Good morning from the home of Christy Close Erskine and Jack Erskine in Sisters, Oregon where Melanie and I have been in residence for the past three plus weeks. We arrived here on June 27th and will take our leave in a few days on July 21st when the Erskines return home from their mission trip to Kenya.
Our stay here marks the second longest time we've been in one place since we began traveling. We were in Sisters for a longer period of time just after the pandemic shutdown of 2020 when we stayed with the Erskines for just over a month and a half in April and May of that year.
As I've mentioned before when recounting our pandemic quarantine with the Erskines, I could not have dreamed of a better or more ideal place to spend lockdown than with the Erskines in Sisters. The Erskines, both retired Episcopal priests, offered up their wonderful home as refuge from a plague we all were struggling to figure out. They are kind and generous without measure and we developed a strong bond during what could have been a time of much more uncertainty for we vagabonds.
When discussing the possibility of coming though Sisters this Spring, they mentioned their upcoming trip to Africa in July. So after spending much of April, May and June in Washington State, we coordinated with them to travel here to house sit while they were away.
Our stay has, once again, been idyllic and we are most grateful to the Erskines for the time we've had here to regroup, explore some of the surrounding area and relax before getting back out there on the road (which we are both now champing at the bit to do).
Bike Ride to McKenzie Pass and Dee Wright Observatory
When we were quarantined in Sisters in 2020, I made numerous bike rides to McKenzie Pass and Dee Wright Observatory. Starting just after we arrived in early April, I continued to ride from Christy and Jack's into the pass which is a 36 mile round trip and a 2,200 foot climb. The ride up to the pass is work, the ride back is a thrill.
This time I've only ridden it once and it's the first time I've seen the vast lava fields around the Observatory without any snow cover. Snow fall this year was 24% above average. The McKenzie Highway is partially closed from November through June. This year the road opened June 20th, a bit later than usual.
Sisters Quilt Show
The Sisters Quilt Show is always the second Saturday in July. Melanie and I rode our bikes into Sisters on the 9th of July and spent some of the morning and early afternoon walking around Sisters taking in the amazing work from all over the world. The quilts are truly pieces of art.
Sisters' Residents of Note
Melanie and I met Sisters' residents, Jenny and Matt Behnke, while having a pizza lunch in town last weekend. Really nice folks who are also talented musicians. Skybound Blue
See Also: More Joy
Matt plays the 4 string cigar box guitar on the video. Buy their music, go see them if possible.
July 20, 2022
We leave Sisters in the morning headed north and somewhat east to Walla Walla, Washington. As I mentioned yesterday, we really love it here, but these two vagabonds are ready to move again.
On July 6th we marked 3 and a half years since leaving Birmingham, Alabama to start our life of full-time travel. Another milestone of sorts, but increasingly, meh. Anyone who has been following along knows we consider this life over-the-top great.
When we are moving there's now an easy rhythm we've developed. Things like set up at a campsite are now routine and differ only slightly depending on the venue, how long we anticipate staying in a particular location, weather, to name a few factors.
We know what's to be done, we know who will, generally speaking, perform a particular task. There is much solace in the routines that make our life while traveling easier for us. Good, honest communication is key.
We continue to pare down items we have in the van. Last weekend, for example, we made a trip to Bend, Oregon to Goodwill and left them several large bags of clothing, a few pairs of shoes and a blanket. This freed up a storage container located in our pass-through storage and made more room in the storage area under our bed. After shuffling some things around accessing what's in these storage locations will be easier.
We both miss our friends in Birmingham from time to time, but modern communication is a marvelous thing and we are able to catch up via FaceTime or Zoom or text or an old-fashioned phone call. Sometimes hearing the voice of a long-time friend is what's required.
Melanie often reaches out with a postcard and is always in search of postcards reflecting where we've been most recently. She is, indeed, our official corresponding secretary.
Without belaboring the obvious, many items we buy are now much more expensive than when we started. Fuel, eating out, groceries, all cost more. We've made necessary changes to our behaviors and are grateful life hasn't changed radically. If anything, we've slowed down our already slow pace and, since we are rarely in a hurry to get anywhere, it's a net positive. Drive that same slower speed and stay in places a bit longer.
We continue to enjoy living the nomadic existence.
Another benefit of being in one place for these few weeks is getting some needed repairs done to the van.
I was able to wash and wax the outside of the van. And do some cleaning inside too.
When we arrived in Sisters on June 27th, our hydraulic leveling system was leaking fluid from an unknown location near the pump motor. Since discovering the leak weeks before, I had used the system maybe only two other times to level the van hoping it would not fail.
Luckily we had camp spots that were largely level and so I could use the system Leisure Travel Vans installed (incorrectly) at the factory to stabilize the van (keep it from rocking side to side) and that was a great help when parked.
Due to a problem with a change in our van order (adding the four-point leveling system that became available with the change in model years, supposedly deleting the two-point system) we ended up with both systems. I had the option of removing the two-point system, but weight was negligible and I chose to leave them installed.
I asked, Jack, if he knew anyone locally who might be able to look at the problem, he called a friend of his who gave him Jim Sizemore's contact information at RV Outfitters in Bend, Oregon.
Since the pandemic in 2020, you may know the nomadic life has become aspirational for many who were stuck quarantined at home. Many can now work from anywhere they can be connected to the internet which covers a very large area in the U.S.
Because of this, getting repairs on the road can be a challenge. Most shops can see you weeks or months from the time you contact them which generally does us no good. RV mobile repairs are generally much quicker and more expensive, but when time is of the essence and when your repair is essential for the enjoyment of the vehicle, you pay it. Gladly.
I say all this because I was expecting Jim might tell me he could see me weeks from when I called, if at all. Instead he asked if I could be in Bend the next morning. 😳😳
Subsequently, Jim and his able assistant, whose name I've now have unfortunately forgotten, repaired the leak in the hydraulic system and stopped our lights from flickering on the two different occasions I took the van into him. I highly recommend these guys.
Christy and Jack have contacted us and I will be fetching them from the Redmond, Oregon airport sometime this evening around 5:00 p.m.
We've almost finished moving all the items we've been using in the house back into the van and will sleep in their driveway tonight and leave Sisters relatively early tomorrow.
Melanie has a work obligation in Lincoln, Nebraska towards the middle of August. Neither of us is looking forward to being in Lincoln in August, but we'll slowly make our way north and east tomorrow and try against the odds, it appears, to stay cool.
We've become spoiled waking up to temperatures in the 40's many mornings. In July. Hopefully we'll find some of those temps as we move into Montana. We'll miss Sisters, but it's nice to know we'll be able to pay a return visit maybe next Spring, after all we have family here now.
Steven and Melanie