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My Big Red Couch

Thursday, June 02, 2005

PV aka PeeVee aka Portable Village

We’ve got a new vacation home and this one’s got wheels under it. During the past week we committed to (we ought to be committed) and purchased our daycare lady Lana’s tow behind camper trailer. It’s either the VOW (village on wheels) or the PV (Portable Village). Yeah, there is only one family living in it and, yeah, we’re all related the right ways but we’re still a village and if PeeVee is a portable village that makes us the Village People :-D

The price was right (read as “we had the money burning a hole in our familial pocket) and we couldn’t resist. Jamie has fond memories of motorslumming when she was young (even though she hated it at the time) and I’m a sucker for the great outdoors (by professional circumstance) so we’ve decided to subject our offspring to the same torture she was brought up with, mwa ha ha ha haaaaaaa!

I picked PeeVee up Thursday evening after work and Ben, Lana’s husband, helped me hook everything up and make sure all the lights were working properly. This particular 1971 KIT Sportsmaster lost it’s “new car smell” at least two decades ago but I was excited and didn’t hear half of what Ben told me about the pilot lighting procedures, the electrics and the water system I just wanted to get on the road and get camping, but that wasn’t to be for a few days.

I towed PeeVee home, leveled her up and Jamie got to setting up house (mopping, vacuuming, installing dishes and pans, etc.) She sat through three nights while we resisted sleeping out there. She sat through the admiration of the invitees to our 8th Annual Croquette Invitational Tournament (none of whom were invited in to look around, just admire her shiny, er, dull exterior).

Sunday morning, T-day (T for travel) finally came and the tension in our household was unbearable. Madeleine was being bratty because she was excited which stressed out Jamie who stressed me out and Genevieve, well Genevieve didn’t know what the hell was going on, just that something was up.

Expedition and PeeVee on Shamrock Street! Posted by Hello

We started getting ready, with no particular time table, around 8am and we were on the road by 10am. Not too bad for our first time out. Jamie wanted to go somewhere that was far enough away that we couldn’t just “run to the store” if we needed anything. I wanted to go somewhere close yet strangely exotic. Whittier! What were you expecting?

Whittier (a completely different and totally officious link) is AN end of the road (or the beginning depending on your perspective). Alaska has MANY ends of the road. Jamie didn’t like the idea of Whittier. “Why Whittier?” “It’s far enough away to meet your criteria and we really can’t get to a big store if we need anything (which it turned out we didn’t need anything huge, thankfully, but we weren’t without our close calls: propane, tools, rain gear).”

I don’t want to get too historical but here’s a cool little piece on Whittier and the 1964 earthquake.

Finally on the road (with one quick stop for gas) Jamie was instantly freaked out by the feel of the thing pushing the company Expedition around. It takes some getting used to but after the first 50 miles I felt like a pro (although I am looking into a set of sway bars; thanks for the suggestion Papa). When we left Anchorage it was cloudy with sunny breaks.

As we neared Portage it started to drizzle, then full-on rain and I was racing the clock as we got closer. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is one way; outbound from Whittier at the top of hour and inbound to Whittier at the bottom of the hour. It was 12:26 when we turned onto the Portage/Whittier road and the car in front of me was doing 10 mph below the speed limit. This was my first experience passing with a trailer. I got by ok and didn’t even speed. Much. We pulled up to the toll booth with moments to spare and, well, there’s a funny story I promised not to tell but sufficeth to say, Toll Booth Girl, you rock!

The Whittier tunnel was constructed sometime around WWII (before, after, it makes no difference to me; I wasn’t there). It had been constructed for the Alaska Railroad and other than hi-rail equipment (including a special Ambulance) was only used by the railroad. A few years back, let’s say 1995, somebody got the bright idea to share the tunnel by paving the floor and making it a highway when the railroad wasn’t using it. Definitely Alaskan, not a bad idea and quite well executed.

Going through the tunnel was a first for Mad. We got about 50 yards into it and she said something along the lines of “this is it.” “Yup,” Jamie and I said in unison. The Whittier side of the tunnel was rain. Typical Alaskan rain. Not rushing out of the sky to get to the ground and cause trouble, like the rain in California, but coming down and taking it’s time to do it but making sure it gets everything wet in a big way Alaskan rain.

I’ve been to Whittier many times, most recently on motorcycles the day the tunnel opened several years ago. Whittier used to be a dusty muddy town and the only paving I had ever seen there (and I’ve been going there since the mid 1970’s) was new on my last trip in 2000. Whittier today is all pavement, sidewalks and fences (the railroad has got to keep control of its property somehow). It’s all paved now. I was in awe.

We did a quick tour, which is really quick in Whittier, and went hunting for the campground. We picked our spot, close to trees but fairly level and a view of, well, it’s Alaska, everything is a view.

After leveling up the PeeVee in the rain (while the girls waited with Vv’s poopy diaper in the Expedition) we began to set up camp. Nothing much, of our random packing up job, had shifted but Jamie did have a few choice words about what we had done. I tried to fire up the gas items (heater, stove and refrigerator) but it was raining and my patience was shot. I needed a beer or a martini or something and a few less drops of liquid sunshine before I took on that task again.

After a few moments of sitting (er, maybe it was a nap I took in the Expedition) and a break in the rain we decided on a walking tour of the waterfront. The highlight being this panorama of Passage Canal,

Also available at www.JamieStoleMyFreakinPicture.org Posted by Hello

the walk through the pedestrian tunnel below the rail yard,

Mad, Jamie and Vv staying out of the rain-ish Posted by Hello

and this family (minus me) portrait.

(some of the) Family Portrait (the best parts anyway) Posted by Hello

and the loop brought us back to base camp. The site already had a fire pit built up so all that was left to do was set up the porta-loungers, light up a Presto log and let the Smores begin.

Ahhh, trailer sweet trailer. It could be a postcard if Jamie were smilin' and wavin' from the doorway and Vv was throwing small critters upon the fire. Posted by Hello

This is my bliss.

Mmmmmmm, fire! Posted by Hello

And there's more too (Smores, fighting to keep the fire going, pouting child, 4am child, etc.) but the memory fades. I'll be sure to make some new memories this coming weekend to share with you soon.


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