Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'm Givin' it all She's Got, Cap'n!

The portable vacuum just didn’t sound right, and worse, it just wasn’t picking up the dirt.  Damn!  I hate it when the vacuum doesn’t suck.  I guessed that we probably had a math problem – the generator could only put through enough power to either a) run the water heater, or b) run the vacuum.  “c – both of the above” was apparently the wrong answer. 

Last year, our campsite at Warm River had electricity.  Shady Dell does not.  So we’re back to lighting up our nights, heating the water, and controlling the thermostat using battery power charged by solar panels and an occasional boost from the gas-powered generator.  We’re back to heating water to wash dishes, and we’re back to stovetop coffee.  Warp engines offline – it’s strictly impulse power for us this year.
This is as designed.  Most systems in the trailer run off the 12-volt battery.  For the past couple of weeks, however, we’ve been struggling to keep the battery charged.  We replaced the battery.  Twice.  Both times the battery discharged and wouldn’t ever come up to a full charge – no matter how sunny the day or how long we ran the generator.  And last Tuesday, as we watched the snow level rise and the battery charge level fall, we knew we were in trouble.  We didn’t have enough battery to run the furnace. 
Being the ever-prepared campers that we are, we put our zero-degree sleeping bags between the sheets of our bed and hunkered down for a cold night.  We woke to 33 degrees outside and 37 degrees inside.  Brrrhhhh!  A portable propane heater and lots of hot coffee came to our rescue. 
We tested the inverter.  It was OK.  We tested the wiring.  It was OK.  Must be the battery – again.  So while Paul took the battery into town to be tested / charged, I decided I’d break out the vacuum.  I started the generator.  I plugged the vacuum in and turned it on.  Nothing happened.  I tried every outlet in the trailer.  No power.  I guess I should have paid more attention the last time the vacuum didn’t suck.  Apparently, for the past two weeks, all our generator has been generating is noise and fumes.
Last weekend’s challenge was to keep the battery above 50% so the solar panels could keep it with enough charge to run the lights and the refrigerator’s electronics.  Running the furnace was out of the question.  Thankfully the snow melted in favor of more temperate evenings.
Today’s mission – to boldly go and buy a new generator.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Federal Passports 101

This is our third year camp hosting, and one of our more challenging duties is explaining to our customers why we can’t waive the campground’s Day Use fees when they present an Interagency Recreation Pass – also referred to as a Federal Passport.
In 2007, The Federal Government announced an all-inclusive Interagency Recreation Pass titled "America the Beautiful - the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass."  We see three types of passes:
·         The Senior Pass, which is a lifetime pass available for a one-time $10 charge to anyone 62 or older.

·         The Access Pass, which is a lifetime pass available free of charge to any handicapped individual.
·         The Annual Pass, which costs $85 per year.
According to www.fs.usda.gov, Interagency Recreation Passes are honored nationwide at all Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish & Wildlife Service sites charging entrance or standard amenity fees.
An entrance fee is self-explanatory – you pay to get past the gate.  Every National Park has an entrance gate.  But what is a standard amenity fee?  Per http://www.fs.fed.us/passespermits/about-rec-fees.shtml#standard, examples of standard amenity areas are picnic areas, developed trailheads, and destination visitor centers.  The site explains further:
Typically, standard amenity fees are day use fees, often covered by a day or annual pass. Each site or area must contain six "amenities," which are picnic tables, trash receptacle, toilet, parking, interpretive signing and security.
The same publication defines Expanded Amenity Fees as fees for areas that provide direct benefits to individuals or groups.  Examples include Campgrounds, highly developed boat launches and swimming areas, cabin or lookout rentals. Services like hook-ups dump stations, special tours, transportation systems and reservation services.
So, even though a campground provides standard amenities, the fact that it is a campground puts it into the expanded amenities category and payment is required even if you have a Federal Passport. 
The good news:  Many recreation uses and activities continue to be free on all National Forests, such as general access, pass-through travel, scenic overlooks and pullouts, parking on the side of roads and walk-up camping at undeveloped sites.  Better news – most campgrounds offer ½ price on overnight camping to holders of the Senior Pass and the Access Pass. 
The Annual Pass is not honored for discounts at some campgrounds – including ours.  I haven’t found an explanation for that one.  I’ll keep looking.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chapter 4: The Toughest Decision

After a second episode of congestive heart failure symptoms that caused her lungs to fill with fluid and caused an emergency trip to the local hospital, Mom made the decision to no longer prolong her life.  She didn’t want the fluid drained – again.  She didn’t want any more painful procedures.  She is ready to go on to the afterlife where she is absolutely certain that Dad waits for her.

Our sister called the local hospice to arrange for her end-of-life-care.  We were familiar with the hospice mission and philosophy, which follows word for word.  Per the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (nhpco.org):
Hospice provides support and care for persons in the last phases of an incurable disease so that they may live as fully and as comfortably as possible. Hospice recognizes that the dying process is a part of the normal process of living and focuses on enhancing the quality of remaining life. Hospice affirms life and neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice exists in the hope and belief that through appropriate care, and the promotion of a caring community sensitive to their needs that individuals and their families may be free to attain a degree of satisfaction in preparation for death. Hospice recognizes that human growth and development can be a lifelong process. Hospice seeks to preserve and promote the inherent potential for growth within individuals and families during the last phase of life.
The assisted living center where she had stayed the past two months was not equipped to handle the skilled care that Mom would need, so our sister moved her to a larger facility.  The ratio of nurses to patients in Mom’s wing is 1 to 6, and the nurses are capable of assisting her with bathing and toileting as well as administering medication and painkillers.  Of course, the cost is almost double.  In the assisted living business, more care costs more.  It makes sense.
We visited her in the new care center.  She was having a bad day, and told us she was really, truly, ready to go.  She was in pain.  She wanted to lie down.  We asked the nurse if she could have more morphine.  About a half hour later a nurse brought a syringe without a needle, which was used to administer the drug orally.  She lay in her hospice-supplied hospital bed and closed her eyes.
I held her hand.  She was a bit cold.  I watched the veins in her fingers expand and contract under the involuntary tremors of her Parkinson’s disease.  I watched her slow, steady breathing, enabled by the cannula that wrapped around her face.  I listened to the oxygen machine pumping slowly, almost laboriously.  I memorized her face, now peaceful as she drifted off to sleep.  I see a faint smile, and I hope she is dreaming of Dad, and dreaming of joining him in a better place. 
She waited only a few days longer.  Mom left this world and joined Dad today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Frank’s Tour

Hi, I’m Frank.  If you haven’t met me yet, you can read my story at The Story of Frank.  I’m guest posting on Cheri’s blog today to give you a grand tour of Shady Dell and Cobblerest campgrounds.

Spring Runoff through Shady Dell
Let’s start with Shady Dell, which is where Paul and Cheri are staying this year. The campground is situated on the Provo River in a pine and aspen forest. It has twenty sites.  All are paved, and many are large enough to accommodate large trailers and large family groups.  They even have five pull-through sites.  Fees are $18 a night with an $8 charge per night for extra vehicles.
Moving east – and up – to Cobblerest.  Cobblerest is also on the Provo River.  It has 18 paved sites.  The sites in Cobblerest are smaller and located closer together.  There are two pull-throughs.  The campground is covered in dense pine forest.  Many of the sites have great river access.  I think Cobblerest is the prettier of the two campgrounds.  The downside of Cobblerest is that there is no potable water available.  Bring your own – or you can fill your RV tanks at Soapstone, which is located about 2 miles west of Shady Dell.  Shady Dell has water, but the water system was built in the 1940s and just isn’t robust enough to handle a hose connection without the risk of backflow contamination.   Fees at Cobblerest are the same as at Shady Dell.
Provo River at Cobblerest
On the Mirror Lake Highway the rule is: the lower the elevation, the lower the fees.  Shady Dell and Cobblerest are among the lower elevation campgrounds.  The lower elevation campgrounds open earlier in the season; in fact, Cobblerest was the highest elevation campground open over Memorial Day weekend.  The high mountain lakes, Trial Lake, Moosehorn Lake, and Mirror Lake, still have several feet of snow. 
The snow is melting now – and you can see it coming through in the height and rush of the river running through Cobblerest and Shady Dell.  It’s beautiful this time of year.  Come up and see us, and don’t forget to ask for Frank.