Old Diary

Peter’s Command Central

You see here, Peter’s Command Central!

My Command Post and My Crew

My Command Post and My Crew

Journey is starting to look, once again, as if we actually live here. And just to make things complete, here’s my office, my command center and my ‘secretaries’ — or should I call them my ‘crew.’  That’s Brrrt  and Bear and Otis up there on the steering wheel table.

We plugged in our F.S. landline, and I have my F.S. cell phone on the steering wheel table as well.  And my hard hat and our GPS.  I’m all ready to go… but no where yet to go until the boss turns us loose after the training is done.

As someone who has always been a ‘just do it’ kind of guy the rules and concern about liability and training are sort of foreign to me, but I respect them.  So, I’m dragging an anchor behind until we get the go-ahead to get out there and get busy.

None of which means I can’t have fun while waiting.

Welcome to Command Central!


Old Diary

I think we know what our job is

We had a day just with our supervisor.

Well, most of the day…

Which really means about two hours.

We headed back to Reedsport — perhaps the last trip we’ll have to, or be able to claim mileage for.

I got my official Government Driving License — GOOD

I went through the clothes lockers in search of uniform components that FIT me — the lockers are for volunteer uniforms and while some of them get cleaned and re-issued to new volunteers there are some problems:  a.) I’m a good sized guy and some of my items I had a hard time finding, b.) some of the items had been laundered enough that the labels were illegible — which means trying on a lot of things that we no where close to my size — and then reorganizing the cabinet with the discovered-size-items placed where they belonged in the first place.  c.) some items simply didn’t exist.  I ended up with enough uniform pieces that I have work uniforms for a week and after we’ve been here a while I’ll ask them to order in the remainder of pieces in the RIGHT size.

We went over to the rain-suit supplier and ordered raingear for me.  Peg had a rainsuit in the tub of stuff they automatically hand out to all their caretakers — so she had been set already.

We then went with the boss to all the sites we will be caretaking save one that we couldn’t reach in the time we had.  So, with one exception we know WHERE we will be working.

At that point she had to be back at the office for a meeting.  She issued me a temporary vehicle — ours still hasn’t been repaired. We stopped back at Harbor Light for a quick bite and back to Journey. I wanted to finish the water hookup — little details like adding elbows onto the Culligan filter base so that the hoses dropped DOWN instead of running out horizontally — just a neatness item. We also wanted to insulate the water lines.  We may not have sustained freezing temps but a little insulation around the water lines is a good thing.  I also managed to shorten our freshwater feed hose to 15 feet.  I feel good about the little details that annoy me when I look at them; may not amount to a hill of beans; but just contribute to feeling like this is HOME SWEET HOME.

This is the filter head with the parts they originally gave me.  I didn't like the hoses projecting off to the side -- that would be find in a home with a normal installation, but out here they are just something to get caught on.  The pedestal sit even with our front coach tire and we will often be moving past that area.

This is the filter head with the parts they originally gave me. I didn’t like the hoses projecting off to the side — that would be find in a home with a normal installation, but out here they are just something to get caught on. The pedestal sit even with our front coach tire and we will often be moving past that area. In fact, you can see the lug nuts in the picture.

This is the completed installation : elbows installed and hoses down.

And from the side, hoses all insulated and good to go.  I should put an insulated shroud around the filter housing -- it's plastic and could freeze with sustained cold.
And from the side, hoses all insulated and good to go. I should put an insulated shroud around the filter housing — it’s plastic and could freeze with sustained cold.

So, that’s done!

We are still waiting for the propane supplier to get to the site to hook up our propane.  I still have to figure out (with DISH tech support) why we aren’t getting TV) and I still have to sort out our iNet problems. We get some signal but it keeps oscillating between one and two bars and 3G and 1X — not a very satisfactory solution.  But we’ve only been here in our site for three days.  We’ll get it twigged soon enough.

I thought you might be interested to see the work center roof.  This portion of Oregon gets about twice the annual precipitation that we got in Wisconsin.  But in Wisconsin an average of 52 inches of snow made up a good portion of our annual precipitation.  Around here it’s almost all rain and what little snow there is doesn’t last long.  As a result MOSS grows all over the place.  Here’s the roof of our work center to illustrate:

Moss Anyone?

Moss Anyone?

Something else very different here is the attention to chainsaw carving (Reedsport seems to have an annual competition) — but on a marine/coastal motif. This beautiful carving won the 2011 competition:

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So, in the end, our job really comes down to something quite simple:

  • To be eyes and ears for the Forest Service.  As Belva put it, the biggest part of the job is to be an investigator.
  • To care for the areas under our jurisdiction as if they were our home.  Mowing, weed whacking, replacing parts, checking on why things may not be working, making sure that the rest rooms that the area caretakers have been doing sanitation and primary cleaning on do not run out of toilet paper or supplies, and keeping the area caretakers supplied.
  • And also to give Camp Hosts some other human to talk to.
    (Don’t laugh — this was actually something we talked about and it’s a real need that volunteers who are out there on the front line dealing with CAMPERS have contact with people they can vent to, and people who don’t want something from them.)

Whenever our truck repair is finished we’ll be driving a 3/4 ton pickup, and we’ll have a trailer permanently assigned to us so that we can haul our Zero Turn mower, push mower, tools, etc around from place to place.  We’ll have most of our supplies right there with us at the work center.  And in general we’ll visit most of the locations along our 20 mile stretch once a day for small, medium, or large periods of time doing whatever the heck needs doing on that day.  Simple or complex (if you don’t know what needs doing, or where things are) depending on how you look at it.

It’s turning out that a major concern is the water supply.  It is, after all, a public water supply and our primary concern above all else is the safety of the public who use the facility.  I can dig it!

So, we are gradually getting into it….

I’m eager to get off on our own.  While we have ‘jobs’ to do, we also have time of our own here, and we can at least partially make our own schedule and jobs list.  Today while we were touring sites we made the long drive out to a secondary site that’s on our list.  The drive was beautiful — even in the fog, or perhaps especially because of the fog.  On another day I would have stopped to capture a few shots of the extraordinary beauty here.  We really are lucky to be working here!

Old Diary

Whew, we’re exhausted and we didn’t even do much…

How do I describe today in any way other than WHEW!

Our boss was due back into the office today and we suspected that after the Gov’t shutdown and a couple additional days of leave that it could be a couple more days before we heard from her.


About 9 am a knock came on the door.  The Camp Host came over with phone numbers saying that Belva’s (our boss) assistant wanted us to call him.

Fast forward a bunch of minutes while the Camp Host corrected the incorrect phone number she gave us and the several long stories that preceded my being able to extricate myself from their living room.

An hour later we were in Reedsport, where the Forest Service outpost is controlling our section of the forest.  There we were grilled and informed about all manner of things — ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  I have to say it’s not easy completing a written drivers test, and a written trailer towing test while being told all the initial details about what we were going to be doing and how!  I must have done ok — the written driver’s test came back with 100% correct, but believe me my brain hasn’t worked that hard in months, maybe years.

We also watched instructional videos on:

  • Mountain Driving
  • Regular Driving
  • Driving Forest Service Roads
  • Avoiding the Hantavirus
  • Blood Borne Viruses

Then Belva’s assistant, Bob, took me out for a driving test, and a trailer towing test while Peggy went shopping — shopping for uniforms.  By that time it was time for the real employees to go home and we were tuckered.

Tomorrow morning we move to our new site.  That might not be quite as simple as it sounds — that ‘porch’ that some other volunteer build is thought to have been set in concrete bases — so we may either have to cut the base with a chainsaw, or see whether we can front-end-loader-it-out-of-the-ground.  I have to talk with Bob in the morning.

We also need to go back to Reedsport for the first of three Hep A shots and to order raingear.  And I have to pick out uniforms for myself.


We did inherit two rings of keys — we’ve got enough keys to challenge the school maintenance school at my grade school, 31st Street School in Milwaukee, where the maintenance engineer walked around with so many keys his pants always sagged.  We’ve got keys for everything — if only we knew what ‘everything’ included.  We still have no idea what specific locations we’ll be working at.  The options are kind of narrowing down, little by little, but they aren’t springing everything on us all at one time.   Thank goodness.

We’ll be off on Mondays and Tuesdays.  How long we work on any day is going to vary quite a bit, but we were told many times how much they wanted us to enjoy our time here, get out and see things, and be happy in what we are doing, not just DOING stuff.  They do seem to value their volunteers.  There will be a volunteer appreciation day in another month or so. FREE FOOD!!!!!


On our way to Reedsport I stopped alongside the Beach Access Road because in the morning fog there was so much dew on the cobwebs that the vegetation was amazing in it’s decorations.

We’ve had two days of fog now.  Sunday we never saw the sky.  Monday we saw the sun — in Reedsport.  But when we got back to Florence it appears that the fog never lifted.  In Milwaukee we never really SEE ‘fog banks’ — but here they are pretty obvious.  This is looking South from Florence towards the Siuslaw River and the direction where our site is located.

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We had worked well past lunch time.  We were encouraged to take a break for lunch.  We hadn’t thought about bringing sandwiches — not knowing how long we’d be in Reedsport, so we tried out the Harbor Light Resto right across the street from the Forest Service office.  We were told that they have really great soups, but no comments were made about any of the balance of the menu.  We ordered Bacon, Blue Cheese Burgers with cole slaw and the burgers were humongous!!!!  And delicious!!! NO need for supper Monday night!


I’m not sure if I’ll have time to write tomorrow.  We’ll start work either Wednesday or Thursday depending on how much problem we have with that ‘porch’ and whether we end up needing to remove it, or can find a way of using it in situ.  I’ll let you know when we know.