What the phone sees

We dropped off the trailer for service–our refrigerator is dead–and hit the road for North Carolina, feeling naked and incomplete without our little home following along behind.
We are taking a quick week-long trip to my daughter’s new home and then will return to Massachusetts to pick up the trailer and head up to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes in August.

While we were in Massachusetts, our cell phone contracts came to an end and we planned to switch from AT&T to Verizon for better coverage in the Lower 48. Unfortunately, we found that we cannot switch to Verizon and keep our phone numbers (or any Alaskan number) until Verizon starts service in Alaska, which may or may not happen within the next few months.  So, we will wait a bit.

The planned phone switch-over, however, prompted me to download all of the pictures I have taken over the past two years with my Samsung. Viewing the photos for the first time on the larger computer screen brought home two things: I live a very sweet and privileged life; and the camera takes surprisingly good photos.  They capture bits of life when I don’t expect to be taking any pictures.

Here’s a sample of my favorites:

Sunset in Haleiwa, walking home from Haleiwa Joe's

Sunset in Haleiwa, on a walk home from Haleiwa Joe’s.

Honolulu sunset on the same trip.

Honolulu sunset on the same trip.  I love Hawaii.

On a trip to Chicago, one of my favorite cities, the phone was my only camera.

The Bean

The Bean

Looking up into the Bean's reflections from below

Looking up into the Bean’s reflections from below.

Chicago at night

Nighttime walk in Chicago

I also had a September trip to San Francisco, probably the best time for warm and sunny weather.

Tugboat and Alcatraz

Tugboat and Alcatraz

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

I combined a trip to Florida to see my Mom with a quick trip to Puerto Rico.

Venice, Florida pelican on the jetty

Pelican on the jetty in Venice, Florida

San Juan moonrise

San Juan moonrise

And I used my phone camera to take lots of pictures of the incomparable Alaskan sky.


Icicles on our window


From our window

From our window.  Crazy clouds.

Sunset over the Inlet

Sunset over the Inlet

My phone, I think I’ll keep it.  Oh, no actually, I’m going to trade it in for a newer model.


First day out

Actually, it was only a partial day out–we didn’t leave Anchorage until about three this afternoon. But we did manage to leave, after feeling like we were never, ever going to get out of town. The last-minute details kept multiplying until it felt like the Twilight Zone, where no matter what we did, we could not escape and get on the road.

After the final house cleaning, and storage and dump runs, we hit the bank.  I took a picture of the Chugach while I was waiting with Zoe in the truck. I managed to capture some unique Anchorage business signs also.

Lovely Anchorage morning.

Lovely Anchorage morning. Will we ever get out of here?

Then we finished loading the trailer and headed to the scales to see how much weight we are carrying. Another picture while waiting, but now the Chugach are in the rear view mirror.

Sopranos shot.

Sopranos shot.

Then we needed to get a few final hiccups checked out.  Thanks to Tim and all the folks at Alaska Performance RV & Marine (who installed our solar setup) for their continued help and interest in our trip.

We left Anchorage mid-afternoon to spend our first night in Palmer–essentially a suburb of Anchorage, but a gorgeous commute.

On our way.

On our way.

George's new office?

George’s new office?

We chose to stay at a real RV park tonight and, fortunately, it’s almost empty and very quiet except for birdsong.

Lovely setting with without the crowds.

Lovely setting without the crowds.

Here’s the view out our window.

The leaves are exploding.

The leaves are exploding.

Zoe is bewildered by all the change.  When we got to the campground, she did not want to leave the truck.  After dinner, a walk, and a good stick, she felt much better.


This may not be so bad.

This may not be so bad.


Change (or maybe not?)

Last day of work — late

I was not able to contemplate the end of a work era during my last day of work. I was too busy.  In fact, by the end of the day, I was rushing around like a maniac, trying to get everything done so I could head out as planned for a celebratory dinner with George.  I made it–just barely.  Now I have time to think about the monumental change from work to non-work. It feels very, very good.

Which is not to say that I did not enjoy my work–I did.  And I will miss my friends. But it will be so nice to be able to go, do, and say pretty much whatever (and wherever) I want.  And I am looking forward to a more leisurely pace.

First day of retirement

9 a.m.  I woke promptly this morning at my usual time.  I rolled over and slept another hour. What a sweet feeling not to have to pack too many things into too short a weekend.  I thought I might have trouble unwinding from my usual pace, but I am already quite unwound.

9:30 p.m.  Ha, that was a joke.  I am still wound up.  I ended up running around all day trying to get all of the last minute things done so that we can leave on Tuesday.  We took a couple of loads to storage, cleaned the truck interior, hauled stuff to the trailer, shopped, and continued to sort through things.

It was a lovely day at the trailer storage lot.

Sunshine in the living and dining area (without the table)

Sunshine in the living/dining area (without the table). You can see the decal on the trailer stored next door.

Our neighbor dog, Minnie, couldn’t figure out what we were doing.

IMG_1343Zoe is worn out. We will try to slow down tomorrow.

She is afraid we will pack her tennis ball.

She is afraid we will pack her tennis ball.


We have gone solar.  Finding the parts in Anchorage was a challenge, but the installation went without a hitch and the system appears to be working beautifully.  We haven’t seen any solar panels on Alaskan RVs and debated waiting until we got Outside for the install. But we decided to see if we could get it done in Anchorage and are glad we did. Everyone involved was enthusiastic and helpful and the work was completed faster than we expected.  How sweet is that?

We have three panels running down one side of the trailer roof.  The roof is rounded, giving the panels a slight natural tilt.  We did not want to have to manually tilt the panels (the less chores the better), but the permanent tilt means that we will have to keep the sun direction in mind when picking campsites.  We originally sized the system for two panels but decided to add a third so we could avoid the hassle of climbing a ladder to adjust the panel angles


The wiring from the panels runs into the interior through the refrigerator vent and then along the underside to the MPPT charge controller.  The charge controller is neatly tucked into a panel under a closet on one side of our bed.  It regulates the voltage to keep the batteries from overcharging and lets us know the amount of power produced by the panels and the state of battery charge. On a sunny day it provides up to 15 amps for several hours, which is more than enough to charge the batteries.



A 600 watt pure sine wave inverter is installed in the matching panel on the other side of our bed. It takes 12 volt DC from the batteries and converts it to 120 volt AC, allowing us to keep our electronics charged and to power the TV while dry camping during football season.



Finally, we upgraded the batteries to two 6 volt AGMs wired in series, which are mounted on the same battery mounts as the previous ones, with an added custom cover to keep water from pooling.

George did a tremendous amount of research to see what would work best for our needs without breaking the bank.  It looks like the research paid off.  So far, we are impressed with how fast the panels charge the batteries, even without full sun.  Of course, it is way too early to tell how everything will work in the long run.  But, for now, I’m tickled with the idea that we can get our electric needs from the sun.  We are already plotting a home solar system for when we come in off the road.


Who leaves Alaska in the summer?

We still have big patches of lingering snow in Anchorage, but the days feel like spring. Here’s the trailer, still snowbound last weekend.


She (he? it? I’m not sure of the trailer’s gender) is plowed out now and getting ready for a solar panel install.

We are tentatively planning to leave on May 5.  But if we don’t leave then, eh, who cares?  It may be the most difficult time of year to leave Alaska.  Winter is finally over, everything is budding out, huge skeins of honking birds are migrating overhead, the woods have a spicy smell that I’ve only experienced up here, the days are getting long, and summer is about to hit full-force. We would normally be planning our summer hikes and camping trips now.

Here’s a sampling of some of our favorite hikes.

Lost Lake

Lost Lake

Crow Pass Trail near Raven Glacier

Crow Pass Trail near Raven Glacier

Resurrection Pass

Resurrection Pass

Tidal patterns on Turnagain Arm from Bird Ridge

Tidal patterns on Turnagain Arm from Bird Ridge

George and Zoe at Rabbit Lake on chilly day

George and Zoe at Rabbit Lake on chilly mid-summer day

Turnagain Arm from the Porcupine Campground in Hope

Turnagain Arm from the Porcupine Campground in Hope, start of Gull Rock Trail

We are probably crazy to leave this time of year.  But but we are ready and looking forward to the sweet pleasures of a New England summer for a change–corn straight from the field, really ripe tomatoes, fried clams with bellies, fresh lobster, and (on a non-food note) fireflies.  It’s countdown time.


Unleashed and unmuzzled

George and I have incurable wanderlust. We have kept it under wraps during our incarnation as career-folks, but have always dreamed of taking a really long road trip. Last fall we bought a 22-foot travel trailer and, after a couple of in-state shakedown cruises, put it to bed for the long Anchorage winter.

Spring (aka break-up) is approaching and we are plowing out the trailer. We retired from our jobs and are about to embark on a year-long (more or less) road trip through the Lower-48.  Because our lives have been constrained by schedules and deadlines for so many years, we want to keep this trip as flexible as possible.  Aside from my desire to sample all the best local potato chips in the country, we have no agenda and our itinerary is fluid.

Are we living in this thing?

Are we living in this thing?

Zoe is concerned about the packing, but will follow us anywhere.

We are waiting for the snow to melt so that we can get solar panels installed on our trailer.  After that, it’s final packing up and we should be leaving in early May.

We are almost unleashed and unmuzzled, but not there yet.