Fire Update, Kitchen Garden, My Books, Bullies

Hey ya’ll

The latest on the fires here in Northern California

So far, my hometown, San Rafael, has only smokey skies, no fires. This is how it looked yesterday as I drove south from a Costco run.

Currently, the fires are north of me

and south of me.

My kitchen garden

On a cheerier note, my kitchen garden is doing great. I have a tower full of fresh lettuce, arugula, & sage. My basil died, I don’t know why.

I have zucchini, beans, cauliflower, and tomatoes in this skinny planter. And I got one more tiny artichoke.

I’m growing two kinds of kale, swiss chard, and green onions in my new raised planter. My creaky knees don’t like kneeling to harvest from the skinny planter, hence this tall one.

My books

Since we are supposed to stay indoors, and with all this time I’ve had being home, I’ve worked on my book marketing. My fiirst step was updating this website. (I got rid of my old website when GoDaddy tripled the price on me.)

You can view the ‘My Books’ page by clicking the above image or by clicking the ‘My Books’ tab on the navigation bar above.

Bullies

Lastly, I hope everyone is ready for a verbally abusive temper tantrum that will last four days on national television. One of the biggest lies we heard as kids was “words will never hurt you.” That is SO NOT TRUE. Verbal abuse is extremely hurtful. When my mom and my first husband didn’t get what they wanted from me, they told me I was stupid and selfish. Even though I’ve spent decades trying to prove they were wrong, it still hurts. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know the barrage is coming, but it will be hurtful nonetheless. God bless them, and god bless you.

Preparing for Fire Evacuation

Featured

It is only the middle of August and California is already burning. I’ve packed my Promaster City campervan, which is also my regular car, for a quick escape. At night I pack up my computer and hard drives containing all my work and place them by the door. Anything else that I don’t want to keep in the van all the time, like valuables, family papers, and my clothes, I place by the door, too. As my very first boss, Rudy Medina, told me, “Stay flexible.”

Also, stay safe everybody, and healthy.

Layout Plans for Converting a ProMaster© City Cargo Van to a Mini-Campervan

Hi again,

In response to my last blog about my new campervan, Ramsey Jr, I received requests for specifics for the furniture I used and where I purchased it. Here is a list. I am also inserting my detailed plans and elevations to show you where I placed everything so far.

Note that I am 5′-7.” I barely fit lengthwise in the cargo section when the back seat is tumbled forward. If you are taller, you will need to purchase a cargo van without the back seat. Also, I have included things like lots of water bottles in preparation for boondocking for 7 days in one stretch.

List of essentials

TravelingPosition

This photo from the Ram ProMaster website shows how the van looks with the seats in place. This is how I need the van to be when I am hauling grandchildren around. Since the main purpose of this van is to visit my grandchildren 400 miles away, this was an important feature for me.

Promaster City w back seats up

The rest of the drawings illustrate how the furniture is arranged when the back seat is tumbled forward and I am actually camping. The layout allows for a nice open space in the middle, which I really like. It reminds me of the layout for VW Campers, just a wee bit smaller. The ceiling is high enough to walk around in the space hunched over.

CookingPosition

SleepingPosition

CookingLoungingPositionPassengerSideElevation

For the shelf, I used the IKEA Pinnig ‘bench with shoe storage.’ See my note about installing the middle shelf upside down to give the shelf a lip that holds in drawers/boxes.

Pinnig-shelf-on-IKEA

As you can see from the next elevation, I can sit on the folded mattress, which serves as a ‘couch.’ The sleeping bag is converted to a back cushion for the ‘couch.’

CookingLoungingPosition-elevation

SleepingPosition-Elevation

LoungingPositionBedExtended

Working Position

Here is the listing for the table that I have. I bought it for my Class B. I love it because it can be a coffee table or a dining table, and there are no cross-bars, allowing my knees to fit under the table easily. But the price has gone up considerably on new ones. Sorry about that. Look up Beckworth & Co. They may make a less expensive version now.

Folding-Table

Last but not least, something that is very important to us old folks. I double up the plastic bags and bring along a container of hamster shavings to sprinkle on top. The shavings prevent bad smells. During the day, the toilet becomes another convenient surface to place things at a workable height. I know, it sounds gross to use your toilet as a work surface but really….

ToiletPosition

This last photo, which was in my last post, shows you where I place the canvas bags filled with my clothes. I use a bungee cord to attach them to hooks on the seat belts. A black-out curtain hangs across the front area from a tension rod so that you can’t see in from the front windows.

Meet Ramsey Jr Thumbnail

 

 

 

Meet Ramsey Junior

Hi

I haven’t posted for a while because my van life has been in transition. I traded Ramsey, my fully-stocked 21-foot Class B that got 14 miles per gallon, for a small cargo van that fits in my garage and (supposedly) gets 28 miles per gallon on the open road.

I made the decision to make the swap after taking a trip around the Northwest last August. As you can see from this map, I visited many National Park sites. What a treat that was!

2019-Aug-Map-NorthwestNatParks

But on my way home I was wishing I didn’t burn so much fossil fuel while enjoying the scenery. I was coveting smaller vans. Driving Ramsey around for two years taught me what I need and what I don’t.

  • I never used Ramsey’s shower.
  • I only need one burner on the stove.
  • I don’t need a generator and air conditioner.
  • I don’t need a sink and complicated plumbing.
  • It is just as easy to use a bucket as it is to use the toilet that requires black tanks.
  • Since I have a wonderful home where I can entertain, I don’t need my RV to be a place to cook elaborate meals. Besides, one of the fun things about traveling is trying out local restaurants.
  • I don’t need a whale beached on my driveway when I’m not using it. It blocked access to my garage.

I suddenly knew I was done with my Class B, even though the PleasureWay Lexor is an absolutely beautiful mini-RV.

Fortunately, a cute couple in Oregon was ready to start where I’d left off and purchased Ramsey from me. I put 2/3 of the cash back in the bank and used the rest to purchase Ramsey Junior, a ProMaster City cargo van – the passenger wagon version.

I did a lot of planning before making that purchase.

  • I took all the items that I had had in Ramsey that I thought I would need in a small campervan and placed them in a pile in the middle of my garage.
  • I put the smallest items in 11″ x 17″ plastic tubs that I could stack.
  • I obtained measurements for self-inflating mattresses from the Internet.
  • I got measurements for the cargo spaces in Ram ProMasters, Ford Transits, and Nissan cargo vans.
  • I marked the spaces out in my garage and made mock-ups of how everything would be placed in that space.
  • I measured myself sitting to see how high a chair could be and not cause my head to bump the ceiling.
  • I drew plans using Adobe Illustrator.
  • I test drove the ProMaster and the Transit and lay down in the backs of both to see how well I fit.

Promaster-City-Wagon-Layout

I took a few practice trips in my much-more-cramped BMW X1. That helped me eliminate more stuff I didn’t need. I watched countless videos about van conversions to see what other people found important. (It is amazing how some couples actually live full time in tiny vans. One couple packs a water heater and a stove in the ProMaster City!) I do not live full time in my van, and I place elbow room high on my priority list.

RamseyDrivewayFacingDown

My goal is to be able to live off the grid for a week at one time. I’ve made the decision to stay with a cooler instead of a 12-volt fridge, which would need some sort of power. I can charge my phone, my computer, and my LED lantern while driving. But what if I am in one place for a week? Do I need to buy one of those self-contained batteries, like the Jackery, and a solar panel? I’m still working that out.

Meanwhile, here is a video showing Ramsey Junior so far. I have taken several weekend trips in him and been very comfortable. Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Barbara, Rincon, Santa Paula, the Sisters on the Fly

God, I love my state. I count my blessings every time I drive south along Highway 101 to Santa Barbara. One thing I was struck by this time, that I hadn’t noticed before, is how many Camino Real bells there are between King City and San Luis Obispo — one every five minutes or so. Does that mean there were once that many here at the northern end of the Royal Road between San Francisco and Sonoma?

Camino-Real-Sign-Bradley-CA

Let’s hope the ignorant general public continues to ignore them.

After leaving super early on a Wednesday, so I could clear the South Bay before rush hour, I made it to Santa Barbara by 2:00ish. I visited two places. The first was a retirement village named Samarkand after the hotel of that name that my great-grandmother Mary Hopkins established in the building that her son, my maternal grandfather, Prynce Hopkins, had built in Persian style for the Montesorri-like school he founded in 1913 called Boyland. (Long sentence, sorry. Sometimes it is difficult trying to be factually and historically correct.)

Samarkand

The blue urns, now planters, are remnants from the hotel. My great-grandmother probably imported them from the Middle-East where they were created to store olive oil. See the koi pond at the left? Grandpa built that for the school. Here is a photo from the history exhibit the complex displays. My aunt Jennifer Hopkins provided the old photo for the exhibit.

BoylandII-Pools

The round pool beyond the koi pond was a swimming pool for the school children. It was shaped like a globe to help teach the children geography.

The second place I visited was the Santa Barbara History Museum.

SantaBarbaraHistoryMuseum

Even though I have been visiting Santa Barbara since I was in my Mommy’s belly (to visit  her father [d. 1970] and grandmother Mary [d. 1955]), I had never been to the museum — at least that I remember. Here are some of the highlights for me.

First, I noticed upon entering the museum that the stone with the brass plaque to the left of the door is exactly like the gravestone for my great-grandfather Charles Harris Hopkins’ in the nearby Santa Barbara Cemetery (the photo below).

HopkinsCharlesGrave

Next, it was fun to see photos of Santa Barbara back when my great-grandparents moved there. They built their home on the corner of Pedregosa and Garden Streets back in 1897. Their son, Grandpa, who would have been twelve in 1897, later wrote about the horse-drawn trollies running down State Street. He mentioned that sometimes the trolly drivers waited outside a store for a rider to do her shopping, then continued on after she reboarded.

Old-Santa-Barbara

I also liked seeing this old embroidered silk shawl. I have one just like it that used to belong to my great-grandmother Mary. Maybe she used to wear it for the annual Santa Barbara Fiesta?

Shawl

I spent the night at the Rincon Parkway Campground, a strip of parking spaces along the highway between the ocean and the cliffs.

Next morning I headed to Santa Paula for a Sisters on the Fly weekend event. The Sisters on the Fly is a group of about 14,000 women around the US and Europe who like to camp and have fun. They have four rules for joining their events. 1) No men. 2) No children. 3) Be nice. 4) Have fun. The fun activitiy planned for this weekend was paddling kayaks along the coast of Anacapa Island.

That was Friday. On Saturday, we hung about the KOA campground, did some crafts, got to know each other over coffee, and then, following Sisters on the Fly tradition, toured the women’s camper trailers, or, as in my case, campervans. I only filmed the fun vintage trailers.

On Sunday, before heading to Pasadena to visit my grandchildren, I took advantage of Family Day in Santa Paula. All the museums were open for free. There is an Agricultural Museum,

SantaPaulaAgriculturalMuseum

an oil industry museum,

OilMuseum1

OIlMuseum2-OilRigs

and two art museums. The drive from Santa Paula to Pasadena through orange and avocado groves was very pretty, but the weather was cloudy. So I’m not going to include my photos.

That’s it for now.

Snow on the Napa Hills

While I was on my USA Swing last August and September, the door of my fridge broke off. The top hinge, which is a plastic tube molded into the door, cracked off. My good friend Kevin did a temporary repair while I was staying with him and Shelly in Memphis. Eventually, that broke off too. Getting things repaired on RVs is not an easy task. The nearest RV Repair shops to Marin are in Petaluma, Napa, and Sacramento—all at least 45 minutes away and all have at least 2-week back-ups. My dealer in Sacramento has a 3-month backup waiting period. And, it turned out, the repair places in Petaluma won’t service Dometic products. “They don’t pay us back,” one said.

But I did find Dan Shavlick’s RV Repair in Napa (45 minutes with no traffic). His wife/office assistant Jodi made me an appointment for 2 weeks later. I needed to be there at 8:30 am since there is a line-up waiting at the door when it opens.

I took this little video of the winter wine country scenery on my way. It is unusual to see snow on the hills surrounding the Sonoma and Napa County valleys.

Map of Route from Marin County to Napa Valley

My route from Marin County to Napa Valley.

Dan took photos of my broken hinge and will get back to me when Dometic sends him a new door. Fingers crossed that will be within the next month. Meanwhile, I am using a small Igloo Playmate Ice Box.

Happy New Year 2019

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season. I spent Christmas with my son and his family in the Bay Area, then headed south to Pasadena for a few days to open more presents with my daughter, her husband, and their two energetic sons. From there I drove to the California desert to explore a part of my state that was too hot to be in when I drove through last September. Here is the link to my YouTube video.

By the way, for those of you didn’t get the memo, I set up a new YouTube channel so that I could have one for my personal/writing vlogs and another for my RV travel vlogs. This video is on the “Rambling in Ramsey” channel. The other channel is simply called “Mary Ames Mitchell.”

If you don’t feel like watching a video, here are the pretty pictures. The first two are of North Shore on the Salton Sea. I wish you could hear the seagulls.

6876-saltonsea

6878-saltonsea

I think this next one is of Slab City. I didn’t realize I missed that eccentric town until it was too late to backtrack.

6885-slabcityithink

I spent the night boondocking at a BLM (Bureau of Land Management, i.e. free) camping area called American Mine Road.

yumatripmap

Then drove around Yuma, Arizona the next morning. I also bought gas there. Gas in Arizona is a dollar cheaper per gallon than in California.

6908-yumaarizona

From Yuma, I cruised through sand dunes swarming with zooming dune buggies. It looked like fun.

6893-roadtoyuma

Then through the Anza-Borrego Desert.

6929-anzoborregodesertentrance

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6941anzoborregodesert

And through Julian, elevation 4000 feet (so check out the snow). There was no place to park, so I couldn’t pull in and walk around as I had planned.

6946julianca

I spent the night at the Vail Lake RV Resort in Temecula. Very nice.

6954vaillakervresort

Here is the view from my van the next morning.

6951temeculahills

A lovely, peaceful place to enjoy a cup of coffee. Annie liked it too.

Last Leg of the Henry Knox Trail

Hi. I hope everyone had a fun Thanksgiving. Lucky me, I got to be with all three of my grandsons and their families. Meanwhile, I was able to finish this video compilation of my trip in September 2018 through southern Massachusetts following the Henry Knox Trail (West Springfield to Cambridge). I also visited some amazing libraries. I sorta screwed up on my video labeling. This is Part 2 of following the trail but actually, Part 4 of my series on being in New England doing Henry Knox related things.

As I noted in the comments section on YouTube:

For a copy of my sing-along children’s history book about the trail, Henry’s Big Kaboom, go to the Fort Ticonderoga Museum Store at http://www.fortticonderoga.org and click the ‘shop’ tab. You can also order it on Amazon. You can view the animated video (same title – Henry’s Big Kaboom) on YouTube.

To view my video about following the first part of the Henry Knox Trail go to https://youtu.be/aD9fu4BeTzI.

For a written guide (pdf) to following the Henry Knox Trail, check out the Hudson River Valley Foundation website at http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/themes/knoxtrail.html. They updated the guide a year ago.

That’s it for now. Keep on Rambling.

USA Swing Videos – Pasadena to Vermont to Maryland to Pasadena

Brochures for the National Parks I saw on my westward leg of my USA Swing

Traveling westward, I visited 5 National Parks, 3 National Historic Sites, 5 National Monuments, 1 National Recreation Site and 1 National Historical Park as well as county and state parks.

I’ve just posted on to YouTube my video’s of my August to September USA Swing. In the second video, I included a clip about how I found free or inexpensive campsites using an app called AllStays.

Here are the links. The video for the trip eastward takes about 12 minutes and the video for the trip home is 33 minutes. I love it when people leave comments on YouTube and subscribe to my channel.

I feel so lucky to have been able to see our spectacular county this way. Next time I take this trip, I will make it in October and November when it is cooler.

Back to California

 

A map of my 2018 swing around the USA.

Green dots indicate destinations that are part of the National Parks system. Red dots indicate cities I visited for family reasons.

It’s great to be back to the land of In-n-Out Burger, though I haven’t had one yet. From Pasadena to Pasadena, my Swing Around the USA took 38 days and 37 nights. If you count San Rafael to San Rafael, I will have been away from home 48 days and 47 nights. For the purposes of this blog, here are some statistics from the Pasadena to Pasadena loop:

The number of miles driven: 8733
The number of gallons of gas burned: 475
The cost of 475 gallons of gas: $1421
The cheapest gas was in Texas at 2.39/gallon.
The most expensive gas was in Blythe, California at 3.89/gallon
The average amount spent on campgrounds: $16/night
The number of animals I saw as roadkill: 3 beaver, 1 snake, 1 deer, and 6 armadillos —I got the impression that armadillos move slowly — plus countless opossums, raccoons, and squirrels.
I saw only 1 bear. He/she was alive.
The amount spent on propane: $6.95
The number of cans of iced Arizona Green Tea I drank: 15
The average amount spent on food per day: $16

My last set of tours included the ancient American native sites in Arizona. There are a lot of them. I only saw the National Monuments of Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and Montezuma’s Castle.

American Indians in the Four Corners region

American Indians in the Four Corners region

The Wupatki lived north of today’s Flagstaff, elevation 7000 feet, surrounded by volcanos.

Here is a rendering of what archaeologists think the place looked like 900 years ago.

Their civilization was nearly wiped out when the Sunset Crater volcano erupted. The volcano is its own national monument (i.e. another stamp on my National Parks Passport).

The photo above is of some of the hills still covered in cinders.

Within the city limits of Flagstaff, I arrived at a narrow, deep gorge called Walnut Canyon, where from as far back as a thousand years ago people lived in caves.

My final stop was Montezuma’s Castle.

I remember seeing it when my parents took my two brothers and me on a road trip to Santa Fe in 1964. My family was allowed to walk around the ancient ruins, which have since been closed off to the public because they were being worn away. The park built a model of a cross section showing what the castle might have looked like.

Annie was allowed on the quarter-mile path to see the castle. Fortunately, the path was shaded with sequoia trees. It was 100 degrees out and I had more desert to drive through to get back to Pasadena. When my family drove to Santa Fe back in 1964, we followed Route 66. There are many remains of the old route along today’s Interstate 40. I wanted to spend my last night in Quartzsite, Arizona, which I had heard about. But I couldn’t reach it before dark. Instead, I watched my last desert sunrise from a Rest Stop.

My final drive through the desert the next morning was lovely.

The entomologists at the Smithsonian would envy Ramsey’s bug collection. There are bug splats from 28 states. Now I get the challenge of washing them off.