8-Bit Wine Bottle Cozy Bag

While working on this project, Hubby asked “What’s with the 8-bit pattern?”  8-bit?  Oh, man.  Like those greeting cards we used to print on dot-matrix printers from a Commodore-64 in the ‘80s.  Fine – he’s not wrong.

BTW, I’ll add my thoughts on the pattern and yarns up front and keep the actual instructions short and sweet.  Who loves a verbose, stream-of-consciousness knitting pattern that prints across a dozen pages?  Nobody.  Definitely not me.

Traveling through the US on The Great Wander, Hubby and I came across a stylish and dog-friendly yarn shop in Charlottesville, VA.  Ewe Fine Fiber Goods welcomed us for knit night, and I found Green Mountain Spinnery Mewesic, Diamonds and Rust, on their sale table.  What a yummy auburn color with flecks of gold.  We were looking forward to living in a sticks and bricks with a top-loading washer, and I really wanted to felt something, since I’d only had front loaders since learning to knit.  This was an experiment, not exactly well planned, but the resulting bag seems nice enough to share.  Part of the lesson learned is that stranded knitting felts tighter than plain stockinette.  Duh.  Several inches of stockinette below the heavier stranded design could have sent this to the trash, but the piece arranged itself into little rings that give it a footing, almost an architectural touch.  Widening at the top with a tie to hold the fold flat balances the piece, rather like an artistic vase.  With a bow.

Download the pattern 8-Bit Wine Bottle Cozy Bag for free if you want to make your own.  Please do not sell this pattern or anything you make with it unless you get express, written permission from me, the pattern author.  (Send a message to Susan via the contact form or email in the PDF.)  Feel free to make bags for your friends, and give them a lovely chilled bottle.  The cozy will keep it cool along the way, and you’ll look extra cool presenting it.

Fruity Barrel Cactus

Traveling through Arizona in the spring, I fell in love with cacti bearing fruit and flower.  The squatty barrel cactus felt friendly, like a waggy dog you meet on a trail.  It’s medium sized, companionable, not one to loom threateningly overhead or to hold you at arm’s length.  It says, “Sit by me and gaze at the mountain range.”

Wanting to take the cactus home but knowing I couldn’t, I designed a replica to ride on the dash of our motor coach.  You can make one too, and enjoy the Southwest wherever you are.  The pattern is on Ravelry.

Keepin’ it 100 – fun with electricity

Recap:  Last night we pulled into a pretty camp in South Carolina, hooked up shore power and … nothin.  Would we have to sweat through the night and our shorts?  Would we share loudly rumbling diesel generator sounds and fumes with our neighbors?  Would the Hampton Inn take a mild-mannered Schnauzer?

The RV park had another 50 amp spot available and allowed / suggested we move there, to the edge of the campground where running the gennie all night would disturb other campers less.  They even offered us a refund, if we decided to go to a hotel instead, which was especially gracious and not something every park would do.  So Michael unplugged stuff, stowed the landing pads, and off we went to another spot.  Turn off the engine, the generator, and all air conditioners.  Plug in to this 50 amp pole, and wait for the fancy surge protector to run its checks.  It’s only 88° now but a zillion % humidity.  Wait.  And…. it works!  Happy, happy, joy, joy!  Turn on the cool air and break out the gin, ’cause the thing magically fixed itself!  OK, it didn’t really.  What probably happened, to get technical for a sec, is voltage dips at the old site made the transfer switch say “No way.”  South Carolina’s had flooding and a tornado recently, and maybe this power pole is corroded.  Contacts on our reel probably need cleaning too.  Many points of failure have to agree that today is not a good day to die, in order for the bus to have power.  It turned out fine, nothing caught fire, no misery this time.  Well, none apart from wondering whether essential utilities would function, after a day of driving with another travel day coming in the morning.

Speaking of the morning, guess what?  The generator didn’t feel like it, so it went … On?  …no, how about Off.  Ha ha!  *sigh*  No gennie while driving means no AC in the bus while driving six hours in upper 90° temps, except what blows out of the dash.  Trust me, that won’t cut it.  Parboiled ain’t a good look for Chip.  Experience told Michael to force a hard reboot on the generator’s brain.  Is there a switch for that?  Yeah right.  Here’s the switch: pull open the gennie drawer, take the cover off, remove a coolant reservoir, release a catch with a screwdriver, then lever a ribbon cable off the computer, count to five, and reconnect everything.  That’s how you reboot.  Thankfully, it did the trick and appeased the motor gods.  For now.

It’s another fun filled day of driving along the interstate.  What could go wrong?  Shush.

Keepin’ it 100

…as in keeping it real and honest.  Until now, we have posted mainly happy photos and fun discoveries here on The Great Wander.  Do you want nothing but sunshine and buttercups blown up your hind end?  Hmm, go watch a Disney movie, only not Toy Story 4 because that’s supposedly a tear jerker.  The last thing this big kid needs is more tears.  To all the people we meet who say they’ve always wanted to travel the country in an RV and how amazing it must be, sure, sometimes it’s great.  No, it’s not all gleeful, wacky Hollywood schadenfreude spectacle.  Now and then, usually on travel days, the bad thing happens to you, and that’s not so funny, is it chucklehead?

Today’s RV adventure is electrical.  We arrive in South Carolina (state #19 – whee) on a 90 degree day at a camp wooded with majestic pines and a wonderfully long and level pull-thru site reserved for us.  We’re only staying one night, but we have full hookups with 50 amp electric.  The dog park beckons, and we have fresh peaches, tomatoes, and cobbler in a jar bought this afternoon to entertain us before a long drive tomorrow.  Great!  Michael hooks up electric and water, Susan pushes the Auto Level button, Fay does her magic, no problem.  Turn off the air conditioning units, let the generator run a couple more minutes to cool, check for 50 Amp Service on the monitor panel in the cockpit, then switch the cool air back on.  Thump!  thump-thump—thump.  Nope.  No Service.  An hour and 20 later, after phone calls and Internet searches, we got nothin’.  Stay tuned to hear how tonight’s adventure ends.

Floral arrangement…with shrooms

Exploring things that grow takes a park from basic to brilliant. Case in point is here in rural Sumter County, Florida, where it rains buckets, lizards and frogs skitter behind every fern, and mushrooms sprout behind cypress trees.

Ride the Dentzel Carousel in Meridian MS

If you find yourself in Meridian, Mississippi you’ll see pretty carousel horses around town – in front of shops, the train station, City Hall – all over. Plenty of towns have painted statuary animals, like the buffalo in Custer, SD and cats in Catskills, NY, but Meridian actually has a working carousel. It’s not a recent thing dreamed up by a tourism bureau, either. The Dentzel Carousel in Highland Park is over a century old, and the best part is you can still ride it. Whee!

Gustav Dentzel built the grand old carousel in 1896 for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. The city of Meridian was a happening place in 1909, full of culture and commerce, when they bought the carousel and had it installed in its own special house, made from a Dentzel blueprint. Generations have grown up riding the carousel horses at birthday parties and on happy summer days just ’cause. In 1977 the carousel, Carousel House, and Highland Park were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and they became National Historic Landmarks in 1986. Highland Park, with its gazebos, duck pond, swimming pool, and Jimmie Rodgers museum, is worth a stroll, remembering the gentlemen in suits and ladies wearing long dresses and feathered hats who used to promenade along the paths when the Queen City enjoyed prosperity.

Follow this link above for more information on the carousel and when it’s open as well as the Wikipedia and InYourState pages.

For more pictures of the carousel 110 years after it arrived in Meridian, head over here.

While you’re in Meridian, check out the shrimp and grits at Weidmann’s or a refreshing salad at the Harvest Grill. The Soulé Steam Feed Works is pretty awesome if you have time for a tour, and the belt-driven machines look a whole lot like the carousel’s works. If you only have a few minutes on a weekend afternoon or a summer day when the carousel is open, you gotta ride the horses – or the antelope, or even the lion.

James Orland “Bud” Hasty

His family called him Bud, but he gave J. Orland Hasty to the city directory man. The oldest boy and second child of ten, Orland was born in 1886 in Kemper County, Mississippi. By 1900 his parents, James Scott Hasty and Mattie Ann Watkins, had moved their eight children across the county line to Daleville, Lauderdale, Mississippi. Orland was still in school at age 14, although his 16 year old sister Onie was working in a general store. Two years later the family moved to Meridian and got a house on Poplar Springs Drive, and the father went to work for the A. Gressett Music House. Orland gained two more sisters in 1903 and 1908, but he lost his baby brother Telius Algier to measles in 1904.

In 1907 Orland married Janie Clark, and in 1908 he appeared in the Meridian city directory as a harness maker for the Threefoot Brothers & Co. During that time a photographer named Hardt took this photo.

Orland in the 1908 Meridian city directory

Orland and Janie had no children. In December 1910 he died of tuberculosis at age 24.

Arco exploration

Arco Idaho’s claim to fame is being the first town lit entirely by nuclear power. You might think it ran on a nuclear plant for decades, but no. It was about an hour in 1955. Today the town is losing population and looks especially tired after the summer season ends. Still, its WPA-built basalt buildings are impressive, the high school graduating class numbers on the hill will soon wrap 100 years, and the burgers and shakes at Pickle’s Place are delish.

Glenwood Springs Weavers

July 25, 2018

Glenwood Springs, Colorado offers a main drag for trinket shopping, a few quirky shops, and adorable houses.  Hubby and I happened upon a little

Glenwood Springs, CO

farmer’s market in a tiny city park where we bought hand made soap.  The warm day made us seek air conditioning, so we browsed places selling artful dust catchers.  Life in an RV removes the temptation of buying most objets d’art.  Where do we put it?  How fast will it jump off the wall and break?  What’s it weigh?  Oh never mind.

Hoping for a bright spot in the afternoon, I looked for a local weaving or yarn shop.  If it went well, I’d spend a few happy minutes with my tribe.  The Google has a way of suggesting crazy or at least off-the-mark stuff, so when “weaving” turned up Art on 8th, I thought, “Great. It’s an art gallery that has one funky wall hanging made of cat hair and tin foil.”  Still, I can’t leave some stones unturned.

Art on 8th’s downstairs has pretties – jewelry, trinkets, artsy creations – and fabulous woven towels and garments.  As a weaver, although a new one, I recognize quality in consistent work and the beauty in functional twill towels.  It turned out there was a weaving studio upstairs, the shop lady said, where I could observe the process.  Squee!  Must see the looms and talk to weaving kinfolk!

There were three looms on the stair landing, one being used by a silent, studious-looking man.  Shh, mustn’t disturb him.  At the top of the stairs, left, right, and around the corner were looms, looms, looms!  At least five people were weaving their hearts out, and a couple more hovered and assisted.  I didn’t get full details, but evidently there is a local effort that gives folks with disabilities the opportunity to learn to weave and to earn money from their work.Assistants handle dressing the looms, but the clients choose colors and weave yards and yards of gorgeous fabric.  One gentleman weaving fluffy rugs proudly told me he had been doing it for 20 years.  A woman weaving luscious yellows and golds worked so fast and beat so hard that it made me a teensy bit jealous.  (I love to beat the hell out of weft shots and often have to hold back.  Not her!)  These people may have disabilities in some arenas, but where weaving is concerned, they’ve got skills.

I only wished for a guest loom where I could sit, weave, and enjoy their company.  To the assistant who answered my questions and said she only dresses the looms but has yet to weave – oh honey!  You gotta do it!

Landing in Hot Springs AR

July 5, 2018

Hubby and I have been to Hot Springs before and enjoyed it, so as a stop on our gradual journey home, it made for an easy choice. It’s hard to break myself from calling Plano “home” even though we’re trying to think of the RV as home. It’s a switch, going from home as a spot on a map to home being this vehicle that you wander around the country in. Plano, with its population of soccer moms carrying their broods around in Porsche Cayennes and Mercedes SUVs, never felt like a place I identified with, but I do miss the house. I even miss pulling weeds, but only in a voluntary way when the weather is nice and the ground lets me have the roots due to a recent rain. Only a bit sheepishly, I pulled a few at our last campground, to Michael’s teasing.

But back to Hot Springs. Yes, they have the historic bathhouse row, and it almost felt like an obligation to go and get a spa treatment, until we did. I insisted on leaving our phones in the locker so when we had the bath it was just bubbles and hot water and cutesy LED lights in the water and calm. Calm. We rejoined the world briefly, pressing lightly-scented, cool cloths to our faces and drinking cucumber-infused spring water, before diving back into mental quiet on the massage table. Maybe I should adopt this routine as a religious observance. I don’t participate in organized religion, but if part of the point of that exercise is meditation and a positive reset for mind and soul, I think I could do worse than a soak and massage.