Horseshoe Bend, Lake McClure

Nice campground with a view of the reservoir.

Well here’s one we had not yet been to. I think I reserved a couple of times and it got closed on me, whether for Covid or fire, or both, not sure. There is certainly evidence of a big fire along 120 that looked fresh and still smelled pretty strong, despite the recent rains.

Sierra roads can be tricky.

This one is a long drive for us, no matter how you slice it. Navigation on the Passport suggested taking 120 all the way to 49 and cutting south there. Google said to take 132 through Modesto. We went with taking 120 out of Manteca all the way to 49 and that was a little too exciting for a four hour, pushing darkness, drive. That stretch of 49 is mostly fine except for about two miles where the shoulder disappears and the elevation above the riverbed climbs quickly. There are some blind corners with nothing but little piles of pebbles along the edge as the only form of guard rail. It didn’t help that it was dusk and raining. And the rain at the summit looked suspiciously like frozen rain. I did not like that. But we made it! And the site was easy to back into, and the sound of rain on the roof was lovely.

Playing our game of find the yellow bikey guy.

On Saturday, I hotspotted off Richard for a while to do some figuring, plotting, and planning on how to safely get kids back to in person Learning Center. Eventually, he pulled the plug and took his phone away from me because he wanted to go on a ride. Fine. So I leisurely showered and headed out along his route until I caught up to him. His ride took him through the adorable little town of Coulterville and up Priest Coulterville Road until it hits 120. From there, it’s about fifty more miles of climbing to get to Yosemite, but that was not our destination. Instead, we threw his bike in the back and drove down the really twisty part of 120, back to the intersection with 49. I wanted to do that scary stretch again in the daylight and without a trailer, just to see if I still thought it was daunting. And yeah, it’s not so bad when it’s not dark any rainy, but still, that one stretch gets my heart racing. One of the goals I had in repeating the drive was to have Richard document scary pictures of it. But did we remember? No. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

From Highway 120 looking at Old Priest Grade Road.

We took some shots of one of the craziest roads in California: Old Priest Grade Road. This road clocks in at an average grade of 12%, with peaks at 20%. You don’t want to try this on a bicycle. Or with a trailer. Or with an old VW van with a manual transmission back in the sixties. I have a childhood memory about that that still causes me to cringe at long, steep grades. You have to be careful in the Sierras. Those roads do not mess around and this one is NOT a shortcut to Yosemite.

Super pleasant Highway 132

We had a deliciously lazy rest of the day. Sunday we dumped and stopped for a sandwich before heading back. We decided to try 132 going back and that is hands down an easier drive. Clearly, the big rigs sharing the loop with us must have come that way because I can’t picture them braving the narrow, cliffy 49. The only thing we have not yet tried is taking a cutoff on La Grange Road to cut some miles off and skirt Lake Don Pedro to get from 120 to 132. If you’re not looking at road routes in that area right now, you can skip most of this post.

One last fun thing to mention is that we decided we really did want new binoculars and discovered there was curbside pickup available at a Bass Pro Shop right on our way home. Now we can have binoculars in Bruce and in Lola because you never know when you might need to see something far away.

Water levels are pretty low…

Overall, I’d return to this campground but would take the easier route. If the water levels weren’t so low, it would be a much more impressive water view. But even without much water, it’s got the remote foothills of the Sierras feel and it isn’t too hard to book. Plus hookups and strong cell service for one of us. All wins.

Total miles: 136.2, 4 hours 2 min via 120 to 49, 17.5 mpg. Site G10. Nice. Also nice: G12, G13. Great solar. Nice view of lake. Electric and water hookups. Good dump. NO cell for ATT but pretty good LTE for Verizon.

Westside (2)

Teachers of the Year 2020-21

This is a screen full of dedicated people, working in public education, through a global pandemic, for the sake of kids. Thank you to all who worked to support public schools this year.

So this happened. I was going to be all humble and demur about it, not mentioning this at all. Then I thought, “Oh HELL no!” This has been the craziest and most challenging year of my career. To be nominated by my colleagues for Teacher of the Year, in this year, well that feels … I’m not sure of the right word. Special Education often feels like working through a constant state of emergency, so if I were going to be recognized for any year, this one feels kind of perfect. Any professional educator left standing after the year we’ve endured will be, forever and always, wearing a crown. I’ve got crazy respect for the parents navigating the crisis, while managing to keep what is important at the forefront, and what is not possible in perspective. And to all of the administrators, trying to blaze a trail through the unknown, finding themselves constantly beset from all sides, you are my heroes. My hope, as we begin to come through to the other side, is that we build on the knowledge that the ones who tried their flawed and humble best, those of us who kept failing and getting back up again, and again, the ones who didn’t leave or give up, we were there for each other. We showed up for kids. We crashed and burned, sometimes in spectacular fashion, raw and on display, to parents and caregivers on the other side of that Zoom screen. But at the same time, we shared in the triumphs and ‘ah ha’ moments, and glorious successes, made all the more beautiful because of the obstacles in our way. I hope that, because of this year, we never forget to give each other grace. I hope we remember the positive intent, and the effort, even when things didn’t go the way we wanted. I hope we preserve the connections strengthened by hardship and that we let go the sometimes hurtful words spoken in moments of exhaustion. I hope we continue to understand each other’s limitations. I will always put my full soul into the work of public education, because it is worth the effort. Despite the enormity of the hurdles, public education is still the place where good people show up for all kids and do what they can. And this year we showed up naked on a life raft, in the middle of the ocean, and said, “Well, ok then. Can someone show me how to make a paddle?” Just keep swimming.

This video compilation was put together by my amazing principal. It has Dory in it, so I’m posting it. It also has a lot of Darren, which is fun. We spent a good part of this year doing faculty dance videos. I’m thankful the one of me in the hot dog costume did not make it into this cut. And the one with me in a Dory costume happened one year ago, from the Putah Canyon Campground, right as we entered the shelter in place and began the longest year of our collective lives.

And now, on to our regularly scheduled programming…

Pretty nice site

This was our second visit to Westside Regional Park, but this time we had a sweet site. A bit of backtracking first though: Richard put a lot of effort into two projects during the week. First he reinforced the mounting of the pedestal base for the table and installed much lighter slides. So far, we give it a tentative thumbs up, but we want to travel with it a little more to see if it really will hold up. Next, he figured out how to rig up an audio system that plays straight into my hearing aids, but allows him to hear through the regular speaker. I will not try to describe it because it is way too complicated to understand. But it means I get to have the best big screen movie experience ever and not even worry about whether we are disturbing other campers. Win win!

Could have sworn the calendar said site 35

We pulled into the site at dusk and got all set up and had dinner. Then we realized we were in the wrong site. We did ponder for a while whether we could maybe get away with not moving and offering our reserved site, which was right next door, to the people who might show up. We pondered that all through dinner. Ultimately we decided that we (I) cannot handle that kind of stress and if I were on the other side, I’d want the site I reserved because it is on the end of the row instead of one slot in. So we moved. It wasn’t that bad.

Beautiful dunes and blue skies

Saturday we planned to do some hiking around the Bodega Head trails area, but when we got to the parking lot, it was pretty packed. We aborted at that point and found another trail that was less peopley. We noted on the way that there were numerous and intimidating No Trespassing signs posted all around the Bodega Marine Laboratory lands. We decided that either meant the marine biologists there are super badasses, with vaporizing lasers, ready to take out anyone who missteps and does damage to the ecosystem, or that they are a front for a covert government organization. Either way, it was a more exciting hike than usual.

Sunset cheating

Following afternoon nappy time, we drove back out to the parking lot with the plan of just staying inside the car to watch the sunset. It was super cold and windy out and Richard deems that one the best sunset ever, just based on the comfort factor. Then it was off to pick up a to go order from La Bodeguita and top it off with a margarita and a fully audible big screen viewing of “Rango.”

Bodega Bay – low tide with Egrets

Not much else to report. We mostly watched the tide come in and go out. We also decided we need better binoculars. We made it home just before a big rain, so that wraps up a pretty perfect weekend. Oh and by the way, no one ever showed up for the site we mistakenly pulled into. Oh well. We live secure in the knowledge that we did the right and noble thing.

Total miles: 85.1, 2 hours 28 min, 15.1 mpg. Site 36 (not 35). Great solar and cell for both. No hookups, but water spigots nearby. Bathrooms were open, but we didn’t use them. Dump is $7 cash only, even if you are staying in the campground. Sites by the water get incredible bay views.

Seacliff SB

Really? We can just camp right here?

Coming right off a trip to Pismo, where we thought it was pretty weird to see people camping on a beach, we followed by being people who camp in a parking lot on the beach. We had walked through the Seacliff campground a few years ago, while staying at New Brighton. Our thought at the time was that it seemed really weird and not terribly appealing to be sitting in a parking lot, no matter how nice the view was. And yet, it is among the hardest campgrounds to reserve, so clearly we were in the minority. And at some point, while searching for reservations, I found an open spot and must have figured what the hell. It’s an experience to try.

So weird, but so fun!

I really was not expecting to like it, let alone love it. But yeah, we’d go back any day! It probably helped that the site next to us was closed, perhaps because it was next to the camp host? I did try to imagine whether it would be less fun if there were big rigs on both sides. But we sure did enjoy what we had.

Morning view

It’s not really possible to be closer to the waves than at this place, and I seriously wonder whether campers ever get doused by a big one. Even with my hearing aids out, I could hear the surf and even feel the vibrations through the walls. It’s powerful stuff and ‘awesome’ is the word that captures it best.

And evening view

On the other hand, it was super weird. You are literally right on display for beach goers and walkers using the trail that runs the length of the campground. The only thing keeping people a minimal distance away is the existence of painted white lines on the pavement representing campsite boundaries. And the Alto is such a magnet, people just could not resist the urge to come right up. A lot of the time, this was pretty funny because they can’t really see through the tinted glass windows. So they didn’t know we were sitting right inside as they stood and stared, or took pictures, or made arm gestures to whomever they were with regarding how the roof must go up and down. It would have been fun to have kept a tally. Extra points for approaching the windows with hands around faces to peer inside. When we were sitting outside, we got frequent questions and I passed out several calling cards. This is not the place you want to go if you’re looking to get away from it all. Or if you’re in an ‘I hate people’ kind of mood. It’s party town.

Not too crowded on the beach.

As for safety, we didn’t have any close encounters, but we did notice not everyone out walking was masked. A couple people asked for peeks inside but were understanding when I politely declined. And lots of campers liked to stroll up and down the walkway, striking up conversation as they went. They respected the white lines though and almost all the campers were masked.

One amusing encounter was with a couple whose son owns an Alto. I asked his name, figuring he might be in the facebook group. Sure enough he was! Shout out to the owner of “Riggie Smalls.” Your parents are super nice.

Richard went on a bike ride and I just stared at the waves really. We spotted some dolphins that we were told are actually porpoises. That was fun to see!

You cannot beat the sunset views.

Meanwhile, table mod conversations continue. Richard was disappointed not to have gotten some new particle board fasteners in time to try for this weekend. Our next iteration will be to reinforce the mounting of the pedestal receiver to the wooden base, and lighten the weight of the slide assembly by changing out for less beefy hardware. If that doesn’t work, our next idea is to change out the particle board wooden base for a sandwich of thin metal sheets over a polyurethane cutting board and then use bolts that go all the way through. It is striking how many people are modding the table. There’s the Lagun crowd, of which we were once members, and a downsize-the-table-top crowd, and now there is a remove-the-table-completely crowd. Here’s the thing, I think to have a table that can also be used as a base for the single bed option up front, the table that comes standard is the best all around approach in terms of simplicity, weight, tow-ability, and ease of use. I think for most users, that setup is just fine. But for those of us who like to mod things, there is a holy grail we are chasing in finding a way to facilitate getting in and out of the sitting area, particularly on the driver’s side, while keeping the utility of such a nice, big surface area. I’m still not sure what the optimal approach might be, but I’ll keep you posted on our experiments.

Obligatory reflection shot.

And while we’re talking about that, it seems we are on a roll with breaking things. A side turn signal light lost its cover on the last trip, so that’s a fix it job. Plus, we turned a fasten down knob on the BFW strut too hard and broke that too. Dang. So that got added to an order we placed with Safari Condo that includes pieces of an Alto that we hope will be enough to fix Dory’s butt so that she can seal properly when she moves into our back yard. Exciting things on the horizon! We just have to maybe tone it down on the breaking things for a while.

Total miles: 89.6, 2 hours 20 min with traffic at the end, 16.4 mpg. Site B3 no hookups. Excellent solar because parking lot. Fairly good cell service for both but not enough to upload photos to WordPress. No dump, so go to New Brighton. Bathrooms were open but we didn’t use them.

Pismo SB Oceano

Not exactly what I had planned, but still pretty nice.

To give you a sense of the kind of planner I am, when I reserved this site six months ago, I took into account the fact that IEP trimester progress reports were going to be due that Friday. And since I always feel a huge sense of relief and satisfaction when those go out, I thought, “Oh yeah, that would be a great day to take off and drive down for a long weekend and I know I will for sure have to be done by Friday. And I know it’s a long drive so I really want to make the trip worthwhile.” So our Alto BFF joined in the action and we reserved adjoining sites in the North Campground. Nice sites too. Fast forward to January and we’re on pins and needles hoping the state parks open for camping. “Hooray!” we say, as the Covid restrictions start to loosen. “Boo!” we say, as the North Campground closes due to flooding. “It’s ok!” we say, as we quickly regroup and make new reservations at the Oceano campground just down the road. All is good, what could go wrong?

Always nice to camp with great friends.

Fast forward to early February when the school board votes to reopen the elementary schools for hybrid in-person instruction and we get two weeks to get ready. Those were the two weeks I would have used to get ready for progress reports. I had that all planned, you see. But it’s ok because we get an extra week to get those out. Except that now pushes the due date to the following Friday. Then the middle school lands on a date to hold 5th grade transition meetings right in the same week. It’s been a major month, you guys, and my work free weekend definitely got hijacked. Hybrid zoom teaching has fully kicked my ass and there are days I’m not sure I have the mental ability to operate my car enough to drive the mile home. Getting a sub is anything but straightforward in Zoom school, but thankfully, my principal was able to get a superstar to cover for me Monday and Tuesday so that I could power through paperwork. Yes, that meant I needed to spend some BFF weekend time on the computer, but it was still fun. And it was enough for me to get all the things done.

If you gotta work, camp working is way better.

The plan was to stay through Sunday night and drive back Monday. That would leave me all day Tuesday to kick into high gear. Then, as we were driving down, we both had the same thought: why not stay through Monday night and drive home Tuesday? Couldn’t that work too? Richard checked, and there were sites available! We had enough food for an extra night. We got excited. Then, oh darn, I had my first Covid vaccine scheduled for Monday afternoon and that was super hard to get. Disappointment. On a lark, Richard tried the CVS site just to see if he could get one for Tuesday. For context, getting through the CVS portal to schedule an appointment is harder than snagging a premium site at Wright’s Beach. Crazily, he got through on the first try and was able to reserve an appointment. “No way,” we both thought. That’s for sure a sign. Yay for a four night stay!

Sunsets at Pismo are definitely worth the drive. (Hi Rocket!)

Though we were able to get a little head start to the drive on Friday, it’s a five hour haul and we didn’t make it before dark. With about an hour to go, we stopped for gas and I went inside. Uh oh, something was not right with the table. It was very wobbly and upon inspection I saw that three of the screws holding the pedestal receiver to the base had pulled out. We’re pretty sure this is due to the added weight of the drawer slide assembly. Remember I said it was heavy duty? Emphasis on the heavy. We put the table down in bed mode and laid the base down for the rest of the way, but now we have a new project and need to rethink the idea. Boo.

It was so great to see Linda with dogs. Sadly, one of her most beloved, T-Rex, just passed on quite unexpectedly. This is a super heavy blow to Linda. I must say, we missed him too. He was a very good doggie. We miss you T-Rex. You did your mama proud. 😥💔

We’ll miss you T Rex. You were a very good boy for your mommy.

On Saturday and Sunday, I got in several hours each day just writing. That worked out well with Richard’s biking plans and with Linda’s chillin plans. In the afternoons, we did some little drives. The first was up See Canyon to Prefumo Canyon Road and that offered spectacular views of Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. The other was out to Lopez Lake to check out the campground and boating potential. It’s a reservoir water feature, which means steep banks and highly variable water levels. It’s a fun family oriented campground, with playgrounds and water slides, so a good place to go with kids. There were boat launches, but the water is so low, you’d have to trek way out across the dry lake bed to get to a launching spot. It was pretty though. But also, no cell service except in specific spots near the water. Overall, I don’t think I’d reserve there. If I were going to do that drive, I’d be going for the state beach.

Sunset …plus cars.

We wanted to go out to the tunnel cave we visited before, to see the sunset. We led Linda out to the parking area and all voted “bail” when we saw the crowds. If the parking area was that packed, the cave was sure to be a Covid fest. We did a quick Plan B by stopping at the closed North Campground and walking over to the beach from there. That was nice and far less crowdy.

On Monday, we had to change sites and say goodbye to Linda. It was really really good to see her, even at six feet away. Pismo is a fun place, but I still find the vibe to be not exactly my speed. There are so many people and resorts crammed along the coast, with huge RV places being the norm. The state parks are nice though, and I liked the Oceano campground. There’s a pretty little walk you can do around a lagoon and you are walking distance to the beach. In this case, the beach means that you are in the area shared by a ton of cars, as this is one of the few places where you can drive and camp right on the sand. We both have cognitive dissonance around that whole concept, so we have no desire to try it. There’s just something about driving on a beach that seems wrong. But I guess if you’re going to do it, it’s best to have it all in one place, right? On the positive side, there are lots of fun restaurants in Pismo, including an amazing cinnamon roll place, Old West Cinnamon Rolls, and a good Mexican place, Old Juan’s Cantina, walking distance from the campground. Both do a great job with contactless transactions. On our walks, we spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron and a Double Crested Cormorant, in addition to some Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets.

Nicticorax (Night Heron) was the name of my dad’s sailboat. So that’s kinda cool to see one.

Great and unexpected four day weekend! I owe thanks and a couple bottles of wine to the sub and Learning Center peeps who navigated breakout rooms without me. I don’t think they want me to do that again. But they also don’t want me to die either because then they would have to do that all the time. So it works out.

Sun down on another fun trip.

Total miles: 5 hours 47 min there, 5 hours 10 min back. 247.7 miles, 17.4 mpg there, 16.4 mpg back. Site 53 Oceano Campground – lagoon view site with nice solar, then 63, spacious site with a bit of solar. Linda had 56, which was great with water views and full solar. No hookups and no dump. Dumped a mile up the road at an RV place. Good dump there. Great cell service for both, enough to do SEIS.

Bothe Napa (6)

Bothe Napa is just as beautiful as ever.

While this was mostly a work weekend for me, it was still a pleasant getaway to a beautiful location, happily not too damaged by fire. It is crunch time in special education land. What is normally a busy time with IEP goal progress updates, has been amplified by having 5th grade transition meetings happen the same week those are due. And then someone thought, ‘Wow, how could we make this more stressful? What if we also opened in hybrid in-person at the very same time?’ Well it worked, and I am officially underwater with color coded spreadsheets, and data tracking sheets, and information summaries, and a lovely stye in my left eye that I only get when I’m stressed. But Saturday was set aside for some serious catch up doggie paddling and it couldn’t have been in a nicer place. I may be blowing water out my snorkel, as a favorite colleague liked to say, but I’m still swimming.

Signs of Spring in the vineyards.

Napa Valley is looking a little better as the Spring brings in green and yellow ground cover bandaids to start healing the fire scars from last year. Yes, there is damage apparent, but also the return of life. Vineyards remain, in their orderly rows, standing in solidarity with the promise of future wine. Fields of yellow mustard look so bright and cheerful, it is hard not to imagine that all will be well.

Peaceful travel is worth a little extra time.

We took a backroads route out of town and I think that may be how we roll from now on. Skipping the 680/242/4 triangle altogether has no downsides besides time. And it felt absolutely worth it, both on the departure as well as the return. All told, it probably adds a half hour to the trip, but likely adds years to my lifespan just in merging stress reduction.

Just across the river, signs of a big blaze.

Bothe Napa was closed for a while after the fires last fall, and I knew there was some damage in the park. It turned out to be not too bad looking, although you can tell how close it came. Across from our site, just past a little river, there was evidence of an active burn, leaving blackened bark on the lower ten feet of the big trees that survived. Lots of small charred brush is still there and I imagine it will take a long time to clear the area. Nothing inside the campground seems to have burned though, nor did the historic Bale Grist Mill, so that’s nice.

Pretty nice weekend office.

Richard enjoyed a bike ride up Howell Mountain road and notes that there is a section that is totally closed off to cars. Sometimes it is hard to work out timing on bike rides vs whatever it is that I’m doing. There’s a fine line there as to how long I can entertain myself before I get bored if I’m not out doing something fun. And it’s a moving target, so Richard routinely has to gauge the precarious balance of how long he can stay out. This weekend I was fully occupied all day long, so he had full freedom to take as long as he wanted. In fact, I did not leave the campsite at all and barely left Lola. I will admit, it was a nice view out the BFW to keep me happy while updating goals.

Bit of a lunch stop before heading home.

Sunday we discovered that the fairgrounds, where we normally go to dump, is completely closed. So that left us with few options. The idea of not dumping until next weekend was discussed and dismissed, so we chose to make a stop at ABBA RV storage in Concord on our way home. It is $25 to use their facilities, so not cheap, but it was clean and on the way, so there you go.

We remain extremely grateful for the opportunity to get out. Even in the midst of business and weekend work, it soothes the soul to be in nature and away from home.

Total miles: 68.2 (taking Pleasant Hill to Alhambra to Shell), 15.5 mpg, 2 hours 24 min. Site 7 still a favorite, but no solar. LTE for Verizon enough to work in SEIS (special ed database). 1 bar of 5g for ATT- enough for email and slow texts, but not fb or SEIS. New bathroom is still standing, though we’re still self contained. No dump and fairground closed.

Coloma RV (5)

Now that’s a nice riverside site.

River plus rain, with a little reconnaissance thrown in, makes for a really romantic respite. The four day Presidents’ weekend timed nicely with Valentine’s Day this year. It also meant we were able to take our time Friday for the drive up. We had a whole plan that involved searching out backroads to see how feasible it is to avoid highway driving. All systems were go and the route was entered into Apple Car Play as we hit the road. Then my phone blew up with texts from teachers just discovering that educators can now schedule appointments for the COVID vaccine, and that everyone should log on like RIGHT NOW before they’re all taken. So it’s really hard to pay attention to driving with all that going on and somehow the navigation had gotten into a mode where it wasn’t actually giving me directions. So I pulled off and drove into some random residential neighborhood so we could sort through all the texts and restart the navigation. We sat there a few minutes until the guy with the leaf blower across the street started shooting debris our way. I’m still learning the user interface in the car, but I kind of figured out what I’d done and we did a Take Two.

Lunch stop!

With all the excitement, we figured we’d earned a lunch stop at Brannan Island. Also, we wanted to know if they (and their dump station) were open. They are, it is, and we had a nice lunch under blue skies. It was a long drive, but a relaxing one, taking back roads up to the Marshall Gold Discovery site. This is the 5th time we’ve been to this RV park and it was one of the best sites. We pulled in just in time to do a Caravan Mover View Maneuver for optimal window positioning, get our patio area and awning set up, and sit back to listen as the gentle drizzle began hitting the roof. It’s one of my favorite things to listen to the sounds of a water feature and rain feature from under shelter. Even nicer once it got chilly, was to move inside where there is also a heater.

Pretty skies at sunset.

Richard got in a bike ride on the only blue sky day and I got in some work while watching the river and admiring a cute Retro in the site next to us. Blue Apron was on the menu for the evening and all was delicious and cozy. Our second full day included a fact finding mission to a state park I’ve never booked: Folsom Lake Peninsula. The single reason for this omission of a state park close by: the look of the eight mile zigzaggy road that takes you out there. On a map, it looks intimidating for a trailer, but for an unencumbered Passport, no problem. We drove Richard and his bike out to the start of it and played leap frog for maybe six miles. It turns out I was right to be suspicious, but not for the reasons I thought. It is a well maintained road which is mostly wide enough for two cars to pass if they are careful. There are sections where it is single car width, but I think you’d have enough visible forewarning to be able to pull over before the tight spots. But for biking, it is not ideal. The grade is pretty steep, with long climbs and long descents. Richard is a badass when it comes to climbing, but he is not fond of clutching at the brakes around endless turns for an extended time. So that gives us a hmm. Oh also, there are cows that just wander into the road. And turkeys. So be careful.

Folsom Lake Peninsula Campground

We checked out the sites in the loops that are open, and surveyed the general set up of the campground. We weren’t so impressed that we’d be looking forward to that drive on a Friday after work. It’s doable for sure, even with a trailer, but that would be a long eight miles. If the reservoir levels were high, there were four or five sites that seemed like they might be nice and conceivably close enough to the boat launch to get in a paddle. But in drought, the water is waaaaaaay over yonder and not much more than a distant backdrop. So… maybe? I mean, it could be fun so I’ll put that in my back pocket now that I know what’s involved in getting there.

Perfect long weekend view.

From the afternoon on, through Sunday night and all Monday morning, we got rain for real. It was an extremely pleasant way to spend a long Valentine’s weekend. I won’t even bother reporting out travel data though. Both there and back, we took a side trip to Brannan Island and kept to back roads a lot. So what could have been a three hour trip, took more like four. Richard wants to note that he really hates the dump at Coloma but equally loves the dump at Brannan Island. It’s the little things in life, yanno? Meanwhile, I have learned several new buttons in both Google and Apple Maps, and have discovered that english muffins, with ham and cheese, for one minute in the microwave, are the best things ever.

Costanoa (4)

That’s a nice site alrighty.

Back in the swing of things. Second weekend out, post lock down, and it’s feeling more normal now. I’m even less nervous about crashing to some extent. Richard has moved from phrases like: “Drive safe,” or, “Drive like you do,” to: “If we crash, we crash.” Or like, if he takes his shoes off in the car, he says, “I’ll put them back on when we crash.” Check. We’re ready for it. Oddly, that puts less pressure out there and helps me to relax.

I mean, come ON.

This KOA is the nicest private place I’ve ever been to, but it costs a lot. And there are only some sites that are spaced far enough apart from each other that it feels worth it. I hadn’t previously realized you can reserve those premium sites for an extra (!) fee, but if you do, it’s a very pleasant stay. There are all kinds of amenities, like an on site restaurant that has to go during the pandemic, and live outdoor music. Oh and there is even a roaming cocktail cart that makes the rounds in the afternoons! None of that is cheap either, but I figure, with all the reservations that got cancelled due to shut down, we are coming out way ahead. And given all that has happened this past year, I will never regret splurging on a campsite, especially one with an ocean view.

Ok fine. That’s purdy.

We pulled over on the way down to catch the sunset and I noted that when I went inside to get my puffy, the view out the BFW was very nice. This is to prove that we are not fully anti BFW people and do notice when it is nice. Still, no regrets on our Dory2 ordering decisions and we can’t wait to get overhead cabinets and dining area lighting back.

Locking for fully closed and fully extended.

I can report on our latest Lola mod: the sliding dining room table! We have really pondered whether we would re-do the Lagun table mount in Dory2. The upsides include having the ability to move the table out of the way enough for me to get in and sit down, plus the ability to lose the pedestal stand and track on the floor, thus opening up the under table space. The downside is that eventually, the table top will tip. It’s just a really big piece of wood for that mount. Even if the material were lighter, it would list at the two pivot points and result in the far side being lower. And even if my Type A “noticing eye” could overlook the unevenness, I was also hesitant to put heavy things on that side. Our solution to that involved putting a support leg at the far corner. But that ended up making me feel trapped just as much as it had felt before the mod. And it was kind of a small pain to lock it all into place securely for travel. So, I wanted to re-think some other solution. Really, all I’m after is making it easier to get in and out of that corner by the fridge. I don’t need 360º rotation, nor do I need the ability to adjust up or down; I just want to shove the top out of the way and the track on the floor doesn’t cut it – especially with two batteries sitting on the base.

You can just make out the holes where the pedestal receiver mount used to be.

Enter a lengthy discussion and investigation into drawer slides. There are many kinds of slides, as it turns out. But with a little thought, a tiny cardboard model, and a couple of phone calls to some online drawer slide guy, we reached a prototype solution. Basically, you take the pedestal receiver mount off the bottom of the table and put it onto a rectangle of something; in this case, a made to order polypropylene cutting board. You mount the inner slide brackets onto that. Then you mount two 90º angle brackets onto the bottom of the table to hang the slide assembly. Et voila! You have a tabletop that can slide away from the middle point by however long the slides are. We decided 16″ was plenty because you will almost run into the far wall in that amount of travel. We also got super heavy duty locking ones so it will stay locked in place in its center position.

Thumbs up!

Verdict? Love it! It’s a game changer for me and exactly what I will want in Dory2. It is easy to unlock and roll the table top out of the way and easy to pull back once I’ve sat down. When Richard is sitting on the other side, I need to rotate it a bit in order to not cut him in half. We waxed the pedestal in the bottom mount so that it rotates a little easier and that way, I can get up from the table even when he’s sitting there. In fact, I made a point of just getting up and down on any whim I had. Need something from the fridge? I’ll get it! Feel like maybe getting fuzzy socks from the back. Oh no, don’t you move, I got this! Up and down all weekend. Heaven.

Because of course I took pictures of the sunset.

Saturday was a glorious day out. The weather was wonderful and Richard got out to do a loop over to Pescadero and back. I got to sag him in Bruce2 and I am enjoying driving that car a lot. I feel that I was unfairly deprived a full month of new car smell, so it was really great to crank the tunes and hit the back roads. We went past Butano State Park on our route and it was very closed. But though I could see some evidence of fire damage, it did not look too bad from the road. I am hopeful that the park can recover. Along the route, we stopped to admire the lighthouse at Pigeon Point and reflect on all the “lighthouses” in my life that have shone so brightly these past four years. It’s a good feeling. We finished the day off with a walk to the beach to watch the sunset, and a Blue Apron for dinner. And for dinner, I made sure I needed to get up and down a lot.

Perfect lunch stop.

Heading home Sunday, we enjoyed a sandwich at the BFW, against a background of mustard in full bloom, with the lighthouse in the background. Fabulous weekend, happy campers.

Total miles: 75.6, 15.1 mpg, 2 hours 39 min. Site S11 full hookups, premium (expensive) reservable site. Not great cell service for either one of us, but ok LTE down by the ocean. Campground wifi strongest at the restaurant but not useful from site. You have to bring a sewer fitting (like a funnel shaped thingy) in order to dump – like don’t just run the dump hose to the opening.

Moss Landing (5)

A break in the rain and temps in the 50s was good enough for me.

Hooray!! The Stay at Home order has finally been lifted! This is not to say any state in the country has this COVID thing licked, by any means, but it does mean campgrounds are open with restrictions in place, so yeah, we’re gonna head out and it doesn’t matter where. The state park reservation system didn’t seem to have updated to allow for reservations quite yet, so I just started going through our favorite private places. Boom! The KOA at Moss Landing had space, so this was really the first “normal” weekend we’ve had with Lola. Like not in someone’s driveway or in our garage.

Yay! Not our garage!

As long as things don’t shut down again, we are hoping to keep all our weekend reservations going forward. And that’s a really good thing for towing nerves. Given it had been about a month since the last outing, I was uneasy again just getting back into it. All was going well on the trafficky drive south until the car right next to us had a very near miss. It was like exactly the same situation as Dory’s crash: off ramp backup, someone going too fast to stop in time. The difference was that I was in the lane to the left, and a little behind. So we watched the car slam on the brakes, like squealing, smoking rubber. Then they swerved right in front of us at the last second to avoid slamming into the stopped car. They did a full swing all the way through our lane and then spun back to the right. They were damn lucky that lane had cleared enough by then or it would have been a really bad collision. So here’s me, just slowing, not braking hard cause I didn’t want the person behind me to do a rear end repeat, and I put on the hazards. I watched it all unfold in front of us and we were never in danger of actually being hit. But Damn, Universe. Could you maybe not do that??! Both of us started quasi hyperventilating after we’d passed it by, and my hand started immediately trembling. Like full PTSD there. I mean, all was ok and we just carried on our merry way, but I wasn’t at ease until we came to a full backed in stop in our site. #margaritatime

Snowy Egret and sea lions, just chillin.

Overall, it was just a normal weekend out, but boy oh boy did it feel great. There were a lot of empty sites in the KOA and everyone was masking and distanced, so it felt fully safe. Richard did a bike ride, I got in a paddle on the Elkhorn Slough and cooked a Blue Apron on Saturday. It just feels extra specially wonderful following so much anticipation and prep.

DORY2!!!! And look close in the middle of the group. ❤️

Thanks, Safari Condo. You are simply the best.

And speaking of anticipation. WOW!! We got a big, beautiful, made me choke up, surprise on Friday. Dory2 is complete, y’all!!! And not only that, but our wonderful sales rep, my new Canadian boyfriend (this might be news to him), Francois, got the build team to pose for a picture, complete with a little Dory stuffy right in the middle. How cool is that, seriously?! It is taking a lot of self control to not start driving east. But, two things: 1) the borders are still closed and me crazily trying to explain why my attempt to enter the country really counts as ‘essential’ might get me arrested, and 2) I remind myself that it is winter in Quebec and I definitely do not want to drive in that. So, patience it is, until we can get her shipped to Durango, CO, hopefully this summer. I’m SUPER glad we have Lola in the meantime.

Here I was, telling myself I would maintain a safe, emotional detachment from Dory2. Well, there goes that idea. I’m looking at her picture waving “Hi baby!! Mama will see you real soon!” Oh well, looks like the new puppy will be well loved too.

Total miles: 106.3, 17.6 mpg, 2 hours 36 min. KOA – full hookups. All communal facilities closed for COVID. Safe checkin with no indoors/contact. Management recommends locking bikes or keeping them inside vehicles. We’re happy Bruce2 fits a bike so easily.

St. Helena Driveway Camping

Driveway camping in the Napa Valley environs – Thank you Quinns!

This was a great outing. Even though we didn’t get to keep our winter plans down south (we’re on 3 year streak for cancelled reservations at Joshua Tree), we were able to safely get in a test run with Lola, due to the supreme kindness of a couple of local Altoistes. Back in March, at the very beginning of the shelter in place, we hunkered down at Putah Canyon Campground on Lake Berryessa. Gaye Quinn graciously reached out to us to offer her property as a refuge in case we got kicked out. We declined at the time, but asked if we could cash in a rain check now that everything is closed down again, and they were more than wonderful to say yes. Their property is in the Napa Valley area and they escaped catastrophic fire damage only by the skin of their teeth – and the ingenuity of their neighbors with massive land moving equipment. That’s a whole story right there! But they are close enough, and plenty isolated, that we felt comfortable getting in a test drive with Bruce2 and Lola so the holiday wouldn’t be a total bust.

Bruce2 is ready to tow

We hit the break-in period for Bruce2 right on the nose and began the journey with exactly 500 miles of gentle driving on the odometer. Richard got in one last project before we left, which was to replace the solar controller in Lola with an Epever Duo Racer, which means he can pull off some of the solar input and direct it toward the coffee battery. We had six nights of dinners on board and 24 washcloths to try our hand at sponge bathing so we could perhaps extend our time before needing to dump waste tanks. All systems go!

Patches of countryside untouched by fires

I knew I’d be nervous towing again after the accident, and I was. It wasn’t perhaps as bad as the first hundred miles at pickup in Quebec, but every stop caused my heart to race, wondering whether the person behind me was paying attention. I took some backroads rather than the freeway to get started, but ultimately, you have to get on a freeway at some point to cross the delta. It was all expected and I made it without freaking out; I was just really alert the whole time. Thankfully, most of the drive was through lonely, winding country roads.

Gaye and Mark: best hosts EVER

Gaye and Mark greeted us as we pulled in and they get a five star rating for being wonderful hosts. Their property is gorgeous, and you can see from the singed hilltops all around them how close they came to losing everything. All along the drive, you can see the devastation. There are pockets where structures were clearly protected by firefighters, but then there are many that didn’t make it. And there are just miles and miles of scorched trees and barren earth. But their little valley remains, with all the vineyards intact. They’ve even got a pond on their land, though it is really low right now. For this outing, we mostly just wanted to test out the systems and driveway camping was the perfect spot.

That eye of Sauron is actually a plate of olive oil and balsamic, used for dipping with the fresh sourdough. Wow.

Little did we know, this campground even comes with fresh homemade sourdough bread, a plate of delicious olive oil and 25 year-old balsamic vinegar, and cheesecake! Our offering to them was far a less impressive: Omnia baked Trader Joe’s croissants. However, it was presented on the Altoistes “Pass Along Platter,” so now they are part of that fun tradition. The platter began its journey at the 2016 rally in Oregon and has travelled through Canada and the East Coast. The Mazzas were the last recipients, so now we get to send it forward to the Quinns. Once we can all come out of our Covid cloisters, some lucky Altoiste will be the recipient of something delicious.

Yep, that is nice light for sure.

Everything in Lola works perfectly, and we even got to christen the pristine looking stove with some very messy Blue Apron dinners. At the forefront of our minds were a couple of key questions, the first of which being: what do we really think of that BFW and do we want to change our Dory2 order to include one? To those who have one, we get it. The light that comes in first thing in the morning is lovely. It makes the front table very cheery and bright. And though we didn’t have a show stopping view, I can imagine that it would be nice to look out that window if you’re pointed the right direction. As for the cons, we found that, even though I figured out where to relocate all the things displaced by the missing overhead storage bins, that is a pretty big loss. It was our most used storage area, so we definitely noticed the absence. Second, it is entirely possible we are descended from vampires (as our son’s holiday sleep patterns would seem to confirm). Yes, the early morning light is nice, but as soon as the sun shone through directly onto our faces, we would hiss, “Hhhhssssss! It burnnnssss ussssssss!” and close the shade. To be fair, we do not have a Magneshade, which is an outside covering that is supposed to solve the glare/heat problem. But boy, you can feel the heat coming through the window, and this was December.

Privacy screen if you pull the shade up from the bottom

Next, there is the fishbowl feeling. Yes, you can pull up the shade half way to get privacy, but when it’s open, (unlike the tinted glass windows) you are just right there on display. The newer models have the shade pulling down from the top, which is good for the vampire factor, but less good for fishbowl. Even with all this said, the prettiness of the first morning light was enough for me to ponder how I could make something that would be fairly easy to pull up about half way to get the same effect. And I could make it attractive and opaque, and then I could pull the shade down for glare, or put the Magneshade on outside, and that could all work. But at the end of the day, no. For us, the downsides outweigh the upsides, but more than that, it’s a feeling. The Alto is my private little cozy safety pod. I think if we didn’t have the wall of windows that come with the R series, I’d feel differently. The openness at the front is nice for sure, but there are little things, like I still want to put up maps and dry erase boards and tissue boxes that I can knock off with my head every time I sit down. And I want to feel cozy and not on display when I’m sitting at the front. So no, our holiday gift to Francois, our sales rep, is that we will not be changing our order.

Pope Valley is just lovely

The next system we got to try was the water heater. This comes with a sponge bath story as well as a frantic call to Linda with dogs. When we first thought we might be using a 1713, the model without the shower, another awesome Altoiste was there to talk us down and teach us the ways of sponge bathing. Like she wrote out detailed directions and made a video. We watched that more than once, I can tell you. So now we don’t have to go that route, but we wanted to try it anyway, just to see if we could extend stays and not need to dump the grey water tank as frequently. We packed 24 color coded washcloths into a brand new collapsible tub and dove right in. Richard ended up really liking it, especially because his towel didn’t get as wet. Me, not so much. I felt icky by day two and was ready for a real shower by day three. Since this was a test of choice, rather than necessity, I caved. Lola arrived at Randy’s fully winterized, and we have no clue what unwinterizing entails. We blithely disregard every Altoistes discussion when they come up in the fall and spring in order to preserve our California climate willful ignorance. So we turned on the Truma water heater, and once it had been given sufficient time, I got in the shower and ran the cold water into the toilet bowl, waiting for hot water goodness to start coming through. After filling one bowlful of frigid water, I questioned whether I knew the hot from cold knobs. So I switched it and filled another icy bowl’s worth. Ok, so abort and Richard then looked at the Truma panel to see an actual error code. Did we bring the manuals? No. Did we have enough service to download any of the dozens of Truma files on the Altoistes site? Nope. So we called the only person we thought would not laugh at us for too long, since we knew she also had never winterized her Alto. With Linda’s help, we identified the correct orientation of all the little plumbing valves, but only after we had, through trial and error, aggressively dumped all of our fresh water onto the Quinns’ driveway. It’s like we are brand new campers, you guys, except twice as stupid. Finally we got it sorted (it was the fault of the yellow valve, by the way) and eventually got actual hot water to flow. But now we had a practically full black tank and practically empty fresh tank, so we moved our departure date up a couple days. Oops.

Ouch.

The time spent not dumping water onto the ground was taken up by touring around the area. Richard rode and I drove, so that we could check out how some of our favorite spots at Lake Berryessa had fared. The news was not good. It is really beyond description how bad the fire damage is, and how extensive. Guard rails all along the roads were mostly lying on the ground because the support posts had been incinerated. Countless charred trees stood bare against a once green landscape. It just makes you cry. All through Pope Valley and down into Napa Valley, the fire scars just slap you in the face. Horrible. The couple of notes of relief included the fact that Putah Canyon Campground looks mostly unscathed and seems to be getting ready to reopen in a month or two. That makes me glad, as it represented such an important little refuge for us. Everything around it is burned though. The Visitor Center at Spanish Flat also made it, as did the little ceramic tile mosaics. Steele Canyon Campground looked ok, though obviously closed due to Covid at the moment. Also the day use area and canyon around Lake Hennessy looked good. Turtle Rock Bar made it, the odd place with all the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling. But generally, the hills around the east side of Napa Valley are a hellscape of burned forest and I don’t know how something like that comes back, or if it ever does.

Aetna Springs Resort

We got to see the ruins of the abandoned Aetna Springs Resort, a historic go to destination from the 1890s to 1970s. That area has an interesting history and the buildings that are standing give a window into California’s past, complete with the location where Ronald Regan announced his run for governor in 1966, as well as the subsequent occupancy by the Moonies. But perhaps the highlight of the bike/car side trips was the fact that the Passport has plenty of room to stow Richard’s bike atop all the other stuff. That’s a big win there.

Putah Canyon Campground still there – just barely

We thank our hosts profoundly for the opportunity. It was important for me to get out on that horse again before too much time had passed. The drive home was noticeably less tense than the drive up and the entry back into the garage went far more smoothly than the exit (also, it really helped to let air out of the Caravan Mover jockey wheel tires). We went home via Putah Canyon to dump waste tanks and I took backroads as much as possible. Really this made things far more enjoyable and maybe I’ll just keep doing that. The stretch of 680 from 24 to 4 is the least pleasant driving of almost any trip. So even if it takes more time to go the back way, perhaps that’s the wiser thing to do.

Happy new year to all! 2020 was … well, that was something. With luck, 2021 might bring some less socially distanced camping. It would be lovely to share stories and laughs with camping friends.

Total miles via Putah Canyon and taking back roads: 82.7 miles, 15.4 mpg. The Passport does not have a trip time feature anymore. I wrote down that we left at 12:40 but then forgot to write down when we arrived at home. Time data might stop happening. Dumped at Putah Canyon $15.

Lola Too!

Us: Woo hoo! New Passport!

Us: Woo hoo! Dory2 is ordered!

Us: Woo hoo! Lola Too is here!

Xmas 2021: Damn, you guys.

Here she is! “Lola Too” has now been officially welcomed into the Levenberg family (is it fair to call it a fleet yet?). First I want to share the story of her naming. Lola’s original owners, Gwen and Jim Mazza, are classic car aficionados and had spent 8 years lovingly restoring a 1951 Bentley named Lola. When they finally sold it, the gentleman buyer cried when he heard the name, because that was also the name of his late wife. So they wanted the same name for their Alto and I assured Gwen that it would never change. She will always be Lola Too.

Best. Picture. Ever.

She had a long journey from the storage facility in North Carolina and it was no small feat for Gwen to clear her out before the shippers got there. We got daily updates on her progress across the country, and more often than not, the photos looked like blizzard conditions that I was very happy to not be driving through. They took her straight to Randy’s and were amazed to see him raise the roof and test out the Caravan Mover. They said, “Wow! That’s an amazing trailer!” and were perhaps less confused about why someone would pay to have a tiny teardrop shipped across the country in winter. I smile every single time I look at the picture Randy sent us to let us know she’d arrived. Every time.

Randy’s Alto Fleet

When we went over to get a look, we saw that Randy has been amassing quite the fleet of his own. It was really hard to see poor Dory all crunched up next to Lola. That was emotionally quite difficult, but we were able to get a good look inside and sort of take stock. Gwen had disclosed that there was an oopsie with one of the rear window screens when lowering the roof. It looks like that damaged the curtain track too, so there will be a future project there to fix that up. Besides cushion color, there are some key notable differences between Dory and Lola, the most obvious being that there is a “BFW.” In the Altoistes group, the Big “Front” Window has long been the point of contention between the haves and have nots. We have always solidly fallen into the latter group, so this will be an interesting experiment to try it out first hand by way of comparison. For the record, Dory2 does NOT have this item on her current order, so if we change our minds, we’ll have to decide quickly. I won’t divulge which way we’re leaning, so place your bets.

Think this will go with my color scheme?

Another few differences were things we needed to change. Lola came with very nice 15″ wheels and a MaxxFan cover over the ceiling fan. Both needed to come off in order to get her into the garage and that turned out to be a really good call. There is also a very nifty hinged shelf that goes over the bathroom area. This would be great for extra counter space when at camp, but not so great if you have 2 showers happening every day. We will be taking that out, but it’s just velcro attached, so an easy thing to put back in. Then there are all the little mods we made to Dory. Some of these are more personal and not really necessary to function, so can be skipped for now. Some are super handy for the way we have learned to comfortably camp, and those will be on the re-do list.

*sniff* Just got some dust in my eyes here. I’m okay…

Once Randy was finished with the big ticket items and a good solid inspection, he surprised us with a text to come outside and see what Santa had left for us. There she was waiting for us, all washed and dolled up with some Christmas bling. As we were looking around inside, my eye caught sight of my little Dory, tucked away in her proper place. Randy had thought to move her into our new little home as a reminder to ‘just keep swimming.’ Seeing her there was a moment. Like there have only been a couple times in my life when I have been stopped dead in my tracks, literally jaw dropped by an act of profound kindness. Have I mentioned that we love Randy? Just want to make sure that’s clear.

No problem. Probably a whole mm of room to spare.

It feels like it’s been a year since we’ve moved a trailer into the garage, but in reality, from the day of Dory’s accident to the day of Lola’s delivery, it was only one month and six days. Richard moved Heaven and Earth to get us a 1723 in time for our planned winter trip departure date. And he succeeded. Except we are locked down and all the campgrounds are closed. *sigh* But still, that is an awesome feat and he really came through with all the tightly moving parts. And speaking of tightly moving parts, getting Lola under the garage opening was a bit exciting. Dory always cut it close, but had maybe an inch to spare. Lola looked like she was a hair’s breath away in two or three spots. It could be because her newer suspension rides just a little higher, or the fact that she is unpacked, or the fact that her dolly wheels are properly inflated and their axle is not bent. We were ready to let some air out of the tires, but didn’t need to. That antenna was not one of the high points, so that was good news. Out of curiosity, I do not understand the point of a TV antenna. I had thought the days of broadcasting over the airwaves was long passed, but perhaps someone can enlighten me. As we never watch live television, this is all sort of a mystery. In any case, she made it in and with the modifications we had done to our garage, she was even able to open up completely inside. This is a real game changer and I am so happy we did that. This allows us to do all of our packing, cleaning, and little projects right inside the garage.

We weren’t aiming to do this right off the bat, but those plastic latches did not know who they were messing with.

Practically the first project we did, after doing a thorough scrub down and steam clean, was the latches. We’ve always seen the plastic push button latches as a weak spot in Altos and we have little patience when one of them doesn’t work on the first click. Pretty much the first time we tried opening the kitchen cabinet, the housing pulled out. We were like, “Yeah, no.” We have spares lying around that still haven’t gotten installed in a friend’s trailer, so out came the drill. Richard’s template worked like a charm. It is important to note that if you do this mod, there is no room for error or turning back. You have to drill a much larger hole than the one for the original latches, and you have to put an extra spacer in the “keeper” location so that the latch will engage tightly. I just mounted the keepers that came with the Southco latches using double sided tape and that works just fine.

Thumbs up to the coroplast storage idea I stole off another Altoiste. These cups made it through the collision without a single chip.

Other projects on the ‘must do list’ included putting up organizers for the bedroom area, the entry area, and the shower. I installed new Chilewich carpets in the same style as before, and changed out the shower head to an Oxygenics model, with a flow controller so the water turns completely off. I also put in coroplast cubbies for the glass coffee cups and am happier with how that went than I was with Dory’s. In fact, in being forced to do a bit of rethinking due to the lack of overhead cabinet storage and different under bench dimensions due to the Truma Combi heater/water heater, I must say I’m pleased with how it all went together. I had some very specific bins for pantry items that fit perfectly in front of the water heater. Now that whole space is taken up by the Truma. In exchange, there is space in the entire under bench area by the bathroom. That allowed me to put in another set of “Like It Stackable Drawers” for pantry items. Those drawers are the perfect fit with one exception: you have to remove one of the door knobs on the driver’s side sliding panels and switch the orientation of the doors so that they will open all the way enough to open both sets of drawers. Not sure if I’m explaining that clearly.

What a fun idea! I added our names and the Mazzas to send off to the next Altoiste.

One happy discovery in the things that were packed in Lola was a “Pass Along Platter.” This was given the first time at the rally in Oregon back in 2016. It has since been passed along to other Altoistes and has made its way through Canada and the east coast. It’s really fun that it found its way to us, especially in the way it did. I know just where to re-home it next so that it can continue its Alto journey.

Looking ready to roll!

So all that’s left is packing. I love love love the bigger fridge and that will be a game changer for long trips. I love love love the Truma heater and that means not only snuggly quiet comfort, but also the fact that we can hang out in Lola in the garage with the heater on in electric mode. And yes, we’ve had our first sleepover and she is super comfortable. She passes the sleep test as well as the Kitty test. Having a television in there is turning out to be more fun than I expected and that might be something we put in Dory2. For movies, I think we’ll still want to go big with the projector and screen set up, but for a bit of fun, or when we’re too tired to do all the set up, the TV is a nice option. She’s in really great shape. The kitchen and bathroom seem brand new and lack the ‘lived in’ look that Dory has. Even the black cushion support wedges look nice (because they have not been squished a couple times by the roof going down).

Yup. Gonna need a new one of those.

Before we hit the road (IF we are able to hit the road), we will need to pull out the backup weight distribution hitch and make sure it looks level for towing. The fact that we have a backup weight distribution hitch set up is a small triumph for me. Way back in 2018 when we took our second once-in-a-lifetime trip to Quebec in order to attend the 20th anniversary rally, I purchased this off an Altoiste who was looking to get rid of it. We had a perfectly good one, but I like to overkill backup items (says the woman with a backup Alto). Richard insisted I was crazy and couldn’t believe I expected to drag that thing all the way across the country, only to have it sit on a shelf doing nothing. When Lola got packed up for delivery, Gwen put the sway bars inside, but not the hitch, and missing this part would have grounded us until we could obtain another. Well, well, well, who’s the crazy one now, eh? That feels satisfying.

Happy Holidays, y’all!

We are happy and Altoed again. We love all the people who helped make this happen; from the ones who alerted us to the sale on another site, to Gwen for choosing to sell to us given our sad sad loss, to (again) Randy for helping us every single step of the way. We may not have been able to keep our winter reservations, but it was not for lack of an Alto. Despite the trauma, a little Christmas miracle has been pulled off. We are grateful for all of it.