Friday Filler – When TSTO Duplicates Real Life…Things are Hilariously Weird

Thank Grog It’s Firday!

OK. First of all…we’re fine.

Thanks to all of you who dropped me personal notes asking if I am on fire. No. We aren’t on fire. But, close enough that the sky has been dark red, and the air full of ash since Tuesday. Needless to say, we are staying inside…and continuing to hope for the best for several friends who have had to evacuate.   Crazy times. Yes…the world seems to be on fire for a number of reasons figuratively…but where we live, it has been on fire, literally.  More on that later.

Apparently, God is trying to burn down the Left Coast. No politics intended.

As far as the Van Houtens Event, for my donuts, they saved the best Premium Item for last. It is the best New Character/Decoration combo in some time. Or should I say, Old and New Character…as the best new intros for my taste, were the introduction of Milhouse’s NICE grandparents…and their RV.

Call it coincidence, or call it “Tapping Imitating Life,” but the fact that the Grandparents and the RV were introduced during the very week that my wife and I took a couple of our grandkids on an RV weekend, was just too perfectly “Tapperitious” to ignore.

RV Life.  It’s a new chapter..and one fraught with instant challenges…especially in the Covid-Reality.

It has been a running joke that since we now have an RV, none of my FIVE daughters will have to take me in when my wife throws me out for a younger man (she is 6 years my junior).  The story-line of grandma preparing to divorce grandpa hit a little to close to home.  However, I was reassured by “she who loves the new RV” that I am to be kept around for continued maintenance, as well as driving duties. Phew!

Our new RV life started with the end of life for Deb’s Dad.  He and his wife were ardent RVers, who had a long list of RVs during their time together.  Everything from huge Class A motor-homes, down to the smaller, easier to park, drive, and keep heated and cooled, Class C types.  I think it was in “The Captain’s” blood.  He was a 30-year Navy veteran, in both active service and reserves, and was most proud that he had earned his “sub-commander” status, before becoming a Captain in the reserves. After our 9,600 mile cross-country trip back in 2016, they vowed to “leave the motor home to us, when they were done with it.”  And true to his word, they did.

It’s a sweet little Class C…with a completely overhauled interior. We named her “Invictus” in honor of the poem I read at “the Captain’s” internment, which ends with the stanza:
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

Only someone who has “bunked” over the top of a torpedo, while submerged for weeks on end, could truly love sleeping in the “cab over bunk” of the Class C we inherited. For a guy like me (very much on the larger side in legs, shoulders, arms and other parts) taking the “inside” bunk proved “less than” in comfort. Deb, due to her proclivity for nocturnal bathroom use, needed the outside bunk, in order for us not to have to perform “RVque Du Soleil” acrobatics several times a night.  Solution?  Use the double bed pullout that happens with the conversion of the dining table into a bed.

However…Add two grandkids (now installed into the aforementioned top bunk), a new ladder that comes down at my feet, and the number of times the 10-year-old had “potty breaks”… and sleep becomes an equally challenging situation.

But that is the trade-off, for being able to take a whole lot of modern convenience, into the “great Oregon Wilderness.” Or in this case…an RV Park in Southern Oregon, in 104 degree heat.

One of the facts you figure out very quickly as an RV enthusiast, is that there is a huge difference between “Dry Camping” and “Full Hookups.”  Dry Camping means that you are completely self-contained.  Water and electricity come from internal tanks and a generator.  Both Grey Water and “Black Water” are stored in tanks, until you can get to a dumping station to “flush” the RV.  And…they can fill up quickly between showers, cooking, and toilets.  Does a bear poop in the woods?  Yes…but, not if he can find a nice toilet to use instead.

I won’t go into the details of “dumping,” as the process requires gloves, close-toed shoes (I found out the hard way) and a clear plastic connector, to make sure you are “running clean” after you are done dumping.  Yes…it is very hard not to think of a colonoscopy during these transfers.  But, it does make “Grandpa” a bit nuts about how many times, and what kinds of deposits are being made by the occupants.

Having done loads and loads of trail hiking (I hiked most of the Oregon leg of the Pacific Coast Trail more than once), I have to say that the ability to use modern appliances beats cooking over a fire anytime. Besides the fact that ANY open fires are currently forbidden due to the extreme heat and fire dangers (which turned out to be prophetically real a day after we returned), the whole “open fire” thing is really only great at night…and then, only when making “S’Mores.”

Cooking actual meals over fire, greatly reduces the menu, while greatly expanding the risk of ruining the meal.  I was a Boy Scout. I can’t tell you how many “less than edible” meals we ate out of necessity.

But eating in an RV…even if you are “dry camping” with the generator, means coffee from a coffee maker in the morning, pancakes from an electric griddle for breakfast, and any number of things that can be cooked, or re-heated with the microwave.  So, eating is a large part of “Casual Camping.”

Let’s blow up a couple of RV myths right now.

1. RVing is inexpensive!  This may be true, if you are parking your RV at a Walmart parking lot…which is actually allowed across the country.  However, even small Class C motor-homes like ours (just 22 feet  long) only get around 9-12 miles a gallon.  Our Toyota Highlander gets close to 25 MPG on the highway. So…yeah…you’ll spend twice as much on fuel, or more, just to “get there.”  Add to this the cost of the Park Fees (anywhere between $30-$90 per night, depending on location and amenities), and you are now coming very close to the cost of a hotel room, when adding in the extra gas.

2. RV’s are Self Contained- Well…yes…if you don’t mind hauling a ton of stuff from your actual house, to your “little house.”  The RV we inherited was completely outfitted, with almost everything you need.  I have done some research, and there is no less than $6K worth of add-ons, accessories, and essentials that were part of this amazing gift.  But, every time you turn around, there is something you wish you had from home…and will bring with you next time.

3. RVs need little maintenance than a car or truck.  Uhm. No. The very first time we drove the RV, we noticed that it was almost impossible to keep on the road above 55 MPH.  Turns out, that we needed to replace 5 of the 6 tires. Then there was the Water Heater repair, and the service on the AC. My in-laws gave us the service records, and they have spent close to $5k in the past four years on servicing worn out items.  It is a 1997…with “only 88K miles on the engine,” but because you are taking a “house on wheels,” stuff wears out way faster.

But……………..It is an amazingly enjoyable, relaxing way to live, once you get set up.  After a couple of short trips to places close to home to “get the hang of it,” the routines fell into place, and we were “set for leisure” in less than 20 minutes of landing.

There are literally thousands of RV camps to choose from. Each one with its own set of amenities.  The one we chose for the “Grandpa Glamping Weekend” came complete with a pool, a stocked fishing lake, and a ton of other recreational options. We pretty much did it all in the two and a half days we were there.


As it turns out…we slid by the chaos by the skin of out teeth.  As we pulled back into Eugene, there was an emergency alert about an “Historic Wind Event” coming, with gusts of up to 80 MPH.  Add to this the extreme dry conditions, and you had the perfect combination for what happened overnight on Monday, and all day Tuesday.

Huge wildfires erupted from downed power lines. And as we speak, a handful of small towns have been reduced to smoldering heaps. We won’t likely know the full extent, until late next week…we hope. As none of the fires have been even marginally contained at this point.

The air quality?  Let’s just say it is the first time I have been able to CHEW the air…as the ash is everywhere.

This is what it looks like at 2pm. That is the sun. Yes. It is dark.

And this is what is falling from the sky by the hour…

And this is our current Air Index…”healthy” is less than 100. So…458? Not so much. 

Life is like that. One minute you are making S’Mores, and the next you are hauling your ashes out of town, to stay safe.

It is was pretty easy to fold Grandpa VanHouten’s RV into my National Park scene.  I hesitated to add the fire. But…will remove it when I know everyone is safe.

Let’s just go with it.  2020 sucks. Big time.  It seems like you just get over one mental tragedy, when you are faced with another. But, we will tap on. Because that is what tappers do. Right?

Do you know anyone who has had to deal with the fires firsthand?  Or the hurricanes? Or the tornadoes? Or…well…I could go on and on. But, I won’t.

Stay safe.  Keep on Tappin’…

20 responses to “Friday Filler – When TSTO Duplicates Real Life…Things are Hilariously Weird

  1. What are you guys doing to the air quality in Vancouver, BC. We don’t even have forest fires.

  2. So glad to hear that you and your family is safe. My family and I are so far in a safe area in Springfield, but some close family friends just lost everything in Blue River. They had just moved in there the week before, too. Rented the cute house next to Christmas Treasures. It’s all gone.

  3. SW Portland here is pegging at 560 on the Purple Air site currently. I saw this headline today, “Oregon’s air quality is so far beyond ‘hazardous’ that no one knows what it means for health”

    2020. The year that just keeps on giving. : (

  4. @Pateric 2020 deserves a swift end! However there is definitely an unwritten song that hasn’t been produced yet. Seen your skills before…

  5. Please keep safe you guys, those views of the fires look horrendous.
    Thank God here in the UK we very rarely get events like you seem to be encountering more & more frequently. Wish everyone well.

  6. Thought I’d stop by and check on ya, Patric. Good to hear you and the fam are safe. Stopped playing TSTO awhile ago. We moved from the valley up to the foothills in Grass Valley (little too close to the Jones Fire for comfort) about 6 months ago. Air quality has been terrible for over a month. Fortunate that I have over 5 acres and about 200’ of riverfront for quarantining/keeping busy. Can’t wait for 2020 to end.

  7. TGIF and so glad your both safe (you know it’s scary when friends in Yucaipa are preparing to evacuate, friends in San Diego have already evacuated, friends near Fresno had to be evacuated by helicopter out of their campground, your Vegas weatherman is pointing to a map showing how huge this ‘danger zone’ is!) …. it’s 🔥’s from San Diego to Seattle, but it’s also 🔥’s in between Utah and Colorado! 😲

    All this smoke blew into Henderson, Las Vegas, Boulder City ! With the excessive Heat, too ? this was not fun, until we got a cold front with 60 mph winds that blew it out of State (wait, that means California has Santa Ana Winds + excessive Heat! yep, California is hotter than Southern Nevada!) 😲

    Definitely don’t have time to debate with those who refuse to believe in climate change (don’t worry, you will when Nature bites back in your Community!) Definitely do have the time to briefly cover ‘Sam’s Club’ Life & RV Parks (yes, a voiced Grandpa Van Houten w/RV is one of the better Prizes in this Event!)😀👍🏻

    Good Sam Club (as in Good Samaritan) International Organization is almost 3 million members strong! Like AARP (we are members!), you get plenty of benefits and services (this helps with the cost of maintaining your RV – you are correct, Sir, it’s not cheap!), as well as discounts to RV Parks and Campgrounds. Lots of friendly Members who have shared their favorite “how to’s” (got our Family out of a jam!) 😀👍🏻

    There are still RV Parks out there licensed to use Jellystone Park (bring on Yogi 🐻 and Boo Boo 🐻 and Ranger Smith 👮🏼!) Kids 💜 it, you’ll 💜 those Hanna Barbera Memories from 📺! 😀👍🏻

    TSTO is a nice distraction, but it doesn’t help hide the fact that 2020 has been awful (worldwide pandemic with no vaccine, climate change induced weather phenomenon – yes I have friends in Tennessee who’ve had to take cover due to 🌪️, and more friends in NOLA that survived through 2 🌀’s – so I can’t complain if it was 10° hotter than it should be for 9 weeks out here!) 😲

    We are fortunate that TSTO has offered plenty of Content, so that Tappers can create their own Springfield Campgrounds (I’m expanding on mine right now!) 😀👍🏻

    I’m glad to see you got creative (I’m also glad to see you all escaped the 🔥’s – I just hope they are contained asap!) Stay Safe!

    • Well…the silver lining in the smoke is that it keeps the temps down. We went from 95+ to 64. No sun? No heat.

      • No complaints about going from 111° to 73° ….. we’re all wearing a mask when outside, it helps filter the bad air quality (I definitely reach for the eye drops when I get home) …. but watching the news each evening is 😟 (2020 needs to go!).

  8. …Enjoying the fresh air down in SoCal as well while tapping life away😏

  9. I’m up in Salem and it’s been insane as well… Been staying with my.sister while her fiancé is out of town for work… They live only about a mile from hwy 22 and only about 20 min from Stayton so we’ve been on edge about what direction the fire goes… Last I heard it turned north away from Stayton, but it’s sad seeing video out of Gates, Mill City, and Detroit as we passed through them when we just went camping a month ago up at Fay Lake which is about a mile from Big Meadows Horse Camp. We stopped.for souvenirs at the little grocery store in Detroit which made it, but the restaurant across the street from it is gone…it’s just crazy….

    Also, I’m a state employee and the office I work at got closed down today due to smoke thickness. That’s crazy to me as well.

  10. We had a deracho 4 weeks ago, and are still cleaning up tree debris from the 140 mph winds. Yes, in Iowa! Thanks for letting us know you are safe. Strange times…

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