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Friday, July 19, 2019

Mouth-watering Concoction (Despite My Bumbling)

Entering the weird world of kombucha making. Image credit goes to Paul Hammond.
Given my checkered results brewing ginger beer,*  for years I've resisted my longtime desire to try my hand at crafting kombucha. 
*When we made ginger beer aboard the results were explosive! Not that my ginger beer was that good - though sometimes it was pretty delish, but that I got a little too carried away in my fermentation experimentation and the concoction container blew up, making a wet sugary mess of my galley.
Besides, Merriam Webster's kombucha definition 
"a gelatinous mass of symbiotic bacteria (as Acetobacter xylinum) and yeasts (as of the genera Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces) grown to produce a fermented beverage held to confer health benefits; also : a somewhat effervescent beverage prepared by fermenting kombucha with black or green tea and sugar" 
sounds remarkably unappetizing!

Then there's the culture. 

First, there's the literal special culture -- a gross-looking goo -- used to affect the transformation. It's called a SCOBY(symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) used to make this vinegary brew. 
Lionheart starter SCOBY. Mmmm. Don't you want to just glug this down? Not!
A SCOBY looks like a squid or a jellyfish got into a tussle with a hand mixer and lost the battle but also killed the mixer in the process.  Remember that brilliant comic scene in Young Frankenstein when Marty Feldman fills in Gene Wilder about the source of Frankenstein's jarred brain explaining, "His name is Abby something -- Abby Normal"? That's what both the goo and the process reminds me of.
Then there's the counter-culture of kombucha-makers, or at least my perception of "them."  The 'booch (pronounced booch) makers, coining such a deceptively cute and cozy name that harkens up images of fluffy miniature alpacas. Those strange modern-day alchemists conjuring up an ancient Chinese brew, intimidating the heck out of me with all the contradictory brewing dos and donts, alternating between long scientific names and acronyms. 
  • Do use a fresh SCOBY. Don't refrigerate it. A refrigerated SCOBY is fine. Do keep a backup SCOBY in a SCOBY hotel. [My SCOBY gets a hotel!?! Heck I don't even spring for a hotel for myself!]
  • Don't use plastic or metal for anything. It reacts badly with kombucha.
  • Don't cover it with cheesecloth or you'll get swarmed with fruit flies getting into the brew. Do use cheesecloth. It's fine.
  • Do add the SCOBY when your sweetened steeped tea temperature is ? degrees. Don't add the SCOBY before it cools to that temperature or it will kill the SCOBY.
  • Don't keep in direct sunlight. Do make sure it is well ventilated. Keep its temperature between 70-90 degrees F.
  • Do sterilize everything. Don't use bleach. Do use Star-San. Don't use Star-San. 
  • Don't open your kombucha without chilling it down or it will explode. Don't wait too long on your F2 or your kombucha will explode.  
What the heck is an F2?!? (F2 is the second fermentation, but I'm getting ahead of myself here).

Did I mention I have an aversion to making things that can explode? Especially when those potential kabooms are fermented in glass containers! And that I live on a boat, usually at anchor, which gets rocked pretty assertively from time to time by river traffic and that kombucha is supposed to be left "undisturbed."

My gallon kombucha-making jugs. On the left is the SCOBY I pulled out of my first batch to re-use for the next batch.
On the right is the fermented tea, in its first pass of fermentation. The first round of fermentation takes 7-14 days.
My first batch took 10 days.
It's been a long time since I was accused of being a Birkenstock-wearing granola chick. For the record, I've never owned or worn a pair of Birkenstocks, though do like and have made my own granola. And I've never braided my armpit hair. 

In my heart of hearts, when it comes to cooking something that strikes me as more akin to a lab experiment, I am more apt to embrace my friend Connie's alternate definition of DIY (normally do-it-yourself) "delegate it yourself."
Did I mention kombucha-making strikes me as a science experiment? This Ph test strip was used to test whether my kombucha's acidity had reached the right level. It had - as I wanted mine toward the more tart, higher acidic level.
While I do lean toward imbibing in more healthy food and drink, I've never been into eating or quaffing anything that doesn't also taste good to me. Yet many a normally kindred soul's wrinkled their nose at the concept, globular appearance,  vinegary scent or taste of kombucha, even when they're normally into healthy foods. 

But I genuinely like kombucha. It's refreshing. That it's healthy is a bonus. If I didn't like kombucha I'd be perfectly happy just popping a probiotic pill.

But it irked me to pay $4 for a bottle of something that was mostly water. Worse, most of the kombucha out there was far too sweet for my taste.

Lionheart a local Portland Oregon brewer, makes my favorite kombucha (and their Ginger Fix is my favorite flavor). Lionheart refers to their kombucha as "dry kombucha" because it has the least grams of sugar per serving on the market. My SCOBY culture and brew recipe came from them, with back-up help from Facebook's Kombucha Home Brewing group and reassurance and a very simple to follow set of directions from Hunter at Main Street Home Brew Supply in Hillsboro.
Setting up for F2 or the second fermentation round. Additional sugar is required to feed the yeasties. It's also the time to add flavoring if desired. This second fermentation takes 3 more days in bottles sealed with pressure caps.
I dove in.

I bought the supplies

  • 2 1- gallon glass jugs ($4 each - used)
  • 6 1 liter flip-top glass bottles ($19.99)
  • 1 package of PH test strips ($7.95)
  • 2 starter SCOBYs ($17.50 + postage $$$)
  • green tea bags (cheap)
  • black tea bags (cheap)
  • sugar (cheap)
  •  One- Step a no-rinse for cleaning my jugs (don't remember but less than $10)
  •  STAR-SAN a no-rinse to sterilize my jugs (don't remember but less than $10)
  • disposable kitchen cloths to cover brewing kombucha (free - I had them on tap) 
  • rubber band to keep the kombucha cloth cover on (free - I had them on tap) 

The first fermentation took 10 days.

The second fermentation took 3 days. When transferring the brew into the bottles for fermentation, this is the time if you flavor your kombucha to add flavor.
Kombucha flavorings are limited only by your imagination! One of the flavors I used was lemon thyme -- fresh from the garden of my friends Kathleen and Michael Baker.
I made 3 flavors:  ginger (fresh, peeled ginger, grated), cherry (purchased a flavoring from the brewing store), and lemon thyme. My gallon, with the SCOBY reserved to start the next batch, made 5 1/2 liters.
My bottles came with these labels and a "chalk" felt pen.

Then, heeding the instructions to chill down my kombucha before opening, I waited, just a little longer. Besides, I wanted a cold refreshing beverage -- that was the whole point!
My first batch of kombucha! Ready to drink at last!

The result?

Wayne thought it looked disgusting, but he never had any interest in trying it anyway. I strained my ginger batch for easier drinking...


My first batch of cherry komboucha. The glob on the bottom,
a bit of extra probiotic is perfectly normal. 
Maybe I am Abby Normal. But I will declare these delicious! 

I've tried all three flavors and they're all quite yummy! The ginger was the fizziest so far and my favorite of the bunch.

A definite do-over. In fact, my second batch, fermenting quicker thanks to a little warmer weather, is about a day away from its second fermentation, or four days away from bottling and drinking. I bought another 6-pack of flip-top bottles though I fully intend to finish the remaining 3 bottles before the next batch is due to chill out.

A good start. Not counting my initial start-up costs, still less than $100, I figure it costs me pennies per bottle. Four batches and my return on investment is covered! And I don't need to make a grocery run to quench my kombucha cravings anymore.

And nothing exploded. Yet.
Sauvies Island, where we're usually anchoring this summer.
Location Location
We are currently anchored off Sauvies Island N45 47.473 W122 47.199, near Portland Oregon. We just returned from a road trip to Olympia, where we caught up with cruising friends we last saw 2  1/2 years ago in Vanuatu. More on that in a future post.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Small Town, Big Fireworks & Bagpipes

We've jostled in Sydney's tight, choppy anchorage a stone's throw from the Opera House to see the best fireworks in the world. Heckuva a New Year's goodbye bash for our boat, s/v Journey in 2017.

How does that compare to the small town of St. Helen Oregon's celebration and fireworks? 
Flags up and down the main drags of St. Helens for the 4th of July.

US flags up and down the streets. A go-cart. A skateboarder. 
Not much traffic for this St. Helens skateboarder to worry about.
The town and all the town folk done up in a swirl of red, white and blue.
St. Helens town square "birthday cake;" 243 years for the US, 130 for the town.
A newly minted US citizen and marina neighbor playing the bagpipes. 
Robin kicked off the early eve, piping aboard his boat.
His US citizenship was in part spurred by his desire to buy his sailboat.
Fireworks a few hundred yards from our boat. Amidst the parties, ultimately the two of us most loved a burger on the barbie, corn on the cob , ice cream for dessert and oohing and ahhing at the fireworks together aboard the good ship Serendipity.
St. Helens Marina gussied up for the 4th of July, too. The marina was hoppin' for the holiday.
Sydney's fireworks are world-beater iconic; brag-book material. Yet I'll count St. Helens small town 4th of July celebration as the sweeter memory, from and for the heart.

On a more serious note.... 
Given our travels outside and across the US, I spent a good chunk of time around our nation's birthday celebration pondering a "report card" of our country's "life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness." I found it fascinating.

If you're interested, lemme know and I'll make it a future post. 

For now, though, I just wanted to share a little piece of small town Americana joy. Happy birthday, US! While the actual designated day for celebrating our nation's independence is past, its impact is still writ large inside and beyond our borders.

However you celebrate your nation's birthday -- enjoy! 

Location Location
We spent July 4th at St. Helen's Marina. We are currently back on the hook off of Sauvies Island, N45 47.473 W122 47.199, about 5 miles further inland on the Columbia River. There's a broad, long sandy beach a short dinghy ride away and we have it largely to ourselves. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Little Luxuries: Could You Live Without These?

Intense sunset off St. Helens Marina docks. We live a life of luxury, relatively, when there.
Wandering Star, docked just across from us, belongs Robin and Barbara Scott. Robin
taught my former West Marine 
colleague, Jon Copper, to play the bagpipes. Small world.
Does the concept of chucking your land lubber life intrigue you? What would you give up to live aboard?

Stuff - Less Is Not Just More, It's Essential
Our current living space is a mere 350 square feet.  

I do have a small storage area, mostly paperwork, photos and art, that takes up about 4' x 4' square feet, and could take up less. One of my summertime goals is to reduce and digitize my photos, pare down my paperwork, stow what's left aboard without cluttering up the boat, risking waterlogging or placing it someplace impossible to get to. Then I will ditch the storage area. I don't have any possessions squirreled away anywhere else.  That's it!

I was so excited that I could make my morning chai in seconds, since I could plug in
our "billy" while we're at the docks at St. Helens Marina.
Practically Powerless
When we're at anchor or tied off on a primitive dock without any water or externally provided electricity, there's a limit to how much we want to or can tax our mostly battery-powered modern conveniences.  We will spend most of this summer untethered, as we did for the five years we sailed halfway around the world.

"What's the point?" my crusty former West Marine colleague Captain Paul asked, when we bought and returned a non-Honda generator. "Aren't you trying to get away from it all?" Yeah, mostly. The desire to use power tools for boat maintenance and repair prompted its purchase. Much as I'd like to say we totally unplug, we do use power for our laptops, whether it's keeping in touch with friends and family, doing some freelance writing or this blog post, or catching a movie.

Untethered, Wayne misses the toaster and microwave the most. For me, it's the billy, our quick electric hot water heater and a blender. Our mini vacuum cleaner gets charged up when we're docked but when we do use it on battery power, its get-up-and-go leaves within a few seconds run time. And our shop vac and most of Wayne's few power tools will only work when docked with power. As the generator didn't work out, those tasks will now have to wait until docking.

Wayne recently added a pair of solar panels. With the Pacific Northwest's long summertime hours, that's enough to give us at least a couple more days of keeping our tiny fridge/freezer running and our laptops juiced up. They're our most power-hungry conveniences.

What appliances would you have to forgo aboard? Coffeemaker? Food processor? Hair dryer? If it's got a plug, it's of limited use aboard. Washer? Dryer? Dishwasher? For the vast majority of boats, fergitaboutit!

We'll pick up a reliable Honda 2000 generator as backup before we head up to Alaska as the stretches between powerup spots can be substantial. We relied on a Honda generator on our halfway around the world sail. The longest stretch at sea was 32 days and well over 3,000 miles, between Galapagos and the French Marquesas. No need for a heater there, but those tropical waters made our fridge work harder to keep our perishables from perishing and for autopilot, GPS, VHF radio and for us, other essential electronics.
One of our neighbor boats at the St. Helens Marina, host to a wide range of boats. Ready doesn't look ready though.
Brrr...
What's your daily routine? 

For me, it starts with whether I believe it's too bloody cold to get out of bed. Yeah, my husband teases me about being a hothouse flower, and indeed I fare far better in tropical heat than I do in anything less than 72 degrees. Pathetic, but there you have it.

Since we arrived back in the Pacific Northwest on Memorial weekend, most mornings are in the 40s to low 60s aboard.  All parts stand up to frigid attention (aka, tough something-else) when I reluctantly roll out of bed on all but the hottest of Pacific Northwest summer days. 

We have two electric space heaters. When we're at a dock, plugged into electricity, we can heat our bedroom.  Or our salon. Running both at the same time would blow a fuse.  No dock? Want to heat the bedroom and the salon? Tough noogies. 

Away from external power, we can run a propane heater in the salon, which is where we usually hang out aboard. Turning on the stove or oven helps, too. Otherwise, we bundle up. And the bedroom is cold to bed, cold to rise.
This weather drove us into a marina. If the point of being on the hook was
to enjoy the outdoors and get some boat work done in the sun, by contrast.
this weather inspired us to go city. Today the marina water supply and docks
made it easy to finally get the green scum off the bottom of our dinghy.
Shower Bliss - Maybe. Sometimes. Sorta.
If away from a powered dock, unless we've run the engine, which we rarely do except when we've got a reason to move the boat, the only way we have hot water for a shower or sponge bath is to heat it up on the stove. If I want a good hair wash, I take advantage of whenever we're someplace that has ample hot water and good water pressure. St. Helens city docks, for example, charges $2/5 minute shower. I happily dole out my eight quarters for that luxury.

When we do acquire hot water from an engine run, with light water volume -- which makes sense as water tanks are far from bottomless  -- showers take a while. Despite that, our tiny old shower sump pump doesn't always keep up. 

Nothing kills my shower zen quicker than my husband having to descend into the engine room to take care of the pump because of my shower. That said, we are lucky enough to have a nice tub-shower on our boat. And eventually we'll replace the pump, which should eliminate the stress of the occasional shower-us-interruptus. 
We may not be loving these cool rainy days, but these marina flowers are!
Stinky Is As Stinky Does
It doesn't take much for a little odor to permeate a tiny space. Because of that, when I can, I do #2 off the boat. If we're at anchor, it's on the boat.  That's all there is to it. If there is a toilet off the boat, it's probably not a flush toilet. When it is, and even sometimes when it's not. I'm happy to walk a half a mile to keep the boat fresher.

Like RVs, whether #1 or #2, it all goes into a tank. At some point, that tank gets full. Unlike gas tanks, there's no gauge to monitor how full that tank is. We make our best guess on when to get a pumpout. Usually, we go to a pumpout station. Sometimes, if we're staying put in a marina for a while, we pay a service to come to us to pump out. 

Names for these purveyors? Royal Flush in Portland. Waste Away in St. Helens. Roche Harbor's Phecal Phreak, wth the "We take crap from anyone" amuses me most. 

Every once in a while, we guess wrong on how long we have before our cup runneth over. Ugh.
Phecal Phreak, Roche Harbor, San Juans. Photo liberated from the web.
Not sure where the photos I took of Phecal Phreak in Riche are hiding.
Landlocked vs Boatbound
Get together with friends? Got some errands to run? Hankering for a Sunday drive?

Unless they're boating with you, meeting friends is only an option when you step ashore. Easy in a marina unless you need a car and yours is nowhere nearby. Or a possibility if you're someplace your friends are willing to drive to. Uber, Lyft and mass transit are typically absent most good boat-able spots. 

Even a walk isn't an option unless you're docked or can dinghy ashore.

I have a kayak on order to give Wayne the freedom to stay in one place while I can go to another. The kayak will be my solo ticket from boat to shore, or boat to shore to car. It's a 5-mile paddle, one way, from where we'll anchor most of this summer to my car. Wayne points out kayaking 5 miles to drive to join friends for a long hike, then kayaking 5 miles afterward in the dark may not be practical. TBD what will be....
This fawn was among the dozen deer or so seen on my St. Helen's Oregon walk around town earlier this week.
All Those Sacrifices... Why Do It?
Simplicity. There's nothing more satisfying than to start your be awakened by birdsong, spending a day in the sunshine, walking a sandy beach, cooking a simple meal, watching an uncluttered sunset, followed with the cosmic blanket of a starry night, ending the day getting gently rocked to sleep. Yeah, worth it. Most definitely worth it.

Not everyone needs to be as minimalist as us. Bigger boats. Internal power generators. Staying in marinas. Maintaining a residence in addition to your boat. 

Yet, we owe nothing. Our expenses are minimal. We are flexible and free.

"Get your a--es up!" shouted our sailboat neighbor from his dinghy, buzzing us.

Indeed, the day awaits!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Masked Bandits


 "Oh sure. wait until you get a picture until you chase him off," Wayne chided.
Masked bandit doing the rounds at the Gilbert River dock on Multnomah Channel.
"Bacon?" Wayne believes he's asking.
True. But the raccoon, aka, masked bandit, looked like it was both interested and capable of clambering aboard our boat. 

"Each of their front feet has five dexterous toes, allowing raccoons to grasp and manipulate food and other items," reveals the Washington State Department of Wildlife.
The raccoon demonstrates it's more curious (or hungry?) than shy as itgets closer.
"Don’t feed raccoons," the website warns, in bold text. "Feeding raccoons may create undesirable situations for you, your children, neighbors, pets, and the raccoons themselves. Raccoons that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive when not fed as expected."

With open garbage cans and who-knows-what goo left behind by fishing folks, we get that made this dock aside a Gilbert River boat launch raccoon nirvana. Raccoons are happy to scavenge and this was likely part of its regular rounds.

I know the difference between Rocket Raccoon as an anthrophomized "Guardians of the Galaxy" animated character and the real deal. This guy (or gal -- I didn't check) was not shy.
Yup, that's our boat the raccoon's looking up at. Gilbert River, Multnomah Channel, Portland Oregon area.
Isn't he cute" Wayne asked, looking at the picture as I worked on this post. "Don't you feel guilty about chasing him off?" 

Nope. I don't.
Note the position of the raccoon's foot, before I shooed it away by yelling at it and waving my hands.
(It was dusk deeping to darkness - harder to get crisp pictures of a moving critter)
Location Location
To escape the winds and chop and rocking on the Columbia River,* we tucked into Multnomah Channel, a calmer tributary. We tied off at the older of the two Gilbert River docks. The one we picked allowed us to walk to Sauves' beach. N45 47.505.W122 47.978. That was last week. At the moment, we're tied off on the public dock at St. Helens, Oregon, 

*more on what exactly prompted us to skedaddle into Multnomah Channel in a future post
Serendipity, tied off at a calmer than Columbia River spot at Gilbert River,
Multnomah Channel, Portland Oregon area.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Soggy Homecoming: What Awaited After Eight Months Away

Serendipity at Portland Rowing Club's docks in Sellwood, a stone's throw from the Sellwood Bridge, Portland Oregon.
She's the Puget Trawler, the last one on the dock, with the blue canvas on her windows.
Portland gave us a hale and hearty wet welcome home. It was cold, and gray, and raining. In the 50s in the day, 40s at night temps were about 20 degrees below normal for typical spring weather. After leaving Florida in 90 degree weather two weeks earlier, it was a little depressing.

At least Serendipity was still afloat! We breathed a sigh of relief. We were home.

We had a Prius-worth of stuff in the car to bring aboard. It's amazing just how much a Prius can hold! It's a little overwhelming, initially, to figure out where it goes.... Serendipity's about 350 feet of living space, including storage, and we try to keep her relatively uncluttered.
Serendipity's brightwork, Wayne's project last summer, still looked good.
She was still heavily tarped to make up for not sitting in a covered moorage slip.
And what would she look like inside? We expected at least some leaks....

First, we checked the basics....

The water worked. Yay!


Seeing all the standing water on our portside rail was disconcerting. However, it wasn't
a source for leaks. A few leaves cleared away and the drains were back in biz.
The head worked. Hmmm. No pump-out at the marina so we weren't too sure how full of s--- they were (we found out before too long, fuller than we expected)....

We're not entirely sure how we ended up with a science experiment in the 'fridge, but that was easy to fix, and the fridge still was in good working order.

The electricity sort of worked. Sort of. Initially. The batteries were nearly dead. Even plugged into dock power, they were weak. Then our power cable shorted out. Somehow it got so stressed, the head of the power cable separated from the covered part of the cord. The wires in between were exposed and shorted out, exuding a horrible electrical burning smell.

We had a backup cable, which we squeaked by on. Wayne patched up what he could and promptly looked into battery replacements. He also replaced our entire "house bank,*" of six 12-volt batteries, to the tune of $1076. Ouch! Batteries are awkwardly heavy! We're grateful to my friend Connie's son, Marty, for helping heft the dead ones out and into the car and the new ones down into the engine room.

*The house bank does everything electrical except support the engine start.
Wayne sussing out what was required to fix Serendipity's fried smart plug. It stunk.
Wayne's hard work last summer successfully eliminated a longtime leak over our bed.

However, the area that held our spare boat parts was completely soaked, as was the shelf where we set a blanket and the drawers where I normally stored my clothes. The drawers were empty so nothing was lost there. We were much less fortunate with most of our spare parts. The blanket was tossed, too.

Wayne traced the leak to the window caulking just above the area. Once he replaced the caulking, the leak stopped.

The area still needed to be dry before it could be used. A few days of running the heater -- doable on dock power -- took care of that.



About 750 pounds worth of stuff, dropped off at Greyhound's depot -- a gas station -- in Melbourne Florida. 
We also needed to connect with about 750 pounds of stuff from Florida moved by Greyhound. Those 14 boxes were supposed to have been delivered to a friend's garage nearby. Instead it took phone calls,  a visit to the Portland depot and still more phone calls before it was finally delivered. It sat in the Portland Greyhound depot for a week and a half prior to delivery. I managed to get all of it in two Prius runs. Some was brought aboard. The remainder needed to go into a storage area.  I spent a couple days finding one. It's hard to find a small storage area! Mine is 5' x 5' -- the smallest I could find.

My goal is to eliminate the need for the storage area and find a temporary home only for a few pieces of artwork.
Goslings! And these Canadian geese babies cute? They were also marina "residents."
There were some lighter moments.... When we lived aboard during the Canadian geese mating season in spring of 2018, we cursed the raucous geese . By arriving in June, we bypassed that and got to enjoy the byproduct of all that f---ing ruckus -- goslings!

Spring, however, was still in full bloom this June. The Pacific Northwest puts on one heckuva a show.
The flowers were loving the cool, wet weather. Nigella blossoming in Portland's adjacent Sellwood neighborhood.
Ultimately, within a week, everything came together "enough."

We were able to cast our lines off and go a few days before our desired deadline.

We're grateful to the generosity of friends who let us store our boat in their slip for free.

If we had it to do over, what would we do differently?

Because we weren't sure if we'd be gone eight months or a year and eight months, covered storage was a bit outside our budget. While the boat was well tarped, we would go with dry storage instead. Or if we couldn't do that, we'd at least  pay a competent boat expert to look in on the boat monthly, start the engine, check the electrical, check for leaks and report in.

Larry, Serendipity's former owner, if he's reading this, is shaking his head, thinking if not also saying "I told you so!"

Meanwhile, we're making up for it in boat repairs, maintenance and improvements. Serendipity and her batteries like her brand two new solar panels, and we're picking up a generator for her this week. Wayne's still sorting out the best way to handle our teak decks. Larry, we promise to make you proud. Serendipity's still raking in the compliments from the work Wayne did last summer.

Work aside, we're enjoying life on the river together this summer, watching ospreys and bald eagles soar past, chasing away itinerant racoons, taking in the sunshine when she shines, alternately thanking and cursing the winds and the currents....

Stay tuned for more about our adventures and learn from our oopsies. Much as we learn, we find there's still new mistakes to be made. Guaranteed, we can make you envious of this life, appreciative of your creature comforts, and give you some good laughs along the way.

Regardless of mishaps and sacrifices, life on the water is strangely addictive. For us, home is still where the boat is.

Location Location
At the moment, we're awaiting the moonrise off Coon Island, Multnomah Channel. It's in between St. Helens and Sauvies Island, West of Portland Oregon, N45 46.097 W122 48.974.
At the moment, we're tied off at the dock of Coon Island, in the Multnomah Channel, Oregon.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Home! FL > PNW Cross-Country Roundup

Hood River Bridge, from the Oregon side.  Built in 1924, it is the 2nd oldest Oregon>Washington bridge
across the Columbia River, preceded by the Interstate Bridge in 1917.
We were coming down the home stretch, just a few hours drive from our boat in Portland Oregon. We were both excited and anxious. We were almost home! Was our boat still afloat? What would need to be done to it after it sat idle for eight month? Boats do not like sitting idle!
Nancy and Doug Yoes. Us Hewlett-Packard alums stick together.
First, though, we enjoyed the spending the night and morning with longtime friends Nancy and Doug Yoes. We've kept up through the years, even though it's been a long time since we worked together at Hewlett Packard (aka HP). 

While I chose to leave HP (with a generous voluntary severance package after surviving massive downsizing and more still expected), what I miss most about HP is the awesome folks I worked with. More than anyplace else I worked, I loved working and playing with with my colleagues there. I feel humbled and grateful so many of us continue to keep in touch.

Wayne, good naturedly put up with Doug, Nancy and me reminiscing about "the good ole days at HP." I literally laughed so hard I wet my pants with the group Doug and I used to work in - they were that funny! Who expects your colleagues to run a tortilla through a company printer at a trade show? Or mime the company CEO in the midst of a company profit-sharing announcement with a puppet fashioned from his image torn from an annual report? The list goes on, but probably isn't nearly as funny as it was to those of us who were there. We also did some amazing work along the way, I'm still proud to be part of.
Grass is greener in the Yoes Irrigon Oregon backyard, overlooking the Columbia River.
Doug and Nancy's place offered a great view of the mighty Columbia River.  I-84 mostly parallels the Columbia. I'd never been further East on it than Arlington. Back then, it was on a futile effort to chase the wind to windsurf from Hood River, on a blistering hot day. I never stopped to look around.
Abandoned shacks near the Hood River Oregon bridge.
Despite living in the small town of Hood River* for three years, I'm embarrassed to admit, I don't recall these abandoned weathered shacks alongside the river. Granted, I moved away from Hood River about 20 years ago. Someday, though, I need to find out more about those shacks. It looks like they have a story to tell.

*My only experience living in a small town, unless you count my brief stint with Youth Conservation Corps 13 miles outside of the town of Happy Camp, California.
The recently rebuilt Sellwood Bridge, Portland Oregon. View from where our boat sat for the last 8 months.
Then, finally, after 3,600 or so miles, we arrived, back where we started from when we left last September. 

For this post, I will simply say it was with great relief, our boat was still there, docked, afloat at Portland Rowing Club's marina. More in a future post on what we found.
A rare meal out for us, at Thailahnna in Sellwood, Portland Oregon.
Even though we returned to our favorite PNW grocery stores to set up our galley again, it was time to celebrate.  Besides, we returned to cold, rainy weather. Maybe I'm spoiled, but I felt like I needed a break. I wanted to eat something different, let someone else to steam up their kitchen and give me a break from doing the clean-up afterward, too.

We don't eat out often, so we especially appreciate it when we do and the meal is a good one. At Thailahnna the food looked as good as it tasted, and with leftovers, we got two meals out of it.
Roses blooming, Sellwood neighborhood, Portland Oregon. Portland's nickname is the City of Roses.
Cross-country Tips & Take-aways
What did we learn over 3,600 or so miles, crossing from the Southeast to the Northwest? Our second go at this in less than a year, in reverse.

  1. Thriving small towns appear to be vanishing across America. We feel a deep sense of loss about that, especially for those small towns able to survive with independent businesses, rather than the all too ubiquitous Dollar General. And why the heck don't navigation systems give you an option to go through rather than avoid Main Streets? Fastest isn't always best.
  2. Even taking the byways, unless we slowed down, we usually thought there was no wildlife. For example, zipping through Louisiana's low country.... We stopped, briefly. In what formerly looked like barren wetlands, we could could see birdlife thriving
  3. Our long term travel goal is to spend less time crossing broad expanses quickly, and more time in smaller areas, getting a better sense of what life there is like. We knew that taking the byways is better for us than the interstates, but that we we barely skimmed the surface of this vast land called the United States.
  4. Call it global warming or just plain weird weather. Despite hit a big patch of unseasonably cold weather which we weren't quite prepared for, we feel incredibly lucky. We just barely missed tornadoes and flooding - some truly catastrophic weather.
  5. We skipped our planned exploration of the Southwest  -- Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands and Gunnison of the Black Canyon -- because of weird weather. We'd also rather come back and explore it more deeply on a dedicated trip, than too quickly, passing through. We'll return with our hiking and camping gear and not a car-load full of our most valuable possessions that would be left behind while we're hiking, camping or backpacking.
  6. We were generally happier with meals we brought with us or bought and could put together easily from the grocery store than eating out. It was faster, easier on our pocketbook and generally better for us (gummy bears and other indulgences aside). At least with grocery nutritional labeling we knew what we were getting. Our motel rooms nearly always had at least a fridge and a microwave.
  7. Google maps rocks for getting the best prices for last minute lodging passing through. It works best when you dig down to contact the hotel directly.  Plan far enough to head if you're traveling empty stretches between towns to use it when you have wifi. Yes, we learned that the hard way (on prior travels).
  8. It's stunning how much stuff fits in a Prius, and how much faster speeds, hills and air conditioning impacts mileage. While the Prius is relatively comfortable, if we didn't want to feel crotchety, we needed to stop at least every two hours to get out and stretch. In lots of ways, my Prius is an awesome trip car. Still... If we move cross-country again, would it make more sense to fly? Tallying up our road trip costs will make for an interesting comparison. Flights and a mover and what to do with our car in exchange for taking a dedicated vacation in a smaller area. TBD. 
  9. We're grateful this trip gave us an excuse to catch up with friends and family. Thank you Jule, Mark and Patty, Holly, Doug and Nancy. We appreciated talking to someone besides each other. 
  10. While we missed out on a golden opportunity to listen to stories and podcasts on our dive, it was a good time to enjoy the silence and take more notice of our surroundings. Most of what we saw, we will probably never see again. Passing though Irma's wake is a stark reminder as well you never know when a landscape can change forever.
Location Location
This is the last post of our cross-country trip. We arrived in Portland three weeks ago, in the middle of Memorial weekend, before the Rose Festival.  

At some point, I will tally up our miles and expenses and update this post for those curious on how to make the trip on a relatively tight budget. Also, we will review that data as we make our future decisions on what does and doesn't pencil out.

We are currently tied off on a public dock on Sauvie's Island Oregon on the Gilbert River off the Multnomah Channel, N45 47.505 W122 47.978.