Firefly 2015

So what should one do one week before taking off on a 3 week RV vacation? Go to Firefly, of course! We went to the first Firefly in 2012 and really enjoyed the music and small crowd of approximately 30,000 people. We rented an RV for 2012 Firefly, and considering there seemed to be 1 toilet for every 300 people in the tent camping area, we reached the conclusion that the RV was money well spent. However, the festival was so poorly organized and run (volunteers not doing their jobs, parking rules changing constantly, water price gouging, lack of water, Jack White’s sound not working – which may have been a blessing in disguise), we were not going to come back unless there was an amazing line-up.

Then Firefly 2015 was announced. And Paul McCartney was the headliner. And we figured in 20 years Alex could say he saw Paul McCartney in concert. So, against our better judgement, we bought our tickets and reserved an RV spot and made plans to take a one year old to a music festival with a targeted ticket sales to reach 90,000.

We should have taken a closer look at Paul McCartney’s tour schedule. We would have discovered he was playing the Wells-Fargo Center in Philly the night after his Firefly appearance, it would have been a wiser use of our money. So, the good and the bad.

Alex: He had an absolute blast. Loved listening to the music and people watching. Even better, there was a 12-week old there. So just turning one was a late start for a first concert experience.

Alex getting into the music at Firefly.
Alex getting into the music at Firefly.
Alex making faces at Firefly.
Alex making faces at Firefly.
Alex at Paul McCartney. He was there. It counts.
Alex at Paul McCartney. He was there. It counts.
Alex relaxing in a hammock at Firefly.
Alex relaxing in a hammock at Firefly.















Music: It was a fantastic line up. We were never close to the stage, but we enjoyed the acts from a distance.

Weather: Okay, we know the organizers can’t control the weather, but a little advance planning goes a long way. Delaware experienced torrential rains ahead of the festival and the RV camping areas were swampy. Fill was being brought in the day the before the gates were to open, but it wasn’t nearly enough. More rains were experienced during the festival, creating a giant mud pit where shoes were lost. To top it all off, severe storms were predicted the last night of the festival, canceling the headliner and spurring announcements to seek shelter. The poor tent campers were directed to their cars, some a 45 minute walk away from their tents. Perhaps using every available golf cart and shuttle to help concert goers seek shelter would have been wise. We left ahead of the rain. We saw people come in and attempt to park their big rigs, and knew if the grounds got much sloppier, there was a strong likelihood these folks were going to get stuck and block the only exit. No point in having to deal with that mess right before our 2015 Western Odyssey.

Organization: We had passes for the camping sites next to the entrance and had to load in by Wednesday. It seemed foolish for Jess to take an extra day off of work and sit around in an RV when there weren’t going to be any acts. So, we purchased a vehicle parking pass, and Jess and Alex drove down to Dover on Thursday. After picking up the parking pass at will call, Jess drove to the appropriate parking lot as indicated on her map. This was the incorrect thing to do. Apparently, festival organizers wanted all traffic directed to a single choke point, and then redirect people to their appropriate location once viewing the pass. This would have meant sitting in line for 45 minutes plus with an antsy 1 year old.

Upon arriving at the appropriate parking lot, Jess discovered that no one was checking for passes or even directing parking. This was also beneficial because Jess got to select her own premium parking spot, but it was clear wasted $40 to buy the pass. The lack of guidance with parking was clear when Jess picked up the car. People had played the always fun game of create your own parking space and block someone else in.

A laundry list of rules that were disregarded or sporadically enforced. Throw in the lovely gentleman who believed that the two foot strip of grass we weren’t occupying in our camping spot was his invitation to park there.

Sound: You think they would have someone in the audience, or several someones at different points in the audience listening to ensure that Paul McCartney’s sound was working just fine. His one mic was not working, but we got to see  his lips move on the giant TV screens.

Kids these days: Yes, here is our inner curmudgeons. We should have stayed home right (don’t we wish). But,these are the people who will be wiping our rear ends in a nursing home later, and I am concerned that kids these days cannot even find their own rear end even using their phone GPS.

Again? Would we go again . . . would have to be a truly awesome line-up. And we would spring for the Super VIP passes. We’ve heard good things about Lollapalooza.

RV Travel with a Toddler

The younger the kid, the more items you need to bring along to make life a little bit easier. That being said, traveling with Alex and Abby was easier when he was younger than 1 year compared to his 1 to 2 year old self.

Where everyone travels while Abby is in motion. Buster is hiding on his bed behind the driver’s seat.

Car Seat: Alex travels in Abby in his car seat. Besides being legally required and the fact Abby is essentially a giant fiberglass box, what other reasons does one really need? Alex is a curious little boy and climbs around non-stop while we are camping, he would be thrilled to be able to be up front in a prime viewing seat. Just too much chance for serious injury. Alex’s car seat provides protection.

The car seat is stored in the driver’s seat when we stop and camp. This has two benefits. First, it is out of the way. Second, it keeps Alex from climbing into the driver’s seat and flashing Abby’s high beams at the poor folks camped across from us. Alex really likes the driver’s seat because of all the buttons and knobs to with which to fiddle.

Alex having a blast in the driver's seat.
Alex having a blast in the driver’s seat.

Sleeping: Alex slept in this Fisher-Price Rock-‘n-Play Sleeper up to approximately 8 months in age. We LOVED this sleeper. Folded up compact and fit in the drop down bunk above the cab and had a very small foot print. This sleeper easily fit near the sleeper sofa and the dogs had the dinette benches to sleep on. Wins all around.

Then Alex got too big and too mobile to safely use the sleeper. So we changed to the Pack ‘n Play. More room for Alex means more room needed for the Pack ‘n Play. We actually fold down the dinette and place the Pack ‘n Play on top; it takes up 2/3 of the dinette sleeping space. Now only one dog can sleep on the available bench. It is also a pain to break down the dinette nightly and put it back up in the morning. Oh, and the TV has to be unplugged because Alex and reach up and turn it on. And the light bulbs need to be taken out of the kitchen light because he can reach the switch. Minor, nerve grating points.

Our troubles with the Pack ‘n Play will soon be a thing of the past since Alex is now getting too big for that. We will be investigating new sleeping arrangements – the current top contender is Dave sleeping on the top bunk and Alex sleeping with Jess on the fold out sofa. We are looking to add a barrier to the front of the top bunk so Alex can safely sleep up there by himself. This will require Dave’s tools, which happen to be in our storage trailer, which, at this time, is still located in upstate NY.

Clothes/Diapers: Little baby, small clothes, many more items that can be packed in the same space as the larger, bulkier, toddler clothes. Same for diapers. With diapers, we have a small shelf that can fit about 32 diapers and a package of wipes next to the TV. Extra diapers are stored under the sofa. A project is in the works to make this into a more accessible storage space. Found these organizers on Amazon for storing Alex’s clothes. Purchased three. They work very well and we are pleased with them. They take up the large cabinet above the dinette bench next to the fridge. Overall, the system works well.

Toys: This was one that was much easier when Alex was less mobile. A limited selection of toys was required since Alex slept a good portion of the day. As he has gotten older, a more diverse set of toys is required to hold his interest over his waking hours. We have blocks, puzzles, magnets, books, crayons, paper, trucks, trains, and stuffed animals. Our current storage system is less than ideal: center cabinet above dinette and the dinette bench while underway, cab when stopped. Include the fact that Alex is very mobile and likes to dump his blocks, poor Abby is brimming with chaos.

Biking in Davis

We gave a brief overview on what it is like riding in a bike in Davis in a previous post. We wanted to expand upon our biking experiences.

When we arrived in Davis it had been a long time since we had done any biking. A few rides while we were traveling, but nothing that could be described as strenuous or long. Upon arriving in Davis, our hand was forced. We spent the first 3 weeks in town with only our bicycles for transportation. (Okay, so we did have Abby; was parked in storage since our driveway was too small to keep her at the house and HOA covenants didn’t permit that type of classiness in the neighborhood anyway.) Even after the car arrived, we stayed with bicycling.

In the last 14 weeks, we each have put about 575 miles on our bikes. It is probably closer to 625 since we did not have odometers for the first couple of weeks.

Alex off to daycare in his bike trailer!
Alex off to daycare in his bike trailer!

Our reintroduction to bicycling everywhere was a rather rude awakening. Muscles protested the new and consistent work, our butts protested the bike seat. Our transition was aided by the fact that Davis is rather flat. The most intense hills are the overpasses that cross the interstate. This is not the place to be if you are training for the mountain stages of the Tour de France. It was also helpful that the network of bike paths offered some safe alternatives to using the bike lanes all the time. This was especially key since Alex was being towed in a trailer. The bike infrastructure here is really amazing and promotes bicycling.

A fun discovery about riding in Davis in the spring is the wind. It always seems to be blowing, and it always seems to be a headwind. The wind just swirls, and we were always working hard into it while all sorts of dust and pollen bits were blown into our eyes.

Alex’s daycare was located on the other side of campus; riding through campus was challenging, especially if your timing was off and it was class change. The mob of students on bikes, skateboards, and walking in the bike path was unreal. It was a dangerous situation because of all the people riding with earbuds (can’t hear the weak bike bells) and texting (truly oblivious to the outside world, no way they could apply the brakes fast enough if they needed to). We worked hard to coordinate drop off and pick up to avoid the crush of students during class change.

It was also easier to ride our bikes downtown than trying to find parking for the car.

Overall, we really enjoy being able to ride our bikes. We are hoping that where ever we land next will have a bicycle friendly culture.

Oh yeah, the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame is in Davis. We park by it every week as we shop at the farmer’s market, but we have never actually gone in. And check out this video by the Empty Seat.

Living in Davis

Weather: There is a lovely lack of humidity. So much so that when the dew point creeps above 50 (a low humidity day back east), it feels rather humid in Davis. However, in the summer the temperatures can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit or so. Even with the lower humidity still hot. A summer or two of that type of heat, we might even start wearing parkas when it gets down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Taxes: 8.25% sales tax in the city of Davis. Coming from Delaware, land of no sales tax (and shell corporations to assist you in money laundering and tax evasion), this was a shock. We rented, so we cannot comment on property taxes. You do get something for your money though. The community park network is extensive, bike trails cross the city, there is yard waste pick up, and the city is neat and tidy. So, we grump a bit when we pay the tax, but we actually see the positive effects the money has to the community.

Roads: With the money one pays in taxes, the gentle weather (think no frost, so no frost heaves), and a bike culture that cuts back on motor vehicle traffic, the assumption would be the roads would be pristine. Alas, they are not. Definitely a step up from what we experienced in Louisiana, but a far cry from the glass smooth roads in Texas (county routes included!). The best part is the manhole covers. It looks like the wrong size collars were installed, so these covers sit significantly above the road level and they city attempted to pave a grade up to the covers. An interesting experience driving over these things in Abby. Oh, and the other drivers. Very indecisive to the point of timid, with a complete lack of understanding of how to use a rotary. Hint, if you are in the rotary, you do not yield to traffic entering the circle.  It could be argued that California has some of the worst drivers in the country.  Not paying attention, not caring about any kind of order, just a big whatever. This may be a reflection of our east coast driving style as well.

Liberal/Conservative: Davis a college town in California. It is a wee bit liberal. This may be a deliberate understatement. Here is a link to the campus newspaper. The town loves regulations. In the park near our rental there are about 100 signs each with a different town ordinance with a summary of what you cannot do. Feels like when Bart joined the Junior Campers and got the book the 10 Do’s and 500 Don’ts of knife safety. Just remember don’t do what Donny Don’t does.

The People: Cordial, turning friendly as soon as one begins to brew beer in the driveway. Being a college town, it is full of college students, who making going anywhere near campus downright dangerous. It is stressful to drive a car near the college. Why? Bicyclists who believe they are permitted to ignore traffic laws, all while they are texting (not a single hand on the handlebars), ear buds in, completely oblivious to the world. UC Davis, please put some serious consideration into establishing a semester long mandatory freshman seminar called ‘Situational awareness: keeping you alive’. And a bicycling safety seminar. Transfer students have to take these seminars as well.

Parks/Community Recreation: An extensive park system with small neighborhood parks tucked along bike trails bordering communities. Lots of large parks for soccer or Quidditch tournaments (remember, it is a college town). We signed Alex up for gymnastics class (Diaper Daredevils, Creative Climbers) through the City of Davis and he absolutely loved it.

Bike Trails/Lanes: Ubiquitous through out the city. A 12-mile scenic loop around Davis and many more paths across Davis. Some challenges are the rough roadways for the bike lanes, and some of the bike trails provide a good challenge in dodging potholes and heaves. Also, yard waste tends to be piled in the bike lane.

What we will miss: Parks, bicycle infrastructure, the produce (farmer’s market is fabulous), restaurants (nothing 5 star, but solidly decent food), simply gorgeous winter and spring weather.

What we won’t miss: Living six feet away from our neighbors, oblivious college students, the summer heat, how expensive everything is.

Magic 8 Ball Says: Reply hazy, try again

It has been a long time between posts. Jess has had her nose deep in the books studying for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling Diploma in Brewing Exams, all while searching for a job. Which means Dave has been busy wrangling Alex, the dogs, and running a household. Alex is getting the itch to travel and is always very excited to see Abby or take a ride in the car. Little does he know, we will soon be on the road again.

Alex is very happy to pay Abby a visit at the storage facility.

With the UC Davis Extension Master Brewers Program in its penultimate week and Jess still unemployed, the question is ‘what next?’. What we know for sure is that we will take about 2 weeks to travel around California before our lease is up. After that we will pack up our trailer and head to Colorado, where we have a solid lead on a rental.

It is after this point the Magic 8 Ball’s reply gets a little hazy. If Jess finds employment, a routine will be established and we will settle in to that. If Jess is still unemployed, we will take the opportunity to travel. Perhaps up to Banff, down to Washington, Oregon, and then back to Colorado. The future is unwritten, but we at least have an outline.