Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not camping

I should not be home typing this. It is not a happy Mel's Show N Tell today. Just let me vent.
There was a little red and yellow tent. It was used by a mother and her son several times each year for seven summers. It didn't cost a lot, but it was well loved. This mother was quite proud that she was the one her son associated with camping, not her Eagle Scout ex-husband!

I believe we must say good-bye to our little tent.

As I mentioned, during the rain storm our white canopy collapsed, tearing in two places. Everything under it was wet, but I put some of it in the car anyway. I left the rest propped under the half that was still standing.

The campground doesn't have anyone manning the gate or opening the store on off days, so there was nobody I could tell that we were possibly leaving for a day or two. I had, however, told the store manager a few days before that, if the rain came, we would be out of there and would return. Apparently, she didn't remember this.

The campground staff was quite alarmed that our site was disheveled (they called it wind blown) and that we were gone. Actually, it wasn't disheveled. Everything was as neat as possible and doing fine in the rain, despite the canopy being torn. That was a detail that evaded them.

Thinking they were being polite, the lady who mans the gate took all of our sopping wet gear from the table, the tarps, the torn canopy, the canopy poles, etc and put them in our tent. She then took out the tent's poles. They stuck it all in the back of a truck, air mattress still inflated, and put it on the lawn near the store. She overlaid the rain fly and the tarp on the essentially flat, wet mess to make sure to seal in all the moisture as best as possible. Forgive my sarcasm about people who should really understand tents and gear better than that.

She thought she was doing us a favor, because she doesn't like the Latinos and said they'd steal everything. I was absolutely prepared for it all to be stolen and had gone there mentally already. I was not prepared for it to be a reeking, mildewing pile of crap created by the "professionals."

They seemed appalled that I had angry actions, although I seriously kept it in check. When I complained of the smell of mildew of my hands and of having severe asthma that could not tolerate the tent, the owner, who was very surprised that we were leaving and he was losing a customer (although I'd already paid for nights we were gone and the night I thought we'd be staying - I didn't even ask for a refund) kindly said that I could go to the bathroom and use the soap to wash my hands. I replied with some level of disgust that I could not wash my whole tent that way. I was kinda surprised at his lack of insight there. I told him that I had the option to drive someplace and invest another $100 into a new tent, but that was not a possibility for me. Looking back, I forgot they sell tents in their store; he could have offered me one at a seriously reduced price to make up for them ruining my gear.

So now the tent is up in the backyard, hopefully airing out. I am afraid that any cleaning measures would remove the waterproofing, something I couldn't complain about previously with this tent. It had a little leak in one corner, but the mattress and sleeping bags were dry when we left about 6 hours into the rain storm, that is, until the rest of our campsite was piled inside of it.

Before I realized the stench of the tent, I'd gone in to scope us a new lot in the campground and had put out a few things to reserve our site. When I returned to the tent and J, who'd been assigned the task of clearing out the tent while I was gone, he was sobbing, saying he didn't want to stay. I understood. It's bad enough setting up a campsite, particularly when you thought you were returning to a campsite that just needed a canopy removed, but to have to remove all the wet stuff, pack up all the gear into the car, and start all over again at another site, it was too much for him. When I then smelled the mildew, it was too much for me.

What makes me angry is that this was our Labor Day weekend and I'd planned it for a few weeks, choosing this over other options.

We made the best of it coming home, stopping off at a park and getting an historic house tour. We drove through some vineyards, because I am determined to scope out the best vineyard vistas for a painting. Finally, we stopped for dinner at 5:15 at a place that had karaoke starting at 6p. It took 2.5 hours, but I finally sang Dwight Yoakam's Guitars and Cadillacs, mostly because every song before then had been Country; I luckily wound up choosing a crowd favorite, which helped, as I am perhaps the worst singer in the world. It was a lot of fun and my frustration took a hike, until I got home and had to unpack a heap of mildew.

Any suggestions on cleaning a taffeta tent? After just two days stewing, it doesn't have mildew stains. I'm thinking my tent might make it after all...with some elbow grease which was not in my cards for this weekend. Blah.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Scavenger Hunt: Blue

Today's word is blue, a very fitting choice.

I often wear blue. Nice that it often brings compliments, too.
A blue background makes pictures all the more beautiful.

I'd felt so blue with J gone at camp and soon to leave for his grandparents. I snuck in two pictures after he'd grabbed my hand as we walked a high meadow.

Okay, time to get back to the blue great beyond. No more rain!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fuck that noise

Well, we camped for two nights and went tubing. Then the rains came and we went to the movie and out to dinner a couple dozen miles away.

My mind crept to the warmth of a real shower and the crispness of clean sheets, so we stayed in a hotel last night. We went to a few museums today and decided to come home for the night. It's supposed to be clear and mid 80s tomorrow, so we'll drive back in the morning.

In the mean time, our campsite is a disaster. My 10x10' canopy didn't stand up the rain, so two side poles broke through the tarp on top, leaving everything underneath a sopping mess. I put all I could dry in the car and left the rest under the corner that was still dry. The tent is still up, to its credit and the tarp I'd secured on top, it and the sleeping bags were largely dry.

Tomorrow, we'll find out what happened to it all after two nights unattended. When we left we were the only tent campers there.

At the very least, our wet junk holding our primo spot for this holiday weekend.

Hope you all enjoy your Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

She's gone daft

Today, J and I go back out camping. I'd planned on leaving tomorrow, but we'll catch better weather going early. I'll decide later about sticking it out through the 30% chance of thunderstorms for a few days.

Went to a sporting goods place yesterday afternoon and loaded up some more - finally got a camp fire grill and an iron for cooking sandwiches and pies. I don't know how much more my little car can hold. I did nix a big purchase: an inflatable two man canoe I coveted. I had a hard time managing the box; I couldn't fathom largely manipulating it on my own once inflated. It was $140 down to a mere $80, so it was quite tempting. However, it didn't come with paddles and the el cheapo ones were still $40 each; I couldn't see paying over $160 for some stuff that would usurp so much room in the car while being tough to handle and simultaneously delicate.

I'm still on a hunt for the one man inflatable kayak I saw before that seemed as manageable as a regular pool lounger.

Just to remind you, this is what you're missing.

As my grandpa, who just would have had his birthday, always said, "Come go with us!"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Old Navy, new aggrivation

Like any other cheapo mom, I went to Old Navy for $7 jeans for my son on Saturday. In fact, we went on Friday so I could size him, as he'd be over at ex's on Saturday. On Friday, the boys' shelves were only about 25% stocked, but there was a girl working on it with a jeans cart next to her.

When we found a style that fit J, I asked her to find other styles in the same size, per her offering and suggestion. She couldn't find another pair of jeans in this size.

I should have taken it as a sign.

I drug my feet all day on Saturday and didn't make it back to Old Navy until 5pm. There was one whole pair of boys' jeans on the shelves. One. I went back up to the front to inquire whether they had rain checks or not. Mostly I wanted to be a nuisance. And I was.

I asked the cashier about it and she had no idea what a rain check was, so she got the manager, who almost laughed in my face.

She declared that it was a major campaign with lots of ads and the store had opened at 8am, so I should have come in earlier. I didn't remember the 8am part being advertised, but I didn't think that going in later would be too bad. Concerning the numbers of jeans they might have had, I told her that there's no way I could know what kind of stock they did have, that I expected to find what was advertised. I told her that we were there determining sizes on Friday, but there was very little stock. She replied, "Ah ha!," as if the low stock on Friday should have been my clue. How was I to know that would be all they had?

She told me to go back to the girl's section and pick out some jeans, which will then have the manager's approval to exchange for boys' jeans when they come in.

Hmm, I'm still wondering. It seems rather hypocritical for her to think that I could innately be knowledgeable about the boys' low stock, whilst at the very same time realize there are shelves and shelves of girls' stock at the ready. How could I predict there would be such a vast difference? Isn't there a dash of irony in there, too?

As instructed, I chose four pairs from girls'. I asked the Assistant Manager on the way out when the boys' stock would be in. She replied that it's be Monday.

Shucks, I didn't make it by there today to test them out. At least, I'll be able to get my $28 back at the very worst. And I might get four pairs of jeans for J.

I'm all for being a nuisance whenever I can. Especially to hypocrites.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is the plural for talus tali?

I am finally at home on a Sunday, participating in Mel's Show n Tell again!

In looking out over the mountains recently, I saw many bald spots. All modern in my thinking, I thought perhaps they were shameful examples of deforesting gone bad. Or some kind of small operation mining. They almost looked like vertical beaches.

Finally from one of the overlook plaques, I learned that the rocky, bald areas are called talus. Apparently others call it scree and say it is loose rock found at the base of a cliff. Along Skyline Drive, these areas are not along the base of a cliff, though, so I do not think they came crashing down from the top of a cliff, breaking into small pieces, unless that cliff existed millions of years ago and left rubble until today.

After I read the description of talus at the overlook, I began focusing my camera on shots of more talus, or taluses, or tali. (?)

Okay, call it obsessing. One mountain, Old Rag, is pretty much named for its raggity talus appearance. Many others have talus blemishes and there were also lots of examples right on I-81, with no cliff in sight.

My story for the day is my new word of the month: talus. And I present you with plenty of examples.

We loved driving the day we missed the rain, but we saw oodles of low clouds in the short distance.

Thank you for suffering through yet another mountain post. You know it's not the last.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Scavenger Hunt: Animal

This week's Scavenger Hunt features the word, animal.

This is an easy one for pulling examples from my archives, but it makes it exceedingly hard with all the variety of pictures I have.

I'm going to focus on animals this month, more specifically a zoo with a petting zoo we visited a few weeks ago. On this particular weekend, I took 685 pictures. I will attempt to whittle that down somehow for all our sakes.

Don't let the sweet face fool ya. This animal was a butthead.

There were three baby camels. Or where they camelettes? This one, who was so fresh as to have the umbilical cord still hanging from his belly, took a liking to J's hat and would follow him around, wanting to suckle.

I risked a peck to get the ostrich photos. They had brilliant blue eyes. Eyes were my feature of the weekend, so I'll focus on them soon.

These were like donkeys, but had exotic markings, and they peacefully strolled the grounds together. I took a naughty shot of the other one, as he let his manhood blow in the breeze. I could not help it. And noticed other women taking pictures of the same.

I would take this bird home and snuffle it up in bed to sleep with it. This guy was so accustomed to people, friendly, and loved to get scratched.

The llamas were very friendly and they especially enjoyed the petting zoo feed.

There were three adult tigers. This one's blue eyes were piercing. I would not want to snuggle up to him.

The tiger cubs were a different story. They were hilarious to watch and so noisy as they tried to sound tough. We even paid to have our picture taken with one, but I haven't scanned the picture yet.

This giraffe was tall enough to reach over the fence. J later fed the other one through the links.

This guy looked like he'd declare, "Bock! Bock!" and proceed to pluck your eyes out.

Hope you enjoyed the animal pictures. Many were wild animals that didn't act so wild. It was a great experience to meet so many animals up close.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My grandpa

Today, my grandpa would have been 91. He died almost two years ago, only ten days after the sudden realization that he, a non-smoker, had lung cancer.

A very gentle soul, his hard core friends of youth were shocked that only he amongst them was accepted into the Marines. His looks and skinniness were deceiving. He served in both WWII and Korea.

Of all my grandparents, he was my favorite.

I salute you, Grandpa.

Two of his very silly great grandchildren...

I don't know their purpose, but Grandpa probably had his perpetual grin.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My neighbors

Saturday evening, as I painted the sunset 100 yards away, I got neighbors on either side of me to camp. One group was quite together with their tents and other gear, to include the inflatable kayak I coveted. There were three families. I learned later that the teenaged girl had been here 3.5y from Honduras. Like most of the campers throughout the campground, they were Latin.

I had been enjoying the loud Latin music for almost two days by then. The owner of the campground asked me Saturday morning as I painted from this property if the other campers had been too loud for me. I did not admit that I doubled up on my sleeping med (ahh, the bliss), but I knew they'd turned down the music by midnight and I found that reasonable.

Besides, I replied, I like Latin music. If it had been Acid Rock, it'd have been a different story.

Besides the nice Hondurans to one side, where my car had been parked the day before as a point of reference, I got new neighbors up the berm, next to my tent. These were four guys who created a very large fire. I could tell they were drinking, as they began singing before I knew it. Their camping gear consisted of the top half of a dome grill and some remnants of carpet padding. Plus a dreaded white panel van.

The next morning, I decided to paint from my campsite and this drew the attention of both groups. I learned that one Honduran man used to work in oils, but now does acrylics. He wanted to show me his work and to paint outside for the first time, so we're meeting up in two weekends. What a great connection!

From the other group, I drew an admirer. He revealed himself by walking by my site a few times to wash his hands in the river. Finally he spoke in broken English that he'd done charactictures until he was in a car accident two years ago and now has a shake. Oh, I could relate to the shakes, but there was no real way to tell him.

Like the girl on the other side of me, he'd been in the US for 2.5y, but her schooling has done wonders for her English. He's illegal; I don't know about her or her family/friends. He does not have a driver's license. When he was in the wreck, the other car ran a stop light and he didn't have a driver's license either. He lamented that he had a $175 fine for driving without a license and the other party, who was Black, only had to pay $125.

This fellow, Ricardo, has two children: an 8yo boy and a 2yo girl, who he has not met. I hesitate to use the word, but he deserted them for the big bucks before the girl was born. I asked if he sends them money and he said occasionally, but it is quite expensive to live around here, too. And work has been hard to come by.

I am torn with having sympathy for a different way of life and judging him for the way he lives. As a person of relative privilege, I have no right to judge. However, I have many Central American neighbors who have done well for themselves.

It always cracks me up to hear someone from Guatemala talk. It's Whatamala they're from. I begin saying Whatamala back and try to keep a straight face.

As I painted, something which should have taken two hours frustratingly stretched into five, Ricardo brought me a lunch of a small, thick tortilla and some thinly sliced, grilled steak, as well as a large hunk of watermelon later. He talked and spoke of how crazy I was for him. Without making him angry, as he is a pretty jovial fellow, I told him that I am nice to everybody, but I could not convey how he should not take that personally. I told him that I am not interested in dating right now. This conversation went on for probably an hour, as I was entirely too patient, as usual.

I am not fooled. He's a guy, not smitten with me, but rather smitten with a Green Card.

Knowing him and his charm, though, I see where weaker of my species might fall for the attention, only to wind up with a bigamist who reeked of beer at every unemployed turn.

Horizons, expanding horizons, my watchwords for the year.

Not that expanded, though.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Breaking camp

and preparing for next time...

Showers here are $.50. Not bad. I only took one shower, but deservedly could have taken more. I figure that floating in the river washes away more than grime. It washed away worries and made me glad to be alive. Can't buy that for 50 cents.

It was hard to leave and I could not wait prepare to come back.

The campground has tubes for rental - only $10 for four hours. For an extra $2/tip/gas fee, they'll take you a mile up the river and put you in. It takes about three hours to float back down to the campground, depending.

When I take J next week, I figure we'll float down one day on their tubes, then rent a canoe one day and perhaps a kayak another day.

Because I don't figure they'll tote you up and drop you off unless you use their tubes, I'll play by their reasonably-priced rules, although I will be checking for sure. However, from the beach area near the sunset pictures, passing by my campsite, to an inlet below me, many tubers float by and then walk their floats back to the starting point over and over.

Upstream beach, where the water gets maybe 3' deep:
It goes by an area near the banks I understand is closer to 4' deep, but most is 2-3' deep. One area near my campsite has a high island only about 6" deep and I saw a couple canoes stranded there.

And downstream, a spot I have saved to paint. It points east, so would be best in the morning. Floating to this point is probably 600 yards or more.

So cute, the teenager camped next to me would float by with her Pomeranian, a tough little dog who belied her frou frou exterior and actually fetched baseballs from the water.

Wish I'd gotten more pictures of the tubing. And a video of the tubers going by.

There were many large groups camping together, some of which go every weekend. One group of young adults probably 25 strong had it down pat. They'd load up uptimillion floats on their vehicle, maxing out bunji cords, then drive upstream to the drop off point. With so many people and cars, the logistics were easy for them. In fact, floating was made quite simple with the likes of this Coleman Party Island, which holds 8 and has a weight limit of 2000 pounds!
Imagine seeing that baby coming down the river. Huck Finn ain't got nuthin on them.

Okay, I covet it, except I do not have the means to fill it to capacity. Wanna come visit?

And I covet an inflatable kayak.

I think it'll have to wait until later. I couldn't find one in a store, so settled for a 56" tube for J...

and a girly pool lounger for me...
I figure I can loop a cord through the foot thing and make an anchor. That way I can do the couch potato version of rafting and never have to haul the thing back up stream!

So you'll have to wait until after Labor Day for my next mountain installment, unless I get nostalgic between now and then. Oh, I have to tell you about my Watamaulen.

And I have paintings to display, but not exactly show off. As wonderful as water is, painting water sucks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ooo, the colors

Laid the groundwork with my last post. Today, we'll cover a few sunsets. These are taken a bit upstream from my campsite, right next to the rapids. Like the rapids and the area across from my campsite, I painted a sunset. In fact, on Saturday, I painted three paintings, pitiful all, but practice anyway. I am determined to learn how to paint water.

Friday night:

Saturday night:

That last one makes me kinda sick. hehe

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Scavenger Hunt: Black

So I'm off by a day again. Sue me.
[I had this together last Thursday, but my modem was out on Friday and I was gone until just now. So it is Saturday on Monday.]

To punish Evil-E, the instigator of the word of the week who dissed my four cats a few days ago, we will begin with some silky black kitties...
Clockwise from the left, that's B-eay,, and Sylv-ie.

And to be complete, here's the fourth. Take THAT! Super Mem.phis!

Fade to black...
Oh, and another fading one! Just for you, E-E.
This is sleepy B.eau on his perch.

And finally...
Despite what you think you see, in nature (besides in a cave), there is no true black and too many artist cheat using it.
You knew I'd get a mountain picture in here someplace.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Almost Heaven, My Virginia

Here's my new favorite home, a campground on a river. There are cute little rapids upstream and my campsite was only about 15 feet from the river via the drive in shown in the last picture.

I stayed three nights. It was heavenly. I am taking J back next week and have purchased the float and tube for us to bob our way down the river.

Doesn't matter if it's 85 degrees, it's always fire time. And I'm going to sit on top of it poking it with something.

All this camping has made me finally fall in love with my car. It totes well.

The view from my campsite. I painted it on Sunday. Not well, but passable.