Book Review – Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

If you want to feel better about yourself as a parent, you should read this book. It gives you some pretty descriptive detail about how to be the shittiest parents possible.

Fourth of July Creek takes you back to the early 80’s, and introduces you to the Pearl family. This family is extremely religious, and heavily lean on conspiracy theories to keep themselves thoroughly crazy as they live in the wilderness, completely off-grid. A CPS worker, Pete Snow, gets wind of the family and shows up to try and help – and it eventually leads to ATF and the FBI searching for the family – and for Pete.

Maybe the conspiracies aren’t just theories anymore.

Even though this type of story is normally not my thing, the novel was good. The characters are colorful, giving you an in-depth look into some pretty serious cuckoo birds, and some pretty intense assholes.

My full opinion – worth the read, but probably only once.  

 

It’s Just How Geeks Roll – Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington

We at Write on the Road tend to avoid big cities whenever we can – so recently we tackled Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington all in the same week – because we also like to make ourselves cry.

We got it raw…

We had to be in Portland for a few days, so we filled our time finding geeky stuff to do. 

…and lots of books.

Who says size matters? The Guinness Book of World Records – Portland is home to the World’s Smallest Park. Mill Ends Park is just 24” in diameter and 452.16 square inches.

Mill Ends Park
This is it. No really. This is it.

Who else says size matters? Me, when a bookstore takes up an entire city block! We visited Powell’s City of Books, America’s largest independent bookstore. It was amazing. It smelled of books, new and old, and coffee. There were a LOT of people shopping while we were there, but it was okay – book people are okay.

A bag of books. Just add wine for instant happy!
Sniff them. Do it. All the cool kids are.
A city block full of books. This is just one section of heaven here.

We also hung out for a few hours at the Clackamas Town Center Mall. Best stores – Hot Topic and Barnes and Noble. Now I own a badass beanie, and my to-be-read-pile is ridiculously large (and now we’re talking about size again). To finish up our shopping, we visited the StarWarsStore store near the mall. The store is small, but the space is filled with so many collectibles that it was nerdgasmic. 

Are you okay, Anni? Anni, are you okay? Are you okay, Anni?
Maximum effort!
Made the Kessel Run in 12 parcsecs…

To end our Portland adventure we found The TARDIS Room Cafe. With hopes of fish fingers and custard, we arrived for lunch – only to be disappointed by a closure for remodel. 

The construction workers have the phone box.

After our few days in Portland, we were ready to get on the road again.

Portland, Oregon, thanks for being nerdy with us!

We headed north, and briefly stopped in Seattle, WA.

How do they thread the space through the needle?

I try to be a supportive spouse. I support Mike in most things, and when I don’t it’s because he has had some stupid idea to…I digress. I support Mike in most things, and it was no different when he decided to take a religious trek to sacred ground – CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks.

“…it’s one thing saying you’ve got the best god, but sayin’ it’s the only real one is a bit of cheek, in my opinion.” – Terry Pratchet

I don’t give any craps about football – but Mike does. He has been a fan of the Seahawks since he was a wee lad, and he was thrilled to stop by Centurylink for a quick look-see. It wasn’t a tour day, so we didn’t really get to see the field open, just through the fence. The store was open there, and although I don’t give any craps about football, I do love me a new hoodie – so guess who’s a Seahawks fan now? Still not me, but I got a new hoodie anyway.

Wave your flags and banners, sports fans!
12 is okay. 42 would have been a better answer.
The view from the cheap seats. Really cheap seats. The free ones outside the locked fence…
Or the 42’s!

Seattle has a ton of things that we wanted to see and do, but we didn’t have time for this trip. Travel through Washington will be a regular thing for us from now on, as family members have moved up there and we will be visiting often.  Looking forward to the Space Needle and the Pop Culture Museum next time through!

After Seattle we kept driving north – eventually all the way to the Canadian border…

UP NEXT – The most northwesternest you can get in the continental US.

 

A Book Review – When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
A Book Review

In a world similar to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Hillary Jordan’s world of When She Woke takes place in a future where women have little, to no, choice on what they can do with their bodies.

Criminals are not often kept in jails or prisons anymore, instead their skin is dyed a color that matches their crime. The protagonist, Hannah, wakes in a temporary cell with her skin dyed a deep red. Scarlet. The color of murder. The victim was her unborn child.  

The current political climate of the United States makes this novel seem less like science fiction, and more like a premonition. Religious leaders, such as Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen, try so desperately to make us (especially women) live a guilt-ridden life, terrified of upsetting a very angry god. In this story we watch Hannah wake up to the reality of life and religion – and maybe start making choices to follow her own beliefs and not those of the “righteous” men that run the country. 

Book Review – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A Book Review

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel that takes place in the future in what used to be the United States. The novel shows us a future that the majority of women have fought quite hard to prevent. The land is ruled by men and religion. Most women are infertile (according to the men), so those that are fertile are trained to become handmaids.

“And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.” Genesis 30:1

The handmaids live with a Commander, and their wife, and are forced to have sex with the commander every month during their most fertile time. This story follows Offred, a handmaid to Commander Fred, and his wife, Serena Joy. Offred used to be known by another name, and used to be known as a mother and a wife. Offred yearns to find her way back to her daughter and her husband – if they are even still alive.

The Handmaid’s Tale is terrifying – and touching. In a world where your choices are taken away, would you make a final choice for yourself anyway?

 

Let’s Talk Workamping

Let’s Talk Workamping

Need to find something to do with all your extra time? Maybe workamping is for you!

This last January we spent three months caretaking for Key’s Ranch inside Joshua Tree National Park. The caretaker position there didn’t pay a wage, but we had space for the trailer, water, garbage, and reimbursement for our propane. The job description included helping park rangers with daily tours of the ranch, helping lost hikers find their way, and making sure there were no vandals on the property. It was a simple job, and the rangers at Joshua Tree were great to work with. It was an amazing experience that I am quite grateful for.

Keys Ranch

We were just recently hired for a Fire/Equipment Watch position in Oregon.  This job description includes fire watch for a few hours after quitting time for the work crew, and equipment watch during the night and weekends. They decided to go ahead and hire for the position because some jackass used their equipment tires as target practice a few weeks ago. We are paid a daily stipend with this job, which is great. We’re responsible for our own power (solar!), water, and propane. They do provide a port-a-john, and I learned today that I have to share my port-a-john with the crew sometimes. I’m not super thrilled about this, but I think I’m going to try leaving packages of maxi pads and tampons in there to keep the guys out – I will keep you updated on how that works for me. 

This is part of the area that we are keeping watch over. (Photo credit unknown)

Now you would like to know where we find these kind of gigs, right? Well, if you wouldn’t like to know, you should go read something else.

There are a lot of workamping sites available online. Most are free, but some do charge for a membership.

Sugar Beet Harvest Short term positions offer excellent compensation and attract applicants from all over the United States and Canada.

Workamping JobsHelp Wanted Ads for Campgrounds and RV Parks looking for RV workers.

Cool Works– Jobs in Great Places. Where Do You Want To Be Tomorrow?

Workers on Wheels   – Work For RVers And Campers. Sets you free with temporary, seasonal, and mobile jobs that pay.

American Land & Leisure – Here you’ll find information about the facilities we manage and about working with AL&L.

Modern Day NomadsFollow Your Dream Job: Top Travel Jobs & Inspiration for Globetrekking, Creative Professionals

Government Volunteer Positions

Volunteer.gov – Find volunteer positions within the government at National Parks, Army corps of Engineers, etc. 

State Parks – Look up individual states to find what workamping positions they may have available, like Oregon

Craigslist – If you have a location in mind, use Craigslist.org to find workamping positions. Make sure to search under Jobs and Gigs. 

Indeed.com – Use the desired location zip code and keywords to find workamping jobs. Keywords: workamping, caretaker, host, fire watch, etc.

 

Complaints from RVers About Other RVers

Complaints from RVers About Other RVers

We are members of quite a few RVing groups on Facebook, and they are a great source of information, and they have a lot of experienced RVers to answer your questions. The groups are 90% useful and 10% grumpy farts. There’s always a handful that have to throw poo like they skipped a step in the evolutionary process…

So, I’m going to talk about the complaints I have seen the most from RVers about other RVers. You can use the information to avoid pissing people off – or to make it a lot worse if you don’t care how bunchy their panties get.

Kids Having Fun
Seriously, this is a complaint that I have seen more than once. What we full-timers need to remember is that this is our life. We get to stay at these parks, travel, and relax or explore whenever and however we like. The weekenders or vacationers are trying to make the best of the limited time they have before they have to go back to work. Have some patience! Take a good listen to a kids’ laughter – it could be contagious!

Gee, Mr. Wilson. Unknot your drawers.

Unleashed Dogs
First, we are dog owners. We have two full-sized dogs that you can learn all about them here. Second, your dogs should ALWAYS be on leash when outside. That is the rule 99% of the time, so follow it. If your dog is amazingly well-behaved then congratulations, and they shouldn’t mind being on a leash because they are so amazingly well-behaved. Also, it makes my dogs jealous that yours are off leash and mine are all dressed up with them. Stop making my dogs jealous. Just follow the rules.

It’s really not that hard to follow the rules…

People Walking Through Your Campsite
Okay, I gotta go with the grumpy farts on this one. If it’s isn’t your campsite, stay out of it.

I feel a little violated just reading the sign.

Generators
“They have their generator on all night long.” “It’s so loud.” “The fumes come in my window.” Okay okay, okay. I get it. You are probably out RVing because you like the outdoors; because nature sounds and smells better than a city every time. But we all travel differently. We don’t own a generator, but have some great portable solar panels. BUT we do not use much power. No TV, no microwave, etc. We’ve gotten annoyed by a generator a time or two, but having a camping neighbor come tell us about his heart monitor that needs charged often (he is on the heart transplant list) reminded us that we don’t know what other people got going on in their lives, so we probably shouldn’t gripe about any of them…well, maybe a few of them. 

You can gripe about these guys.

LINKS on RVing Etiquette (I do not necessarily agree with all of these, or any of them, but thought I would share other opinions too, even though mine is really the only one that matters.

10 Commandments of RV Etiquette  

Campground Etiquette

RV Etiquette

Book Review – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Book Review

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Another suspenseful thriller by the author of Gone Girl. Dark Places is the story of Libby Day who confronts her traumatic childhood memories of the murder of her mother and two sisters.  Libby begins her own investigation into the murders, and into the possibility that her brother is innocent of the crime.

Flynn is a great storyteller. She creates interesting and flawed characters that the reader can really connect with. I would recommend, both, Dark Places and Gone Girl.  

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.”
― Gillian FlynnDark Places

“I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.”
― Gillian FlynnDark Places

“But I was born bent out of shape. I could picture myself coming out of the womb crooked and wrong. It never takes much for me to lose patience. The phrase fuck you may not rest on the tip of my tongue, but it’s near. Midtongue.”
― Gillian FlynnDark Places

 

BRAKE ASSIST

Story Time – Old God New by M.D. Parker

It was a soft chime that signaled the readiness of the mixture. She considered it for a moment; a soft chime. There should be bells and celebratory horns of cheer, she thought. If only this machine knew what it had just done.

She gripped the cylinder with all four gloved digits wrapped tight. A thought launched from her lower brain, traveled down the cable into the robotic arm of the lab’s chair and swung her around. She came face to face with the tube. The side was open and waiting, like the arms of a mother. Gently, she laid the canister in and locked it into place. The tube’s walls closed in checkerboard materialization until the sidewall was whole and solid. The chair brought her to the communications terminal of the laboratory. She pressed one button and a familiar, yet unfriendly, face greeted her on the screen.

“It is ready,” she said. The face did not answer. His elongated head and prominent brow ridge just nodded, and cut the visual connection.

On one end of the lab was the quarantine chamber. The large transparent wall allowed for ease in observing whatever subject may have to reside in there. But it was the window at the opposing end of the laboratory that held the subject she was interested in. Out there, beyond the transparent screen, floated a young orb surrounded by the coldness of space.

The chair’s multi-jointed arm lifted and realigned itself, positioning her one-quarter of a meter from the windowed wall. The tilt of the ship allowed her to look downward and stare at the blue-green ball that had so recently coalesced into its planetary shape. From this view she could not see the volcanoes that were bursting across the surface, nor the geologic plates that wrestled each other in a struggle to find position. This world had just been born and was still in the throes of infancy. It was beautiful.

She knew the window’s screen would allow for magnification. She could look down on the primordial soup of the seas that covered so much of the surface, but she did not. She loved the view from up high; to be able to take in the whole of this world at once.

“Doctor, the Admiral has requested that you accompany him on the bridge’s observation deck while the capsule is implanted.”

She had not heard them enter. She turned in her chair and watched as they escorted the tube out the laboratory. It’s silvery-white housing hovering its way through the door guided by the device held in the speaking one’s hand.

“Yes, of course,” she said.

She dismounted her chair and followed them out. Her stark, white body wrap stood in metaphoric contrast to their industrial graphite colored ones. A junction in the hallway separated them from her. They continued down the hall, while she found her way to a lift platform that took her to the Admiral’s observation level.

Many others were there and had been awaiting her arrival. She tried to divert her eyes from them as they spoke her name and gave praise and appreciation for her accomplishments. Some of them truly meant it, she realized. Some cared little for the science and only what they could make of her design. Their adulation was false, and the words which they spoke held a stink that she swore would blacken her mind if she spent more time among them.

“Doctor, thank you for joining us,” The admiral nodded again. His brow lifted and his arms extended as he turned to face the others once she had taken her position within the room.

“My fellows,” he continued. “Today we have embarked on a great experiment. On behalf of the council, I thank each of you for your individual part. Now, I will turn us over to the doctor as she guides us through the final implementation of the project. Doctor… the short version, if you will.”

“Yes, of course,” she said.

She gestured them to the window screen where she began explaining how the project had come from dream to idea to fruition. She quickly took them through each of the steps that had brought them all to why they stood before her.

“… and finally we see the capsule being launched. The mixture of amino acid compounds that define our structural genetic coding is making its way to the chosen planet. This planet. The third from its sun in this isolated arm of its galaxy. From here we will learn if we will become gods.”

M.D. Parker on Facebook and Twitter

 

Book Review – Finding Alice by Melody Carlson

Book Review – Finding Alice by Melody Carlson

Finding Alice is about a young woman attending college that starts to show symptoms of schizophrenia. She quickly learns that of the worst things about being crazy is that you really have no idea that you are crazy.

With the “help” of her family and the exorcisms from her local church, Alice runs away just to feel safe. She spends time living on the streets before she finds a kind woman who offers her a place to stay, which is a turning point for Alice and her “friends” that live inside her brain.

The book is pretty good. It gives the reader a decent insight into mental illness, which is something that we should all try to understand. It does seem to lean toward being a religious story, but with strong opinions against hallelujucination. I may read other books by Melody Carlson, but probably only if I find them in a thrift store. Good to pass the time, but I don’t want to spend full price. 

 

 

 

Fort Stevens – Hammond, Oregon

Fort Stevens near Astoria, OR was constructed in 1863-64  to defend the mouth of the Columbia River. On June 21, 1945 Fort Stevens was attacked by a Japaneses submarine – for reasons still questioned, the fort did not return fire.

Structure known as Battery Russell.
In the event of the zombie apocalypse, we at Write on the Road have stated “Claimed.”
I have always wanted a winding staircase.

The fort is now an Oregon State Park that includes camping, hiking, biking and the ability to explore Fort Stevens remains and buildings.

Big Boom Maker – even better than a boomstick, baby.
Jeep outside the Fort Stevens Interpretive Center
Large gun pointing toward the mouth of the Columbia River – and they say size doesn’t matter
Display inside the Interpretive Center.
Historical artifacts and information on display. Also –  this guy know what you did last summer.
Ancient bowling ball used by a giant-thumbed man in prehistoric times (he was also really good at hitchhiking). Also – that is made up – it’s a cannon ball.

The majority of the buildings and structures in Fort Stevens are still intact. You are able to enter most of the structures, though some only on scheduled tours. There are plenty of volunteers around for the guided tours, history lessons, and information. We did not take a guided tour while we were there because once we arrived, we knew what we needed to do right away….

 

As always, our trusty sidekicks were up for anything!

And that was the of the start of Completely “Real” Analysis of Paranormal & Psychic Entities Research, or CRAPPER. CRAPPER is a team of two travelers seeking made up stories and fictitious hauntings, using imaginative falsehoods to fib to you about hauntings, possessions and all other kinds of paranormal malarkey.

Inspiration for CRAPPER
Mike – Co-founder of CRAPPER
MeLisa – Co-founder of CRAPPER

Our CRAPPER investigation started at the structure named Battery Russell, which is a gun battery that sits away from the rest of Fort Stevens. This building stands alone, which means that ghosts and spirits that are more introverted will haunt these types of areas.

Knowing how the ghosts are likely to be introverted, I avoided taking pictures of them as much as possible.
This pit on the upper floor of the Battery Russell was obviously used by the military for getting pumped up for battle by playing “THIS IS SPARTA!”
These holes were meant for something very militaryish, but are now used as glory holes for spirits with a sense of perverted humor.
Hooks in closets for storage of hoses, chain hoists, and shell tongs. Paranormal entities may now use them for storing their own chains, and shrouds during hot weather.
Lantern Niche originally used for…lanterns. There are also blind niches found throughout the battery, which is convenient for the spirits with optical impairments.

Concluding our investigation at Battery Russell, CRAPPER moved on to the main areas of the fort. The ghosts and spirits that reside in the main area should be more extroverted, which means we may find some interactions.

This large iron hoop was used for hoists and pulleys, but is now used to control gargantuan hell hounds.
The structures at Fort Stevens have multiple staircases, which means that the ghosts can float or climb the stairs depending on their personal preferences.
First interaction here! We are the Parkers – the haunting spirits here are obviously trying to make contact!
The remnants of an angel bursting into flames on the wall leads me to believe that there was a great battle between good and evil here – and evil won. Does it still remain?
Indisputable evidence that it does.

We continued on with our investigation, exploring as many nooks and crannies that we could. There were rooms in complete darkness, old weapons in storage behind locked gates, and even more evidence of attempts to make contact with CRAPPER.  

A few sections of the buildings were off limits due to not being structurally sound. It is unknown if this was caused by natural elements or by battles between the light and the dark.
The tracks along the ceiling were used to move the large ammunition throughout the battery. While walking underneath them I heard an eerie voice crying “An upside-down roller-coaster! Look Ma! No hands!”
A locked portion of the fort that leads to underground bunkers. I am unsure what may remain behind the gates.
Behind these locked gates is sporting equipment that more adventure seeking ghosts have obviously stolen. – They lost everything when they died, don’t you think that includes athletic equipment?
Here is an example of a blind niche (mentioned earlier) that is used by the visually impaired spirits.
Another message received from the spiritual realm. We tried to assist with GPS coordinates, but seemed to only cause frustration.
The spirit showed CRAPPER their frustration by possessing this harmless bird. After possession, the bird swooped toward us with fury and anger on it’s little bird face. Eventually it flew down a dark corridor to find it’s master.
A lantern niche with iron gates to keep the spirits from blowing out the lanterns and then yelling “BOO” in the darkness.
This looks similar to the “THIS IS SPARTA!” hole from earlier, however this one has tiny bleachers for audiences of gnomes or fairies to watch the Spartan pep rally’s.
The shell room originally used for storage. Sadly, there are no remains of the sea shells that were stored here. We believe they were moved out of the fort to be used in a Grandma’s ocean themed garden.
The final contact. Upon leaving the shell room, we discovered that the spirits changed the name – we assumed it was another attempt at contact with CRAPPER. Upon this discovery we rapidly re-considered our decision to CRAPPER, and left before we shit ourselves.

DISCLAIMER – All CRAPPER “facts” are crap.

Fort Stevens State Park and Historical Site