Monday, January 26, 2009

A Building By Any Other Name

A bathroom is a bathroom is a bathroom. Right? Before I tell you about our move to California, I feel I must indulge in a little out house tale.

As I had mentioned in a previous story, our new home contained no toilet. The apartment sat on top of the shop and looking out the upstairs windows sat the cutest little wooden shack with a crescent moon on the door. After having been instructed on the proper care and maintenance of said facility, I decided we had to make the building more, aesthetically pleasing. No sense in becoming a barbarian after all.

Scrounging scrap paint my sister in law and I painted the interior bright yellow and hubby cut a window on the side to allow light in while accomplishing various bodily tasks. We found a spare glass window to fit the hole and since this type of building was bound to be crawling with insects, I painted large lady bugs on the interior walls. By golly if I had to deal with bugs at least some of them were going to be there by my choice.

A cute little toilet paper holder and a decorated can of lime, (keeps the odor down) completed our refurbishing task. Not bad. The only drawback to this tidy little domestic scene was my 6 year olds late night imagination. Add a daddy who was an incessant tease and trouble was bound to ensue.

The night came when she could no longer hold it till the early morning hours when there would be daylight to guide her. We encouraged her to head downstairs while we turned on the flood lights. We watched out the windows as she cracked the door open ever so slightly and looked around for monsters lurking in the dark.

Suddenly she leaped out the door and slammed it so hard the entire house shook. Fast as lightning she bolted for the outhouse door! SLAM! went that same door as she was safely inside, secure for the moment from dreaded demons of the night. Even they wouldn’t enter the outhouse.

Then daddy got this mischievous grin and said, “Watch this”. He waited with his hand on the flood light switch while our daughter finished up her task. Just as she stuck her head out the door and checked left and right for monsters, he flipped the lights out. A scream pierced the night air!

If I had a stop watch I am certain I would have clocked her return speed at more than twice the original speed! The door to the downstairs slammed even harder making all the windows vibrate. She was so furious with us she forgot that she had been frightened. She did remember to carry her own flash light after that. This is when we all began to develop the habit of not drinking anything after 6:00 pm.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Home on a real range!

That First New Home

Seven days of traveling in the wilderness had taken its toll on both of us. Exhausted and in need of rest, we had hoped to be able to move right into the appartment above the shop that my husband had built many years before.

In making preparations for our return trip to Oregon hubby had sent an eviction notice to the renter. We thought that 3 months was adequate notice and were rather surprised upon our arrival to find him still living there and not even packed.

My new sister in law welcomed us with open arms and we thought we’d stay with her for a couple of weeks, giving the recalcitrant renter that much time to vacate. Sis was sooo glad to see us that she was even giggling. I asked her what made her so happy. She replied, “Oh it’s just that we are all so thrilled that my brother finally found someone who could toller…. um I mean who loves him!”

The next day hub went over to nudge the squatter out of our home. One week went by with no progress. As my belly grew so did my temper. Hub was getting kind of desperate but as another week went by even he grew impatient. We both went over to my new nest. Walking up the stairs and into the apartment above my husbands shop, we saw just a few signs that he was beginning to get the idea. Since he hadn’t been paying any rent, just watching the place my man told me that what ever I wanted to do was fine with him.

I’m not sure what he had in mind that we should do but I took him literally. Methodically and with a resolve that made my man step back and stay out of the way, I began throwing this persons things out the window. Piece by piece every thing went out. Hub looked out the other 2nd story window and said, “I don’t think he’s going to want that dresser back, it’s in too many pieces.” I just looked at him with all of my pregnant self.

He said, “Never mind, I think I’ll just leave you here and I’ll take our daughter out for some grocery shopping.” They stealthely crept away as I continued on my rampage. Dusting my hands off I looked around at my new nest. I made the beds in this one bedroom apartment. I would clean the rest tomorrow. My man had plans to build our mansion later but for now this would do. I went to use the rest room and realized that one key item was missing. Where was the toilet? There was no toilet!

Hub came back later as I was trying to decide weather I should just go in the tub or not. “Where is the toilet?” I asked while dancing back and forth on each foot. “Oh! Sorry! I forgot to mention that we have an outhouse.” “A what?” I asked. I had used something similar in the Army on field maneuvers so I wasn’t at a total loss but I was still somewhat taken aback. I didn’t know there were any places that still allowed those.

We went outdoors for a tour of the privy. He began with, “Now let me show you about…” I pushed him aside and bounded up to the outhouse and slammed the door shut. “I think I can figure it out!” I yelled through the wooden slat door with the traditional crescent moon cut into it. Later after having learned about lime and its uses and what never to put down that hole, etc. I began to make plans to decorate that little building out back.

This wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I just had to turn my mans bachelor pad into a family home. Time would tell.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Bearly Enough Gas

At this point in our journey down the Alaskan Canadian highway we hadn’t had any trouble getting fuel . It was about 1 day out from the place where we had fixed our truck that we began to notice the gas stations were getting farther and farther apart. We checked on our maps and determined the next station was within a comfortable distance and we would make it there with a little more than a quarter of a tank left. (Travelers experience note: Always call ahead to make certain wilderness gas stations are still open)

Oh no! The gas station on our map was no more! It was closed for good! Checking our trusty road maps we located the next station. Knowing exactly how many miles per gallon we had been getting we estimated that we would run out of gas about 75 miles before we got to the next station. And that was using the spare can of gas that we had tied to the rear end of the truck. Oh no!

It was late at night. No one else was on the road. We kept watching the gas gauge move towards the E. We had never been this low on fuel. It was my turn to drive. Hubby was trying to sleep in the back at this point. He kept waking up and poking his head through that cab window to look at the gauge.

“Keep it steady, no accelerations or decelerations, ” he intoned for about the 20th time. I was too nervous to even respond. When he could no longer sleep he crawled through the window to sit up front with me. Then he began to explain about 55 being the optimal speed for gas conservation (for the 20th time as well). At this point I didn’t think it mattered because we were obviously running on prayers and fumes anyway.

All I could see was pitch black outside just beyond our head lights. I tried to keep a steady pressure on the accelerator and maintain that magical speed of 55. I could hear and feel the gravel on the road being thrown out to the sides of the truck. (In 1983 not all of the Alcan Highway was paved.) Suddenly 3 figures darted out into the road just ahead of us and I slammed on the brakes. The cats, (who were peeking through the cab window) tumbled forward into the floor of the truck. “Hey don’t slow down!” hollard my man! “Do you know how much more fuel we’ll use trying to get back up to 55?! In one movement he grabbed both cats and flung them through the window into the back of the truck with our daughter. I looked at him and said as calmly as I could, “If I had hit one of those bear cubs, I don’t think we’d be alive because that giant momma bear over there would rip our truck apart trying to get at us!” We both looked over to our left and saw the dark figures of momma brown bear and two baby cubs loping across the tundra. Praying slient thankyous, we both let out sighs of releif.

We resumed our fuel consumption. By our best estimates we should have run out of fuel 25 miles ago and still had 25 more to go. I kept glancing at the guage, and the speedometer. It was now well past the E. Had I seen it move? Twenty five miles later the truck was still running and it was 2 am as we pulled into the gas station. The lights were off and everyone was obviously asleep. We parked and turned the motor off.

The next morning after we had gotten a few hours sleep, we tried to start the truck. It wouldn’t. Appears we had used up the last of the fumes driving into the station. My man and the attendant pushed the truck over to the pumps and we filled up. We also called ahead to the next station.

Southward HO! Part 2


Except for having been nearly eaten alive by mutant Alaskan/Canadian crossbreed monster mosquitoes the first part of our journey was uneventful. The truck rumbled along loyally and we admired the wilderness scenery. Whitehorse Alaska was our next scheduled stop and we pulled in there to do some recreating.

After leaving White Horse we began to hear a muffled “ka-thunk”, “ka-thunk”. We turned toward each other. “Tell our kid to stop making noise back there.” I turned around to settle her down but she was already asleep in the back of the truck. “Not her”, I informed him. “Oh my, I hope the rear end transmission isn’t going out!” I listened carefully. No grinding noises and no problems shifting led me to think it was a wheel bearing. “I think it’s a rear wheel bearing”, I said. My honey gave me a condescending chuckle. “This from a woman who didn’t know how to read a map when we got married? Look , I know you worked on helicopters when you were in the Army, but this is a truck. I think you’d better leave the diagnostics to me. “

Well talk about mood altering conversation! “Fine! Figure it out yourself!” I harrumphed. “Now Now hun,” he condescended to me again as we pulled into a parking lot. I know what I’m doing. I’m going in there to ask the way to a dump and with any luck I’ll find a rear end that matches this one. After getting instructions we headed to the local dump. He parked the truck and we scouted for parts. “Look! I think there’s one that’s our year and make!” I couldn’t believe it but it was true.

“Now”, he said, “The guy said the most important part is to watch out for bears.” “What?” “Watch for bears, he said to keep a look out so you sit here in the drivers seat and honk the horn if you see any coming while I remove that transmission.” “Are YOU INSANE?! ” I yelled. “No, I’m serious. Now if you don’t want your only husband eaten alive while trying to repair our rig I suggest you pay attention.”

I sat in the drivers seat with the window open scanning for predators and biting my nails down to the quick. Every crackle, every noise made me jump. What was I doing out in the middle of nowhere, pregnant, a 6 year old, two house cats in the back of the truck and an insane man scrounging for parts in a wilderness dump?! An hour and a half later he came back to the truck grinning and carrying what I assume was a transmission. But what did I know? I had only worked on helicopters.

We drove back to the one restaurant combination bus stop, post office and general store. In the parking lot he began jacking the truck up and taking the rear end apart. He seemed bent on dismantling our whole vehicle and we would probably end up stranded here forever. Watching him I grew a little more than irritated. “Sweetie, wouldn’t it have been more prudent to change the wheel bearings first?” Sighing really big he said, “Have you ever worked on this type of vehicle? No! So just let me get back to work please. Go do something.”

So I started to pray. Not your basic, “God please help my husband” prayer. Oh no, let’s be honest here. I was praying the “God just let me get a chance to say, I TOLD YOU SO! prayer.” It is such a good thing we aren’t God. Do you know how many bolts of lightning I would called down by now?!

Anyway, I left with our daughter to go get a bite to eat, and at the same time a greyhound bus pulled up. People began to walk over to see what my man was up to. I listened just before going into the restaurant as my hub described the symptoms to a man who had asked if he could help. “Well” said the newcomer, “I’m not a mechanic but you know what it sounds like to me? A wheel bearing.” Then he walked away and left my man sitting on his knees, covered in grease with a half torn apart truck and a scrounged transmission that he realized didn’t fit. I went and hid in the restaurant praying, “God PLEASE don’t let me say I told you so!”

Six hours later it was dusk and he had gotten the rear end put back together. Now what to do about a wheel bearing. We drove to the only gas station in this not quite big enough to be a town place. Getting out we found the sole proprietor underneath a vehicle repairing it. My husband asked if he had any truck parts. “Maybe,” he said, “If I got anything it would be in that little white cabinet on that wall.” Walking over we opened the dusty cabinet and peered inside. The cabinet was completely empty except for two small boxes, both wheel bearings, both for our make and model truck. Really!

The next day we were on our way. No more “Ka-thunks” from the rear and the truck ran smoothly along. “Wasn’t that a blessing those two wheel bearings being there?” said hubby. “Yep” I replied. (please God don’t let me say I told you so!) “Nice job on the repair.” I said. We rumbled along quietly for a while. All of a sudden he said, “Sorry I didn’t check the wheel bearings first.” (Hold my tongue God) “Oh that’s ok. I’m just glad we didn’t get eaten by bears.” I halfheartedly replied. I contented myself that I had resisted an enormous temptation and probably avoided a terrible argument. Would that I could have held my tongue as well on other occasions.