May 31st, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

Last night I went to bed at a decent time hoping to catch up on some sleep. I am staying in my trailer with my dog so we have our own world and Meghan and her family can have theirs.

I was awakened from my slumbers in the wee hours by what could easily be classified as gale force winds. Some of the plants on the porch were even blown over and hay and horse turds were scattered about the yard this morning when I took the dog out for a walk (speaking of scattering turds around! 🤣🤣). It wasn’t the noise that woke me as much as the shaking of the trailer. Even with the four outrigger stands deployed for stability the shaking was pretty intense. I laid there listening and thinking about the situation, flashing back to the similarities between that wind hitting my trailer and the memories of a truck I was in back in the 80’s being driven by someone way too fast and we rolled – it was just like a ride in a clothes dryer at the laundromat; I just flipped back over and soon went back to sleep since I couldn’t do anything about it.

After finally getting the stuff in the trailer whittled down to the necessities I decided to do some Spring cleaning – wiping out the window frames, cleaning the glass, etc. – and start looking at maintenance stuff. Now that I am able to spend more time in the trailer and looking things over I am finding many things that need to be fixed and a few upgrades I want to do to make life better during my travels. I had started doing a few things the last three years but my shoulder injury/surgery last year put a stop to doing anything more. Now I gotta get back at it to keep things from getting worse.

The trailer sat at the house in KS for about four years before I brought it home with me to Washington in 2017. On top of it being 12 years old now, things tend to deteriorate and break over time, and sitting through the seasonal extremes in KS did not help the condition (not really the extremes in Washington where I had it). The sun destroys plastics and fades paint and the decals. I replaced some plastic bumper caps yesterday that keep the sewer hose from falling out (the hoses are stored in the trailer bumper). The water leak I had in 2017 (due to the sealant putty melting in the hot sun and running down into wiring holes, basically unsealing the clearance lights on the roof) caused some damage to some of the wood inside the walls so I will have to take it in at some point for what will probably end up being some pretty costly repairs. The re-sealing I did around the clearance lights seems to be fine if not cosmetically pretty but I want to reseal them. Add to that the other things I replaced (cookstove vent, water inlet, taillights, carbon monoxide detector) I have actually done quite a bit already. I still have some more to do though.

Yesterday I did an upgrade to the ceiling vent fan in the main part of the trailer and today I replaced the one in the bathroom. The upgrade is a retrofit that goes into the existing fan housing so there is no worry about breaking the roof seal, hence no worry about roof leaks. It is a MUCH better 3-speed reversible fan that has a shroud so it moves much more air more efficiently, plus when run in reverse it can bring air in for a cool breeze from above – a very functional ceiling fan. Another added bonus is that with the shrouding around the fan it helps block out light; that can be helpful if staying in a commercial RV park (which I generally try to avoid but do stay on occasion to empty the sewer, get water, and charge up the batteries). Those places are lit up like the Las Vegas Strip and sometimes it is simply just the moon is shining bright.

I have a few more things on order I am waiting on and those should show up this week. I still need to pull the windows and reseal them with caulking instead of that problematic putty but that will be a big job. I even noticed the putty running out of the new water inlet I put in so that will need to come out and be resealed too. The microwave gave out but the space it was in makes for great storage so I may buy a new one and just leave it on the bed while traveling. The air conditioner (it’s a small window unit for a house) I am not sure about – it seems to be hit or miss, but it is at least 12 years old.

I also need to find a table for the rear dinette (the trailer has two that fold into beds). Unfortunately the old one got broken accidentally years ago. Currently I am using the makeshift setup my dad made which is basically five 1″x4″ pieces of oak to lay in the slot between the benches to make the bed. I could make one out of those pieces of oak to get by but I would really like to find a replacement similar to the original. That oak would look good finished though! As you can tell, though, I have plenty of other more important trailer projects to do for now.

I am trying to get to Colorado to meet up with some friends but I think we may have to wait a bit. The ‘rona is definitely affecting those plans since they do the hotel thing. In the meantime I have my eye on some new places I am anxious to explore here in Montana that I discovered on the map yesterday.

It is finally starting to feel like a real retirement!

April 29th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

While doing the various things one does when getting ready to move a lot goes on in your mind – that constantly-changing mental checklist of things like shutting off your utilities, thinking about the logistics of getting from A to B, and changing insurance agents just to name a few. And then there are the other things like the insomnia. Most of you have moved at one point or another in your lives so you probably understand. I don’t stress about it much these days; this will be my 15th address change since 2012. It’s just another move to me.

However, one thing currently stands out well above the rest while getting ready to leave – the inability to see family and the friends I have made here the last 7 ½ years in person before I leave. And that’s the part that really sucks. With the ‘rona quarantine there will be no hugs, handshakes or tears; the tears will still be there, but it’s more out of frustration than from leaving. We all know that once we are able to do so we will be seeing each other again. I still plan on traveling as much as I can when I can and when it is safe to do so. With the internet it is easy to keep in touch several different ways so we will still keep in contact with each other.

Sometimes it is not easy to move away no matter how badly you want (or need) to leave, and other times it’s no big deal. I was numb and emotionless leaving Colorado that cool, dark, rainy morning. Heading off into a new life had me preoccupied and I was not thinking about leaving a place that made me fall in love with the outdoors and the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains.

There is the excitement and “that new car smell” of going to a new place with new people and experiences, be it for work or just because you want a change in your life. Some people deal with the uncertainties, and even embrace them. There are the others who dread it and decide to stay in their safe place and that is fine. Me, personally, I thrive on that unknown. I want and crave those new experiences and it is only one reason why I love travel so much.

I have certainly had more new, different and amazing experiences than I ever dreamed I would have in my life living in the Midwest, and I have had even more after moving to Colorado and then Washington. I won’t list them here as they are already written about, starting with the first blog entry I posted in 2012 (so by all means go back to Day 1 and have a look!). And the stories in these posts are just since 2012…there are countless other stories from a lot of other experiences before that and some of those are probably best left on a dusty shelf.

Some may look at these experiences and say “Boy, you’re so lucky”, while others say “WTF are you doing? I couldn’t do that.”. It’s not about luck. It’s about what YOU choose to do with your life. And if you say “I couldn’t do that” then no…you couldn’t handle it but it is because you don’t WANT it bad enough and prefer to play the game of life safe. That is all well and good since we all get to live the life we choose. I choose differently.

The lifestyle I have had since moving to WA is certainly not for everyone, and I could safely say it not for most people. It is not an easy lifestyle and there have been tough times without a doubt – a few extremely tough times. In the 80s I did some freelance stagelighting gigs getting work wherever and whenever I could find it. Just as it was then, it is sure not about getting rich…working in the outdoors is more about the freedom and experiences and a true passion for your job. You give up a “home” and security but the amount of freedom is amazing and worth the trade-off.

At one of the outdoor jobs I have had the last few years I heard someone say “we get paid in sunsets” and to me that is how it should be. It’s not about the money but unfortunately  it is what matters in the world. When you make a decision to get into this type of career you should fully understand the sacrifices you have to make to do what you love and be flexible enough to make it happen. For me it was not that difficult to “roll with it” since I had already lost my job and my house. I chose a new path, got rid of pretty much everything I owned, and hit the road for a new adventure. I didn’t let it get me down and I still don’t. Life marches onward whether you want to play or not so make it what YOU want.

It is exciting to think about this move and potentially ending up back in the place I love most (well, second to Ireland) – Colorado. With some variables to ponder in the future that may be later rather than sooner…but I will get back there. It is not that I dislike Washington, but I have never really felt that “magic” like I do in Colorado. I like the forests in the Rockies better because of the openness and not feeling “closed-in” when I go for a hike in the woods.

So now is the time to not look back at the latest fork in the trail but to instead look forward and head for the Rockies.

February 17th, 2020 – Day 9: Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Kansas City, MO USA

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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On the way to Schiphol Airport from Amsterdam Centraal Station

I woke up at 4:30, an hour before our alarm was supposed to go off. I laid there in the darkness, contemplating our trip during that time; all the things we saw and did and the fun we had. We have a 9-hour flight to ATL then a couple more hours to MCI.

It was such a great trip and after getting back home I am still thinking about it all. For me returning from this trip was much different than the first time over; having been there I already had that initial excitement of being in Europe. I also knew what to expect for not just going to Europe, but parts of the trip (Köln and Amsterdam, and a little bit in Dublin). I really had no idea what to expect about being all over Ireland and that’s the part I am still having trouble processing. The people were so wonderful and friendly. Everywhere we went in Europe everyone was friendly and helpful but Ireland has the overwhelming feeling of belonging. Galway (and the areas around it) was an even more comfortable place to be…not surprisingly, a feel of home given the centuries-long family history in the area.

The adventure of travel – domestic or international, be it by foot, transit, air, sea, or land –  is so fun and amazing. It is also what you make of it and to be self-reliant in a country where you are a visitor/outsider gives one pause to think about that a little deeper (at least it should) when they return home.

You must get out of your comfort zone to actually learn things and have great experiences when and where you travel; it’s not just about taking pictures of the same famous things like everyone else has posted online. Get in the alleys, go in a coffeeshop or a smart shop, do something you wouldn’t normally do, go someplace where your language is not spoken primarily, eat foods you cannot pronounce, try to have conversations with a local. I guarantee you will have some amazing life-changing experiences and countless stories and memories that last a lifetime.

This trip also included my first stay in an Airbnb property (Landsmeer) and I think that its a great way to travel now that I have done it. I will be looking into doing that more on my own – it’s a great way to get the local flavor of where you are and a great alternative to the same old boring chain hotels here in the States. Being retired, most of my travel will probably be with the trailer but there will one times I need to fly someplace and need a place to stay.

A few thoughts about Amsterdam – it’s a fun, easy city to be in but it is so overrun with cannabis tourists and all of the businesses play it up pretty well – to me it is really overblown and gaudy. I can stay home for that without the commerciality but Washington is overrun with people as well, especially the Seattle area.

I do feel really bad for the residents of Amsterdam; it is tough enough just living in a tourist area but what they deal with is pretty bad. Many tourists don’t care about or respect the locals and that is bad – trust me I know firsthand, having lived in touristy areas since 1996. We avoided being in the city on Friday and Saturday night and waited until Sunday to walk around at night.

I will probably be back, but will stay in the outskirts since I not only want to minimize my impact on the city but I also have other places I want to see in The Netherlands. I really do like Amsterdam’s progressiveness (which some call “freedom”…but only if it fits into their own morals). If you have a closed mind Amsterdam is just not for you.

…and some more thoughts about Ireland – I will definitely be going back to visit this beautiful place, full of some of the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. Dublin is fun and there’s a lot of history there that I still want to explore. There is so much more of the island I want to see. I had a lot of fun driving the car and really enjoyed the challenges and the differences (but not the Dublin traffic madness) and I will definitely get a car every time I go there. There is so much more to see and do in Ireland and I have to see and do it. For me, Galway has that indescribable special magic I feel when I am in the mountains.

In all we walked a total of about 58 miles in 8 days; not counting the day we left that’s an average of 7.25 miles a day. Some days were more – I know one or two were 10 miles a day! Pretty good amount of exercise! The girls did great figuring out the public transit and they fit right in. The only issues we had were the mapping apps not updating like they should (slow data speeds on our free international plans) and sending us in the wrong direction for a bit almost every time we wanted directions.

It was their first trip abroad and their first trip carrying everything around on their backs in a backpack and they did fantastic. They really adapted to this new style of travel really quick and they looked like experienced travel pros from the moment we left. To share travel with someone else makes it even better. When it is with someone you care about it is even better yet. I am so glad we got to go.

Thanks for a great trip, girls. I am looking forward to our next adventure!

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The End!!

February 16th, 2020 – Day 8: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

Today we got out of our rental in Landsmeer and moved into Centrum near Centraal Station. Our room happened to be overlooking a canal and the station along with buildings in the other side of the canal. From here we go back and catch a train to Schiphol Airport for the trip home.

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Our final hotel room is the second row from the bottom (the First Floor in Europe) and the two windows on the left. Not a bad location!

We got into our room and hit the streets again to find food and souvenirs. One thing on my list was to hit a place called FEBO. Much like the old Automats in NY City, FEBO has two options – you can order from the counter or you can drop a coin in a slot and pick out tasty morsels for €2-4 each. Kroketten, bami, kasssouffle – mostly it is deep-fried deliciousness but there were burger options as well. We went there three different times today!

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FEBO – Goes great with a “coffee”!

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The weather was a bit blustery for our last night. We went different directions for a while and then it started to rain. And then it rained even harder. My pants got soaked so it was back to the hotel to warm up. First, though, there was time for a lamb kebab wrap and it was delicious. This looks to be a second storm that came across the UK that was like the first one we got caught up in while in Ireland. We are leaving at a good time.

We went back out to stroll around some more and take one last look at the city as the rain finally slowed to a few sprinkles. The crowds were thinning since it was Sunday night. But still many people are milling about.

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Back to the hotel one last time for the evening. We put the final touches on our packing for tomorrow.

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The view from our hotel window on our last night in Europe

February 15th, 2020 – Day 7: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Sure coulda used these earlier!

This morning we got up early to get into the city from our house in Landsmeer. We had tickets to tour the Anne Frank House – one of the few touristy things we scheduled and planned.

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I was a bit apprehensive about it but I’m glad we went. There are many lessons in what happened to that family and history damn well should not be repeating itself. It’s a very informative, emotional exhibit and well worth visiting. The Jews could not ride bikes, swim…a countless list of ever-growing restrictions on a particular race of people. And it was absolutely heartbreaking to hear. One of the videos they showed of Otto Frank talking about losing his family – especially his daughters –  I had a real hard time watching and had to leave the room with tears streaming down my cheeks.

After that we went to find some food and just wandered aimlessly around the city during the day, experiencing the city and checking out shops and the sites. It was a decent day to be out walking and there is so much to see and do here.

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We decided to try to get back to our rental late afternoon and kick back a bit after getting some groceries and eating at home. It’s a comfortable place to be so we were able to rest up. We ended up on a ferry across the water to North Amsterdam where we then had to find our way the rest of the way. There was a lot to see from the water and it was a while new perspective.

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North Amsterdam is an artist community with a lot of interesting stuff going on.

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It was also good to be away from city center (Centrum). That’s where we’ll be staying tomorrow.