Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Pandemic Update #2

It's a month later. We're still just fine, parked in our North American RV, Le Sport, in daughter Rebecca's driveway, Menlo Park, Bay Area, Middle California. Bubbled with Rebecca, husband Jeremy, and our grand-daughter, Penelope. Our work on the camper continues, replacing the striping, washing, waxing, applying preservatives to various plastic, vinyl, rubber, and so on. We take daily long walks (with interval jogging) in the neighborhood and have even ventured out on family hikes at the Pulgas Ridge open space reserve (see illustration). Rebecca does nearly all the shopping. She and Penelope continue with their on-line educational endeavors, Rebecca teaching, Penelope learning. Both are much looking forward to the end of school in a couple weeks. We Zoom with Rachel and Will from time to time. They're fine, if bored, working from home in DC. Yesterday Vicki and I ventured out, cautiously, to have some needed brake work done on Le Sport, and, while waiting, took an enjoyable short drive up in the hills and redwood forests west of here. Nice to get out. Nice place to get out.

Of course, it is difficult to plan in the present environment. Future-oriented Vicki is particularly frustrated about not being able to scheme nor dream. (I rarely think beyond what kind of beverage ("careful, man!") will be appropriate with dinner (Veal picatta...a Pinot Grigio?)). In any case, we are presently thinking about breaking out in mid-June and driving to our former home, Missoula, MT, where most of our remaining belongings are in storage. Perhaps a few weeks in someone's driveway there while we go through our things and attempt to winnow them down further. Hopefully the Goodwill will be open by then. Then some slow travel, maybe inland, maybe on the coast, back down south. Perhaps by then things will have clarified.... In our dreams we're thinking of returning to the UK and Europe for the fall, then maybe New Zealand for the winter. In our dreams. Please, Jacinda....

Students and astute readers of this blog will notice a change in its style/format/theme/ whatever Google calls it. Blogger (Google) sent out a note yesterday saying that such styles/etc., would have to be updated by end of June. (They've been asking clients like me to update for some time now). I was beginning to look at the options, starting with "Travel/Road" (what else?) and then discovered that the option to revert back to my old-fangled style/etc., ("legacy"? "classic"?) would not work. For a few eternities, it looked as if I'd lost the blog entirely...12 years, 3500+ posts, 1,000s of pix, not to mention the time and effort and emotional investment. Blogger Help, like other "help" centers, is nearly worthless in solving such problems. All that came up when I tried to go to was a dense page of HTML (my former "style"). I haven't done HTML since the early 00s and am not about to learn it again. I was in despair. Then, casting and surfing desperately about, I was able to recover my "Travel/Road" style/etc., and the blog, in its entirety, if in the new style/etc. So there we are: "Travel/Road." I am not about to mess with it again, at least not for a while. Hope you like it....

Until next month, or our next travels...stay safe, healthy, humane, and please don't infect others!
On Pulgas Ridge, west of Redwood City (the trails are one-way, parking and
use very limited)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Pandemic Update #1

We have been more than a month now holed up in our RV, in daughter Rebecca's driveway. Menlo Park, Middle California, Bay Area. She and husband Jeremy are working from home, doing the shopping and sanitizing. Rebecca and Penelope are teaching and learning, respectively, at a distance, their schools shut down for the duration but fully online. We are all isolated, sequestered, quarantined, sheltered in place, hunkered-down. Living under RV-arrest, as Rebecca says of us. The biggest event every day, most days, other than seeing grand-daughter Penelope, is the arrival of the FedEx, UPS, DHL or USPS trucks. We have given up on Instaklept.

This last month my travels have been bound by Marsh, Middlefield and Bay Roads, Edison Way, and 5th and 14th Avenues. A square mile, maybe. I haven't driven a car or camper (or been in a store) since March 16th. Next door neighbor Maggie loaned me one of her bicycles, so I now have the option of pedaling around, in addition to walking or jogging. These older suburban streets are not exactly crowded, but the demographics of the place are such that everybody's home, working or not, and going for walks, 2-3 times a day. Sort of a day-long neighborhood paseo. Dogs will remember the pandemic as their Golden Age.
Our recent world travels

We lived in this neighborhood, North Fair Oaks/Atherton, during various months in 2011-2013, helping care for infant/toddler Penelope while her parents worked, and we have returned more than once a year since then for extended visits with daughter Rebecca and family. We know the area pretty well...Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Atherton, Redwood City, Mountain View. All the shops and stores and restaurants and schools and universities and offices and shopping centers and parks we can't go to now.

The neighborhood is still very much in transition. When we first lived here, in 2011, a real estate boom was already well underway. Older middle class residences/rentals were being sold and renovated or replaced with much larger single family residences, costing millions. A walk down nearly any street today will reveal some large, new multi-million dollar homes. Next door might be an original 2 bedroom/1 bath 1940s home, with added-on rooms, a separate cottage and a separate garage, converted into another apartment. Still worth a million+ in this market. The real estate boom has now whimpered to nothing, like the oil market, but will recover, to some extent. So one hopes. Much of the real estate investment on the Peninsula in recent years was Chinese....

Vicki and I are both fine. Being together 24/7 is nothing new for us, since 2008 anyway. Even in a space as small as a 24 foot RV. (We've been in smaller ones, too). We're reading a lot: her fantasy "crap" (her term), my history/biography/literature, lots of news/analysis/opinion over the internet, our main source of information. Instead of blogging, I'm leisurely going back into my 3500+ previous posts, enlarging some of the pix and doing some light editing. Maybe later I'll get into more serious editing. Maybe not. For the present I'm enjoying the vicarious travel afforded by the blog posts, not to mention the digital frame that randomly runs through some 8,000 pix from the last 12 years. Pleasant memories. But the memories often turn to unpleasant questions: wondering how this or that museum or market or hotel or campground or restaurant will fare, how the many friends and acquaintances and kind strangers we've met will fare...whether we'll visit any of these places ever again....

The lock-down has been beneficial for us in one way. There has been ample time to work on our (North American) RV, Le Sport, repairing this, improving that. We have worked on the furnace, the bath, the shower valve, re-caulked the shower, done some minor vehicle repair, installed various new lighting inside and out, removed the crumpled tinting from the windows, installed mirrors, door stops, magnetic catches for the galley's overhead bins; and more, which I have probably repressed. I still have to replace the black tank blade valve but will probably wait to see whether I survive the pandemic first. Fellow RVers will understand. We have been able to do all this largely because of numerous hardware and other purchases via Amazon. Vicki got a hand-written note from Jeff Bezos a few days ago thanking her for her continued loyalty in these difficult times.

As I write, it is April 26th. According to our original 2020 plan, we would have been in Europe, on the Camino Portuguese by now, walking for 2-3 weeks from Porto along the Portuguese coast to the junction with the route we trekked to Santiago (Bom Caminho!) back in 2017. Vicki was never particularly enthusiastic about this new project and notes now with satisfaction that the weather forecast for Porto and vicinity the next two weeks is pretty much rain, cold, and wind. Probably some fog too, I add. But all that is ever more reason to be happy where we are, holed-up, hunkered-down, but having fun with loved ones.
You never know what you'll encounter on walks around here; a neighbor, five
houses around the corner, walks two pet pigs; or maybe they're not really pets...

Everything in springtime bloom

Morale boosters in abundance (these are hundreds of rubber duckies)

Penelope's very own suggestion

Driveway artist

On-line learning

Garden project with Grandpa; they're all in the ground now

Badminton with Grandpa; she consistently beats me

Sewing with Grandma...making masks for everyone,
including Molly

Birthdays in place

Grandma's birthday, P sporting her new red silk dress from Vietnam

Coloring Easter eggs

Thus; egg-rationing in effect; to help with her math skills, I have taught her
Blackjack; she beats me at that too

Easter morning

Easter brunch

Ninth birthday cake

Traditional birthday portrait

Several of our RV projects were real ordeals...the shower valve, the shower
caulking...but perhaps worst was removing the crumpled tinting from our
several dual-pane acrylic windows; this was Vicki's task, which took several
days; here is the before picture

And here is the triumphant after picture; what a change!

Something to look forward to...hiking in the open spaces....

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Safer In The Driveway

We got back to Middle California, still on March 4th, made our way to the camper storage facility, got things going in Le Sport, and then drove to Gilroy, south of San Jose (we know the way...) where we would spend the next 12 days in relative isolation, at least not endangering daughter Rebecca and family, and her job. There, despite extreme jet lag, we managed to get most of the camper systems going and also stock up, a bit. Interestingly, there were no shortages in Gilroy when we arrived...that quickly changed. When the Bay Area lock-down appeared imminent, Rebecca called for us to come up to Menlo Park, which we did on March 16th. We have been in her driveway since. And for the foreseeable future. "Foreseeable" has become a very short time-frame, right? Or possibly not. Rebecca and Penelope have been in distance "learning" for more than a week. Everything now is at a distance. I'm reminded of the "action at a distance" articles I read in graduate school.

Anyhow, we will not be traveling in the foreseeable future, except for walks in the immediate neighborhood. And since this is a travel blog, mostly, there will not be many new posts in the immediate future. I will be editing past posts, especially from 2008-2009, when I didn't do many pix, and maybe doing some fictional posts (!) (why not?), but, apart from such, the blog will go quiet for a while. Be safe! Be healthy! Be humane!
In Gilroy, Le Sport among the big rigs

Beginning to make lists

More developed lists


Isolated girl, singing to the garden

Old part that needs to be replaced

Old part that, please, God, will not need to be replaced (we
ordered a spare anyhow)

Finishing the national parks puzzle with Grandma

Face mask brought directly from Vietnam

Safer in the driveway; among our projects is to remove the rippled window

Thus; I added the solsticial lighted wreath with the thought that, with light, there  is hope

Friday, March 20, 2020

Adieu Vietnam, And Asia

March 3rd we took the taxi back to Danang, then flew to Ho Chi Minh City, and then to Singapore, the last stop on our southeast Asian campaign. We were ready to leave. HCMC was the only major destination on our itinerary we had not visited before. And the deteriorating situation in the US only added to our hurry. We were glad to get out, regardless of the uncertainties still before us.
Danang airport: I wonder who built those revetments?

Big city

Over southern Vietnam

Rivers converging, approaching the delta, Ho Chi Minh City

A golf course?



Landmark 81 building, tallest in Vietnam

Welcome to HCMC; at this point, we were thinking only of the lounge and
the trips onward...

In Singapore, our weirdest and most expensive accommodations yet...the Yotel,
in the Jewel, at Changi Airport...we did not want to miss the next day's flight!

No, the weird lighting did not change

At least it was in the Jewel

Adieu, Asia