Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Zion National Park

 *Note:  this one took me a little while to finish and post, so the dates are a bit off. We left Zion today, so this was written about three days ago.

We arrived at Zion National Park four days ago. We've been having a great time hiking, swimming, relaxing...it's been wonderful.

Last night we decided to take a little bike ride around the campground. Usually the kids ride their bikes while The Hot Contractor and I help them, carry the baby, and walk Sugar. But this time I decided to put Little Brother in our little baby seat on the front of my bike, and take him for a *real* ride. We had a blast, and you could hear a good amount of "wheeee!" going on.

As I pulled into our campsite, I tried to go around a log and a rock, and park the bike by the tree where we'd been keeping it. As I started going through the grass, I realized it was really tall, and I was quickly losing momentum. I wanted to put my foot down to get stability, but I looked, and there was the rock. Since the seat where Little Brother was was in front of me, it was hard to quickly get off, and I ended up taking a spill (and bringing poor Little Brother with me!). I felt two pops in my ankle as I hit the ground. And I couldn't move my ankle, the bike that was on top of me, or help Hysterical Little Brother get out of the seat he was in. The Hot Contractor came running over with the baby in his arms, trying to help one of us, but realizing he only had one arm to do so. The Princess was about 20 feet behind us, and started sobbing when she realized Mommy was hurt. It was a pretty intense moment.

An elderly couple staying in the campsite next to us came over to help. We'd made friends with them, and they took Little Brother and The Princess to their motor home for band-aids, teddy bears, and comfort. The man got me ice, and he and The Hot Contractor helped me get into the trailer so I could nurse Crying Little Brother.

I thought at first my ankle was surely broken. But after I calmed down and reassessed, I thought maybe it was just a bad sprain. Nevertheless, I haven't put any weight on it since.

Today we decided to go into town and look for some veggie oil and do our laundry. We noticed a sign for a farmer's market. There were 20 minutes until it closed, so we quickly hunted it down. I stayed in the car, and The Hot Contractor went to look at all four tables that were there. There was a table where someone was selling homemade goat milk soaps. I had told The Hot Contractor to look for some raw milk, so he thought the goat milk soap people might be good ones to ask. They told us about a family that was there who has a CSA, and has goat milk shares. They happened to have three quarts of fresh, raw, goat milk. Now, I've tried goat milk a few times, and it's always tasted pretty "goaty" to me. But this milk...The Hot Contractor told me at first that it was cow milk, and I believed him. It was so good! We had a little illegal transaction, and obtained the contraband...Um, for our dog....believe it or not, it is illegal to buy raw milk for human consumption in many states, including Utah. You can, however, buy alcohol, cigarettes, and high fructose corn syrup galore, in all 50 states. There's our government for you...keeping us safe and healthy. Safe from that horribly healing and nurturing food called raw milk.

We also got some pastured chicken eggs, which we were very happy about. Those are legal to purchase, by the way.

Then we went around to get some veggie oil. We've become a little discouraged as we've looked in some cities. It seems like everybody already has their "guy" who gets their oil. But we've discovered that the smaller towns are much easier to find used veggie oil in. And today we scored about 60 gallons! We didn't get about 100 gallons more that was available because we didn't have the room for it. We keep calculating the cost savings, considering a gallon of diesel fuel is about $5/ gallon right now. That's like $300 we saved in one afternoon!

After we found the fuel, and the farmer's market, we decided to take the kids out for some ice cream. We were sitting outside the little ice cream shop/ cafe, and this little lady that worked inside saw The Hot Contractor piggyback me to the table, and saw me unwrap the ace bandage from my ankle. She asked The Contractor what happened, and then proceeded to call all the local medical clinics to find out their hours for us (unsolicited, mind you). She came out and gave us the rundown.

While she was talking, there was a man standing nearby listening.  I hadn't noticed him, and he was the only person around besides us. After she left, he said, "Or, you could go to the local Foot and Ankle Institute". Then he started looking through his wallet for a business card. I asked him if he wasn't by chance a doctor who worked at said Institute? He smiled, and said he was.

A few minutes later, he came back and asked me if I'd like him to "save [me] a trip, and check it out now". I said "sure". How cool was he?!?!? I couldn't believe how kind he was! Here he was out with his wife and grandchildren getting ice cream, and he took the time to help me.

So, he did a little exam on my ankle, and unfortunately, told me he thought it might be broken.  No visit saved, but I was thankful to know that it was serious enough to go get x-rays.

*Fast forward....now I'm finishing this post three days later.

Yesterday we went to that Foot and Ankle Institute, and got the ankle checked.  Turns out it's not broken!  It's`just a bad sprain.  And instead of needing to be non-weight-bearing for six weeks (which would be the case if it was broken), he said it actually helps a sprained ankle to walk on it.  Unless it hurts too bad, then I need to back off.  I'm so thankful I don't have to be immobile for six weeks.  I think it would get really old for The Hot Contractor to do all the cooking, cleaning, child carrying, oil gathering and filtering, and care for me for that long.  Plus, that's pretty much through to the end of our travels.  While I won't be going on any long hikes while we're traveling, I can at least go for walks and enjoy some physical activity with my family.  I'm SO thankful for that.  I have this cute little brace to wear, and I'm taking it easy when the ankle hurts.  Oh, and no more bike riding through tall grass! 

We're now on our way to Yellowstone....

Santa Barbara

We had a blast in Santa Barbara.  Had great connections with some old friends, accidentally ran into a really old friend who was running n the beach, saw an old friend we hadn't planned on seeing, and enjoyed spending time with an adopted Grandma for my kiddos.

We parked at my college friend's mom's house in Montecito.  Michele's mom is Grandma age, but doesn't have grand kids yet (she obviously wants to though...and she's really good at being a Grandma!).  My kids often chose hanging out with her in her house over being with mom or dad.  Maybe it was the little hide-and-hunt games she played with them, or all the fun toys she was giving them, or the yummy food that she'd feed them.  I'm sure it was a combination of all of it. Let's just say, I didn't mind taking a break from holding the baby, or having a peaceful moment while The Princess and Little Brother played in her house.  Oh, and she also did all our laundry one day, and even folded it while we were out playing at the zoo. Charlotte, if you're reading this, you're totally adopted!

One fun thing that happened was when I saw my friend Jamie, who lives in LA, running with her husband on the beach.  The Hot Contractor had gone into the little beach restaurant to ask for some veggie oil, while I stayed in the truck with the kids. Here comes Jamie and John running through the parking lot!  We ended up talking about how we're embarking on a cross-country adventure, and running on veggie oil.  Then Jamie says, "You know Dan runs his car on veggie oil? You should talk to him about it!" (Dan is a mutual friend of ours whom I've known since 1995). I happened to still have Dan's cell phone number in my phone, and gave him a call.  Turns out his shop was about five minutes away from where we were, and he invited us over.  While we were there, we told him about our leaking truck (The Hot Contractor had welded something before we left, but missed one tiny spot, and oil was dripping the whole way). So Dan welded it for us.  Thanks, Dan! 

While we were talking to Dan, he told us that he used to get his WVO (waste vegetable oil) at Westmont College (my Alma Matter). A couple days later, as we were having a horribly difficult time finding fuel for our truck, the thought crossed my mind to see if I could get some from Westmont.  So, we drove up there, and visited the dining commons (DC).  I think the lady working there was skeptical of me, and she told me to go to the administration building to ask for permission.  (I couldn't figure out why I'd have to ask them, other than she maybe wanted them to verify that I actually was an alum?).  So, I went straight to the Alumni Office, and told them my story. They were all OVER helping out an alum!  Woo-hoo!  They made phone calls for like ten minutes, trying to reach someone to tell them to give me as much oil as possible.  Ha!  We went back to the DC and filled up our tank with somewhere between 80 and 90 gallons.  And that lady who told me to go to the alumi office?  She was so sweet, she gave us all free lunch in the DC.  I felt like a college student again.  Except that I had three kids and a husband.

We're still running on that oil.  What a LOOT! Thank you Westmont Sodexo, and thank you, Dan, for the idea!

"This Deserves a Blog Post!"

 *Note: I started this post three weeks ago, and am now just finishing it, so the dates may be confusing. Sorry.

About a week ago, we left Oroville, and made our way to Santa Barbara. We anticipated we'd make the seven hour drive in one or two days. We planned on pulling out sometime between 10 am and 12 noon the first day. At 5:00 pm, we finally pulled out (we've since discovered a pattern of grossly underestimating our time needed for departure. At this point, we plan on never being ready to leave before noon).

As we were cruising down the 5 freeway, we mapped out a Rest Stop where we could stop to sleep for the night. At about midnight, we knew we were just 20 miles away. We could make it! Keep those eyelids peeled!!

Then we lost a wheel.

No, not got a flat, like you're thinking. LOST A WHEEL!



Rolled right off the trailer, into the center of the freeway. The sparks The Hot Contractor saw in the side mirror told him something was wrong. He pulled over quickly.

He went to assess the situation, while I stayed in the truck with our three sleeping cherubs. He realized that the wheel was entirely gone (it was pitch black out, and we had no idea where it had gone). He then discovered that the bolts holding the hub on had completely broken. All five of them.

So, we called AAA for some "Roadside Assistance". We learned that our RV was not covered under our plan (which was not the story I got from the lady at the AAA office just weeks before, but I won't go into that here...). They told us they could recommend a mechanic that could help us. Mark was trying to fix it, but we were on the skinny little shoulder of this major highway, with semi trucks barreling by us. And the missing wheel was on the driver's side, so not so safe.

We called the recommended mechanic, and asked him to come help us. He later told me that the only reason he agreed to getting out of bed at O'-Dark-Thirty, was that he could hear The Hot Contractor talking to me while on the phone with him, so he knew there was a woman, and possibly children, who also needed to be rescued. If it were a single male, he would have left him to fend for himself. Thank goodness The Hot Contractor asked me a question while he was on the phone!

So, this nice man, Kevin came to rescue us. Oh, and the CHP came too. We called 9-1-1 at some point between realizing that AAA wouldn't help us, and hearing about Kevin. They came out to help us get to safety.

Kevin tried to find replacement bolts (we had an extra wheel) for our trailer. He spent until 2:30 am trying figure out something, and hunt for the bolts. But we were out of luck. We had to wait until the morning, when the auto parts store opened.

Kevin did, however, require payment for his services.  One of us had to get in his tow truck with him, and drive about 20 minutes to his shop to pay with a credit card.  I didn't want to sit on the side of the freeway alone with three kids at 2 am, so I told The Hot Contractor I'd rather he stay, and I go.  Let's just say, I had the scariest ride of my life!  Kevin drives an average speed of about 95mph.  He smokes while he does it, and is obviously gluten intolerant, if you know what I mean.  If you don't, then I won't go there right now, but it's gross.

So, we unhitched from the trailer, and left it on the side of I-5. We called the CHP, and told them we had no other option but to leave it there, and to please not tow it away. They told us "they couldn't guarantee anything", but they would make a note of it.

We then called all three motels that were at the nearest exit. The first two were completely booked up. The third one had only smoking rooms available, and one room with a king size mattress. I told them I'd take it!

At 3:00 am, we all snuggled into a big bed together. We even smuggled Sugar in with us. (Shhhhh....)

The next morning, Kevin fixed our wheel, and told us to come back to his shop so he could check a few other things. Thank God for Kevin!! He discovered that one of the brakes on the trailer was not working properly, and one of the wheels was not rotating like it should. It could have been bad if we would have tried to drive it that way! He showed The Hot Contractor how to check the wheels, which he has done diligently since then.

We finally made it to Santa Barbara (only two days behind schedule) the next day.  The Hot Contractor kept saying along the way, "This deserves a blog post!". So, there you have it.

Clairification of Terms

Ok, so apparently there's been some confusion about how many trailers and RVs we're sporting.  In my mind, it all makes sense, but then again, it's my life.  So, for those of you living outside my mind, here goes:

The original "RV", the one we remodeled is a motor home. We no longer live in it, and we left it in CA.  Here's a picture of that:


We moved into a 27' Travel Trailer (also technically an "RV"), and bought a diesel truck to pull it. We chose to do this so we could run on veggie oil, and avoid paying $5/ gallon of fuel our entire way across the country. Here's a picture of that:

We have that big black truck.  The Hot Contractor converted it to run on vegetable oil.  We get used oil from restaurants for free, and run on it.  It's wonderful.  We had a hard time finding it while we were still in CA (evidently lots of people in CA do the veggie oil thing, and all the restaurants seem to have "their guy" who comes and picks up their oil.  But now that we're in Podunk Nowhere, we're not having a hard time AT ALL!). We sold all our other vehicles. Here's a picture of the truck:

Then there's another trailer. I think this might be where the confusion comes in.  That flatbed that The Hot Contractor converted to a cargo trailer (it once was a travel trailer in it's past life, but we won't talk about that because that's just confusing!) is the other one.  We left it in CA with all our stuff, and The Hot Contractor will drive out to pick it up in July.  We did this because 1) we wanted to keep the trailer for The Hot Contractor's business, and 2) it was the most cost-efficient way to get all our stuff across the country....running on free fuel and not renting a vehicle to transport our stuff.  It will mean being away from my darling husband for two.whole.weeks (sniff, sniff).  Let's not talk about that.

Here's a picture of the flatbed-turned-cargo-trailer:


OK, make sense?  I hope so.