Self-guided Learning

One of the great things about being a full-time traveler is that you can focus your energy and efforts on just one thing at a time without the daily distractions of typical life.  While on the road sometimes we’re exploring, sometimes we’re working, and sometimes we’re studying.

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This Semester: History and Culture through 1500 a.d.

Last year I studied physics (theory of relativity, quantum physics and astronomy).  So much has changed in physics since my youth.  So much fun!

This year I’m studying history from the beginning of human history to 1500 a.d.  I’m approaching this from four angles:

  1. World history (western and eastern) through 1500
  2. Cultural development through 1500
  3. Western literature through 1500
  4. History of creativity and technology through 1500hrvgpuko5pgkn6jaai-4nprbxu5oqhj7gpw86rqnxsspx92ib

Doesn’t that sound fun?  This will be a foundation for my next “semester” when I will probably explore from 1500 to present.

No, I’m not enrolled in a college.  I have a master’s degree, so I don’t need the twelve credit hours.  And college tuition is way overpriced these days.  I just want to learn, so I bought the text books recommended for the courses.  Nowadays there are online learning opportunities, and I may take advantage of some one day.  But I like this approach of just studying the texts for this semester.

As a 50-something, studying these texts is remarkably different than when I was a 20-something.  Experience has taught me that what they present as facts changes over time.  So I add my own grains of salt to their ideas about the origins of man and the first civilizations.  I anticipate that they will present different “facts” thirty years from now as they discover new artifacts.  That’s the nature of progress.  Sometimes I’m led to conclude — we just don’t know what happened in history at that time.

In addition to my “college classes”, Wendy and I are enrolled in two classes this winter with our boating friends:

  1. Marine Weather
  2. Marine Electrical Systems

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These 9-week classes are taught at the nearby John Wayne Marina by some amazing instructors with the United States Power Squadron.  These are practical classes designed to help us stay safe as we chug our ship through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Canada’s Inner Passage.  This is challenging stuff and Wendy and I are working hard to wrap our brains around marine weather and the electrical systems of a boat.  Part of the fun is to rub shoulders with our fellow students who are retired pilots, engineers, doctors and educators.  Smart and genuinely good people.

All I can say is — Wow!  What a privilege to have the time, energy and money to enjoy learning anything I want to study.  Life is good.

  • Clay

 

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Weekend in Seattle

We were planning on spending the weekend in Seattle anyway, so when the furnace blew up (Don’t worry, I like to say systems “blow up” when they stop functioning and have to be replaced.  If something really does blow up, I’ll let you know.) we figured, we can either hang around the AquaHot service center in Centralia, WA and fret about the thousands of dollars it will cost us to replace our hydronic heating system, or we can go to the Seattle Boat Show and pretend we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a boat.

So we left our coach in the capable hands of the Brazel’s RV Performance Center and got a great deal on a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) apartment in Seattle for the weekend.

Seattle is such a cool place.  A city surrounded by water with snow-capped mountains in the background.  And it’s a city famous for airplanes, with the historic Boeing factory.

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A Connie welcomes us to the museum.

So our first stop on Friday morning was to once again visit the Boeing Museum of Flight.  This may be one of the three best flight museums in the world.

Our tour guide, Bart, began our day with the fascinating story of the Wright Flyer.

Our tour guide, Bart, began our day with the fascinating story of the Wright Flyer.

A cornucopia of historic airplanes.

A cornucopia of historic airplanes.

The SR-71 surrounded by a gaggle.

The SR-71 surrounded by a gaggle.

The pointy end of the Concorde.

The pointy end of the Concorde.

They have airplanes and excellent displays for WWI on one floor, WWII on another, and an outdoor pavilion with a Concorde, a vintage Air Force One, a 747 and the new Dreamliner, each of which you can stroll through.  I had my pedometer going and we logged 3 miles Friday morning.

But if you really want to log some miles, go to a boat show.  After lunch, we headed to Century Link Field Event Center for the Seattle Boat Show.

Boats, boats everywhere!

Boats, boats everywhere!

What’s up with our interest in boats?  Well, Wendy and I love to explore.  And we love to experience things from a new perspective (i.e., airplanes, motorhomes, and …. boats).  There are three areas of the country that interest us that can only be truly appreciated from a boat.  So let me tell you about them.

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There are thousands of amazing scenes along the inner passageway of Western Canada.

Juan De Fuca Straits to Alaska via the Inner Passage.  This area is vast, with lots of islands and is relatively protected from the wide open sea.  Wendy and I have seen some of the wonders of these waters from the cockpit of my airplane and from an Alaska cruise liner.  But we have only touched the surface.  Since we’ve been in Sequim, WA we have become friends with many people who cruise their boats up into these amazing waters during six months between April and October and we think it would be way cool to do the same.

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The Great Loop.

The Great Loop.  Each year, hundreds of boaters travel the great loop, which circles from the Florida keys up through the intercostal waterway along the east coast, stopping at all the major cities and seeing things like the Statue of Liberty from the water, then inland through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, then down the Mississippi and down the western coast of Florida.  So we’re thinking this would be a fascinating challenge and would give us a whole new perspective. 5500 miles of perspective.

A beautiful playground.

A beautiful playground.

Caribbean.  For our 25th anniversary (11 years ago) I took Wendy on our first cruise in the Caribbean.  Boy was that habit forming!  We’ve been anywhere a cruise ship would take us in that area, including the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico and all the islands in between.  If we were to buy a boat to do the Great Loop, we would most likely want to motor on over to the Bahamas, since they are nearby.  Of all the places around the world we have snorkeled, the Exuma Cays were the best.

The only questions are: can our energy level and our pocketbook keep up with our ambition?  Hmmmm, we shall see.

Anyway, we had a great time at the boat show.  You can’t imagine how much research Wendy does before going to something like a boat show.  We have read at least a dozen books and mined Internet websites on boats and boating with the idea in mind that we might buy one to fulfill one of the above mentioned objectives.  So when we got to the show, we had a good idea of what we were looking for.

Aspen Power Catamaran.  We’re done with hoisting sail, so we were looking for a power boat.  After a lengthy conversation with Nick Graf at Aspen discussing his fathers’s boat design, we spent the rest of the day  looking at displays and boats (7 miles on the pedometer).

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40-foot Aspen C120 (Catamaran)

The next morning was Saturday and at the invitation of Larry Graf (designer and builder of the Aspen), we met him and his son at the boat dock and took a two hour cruise in Larry’s 40-foot powered cat design.  What a great opportunity for Wendy and me to spend time on the designer’s boat with him.  His enthusiasm was infectious, and with good reason. We love great designs and this one, with it’s asymmetrical proa hull design, silky smooth handling and awesome fuel ecomony was a complete winner.

Beautiful cockpit displays.

Beautiful cockpit displays.

Wendy and I had lots of fun putting this amazing boat through her paces.

And the scenery was awesome as we boated past quaint and colorful floating homes and watched lenticular clouds form over Mt. Rainier.

After visiting the Museum of History and Industry (these Seattlites are an innovative bunch: Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Nordstrum, Cinnabon, Eddie Bauer, Red Robin and Starbucks all started here), we capped the day off by walking the piers and having fish and chips at Ivar’s Acres of Clams.  Our top floor apartment on the hill looks out over bustling beautiful sparkling city as day turns to night.

We love Seattle.

Tomorrow, we plan to go through the Boeing airplane factory tour in Everett, north of Seattle and then take two ferries back to the Olympic Peninsula by way of Whidbey Island.  When you live by a HUGE ocean sound, there are two choices to get places: drive umpteen hours out of your way around the shoreline or suck it up and pay for ferries to hop through islands. Ferries are more fun.

The next couple of weeks should be interesting.  Our motor coach will be in the shop for 7 to 10 days while the AquaHot factory custom builds a new unit and ships it to Centralia, WA (2.5 hrs from Sequim) where it will be installed into our coach.  So we will be staying at a VRBO house in Port Angeles where Wendy will do a short stent of work (5 days over a 2 week period) to fill in for a vacationing ENT doctor.

And… we will continue taking our US Power Squadron Marine Electronics and Marine Weather courses with some great instructors.

We try to stay flexible and wing it as necessary.  Life is good.

  • Clay

Americana Emersion

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Jackson, Wyoming

Ahh, we are drinking deeply in Americana this week as we meander along the Oregon Trail on our way to the Northwest.

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Can’t seem to get enough of the famous pioneer trails! Oregon Trail, Baker City, Oregon.

We are camped at Mountain View RV in Baker City, OR.  This town is ready for Halloween!  The city streets are decorated with hay bundles and scarecrows.  The gold and orange leaves are falling in the neatly manicured old neighborhoods where, in just 24 hours, children will giggle with the thrill of knocking on doors and asking for treats.  What fun!

As I sit here writing, I can hear the distant train whistle.  The other day, we had lunch at a prototypical diner, Inland Cafe.  Wow!  Step back in time!  We had the sweetest waitress, a magnificent turkey dinner and a take-home cinnamon roll that melted all the way down. All for $22.  Don’t you love a diner where the town folks come in to talk about whatever comes to mind?

We just returned from attending the local LDS church, which you can see from our motorhome window.  One couple knew us because they had just been through the Martin’s Cove trek leader training program we helped lead in Wyoming.  We love to attend church each Sunday everywhere we go.  The Baker City 1st ward congregation is chuck full of children. These parents are doing an excellent job of raising their young ones.  It gives us hope for the future.  We enjoyed the Sunday School interactions.  Where else can you get this kind of wisdom and good feelings even though we have never met these people before? The church, it’s teachings and programs are the same all over the world.

Before we were full-time travelers, it was hard to tell the difference in our lives from one week to the next.  But now —- stuff is happening!

We started the week Monday morning by reeling in the electrical cord and leaving our 6-month home at Missionary Village near Devil’s Gate, Wyoming.  Our mission responsibilities there had ended.  But we couldn’t get out of the campground because some rogue missionaries (Elder Crist — repent!) had blocked the gate with detour signs.

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Road crew was busy preventing our departure

 

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Even the wood-working team got in on the shenanigans!

It was bittersweet to leave that place that stores so many memories for us now.

The weather was favorable, so we chose to head west via Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  We followed the Wind River Mountains northwest.  There was some snow at Togwotee Pass, but the roads were dry.  Pine trees!  Tetons!  Snake River!  After 6 months in the dry, sage-covered sand, we were ready to drink in the cool mountain scenery.

After window shopping and dinner in Jackson, we found a wide spot in the road and slept soundly that night.

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I don’t know many places that sell genuine triceratops fossils other than Jackson. At $300,000 it was a bargain! But, since it wouldn’t fit in the motorhome…

Although we considered a jaunt up to Yellowstone, all the animals Wendy wanted to see (moose and bear) are in winter disappearance mode and it was a rainy,cloudy day so we decided to continue on west instead.

Next stop: Uncle Earl and Aunt Sandy White’s place.

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You should see their garden in the summer- I’m coming back for the strawberries and raspberries.

Wendy has some amazing relatives. They live on the Snake River in a little Idaho town called Heyburn.  Here they have a small farm (White Cloud Ranch) where they raise a bobcat, cheetohs (exotic house cats), dogs, fancy chickens (Silkies, Frizzles), quail and peacocks.

 

We gathered multiple kinds of delicious fresh apples off the trees and took home a carton of multi-colored exotic chicken eggs.

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White Cloud Ranch is a treasure trove of fascinating hobbies and we’re always welcomed with great food (including purple fried breakfast potatoes, Sandy’s eggs, home canned pears and grape juice) and loving kindness.  We so loved the peaceful, fall scene looking out over the Snake River as the roosters crowed, chickens clucked and the peacocks strutted.

If you ever need any down-home therapy, head for the White Cloud Ranch!  Having family is a wonderful thing.

The next morning we rolled on to Boise, Idaho.  This was my first time visiting the city and I must say, I was surprised and impressed.  The economy is healthy and it’s a beautiful place with nice weather. They call it the Banana Belt as it remains relatively temperate in the winter.  So for those of you who would like to live out west, Boise should be on your possible’s list.

We arrived Wednesday afternoon and tracked down our friends, Chuck and Tonya King from our college days at Brigham Young University 33 years ago.

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We raised our first babies together at the Provo laundromat and thrift stores. They’ve been hard to catch up with over the years as they were living Hong Kong and Mexico City. We had a delightful dinner with them and reminisced and caught up on children’s lives and future plans.

Next day we visited Great-Uncle Cecil and Aunt Elsie Grow (Wendy’s relatives on her mother’s side).  It just happened to be Uncle Cecil’s 89th birthday.

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These people are endless!  They’re fit!  And they were so kind to us. We also spent time with Orri Grow (Grant’s son) and his daughter Natalie, who were visiting their grandparents. Wendy had fun quizzing Cecil and Elsie about their genealogy.

Wendy has fond memories of spending time in their home as a child and hanging out with their sons Craig and Grant.

Cecil and Elsie have served five missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hope to have that much energy to continue serving over the coming decades.

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Missionary plaques for Riverton California, Mongolia, Kenya, Nauvoo Illinois, Monterey Mexico

Friday was another 130 mile drive to Baker City, Oregon.  (You will notice we don’t go far each day.  What’s the rush?  The joy is in the journey.)  Saturday we were able to grab the last jet boat of the season with 15 delightful German high schoolers to go down the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon.

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Hell’s Canyon, Oregon- deepest canyon in North America at 7900 feet.

The canyon is formed by the meeting of two techtonic plates and not from the river carving its way into the earth.

We boated through level 4 rapids down the Snake and had lunch on the grounds of a remote, off the grid cabin at Sheep Creek. A bald eagle soared past us as we returned upriver. It was a wild ride intermixed with peaceful scenery.

And here we sit comfortably in our home on a Sunday afternoon.  One of the best things about this lifestyle is we can travel without pushing hard to get somewhere.  Plus, we’re never exhausted and rarely uncomfortable — because we bring our home with us including our couch, recliner and the most comfortable bed we’ve ever owned. (We also like the dishwasher, washer and dryer.)

Anyway, that’s what we did at our house this week.  It was a great time full of new insights, scenery and ideas.  How much fun!

-Clay