Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tumbleweed and Tumbledown!!!!

Okay, so I ain't writing much about today at the moment as I am still recovering!

What is it with men once they have a big car in their grasp they feel the need to drive like they were in a mini? If you want to drive as if you're in a mini and take mountain roads at 70mph, then drive a mini. My stomach is upside down

Today was something like this:
Great morning...
Afternoon conversation, however (bear in mind I am reading a large California road atlas and we're in a tumbleweed town with a road system that doesn't want to be apparent on the map (oh and I can't read maps well in the car as it makes me travel sick!):

MrBH: Where am I going?

Me: Well we need to find Chamber avenue (we are still struggling to find an ice cream shop which normally we are not looking, will find 20 a penny, today when we want one, there are none!) - ach, there it is.

MrBH: Shall I turn round?

Me: Erm, yes, if you want to go the right way.

MrBH: Okay. (Pulls into car park of restaurant and proceeds to try to force the van through a very tight space.

Me: I don't think the van will go through there, why don't you....(unable to finish sentence due to outburst from MrBH, but continue to point to a large turning RV accessible point.

MrBH: *shouting* I can't DO a U-turn in the van!

Me: okay, sorry, I wasn't...

Silence to sound of roof being removed as he attempts to go around a corner with a low roof forgetting he has at least 12ft of van to manoeuvre underneath


So we are now minus a skylight thang, a large deposit, a little faith and some marital lurve!!!

Who said that the road was good for bonding?!

Here are today's pictures, which did actually make up for much of his twattishness!

Oranges on the hundreds of groves we spotted. It probably wasn't going to be a good day as we sped past these creating dust until I shrieked that it would be nice to actually see the groves and perhaps buy some oranges from the little stalls set up beside the road. Natch, by the time I'd finally blown, all the stalls were no where to be seen - the first tumbleweed rolled by!
Pine cones. Not, actually, of the Sequoia. The Sequoia have small pine cones! So this now goes with our collection of growing enormous pine cones!

Snow! People in the snow in sandals! We didn't get too far!

See the size of these? They are amazing. This one is two fused together!

Can you see the date carved in this huge hollowed out tree stump? 1883! Apparently this long carved out trunk was used in the 1800's to stable horses at one point! Shows you how big the things are! Some are 27 storeys high, as wide as a three lane freeway and weigh as much as 70 SUV's!!!

Fire damage. It doesn't actually kill the trees, just the debris and flora around the base of the tree to help the tree survive. They live for upto 3200 years!

A view from mini-man's mountain view race track!
Ah well, half a bottle of wine down, safely tucked up in our campsite (although I am sending Mr Beehive out with the garbage to the dump as there are bears in the woods - no, really this time!) tomorrow IS another day after all!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Days 3 and 4

So I think I might be cut out for this van life afterall. I hope my mother and father don't get their hopes up that I might be turning into a vanny. It's incredible what a sociable life the great outdoors is when you are in the sunshine and a campground. We've met a great couple who've travelled down from Alaska on a long roadtrip, they left in January, that coupled with my current read about a couple that take a year to convert a bus and travel the US has got my head spinning with my next adventure. Even Mr Beehive is happy with this, but we think it may have to be in the retirement plans....

Anyhoo, so, days three and four have seen us heading further south. Where did I leave you? Oh yes, we were just north of Monterey having travelled along the "best coastline ever" - hmmm, well, leaving Monterey we travelled around a hundred or so miles further south to Sainta Margarita, believe me this most definitely was the best coastline ever! Our faith has been restored. The road winds for miles along the edge of the Pacific. Every so often there is a mail box and a house half hanging off a cliff. There are no roads that come onto route 1 for miles. It started me thinking how on earth you'd get your grocery shop in there, but I guess if you wanna live in a house like that, you probably don't care much about the need to get your groceries from Safeway or the need to socialise with other humans!

We've seen a ton of interesting places like this, not just on the edge of cliffs, but that are just in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.....ever......but then, your outlook on life is different from a gal coming from the East coast just outside of New York City - did I just say that?!! Not that I need Prada, but I do need to know that the nearest doctor or vet is not over 50 miles away.

The highlight (in fact the saving grace as we'd been in the van for over 3 hours yesterday afternoon) was finding Elephant Seals on the beach just along the coast at one point. It was stunning. Huge colonies of them were basking in the evening sunshine.

Our campground last night was out the back of beyond in bear country (nah! still haven't seen any, but we're holding out for a possible sighting in Yosemite). After the kids crashed out in bed, Mr Beehive and I lay out under the stars for a while. I have seen some pretty amazing skies, in Africa and in the South of France, but this one really took the biscuit (or cookie!). It was so black and so full of stars. I think after glass of wine number 3, conversation took a spiritual turn and got a bit deep until there was a rustle in the bushes behind us and we decided that if we were to view bears, doing it inside the van might be a little more preferable.

Today we've crossed the San Andreas Fault line into the Kettleman Hills, across the San Joaquin valley towards Visalia. We're pretty much in "One horse town" but the view we got coming across the plain of the Sierra Nevada rearing up with it's snow capped peaks was worth every part of this trip. Unfortunately for the $34 we're spending for our "luxury" site, the view is now obscurred by the one horse town's only factory. However, there's a pool, we've arrived in light, the temp is in the 70's so we're kicking back and enjoying the afternoon.

Deep Fried Artichokes. They grow locally and this is apparently a breakfast delicacy!!

Fields and fields of artichokes next to fields and fields of ripe strawberries (in March!)

Monterey Aquarium. The Kelp Forest and lots of jellies. There were a couple of superb octopi, but as the sign reported "Please do not flash the octopus". We couldn't even see for taking pictures as we were laughing so much!

Cannery Row, of John Steinbeck fame!

See those four tiny dots in the water? Sea otters! The coastline at one point is a refuge and there are hundreds of them dotting the waves.

Just a small sample of the road, that went on and on and on and on.................

Big daddy Elephant Seal! He was a bit of a brute really, we saw him scaring the females into submission so he could take their warm spot in the sun - bully!

Younger seals.

More seals!

Getting all artistic!

Sun set over the Pacific. Pretty cool to think that only a few days ago we were on the other side of the States next to a totally different ocean.

One Horse Town! This was the only store apart from the USPS store in which on a Saturday morning at 10am "mail is not up yet!"

The road is loooooooooooong!

Such a movie scene!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Heading south - in pictures!

These are some of the biggest pine cones we've seen so far. Think Cadbury's easter egg size and you'll be right! I was like a kid in a sweet shop when I found them! So we are currently stowing three on board in bags because they are about as lethal as goodness knows what!

These birds make an impressive image in the sky. There's nothing too amazing about what you're looking at, it's only a turkey vulture (and we have plenty of those in CT!), however, there is something pretty cool about watching them circle the sides of mountains in Napa Valley!

A view across the vineyards of Napa.

Campsite number 2. LMB collecting wildflowers for our breakfast table!

Petrified wood. This stuff was cool. A complete forest that was covered by the volcanic ash of Mt St. Helena just seven miles to the north. This has some of the largest trees that have ever been found and it's a totally different colour to the petrified wood we saw in Arizona which was a darker red. It's impossible to believe that this isn't actually wood, but the wood cells have been replaced by minerals.

Old Faithful Geyser, just north of Calistoga. This is one of three old faithful geysers in the USA. It erupts currently every 10-15 minutes and shoots up to 60ft in the air. Apparently it's if the frequency between the eruptions gets longer rather than closer together that you need to be running from the spot!!

The season we're here the vines are just beginning to bud. Farm workers do everything by hand with the vines. It's pretty anal, but the end result is nice - thanks guys!!

Okay, so this is the dude that drives the bus that wears the hats that only mad dogs and english men wear!

A view down to Lake Beryessa.

A view of San Francisco from the Bay Bridge.

Alcatraz! I was impressed with this little gem (photo that is!) as it was taken from the van window at high speed with other cars and suspension work in between! Talk about luck!

The coast road to Santa Cruz. Never trust an American who says that this road is "the best and not to be missed". Unless we did it wrong, it was pretty impressive for about 20 minutes, then you actually move away from the coast and the drop is not there. I think they need to visit some of the coast of France and Europe! We're holding out for today though!

Man make fire! Man eat meat. Man stab himself with barbecue tools again! *sigh*

Of course, what is best with the embers of a campfire than toasting marshmallows. It is at this point that I will confess to never having done this before. Seriously! It's a rite of passage that I somehow missed!

Where there are boys and bubble wands there will be the next Sith war!
So for today we're off to the Monterey aquarium which we have been advised (by the same lady who advised the coast road!) is the best and not to be missed....... so watch this space!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brady Bunch hits the road

Well, kind of Brady bunch meets the Mystery machine!!

We're out of CT now, and on our travels again. We arrived in California on Tuesday afternoon ready to pick up our winnebago for our tour. Winnebago is probably the wrong word, think cross between a tranny and a campervan and you'll probably be closer to the truth. However, it works, although there has been a light on for the last 200 or so miles and the book tells us not to worry unless it's been on for three cycles (quite what defines a cycle, we have no idea, we're wondering menstural or pedal form?)

Our original plan was to go from Oakland (outside of San Francisco) up and through Napa for a few days, across to Lake Tahoe and then down to Yosemite. However, being fluffy lightweights at this camping malarky, one night without a hook up (for those of you not aware, that means without mains electricity to run the heating and lighting so thus relying on our generator which can only run for a couple of hours) we were like icicles in our sleeping bag by around 3am the next morning. It's not that warm yet during the night in California in Spring.

So, quick diversion via Walmart to buy cheap sweatshirt for sleeping in (of which this was a task in itself as the Californians are all hard by mid March and longsleeved anythings are for the grockles obviously and cannot be found in the local store!) we decided to opt out of spending the next three nights at this same campground and venture on to We also decided that two days in napa with smalls in tow would probably be about as much as they would allow us - unfortunately wine touring with smalls is not the best way to go about it! So we are now on a change of plan and are heading south - like the swallows - to find warmer climes and hook ups!!

We intend to be in Monterrey tomorrow evening, basking in warmth!!

Hopefully if the wi fi is all it's cracked up to be, I might be able to add some photos to this - well, that and the hopes my battery doesn't die and I can find the camera cable!

From Napa with love xx

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Displacement is a four letter word

Waaaahhh! I feel like stamping my feet and having a big meltdown somewhere right now. This so so hard. We are now in final days before the children finish at the school and we are then alone for a week before we leave for Ca.
The house feels like an oddly weird, but familiar stranger now, there is barely any furniture, our life has been wrapped up in paper and placed in boxes and removed. I feel like a part of my soul has gone with it. I feel totally and utterly displaced, neither really belonging here any more, or belonging in our new city.

Days are up and down, I have never felt this way about leaving somewhere before. When we left the UK, it was exciting, we didn't know what to expect, we had no preconceived ideas, then moving onto the States we hadn't really had enough time to form the bonds with Belgium that we have here.

Last night the boys did their school presentations. It was a lovely evening for them, I was so proud. But it really brought home that in less than three days now, we won't see some of these wonderful families ever again, the boys won't get the opportunity to continue through this amazing school and graduate from middle school having had one of the most diverse and organic educations that I have had pleasure to be a part of.

This morning I was given the opportunity to just sit and observe the families coming in and dropping off their children in some of the primary classes. It was absolutely amazing. I have been doing this for four years, but today, for some reason, I saw it in a completely different light. It brought my own memories of bringing the children when they were younger to the same classroom doors and our own "farewell for the day" rituals. Now we have the biggest and hardest farewell of our lives.

I am excited, of course, I don't remember who said "when one door closes another one opens, but we are so busy looking at the one that has closed that we don't actually see what is ahead of us" or something like that. It might have been Helen Keller... Anyway, I can really see how it can be easy to get so embroiled in living through the past that you forget to live in the present and look forward to the future. I need to help the children focus on what is to come but not to forget what they've had.

It has been one of the most amazing adventures of our lives. It wasn't exotic. It wasn't always wonderful. It was inspirational though and I am so grateful for what it brought us.

What else can I say?

I may not post now until we return to the UK, bookmark me and I'll be back!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Love in the time of Malt Vinegar.

I'd like to say that peace has resumed now the packers are gone, but whilst writing this I can hear LMB and Master Beehive the younger at loggerheads upstairs which, in a house with minimal furniture now, echoes!

The rental furniture company brought the furniture yesterday, which was interesting to say the least, as at one point yesterday there were 8 burly men inside my low ceiling-ed, twisty corridor-ed farmhouse!

"After you",

"No, after you",

"No, I insist"

"But I insist more!!"

So, now my house resembles something probably far more suited to Mrs Hannigan's guest house for slappers on Blackpool seafront* but it works for the short time.

I've been gradually collecting the bits that were forgotten by the movers which now have to go in our airshipment. Fortunately they aren't too big, a table lamp, a step stool, some oddments bottle of unopened malt vinegar. I can't believe they left the malt vinegar. That vinegar travelled all the way from Cape Cod to be in my kitchen in CT and it is going to the UK by hell or high water!! You can take the girl out of the UK, but you can't take the UK out of the girl - I like my malt vinegar on a nice haddock and chips!

Okay, because I know you're thinking "you can get malt vinegar in the UK", but you can't get it here, so the search that ensued last year when we found a restaurant that was offering it up with chips (yes, you read that right!) meant there had to be a source......somewhere....a supplier.....a spare unopened bottle in the restaurant (not really ;-))

So, now this precious bottle (still unopened you note) is sitting here on my counter top, looking at me, rejected. Not so worthy as to make it into the sea shipment.

Still, never mind, I think with the Blackpool decor, satin effect slightly smoke scented quilted throw with matching pillows (that I am too scared to use for fear of them spontaneously combusting on me in my sleep), and thin sandpaper towels that give you that freshly exfoliated feeling every time, it'll feel just right at home. All I need now is a bag of greasy chips and a styrofoam cup of mushy peas. What a night!
*disclaimer - Mrs Hannigans is not a real guest house and I apologise to all slappers if it appears I am insinuating that you would hang out in Blackpool, which of course, I am not.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The one with the mouse, the sticker and the windscreen wash.

Sit down for a second and you'll be packed. Put down that glass of water - it'll be gone, with the contents. Start to fill a form in and it'll be whipped away from under your nose along with the pen you were using. It's almost as bad as living with your mother!!

Yesterday saw most of the house packed and loaded onto the truck and headed to the warehouse to await reloading into the container.

In the evening, after it had all gone, I noticed a large hole in the wall where a bookcase used to be and an equally large pile of crumbled plaster. Master Beehive the younger was somewhat freaked out by the fact he could see into the wall and proceeded to "borrow" some packing tape to cover it over.
We hypothesised over what it might have been - over zealous movers with a pole? or was it there before we put the bookcase in front of it? However, later that evening I was teaching in the now very creepy house with not much furniture and lots of echoes and we hear crackling and rustling of packing tape. I think we now know what has enjoyed our wall for lunch, I only hope that in his desperate bid for freedom he isn't now firmly attached to the inside of the packing tape!

I have sorted out boxes of things, baking stuff for school (sugar, flour etc that haven't been opened yet) a box of dry goods to put in the parent room for people to sort through and help themselves, only to get back from Yoga to find them in box number 128 (drygoods)!! and god only knows where the windscreen washer fluid has gone that I left on the table yesterday to take to the car - probably in box 129 *sigh*!

So due to the keeness to pack everything in their sight, including full bins of garbage and toilet plungers (believe me, after the great toilet flood of Monday morning, I have no desire to see that plunger again for as long as I live!). I have gone around with my stickers today, putting "do not pack" stickers onto the things that have to stay. What I hadn't noticed as I dropped the kids off at school this morning was the one I sat on that firmly parked itself on my butt.

Not that it really matters if my hide is left behind!!

Monday, March 02, 2009

A comedy of errors

1 foot of snow,
No caffeine in the house,
One flooded bathroom thanks to American U bends and Little Miss Beehive's enthusiasm to unblock it herself with the plunger (the dining room only had water dripping through for about half and hour in four places!)
No snow plough up the drive because of the removal truck, so 800yards of self ploughed driveway otherwise there's no getting out until May.
Five burly packers
One broken lightbulb
talking apes - we're watching George of the Jungle - sums up the sanity in here!