Lightning over Atlanta
Old Diary

Exposed and Vulnerable

You’re right there.  No matter what.  Whatever’s going on, you’re right there!  A good size storm flew over last night — lasting most of the night and I kept waking up to the sound of rain on the leaves outside.  Hard.  Soft. Solo drips.  Harmonious patter. It was too dark out there to see anything but life in an RV always puts you front and center with whatever’s going on outside.

If there is one phenomenon that I haven’t gotten tired of, one phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me it’s the impact of living continuously so close to the outdoors.  When it’s hot outside, the RV heats up.  When it’s cold outside the RV cools off.  Humidity makes it’s way inside in a trice.  Rain fallingSounds are ever present.  RV life is always just barely removed from the outdoors… And for some of us that is wonderful.

On Friday it rained all afternoon — about the time most of our campers would normally be arriving.  That meant that we were either sitting in the cool underneath our awning, or hopping in and out of the coach to greet campers in the rain/drizzle/downpour.  Which is fine.  I love the sound of the rain, and I don’t mind getting a little wet from time to time.  And you still meet the most interesting people.  The couple from Alaska who had only ever stayed at one CORPS park before last night were a highlight; such a spry and interesting couple of pickup-truck campers!  That’s a long trip with just a pickup-truck camper!  We had two campers who were making their inaugural trip in a new-to-them camper.  A bunch of campers were regular returnees.  It was a soggy but interesting evening.

But I stray from my purpose….

Rain FallA few hours later as I lay abed listening to the rain I was reflecting on just how exposed to the elements life becomes in an RV.  I know I have mentioned this before.  If I’m boring any of you I’m sorry.  But that immediacy may be my single biggest joy attending this lifestyle.  It’s like since we’ve been full timing I feel everything a little more strongly,  I react a little more enthusiastically, I find greater joy in almost everything — even the health mishaps and the equipment malfunctions.

I’m not sure if everyone would react the same way.  In fact I’m sure that everyone would NOT react the same way.  But thus far I still get a charge out of it.

One of our ‘favorite’ british comedies on public television is the long running show about a group of old geezers in the Yorkshire Dales known as The Last of the Summer Wine. Last-of-the-Summer-WinePart of the fun of that program is that one threesome of gents are nothing more than little kids dressed up in wrinkly skin.   To be honest — I think RV’ing has made me more like them than I was before we started this adventure.  Being so close to the elements and whatever is happening nearby has done a lot to keep my spirits young and maybe even let me regress a few years in maturity. 🤔😏

We don’t have a gatehouse here.  When folks arrive we notice them through the windscreen and depending on their approach we decide whether to greet them or not.  A goodly number of campers know the routine, know to got to their campsite — and how it’s marked.  Some don’t and they make more of a point of STOPPING at the stop sign and looking lost — which gives me a few moments to make it outside and help out.  Such a small campground really doesn’t need a fancy gatehouse.  The system that we have works well enough unless you’re a newby to the campground and have no idea where you’re going — which is our reason for being here. It’s an informal campground and a friendly campground.

Peg was commenting on how often visitors exchange names at the outset of any conversation.  Being lifelong Milwaukeeans that’s a real change for us. A nice change, but a real change nevertheless. We’re friendly, but in the ebb and flow of life we aren’t accustomed to first naming everyone. It’s nice.  It’s wonderful, actually.

It’s been a busy time for the CORPS staff here lately.  Until this week they had responsibility for hosting Lock & Dam tours at the St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River — some 60 or 70 miles from Spring Valley.  Recently the National Park Service decided that they would like to host the tours and there has been a lot of transitional responsibility as well as legal paperwork involved with who owns what, and who will be responsible for what — so the lads here have been chasing back and forth for the better part of the month getting all the details sorted.  That job now being done they are hoping to give more attention to their own duties — for which I’ll be glad.  We’ve been on our own a lot this past month.

They still do tours.  Lots of groups come for dam tours, and Thursday they had some 200 school kids in the recreation area — it DOES get a lot of use.  And there’s a big 150th Anniversary Celebration for the Corps of Engineers coming in June — a big public picnic I’m lead to understand.  So, there’s a lot of prep work going on for that.  We may not see the rangers much until July…. who knows.

Thanks for stopping.  Step outside and enjoy the fresh air.  Peg & I are big on the hours of daylight and as we approach the longest days of the year we’re doing out best to enjoy each and every minute of light!  Why not stop by tomorrow though, and chat.  I’ll be here.

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Old Diary

Dog bite

This was not a humorous “Man Bites Dog” story! Fortunately it ended reasonably well.

dogbite It was well into the evening on Thursday when our friends Chuck & Judy came to our door.  We met them a few weeks ago, they are regular mid-week campers here, and they are a hoot. Normally, anyway…

Chuck had been taking trash to the dumpster — was facing the dumpster — when two dogs rushed up behind him; one of them bit him on the upper calf.

Surprised?  You bet he was surprised.  And I can understand why.  A few years ago Peg & I were just walking down the street in Milwaukee and a passing German Shepherd decided to nip through my denims and bite me.  It all happened in an instant and neither one of us any idea why that should have happened.  Chuck felt the same way.  He wasn’t making eye contact with the dog, wasn’t doing anything provocative that he could tell, all he knew is that the dog came up behind him and bit him.

The dog owner had been cleaning their window screens and the dogs were off lead.  That’s no excuse.  The rules here are clear that dogs are to be ON LEAD a 6′ at all times.  I’m sure that through the summer we’ll be making more precautionary comments to arriving campers about pets — just to make sure the rules are clearly understood. After all — we are not to be enforcers, just informers.

We spent the next while on the radio dealing with CORPS personnel and the local police.  In the end everything resolved itself easily enough, and we all went to bed when it was done glad for no further complications.

Most campers know that they are obliged to keep their dogs on lead when camping.  I’m not sure whether every dog owner travels with their dog’s immunization records — it’s a good idea to have your proof of vaccinations with you just in case something like this happens.

A few campers get testy about keeping their dogs on a lead — we do hear all sorts of stories about people’s dogs; about how well they are trained, and all the good things they can do.  But fact of the matter is that if you make exceptions for one camper the rest will expect the same exceptions and there are a lot of dogs that aren’t anywhere as well trained as their owners would like to think.

dogs

There you go.  Another happy day in paradise. 😀😀 The weekend is upon us and more campers are arriving today. We aren’t full this weekend, but close to it.  Thanks for stopping by and why not stop by tomorrow to chat.

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Old Diary

Midweek Meander

Wednesday — It’s not hump-day for us, it’s the end of our weekend. With the sun in the sky it’s also a beautiful day for a drive — and we haven’t been going anywhere or doing very much recently, so why not.  (is that sentence long enough for you?)  😀

I’m not always careful enough to make the distinction Hilaire Belloc makes.

“I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled;
the difference between the two being this,
that we wander for distraction,
but we travel for fulfillment.”

– Hilaire Belloc

That doesn’t mean I don’t agree with the idea that all travel doesn’t accomplish the same result.

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Wednesday’s short jaunt

I don’t think I talk a lot about our motivation for RV’ing. Maybe I do and don’t realize it — perception isn’t always reality.  But I do think that travel — going from place to place — can be a choice made for multiple reasons.  Perhaps more than just distraction or fulfillment.

I have known folks who traveled as a means to escape.  Personally, I don’t think that’s an effective strategy.  What we seek to escape may just up and follow us — and by that I really mean that we never succeed in leaving the whatever-we-seek-to-escape behind.

I have known folks who traveled to do so as a way of proving a  point.  It’s sort of “YES, I CAN do this, no matter what you say.”  We can be proving something to others, or to ourselves.  Perhaps we’ve been afraid of travel, or our liberties have been restricted and travel is simply (to the traveler) a sign of achieving ultimate independence.

Yeah — there can be a lot of reasons why one hops in the car, or on the train, or tolerate the security lines at the airport to fly.  And Hilaire’s two reasons do still make sense.

Distraction and Fulfillment

People who write about travel obviously do it from their own perspective.  They see the world through personally colored glasses.  They — we — I — write from our own biases and prejudices.  They — we — I tend to think that everyone is as they, and I really think that’s the only way most of us can think.  So, when we read quotations about travel we are — obviously — seeing one person’s take on travel.  The result, it would seem to me, is that travel writers inevitably over simplify.

This idea that there are two diametrically opposed aspects of travel is something I think has widespread application.  We might not all call the results or the intentions by the same terms but there is a difference between activities one does  in an effort to grow, and activities one does when all they want is relaxation.  If we’re of a mind to learn, explore, check off bucket-list items, etc., then we go into our travels or other activities with a questioning mind, with a hunger for novelty — as we rarely grow as a result of seeing the same old thing over and over again. Then again, there are times that we simply want to coast-through life for a while. We aren’t interested in challenging our fears, we aren’t interested in learning new skills — all we want is a distraction from the ebb and flow of normal life; a break from the tensions and pressures of life.

I think it would be foolish to suggest that any RV’er has one or the other as their reason for full time RV’ing.  Full timing is not just travel — travel is a part of normal living as a full timer, so the common ways of thinking about travel don’t exactly apply to RV’ers.

Thinking about the ways travel impacts us on varying levels though is something I use when we are making future plans.  It’s important to insert time for growth, and to insert time for relaxation.  RV’ing, or full timing, isn’t just about criss-crossing the country endlessly; if you spent all your time doing every touristy activity you’d spend a bundle and end up exhausted.  Nor is RV’ing just about sitting back in a lawn chair doing nothing.  That would get boring in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.  Life is about balance.  RV’ing is about balance too — as full time RV’ing is just another way of living.

Treasure Island RV Park

treasure island rv parkFor anyone who cares, we had heard about the Treasure Island (MN) RV park, it’s adjacent to the Treasure Island Casino and several of our campers have arrived here at Highland Ridge from prior nights staying there.

It’s OK if what you want is to park on an asphalt parking lot.  There are picnic tables at each site but really, you have no privacy, and you are parked cheek by jowl next to the next unit if you have a neighbor next to you.  It’s not a place Peg and I would be quick to try.  But I can see how, in a pinch — or if you liked gambling — it might be a worthwhile stop.

Redwing MN

Red_Wing_MN_-_downtown Uniquely Minnesota

Along the way we drove through Redwing MN.  On another day — after they finish a major downtown repaving project — this would be a lovely town to explore.  The city has preserved much of it’s historic downtown architecture; finding new ways to utilize lovely old buildings.  It’s laid out for easy pedestrian exploration.  I think we’ll check it out later in the summer and if the downtown is still embroiled in compactors and pavers we may put off exploration until our next visit to the area — but it’s definitely a community that I found appealing and would like to explore.

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow to chat.

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Old Diary

Raindrops keep falling on my head

It’s a lovely, rainy afternoon.  And I really mean that!  Midwestern rains are so unlike other rains — to me they are comfort, almost as good as comfort FOOD! The sound of dropping water, whether on leaves, or roof, or pavement — it’s like Momma Nature’s heartbeat.  And the sound of good old Midwestern thunder — well… it’s like the hiccups to me:  natural, but always unexpected — and it usually makes me giggle inside.  I just love it.

Sights, sounds, tastes, aromas — they are our contact with the outside world. Entire worlds of memories can focus upon a single sensory moment.  I remember places I have visited by what I ate — so taste if particularly strong for me.  I remember people I’ve met by aromas (sometimes good, sometimes not).  Sounds trigger memories of neighborhoods; often of vacations with family.  And obviously a glimpse of my sweetie’s face can bring a lifetime of memories to mind.

I have a number of friends; women who posed for me in days gone by; several of whom are/were Sign Language interpreters.  I have been particularly blessed to have known them — not only for what we did in studio, but more importantly for an awareness they brought me of what it can mean to live without sound — without hearing.  Without a doubt they have been responsible for an growing appreciation in my life of all of my senses.

On a day like today when I have a day off, I don’t have to be anywhere, I have the luxury of sitting here, at the back of the coach, in my little office I can gaze out the window at the trees, I can watch the water play off the leaves, I notice droplets at the end of pine needles and wonder how long before they fall, or how much larger they will need to get before weight overcomes surface tension and falls to the ground.

I’m not big on sitting around, staring out windows, but I really like my little office.  The rear office sold usIt’s a place of solitude (assuming I don’t have the TV blaring).  It’s a place of reflection.  I often sit here and the faces of friends from long ago flash before my eyes.  Sometimes I take a moment to drop them a line when I’ve thought of them; others I’ve lost touch with and say a little prayer for them, hoping they are well and still fighting the good fight.

I may talk about weather a lot, but I do like the rain.  It’s good for the earth, for the plants, for the critters, and for us too.  Let me close off today with some thoughts about dancing in the rain…. and a video of the Deborah Iowa Eaglets dancing in the rain….

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.  Why not stop by and say HI!

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Old Diary

One Nighters

How many walk-ins can you get in one day?  Typically for us that’s only one or two.

It’s funny that even when we have somewhat of a routine, still, every day is different. Most weeks our longest days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  After a three day holiday we add in an extra busy day — the following Monday.  And Memorial Day weekend was such a weekend.

This weekend the Monday night “after” the weekend was busier than normal.  With 6 walk-ins, every time I sat down to relax someone else was driving in the gate.  Don’t misunderstand — I say it that way but it’s not like we were inconvenienced — I enjoy the interactions and I’m almost never in a hurry to draw an interaction to a close — if people want to talk — I let them.  It’s amazing the things you learn when you let people talk. campfire

The change to a 24 hour advance reservation continues to raise questions and cause changes in behavior.  Everyone is pretty understanding of the change — but then I think most people realize we are volunteers — and we don’t make the policy so complaining to us isn’t going to make any change.

In the same way that I say, there’s not right way to RV, it also seems there’s no such thing as the perfect RV site.  I love the way campers all have their preferences for their ideal sites.  Some love shade, others avoid it (though if you’re here at Highland Ridge you’d better like shade because there aren’t any sunny spots).  Listening to campers tell you about what they’re doing, and what they’re looking for in a site just amazes me.  So many people like the exact opposite of what we like.  I LOVE IT!  There really is room for all sorts in this world.

I don’t know how you find it when you start talking with strangers, but I find that more often than not, other people want to hear the sound of their own voice; so it’s not hard to get people to tell you their life’s story (if you want to hear it — or even if you don’t want to hear it).  It’s easy to learn about their family’s, their homes, their jobs, where they’re going and how they’re going to get there.

Tent-Campers-1In other settings being that open might not always be such a good thing.  If you were really concerned about your security it might be prudent to be a bit tight-lipped about all those details but one thing about campers is that even the ones who come from big cities seem to let down their defenses when they get out in the woods. And to be honest — after 5 years on the road I don’t really see any reason to behave any differently.  I have yet to hear another camper or RV’er complain about having been ripped off as a result of being too open to other campers — or having been robbed, or … well, whatever.

I suppose part of the openness is due to the average age of RV’ers. A lot of us grew up in happier times, in friendlier times, in more honest & trustworthy times.  We grew up with company’s who valued their employees enough to take a loss to keep good employees even when times were bad.  We grew up with employees who valued their jobs to look out for the boss’ best interest and to put in an honest day’s work for a day’s pay. Many of us lived in homes to which we never owned a key for the locks, and never locked the doors.  Those life-long values don’t change just because one retires.  And they are reflected in everything one says and does.

Another thing I’m really enjoying this year is the number of folks using the kids playground.  All the weekend family campers have been putting our remodeled playground to good use and it’s not just kids over there — having been sent by the adults to get rid of them.  I’m happy to see parents in the playground along with the kids — helping them, talking to them, encouraging them — while the little ones play.  It’s easy as a parent to seek a little respite from the little ones — but so many of the parents we’ve seen here are right in there with their children:  enjoying their youth, and maybe reliving a little of their own.  It makes a person feel good about the state of family around here.  The adults may be career people during the week — but come camping time they are investing in those kids the way they deserve to be invested in.

I was surprised to hear that our group of 11 campers in what we call The Electric Loop took their kids over to the beach and the kids actually got in the water over the holiday.  Pool noodlesThey were so excited about going swimming that the little ones even got into a tussle about who was going to get which colored Swim Noodles!  I guess blue is not the color of the year — at least not among that group!

In an era where everyone has hand sanitizer I was tickled to see that among the same group there were little ones who were getting “properly” dirty — I mean grimy faces, arms, leaves in hair — you name it.  The kids were finding snails and all manner of creepy crawlies — they even brought them over to us as we made our rounds in the campground — happy and proud to show their findings!  It brought back memories of my own wandering up and down little creeks and making ‘boats’ out of wooden paint paddles to float up and down the creek.  I’m glad that every parent isn’t super paranoid about a little dirt.  I really think that part of the way our bodies develop antibodies to disease is by being exposed to a variety of dangerous things in small quantities — exactly what happens when kids go exploring and getting dirty.

Anyway… our walk-ins are having fun and it’s time for me to make another trip through the campground while Peggy finishes up the laundry.  I’ll be here tomorrow, why to stop by and chat?

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Old Diary

Can I have change for the showers?

It’s early on a Sunday morning and we see a camper approaching our door — with money in his hands.  What’s up?

I get up from my breakfast — that’s one thing about camp hosting:  interrupted meals. coin-op showers (Last time we did this gig we never finished a meal without interruption in 6 weeks!)  Nice looking middle aged guy comes to the door and asks, “Can I have $10.00 in change for the showers.”

It’s not often I get to tell someone that the price of something has gone down, but that’s my pleasant duty this morning as the CORPS has removed the coin-operated feature of their campground showers.  Nice that.  It’s only ever been a few of the CORPS campgrounds that charged for showers.  Several of them in our area do — so I always took it for granted that showers cost $0.25 for 3 minutes and it never bothered me.  I can’t say that for campers who are from other parts of the country and were outraged by pay showers — a lot of whom we met on our last tour of duty here.

I guess it was a matter of public opinion.  Then again it might have been a matter of securing cash on the site — seems the CORPS is particularly interested in how cash is handled at their locations — so getting rid of the coin-op feature may have more to do with trusting their own employees as anything else.  I know loss by theft had been an issue when we were gigging for the Forest Service.  The staff there were sure that volunteers were stealing free showers. So much for trusting your volunteers…

But, showers are free here now. And everyone is happy.

It used to be that the CORPS sold firewood at this site.  They don’t any longer.  Haven’t for over 5 years. In fact, they tore down the corral where they used to keep the firewood the last time we did this gig — so… three years ago…

im000329Yet, people still come up to us and ask where to get firewood — clearly expecting that the answer would be right there.  I’m sorry, but we don’t.  There are two enterprising farmers nearby who sell wood for as good a deal as you’d get at any other campground — $5.00 a bundle.  Or $15 a wheelbarrow full.

Remembering what used to be always seems to come up. And as the campers here said today,  “Now it’s real camping”  — when the power’s out!  I’m sure the power company will have the problem fixed in 4 or 5 hours.  In the meantime, we’re gonna sit back, enjoy the peace and quiet, humor the campers when them come up to tell us the power is out and think to ourselves how nice it is to be out in the woods on a pleasant Spring day…

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be here again tomorrow morning.

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Old Diary

Things to do in the rain

It was a rainy, soggy holiday weekend and it’s always interesting to see what people will do to pass the time while camping.

There are those who solve the 20160528062743126what-do-to-in-the-rain problem simply by not showing up.  Yup,  we had our share of those this weekend.

There are always the ones who get out a board game, or a deck of cards and spend the time playing games.  We had a few of those!

Then there are others who are content to sit under their extended awning, sip a few glasses of wine and hope that the dogs — who are already all wet — will stay where they are and not come over wanting some loving!  Bernese Mountain Puppy with wet furOne couple with three dogs clearly had adopted that approach and every time we walked past we were greeted by a slightly soggy looking Bernese Mountain Dog.

The folks I feel sorry for were the ones with three kids who arrived in a pop-up camper and about 45 minutes after arriving I saw them back at the check-in.  It seems that the motor what operates the pop-up lift mechanism was malfunctioning and they hoped we had an electric site they could switch to — so they could use an alternate method of raising the pop-up.  The three kids with them were not very happy that camper was broken.

Cartoon_OChildren, of course, don’t seem to mind the rain as much as parents.  A lot of them are happy riding their bikes in the rain, the same as if it was dry — and with rain come puddles that they can ride THROUGH…. splash, splash, splash.

wingmanI see TV antennas cranked up to full height.  All the folks with Winegard Batwing antennas are beating the rain the old fashioned way:  by watching TV!

There will always be this folks to set up camp, and then leave to find some drier place to spend time: the shopping center, the grocery store, the local bar, the movie house.  But then in Spring Valley there is no shopping center, and no movie house.  There are numerous bars — this IS Wisconsin after all. But the grocery store closes early on Saturday!

As for us, we still had our report to work and rounds to make — covering the golf cart with a tarp helps keep it mostly dry to we don’t get too wet in the rain.  We do get more questions however.  I’m getting good at standing under an umbrella and briefing campers on alternative plans.Tick-Identification-Card

At least there aren’t a lot of folks out on the trails; so there isn’t a lot of worry this weekend about ticks.  It seems that deer ticks are quite prevalent this year — we’ve already heard reports from the rangers.

A few more folks will arrive on Saturday – today.  A few campers were hoping it would dry out rather than having to set up camp in the rain.  Some will cancel.  Most will have a good time regardless.

As for us.  With Kathryn here this weekend we have plenty to catch up on.  She deposited our mail and our prescription drugs, so we’re caught up with the “world.”  And we’re getting caught up on family matters and gossip and, of course, eating.  Michael’s allergic to seafood, so we had to have some fresh fish for dinner, and we always seem to be able to come up with something she hasn’t had recently.  So, for us, the soggy weekend isn’t a problem.

So there you have our Saturday morning thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll chat with you tomorrow.

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