008

Esprit d'escalier

Since the mid-'90s I've subscribed to a fantastic daily e-mail called A.Word.A.Day (AWAD). The, Anu Garg, provides a new word each day, sometimes following a theme for a week, other times providing guest hosts for a day or a week. The results are often educational, entertaining and sometimes even uplifting.

Today's word fit me to a T, so I thought I'd share, and provide you some links that might distract you from all the work I KNOW you're supposed to be doing instead of reading our blog. Plus, the site will give you something to do while you await our first post from the road! :)

esprit d'escalier (e-SPREE des-kal-i-YE) noun, also esprit de l'escalier

Thinking of a witty remark too late; hindsight wit or afterwit. Also such a remark.

[From French esprit de l'escalier, from esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs).]

I found this word COMFORTING! I mean, who confesses to lagging in their witty remarks? I don't feel so alone now! :) I can't tell you how often I think of a pithy comeback too late to contribute, but it took me a few years to just let them go. It's pretty darned embarrassing to spit out the sly comeback after a quickly moving conversation turns to another topic entirely!

AWAD is a free service, though donations are accepted. The site also includes an anagram maker that's fun to play with.

I'm a Rockstar!

I don't know if there's anything more empowering than taking on a challenge about which you're not all that certain and seeing it through. These past couple of weeks have been mind-bending for me as I've ventured on my own into electrical, propane and water systems, and it's been GREAT! Each time I complete a modification, I can't help but credit my dad with all the hours he's spent with me handing him tools, learning about mechanical doohickeys, explaining machines to me (sometimes over again).

Today I found myself thinking, "Dad would be proud of me!" It's not a thought I often have, and I certainly don't call him every time I complete a project - but today I had to! This afternoon I put some of the final touches on the trailer, including creating and installing retention rods in the refrigerator door. The rods that help keep items on the half-shelves were missing when I bought the trailer, so I figured I had nothing to lose in trying to create new ones. I purchased some 3/16" copper rods from our friendly local hardware store, measured, kinked the rod the way I wanted it, then sawed and snapped off the remainder. The result: three functional shelves where before there were only indentations that wouldn't hold a thing. WOO HOO! maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal to anyone else, but I love the process of facing this challenge, then designing and building a solution. WONDERFUL!

The girls also helped me in Junior again, this time installing some child-safety locks on doors and drawers to keep them from popping open as we head down the road. The girls watched me measure (I was trying NOT to rush, but it was getting dark), then screwed in the brackets and the anchor screw. I believe every time E & V work on Junior they become more attached to it and more excited about our impending departure.

Don't worry, Mom! We have a project set aside JUST FOR YOU when we arrive in Washington! :)

In other news, as I looked over the western Nebraska section of our trek tonight I realized we'd be in My Other Mother's old stomping grounds. Oh how I wish I could pick her brain about the best places to see in the area! She talked quite fondly of the friends she made and the community in which she took part while in the Bridgeport/Scott's Bluff area.

We keep coming across reminders of her in our travels not only in the county, but well beyond. Last winter, the girls and I visited Hidden Villa for a homeschool group event. While there, we happened into the Big House only to discover that THIS was the home in which she'd lived in college! The ranch was the home of her best childhood friend's mother (who also designed the related hostel) and grandparents. How could it be that we just keep coming upon these places? Honestly, I didn't know Hidden Villa was the place, but there was the family picture on the wall of the Duveneck House just across the field from the Dana Barn. I wanted to ring her up to tell her about my discovery, and to hear her laugh at my excitement over something I should've known all along.

What will we discover in Nebraska?!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bracing for the future

Today we entered a whole new world as E had her first round of braces installed.
Her front teeth came in rather crooked, so she's keen on wearing the braces that will renew her ability to eat some of her favorite foods. Corn on the cob has been tough for her, as have apples since that last front tooth came in so far forward. It's also become increasingly difficult to understand this child who was spoke so clearly with her baby teeth in place, so I'm looking forward to a bit more clarity on that front.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another day, another water park

Wouldn't you know that just as good friends get back into town, WE'D be heading out!? Isn't that always the way?

So, we've been spending as much time as we can with the family around the corner. They've been out of town for two years. They're home for six months, then will head back out again. Of course, we'll be gone for two of those months, and they're spending some of their time "home" traveling to visit family in the States before heading back to the rainforest for another year.

Today, we carpooled to Lompoc to enjoy the Lompoc Aquatic Center. Now THIS is a great deal! Three pools, two hours, $2 per kid, $3 per adult. The pools include a lap pool of decent temperature for rigorous exercise, a toddler pool of pretty nice, warm temperature (and complete with play structure) that runs into a larger pool with its own Big Kid water slide. Then there's the 90-degree (no exaggeration) therapy pool. All of this inside a building with a roof that retracts on truly gorgeous days.

So, while I enjoyed The Ravine in Paso to some extent, at $60/day entry fee for a family of four and NO outside beverages or foods allowed (they check your bags) it doesn't stand a chance if compared with the Lompoc facility ($10/session for same family). Perhaps when the girls are bigger, and WILLING to go on the big slides the tune will change, but for now we'll stick with Lompoc. (Plus, gas is only $4.28/gallon there...30 cents/gallon cheaper than here!)

As for trip plans, I'm working on uploading important stuff now (like music and stories) to the laptop for use with the iPod throughout our journey. Plan on laundry in the next couple of days, then packing (oh, and groceries) and that'll be it. Too weird to think it's finally almost here!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Load up!

Yep, it's time! The trailer is just about ready, I think. Tomorrow Dad and I will strap down the water tank and do a final check through, then it's time to figure out how to load!

The final touches this week: completing the onboard water system; installing screen at kitchen vent previously open enough for VERY large bugs to use; completing cushion covers and curtains; replacing crushed dolly wheel (oops!); personalizing Junior with some help from a friend. :)

From Compact Jr. Upgrades

E chose the saying on the back of the trailer. I thought we were going to go with "Nowhere to be and all day to get there," but she requested "Not all who wander are lost." It's even more appropriate for this trip...particularly now that I've uploaded ALL the maps to the GPSr in addition to the BOX full of maps that'll ride shotgun.

In other news, E is prepping for braces. She's really excited about the prospect of eating corn on the cob and apples and such again in the future. (Since her front teeth have come in so off kilter, she hasn't been able to enjoy these things as much. Straightening, even a BIT, would make a big difference!) The ortho is having her start with the headgear as we head out. Should be educational at least!

Today we celebrated our near completion of the trailer, our pending vacation and a day off together with a visit to a relatively new water park (it opened LAST summer, but this was OUR first visit) in Paso Robles. Kind of a long drive for day at a water park, but it's a nice place to hang out, and PLENTY hot! The girls particularly enjoyed the wave pool and the ravine water feature. Mr. B and I worked our way through the three Big Kid slides to the ultimate - getting flushed!

Good times...

ALMOST there!

Well, I ALMOST made that self-imposed "all systems go" deadline of Monday, but I'm ONE PIECE SHORT on the self contained water system (hope to pick it up today), and need to strap down the tank so it won't bounce around. THEN we can finally get packin'!

Meanwhile, I've completed the cushion covers and curtains and we've taken a test drive over Cuesta Grade. The trailer follows really nicely.

First trailer lesson learned: the dolly wheel on the front of the trailer (at the bottom of the jack) has to be removed before hitting the road. I crushed the old one, probably going in and out of a driveway since I can't think of any big bumps we went over on our paved journey. My new wheel has a quick release for easy removal and stashing as we pack up and roll.

An artistically talented friend whose daughter shares E's birthday helped us plan and paint the back of the trailer. Watch here for photos in the next coupla days or so.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Masters of Harmony

Some of you may have heard me talk about my mom's husband and his role in a barbershop chorus called Masters of Harmony out of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. I'll confess that, prior to hearing them for myself, I thought my mom was embellishing MORE than just a bit when she described their quality. When I rolled my eyes, she said, "But they're international champions!"

Still, I doubted. I mean, international in barbershop? Not exactly a popular mainstream musical form at this point, so I figured it wasn't very competitive.

Uh...WRONG! I admit it, Mom; I was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

(I'm sorry that I doubted you.)

Ever since that first concert a few years back I've been smitten. The committed group of guys whose ages and experience levels vary tremendously put on a fantastic performance, and last week they proved it again by winning (yet again) the Barbershop Harmony Society's International Gold Medal among large choruses.

The ballads are nice, but I must confess that I go for the up-tunes. It amazes me that so many voices can sing as one dynamically and with such clean phrasing, even at speed with lots of other things going on not the least of which would be the advanced choreo. WHEW!

See for yourself:

Congratulations, Doug and all the MOH team!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Today I spent the better part of two hours rewiring the taillights and marker lights on Junior. I noticed when we plugged Junior in to the van that the brake lights were the dim filament and the taillights were bright. I wanted it the other way around for safety sake. The marker lights were hit and miss: two of them didn't function at all; two of them operated only one of two bulbs. Turns out the kid hadn't ever completed his wiring of the markers - they needed ground. DONE!

This was a great project for the girls, too. We talked about complete circuits and they ran back and forth between the brake pedal and the light assemblies to help determine which wire configuration would work. They also made lunch while I completed the project.

After stops at multiple hardware stores in search of the right hose for the propane system I finally resorted to shopping for it online. Took me less than 5 minutes to locate it, another 5 to get the order completed. I like to support local businesses, but it's too often too tough to find the goods when we get down to details!

Our kitty has been helping me with the cushion cover project. All 8 cushions are now covered (four bottom pieces, four back rests) with the exception of the final side which ultimately will have Velcro closures rather than the zippers initially planned. (I'm terrible at zipper installation, and Velcro may hang in longer than zippers...or not!) ;)

I hope to have all these internal systems up and running before Monday.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mechanically inclined girls take after Grandpa

After a few days away to visit family in Stinson Beach, we returned home and to our trailer prep project. Who says real life isn't educational?

While playing in the creek in Stinson, V figured out how to strengthen an impromptu bridge so that it wouldn't sag into the creek. Her feet stayed dry, and it even worked when the big kids (and one adult) tested it.

E figured out a fix to the folding table/bed situation. Before anyone had a chance to think about it, she figured out where and how large the extra wood panel needed to be, and which pads we needed to duplicate to fill the gap. The result: a rectagular bed rather than an arch-shaped bed (short in the middle, long on both ends).

I spent today with my dad installing the trailer hitch and wiring harness in our van. I tell you, the girls certainly get their mechanical minds from their Grandpa! My dad is amazing! He's a problem-solving whiz, able to solve head-scratching mechanical challenges with a bit of extra bailing wire, or perhaps duct tape. Bailing wire was his method of choice today.

The hitch required an odd installation of a rather large rectangular washer INSIDE the van's frame. An even larger bolt had to align just right to go through that washer and the frame. No biggie, right? Considering that the access hole was NOT immediately adjacent to the target hole (by design), this required some tricky fishing. We considered using some sort of nylon line to attempt to pull the washer and bolt in place, but before getting too far into it, he opted to weld a bit of bailing wire to the washer and one to the bolt. The stiff wire gave him greater control in placement, and a bit of weatherstripping sealant held the goodies in place while we aligned the hitch assembly.

In other upgrade news, I installed the in-line fuse for the electrical, and now both inside lights work. WOO HOO! I also cleaned out the tubes that feed propane to the burners on the stove. Only two were functioning last week. No wonder; there was a spider nest in the third! And the little hand pump I initially installed (which failed within seconds), has been replaced with a "rocket" hand pump which seems to work beautifully (much to both girls' pleasure).

WE HOOKED IT ALL UP and took a short spin around the neighborhood. The van dropped only 1/2 inch in the back when I hooked up the trailer, and the trailer's nearly level (within an inch)! Tows great! :)

There's still plenty to do including:

- complete water system

- check and repack trailer bearings

- acquire spare rim (and tire to fit)

- complete sewing of cushion covers

- cut the wood for E's bed fix

- complete curtains

- load

- reload after we discover the load doesn't tow well

- reload again


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stunt Driving School? Oh yeah!

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Be forewarned: I've graduated from Bobby Ore Stunt Driving School!

OK, I've passed the first course, but rest assured catching a ride with me will never be the same! I've learned to drive with some finesse AND control. I'm better at slalom (both forward and reverse), can spin the car 180 degrees at the drop of a hat, and learned some techniques that could even make parallel parking interesting in future. I don't even hold the steering wheel the same way I used to!

I see you there with your contorted face. I hear those wheels turning in your head.


Yup - the Big Gift for the Big Birthday was a three-day stunt driving (or as V says, "skunk car driving") course with legendary Bobby Ore and his crew including stuntwoman Gail Bowen and stuntman Jim Wilkey. I wasn't sure WHAT to expect, but I'll tell you what...learning to spin a car on its axis is a kick in the pants!

Stunt driving school is just what it sounds like, but more challenging because it all has to be SPOT ON! Hit a cone and figure you've just hit a movie camera or, worse, an extra. Go off the course and figure you've just plunged off the road you had been driving. This is what it looked like by the end of the day. (No one in the group had a video cam, but this is what we did to earn our

Of course, I was the only student to show up on a bike. (Mr. B and the girls slept in well past our 7:30 a.m. start time 5 miles from the hotel, so it was bike or walk.) I enjoyed a nice ride, then scored rides in my fellow students' cars. So here was the lineup at the student parking lot:

BMW Mini Cooper - super cute, with black stripes and sunroof

BMW Z4 Coupe - Comfy and fast

Mercedes CL65 - Oh...My...HEAVENS! Talk about LUXURIOUS!

Lotus Elise - Thanks, Jose, for so generously allow me (and Chris and Jeanette and Bobby and Gail and Jim) to drive your beautiful car. NOW I get it! (E and V enjoyed their time in the driver's seat as well.)

My ride - ummm... Bobby immediately dubbed me "Bicycle Weirdo" and we moved on! :)

So, if I didn't return your phone calls or e-mails as promptly as usual these past few days, please excuse me.

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