Packing the Prius

Why in the world would we choose to drive at least 5000 miles round trip? (I guess we’ll keep track for those who care.) Why take more than a week to get somewhere when we could fly there in less than a day? This began with some convoluted rationalizing.

Baby Sprout could be born anytime within a 30 day period.

  1. There was no way to pick dates for airline tickets.
  2. Refundable tickets were expensive.
  3. We might have to rent a car for as long as a month.
  4. We had only ever taken one road trip (Florida to Maine) and loved staying with friends up and down the coast.
  5. We’ve never visited friends in the “great flyover” and realized we had special people along the route in north Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California, and beyond.
  6. If we “mooched” along the way, we would not have to spend more than 8 hours a day in the car.
  7. We could take as much stuff as we wanted.***
  8. And the number one reason: Barkleigh could come along.

Several wise friends have pointed out the folly of this plan and we’ll be happy to allow them to say “I told you so” after the fact. Others think we should be buying or renting a camper. Then there is the question of finding pet friendly friends and hotels. But we like a challenge.

Once the idea struck, we realized that our 1l-year-old Prius would not be a reliable companion. It had 120,000 miles and its battery life was coming to an the end. Also there were some gasping and wheezing noises from the transmission . So on December 31—allegedly the best day of the year to buy a car—we bought a 2015 Prius. I guess we should have bought the slightly larger model, but we opted for the same size we had previously. It drives wonderfully and should be the “cheapest” way to do this trip—if one does not consider that buying a new car trumped whatever airfare or car rental fees by a ridiculous margin.

***And while weight won’t be a factor, we can only take as much stuff as will fit into the Prius. Even Phil’s tiny Honda Fit, fits more due to the squarish rear and clever deep storage when you flip the back seat.

Josh and Giulia have requested a items that didn’t fit into their Airstream like, ah, a lathe! And his winemaking equipment and jugs and… Not going to happen. Even with a roof rack–which has been discussed and nixed by Phil due to expense and drilling holes in our new car’s roof.  (For the record, I want one.)  We have been shipping baby supplies handed down from Ashley and numerous other items. (I won’t include shipping costs into our trip cost calculations.) I do have a selection of Josh’s most precious baby things including some items that date back to baby Robin in case it is a girl. But how much to bring now?

I am not known for my frugal packing skills and claim that packing light is “against my religion.” I believe in having something for every climate zone, medical emergency, and social occasion. While I concede that there will be no “formal evenings” on the ranch, the recent blizzards are terrifying me into being able to survive North Pole to Equator conditions.

So there will a larger bag with various layers, probably in zipped plastic bags—the kind that come with new pillows or blankets—to store each “season.” (We use these bags when we travel on Yacht Tethys with the Gladus. First, they keep everything dry in case of leaks and they keep various items segregated because we have to stow them in small spaces.) I’m restricting myself to purple, black, and gray and one carry-on size bag to remove from the car nightly. I can rearrange the contents of that bag by adding clean undies and clothes based on the weather report. Plus one tote bag that will contain our bed pillows—a luxury of car travel. Then there will be a duffel bag for coats, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, raincoats, and snowshoes, bear whistle, ice scraper, scuba gear, and flares. (Just kidding about some of these items.)

Then we will need the following electronics: 1 Mac laptop, 1 PC laptop, 1 iPad, 2 Kindles, 2 iPhones, GPS, and all the various chargers and batteries, plus a multi-plug strip. Not to mention audio tapes for the car. More on how we shall amuse ourselves in a later post. Phil will surely add a camera bag to capture Sprout’s first seconds, hours, days. He might even take a few shots of the landscape along the way.

Of course we a bringing a bag of hostess gifts and Barkleigh’s accoutrements including a folding crate (required in some hotel rooms), his food and snacks in sealed containers that he can’t open when left in the car for awhile, towels, bedding, stuffed toys, chew toys, his medicines (he has ear problems and seizures), leashes, his therapy dog vest, his collar, harness, and poop bags. I wonder if I should buy him a coat and boots.

Then there will be a small food bag/cooler, our own medical supplies, first aid, map book in case the GPS satellites go down, and …. I know we are forgetting something! Please contribute items we MUST include in the comments section.

Eventually I will post the Precious Packed Prius Photo.

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Today Barkleigh would like to feature Josh and Giulia’s English Springer Spaniel Gryphon—his best friend. He will be excited to be reunited and learn how to chase (I mean herd) goats with him.


Metaphoric Déjà Vu

To my children, some of whom have reactions to my comments:

If your mother is a writer, you will be mentioned in her blog. Didn’t Agatha Christie say that? Actually, I went looking for famous women writers to blame for the quote and almost anyone that came to mind never had children. I shall contemplate the topic and perhaps expound on the correlation between literary fecundity and maternal success. After all, this trip is about birth and parenthood.

I also must forewarn my family, friends, and cyber readers. It would be a mistake to take my travelogue too literally. Now re-reading Steinbeck’s supposed memoir Travels With Charlie and commentary on it which notes that Steinbeck was at heart a novelist, and he added countless touches – changing the sequence of events, elaborating on scenes, inventing dialogue – that one associates more with fiction than nonfiction. And, uh, um, “It should be kept in mind, when reading this travelogue, that Steinbeck took liberties with the facts, inventing freely when it served his purposes, using everything in the arsenal of the novelist to make this book a readable, vivid narrative.”

Yes, I’ve been accused of making stories better. But it will remain ‘true’ in the way all good novels or narratives are true.  End of caveat.

Now on with the trip, which has not yet begun. We’ve left the planning stage and are now in the packing stage. Figure a month away, a least 5 days between laundry opportunities, temperatures ranging from 20 to 80 degrees (or even more extreme if wind/chill is a factor and the expectation of lots of northwestern precipitation and possibly snow/ice/mixed conditions. We need a bathing suit for the hot tub on the ranch and shoes/boots that can deal with mud and goat dung. (Update: The temperature this morning in Amarillo—one of our stops—is 1 degree! Will Barkleigh be able to do his business in those temperatures? How cold does it have to be for pee to freeze before it hits the ground? Maybe this will be a cashmere sweater topped with my rarely used New Zealand angora sweatshirt opportunity. I slept in that combination in an UNHEATED room in a sheep farm bed and breakfast during a blizzard in New Zealand so the boys could bungee off a famous bridge. Wait! Sheep farm…goat farm…blizzard…jumping off a bridge…I’m thinking metaphoric déjà vu.

Oh yeah, the goats. Josh and Giulia are living on the Lazy T Ranch owned by his good friend Tucker and his wife Jessica. Tucker and Josh go all the way back to Hampshire College and have had many adventures including building the Temple for Burning Man several years ago. Tucker had secured the contract and hired Josh as the “master carpenter.” Giulia had come from Italy to volunteer and was given free housing. Her assigned roommate: Josh! The 100 Acre Wood ranch is a small community with several houses and other living accommodations including I think a teepee and another Airstream, various art projects, and a large fabrication shop. They have a farm, logging operation, and goat dairy. I’ll describe it better once we arrive.

Josh and Giulia bought an old Airstream several years ago and creatively rebuilt it from the frame up. It has a one-of-a-kind gorgeously crafted interior with various pop-up space-maximizing furnishings.

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If you are curious at the gestation of the Airstream “Arte Maris”  (Puzzle: Can you figure out where the name came from?), you can watch the amazing time lapse story here:  It is 25 minutes, but very amusing and an amazing feet for the two of them.  Note that this Airstream is higher than most and has hidden storage capacity.

And for the gestation of Grandbaby “Sprout” Courter go to this charming announcement video:

Next up: What can you really fit into a Prius if you really have to

Travels With Barkleigh

I’m resurrecting this blog for our hejira to meet our newest grandchild.  [Thanks Ruth Wilf for calling it that.]  Technically, a hejira is made to Mecca by devout Muslims.  But a cross-country trek with some bumps and stress is surely right for this Jewish grandmother.  And lest we forget the Italian grandmother who is coming from even farther!  Baby “Sprout” (as named by the expectant parents) is due March 23 and will be born in or around Talent, Oregon.  Neither sex or name is known yet as the parents want a more traditional reveal.  I know this would have pleased my ancestors who were superstitious about births.  They didn’t want to summon the always-lurking evil spirits.  “Kine-ahora” they would whisper.  The word is derived from the German kein or “not one” and the Hebrew ayin ha-rah or “the evil eye.”  It was also important to cover any compliment such as “What a beautiful daughter, kine-ahora, you have.”  Again protecting the child from the evil eye.  Apparently the Italians have similar concerns.  Beyond that, midwife extraordinaire Ruth Wilf believes that it is far better not to know the sex of the baby beforehand.  Friends who recently gave birth purposefully covered their baby’s bottom on delivery and waited until the first bonding was over to see their child’s gender.

My friends and family will be shocked that I am not panting to know–since I am such an information freak.  Our children were born in the Neanderthal period before routine ultrasounds and each of our babies was a surprise–although I was absolutely totally unconditionally certain they were boys.  (They were.)  One reason some expectant parents give for staying in the dark is they don’t receive as many gender-specific gifts or begin to think in stereotypes.   I felt the same way and determined that our sons would have dolls, learn to cook, and grow to be nurturing men.  I achieved the latter two goals, but not via the expected path.  Any attempt to tuck them in with soft toys failed as they much preferred to clutch toy cars in their fists and cuddle next to Tonka trucks.  Since being a Courter means developing workshop skills early, I expect Sprout will be wielding a hammer before being weaned whether  named “Thor” or “Thelma.”

Ashley is the poster child for the contrary position about be told the gender beforehand and the fact that she does not yet know her new niece or nephew’s sex is an aggravation.  She even went so far as to agree to a test that reported one of her baby’s sex as early as possible.  That eliminated half of the names.  They opened the naming discussion to family members, took suggestions as to relatives who might be honored, and way before birth they had settled.  Needing to know has a lot to do with personality.  If I were having a baby now, I am sure I would demand the information because I cannot stand for someone to not share knowledge that might be important to me.  Likewise with Ashley, although in her case she lived through so many uncertainties during her nine years in foster care that she needs to prepare as much as possible.   No surprise parties for this gal.

Baby Giulia/Josh Courter is due March 23.  We are departing Crystal River on March 3 and expect to arrive in Oregon on March 12.  Nona Longo arrives a few days later from Rome.  The calculation of a due date is odd since it begins on the LMP–the date of the last menstrual period when you are definitely not pregnant.  Then it is based on a standard 40-week pregnancy (note: that is technically 10 months, not the 9 normally quoted).  But the odds of delivering on the Due Date are only 1 in 30 women.  (Blake was born on his due date, but then again I am a punctual woman.)  Statistically, a woman is more likely to give birth a week early.  In Giulia’s case that would be March 16 and both grannies and one grandpop will be there by then.  However, Josh was born 3 weeks early, but I think that is a bit of an anomaly because he was a second baby and I had ignorantly driven up Mt. Rainer 6 weeks before he was due and began to have contractions at over 5000 feet of altitude.  To make matters worse, Phil convinced me to go for an aerial tour of the mountain which took us close to 10,000 feet.  Now I know that “the enhanced formation of syncytial knots and cytotrophoblastic cells is a histological feature of placental hypoxia, which may be secondary to maternal hypoxia resulting from high altitude hypoxia. Since placental hypoxia is associated with an increased incidence of spontaneous preterm birth, we suggest that high altitude may be involved in the etiology of spontaneous preterm birth.”

All of this to say that due to popular request, I will be blogging about our trek and bragging about our new family member in this space.  Expect photos, giggles, weird encounters, bizarre research, and reports on whether driving diagonally across this Huge Nation was a blunder or a blessing.

Accompanying us will be our beloved dog Barkleigh and in the tradition of John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie life on the road with a dog will be featured.

Stay tuned on Facebook for when new chapters are posted.

New Granny-To-Be