Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What I did on my summer vacay

It has been a nonstop drama at my sister's RV park.

Tequila-infused party girls
We recently had a tequila housewarming party and used our new BBQ grill which mounts to the bumper of our RV.   Sharon & I assembled the grill, mounted it to the bumper and hooked it up to propane!  We were very proud of ourselves.  Sharon marinated chicken in mango sauce and BBQ'd the meat to perfection and I chilled the martini glasses.

The 10 year old RV we have been rehabbing for my sister's son is finally done!   It is gorgeous with clean masculine appointments.  Importantly, 90% of the fabric was removed since sis's son has allergies.   The double recliner sofa was a challenge for the delivery crew but they maneuvered it without a mishap.   It is covered with a hybrid "fabric" that looks like distressed leather but feels soft and warm like fabric.    Here are a few pics
Manly Recliner Sofa Delivery day

Sofa with manly leather rug
Sis and I shopped to furnish it and found an incredible (inexpensive) leather ragrug for the living room at a liquidation store.
The door in the floor is a sunken dirty clothes hamper

Butternut blond vinyl plank-look throughout
Removed fussy daynight shades and valance and replaced with manly faux wood blinds
Re-covered girly headboard in vinyl fabric, replaced fussy daynight shades/valances with faux wood blinds.



 Here's another project I did mainly because I love to paint stuff and the cabinets were a gross grayish color.  The Manager's park model needed some attention and we had leftover vinyl so the living area floors were covered and I painted the kitchen cabinets to match and added hardware.

Update on Sis's titanium knee; she is very happy with the knee and now favors it over the other knee.  Her range of motion was measured as "normal" and she can outrun tenants trying to flee without paying rent.   Her only discomfort is the tightness of scar tissue at the op site which will diminish in time but will never totally go away.  The bills came in--the total was a little over $130,000.  She is aware that the doc billed her top dollar because her insurance paid 100% after the deductible.  Guess that's why doc wanted to do both knees.

Here are some short vignettes of the park characters I met this summer.  We had our first eviction around July 4th.  The second occurred mid-August with a monthly tenant who was 2 months overdue on rent and seemed to drink and fight with each other constantly--a real pain in the butt!   

So sis hired the eviction service and we put them on a "watch"--waiting for them to leave without paying-- which is a criminal offense.  One morning I saw the dirtbag husband washing the RV-- a big rule violation since water is expensive in California.  I knew what was coming next; he was cleaning up the rig to move it to another park!  So, the three ladies mobilized-the Office Manager, the Owner and Gopher (me).  I perched on a nearby hilltop so I could watch and coordinate a police intercept with my sister who was waiting outside the park with the police.  The Office Manager assembled the paperwork to present at the exit.   Soon, the tenants hastily pulled out as I snapped photos.   The manager ran down to try to collect the bill and they refused to pay.   The manager then called Sharon to tell her to alert the police officer because they were on the way.   Police followed them north on 101 and so did I.   This was one well-coordinated ambush!
It's also known as CA Penal Code "Defrauding an Innkeeper"

Sweet Justice

I caught this picture as I rode by the police stop.  We cheered!   Then, Sis and her manager got on their phones to call the RV parks in the northerly path of these people to warn them that trouble was headed in their direction.   The RV park 10 miles north stated that this group had just arrived and were filling out an application at that very moment.  They were SO grateful for the warning and said they would send them on their way.  Soon after that, Sis filed a criminal complaint for "Defrauding an Innkeeper"  and another suit in Small Claims Court to get a judgment against them (they own a truck).  The dirtbag husband is currently in jail for his 2nd burglary in the area. Moral:  "Don't screw with my badass sister!"

On the gentler side, the following new tenant came up to pay his next month's rent and was asked how he like living at the park! 
Well, he loved it so much that he should be a poster boy advertisement EXCEPT he thought it was a long way to walk to go fishing.  Puzzled, my sister commented that the river was right across the road!  But, he protested that there were "No Trespassing" signs and he was walking around the park so as not to trespass--about a 1 mile detour.  Trying to stifle her giggle, my sis explained that the signs were for the Trespassing public and tenants could just ignore the signs and walk right down to the river.  He is now one Very Happy FishCamper!  We wish all the tenants were as respectful of Sis's property and happy!

And then there's "J".  We call her that for this blog but she has many worse names.  This old woman has burned out her brain cells on booze.  She builds cathouses around her trailer for feral cats and has 50+ half-dead container plants engulfing her ancient 15' trailer.   She is a hoarder and she rents TWO sheds and still her site is always overflowing with unrecognizable debris.   The smell of her RV escapes through the gaping hole in her entry door.  Apparently, she started hoarding other things recently...

While putting away paint from my paint jobs, I noticed five 5 gallon containers lined up behind the sheds near the sanitary dump station.  I asked Sis what they heck they were since she keeps her grounds tidy.  She didn't know and we nervously raised a lid.

Brown.  Liquid.  Putrid.  OMG--it's POOP!!!

Sis immediately got on the phone to other nearby tenants and started asking questions.  She learned that Nasty Woman had been observed carrying a white bucket toward the dump station.  When questioned if the buckets were hers, J readily admitted they were hers but, at that point, she did not know that WE knew what they contained.  She was appropriately horrified when confronted with the fact that knew it was HER crap in all those buckets.  Incredibly, she then volunteered to give us TWO MORE buckets of her personal feces!!  You can't make this stuff up!

Sis and I put on our hazmat gear and did what was necessary to clean up the mess. 


Here is some of the documentation we provided to the eviction service about the SEVEN 5-gallon buckets of human waste that was deposited on the property!

After detoxing the truck and our gear, we decided to intoxicate our brains in an attempt to remove all  memories with massive quantities of tequila.

One of my favorite tenants is a summer worker--a cute, young, virile guy with a desirable touch of OCD.  His site is always kept in a pristine manner, he has houseplants and he washes his work clothes and hangs them neatly to dry in the sunshine behind his RV.  All his stuff is white including the custom pup tent mounted on the roof, which protects the roof from sun/rain and helps to muffle the sound of rain (which is thunderous inside a small RV).

Sis says about 2 of 10 tenant applicants survives the application process.  Incredibly, people will submit applications with a first name only.   An astonishing number of people have NO identification, no references and no verifiable income.

She recently had an overnighter who arrived in an ancient, crumbling motorhome.  Later that day, her manager recognized a previously evicted (drunk & disorderly) tenant on the property.   She traced the guy to the "overnighters" who said that they had picked him up on the road and he said he would pay to park overnight so they could make an application to live there "permanently".   They believed that he had some "in" having lived there before when in reality, he was the worst reference they could have picked!

The young couple showed up at the office--she pregnant--and eagerly started the application process.  She read over the rules and happily signed the rules and chattered while hubby filled out the app.  They seemed "normal".  Unfortunately, neither one had a driver's license or ID; they claimed to be "in the process" of getting ID.    No registration on the motorhome which was beyond old.   No money until next Weds.

They pleaded "Can't ya help us out?"  My sister is frequently mistaken for a social service agency.  They left and we saw them parked the next day in a business parking lot up the road.  Guess they found somebody to help 'em out..

This couple was fairly typical of the troubled people who arrive on my sister's doorstep needing a place to live in their RV's.   The stories people tell are often fantastical, sometimes hysterically funny and sometimes heartbreaking.

The people who pass the application and 30-day trial period are usually decent folks who have been caught in adverse medical/economic piccadillos.  A significant number are struggling with alcohol problems with varying degrees of success.   Sis also takes a limited number of people who have "keepers"--publicly-appointed receivers who manage the person's living structure and pay the rent from a trust fund.  These folks need more "managing" for a variety of reasons and sis only has so much energy and time to spend helping these tenants manage life.  A significant group is the seasonal workers; young, testosterone-overloaded men who flood into the area in summer to work on timber, mill, electric projects and repairs to all infrastructure.  While their presence is temporary, they are a group that "plays hard" and has little regard for rules and often disturbs others.

Another fun project was getting a rooftop camera mounted so Sis would not have to jump up to look out the window every time she heard disturbances outside (often!).   We jury-rigged a "mobile mount" on the RV roof so it could be easily relocated and repositioned when she moves the rig to another site for the winter flood season.

Here is sis having her morning coffee on a rainy morning, running park business in her jammies. Through the raindrops, she can see nearby vehicles and foot traffic approach on the road and property periphery (view is better when sun is out). 

Last weekend, we went to a comedy show by Drew Carey.  He was in town at Humboldt State University and "just happened" to schedule his visit to coincide with the harvesting schedule of the local marijuana grows.  He said he was getting his MediCann card on Monday.   His wacky adult comedy was a much needed antidote to way too much reality in the RV park.

Yesterday, we went to the All-Species Parade.  This is a weekend-long festival and marks the end of the summer season for the locals.  It is a street party with one day's highlight the street samba dancers and the next day it's a parade to raise awareness to "eat vegetarian" and not to eat animal meat.

This is a street performer from Estonia.

Here is a typical Saturday farmer's market in Arcata.  this is a guy in mexican garb with Sasquatch perched atop his pickup truck.

Arcata is a college town and is notable in that they do not allow smoking anywhere--inside or outside--and they will not permit any fast food restaurant to do business.  So, the people attend the weekly farmer's market for fresh veges and fruit.

So, to sum up my summer vacay, I saw another side of living that I knew existed, but experienced in a very different way this summer by living, working and playing amongst people with many more challenges than I.  I also had a terrific summer playing with my sister and enjoying the superb weather of California's north coast.

I expect to begin my trip back to Florida in mid-October.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rivers Edge RV Park-Special Edition

So...What do I do all day?

Note:  Californians begin most conversations with "So..." followed by a thoughtful pause.


So....before I start my busy day, I sip delicious gourmet coffee (store brand coffee not permitted) in front of the warming fireplace whilst gazing at a misty morning fog hovering at the clifftops.

Soon, I'm sufficiently caffeinated and ready for the day's adventures! 

Among the routines:

1- Monitor the park.  Sis is a little off her feed recuperating from the knee surgery so I have been filling in some of the operational blanks.  The park is hoppin' since the weather has been beautiful and everyone is living outside their RV. 

Many park rules are broken and much time is spent "reminding" tenants of the most important rules (dog poop/leash) and chasing down visitors who park along the fence.  

My favorite violation: a tenant neatly stored at least 30 empty 6 packs of Coors underneath his trailer. He was surprised when my sis asked him to clean up his site:
"So...I need you to remove the empty beer bottles from underneath your trailer by dark tonight".

He thought it would be OK if he arranged the bottles neatly and in careful alignment under his vehicle. 

2-Maintenance in park.  I cleaned bathrooms when the Manager was off duty...troubleshot bathroom door code changes (everything gets nailed down due to trespassers)...pruned, groomed and cleared about a ton of debris from the BBQ picnic area...cleaned and prepped a vacated site...assisted hired help to fill potholes with asphalt...photo-documented 49 trailers + registration.  It turns out that only a handful of RV's have current registration and many are over 5 years expired!

3- Evicting tenants.  I am currently the acting unauthorized *process server chasing down the non-pays wherever they are hiding on or off the property.   This is a park that rents to the economically-challenged amongst us.  The stories of financial misfortunes related by hapless residents are many and fantastical and Sis is often mistaken for a social worker rather than a business owner.

*I am not an authorized process server; this "service" is theater designed to intimidate.  

I recently served a demand letter on a deadbeat who was ratted out by her neighbor.  We drove down to the town thrift shop, approached a man and presented as ditzy ladies looking for "Linda".  He pointed to her apartment and there she was-- a middle-aged woman with missing teeth wearing a soiled tee and sporting a cig hanging out her mouth!  I smiled, handed her the special envelope and said "You've been served"!

Later that same day, I presented eviction papers to a woman at her workplace at the town pizza place.  I sashayed up to order a pizza, spied a young woman and cried out loud "Laurie!"  She curiously approached and I quickly pulled the eviction papers out of my shirtsleeve and handed the papers over to her "You've been served".   

My favorite eviction involved forcible relocation of an unregistered trailer that had been abandoned by an absent tenant.   In certain conditions, the law permits taking possession of the trespassing trailer, so we towed it to city property adjacent to the park. 

Tenant subsequently appeared and was quite indignant but persuaded to pay past due rent and given 24 hours to remove the equipment. 

But they failed to do so.   

Alas!  Unknown persons came in the night, hitched up the RV and took off with it.  The police inquired about the disposition of the property at the insistence of the Tenant but gosh...what can you do?  The property was abandoned on city property and up for grabs! 

(You can't make this stuff up!)


4- Rehabbing an RV.  Sis's son, a bio-horticultural business consultant, travels extensively in an RV that is in dire need of a full rehab so we have been helping and supervising the work.  

The most exciting event here lately was the fire across the river.   

We have had NO rain and were on high fire alert over the 4th.  


The fire was too close for our comfort but remote to firefighters, so it was necessary to bring helicopters and planes in to drop fire retardant and bucket loads of river water. The entire park and half the town gathered to watch the fire.


Here's a cool video  


When we're not doing park stuff, we are mostly meeting with friends for lunch or dinner or getogethers.

Our last bottle of merlot was called 'Woman of the Vine'. 

Also known as the Margarita Mamas, Sis is far left.

At sunset, sipping wine and appreciating the flaming beauty of the bluffs is a sublime ending to another busy day at the park.


Sooo...this is the most unflattering photo ever but my sis and I thought it was very funny and entitled it "Sleeping WineSipper".  Sis has always marveled at how I can sleep and still hold my wineglass upright without spilling wine.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

California Signs & Symptoms

Here are some random signs that make you realize you are in California:

This is a fairly common scene in Eureka and is not intended to make light of anyone or their circumstances-it's just a routine occurrence and fact of life!   Eureka is home to a brand new Veteran's Center and has many agencies that provide social services to the region's poor and homeless from the Oregon border to Sacramento.   The climate is well-suited to outdoor living being neither hot nor cold but almost a constant 60 degrees.  As most of you are aware, California has a massive social net that provides for people without income or other means of support and this pic illustrates how area residents and their pets have adapted to the environment.

Everyone wears designer socks with their Mary Janes, Birkenstocks and shower sandals in northern California.  A popular gift is "Sock of the Month" club where each month you get a theme pair of socks in the mail.  People meet and greet on the street and pull up their pants.

This next one is not technically California but Oregon is close enough--a solar-powered trash compactor.

And now, a sign of the times...degenerative joints.

My sister has needed a new knee for several years, but until Obama created an insurance plan for people with Pre-Existing Conditions Plan (PCIP), she was out of luck for surgery or any health care at a reasonable cost.  Prior to PCIP, she paid over $1000/mo, $10,000 deductible, 50% medical copay and no preventative services.

After jumping through numerous hoops, she finally qualified for the new Obama plan which was supposed to cover subscribers through 2013.  It would pay 100% for surgery after a typical plan deductible.   Elated, she researched orthopedic surgeons in CA, chose a doc in Napa Valley and scheduled surgery for August 14th.

Suddenly-- PANIC!  She got a letter May 29 saying that her PCIP insurance was cancelled July 1.  Even though she had previously been approved for the surgery, benefits would not be retroactive and she would have no insurance as of July 1.   So began the mad scramble to get rescheduled and pre-op'ed for a very popular new knee surgery before July 1.  The Coons Orthopedic Institute in St Helena is in great demand, but they found a spot for her on June 26 and immediately began an intensive pre-op protocol.

The surgery is minimally-invasive total knee replacement also known as "quad-sparing" Minimally-Invasive Total Knee Replacement (Real).  Rather than cut the quadriceps tendon, special instrumentation and computer navigation software leads the way through a 4 inch incision--a technique that creates an error-free, custom knee replacement and reduces recovery time by about half.

Even with her early mobility, getting up and down RV steps would have been difficult, so a friend of Sharon's arranged for her to stay for 5 days in their Calistoga vineyard home which they had been planning to vacate.   We took Cassie and enjoyed a sublime setting in the middle of a vineyard for 5 days.   Thank you Debbie and Greg!

During her recuperation, Sharon was glued to the phone running her RV park.

I am happy that my sis is doing extremely well and began walking without a walker, cane or crutches two days after her surgery!   She walks slowly and  sometimes uses walls for balance.   Her only "job" is to walk 5 minutes each hour, do daily range of motion exercises and apply her special ice machine for 1 hour 3X/day.

MY job was to go-fer more ice.

Due to the surprising early mobility, she skipped physical therapy, since she was transitioning between the old and new insurance plans and it would have been completely out of pocket to the tune of around $5000.  (The docs, of course, want you to do conventional physical therapy as there is not yet a special protocol for the new procedure.  However, she was provided a booklet with glossy color illustrations and explanations of the rehab exercises to do at home.)

Her only difficulties have been with her medication regimen.  She is intolerant of narcotics and was put on a heavy duty med for nausea and vomiting (N & V).  I consulted with her doctors on two separate occasions for uncontrolled N & V but, unfortunately, nothing stopped the nausea & vomiting and has made her recuperation quite uncomfortable.

Finally-in true California-style medicine-natural relief was found.

MovinSue chillin' in her socks!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Livin' in a Trailer Down by the River

Like Saturday Night Live's overcaffeinated "motivational speaker" Chris Farley, I find myself now "64 years old, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river!"

The reality is that I am in an economically marginal demographic trailer park in a million dollar setting!   The "hill" in this picture is a regional landmark i.e. Scotia Bluffs fossil cliffs and the Eel River runs along the western periphery of the park.  The area teems with wildlife as well as lowlife...

The delivery of the trailer was frustrating bordering on painful.  The dealership (Trailer Hitch RV which I have since renamed Trailer Bitch RV) was not accustomed to being asked for customer service and seemed unfamiliar with communicating and coordinating the usual elements of preparing their product for delivery.  I have a new appreciation for Florida RV dealerships, which prior to this experience I rated "poor to fair" on customer service.  This dealership did not even register on a scale!

The goal was to toast our new digs by my 64th birthday on June 3 and we actually toasted ahead of schedule on May 26th!   It has been fun nesting inside with our stuff and making it as livable and convenient as possible with modifications of space--always a challenge in an RV.  But, we are now "in" and Sharon made a lasagna in the teeny tiny oven last night while we sipped our margaritas.

Sofa Bed

Sharon & Cassie in Sofa Bed
Sis's power recliner in dining room

Theater Seating
Removed Dining Table/Chairs
Cable TV & Fireplace

Here is a link to the full album with floorplan/specs Lacrosse Travel Trailer

While awaiting the tortuous delivery, my sis and I planned and executed several projects;  highest priority was to secure the border from intruders!  Sis's park borders Eel River and she has a wildlife preserve as part of her property.  Along the river is a sandbar popular with fishing enthusiasts and ATV's.   Occasionally, people shoot fish from a flotation device and police are summoned, but the perps are usually teenage boys related to the police or the town supervisors... It's a mixed bag of trouble and nuisance to the peace and serenity of park residents.

As soon as the sunshine returns to the north coast, intruders (townies) hang out at the river and enter private property from the beach to loiter, take showers and use the bathrooms for all manner of mischief.  So, a security fence and No Trespassing signs were erected around the utility service area and No Trespassing notices have been painted on the river side of the periphery fence.   (Within a few days of installation, four trespassers were challenged and chose to voluntarily leave the property.)  Solar-powered motion lights were installed at the usual access paths used by park residents.  The Laundry Room got a much-need paint job.   Next job is a cold-patch of the many potholes that developed during the flood season.  Thanks to SLR asphalt experts for tips!

While trying to wrestle our rig from the dealership, we also got a chance to see the annual 3-day Kinetic Sculpture Race, in which people enter home-grown vehicles to race on road, mud, sand and water.   Most vehicles never see the finish line.  This dragon breathes real fire and won the Spectator Favorite award.  The race kickoff was staged in Arcata, a funky college town reminiscent of the 60's. 

This is kinetic sand flea.

Here is a link to the full album Kinetic Sculpture Race.  Here is a link explaining the race and its history History of Kinetic Sculpture Race