Camping

Do or Die

Daily Prompt: You have three hundred words to justify the existence of your favorite person, place, or thing. Failure to convince will result in it vanishing without a trace. Go!

It is my refuge, my office, my sanctuary, my sanity.  Parked in my driveway or in a grove of oak trees next to a river, it is my younger years denied, the dolls and toys I never had, and the places I never experienced.  It is my first and second childhood.   I need only my computer, my books, my phone, some food, a couple of bottles of red wine and a full tank of gas.  Then I hook up my little Casita camper and go exploring for a safe place to reflect, refresh and rejuvenate my spirit.  My camper provides the freedom I crave to discover myself in new sights and sounds, to meet people and explore places I’ve spent a lifetime bypassing.

When I am ready to return to my beloveds, I am calm and eager to join them in our daily real world adventures.

Casita

cropped-camper.jpg

 

Categories: Camping, Family, Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

No More S’mores! (a 5-year old’s first camping adventure)

Roasting marshmallows over a campfire, then placing the blackened goo on a piece of chocolate between two graham crackers; the hot marshmallow melting the chocolate … the iconic image of camping with kids.  We couldn’t wait to make them with Rebekah, our 5-year old granddaughter on her first ever overnight camping trip.  She assured us she loves s’mores … well, except for the marshmallows … maybe hold the graham crackers …. o.k. …  just give her the damn chocolate!

We camped at Koreshan Historic Site State Park in Estero, Florida between Fort Myers and Naples on Florida’s west coast.

Categories: Camping, Family, Life, Retirement, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bird Song and Carillon Bells on Easter Morning

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.”

I  hooked up my Casita travel trailer when I got sick of the cold and snow at my vacation cottage in Michigan last April and waved goodbye to my husband.  I hit the road without any thought other than heading south and getting warm.

Although I spent some time berating myself for being pig-headed, stubborn and maybe a little selfish and careless, I didn’t beat myself up for too long because travel energizes me and makes me happy.  I was feeling mighty fine until I got to northern Florida and realized I was too tired to safely drive any further and I was still four hours away from my home, my children and granddaughter.

I had to camp by myself for the first time ever and it was Easter Eve.  I found a camp site  at the Stephen Foster Memorial State Park and prepared myself for a drizzly kind of  night alone.  Since I’d been flying by the seat of my pants and hadn’t stocked the camper, I dined on bagged popcorn and a bottle of Cabernet.   I was feeling a little sorry for myself, but had a good night’s sleep … the Cabernet, you think?

I woke at daybreak to the sound of bells.  When I stepped outside I found the drizzle had become a light mist blurring  the towering pines and oaks that dwarfed me.  The Spanish moss hung from the trees like an old woman’s prayer shawl and the bells became music welcoming Easter morning.  I made a quick  cup of coffee and sat enchanted on the wet picnic table bench.

Stephen Foster State Park, Carillon Tower

Stephen Foster State Park, Carillon Tower

The carillon tower was playing hymns and Stephen Foster’s  famous melodies.  As the day brightened and the mist dissolved, the birds joined the carillon and I felt as if I was sitting in a cathedral and the choir was singing just for me.  I thought my heart would break with the beauty. I felt alive and energized, healthy in body and spirit. So, I said a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving and sent silent wishes to my loved ones for a wonderful, meaningful Easter day.

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River

A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze bells that are precisely tuned and arranged in chromatic progression so that music in any key can be played. Unlike other types of bells, carillon bells are fixed in a frame—the bells do not move.

Categories: Camping, Family, Life, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

You’re Never Alone if You Have a Smart Phone

If you are going to travel solo, I suggest you run, don’t walk, to the nearest store to get a smart phone if you don’t already have one.  This one small device is all you need to:

  • Communicate with family & friends your whereabouts & your plans  via phone, text, email
  • Use as a GPS
  • Find the nearest WalMart, Starbucks or Subway
  • Call for help
  • Locate the next rest stop
  • Take photos & videos of your adventures and send them to family & friends to make them jealous via text or email
  • Post your adventures to Facebook, your blog, etc.
  • Locate the nearest gas station
  • Determine the weather where you are & where you’re headed
  • Surf the Internet to research highlights along your route, identify snakes/spiders/poison plants (just kidding or maybe not)
  • Find the correct time
  • Call for road service
  • Set an alarm to wake you up (why???)
  • Check your calendar for appointments
  • Map out your route
  • Listen to music
  • Play games
  • Follow the news (why??)
  • Follow other bloggers
  • Take notes
  • Calculate stuff
  • Use as a flashlight
  • Google, Facebook, Twitter
  • Orient yourself when you’re on a trail using the built-in compass

If you think this handy, dandy little device is too expensive or too frivolous, you’re wrong!  When traveling/camping alone I use my phone as my GPS to locate state & national parks, to make camping reservations, to check the weather and road conditions, to stay connected to my family so they know where I am and where I’m going and so I know that everyone is OK at home, as a phone of course, to listen to music, to make notes for future blogs, as a camera (takes better photos than my cameras), to check my bank balance & even pay bills if necessary, and when I wake up in the middle of the night I play Solitaire.  If you activate the locator on your phone you can be found if you get lost as long as you have your phone with you.

I also have applications on my phone for siren/alarms (hope I never need it), my bank, exercise journal, motivational radio, flashlight, Cracker Barrel (sometimes I boondock in their parking lot – did you know you can do that?), dutch oven meals, travel deals, national parks, games and much more.  Everything I need fits right in my hand.

So do some comparison shopping (I love my iPhone) and then find a 10 year old to show you how to use it.

 

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Wonder Dog, Quilts and Black Water Tanks

I got to doggy sit my grand-puppy this weekend.  Oliver is a 9-year old chocolate Lab who thinks & acts like a puppy.  He may be the only dog I’ve ever met with a sense of humor. When Matt goofs with the dog, Ollie gets it and goofs back.  He’s very well trained.  You know how dogs take forever to sniff out the perfect spot to do their business? Matt’s command is, “This is the place, now POOP!”  When I took Ollie outside I tried the command and it worked!  Now if I could just figure out how to market that command for potty training parents I’d be a millionaire.

Ollie1

Ollie is also the only non-human allowed to use my hand-made quilts.  Quilts are made with hours of loving stitches and should be well used but treated respectfully.  I want my children and grandchildren to use the quilts I make for warmth, for crawling & changing diapers, for picnics & beach trips, for wetting & spitting up and sleeping.   I’ve never allowed an animal on my quilts.  But, I was cleaning out the Casita from my trip to the Keys and threw the used bedding on the floor and  just didn’t have the heart to kick Oliver out of the bed he made from my quilt.  He’s just so damn cute, and, since I was going to wash it anyway ….

 

Speaking of cleaning out the travel trailer, I finally have it down to a science.  It took me a while to realize that instead of taking all my camping gear; chairs, carpet, buckets, cords, hoses, charcoal, etc. and schlepping them out to the shed, I can just store them in the camper. storage1 So, now I begin by removing all the food & drink; the wine bottles cushioned in my underwear and the vodka & tonic bottles wrapped in WalMart bags under the sink, & other perishables and valuables. Then I strip the bed & convert it back to a table & benches and remove everything else from the Casita.  After a thorough cleaning & polishing, I load my camping gear back  into the bathroom & I’m ready for my next trip.

  Did you know that you can make your own black water tank cleaner?  1/2 cup  Borax laundry detergent and 1/4 cup Calgon Water Softener.  The Borax controls the odor and cleans the tank and the water softener makes the water softer and more slippery preventing waste from sticking to the walls of the waste tank.  Just another great tip I picked up on Pinterest.  Other women use Pinterest for recipes, fashion & design tips and I use it for tips on cleaning toilets – lovely.

Categories: Camping, Family | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Key West, Key Largo … Humphrey Bogart Where Are You?

schoolhouseThe best part of Key West is getting there. The turquoise water, the green keys, the quaint towns. Everyone should go at least once because the Conch Republic is unique. Visit not only for the history; the Truman White House, Hemingway’s House (with the decendents of his 6-toed cats), the southernmost point in the US, Mallory Square, the oldest schoolhouse, etc., but visit for the fun & energy of the town. I’ve been several times so I was just taking a fun day trip – a two hour drive from Long Key State Park.

I'm the one on the right!

I’m the one on the right!

While taking a picture of the iconic Marilyn Monroe statue in front of the Tropic Theater an old gent told me to go pose with her & he’d take my photo. He does this because he loves to see how people pose with Marilyn, especially the men.  I can only imagine.  Did I mention the locals are friendly, artistic & quirky?

One of the changes I noticed were the many chickens roaming the streets doing what chickens do.

chickenSo, I stepped over the chicken droppings and went looking for lunch on Duval Street.  I had Havana Nachos at the bar at Sloppy Joes & a Blue Moon.  I’m a huge Hemingway fan and really enjoyed the photos & other memorabilia on the walls. sloppy joesTwo hours was more than enough time for me to roam around Key West & I was back at my campsite by 2:30.  The skies were getting dark & the wind was picking up.

The thunder & lightening woke me around midnight.  My little Casita was rockin’ & rollin’ and I could hear the awning flapping (why didn’t I take it down before dark – stupid, Stupid!)? I thought of the old black & white movie, “Key Largo” with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall & Edward G. Robinson set during a hurricane on Key Largo with a bunch of bad guys threatening the good guys.

The morning came dark, windy & raining.  I poked my head outside expecting to see the campsite a mangled mess but everything looked pretty good. First, get that damned awning rolled into its housing so I can stop worrying about it.  I could have used Bogie’s help.  In “Key Largo” he outsmarted the goons, fell in love with Lauren Bacall and killed Edward G. Robinson in less time than it took me to roll up that slightly twisted awning. Lauren Bacall looked gorgeous & sexy after running out in the hurricane’s rain & wind to close the shutters on her hotel.  I bet I looked just as gorgeous & sexy standing in the rain emptying my Casita’s tanks at the dump station.

key largo_

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Mamacita’s Casita – Let the Adventures Begin!

I never saw a live pig until I was 19.  I was raised in Miami Beach in the 1950s and led a sheltered life.  So, how does a spoiled, scaredy cat, mid-century girl end up with her very own travel trailer driving cross country alone?  Here’s the skinny …

We took a hard look at our finances when I retired and concluded that if I wanted to go, do & see everything on my list I’d have to find a creative way to go, do & see.  The most economical way for us to travel is by camping although up til then I considered camping staying at a cheap motel. I  investigated RVs, campers and travel trailers before deciding that a Casita Spirit was the perfect travel trailer for me.  Ultra-light for easy towing and all the amenities I need packed into 17 feet of fiberglass.  I also had to find the perfect vehicle to tow the little cutie & eventually bought a Kia Sorento.  Then all I needed to do was learn how to hook it up, tow it, back it up and set it up!

Mamacita with her new Casita!

Mamacita with her new Casita!

After almost killing each other on our first couple of trips, I realized that this camper travel thing was my dream, not Kurt’s and he did not want to participate in every one of my hare-brained adventures.  I needed to learn to travel alone if I wanted to be Wander Woman and must overcome my fears of the dark, the great outdoors and all things creepy-crawly or I had to give up my going, doing, seeing.  So, I did.

I traveled to Long Key State Park at Mile Marker 62 in the Florida Keys and backed into a campsite by myself yesterday.  I then set up camp and began my blog by the ocean.

First time I backed the Casita in by myself!

First time I’ve backed the Casita in by myself!

And set up camp by myself!

And set up camp by myself!

Blogging by the ocean - not too shabby a set up!

Blogging by the ocean – not too shabby a set up!

Let the adventures begin!

Categories: Camping | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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