Home is Where the Heart Is

So good to be home.

I was away for about two months, on a frost contract in Woodland, CA near Sacramento.

When I moved my “mobile mansion” south in the middle of February, I was actually glad to be getting away from the Wenatchee area. I’d just spent my first winter back in a cold climate after about 15 Arizona winters. The short days combined with an amazing amount of fog — of all things — had made me kind of glum. Even though I’d was very comfortable with a house-sitting gig near my own home, I was ready for a break that included warm weather.

So when the frost control job in the Sacramento area materialized again this year with better standby pay coupled with the requirement to actually remain in the area for the duration, I jumped at it. I was heading south with my RV before the end of February and settled in at Watts-Woodland Airport by February 25.

Me in a Balloon
My hot air balloon flight was a highlight of the trip.

I had a great time in the Sacramento area. Daytime temperatures ranged from 60°F to 84°F with nighttime temperatures seldom dipping below 40°F. We were only put on call for possible frost flying once in 42 days. If my contract had been the same as the one I had in 2013, I would have taken a financial hit. But this contract paid better for standby so I was actually better off if I didn’t have to fly. So it was a win-win.

In fact, in a way it was like an all-expense-paid vacation with a bonus at the end.

I did a lot while I was there — kayaking in the American River and Putah Creek, hiking in the hills and in Muir Woods, ballooning, joy-flying in the helicopter, wine tasting in Napa Valley, whale watching, hosting friends, making new friends, visiting San Francisco. I even learned to fly a gyroplane. I blogged a bit about some of these things (follow the links) but not as much as I would have liked to — I was just too darn busy to sit down and write much!

Gyro Solo
I learned to fly this gyro in 6 days, soloing after just 7 hours of flight time. I’m now thinking a bit more seriously about a fixed wing rating.

Still, before March month-end, my Wenatchee area clients started calling, asking when I’d be back. They had places to go, things to photograph. The damage to the Wanapum Dam and the draining of the lake above it had all the locals wanting to see the river from the air. There was flying to do when I got home.

There was also a home to be built. I’d been sitting on plans for what’ll basically be a custom garage with living space for more than a year and had given the green light to the builder before heading south. They were planning on an April 30 start date. Some earth work needed to be done and I wanted to be there for the entire process.

So by the first week in April, I was anxious to get home.

I said my farewells to new friends and headed out with the RV in tow on Sunday morning, April 13. By sunset, I was parked in a very nice campsite on the Columbia River in Maryhill State Park, enjoying a full hookup and a full moon.

The next day, I continued on to Wenatchee, less than 4 hours away. I dropped my RV off at the local RV fixit place — the gas furnace had been misbehaving and wound up needing a circuit board — and drove the rest of the way up to my 10 acres of view property in Malaga.

Everything was just as I’d left it. I offloaded my bees, setting them up on a palette near where they’d lived before our trip south and took stock of the things I’d need to do to finish moving back in.

Then I went down to the valley and ran errands until 6 PM, when the RV was ready. After a quick hook up, we made the 20-minute drive back up the hillside and down the 2 miles of improved gravel road to my lot. It took a few moves to get the RV back in place beside the septic system connection, where I’d left the water and power lines waiting for me. Within an hour — including time spent chatting with a neighbor — I had everything all hooked up.

I might have missed the eclipse Monday night, but I did catch the moon setting behind the cliffs from my home early this morning.

I really enjoyed seeing the lights of the city spread out before me that evening. It was mostly cloudy so I missed the eclipse, but I was too darn tired after my long trip and the setup to stay up anyway. I slept like a log.

The next few days were spent doing taxes — I always wait until the last minute — finishing setup, moving things in and out of storage, running errands, and meeting up with friends and contractors. Yesterday was overcast and rather cold — I could swear it was snowing up at Mission Ridge, which I can see from my place. I got home from errands by 6:30 and there was still plenty of light to watch a storm move in and the clouds descend over Wenatchee Heights and down toward Stemilt Hill. The sun broke through periodically, bathing the cliff walls north of me with a golden light.


I lounged on the sofa with a book, relaxing with Penny on my lap. I think that’s when I first started to realize how good it felt to be home. And when I started to get really excited about the project ahead of me — building my dream home in a place I love.

This morning dawned mostly clear with crisp, clean air on a strong breeze. As I sat at the table with my coffee, writing in my journal, I looked up to see the valley washed in the golden hour light. I stepped outside with my camera for a few shots.

Morning from Cathedral Rock
I shot this photo from the steps of my RV this morning with my Nikon. This is uncropped, shot with a zoom lens set to 46mm (per Photoshop). I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that I’ll be able to see something like this every day right from my home.

I started having second (or third or fourth or fifth) thoughts about where I was putting my building. The builder and I had set corner stakes in February, before I left. (The last time I positioned a building, I’d wished I’d done it differently. But that was supposed to be a temporary building; not the only building on the property. And it’s now pretty much abandoned, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.) I wanted to get it right because it couldn’t be changed once the construction began. So I walked out to the building site with my coffee cup in hand and stood on the ground beneath where one of my bedroom windows would be. I looked out over the valley, reminding myself that I’d be about 12 feet higher when I was looking through a window or standing on the deck that would soon be above me.

And I liked what I saw: a beautiful, unobstructed view down toward Wenatchee and the Columbia River, with nothing but orchards and grasslands and scattered homes and mountains as far as the eye could see.

Home Sweet Home
I shot this image with my phone as I drove off to meet a friend for breakfast this morning. My home will be built to the left of the shed, beyond the frame of this photo.

I went inside to finish my coffee and journal entry.

A while later, my phone rang. It was Bob, one of the friends who’d called and texted me repeatedly while I was gone, just to catch up. That morning, he was looking for a companion for breakfast out. I said yes (of course) and hurried to get dressed, thinking about the warm hug I’d get when I saw him.

It was good to be home.

What do you think?