Tag Archives: snow

Is This Your Idea of Fun?

"Fun" in the snow - Christmas 2005. Enough already!
“Fun” in the snow – Christmas 2005. Enough already!

Carrying on with my rant in this post, daytime temperatures in our box are as difficult to control as nighttime temps. Heat explodes through four floor vents spaced within 12 feet. As the temperature rises we begin gasping for breath and grow pale and nauseous with heat exhaustion.

When the furnace finally cuts out, the atmospheric pressure in our ‘cabin’ drops, making my ears pop. The silence is welcome but sudden, like unplugging your teenager’s stereo. One of us will be caught in the middle of shouting a sentence as the roar abates and my tinnitus becomes apparent again in the quiet. The heat wave recedes and recedes and recedes and goose bumps make a reappearance. Then the fight ensues over the furnace remote.

The location of the thermostat remains a mystery to us so we don’t know if it is affected by the stove or where we sit pumping out bad vibes or our own hot air as we complain.

Depending on our latitude and altitude and simply the vagaries of the weather we can be alternating from day to day with heating and air conditioning and back to heating. The trailer acts like a greenhouse, warming quickly in the sun and cooling down just as quickly as a cloud comes over.

Curiously this cooling phenomenon doesn’t happen at sunset; the trailer holds an uncomfortable level of heat until 5 am when the temperature plummets and it is then impossible to get warm and get back to sleep. I’d get up and get on with the day but what can you do when your other half is snoozing happily in the same ‘room’?

The air conditioning vents are in the ceiling, less than a foot from my head sending arctic blasts down the back of my neck and ruffling my hair. Jimmy is okay. He tends to find something to do and sits in a pocket of still air between gale winds. I twist the vents away causing the flame to blow out on the stove, then twist the vents again away from the stove. As I move up and down our tiny kitchen area I get gusts from three different directions.

All I want is for the temperature to be just right and stay just right. Is that too much to ask?

I suppose the subjects of terrorism, government, airline policies and finances (mentioned here in case you are thinking, where did that come from?) can be lumped together for the purposes of this rant. Terrorist threats have prompted the government to put stricter security policies in place which will cost the airlines more to implement, justifying yet more fees on our already escalating airfares back to the UK.

We now pay to eat, to imbibe, to take a suitcase, to book a seat. Soon they will charge you to sneeze. Used to an endless supply of free wine, we tell ourselves that orange juice is so much healthier.

More importantly (than a glass of wine? Heck!) we are questioning whether we can afford to fly to the UK every spring and autumn, as we have been doing, to see our grown up children and little grandchildren. Airfares have gone up, health insurance premiums have gone up, the pound against the dollar is down, interest rates are down. I’m not sure we can live here at all if we can’t afford to see our family regularly.

Bonjour France?

Hola Espana?

Buongiorno Italy?

G’day Sydney? A third grandchild has been born in Australia.

Himself won’t live in England. Don’t get me started on that.

The view from our RV. It may look familiar to many of you!
The view from our RV Christmas ’05. It may have a familiar look to many of you!

Poems for Boys (and Girls) Cold! Hungry!

Even the crows were shivering at the Grand Canyon. The poor fellow was reduced to begging. We met them at every turnout. Or was it the same one every time?

090217G'Canyon 012a

You can’t see Jimmy in there but the crow is staring imploringly at him.

Frozen in Place, Help!

5°F? Surely not.  Our last night at Williams where we camped in order to drive up to the Grand Canyon I slept until about 3:00 a.m. when the cold started to ooze through the walls of the trailer. My freezing nose, all that was exposed, kept me awake. When I could stand it no longer, I leapt out of bed to turn up our blast furnace, put the kettle on for tea and retrieve a thermometer from the outside step. It said 5°.

View from our campsite. Tell me that doesn't look cold!
View from our campsite. Tell me that doesn’t look cold! Those are straw bales insulating the water hookups.

I blinked and looked again certain I’d read it wrong and watched the mercury quickly rise through 10° and 15° in the relative warmth of the trailer. The cold outside didn’t seem to matter at the time as the few cubic yards of the trailer soon cozied up with the fire breathing dragon that is our forced air furnace.

As it happened the cold outside did matter. We soon discovered that the trailer was frozen into place.

We’d pictured in our naïve European minds the whole of Arizona as a sunshine capital, warm and bright in the winter and blazing in the summer. Parts of it are like that. If I’d read Wikipedia beforehand I would have discovered that “the northern third of Arizona is a plateau at significantly higher altitudes than the lower desert” and “extreme cold temperatures are not unknown.” Well I know that now.

Ok you guys from the north, I know that doesn’t look like much snow to you.
Ok you guys from the north, I know that doesn’t look like much snow to you.

Let’s be clear about this. We are tourists traveling in a trailer, not campers who enjoy roughing it. We don’t, and never will, own hiking boots. Any trail requiring more equipment than a pair of trainers is off limits to us. Many people around the world tolerate and cope with frigid temperatures every winter and in considerably less comfort than we are able to afford. Some hardy souls sleep in tents in this weather. For fun. We hate the very idea of it.

I know I'm smiling at the camera but Crikey! it was cold.
I know I’m smiling at the camera but Crikey! it was cold.

The day before, I’d seen an earnest young man, his narrow back heaped with camping gear, stride off from the trailhead at Grandview Point – a viewpoint for sissies and inappropriately shod tourists at the Grand Canyon – and disappear from view at three o’clock in the afternoon. It would soon be dark . . . and cold . . . very, very cold. We stood on the rim and admired the canyon from the chilly height of 7,000 feet. As the backpacker descended from us he would get warmer, even snug on the canyon floor, but I’d visions of the poor fellow sinking into the bowels of hell, at least my version of it.

The plumbing on trailers is vulnerable to freezing weather so we always take precautions when freezing temperatures are predicted, disconnecting hoses, draining tanks and bringing inside the trailer gallon bottles of water for bathing and washing dishes. It was laborious to heat our washing water on the stove but that day it was a way to procrastinate going outside.

When we could put it off no longer and forced ourselves out to begin the hitching process by winding up the corner jacks, our steadying supports, we found they were concreted into the ground. Successive thaws and freezes had done the work. Forcing the mechanisms would break them and little kicks rewarded us with stubbed toes and jarred ankles. Jimmy gave the base of one of the jacks an angry jab with the jack winder and impaled it into his palm, drawing blood and bad words.

Within moments of stepping outside of the trailer we had become numb in the frigid air. We were frantic to leave Williams before having to suffer another arctic night. How could we possibly get out of this predicament?

The Grand Canyon train arriving into our bleak landscape just before dark.
The Grand Canyon train arriving into our bleak landscape just before dark.

Whistling Sid

I could do the weather forecasting here. “It will be mostly gray and will probably rain.” In our experience that would cover most days of the year.

We think that we rely on weather forecasts to plan trips in our trailer, where in fact we were oblivious to imminent wind storms that crushed RVs and blocked roads and then snow and ice that caused fatal accidents. Both storms followed us at a discreet distance up the west coast to our cosy apartment in Olympia and we viewed the all damage on TV. Still, we watched the forecasts in the belief that they would be correct before the weather happened. Often they are not. Predicting the capricious weather thrown at the Northwest by the Pacific is not easy so was often incorrect but the forecasts could be very entertaining.

Our favourite presenter by far was Whistling Sid. My guess was that he had some dental enhancement done and he hadn’t quite got the hang of his new pearlers. We listened eagerly for severe storms, snow and sleet, scattered showers, snow showers and scattered snow showers especially if they were predicted for Saturday and Sunday. Any weather in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s ended with whistle – about a high C I would say or perhaps a C sharp.

We don’t need a weather forecast to tell us that!

One night Siskiyou Pass and Stampede Pass were expecting heavy snow with isolated snow showers in Seattle and Shelton. Heavy snow was expected on the eastern slopes and summits of the Cascades with scattered snow showers into Saturday and Sunday east of the Cascades as far as Spokane and Boise. Try saying all that with an emphasis on all the s-s-s’s. If it hadn’t been snowing outside our window we would have thought that a devious script writer had made it all up.

Sunny wasn’t mentioned. Whistling Sid didn’t seem to have much use for that word around Western Washington.

With or without Sid, we were just lucky to miss all the bad weather while puttering down the coast in our little box house.

How Not to Buy a Car – Part 2

The rest of the story is so excruciating I can hardly bear to relate it to you. After waiting a week, Teddy, the grinning salesman, was anxious to conclude the deal and phoned us to check on the progress of our funds. Jimmy advised him that we were approximately $3,000 short of the total not feeling the need to explain why (sales tax booboo).

Teddy was asked if a post dated check for the balance would be acceptable and he agreed. We borrowed truck and drove a wearisome hour and a half in the snow up the busy Interstate 5 through Seattle to pay for and collect our car.

On our arrival at the dealership Teddy showed us the car, anxious to get rid of it and us no doubt, handed us the keys and our temporary license plates. We moved on to the reception desk to make payment with two checks, the second of which would be post-dated as agreed. Only at this point did dear Teddy decide it would be prudent to check with his manager if that would be acceptable.

We were left standing drumming our fingers on the reception desk for ten minutes, dangling the new keys and expecting at any moment to drive away in our new car. You can guess the rest. I’m a little too ashamed of my behaviour to relate it in full but I let the sales manager and finance manager know that I was displeased that they had all wasted our time.

Jimmy was angry as well but anxious to salvage the deal that had already been struck for the one car in the whole of the State of Washington that was exactly what he wanted.

Before embarking on a fourth trip up the tiresome Interstate, Jimmy took the precaution of phoning the finance manager to be told he wasn’t in on the day and at the time when he had promised us he would be.

The duty manager phoned back and told us that our now proposed plan of paying partially by check and the small outstanding amount on my brother’s credit card (our own credit cards were still an unresolved issue, No Credit !*#@!), as had been suggested previously by the finance manager, would be subject to a 3% charge on the credit card portion. Apoplectic, we got increasingly terse with this new member of the saga until he said he would take care of it.

Jimmy went in to conclude the deal while I was told in no uncertain terms to stay in the car until the transaction was completed. I pondered possible scenarios of outcomes at great length to amuse myself; the dealer would knock the outstanding $3,000 off the purchase price as compensation for our wasted trips and distress or throw in a motorcycle that stood oddly out of place in the showroom or give us free coffees. It was only the previously offered car keys and temporary plates with which Jimmy returned.

When we went back to collect our permanent license plates I asked to be dropped at IKEA on the way. Foolishly, I thought I’d seen the last of that dealership. There is, I’m sorry to say, a Part 3.