Rack ‘em up

We’re spending time with Ann’s parents in Nampa, Idaho. With all the stuff we can’t carry stored here, this is where we reconfigure our rig for the next foray into the world. When we eliminated our cargo trailer last fall we rarely missed it except for one thing: our bikes. Having that extra transportation and recreation option available is worth some trouble. Putting a couple of bikes on a rack wouldn’t be too big a deal on most rigs, but we have two unusual problems. First, since we’re too snobby to ride “normal” bikes, we have to find a rack for our frou-frou recumbent bikes. Second, the door to our home is in the back of our truck, right above the trailer hitch where most bike racks go. It took some doing to find a bike rack that had any potential to work, but today the Fed Ex guy delivers our candidate, a Hitch Rider Long Haul. With some trepidation we set about the assembly.

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It was looking pretty good, but what about access to the camper?

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Voila, the emergency pee stop is covered. So will it all hold together on the road? Let’s hope so…

Sleepin’ in Twentynine Palms

We arrive in the sultry warm Mojave desert, near the spot where we were married, and what do we do? Stop at the first RV park we look at, close the blinds, and sleep. The next day: work and sleep. We think the freedom we have to travel should imbue us with boundless energy, but after our big eastern loop we’re exhausted, running on fumes in more ways than one, and nothing sounds better than staying in one place for a while. So we pay a month’s rent and give ourselves permission to go to bed early for a while. I’m sure Joshua Tree National Park will rouse us from our stupor before long.

Hawk Watcher’s Point

Ann chooses this short and steep hike to do with our friend Elaine. I’ve been working hard and am grateful to get out into the Sandia Mountain Wilderness for some good air.

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The trail winds through very climbable boulders, which rekindle some of my very dormant climbing itch. The destination, Hawk Watcher’s point, is suitably windy for hawks but a little cold for us compared with the rest of the hike that feels just right. Still, we find a sheltered spot to snack and talk before descending.

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The desert is feeling great, but we want to lose a little altitude and have settled on Joshua Tree as our next destination.

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Oklahoma City Visit

My old friend Nathan and his awesome girlfriend Grace break us right out of our routine by taking us to see Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s at a small venue in nearby Norman, keeping us up way past our bedtime. The cure for that comes the next morning at the Red Cup.

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We’re soon fortified for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which contains a wide variety of artwork, but is still small enough to see in one visit. The Dale Chihuly glass collection is enough to make you wonder what can’t be done with glass. It’s “family day”, which we thought might be annoying, but it’s fun to watch the kids go nuts over Jonathan Hils car sculptures, and parents nervously fail to explain the gritty, sexual images of Luis Jiménez.

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That’s followed by espresso strong enough to feel in your brain cells at Coffee Slingers. Soon enough dinner rolls around, and we’re wowed by the raw vegan cuisine at 105 degrees. And so ends my first ever full day spent in Oklahoma, woot!

A Morning at Weathertop Farm

We make our way to Ann’s brother Randy’s place in Floyd, Virginia. He’s working part time on a friend’s farm, and we offer to spend a morning “helping” so we get to gawk at all the stuff going on here. Our first job is to head down the hill and feed the hogs. Randy shows us the bait and switch trick necessary to get them away from the feeder long enough to fill it.

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Next we collect eggs. There are three groups of hen communities separated by age: young’uns are called pullets, regular hens, and geezers (my term). They don’t seem to care about losing their eggs, but that doesn’t stop them from getting in the way. I find they like to peck at my pant legs while I help fill two five gallon buckets with eggs.

Before heading back with the eggs we check in on the baby bunnies.

Ann stays to help clean eggs while I stay with Randy to move birds. Chickens, turkeys, and ducks all live in fenced sections of pasture that are moved about every week and a half. We drag fences, trying to keep birds from escaping, to a new outline that Cedric mows with the tractor. While we drag the fence he pulls the birds’ “house” behind the tractor to the new pasture. Finally we arrange the feeders and water containers in the new pasture. This job takes us a few hours.

By this time the chickens have laid more eggs and need to be fed, so we do that before stopping for a lunch of fresh bread, pesto, and eggs (for the non-vegans). The morning gives me a feeling of harmony between people, land, and animals that I’m sure would overcome my veganism if I lived here. I don’t give up my diet today, but I leave feeling glad to know that places like Weathertop Farm exist as an alternative to factory farms.

Great Falls Park on the Potomac

We’ve continued south on highways flanked with still-colorful oak and maple forests to Rockville, Maryland, where Ann’s friend Jonathan lives with his wife Lisa. It’s mostly a working visit for me, but I can’t resist a hike in this small national park on the Potomac river. We begin along the old “tow canal” that for a short time provided a way to navigate around the falls through a series of locks.

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Interesting natural features frame the path.

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The falls are not really roaring at the moment, but the overlook is still scenic.

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Further down the river the banks become cliffs that we scramble along, watching rock climbers and kayaks play below.

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Clearly we’ve barely scratched the surface of things to do here, but we’re on a visiting mission, and Ann’s brother Randy in Floyd, Virginia is up next.

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Lancaster County Tour

Manheim, Pennsylvania is home to several generations of my family on the Kuhn side, but is almost completely foreign to me. Sue Obetz and grandma Eileen Kuhn, our hosts here, give Dad, Sarah, and I a good survey of the county. Our first stop is the old Abe Wallace farm, which grandma Eileen finds the tiny back entrance into despite her failing vision. Dad spent a couple of summers here as a kid, and I enjoy watching him take a quick walk around the grounds, gazing back into his childhood.

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He notes several new buildings on the grounds, but the farmhouse and barn seem unchanged. Of course the big divided highway 30 rushing by not far away is new. No one is around to answer questions.

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Next we drive along many twisty, forested back roads to the Susquehanna River near the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant.

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More winding ways up the river take us to the impressive Pinnacle overlook, where a cold wind blows high above the river.

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As we leave here the conversation turns to apple dumplings, and a couple of hunters are mightily amused when we pull over to ask where we might find some. Sue makes sure we have some genuine Lancaster County apple dumplings for breakfast before we head for home.

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