First Outstanding Dentist Experience Since Going on the Road

I’ve been a very vocal critic of our dentist experiences since going on the road and since I just had a phenomenal experience I wanted to share that with everyone.  I made appointments at Glennallen Family Dentistry a couple of months ago and with some trepidation headed into our appointment today.  Every time we have gone to the dentist it’s been a costly hassle (except for Mexico) and not only did I leave feeling as if I was robbed, I also didn’t trust the care I received.  I had been told that I had a couple of fillings that needed taking care of, but honestly I just didn’t trust the people who made the diagnosis.  So really I just wanted a reasonably priced cleaning and someone to tell me whether I really needed a filling.  Well, today I received so much more than that.  The cleanings were $113 each and when we explained we were self insured they didn’t force the x-rays on us, which everyone else has done so far. More importantly the hygienist was fantastic.  I have never heard Lee laugh during a cleaning before, but Shanan was excellent.  Not only did she perform a very good cleaning in a great environment (massage dental chairs no less)  she also took into account out transient lifestyle.  They have lots of patients who live in the bush or travel frequently and for the first time ever someone got it. She said, “We understand you can’t come back for 10 appointments,” and she actually meant it.  When she discovered I did indeed have a pretty serious cavity and realized the dentist had a short opening available she quickly scheduled me in.  She even completed the cleaning in record time.  She did an excellent job and simultaneously provided us with some very solid information on self-cleaning since she knows it is difficult for us to find a dentist.  We will be investing in two Phillips Sonic Toothbrushes, for example.  All of this and she got me in the next chair in time for my noon appointment.

The dentist, Dr. Shedlock,  quoted me $231 per filling and waived the examination fee because I was self-insured.  He also took pictures throughout the process and put them on the big monitor so I could see what he was doing.  He filled two cavities (one of which had gone pretty deep) and the before and after pictures were impressive.  He explained that someone could fill over infection and you would never know, but taking pictures throughout the process held everyone accountable.  Loved that.  He also went to dental school in USC but returned to Alaska because that is where he was from.  As far as he is concerned they don’t have to practice backwards medicine just because they are in the middle of nowhere, and he delights in all the latest technology.  The job was excellent, it was obviously completed in a timely manner, and he was 100% credible.  So here is my recommendation: If you are visiting Alaska and will need a cleaning while you’re here, I would call and make an appointment before heading up.  Let them know you travel, and if you are aware of a dental issue you need to get taken care of tell them that so they can double schedule the appointment. If you see them when coming in, then you could make a follow-up (if needed) on the way out.  I, 100% recommend this dentist and this practice, because as I said, they get it. He truly made my day.

OK now back to the rest of the week.  It’s slow here at Northern Nights and I’ve been trying to make the most of the down time while we are waiting on our truck to be done so we can take off.  The part came in on the Friday before the holiday weekend and they promised we would be first in line on Tuesday (they called to confirm they pulled the truck in at noon to start the tear down process), so we entered the weekend somewhat optimistic. Jo and Ben also stopped by on their way out of Alaska and we got some more yummy halibut, plus I got to see their puppy Peyton some more.  We did get a bit of activity on September 1st as moose season officially opened to everyone.  According to Jo and Ben the roads were full of hunters and we certainly got our fair share for an overnight stay in the campground.

Jo making dinner while I was working one night

Jo making dinner while I was working one night.  That’s friendship!

And Ben cooking the fish

And Ben cooking the halibut he and Bill caught on their recent fishing trip

One of our guests had a truck full of coolers and these antlers. They thought the moose was 7-8 years old. Must have been a big one

One of our guests had a truck full of coolers and these antlers. They thought the moose was 7-8 years old. Must have been a big one. When asked how old it was, he replied “I didn’t ask before I shot him.”

Most exciting of all, Lee finished my side table completely with the piece of redwood we picked up last December and it looks beautiful!!!  We spent so much time looking for the perfect piece of wood,  but not in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn out this nice.  You can read all about the epic odyssey in It’s All About the Wood or just see the picture below for what it looked like in it’s raw state.  Lee was actually pleased with the outcome (not that common of an occurrence for Mr. Perfectionist) and  now I just have to be super careful not to ever, ever forget to use a coaster 🙂 

I'm happy!! Can't wait to see what it looks like stained.

Here’s me very happy with the unfinished piece of wood

And here's the finished table

And here’s the finished table…so happy with the final result.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is we didn’t hear back from the dealership on Wednesday and I called on Thursday and they hadn’t started the work because the warranty company hadn’t approved.  Why?  Because they had just sent the pictures in Wednesday night.  At this point I was upset.  I had specifically told the service manager that I would need to pay for the repair if the warranty company did not approve it (unlikely, I spoke to the warranty company and the pictures are just their process for anything over $2500) and could not understand why the work had not started.  Plus, big shock, no one had looked at the brakes yet.  I was professional on the phone, but made it clear that I was very agitated and the service coordinator Barb said she would check with the technician and call me right back.  That was at 8:20am. Barb called back at 9am and said the brakes were fine but the tie rod was loose.  That’s not good and I am VERY thankful Lee had them check this before we went on the road.  They are tightening it and doing an alignment for $180 and all the work will hopefully be done by Friday evening.  If not, she had a commitment from the service tech that he could work on Saturday and although this wasn’t the best news it was by far the most specific update I have gotten.  So I did appreciate she was trying to work with me and thanked her profusely.  Yes, this wouldn’t have been necessary if the job was done immediately, but let’s face it, these folks are holding my life in their hands here and I have no reason to believe that getting crappy with them would yield a better result.  To the contrary it would probably hurt my cause.

Alright enough about that.  I’ve also been experimenting with recipes to fill in some holes in the recipe book I have been working on, and learned how to make lasagna in the InstantPot. I can’t stress enough how excited I was by figuring this out and actually making something Lee really liked, so I am sharing the recipe below.  I also found a really good dill dip recipe and made Pam’s Chili-Cheese dip that she sent to me.  I do appreciate the recipes some folks sent me, and I am working through them as quickly as I can.  I’ve decided that I want 8-10 recipes in each category and that sounds way easier than you would think.  I’ve probably cooked over 100 new recipes over the last two years and only a few ever make it to here.  Now I am refining that list even further to the best of the best and it turns out I am severely lacking in a couple of categories.  I really need crock pot/instant pot recipes to try and am still looking for very simple travel day recipes.  If you have any recipes in those categories you would  like to share please email me at camperchronicles -at- gmail .com.  It would be much appreciated, and if I use them I will send you a free copy of the cookbook when it’s done. Oh, and Lee seems to have caught the bug because he made chicken enchiladas and even made the enchilada sauce from scratch. So sweet.

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Simultaneously, I have been gathering pictures of all of the chosen recipes and because I am not a professional food photographer (see above lol), they definitely need some work in Adobe Photoshop.  Unfortunately I find that interface extremely confusing and the free instructional materials not that much better. They seemed to assume you know stuff that I at least do not know.  So we signed up for a 30 day free trial at Lynda.com. As someone who used to create training videos for a living I am incredibly impressed by the quality of these videos.  Although the $30 a month subscription price is to steep for our budget, I am a big fan of what they have available here and an even bigger fan of the free trial!   If you are wondering why Lee just doesn’t do it for me, well that’s probably because he has felt I needed to learn this program all along and he absolutely refuses to do my “homework” for me.  I started at the very beginning and I can’t stress enough how important that is.  It’s been great so far, but my brain does start hurting a bit after too many videos and I have to take a break.  This interface is incredibly powerful and also incredibly complicated (there are 4 different ways to undo an action for example), but every time I master a new skill I feel really great about that.

Also, since we blew the budget again in mailings I called our mailing service and discovered it did indeed cost $72 to send mail UPS ground to Alaska.  According to them if we would have sent it USPS priority mail it would have cost $8.95.  Ok that is a HUGE difference and there is no pricing available if you make your choice online.  So from now on we are calling the office every time and getting comparison prices before sending ourselves mail.  Ridiculous there is that much of a price swing…and that choice cost us $130…not cool.

On a completely different note our friend Kelly and Bill just posted their two year full-timing anniversary summary with Facts and Figures.  Now I love data, but no one, and I mean no one, collects data like Bill.  So if you are a curious person or researching the lifestyle I absolutely recommend you check it out. So it’s been a busy waiting period and since my last day working was also Wednesday I really need to focus on getting ready to go.  For example I spent several hours putting together a route down to the lower 48 (short drive days, boondocking every other day, stuff to see wherever we stopped) and now need to throw all that out the window and look at shortest, fastest route because we are losing travel time while we wait for the truck repairs. Really bummed about that because that’s the way we had to get up here and long driving days are definitely not fun.  We promised ourselves we would see all the stuff we missed on the way back, but that just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Either way, despite dreading the long drive,  I am so ready to go.

Pressure Cooker  Lasagna 

This recipe can be altered for any lasagna recipe you prefer.  Just make sure the meat is cooked, you use oven-ready flat lasagna noodles,  and you always start and end with a sauce layer. The short pressure cooking time ensures both cooked noodles and distinct layers which I was really happy about. 

*One 26 oz jar of meat sauce (I used my spaghetti sauce and worked great) 
*5-6 sheets of oven ready lasagna noodles
*1/2 pound of mozzarella; sliced

*1/4 grated or shredded fresh Parmiagiano cheese

1. Spray the inside of the pressure cooker/slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray or wipes with olive oil soaked paper towel.

2. Using a large spoon spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of the crock or insert,

3. Use lasagna pieces to cover the sauce. You can break the pieces as needed to fill in the gaps

4. Lightly cover the noodles with sauce.

5. Cover with a light layer of mozzarella cheese.

6. Repeat steps 2-5 until you run out of sauce making sure the top layer is sauce.

7. Springe Parmigan cheese on top.

8. Set pressure cooker to 10 minutes manually. When time is up us quick release to remove steam then turn off cooker. Let sit for 10 additional minutes.

9. If using a slow cooker cook on HIGH for 3-1/2 hours the test for noodle tenderness.

10. Using a spatula gently work the lasagna pie from the side and then cut triangle shaped pieces.

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Things are Winding Down and Anxiety is Rising

 

The last couple of weeks we experienced days of rain, and then days of full sun.  The temperatures have gotten much colder and as tourists are leaving the state the campground’s business has gotten slower and slower.  Although we were originally scheduled through September 15th,  we received an email from the Beet Harvest folks and they need us there by September 19th.  We don’t want to rush back (since we had to rush up) so we talked to Marc and he graciously said it was fine if we left a little earlier than we originally expected.  Our new departure date is September 8th and suddenly there isn’t enough time to get everything done we need/want to!

What has surprised me is how anxious I am feeling over the upcoming move.  My fears are varied from the short-term (the furnace still isn’t working) to the more long-term, without a steady income coming in how are we going to pay our bills.  We had hedged our financial bets by lining up the Beet Harvest immediately after Alaska and then picking up a job selling Christmas Trees over the holidays.  After that I really want to try to find a consulting job in my field.  There are a couple of reasons I think the consulting job is so important.  First, for me, it’s not a good idea to stay out of the mainstream workforce for too long of a period, and second, since I have to work I would like to try doing something that is  both fulfilling and lucrative.  I am convinced at this point that we can survive on less money, but I am not sure that less money has translated into less stress.  Well, that’s not true.  I absolutely have less stress than I had before, but there is still stress.  At this point I am simply not capable of “punching a clock” for lack of a better expression and leaving the work behind at the end of the day.  And I am especially not capable of that when I live where I work.

So, the only way to find out what consulting looks like (and how it compares to other employment) is to actually do it.  I am really surprised by my reaction to all of this to be honest.  I have wanted to consult for a really long time and as Lee says now I have the opportunity to try it in a low-risk environment.  It’s just a lot of change.  Professionally in a relatively short period of time I have gone from a corporate environment to a small business environment then I will be trying “farm” work and short-term commissioned sales. You would think I was a kid again trying lots of jobs to see which ones I liked. Except these jobs are on the extreme side and I am not a kid anymore in either physical or emotional state.  I am incredibly nervous about the beet harvest.  The idea that I can hack standing outside in the elements for 12 hours a day, three weeks straight, and no days off seems almost ludicrous.  Same with the Christmas tree sales.  12 hours a day, living in a fenced-in parking lot, no days off.  Why in God’s name would I try these things if I have other choices? The short answer is because this is an experiment and I need to collect all of the data.  I can read about the Beet Harvest or Amazon, but unless I actually experience it I will have no idea what I am willing (and able) to do.  For years I thought of myself as a person who could dig ditches to feed her family.  Well now I am going to find out.  And by the way I am 100% driving these choices.  Lee is fine with it as long as it keeps us on the road, but he would no more try to talk me into these job choices than he would try to talk me into selling the RV and living in a tent. That’s the level of extreme that I think of when I compare the beet harvest to a campground job and we will see if those fears are founded.

Anyway, lots of anxieties, which is kind of a shame because you would think I could coast on an Alaska high for awhile. I also really thought I had moved past some of these emotions.  It’s been two years now and you would think I would be better at dealing with the constant state of change.  Well I am better, that’s for sure, but less able to adapt that I thought I would be.  Part of that is probably staying in one place for four months.  We have made a home base of sorts here and that coupled with a steady paycheck and lots of cool areas to explore has helped me settle in.  Now we are leaving all of that for the relative uncertainty of a new job and a new place. You would think that considering how poorly I seem to handle all of that I would be more interested when Lee talks about creating some sort of established annual “route”, but everything in me rebels against that.  Developing a circuit of sorts makes sense.  Employment is easier, you can establish schedules for doctor’s appointments, and you always have some idea of where you will be at any given time in the year, and it really helps keep your costs down.  I get the allure.  But for me, right now, in this moment, it is the last thing that I want.  Well, not the last, but pretty far down on the list.  What I love about this lifestyle the most is the ability to explore and seeing new places and if that makes it more challenging, then so be it.  I’m not saying it won’t happen in our future.  Whether it happens by choice or necessity it feels almost inevitable, but I keep thinking “Not yet”.

So I will try the beet harvest and Christmas trees, and Amazon, and whatever comes in between.  We will stay in the desert this winter to keep costs down, we will work at more campgrounds, we will do what we need to do to stay on the road.  But it may look different.  My blog posts will be different.  Not every place we be will be Alaska, or even close to it.  I started this to accurately reflect my life, but in some respects the blog has driven my choices.  I get off the couch and do things so I have something to write about.  I show my life in pictures and budgets with the occasional introspective post thrown in.  We have managed through our choices to have both work and play, but the upcoming months are definitely going to be more about work, and that’s fair.  Alaska was the experience of a lifetime but it needs to be paid for one way or another.  If Lee was sitting here he would probably jump in at this point and tell me I needed to calm down.  We have money in the bank, we have employment lined up, and things are unlikely to be as extreme as I am painting them.  He’s really good at being the voice of reason when I get a little carried away. And he is right.  One chapter is ending and another is beginning and as always, we will see where that leads us.

Oh and then because God has a sense of humor he gave me a real problem to deal with.  Not an ambiguous, what-if scenario (I suck at dealing with those) but a real honest to goodness problem which ironically I seem better at dealing with.  Lee took the truck to Wasilla to get the brakes and AC checked and when he came back from running errands the front end was dissembled, he was told the truck was undriveable, and it could take as much as a month to fix.  Needless to say he was extremely upset.  The next morning I called the dealership (keep in mind it’s 2-1/2 hours away or I just would have driven there) and left a voice message for the service manager Stan.  I nicely explained that we didn’t live here and I was due to start a new job on the 19th and could he please call me back with an estimate of how long the service would take.  This was at 8:31am.

I called back at 11:05am and after offering to wait on hold was eventually transferred to Stan’s cell phone voice mail.  At this point I reached out to our friends Jo/Ben and Kelly/Bill.  I knew Jo and Ben would be driving right by the dealership and I asked if they would stop on the way if no one from the dealership called me back.  Yes this is an unusual request, but they are those kind of friends.  Driving 5 hours round trip to have an in person conversation was not my first choice, but I knew I would do it if I had to.  Thankfully while I was on the phone with them Stan called me back.  He was extremely polite and after looking into the situation told me he couldn’t get the parts until next Wednesday or Thursday but he would put me to the top of the service list “since I lived out of town.”  Best case scenario the work would be done by September 9th worst case, September 12th.
So I had two choices in that moment; play nice or “go Jersey” as my friends like to say.  I chose to play nice and spent the next 10 minutes personalizing the issue and basically throwing myself on his mercy.  Why you might ask?  Well, Alaska.  Don’t kid yourself, these folks have their customers over a barrel and they know it.  There are only three Ford dealerships in the entire state and I have no reason to expect my situation would be any different with another one of them.  If they decide to keep me waiting for a month it is entirely within their purview.  Do I have other options? Sure, but none of them are really good ones, so since all it will cost us at this point is taking our time getting back through Canada we will let it go.  That assumes of course that they keep their word.  I like starting with appealing to people’s better angels, but if that doesn’t work I have absolutely no problem “going Jersey”.

Side note:  Lee did receive a call that evening from the original service coordinator.  She verified that she had ordered the parts, but stated our claim was still not approved because they had to send pictures to the warranty company.  Sounds like BS to me, but I will have to give the warranty company a call.

On the plus side I finally got to see Northern Lights and it wasn’t even planned.  Lee and I walked outside at 11pm last night before going to bed we looked up and they were all over the sky.  I always thought northern lights were like lightning or they pulsed but these were different.  They reminded me of after a firework has gone off and what happens to the trails of light.  They also looked like someone took a paintbrush and lightly made a stroke on a canvas.  They move and change and the colors on occasion held hints of purple along with the green.  It was amazing and we stood outside for 30 minutes watching them.  I tried to get a picture with my camera but no luck.  Lee was able to snap a couple of pics with his phone but they don’t come close to showing how amazing they looked in the sky.  Big major check on the bucket list.  Some things in life exceed their press.

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links as they support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here