Thursday, April 27, 2017

I.A.Q. (Infrequently Asked Questions)

Lots of websites have FAQ's (frequently asked questions).  No one is asking these questions, so I'm calling them IAQ's - infrequently asked questions.

Q.  "Dr. V.  I've taken your classes.....  What do you and Mrs. Dr. V. talk about on the road for all those miles and hours?"
A.  We'll, there's a lot of general talk about backs and butts hurting, but Mrs. Dr. V. puts a stop to that and makes me quit.  We talk a lot about the country we're driving through and the people that live there.  We plan the future, we discuss the past.  If you've ever watched Seinfeld, there is one show where they are trying to get a pilot with NBC to do "a show about nothing."  Maybe it's like that.  Anyhow, it doesn't ever seem to get boring (for me, at least :-)

Q.  "I guess you listen to the radio a lot?"
A.  Actually, we've probably listened to the radio a total of about an hour on the trip.  Most of the
time when we want there are usually no stations we can pick up.  We made it a point to try to not listen to the news on this trip, and to just "check out."

Q.  "Do you eat out a lot on the road?"
A.  We don't eat out a whole lot, and most of the time when we do, one or the other of us gets sick in the stomach.  Mrs. Dr. V. is an UNCOMMONLY fine cook and baker, and we eat quite well in the rig.  I'm used to eating VERY well.  Right now she's making split pea soup with kielbasa.  As a couple of examples, for Easter, she made a braided Easter Bread, we've had pound cakes, peach cobblers, chocolate pudding, fresh bread, fresh rolls, and lots of other really good things that came out of the camper's oven.

Q.  "So, what is the best thing you ate out?"
A.  We ate at some fancy and very expensive restaurants with family and friends that we visited on the way.  However, oddly enough, my absolute favorite was the Mojo Pork found in the Publix grocery store.  We got this many times, and for me, its irresistible.  I love it.  Unfortunately, we drove out of the region where there are Publixes.  The best prepared food we had was, oddly enough, at a Taco stand in Seaside Oregon.  I had a chimichanga, and it was AMAZING.  You're probably thinking, what can you do to make a chimichaanga amazing, and I guess you'll have to go to Seaside, OR to find out.  Spectacular, and all the more so because the quality and the flavor were so unexpected.

Q.  "How far do you drive each day?"
A.  Well, the only time constraint we have is that we want to pick up our son, Erik when he gets out of school May 5th.  So, Karin calculated that to make it around in time we had to average 148 miles each day.  However, some days we stay at a base camp and don't drive.  I suppose that most days we're on the road, we do about 240 miles."

Q.  "Who drives?"
A.  We both drive.  Almost every day, I drive the first shift, and when I get tired, Karin takes over.  Generally, we try to drive 2 hour shifts.  Karin is a better navigator than I am, and I am a little better driving the rig in tight situations.  So when we can, we plan ahead to have me driving when we get to big cities or tight mountain roads.  When we're trying to navigate to campgrounds, grocery stores, and other places, we try to have Karin navigating.

Q.  "Someone told me that Mrs. Dr. V. was a 'Jersey Barrier Jinx.'  What is that?"
A.  They told you right.  We can be driving anywhere, anytime, and if Mrs. Dr. V. takes the wheel, within a few minutes we'll be in a tight, white-knuckled construction zone with those concrete Jersey Barriers on both side, looming tighter and tighter.  She can also jinx an open road in the middle of nowhere into being a stop and go traffic jam.

Q. "How fast do you go?"
A.  Slower than you :-)  We rarely go the speed limit, and on the interstate, rarely faster than 62 (even though the limit is 80 out here in Montana).

Q. "What the heck?!  Why are you driving so slow?"
A.  Try it sometime.  Driving a truck with a camper really is about 2 to 2 1/2 times harder than driving a regular car.  It's intense and tiring.  We drive a little slow, and instead of aggressively competing with the rest of the traffic, it just kind of happens around us.  Being a defensive driver is a lot easier way to go, and it saves on the ulcers and improves gas mileage.

Q.  "You've written a lot of blog articles.  How long does it take?"
A. Well, the first big secret is that Karin writes and co-authors a lot of them.  Irregardless, we each edit each other's writing unmercifully.  Mrs. Dr. V. keeps me from sounding like a fool when I write.  When we visit an interesting site, we'll take a hundred or so photos.  Some of these show what we are seeing so we can share it with you, but many of them are pictures of the signs and kiosks we see, so we have the information with us to add facts and figures to the blog entries.  I bought one of those cool "Write in the Rain" notebooks to take notes on the trip.  It's buried over there on the bookcase.  I took it out once to remember a password.  Everything is done on the camera.

Q. "It sounds like your camera is important, then.  What are you using?"
A.  We started with a small "do-all" Nikon Karin uses, and I used a Leica M8 with a 28mm lens and a Canon waterproof Powershot.  I found that the Leica wasn't fast enough to catch things I wanted to get, and I was mostly using the Canon....right up until I took it snorkling and killed it (I guess it was almost waterproof).  After that, I thought long and hard and did a lot of research and bought a Nikon D7200 with a 18-140 Zoom.  This camera rarely leaves our side, and in fact, it rides on the center armrest of the truck, so who ever is not driving can shoot pictures while we're on the road.  I can't speak highly enough of it, and the difference its made in the quality of the blog and our ability to write and report.

Q.  "Sounds like you take a lot of pictures, how do you deal with them all?"
A.  The camera uses two SD Cards to store them.  One is a 64 GB backup that we just leave in camera, and the other a 64 GB that we shuttle the pictures to a laptop with.  We copy the photos into appropriate directories and sub-directories, first by State, and then by location or topic.  The photo files are VERY big, about 24 mb each.  You wouldn't be able to view them on the blog like that, so we make a PowerPoint presentation for each blog, paste the desired photos into the presentation, and then compress the pictures using the editing tool.  The file with compressed pictures is exported as a set of JPEG images, which we upload into the blog.  As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time, and a lot of file space.

Q.  "Hey, speaking of time, you didn't answer my question."
A.  Each blog entry takes around 3-4 hours to write, depending on the internet service we get at whatever campground we stay at.

Q.  "Say....that actually sounds like work."
A.  Well, honestly, I expected work - hard work- but not this much.  On a given day, we might drive a couple hundred miles, visit one or more sites, record information, camp, and write one or more blog entries.  I couldn't begin to do it without Mrs. Dr. V pulling a ridiculous share of the load.

Q.  "You must have seen a lot of rigs at the 50-60 campgrounds you've stayed at.  What's your favorite rig?"
A.  I'm well known for being someone that always wants something I don't have, but in this case, we nailed it.  Our camper really is the absolute perfect rig for this trip.  We've spent the past 30 years walking the loops at campgrounds, checking out rigs to see which is the best.  This is my fourth Airstream, and the third one we've modified.  Ours  really is the best rig - the queen of the campground.

Q. "Well, isn't that nice for you!  But I'm a poor college student.  I can't afford that."
A.  For a long time, Mrs. Dr. V and I couldn't, either.  We slept in the back of station wagons and trucks, put our tent up on roadsides, skulked along to river put ins and waited till dark to pitch a tent by the river.  We've slept in backseats, parking lots - you name it, we've done it.  Many of the "tent only" campsites are very cheap (depending on the season and location even free), especially those offered by the forest service. But...we kept traveling out in the world and getting it on us.

Q.  "How is it taking your dogs on the trip?"
A.  Well, it wouldn't be right to not have them, so we brought them.  It does limit some things - sometimes we have to take turns visiting places that are not dog friendly - but on the whole, they open a lot more doors than they shut.  On any given day, probably 10 -15 people will come up to us to talk about our dogs.  People in campgrounds seem especially "dog-starved" and want to pat dogs.  My Border Collie Patch has one bad leg, so he kinda hop skips as he walks, and almost no one will let us go by without some comment or hi-pitched "aaahhhhhhhhhhhh."  In truth, he's spoiled and doesn't really care where he is or what he does, as long as he can see me.  He is a one-person dog. Our Poodle Sophie just wants to chase her donut, so as long as she gets to play until your arm falls off, she is happy.  Little kids especially love to pat her, because she is so soft.  One of the best things we bought on the trip was a small dopey looking plastic fire hydrant dongle that hangs off your belt loop and dispenses doggie bags.  It's indispensable (ha ha).

Q.  "You must about be ready for a glass of wine and to read that book over there.  What else do you want to share with us?"
A.  We're really honored that so many people are reading our blog, and from so many countries.  Share it with your friends and family, if you think they might be interested!  We have both learned a lot on this trip, and are both sad and happy to be on the last leg.

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