Late July 2013 Update

NOTE: My posting schedule has been as erratic as my travels. Since “camping” at the Oceanside Harbor over the long Fourth of July weekend, I made my way up Hwy 395, stopping overnight at 5,000+ foot campsite in the San Bernardino National Forest and at an RV “resort” (actually, it was a resort when compared to the Oceanside accommodations) in Lone Pine. It turns out that those two days of travel were simply too much for me, leaving me depleted. I spent a second day/night in Lone Pine before crossing the Sonora Pass (Highway 108) – east to west! You may have heard me literally shouting from the mountaintops when I crossed the 9,000+ peak. In first gear.

My destination, which I reached successfully, was Pinecrest Lake/Strawberry for Lair of the Bear, Camp Blue, Week 5, Friday Night, The Dregs Party.

I left the Lair early Saturday morning (which raises the question whether I was REALLY at the Dregs Party) and continued driving down Hwy. 108 to my son’s home in Pleasant Hill, a community in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay. It’s a testament to my son’s love that he allowed me to park in his driveway. I was touched.

Coming over the Altamont Pass (yes, THAT Altamont, where a Hell’s Angel murdered a fan at the infamous Rolling Stones’ concert in December 1969) from Tracy to Livermore, I was reminded of the stories I heard from the young wives of husbands who worked at the Lawrence Livermore Lab. This memory dates back to the early and mid-70s, when I was a newspaper reporter for the Contra Costa Times, covering the Dublin-Pleasanton-Livermore area. Anyway, these women, often with young children in tow or on the way, thought they were moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. They imagined seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, shopping for fresh food in Chinatown, and watching the fog roll in.

Instead, their husbands’ stopped the car in Livermore, in summer (predominant color: burnt brown; average daytime temperature: high 90s) to announce, “We’re here!”  That’s when they realized they’d been duped. This wasn’t San Francisco. This was somewhere near the end of the world.

That's smog in the distance (over Livermore)

Smog seen the distance (over Livermore) from the Altamont Pass.

Livermore doesn't look too bad in this promo photo, but the Golden Gate Bridge is nowhere in sight.

Livermore doesn’t look too bad in this promo photo, but the Golden Gate Bridge is nowhere in sight.

I spent more than a week at my son Michael’s house, making my departure a joyous occasion for his roommates. I was waiting for the arrival of Cousin #3*.  On the first day of our journey we encountered more help from men than we ever did when we were young and beautiful, or at least young and attractive. Oh OK, when we were young.  We think it’s our hair. I’m grey and Cousin #3 is silver. The man in his late 50s at the dump station handled all the shit for us (I’m not swearing, just using an apt description) and the man in his late 20s at the gas station came out to ensure the air in all the tires was at the correct PSI.

We were on our way to Sacramento, serving as a way-station to the Gold Country, which we reached two days ago. We stopped in my old stomping grounds, Amador City and Sutter Creek, and are now happily ensconced in an RV “resort” (this one really does warrant the quote marks) in Pine Grove. Old friends may recall that I lived in both Pine Grove and Sutter Creek for seven years before moving to SoCal.

We drove to the Amador County Fair in Plymouth on Sunday, the last day of the Fair. The quilts at the Fair were as outstanding as I remember. Being with Cousin#3, I also saw sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits, a new Fair experience for me. I had to physically remove her, weeping (her, not me), from the rabbit cages marked, “sold for food.”  Some industrious member of FFA had thoughtfully also provided a display of recipes.

What the Coleman screen-house should (as opposed to "will") look like upon assembly.

What the Coleman screen-house should (as opposed to “will”) look like upon assembly.

Today is a work day. While I slave away at the keyboard, she’s out scrounging quarters to do the laundry. Also on our “to do” list for today: assemble the Coleman screen-house; assemble the small BBQ; see if we can actually light the charcoal; and cook our fresh corn and zucchini in batches on the small BBQ.

We’re also started a “Note to Self” list that includes essentials such as remember to replenish beer before taking off; don’t drink above-mentioned beer close to bedtime; and be sure when giving backup directions to the driver that you mean left when you shout out “Turn left, turn left!”


* I have four female cousins, all of whom are really really smart. I refer to them as Cousin A, the retired college professor; Cousin #1, the retired CFO); Cousin #2, the one who married a rich man for love, not money, which because of the lawsuits from a stupid brother-in-law turns out have a been a good decision on which to base a marriage; and Cousin #3, the former Jeopardy contestant and my current travel companion.

P.S. References to travels up Hwy. 395 and The Lair Friday Night Dregs Party will be the subjects of future amusing blogs. 

Part II – Not Exactly What I Had In Mind

When I describe my Fourth of July location at the Oceanside Harbor as a parking lot, I am not using the term as a metaphor.  I was camped in a parking lot, inches from neighbors on either side.  Slide-outs were not permitted to slide out, and when I left my RV I had to retract the stairs lest they cross the white line of the adjacent parking space, which did not belong to me.  More experienced campers paid for two spaces to enjoy the luxury of a slide out and fixed stairs, albeit with no electricity or water.

Although numerous rather interesting and unusual (at least in my experience) events occurred, such as car alarms going off at all times of day and night, firecrackers launched at 3 a.m. on the Fourth, shouts of “It’s time to get up” accompanied by loud pounding on the RV parked next to mine (at 6 a.m.), and neighbors who shared their country-and-western soundtrack with those in the immediate vicinity (defined as roughly within the surrounding quarter mile), two quite exciting events occurred.

One was the traffic jam caused when the Costco delivery truck was unable to pass the black pick-up truck parked over the red line, thus illustrating why parking within the red line was required; and the second was the night of the Albert Concert.

The Great Costco Delivery Truck Traffic Jam. Why, you may very well wonder, was there a Costco truck in the parking lot in the first place?  The answer, of course, is to make a delivery to the snack bar down the road. Said snack bar, by the way, ran out of large containers of water within hours.  Apparently it didn’t occur to the owner/manager that a parking lot without hookups and full of RVs over the extended Fourth of July weekend might require additional water.  I suspect the owner/manager used to work for the postal service.  But my reasoning behind that observation belongs to a yet-to-be-written post.

Black truck blocks the Costco delivery truck.

Black pick-up blocks Costco delivery.

Experienced parking lot campers leave room at the front for necessities.  (Note Costco delivery truck in background.)

Experienced parking lot campers leave room at the front for necessities. (Note Costco delivery truck in background.)










Night of the Albert Concert.  Albert, a musician in his late 50s, is the father of Albert Junior, who was celebrating his 40th birthday.  Albert Junior, BTW, was with the loud country-and-western music group.  By this time I was practicing the “if-you-can’t-beat-‘em, join-em” lifestyle.  Albert Senior ended up using my generator to plug in his electric guitar and keyboard for his concert honoring Albert Junior’s Big Four-O.  The use of my generator was prompted by the fact that we decided the cops would be less likely to throw a grey-haired old lady into the clinker for violating park nuisance regulations, particularly since I planned to play the senility card.

Albert’s concert was terrific and attracted hoards of drunken campers who sang and danced to his music.  My fondest hope is that Albert goes on to great renown so that the people present will be able to tell their grandchildren that they were there the night he played the Oceanside Harbor.

Karel Becomes The Initiator.  It was while at the Oceanside Harbor Parking Lot that I decided to become The Initiator. Fueled by beer and other legal-in-California-for-medical-reasons substances, it came to me that most people are actually friendly but reluctant to reach out to strangers.  Since I’m travelling alone, the only way I’ll meet other people is if I reach out to them.  Here’s a wrap-up of my results:

  1. Butch and his wife, Sadie, (she’s a school bus driver) advised me against putting a sign on the back of my RV stating, Rookie RV Driver.  Please Be Patient.  “Just look like you know what you’re doing,” they told me.
  2. Every summer, Allen and Susan sneak into a hotel/casino outdoor swimming pool. They gave me specific pointers on how to accomplish this feat and recommended their local favorite, which comes complete with a water slide and swim-up bar.
  3. I commented on the ingredients of the smoothies to the unmarried man behind me ­in line at the snack bar as a way to let him know I was friendly and it was safe to make my acquaintance, should he so desire.  Next time I looked, he was no longer there.

As Meat Loaf observed in his song, two out of three ain’t bad.

Part I – Not Exactly What I Had In Mind

As the Fourth of July weekend approached, it occurred to me that I had nowhere to go, nowhere to be. This is just one of the many side-effects of not planning more than a day ahead.  For the past two months, anytime I made plans that stretched beyond the following day had a tendency to fall apart (as in explode, disintegrate, and fragment into tiny pieces).  When I worked up the nerve to plan a 10-day trip with Cousin #3, a tree moved in my way.

I found myself in San Diego to see my Dad for his 89th birthday.  Staying with my parents, who despite having a 3-bedroom house with a hide-a-bed in the den/3rd bedroom, involves sleeping on the couch in the living room. The den has a television set, as does the kitchen, my dad’s office/2nd bedroom, and my parents’ bedroom.  At 89, my dad is set in his ways. The television set he likes to watch is in the den. I don’t want to make him choose between Two-and-a-Half Men and me. I wouldn’t win.

The thought of sleeping on my parents’ couch for an extended period of time was simply too uncomfortable. Not physically, but psychically. I mean, really? At my age? At my parents’ age? As Mammy from Gone With the Wind would say, “It ain’t fittin’, Miz Scarlett. It just ain’t fittin.”

I knew I’d have to find a place to stay, fast, before leaving for the San Francisco Bay Area after the Fourth of July. But where? That’s when I remembered the Oceanside Harbor in north San Diego County. It’s basically a large parking lot with no hookups. No electricity. No water. Not a place likely to be full if I pulled in during late morning on Tuesday. I was right.

Bait ShopUpon reflection, however, I could have chosen a better spot. I’m situated where I am because it was the first open space I saw that provided ample room to maneuver. Also, a man in his 50s was nearby adjusting chairs on the back of his RV. I figured him as the perfect victim to ask for help guiding me in. I was right. Again. I was on a roll.

Once settled in, I took stock of my surroundings and noted the public bathroom approximately 100 feet away. The beach must be expecting quite a crowd because I also spotted outhouses lined up alongside. In the other direction I saw the Oceanside Bait Shop, which is located on a floating dock in the inlet in front of me and opens for business to passing boaters at 5 a.m. I’m situated roughly between the bathroom and the bait. I’m wondering whether there’s any chance the smells public bathroomwafting in from the bathroom and from the rotting worms and/or fish will cancel each other out.

I must say, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.




Broken Promises

Some of my regular readers (yes, I know I flatter myself here) may recall the solemn vow I made less than a month ago not to drive between Los Angeles and San Diego. The longer I remained in Topanga Canyon, however, the more confidence I lost in my ability to handle the RV. Plunging off a cliff and hitting a tree has that effect. I concluded one way to restore my self-assurance was to repeat the dreaded I-5 drive because I knew I could do it. After all, I had already done it.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan like me, my reasoning parallels that of Harry in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry knew he could conjure a Patronus to protect himself and Sirius Black from the Dementors when he and Hermione Granger traveled back in time using the Time Turner. He knew this because he had seen himself do it, although the first time he thought his father was responsible for the rescue. Anyway, the point is, I knew I could do it, even without a Patronus.

On the return trip, which was made in part to see my Dad for his 89th birthday, I realized it was actually safer and more courteous to travel in the slow/merging lane at a steady speed rather than slow down to let cars in. By keeping my speed at a consistent 53 mph, drivers could more easily gauge for themselves whether to speed up to get in front of me or slow down and merge behind me. I provided them with a constant speed against which they could make their own decision.

UhaulFor the most part this approach worked well. The sole exception was when a U-Haul truck merged in front of me and a car I now speculate was the U-Haul driver’s wife also tried to get in front of me when she really shouldn’t have made the attempt. She was fearless because, I figured, her husband told her to stay behind him at all times. After all, it’s so very difficult to spot a bright red/orange U-Haul truck on the freeway were she to be a car or two behind him. So follow him she did. I yielded, although I did allow myself to honk my horn and yell, “What are you DOING, honey?”

Not only was my driving greatly improved, but please notice the PG  improvement in my language, too.

The Cat Who Cried Wolf

Warning: The following content is not appropriate for those who are not fond of cats. (OMG, a double negative!).

For some inexplicable reason, I was absolutely convinced that my black cat, Velvet, would find a good home. Circumstances related to timing as well as the smell of kitty litter and cat food in a confined space precluded me from bringing him along on my Big Adventure. I consistently assured my friends that the Universe would provide a satisfactory solution. I helped the Universe along by making my vet, neighbors and Craigslist aware that a sweet, fixed, male cat in his prime was available free to a good home.

“Sweet” is code for “demands your absolute attention on his timetable” and “in his prime” means if it moves and is smaller than him, he’ll stalk and kill it.” The combination of “sweet and in his prime” translates to “he’ll bring home lizards, mice, birds, grasshoppers and other seasonal reptiles, mammals, birds and insects for your admiration and praise.” BTW, they aren’t necessarily completely dead. Yet.

On the Tuesday night before the Friday my house was scheduled to close, I looked up to the heavens and informed the Universe that I considered the timing cutting it pretty close. The email arrived early Wednesday morning.

A home with two cats and three dogs was looking for a black male cat. Was mine comfortable with other animals?  (Yes.) All the animals, however, were kept indoors. Would my cat be OK remaining inside? (Never.)

Honesty fought with desperation. Honesty won. I answered the email explaining that Velvet would drive them crazy expressing his insistence (translation: ceaseless piercing meows) to be let out. I referenced the theme from “Born Free.” Velet would fit into their household only if he was allowed to continue as an indoor/outdoor cat.

I figured that was that.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received a call that afternoon from the household’s daughter asking for more information about Velvet. I reiterated the requirement that he be allowed outdoors. She explained that one cat was old, with no interest in leaving the house. The other cat was younger and followed the older cat’s example. Velvet would be permitted outdoor access as long as he returned at night. Feed him and he will come, I said.

So the mother and daughter visited that evening. It turns out the daughter had her heart set on a black cat because she learned they were always the last to be adopted. The mother and daughter had been going to animal shelters to see black cats who were always shy and skittish. The animal shelter people cautioned against bringing home a fearful cat because it would not do well in a household with other animals. Was Velvet friendly?

A few words about Velvet’s personality. I considered him a social detriment when my Ladies’ Poker Group was over because he approached each and every woman to clearly demonstrate that he never, ever received any attention or affection from me. His actions proved that I never petted him, I never rubbed his tummy, I never picked him up, I never held him. He was starved for affection because his owner didn’t love him. In other words, he cried wolf.

When daughter and mother arrived, Velvet went into his usual routine. Within minutes he was in the cat carrier and headed out the door.

I assured him there was a whole new world out there, a world beyond living with an old lady.  I also thought to ask about their circumstances. Turns out they lived on several acres with avocado and orange trees. Did I think Velvet would be able to catch some rats?

The Universe provides.