Road Trip with NHK
(Japan Broadcasting Corporation - Nippon Hoso Kyokai)
Mitch and Max fishing at Lake Cachuma near Santa Barbara
Last November we were contacted by Kenshi Fukuhara from
NHK, (Nippon Hoso Kyokai or Japan Broadcast Corporation). He was
working on a documentary of the full-time RV lifestyle in America.
NHK is the Japanese equivalent of PBS in the U.S.
This documentary was Hidi's idea. He was inspired by
an article he read entitled "The Cyber Cowboy." In Japan people go
camping on weekends and vacation but they don't have the big rigs and wide
open spaces that we have in the U.S. Hidi wanted to show the Japanese
viewers how it's possible to travel, work via the Internet and break away
from the stress and routine of "normal life". They interviewed about
fifty RVer's via e-mail and three families were selected for the documentary.
One family is a young couple with three small kids that are planning to
go RVing. Their house is in escrow, they are living in their RV at
a campground near their house, they've stored or sold their belongings
and will be starting their adventure the third week of May from the Seattle
area. Another family is a retired couple that have been full-time
RVing for eight years. Included in the documentary will be time we
spent with about 2000 other part time and full time RVers at the Escapee's
RV Club rally in Chico, California. They will also show and provide
information about the Escapee CARE Center, a center in Texas for elderly
Escapee RVer's who are ready to hang up their keys.
||But before we go too far, let's have a few introductions.
From left to right is the Boss and Producer Hidenori (Hidi), Cameraman
Kojiro (Koji), Ed, Sound man Katsuyuki (Kats), Max (on his shoulders),
Interviewer Kenshi (Ken), Mitch and Cheryl.
||Kenshi and Hidi had flown to Texas to discuss the project
with us last March, (and probably to check us out, as we'd only communicated
via E-mail.) On April 10th we met them at Lake Cachuma in the mountains
twenty miles from Santa Barbara for the start of our three week long road
trip We camped along the lake as seen in the picture at the top.
Here's a picture of the crew across the lake filming the boys fishing.
Max tangled his fishing line, but kept casting and reeling since he thought
it would look good in the documentary.
|Next we went to Rancho Oso, a Thousand Trails RV park
and horse ranch about 10 miles away. We had stayed here before and
Max really wanted to come back to go horseback riding.
||During the first few days they filmed almost everything
we did -- setting up and packing up the trailer, stopping for gas, shopping,
cooking, eating, etc. (We told the boys that this must be what it's
like to be rock stars -- well, for a couple of weeks anyway -- everybody
looked and wondered who we were.) At first it was difficult to keep
from laughing. We're not used to having a camera at table level and
boom microphone overhead as we eat. The horse I was riding this day
also did not like the boom microphone. It looked like a large owl
or flying rabbit and the horse was real jumpy about having flying rabbits
on the trail.
||This is a picture of a waterfall on the Rancho Oso property.
We were often asked how we were selected as the main RV
family for their documentary. Several reasons ... we are a family
traveling with kids, we continued Cheryl's data processing business and
work as we travel using the Internet, we use the Internet and computers
for research and to stay in touch with friends and family, and we travel
regularly. We've met other full time families during our travels,
but most stay put in one location for three to twelve months and work locally.
||The documentary will be an hour long and will be part
of a regular weekly show in Japan that presents different lifestyles and
life issues from around the world.
Japan is about the size of California and Oregon with lots
of shoreline and lots of mountains. They really wanted to see and
film some of the desert regions of America -- something that is not found
in Japan. We headed east from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas and then
on to Death Valley.
|This became a familiar sight. The boys really enjoyed
a quick game of baseball with the film crew every chance they had.
||Here we stopped at the Calico Ghost Town near Barstow,
California. Mitch, Max and Cocoa quickly took off up the hill.
They love to climb. The film crew went up for a view as well.
||They had rented a Cruise America RV which they drove
along side of us -- then drove in front and behind us -- filming all of
the time as we drove. We explained that much of the boy's "book education"
is done while we drive. Koji came along for awhile and Cocoa rode
in their RV. Here Koji is showing Max and Mitch some of the features
of his HDTV camera.
A few family photos
|Here, Mitch is operating the camera. It weighs
about 40 pounds.
The large roller coaster at the California-Nevada state
line on I-15
Max's Easter Eggs -- (they don't have anything like Easter
Egg Hunts in Japan)
Another baseball game at the Castaway Casino RV Park
Las Vegas - (It used to be the Showboat Casino)
Pahrump, Nevada, the home of Art Bell and nearest town
After we set up in Death Valley, I climbed the trail to the
top of the nearby hill. With the zoom lens I could see another baseball
game was underway. They liked this ball field. A natural bowl
in the hill side would return all the fly balls back to the infield and
the two garbage dumpsters made a great backstop.
||On a few occasions I would pull over and wait while they
drove ahead and set up the camera to get a shot of us driving past.
They usually picked a spot where we would come or leave from around a corner
or over a hill. Here they are in the mirror catching up with us after
a drive-by shooting. It will sure be interesting to see the final
show but will be difficult to understand as it will be in Japanese.
Hidi told us that our voices will probably be kept in English with Japanese
This location is nearly 200 feet below sea level. The
lowest point in the Western Hemisphere is just 1/2 a mile away in this
||The next day we explored Death Valley. Most unusual
were the salt flats known as The Devil's Golf Course. The valley
floor is filled with salt. During a hard rain the desert floor can
fill with water and dissolve the salt. As it dries, the salt crystallizes
into hard, large formations one to two feet high. It's like walking
on big rocks covered with gigantic barnacles. The salt structures
are very jagged and razor sharp. There are signs warning that if
you fall down you can be badly cut.
Filming as we explore a dry wash
A family photo
It's amazing flowers can grow here
The old road into Death Valley was washed out by heavy rains
in 1986. There are still remenants of the old pavement. The
canyon is about forty feet wide. It must have really been something
to drive into the valley through this narrow access.
The old road into Death Valley, (can you see the broken
asphalt in the lower left?)
Resting in the shade
||The film crew cooked some Japanese noodles. They
didn't last very long -- we all liked them. Max said they tasted
like Top Ramen. (No wonder, Top Ramen is made by Nippon Foods.) They
must have missed having a good Japanese meal -- I saw Hidi walking
out of the grocery store in Pahrump with a big box of frozen corn dogs.
One of Several Interviews . . . .
In addition to the action shots, we did several interviews,
many on our couch. We answered questions about our motivation to
travel, the benefits to taking the boys out of the public school system
and plans for the future. On a few occasions we did the interviews
in the middle of the day. To reduce noise we closed the windows and
turned off the air conditioner. Not the best working conditions for
Southern Nevada or Death Valley.
I went up to the top with the rope and lowered it down to
Mitch but it was five feet too short. I couldn't stretch toward the
edge because I would risk knocking loose large chunks of the dry hillside
on to Mitch's head. Max ran back for another rope and brought it
up. I tied the two ropes together and looked down to see if
Koji had his camera going. I saw Cheryl but not the camera crew.
By this time they had enough film coverage from the bottom and wanted to
get some footage from the top. Cheryl said, "they went up there."
I thought about whether I should wait for them. It was a steep climb
with much of the path following a narrow ridge that dropped off on both
sides. I didn't want to wait much longer but thought I'd go back
twenty feet where I could look over to see where they were. Before
I got the twenty feet, here they came over the top. They must have
run all the way up carrying the camera and sound gear. So I told
Mitch to watch out for rocks and dirt and threw the rope over the edge.
Mitch grabbed the rope, I wrapped it around me once and secured my feet,
then slowly lowered more rope to him as he eased his way down. I
looked over at the camera crew and saw they were still exhausted from their
quick ascent up the hill, but the camera was rolling. Later, Kats
complained about all the heavy breathing in the background sounds from
|During this interview we asked the boys to play outside
so there wouldn't be any extra noise. About ten minutes into the
interview Max tip-toed inside and quietly asked "where is our long rope?"
"Why", we asked. "Well", he said, "Mitch is halfway up the backside
of the hill where it's real steep and the cliff is crumbling below him."
So, with quick apologies for interrupting the interview, off we went.
As the story goes, Max thought he'd try climbing up a cliff on the backside
of the hill, but once up, he realized it was too steep for a safe desent.
Mitch climbed up and helped him down and then thought he'd try going up
higher. It was even steeper up there and then the cliff started crumbling
This picture was taken by Cheryl after we were coming
back off the top of this hill.
The film crew rented a 27' Cruise America Class-C motorhome.
That's the type on a long van frame with the overhead sleeping area.
They didn't really have supplies onboard for living in it, other than a
few bottles of Sake and a box of frozen corn dogs. Besides, there
were four of them and only three beds. Cheryl had repeatedly told
them that they should camp out at least once to get the real feel for RVing.
Kenshi kept telling us he'd love to but the other guys, . . . well, they
liked the hotels. But when Koji, the Cameraman, was riding with us,
he said we would all love to, but Kenshi doesn't want to. When I
told them what each was saying we all had a good laugh and the finger pointing
began. On our second night in Death Valley they did camp out.
Koji had worked in Honduras for a couple of years and had traveled a lot
in Mexico, so I offered him our hammock. He gladly accepted the offer
and said that he liked the idea of sleeping under the stars. So after
a day of seeing the sights, mountain rescues, TV interviews and Junior
Ranger badges, it was time for a hand-shaken Margarita -- we use a secret
recipe from Tucson and a Bubba Gump's margarita shaker from New Orleans.
Hidi's margaritas were the best since he performed a Mexican jig while
shaking his up.
||And yet another Junior Ranger badge for their shirts.
(They've got quite a collection now -- all of the badges wouldn't fit on
their shirts any more, so Cheryl made them boy scout style badge sashes.)
That night we set up our large grill and cooked up a big
Mexican dinner of beef, chicken, and shrimp fajitas. They filmed
much of the cooking and when the table was ready they even filmed us sitting
down to eat. They were filming from a distance, but I slipped the
dishes underneath one another so it looked like there were dishes for just
the four of us. As we started to fill our plates I said, "with all
of this food, the Japanese viewers are going to think we eat an awful lot."
We had more than enough for all eight of us.
||After dinner Mitch listened to the sound equipment.
We also used our satellite dish to focus the sound waves and see how far
away we could hear someone whispering. (About fifty yards for a soft
We talked about getting an early start the next morning and
even catching a good sunrise shot. I woke up early, took a shower
and wondered if I should wake the others. We had stayed up quite
late the night before. I thought I'd take this picture and maybe
my noise would wake up Koji, (who was sleeping in the hammock stretched
between the trailer and the truck.) Mitch slept in the tent. Their
RV is to the left of our truck.
||As night set in, the boys built a fire and we roasted
marshmallows, played a few tunes on our harmonicas, looked at the stars
and enjoyed some Sake.
||Then as I panned the area with my camera, I was surprised
to see that the crew was not only up, but already up on the far hill.
It was only a sleeping bag lying in the hammock.
|I took this shot of another camper cooling off his birds.
It's a large colorful Macaw type bird splashing under a water facet.
Our next stop Bishop, California.
Bishop is a favorite place of ours. It's a small
town surrounded by property controlled by the Los Angeles Water District
and Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Because all of the surrounding
land is government owned, there is no place for the city to expand.
Without more housing there's no need for increased businesses. No
Walmart, no Home Depot, no urban sprawl.
||This photo is from way back in the
fall of 1999 when we spent a week in Bishop and went to the county
fair. Max had a chance to speak on the radio at the KDAY booth.
The fellow at the booth, Bill Lafever, has been following our web adventures
and invited us to stop by and see the station someday.
||So we called ahead and arranged for a tour. As
Bill showed us around, the camera followed. We were getting used
to it by then.
|KDAY has also expanded into local television. Here
the boys are behind the news desk.
KDAY Cameraman, Carl and Koji with their cameras
Benett, the station owner, and Carl
|As Bill gave us the tour, the Japanese were filming.
At the same time, Carl was filming the Japanese and us for a human interest
story for their news program. I occasionally turned on my camcorder
to film Carl filming the Japanese filming us.
DJ Catherine and Mitch
Catherine and Max
|At the radio station, Mitch and Max recorded "a liner".
That's a short line that is played between song's such as, Hi -- I'm Max
Nodland -- I always listen to KDAY when I'm traveling in Bishop.
It took Max seven tries on his liner. He had been pronouncing KDAY
as Ka-Day for two years even though the station pronounces it Kay-Day.
Under the pressure of the microphone, Ka-Day kept rolling off of his lips.
It was pretty funny.
Here's a picture of Catherine, live on the radio, talking
about the full-time RVing family that is touring the station. She
said, on the air, that we give hope to all of the listeners showing up
for work everyday.
||This gal runs the J-Diamond RV Park that is in the center
of Bishop. She remembered us from two years ago. After she guided
us to our site, Hidi asked if he could try driving her golf cart around.
Sure, why not!
In the center of town and right next door to our RV Park
is Erick Schat's Bakery. Home of Erick's famous Sheepherder Bread.
We enjoyed sitting in the sunshine each morning with a view of the beautiful
Sierra Nevada mountains, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a
wonderful pastry. We left town with plenty of good bread.
|This JC Penny store is a good representation of Bishop's
downtown area. From the RV Park in the center of town, it is only
ten blocks in any direction to the edge of town. We really enjoy
being able to walk to stores and restaurants instead of having to drive
everywhere like in most of America.
||Max loves this brick wall. It's over two stories
tall and made a good place to throw a ball. It's the back of a hotel
next to the RV Park. One afternoon Kats cut the bottom out of a large plastic
cup and taped it high on the wall. Soon a new game using the baseball
and mits broke out. The game looked like a cross between baseball,
handball and basketball.
We left Bishop Thursday morning and headed to Lake Tahoe.
We drove through some snow on the way and once we arrived in Tahoe it was
starting to snow hard. The film crew had a helicopter scheduled to
take aerial shots of 1200 RVs arriving at the Escapees Rally on Sunday
morning. We didn't want to get stuck in Tahoe if it snowed hard that night
so we headed on to Reno. We woke up the next morning and the forecast
had changed from 2 inches of snow on I-80 at Donner Pass to 6 inches of
snow. I called the highway report number and learned that chains
were required over I-80 headed West and things were expecting to get worse.
Further conversations with the Road Department were not positive.
It was Friday morning and the guy on the phone was now talking about 20
inches of snow for Friday night. He said if we wanted to get to the
west side of the mountains we better leave now. Then he also told
me about the Feather River Valley just north of Reno. It was a smaller
highway but only went up to 5200 feet in elevation.
|The morning before we left Bishop I took this picture
with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background. Unfortunately,
my camcorder can't handle the bright and dark colors at the same time,
but you can see the contrast between the warm valley floor and the cold
||The Feather River road turned out to be a beautiful drive.
Much of the way is a narrow canyon with waterfalls all around and a train
track hugging the steep rocky slopes. We stopped for lunch along the way
and Koji and the boys stacked rocks to cross the river to a small gravel
bar in the middle.
||We stopped again here to look over the deep canyon and
give Cocoa a chance to run. I thought this was an interesting sign.
"NO HOUSEHOLD GARBAGE" at the edge of this cliff. Does that imply
that industrial waste or construction debris is OK?
SPRING ESCAPADE 2001 -- CHICO,
||What is an Escapade? Twice a year the Escapee RV
Club organizes an educational rally. There are multiple seminars
scheduled throughout the day and plenty of vendor booths offering all kinds
of products and services. The evenings are a chance to visit with
SKPs, (pronounced Es-Kay-Peas,) also called SKIPS. We talked with
people we hadn't seen for awhile, met new SKPs, shared travel stories and
RV maintenance woes and had lots of entertainment.
While our camera crew covered the ground, Kenshi and another
crew covered the sky. Kenshi said the backup getting into the fairgrounds
extended around the Chico fairgrounds, crossed the freeway and went far
down the street. The night before the rally, the parking lots all
around town were full of RVs. We parked on the back side of the Chico
Mall with about 100 others. The stores love this huge rally because
we all go out to eat and shop in the mall and around town.
Koji, filming from the roof of our trailer
Mitch enjoyed several sessions of wood carving class.
A sharp knife is the trick to carving. Mitch has learned how to sharpen
a knife so it's razor sharp.
|Here's Cheryl's hero, Kay Peterson. Kay and her
husband Joe are the founders of the Escapee RV Club. They are SKP
#1. We are SKP #42,480 and new membership numbers are currently in
the 80,000 range.
||Hidi and Max during a game of Lazer Tag.
Mitch started with a solo of "Oh Susanah", then Max started
Fra-a-jaca, (the French children's song that none of us can figure out
how to spell -- also known as "Are you sleeping Brother John",) and then
Mitch and I joined in rounds and finally we ended up with our jazzed up
version of "When the Saints Go Marching In". We played excellently
during the show, but rehearsal was not so good.
||The boys and I performed at the "Ham-a-Rama" with our
harmonicas. We had bought them each a harmonica and instruction book
for Christmas. The harmonicas were $4 each at a Cracker Barrel restaurant,
(great breakfast places that are in most of the country except for the
western states.) I learned and regularly practiced many songs and
soon the boys were trying it too. After two months they can each
play several songs and continue to learn more.
Dad, you're messing up again.
||Oh, this is never going to work. Dad keeps messing
||The talent show was over, Spring Escapade 2001 was over,
and so was our time with the film crew.
|Right after we took this picture we all drove to a country
road and said our good byes. As the camera was rolling, we drove
off into the distance. We were all a little sad. It seemed
like we had spent months with these guys, not just a few weeks. We
had all become good friends. Max said, "are we ever going to see
them again?" It was hard to say that maybe not, unless we go to Japan
or if they come here. We'll keep in touch though.
A couple weeks later though, while we were in Seattle,
we met with the young family that they also filmed and we even had a chance
to meet up with the crew again for one last dinner before they returned
to Japan. As we left, Hidi said, "I am sad to say good bye again."
We really enjoyed having the chance to see you guys again
and someday we will see you in Japan.
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