Tuesday, May 22, 2007


We're gearing up

This is my 300th post!

We're gearing up for our journey out to the real world next week (scheduled destinations, so far, include Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego). It seems the closer it gets the more minor details pop up that need sorting out.

This week I started trying to setup roaming service for the cell phone, internet, and satellite TV. First though, I had to wait through the detailed, long-winded advertisements that now lead off these companies' telephone answering systems. Before offering any options, they made me sit through three to five minutes of commercials for various upgrades, packages, or general BS about their company. Then I was finally able to begin navigating their option mazes. Why is it that the service I need isn't really offered, and none of the listed options is even close? Why is it that the phone company has the worst telephone answering system, with the most levels and the longest waits?

Our trusty motorhome has been checked out, serviced, cleaned, and lubed. Last summer I spent more than a week working through a lengthy list of minor repairs, alterations, and upgrades that had accumulated over the years. This week we had all the seals on the roof stripped off and replaced. An extremely expensive project, but apparently common enough for Alaska. The sealant materials just don't last through several winters. Now the motorhome is good-as-new and ready to roll.

Still, what a money pit! Other people get caught up with boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, summer-homes, motorcycles, airplanes, etc. Several years ago we began to sink all or our spare cash into a motorhome. Still, we feel it's worth it. In reality, this sort of calculation has no simple answer. Economically, it doesn't make any sense to have a motorhome. Obviously it would be much cheaper to just stay home. It would be cheaper just to fly the red-eye out to visit our grandchildren once a year.

The thing is, I detest flying. I loathe all the airline companies and the entire ordeal of flying. I got spoiled a long time ago; when you could go to the airport, briefly wait in line to check in, and then stroll to the gate about half an hour before boarding. After a short wait in the boarding area with family and friends, you could walk onto the plane and reasonably expect to take off more-or-less on time and arrive more-or-less on schedule, along with all your luggage. The food was plentiful, if not necessarily tasty (unless you were lucky and upgraded to First Class - with wide seats, lots of legroom, free drinks, hot towels - ah the good old days.) I was fortunate to be able to travel more than million miles that way.

But then it all changed. I'm guessing a lot of it was generated by outside management consultants whose lavish fees came straight out of the pockets of the employees and stockholders as they convinced the airlines to "reduce" seat pitch to squeeze in a few more rows, "consolidate" routes, "optimize" schedules, "downsize" crews, "defer" maintenance, cut meal costs, etc. Aside from the security issues (which I don't begrudge at all), the rest of the process has become so dang annoying. I hate their lack of accountability; their arrogance; their lies and denials. My once-favorite airline which "schedules" dozens of daily flights to this area, began to cancel one or two flights each day - always just at the last minute. It was OBVIOUS that their only reason is to save money by cramming all the stranded passengers onto the unsold seats on flights later that day. Missed connections? Tough luck.

I've gotten to where I'd much rather drive five days down to Seattle than go through the hassles, aggravations and uncertainties involved with flying there. We really like sleeping in our own bed, not having to live out of suitcases, making our own meals, using our own furniture. There's no better way to travel. Z used to call our motorhome trips "turtling".

Usually, we try to drive on the two-lane "blue highways", avoiding the interstates if at all possible. Way too many trucks driving way too fast. Besides, they're all the same. You fall into a rut of passing and/or being passed. The scenery becomes a blur because of all the traffic. The anonymous exits with their mini cities of three or four gas stations with integrated convenience stores, two or three fast food joints, and one or two motels that try to catch your attention as you scream by at 75 mph by advertising their exit numbers twenty to thirty miles ahead of time. These blue highways have taken us through many fascinating towns off the beaten path: Austin and Eureka, Nevada; Alpine, Texas; Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, New Mexico; Show Low, Arizona; Moab, Utah; Prineville and Cave Junction, Oregon; Thermopolis, Wyoming; and so many more small towns scattered across the western states.

We like to travel rather aimlessly. We meander; often not planning our next day's route (or sometimes even direction) until we've settled in at a campground the night before. One year, just after we got to Great Falls, Montana, we flipped a coin to decide whether to head southeast or southwest. That year we ended up in Key West. We've driven to Florida twice, south Texas twice, and California and Arizona several times. Two years ago, we spent some time in my old college town, New Orleans, just a few weeks before it was destroyed by Katrina. I fear we wouldn't recognize it now.

We've worked out a comfortable driving routine when we're on-the-go: leaving the RV Park/campground quite early and having the road to ourselves for the first few hours; a brief stop at a rest area for breakfast, and onward until lunch at another rest area or park. We usually stop for the day in mid-afternoon. Arriving at the campgrounds early usually get us a good spot, and we can relax for the rest of the day, sometimes taking a walk or sight-seeing in the area, and then just vegging out in our shell.

Last year we didn't go "outside"; instead we took a couple short in-state trips. After a few "discussions", Z has agreed to "participate" in this trip. Not that he has a choice, but like any teenager, he could probably make things tedious for us if he wanted to. Fortunately, he's a generally good-natured kid and we were able to talk this out. On our side, we've agreed to try to stay in WiFi-enabled campgrounds whenever possible. This year we're also taking our dog, cat, and guinea pig. We brought our guinea pig (Floyd's predecessor) a few times before, but we always left the dog with my brother, and the cat is relatively new. Three critters and an overgrown kid in one confined space for the next six weeks....hmm. I suspect this will be our last long trip in the motorhome until Z goes to college... By then we'll have finally paid it off, but I guess we'll have to start putting that money toward his college costs, instead.

Also different from our previous trips is me wanting to set aside time to practice my cello. I am regretfully leaving my acoustic at home, but I'm bringing my Yamaha silent electric cello. I'm still trying to figure out where to stash all my music accessories - cushion, stand, metronome, music books, spare strings, etc. My goal is to be able to play through the first two pieces in Suzuki 3 (slowly, at least), and to be ready for our orchestra's summer concert at the end of July - if we get home in time. That means that somehow I've got to keep up a daily practice routine, maybe not two and a half hours, but still, something every day if possible.

This week, I started working on two new pieces in Suzuki 3, Berceuse by Shubert, and Gavotte by Lully. I've been spending time just tapping out the rhythms, bumping into the tricky segments and then concentrating on them. Then, I'll play pizzicato - very slowly - measure by measure. I started bowing the Berceuse yesterday. It will be quite a while before I'll do any bowing on the Gavotte.

I also started playing scales and arpeggios into third and fourth positions. I'm not having that much trouble finding fourth position - I was expecting it to be more difficult. I'm nowhere near acceptable, yet, but my ear has improved to where I can know where and how far I'm off, and I'm able to get it right after a few more tries. I suppose it helps that I've done daily second and third position exercises for almost a year now.

Eighteen months into this, and it just gets more and more interesting.

Cute turtles! RV-ing sounds like a smart way to travel. The closest I've done is car-camping. It's nice having your own stuff and your own car once you get there, isn't it? I'm looking forward to your arrival.
The tortoises are wonderful! Very apropos for an RVing post.

How do you find switching back and forth between the electric and acoustic instruments?
It only takes a few minutes to get the "feel" of the Yamaha (it is quite a bit heavier, with a thicker neck).

While there are certainly differences in quality, one thing going for the Yamaha is that it has no wolf. My acoustic cello's wolf paces back and forth between C# and F# depending on the temperature and humidity and location of the supressor.

Sometimes it's a relief to pull out the Yamaha for a session or two. But then I start to miss the resonance and depth of sound, so I switch back.
Congrats on your 300th post! I also love traveling blue highways--I've done enough interstate to know that I hate it.
You're coming to Seattle? Great! It's an awesome place. While you're here, try checking out the classical radio station, 98.1 FM. We have one of the *best* classical stations here in the Pacific Northwest.
The Lully Gavotte is an awesome piece. I loved it when I played it last year! Have fun with that one!
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