In renovation, you need adapters.

In two weeks time, I crawl in Chinchin, and move away from the place I’ve called home for the last 14 years. I’ll admit to mixed feelings. San Francisco has managed to hold onto a few lovely corners, is still pretty on a sunny day, and it full of houses and people that make me smile. I have met amazing people here, and will miss them. This city is done for me though. I’ve been ready to leave for awhile, and with my family already gone, I’m anxious to get a move on.

Poor Chinchin, she’s not a city girl. Someone thought she was abandoned, so she got towed. Her windshield was cracked in the process ($400 to replace, to which the city has failed to respond to my claim), and it cost me $1000 to get her out of jail. She’s as anxious to go as I am, or maybe I’m anthropomorphising my car. Either way, time to get her in running order, get my bags packed, and get out of Dodge.

I started by having my neighborhood mechanic give her a once over. The only big work he’s doing is replacing the tie rod ends. As long as I’ve had her, Chinchin’s steering has been pretty sloppy. Hopefully this will tighten things up a bit, so I can keep her in a lane when it is windy.

My friend Ms. Danger has decided to come along for the ride north. I’m 99% sure she doesn’t know what she has gotten herself into, but I’m sure we’ll have fun regardless. The trip is timed so that we can catch the Eclipse in Oregon. That is, if traffic isn’t horrid. I decided Prairie City, OR was the place I wanted to aim for to catch the totality.  I went to book a camping spot, and all that was left were spots in a farmer’s field with no amenities other than space, for $175/night. I can’t begrudge a guy trying to make a buck, but, no thanks. About an hour and a half south, in Burns, OR, I found “one of the last few spots” at a place that has hot springs and is only $25/night. Hopefully an early morning drive will get us to Prairie City in time for the eclipse, without too much traffic.

When I was calling around, and reading articles about the Eclipse, there were lots of warnings about showing up with food, water, etc., because tiny towns can’t promise to be fully prepared. Space is certainly at a premium in Chinchin, so I decided getting the fresh water system in order was a good idea. No need to take up space in the storage areas with bottles of water, when we have a tank that can hold a few gallons. I crawled in the back and inspected the system. GAG. Pipes that were supposed to be clear, looked opaque black. Pipes are easy enough to replace, but when I started following what pipe went where, I realized Chinchin didn’t come with the “city/shore” fresh water hookup option. All she has is a gravity fill spout into the fresh water tank. This also means her faucet isn’t designed to connect to city water. It is a simple diaphragm pump, and the PSI of a city water connection would just cause leaks and breakage.


Harrumph. One easy fix would have been to switch out the faucet for one designed to be a manual pump AND handle the pressure of city water, but I could only find one type available (the exact same one they were offering in 1976). The reviews for it were bad, and every site sold repair kits. I would also still have to install a city water connection. I decided there had to be better options.

Also, I love solving problems and designing systems, so off to the drawing board-google search-avalanche of shipping boxes I went. What I have come up with will allow for city water and/or a foot operated pump to pull water from the fresh water tank. I won’t list out all the parts here, because I’m not sure it will work yet. I’m hoping all the parts will arrive and I can put it together this weekend. If it works, I’ll put up another post with a full description and parts list. As you can see below, there will be lots of adapters.


I was also hoping to get the electrical revamped, and the “hammock” bunks installed before we take off, but both of those seems highly unlikely at this point. C’est la vie!

The red earth.

When it is wet, it is sticky and strong, holding you fast if you make the mistake of wandering in. When it is dry, it is as hard as the iron that gives it the coppery red color, and resistant to the pick and plow. It glows in the sun like the tresses of a red-head, and is just as bewitching. It is home. It is not home.

I spent almost all of the first three decades of my life living in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I developed an intimate acquaintance with the tent caterpillars, the blue gill, the glowing green flora, and the red clay. Their minerals, their colors, the oxygen that passed through them, built the cells of my body and the images in my mind. To deny I have a cellular connection to this place, would be to deny my very self. Yet, genetically and genealogically, I do not belong. I am the offspring of colonizers. Half of me is first generation. My father’s side was too poor to do anything other than to stay put in England where they belonged. One quarter of me is 4th generation, arriving from Switzerland in the early part of the last century. A not uncommon story of arriving with a few clothes, a few coins, and a bible in hand. That final quarter though, well, that one has been here for a few centuries. Good guys becoming bad guys in the process of trying to escape other bad guys.

You may be asking what brought this up. A trip home of course. Home, in this case, being TN. In May I spent a few days traveling between Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. As is typical of the South, it was 90 degrees some days, and no more than 55 others. Lovely and warm one minute, green rumbling tornado skies the next. Sadly, I didn’t do much visiting, but as I was driving between these places, I gave myself permission to make some stops along the way. I spent time at Fort Loudon, the Sequoyah Birthplace, the Tellus museum, and finally the Etowah Mounds. Though it was a glorious relief to go and do exactly as I pleased for a couple of hours, it has left me with this strange sensation, hovering somewhere between conflict and resolution.

How can I feel entirely of a land, while knowing that land is not mine to be of?

When we were kids, we had a VHS tape of The Color Purple. I watched the tape many times, and as I wandered around the countryside on this trip a quote from the movie came to mind.

When I come back to Appalachia it feels the way the character Nettie describes feeling when she sees Africa for the first time in The Color Purple. “On my first sight of Africa coast, something struck in me, in my soul Celie, like a large bell, and I just vibrated.

I walked through the plaza of the Etowah mounds, my hands hovering at the tops of the grasses there, and I was simultaneously of this place, it’s colors, sounds, and smells vibrating in my soul, and the downfall of this place, of the people who called it home for millennia.

I cannot resolve this in my head. I am a part of this land, and it is a part of me, but I would never have been here if my people hadn’t stolen it from others, and brutalized them in the process.

Maybe resolution isn’t possible. Maybe I will never feel like I wholly belong any place. Maybe this is why I wander.

I just know, when I leave TN, I always feel as if I’m leaving behind a part of myself.

A quick note on the Etowah mounds. Two things really struck me when I was there. The first was just how clearly this culture is tied to those in Mexico. Same aesthetic in art and ritual objects. Same pyramidal forms. Same village layout. Remarkable. The second was how utterly exposed one must have felt crossing the plaza, under the watchful eyes of those on the mounds.