Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Polite Pirates

Sound asleep, after midnight. A car pulls up, stops, motor running, doors open, and I hear someone rummaging through the pile of firewood that's directly under our bed, under the fifth wheel overhang of the trailer. I hollered, Hey!, from the window, and two very polite young men told me they "were hoping to get some fire wood, and pay me in the morning". I said, You can pay me now, and instantly felt like an idiot. I should have said, Put the wood down and go to bed, but nooooo, I wanted to be nice...

Rick went out and got their money, and then we both lay awake, thinking about how we should have handled those guys, which of course is easier once you're wide awake and angry. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the Wood Pirates were just a couple of pampered, smooth talking, privileged kids, who knew how to schmooze their way out of any situation, and were used to getting what they wanted. They even mentioned that they were late because they'd just come from the Shakespeare Festival - like I was going to be impressed by that. Half the people who come here go to Shakespeare. We go to Shakespeare. It doesn't make us superior humans. I was beginning to feel like Camp Mom, and wanted to teach them a lesson, which of course is stupid. I finally fell asleep, planning my blog entry for today, and rummaging deep for some gratitude toward these guys, for at least giving me something to write about.

But, I have to admit to some wicked satisfaction this morning, when Rick told me the "gardeners" in orange jumpsuits were arriving at 8:00... and they would be mowing and weed-whacking... at the very end of the campground the where the Pirates were sleeping off their late night revelry. I'm still smiling, just thinking about the lovely instant karma of it. And I'm also feeling another wave of gratitude for a lesson well taught. We're here as camp hosts to help people, and to try to make their stay a pleasant one, but we're not here to be taken advantage of. This is good information to have, as we go into the 4th of July Weekend. Thanks Boys. But don't let it happen again. I know I won't. Maybe we should leave the porch light on, so future Pirates will know who just they're dealing with... Aaarrrggghhhh!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

our little boat

I've been wishing really, really hard for a boat. Just a little boat to paddle around the lake in. No motor, no noise, no skis, no fishing gear. Just a humble, frill-free, small craft to drift around in. Living at a lake and not having a boat is like living next door to someone who throws great parties, and never being invited. You can hear the music and smell the food and peek through the fence and see all the fun, but it's just not the same as being there. Well, I finally realized that all the wishing in the world was not going to get the attention of the Boat Fairy, so a couple of days ago, I said to Rick, let's go buy a boat. It worked like magic! Now we're at the party too!

We decided on a sweet little blue inflatable kayak. Truly nothing fancy. It has two seats but only one paddle, because I knew we'd have trouble trying to paddle together. I'm told these are called "divorce boats" for that very reason, so we thought we'd just bypass that problem from the start. Besides, it's really more fun to go out and paddle alone, so we'll probably take turns a lot. It would be nice to have two of them, but I won't get greedy. It's just a cheap little blow-up boat, but one is all we can have right now. 

And look what it says on the side... RANGER! How perfect. I bet we'll get a lot of respect on the water in this baby. Yessiree - the jet skis and big scary loud boats will steer clear of us, uh huh. Nobody wants to mess with the Ranger...

Happy me. Thank you, Boat Fairy.
See you on the lake!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

what a hoot

I had a most amazing little visitor today. Walking back from my after-lunch campground rounds, I noticed a flurry of wings and loud squawking under our awning. A couple of deviant looking scrub jays split the scene when they saw me, landing in the nearest oak tree, but kept on taunting another bird that seemed to be taking refuge on the back of my camp chair. When I got a little closer, I realized it was an owl. A baby owl, no bigger than my hand.

I inched closer and closer, taking advantage of the times it was looking away from me to move an inch or two. It took about 10 minutes to move 3 feet. Every time it turned to look at me I froze like a kid playing Statue Maker on the front lawn, phone-camera poised, one foot in the air, goofy look on my face, until it looked away again and I could inch forward a little bit more. Then Lucy came out from under the picnic table, and that baby owl make the cutest little "eeek" sound, and promptly pooped on my chair, just before flying up to the tree. I was happy to note that it didn't appear to be injured.

Look at how well it matches the tree bark. If it didn't have eyes, I'd never have been able to spot it, even though it was only 10 feet away from me. I dashed inside and grabbed my good camera so I could zoom in without scaring him any more than he already was. (By now I'd decided that it was a "he". I really have no idea...) The scrub jays were still harassing the owl, and I figured since the little guy came to my front porch for refuge, it was up to me to try to help him out. I went inside again and grabbed my sling shot - oh, yes I did - and proceeded to plonk pebbles at the jays. I'm a lousy shot, so no one was in danger, but I managed to scare them off, and snapped a few more pictures of Baby Owl. I can't imagine why, at this point, he decided to give me the Stink Eye...

It sat up there for quite a while, looking at Lucy with great concern, and back to me, I thought to make things safe for him. I took Lucy inside the trailer to ease some of the stress, and then decided I'd better get back to work. I went in to get a wet paper towel to clean the owl poop off my chair, and when I came out, the baby was gone... 

I call that a success. Whenever something comes to me for help - especially something with wings - the best possible end to the story is when the Winged Thing flies away, never to be seen again, without so much as a backward glance. That's how they say Thank You.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

back to camp

Just a few more pictures from our days off. The Oregon coast was at its best for us. This was the kind of day that tricks people into to moving to places that are usually foggy and damp. We know better, but we still enjoyed our time there.

We stopped at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park for a little break on our way back inland. There's nothing like standing next to those big old trees to make a girl feel dainty and petite. And the smell of that forest... I could just plop down on the ground and roll in it... but I didn't.

Back at camp now, it's a hot and sunny weekend, with happy campers everywhere. Loud ones too, but that's a story - probably lots of stories - for another time. Right now it's just too nice out here in the evening breeze to do anything but relax and watch the sun go down. Not another peep out of me. Shhhh...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

gold beach vacation day

In my humble opinion, there's nothing better than a day on the coast of just about anywhere. My favorite, because it's home turf (or surf), is the beautiful Pacific. Any part of it, as far as I can tell. Today we're on the southern Oregon coast, in Gold Beach. It's about the closest worthwhile beach town to Ashland, at about a 3 hour drive away, up through Grants Pass and along the Redwood Highway till you hang a right and head up the coast a ways. Except that you no longer see people camping on the beach the way I remember from the 70's, the Oregon coast is still kind of low-key and a little bit hippie-ish. It's easy to be comfortable here. We would have gone over to check out this guy's art work, but we didn't want to scare away his bird...

There's a brief stretch where you go through California, which means you also get to stop at the "bug station", where they always ask you if you have any fruit, and you always say no. Except today we said yes for some reason, and confessed to having cherries and organic grapes. Wouldn't you know it - cherries happen to be on the quarantine list right now, and we were told we had to either hand them over, or pull off to the side of the station and eat them, handing over the pits when we were finished. We opted for eating the cherries. It turned out to be a nice rest stop for us and the dogs, and too many cherries later we surrendered the leftovers and asked - just curious - what the heck was wrong with cherries anyway... I should have known better. There are some things we just don't want to know. Like the fact that cherries are the "host" for some sort of icky little fruit fly, and we very likely were eating bug larvae in those beautiful Bings... Trying not to be too grossed out, I quipped, "I guess cherries are no longer a vegetarian food, huh?", and got a pretty good laugh put of the state border officials.

Moving on, we spent a great day along several beaches, thankful that it was foggy to sort of sunny, as we are no longer in those silly years of wearing swimsuits on the sand and roasting our skin under the hot sun. I'm happy to roll up my pants and slosh along the shore with Rick and the dogs. If my seasonal brownness is uneven in any way, that's OK with me.

We found this great little place to stay - the Rogue Pacific Motel, which consists of several new cottages (small modular units) that run $85 a night, several "older" rooms, that look to be a bit on the funky side, but are probably worth more than the $35 a night they cost, as they're set up as tiny apartments, with kitchen/bath/bedroom, but no ocean views. There are also quite a few crazy old permanent resident trailers that have settled in for all time. The walk to the beach takes you down through the high school football field, and is literally only about a 5 minute stroll. We opted for the nicer $85 cottage, with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen/living room, and an amazing view of the ocean. This feels like Heaven to me...

We went to a restaurant on the Rogue River for dinner, but were seated and ignored for over 15 minutes, so we walked out, very pleasantly actually, and went back to town to a pizza place. We ordered our pizza without cheese, which was actually really good, and that amazes me quite a lot. We're learning to be traveling vegans, which is much different than being home cooking vegans. When we can't get whole grains, we make up for it with extra vegetables. and surprisingly to us, out tastes have changed to a point where cheese, which we once glorified as a Holy Entity, is not missed at all. Go figure. We also bought a darling, tiny giclee print, off the wall of the pizza shop, of a painting by a local artist... of cherries. It will always remind of of this day.

And what a day. A very good day. The dogs are exhausted, we're well fed, and the sounds of the waves, and a distant fog horn, are rolling through the open windows of our enormous cottage. Nothing is missing. I think I could live right here very happily. A one night vacation can be every bit as good as a long, expensive excursion. Maybe better in some ways. I think we'll be doing this often. Oh, I hope so...

See all of today's photos here: Gold Beach Pics

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

going coastal

Even when you live and work in a supremely beautiful place, every now and then it's a good idea to take a break and go someplace else. So Ranger Rick and I are heading for the Oregon coast tomorrow, even though it's supposed to be cloudy over there. We just need a little beach hit before dealing with the craziness of the 4th, and the dogs have been begging for a good long romp with the waves.

I'm taking my camera, MacBook, and Mifi so you can follow along. See you at the beach!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

june at emigrant lake

Time for an update on the park. I think last time I showed pictures, it was winter, probably snowy, and the hundreds (thousands?) of oak trees were bare and spooky as a Tim Burton movie set. On Sunday afternoon the weather began to clear, after the coldest, wettest June on record. Friendly assurances that "this just isn't normal" didn't really help. We wanted sun. So while I cooked a nice Father's Day dinner (my amazing stir fry, which I will share with you soon), Rick sat in a sunny spot in the road and read a book in his stocking feet. He's earned it.

These shots were taken the next day, on a dog walk to the dam. I prefer to do my morning dog wrangling as far away from other people and dogs as possible. Lucy is a handful, but we're making progress. I think she's starting to see me as her Pack Leader. Even when Rick has her leash, she watches me the entire time to see what I want her to do. This is good, considering what a struggle the last 8 years have been with this girl.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned that the park is surrounded on one end by private property, and some very nice homes. This bit of fence always makes me happy as I walk by to see that little shed through the slats, looking like a beach shack on a coastal cliff.

Later in the day, after walking the dogs again, Rick and I like to go for another stroll to the lake, without the dogs, so we can relax and watch the evening light shift on the hills, and maybe sight a bald eagle or osprey. The picnic area is beautiful and grassy, and goes all the way to the lake's edge. You have to step around the goose poop, but since dogs aren't allowed in that area, it's not as treacherous as it could be...

This is our park. Our lake. We feel more of a personal connection to it the longer we spend here. We love it, and feel happy to have the chance to care for this sweet little piece of the planet. It's a lot different now than it was in winter, when we had to open and close two locked gates every time we went into town. In some ways I like it better now, with the park open and people everywhere. Most of the people are nice. A few are absolute buffoons, but we've found out that we can kick them out if they just won't behave. It's kind of a nice feeling of power, but still, it's better when folks are respectful of each other and of this beautiful place. Life is good here at Emigrant Lake. Really good. Are we lucky or what?

Monday, June 21, 2010


I remember learning to sew with Simplicity patterns as a kid, and noticing that while they may have been simple, they sure weren't easy. It seems to be the same with life in general. Simple living isn't necessarily easy living, but with attention and practice, it's a heck of a lot easier than what I've done in the past.

Our little life here is about as simple as it gets in this country. We live in a 29 foot trailer, which as it turns out, is plenty of room for the two of us, our necessary stuff, and our two dogs. I could make beads in there too, but have opted for an "extra room" to use as my studio. After all, we work in a campground, so it makes sense to do some of my work in a tent. It saves on set-up and tear-down, which in itself greatly simplifies my life.

I think the simple life has also led us to simpler tastes in a lot of things we didn't foresee. I'm finding myself less and less interested in anything complicated - food, relationships, clothes, hair, and even my work. Maybe it's the warming weather (although it's really taking its sweet time this year!), but I'm noticing that I'm less and less drawn to some of my complex, show-offy bead styles, and more and more happy making simple, beautiful strands that somehow just make my eyes happy. I no longer feel like I have something to prove. For now, let somebody else make the jam packed intricate stuff. It makes my head hurt to even think of it.  I'm much more interested in creating simple, beautiful objects that will somehow make people's lives a little more serene and elegant.

This could be bead business suicide, I realize that. I just hope my customers will ride along with me for a while, and embrace the simplicity. It's likely that I'll do the complex beads again, maybe tomorrow, maybe months from now - but not until I'm in the mood for them. I know that it never works to try to force something when my heart just isn't in it. All I do is make a mess when that happens.

So today it's officially summertime, and well, yes, the livin' is indeed pretty darn easy. I don't know what the fish and cotton are doing, but I know what I'm doing. Making pretty things, eating lovely food, and remembering to breathe whenever simplicity wants to turn complex. It's kind of a Zen Beadist thing. Simple... and sometimes easy too, when I relax a little bit.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

happy father's day

If you're on Facebook, you may have already read this little story, but it's too good to let it fade away into the Facebook sunset, so I'll tell it again here, in more detail, of course. Life in a campground is sure to turn up a lot of good stories. People are just so funny, aren't they?

Campsite #11 seems to have a magnetic pull, attracting families that remind me of Cousin Eddie's, in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The folks in my story were settled into the tent site with their "tenement on wheels" the day I walked by, making my friendly camp host rounds. The pot-bellied dad and granddad sat in folding chairs, looking at the ground, barely glancing up as I approached. A pot-bellied dachshund and a yippy little terrier mix sniffed around for food, and two tiny puppies that looked just like the adult dogs scampered over to greet me. Do you have something of a visual on these folks?

Cousin Eddies RV 2009 Hallmark Ornament

So the dad looks up as I pet the puppies, giving me the opening to mention that pesky rule about leashes in the campground. I knew I was wasting my breath, but hey, it's my job. Then just as I turned to head on up the hill, a chubby little, dirt covered boy-kid came out of the RV. He had a very large, perfectly round head, and had apparently just gotten his summer haircut - a mohawk. He grinned at me in an endearingly toothless way, and waved a red rubber toilet plunger in the air, saying, "Look what I got!" I commented on the niceness of the plunger, and he added, "I got it for Easter! I'm a plumber!"

As much as this just cracks me up, it also sort of warms my heart. I mean here's a family that doesn't appear to have a whole lot going for it, but some adult was paying enough attention to understand this kid's interests. Sure, a plunger is an odd thing for the Easter Bunny to bring, but I just know that hunk of red rubber on a stick was tucked into that basket with love. 

Since today is Father's Day, and since I'm only guessing, I'm going to give that Cousin Eddie of a dad credit for this one. Here's to all the dads out there who take the time to know their kids. Let's all wave our plungers in the air in a flashy red rubber salute!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

crater lake

I've known about Crater Lake all my life, but somehow I never managed to go there until just yesterday. I wonder why it wasn't one of those California camping places my parents took us to every summer. We were a Camping Family, not a Hotel Family, much to my dismay as a teenager. I suppose my lifestyle now reflects that - I love being outdoors, but I also "love not camping", to quote the ever fabulous Anne Taintor. Sure, I live in a 29 foot fifth wheel trailer, but I also have a king size Vera Wang memory foam mattress squeezed into the space where a crummy queen size standard issue RV mattress used to be. We had to remove night stands and sacrifice precious overhead storage, but it was oh so worth it.

Anyway, Crater Lake is not too far from where we are now in Ashland, Oregon -  an easy day trip for road warriors like Ranger Rick and me. We drove up through Klamath Falls and made it to the park in time for a late lunch. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't even know it was a National Park. But we did get the chance to use our Parks Pass once more before it expires in July. Don't you just love fancy cards that let you into great places like you're some kind of celebrity? I do! And I don't even care if I have to pay for them.

Aside from learning of Crater Lake's National Park status, I also learned that the crater itself was formed by a volcano that blew the top off of a once very-tall mountain, leaving a perfect bowl for time and snowmelt to fill with the most elegant sapphire blue soup you could ever hope to see. The contrast between the water and snow, which is still several feet deep up there, had me uttering an astonished, if not eloquent, "Oh!" at every overlook.

My point? Well, the point is, maybe we can't all go on fancy vacations these days, but I'll just bet you there are loads of mini vacations waiting for you in your very own neck of the woods. I'll even bet some of you have lived in the same town your whole lives, and have somehow never gotten around to seeing some of the great stuff visitors come from far, far away to see. It's time to get out there and explore. Make a list of all the day trips from your own front door you'd recommend to a foreign visitor. Then start taking them yourself. Pictures don't tell you much about a place. You have to go there, and smell the air, and feel the breeze, and hear the birds, and feel the crunch of snow or earth beneath your sneakers. You just don't know until you go! 

Share you own fun hometown vacation stories here in the comments. We wanna know where you go!

More photos of my Crater Lake Day can be seen on Facebook.

Friday, June 18, 2010

sleepless in southern oregon

Like most of you, we really look forward to our days off. Rick, working as Ranger Rick, starts his days at 7:30 in the morning, takes a 30 minute lunch break, and then shares camp host duties with me in the evenings. Days off are Thursday and Friday, and sleeping late is a big part of the joy. Yesterday morning we were rather rudely awakened at 7:14 to be exact, by a man who had rented the group space for a family gathering, but couldn't get the lights turned on. Another park employee had locked up the box the night before, and Rick was the only one here at that hour with a key. So off he went, our good Ranger Rick, to save the day. We tried to be jolly about it, appreciating the help in getting a good early start on our day off.

After lunch we were both feeling droopy, so I crawled up to the bed for a nap, leaving Rick to doze in the sun. A while later a woman who had parked her RV just above us came hollering into camp with a Very Important Question. Rick shushed her, but not before she woke me up. Grrr... What part of the "Off Duty" sigh is so darn hard to read?

Still, we insisted on keeping ourselves cheerful. We whipped up some portobello burgers and purple slaw, and then escaped into town for an evening of basketball and knitting at Paddy Brannan's, Rick's favorite spot to watch a game, with nice big TVs and $3.50 Guinness. He's a Lakers fan, so he's happy this morning, but that's beside the point. We're learning that if we want to be off work, we have to get out of the park. Getting smarter as we go.

Back home after dark, we celebrated the Lakers' win with some Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss. YUM to the Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge; vegan, of course, but I'll bet the rest of you would like it too. It was a nice clear night, so we snuggled in to clean sheets (still flannel this time of year), opened the windows, and drifted off to happy dreams of basketball (well, I dream of other things). What we didn't know was that the family camped next to us, in space number 3, right outside our window, had 3 kids, one of which was about to wake up and scream his bloody head off until almost 3AM...

We don't know the protocol for screaming babies. They aren't like drunks, who can be kicked out of the park, but they're certainly just as disruptive. Can we offer a shot of whiskey - for the parents as well as the baby? Can we suggest some tasty purple Dramamine? Can we give them directions to the hospital? Can we saunter over with a roll of duct tape? It's a real dilemma, one we'll surely come up against again.

Just as Rick was about to wander over there to see if maybe the parents had abandoned the kid, or of he was sick, or they needed help, or of we needed to call the sheriff, a car load of campers who had arrived after 11 (and bothered us even though our lights were out), packed up their stuff and went zooming out of the campground, back on the road to California I presume, with an early start to the day they'll remember for years. There is a little bit of justice sometimes...

As I write this, I'm watching the Screaming Kid's dad pack up sleeping bags and take down tents. Hallelujah! They're leaving! And I think I know what to do about situations like this in the future. I'm going to get a big jar of ear plugs, and keep them handy for us, and other sleepy campers who come here to rest under the stars on a quiet Oregon night. 


Thursday, June 17, 2010

here we go again

Well hello again. It's nice to be back. I feel a little silly, but I'm used to feeling silly, so that's no big deal. I've had a month or so to catch my breath, and to realize that I have some sort of need to write. Wanna laugh? As soon as I made that grand announcement about ending the blog, my mind went directly to wanting to blog about how it felt to stop blogging. Silly indeed.

But it wasn't only my yearning to write that made me come back. It was a lot of you, who so kindly sent me notes telling me you'd miss me. I really had no idea how many regular readers I had. Then last week, while I was visiting family, my sister's mother-in-law made a special point to tell me how much she had enjoyed my blog, and how much she would miss it. This really got my attention, and made me wonder how many people were reading and enjoying and getting something from my posts without my ever knowing it. I started thinking, Hey, maybe I do have something worth sharing after all. Maybe my own odd life is interesting enough to keep people entertained, and maybe even inspired in some way. So here I am, little blog in hands, promising to do my best for you. 

Giving this my best effort also means it's time to learn how to make it pay off in some way. Keeping up on a well written blog is not the same as popping off one liners on Facebook. It takes time, attention, love, and editing. I'm willing to do the work, and now I also want to figure out how to get paid for it. There's a lot of good information for bloggers out there, and I'm weeding through it little by little. One thing stands out clearly at this point. In order to get advertisers to notice me, I need a lot of readers. A lot of readers, as in 100,000 to 500,000 a month. That's going to take some doing, and I hope you'll help. I'm asking you all to be my Blog Pimps! Please forward it to everyone you know, and link to it whenever possible. If you have a blog of your own, let's do a link exchange. It's good for both of us! And if you know any tricks in this blogging business, please share them with me by email, or with all of us here as a comment. I'll really appreciate your help!

And so, thank you all for your encouragement. I am honored and humbled, and I look forward to whatever comes next. Here we go!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's true...
I've missed you...
I'm coming back...
I think...
If you'll have me...