Yesterday was Veterans’ Day – a Big Picture Day. My maternal grandfather and my father were both Marines. Everett was Air Force. All three served during wars. We visited the Florida National Cemetery for Veterans yesterday and paid our respects. Big Picture. Private feelings.
Today is 11-12-13. Now that’s a small detail kind of day that I can write about. As you may have noticed, our plans to visit Gettysburg on our way south for the winter were altered by the advancing cold front, and our desire to be well below the snow line before having to deal with actual snow. We still took our time getting to our winter base, stopping to smell the camel, etc. Dear Auntie says we’re the only folks she knows who take a month to make the 3-day drive from New England to Florida – though she admits we do see a great deal more of interest our way. We’ve come back to the wonderful little RV park we stayed in last spring and have spent a week renewing acquaintances with year-round residents and placing bets on which of the other snowbirds will be the next to arrive. Major excitement as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The oddity of today’s date got me thinking about small stuff. Like Tyler Dog’s One Kibble Mystery. It’s been going on for quite some time and has become one of those things one notices as being of some mystic importance. The dog is an American Cocker Spaniel, medium sized, of placid temperament, and regular habits. His day-to-day schedule runs to: wake up, scratch vigorously, go out to pee, eat breakfast, nap, take a walk, nap, look out the windows to be sure all is right with the world, nap, eat dinner, take another walk, nap, go out for a last pee, go to bed. Meals consist of 1/3 cup of kibble for breakfast and 1/3 cup of kibble with a spoonful of leftover “people food” for dinner. Tyler is an eager eater and most meals do not last more than a few seconds from bowl touchdown to completion. But invariably – and I mean EVERY time – he leaves a single kibble uneaten. Not that he simply doesn’t eat it. Nope, every time – every single meal – he manages to leave one lone kibble floating in his water bowl where it swells up and bobs in the current.
In the years we’ve lived with him, we’ve never actually seen how the task is accomplished. But after every meal, day in and day out, we have to clear his water bowl of one soggy kibble. Is he making an offering to some doggie God? Sacrificing a mouthful to atone for best forgotten sins? Is it a test to be sure that the meal is safe before proceeding? How does a creature with a brain the size of a lemon manage this ritual every day with just ONE kibble – never more than one, but always one? What mysteries do YOUR pets promote?
Everett and I retired to full-time RV-ing with the intent of taking our time and traveling slowly. However, this policy causes great aggravation for all those family and friends who stress the virtues of “making time” and traveling “efficiently”. These are the folks who plan carefully to minimize bathroom breaks and fuel stops. The ones who consider it just plain lazy not to get from the Maine border down to central Florida within 4 days. We drive them crazy.
First, we’re the type that plan to leave on Wednesday, but get invited out to dinner Tuesday night. Obviously if we’re going to stay up late Tuesday, we’re going to sleep in on Wednesday, so let’s make plans for Wednesday evening and head out on Thursday morning. Of course after sitting for 5 months at a workamping gig in NH, the brake problem we thought we’d fixed in May turned out NOT to be fixed. A frantic phone call to a dear (and mechanically inclined) friend, several hours and much labor later, we were deciding to spend one more night in NH. I’m not going to even go into the electrical problems we had that night. Suffice it to say that we learned an RV’s electrical cable can be connected to the shore power outlet but partially disconnected from the internal RV connection. And it makes quite a show. (Thank you for the lesson, Tom!)
Which means we left around 10am on Friday, TWO DAYS later than originally planned, but rested, relaxed and confident that our equipment was in good shape.
“When are you getting here?” asked our dear Aunt. “When should we expect you?” asked our Florida RV Park owner. “You’re still in WHAT state?!?” asked a friend.
Which made it hard to explain that we were going to spend two nights in Thomaston, Connecticut (barely 200 miles from Conway, NH) so we could ride the pumpkin train.
Naugatuck Pumpkin Train
It isn’t just people preparing for winter as the seasons change. We’ve apparently got a black bear at the campground – I haven’t actually seen him, just the footprints in mud, claw marks on trees, and evidence of his forays into the dumpsters (i.e. trash bags strewn around and emptied of anything edible). The night security man says he’s had to use his car horn and headlights to drive the bear away from the campsites and that the thing’s a menace. But I ask you, if you were trying to get in a little last minute shopping to prepare for a long trip (like hibernation), wouldn’t you get a little irritated by store personnel trying to push you away from the best bargains? And it’s not like there are a lot of campers at the moment – who wants to be in a tent when it gets down to 40 at night . . . and there’s a black bear wandering around looking for protein?
Everett and I are finalizing our plans for the 2013 snowbird trek to Florida. We expect our workamping gig to be over shortly after Columbus Day and have mapped out our 1st day’s travel south to end in one of the few (very few) campgrounds in Connecticut. We’ve agreed to not travel more than 5 or 6 hours on any day, thus decreasing our chances of death by spousal assault or tired-driver-syndrome. Our goal is to spend a few late October days in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with a guided tour of Civil War sites and monuments. It’s something neither of us has ever done and we feel drawn to do so.
Our next “real” stop (not counting the overnight stays every 250+/- miles) will be at Lazydays RV in Tampa, Florida, where we have an appointment November 4th for a general overhaul of our 6-year old 5th Wheel. We’ve got a list of things we’d like them to check out and hopefully settle a minor difference of opinion between me and Everett. I think we bought a used beauty of an RV with tons of life left in her and all she needs is the mechanical equivalent of a mani-pedi to feel fresh and ready to tackle the next 5 years. Everett says no amount of make-up is going to turn an old sow into something you’d take to the prom. I suspect he’s already shopping for another RV and, by extension, probably looking for an updated Ethel as well. There should be lots of them in Florida. We’ll just have to wait and see.
We have a winter rental agreement with the nice folks at the central Florida park where we spent last March & April, and will use that as a home base this year. I’m especially looking forward to riding our fold-away bikes on the trails there and to spending Thanksgiving with Everett’s aunt & uncle who live nearby.
Our biggest plan is for Disney World in early December. We’ll camp at Fort Wilderness and put Tyler Dog into Disney’s Doggie Daycare and act like kids every day for a week. With luck, this may rekindle some sparks and lessen my concerns regarding the potential updating noted above. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if I were to get my own mani-pedi overhaul in the meantime . . .
As I mentioned the other day, our friends and family are starting their fall projects. Lonnie Wilson’s wife is after him to get their woodpile in order. He spent a good part of the summer splitting logs into stove-sized pieces and tossing them in a pile to air dry.
This type of pile takes up a lot of room and can be the source of problems during the winter. The wood can get wet and freeze together. If it thaws for a few days, the topmost pieces can tumble down unexpectedly. If you take the wrong stick from near the bottom of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. These issues not only make it an adventure to pull what you need to heat the house, but can affect the way the wood burns. Most folks agree that the way to go is a neat stack with lots of airspace between the sticks and a small “footprint” with some type of cover (either a tarp or tightly spaced bark-side-up sticks on top). So Lonnie was expecting to re-stack at some point.
Gladys Wilson has always had airs and ever since Lonnie was appointed to the Cemetery Committee she’s been doing her utmost to let folks know about his elevated status. Now it’s one thing to insist on driving the newest, shiniest, most trendsetting truck in town, but to worry about the looks of your woodpile?!?!? She found this picture on the Internet and has been hounding poor Lonnie to duplicate it in their dooryard. Frankly, I don’t see it happening.
Kids are back to school, nights are getting colder, and New Englanders are concentrating on getting ready for winter. While Everett and I are making plans to finish up our New Hampshire workamping gig and travel south toward Florida to avoid the entire issue (more about those plans later), most of our friends and family are discussing an ambitious assortment of projects. My sister Eunice decided to bring her house up to code this fall and make the old summer kitchen a four season room.
Some background info is required here, so please stay with me. Snowshoes was one humdinger of a mouser and the prettiest ginger cat (with big white paws) you ever set eyes on. He belonged to Eunice and her ex-husband George Brown. They lived next door to me and Everett for years until George made his mistake and was summarily kicked out to find an apartment in Lewiston. Snowshoes was heartbroken. George had been the favored recipient of the dead mice left in well-displayed pieces on the bathroom floor and Eunice (who tended to scream) was not an adequate substitute. Shortly after George left, Snowshoes disappeared as well. This past week Eunice hired Skip Bailey to put a foundation under the old kitchen wing as a start to her project noted above. While inspecting the crawl space and existing underpinnings, Skip discovered that poor old Snowshoes hadn’t gone far. The remains were quite mummified and flatter than French crepes, but completely intact. “My ex just loved that cat,” Eunice was heard to say.
Though I can’t say for sure, this might possibly account for a recent incident at the Lewiston Post Office involving federal investigators and a package addressed to “George Brown c/o General Delivery”.
“Welcome to camp, how can I help you?”
“We’re checking in for Labor Day Weekend. Last name is Thompson.”
“Um . . . I don’t see a reservation under that name.”
“Well that’s ridiculous, I have my confirmation email right here. I printed it out to be sure I had the right address for my GPS.”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but that email is dated July, 2012 – last year. Our computer does show you were here last year, but there’s no current reservation.”
“Well where am I SUPPOSED to be?”
You know, I felt bad for her. She’d worked all week, pulled her family together, packed the tent, and driven 3 hours to spend 3 days camping – but had no idea what campground she’d booked. We were full, not a single site that I could put her on. There are at least 10 other campgrounds within 15 miles and the best I could do was give her a list of phone numbers to call. You’ve got to respect her attitude though. She laughed and said it was all part of the adventure!
Labor Day Weekend is the riotous end to vacation season in New England. It’s still summer time during the day with temps in the 80’s, but nights are starting to feel like autumn with temps falling into the mid- to low-40’s. Plants have stopped growing and fruit is ripening for harvest. The city folk are making their last forays into the country before kids go back to school and 4th quarter quotas demand attention. It’s some interesting to see what people will do to squeeze the last bit out of the warm season. As noted, every single one of 300+ campsites are rented. The forest is full of tenters and trailers and pop-ups and motor homes. The riverfront beach and the pool are both crowded with bikini-clad teens and some older women who should know better than to wear those things. The boys are showing off for the girls, and the men are back at their sites drinking beer with their buddies and keeping the campfires burning from 9am to midnight. The little kids are careening around the camp roads on bikes, trikes, and power wheels. People who’ve never been closer to nature than their community square park are kayaking down the Saco River at great risk to life and limb. Couples in color-coordinated Old Navy outfits and flip flops are starting their hiking adventures by attempting to climb Mount Washington (and didn’t they think I was crazy for suggesting different footwear and a backpack with winter jackets?!?!). Families are trying to cram a drive over the Kancamagus Scenic Driveway through the National Forest , a visit to Clark’s Bear Trading Post, and the Conway Railway dinner train, all into one day.
I have to agree with Mrs. Thompson – it’s part of the adventure. And what a wonderful adventure it is to live life to the fullest!
Happy summer! It’s been far too long since I wrote to you, my friend, but working at a campground means that July is VERY BUSY. Everett and I have been working opposite shifts and barely even seeing each other. The camp is full of folks with questions and problems and issues needing resolution, and the phone has been ringing off the hook with more reservations and . . . well, folks with questions and problems and issues needing resolution. I was beginning to get into a downward spiral of frustration with the general idiocy of city folk coming to the country for 3 days. Then I realized that I was missing The Big Picture.
As you know, I am generally a small picture sort of person. I love the minutia, the details, the small peripheral moments that – for me – make life a rich tapestry. But sometimes (like July in a campground) you have to step back from those to look at what’s happening OVERALL to appreciate the full fabric of this wonderful world.
For example – An irritable woman arrived at the front desk around 8:30pm one evening. Her family was already in camp, but she’d had to work later than expected and drive alone from Boston to join them. It was hot. She was alone. She was tired, but still cranked from her day of work and traffic and worry. She snapped at our staff and tried to hurry us through our (admittedly tedious) procedure of issuing her gate pass. She snatched it from my hand when it was ready and was out the door before I could explain how to use it. No surprise then, that when she tried to go through the gate it wouldn’t open for her. She honked her horn and screamed out her car window as I walked the 50 feet or so to the gate to help her. “It doesn’t work!” is about the only thing she said that I can repeat here. I took the pass and scanned it for her and the gate readily popped open. She took a deep breath and I was sure I was in for more screaming. But that tired, tense, anxious and frustrated woman simply took another deep breath and said, “Oh. I moved too fast – it has to be done in CAMP TIME.”
I hope the rest of her stay with us was in camp time, and that she can dip into that pool of peace when she needs it back home. I hope that all our visitors can take their big picture lessons from camp time back to their “real” lives. And I hope that I retain MY big picture lesson to help folks get through the tough moments and the ignorance and negativity that makes lives harder – I need to be on camp time too.