A Day Late and a Dollar Short

I find myself in Cloverdale, California, at a campsite in full sun when the daytime temperature is expected to reach 90 degrees F. I am situated here by request. Why? Well actually I had perfectly logical reason. Unfortunately, my logic is of sync.

The logical reason: When Cousin #3 and I camped in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, we made sure to situate the RV in the shade. We did such a good job of finding shade that the solar panels did not fully re-charge. Plus we were cold. How were we to know to expect autumn temperatures in August and overnight frost?

In turn, the logical reason we sought shade in Tuolumne was because we came from a campsite in the Groveland area that was in the high 90s with nary a tree in sight.

Why it's not advisable to base current decisions on past experiences.

Why it’s not advisable to base current decisions on past experiences.

Then there’s Lake Tahoe, where virtually every day we were warned of an 80% chance of thunder showers. Day 1 passed. No rain. Day 2 passed. No rain. Come day 3, when we were dressed in shorts, t-shirts and sandals, guess what happened? Yep. The temperature plunged and the thundershowers – with hail – arrived.


The next day, however, we were prepared. We wore long pants, hiking boots and waterproof jackets. I even carried my new pair of raglan wool gloves, purchased immediately after the cold of Yosemite. The weather that day? If you guessed hot and humid, you’re right.

Note to self: Make arrangements based on the projected current situation rather than in reaction to the last experience. In reviewing this guideline, it occurs to me that it has applications well beyond that of camping!

Where We’ve Been

I’ve been traveling with Cousin #3 for the past four weeks, including one week in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. So that we could arrive in Tuolumne sufficiently early to give us a chance at getting an unreserved, first-come-first-served space, we camped the night before outside Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest along Hwy. 120 – in the general vicinity of what is now the Rim Wildfire. 

We started our trip in Amador County (the “Gold Country”); proceeded to Yosemite/Tuolumne Meadows; took the Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) east to Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes and the ghost town of Bodie; then took 395 north to Tahoe. We fled Tahoe on Friday (8/23) because of the poor air quality resulting from the Rim Fire.

Cousin #3 took a plane from the Bay Area back to SoCal earlier this week and I headed for what I thought was a members-only RV camp at Russian River resort area of California.

Coverdale vs. the Russian Resort area

Coverdale vs. the Russian Resort area

Turns out there’s a difference between Russian River the resort area, and Russian River the river, which runs through several towns. Furthermore, the members-only RV camp lets in the public. Unfortunately, the public is who I’m trying to avoid. I’ll figure out something or other. Soon.
So I’m at the Russian River (in Cloverdale) to gather my thoughts, do a bit of work for clients, download photos and post blogs. Soon.


Where Are They Now?

My postings are out of sync with my whereabouts, leaving some people wondering where Cousin #3 and I actually are. Last week we were in Yosemite, roughing it in the Tuolumne Meadows campground.

We learned a lot.

This week we’re in Mammoth Lakes, back in civilization with access to cell phone coverage, internet connection, running water and electricity that comes out of a plug.

Stream in Tuolomne Meadows

Irene (aka Cousin #3) at stream in Tuolomne Meadows

Half Dome

In Yosemite Valley

In Tuolomne Meadows
In Tuolomne Meadows


Week 5, Camp Blue, Lair of the Bear

Week 5, Camp Blue, Lair of the Bear, might best be thought of as an annual summer ritual involving a week of live music, cocktail parties, forays into Sonora, Lair Dogs (you don’t want to know the ingredients) and fierce competition in games of Ping-Pong, shuffle board and Trivial Pursuit. Other weeks, other camps (Camp Gold and Oski), and other families all have other traditions, but for me, the most important day of a fun-filled week is Friday. That’s the final day for music, parties, and the chance for Kramers to win coveted cheap trophies.

Lair of the Bear is the family camp for UC Berkeley graduates. It’s located near Pinecrest Lake/Strawberry in Northern California. For the past several years, Camp Blue has been managed by Mike White (yes, THAT Mike White of Cal coaching fame), who is held in high esteem by both staff and campers.

One effect of all these Berkeley grads gathered together at a single site is that every one of our children is exceptionally bright. Also, the Trivial Pursuit marathon game is taken quite seriously. One year it continued until 2 a.m. in the Lodge and I still think my team should have won. Because we took our time to discuss possible answers – sometimes coming up with the right answer but just as often talking ourselves out of it (for example, we should have stuck with Winston Churchill but went on to consider what Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown might have declared during their terms in office) – a time limit was imposed in subsequent years. Apparently our opponents didn’t find our lively debates as interesting as we did.

Another year I achieved a Personal Best: two Bloody Marys’ and a shot, all before noon. A group of about 10 of us gathered at the Strawberry Lodge before 8 a.m. to watch a Women’s Soccer World Cup game. One by one we ordered coffee with breakfast. Finally, someone worked up the nerve to order a Bloody Mary and the rest of us changed our orders. The shots were to help us celebrate a shoot-out ending.

This year, since I’m pretty much camping out all the time, I reluctantly skipped Week 5 at The Lair. I did, however, make sure to stop by on Friday in time to watch my brother, Gary, and nephew Seth lose, back-to-back, in the final games of both adult shuffle-board doubles and adult Ping-Pong doubles. Seth also went on to lose in the adult Ping-Pong finals, but in his defense, he was playing Chick. To fully understand the significance of competing with Chick, you’d have to spend the entire Week 5 at Camp Blue watching Chick win at every sport.  Suffice it to say that at this point, virtually everyone wants Chick to lose at something.

Gary losing at shuffle board

Gary losing at shuffle board doubles. Note pirate flag in background on left.

Gary and Seth losing at Ping-Pong doubles.

Gary and Seth losing at Ping-Pong doubles.

Gary watching Seth lose to Chick at Ping Pong.

Gary watching Seth lose to Chick at Ping Pong.












In addition to the Friday Dregs’ Party, one other party well worth mentioning is the Monday Night Pirate Party, held in a section of tents near the campfire. We go around saying, “Argh,” collect booty (bling in the form of “gold” medallions), drink some sort of exceptionally strong and tasty rum concoction, and get tattooed. The Pirates take their party quite seriously.  In fact, one year a Pirate wife was informed by her husband that there wasn’t room in their car for bedding because he was transporting the fog machine. I recently became aware that although for the camp-at-large the Pirate Party is held on Monday night, it actually goes on the entire week for the Pirates themselves. No wonder the fog machine was more important than sheets and pillows.

The Dregs’ Party is coordinated by my brother, Gary, who posts notices as far and wide as the Camp Store and bathrooms, asking people to bring their left-over food and liquor to the Lodge on Friday night.  We head home on Saturday morning. My brother becomes the mixologist, using whatever booze and soft-drinks are deposited before him. He’ll mix a number of the same drinks at one time, using various and sundry ingredients (but only one form of alcohol). Then he’ll go on to mix the next batch of drinks, again using whatever is available. Every drink, regardless of its contents, is called a “Week 5.” They are exceptionally good – particularly by the time you’re on your third round.

My sister-in-law, Faith, assumes responsibility for putting out the food. In addition to the usual junk food (or unusual junk food, such as oddly flavored potato chips), there may occasionally be a real treat, such as brie and salami. Put those together on a cracker and you’ve got yourself a fairly decent hors d’oeuvre. By Lair standards, anyway.

And oh, the music. The absolutely terrific music. A number of amateur musicians and at least one female singer have been coming to the Lair during Week 5 and over the years have developed a repertoire of great numbers popular with us baby-boomers. Each year for me there’s a special moment. One year it was when I requested Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Good Reason (to Turn Myself Around),” and danced with a cute young female staffer in shorts that showed off her great legs, as I like to remember mine as being before the varicose veins and surgery scars.  It seemed to me that I was dancing with a better version of myself 40 years ago. That’s how good Week 5 drinks are.

This year’s personal special moment was when the band was wrapping up with “Hey, Jude,” their traditional finale. As we all assembled in front of the band, holding drink #2, or #3 or perhaps #4, and joined in on, “Na • na-na • na-na-na • na-na-na • Hey Jude” on and on, I was not alone in never wanting the refrain to end.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Beautiful Along Hwy. 395

In an effort to avoid driving north through Los Angeles on I-5, I hit upon the idea of using Hwy. 395. When I hit the one-lane 17-mile no-passing section, I had a very long time to contemplate, “What was I thinking?”

The no-passing part was courtesy of CalTrans. As far as I can tell, CalTrans tears a section of a road apart, posts a sign such as “Low Shoulder” or places concrete barriers along the side and changes the sign to “No Shoulder” – and then departs, moving its equipment and workers to another section to tear apart. Job security through the year 2017.

The Good. Seventeen miles of no shoulder/no passing is surely a record. Fortunately, I was followed by a large redshoulder closed truck that kept a steady, safe distance behind me as I drove along at 45 mph.  As far as I could tell, he was the only vehicle behind me. How lucky, I thought. Twenty miles later, when I could pull over, two or three dozen cars passed me at 65 to 80 mph. That’s when I realized the red truck had actually been protecting me. Not only didn’t he rush me, he surely took the brunt of the bad words the drivers behind him were yelling out. I figure if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. They laid all the blame on him. By the time they saw me and realized the truth, they were going too fast to have time to even extend their middle finger.

As an aside, what I’d like drivers who tailgate me to know is this: If you rush me, I’ll pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. If you don’t rush me, I’ll pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.

The Bad. Once the shoulder on the two-lane part of 395 was available to me, I would move over to the right in my lane when I could see it was safe for the less-the-five-cars behind me to pass (i.e., able to use left lane, which was empty of on-coming traffic). I cite the five-car figure because that’s when I’m required by law to move onto the shoulder or use a turn-out. I always use turn-outs, even if there’s only a single vehicle behind me.  Should there be as many of three cars behind me, I’ll pull over onto a shoulder when it’s safe to do so. But this one asshole on 395, rather than swinging out into the left lane, used MY lane to pass me, forcing me onto the shoulder. I’ll leave it the Karma Cops to catch up to him.

The Ugly. Notices of “Passing Lane Ahead” are posted about a mile in advance. The second notification is, “Passing Lane ¼ Mile Ahead,” at which point I turn on the right-turn signal in the hope (sometimes in vain) that the cars following me will refrain from using the slow lane to zoom around me. Imagine my surprise, then, when the car behind me passed on the left as soon as the passing lane was visible in the distance. The problem? There was a blind curve ahead, making it impossible to tell if there was oncoming traffic. Now this jerk, who couldn’t wait, oh I don’t know, say 15 seconds, is a good candidate for a Darwin Award. My only concern, however, would be if he did hit an oncoming car at 70 mph, he would probably live while the innocent victims in other car would probably perish. I’m not sure what kind of curse to place on a person who jeopardizes the lives of others. Perhaps a really expensive moving violation ticket? Suspension of his drivers’ license? Violation of his parole?

National LampoonThe “Beautiful”. It turns out that Christy Brinkley is alive and well. I’m referring to the blond siren driving a Ferrari who flirted from afar with Chevy Chase in the 1983 movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. This particular bombshell was a brunette in her early 30s with a boyfriend in tow. She arrived at the pool at the RV resort in Lone Pine in shorts and a T-shirt, which she slowly removed to reveal a bathing suit underneath. As the dads and grandfathers with bellies and tongues hanging out watched, she bent over with her rearmost feature toward her enraptured audience to apply suntan lotion to her legs. She then proceeded to sunbathe in a most provocative position. I dare not write more because my son reads my blog. I don’t want him to be aware that I know a thing or two about sex.