Owen’s New Classroom

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I found a volunteer opportunity here at a family support center (a homeless shelter). It’s specifically for families, providing them shelter and resources to help them get back on their feet.

For additional info: http://www.fscss.org

I was looking to do something to keep myself busy and at the same time, expand Owen’s homeschooling. This is the place where I can teach him what humanitarianism is.

I attended a volunteer training a few weeks ago for a host/greeter. It’s basically babysitting the front desk for 2 hours. I was supposed to sign up on the schedule but have been dodging their email because I didn’t want to do it. So hard to say no to such a good cause.

Finally, I wrote back and gave them an honest reply. I said it’s not what I had in mind for me and my son. I wanted to be more hands-on and use my talent. I explained that my personality type required me to be on the move constantly. Sitting at a desk at a quiet environment with nothing to do will be torture for me (& Owen). I asked the coordinator to please keep me in mind should she need help in other areas.

My honesty paid off because she wrote back and asked me what I had in mind. I proudly talked about my experience as a children’s event coordinator & host; providing arts & craft activities for the kids, hosting Lego nights, etc. this is where I would excel, I told her. I also emphasized that my son will be with me.

She wrote me back right away and Gave me two good news. One, she said its a family-friendly atmosphere and Owen is welcome to be with me.  Second, she had wanted to implement an arts and craft activity at the center on a regular basis. She asked me to come in to meet with her to collaborate.

The center is not like a homeless shelter you’ve seen in the movies. It looks and feels more like a center. It’s a place where I’d be comfortable hanging around with Owen, to be honest. They have offices there for the coordinators and an open lobby where the front desk is situated that overlooks the common area. The common area has a business corner, a TV/living area and a children’s section where I’ll be.

Our meeting was Monday and it went very well. I will be the center’s volunteer Arts & Craft teacher! Katherine the coordinator and I bounced off some ideas. We are going to have a sign up sheet to determine how many will attend. We’re also going to allow them to tell us what kind of activities they’d like to do. More importantly, we’re going to let parents sign up as helpers. Our first activity is decorating holiday-themed cookies.

Like I did at my community back in California, I will be taking pictures of the kids and creating collages and displaying their masterpieces and highlighting them on a bulletin board at the center. Starting January 2015, I will be volunteering twice a month. The best part is: Owen will be involved and meet children of different backgrounds. His humanitarian training starts here. The second best part is: I get to teach kids art and give them a sense of pride towards their creations.

Moral of my story: my goal was met when I started with being honest.

What I learned: My God-given talent is going to be used to make a difference in a child’s life, starting with my son’s.

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We made it to Anchorage, Alaska thanks to…

… a credit card’s miles reward program.  Our experience signing up with them paid for our Alaska trip. (They should probably use our story for a commercial.)

Anchorage Alaska was our main destination when we first decided to embark on this journey two months ago. But how in the world could we afford it, that was the question.

Before we left our home in California, Richard did some research and found that Capital One credit card has the best miles rewards program that suits our new lifestyle.

The Plan was: use the Capital One credit card for everything. Campsite reservations, food, gas, everything. It wasn’t hard to do. We only had this credit card and our bank debit card in our possession. Everyone accepted the VISA logo and I had years of practice using it… (Don’t tell Richard). Doing this paid off two months later…

We accumulated enough miles points that two of our airfare was free.
We accumulated enough miles points that two of our airfare was free.
Our car rental also qualified for the rewards points.
Our car rental also qualified for the rewards points.
And to put icing on the cake, our hotel was free as well.
And to put icing on the cake, our hotel was free as well.

I can’t speak the same for other cities in Alaska, but everything in Anchorage was expensive. They like taking advantage of the summer tourist. But that’s to be expected at any vacation destination. Either you go to Hawaii or Alaska, you’re bound to spend more than budgeted.

Average meal for three cost $70 on average. (That's without drinks.)
Average meal for three cost $70 on average. (That’s without drinks.)

1 airfare cost: approx $300, souvenirs, meals and seeing Owen’s face at every discovery: priceless. Oh wait, I should say, “What’s in your wallet?”

Oregon Welcomes Us!

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The drive from North California (Dunsmuir) to Ashland, Oregon had a few challenging parts especially with the construction going on (reduced to one lane). Richard says, “the last hill was tough, our speed was 35 mph and we let the trailer do her thing, not rushing her.” There’s nothing pretty to look at except for brown dry tall grass one hill after the next. Nevertheless, we made it safely to Glenyan RV Park; Richard backed into our full hook up site without problems, plugged in, hitched off expertly and settled into Ashland. This will be our home for the next 6 days. This is also where Richard turns 42 years young  July 18.


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For the next day or two, we’ve been getting a feel of Ashland, to see if this is a place where we’d like to settle. We’ve been to the local grocery store, exploring downtown where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is currently taking place. But while there, we spent time at the library where Owen was in heaven as was I and Richard.

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Entry foyer to Ashland Public Library.
Entry foyer to Ashland Public Library.
Firehouse.
Firehouse.

 

I don't know if you can see, but there was a deer at someone's front yard.
I don’t know if you can see, but there was a deer at someone’s front yard.

The Road to Bridgeport

June 14, 2014
The drive from Lone Pine to Bridgeport took 4.5 hours. It was beautiful and frightening at the same time. Literally breath.taking. After what happened on the drive up Alabama Hills, we were very wary of the truck hauling our 35-ft trailer. We followed a big rig going 30 mph and we stayed on him for a while. We matched his speed and followed along safely. I kept in contact with my sister Pauline via text. I needed someone who can keep me calm. She’d also be the one to give our location in case we fell off the mountain. She advised me to look at pictures of my niece Abby. But seeing her picture only made me sad because I miss her.

I won’t sugar coat our experience, the road conditions were rough! It was windy and high profile campers were not recommended to travel up Hwy 395. But Richard was determined and we pushed on mile after mile in the dark with the full moon guiding us.

The fullmoon guiding us in the dark.
The fullmoon guiding us in the dark.

We arrived at our destination at 10 pm. The hosts at Paradise Shores were so friendly and accommodating. They knew we were arriving late and kept their ‘open’ sign on and their office porch light on. After checking in, Alan not only assisted us back into our site, but he backed in our trailer FOR us. It took many tries but he did it. A neighbor heard us and he came out with his flashlight. He shed light on Richard as he unhitched the truck, etc. While Owen and I waited in the dark, tired and still jittery from the drive, another neighbor came and kept us company. He offered us water and was so welcoming. I was very touched by these people. They’re all so kind and helpful. I like to call them earth-bound angels.

Showered and settled into our trailer, we had a great night rest and woke up to the most stunning view of the Bridgeport reservoir. We put on our clothes, hiking shoes and grabbed the camera.

Nothing makes me happier than my little bear.
Nothing makes me happier than my little bear.

Lesson Learned: We’re never doing long drives like that again, especially if we know we’ll arrive in the dark and if elevation was unknown.

"I'm alive! We survived the drive!"
“I’m alive! We survived the drive!”

 

Collecting glassy obsidian rocks.
Collecting glassy obsidian rocks.

 

 

When Life Gives you Lemons….

It’s easy to say, “make lemonade”, but can you honestly remember the recipe for a good lemonade when you’re under a lot of stress?

 

I’ll keep it factual and drama-free, so here goes…

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On June 10, 2014: We were five minutes away from boondocking in the Alabama Hills in Lonepine when our truck started smoking. The oncoming car flags us. “There’s flames coming from under your truck.” This was the part where my maternal and survival mode was suppose to kick in but it didn’t. I froze and didn’t know what to do until Richard said, “Get out of the truck, I’ll grab the fire extinguisher!”. I grabbed my phone, my son and we rushed out of harm’s way. A stranger saw what was happening and pulled over. I was relieved when he ran over and assisted Richard.

By this time, I dialed 911 and reported our emergency. “We’re on Whitney Portal Rd, 5 miles up and I see sparks and flames coming from under our truck. My husband is using his fire extinguisher but the flames aren’t dying down.” I wasn’t calm and collected. I think I spoke in Tagalog half the time. The operator told me CHP (California Highway Patrol) are on the way as well as the fire dept. Seconds later, a ranger/fire fighter in civilian clothes appeared and radio’d for help, his extinguisher in the other hand. At this time, he didn’t need to use it because the fire had gone out.

Within 9 minutes, the brigade arrived.  Forest Service, Fire Dept., and the CHP were assessing the situation. I was distraught and my face must have looked it because the guy who pulled over and assisted Richard walked over to me and Owen and helped me calm down. He is the one wearing neon green shirt. I thanked him profusely for  helping us out until help arrived. He felt bad about our situation and wished us luck.

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At this time, I pointed out to Owen that we were amongst earth-bound angels. Everyone were on their feet, all strangers, helping out a family in need and in danger. Just then, Officer Brian took Owen and I under his wing. He explained to me that the transmission fluid leaked onto the hot exhaust and caught fire. Because our truck had been stored for a long time (only has 50,000 miles), the seal has aged and brittled.

Officer Brian gave us suggestions on what we can do. Instead of Triple A towing us into Bishop where there’s a Ford a dealer, we opted for a local mechanic to have our truck and trailer towed onto his lot. There, the mechanic John and Officer Brian set us up to stay on his lot at no charge. He hooked us up to electrical and assured us it was safe. Mechanic John told Richard he’ll take care of the truck first thing tomorrow morning. He had a line of cars that needed repairs but he was kind enough to give us priority. We were so grateful for Officer Brian who stayed with us until we were safe.

All shook up, we settled into our living room, mouths hung open. This was when my positive, optimistic self kicked in. It was the time to turn those lemons into lemonade…

We are firm believers that things happen for a reason (however tough and tragic it may be). This unforeseen mishap prevented us from real harm while boondocking. Heaven forbid, we fall off a cliff and get injured. But we didn’t.

We told ourselves things could have been worse. The fire stopped, the truck is still running, it didn’t explode or caused a forest fire. No one was hurt. Richard is fine, I’m fine and more importantly, Owen is alive and well. Things could have been worse.

The next morning, John the mechanic tells us the good news: transmission is fine, there are just a few parts that needed replacement. On top of that, we asked him to service it. While the trailer was there, he replaced the worn-out tires and got new ones.

Richard originally wanted our truck serviced after buying it, but somehow, with escrow closing and moving out, time got away and all forgotten. But looking at the bright side, the opportunity presented itself and the truck has been serviced and parts are updated and we can go back on the road safely.

 

EXPLORING LONE PINE

We learned what a beautiful rock volcano burp produces.
We learned what a beautiful rock volcano burp produces.

We stayed at Lonepine longer than planned 2.5 days but it wasn’t too bad. We’ve been here before and actually didn’t mind. The locals are nice. While window shopping, the owner educated us on what happens when a volcano burps. At the local library, we met the friendliest people. They accepted our (more) book donations, including a (heavy) printer that we don’t need.

More time to kill? That's ok, let's go get an ice cream sundae!
More time to kill? That’s ok, let’s go get an ice cream sundae!

Since the truck wouldn’t be ready til the next morning, we checked into a local motel and went swimming. We desperately needed to relax and reward ourselves for handling things well.

It had been a tough First Day but we knew how to deal with it. We didn’t let the  negative experience dampen our spirits. Instead, we looked at the the signs and learned from it. We made the best of the situation. No money wasted, no time wasted. Everything is fine and we’re ok.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am ready to serve my boys some lemonade. Care for a cup?

When life gives you lemons... Make lemonade!
When life gives you lemons… Make lemonade!

Laundry Day

Monday remains my laundry day. The only difference is, I have Richard my expert folding machine with me.

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Our adventure officially begins tomorrow when we leave our 8-day trial here at East Shore RV park. We’ll be heading to Lonepine and boondocking. I’ll tell you more about it after we take pictures. We’ll only be there for 1 night, then head to Bridgeport to explore Mammoth Lakes, Bodie Ghost town and other locations. I’ll also be going behind the wheel to gain some experience. No worries- it’ll be a straight drive only. Stay tuned!