Sunday, September 26, 2010

Signs of the time

Throughout the course of one's travels, adventure is always around the next bend.

But other things may crop up to add a bit more to the feeling.

And that's where signs come in.

Signs keep us on the right track, attempt to keep us safe -- and sometimes add humor to our lives or give us a bit of trepidation.

Signs come in all sizes and often with a bit of artwork.

Below are just a few we have run across during our travels.

Enjoy -- or maybe you'll get a bit queasy with a couple of them.

Rest area stop, Texas

Dental office, Texas

 Clary's Restaurant, Savannah, Ga

 Posted on boat in north Georgia
Alludes to movie "Deliverance"

Black Bear coffee shop, Hendersonville, NC

 Nephew's porta potty at Mardi Gras party, D'Iberville, MS

Coffee Fusion coffee shop, Ocean Springs, MS

Next post: Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food for thought, and also for the body

Idyllic spot for camping, cooking

Nothing beats good homecooking on a camping trip.

If its not a camping trip, we usually indulge in the local fare.

We don't take any shortcuts. We like to eat.  

And we usually eat the same type of meals on our camping trips as we do at home. Why not?

Omelet and hash browns

Breakfast, especially if grandkids are around, usually consists of bacon or sausage, eggs cooked one way or the other, pancakes and toast. Its rare that I eat toast and jelly at home with my breakfast meal, but its a given camping. I always award myself by picking up a jar of orange marmalade.  And there is always coffee for me and tea for Linda.

Trusty Coke boxes serve us since early 1970s
Orange marmalade on table

Lunch is usually sandwiches, cheese, apples and oranges and sometimes chips. Linda and I have found that chips don't agree with us so we try to stay away from them most of the time.

Supper runs the normal gamet of hotdogs and hamburgers, grilled porkchops or steaks, chili, spaghetti and sometimes omelets and hash browns.

Granddaughter Charlie eating s'mores

Again, when grandkids are around, they just love macaroni and cheese. We always take a lot of it with us. And there, of course, is always popcorn and s'mores.

Over the course of our many years camping, we usually stick to the above mentioned items. In the past, we would cook a number of meal entres up in advance, but lately on our jaunt to the Great Smoky Mountains, we just stop at  the Walmart Supercenter in Clayton, GA., that is within a 100 miles of our destination and load up on what we need.

Supper visitor, not potential meal

We always keep our campstove and some cooking equipment in our van.

There's nothing like being out and about and finding a pretty picnic area in which to eat, or either a nice parking space by a river or at the top of a mountain.

Bon apetite!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

You can't go back, but beauty is eternal

2008 picture of Walter and Linda and Half Dome 

It is said, you can never go back.

When it comes to revisiting a highly enjoyable camping location, I have learned, in most cases, that the second or third time around just isn't the same, with rare exception.

There are all kinds of reasons why this is so. It could be the time of year. The age we were. Our expectations. The weather. The changing demographics. And also the growing popularity of the location.

It is with the utmost affection I remember my first trip as an adult to what some consider the prettiest valley in the country which is in Yosemite National Park in California.

The year was 1978. My wife and I and five-year-old son were on a year-long odyssey of seeing as much of the U.S. that we could. We had quit our jobs the previous August and had been traveling on and off in our old long-wheel-base van.

Linda at Tioga Pass entry on east side of Yoseite

Looking back, it was pure dumb luck that caused us to have probably the best two-and-a-half week camping experience ever in one location.

We had been on the road from our south Mississippi home for about a month and a half, having headed west in late January. Our schedule, on a Thursday night, put us about 100 miles from the park. The next morning I told my wife I wanted to hurry and get to Yosemite early in the afternoon so that we would have better luck at obtaining a campsite.

At that time, there wasn't a reservation system.

We arrived sometime around 1 p.m. and easily secured a campsite in the only campground that was opened in Yosemite Valley. Although the normal nightly fee was $4, the rangers said they weren't charging anything.

As the afternoon progressed, camping vehicle after vehicle after vehicle went rolling by our campground. Ours filled up and I guess by midnight, rangers had opened the other campgrounds. I hadn't check the calendar. How was I to know that it was Easter Week?

And my, there were a lot of people there.

Yosemite Falls

The valley was a virtual city. Banks, eateries, restaurants, clothing stores, motels and riding stables. You could get pizza and ice cream. To the north was cross-country skiing in Crane Meadows. To the south, downhill skiing at Badger Pass.

Free shuttle buses ferried visitors to all areas of the valley floor. There wasn't any evidence of recent snowfall except for some piles of snow that had been bulldozed out of the way.

We set up camp and made ourselves at home. An old tarp help keep rain off the picnic table the few days for which it was needed. Some campers who left early gave us a couple "California style" camping chairs that we held on to for a number of years.

Temperatures were comfortable and the scenery was extraordinary. 

We had our first experiences with cross-country and downhill skiing.

Our son Walt took a ride on a donkey which we named "Persnikitus" for obvious reasons. We enjoyed our campfires, walks along the trails and valley floor. There was Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan and Mirror Lake.

The Tioga Pass Road was still closed, so we didn't venture into the high country. 

The valley was virtual heaven. I even talked to a park representative about employment, but didn't follow through. 

On Sundays, when people headed back home, they often left things. My son and I scavenged, not only finding some firewood, but grocery size sacks filled to the brim with both apples and oranges. It was quite a find.

The morning we were scheduled to leave, we awoke to a thumping sound on the top of our van. It seems that every minute or so it happened again. I though maybe that it was an animal on the roof. 

Looking outside, we faced a winter wonderland.

It was snowing. 

For residents of Mississippi who only see snow at home about every 10 years, it was a joyous time. We romped in it, threw snowballs and took plenty of pictures. We enjoyed what it offered, but since we were on our way out, we didn't have to put up with the dampness of having to traipse through and live in it for a few days.

The memories of that jaunt linger. Oh, to live it just like that once again. But, well, you know.

We've been back to Yosemite a few more times over the years. We experienced the best campfire program ever during a stop at Tuolumne Meadows. We spent time at Tuolumne on another occasion, and in early June of 2008, the campground wasn't opened  because it hadn't been cleaned up after the winter snow.

On two occasions we drove into the valley during the summer seeking a campsite, but to no avail.

From what I understand there are a lot of people competing for campsite reservations. It is nearly impossible to show up in Yosemite Valley and get a site. Because of the summer population in the valley, I have read that campfires, for whatever reason, are now only allowed from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Times sure have changed. 

But there is one thing that never changes -- the eternal beauty of Yosemite National Park. 

Next post: Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Was that a mirage or a better way of life

Heading west out of Taos, New Mexico, my wife and I were bugging on down the road trying to make it to the area of southern Utah for the night.

We didn't make it.

Out on the horizon was a strange sight. Well, strange to us as we approached.

There were a lot of houses in the distance, but they looked distinctly different from what we are use to in southern Mississippi.

Most were widely spaced out in the land that was desert. The basic walls looked strange.

A lot of the walls were rounded. And the south-facing areas had banks of glass.

And then as we got closer, we saw the sign "Earthship."

We had to stop and take a look.

Although not as yet "truly off the grid" type of people, Linda and I were interested in their concept of an "off the grid ( self-sustained and not hooked up to any type of utility, water or sewer lines for which there is a monthly bill paid to someone else) living options.

We took a tour of the facilities (at a small cost) and found it quite interesting. 

Families were living in the desert keeping warm and cool through natural sources rather than paying a utility company. They also recycled collected water four times with the water directed to their gardens to grow fruits, vegetables and flowering plants.

I have entertained the idea of living "off grid" but having looked into the situation, it seems the initial investment may be cost prohibitive for some.

For someone just beginning on their journey in life, the costs would probably be recouped. 

But to each his own. Getting "off the grid" seems like a noble cause, but it takes a lot of ingenuity and building differently than what most local codes allow.

If one looks at some of the "gloom and doom" forecasts for the future, getting off the grid would be the right path to take.

Someone who learns early on how to be self sufficient in all ways, will find it easier to sustain life if the electric grids go down and transportation becomes so expensive that food costs too much or is impossible to obtain.

Our visit was rather revealing. We don't want to live in the middle of the desert, but some do. We like to see giant pine trees growing, as well as live oaks, sycamores and maple trees.

But then again, maybe some day the whole world will look like a desert and then we will have to adapt whether we want to or not.

Next post: Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010