Posts Tagged ‘camping’

To The Future and Beyond

February 15, 2011 1 comment

This week I’m pulling together materials gathered on our trip so far. It’s staggering how much info one can collect on so many things within so short a timeframe. We have what appear to be reams of miscellaneous info hiding in every hole and corner in the car.

Of course, the problem would have been even greater if there had been more space available in our car. When I do research, I tend to gather as much info as is possible. Sister Jo is much the same way. After all, I never know how an angle will turn. I might be able to get fifteen different angles from one location, each with a viable voice and interest.

If we’d been able to spend adequate time in all of those places and talk with more people, heaven only knows how much material we would have gathered in the end. I would suspect that it’s a good thing that we didn’t get any more to work with than we did. I already have enough to keep me busy in articles alone for the next several months.

The book that we planned sits at the apex of the pile of work waiting to commence. Our predicament is that what we set out to write and what we will actually write are two different animals completely. This trip has highlighted many aspects that we’d not anticipated.

I keep wondering if all writers who set out to do a big project like this end up with the same problem. Does the project mutate as the research progresses? Does the writer come back to the desk with piles of experience that doesn’t resemble any of her previously planned work?

If that happens to all such projects, and the books get written, published and marketed, what was the original book idea? What did it look like at the beginning?

I look at some of the non-fiction work out there on the market now and ask that one question. How much reorganization and mental reassessment gets done before word one gets down on paper?

For instance, we set out to write a book on two senior women tenting their way across the country and exploring their own birthplace. Noble goals, don’t you think? So did we. Reality wouldn’t permit such a trip.

Weather drove us down the highway faster and faster each day. It’s difficult to sightsee when you’re trying not to drown in the deluge. Tenting is only possible when you can find a campground that accepts tents or that you can afford.

We had a realistic monthly budget when we started. We’d budgeted for gasoline costs between prospective locations within each state. We’d slated the costs of campsites as researched online for two months. The only place where we would have had problems would have been in New England in the coming summer. Those states had outrageous camping fees.

We knew how much food we’d need to buy for camping and still eat well and healthily. We’d accounted for our regular medications, our personal toiletries and laundry, and phone cards for communications links. We knew what we could live on and how much we had to spend each month.

Black and white are lovely colors, except when the economy and Mother Nature bleed all over the accounting sheets and screw everything up. Our contingency fund just wasn’t big enough to absorb eating nearly every meal in a restaurant, campgrounds everywhere we turned that accepted only RVs, and temperatures below freezing in the Deep South, including Florida.

That, my friends, is how you have a year-long trip culminate in short-term disaster in two months. Sometimes the best laid plans can bring you up short really fast. The key is to make the best of what you can and regard the rest as education for any next round that you might anticipate or plan.

Now you can understand why the book will have an entirely different slant than intended. The odd thing is that by the time it’s finished, it might actually be a better book than the one planned. Different lessons were learned and opposing aspects were revealed both in ourselves and in the world around us.

It has become a case of having a bag of lemons dumped in our laps and having to make lemonade with them. We can make it very sweet, just sweet enough with a bit of tang around the edges, or we can make it so sour that none could stomach it. Those are the choices handed us by the fates.

I’d like to think that we’ll choose the middle course. It’s much more palatable, and let’s face it. It would be much more fun to write, as well.

There it is in a burst of authorial truth. That’s how this project is progressing and why. We’re not at a place yet where we can answer the question of whether we would do it again if presented with the opportunity. We’ll save that for later down the pike.

If you’re thinking of taking on this kind of personal assignment, I’ll give one piece of advice. Before you commit to anything, sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Ask yourself one crucial question. How flexible are you when plans go awry?

If you feel like it, give me your thoughts on the subject. Tell me what you think. And remember than everyone has their own turning point in life. The key is deciding when the road will turn too far and end at a cliff.

Until later, a bientot,


Another Road Experience in the Making

January 7, 2011 1 comment

Yep, that’s right. We’re about to go out again. We’ve got people to see and things to do before the month is out.

It’s back to Houston for us to meet with friends and distant family. A day on the Gulf Coast might be possible before the rain moves in again. You heard that right, too. The rain will be following us again. The Universe seems determined to have us act as the harbingers of cloud and rain. We’ve reluctantly taken up that mantle and are trying to make the best of the title.

This will be a short post. I still have a few things to do before falling into bed to concentrate on the insides on my eyelids for a few hours before our departure.

Think about this when you have a moment. Our wee car is stacked to the roof with all that we need (aside from dry weather). Each time we stop to get out for longer than the few minutes it takes to make a restroom run, gas up, or buy drinks and a snack, the contents of said car get rearranged in order for us to get what it is we’re going to need for whatever task it is that we’re attempting to do.

And don’t even think about needing a spare tire. There’s not enough roadside for that eventuality.

Think, too, about every time we camp and all those things that make up a good lengthy stay that emerge from the confines of that little car. Taking it all out isn’t really much of a job. All that gear seems determined to help with the task every time any portal  is opened wider than a handwidth.

No, the time , effort, and frustration comes into play when everything must go back into said car in approximately the same place from which we’d removed it. It was in that spot for a reason–it fit there. That’s the only reason for anything being where it is.

In case anyone’s wondering, the car is already packed for take-off. All we have to put in it in the morning is ourselves, our coffee mugs, and our pillows. Nothing else is left to stuff  in the car.

So, with that, I’ll say goodnight. I have a couple of other postings to make before bed. At that point I’ll gratefully drop into unconsciousness.

Have a marvelous weekend, everyone. Enjoy your own adventures. Hopefully, I’ll be posting something again in a few days. Until then, a bientot,


In My Humble Opinion

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy New Year, all. Isn’t is wonderful when a person can begin fresh with an entire year stretching out ahead of the present moment, spotless and waiting to have life written upon it’s days?

 I always enjoy having a reader suggest something more specific about what I write. Today, I received a request for an op-ed piece. Those who’ve been around here very long know that I’ve little need for encouragement to voice an opinion on all sorts of things.

 Because of this request, I’m going to honor it immediately. I’m going to talk about something which has been bothering me for some weeks now. In fact, the subject became a thorn in our sides from the time Sister Jo and I began our little sojourn across the country.

 When we did our research for this trip, we spent many hours on the internet for the latest and greatest fee schedules in effect for campgrounds throughout the country. We were okay with most tent sites going for $10-15 per night, and could even warrant a $20 fee for one that had water/electricity with the site. It seemed fair and appropriate.

 We did choke when looking into those campgrounds along the eastern seaboard. Some of those campgrounds were asking up to $40+ per night to pitch a tent… without such little amenities as available water/electricity. Personally, I felt that was exorbitant even by eastern standards. It didn’t surprise us, necessarily, that a New England state’s facilities would go that high. We’ve encountered that regional misconception of worth before this.

 Our hope was that state parks would prove more reasonable in their grip on the reality of economic wherewithal. Alas, we discovered otherwise in many cases.

 We’d stayed overnight with Jo’s youngest son in Tacoma, WA on our first night out. A heavy t-storm had much to do with that. Unfortunately, heavy rain followed us from Washington through Oregon and into northern California. We managed to sleep in the car that second night of travel. That’s right. It was still raining.

 Before anyone asks, we didn’t stop along the way to investigate local wonder spots. Weather pushed us to move quickly so that we could get out of coastal zones. Schlepping around in the rain is neither fun nor conducive to good research.

 Instead, we moved on the next morning across the Siskiyou Mountain from Redding, CA to Eureka on the coast. That’s a great drive, and we managed to accomplish it during mostly dry conditions. If you ever get the change, take that drive. You’ll have small towns to explore and great scenery to photograph.

 At a state park along the coast near Trinidad we learned the ugly truth about fees. Campsites for tents in that park were going for $35-45 per night… they catered to RVs primarily. We were advised to go to the country park a bit further north where the fees were cheaper.

A nice enough county park greeted us, which would have been far nicer if it were dry. No one greeted us there, and the fee? For a site with nothing but ankle-deep water that wouldn’t hold tent pegs, the fee was $20 off-season.

 That offended us to the max. Hence, we didn’t stay there. This whole season/off-season mentality also irritated us. By that time the rain was causing major crankiness.

Finding lowly rest areas in the state of California along the I-5 corridor was difficult enough. Along the 101 was nigh on to impossible. (If you’re driving there, use restrooms whenever you find them. Rest areas tend to have 120-150 miles between them.)We did finally find one a few miles north of San Diego, so that we could sleep in the car. That would have to do until we could get into Arizona.

 Rain still washed the California coast and threatened to follow us for the rest of our lives. Or, at least, it felt that way. In nearly a week, we’d seen the sun twice and not for an entire day.

 In Arizona, we learned the awful truth regarding about that state and camping. Many campgrounds, especially those that took tents, had closed due to financial reasons. The ones left were, for us, outrageously priced. A small state park with no amenities other than port-o-potties should never charge $35 to pitch a tent on rock and in cactus. That was our opinion on that option.

We had a place recommended to us by a local that took tents.  It skirted the Arizona-New Mexico state line. Roper Lake State Park had decent sites, good showers and restroom facilities, a pool, hot tub, fire pits and grills, and  helpful people. All of that cost only $15 per night.

 We’d found more than good fortune. We’d found something we’d been searching out for over a week.

That was the last decently priced campground we found until we arrived on the southeastern side of Texas. We found Coleto Creek State Park where rangers and sheriffs patrolled the park regularly, a huge lake had plenty of  wildlife everywhere, facilities for everything, and free wi-fi for our use. We got all that and more for $22 per night.

Why could we justify that much? We knew we were secure, there were community activities like pot-luck dinners for the campers, all the facilities (water and electricity and wi-fi), restrooms, showers, laundry, and recreation, including boating and fishing.

We’ll definitely be going back there on later wanderings.

I don’t mind paying for accommodations when I travel. There is an invisible line drawn in the sand, though.

 Tent camping is an American past-time that has been enjoyed by families for scores of years. My Dad took us camping when we were kids with a lot less gear than we carry now. Back then a family didn’t necessarily need a campground to do it, either. There were creek banks everywhere.

 I’ll be the first to admit that having running water and electricity is marvelous when camping. Can I do without them? Sure, but when you’re a writer, it’s best to be able to do that somewhere other than Mickey D’s.

 Could I survive even as a writer without all the amenities? Yes to that question, too. It would be harder but doable.

 What disturbs me is the belief by those with some campground that only RVs qualify as campers. They don’t even consider the fact that others use tents. When did the definition of camper become so skewed?

There are RVers and campers. I know that RVers generally have more liquid assets that they’re willing to part with, but others like the outdoors, too. RVers are great people, but not everyone traveling around the country use a rig. At the same time, those who don’t have an RV shouldn’t be penalized by a lack of affordable sites or campgrounds.

 Today’s demographics have changed from their 1990 counterparts. Many families don’t have the liquid assets that allow for long vacations in motels/resorts/Disneyland, etc. Entrance fees have been placed on everything it seems. Sometimes the only affordable family vacation is camping—tent, sleeping bags, and cooler in tow.

 I recognize the fact that the little citizen with few resources has become an undesirable commodity, but since when can’t they at least enjoy a family outing for a few days with access to the same accommodations as those with many resources?

Have American entrepreneurs become as greedy as Wall Street to the point of gouging citizens for as long as nickels fall from pockets?

Much of the reason Sister Jo and I wanted to do this country tour was to see how the country fared and to do it on a budget. What we’ve found so far is that if you can’t camp and cook your own food, the budget disappears before the traveler can blink.

 For an average family of four, a budget would evaporate as fast as a mud puddle in the Mohave in July. I wouldn’t be surprised if getting into a museum of quality would eliminate a day’s spending on entertainment and dip into the food allotment. The family can forget staying in motels of quality and doing anything else without a major budget working for them.

 That’s what makes me sad about the camping situation right now. We can find places to tent camp. Granted, affordable ones are farther apart than they were ten years ago. It’s the attitude of privilege that offends me as much as anything else. If you’re in an RV, you’re privileged to go most anywhere.

 When we’re in Montana around Glacier Park or in Yellowstone, tent camping is recognized as legitimate and expected. Such campers are everywhere and have a great experience within the parks. They hike, explore, enjoy.

I can’t help wondering why it can’t be like that elsewhere in the country. Why does a tent camper find acceptance in the big national parks, sharing the same accommodations and facilities as all other visitors and not in other parks?

 Are these small discrepancies a peek at the future of things to come? Will the next years find other changes that hem in Americans of more modest means? Will there come a time when having family time away from home become so expensive that the majority of families won’t be able to afford such luxuries?

 What have you seen in your travels that surprised you and caused you to ask questions of your society? Let me know. If you disagree with my findings, let me know. I’ll debate. No problem. Each of us experience different threads of life. That’s part of what makes discourse so much fun and so valuable.

 Leave a comment before you go and let me know how you feel about things.

 Until then, a bientot,







Planning: It’s In The Details

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

As a writer I’ve learned that having adequate resources available to me is essential. That rule applies as much to those times without computer use as to those keyboard sessions. Having said that, planning for an extended trip with limited online capability has its challenges.

Take dictionaries, for instance. Assuming the writer’s a good speller, choosing the correct word with just the correct nuance of meaning is critical for most writing. I’ve been learning a great deal about that subject lately. Writing poetry teaches that lesson faster than most writing endeavors. Speed isn’t always an issue, just nuance.

Given extremely limited space availability, and having to plan for such a long camping trip, how do I manage to accommodate dictionary, thesaurus, and those absolutely necessary writer’s books that must come along for the ride? My duffle bag is already overflowing. And I can barely life it.

I could reduce clothing choices. I could reduce toiletry needs to the absolute bare minimum.

Then again, did those classic authors of old travel around with more than quill, paper, and enough money to mail their material to a publisher?

That brings up another question. How did those writers finance their little jaunts around the circuit of visiting this friend and that, exploring the countryside as they went?

When you get to be my age and make the life-changing decision to uproot indefinitely, accommodating such trivial considerations comes with the territory. I’ve moved back and forth across this country every few years for the last 30. I got accustomed to living with less. What hurts is not having my books with me.

*Sigh* And this, too, shall pass sometime in the future.
 For now, the push is on to get all those niggling little details conquered, contained, and credibly finalized. It’s all in the details, my friends. Not so much what you have with you, but in how you utilize what you have.

Thank you so much for your patience. You’ve allowed me to talk myself into what I must do to get the results I need. Sometimes having a momentarily silent sounding acts as a great decision aid.

What did I decide, you ask? Well, I’m choosing to take a tiny thesaurus, and a pocket dictionary. It won’t be the same as I have on my office shelf, but those carrying only a backpack have even less with them. Surely I can  make do with those small tomes. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but I’ve gotten spoiled and now I have to learn how to do with less.

I hope all of your decisions come forth as easily today and this week. With Thanksgiving moving ever closer, time is shrinking as inexorably as the world’s glaciers.

No time for us this year for stuffing the turkey and baking the pies. We’ve got preparations to make for Christmas on the Texas gulf coast. We’re looking forward to moving away from sub-zero temps and planting our toes in the warm gulf surf.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, my friends. Enjoy the meal, the camaraderie, and the coming holiday season anticipation. I’ll be posting sometime after the weekend a couple of times before our departure.

Be careful on those wintry roads. I know we intend to be very careful out there.  A bientot,


For Want of a Camp Site

October 14, 2010 20 comments

Have you ever had one of those trips that you can’t quite categorize? You know the ones — inclement weather for most of the trip, temporary quarters from the twilight zone, little to do but a study of the local wildlife, and wonder when you’ll be able to move on?

Yep, that’s how I’d describe the first three days of this last trip of ours. Traveling in the autumn can exhilarate or exhaust and bring about a bad case of the crankies. Sister and I love to travel and discover new places. Her car knows this and begins a contented purr as soon as we pull out of the carport.

We’re also travelers that brave many weather conditions during those travels. October has found us on the road for different reasons two years in a row. This year wasn’t as dramatic nor dangerous as the last one, nor as speedy, but it did have its periods of discontent.

We went to central Washington so that sister could visit with her eldest son. They hadn’t seen each other for a long while. I went along to ride shotgun and provide comic relief in the car. I also needed to get out of the house and see something new. I took enough work with me to keep me occupied during those hours she was occupied elsewhere.

Our intent had centered on camping in the area so that we could investigate those areas adjacent. Incessant rain took that intention, threw it to the ground and stomped it flat. Saturated ground doesn’t hold tent stakes, and being in bear country precluded keeping food and whatnot in the tent, which meant anything that didn’t smell like wet cloth had to stay in the vehicle.

You see the problem. As a result, we took a room in the only motel we could find on our way into this small town just north of the Tri-Cities. Time had done few favors for the motel. It was dry, and warm, and close to the street. The room was huge as rooms go, though the bath could have done with expansion. I’d never seen a sink that tiny.

I can’t say for certain how large the town’s population was. They had enough people to have a high school with football field, a large middle school, and one large elementary. They did have a library on the main drag. And geez, wouldn’t you know it? The really nice motel was at the other end of town, right next to the only restaurant in town.

One main street dissected the town. We found excitement in the knowledge that these people enjoyed their children enough to build a huge park for them complete with skateboard arena, water park, playground equipment for the youngest kids, and bandstand.

There you have it. Three days of interesting wildlife in their natural habitat. If everyone’s good I might reveal other attractions along the way to and from that motel.

A bientot,


Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Octoberfest in a Tent

October 7, 2010 2 comments

Today has been a hectic one with preparations for several days camping and a photo shoot with photographer sister. Those little ideas just keep churning when the brain is exposed to other environments. I have no idea what I’ll come home with, material-wise, but I bet I’ll get several pieces out of it and maybe a story or two.

After all, if I’m going to add travel writing to the repertoire, I do need material. We should get some good stuff where we’re going.

That poor little car of ours may never be the same. It’s loaded to the roof supports with camping gear. At dinner tonight, as I slid out of the booth to go pay the ticket, my poor old body hit the wall. All the frenetic activity for the past two days and especially today, hit me all at once.

And then I couldn’t take the time to get in a nap. Too much to do before bed. I’m working on that proposition now. I may make it by midnight thirty, if I’m really lucky. Five AM is going to arrive way before I’m ready for it.

Just wanted to warn everyone that there would be no postings for the next couple of weeks or so while I’m incommunicado in the wilds of camping territory. We’re just hoping we get cell coverage.

I hope everyone has plenty of success in whatever endeavor pursued while I’m doing my research thing.

Take care, all, and God bless. A bientot,