Monday, June 25, 2012

The Royal Throne

A few weeks ago when I was camping at Pine Grove Furnace I noticed that the toilet seat was sliding all over the place!  I investigated and discovered that the nut had come off one of the bolts that holds it on.  Not only had the nut come off, the nut had vanished.  hmmmm…  I had no idea where it could have gone – the bathroom isn’t that big and I would have seen it.  I thought maybe it had never been there in the 1st place. 

My dad suggested that I take the other nut and go to Lowe’s and see if I could find a nut that would fit.  So today I headed over to the RV to get the nut and work on fixing the toilet seat. 

When I got to the RV I realized that not only was it not very hot, it was overcast and kinda rainy so it was cool and comfortable!  Even in the RV that had been closed up for 2 weeks!  I figured it would be hotter enough to fry eggs inside the RV the days I decided to do chores!

I went into the bathroom and unscrewed the nut. This of course involved attempting to bend my arm in a direction my wrist didn’t want to go.  I think I need a 3rd joint in between my wrist and my elbow for RV chores.  I had it almost off when I dropped it.  And it vanished.  One second I’d had it in my hand and the next  it was gone.  The washer was on the floor but the nut was gone.  Seriously?  Where’d it go?  I was baffled.  I got down on my hands and knees and crawled around looking under the toilet.  No nut.  I put my hand behind the toilet and discovered that there’s a “hidey hole” in the toilet – it’s not entirely solid between the outside and the bowl.  You can put your hand in and feel the unfinished side of the porcelain!  It’s very hard to describe, but I bet it’s designed that way to save weight.   I’m 99.9% sure that that’s where the other nut went.  It only makes sense.

I stuck my hand, as best as I could contort it, into the hidey hole and found one of the nuts!  A few more minutes of contorting myself and standing on my head on the toilet to get my hand into the hole and I had extracted a nut! I was excited thinking I might be able to get other nut out too and avoid the trip to Lowe’s.  The only problem was that there’s a conduit for one of the holding tank vents in the corner of the bathroom and try as I might I couldn’t get my arm in the hidey hole on the other side.  I looked at how the toilet was screwed to the floor – thinking all I’d need to do was tip it a little and the nut would roll out, but that wasn’t going to work so, I decided I needed something long and bendy, yet solid, to stick in there.  I thought for a minute and then remembered that I had some twist tie things that were exactly what I needed.  I also realized I could cover the end with some duct tape – sticky side out – in hopes of snagging the nut on the duct tape and extracting it.  I fished around in there for a few minutes and didn’t come with anything or feel like I’d come close so I gave up and went to Lowe’s.

I quickly located the part I needed at Lowe’s – they even had an open package that I could use to compare the nut I had to the nut I was purchasing.  They claimed to be “universal” but I was afraid that household universal and RV universal would be 2 different things.  They are not!  I got 2 different types – one with washers and one without and for less than $5 I was on my way back to the RV. 

Back at the RV I put the toilet seat back on and went to screw the nuts on.  I was being very careful not to drop the nut because I now knew it would vanish!  It took a lot more contorting and standing on my head and straddling the bowl, and wedging myself onto the floor in the bathroom to get both nuts screwed on, but I did it!  The toilet seat is now securely attached to the toilet and I have some spare parts in case it comes loose again! 

The royal throne is ready for use! :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

All About the AT

Today the AT was king! We hiked about 8 miles, saw thru-hikers, eavesdropped on thru-hikers, visited the museum, met some historical figures, and got some trail magic! All we need now are trail names!

This morning, just as I was getting dressed, the freakin’ LP/CO2 detector went off.   The only pattern I can find here is that it goes off on Saturday mornings when I’m camping with Dad.  Makes no sense.  This time I was in the bathroom, not doing anything close to anything that might have set it off.  Guess I’ll take it in for them too look at.   Even though it’s baffling what’s setting it off it’s kinda good because the propane stuff and the the thought of the alarm going off was something that worried me – these false alarms are kinda like drills, now I greet the screeching the alarm with expletives and know exactly how to shut if off!

We decided to take advantage of having 2 vehicles and do a longer one way hike!  This is a rare opportunity for me so I was excited!  Covering 8 trail miles in one day is the longest section I’ve hiked at once!  We parked the RV near the main area of the park, which is about a 1/2 mile from the campground, and drove the jeep up to the trailhead.  We walked back to the park, got the RV and went back for the jeep. 

As soon as we pulled into the trailhead parking area a thru hiker came up, heading north.   We chatted with him for few minutes and then he headed down the trail.  Dad saw him later heading out of the park.  A few other thru hikers passed us as we hiked, they were pretty much the only other traffic we saw on the trail the whole day!  Crazy since it was a lovely Saturday, I would have expected to see a lot more people!

There was a crazy amount of Mountain Laurel in full bloom at the higher elevations!  As we hiked it was almost a tunnel of laurel! I’m glad we were there when the laurel was in bloom, the trail wouldn't have been that interesting without the laurel! 

We continued down, down, down…sometimes it was almost flat, but then we’d go down more.  It wasn’t steep, or very rocky, so it was easy hiking. 

About 1/2 way we reached the Tom’s Run Shelter, a 3 sided structure for long distance hikers to stay overnight in.  There we chatted with a section hiker (an AT who plans to hike the whole trail, just not at once, I consider myself a “section hiker”, I just hike very small sections and I’ll probably never finish the whole trail.) who’s pack was about 55 lbs!  He had stuff bungee corded to the outside!  The purpose of his hike was to figure out what he could eliminate!

Very soon after the shelter we reached the official halfway point of the AT!  We were a little more than 1000 miles from Springer Mt in GA and a little over 1000 miles from Mt. Kathadin in ME.  So now I’ve been to the beginning of the trail, the middle of the trail, and possibly this summer I’ll be at the end of the trail.  So, I’ll be done right?  Oh yeah, there’s all those other miles! ;-)

We mostly blew through the rest of the 8 miles hike, continued down, down, down.  The last 1/4 mile it was getting really long – I was expecting the road to show up any time and it wasn’t coming.  Finally of course we reached the road. 

We walked back into the park and had lunch on the porch of the General Store.  There were a few thru hikers sitting around shooting the breeze so we kinda eavesdropped on their conversation while we ate.  After lunch we got some ice cream and engaged in our version of the thru hiker tradition. Since Pine Grover Furnace is so close to official halfway point, thru hikers traditionally eat (or attempt to eat) a half gallon of ice cream, in one sitting! You can tell that it’s thru hiker season because the flavor choices of the 1/2 gallons the store had were very limited!  We did not eat an entire half gallon, we settled for one scoop!

Up next was the AT Museum!  I think this is a new feature, something they are just getting off the ground.  It was one room, but it was filled with neat exhibits about the trail and some of the people who have made it what it is, along information about several of the 1st thru hikers.  They had the original sign from Kathadin, other trail signs, gear from the 1st thru hikers, even an original shelter! 

After we checked out the exhibits we walked down to a nearby picnic pavilion where they were having inductions into the AT Hall of Fame.  I'd never heard of the AT Hall of Fame before and had no idea how one got in.  I need to google this when I get home.  There were a handful of people sitting in the pavilion so we wandered in.  When we got there they were talking about the opening of the museum and we were a bit confused, but after a few minutes the real action started! 

One of the 1st, and more noteworthy, thru hikers was a woman named Grandma Gatewood.  She was an older woman – in her late 60s and 70s when she was hiking the AT in 1950’s – and she hiked in sneakers, usually Keds, and carried her duffel bag over her shoulder.   She died in the early 70s, but her granddaughter (or it might have been her daughter, she was introduced as Grandma Gatewood’s granddaughter, but she referred to Grandmas Gatewood as “Mama” and she told us she was 84…) was there and she read to us from Grandma Gatewood’s Diaries from her 2 thru hikes and her section hikes!  Lucy was a bit of a pistol herself and she did a great job telling Grandma Gatewood’s stories!  I need to learn more about the legendary Grandma Gatewood!

The next speaker was Gene Espy.  He was one of the 1st thru hikers and hiked at the same time as Earl Schaffer, the 1st thru hiker. I had never heard of him until today!  I had a hard time understanding him but he told some great tales of the early days of the AT!  He is also the only living member of AT Hall of Fame! He’s written a book, that I think I need to read!  He was very entertaining and I’m looking forward to learning more about him!

I’m so glad we were here to listen to those two historical AT figures speak!  What a treat!  We’d sat and listened to them for 2 hours and it was time to move a bit so we walked down the AT towards the lake and day use area of the park.  Compared to the quiet of the picnic pavilion area the lake area was crowded!  People everywhere!

As we were walking along the paved AT/Bike Trail, one of the thru hikers we met last night at the Ranger Program, Diesel, approached us.  He’d set up some Trail Magic and offered us some! We didn’t need any snacks at the time so we thanked him and moved on, but it was fun to be included in the hiker community and offered Trail Magic! 

After checking out the lake area we walked back to where I’d parked the RV and drove up the mountain to get the jeep.  Back at the campground Dad called Mom (I have cell signal which I’m using to text, hadn’t occurred to me the I could make a phone call if I wanted to!), and I took a shower, then Dad took a walk to the shower house. After we got cleaned up we made dinner and enjoyed a walk around the campground.  Dad has built another fire, we gotta use up the wood he bought, and I’m about to finish my blogging before dark!

The battery on the computer is dying, so it must be time to finish this up!  Tomorrow we are both driving home and I think we are getting an early start since he has a 5 hour drive and I have weekend chores to do! 

Pine Grove Furnace State Park: 6.9.12

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

This morning Claudia was off to work – last day of school for her and she had to pack up all her stuff for the summer! Olivia, being a teenager, is rarely up before noon so I was on my own.  After breakfast and a quick walk around the neighborhood I was off to WalMart for a quick resupply before heading across the state to Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Pine Grove Furnace is the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail so I wanted to visit and hike some of the trail. This is where the hikers, having completed half the trail, take the “Half Gallon Challenge” and attempt to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting.  Most succeed.  At the last minute my dad decided to join me so he could try out some of his camping gear.  He’s been reading a lot of AT hiker’s memoirs and wants to try “real” camping.  

Central PA is lovely!  Rolling hills, farms, quaint little towns, roads going every which way and every town and intersection is very confusing if you are the least bit unsure where you are going!  Right out of Shrewsbury I  got off route and encounter a sign warning of a 10ft clearance up ahead.  I was pretty sure I’m under 10ft, but just barely, I decided not to risk it and turned around (it’s a good thing I have such a small RV – anything bigger and I wouldn’t have been able to turn around).   I don’t currently have a GPS, I have google maps on my iPhone, which works great but it sometimes requires 2 hands and it’s hard to use while driving. 

Back on route I soon came to another 10 ft Clearance sign!  This time there was another road I could take.  There was a “Sleepy’s” Mattress Store truck in front of me and he was surprised by the sign and went down the other road so I followed him.   Luckily my side road lead me to the road I wanted to be on and I didn’t see any more low clearance signs!  I’ve now decided that encountering a Semi coming the other direction is a good sign! :-)

I stopped for lunch at Codorus State Park near Hanover.  It’s a beautiful park on a huge lake! They have boat rentals, a big pool, a campground and lots of picnic tables.  The park was mostly deserted today too!  I found a picnic table and had lunch and took a quick walk near the lake before heading on down the road. 

Getting through Hanover was easy navigation wise, but not so easy because it was full of traffic! ugh! 

Once outside of Hanover the road  got hilly and with a 55 mph speed limit and the windows open it was kinda like driving my own roller coaster!

Soon I came to the turn off to go to the park!  Once I got to the park I had more navigation difficulties – I’d passed 2 day use areas, but no campground. I turned around and went back to the 1st day use area and found a board with a map! The campground was just a hair down the road from where I’d turned around!  agh!  I took a map and headed back to the campground, which I found easily!  

Dad was here waiting, but I think he’d just gotten here!  I quickly backed into my site and he started setting up the tent.  An hour later we were ready to explore a bit.  RV camping is so much easier – just put it in park. 

I cooked my 1st meal in my RV!  All the other times I’ve been camping I’ve brought leftovers from the week and microwaved them, tonight though, I was making scrambled eggs!  I know, a culinary challenge! LOL!  I also prepared a salad for both of us and then cooked my eggs – using almost every piece of kitchen gear I have!  They turned out just like eggs at home!  We also sautéed up some garlic scapes – a garlic like plant I got at the CSA this week and they were yummy too, gave the eggs a nice garlicky flavor. 

After dinner we went to the evening program at the campground amphitheater – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the AT.  We knew almost all of the 10 things, but they had 3 Thru-Hikers who were passing through the park to answer questions so that was fun! I know one of them has a Trail Journal so I’ll look him up when I get home.  (Here’s a link to Diesel’s Trail Journal)

Since it was finally dark Dad made a fire – he’d been wanting to try out his cotton ball and Vaseline fire starters he made after our “almost spent the night on Mt. Rainier” event from 2010.   He got a good fire going and I’m sitting here on my computer!

The campground has quieted down so it must be bedtime!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Amory Acres

Having an RV makes visiting family and being there for important milestones so easy!  My cousin Olivia was graduating from high school and I wanted to be there to see it so I packed up the RV and headed north to PA!  She and my aunt live in New Freedom PA which is right on the border with Maryland, just north of Baltimore.  This meant that I’d get 2 more states on my “Places I’ve been in my RV map” too!  I looked at the map and saw that there were a few state parks that looked interesting in Central PA so I decided to make a weekend of it!

In order to get to PA in time I left school a few hours early to drive up.  I didn’t make the best routing decisions but, I arrived in time for dinner before the big event!

I’d been planning to park in my aunt’s driveway, however I was worried that it wasn’t level so I stopped to check out the WalMart and see if I could stay there if need be.  It was a nice WalMart with a huge parking parking lot!  I was ready to do my 1st solo WalMart experience!  However, when I arrived at Claudia’s house I discovered that her driveway was level enough and just stayed there!  It was great to be staying with my aunt and my cousin, but still having my own space and not getting in their way! I’m now dubbing their house “Amory Acres” so it sounds like a campground.

After a quick pizza dinner and change of clothes Claudia and I were off to the school.  As we were arriving the storm clouds were gathering and we saw one flash of lightning and the rain was beginning…this meant that the ceremony was moved into the gym!  boo.  The storm passed very quickly and if we’d waited 20 mins we could have had it outside! 

The ceremony itself was rather boring but we cheered and videoed and snapped pictures (that all turned out crappy because of the horrible gym lighting) when it was Olivia’s turn to get her diploma!  Sadly, I did not get a picture of her with the True Value Hardware Sign that hanging right above the graduates heads!  (I’m guessing True Value sponsor's one of the schools sports teams.) 

After the ceremony we headed back to Claudia and Olivia’s for cake, champagne and presents.  My uncle Roger, Olivia’s dad, was there too and that was a treat since I don’t get to see him much!  We had a great time laughing and hanging out!