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Dollars and Sense in Sisters

23 October 03

Sisters, Oregon

Rain and wind during the night on Lake Bob, and fog in the morning. Cold most of the day. Lake turned back into Timothy with the arrival of fishermen in the afternoon on Wednesday, then back into Bob for the night. Then Timothy again with the morning fog. This was getting confusing.

I decided to ride down into Bend and get a kayak cover. Hood River didn't have one to fit. They specialize in those little surfboard sorts of kayaks for river riding.

On the way I came across evidence of a big fire. Many, many acres of sentinel snags along the road.

It was getting dark as I pulled into Sisters, and there was a city campground on the south side for 10 bucks a night. Dump included. That was the only bargain to be had in Sisters. This Texas boy was flabbergasted to find someone asking $18 for a fajita dinner of dubious Mexicanality. Hamburgers for 10 bucks. Yessiree, I think I've landed in the economic quicksand of a genuine pre-season ski resort.

Pardon the green eyeshade.

The restaurants in Sisters drove me to take a probing, sad, and puzzled look at the probity of my spending habits last quarter. Excluding expenses associated with the heart attack and keeping the house in Georgetown (which are considerable), I've been bleeding cash at the rate of $3200 a month. This includes everything: taxes, insurance, repairs, the lot.

Earlier trips seemed a lot cheaper. My sweep through East Texas last March ran less than 50 bucks a day. But that didn't include fixed expenses, or any repairs.

Looking over all this in Quicken, two particularly recalcitrant categories stand out: gas, at $500/mo., and "Misc." at (gasp) $1380/mo. Every month. Month after month.

"Misc." covers all cash disbursements. Mostly groceries, restaurants, and camping fees. It's a broad category that I've come to use for convenience while traveling. Perhaps it is a little too convenient.

Aha. Your mission, Mr. Phelps, should you choose to accept it, is to reduce the expense in both these categories by half. Otherwise your budget will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

It's not impossible. I've been travelling far too much. That's an odd thing for an inveterate traveller to admit, I know. But there it is. There's no need for me to move every single day. In fact, it's inconvenient. And expensive.

I think I can eat very well, cooking in the trailer, for $500 a month. Or less. Restaurants are budget bludgeoners. Get that through your pointy head, Bobaroo.

I am aware that the problem is really social. I get bored, and go into restaurants just to get out of the truck. Another reason to stop driving every day. I think I could easily feed two people on half the money, if I just did the cooking myself. I have had good food spoil in the refrigerator recently, and that's just silly.

Food is cheap. Being served food is expensive. Not today, or tomorrow. But cumulatively, over time, and for the rest of your life. Tonight I'll forego the fabulous fleshpots of Sisters, Oregon. I'll just have a steak right here in camp.

24 Oct 03


It's a sunlit, slightly windy 27 degrees here in camp at 7 o'clock this morning. Makes me want to walk around on the balls of my feet, with a spring in my step. Paw the ground a little. Also makes me want to start the generator and replace the power loss from the heater fan last night.

I went to do wash, and visit the library. The laundromat was brand new. I mentioned this at a nearby bakery, and the lady said "Oh, we just got the town septic done. Before that we couldn't have a laundromat."

While I was eating my poppyseed bagel and cream cheese, a fella at the next table was holding forth earnestly on a theory that "the loggers" had set the fire this summer, two days before Bush was to arrive on a Presidential tour.

Wasn't really a debate. The other guy was just scratching his beard and drinking coffee.

Bend, Oregon, is far too small to get lost in. But it sure is hard to find anything there. That's because there's lots of streets that drift off into dead ends, and half of them have the same six names, differentiated only by SW, NW, SE, NE. You can get real close, and then find yourself abruptly up the river without a paddle. I went round and round looking for a store that sold kayak covers, and had success at last. It was under a restaurant addressed off another street.

Then there's these traffic circles. They may be easy to negotiate if you know where you're going and you're not dragging 30 feet of trailer behind you. They seem to like them here. But I've really come to depend on a slow red light, or a stop sign, to give me time to look down at Streets and Trips. The Walmart, as you might expect, was easy to find.

For a small town, there sure are a lot of people here in a honking hurry. Almost as bad as Aberdeen, WA.

Just as soon as I could, I left for Bachelor Mountain. More of those nicely paved mountain roads. Around Elk Lake I got out to take a picture of a burnt area, and here came a fella on roller-skis, making a spritely 10 mph or thereabouts. We were 20 miles from anywhere, but he was in no mood to stop and talk. Momentum means a lot on those things.

I was looking for something like I found at Timothy Lake. Lava Lake wasn't it. Why, there's 4 trailers in there. Cultus wasn't completely right, but I decided it was close enough. One Class C down the road, and a couple of trucks and boat trailers by the ramp. Pretty quiet. I pulled into the picnic area.

The motorhome left after an hour or two. I never heard the boats. I built a fire, and towards sunset I realized just where I was.

I was back on Lake Bob.


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