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“Down” day

Today is a “down” day, which is a good thing.   Cody has gotten a little fall-like weather, with temperatures in the 40s and gray skies today, and we’re all taking the opportunity to stay close to home rather than doing tourist stuff.

Our Airstream is parked next to this campground’s “tent” area.   A couple from Vermont with their six-year-old daughter were camped near us, and watching their tent through our window last night I was remembering long-ago nights in a tent in freezing weather with Eleanor. They spent the evening out, probably in a restaurant or local store, to avoid the chilly evening temperatures, while we were comfortable in the Airstream watching a movie and snacking on popcorn.   I do like tent camping, but on a night like last night, I’m glad we have the Airstream.   Our neighbors are heading into Yellowstone today, as their last stop before they have to head back east.

It won’t be any warmer in Yellowstone.   This week when we go there it will be freezing every night and the warmest we will get in the daytime will probably be in the 50s.   I’ve been digging through the storage bins of clothes under the bed, making sure my long underwear and warm socks are still there.   Fleece hats and gloves are in the closet.   Since we’re meeting Bert and Janie there, I expect to spend a day out in the cold stalking wildlife or some such thing with the camera.   It’s good to be prepared for the worst when you go out with Bert.   He has a knack for finding “interesting” situations.

Eleanor used some of her time today to clear out the freezer, defrost, and find some long-forgotten food that needs to be cooked soon.   There was enough “snow” from the freezer to make a slushy for Emma, and now the trailer smells like Thanksgiving as Eleanor turns the various freezer surprises into something delicious.

Down days are an essential part of the full-time life.   We do the sorts of things we used to do on quiet Sundays in fall back in Vermont: clean, putter, read, cook, and generally catch up on the little things.   One of my things to do in town on a down day is to hunt up a local barbershop and get a month’s worth of haircut.   Since I never know who is going to cut my hair, or what sort of job they are going to do, it helps to have low expectations.   Usually Eleanor looks at my hair as I come in the door and scrunches up her nose, but today she actually liked what they did.   Maybe I’ll have to come back to Cody for all my haircuts from now on.

Emma is doing homeschooling but she doesn’t realize it.   She’s done a few pages in her math workbook, passed a little math test I made up for her, read a story, given me an oral book report, and now she’s writing in her “Book of Stories.”   The best kind of homeschooling is the kind that is nearly invisible to the child.

The weather today reminds me that the days are getting shorter, and winter is really coming.   We’ll experience a few weeks of cold (and damp, up in the Pacific Northwest), and then start down the west coast through California.   Eleanor and I sat down with the atlas and a list of ideas, and worked out a tentative plan for the next two months. We’ll probably spend most of November traveling through inland California, with little side trips to the national parks that aren’t closed for snow, and eventually end up in Arizona by December.   When we get there, I want a giant burrito from Nico’s.   Then I’ll feel like I’m home.

Visiting California is like visiting an entire country.   Tackling California is the hardest (and yet most appealing) planning task of all our full-time travels.   It’s huge from north to south, and we have dozens of friends and acquaintances who live there — all of whom we want to see.   The routing is nearly impossible and there’s no doubt we will keep tweaking it right up to the last minute.   Where will we spend Thanksgiving?   Do we want to go Point Reyes or Napa Valley?   Route 1 or inland?   Redwoods or San Joaquin Valley?   How best to avoid the snow in the Sierra Nevadas, yet have a chance at Lassen Volcanic Park and Yosemite?

But these are fun problems to work out, knowing that no matter how we go, we will have a great time.   I don’t know how to have a bad time in California.   It’s a great state.   And today, our “down day”, is the best time to work it all out.