Monday, March 29, 2010

still waiting

Gads, I haven't had the time to post in a long while. I have been way too busy to finish the story of our trip to Portland. I hope to get back to that soon. Meanwhile, here's the continuing saga of our search for a vehicle.

Our time is getting short. Soon, I'll have to bite the bullet and do the necessary work on our old Rav4. Last week I sent a new message to the Kia folks suggesting that we would have to move on soon. This got our proposal into the hands of the person in charge of the Kia account. That is great, but he tells me they are still considering the idea. I hope they come to a conclusion soon. I have to make an appointment in the next couple of days for the timing belt and valve adjustment work next week.

Then I figured it was worth a shot to send one more message to the Ford folks. They said the best they could do was a "VIP" price on a Transit Connect. That's the dealer cost plus four percent or about $20,000. Too rich for our funds.

OK Rodney, I hope you're up to the task. (Rodney is the Rav4 by the way.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the first stop

hullo, the countdown is on and things here seem to be picking up speed! we still don't have a car but we're working on it. so for now, we're pack, pack, packing up the tiny casa and sending various emails off to all sorts of people to see if they will have us for a visit. our first stop is Arizona where we will get to meet this awesome gal (and family), camp in Sedona and hit the soutwest rim of the grand canyon. any Arizona folks wanna meet up, hang out or otherwise spend some time with us? got any suggestions on where to go? from here we set off for Texas...yeeee-haw!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

poor rodney (and why we want/need the kia soul)

our trusty RAV rodney is flailing in his old age. not that he's so very old, he's only a decade plus one year old but he does have many a mile embedded in his memory. which is why we are on the hunt for the perfect car. the KIA Soul is pretty perfect, still crossing our fingers we can get one in our budget. otherwise it's to the car doc to patch up poor rodney and all the digits we can cross that he can happily cruise though a great many more miles. time is running short in a BIG way. we're losing hope...cross yer fingers for us and just picture how nifty our new Soul would look in pics like these...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Portland! day three, Welcome to Oregon

On our third day out, the rain let up by early morning in Eureka. We had a long way to go and a reservation at the Blue Bird Guesthouse in Portland that night. With some hot coffee we jumped on the road north. On the way to Crescent City was another stretch of coast redwoods and a drippy green canopy of moss.
Add to that some fairy tale weathered coast peeking out of fog and clouds and herds of Elk on the road and you know you're really in the Pacific Northwest (even if it is just the southern tail of it.) The Roosevelt Elk herds are on the road enough to need their own am radio station to inform drivers of their habits. We tuned in and listened to the looping crackly broadcast warning the foolish away from trying to feed the friendly looking beasties. We took the advice and stopped for a photo opportunity some distance down the road from the herd. Then, out of the forest near Klamath rose another two mythical denizens of the Pacific Northwest, Paul Bunyan, and Babe (Sasquatch greeted us in the previous installment). Our early morning start from Eureka brought us to The Trees of Mystery and the giant welcoming committee too early to hear Paul speak. According to Roadside America when the place is swinging and the parking lot is full of visitors Paul perks up and makes helpful suggestions to people passing by like, "Say, you look like you could use a visit to our gift shop and cafe. We have hot and cold beverages to refresh the weary traveler." Paul was silent for us and the few people around were staff working on some plumbing maintenance in the restrooms. Oh well. After the obligatory jump with our giant new acquaintances, the hot engine provided a thermos full of tea to keep us perked up through the grey day and the on-again off-again rain that followed us to Portland.Planning ahead, I prepared our lunch of potatoes, onions, and mushrooms with salt, pepper, and olive oil in a big foil lump. This would steam for the next two hours of our drive and be ready for the noon snack somewhere up the road.

After Crescent City we turned inland on highway 199 toward Grants Pass. There we'd join interstate 5 all the way to Portland. Sorry to say we really don't have any photos of this stretch. The rain and some photo fatigue kept mrs. a-go-go off the shutter. The Welcome to Oregon sign along highway 199 was a welcome sight. A new state at last. Climbing the grades up into the mountains we saw a dramatic change in flora. Driving inland and higher in altitude we left the coast rain forest and entered a more sparse and dry landscape for a while. From Grants Pass north bound on interstate 5 The thick conifer forest returned but here we could see the patchwork of clear cuts. In places the clear cuts left thin bands of standing trees in an attempt to veil the scarred patches from the public driving on the 5.

After Eugene the agricultural valley of the Willamette River opened the way to Portland where we arrived in light rain by sundown. A few consultations with the map and we made our way to the Blue Bird Guesthouse. Check in consisted of punching in a code at the front door and finding the keys to our room in the door upstairs. Each room is named after an author. Ours was the Sherman Alexie. The rates are reasonable and we found the guesthouse very comfortable, but you will likely be sharing a bathroom with other guests if you decide to visit. It was bed time at last, after finding a bite to eat in the neighborhood. The next day we would explore downtown and meet up with Le Silly.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Portland! day two, gettin' there is wet and green

Waking up to cool damp fog and knowing we were not in a hurry, it was time for a couple of detours from highway 101. First, a drive through Sebastapol where this burst of fall color popped out of the fog. For a slow drive through postcard worthy green hills and pastures the roads west of Sebastapol can't be beat. We poked along the way to Bodega Bay stopping for surprise moss covered grave stones, grazing sheep, and patches of dew coated fennel.

In Bodega Bay we searched high and low for the church featured in The Birds but no luck. The town was sleepy and the water of the bay was dead calm. A short walk along the shore and a breakfast snack left us damp with sea mist. With one last apprehensive scan of the sky for gathering squabbles of gulls we drove the wacky, windy highway 1 north for a bit. Then, turning east through Guerneville we crossed the 101 again and entered wine country on the Alexander Valley road. Four miles up the road is the Jimtown Store where we stopped for lunch. The sandwiches there are tasty though a bit pricey, and it can get crowded at this popular stop. The wine tasters, schools of bicyclists in superhero spandex, and Sunday Riderz can be overwhelming but we came back for the sandwiches and scenery anyhow. (Our first time was back in 2002 for the Cotati Accordion festival because we're goofy like that. For that trip we hit up Penn Valley to visit with family and then drove all curvy-durvy to the Jelly Belly factory, Jimtown Store, the festival and more.)

From Jimtown we made a bee line for Humboldt on the 101. Now, I can blather on about the green and wet that we passed through but I think a string of pictures will do a better job. Welcomed by Sasquatch hisownself, we slopped around in the fecundity.

A bit north of Humboldt Redwoods State Park the sun was wiped out by storm clouds and we knew we were in for soak. No more pleasant mist damping our hats, this was a torrent. The windshield wipers struggled to cope with the kind of wet that makes Eureka notorious. With the small goal of finding a dry motel bed and at an achingly slow pace to stay on the road, we paddled into Eureka listening to Bollywood music on some radio station the scan function discovered. Dinner at a roadside diner, a hot shower, and dry clothes helped shake off the downpour. Sleep is always extra welcome when the water is pouring down and you have found your dry place to wait it out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Portland! day one, gettin' there is half the fun

Aack! Things have been so busy, and I have neglected so many of our previous travels, but here's the beginning of one of my favorites. Late in 2008 we trekked to Portland, Oregon. A place we hope to visit again on the west coast leg of the Big Trip.

On our first visit to Portland we met with lots of swell people, some for the first time in person. Certainly, for this trip, gettin' there was half the fun. We took our time meandering up the California coast sticking mostly to highway 101, and our official starting point was San Luis Obispo. After spending the night with family we struck out northbound driving the long coastal valley past some of the richest agricultural land anywhere. The vineyards turned to vegetables and near Salinas, to endless rows of those giant edible thistles, artichokes. Naturally, we had to have a jump with the world's largest artichoke in Castroville. We were some distance from the acres of garlic near Gilroy but the onions still managed to perfume our path.
After a failed experiment with baking tiny cakes in orange peels on the car engine (they just didn't bake through... gotta stick to things that can be steamed over an hour or two or maybe tiny oranges) we had a quick road side lunch at In-N-Out (and NOT Margie's where the burgers were $10 and the service nonexistent). Then it was on to Santa Cruz to visit with St. Blaize and Neville, some of our favorite people. We had tea and a snack of fresh little tomatoes. This was our second visit to Santa Cruz and we feel at home there. It's near the top of our list of possible places to live for the next phase of our lives.St. Blaize and Neville took us on a tour of the neighborhood and community garden. Sigh... I hope we are not so broke after our trip that we can't search for a good place to land (are there any available near you Blaize?).

After our brief visit it was time to head further north. The fog rolled in and gave us a taste of the wet we'd be in for most of the trip.

We arrived in Burlingame by sundown, just it time to visit the Pez Museum before the proprietor closed up shop for the night. The variety is overwhelming, and includes vintage Pez vending machines featuring an illustrated Pez lady with lusty eyes and full lips. She seemed to suggest much more than freash breath, "Doppel PEZ fur 2 PEZ-BOX fullungen!" Our eyes glazed over all the candy colored kitsch and we realized we were starving. The proprietor had an excellent suggestion where to find a hot dinner in the neighborhood. Just around the corner they were serving up hot bowls of Vietnamese Pho. Our fondness for this dish is a subject I think I have well covered in previous posts. Maybe it was our hungry state or maybe it was the dreary cold weather, either way, that soup still sticks in the noggin as one of the best bowls we've had.

Back on the road we lost our way among the confusing one-way streets of San Francisco. Getting lost in the center of San Francisco at night in the middle of a street protest with nowhere to park and read the map, is not unlike Alice falling down the rabbit hole. With some dead reckoning and persistence we found our way across the Golden Gate. After a short stop on the north side of the bridge for some long exposure photos and humorous view of the cats and raccoons that hung around all buddy buddy, we picked a plain little motel in Petaluma for a night's rest. We passed out early knowing we had many miles of coast redwood forest to look forward to in the morning.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

volts is volts?

With all the electronic junk piling up around us why are they not all designed to take the same voltage? Of all the idiot things....

mrs. a-go-go and I have resisted being too cluttered with gadgets for years. We spent years being heckled for not owning a cell phone, and now that we have one it is never on unless we are on the road. For the Big Trip we will be more gadget laden than usual. For the sake of mrs. a-go-go's photography we will likely have two digital cameras, and a laptop. Add a cell phone and an ipod for our connectivity and listening pleasure, and you have a gaggle of junk each with its own idiosyncratic battery charging needs. My struggle with those needs has become epic. Electronic stuff typically comes with AC adapters so we'll take advantage of any AC plug that comes our way but those will be few and far between during some stretches of our trip. That leaves me with the trick of adapting all this junk to the 12 volt DC in the car. Thus I beg the question, why are electronics not converging on using 12 volt DC? What is up, you nincompoop electronic engineers? I'm sure there is some very sensible gobbldey gook, way over my head answer yelled at me in all-caps, but really... why the hell not 12 volt DC? The power in your car is 12 volt DC. The power in the armrest on the plane (so I've heard. I've never been on a plane anywhere but in sardine can coach class) is 12 volt DC. Residential and RV solar panel systems all seem to be geared toward 12 volt DC (sometimes 24, but at least that's an even multiple).

OK, rant over. It's probably no where as simple as I imagine it all to be. My knowledge of electronics is marginal, but if we are going to be dependent on solar panels and wind turbines on the roof in the near future maybe we could get all the gadgets on the same voltage. I really hate having to waste so much power on heating up all those little transformers, inverters, and rectifiers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

the map is filling up

funny though...we seem to know a lot of people in the midwest and on the east coast...lookie all that emptiness between california & oklahoma!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

another step forward (in the chorus line)

so...yesterday we a-go-gos celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. traditionally speaking, we usually jump off the fountain where we wed and then get a big boy combo at Bob's but this year, we were feeling a little different. that and the fact that i was having a cranky hair morning and them gray skies outside were not helping in jumping inspiration.

besides, we had other afternoon appointment to meet the CMO of the nifty creative agency that may or may not be able to put a Kia Soul within our reach. so instead of hitting up the fountain we hightailed over to the San Fernando Valley for a Dagla's lunch (dear Dagla's, we am so going to miss you).
after stuffing ourselves silly on the best darn french fries in the land, we hopped on the 405 and traveled to El Segundo. well, that was after we stopped in at my brother's work to find he wasn't there (of course). and, since we were there, we picked up an assortment of these for the road trip and i splurged on what may be the very best iced latte i have ever downed.
traffic wasn't bad at all which is odd for the 405 and we made it to El Segundo in no time at all. after a brief surreal moment when we hopped into an elevator and found it wouldn't work for us, we managed to hitch a ride up to the seventh floor. the doors opened up and we were greeted by a hipster hall and funky purple lights. we cautiously moved forward and were rewarded by a people-sized cardboard stand-up sock monkey! people-sized! sock monkey! if we believed in signs, this would be one, right? the man of the hour arrived and encouraged me to go ahead and snap a shot of the monkey. i wanted to take it home but i guess that would be pushing it.
after a tour of the nifty studio space we sat down and chatted a little about our plans and such. it was kinda like a date. you know, finding out more about each other. after an hour or so we were on our way with homework. all we need to do now is write up our proposal in a more concrete kind of way and send it in. and if you feel you could help out by writing a testimonial or something, please let us know as soon as possible. we have another person to impress and impart on and we could use all the help we can get.

the countdown is on and we leave may 1st Kia Soul or not, the trip is going to happen but it will be quite different depending on the car we drive. and like i wrote on my facebook page i have all sorts of songs stuck in my head. songs about the Soul and us and our trip. from Vermillion Lies to Frankie Lymon and now A Chorus Line...I hope we get it! and yes...we did make it to the fountain and of course, we jumped!

Monday, March 1, 2010

testing, testing....

To prepare for our little meeting with the folks who handle Kia's marketing on Tuesday we decided to go have a Soul test drive to compare the base model and the Soul+. The picture here is something mrs. a-go-go spotted on our test drive route, in case yer wonderin' what it has to do with this post. Anyhow, we have been asked to nail down exactly what Soul we would most want and with what features so that they can determine what kind of deal they can offer. After our comparison test drive we like the Soul+. There are two things that sealed the choice. First, the base model does not offer cruse control. That is something we can live with out but for the trip we are planning it will be a big help. Being able to relax and stretch that right foot on long stretches of lonely road is a big +. Second, after a peek under the hood we found that the base model's smaller engine does not have the magic exhaust manifold on the engine. The Soul+ as I mentioned in an earlier post from our first visit with the car, has an excellent space for engine cooking on top of the exhaust manifold with lots of head room for small backpacking pots. So, if a base model is all we can get into, we'll take it fer sure, but a Soul+ will make life sweet. Again, we'll see what comes of all this on Tuesday, and with a little luck and your crossed fingers we'll be on our way with Soul.


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