Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ok, I should probably write a blog post.

I don't feel like writing, but part of blogging, or any type of journal or record keeping, means regular maintenance.

We had a really great time at Silver Dollar City. After practicing our fingers off for just 2 weeks on the new songs we decided to add, (note to self: do not learn new music within 2 weeks of any important event - just stop doing that), we played well, and had 4 great days in the park, most of which are in pictures on a camera that I haven't the energy to find and upload right now.

Here is one someone else took though:

Nice action photo.

The reason I am not too interested in blogging much is because I'm tired and not really that fond of our current activity, which is ripping up the floor of the bus. Too many leaks in that bus, too much heat and humidity. It's not pretty, and going ok, but not as easy as we hoped. There was no telling what to expect until we got the cabinets and benches out so we could pull up the flooring, and as feared, there is mold throughout the plywood under the vinyl flooring. Most of the floor must come up. Thankfully there is no plywood under the bunk beds, and the mold did not reach under the couch, but the rest had to be unbolted and removed to pull it all up.

Today we ripped up about 1/3 of the floor, and I think we can get the rest tomorrow. We got a late start because it took quite some time to remove the counters, sink, and refrigerator. Due to a church show last night, (and a great one, I might add!), we couldn't work too late yesterday unloading everything, so we finished today, then started ripping it all up.


That is all.


So the plywood is history, and that is attached to the insulation, so that is history as well. Vinyl flooring is thankfully history (hated that stuff), and so is much of the side floor edges. We're ripping it and tossing it. The thick metal base of the flooring is still in very good shape, because the insulation created a barrier between the mold and the metal, so there is just some rust from screws in the plywood.

Tomorrow we finish ripping it out. Saturday we'll run to Topeka, get some base coating for the metal, paint it, then put the furniture back in. After the furniture is bolted back in, the current plan is to only then replace some insulation sheets, then find a suitable flooring top. We are nixing all organic materials that will mold, and we are outlining the furniture instead of placing it on top of the flooring, so if we get damage again, we can easily just pull up the section instead of removing everything again.

I'm just ever so thankful for the kindness of some old and dear friends during all of this. It's been... dare I say it??? Almost *fun*. The weather is perfect, the area is beautiful, and we are being so well cared for it is truly humbling. They feed us, let us sleep in a room all to ourselves, take over their garage with our stuff, and act like it's all their pleasure! Honestly, where we got such great people in our lives is just beyond me. We didn't do a thing to deserve it.

Meanwhile, we are using gloves, masks, and keeping kids OUT of the bus. Michael has worked his tail off and has put in a good 12+ hour day on this. I think he found his calling. Tearing apart school bus floors. Too bad he hates that calling. Oh, and bleach will be our friend this week. Tell me all you like about the dangers of bleach, but if used correctly, it breaks down and takes mold along with it. Bleach is my friend this week. So will some hardware store in Topeka.

So, that's all. No other pictures because I don't feel like finding my camera. However, I will link to our family travels map, so if you're some really bored stalker you can see where we've been so far on our journey.

View Costello Family Travels in a larger map

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Because Life Happens

A few days ago Michael's bass snapped out of tune suddenly. After a bit of investigating, we found out the tailgut snapped on his tailpiece. After not panicking... much, we asked around and were directed by a long-time bass playing friend to a site with instructions on repairing your own tailgut with cable. She had done this in the past with great success, so Michael went off to Walmart, purchased the metal cable, and after performing some bass surgery, it sounds as good as ever. Whew!

Just in time, too. We had a show yesterday for the great people of Yellville. Nice people, nice event, and an opportunity to try out our new mixer in an outdoor setting, as well as 2 new tunes we've worked up for the contest this weekend.

Yellville is a small city, but it sure does know how to host a music event! Check out this great crowd!

The show went well, but it wasn't really our best, mostly because we were trying out our new mixer, and as far as sound tech goes, we are rather pathetic. Our system is not that bad, especially for indoor use, but it theoretically has the power to do a good outdoor show as well, if we could figure out how to best manage it. Someday we will have to get some formal training on sound systems if we are going to be able to really put on a professional show.  The learning curve is huge in this business, and it will take time to figure it all out.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the show, and the new tunes worked. Nothing to put in front of judges yet, but they worked well with a crowd.
Thanks to a chance meeting on a facebook board with the new managers of Branson View Campground, we were given a fantastic spot at a very pretty park in which to spend our week. To make it more fun, Michael has arranged for us to rent a minivan on Tuesday, for the full week we are here. This should make it easier to get to and from Silver Dollar City, where we get 4 days in the park.

Two of those days we will be playing at the Youth in Bluegrass Contest. I wish I was excited about that one, but contests stress me out. I can see how they drive you forward, and we are putting in that extra time to learn the ropes of what we need to be competitive. We were given some sound advice from the mother of last year's winners, which prompted us to change a couple of the songs we originally considered in favor of new ones. This means those new songs will likely be good, but not contest great this year, but they may set us up for a better leap at a good placement next year, once they are firmly polished. Our overall selections were slightly limited if we wish to avoid either sounding like copycats of a famous person, spending too much time tuning the banjo from a dramatic key change, or placing an adult as the lead in a youth program. However, our experience is still limited in the realm of contests, so any of our tunes could be a great hit with the judges, or a complete miss. Last year we had a bunch of complete misses, despite very good songs. They just weren't the kind of music that sells to judges. Plus, Mary was included, and she is simply too young to do well in a contest, and every member must count, despite age. She isn't at all offended that she will sit in the audience this year. She's going for the roller coasters anyway.

So, this week we will stand around a single microphone, figure out who moves where, practice balance, starts, stops, and introductions. Thanks to a nice park and location, here is where we get to go through the drills.
 The name of the campground, Branson View, sure lives up to its name, too. It's amazing!

After this we have to go deal with a major "life happens" moment, however. Recently we noticed some spots on our vinyl flooring were growing... under the top covering of the vinyl. I did some investigation, and sure enough (gag) MOLD. Possibly some nasty stuff, too. Right now it is sealed up tight, with extra floor-matching colored duct tape over the spots for extra protection, but some softer spots in the kitchen floor area have led us to believe we have a definite rot and mold issue going on under the floor. Since the initial spots on the floor were first noticed back when we got the bus, I personally think it started from earlier leaks, before we owned it. It was made worse when we first hooked up the water to find all of the poor plumbing issues, which Michael replaced and repaired. We thought we dried it out, but the water that got trapped under the flooring must not have, and instead rotted out some of the plywood and vinyl.


We have a plan. Thankfully, God gave us a week in Kansas with friends where He denied us pretty much every attempt to find playing opportunities, leaving us a week free on their property, where our friends have a workshop of tools and places for the kids to sleep during the repairs. As a conversion, most of the counters and benches are simply attached, without fancy factory construction, so we will be pulling out most of the kitchen area fixtures, some in the bathroom, and bringing it down to the metal bottom. Once we see what the damage is, we will go from there. Provided there is no real damage to the metal flooring, we may just treat that, get on some rust-free paint, a flooring top coat of paint, and use area rugs throughout the bus on top of that. Michael has had many sleepless nights worrying about water damage to the bus from the unknown. When you are in a house that moves and is constantly jostled, you never know what leak will show up where. We have access to nearly all of the piping throughout the bus, except under the floor, so if the floor is the base of the bus itself, it will be a bit less comfortable, cooler in the winter (we will be spending that in South Texas anyway), but the chances for unknown water damage go way down from that point forward.

No one has suffered from any potential mold exposure, thankfully. In fact, outside of one kid with a couple bouts of a mild soar throat a few weeks ago, there has not been so much as a common cold in over a year. (I'd "knock-on-wood" over that declaration, except I do not happen to believe the One who arranged that merciful health-spree, in the midst of all of our trials from the last year, falls for such rituals, so I gladly skip it!)

We'll use gloves, masks, and pull out all bedding, curtains, and everything for the clean-up. Bleach, dry out, paint, replace, move back in. When we get back to Colorado we will then have the engine and mechanics checked out, as we close our our first half of our first year of travel, preparing, God willing, for many more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birthdays Happen Again and Again

So, we now are a bus with 4 legal adults. Not sure how that happened. I mean, I had 4 children in my care one moment, and the next thing I know, two of them go and turn 18 on me. Harrumph. Then there is the littlest one. My baby. The not-so-baby-anymore baby of seven.

Mary was well spoiled on her birthday. The people here at this park are just great and they even made a cake for her. We were even invited to play at their church picnic, a local Cowboy Church. Above is my baby Mary picture grandma Susan sent, along with a picture of the birthday girl opening up her present, some cute birds with their own little tree home.

Now for the naughty girls who, despite my efforts to forbid it, grew up.
Look how teeny-tiny they were! Alex was a few ounces shy of 4 lbs at birth and Katie was a skinny little 2 1/2 lbs. 
 Of course, if you feed and water them, just like pretty flowers, they sort of grow and bloom, huh?

(On a side note, my practical ladies will likely frown over my reference to pretty flowers and blooming where they are concerned. Eh. Get over it ladies. You are the ones that did it!)
Their birthday was a very uneventful day, in truth, and I think they liked that. They slept in, read, watched movies, drank pop, had their requested jalapeno poppers, and got a free pass from dishes.

So there it is. 3 down on the yearly birthday train, and one young man to go, anxiously awaiting his birthday, which will be here in the next few weeks.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

From Arkansas to Missouri, back to Arkansas

Two states, lots of activity!
Last Thursday we went to the Ozark Folk Center, where we saw everything from brooms being made, to hand crafted knives using old railroad stakes. Of course, there was music. It is in Mountain View, after all!

Next was a trip up into Missouri. Mansfield, Missouri, to be specific. The home of Laura and Almanzo Wilder. We stayed at the "Laura Ingalls" RV park just up the road from the museum. Lots of grass, tons of lightning bugs to catch, quiet, and full of ticks. Pulled four off of Mary one evening. (Not the park's fault, obviously, it's the area.) It was probably the most neglected RV property we ever stayed, which is a terrible shame because it looked like it was once the most beautiful park. It has transferred ownership a few times and is currently for sale.

 The museum was well worth our time. We had a chance to see Pa's fiddle up close. Mary is really into the Little House books right now so she gets a lot of pictures from this area. She used her own money to buy a t-shirt of the farm house, and has really enjoyed dressing like Laura in an old costume that belonged to one of the twins.

This weekend we played for the Baker Seed Festival. We were taken around some twisty back roads, including a very tight turn that nearly landed the bus in a deep ditch. Gave us all a really big scare! Then there was the 4-wheeling to park in the pasture with the cows. It's a good thing we purchased all terrain tires for the bus. God was looking out for us, because we survived the weekend despite so many little things that could have been just awful.
This was our first real experience with HOT and HUMID combine. They were reaching record high spring temperatures the first day there, and though we are accustomed to those temperatures in the summer in Colorado, it was never in that much humidity. It was a rough day, since we were not as prepared as we should have been with snacks, juice, and water in which to handle the heat. Our performance drooped a bit as well, but I think everyone still enjoyed our music. It was all old time music for this one.
Sean spent every spare minute on these straw bales. he was putting pieces of straw in his mouth. Even played a fast Orange Blossom with straw in his mouth. Didn't miss a note, and didn't drop the straw.
I completely love this picture. Someone stuffed the banjo player into the slammer. Banjo players get no respect.
There are days when I wish I had one of these in my bus.
Back stage was the "jail" for the little old time village.
Too pretty!
Day two was great! Smaller crowds overall, but due to the cooling rain, we had good crowds under the shelter where we played. Music came together better, and we remembered the M&Ms this time. This picture was during an M&M break.
Nice festival! I hope they invite us back.
We celebrated the up-coming birthday of a soon-to-be 7-year-old. *SEVEN*. Honestly, where has the time gone? I didn't think I was blinking. Grandma and Papa had been joining us, but had to head back to Colorado, so we had an early party for Mary and the twins. She loved the little back pack we found at a gift shop. Woodland animals in their own back pack home.
The best part of all was meeting a "virtual" friend, Jennifer, and her lovely family. We had arranged in advance to borrow her little girls for a formal birthday party on the road. They hit it of in every way possible! They made and decorated cupcakes, planted flowers, dressed like princesses, and had the time of their lives. Mary said it's the best birthday ever.
Her official birthday is Saturday. After that the twins will turn 16. (I am demoting them. They only think they will get to be 18 because of some silly date on their birth certificate. However, as their parent, I believe I have special rights to overrule such things. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Mary would be okay with being five again?)

My babies are growing up. :(

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Walking into a Kinkade Painting

Few words are needed for this blog post. Many of the pictures speak for themselves, so I'll let them, and then fill in a few thoughts at the end.

Once again, I am in love with this area. After a wonderful time at a local state park, we went to down town Mountain View with our instruments and set up under one of the many pavilions meant for music making. Within a short time we had a nice audience all around us. We played for a good 2 hours without a break, just one song to the next, whatever we wanted.

Music is so different here. It's difficult to explain why. We come from the Denver metro area, where there is a good bluegrass community, but the feel is night and day somehow. First, though there are many opportunities for jams and bluegrass entertainment, you have to seek it out. That particular type of music is not a natural part of the surroundings. Second, and this is where it is most difficult to describe... it is simply more friendly here.

There were times in the Colorado bluegrass scene where we were pushed forward because we had to get better or we'd not be taken seriously. Not sure we even got far enough to be taken seriously. Even now, we still have a lot of learning to do and development on our skills. That is a good thing, really. We needed that push and it has continued to pull us forward. Colorado's bluegrass community is competitive, the on-stage persona is often more edgy, and while certainly fun, it is rarely just plain let-loose-silly fun. Most of the musicians take themselves more seriously.

On a side note: the Gospel Bluegrass scene of Colorado has a very different atmosphere from the secular scene and we have found similar encouragement there, but you still must seek it, rather than have it all around you. It can be even harder to find than the secular scene.

Here the whole atmosphere is so relaxed. A guy was behind us trying to keep up with Sean on Rocky Top with wooden spoons, another guy sat back and enjoyed the music while whittling a piece of wood. They simply talked to us between songs, asking where we were from and welcoming us to Mountain View. I think they know they have something pretty special around here.

One more thing stands out. This is a dry county and you cannot buy alcohol here. I happen to not care one way or another, and really, I even enjoy the occasional glass of wine, but the type of musician looking for a party atmosphere will never think to come here, so you instead get just nice folks who love the music for the music, not to enhance the party. I don't doubt there is a section of the population who sneak out and bring in alcohol to get wild, but they are not the ones downtown. After a ridiculously annoying display of drunken behavior at a secular bluegrass show we attended a year or so ago, with drunks hanging on each other and dancing foolishly around my kids, it really is refreshing to have so much music on the streets and no party atmosphere to muck it up. Conversations are sincere, people are so very friendly, and everyone is encouraging.

I think we'll plan a at least month here next year. I'm collecting contacts to see if I can keep us busy in the area that long. They seem to enjoy us, even if our musical style is a bit more modern sounding with a bit of genre bouncing.

Those are my thoughts, anyway. I will probably always be a Colorado gal, and my western attitude runs very deep, but there are some truly wonderful people I've met in the states we've visited so far and I find the diversity very exiting! This area adds yet another texture, and a very lovely one.